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29675 No. 29675
You let out a yawn.

Who would have thought a train ride could be this boring? It's true what they say – there really is nothing this far north. Well, nothing besides the trees, the Northern Sea, and your destination, that is.

Rokford. No doubt named by some uninspired miner. From what you understand, it's the northernmost city in the Gensokian empire. It's not a huge city, by any means. It's rather wealthy, however, since most of the precious metal mining in the empire takes place in the region. And, fortunately for Rockford, that's where the railway stops. If you've got a golden statuette, or some real silverware, there's a good chance it passed through Rokford. However, something funny is going on.

See, about a week ago, all communication with the city was lost. Rokford seems to have become almost like some kind of void, consuming everything the rest of the world has been tossing at it. All the trains, carts, carrier pigeons, horseback messengers… any that head towards the city simply disappear without a peep. All of that doesn't matter to you personally, of course. The Mages' Guild has interests in the city however, and, by extension, so do you.

As a Protector, it's your job to take care of Guild interests, plain and simple. In this case, the Guild's interest was kindly provided by the owners of those mines – in the form of a two-phase lump sum. However much it was, it was enough to get you from your office to this train in an hour; probably not something to sneeze at.

They sent another agent with you, as backup, but she's… well, quiet, to the point of being disturbing. Not once during that conversation did she give you more than a one word answer, or even look up from her book. You've heard rumors that she's a youkai, too; it's not unheard of for one to join the Guild, but it's certainly rare. It makes you uncomfortable, to be honest.

“… damn.”

You thought for sure it'd be past one o'clock by now, but it's only just reaching noon. Three more hours or so before you should reach the city. A little short of the city, anyway. There's a switch a few miles out that the operator plans to use to turn around. You guess the Guild didn't pay them enough to wait around and pick you up after you've taken care of business. One of the groups that disappeared was able to camp there for the night, send out a message, and promptly disappear the next day, so they figured that it's probably safe.

The train is mostly empty—after all, not many people ride knowingly into oblivion—but you could probably find someone to talk to if you tried. Although… aside from some rather ordinary (and desperate) looking people, and of course the ones running the train, it may well be just you and your partner. Maybe you should try again. This is going to be really awkward if you aren't even able to get a full sentence out of her.

Donning your bowler and patting the wrinkles out of your Guild uniform, you open the door to your cabin and slip out into the hall. You imagine that mining guild execs use this train most of the time – the wallpaper, a deep green, the earthy-brown lower half, and the burgundy/gold carpet are all done up in mining guild colors. They even managed to work their pick-like emblem into the patterns done across the whole thing. It's all very pleasing to the eye.

Steeling yourself, you head one cabin back and knock. Once… twice… No answer. When you peek in through the cabin window, though, she gives you a slight nod.

You can't help yourself from admiring just how… well, human she looks. Again, human-looking youkai aren't unheard of, but feral, beast-like things are definitely more common. She's definitely not beast-like. In fact, her figure is quite human – what little of it you can see, anyway.

The Guild only mandates a few things when it comes to uniform. One: the crest must be displayed at at least chest level, or higher. Two: The only colors permissible for the majority of the cloth are moderated to dark blue and black. Three: the only colors permissible for any trim are gold and darker shades of other colors. With such loose guidelines, it's almost like a game to come up with something fitting you, while still suiting the guild.

She's chosen a… well, you'd almost describe it as a cross between pajamas and a traditional robe, done up in mostly darker blues and purple trim, with the guild crest displayed near her left collar bone. It looks very comfortable, but it's also very loose – there aren't many hints as to what lies underneath.

“Hello,” you say, trying your best to come across as friendly. No response, other than a slight nod. “Ah, I see you're still working on that book.”

There's a slight pause before she responds with another nod, and a flip of the page.

… hmm. How best to approach this?

[ ] “So, what's your specialty?”
[ ] “I'd like to go over our assignment again, if you don't mind.”
[ ] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”
[ ] Write-in.
================================================
Hello again. Picture semi-related.

I'm trying out something new this time. I fully expect to be writing updates over multiple days, so I'll call the vote when I start.

No title for now. I couldn't think of something suitable yet. Uh, enjoy.

>> No. 29676
[x] “So, what's your specialty?”
Seems interesting for the first little bit of story.
>> No. 29677
[X] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”

The only way to Patchy is through her books.
>> No. 29678
[ ] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”

Because I'm honestly curious - wait.

>Klaymen

...What happened to SCIENCE!, Klaymen?
>> No. 29679
[Q] “So, what's your specialty?”

O-ho~ This story could be fun.
>> No. 29680
[x] “So, what's your specialty?”
>>29678
He will get to it. Maybe he just needs a bit of a break for the moment.
>> No. 29681
[X] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”
>> No. 29682
[x] “So, what's your specialty?”

New story. Seems funny enough to worth the time I'm using right now, voting.
>> No. 29683
> the Gensokian empire

Gensokyo is an empire now? That must mean the Great Barrier isn't there anymore. I wonder how the rest of the world is holding up...
>> No. 29687
[ x ] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”
>> No. 29688
[X] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”

Works for me~!
>> No. 29689
Votes called. Update probably sometime later tonight.

>>29678
Ah... about that.

Being forced to stop for close to two months took all the steam right out of that one. It's not dead, but it's going to require more work than this one will.

I have a plot/purpose with this one (which it kindly provided to me when I should have been taking notes in class), while SCIENCE was restarted as more of a "oh hey I kind of want to write something, maybe I can revive this" story.

So, consider it sleeping again. It's difficult to write because I don't know where to take it, and I'm not very good at directing my imagination. I don't have the force of will to make it into something at the moment.

tl;dr excuses excuses, it's on hold for the next few months at the very least.

>>29683
This isn't set on Earth, so don't worry about that. Gensokyo is one of this world's great nations, and has been for a while.
>> No. 29691
[x] “So, what's your specialty?”
>> No. 29692
[x] “I'd like to go over our assignment again, if you don't mind.”

>>29683
Isn't it kinda obvious that this doesn't take place in anything resembling our reality?
>> No. 29694
[x] “So, what's your specialty?”
>> No. 29695
[X] “So, what's your specialty?”

Hmm, I wonder what the world is like, then?
>> No. 29696
[x] “It must be pretty good, then. What is it?”

“Mind if I take a seat?” you ask, motioning to the bench across from her. A shrug. Well, that's good enough for you. “It must be a pretty good book, then,” you continue, after settling into the plush bench. “What is it?”

She leans backward in her seat, revealing the front of the tome to you. “Ah, Theol's On the Elements,” you point out. Although you haven't seen a copy in a while, the lettering and cover is instantly recognizable. “I find the relations he draws between the influence of metal and the position of Alnilamin to be fascinating. Did you get that from The Library?”

There're actually a few libraries in Aegis, but for Guild members there's only one even worth considering. It's one of the Guild's great resources. If there was a book written on magic within the last thousand years, you can almost certainly find a copy inside those huge ivory halls. Even if it was written earlier than that, you can probably find it reproduced in some form or another.

She nods, in either case. And, much to your surprise, speaks. “... it's wrong, though.”

Tch. Maybe it's the fact that she never speaks that gives weight to her words, but there's definitely no room for you to argue. You might even have to cross that off your list of usable beliefs.

“How about the relation between exploding boilers in a region and an increase in the power of fire?”

“It's in reverse.”

“The Diraxian algorithm?”

“Incomplete.”

“My, really?” You laugh, a little nervously. “How about his correlation between birth rates and wood?”

“It's wrong.”

You bring up a few more of poor Theol's other novel points, only to have them promptly slapped down as incorrect. It's definitely enough. You'll never be able to use Theol's school of thought again without remembering this conversation, and that'd lead to a whole bunch of trouble. It's probably best just to forget it entirely.

Eventually, you ask the real question. “Why read it, if everything he says is wrong?”

“It's fun to prove it wrong.”

“... point,” You admit, a small grin creeping across your face at getting more than a phrase. “I'll take it you're an elementalist?”

She nods.

Elementalism is a fairly common school of magic in Gensokyo, and fairly useful. It can be used to deal with a large number of things. Anything of the material plane, certainly, although sometimes it's difficult to apply it to things that generally exist outside our reality. Or so you've heard.

“Any specialty?”

She shakes her head.

That's a bit more rare. Well, among humans at least, but that's probably because of earthly time constraints. You wonder if she has to worry about such things.

“None?”

“None,” she confirms.

“... well th---whoa!”

A sudden jolt, accompanied by a metallic screech, almost sends you flying out of your seat. Although you manage to catch yourself, the shock is still enough to send your hat tumbling from your head. Your natural reaction is to prepare for something more. However, nothing more comes. The trees keep flying by, never slowing, and you can still feel the tracks underneath the train.

“What was that?” You ask, cautiously taking your hat back up.

Your partner shrugs, wholly unaffected by the whole thing. A part of you feels a little irritated. Well, that's natural, you guess. That kind of perfect composure is something to admire.

“You don't seem too worried.”

Another shrug.

[ ] “Well, I am. I'm going to go check it out.”
[ ] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”
[ ] Two can play at that game. … but, maybe you should throw up a few barriers, just in case.
>> No. 29697
[x] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”
>> No. 29698
[ ] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”

It is our job after all.
>> No. 29699
[X] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”

So Theol is this world's version of Aristotle?
>> No. 29702
[x] “Well, I am. I'm going to go check it out.”
>> No. 29704
[x] “Well, I am. I'm going to go check it out.”
>> No. 29709
[X] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”
>> No. 29711
[X] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”

Maybe this will unlock more dialog.
>> No. 29719
[x] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”

Let's go, Together!
>> No. 29721
[x] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”
>> No. 29724
Votes called. Update either today or tomorrow.
>> No. 29725
[x] “Well, I am. Let's go check it out.”

“Well, I am.” you say, standing up. “Let's go check it out.”

There's no response for a second or two. “... 'let us'?”

“Backup would be nice,” You respond, trying not to let your irritation show. You were assigned as the lead on this case, and, judging by her Guild insignia you could pull rank if you really needed to. Still, you'd rather not.

“Two minutes.”

“... fine.”

You glance at your pocket-watch, to get the time. Well, that killed a half hour, at least. Might as well watch the hallway while you're waiting, too.

At almost exactly the two minute mark (a few seconds short), On the Elements snaps shut with a loud thump. You guess you're a bit anxious about this whole thing, because even that was enough to make you jump a little.

Turning around, you see your partners eyes for what you think is the first time on this entire trip. She seemed shorter, some--- oh. No, she's just floating at eye level. One of those types, then. You notice the book tucked under her arm.

“Ready?” you ask.

She nods. “Sorry. I can't pay much attention when I'm reading.”

Without letting the rising 'then stop reading!' leave your mouth, you nod, turning around to slide the door open.

“Patchouli Knowledge,” your partner says, speaking on her own for what you think is the first time. Maybe she was just really into that book. “I don't think we were introduced.”

