You curse as you take her hand. "It's fairies. Has to be."
Sanae laughs, clearly less disturbed by that fact than you are. "What makes you think that?"
Ah. You never did tell her about them, did you? "A trio of them gave me some pretty bad grief yesterday. This seems like something they'd do."
"Hmm." She looks around yet again. "Well, I don't see any."
Dusting yourself off, you look again. Yeah, you don't see any either. But you do think you hear a faint giggle from the brush.
"Did you hear that?" You ask.
"... never mind."
It'll be no good if you crack on only your second day. As long as you watch your footing, you doubt there's much a fairy could do to you next to the river like this anyway. It would be pretty impressive if they managed to fell a whole tree on you.
Steeling yourself, you go back to work on a new cairn. You're making pretty good pace, actually, though you doubt you can keep this up all day.
Just then, you hear a sound in the brush.
[ ] <ignore it> [ ] <quickly toss a rock> ============================================================== Might get one in tomorrow, actually... but we'll see.
Whatever it is, you think this might be your chance to get it to come out of hiding. You stop rolling. With a smooth motion, you scoop a rather small rock from the rocky ground and firmly toss it into the brush.
It seems your accuracy isn't bad.
"Hah! Knew you were in there! Come out!"
There's a bit more rustling.
"Okay, okay... I'm sorry, mister."
A small girl - no, it must be a fairy - timidly pokes her head up from the bushes. Her red and white dress is quite a bit more elaborate than the ones you saw the fairies wearing yesterday. Her amber hair is a bit of a mess, and she's holding the side of her head.
The rock you threw wasn't that big, but you feel a little bad about it now. You notice Sanae walking down the trail towards you two.
"Oh, did you find someone?"
You look back towards the fairy. "I think so."
At your feet, you notice a ribbon - and you notice that it looks about the same as the other ribbon in the fairy's hair. You pick it up.
"Ah! Mister, can you bring that here?"
[ ] She can come get it herself. [ ] Least you can do. ========================================= Also, happy 11th birthday THP.
Your intuition is saying not to - definitely a trap of some kind. But who can say no to a cute kid like this? Especially not after you beamed her with a rock.
Careful to watch your footing, you step off the beaten path and into the brush. No snares, no branches... just...
"Where are you going, mister? Over here!"
You look up. Although you were heading straight towards her, she's now pretty far off to your right. Looking back to Sanae, though, she's right where she was before - so how could you...?
Sanae shrugs. Seems she doesn't find anything out of the ordinary about this. Hmm. You point in the direction of the fairy.
"She's over there, right?" You wonder to her, quietly.
Sanae nods. "Yeah. What's wrong?"
Well, with Sanae that close, you imagine you'll be fine even if this is some kind of trap. You carefully plod on.
All of a sudden, someone yells out from high in the air. "Hey, you!"
"Aaaah! What's she doing here!?"
"You didn't think I'd notice, huh? Well, I'm a genius! Come here!"
In a whirlwind of activity, something blue flies by your face - followed by something green. Whatever it is, it's COLD. The fairy beckoning you flies off into the forest at top speed, another one dressed mostly in white rising out of the brush to follow not far behind.
In a few seconds you lose sight of them. Spinning around, you see Sanae as flabbergasted as you are.
"W-what the heck?" She laughs, "Are you ok?"
You look around. "I think so?"
"You forgot your ribbon!" You call out into the forest, not expecting an answer. But you get one anyway from somewhere closer to the treeline. Or perhaps from the canopy - it's difficult to tell.
"Just leave it on that stump, OK? I'll bring it to her."
There's a stump about 20 feet ahead of you. She (it does sound like a girl's voice) must mean that one.
[ ] Oblige. [ ] Nope. You'll leave it right here. [ ] Pocket the ribbon. ============================================= Nothing tomorrow, as usual. Back Thursday hopefully.
Whatever. It's not that far - and you want to be done with this whole thing. Cautiously, you work your way forward, watching your feet while periodically watching the treeline.
Something really big moves in the brush just to the left of the stump as you're nearly there. Like... really big. Although it's below the thick vegetation, now that you've got a location you can see the plants moving.
Not wanting to startle it, you reach out with extreme care and place the ribbon on the stump. But just as you let go of it, you see a big furry head rise up out of the grass.
It looks at you as you mutter something in surprise. For one, you're relieved to see that it's not a monster of some kind. But this is almost certainly a bear.
You freeze, and it does too. You both seem unsure about what to do here.
"What's going on?" Sanae calls out, causing the bear to flip it's big head around to look that way. "What's <i>that</i>?"
You hear some laughing in the trees, but you still can't see from where.
"Really?" You wonder, causing the bear to look back to you.
[ ] Back away, slowly. [ ] Make some noise. [ ] Lament your situation. [ ] Curse out the fairy.
A bit of a temper flares up in you. You thought you'd give these two the benefit of the doubt, but... ah, to hell with it!
"Really? This was your plan all along, wasn't it!? A damn bear? What, so he'll maul my face off?!"
You hear laughing in the trees, but you still can't see the culprit. Damn it!
"Come out, you coward!"
You're too busy yelling and cursing to notice Sanae approaching until you suddenly feel a hand on your shoulder. Spinning around, you meet her concerned gaze. It shuts you up at least. Suddenly remembering the bear, you glance sideways.
It's still mostly unconcerned, somehow. When your eyes meet, you get the feeling you're not the only one who's been through a few fairy "pranks". And although you're not sure if it's imagined or not, you think you see it nod in understanding.
"I think it's gone," Sanae says, looking to the bear herself. "Hmm. He looks pretty laid back, doesn't he?"
She reaches into her pouch for some food she'd brought with her, and - without any fear - simply hands it to the bear. The big fuzzball sniffs it a bit before gently taking it out of her hand like a dog would.
Sanae laughs, pulling a bit more food out. She gives it to you this time. "Here, you try."
Your anger is still simmering away, but... seeing the bear looking at the food longingly quenches your rage just a bit. So, you do as told.
