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24393 No. 24393
Previous thread:
http://www.touhou-project.com/others/res/23715.html

======

You stand your ground, assuming a fighting stance. This seems to rile up the mushroom youkai, causing it to let out a shriek and then barrel toward you like before. It's too easy to read. You brace yourself, waiting until the last possible second before grabbing the freak mushroom to spin around and redirect its course right into a tree. Taking advantage of momentarily stunning it, you leap at it, driving a fist into the the back of what you think is its head. It blindly swings an arm hoping to hit you. You jump back to avoid it in time.

The mushroom youkai doesn't move to attack you again, choosing to keep its distance. You think you should wait again, but its behavior seems to have changed. It makes that rattling sound again, but it sounds strangely amused. You resume your stance but you notice something on your arm. Dust? No, wait-

Suddenly you feel burning stings all over your body and explosive bursts overwhelming your sense of hearing. You stagger and fall to your knees, trying to figure out what just happened. You don't have time to recover as a blunt force slams into your head. Picking yourself off ground, you wince. This ugly bastard knows a few tricks.

[ ] Immediate counterattack!
[ ] Make some distance, figure him out.
[ ] Escape!

>> No. 24394
[ø] Make some distance, figure him out.
[ø] Taunt
[ø] Dodge its attack and then Rider Chop its appendages, and then Rider Kick it.
>> No. 24395
[x] Make some distance, figure him out.

Ewww, he got spores on us.

But yeah. Immediate counterattacks never seem to work when confronted with a new and unusual attack. This is standard procedure in Japanese things, isn't it? And to a lesser extent, common sense.
>> No. 24397
[X] Make some distance, figure him out.

Need a plan to bypass his spore counter.
>> No. 24398
[x] Make some distance, figure him out.
>> No. 24399
[x] Make some distance, figure him out.

Yeah close combat is a bad idea at the moment barring a way to bypass that counter attack.
>> No. 24400
File 126378318917.jpg - (226.69KB , 705x879 , split-mushroom.jpg ) [iqdb]
24400
[x] Make some distance, figure him out.

Oh god I'm having flashbacks of this motherfucker.
>> No. 24407
You back away quickly, wary of another wave of explosive spores from your opponent. You're not sure how far away you're supposed to be, it's hard to see those spores until they finally land on you, and you're losing sunlight. The mushroom youkai makes its unique laughing sound again as it begins to approach you slowly. You rack your head for anything you can do while your feet slowly back away.

Suddenly, you recall the talk you were having with Nitori yesterday. She was telling you about the abilities you possess. You have something that might just give you the edge you need. Here goes nothing!

Focus Eye!!

You're overcome with a strange sensation, like your range of sight had just grown. It feels like you can see something more. For now, you stop yourself from dwelling on that further. The important thing is you can see faint gold clouds surrounding the mushroom-man. It appears to be thickest the closer it is to the source. You notice the clouds disperse overtime. It probably releases them periodically. Time to put an end to this, you might worry Alice if she can't find you now that your extended break is probably over.

[ ] Move in when the spore cloud is at its thinnest.
[ ] Get out of sight and make a attack from above.
[ ] Use its spores against it somehow.
>> No. 24411
[X] Use its spores against it somehow.

If unable...

[X] Move in when the spore cloud is at its thinnest.

Also, make a note of using Focus Eye whenever we enter a battle. It might help.
>> No. 24412
[ø] Get out of sight and make a attack from above.
-[ø] Move in when the spore cloud is at its thinnest.
>> No. 24415
[x] Move in when the spore cloud is at its thinnest.
>> No. 24418
[X] Use its spores against it somehow.
>> No. 24420
[x] Try to use its own spores against it, somehow.

Going in when it's at its thinnest means it's about to puff out a new batch of them, doesn't it? We'd catch a faceful of that, and it'd be game over for us.

And hiding from it, even if only temporarily, runs the very real risk of the mushroom bastard trying to smoke us out by flooding the area with spores.

It's time to get tricky on him.
>> No. 24421
[x] Try to use its own spores against it, somehow.

Going in when it's at its thinnest means it's about to puff out a new batch of them, doesn't it? We'd catch a faceful of that, and it'd be game over for us.

And hiding from it, even if only temporarily, runs the very real risk of the mushroom bastard trying to smoke us out by flooding the area with spores.

It's time to get tricky on him.
>> No. 24422
[x] Use its spores against it somehow.
>> No. 24423
>>24421
Gah, double-posted and can't delete it.
>> No. 24424
>>24423

try deleting the first post then, since I found that usually works when an accidental double post happens.
>> No. 24434
[x] Move in when the spore cloud is at its thinnest.
>> No. 24462
>>24424
[x] Use its spores against it somehow.
>> No. 24494
File 126413363144.jpg - (245.82KB , 600x600 , Agito explosion.jpg ) [iqdb]
24494
You observe your enemy for little longer, reluctant to close the distance even with the spores getting thinned out. The mushroom puffs out more spores as its cap expands briefly allowing them to release from the underside. It gets impatient and charges at you again. You would counterattack like before but that would get you covered in spores again. You roll out of the way this time, minding your distance. As it recovers from its failed attack, you check yourself for spores. It looks like there isn't enough on you for that attack to be effective, you don't hear it making that rattling sound. Your hand touches something on your hip and you realize its those cartridges Nitori gave you. You check for your holster and find that modified flare gun.

They weren't made for the sort of idea you've cooked up, but you're pressed for options. Nitori doesn't have to know, right? You take one of the tubes and steel yourself. You're going to have to get really hurt to get this work properly. You wait for the mushroom youkai to release its spores again before running right into the cloud and taking your flare gun in hand. You hold up the cartridge, making sure it gets enough spores stuck to it then load it quickly into your gun. The spore cloud begins to clear up and you land a punch into the mushroom's face, buying you more time as it staggers. You hear the rattling noise once it recovers, prompting you to crouch down and aim right under the cap. The tube embeds itself into its gills just before you are racked with the explosive spores.

Struggling back to your feet, you can see you are smoldering from the previous attack. Your eyes find the mushroom-man writhing in pain from losing a large chunk of its cap. You're suddenly very thankful for being built as sturdily as you are. It doesn't look like it has given up yet and it screams in rage as it sees it hasn't killed you yet. You decide to put him out for good before he pulls anymore hidden tricks. Mustering your remaining strength, you build up the energy in your foot as you sprint forward. As you get closer, you leap into the air, thrusting your foot forward.

Rider Kick!!

The impact knocks the mushroom youkai backwards. No longer able to stand back up it lets out a dying screech before exploding. Luckily, the surrounding trees didn't catch on fire. You pick up the damaged flare gun off the ground. Nitori isn't going to be happy. You make your way back to Alice's as your revert into human form.

The sun has set entirely by the time you reach the clearing to Alice's house. You can see the lights are on inside and find Alice standing at the porch. You approach, trying to hide the fact your body is still a little tender from the fighting.

[ ] Greet her like nothing happened.
[ ] Apologize for wandering off.
[ ] Make something up.
>> No. 24495
[X] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x]"I noticed something disturbing my bike and gave chase a bit; got lost stupidly doing that but I managed and am still to continue helping."
>> No. 24496
[X] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x]"I noticed something disturbing you house and gave chase a bit; got lost stupidly doing that but I managed and I'm still willing to help for what's left of the day."
>> No. 24498
[X] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x]"I noticed something disturbing my bike and gave chase a bit; got lost stupidly doing that but I managed and am still to continue helping."
Flawless alibi.
>> No. 24499
[ø] Apologize for wandering off.
>> No. 24503
[x] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x] Explain what happened. She should know to stay alert in case more of them show up.

I hate the wording of the write-in.
>> No. 24504
[X] Apologize for wandering off.
-[X] Explain what happened. She should know to stay alert in case more of them show up.
>> No. 24506
>>24500
For one thing I don't think the MC would want to worry Alice any more than she already is with her preparations on her performance and Carrol "acting" funny.

That said I'm gonna try to reword that write-in.

[X] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x]"Sorry for wandering off Alice, saw something messing with my bike and I tried to chase it to see who or what it was."
>> No. 24512
>>24506

Yet I'd think she'd rather have an idea of a cause than a lie about doing something seemingly frivolous.

[x] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x] Explain what happened. She should know to stay alert in case more of them show up.
>> No. 24513
[x] Apologize for wandering off.
-[x] Explain what happened. She should know to stay alert in case more of them show up.
>> No. 24517
File 126420010613.jpg - (170.72KB , 1200x853 , the workshop.jpg ) [iqdb]
24517
"Sorry 'bout going off like that, Miss Margatroid." You say, lowering you head.

"Nevermind that," Alice says, changing the subject a little, "I heard an explosion. I thought you got caught up in it."

"Oh, that. Yeah, I heard it too. Does that normally happen?"

"It might be Marisa. Honestly, that girl doesn't know the meaning of restraint." She puts folds her arms, looking with disapproval at the trees. "So, where were you?"

Okay, it looks like it wasn't going to be that easy.