Nothing suspicious in either direction, you note, peeking out the now open door into the rest of the car. “I'm Jack Steam.”

Both are Guild names, of course. It's customary to take one when you join. Something about a rebirth into your new life, shedding your old identity as a commoner or a noble or anything in between, and being born as a mage. Something like that. You've been with the Guild for a while, and it's somewhat hard to remember that far back.

“And your specialty?”

“Right now?” You ask, grinning a bit. “None. It sounded like it came from this direction, right?”

“Maybe. I wasn't paying attention.”

“Right.”

That terrible noise did sound like it came from behind you, which would place it nearer to the front of the train. You make your way out into the car proper, and begin walking towards the front of the train. There's another passenger car in front of this one, and then a dining car, but you can't be sure as to what's beyond that. If memory serves there was another car or two before the engine, though.

This car and the next seem to be completely fine, although a few of the cabins have the shades drawn. Out of curiosity, you knock on one.

“Hello?”

“Don't kill me!” A terrified voice responds.

“Don't worry,” you say, using a line you've used hundreds of times before, “I'm with the Mage's Guild. Are you alright?”

A finger slowly lifts back the shade, and you see one eye peek out to see you. A moment later, there's a click. The door slides open, revealing a slightly bald, slightly grubby, and very nervous looking man. There's a woman of a similar age in the car.

“You're going to do something about that thing, right?”

“That thing?” you echo, completely unsure of what he's talking about. “Which thing?”

“In the dining car,” he says, “It just broke in and---”

Another lurch, screech, and, this time, a yell. The door frame provides a convenient hold this time. You motion for the man to keep still, and notice Patchouli float past you. She seems to be knowing what she's doing, at least, so you stay put for the moment. Her floating takes her a few rooms up. She gives some kind of motion and you hear the door slide open.

“A murder,” She says, in that rather matter-of-fact tone.

“Hold that thought,” You tell him, making your way to Patchouli's side. “How coul--- oh. Ugh.”

The scene that greets you is one of those speeding trees and – no, that's it aside from the blood. It looks like a bomb went off in the room, or perhaps some kind of giant cleaver sliced through the train.

Patchouli turns to you. “Maybe a youkai...?”

“That's what happened before! It sliced right through the car!”

You guess the older man didn't want to stay put. Much to his dismay, he catches a glimpse of the room.

“Oooh,” He moans, “We're all going to diiiiie...”

“We'll take care of it,” You say. You're still not sure what the hell is going on, but at least that much is true. “Go back to your cabin, try to remain quiet and not move too much.”

“R-right.”

The man nods, and makes his way back to the cabin.

“Will that help?” Patchouli asks, quizzically.

You shrug. “Who knows.”

Both of you turn back towards the room. Yes, something like a cleaver, or maybe a fist. The way the metal is bent shows that the impact came from the top, flattened some poor passenger, and kept going through the bottom. Maybe it was scooped or something, since if the debris had been allowed to drop it certainly would have derailed the train.

Oh! Something obvious comes to you. You make a dash to the next empty room, open the window, and peek out.

“... huh.”

You can see back quite a ways, but there's nothing resembling debris on the side of the track.

When you go to leave, you notice Patchouli just outside the room, watching you.

“I was looking for the rest of the room,” You say, “Didn't see it, though. Are you familiar with any youkai in the area?”

“... I didn't study for this far away from the town,” She admits.

You let out a small, nervous laugh. “Crap. Me either.”

[ ] Maybe the dining car will offer some clues.
[ ] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.
[ ] Whatever it was, it couldn't have gone far. Give chase.
[ ] Take up position on top of the train. With two of you, you can watch both directions.
>> No. 29726
[X] Maybe the dining car will offer some clues.
>> No. 29727
[X] Maybe the dining car will offer some clues.

Chasing only really helps if you had clues to chase after, and a train does not really offer that much room for a chase either. Whatever it is, it is probably outside, can move quite fast and most probably fly. Running around inside the train helps as much as climbing onto the roof where its superior maneuverability lets us catch a glance at best and have us utterly defeated at worst.
>> No. 29728
[Q] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.

Now this is getting good.
>> No. 29731
[x] Maybe the dining car will offer some clues.
Unless divining can be done quickly, in which case:
[x] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.
>> No. 29733
[X] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.
Assuming this is functional Divination and not one of those that give answers so vague that you might as well not use them, this is probably our best bet to finding out what happened.
>> No. 29734
[Q] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.
>> No. 29735
[Q] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.

If its reasonably fast.
>> No. 29746
Votes called, update sometime within the next 24 hours.
>> No. 29760
[x] Perhaps a bit of divining is in order.

Crap, indeed. If onl---

“Give me a minute,” you say, reaching inside your coat for the mirror that you use. It's hard to find among all this other junk – you often wonder why you carry it all around. It's almost all worthless. Someday you'll throw it out. “I'll get us some information.”

Patchouli gives you a quizzical look. “You're proficient in divining, then?”

“Didn't I tell you? Divination is my specialty.” you ask, frowning. This is definitely something you would have mentioned to your partner. “Could you watch my back while I prepare?”

She raises an eyebrow at that, seemingly confused. You're not exactly sure why. After a moment, though, she seems to understand. A faint smile crosses her face, and she nods. “... I see. Certainly.”

Hastily, you set to work. Nothing worse than being blind with an enemy scurrying about. No time for fancy circles or clarity; you just need the general idea and a general location. Looking into the torn up room, you get an idea. The blood will serve nicely as an aid. Taking two fingers, you smear a glyph on your mirror with it. Then, you take a seat on the floor and place the mirror in front of you.

Patchouli doesn't exactly look alert, but no one knows better than you that posture can be misleading. You'll trust her, for the moment.

“Exterminate, or incapacitate?” She asks, just as you prepare to enter a trance.

“Exterminate,” You say, “Might as well save someone else the trouble.”

It's difficult to keep a lock on your target, so to speak, and keep a lock on yourself. Divination allows you to choose one or the other, but not both. Using the mirror as a focus, you begin to clear your mind. Lose yourself in it's depths. Slowly, slowly...

Looking around, you notice the rushing trees; however, this time, they are all around. There's a single creature, something, something... not native. Something playful. Something hungry. Humanoid, dressed like a human woman in her sunday best. Flying. Debating.

Which one, which one? I'm...

“...looking for something lively,” you echo. At least, you think you do. There's a faint murmur, too, but it's too far away to hear.

Suddenly, you can see the train again, through two sets of eyes. Through a powerful, unnatural body. A youkai? A demon? You're unsure. If it's a youkai, it's one you're not familiar with one. However, you notice something about the car that's currently in focus; it's one back from the dining car. The one you're in.

So quiet, so quiet! Like little mice hiding from a boot~

Once, twice, thrice, your pursuer scans the car. She's looking at the east side; the side that all the rooms face. They're all seemingly empty. It's interesting that something as simple as hiding works so well.

Maybe... the other side...?

The monster sails in an arc over the train, entering the forest on the west side. Ah. Two humans on this side of the car, both in darker blues. Weren't you told something about that? 'Watch out for people all done up in blue', or something? But, but... it'd be a shame to leave them, right...?

No... two humans, and a tiny one? What's one of those doing here? Oh, that's right. Blue ones can fight back, generally. Maybe one of those two is a slaver. Ugh. You hate slavers. You just want to rip their hearts out.

No you don't.

What?

Suddenly you find yourself back in the car. Shit, you blew it. Too deep. Maybe that's because you're not a divin---

“Ugh,” You say, taking a look at the bloodied mirror in front of you. That personality sure likes his blood. You'll have to remember to limit your vision next time. “It's over there, getting ready to attack. I think. Some kind of demon.”

Patchouli nods, shifting her gaze over towards the forest. Again, she doesn't look too worried. Very relaxed. “Koa. Pay attention.”

“Right!” The little devil says, sounding almost like a child. She flutters over to the window. “Paying attention!”

It's almost comical to watch. Maybe it would be better to call this thing an imp? It's almost fairy-like in stature, only with demonic features instead of one's you'd associate with fey. This one in particular has two sets of bat-like wings; one pair at the back and another, seemingly useless one, just above the ears. She's also got some kind of leathery tail with a point on the end, something you'd never see on a fairy.

“There it goes!” 'Koa' exclaims, after a few seconds. You're just quick enough to see something clear the tree-line.

So it begins. Any comments on your partner summoning up devils to do her bidding will have to wait, you guess.

[ ] Support.
[ ] Attack.
[ ] Defense.
>> No. 29761
>“Didn't I tell you? Divination is my specialty.”
Wait, the divination choice decided our specialty?
>Maybe that's because you're not a divin---
Oh. Well played, sir. Though the MC's going to regret that boasting down the line.

[X] Support.
Elementalists are heavy on offence. Leaders are more suited for support roles anyway.
>> No. 29762
[X] Support.

We already told her we don't have a specialty. We can pass it off as a joke.
>> No. 29763
[X] Support.
Like the Guys before me said.
>> No. 29765
[Q] Support.

She's got good attack, and a summoning to boot.
>> No. 29766
>That personality sure likes his blood.
Hoh.

[X] Support.
>> No. 29768
I like how you're sticking to koakuma as a tiny demon fairy.

Proceed.
>> No. 29771
Called, 24 hours, etc.
>> No. 29772
Jack Steam, huh? Any relation to the family of genius steampunk inventors from Steamboy?
>> No. 29773
[x] Support.

And you, as a---

---elemen---

---barrie---

---manipulator, should do your part to support your side and hurt the enemy as best you can. Indirectly, of course.

The next part happens in a flash, too fast for you to be of any help. The ceiling collapses. Tears, really. And that demon – you can see it clearly for a moment – almost continues down on top of poor Patchouli. However, at the same instant, something like a geyser erupts upward from the floor of the train.

Both the demon and Patchouli are carried out of the train with the blast, one more disoriented than the other. And, thankfully, you're beginning to get a hold on the flow of battle. See where the energy is coming from and going to. See the forces of life and nature, and the very obvious ways at which they interact.

And, right now, most of it's flowing upward towards the battle you can't see. Koa shoots out the hole at the first opportunity, while you're content to watch from here. No reason to go out into that; the distances you are talking really aren't all that significant. You're content to watch through the recently made hole, since Patchouli seems to be holding position above that.

Patchouli's abilities are very impressive. You can't help but notice the ease with which she commands her abilities; really, there's not much you can do to improve it. There is no mixing of opposing forces, her attacks augmenting each other quite well, and it's all done with about as much speed as is possible. Even her way of reading the battle, of recognizing the next attack and blocking/countering it, is done in an incredibly graceful way. She's almost stationary, with elemental energy (and a tiny imp) flowing around her like a rock in a stream. It simply goes where it needs to go.