"Yeah, sorry about your nap," You say, as it gently takes the food just like it did from Sanae. It doesn't seem to mind too much.
With your now-empty hand, you reach out and give the bear a pat on the head. It seems to enjoy it, so you give it some scratches behind the ears as well. Before long you find yourself using both hands, giving it a head massage.
Yeah, this guy isn't going to cause you any trouble. He's as much a victim as you were of the fairy's prank. And you could use a break, anyway.
"Oh, I think he likes you," Sanae laughs, moving up to join in. "You know, many early people thought of bears as gods."
The bear lazily rolls over, exposing it's belly. A shameless god? Well, it wouldn't be the first one you've seen in Gensokyo.
"Is that right?" You wonder, moving in for the belly rub, "I guess I remember hearing that. Something about how they're extremely useful... the fur, and their fat, and meat---"
The bear rests it's heavy front paw on your arm, turning to look at you disapprovingly. You get the feeling that it might actually be listening to what you're saying.
"Sorry," You say, "Don't worry. We don't need anything like that."
"That's right," Sanae agrees, "Our shrine has a different god for that."
The bear seems to accept that, letting its heavy paw fall from your arm. It wriggles a bit, getting comfortable again.
After a while, you look to Sanae. "You know, I guess we should get back to work. We've still got to bait the kappa out."
She looks to the bear with some regret. "I guess you're right."
[ ] Ask the bear if it'll help [ ] Bid the bear a good nap.
A strange idea comes to your mind as you take a look at the bear. You know, he'd be a huge help. And he seems smarter than your average bear in general.
"Hey... do you want to help us roll some rocks? We could use a big strong guy like you."
It gives you a blank look. But in a few moments, you sense a vague understanding. The bear stands up.
"W-whoa," Sanae wonders, "Is he really going to help us?"
You laugh. "Maybe he really is a god."
Sanae shakes her head. "Nope. I think he's just grateful."
That doesn't explain how it can know Japanese, of course, but you decide to let that go. It's not the strangest thing you've seen thus far. And maybe he'll be some help if the fairies come back.
All three of you get back to work. In a bizarre show of cooperation, the bear ends up providing you with most of the rocks while you stack them. He seems to enjoy rolling the big ones around. If they were tennis balls, you'd probably mistake him for a dog.
You manage to cover the entire strech of path along the river up to where you were yesterday by about midday. The bear does wander off a few times, but before long he comes back.
Finally, you and Sanae decide to take a break. You end up sitting on the same log as yesterday, overlooking the river, leaning your tools up against the log as well. The bear wanders out into the water as you two watch.
"This is looking really welcoming," Sanae says, looking over her shoulder down river, "I think people won't get too scared following this."
It does look really good, you decide, as you turn to look yourself. "No sign of the kappa, but we've done good."
"Maybe they decided we're not worth it," Sanae shrugs, "I guess we could always force them---"
She pauses mid sentence, watching the river. There's a huge splash, so you turn as well. Your furry friend seems to have caught something human-shaped, holding it up with it's claw by a backpack.
"H-hey! I wasn't doing anything! And I'm not food, so let me go!"
Ah. It's one of those kappa from yesterday. The leader, you think, if you're remembering them right.
"Karma?" You wonder. Without hesitation, Sanae laughs. "Must be. Maybe he's just good at hiding his godliness."
The kappa looks around frantically, flailing it's arms, but with how large the backpack is she can't free herself.
"H-help me out here!" The kappa shouts, looking to you two, "I'm sorry about yesterday!"
The bear looks at you. It seems to be asking what to do.
[ ] Let her go, as a good will gesture. [ ] It's probably better if you 'negotiate' first.
>Any time a bear was killed by the Greeks, Artemis would lay a plague on the people as punishment. Artemis’ cult spread over Greece. In Brauron, young girls played she-bears in honor of Artemis and as a preparation for motherhood. They wore bear masks and acted wildly in worship of her. Artemis’ name is theorized to have meant bear-sanctuary. If we break it down—art is close to ark which means bear, and temis is close to temnis which means sanctuary. We will see in the next section how another Goddess’ name reflects this etymology.
Uh, that's interesting.
Anyway [x] Let her go.
"Give an inch and they'll take a mile" that's how kappa are. However, we need their goodwill. Kanako won't go nuclear on them, even if them killing a man would destroy all human worship for years,
Although you strongly consider leaving her up there for a bit, you finally nod to the bear. You think it would be better you could negotiate, rather than coerce.
Your new friend gently lets the kappa down on the riverbank in front of you. While the kappa dusts herself off, the bear wanders back into the water. You guess he's not done fishing yet. Or maybe he's guarding the easy escape route, you realize, as the kappa looks over her shoulder at him.
She seems to accept that she's not going to get out of this one so easily. So instead, she turns to the two of you and prostrates herself on the rocky bank.
"Don't beat me up, please!"
"Nitori, right?" Sanae asks, "Don't worry about it. I don't think we're going to beat you up. You did have breakfast, right?"
Nitori pops back up, all traces of her former distress wiped from her face. Yeah, this is how she looked yesterday - confident.
"Yeah. We managed to secure a whole bunch of food--- ah, cucumbers! Not humans!" She says, noticing the look on your face. "I'm wondering how this guy saw me, though... I thought that optical camouflage suit was perfect."
You laugh. "Wait, the what now?"
Nitori beats her chest proudly. "Do you think the kappa would just let some humans build a bunch of stuff on our river without even watching them?" With a laugh, she adds, "I sure hope those fairies don't come back for you!"
Ah. So she's been watching you this entire time... or at least, since that incident earlier. And speaking of threes, you wonder where the other kappa are?
Sanae begins to walk over to Nitori. You guess she's going to start the "discussion". You pray that it goes well.
[ ] It's safer to watch from here. [ ] Head over with her.
No sense sitting on your duff while Sanae does all the actual work. Even your short rest has left you a little stiff, but you manage to will your body up and wander over.
"Are you OK?" Sanae asks, "It didn't look like he hurt you."
"Huh? N-no, I don't think he did," The kappa says, patting her pack, "I think I'm gonna have to patch the pack up though..."