"Uh, something was hanging around on your roof and I think it was messing around with my bike," you explain, "I chased it off, but I ended up a little lost in the woods. It shouldn't be a bother anymore though."

"Hmmm." Alice looks at you for a moment. "Well, if you say so. At any rate, Carroll still needs more rehearsals, but we should really finish those costumes first."

You follow her back inside and into the workshop, resuming your tasks. A few hours later, you and Alice finally complete Carroll's dress. The puppeteer straightens out the ribbon on Carroll's collar and you get up to survey your work while stifling a yawn.

"You're surprisingly good at this, you never struck me as type who could do delicate work." Alice remarks, looking a little amused.

"I take it that I've done well?" You say, stopping yourself from slurring your words out of drowsiness.

"Indeed!" She replies. "Just in time too. Now I can spend the this next hour or so to get in a few more rehearsals. As for you, go ahead and call it a night."

You yawn again, giving her a nod. "You shouldn't stay up late either. You'll need the energy."

"Thank you for your concern, but I'll be fine. Don't worry." Alice reassures you. "Oh, yes, Carroll, you have to thank him for helping make your wonderful dress."

Carroll hops off of her seat on the table and makes her way to you. She stops in front of you, leaning in to give you a brief hug.

"You're very welcome, Carroll." You say, laughing a little. "Well, good night, you two. Don't stay up too late!"

You make your way to your temporary room and flop onto the bed, letting sleep take you over.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Morning comes and you're up again. You take some time to have a quick bath after realizing you haven't had one since you got here. Stepping out of the bathroom, you find a few dolls flying down the hallway in groups carrying things from the workshop. Alice must be getting ready to go. You head outside and find stacked planks of wood along with several suitcases. Standing by the items appears to be a giant girl almost as tall as Alice's house. This must be the Goliath she mentioned.

"Ah, good morning." Alice's voice greets you from behind.

"'Morning." You turn around to see her just stepping down from the porch. "Uh, you need me to help bring anything else out?"

"Oh, no, we're just about done here."

"Sorry for not waking up sooner." You say, feeling bad you weren't able to help bring these things out earlier.

"Don't worry about that, the day just started. You needed your rest." She assures you as she begins directing Goliath to pick up the planks. "We have to get going though, we can still find a good place to establish our stage."

"Will you be able to bring everything at once though?" You ask, looking at all the items she has piled in front of her house.

"Hmm." Alice considers the situation for a moment. "Maybe not. I could use Carroll's ability right now I haven't even taught her flight yet."

[ ] Go ahead of Alice and find a good spot in the festival plaza for her stage.
[ ] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.
>> No. 24518
[x] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.
>> No. 24519
[ø] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.
>> No. 24520
[x] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.
>> No. 24521
[X] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.

Who knows what else may still be lurking around.
>> No. 24522
[x] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.

The quicker the two of us get there, the better.
>> No. 24523
[X] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.
>> No. 24528
[x] Stay with Alice and help her bring everything in one go.
>> No. 24556
"I won't be able to carry a whole lot," you start, "But let me help. Better if we take everything at once."

"You're right," Alice agrees, "That might be better."

"You don't happen to have a little wagon I can use, do you?" You ask.

"I might. Hourai, check the back, would you?" Alice calls for a blonde doll in a dark dress and a noose around her neck (What's that all about?). Hourai and a group of similarly-dressed dolls take off to the back of Alice's cottage.

"Would you take Carroll for me as well? I couldn't find a case big enough for her."

"Uh, sure, no problem!" You sound a little reluctant, especially when she's entrusting you with her star performer. She doesn't seem to detect it though.

Carroll gets up from her seat on the porch after Alice instructs her to ride with you. You take your extra helmet and carefully place it on Carroll's head. A doll in a frilly dress and a motorcycle helmet is a strangely endearing sight. Hourai and the dolls return pulling a little cart.

"I never thought Marisa's forgotten junk would ever be put to good use." Alice remarks with a sigh.

You go over to the cart and make sure it's stable before finally hooking it up to the back of your bike.

"That should be enough to carry what you can't, Miss Margatroid." You say.

"Huh? Oh, yes, that's good to hear." Alice moves fingers and a few dolls bring the rest of the cases into the cart. "Well, that's everything. We'd best be off." She says as Goliath comes to life lifting the rest of the important items.

You mount your bike and slip your helmet on. Carroll comes over and sits right behind you.

"Make sure you hold on tight, Carroll." You advise her as the engine growls to life. You feel arms wrap right around your middle.

You hear Alice call for you from above, "Keep an eye on me, I'll lead you through a relatively clear path through the forest."

You give her a thumbs up and bring your visor down. Alice takes off with Goliath right behind her and with a rev of the engine you're following right after through the forest.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

You're surprised there is at all a clear path through these woods. The ride gets a little bumpy but it seems like Carroll's holding on just fine. Nothing seems to have fallen out of the cart either.

After a while you finally exit the forest and find your way onto the dirt road that would lead to the village. You suddenly find yourself tempted to go faster now that you're out of the forest.

[ ] Speed it up and race Alice! Have a little fun.
[ ] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24557
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24558
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.

Hauling a cart here. No tomfoolery. Be professional.
>> No. 24559
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.

Alice did say keep an eye on her among other things. If anything decides to try attacking by surprise chances are Alice will see it.
>> No. 24560
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24561
{X} Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24562
[X] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.

Besides, if Alice wants to race, she'll say so.
>> No. 24563
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24564
[x] Speed it up and race Alice! Have a little fun.

Fuck being rational. I have a need... for speed.
>> No. 24565
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24569
[x] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
>> No. 24576
[X] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.

>>24564
>Fuck being rational. I have a need... for speed.

I thought he had fun already blowing the shit out of that over-sized mushroom a while back.

Nonetheless who's to say Carrol wouldn't try something if (ie Alice) felt its goods were endangered..?
>> No. 24577
[X] Bad idea. You want to make it into the village with your cargo intact.
I'm incredibly boring.
>> No. 24663
[x] Bump it up and remind the author! Have a little update.
>> No. 24705
File 126482657934.jpg - (257.26KB , 930x930 , 112546387.jpg ) [iqdb]
24705
You're still in the middle of a job. Act professional! And you do so, keeping your desire to ride wildly like you normally do. Besides, you've got Carroll on board, and you'd rather not have her thrown out of your bike and get her damaged in any way.

You pass by the Myouren Temple with the village just up ahead. Upon finally entering the village you can see it's as busy as ever. Alice lands with Goliath to meet you at the entrance to the village.

"Oh my, I wasn't expecting a large crowd this early." She says while looking at the near-crowded streets. "We should hurry, we need to find the right place to get the biggest audience."

You two begin to make your way through the crowd. Having Goliath with you looks to be quite advantageous as she easily gets the crowd to step aside and make room for you to pass. Before long, you've made it to the festival plaza. Many vendors have establish where their booths while others have already begun. Alice finds a nice clear spot that has the village's dragon statue right across. You finally park your bike and try to get off but feel like something is pulling you back. You then realize Carroll still has a hold on you. You tell her it's all right to let go allowing you to properly dismount your bike and begin unloading the cases from the cart. Meanwhile, Goliath begins establishing the foundations for the stage with the assistance of the smaller dolls.

The day goes by fairly quickly as you move back and forth carrying tools and putting the stage together. Come sundown, everyone is almost done. The excitement in the air has not died one bit, however. Meanwhile you're on your third break of the day, sitting by your bike with Carroll as you witness the warm orange glow of lanterns flooding the festival plaza.

You hear someone call you and you turn to find Mokou approaching, sweaty and with her sleeves rolled up. "Hey, kid! So, is this why you've suddenly been gone? Pickin' up girls to bring with you to the festival?"

"I'm working up a sweat like anyone else here, Fujiwara." You respond with a chuckle. "Just taking a bit of a break. A man needs time to recharge!"

She gives you a challenging smirk. "Sure, whatever ya' say. You been workin' with that puppeteer lady?" She asks, finally catching sight of Alice who remains at work, manipulating the dolls to add the finishing touches to the stage.

"Kind of a special job, yeah." You reply.

"I can see that. She brought that huge doll an' all." Mokou says as she continues observing Alice. "Seems like she's pullin' out all the stops for this one. But, frankly, I think she's tryin' too hard."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, no one's really been into her puppet shows lately, you know?"

"She mentioned that." You say, recalling your talk with Alice the first time you met. "She said this was going to be a really different show than before."

"How different can it even be? It's still a puppet show, at the end of the day." Mokou shrugs. "Tastes change, even in Gensokyo. The kids who loved watching puppets aren't going to be liking it into their teenage years."

Before you can make a reply to Mokou, she's called back to helping. Leaving you with Carroll again. You get up too, remembering you have a job to do. Another hour of work passes when you finally have the stage complete.

"Well, there it is." Alice says, surveying her stage. It's drastically smaller than a stage for a normal play, but it's big enough to accommodate her particularly large cast of dolls. "I believe you may consider your services finished. Although, would you mind receiving your payment after the festival is over?"