That demon, on the other hand... very chaotic. Almost the exact opposite of Patchouli, you'd say. It seems to be relying on snap decisions and its own innate brute force – something not wrong in itself – but in all the wrong ways. It's not even bothering to read the flow of battle at all. There's really not much for you to befuddle, but you think you managed to slow its reactions a bit.

With the demon being outmaneuvered (by someone who isn't moving, no less), outgunned, and outclassed, the fight ends almost as quickly as it began. After dodging a flashy, but not very dangerous, volley of small fireballs, Patchouli manages to impale the beast with an earthen spire that she shaped and hung in waiting. The spire, demon and all, solidly plants itself near the tree line. If that thing's not dead yet, it will be soon.

“How weak,” Patchouli says, re-entering the car with Koa tailing along behind her. Until she gives a slight wave of her hand, that is. There's a puff of sulfuric-smelling smoke as it vanishes, presumably back to wherever it came from. “All the strength in the world won't make up for a weak mind.”

She turns to you. “Was there only one?”

How would you know? It's not like you're a diviner, rig---

“... yeah,” You say, “I think so. I only saw one.”

“Odd.”

You shrug. “Maybe it was a rogue summon, or something.”

Demons don't generally appear unless something causes them to appear. A portal to hell, for instance, or some kind of summon. Even then, it's rare for things like portals to show up naturally. Sometimes it does happen, though.

“It wasn't,” she states, leaving no room for argument. With a lazy movement, she begins heading down the hall towards your car, although she pauses before getting very far. “... was that everything?”

You can see her gaze shift back to the book, that, somehow, she's still holding onto. It doesn't seem to have been scathed through all that.

[ ] “I think so.”
[ ] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons.”
[ ] Something else (write-in).
================================================>>29772
Nope. "Steam" came from the help of the cabal.
>> No. 29774
[x] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons.”
More voting. IRC needs to get off their ass and vote.
>> No. 29775
[x] "That's all. Thanks"
Did we even do anything in that battle?
>> No. 29778
[x] “I think so.”
>> No. 29779
[x] “I think so.”
>> No. 29785
[X] "I doubt it. This was too simple."
>> No. 29792
[x] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons."

What the hell is up with Jack? He's got some very strange problems.
>> No. 29794
[X] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons.”

>>29792
Problems? It seems more like he's indecisive when it comes to magic. Or trying too hard to be a Jack of all trades. Pun intended.
>> No. 29795
>>29794
Or maybe it's his own nature due to his specialty. He had thought he had told Patchy his specialty as a diviner, when the time came for divination, and was confused that he hadn't.

Then, suddenly, he's no diviner? Maybe some sort of Chaos thing, where he changes according to situation? Or mental problems? Who knows? It seems a little early in the story to figure it out.
>> No. 29796
[X] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons.”
>> No. 29797
[X] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons.”

Business-like and to the book seems to be the feel, thus far.
>> No. 29798
Called, update probably within 4 hours.
>> No. 29801
[x] “I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up demons.”

Usually, it's best to get conflicts resolved as they arise.

“Actually, no,” You say, “For one, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know before you start summoning up any more demons.”

Patchouli finally bothers to turn around, her face as uncaring as ever. “I did. Or do you mean this you?”

“I, uh... oh,” you pause. You suppose she could have asked while you were watching that thing. “When I was divining?”

“I assumed you were good enough to perceive two locations at once. You certainly sounded like it. I've never worked with a Schizist before, however, so perhaps that was a mistake.”

She's sharp. It usually takes people longer than a half-hour to figure that out. Although you guess that wasn't your best performance yet. Your diviner is getting a bit rusty. And... wow, that comment almost seemed biting.

Most schools of magic are founded on two things – technique, and belief. Take, for example, elementalism. Elementalists believe that by using certain techniques, such as chants or charms, they can manipulate what they believe to be the elements comprising the world. That's simply how it is. If your technique is faulty, your spells will fail. The same holds for your belief. If you think “Wow, I messed up, didn't I?”, you in fact have messed up. You have already concluded that your spell will fail, and thus it will.

Like any Schizist worth his salt, you are very good at fooling yourself. That's the whole point. Magic is funny in that if you truly believe something will happen – completely and utterly – it usually will. Maybe it always will. You'd be hard-pressed to prove it, however. Belief is very difficult to measure.

The whole thing falls apart when you realize you're just pretending, of course, unless you have some real techniques down. Most Schizists train themselves in the basics of a whole bunch of schools, and then just make up the rest. If it's good enough to fool yourself, it's usually good enough to fool others.

“I, uh... sorry about that,” you apologize. “You probably know how it goes.”

Patchouli gives a vague nod with her vague response. “Mostly. The whole school is very bizarre to read about. I suppose it would be too much to ask for you to signal me somehow?”

“Yeah,” you say, nodding. “It doesn't really work like that.”

“How inconvenient,” She states, “I'll have to ask you ever time I need to know?”

“Well, you could just ask once,” you say, “Unless the battle conditions change drastically, I tend to find something and stick with it.”

“Then, perhaps you will allow me to ask once?” She asks, “Unless it becomes disadvantageous, I will be summoning devils when I feel the need.”

Well... that turned around pretty fast. You're not about to deny her the ability to use her magic as she sees fit. That would be unreasonable. “... hah. Sure. I can't argue.”

She gives a nod. “Is there anything else?”

[ ] “I should mention I'm not really fond of youkai.”
[ ] Nope.
[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 29802
Oh, right.

Write-in anything you'd like to say/do before getting to the main story. I'd like to conclude this train voyage in the next update.
>> No. 29804
[x] Nope.
Everything okay on my end. You can proceed.
>> No. 29806
[x] “I should mention I'm not really fond of youkai.”

Begrudgingly gain a mutual respect to each other after surviving endless trials, go!
>> No. 29807
[X] “I should mention I'm not really fond of youkai.”
>> No. 29808
[+] Nope.
>> No. 29811
[x ] Nope.
>> No. 29812
[X] Write-in: "I look forward to working with you to solve this incident."
>> No. 29816
[X] Write-in: "I look forward to working with you to solve this incident."
>> No. 29817
>>29812
That's got to be the blandest write-in in the history of this site.
>> No. 29820
>>29817
It's professional. This is a job, after all. Add more if you come up with anything better.
>> No. 29823
“I should mention I'm not really fond of youkai, I look forward to working with you to solve this incident."

smarmy bigot choice
>> No. 29824
[x] Nope.
>> No. 29828
Called I guess. Update will either be later today or tomorrow.
>> No. 29830
[x] Nope.

Hmm.

“...no, I don't think so,” you admit. Giving her a nod, you add “I look forward to working with you to solve this incident.”

“Yes,” she responds, before turning and lazily floating back towards the previous car.

That was almost a little too formal for your tastes, but you guess it was pleasant enough. And, really, you kind of mean it. You've worked with some real rogues before... good enough folks, usually, but you'd be damned if things ever went as expected with them around.

“D... you got it, right?”

Ah, the old man. “Yeah,” You nod, “It should be fine now.”

“Amazing,” he says, breathing a sigh of relief. “You're sure?”

Again, you give a nod. “Fairly sure.”

He nods, and peeks in the doorway to his cabin. You decide to use this opportunity to slip away; no doubt other passengers will be appearing shortly, and you'd really rather not be repeating 'it's nothing. No, really, it's nothing.' for the next few hours.

Closing the door and drawing the shade, you take a seat. Oh, right. That's why you left in the first place, wasn't it? All these trees. Maybe if you take a nap or something...

*Knock knock*

… uh oh. What if you pretend---

The door slides open anyway, and you notice Patchouli standing there. Without waiting for any kind of acknowledgment, she floats in.

“It occurred to me,” She says, extending the book she's currently holding in your direction. You notice that this isn't the one she was reading before. “that it might be beneficial if you were to read this.”

Sight Beyond Sight, by L. Oinel. A book on divination. It's widely controversial among actual diviners. He uses a lot of unorthodox methods, such as the blood focus you used earlier.

“I did, a long time ago,” You say, laughing a little bit. Is this her way of saying 'you're terrible at it'? Who knows. You still don't get her at all. “But maybe looking at it again wouldn't be a bad thing.”

“It wouldn't be,” She says simply, as you reach out to take the book. You try to take it, but she's still holding firm. “I will like this back, undamaged, by the end of our assignment.”

“Sure,” You say, “I'll take good care of it.”

The book is released, feeling very heavy in your hands. You think it took almost a week of dedicated reading last time you read it, but that was when you were trying to take up all his subtleties and nuances in addition with it's literal meaning.

Patchouli leaves almost as quickly as she entered, closing the door behind you. Well. That solved that problem. You open the book, and take a look at some of the chapter listings. Right. Which part don't you remember all that well...?

… the rest of the time simply vanishes. It seems like you've only just gotten into “Thyself, Myself” when the train whistle wrests your attention back to the real world. Looking out the window you see... well, trees, but they're no longer moving. You've barely unpacked at all, so it doesn't take you long to throw the rest of your stuff plus the book into your travel bag and disembark.

The group of people you're with looks even more pathetic standing out here than they did boarding the train back in Aegis. At least there, you had the majesty of the capital to help mask their desperation. You can only guess what kind of motivations most of these people have to come out to this currently cursed city.

“We should begin moving.”

Patchouli, accompanied by another tiny devil, shows up to knock you out of your thought. Straight to business, then. Or maybe she just doesn't like being outside. Who knows.

Still, you wonder if you shouldn't help these people. They'll probably be fine on their own – youkai tend to avoid large groups of humans – but honestly, who the hell knows what's going on around here. Still, it would slow you down, probably adding a few extra hours to the trip. Most of them don't look like they'd be able to fly or otherwise travel faster than a walking pace.

[ ] Make haste to the city.
[ ] Go ahead, but try to clean the road for them if necessary.
[ ] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
>> No. 29831
[g] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
>> No. 29832
[X] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
>> No. 29833
[X] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.

One of them might know more about this place, too. We can use it as a chance to get some info from the perspectives of others.
>> No. 29834
[x] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
>> No. 29836
[X] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives. One of them might know more about this place, too. We can use it as a chance to get some info from the perspectives of others.
>> No. 29838
[Q] Go ahead, but try to clean the road for them if necessary.
>> No. 29839
[X] Go ahead, but try to clean the road for them if necessary.
>> No. 29840
[x] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
>> No. 29841
[x] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
indeed
>> No. 29842
[x] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.
>> No. 29858
Called. Update within 19 hours.
>> No. 29875
Turns out I underestimated this homework. There will be an update later tonight, at least.
>> No. 29879
[x] Keep close to them. A few hours isn't worth a few lives.

“Hold on.”

“... you want to escort them,” Patchouli states, ceasing her movement. “It will be much slower.”

“Yeah,” You say, “But I wouldn't be comfortable leaving them to fend for themselves.”

She gives a slight nod; apparently she's not too inclined to argue the point. “Very well.”