Nitori looks to you, then to Sanae. "Do you need something? I'm just going to get back to spying---" She says, before pausing abruptly to laugh, "Haha, no, I guess I can't, can I? I guess I'll just be going. I'll need to fix that bug."
"Actually," Sanae says, "We've got something to discuss with you. Do you remember what we were talking about yesterday?"
"Oh, about attacking humans? Why me?"
"The other kappa seem to listen to you, at least a little bit. I know 'kappa do what kappa wanna do', but---"
"---oh," Nitori says, looking around. "Look, don't get the wrong idea. Those two just recognize my genius. And besides, you seemed ok with it."
Sanae shuffles a bit, but she at least seems to be willing to try diplomacy for now. "We changed our minds. Actually, we need to stop the kappa from doing it. At least for a little while."
Nitori tenses up a bit. "Huh. Well, that's just impossible. We're not like the tengu. It's not like we've got a king you can send your shrine's god to to deal with."
Sanae also tenses up a bit, presumably not expecting that bit of information. Laughing, Nitori adds, "Hey, the tengu have actual guards to watch the mountain, but we've got all kinds of remote cameras to watch them. It's really cool stuff."
The two seem to be at a standstill after that. But after a few moments, Sanae speaks.
"Hmm. We'll have to figure out something, then. Because it's not a request."
[ ] Try to make some idle talk. [ ] Maybe beating them up was the answer all along.
You think you see where this is heading, but... well, beating the kappa into submission just doesn't seem practical. Maybe it's better to try and get on their good side. And she does seem to like talking about herself.
"What, you mean like little cameras in the bushes or something?" you wonder. You're curious about these, too. "How does that even work?"
Nitori looks at you blankly. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," You continue, "They need to be powered, right? And you've got to have some kind of way to get the images back to... wherever you're watching them."
"Oh," Sanae says, loosening her tension a bit, "I guess they can't just stick them on the cell network, can they?"
The kappa nods, sagely. "That's right. That's why it's so cool, because I had to figure out all that stuff. But what's a 'cell network'?"
Sanae scratches her head. "Well, it's kind of a... I dunno, it's really complicated to explain. But our cell phones connect to it."
As if remembering something, Sanae pulls a flip phone from her pocket. It's covered in brightly colored little frogs and snakes, and there's a frog-shaped charm hanging from it, but you think you recognize the model. She opens it.
"No service," She says, turning to you, "Imagine that! I guess I can't call someone."
Sanae turns back to the kappa, who's now staring intently at the phone. She turns it around. "You see, we can talk to---"
"Wait, there's a remote network it has to connect to?" Nitori blurts out. In a whirl of motion, she flings her pack off her back and starts digging around in it. "Everything inside was so small, I didn't see a radio... aha!"
With pride, she draws her own phone out of the pack. It's almost as decorated as Sanae's, though it's covered in different little animals like foxes. It's quite a bit more nicked up than Sanae's, too. "I have one too! So, can we make them talk directly?"
Sanae laughs, clearly not expecting this. "N-no, I don't think so."
"So," The kappa presses, "How do I make the screen glow like on yours?"
"Is the battery dead?" You wonder, "I'm not sure how you got that thing, but I imagine it didn't come with a charger."
You can tell that Nitori can barely contain herself. "I didn't see a battery. Say, do you two want to come back to my lab? We can talk more there!"
Sanae looks to you. "Hmm. What do you think?"
[ ] You can't really refuse. [ ] Suggest she come up to the shrine, instead.
The kappa looks on expectantly. You can tell she already expects you to come. And who would you be if you let her down? At the very least, you're curious to see this "lab".
"May as well. What do you---"
Before you can get Sanae's opinion on the matter, Nitori butts in. "Great! You know, most outsiders don't come with much. Do you have anything else cool?"
Sanae looks like she's about to answer, but she's interrupted as well. "No, no, wait. Don't answer that. Let's get to the lab first! It'll be faster if we fly."
With haste, she slings her pack back onto her back and jets up into the sky. Sanae laughs, a weary expression on her face. You can already tell this is going to be exhausting, and you think your boss shares the opinion.
You call out to the bear, who seems to be contently fishing away. "We'll be back later, probably. Maybe we'll see you then?"
It turns to you, a vague look of understanding in its eyes. Yeah, you get the feeling you will. Sanae waves to it as well, and in a few moments you find yourself being lifted up into the sky.
Nitori grumbles about you two taking too long, even though the whole exchange only took a handful of seconds. But beyond that, you just follow the kappa uneventfully. She just leads you up the river.
Eventually, she decends near a rougher part of the river. There's a large collection of boulders that have come to rest here, rather than the usual smaller stones. You guess they've come down the mountain as well.
"Check this out," Nitori says, proudly. She walks up to one of the boulders and starts tapping on it. And in a few moments, a door-shaped panel slides into the ground.
[ ] Acknowledge that it is indeed cool. [ ] Try to guess at how it works. [ ] It would be cooler if it was automatic.
"I gotta be honest," you shrug, seeing an opening in her ego, "it would be cooler of it was automatic. Like, if you just walked up and it opened for you. Maybe some kind of facial recognition to keep it from opening for just you?"
Sanae giggles. "Or maybe make it voice activated? But I still think it's pretty cool for a secret base. I'm kind of jealous."
"A-anyway," Nitori says, shaking off "The door is just a door, it's not that important. And it's not a secret base, it's a lab. The most advanced one in Gensokyo, in fact. Come on."
Hastily, the kappa heads inside the door and down the huge stairwell behind it. The stairs are a bit more what you'd expect from a stereotypical secret lab - textured sheets of metal. Although, only the floor is metal, the rest of the cave is natural stone.
A dozen steps or so down the stairs, Nitori pushes something on the wall. With a rather powerful sliding noise, the door closes behind you. You hope you don't have to leave in a hurry.
The stairs... go on for a while. You stop counting over a hundred steps.
"Just how did you carve all this?" you wonder aloud, "This would be some serious work to do by hand."