"I don't mind, I trust you." You reply. "But what are you going to do until morning? Sleep out here?"

"I..." She looks dumbstruck for a second. "Oh dear, that thought never really crossed my mind all this time."

"I thought you've done this before."

"I did, but I never came the day before to set up my stage. It wasn't big enough to spend a whole day on it." She looks down in thought. "I suppose I could camp out here for the night. I don't think that should be a problem."

[ ] That settles it. Bid Alice good night and head home.
[ ] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24706
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
We are a gentleman we cannot just leave Alice to camp out on the ground
>> No. 24707
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24708
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.

A true gentleman.
>> No. 24709
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24710
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24717
[X] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.

This isn't 4chan. The Anonymous here aren't heartless bastards.
>> No. 24720
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.

We are a man of wealth and taste.
>> No. 24721
[ø] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24722
[X] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
But... where is Goliath gonna stay?
>> No. 24723
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24725
>>24722

In Alice's pants, with the rest of her unused dolls.
>> No. 24730
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24748
>>24722
Goliath'll find a nice David.

[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.
>> No. 24759
[x] That won't do. Let her stay at your place for the night.

inb4 Carrol slowly becomes jealous
>> No. 24830
Updates?
>> No. 24845
Alice sleeping out here? Something about that just doesn't sit right with you.

"Are you sure about that, Miss Margatroid?" You ask.

"Well, I could head home, but I'd rather be around to get up and get my girls ready first thing in the morning." She replies.

"Why not stay at my house for the night?" You suggest. "Though it's more an office than a house. Still, it's a lot more comfy than out here."

"I couldn't possibly-"

"It's not a problem, really! It's the least I could do for you letting me stay over." You assure her. "Heck, you let me have a bed. I would've been okay with the couch."

"I only thought it polite. I couldn't just let an extra bed be unused in the presence of company." She says.

You turn to look at the inactive Goliath who stands behind the stage.

"Ah, no need to worry about her. She can stay outside. I understand she's quite large."

You lead Alice back to your home. You help her bring in the suitcases as Goliath settles herself out front. You can't help but feel a little bad for her.

"You really don't have some kind of shrinking spell for her or something?" You ask.

"Well, I could disassemble her, but after all the work today I don't have the energy to spare." She replies, giving Goliath one last look before she finally steps inside after you. "Besides, she could scare away potential burglars."

Not like you have anything valuable to steal, but you take it as Alice trying to be humorous. She takes a seat on your couch after she finally puts her suitcases down.

[ ] Set up her bed for the night and suggest retiring early.
[ ] A little late, but maybe you can have that tea time you missed earlier today.
>> No. 24847
[X] Set up her bed for the night and suggest retiring early.

May as well considering tomorrow may be a long day

I wonder where Carrol's been placed, probably just sitting along side with the rest of the dolls for the upcoming performance... right..?
>> No. 24848
[ø] Set up her bed for the night and suggest
retiring early.
Although I'd like to say that there's always time for tea, drinking tea this late in the night just doesn't work. or does it?
>> No. 24849
>>24848

Tea can be a relaxing drink so it might work, and not all Teas have caffeine.

[x] A little late, but maybe you can have that tea time you missed earlier today.
-[x] If not then go about setting up the bed and resting for tomorrow.
>> No. 24850
[x] Set up her bed for the night and suggest retiring early.
>> No. 24852
[x] A little late, but maybe you can have that tea time you missed earlier today.

>>24849
Any tea these people drink will. That's sort of the point.
>> No. 24870
[X] Set up her bed for the night and suggest retiring early.
>> No. 24872
[X] A little late, but maybe you can have that tea time you missed earlier today.
-[X] If not then go about setting up the bed and resting for tomorrow.
>> No. 24873
[X] A little late, but maybe you can have that tea time you missed earlier today.
-[X] If not then go about setting up the bed and resting for tomorrow.
A or B
>> No. 24933
[x] A little late, but maybe you can have that tea time you missed earlier today.

Yes yes yes, nightcap with Alice.
>> No. 25204
It's been a long day for Alice, you think. You decide it would be better for her to rest up for her performance tomorrow. You make your way to your closet to bring out the futon, laying it on the empty space on the floor.

"It's not a fluffy bed, but I can guarantee it'll be more comfortable than that." You tell Alice, indicating the couch she's sitting on.

"I appreciate that, but where are you going to sleep?" She asks.

"The couch." You reply. "I sleep on this more than I should."

You leave Alice to her own devices as you take your usual nightly bath to wash off the sweat and dirt from working earlier today. You finally get out to dry up before getting too pruney. Stepping out of the bathroom, you find Alice has just changed Carroll into some simple light blue pajamas as she tells the doll that "this is how one prepares for bed at night."

You suggest to Alice that she should bathe as well before flopping down onto your couch. You find it easier to relax and shut your eyes knowing you're in your own home.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

You wake up the next morning to the bustling excitement of festival day. You find the futon on the floor empty and all the suitcases gone. Looks like Alice already left for the festival plaza. You sit up from your couch with a yawn. A glance at your table reveals that not everyone left. Russia seems to have stayed behind sitting on your table beside a note and an envelope.

Thank you once again for all your help and your company these past two days. If Russia is still there when you read this, I haven't started the show. I thought I'd let you know since you were looking forward to

—Alice Margatroid

P.S. I also left you your payment for your services. It's in the envelope. Thank you again.


You can make it in time for her performance to start. The doll rises to her feet and gives you a bow in greeting.

"'Morning." You respond, though you're not entirely sure if it's still morning.

You get ready to go out and decide you'll eat something from one of the booths you find along the way.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

You leave your bike outside the main festival grounds and navigate your way through the chattering crowds while Russia flies overhead. Spotting a food vendor, you make a quick stop to get yourself a boat of takoyaki to keep your stomach occupied. Continuing on your way, you finally reach Alice's stage. The closed curtains of the stage suggest she hasn't started yet.

Waiting for the show to start along with you are an elderly couple and a few children. Russia flies over to Alice's side which gets her to perk her head up at the crowd and find you. You give her a wave with an impaled dumpling in hand. You're hoping your presence encourages her as she returns to her preparations.

You're about three-quarters of the way through your boat when Alice and Carroll appear by far ends of the front stage. Alice curtsies first and draws in a deep breath.

"Good day, ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! I, Alice Margatroid, and my assistant," Alice gestures over to Carroll, who also curtsies toward the audience, "Carroll Margatroid, cordially invite you to join us as we enter a world of bravery and honor, where good and evil struggle to topple the other! You will witness the rise of a valiant warrior in a time of great crisis!"

The small audience claps while you're barely making a sound tapping your fingers to your wrist with your food still in hand. The curtains move to the side to reveal two armies face to face with Shanghai leading the left side and her long cape fluttering in the wind. The other side features an army outfitted in darker colored armor with no visible leader.

"We begin now in a battle that will determine the fate of a kingdom. Will they be saved, or will they be conquered?"

The two puppeteers step out of sight as the doll armies come to life, readying their weapons. A drum roll begins as the armies stare each other down. Alice really does seem to be going all out for this and it's paying off! You notice the audience growing with curious bystanders coming over to take a look. Returning your attention to the stage, you see Shanghai raise her little prop sword into the air as she looks back at her battalion. The sword comes down, pointing at the enemy army and the dolls charge at each other.

The ensuing battle doesn't look as messy as you'd think. It's all obviously choreographed, but the scale is impressive. You chuckle to yourself as you hear some of the smaller children rooting for the good guys. Suddenly, the opposing army all drop where they stand, like their strings were cut all at once. You're not sure this is how it was supposed to turn out as the children cheer in delight at the enemy's defeat.

No, this feels too sudden. Could it be Carroll's acting up again? You make your way through the crowd to get a better look, but it looks like Alice has vanished from the side of the stage. You push through more, eventually passing the rest of your takoyaki to a complete stranger just so you didn't have to worry about them falling out of your hand. You squeeze between two booths close to Alice's and find the backstage. There you find Alice and a limp Carroll.

"Miss Margatroid, what happened?" You ask, quickly walking to her.

"I...I don't know!" She answers, clearly panicked. "I thought I had this figured out! What's going on, Carroll?" She asks, despite knowing she probably won't get a proper response.

[ ] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.
[ ] Suggest halting the play momentarily so Alice can figure out what's wrong.
>> No. 25205
[x] Suggest halting the play momentarily so Alice can figure out what's wrong.
>> No. 25207
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

Gah, not sure what to do.
>> No. 25210
[x] Suggest halting the play momentarily so Alice can figure out what's wrong.

Sort of saw this coming.
>> No. 25212
[x] Suggest halting the play momentarily so Alice can figure out what's wrong.

We can play it off as the end of one act. But this is a sign of a bigger problem.
>> No. 25218
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

I believe in you Alice!
>> No. 25225
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

In before we get tossed into assisting the continuation of the play

Alice...:_;
>> No. 25230
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

Basic rule of putting on a play, seriously.
>> No. 25235
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

LET'S GO.