“Alright, everyone,” You say, raising your voice to the crowd of people, “If you're going to Rokford, you can follow us. It should be safer if we stick together. Miss Knowledge and I are magi.”

People in the group turn to one another, murmur, and slowly you see a few nods. Yes. This'll be much safer.

“Right,” You say, “Any reason we can't get going right now?”

A bunch of heads shake.

Patchouli goes to head past you, floating her way back towards the crowd. “Rear guard,” she says, before you can even ask. Huh. You hadn't even thought of that.

“I guess that makes me the leader, then,” You say, “We just follow these tracks, right?”

Patchouli nods. “Yes.”

Raising your voice again, you call out to the group of residents. “Just follow me. If I'm going too fast or something, let me know. Try to watch out for each other.”

With that, you begin walking. There's a great shuffle as everyone hoists up their bags and whatever else they brought with them, and the whole group heads on it's way. A slow, shambling way, but a way none the less.

For the most part, the surroundings seem normal. There's nothing out of the ordinary that you can see. The landscape is relatively boring as well; very flat and filled with pine trees. The same stuff you've been seeing all day out the train window, really, only moving much more slowly.

The group is relatively quiet, and pretty tense. Everyone, yourself included, seems to be on edge. Maybe it's too still, or something.

In either case, fortunately, nothing happens during the entire trek. You end up stopping a few times, mostly to give the older and younger ones in the group a rest, setting you back a few hours from your intended arrival time. No big deal.

You crest the final hill around 5:30, just as the sun is starting to set in the sky. From what you hear, the days are a full hour shorter this far north, and the fall season isn't helping too much. Still, though, that's good. Even a group like this wouldn't scare off the kind of youkai that lurk the night.

The sight of Rokford is a welcome, if somewhat ominous one. The town itself is nestled down along a river, in a sort of depression in the land. You can see it all from here; the factories, the housing districts, the train station, the markets... and not a single person among any of that.

A fresh murmur breaks out from the group behind you as they crest the hill, but this time it's enough to give you pause. It sounds kind of anxious, so you turn around.

“Something the matter?”

“Something, it's... kind of red, isn't it?” a woman near the front asks.

“Red?” You ask, taking another look. “You mean, like the sunset?”

“No, the town.”

You look harder. Really, though, you can't see anything out of the ordinary. If anything, it might be a little fog that's reflecting the sunset. Beautiful under normal circumstances.

“I think he's right,” Someone else says, “It's just the sunset.”

“No, no,” another pipes up, “It's definitely not that.”

Everyone has their own opinion, it seems, on just where the red is coming from. After a little bit of time, you manage to catch Patchouli's eye and motion for her to come up to where you are.

“It's not the sunset,” She says, again, before you even ask. “It's something abnormal.”

“I'm still not seeing it,” You say, shrugging. “Why isn't it normal?”

She shrugs. “There's too much fire down there. I don't know what it means.”

You assume she's talking about elemental fire. As you two are talking, you notice that about half the people you traveled with are traveling again, heading towards the town.

“Thank you for the escort,” The man at the lead says, “We're going to continue on now.”

Someone from the remaining group doesn't like this. “You're going to die!”

“We're going to be fine,” The man leading the leaving group responds, “It's nothing. It's just the sunset.”

[ ] Let them go first. If they want to spring whatever trap Rokford's hiding, all the better for you.
[ ] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
[ ] - set to work trying to deduce a solution.
[ ] - head down into the town yourself. Whatever it is, you've probably got a counter.
[ ] - head down into the town with Patchouli. Maybe she can get a better idea down there.
[ ] - something else.
[ ] Something else (write-in).
================================================
Excuse any sloppiness, I can't proofread my own stuff and all the proofreaders seem to have vanished recently. Also, the dashes are sub-options of the one they're under.

And, since I haven't mentioned this yet, I will not offer you "bad" options. You can write those kind of things in if you really want, but nothing I give will turn things towards incredibly bleak.
>> No. 29880
[X] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
[X] - head down into the town with Patchouli. Maybe she can get a better idea down there.

She's got a better grasp of what's going on than Jack.

>From what you hear, the days are a full hour shorter this far north, and the fall season isn't helping too much.
It'd have to be very far up north for the variance to be a full hour in the fall. And the person who told Jack this probably doesn't realize that it has longer summer days. Hell, do people in this setting even know that the earth is round?
>> No. 29881
[x] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
-[x] head down into the town yourself. Whatever it is, you've probably got a counter.
If there truly is something going on here, we can't take Patchy with us, as that would leave the mob defenseless.
>> No. 29883
[X] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
[X] - head down into the town with Patchouli. Maybe she can get a better idea down there.

>>29880
Is the world round? For all we know, the fantasy world this is set on might be a flat square. Or a disc. Perhaps even one balanced on several giant space elephants, which are standing on an even giant-er space turtle!
>> No. 29884
>>29883
And what's the turtle standing on?

Yes, I know the joke. Both varieties.
>> No. 29885
[X] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
[X] - head down into the town with Patchouli. Maybe she can get a better idea down there.
Okay, let's do this.
>> No. 29889
[x] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
-[x] head down into the town yourself. Whatever it is, you've probably got a counter.

Otherwise it'll just be turtles all the way down.
>> No. 29894
[x] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
-[x] head down into the town yourself. Whatever it is, you've probably got a counter.
>> No. 29900
[X] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
[X] - head down into the town with Patchouli. Maybe she can get a better idea down there.
Onwards! There's an incident to solve.
>> No. 29901
Called. Update later today.
>> No. 29903
File 128914226918.jpg - (21.50KB , 600x432 , Hooray.jpg ) [iqdb]
29903
>> No. 29904
[x] Try to convince him otherwise. It's best to stay outside the city until you know what's going on.
[x] - head down into the town with Patchouli. Maybe she can get a better idea down there.

“You might want to wait,” You say, shrugging. “It's very possible you won't be fine. Something fishy is going on.”

“See?” The woman from the other group pipes up, “Please, don't go.”

The man leading the rogue group turns to you. “You're saying we should stay out here for the night?”

“I uh, well...” you pause, taking a look around. This would be a terrible place to stay “No, that's probably a bad idea.”

“It is,” Patchouli agrees.

“Then, what should we do?” The man argues again, “It doesn't sound like you've got a better plan.”

“… right, that's reasonable,” you admit, “Would you give us a few minutes to think of one before heading off?”

“I guess a few minutes wouldn't hurt,” He admits, to a few nods from the crowd following him.

You motion for Patchouli to follow you, away from both crowds for the moment. Not exactly out of earshot, but far enough for a little privacy. “We need a plan,” you admit, “I don't think our initial one of waltzing right into town is going to work.”

“The secondary was to set up camp outside of town,” She says, “I believe that's still valid.”

“Still, it's a bit harder with this many people...”

“Not particularly,” She states, “Most of the potential locations are farms, which would have ample room.”

“... you did some scouting while I wasn't watching?”

“I read the plat book on Rokford's surrounding countryside.”

… you wonder why you didn't think of that? Well, you guess you were sort of expecting plan one to work. “Oh. Where's the nearest one?”

“Another mile that way,” She says, pointing at an angle off from the town. “It's not visible yet. There's four others near it, if the owner isn't keen on a couple dozen squatters.”

“That'll work,” You say, “We can set these guys up at the farms and try to push into town on our own.”

She nods. “Acceptable.”

You explain the plan to both groups, and they don't seem to object. And, somehow before the sun sets completely, you manage to get the people tucked away in the first farm you come across. The place is completely devoid of life when you arrive. It seems that some of the members of the group are members of the family that owns it, coincidentally, so that leaves you feeling a bit better.

With that taken care of (and all of your daylight hours burned through), you and Patchouli make haste down into the town.

“... it's really quiet,” You can't help but note, touching down on what should be a busy street near the edge of the place. There's a very faint, almost copper smelling mist in the air, but none of the people you'd expect in a town of this size. The streetlights are all on, however, so at least it's easy enough to still see.

Patchouli gives a nod. “This mist is where the excess fire is from.”

“It's, uh... not toxic, I hope?” You ask. It's not like it was even really noticeable from the air, with this being an industrial town at all. You assumed it was standard.

“I had Koa test it before we landed,” She says, motioning to the demon fluttering around behind her shoulder. “It doesn't appear to be immediately toxic.”

Still, out of reflex, you bring a handkerchief up to your mouth. “Is there something we can do about it?”

“... wait.”

You start to feel a breeze moving around your body. Removing your handkercheif, you notice that the smell seems to be gone.

“I am bringing in air from above the town,” She says, answering your questioning look quickly.

“Like a diving bell?” You ask, to which you get a nod. Interesting.

“Yes.”

“... neat. Now, if I recall, the town hall should be... this way, correct?” You ask, pointing towards the north. You've got a map in your bag, but it would be kind of a pain to unpack it at the moment. Patchouli probably has the whole thing memorized, anyway.

You hear something. A rustling of some kind, down a nearby alley. Patchouli notices it too, and you both turn to look.

Within a few seconds, someone... no, something comes ambling out of the alley on all fours. Another second, and it pounces. Another second, and Patchouli turns it into dust with a well placed ball of fire. You, as a---

---diviner, realize something you really should have noticed before.

“... there's a lot of those around,” You say, “Did a bunch of youkai decide to sack the town, or what?”

Patchouli gives you a halfhearted shrug. “It seems we have a few leads, in either case. Perhaps we should pick one to focus on?”

She's right. Unless you get incredibly lucky, wandering around aimlessly won't help much. You close your eyes for a moment, reading the celestial forces at work. It's all very hazy, but you get the feeling you should...

[ ] … focus on the leaping creatures.
[ ] … focus on the excess fire.
[ ] … focus on nothing in particular. Fate will guide you.
================================================
... well, there would have been an update if I didn't randomly fall asleep.
>> No. 29905
[Q] … focus on the leaping creatures.

Living targets are the easiest to deal with.
>> No. 29906
[X] … focus on the excess fire.

This feels like closer to the disease as opposed to an symptom.
>> No. 29908
[X] … focus on the excess fire.

These youkai seem to be small fries. We can mop them up later.
>> No. 29909
[x] … focus on the leaping creatures.
>> No. 29910
[x] … focus on the leaping creatures.
>> No. 29911
[x] … focus on nothing in particular. Fate will guide you.
I am quite interested in the mechanics of his abilities.
>> No. 29912
[x] … focus on the excess fire.

Probably not the main problem, but likely connected to it.

Another thing, Klay: Why "Rokford" and not just "Rockford," like regular?
>> No. 29914
>>29912

It could have been Rocford.
>> No. 29918
[x] … focus on the excess fire.
>> No. 29919
Called. Update sometime later tonight.
>> No. 29920
[x] … focus on the excess fire.

… try to figure out what's up with all this fog, and the elemental imbalance Patchouli mentioned earlier.

“How about this fog?” You suggest. “You said it's not normal, right?”