Nitori, who had been silent until now, seems eager to boast about it. "Hmm. Well, actually - steam power! Steam powered tools, that is. The auto-pickaxe, and the super-smoother, and..."
She rattles off a few things that sound like weirdly named power tools. And it sounds like it was something that she's been working on for at least one human lifetime.
"But wait, steam?"
"Steam. It's a really convenient way to power things, you know! Running electricity all over the place is just a pain, and batteries are way too big for the power they hold. You just have to be careful not to run the pressure too high..."
You continue to descend. You suppose there's not much in the way of fossil fuels being produced in Gensokyo. "But wait, how do you power those cameras you were talking about earlier? Steam?"
As you pop your question, you finally set foot on level ground. The stairs end at the foot of another door - a heavy and metal one. Nitori stops and turns around, mostly ignoring your question.
"Now, a few safety rules," she says, "Don't touch anything without asking. And... well, I guess there's only one."
After getting affirmative nods from both you and Sanae, she turns around again. This door just slides open after turning the handle.
On the other side is a massive cavern. Like the cave leading down, the floor (and some distance up from the floor) are metal, while the rest is natural stone. Although the ceiling is decorated with ductwork and other various metal bits.
Along the walls, and in various piles, are... ridiculous amounts of clutter.
"So," Nitori says, walking up to Sanae, "Can I see your, uh, 'cell phone' again?"
Sanae, taken back by the sight of all the junk lying around, seems to not be keen on the idea. "Wait, what do you plan to do with it?"
"Well," Nitori says, "Mine doesn't work, and yours does. So I wanna take it apart and see why!"
Sanae looks mortified. "What? No! I've had this phone forever!"
Nitori pulls back. "It's the only way, unless you can just tell me how it works. And besides, I can just put it back together... I think."
[ ] Wander off while these two deal with it. But don't touch anything. [ ] Back up Sanae. You can't just destroy someone's phone. [ ] Back up Nitori. There's no cell towers in Gensokyo, anyway...
[x] Back up Sanae. You can't just destroy someone's phone.
Sanae seems to have taken her phone out of her outfit habitually, as if this might be the last time she sees it. When you see Nitori eyeing it, you decide to say something before she does something.
"Whoa, hey," you say, coming to Sanae's defence. "You can't just destroy someone's phone."
Nitori quickly turns to you, puzzled. "I just want to take the... shell off and look inside. I'm not going to destroy it. Probably. The shell does come off, yeah? It's just a few screws, right?"
"These things are like a third limb, or maybe a second head, to us outsiders," you say, nodding sagely. "You can't just treat it so casually."
That just confuses her even more. "... hmm. Why?"
You shrug, patting your pocket. Oh. Yours is still in your hotel room. Oh, man... you push the thought of that whole mess out of your mind. Don't need to think about that now. "... I'm not sure. But that's how it is."
"Weird," Nitori says, scratching her head. She looks at the obviously dead phone in her hand, then to the one in Sanae's hand. "You're not going to tease me like this, though, right? That's why I brought you down here in the first place."
"If you're careful," Sanae says, quietly, "I guess it's ok."
You turn to Sanae. "You sure?"
"I think it's--- whoa!"
Having permission, the kappa practically bum rushes Sanae and grabs her phone from her hands and rushes off into the lab. "I promise I'll be extra careful! Really!"
"W-wait a second!"
Sanae takes off after Nitori. For whatever reason, it doesn't really occur to either of them to fly, so they just rush off among the mounds of junk leaving you alone at the entrance.
[ ] Rush off after them. [ ] Take your time. ======================================================= Sleep schedule seems to have shifted due to my carelessness, so I apologize for the lunchtime updates. Going to force myself up earlier tomorrow.
You'll just... mosey over there, you think, rather than rush after them. Wherever 'there' is. You think you get the general direction, at least.
As you wander, you can't help but take notice of just what all the mounds are composed of. It really is all junk. Lots of old electronics with broken screens, cracked cases, bent antennas... all the way back to things you can't even place. Old, massive computers.
But not all of it is in piles, you find. At least some of it is finding new life on workbenches strewn over the lab as well. She's definitely a tinkerer. You can't even guess at what most of this stuff does.
... however, eventually, you start to hear the high pitched whine of a chorus of CRT monitors. As you turn the corner of another junk pile, you see why.
This computer is on. And you guess this must be the camera system that Nitori had mentioned earlier. There's 4 monitors. Two of them you recognize as mountain scenery. One of them is pointed at the river - though you see no cairns, so it must not be the part you were on earlier.
The fourth looks like it's just low lighting, so you can't really tell what's going on.
There's a whole bunch of buttons in a row below the monitors, and resting on a table below that is a keyboard. Oddly, there's no chair nearby or anything.
[ ] Continue wandering. [ ] Watch the cameras for a while. [ ] Start poking the buttons, try to see what the keyboard is for. ================================== Doesn't need said at this point, but yeah, back Monday.
Although there doesn't appear to be anything immediately interesting, you decide to watch the screens for a while. These are live, right? They certainly appear to be.
You do confirm that after a few minutes when you see a bird land on a bush in one of the ones up on the mountain. You see a few objects zip by on the one with the open sky, too, though those are going too fast to make out as anything more than a blue, white, and red blur.
Just as you're about to give up on anything interesting appearing, the fourth camera lights up. It's... whoa.
Is that the Tengu's throne room? You recall your visit there yesterday, and although it's a different angle than before, this is clearly it.
The king enters. And after a while, many tengu enter. They all look pretty well armed. More like that Momiji character than the Aya one you met. There's no audio, unfortunately, so you can't really tell what's going on.
Sanae's sudden question from behind you causes you to jump a bit. And she laughs.
"Oh, sorry. Did I scare you?"
"A bit," You say, "I was just watching these. I think these are the cameras we were talking about earlier. Where's Nitori?"
"She's taking apart my phone still," Sanae says, "Actually, she really was going to be careful with it. I shouldn't have been so worried."
"Ah, that's good."
"Is that the throne room?"