UNTIL THE FIRE OF YOUR SOUL BURNS OUT.
>> No. 25236
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.
>> No. 25237
[x] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

She had put so much effort on making the play, she can't just quit despite missing a second puppeteer.
>> No. 25243
[X] The show must go on! Ask Alice if she can pick up the slack and keep going.

She could either cut back on the numbers of actors on stage or have us handle simple extras, I guess.
>> No. 25244
File 126656309418.jpg - (455.14KB , 1500x916 , knights.jpg ) [iqdb]
25244
You know what they say, the show must go on.

"You should keep the play moving, at least until you find a good place to have an intermission." You suggest to Alice.

"You're right." She responds, looking like she's regained focus. "I'll finish this opening at least. Thank you."

She leaves Carroll to you, returning to position to continue the performance. You can't see what's going on from back here, but you're hoping not too many left her audience. You wish there was something you could do for Carroll, but your lacking expertise in magic dolls leaves you with nothing to do but keep the slack doll company.

You hear a bit of cheering from the children on the other side of the stage. That sounds good, Alice is probably holding up pretty well. You watch as the dark armored soldier dolls rise high above the stage from your position.

Hold on, that's not part of the act. Is Alice trying something new? You look back down at Carroll and find her fingers are moving. Suddenly you hear panic. Carroll's eyes suddenly open, her usual blue eyes locked on your face. You have no idea what's going on but you're suddenly thrown backwards into the bushes. You sit up in time to see Carroll rise to her feet. Immediately you notice her eyes turning into a dull gray as her fingers continue to move as if erratically playing a piano. Above her you watch as the dark armored dolls brandish their weapons and swoop down. Carroll turns and leaps into the air above the stage. Alice doesn't seem to be anywhere near the stage. You continue to hear the commotion as the screams of panicked festival-goers fill the air.

[ ] Go find Alice!
[ ] Deal with this right now!
>> No. 25246
[x] Deal with this right now!

Fuuuuuuck.
>> No. 25249
[x] Deal with this right now!
>> No. 25250
[x] Deal with this right now!

The children are in danger!
>> No. 25254
[x] Deal with this right now!

FFFFFFFFFFFFFF
>> No. 25256
[x] Deal with this right now!
ALL PART OF THE ACT HAHAHAHA FUCK
>> No. 25258
[x] Deal with this right now!
>> No. 25260
No time to find Alice. Surely she can take care of herself. Those people can't.

After setting your priorities, you get out of the bushes and back onto festival grounds. Stepping out of the cracks between booths you find people scattering at the sight of a wandering Carroll guarded by a contingent of dolls all carrying weapons. They move around her like bees guarding a hive. Before you can move further, they notice your nearby presence and a few of them break formation. You dart your head around and find them coming at you from different directions.

You jump back in time to avoid getting hit all at once. Missing their mark doesn't slow them down, however, as they merely change course and aim for you again. You manage to evade two of them, but one manages to close in and jam a miniature spear into your shoulder. A sharp pain shoots through part of your shoulder and your arm. What the hell? Weren't these just prop weapons? You pull out the "prop" spear and toss it aside.

Carroll herself finally turns to face you. Her movements are unlike how you've seen her move when under Alice's influence, it's more apparent how doll-like she is as she approaches you with each lurching step. Suddenly, Carroll's head appears to be shaking wildly.

"Sha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!!"

You hear that familiar shriek. Your ears can't be mistaken, can they?

[ ] Push forward and attack!
[ ] Stand your ground.
[ ] Back away!
>> No. 25261
[x] Push forward and attack!
The best defense, etc etc
>> No. 25263
[x] Push forward and attack!

\o/
>> No. 25265
[x] Push forward and attack!

Is it that mushroom monster getting revenge?
>> No. 25266
[x] Push forward and attack!
>> No. 25267
[x] Push forward and attack!

FOR GLORY
>> No. 25286
[ø] Push forward and attack!
For Alice!
>> No. 25287
[x] Push forward and attack!

FOR PONY!
>> No. 25292
[x] Push forward and attack!

Distracting possessed Carroll ought to give the spectators enough of a chance to escape.
>> No. 25323
You try to shake off the pain in your shoulder. You don't really have the luxury of treating it right now. You return your focus to Carroll who continues to approach you slowly. There are people still nearby, it might be a good idea to keep her attention on you. That army of knight dolls still swarm about her and you risk getting punctured all over if you're not careful. You carefully maintain your distance as a plan formulates in your head.

Maybe she won't expect an all-out frontal attack. Here goes nothing! You charge forward, shielding your head with your arms. Slamming right into Carroll, you knock her into one of the empty stands. You don't come out unscathed however, as you feel small stinging wounds all over your arms. The dolls must have formed a wall of some kind. Carroll doesn't stay down for long. She slowly rises back to her feet from what's left of the stand. You step away to get a bit of distance between yourselves, taking a moment to wipe the dust off yourself. Carroll suddenly begins to emit a rattling sound.

You're immediately brought down to the ground by a sudden crack and burning sensation. You probably cried out in pain, you're not sure. The pain is made worse since you haven't even transformed yet. Normal people would have been ripped apart by an attack like that. It's difficult to get back up on your feet as you watch Carroll's attention shift from you to a pair of confused children who wandered into the area.

[ ] Grab Carroll to try and slow her down.
[ ] Shout at the kids, tell them to run for it.
[ ] Shout at Carroll, maybe she can snap out of it somehow.
>> No. 25324
[x] Throw something at Carroll...if you can find anything to throw.
>> No. 25328
[X] Shout at Carroll, maybe she can snap out of it somehow.

No doubt it carroll's inside, but also I'm betting the would-be controller may retain some old memory.
>> No. 25329
[X] Shout at the kids, tell them to run for it.

Children first, before we're forced to wade through fifty pages worth of angst about how we got a pair of kids killed.
>> No. 25339
[x] Shout at Carroll, maybe she can snap out of it somehow.

Grab Carroll's attention
>> No. 25343
[x] Throw something at Carroll...if you can find anything to throw.
while
[x] Shouting at the kids, tell them to run for it.
>> No. 25348
Don't yell to anyone, it's all part of the show.
We still can save Alice's reputation.
>> No. 25352
[x] Throw something at Carroll...if you can find anything to throw.
[x] Child-shoutan gaems
>> No. 25355
[x] Throw something at Carroll...if you can find anything to throw.
>> No. 25357
>>25348
I sure hope you're right about that.
revotan
[x] Throw something at Carroll...if you can find anything to throw.
>> No. 25363
File 12667345301.jpg - (277.57KB , 827x1102 , cavalry.jpg ) [iqdb]
25363
It really hurts to move, but you have to help those kids somehow.

"Run! Get out of here!" You yell while trying to lift yourself off the ground.

It's not working, the poor things are petrified. You think of something else. Your arms feels around it, for anything you can throw to get Carroll's attention. Patting your hand around the ground, you can't even find small rocks. You abandon that idea as well and focus on trying to get back on your feet despite your body's protests.

One of the kids seems to gather her courage, standing in front of the smaller child like a barrier, holding her arms out. Her face bears a look of defiance, but her knees shake. One of the black knight dolls break off from the group and fly at the girl. In the blink of an eye, something trailing red intercepts the doll. It's Shanghai bearing a shield in hand and a lance in the other.

"Carroll, stop this at once!"

You catch sight of Alice coming up behind the children, with her own company of armored dolls. She steps in front of the children, but keeps her gaze on her rogue creation.

"Quickly, get away from here as fast as you can." She gently bids the children, who waste no time and scamper away. "Are you still alive?" Sounds like she was addressing you.

"Kinda'." You manage to reply, finally getting up on your knees. "You ought to keep your distance." You advise her.

Before Alice could respond to your suggestion, Carroll's dolls swoop toward their former master. Shanghai and her sister respond in kind, intercepting them and locking shields and weapons. Alice lifts off the ground a bit and backs away. Her face straining as she tries to maintain control of many individual dolls at once. Carroll was made to be able to handle more dolls than Alice. You're worried that the puppeteer might get overwhelmed.

"Go!" She shouts at you. "While I can keep her busy!"

You hear her shriek as one of the black knight dolls fly past her, barely missing her face.

[ ] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!
[ ] Do as she says and (temporarily) escape.
>> No. 25365
[x] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!

This is going to be maybe a bad idea down the line, but I'm willing to deal with that later.
>> No. 25366
[ø] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!
>> No. 25368
[x] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!

Saving her goes before any pride and such.
>> No. 25369
[X] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!

The more friends the merrier I'd say.
>> No. 25370
[x] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!
>> No. 25376
{X} Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!
>> No. 25378
[X] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!
>> No. 25382
[X] Alice can keep a secret, right? Help her right now!

By the way, we're Kamen Rider, so what Kamen Rider are we?
>> No. 25386
You don't move, choosing to stand your ground. You're sore all over, but you can worry about yourself after this whole mess is over with.

"What are you doing?!" Alice almost panics, bewildered that you seem to have no regard for your own safety.