She shrugs. “It's not natural, at the very least.”

“Can you tell me anything else about it?”

“Hmm.”

She gives a wave of her hand, summoning two more of those little devils.

“Scouts?”

“Lookouts,” she responds, as they all fly off into the air in various directions. “As for your question... give me a moment.”

You nod, as she sets to work. From nowhere she manages to produce a rather thick tome, unlabeled, before taking a seat on a nearby street edge. As for you, you also set to work. If this mist has an origin, you may be able to pinpoint it. Reaching for your trusty mirror, you also take a seat just a little bit distant from your partner.

Now. This excess fire. Where does it come from? This mist. And where does the mist come from?


… desire. A desire for something to rule. Where does it co--- no, that's a philosophical question. From who does this desire spring?


… all you get is a hazy image, a pale form in a dark room. Bleh, ok. Where does this room exist?


… it exists within a house. Fine. You wouldn't doubt that if this individual is good enough to flood a town with a mysterious fire-based fog, that they could throw up a few anti-scrying wards. You'll just have to find something they haven't messed with. What function does the fog serve?


… vague images of dogs and farms. What? No, that was genuine, although you're not sure what it's supposed to mean. Was this mist related to everyone in the town suddenly vanishing?


… a contradiction, so you come up with a non-answer.

“It is demonic magic. I'm unsure of the function.”

Disturbed from your train of thought by Patchouli's statement, you're brought back to the location and time of your present. It's a bit of a jolt, but nothing too terrible.

“Demonic?” You ask, standing up as well. You give your trousers a good dusting.

She gives a nod. Then, calmly, she adds “As a note, we have fifty-three enemies moving in to greet us.”

Ugh. “They're fast, aren't they? Which direction?”

“Not particularly. And all of them.”

That's... well, it should be easy to blast your way out, at least. At least, you think so. But then again, if Patchouli were suddenly really tired you doubt she'd even look any different to you. “How are you holding up, magic wise?” You ask.

A shrug. “We could destroy them if you wish, but I can't say I will be able to keep this up all night.”

[ ] Deal with them, and get back to planning.
[ ] Clearly this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.
[ ] Simply punch through and move to a new location. You're not satisfied yet.
[ ] Pull out of town. It'll be better to come back tomorrow on a full tank, so to speak.
================================================
>>29912
It wouldn't be a fantasy city if I wasn't dropping letters.
>> No. 29921
[x] Clearly this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.
It doesn't seem like our scrying is limited by location, or any other external factors. We should relocate to a safer place, and focus on scrying better.
>> No. 29922
[x] Clearly this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.
>> No. 29923
[ ] Clearly this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.
>> No. 29925
[Q] Clearly this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.

My castle-making instinct.
>> No. 29926
[X] Clearly the outcome was never really in doubt this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.
>> No. 29940
Called. Update by the end of tomorrow.
>> No. 29963
[x] Clearly this isn't a good spot. You should find somewhere to fortify for the night.

“Then, we should find somewhere to dig in,” You suggest. Quickly, you let the worldly forces guide your hand. “There should be something good over there.”

She nods, taking the lead. “Tell me when to stop, seer.”

“Will do,” you say, letting your vision wander. Seeing here, from this body, would be next to useless for the time being, so you let your vision wander. Up and up you go, until soon you have a pretty good view of the immediate area. None of these buildings have much overhang – you imagine this is some kind of apartment district - so it's very easy to see down into the alleys.

This is always a little disorienting, moving your body while not being “in” it per-se, but you're a seer. It's not beyond your ability. Now, where was that good place...?

… ah, over there. That's definitely a study building. It's a squat, sturdy-looking building made of huge stones. Although at first glance it could probably pass for a small fortress, the writing running down the side tells you that it's the Rokford branch of the national bank.

From your lofty position, you give out directions. The best route only takes you past three of those creatures, which Patchouli again deals with easily. This time it wasn't so flashy – you think it was some kind of earthen spikes – but they quickly crumple into dust. Free from the ring of encroaching... things, you manage to guide yourself and your partner (the devils find their own way) towards said bank.

There's one last problem before you can actually enter the bank, though, that you notice as you're in an alley nearby. The clearing leading towards the front entrance seems to be filled with both ash and those creatures that seem to be everywhere. Concerned, you drop back into your body after dropping a vague order to stop. It's much easier to communicate that way.

“... theres probably 40 or 50 of them ahead,” You say, your words still a little slurred. “It looks like the bank is being guarded, or something.”

“We're going towards a bank, then?” Patchouli asks, “I see. That would be well fortified.”

You laugh. “I bet the front door could take a few cannonballs, not to mention a few hoards of whatever those things are that we keep running into.”

“Perhaps a diversion would be in order,” Patchouli ponders, “They don't seem too intelligent.”

“That could work,” You say, after thinking about it for a moment. “What did you have in mind?”

“Koakuma can be very aggravating,” She says, forming something almost vaguely similar to a smile. “I'm sure that four or five of them can manage something if I allow them too.”

Using the imps as bait? “Sounds good to me. Give me half a minute to get into place.”

You split your sight and your body once more, heading skyward to get a better view and watch the whole thing unfold.

Unfold it does, after a few seconds. The six imps take to hurling rocks, pulling on clothing scraps, poking eyes... general annoyances. They teleport from one to the next, whipping the whole group into a frenzy. And then, they fly just fast enough that they won't be caught in the opposite directing from you and Patchouli.

You give the signal, and maneuver yourself along behind the floating mage. It doesn't take long to make it to the door; however, it doesn't immediately open even though you think you catch Patchouli making some general opening gestures. It doesn't even open when you shove on it.

And, annoyingly, you notice that the imps are leading the things in a large circle. They'll be back in less than a minute.

[ ] Return to your body and keep working on the door.
[ ] Return to your body and work on getting through one of those barred windows.
[ ] Retreat. It's not worth being blind with this many enemies around.
>> No. 29964
[x] Return to your body and keep working on the door.
The door will open if only we keep at it. Of this, I am sure.
>> No. 29965
[X] Return to your body and keep working on the door.

Hopefully this works.
>> No. 29966
[x] Return to your body and work on getting through one of those barred windows.
>> No. 29967
[ ] Return to your body and keep working on the door.
>> No. 29968
[X] Return to your body and keep working on the door.
>> No. 29969
[x] Return to your body and work on getting through one of those barred windows.

This seemed more interesting. Hope it's not a bad idea.
>> No. 30041
Called, update by the end of tomorrow. Sorry about the delay, but all my professors decided to dump homework on me at the same time.
>> No. 30059
[x] Return to your body and keep working on the door.

Well, sitting up here watching this whole mess unfold isn't going to help much. You descend, making sure to take in a good view of the area before doing so.

“... is it stuck, or what?” You ask, giving it another shove for good measure. No budge. “Oh, and your imps are leading those things back to us.”

“Locked from the inside,” Patchouli says, seemingly unconcerned about the tiny devils running a bunch of enemies in your direction. “I was about to force it open.”

“It'd be nice if it still worked afterwards,” You make sure to point out, “Try not to be too rough.”

“Of course.”

She starts into another chant, this one a bit more rough sounding than the others you've heard her speak so far. Shortly after you hear a kind of metallic groaning from somewhere behind the door, followed by the loud sound of something large hitting the inside floor. The wooden post holding the doors shut, you imagine.

“It's open.”

You nod, and give one side of the double door a good shove. Slowly, the heavy door swings open. There's a scraping sound as the locking post is pushed along the floor on the inside, accompanied with a sort of... screeching, from out in the town. You wonder if it isn't some noise that those creatures make, as it seems to be coming from that direction while also getting louder. As soon as the door opens, you feel something... strange. Or maybe not? It's not something tangible, at least.

The feeling passes quickly, though, and now that the door is open you slip inside. After Patchouli does the same, you lean back against the door. It groans a little as it closes, but the hinges seem to be well oiled.

“We seem to be surrounded,” Patchouli notes, as you survey the damage done to the door. Looks like she just bent one of the iron 'L's that this post slid through.

“Think you could mend this up?” You ask her, “We won't have to worry about that if we can get this door shut ti---”

“I mean right now,” Patchouli says, cutting you off. That alone is enough to cause you to turn around and look at her...

… and the dozen or so men that you failed to notice in the dark, armed with assorted tools like pitchforks and axes. They don't seem too pleased. Neither are you. Your instinct tells you they won't attack immediately, however. This is a “good” place, after all.

“Be reasonable and don't kill us yet,” You tell the half-circle of men, before turning to Patchouli. “Could you fix this lock up real quick? I don't really want us to get eaten while trying to explain ourselves.”

There's a murmur from the men, but no one moves. Patchouli, after giving one last uncaring gaze at the men, nods.

“Certainly.”

She sets to work, and within a few moments, the holding mechanisms are back in working order. You try to hoist the huge post into place, but it proves to be too much... until one of the men drops his weapon and gives you a hand. With the post securely in place, you breath a sigh of relief while admiring the door. This is definitely safe, unless those things have a whole lot more force behind them than you would think.

“Jack?”

A somewhat familiar female voice, although one you're sure you haven't heard in a long time, rings out from behind you. You turn around to face the crowd of people again, and see two new faces. The first is a man, tall, white-haired and dignified, wearing the traditional outfit of the banking guild. That blue-and-white robe is very distinctive. And, beside him, you have...

[ ] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”
[ ] “... sorry, should I recognise you?”
[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 30063
[X] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”
>> No. 30064
[x] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”
A rival appears.
>> No. 30066
[x] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”
>> No. 30069
[X] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”
>> No. 30071
[ ] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here? Why isn't the town burned down yet?”
>> No. 30072
[X] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”

In during ex-girlfriends and slapping fights.
>> No. 30077
[X] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here? Why isn't the town burned down yet?”

This really is a good question to ask.
>> No. 30082
[x] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”
>>30071
>>30077

You realize she might just be an average shopkeeper?

I hope she's perfectly ordinary indeed.
>> No. 30086
[x] "Didn't die this time either, Mima?"

I really hope this isn't one of those ideas that seems good now and looks terrible in the morning.
>> No. 30087
>>30086
Don't sweat it, bro. I, myself, was tempted to call out to the man, who is clearly Rinnosuke.
>> No. 30088
>>30086

My God.

[x] "Didn't die this time either, Mima?"

You're a gentleman and a scholar.
>> No. 30091
[X] "Didn't die this time either, Mima?"

Too good to pass up.
>> No. 30093
[x] "Didn't die this time either, Mima?"

Sadly this write-in may have come in too late to pass the Marisa vote, but I'll vote for it anyway.
>> No. 30094
[x] "Didn't die this time either, Mima?"
>> No. 30095
Called, update sometime today or tomorrow.
>> No. 30110
[x] Laugh. “... Marisa? What are you doing out here?”

You can't help but laugh. The briefing didn't mention any other Guild agents in town, much less her. “...Marisa? What are you doing out here?”