"That's what I thought, too."
With two of you confirming it, it's gotta be true. But you still can't tell what they're doing. It looks like it's a bit of a royal audience, although you can't imagine a king entertaining that many soldiers at once on a regular basis.
You really wish there were some kind of audio.
[ ] Bodes well. [ ] Seems like an ill omen. ============================================= My Wednesday thing got pushed to yesterday beyond the time I was able to write. Sorry about that.
Still, this bodes well. This doesn't look like they're being fired up for war or anything, but more like the king is just announcing something to them. Hopefully, that your shrine is all good to go.
There is someone missing, though. "I wonder where Kanako is?"
"She's around," Sanae says, nodding, "She's just watching, though, so she's not manifested."
"You can tell all that from here?"
"Yep." Sanae says, simply. "It's hard to explain, though."
"Hello?! Where did you two go?!"
The kappa's voice echoes out from somewhere in the lab. In a cavern like this, the sound seems to come from everywhere at once. You're glad you won't have to figure out exactly where it's coming from, because you'd be absolutely lost if you did.
"Do you think she's done already?"
"Maybe," Sanae says, gazing off towards the "She was surprisingly quick at getting that cover off. I guess we should head back."
[ ] You'll keep watching these for now. [ ] Follow her. ========================================= Sorry about that delay, had some stuff going on. There's stuff this week too, but we'll see how it goes.
You take another glance at the monitors. Well, you suppose this isn't why you came down here in the first place. Interesting, but a distraction, you suppose. You follow behind Sanae, out into the lab and around the giant heaps of stuff.
It's not the most direct route, but eventually, you do make it back to where Nitori is waiting. She looks a bit agitated.
"Geez, where'd you go?"
"I think I got a little lost," Sanae laughs, "This place is really big."
"It is, isn't it?" Nitori says, proudly, "I'm gonna make it bigger eventually."
"So, did you figure it out? Can I have it back?"
"The phone," you say, unable to help yourself.
"Ah, right, right! Well, I couldn't figure out this one bit..."
She holds up the battery. "So how do I get it open?"
"I don't think you do," you shrug, "That's the battery. It doesn't open."
Nitori looks at it in disbelief. "This is a battery? You don't need it, right? I'll just---"
"You must have some of those around, right?" Sanae says, sounding a little desperate. "I don't think you need mine."
"Hmm, hmm... well, I think you're right," Nitori says, "But I did see how the rest of it worked"
You look over her shoulder and to the workbench she'd been at with the phone. The battery compartment is open, but the phone itself doesn't look harmed. Just like that, she places the battery into the phone and hands it back to Sanae.
"Thanks! You've been a great help," she says, immediately wandering off into the maze of junk. As she does, she says absent-mindedly, "You know the way out, right? I've gotta go find one of these batteries, so..."
Sanae seems a bit alarmed. "What about our talk?"
Nitori stops. "What talk? Turns out it was simple enough that we didn't need to talk about it at all! But maybe sometime we can talk about those 'cell towers'."
"No, about the trail we want to use..."
Nitori laughs. "Oh, that again? I wasn't kidding, I can't really do anything."
[ ] Push the issue. It's not fair to get nothing. [ ] Surely, she can at least try?
Sanae stares at Nitori as the kappa turns to walk away. Yeah, you think you know that look by now. You decide to offer a compromise, rather than what looks like it'll naturally follow.
"You really can't do anything?" You wonder, "It seems like you could at least try."
Nitori stops again, and turns around. "Look, I'm brilliant, but kappa are nothing like machines. They're way too complicated."
Sanae, though, picks up on where you're going. "But you had those two from yesterday following you, right?"
"A-haha, yeah... well, not really. They were just tagging along for some mischief."
"Could you at least keep yourself out of mischief if a human is on the trail?" Sanae wonders, "We can deal with the other kappa if we need to. I think they might listen to you, though."
Nitori thinks about it for a bit. "Hmm. Well, as long as we're friends, I guess I could do that. But it might not work. I can't guarantee anything."
This is working... surprisingly well. You can't help but wonder if she's just trying to get you out of here, but she seems sincere.
"I think that's better than guaranteeing nothing," Sanae says, turning to you, "Right?"
"Let's shake on it," Nitori says, "That's what outsiders do - shake, right?"
Sanae laughs. "Where'd you get that idea? Well... it's not exactly wrong."
You just extend your hand, expecting Nitori to come near. But instead, she reaches for something on her belt... and suddenly, a hand-like thing extends out to grab your hand. You don't know what to say, but Nitori grins.
"I just wanted to test the pressure. Pretty cool, right?"
With a laugh, Sanae moves in close to avoid the extendo-arm... thing. Nitori looks a bit off-put by the personal space invasion, and although you hadn't noticed it until now Sanae's about a head taller. But they do shake on it.
"Guess that's official, then. Well, see ya!"
Nitori starts to wander off into the lab.
[ ] "... could you show us the way out?" [ ] <find the way yourselves> ================================= I will be back Monday. Busy tomorrow and the day after.
I think my schedule will be changing as well. Next week will be generally goofy (I... think that I'll be around for Wednesday, but not Tuesday), but after that, I think the plan will be to not update Sunday and Monday and update all the other days. Going to shuffle my work schedule a bit.
...not that I regularly meet the plan, of course. But I think it's good to have one rather than not.
Sanae bids her farewell, but you just watch. What a strange person.
The two of you make to leave. It takes a bit of wandering, but after a while you find your way to the door you came in through. ... or at least, that's what you think. You find yourself blinded by the outside light when you press the "open" button on the interior keypad, but the roaring sound from outside is enough to tell you that it's different.
"A waterfall?" Sanae asks, loud enough to be heard.
"Guess this is a different entrance!" you call back, stepping outside. Yeah. After a few moments, that's clearly where you are. You remember seeing this one from the air yesterday. It's the big falls, near the foot of the cliffs leading up to the tengu territory.
As you look around, though, your eyes meet that of a tengu. You freeze. This is definitely Momiji. Right now, she looks about as surprised as you probably do.