No one else is around, so now would be a good time. You look down and find your belt where it should be. Your arms move into position and you begin your ritualistic hand motions, this time doing them of your own free will as you remember from your fight in the caves.

Rider Transform!

With a thrust of your arm, your belt whirs into life and you are purged of your human form and its limitations. Your current injuries won't get in the way for the moment, but you keep in mind to be careful. A quick check with your Focus Eyes reveals Carroll is emitting spores like the crazed youkai you fought two days prior. The spores don't come out as frequently, so you have a better chance of entering close range for longer periods of time. Turning your gaze toward the dolls you can also see all the strings attached to each individual.

Carroll still seems to be occupied trying to overpower Alice. You leap into the air, down toward the possessed doll. You bring your hand down in a chopping motion aimed right at the strings. Carroll manages to disengage from Alice in time, allowing you to only sever a few dolls from her control.

"What...are you? A youkai?" You hear Alice ask, surprised at your drastically altered appearance.

"Masked Rider." You answer, turning to her. "I can explain, but worry about that later."

"Yes, of course." She nods, finally getting over her initial shock.

A glance over at Carroll shows you haven't really evened up the doll count between her and Alice. She's still in a good position to overwhelm her creator. You're not sure when she'll move in to attack again, but you try to think of something while you have the opportunity.

[ ] Stay together, attack at once!
[ ] Act as a diversion for Alice.
[ ] Alice acts as a diversion for you.
>> No. 25388
File 126676477982.jpg - (32.88KB , 400x279 , EMPEROR3.jpg ) [iqdb]
25388
[x] Stay together, attack at once!
UNLIMITED POWAH
>> No. 25392
[ø] Stay together, attack at once!
>> No. 25393
[x] Stay together, attack at once!

So it was affected by the spores the mushroom Youkai had. That or Alice might have made Carrol from that material. Hard to say what went down.
>> No. 25394
Hoping no other villains show up.

[x] Stay together, attack at once!
>> No. 25395
[x] Stay together, attack at once!

ONWARD
>> No. 25399
[x] Stay together, attack at once!
>> No. 25424
[X] Stay together, attack at once!

Alice out to be able to provide info on taking Carroll down in salvageable pieces.
>> No. 25707
Surely Carroll can't take you both on at the same time. You suggest to Alice your plan for a simultaneous attack.

"I'm not sure that would be a good idea." Alice replies, seeming hesitant.

You take a quick glance at Carroll and see her advancing toward you.

"She isn't exactly giving us much time to plan here!" You say. "The sooner we can put her down, the better. Come on!"

The two of you turn back toward the approaching Carroll. Without wasting anymore time, you charge ahead toward her with Shanghai and company alongside you. The walls of dolls collide and you manage to punch through, tackling Carroll and knocking her backwards. She lies still on the ground.

Suddenly, you find your limbs aren't quite moving how you'd want them to. Paralysis? No, you can move your arms, but just barely. Activating your Focus Eyes for a moment allows you to see the wires binding your arms. As if she had been waiting for this, Carroll gets up on her feet. It seems your tackle only got her dress torn, revealing part of her chest, shoulder, and upper arm. You notice a strange growth along the surface of her exposed body. It looks like mushrooms. Could this be related to that youkai you fought two days ago? You killed that thing didn't you? Your thoughts are quickly interrupted when you feel the wires around your limbs go slack and Carroll lunges at you, delivering a violent blow right into your gut. The force is enough to send you backwards right into Alice.

You find yourselves on a heap of broken wood. You guess you got knocked into another booth. You hear coughing beneath you and realize you've fallen on top of Alice. Scrambling to get back on your feet, you help her up from the rubble.

"Hey, you all right?" You ask automatically, despite how silly the question sounds after what just happened.

"Ow, ow, ow...It's been a while since I've been hit like that." She groans, a stream of red running down from a cut on her temple.

Shanghai and about half a dozen of her remaining sisters rally around the two of you. Carroll doesn't seem like she's done with you yet and slowly closes in on you, her left arm mangled and dangling at her side from punching you earlier.

"I don't know how, but it looks like something's taken control of Carroll," you speak quickly, trying to give Alice as much information as possible before you have to defend yourselves again. "Mushrooms, from the looks of it. Might be related to that youkai I found on your roof a few days ago."

"If it's about mushrooms, that's something I might have to ask Marisa about later." Alice considers as she gets back up and dusts some of the dirt of her dress. "I've never encountered such fungi myself on my walks through the forest."

[ ] Alice should get out of here while she can.
[ ] Maybe Alice should stand back for now.
[ ] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
>> No. 25709
[x] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[x] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.
>> No. 25711
[x] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[x] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.

I am down with this.
>> No. 25712
[X] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[X] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.
>> No. 25713
[ø] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[ø] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.
It's back!
>> No. 25718
[X] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[X] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.
>> No. 25734
[X] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[X] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.

It must have dropped some spores down the chimney. And I'm going to be very upset if that thing resulted from one of Marisa's experiments.
>> No. 25739
>>25734

If it did, then us and Alice will have a little 'talk' with Marisa when this is over.
>> No. 25799
[X] Fight with Alice's help, but try a different approach.
-[X] Have Alice stay back and wait for an opening while you fight/distract Carroll.

Fungal based security system experiment of Marisa's gone horribly wrong..?
>> No. 25902
>>25799
>Fungal based security system
She hired ork guards?
>> No. 26189
The last plan went horribly wrong, getting you and Alice a bit beaten up. Better think up a new plan then. You'd like to get Alice out of here for her safey, but maybe there's some way you can get rid of what's possessing Carroll without severely damaging her. Alice should be able to figure something out. Maybe you can give her some time.

"Okay, new plan." You speak up. "I'll keep her busy while you try and think of something stop Carroll."

"She managed to fight both of us off. What makes you think you can fight by yourself?" Alice says, sounding skeptical of your new plan.

"Let me worry about that." You reply.

With that, you leap into the air, right over Carroll. She's already turned around facing you just as you land. The knight dolls waste no time flying at you like missiles. They're much faster than before, making it difficult to fight back. Maybe this was too much for you to handle after all. You continue defending yourself against the persistent attacks, but manage to knock away a few of the dolls coming at you, snapping their strings in the process. It helps a little, but letting your guard down now will get you overwhelmed.

You notice a few of the dolls attacking you have broken off, and a quick glance at Carroll shows Alice has gotten up and made her move. You can't figure out what exactly she's done as your attention is forced back to the knight dolls. Whatever she's doing, it seems to have caused your assailants to let up a little. You take what advantage you can of this, severing more strings. The four left behind quickly retreat from you and back to their puppeteer. You're about ready to pursue when something crashes right into you. You catch the object in time to stop yourself from getting knocked over. Hearing a groan, you realize it's Alice who just got thrown at you.

"It...it didn't work!" She blurts out.

"What didn't work?" You ask, setting her down.

"I tried to regain control directly, but she's resisting my influence." She explains.

It only occurs to you now that none of Alice's dolls are floating around close by. You look up to see Carroll, her once pristine appearance now riddled with more mushrooms than before, some peaking out of the new tears in her dress. The fast spreading growth now makes her appear bulky and deformed, just like the youkai from before. At her feet are the broken remains of Alice's remaining dolls. A gust of wind kicks up a long red cloth, sailing your way. You snatch it out of the air, realizing it used to be Shanghai's cape. Carroll is now approaching the two of you, her steps irregular and off balance, much like an infant unfamiliar with walking.

"Isn't there some other way?" You ask.

"Just...destroying her. Completely." She replies, sounding uncertain.

[ ] Destroy Carroll.
[ ] Don't do it.
>> No. 26190
[X] Don't do it.
>> No. 26198
[ø] Don't do it.
>A gust of wind kicks up a long red cloth, sailing your way. You snatch it out of the air, realizing it used to be Shanghai's cape.
Fuck you, mushroom bastard.
>> No. 26203
[x] Don't do it.
>> No. 26204
What are we to do? Since there has to be a way of stopping her without more spores spreading.
>> No. 26228
Dolls can be rebuilt, and regardless of how technically impressive she may be, Carroll is no exception. The longer this goes on, the better the odds are that someone is going to get hurt.

[x] Destroy Carroll.
>> No. 26241
>>26228
Not to mention the mushroom youkai getting stronger.
>> No. 26243
[x] Destroy Carroll.
>> No. 26246
>A gust of wind kicks up a long red cloth, sailing your way. You snatch it out of the air, realizing it used to be Shanghai's cape.

You motherfucker.


[x] Destroy Carroll.
>> No. 26247
[X] Don't do it.
>> No. 26249
[x] Destroy Carroll.
There is no other way
>> No. 26265
[x] Destroy the mushrooms completely with the power of Justice.

Too soon to push for a new attack?
>> No. 26280
This was an outcome you desired least, but any other option would have endangered someone. You turn to Alice.

"Are you going to--" You start.

"No," she replies before you finish, "I can't."