A smile crosses the blond woman's face. “Hah, it is you. That's a hard face to mistake. Who's your friend?”

“Patchouli Knowledge,” your partner pipes in, “All agents in the area were assumed dead when none of them reported in, so I'm also curious as to why you are here.”

Marisa gives out a sigh. “Straight to the point, eh? Well, a few more guests won't hurt anything, right Kourin?”

The banking guild executive shifts his glasses in response to the name. “I suppose not. If I'm not mistaken, you two are from the mages guild?”

You give a nod. “That's right. We're investigating what's going on here.”

Kourin gives a grim nod. “It's a long story. We should probably discuss it somewhere more comfortable.” As an afterthought, he adds, “You can stand down, men. Get back to your posts.”

The armed men give some nods, and slowly disperse into the building.

“Let's go up to my office,” Kourin says, “I can fill you in up there.”

He leads on, Marisa by his side, with you and Patchouli drifting a bit behind. Marisa... it really has been a while since you've seen her. The two of you have done a few missions together, all of which have ended... absurdly, but successfully. That's just her style, you guess. She's very direct, which tends to lead to problems sometimes.

Aside from the fact that the bank seems to rely mostly on natural light, and is thus pretty uninviting at night, this almost seems normal. A welcome change from the outside. That copper smelling mist doesn't seem to have found it's way in here, either.

His office is on the third floor of the building, overlooking the entrance. The opulence of the place is a bit tarnished with bedrolls and stashes of food in some of the corners, but you can tell that this is a very rich man. He takes a seat at his desk, Marisa at a chair off to the side.

“Have a seat,” He says, motioning to the rather mundane chairs on the opposite side of his desk. You do so, as does Patchouli. “Excuse the mess. We're under siege.”

You nod. “I noticed. What the hell are those things, anyway? Youkai?”

“I guess they fall under that,” Marisa says, “They're vampires now, although they're pretty crappy ones.”

Vampires... you've never actually dealt with one of them before.

“'Now'?” Patchouli echoes with interest.

“Yeah,” Marisa says, hesitating. She sounds troubled. “They were people up until last week. Then that mist came in around midday, and...”


Again, she pauses. Kourin continues. “And quite rapidly, a good portion of the people in town fell ill. By nightfall, they were what you see outside.”

Marisa nods. “My job was to guard Kourin here, so I couldn't report in in person. The vampires cut the telegraph wires, and it looks like that mist kills messenger birds when they breath it in.” She gives kind of a grim laugh. “I guess it's my fault that the Guild only sent you two out to investigate. I was going to request an army.”

“This... is a lot to take in,” You say, sighing. “You don't have any leads as to the cause of this mist, I take it?”

Both of them shake their heads. “I've been busy keeping this place safe,” Marisa responds, “The guys guarding the front aren't bad fighters, but why risk it, you know? There's only thirty three of us here.”

“Thirty three...” you echo, “There have to be other pockets of people out there.”

“I hope so,” Marisa nods.

Patchouli joins the conversation again. “The mist is some sort of demonic magic. Are there any local cults in the area?”

“Not... really,” Marisa says, furrowing her brows. “No big ones anyway. Or if there are, they're pretty good at staying hidden.”

“Such cults are forbidden in Rokford,” Kourin adds, “And are persecuted without mercy.”

An idea comes to mind. “They're vampires, right? Is it safe out during the day?”

Marisa frowns. “Eh, it's a little safer. The mist seems to keep them safe, though.”

[ ] Other questions (write-in).
>> No. 30111
...and once again, Mima-sama...

;_;
>> No. 30112
[x] "Why didn't those villagers turn into vampires?"
[x] "How many vampires are there?"

If the mist suddenly turned everyone into vampires overnight, why the hell are those 33 villagers not vampires? Are they special in some way?

We need to get a size estimate on vampires, also, so we don't take on more than we can chew. Rinnosuke should know a rough estimate of the villages population.
>> No. 30113
[x] Which direction did the Mist blow in from?
>> No. 30119
[X] "Why didn't those villagers turn into vampires?"
[X] "How many vampires are there?"
[X] Which direction did the Mist blow in from?
>> No. 30120
Called, update later today most likely.
>> No. 30121
[x] "Why didn't those villagers turn into vampires?"
[x] "How many vampires are there?"
[x] Which direction did the Mist blow in from?

“Where did all this mist blow from?” You ask, trying to get a better feeling for what happened.

Marisa and Kourin seem to think for a moment.

“From the... east?” Marisa asks the banker, “I think I saw it come across the square while I was eating my lunch...”

“... hmm, I could have sworn it was from the west,” Kourin responds. “It was sweeping down Main as I was running an errand at city hall. Although, that's on the west end of town.”

“Maybe it came in from all directions, then,” Marisa says, “I think I heard one of the guys downstairs say that it came rolling in from Thuluk's hill, but that's in the north.”

All directions. You can just imagine a pincer attack, only with gas.

“Why does it only affect certain people?” You wonder out loud. “It just seems odd that it wasn't an all-or-nothing kind of deal.”

There's a silence from all parties involved. Eventually, Marisa speaks up “... we've really got no clue. It seemed to be kind of random, and we don't exactly have great statistics.”

“Demonic magic can be chaotic,” Patchouli adds, “It's likely that who was spared was random.”

“Fair enough. How many people do you thing were affected?”

“Two-thirds of my staff fell ill,” Kourin says, “If we assume the value from last year's census, fifteen thousand individuals, to be correct...”

“... ugh,” You say. He doesn't even have to finish that number for you to realize how large it is. “That's assuming they haven't made any more, too.”

“I doubt these ones can produce more,” Patchouli interjects, “Generally only more powerful vampires can do that.”

“That's... a plus, I guess,” You say, still a little unsettled as the kinds of numbers that you're dealing with here. “But...”

Marisa sighs. “... yeah, I know how you feel. This is really messed up, isn't it?”

You nod. “I think that's something we can all agree on.”

Kourin gives a nod. Patchouli... well, you think she might if she were inclined to nodding.

“So, do you have any plans right now?” You ask, “Other than to survive, I suppose.”

Marisa shrugs. “Nope. Haven't had time for much else.”

There's a faint dinging, and, looking back, you realize that there's a small bell located just above the office door. You hear the sliding of chairs and, looking back to your two hosts, notice them getting up to leave.

“That's our alarm,” Marisa says, “Same thing happened when you guys showed up.”

“Something's happened, then,” You say, standing up as well. It's nothing horrible, your intuition says, but definitely not something welcome. “Wonderful.”

The four of you make your way through the dark bank at a quickened pace, heading back down to the lobby. Upon arriving, you come across a fairly common scene – people, all standing around something, murmuring and sighing. A murder. Getting closer, you see that there's one man on the floor, a knife embedded in his forehead.

There's also an envelope attached to the knife.

“We just... found him like this,” one of the men explains in response to Marisa's questioning, “Then we called you right away.”

Patchouli reaches down for the note without saying a word, and carefully lifts it off of the knife. A bit callous, you guess, but you were about to do the same thing.

“Let's give this man some dignity and a proper place to rest,” Kourin says, talking to the sombre group of guards. “Will anyone volunteer?”

Four 'aye's later, and the poor man is on his way to the catacombs in the basement. Seems he's not the first, as they already have a system in place for dealing with bodies. You watch the whole scene, doing the best to etch it in your brain. Everything from the peculiar design of the knife, to the position the man was lying in, to the feeling in the air... it's all very strange, but you can't put your finger on it. No normal knife could penetrate that deeply, and your intuition says he was caught by surprise. But how do you stab a man in the forehead by surprise...?

“Read this.”

Patchouli, seemingly finished with the note, passes it to you. It says:

“Welcome, members of the Mages Guild,

You have intruded on the domain of the Lady of Skrad without introduction, and have committed crimes of aggression against the Lady's servants. Such crimes are punishable by death.

However, the Lady is generous and willing to forgive you, should you choose. You will meet with I, one of her many servant, at 9-o'clock tomorrow morning. If you accept this invitation, I will lead you to the court of the Lady and we will discuss the terms by which you will settle these grievances. If you refuse, you will all die. If you accept with treacherous intent, everyone currently within this building will die. I trust you will choose wisely.”

As you pour over the letter's elegant (and somewhat difficult to read) script, you notice Marisa come up behind you. After you finish, you hand it off to her to get a read.

“... well, then,” Marisa says, “That's, ah...”

Taking a look around, you notice that everyone else seems to have dispersed. Off to the basement to pay their respects, or back on guard perhaps.

“A lead,” Patchouli notes, “It seems that we will simply be able to walk up to the culprit.”

“Skrad?” You ask, echoing the contents of the letter. “It seems familiar, but...”

“That's what they used to call this region, remember?” Marisa asks, “Even I got that back in school.”

“Right,” You say, recalling a hazy memory to that effect. Then, sighing, you ask. “So, did you get anything out of the other men?”

Marisa shakes her head. “He was out on patrol, and after he didn't report in they sent someone to look for him. No one saw or heard anything anything.”

[ ] “Our first priority should be figuring out what the hell happened, then. Let's investigate together.”
[ ] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”
[ ] “Well, we've got bigger problems to worry about. It sounds like tomorrow is going to suck.”
[ ] Something else (write-in).
>> No. 30122
[X] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”

Divining. It's what we do. Along with everything else.
>> No. 30123
[x] “Our first priority should be figuring out what the hell happened, then. Let's investigate together.”
>> No. 30124
[x] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”
>> No. 30125
[x] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”
[x] "Although, is there any chance someone could have come up through the catacombs?"

A suggestion before we get to work.

>>30111
I'm sorry I didn't come up with it sooner. It's a damn shame, but such is life.
>> No. 30126
[X] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”

Sounds Workable. I'm in.
>> No. 30155
[x] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”
>> No. 30160
Called, update within a day.
>> No. 30161
>>30160

Hooray!
>> No. 30162
[x] “I don't suppose you two could look into it? I'm wondering if this letter might serve as a good focus.”

“I don't suppose you two could look into it?” You ask, your hand becoming familiar with the letter in your hand “I'm wondering if this might serve as a good focus.”

“Focus?” Marisa asks, “Huh?”

“He's a diviner,” Patchouli remarks.

“Ah,” Marisa says, a faint look of recognition crossing her face. “Right. Well then,” She says, giving you a pat on the back, “Divine us up some good information, alright?”

You nod. “Of course. Let me know if you find anything out about this murder. I'll be here.”

“Sure. Patchouli, right? Let's let him do his job.”

Patchouli gives a rather distant nod, following Marisa's lead out of the chamber. Right, then. Those two will probably do a good job. This place is a fortress, so whoever that was is likely still here – and you have little doubt that they'll be able to find and deal with this servant. There's enough firepower there to level half the building, and at least half the group is incredibly sharp.