"Wow, it's really beautiful," Sanae says, paying absolute attention to the falls, "Way bigger than it looked from above!"
[ ] Greet Momiji. [ ] Quietly get Sanae's attention. ========================================== I'll be making a real effort to get this back on track. Might have to step out Friday anyway, but we'll see.
It takes another moment or two, but as the cogs in your brain start moving again, you realize you should probably do something. So, you raise your hand high and give the tengu a wave.
Momiji doesn't really respond, although she does appear to snap out of her surprise as well. Sanae, however, does.
Sanae turns to you. Then, following your gaze, she turns to the guard. She also follows suit.
With two people greeting her, the tengu relaxes her body a bit and closes her eyes for a moment. If you were closer, you imagine you'd hear a sigh. Without much more movement, she flies down to you two, coming to rest on a rock a bit further uphill.
Yeah, that's definitely her. A tinge of fear comes to you, but you brush it off.
"These are Tengu lands," Momiji says, firmly "Leave at once."
That's... different than yesterday. The king himself said that you were to be treated like visitors. Did she not get the message? Or is there something else going on?
"No way," Sanae says, quickly, "We're allowed here, right?"
Momiji looks to Sanae, her expression serious. "That has changed. You are to be given passage through our lands. But you are no longer to be treated as visitors."
Sanae frowns. You don't think this is going to erupt immediately, but you can feel the tension building in the air.
[ ] ... not much to be done about it, though. [ ] Try to fish for more information. [ ] "Well, I guess we'll be going, then." ===================================================== Think I should be around tomorrow after all.
"Huh?" you ask, a bit bewildered. Strange that things would change so quickly. "Why's that?"
Momiji doesn't answer for a few moments, but eventually says, "It just has. I didn't ask why."
"I wonder if it's not going well..." Sanae mutters to herself. Then, speaking up, she adds, "So, you're telling us to leave, right? What happens if we don't?"
Momiji doesn't bother answering, as if that much was obvious. Although she does glance slightly to the large sword at her side.
"Danmaku, right?" You wonder out loud.
"For her," Momiji says, "For you, we'd take you prisoner and question you after besting her."
"That's... still better," You say, forcing a laugh before Sanae can start to get too worked up, "Yesterday it was death."
"We shouldn't be talking," Momiji finally says, "If you will be passing through, please do so. Otherwise, leave."
"Where does your land start? It's somewhere around here, right?"
Momiji nods. She shows you some markings on the rocks that can be used to tell where. Once you realize where they run, you can't help but laugh. You see that the door you just came out of is probably a half inch behind that line. So, walking around the side of the rock pile it resides in, you look to her.
"That's good, right?"
Momiji sighs, shaking her head. "Technically. But I wouldn't play games. I am being lenient, but others might not be."
Sanae nods, heading behind the line herself. "Hmm. Well, it sounds like if we don't cross it, we'll be ok. Technically."
Momiji nods. It's hard to tell with her, but you don't feel that absolute coldness you felt yesterday. But she seems intent on staying where she is and watching you two.
Sanae turns to you, scratching her head. "Well, that's kind of annoying, isn't it? Hmm."
[ ] Chat a bit with Momiji. It's 'technically' fine now. [ ] Strategy meeting? You'll just pass through to the shrine. [ ] Back to the lower river... it's not quite lunch time yet. =============================================================== Man, I'm really distracted lately. Sorry about this.
[x] Chat a bit with Momiji. It's 'technically' fine now.
You're at a loss, yourself. While you process this new revelation, you decide to chat a bit with Momiji. Should be no harm in it now. And, honestly, you're feeling a bit cheeky.
"So... I don't suppose you take bribes or anything, right?"
She glares back.
"Kidding, kidding," you laugh, "Aah, it must be boring having to guard the border all day, though."
"It's not. It's even been more lively than normal lately."
As she says that, she looks to you two intently. Sanae laughs.
"I bet," she says, "There's probably not too many humans that try to come up here on their own, right?"
Although Momiji looks like she's going to answer, she quickly decides against it and says nothing. Huh. Now, you're really curious. You wanna poke more. Even if she doesn't know anything useful, that reaction is kind of fun.
"We've got to finish setting up the road signage," You continue, "Maybe you'd like to help? Might be less boring than watching us do it."
"Aaah, yeah," Sanae says, as if she'd forgotten all about that after the kappa visit, "I wonder if that bear is still waiting? But a strong tengu would be a real help, too."
You hear a rather solid *thunk* behind you before anyone really has a chance to do something else. It's plastic sounding, but beyond that, you're not really sure what it was.
A... film case? It's been years since you've seen actual film, but you're sure that's what this is. You look up.
Among the branches of the tree, you see a now-familiar crow tengu. She looks like she's in a real awkward position, though - it's no wonder she dropped something.
You look back to the film case. It's definitely on your side of the line, and it's not too far out of reach. With a second look back to Aya, you sprint the few steps over towards it. That second glance shows you that you won't go unopposed, so you decide to dive for it.
... as you do, something lands on your back. The impact knocks you out of the air a bit earlier than you had planned. But, somehow, you manage to stretch your arm out and grab the film. Whoever is above you reaches for it, but you quickly tuck it under your chest.
"H-hey! Are you OK? Get off him!"
It all happens so quickly that Sanae takes a second to figure out what's going on. But, it seems she's realized now. The pressure on your back lifts a bit, but you stay rolled over to better guard your capture. You give Sanae a thumbs up with your free hand.
"Tch. You're faster than you look, shrine boy."
Sanae kneels down beside you. "What's going on?"
"He's got my property," Aya says, from a few steps behind you now, "I saw that he was going to snatch it up, so I tried to stop him without hurting him. He's fine."
"I snatched up some film she dropped," you say, stating your case to no one in particular. Then, to Sanae, you add "Here."
Quickly, and carefully, you manage to get it handed off to Sanae. She stashes it in one of her many hidden pockets, tucking it away from prying hands. And with that taken care of, you stand up - with the help of your new boss.