Of course she wouldn't. For Alice, it's almost like asking a mother to cast aside her own child. It's probably easier for a stranger like you, but you've seen how she's treated Carroll. You can't help but feel terrible for what you will have to do.

You look down at the frayed cloth you're holding, remembering Carroll won't be the only casualty when the day is through. Carroll lets out another rattling shriek as her body spasms. You've been standing around long enough, it's time to finish this. The monster seems aware of your intentions and sends it's last four knight dolls at you. Whatever possessed it seems to have made its puppeteering sloppy. The knight dolls are easily dispatched as you deftly evade their attacks, quickly cutting the remaining strings. All that's left is this deformed combination of doll and fungi.

The creature suddenly lunges at you. Its speed catches you off guard, leaving you open to a powerful blow from its arm. You're knocked over to the side, leaving you with barely a moment to get on your feet when it comes at you again. You manage to react in time, swinging at elbow right into its midsection. Stunned from the impact, you quickly follow up with a kick into its inner leg. It staggers and you throw a straight punch that knocks it off its feet. Immediately, you realize you've been too close for too long and back away, dusting the spores off before they accumulate on you. No way you're letting it get you with that again, not this time.

After getting back on its feet, it lets out an enraged cry and charges at you. You stand your ground. As it approaches, you feel the heat building in your fist. Once it closes in, you take a step forward and drive your first forward. The blow shatters the monster's arm and shoulder. It staggers from the impact as it passes and you move to deliver the finishing blow while it's still close. You turn quickly and throw your leg as you spin.

Rider Kick.

Carroll's remains topple onto the ground, the fracture on its head signifying a fatal strike. Its remaining arm moves, making a pitiful attempt to reach out to its creator before finally erupting into flames.

An unnatural silence soon follows after. You take this chance to revert back to your usual appearance before the villagers return. Alice is quiet as well, but retakes control of what intact dolls she can. Together, the two of you gather the debris from the battle.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The mood on the ride back to the Forest of Magic is solemn. It doesn't help that Alice remains silent even while riding with you. Sometimes people just don't feel like flying, you suppose. You reach the forest at last, making your way to Alice's house while following Goliath who flies just above the trees.

You finally reach the house and the dolls begin bringing the suitcases inside, one at a time. Alice steps off the bike to coordinate them while you go to unhook the cart carrying some baggage.

[ ] Stay quiet.
[ ] Say something.
>> No. 26282
[x] Say something.

I wonder if this mushroom monster will be investigated or not.
>> No. 26284
[x] Say something.
-[x]"I don't think you need me to say this but... the best way to honor those who are gone is to make sure that you do better next time. If you stop your research now, their deaths were in vain."
-[x]"If you want to hate anyone, hate me. I was the one who destroyed her when so many options went unexplored"
The ball was just dropped. Oh well.
>> No. 26289
[ø]>>26284
fffuck.
>> No. 26293
[x] Say something.
>> No. 26297
[x] Say something.

>>26284
Kind of want to vote for this, but I'm not certain that's the best thing to say. (Not saying it's bad; rather, I'm genuinely unsure)
>> No. 26336
[x] Say something.
>> No. 26353
[x] Say something.

>>26284
I don't really agree with this.
>> No. 26574
UPDATE.
>> No. 26757
File 126983250431.jpg - (357.32KB , 947x631 , bye.jpg ) [iqdb]
26757
Doesn't she want to talk about it? Then again, she's lived in the forest all by herself. You have to wonder if she ever gets a chance to vent. Still unsure of what you can say, you decide to speak regardless.

"Hey," you start, "You all right?"

A silly question, but what else could you say? Alice's shoulders droop as she lets out a sigh.

"I apologize. I didn't intend to prolong your employment." She says.

"What? No, don't worry about that. I'm just concerned. I can't imagine losing so much hard work all at once."

"I was so close..." She mutters, sitting down on the steps of her porch. "I would have given her a mind of her own."

She must mean a sentient doll. It's surprising that Gensokyo doesn't already something like that, you think. You go ahead and speak up again, "Do you regret letting her...?"

"No," she answers, shaking her head, "As much as I had wanted to finally create an independent doll, it had to be done. It would only put more in danger, like those children."

That reminds you. You take out Shanghai's cape, holding it out to Alice.

"If it's about Shanghai and the rest," She starts before you could even let a word out, taking the cloth, "They can be remade with ease."

"But what are you going to do now?"

"I think I'll take a break from the festivals for a while. I imagine the villagers wouldn't want to see me, not after something like this." She answers and gets back up, returning to her task.

You're somewhat disappointed Alice didn't say anything more, but if even talking a little bit has helped her feel a little better, you'd be satisfied with that. You ought to get back bringing these cases in anyway.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's already the later part of the afternoon when you finally finish. You kick up the stand on your bike, ready to go with one of Alice's dolls standing by to lead you out of the forest. Just when you're ready, the doll points your attention to Alice, stepping out of her house with something in her hand.

"Good, I caught you in time." She says.

"Something wrong?" You ask, lifting up your helmet visor.

"No," She presents you with a long cloth of vibrant red. "I just wanted you to have this. Just a little something for what you've done for me these past few days."

"Well, thank you." A little unexpected on her part, but you're grateful all the same.

"It was going to be a spare for Shanghai, but it would just be a waste to let this lie around unfinished." She hands it to you with a little smile. "Besides, heroes need capes, right?"

"This is a bit short, isn't it?" You chuckle.

"So make it a scarf then. It's close enough!" She says with mock annoyance.

Glad to see she's feeling better enough to have some humor.

"If you need my services, feel free to contact me." You start the engine. "See you around then, Miss Margatroid."

"Just 'Alice' will do."

"Oh, then, see you around, Alice."

She nods, "Goodbye, and thank you again."

With that, you slip your visor down and leave the clearing. You part ways with the doll at the edge of the forest and begin your ride home.

======

Masked Rider of Gensokyo Episode 1 complete!
>> No. 26758
Awesome, sweet 'scarf' obtained!
>> No. 26761
Well I guess all in all, things went as well as they could.
>> No. 26763
Bitchin'.
>> No. 26768
Awesomesauce
>> No. 26769
a scarf-cape thing. Awesome.
>> No. 26777
Just glorious
>> No. 26793
Is this the part where there's a small intermission and we find out more about the villain? Because it better not be another Psycho!Yukari.
>> No. 26874
File 127018391599.png - (245.17KB , 580x823 , Nitori.png ) [iqdb]
26874
"That's exactly how I told you not to use them!" Remarks a miffed Nitori. "You're lucky your first shot actually hit!"

You begin to wonder if telling the truth was worth this.

"Do you have any idea how delicate the mechanisms in these things are?!" She contines. "It took at least an entire day, without sleep, to make sure these things calibrated properly!"

She wouldn't take "out of options" as an excuse. You let Nitori go on with lecturing you on the intricacies of the surveillance devices she calls "Sky Hoppers" hoping she might just tire herself and give up. Her tirade finally ends and she takes a rather spiteful bite out of a cucumber she had sitting in a jar on the workbench.

She begins speaking while chewing, "Anyway, you'll have to make do with two for now. The next batch needs a bit more work." She gulps. "How's the village? I heard the festival was interrupted."

"Oh, that." You look down in thought. "Could've been worse. No one got killed, at least, thank god."

"Hmm." Nitori nods in agreement as she starts looking through one of her toolboxes. "You free for the rest of the day?"

"What for?"

"I figured there'd be time for one quick upgrade."

Well, you're pretty much done with work. Why not?

[ ] Upgrade on yourself.
[ ] Upgrade for your bike.
[ ] A new gadget.
[ ] On second thought, nevermind.
>> No. 26875
[x] A new gadget.

Yay updates. New toys are fun.
>> No. 26876
[x] Upgrade on yourself.
>> No. 26877
[x] Upgrade on yourself.
>> No. 26878
[x] Upgrade on yourself.
>> No. 26879
[x] Upgrade on yourself.
>> No. 26880
[X] A new gadget.

The mushroom monster proved that our bag of tricks is inadequate.
>> No. 26886
[x] Upgrade on yourself.
-[x] Nuke Generator.

CAUTION CAUTION
>> No. 26894
[x] Upgrade on yourself.

Go go gadget extending arms.
>> No. 26896
[x] Upgrade on yourself.

I'm thinking more along the lines of an attack that can take out parasites/infections without harming the host. (Rider Palm or something? Is there a precedent?) Enemy seems to like taking control of things and people, and would not like to see a sad Alice again.
>> No. 26897
[x] Upgrade on yourself.

>see a sad Alice again.

never again...
>> No. 26901
>>26896
thing is the first episode controlled Yamame via a sound thing, the second episode had a mushroom Youkai. Who knows what ep3 might bring.
>> No. 26902
>>26901

Exactly. What would happen if the mushrooms infected an actual person? Or if they improved on the device and made it implantable?
>> No. 26928
[x] Upgrade on yourself.
>> No. 27429
[x] A new gadget.
>> No. 27462
[x] Update on yourself.
>> No. 27478
[x] Upgrade for your bike.
>> No. 27490
[X] An update for the story
>> No. 27714
"How about something for me?" You suggest.