As a bonus, they'll also be leaving you alone for a while. This area is patrolled, but you doubt that the men walking to and fro will give you much trouble. So, you take up your familiar position on the ground, near the not-quite-cleaned puddle from the the freshly deceased's head. This will be a good spot.

And then... you catch a faint whiff of a coppery smell. The mist? No, it's not... oh. That's what it reminds you of. You move in closer to the damp stone and take a quick smell, just to make sure. Yep. Blood. Demonic magics indeed. It takes a sinister creature to use such a sinister-smelling magic.

Whatever. You begin preparations, opting to use a magic circle to utilize your many tools this time. Nothing too elaborate, but it takes a few minutes to construct with a piece of chalk; something you always carry around for just such an occasion.

With that done, you begin the real work, and after a few moments you find yourself back in that familiar place - the world just beyond this one.



… hmm. The 'goodness' of this place seems to be less than it was. The dogs and sheep from your last session resurface, although one dog in particular, a silver furred beast, stands out from the rest. It seems to be everywhere in the scene – although, when you try to look directly at it, it tends to vanish.

All these focii seem to be working wonderfully. It's not long before you notice that you have a body in this scene. What kind you cannot say, for when you try to look your vision manages to avert itself. You're aware of four legs and a faint, beastly smell, but that's all.

Soon you're joined by one other, and, after wandering amongst the sheep and dogs for a while, a third. All the while you notice the silver-haired dog, watching but distant. You're ignoring her for now, though. Focus. You have a mission.

There is a house... no, a mansion off on a hill in the distance. One made of brick, you'd guess from the color. That's where the master of this farm lives. If you squint, you can make out a shaded table on the balcony of that place; and, at that table, someone. Although, at this distance, you can't make out much more.

You move closer. This is where you must go, one way or another. Shambling, or sprinting, or slinking... you're not sure, but you move towards it. You watch yourself move towards it. You watch them, those unknowns move towards your mansion.

All part of their fate, of course. Bringing them here is easy enough. Your prize dog is still out in the field, and the others aren't much good at holding a conversation. They're dogs, after all. Well, you should prepare. You turn, and...

...this mansion doesn't have real windows?...

… open your eyes, back inside the bank. Damn. You did get some useful information, though. If nothing else, you have some idea of where you're headed.

[ ] Work on possible outcomes next.
[ ] Go find the others. It'll be good to share this with them.
>> No. 30163
[x] Go find the others. It'll be good to share this with them.
Group Dynamics.
>> No. 30164
[x] Work on possible outcomes next.
>> No. 30167
[x] Work on possible outcomes next.

Make the most of your alone time.
>> No. 30168
>Sheep and dogs
>silver-furred beast
I'm guessing that unless this is a literal seeing, then the silver dog is Sakuya, (which would explain how the guy died so suddenly in a supposedly secure area) and the "sheep" are normal humans, for feeding upon. It's like looking at the world through Remi-tinted glasses.
>> No. 30173
[x] Go find the others. It'll be good to share this with them.

There's not exactly a lot of things we can learn from what we just saw that we don't already know, so let's just go tell Patchouli and Marisa.
>> No. 30194
As a note, I'm currently swamped with coursework. Last three weeks of the semester, and all the professors are speeding up to get in what they need to get in by the end. So, for a little while, things will be slower.

Also, vote called at the next vote, since it seems to be tied right now. I'll update by friday night.
>> No. 30195
[x] Work on possible outcomes next.
>> No. 30196
[x] Go find the others. It'll be good to share this with them.
>> No. 30216
I was off by a few hours, but that means I'll need to sleep first. Expect something tomorrow.
>> No. 30229
[x] Work on possible outcomes next.

You consider going to find the others for a moment, but it would probably be more useful to keep doing what you're doing here. More information never hurt, and it would be a shame to just let this opportunity go to waste.

The circle seemed to help quite a bit, so you know that a better one will have a better effect. Reaching into your coat for that chalk, you spend another 25 minutes setting up a much larger and more ornate one that incorporates the smaller one. This one stretches the width of the hall and a little ways up onto the walls.

After getting settled in, you find that in a relatively short time you're able to slip back into your undefined body on that farm. The how aside, you're still advancing towards that mansion off in the distance. It hardly seems to be getting closer.

Now, though, you'd like to see the best path to take. What way you should take. However, when you try to take notice of the infinite paths that should be there, you only see one. One? That shouldn't be possible.

… no, there are a lot of paths, but they all lead towards the same place. If you try to go towards the mansion, you will reach it. If you don't go towards the mansion, or away from it, you will reach it. If you wait here for long enough, you will eventually reach it. All paths from this point will take you there. It seems that this fate is inescapable.

Spatially, at least. You can show up at any time you wish within the next 12 hours or so, if you're reading this right. This'll take a while if you actually try to go down all these paths individually, so you go down them all at once.

Since trying to watch all points is just ridiculous, you're content to just watch the door to the mansion. Countless copies of yourself and varying numbers of accompanying unknowns enter. Very, very few of the groups leave with the same number. Most don't leave at all. It doesn't really seem to matter when you arrive. The ones arriving first seem to have an overall higher average survival rate, per person, while the ones arriving near the end of the time period seem to be all or nothing affairs.

Try as you might, you simply cannot see into the mansion itself. It's very well warded. There are no windows (although you believe that thats a real feature), no cracks, and the door itself doesn't even appear to open for you – the different 'you's all just float through the thing. Very frustrating. How can you tell what the groups are doing wrong if you can't get inside?

To put it simply, you can't. You'll need to adjust this scene a bit. Open the door, or blow a hole in the wall... something, at least. Something that you'll need a bit more definition of self to do – this ambiguous body isn't much good for anything but observing, really.

Focus. Can you recall your real shape? Yes, human, with two arms, two legs... a rather good penchant for divination. That's right. You keep up like this for a few minutes. Then, almost as if by magic, you find yourself sitting near the foot of the mansion. You you, not a shadow of you.

As you do, though, you feel a slight tingle down your spine. This place is dangerous! After flattening down in the tall grass, you let your eyes wander towards the danger. There's two things (three, although your intuition says that the silver dog isn't a threat right now) that immediately catch your attention.

Staked out in front of the door to the mansion seem to be two blond women, both of which are very tall. The outfit on the one, a rather fancy maid uniform, doesn't seem exactly out of place. The second one almost looks like an angel at first glance, with her robe-ish clothing and wings, but you know that that's not true. Demons, most likely. Probably some kind of astral variants, contracted to keep whoever this villain is safe from astral intruders.

That explains the tight warding, at least. You'll need to deal with them if you want to catch a glimpse of this place without actually going there for real.

[ ] Maybe they would be willing to re-negotiate. Walk over and ask.
[ ] Stealth mission. Get closer, while trying not to be seen.
[ ] They're too strong for you to take, but maybe Patchouli or Marisa could set you up with something...
[ ] … screw this. Too much trouble.
================================================
Similar wait for the next update, I'm afraid. If I get time I'll write something, but if not expect to hear from me next weekend.
>> No. 30230
[x] Stealth mission. Get closer, while trying not to be seen.

>all or nothing

The course is clear. We must enter at the last possible minute, and succeed. Not a single loss is acceptable. As an aside, that was the weirdest teleport.
>> No. 30231
[x] They're too strong for you to take, but maybe Patchouli or Marisa could set you up with something...

I don't think we can take two EX-bosses on our own, and I doubt Remilia contracted them for their conversation skills. But these astral guards mark considerable investment for Remilia (assuming Lady Skrad indeed is Remilia) to try to narrow down methods of entry as much as possible--it's not all directly the result of a passive manipulation of fate.

The costs projected of going in by the available options are just too high to not be trying to open more doors right now. As was implied when he tried divining in the train, the MC may be no better at it than Patchouli, so requesting her help here might more be more fruitful than trying to tackle it on our own, by either stealth or force.
>> No. 30232
[x] They're too strong for you to take, but maybe Patchouli or Marisa could set you up with something...
>> No. 30233
[x] They're too strong for you to take, but maybe Patchouli or Marisa could set you up with something...

Oh, god, not those two again. I'm still reeling from the whole immortal dream twins fiasco in Border house.
>> No. 30234
>>30233

I don't know what story you're referring too, care to explain?
>> No. 30236
>>30234
Border House, which usually is like one or two threads above or below this one.
>> No. 30237
>>30234
Are you trolling us? It isn't exactly obscure. I mean, it's on the same section and updates regularly and HOW COULD YOU MISS IT!? IT'S NOT EXACTLY HARD TO FIND! It would be like someone going to the circus and miss seeing the damned Elephants. How did you even find this thread in the first place?
>> No. 30238
>>30237
None of this, please.
>> No. 30241
File 129169215928.jpg - (43.73KB , 500x357 , excusemen.jpg ) [iqdb]
30241
>>30236
>> No. 30276
>>30241

Hey look, rampant deficit!

Let's cave in to the people demanding we increase it!
>> No. 30305
Vote called. Update... hell if I know. At the very latest next thursday, but I think it'll be before that
>> No. 30307
>>30305


Hooray!
>> No. 30360
[x] They're too strong for you to take, but maybe Patchouli or Marisa could set you up with something...

… something tells you that these two are out of your league, and that any kind of confrontation would not end well. You decide not to risk it. This is not your area of expertise. You're a diviner, not some kind of astral fighter.

This place is decidedly less hostile when you're not being so revealing, so you shift back into your ambiguous form. And, after mulling it over for a few minutes, you decide to head back to your physical body. There's not much you can do here, but maybe those other two might have some idea.

You open your eyes, back in the rather dreary halls of the bank – not that your circle, or the use of the blood has helped much. For just a moment you think you catch a glimpse of that silver-haired dog near the corner, just a ways down the hall.

“Huh.”

A double-take shows it not to be there, and you sense no danger. Whatever. You'll just make your way back to that office. If those two aren't hanging out up there, that man will probably let you know where they are. So, you begin walking.

This wing of the bank is really almost like a fortress. You don't completely understand it, but you believe that right now you're in a sort of hall between the exterior wall and the main interior ones. Semi-secret passages, for guards to move around and look out to the exterior. This place really is almost like a fortress.

If you remember right, you should go this way...




… it can't be this complicated, can it? You don't remember this hallway being this long, though. Eventually, you round another corner...

… and come face-to-face with one of those koakuma. It seems just as startled as you are, albeit more vocal.

“Jeez!” It cries out, after flying back a few feet. “Watch where you're going!”

You shrug, trying your best to get back to a normal level of excitement. Running into devils while walking down dark hallways, even small ones, will make anyone nervous. “You too.”

It's not like the hallway splits or anything, so you opt to keep going. The tiny devil gets in your way, however, a very unsettling grin crossing it's lips. “Hey, hey. You're lost, right?” It asks, floating a few feet in front of you with every step you take. “I can get you out of here.”

“I think not,” You say, continuing to walk forward. It doesn't budge.