Aya's expression is... hard to read. She looks amused, but it's completely at odds with how Sanae looks, so it feels a bit sinister. "It's just some pictures of you setting up some stones, dealing with kappa, and chatting with our admirable guard here."
With that last bit, she smiles at Momiji. Momiji doesn't smile back. It looks like she's more focused on the situation, rather than what people are saying. Turning back to Sanae, though, she grins a bit.
"Oh? Still angry about this morning? Don't worry, you just need some time to become competent," Aya laughs, sounding absolutely sincere. "It's not going to happen overnight! And, I definitely think it won't happen over a few hours. So... you can give that back, right?"
[ ] Comment on how unpleasant she is. [ ] Encourage Sanae to give up the film. [ ] Encourage Sanae to give it another go. =================================================== I'll try for tomorrow later in the afternoon. Monday isn't going to happen... busy all day. Tuesday seems unlikely as there's a funeral I need to go to, but maybe.
You look at Sanae. Yeah, she's fired up. Not... angry, per se, but definitely looking a bit rowdy. There's no chance she's going to give it up on her own. She catches your gaze. Nothing needs to be said, so instead you just give her a small nod.
"I want to try again," Sanae says, "That's how these things work, right? If I lose, I'll give it to you."
Aya seems pleased at her attitude. But rather than looking at Sanae, she looks to Momiji. "Hmm. Well, we could play again if you want. How about you, though? You look like you want to try."
Momiji looks a bit surprised at being called out. "W-well... yes. We didn't have the chance when we first met."
"Haha! Great!" Aya laughs, turning to Sanae. "If Momiji here loses, you can keep the film. How does that sound?"
Although she does hesitate a bit, Sanae eventually agrees. Both her and Momiji slowly rise into the air. It looks like they both don't want to be too hemmed in by the falls or the trees nearby, so they move themselves over into open ground. On the not-tengu side of the border, of course.
"Great! Ah, that's great," Aya says, getting her camera ready. You guess she must have at least some film left in the camera. To you, she asks, "Playing danmaku is fun, but watching it can be fun too. Don't you think so? You must have seen a bunch by now."
She's not asking for an interview this time, but you can't help but suspect she's angling for one anyway.
The battle between the two starts with an eruption. No build up on this one, you guess - they're just going to go all out against each other.
"Sure. It's definitely fun to watch."
You're not sure if it's a good idea or not, but you decide not to be too cold to her. You'll still be careful with your answers, but maybe she'll be less willing to exaggerate.
"So, now that she's not around, I want the juicy details," Aya says, "What were you two up to last night?"
Ah, back to that. You laugh a bit. "You really took that too far, you know? It's really nothing like that."
"Oh. Really?" Aya wonders, sounding a bit disappointed. "I thought for sure it was true when I saw her this morning. You know, even if she denys it, with a flustered face like that no one is going to believe her."
It turns out she's not really that interested in interviewing you after all. Rather than a flurry of questions, she seems to be focused more on the battle.
"Huh. You know, maybe our guard wasn't the best choice for this battle."
"She's not very original - if you can dodge it once, you can dodge it again," Aya says, sighing. "Hmm, that's no good! She's one of our better guards."
"Do you two know each other?"
"We go back a ways," Aya nods, "She--- wait, isn't this backwards?"
Her response makes it sound almost like she's talking to herself. "... though, I guess the border guard being incompetent is a better story for tomorrow, so maybe it doesn't matter too much. Thanks for giving me an excuse to have those two test each other! This is a great scoop."
She looks away from her camera for a brief moment to say that last bit. It's clear she's enjoying all this.
[ ] Watch the battle [ ] Idle chat with the crow ============================================================ Probably nothing till Tuesday since it's kind of a busy weekend and I won't be home much. But maybe I can sneak one out tomorrow morning.
Although you keep one eye on the battle, you decide that this might be one of your better chances to get to know this person. You doubt she's going to leave you alone for a while.
"She's one of the better guards?"
"Eh? Yeah," Aya says half-heartedly. She seems to be mostly focused on the battle for now. "Can't you tell?"
"Well, I've not been here that long. And she's the only guard we've dealt with."
"She's... hmm, well, let's just say she's a pretty high rank," Aya says, "We take our borders seriously. So to be trusted as a border guard means a lot. That's why you guys are being treated so harshly now."
"Is that right?"
Aya nods. "We were kind of in shock yesterday. But we're a bit more back to normal today."
"Huh. So, that's how you'd normally greet strange people?"
A particularly brilliant set of danmaku flows from both sides, and the crow snatches it all up with a quick flurry of shots from her camera. Then, she turns to you, grinning. "Well, it makes for some interesting news, anyway. I wonder what you'll do?"
"Don't ask me," you laugh, "I'm just the assistant."
"And what a quick promotion it was," Aya nods, turning back to the battle, "You really aren't kidding about that all being a misunderstanding last night, are you?"
You can tell that she means the story about the rowdy party you had. "It really was. That was just some co-workers celebrating. Though, I guess it might be hard to tell that from a crack in the door."
Aya laughs heartily. "Well, even if you two aren't in to each other yet... I wonder... wouldn't that make a good story?"
Yeah, you thought it might go here. "No comment."
"Aw, don't be like that," She says, turning away from the battle for a moment. "I promise I'll treat this part as 100% confidential."
You guess your suspicion is showing on your face, because she laughs again. "Really! I'll even go as far as to say I won't report on anything you say about the matter. Not even 'an anonymous source says X'."
"Why do you want to know, then?"
"Hey," she grins, "I'm a reporter, but I'm also a woman. Who wouldn't want to know? I have no idea if I should be rooting for you two or not."
[ ] In only a few days? It would be a bit cliche. [ ] Who knows? Gensokyo is a strange place. [ ] ... no comment.
Regardless of what you think, it's probably best not to open yourself up too much to her. You think things are going to get complicated - not just with her, but with the tengu in general. So keeping a few things back might be wise.
"Oh? Well," She says, seemingly more amused than anything, "It's more fun if you won't tell me, anyway. Yeah, that's definitely better."