"Feeling inadequate, are we?" She smirks. "Okay, I've got something we could install. Probably should have been in you from the start though." She gets her tools laid out on the table and directs you to lie down on one of the workbenches. "Let's get started then."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

You make your way back outside with your little upgrade now implemented. According to Nitori, it was something like a remote control that would let you call your bike, but she got dragged off to other things before she could give you more details. Your visit is pretty much done so you decide to head outside. To your surprise, you find that winged woman leaning on your bike, hastily jotting down something on her notepad.

"And how may I help you today, Miss Reporter?" You ask, making sure to stay polite, especially around her.

She steps away from your bike, after hearing your greeting. "What? No 'Hello?'" She says as she approaches you, with her pen and paper at the ready. "You could at least address me by na-"

You make a gesture suggesting that she hurry up.

"Right, okay," She nods, getting the idea, "So, the Masked Rider. Heard anything about it?"

"Aside from your paper?" You're suspicious of why she would bring this topic up to you. You think carefully about what you'll say. "Not much, just, you know, stories around town."

"No doubt. Word is it was involved at the incident during the past festival." She gives you a look as if examining your brain through your eyes. "You didn't see anything, did you?"

"Didn't see a thing." You answer, shaking your head. "I was trying to get away with everyone else." Hopefully you came across as convincing enough to keep her from probing you further.

Her gaze remains locked on you a few seconds more before she takes a step back.

"Haah, oh well. I'm told it got pretty hectic, maybe it was better not to stick around." She hasn't put away her notepad yet, though. "How's Alice, by the way? I heard you brought her home."

"She's fine." You answer truthfully, but you wonder if this has any relevance, seeing as she's still scratching her pen across the pad. You decide to put an end to this interview while you still can. "If that's all, I'd like to get going now."

She looks up with a mildly disappointed expression, but her hand stops writing. "Yeah, that's all. Thanks for that." She smiles. She's letting you go, just like that? It's unusual, but you should leave now before she changes her mind.

Mounting your bike and starting it up, you depart from the Kappa's territory.

======

Apologies for the sudden and silent departure. Mostly dealing with real life but also thinking up a general idea for the next plot. We'll be continuing on to the next episode, so look forward to it!
>> No. 27717
File 127353079619.jpg - (571.65KB , 1200x1259 , Miss Reporter.jpg ) [iqdb]
27717
And so he took off, the roar of the engine still audible from where I stood. He was among the very small number of people from the human village who had a motorcycle, a number which shrank even more when you consider how many even bother to actually use them. Normally, I'd be dead sure about this, but I feel like I'm still missing some pieces.

The victims from the village kidnapping case say the Masked Rider was capable of going toe-to-toe with a youkai. I can think of some humans who can do that, no problem, but they don't seem the type to hide their face or ride motorcycles. I tuck my notepad back into my pocket with my pen.

There's no use just standing here when there are other things I can do.

[ ] Maybe I can talk to Alice. She was the center of that incident, after all.
[ ] Try my luck at the human village. Someone had to have seen something, anything!
[ ] Give up, head home, and get to work on the Bunbunmaru.
>> No. 27718
[x] Maybe I can talk to Alice. She was the center of that incident, after all.

Oh shit perspective change.
>> No. 27719
[ø] Maybe I can talk to Alice. She was the center of that incident, after all.
Welcome back!
>> No. 27720
[x] Maybe I can talk to Alice. She was the center of that incident, after all.

May get shut out, but I'd like to see the exchange.
>> No. 27721
[x] Maybe I can talk to Alice. She was the center of that incident, after all. a!
We are Aya!
>> No. 27724
She was in the center of the commotion on that festival day. No doubt Alice Margatroid may know something. According to several witnesses, it was caused by her puppet show getting out of control and her dolls attacking the audience. No witnesses were around to see how the incident was resolved, but people reportedly heard an explosion. At the end of the day she took off with her remaining dolls and left the village.

The reports of the explosion are what bother me. It doesn't seem like something Alice would cause and the only witness to that is the puppeteer herself. That is, if she's willing to talk.

I stretch out my wings and take off from the mountain, heading for the Forest of Magic. It's not a long trip for me and I touch down on the clearing where her house is. It's been chilly all day, but no smoke from the chimney. Is she out? Hiding maybe? We'll see.

[ ] Just knock on the front door normally.
[ ] Pull a Marisa.
>> No. 27725
[X] Just knock on the front door normally.

A unwanted fight might start if we pull a Marisa.


And you're back, that's great.
>> No. 27726
[x] Just knock on the front door normally.

It's good to see you again.
>> No. 27727
[X] Just knock on the front door normally.
Updates!

Don't think Alice would be as willing to talk if we just bust in.
>> No. 27728
[x] Pull a Marisa.
>> No. 27729
[X] Just knock on the front door normally.

Glad to see you back!
>> No. 27730
[x] Close the closet and head to breakfast.

It's preferable.
>> No. 27731
[x] Just knock on the front door normally.

I like a winged Aya.

And welcome the hell back, you. I missed this.
>> No. 27732
[X] Just knock on the front door normally.

Glad to see you up and around.
>> No. 27737
Welcome back!

[X] Just knock on the front door normally.

Aya is always fine too.
>> No. 27739
[x] Just knock on the front door normally.

>>27730
are you lost? do you need a policeman?
>> No. 27740
[X] Just knock on the front door normally.

Works for me~!
>> No. 27745
File 127359749170.png - (49.87KB , 500x500 , 127310682686.png ) [iqdb]
27745
>>27730
>>27739
>> No. 27777
I'll just knock on the door. No way she'll cooperate if I force my way in. I give the door a few taps and wait.

No answer.

She didn't hear it, maybe. I knock louder this time. It pays off as I hear the sound of growing footsteps past the door.

"For the last time, Marisa, I do-" The voice at the door cuts off. "Oh, it's you."

I don't like the sound of that "you," but I'm not surprised. Looks like Marisa came by too. This might be harder that I thought.

"I have to ask you something," I tell her, "About the festival."

Alice's eyes look down a moment. "Just one question. I'm sorry, Aya, but I don't have time for this right now."

"Fine, just one," Actually, that might be all I need. "The explosion during the fesival, did you do that?"

She goes quiet for a moment.

"Yes." She finally answers. "Anything less would risk the doll becoming a threat to the village."

So she says. Apparently a single doll was enough of a threat. I wish I could pursue this further, but...

"A deal's a deal." I did agree to only one question after all. "Thanks for you time, Alice."

She nods from the crack of the door and shuts it with an audible click of the lock. I take this chance to write down what Alice told me, I have a feeling this is important. Now, what next?

[ ] I could try checking the village again.
[ ] I should head home. The Bunbunmaru isn't going to write itself.
>> No. 27778
[X] I could try checking the village again.

Exhaust all options before writing the article.
>> No. 27779
[x] I could try checking the village again.

diligent reporting is the best reporting.
>> No. 27780
[X] I could try checking the village again.

Don't give up.
>> No. 27781
[X] I could try checking the village again.
>>27778
Agreed.
>> No. 27782
[X] I could try checking the village again.

Details are bound to appear as the dust settle!
>> No. 27783
[x] I could try checking the village again.
>> No. 27786
[x] I could try checking the village again.

This can't be Aya, she's considering doing actual fact-checking.
>> No. 27794
[x] I could try checking the village again.

ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out
wh-wh-wh-wh-what's it all about
>> No. 27811
The sun's just about set, but that doesn't mean the day is over. Wouldn't hurt to check around the village again before I head home. I step off of Alice's porch and take off for the human village.

I touch down just outside the gates to make sure the watchmen know it's me coming in. There look to be more of them tonight and they're keeping themselves occupied with idle chatter.

"They'll be okay, right?" One of the younger men asks.

"Yeah, it's nothin' serious," responds his senior. "They got lucky, but that thing's still out there!"

"I'm telling you, it's getting worse," declares another, joining the two. "This is the closest they got, and they don't look like they're stopping there."

"Shaddap, Matsu, we don't need ya' gettin' more people on edge!"

Seems the village isn't the only place having some trouble. Even back home, Momiji tells me she's been driving away an unusual number of youkai each day. I have to wonder if this is at all a concern to that shrine maiden.

Once inside the village, I can see few people are out and about. Especially strange considering how early in the evening it still is. I soon find myself right by the dragon statue realizing I didn't have a particular destination in mind yet. I'd better hurry and get this done, or I'm going to have to pull an all nighter for the paper.

[ ] That delivery guy should be home now, maybe I should go bother him again.
[ ] I haven't talked to the school teacher yet. I wonder what she has to say.
[ ] I could always check the pub.
>> No. 27813
[X] I haven't talked to the school teacher yet. I wonder what she has to say.

This needs more Keine.
>> No. 27815
[a] That delivery guy should be home now, maybe I should go bother him again.

I wonder if we can get Aya to be an ally of justice?
>> No. 27816
[X] I could always check the pub.