You almost hesitate to say anything further, but... no, if it is going to become complicated, keeping doors open might not be a bad idea. Aya seems like she might not be that bad once you get past the reporter bit. "Next time, just come inside rather than taking pictures through the door, though."
"Do you think your boss would be ok with that kind of invitation?"
You grin. "Well, I'm not sure what would happen if you do come in. But it's still better than creeping around in the dark. People might get the wrong idea."
"Oh, is that right? Well, danmaku is a fine side dish to go with some sake. But I think, given the situation you and us tengu are in, I'll have to creep around in the dark for now. We'll have to do it some other time."
In a sort of round-a-bout way, she confirms what you've been suspecting. You guess it's probably not too good for her to be seen with you guys all that much. As you consider setting up a night watch, the battle flares up again. This time, though, half the danmaku simply vanishes. Aya chuckles, letting her camera finally take a rest.
"Heh. Guess I won't be getting that film back. ...well, I guess I could just challenge her now. Ahhh... but I said she could keep it if Momiji lost... hmm."
As she talks to herself about what to do next, you strain your eyes to see what the two in the air are up to. You don't need to strain them for long, though, as they appear to be heading this way.
Momiji looks positively beat. Even her landing back on her old rocky perch isn't very graceful, and after making it, she takes a seat. Not something you'd expect a guard to do. Sanae's landing isn't much better, but she mostly just seems out of breath. It's clear it wasn't an easy win.
"Master Aya... I'm sorry."
"No, no, don't worry about the film," Aya says, "There really wasn't anything important on it. You gave it your all, right?"
Momiji hangs her head, but doesn't respond.
"Well," Aya says, turning to Sanae. "The film is yours. I think you've got great potential. We should definitely go all-out on each other next time we get to play."
Sanae, too tired to offer much of a response, just nods back. It seems like the battle sated her desire for revenge, at least for now.
"I'll even throw in a bonus and not report on you guys stealing it from me. Just don't stir up too much trouble, OK? Even a high ranked guard is still just a rank-and-file guard."
She says that last bit while looking at you. Yeah, her message there is pretty clear. 'We'll definitely stop you if you start causing too much', or something like that. The fight was valuable information for your side as well.
At that point, Momiji forces herself to her feet. Even Aya seems a bit surprised by that, chiding her a bit.
"Hey, don't over do it. You got beat pretty badly. I'll watch the border for a bit. So," She says, looking to you, "Where are you two off to next? After you rest a bit, of course."
[ ] Back to the last cairn you placed. [ ] Up to the shrine to regroup. [ ] Back to the path. You'll work your way down from here.
You're not sure... but Sanae looks pretty worn down by that last fight. You decide to offer her a chance to rest and see if she takes it.
"It's about lunch time. Maybe we should head back up to the shrine for a bit and regroup?"
Sanae seems to be on board with that idea, so you turn back to Aya and confirm it. "Yeah. That's what we'll do."
Aya seems to be asking more for Momiji's benefit. "See?" She says, turning to the worn-down guard, "I'll even see them there."
It's a while before you get going. It seems that the fight had been pretty intense, so it takes more than a few minutes for Sanae to catch her breath. Eventually, though, she grabs your shoulder from behind.
You turn around. "If you are."
She nods, before turning back to Aya. "Next time, let's fight ourselves."
Aya grins. "You sure? Well, don't complain when I beat you again. Your assistant says I should break in next time you all are drinking, so don't blame the alcohol - ok?"
"Nothing," you say. You thought you did pretty well about not saying anything bad, but... well, that little jab just makes you laugh a bit nervously. "We were just chatting a bit. I'll tell you later."
Sanae gives you a suspicious look, while Aya seems amused enough. "You two go first," the crow says. Turning back to Momiji, "I'll follow behind and make sure they don't get 'lost' and end up sightseeing instead, so make sure you take an extra long break. Ok?"
Momiji gives a nod, first to Aya and then to Sanae. "It was a good battle. Thank you."
Sanae nods back. And, once again, you feel that familiar feeling lift you up into the sky - although it feels more clumsy than it does this morning. You really wish you didn't have to rely on Sanae to get around. You begin to wish there was some way you could get around it, but you're just a human.
Although it's slow and clumsy, you make it back to the shrine without incident. It's hart to tell exactly how, but you can feel that Kanako is somewhere around as well.
"Hey, how about another interview?" Aya asks, not too long after you land. "Maybe we could chat over lunch?"
"Definitely not!" Sanae yells, before you have much of a chance to think about it. "Don't you have some more gossip to print?"
Seems she's got some of her fire back. Aya smirks. "Is that how it is? Well, I'll see you later."
The two of you watch her go. "You know," you laugh, after you're pretty sure she's out of earshot. "She's definitely going to print some now."
"Whatever," Sanae says, sighing, "At least we got the film. What were you two talking about?"
"Nothing bad," you say, "She was trying to bait me into saying a few things. I guess she was pretty frustrated that Momiji couldn't beat you easily, though. It sounded like she was going to write on that today."
"... well, it's not like it was easy," Sanae says, "She was pretty tough. It's good that we didn't fight yesterday."
[ ] Get started on lunch right away. [ ] Take it easy for a bit longer.
Sorry for the triple post, but I'm going to take another week and see where things are.
Mainly I just need some time to reorient myself within this story's world so that it can become interesting to write again, rather than feeling like I'm running on empty and writing just for the sake of writing. I feel like there's not much point in doing that.
They are pretty much where they were a week ago. I'll check back near the start of August, since I don't think I'll get too much extra brainpower to use between now and then. Work is going to be crazy for a bit.
Well, I'm still alive, and I still do plan to continue this (that was a secret question I had on my mind). But I think it's best if I can do it undisturbed, at least for a few weeks - and unfortunately I travel at the end of next week.
I'm about overdue for an update, so I figured I'd drop one.
Unfortunately, this family stuff means I'm moving halfway across the country again. So I'm going to be very busy for the next month or so dealing with things that stress me out. Better if I focus on those things, I think, rather than this story. I'll check back in in October.