Loose lips and all that.
>> No. 27817
[Z] I could always check the pub.

The pub, good source of info.
>> No. 27821
[ø] I could always check the pub.
>> No. 27823
[X] I could always check the pub.

I was torn between Keine and the pub. Then I realized it wouldn't be Aya without some inaccurate facts.
>> No. 27824
[X] I haven't talked to the school teacher yet. I wonder what she has to say.

>>27823
Aya's flaw is that she mixes in too much of her own opinion with her articles. She's truth-seeking to a fault otherwise.
>> No. 27827
[X] I could always check the pub.
>> No. 27830
It'd be awesome if we ever achieved this in the story, but using spellcards instead undead cards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmeBN26jOTQ&fmt=18
>> No. 27831
[x] I haven't talked to the school teacher yet. I wonder what she has to say.

Keine knows all. Also, village protector, so she can give an official statement.
>> No. 27876
File 127439565232.jpg - (110.38KB , 608x500 , dronk.jpg ) [iqdb]
27876
There's bound to be people drinking their troubles away after what's been happening lately. With that in mind, I decide to check out the nearest pub. Just standing outside the entrance I can hear how lively it is. I immediately realize why as I step inside.

"I should've known." I mutter to myself as I hear the shrieking laughter of Suika Ibuki drowning out the rest of the patrons'. It looks like the Hakurei shrine maiden is here too. I don't think I can get much done under these circumstances.

"Heeeeyyy! I see you, Miss Tenguuuuu!" Suika announces, hopping off one of the tables. She approaches me with wobbling steps and a flushed face bearing a wide grin. "Came to relax...hic...after a hard day of workin', huh?"

"Actually, I'm still kinda--" Before I can finish she takes a hold of my arm and drags me further inside.

"Sounds like you need a break!" Suika cuts me off, laughing. She brings me over to the table she and Reimu have occupied. The pinkish shrine maiden appears resigned to her fate, drinking quietly.

"Hi, Reimu." I greet her.

She acknowledges me with a nod. Actually, now that I think about it, this is a good opportunity to get some other info. Suddenly, our eyes meet and she furrows her brow.

"I know that look," Reimu says, putting her cup down noisily. "What do you want, Aya?"

"Oh, no, no, I'm not here to make another article of you! Just wanted to talk about recent events."

"Hmm, well all right. As long as we're clear," she seems to relax now and once again takes her cup for a drink. "So, what recent events are we talking about?"

"Wild youkai attacks. It's going around that they're getting real aggressive. Just wondering if you were going to do something about it."

Reimu looks as if she's giving this some thought, "Didn't seem that bad when we came in this afternoon." She drinks. "They look like they can defend themselves just fine."

"Maybe they've just been lucky for now. Besides, there were the kidnappings weeks back that occurred right inside."

"What about that masked person?"

"Ooh!" Suika chimes in, pushing a cup of sake my way before resting her entire upper body on the table surface. "That Masked Rider guy! That's who you're talking about, right? Right?"

So the conversation still turns to that Masked Rider. "Aha, you know anything about him?"

"Heehee, noooope!"

"Reimu?"

"Nothing that you haven't already written about I'm afraid." Reimu refills her now empty cup. "But I am a little suspicious this person just happened to show up and save those villagers."

"Oho, so you think he could be involved with this somehow? Like he set it up?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. Gods know he could be another of those weirdos that show up every year."

"No way, Reimuuu, he seems like a good guy! A real cool guy!" Suika laughs to herself as she takes a swig from her gourd. "Do you know what he looks like, Miss Tengu?"

"Huh? No, not really." I join in on the drinking. "Couldn't find him when it was all over and all I have to go on are what witnesses said. I was told he rides a motorcycle though."

"A motorcycle? Whazzat, whazzat?"

"Something from outside the border. It's like a horse but with wheels for legs." Informs Reimu. The image seems to tickle Suika as she is immediately seized by a fit of giggling.

"Anyway, yeah, so only humans seem to be interested in these things and I've narrowed it down to a few who live here." I down the rest of my cup and Suika happily gives me a refill.

"Ooh, so he could be a human? I'd like to meet him, I bet he's strong!"

Ahh, such a relaxing atmosphere.

[ ] Keep drinking.
[ ] Keep talking.
>> No. 27877
[x] Keep talking.

Trying to keep up with Suika in drinking is impossible, even for a Tengu.
>> No. 27878
[x] Keep talking.

eye on the prize
>> No. 27879
[x] Keep talking.

They're slightly sauced, this shouldn't be a problem.
>> No. 27880
[X] Keep talking.

Don't get drunk yet.
>> No. 27881
[x] Keep talking.
>> No. 27883
[x] Keep talking.

Like a good reporter.
>> No. 27886
[x] Keep talking.
>> No. 27937
Whoa, careful now, don't wanna get too drunk. Keep talking, keep talking.

"There's a problem with that though," I continue, "How could a human from this village have the strength to fight off youkai?"

"Maybe it was a weak one." Suggests Reimu.

"Not possible," I wag a finger, "Multiple witnesses confirmed more than one youkai involved in the abductions and one more that they claimed to be the leader."

"Hmmm, youkai working together?" Reimu rests her chin on her hand, "That just makes that Masked Rider more suspicious doesn't it?"

I take my notebook out to jot down what we've been talking about. She's got a point that I can't entirely rule out. Either way it's good material for the paper. Oh, damn, that's right! The paper! What time is it?

"You look tense, Miss Tenguuu!"

I try to get up, but I feel like I'm being anchored down. I then realize someone is clinging to me from behind. That someone being a very drunk Suika Ibuki.

"Drink up! Drink uuuup!" She urges, holding her gourd right by my face.

"I still have a full cu--" Before I can finish, I feel the sake flooding into my mouth and down my throat.

"Hey, hey, Suika! You'll drown her with that thing!"

"Oh, right. Oopsie! Sorry, Miss Tenguuu! Hahaha!"

"Pwaaaaah! Uuugh...What the hell, I nearly choked, dummy! Hic!"

"Oooh! She's still standin' after chuggin' down that much! Haha, Suika's veeery impressed, Miss Tengu!"

"Hmhmhm, you underestimate me, Miss Oni! I've trained--Hic!--trained myself just in case these situations rise...rise up!"

"Hmmmmm, that so? Ohoho, let's see how long you last then! Heeheehahahaha!"

"Oh, gods...Really now, you two-"

"Don't underestimate my journalistic skill! Hic!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

"...y...ey...meimaru! Wake up!"

[ ] Mrrgghhh!
[ ] Zzzzzzzz...
[ ] Punch!
>> No. 27938
[X] Punch!

I don't mind the consequences of this choice, whatever it may be.
>> No. 27939
[x] Punch!

Aya's time in 'Nam made her react badly to being woken up out of a daze.
>> No. 27942
[x] Mrrgghhh!

It might be someone concerned and if it's someone annoying we wake up then we punch them.
>> No. 27943
[X] Punch!
"Never interrupt my beauty sleep, Momi... wait, wha?"
>> No. 27944
[x] Mrrgghhh!
>> No. 27945
"...ake up, Shameima--Aagh!!"

I hit something, but what? Oww, my back. What the hell did I sleep on? Gods, were those birds always this loud?! Where am I--Wah, too bright! Too bright! Rrrghh, those birds are too damn loud! I should get up, maybe--Oh, that was easier than I thought. Ahh, that's better! No more light, and the birds aren't so loud. Wait, this doesn't look like my place. And who's this person?

"Heeey, I know you."

"Might have been less painful if you did that earlier." Oh, that was him then. I guess I'm on a couch of that courier's office. "I'll go get some water. Bathroom's over there if you need it."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

After a glass of water and freshening up as best I could, I focus on regaining my bearings. I step out of the bathroom with my head still throbbing a bit.

"Feeling better?" I'm asked as I find a humble-looking meal set up at the table.

"A little, thanks for asking."" I reply, rubbing my temple. "Umm, how'd I get here?"

"Beats me. I found you there this morning." He shrugs, taking a seat. "Sit down, you should eat."

I can't exactly refuse if he bothered doing this much. He always seemed standoffish toward me, so I'm surprised he's shown me this much hospitality. I sit down as well and join him for breakfast.

Breakfast proceeds in silence with the occasional clink of the tableware.

[ ] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.
[ ] I can just sit here and have look around his place.
[ ] Shut up and eat.
>> No. 27946
[X] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.

Let's put him to ease.
>> No. 27947
[x] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.

Pow, right in the kisser.
>> No. 27948
[X] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.

Can't go wrong
>> No. 27949
[x] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.
-[x] Start with an apology.

I knew it'd be something like this, but you people wouldn't listen.
>> No. 27950
[X] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.

>>27949
I was hoping for something more comedic. Can't win them all.
>> No. 27951
[x] Shut up and eat. Eat is good. Apologize after food.
>> No. 27952
[X] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.
-[X] Start with an apology.
>> No. 27954
[x] He's probably feeling as awkward as me. Maybe I should break the ice.