“But I'm so bored,” It says, “There's nothing here at all, and no one comes down this way.”

“Then leave,” You say, shrugging again.

“Can't, Master wants me to watch it for someone strange,” It says, sighing. “But bringing you back would be a good excuse!”

[ ] Never trust an imp. You'll just divine a way out.
[ ] Sure, whatever.
[ ] “Can't you just give me directions?”
>> No. 30361
[x]"Can't you just give me directions out?"
>"Wouldn't your master know if you were off duty?" ...
>> No. 30362
[x] Never trust an imp. You'll just divine a way out.

Sakuya probably figured out what we were doing but confront us in our astral form, so she teleported us to the SDM. I'm thinking she has orders not to kill us, so she's trying to lead us into deadly situations where she'll have deniability.
>> No. 30363
[x] Never trust an imp. You'll just divine a way out.

Above soul as the same mind set as myself so I agree.
>> No. 30365
[X] “Can't you just give me directions?”

>Sakuya probably figured out what we were doing but confront us in our astral form, so she teleported us to the SDM.
I don't think so. She'd have to move the MC into a room similiar to the one he was in, complete with magic circle and pool of blood, or he'd notice it was off.
>I'm thinking she has orders not to kill us, so she's trying to lead us into deadly situations where she'll have deniability.
If Sakuya wants to kill us, why do it now instead of at the meeting tomorrow? It's easier to say "Oh, they refused" or "They were plotting against you" than explaining how a mage broke into the mansion on your watch. I think she's just keeping an eye on us for potential treachery.
>> No. 30366
[x] Sure, whatever.

Though they may be devils, Koakuma's are firmly trained and reliable. She has been honest thus far in our dealings, and does not deserve the level of mistrust we are giving her. I have faith that she will reliably lead us back to Patchy. Or, in the worst case scenario, she will be an invaluable ally against Sakuya, should this corridor lead us into her.
>> No. 30367
[x] "Can't you just give me directions out?"
>> No. 30369
[x] >>30366
>> No. 30376
[x] You'll just divine a way out.

I've got nothing against imps, but a diviner asking for bloody DIRECTIONS is just wrong.
>> No. 30378
>>30376
but it's not really his speciality, his speciality is "if I can believe I can do it, I can". And as far as getting out, I'd rather see what Koa does.
>> No. 30380
[ ] Sure, whatever.

Just another form of information gathering.
>> No. 30381
>>30378
Thinking thoughts like "not really his specialty" will slap him out of diviner mode faster than you can think. But I'll change.

[x] Changing vote from divining to "Sure, whatever"

Hey Klaymen, what would have happened if we picked elementalist during that little fight? I'm assuming Patchy telling us that book was wrong would have made Jack fight poorly?
>> No. 30382
>>30381
He already has some doubts due to the whole teleportation thing.
>> No. 30385
[x] You'll just divine a way out.

Maybe catch Sakuya again.

...Also, what the hell were the -getsus doing at the mansion? Are they dream world security for hire or something?

>>30238
Flipping out aside, he kinda has a point.
>> No. 30411
Called, update sometime within a day.
>> No. 30430
[x] Sure, whatever.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” You say, after thinking it over for a moment.

The imp's grin softens a bit, becoming something less sinister. “... really?”

“It'd be pretty sad if I had to divine my way out of this place,” You say, laughing a bit. “Lead on.”

“R-right,” the koakuma says, nodding. It spins around, and starts moving down the hallway that you came from. “Well, you were going the completely wrong way. This passage goes around and down to the basement.”

“Hmm. You're sure no one has come down this way?” You ask, “No dogs or anything?”

“Dogs?” The koakuma echoes, “There's dogs around?”

“Nevermind.” Of course there's no dogs around. And, even if there were, you wouldn't be allowed to see them. “I don't think so.”

“Maybe I should turn you in for being weird,” the koakuma adds, sounding semi-serious, “I don't think Master'd appreciate the joke, though.”

“Yeah, I doubt I'm what she had in mind.”

The koakuma serves as a pretty good guide, although you do have to dodge a few low-hanging beams. Every so often, however, you see a flash of something silver out of the corner of your eye. When you turn to look, though, it turns out to be nothing.

There is a little detour as you head not up to the second floor, but what you guess is a break room on the first floor. There's cushy chairs and tables scattered around, with a few people as well. You see Marisa and Patchouli camped out on one side of the room, with a few other people you don't recognize on the other.

“Oh, there he is,” Marisa says, being the first to notice you. “He brought back one of those little devils, too!”

Patchouli looks up from whatever book she's working on now, and, not a second later, the koakuma bolts. Is she angry? You try to imagine that kind of face, but it doesn't really work. “It wanted a break,” You say, shrugging, “'sides, I don't think she had much of a chance of spotting our culprit.”

“You dug up something good, then?” Marisa asks, motioning for you to come in. “Oh yeah, there's some coffee over there if you want some.”

You'll have to think on it.

“Is this room warded?” You ask, “Even if we can't spot the dog, I think it's able to spot us unless we're careful.”

“Good call,” Marisa says, nodding. She turns to Patchouli “I could probably half ass something, but do you think you could come up with something better?”

There's a vague nod as she begins muttering something under her breath. Within a few moments you feel a surge of... something, as the door slams shut behind you.

“A sealed room,” Patchouli says, sounding as distant as ever. “Continue.”

The unrelated guys look a little nervous, so you try to calm them down with a smile. “Hey, don't worry. We'll be done in a few minutes.”

They nod, and go back to whatever it was they were doing beforehand. “Right.” Peeking at your watch, you notice that you've been out of it for a while now. A few hours. It's a little past nine now. “Well, I was able to get a good idea of the kind of building we're looking for. I think...”

You bring back up the vision you had before, but try to place it in the real world. Visualize it as something that actually exists. “A brick manor up on a hill somewhere, overlooking town,” You say. “Deep red brick, almost a scarlet color. Oh, and the windows are all fake.”

“Shouldn't be hard to find something like that,” Marisa laughs. “Anything else?”

[ ] “It seems like an early assault would be our best bet. We'll need to silence the dog first, though.”
[ ] “Seems like it won't matter if we just go with the dog tomorrow or not.”
[ ] “Actually, I was wondering if either of you were any good at astral warfare...”
>> No. 30431
[x] “Seems like it won't matter if we just go with the dog tomorrow or not.”

I suppose this is our best bet for more recon. I don't have faith that either of them would be proficient in astral combat, nor does taking initiative sound like a reasonable course of action.
>> No. 30432
[X] “Actually, I was wondering if either of you were any good at astral warfare...”

Intel gatherin gaems.
>> No. 30433
[x] “Actually, I was wondering if either of you were any good at astral warfare...”

This is what we came here to ask. Let's not back down again by not asking.
>> No. 30436
[x] “Actually, I was wondering if either of you were any good at astral warfare...”

They should be better aware of their capabilities than we are.
>> No. 30439
Called, update within a day.
>> No. 30440
Are we sure we want everyone leaving the mansion? We do have Patchy traveling with us.

Just a thought. It's probably best to assume metaknowledge is useless in any case.
>> No. 30445
[x] “Actually, I was wondering if either of you were any good at astral warfare...”

“Not really,” you say, frowning a little. “I don't suppose either of you are any good at astral warfare? I wasn't able to get inside because there were guards.”

“Swords for hire?” Marisa asks, “Well, the astral equivalent of swords I guess.”

You nod. “That's what I think. I've heard of it done before, but I can't say I've ever run into it personally.”

“Were they tough?”

“I don't know, but the whole situation felt like a powder keg,” You say, shrugging. “I think the odds are greatly against me.”

“You're certain you've never dealt with this kind of threat?” Patchouli asks, although it doesn't exactly feel like a question. Seems like a prompt, almost. Like you should remember something...

… you try, but nothing comes of it. “Nope, never,” you say with certainty.

“Not even while someone else?”

That question doesn't make much sense, but you feel as if you know the answer anyway. “No.”

“Hum.”

“Don't push him too hard,” Marisa says, “We wouldn't want to break him, would we? Heh.”

“True,” Patchouli nods, closing her book. She suddenly feels a whole lot closer, now that she's out of that book. “Diviners are useful. Would you describe these beings?”

Looking back to the elementalist, you see that she's got another book – Denizens of the Aether.

“Ah,” You say, noticing that book. You've been meaning to read it for quite some time. “Did you pick that up at the Library?”

“No,” She says, “Descriptions, please.”

“Right, well...”

You run through the manner of dress, their stances, notable features, and then go through an entire series of questions that you need to think about. Really bizarre things, but stuff no diviner would have trouble with. What is the first one's favorite color? Given a choice between 2 and 3, which would they pick?

Eventually, Patchouli stops asking. You turn to Marisa, who gives you a shrug. After giving a shrug in response, you ask. “Where'd you get that tea?”

“There's water over on the stove, and the tea's up in the cupboard,” She responds, pointing the two out. “Not the greatest stuff, but it's good enough.”

You nod, and get up. “There some cups up there, too? Oh, looks like it,” you note, having found some. “We---”

“They seem to match the sisters Gengetsu and Mugetsu,” Patchouli interrupts, while you continue preparing your tea. “Interesting. Their contract rate is absolutely absurd.”

“Absurd?” You ask, “what do you mean?”

“Four-hundred human souls per day,” She says, “Although they only require the souls, so I suppose you could get them without killing that many individuals.”

“Damn,” Marisa says, “Three-hundred?”

“Yes,” Patchouli nods, “However, it seems like they've never been bested in combat. Attacking them would not be wise. We would either need to show that their contract has been violated, or perhaps strike a better deal with them.”

“So, I'd need to go back?”

“No. We could summon them here, if all we are planning on doing is talking. They are not known to have broken out of a binding before, even when summoned by amateurs.”

Tea in hand, you take a peak over Patchouli's shoulder as you return to the table. “Yeah, that's definitely them,” You say, commenting on the picture that's taking up the entire left page. “... well, they look a little more sinister in this book.”

“They will look like this if we summon them,” Patchouli responds, “Your view was likely distorted by the plane you were visiting.”

That makes sense.

“Would you like me to bring them here?”

“Perfectly safe, right?” You ask, still a little anxious about the whole thing.

“As I said, they have never broken a binding.”

[ ] … let's give it a shot.
[ ] No. We're not dealing with devils. (choose one from below, or write-in next action)
--[ ] “… let's just wait for the dog to come find us tomorrow.”
--[ ]“... well, in that case, maybe we should prepare for an early assault. After taking care of the dog, of course.”
>> No. 30446
[x] ... let's give it a shot.

I don't want to make the update I just read pointless.
>> No. 30448
[x]...let's give it a shot.

Let us hope they do not break their track-record. Hopefully we can grill them for information, but I hold no faith in that.
>> No. 30455
[x] … let's give it a shot.
Okay, let's go with it.
>> No. 30456
400 souls a day?!

Fuck.

We are not dealing with small fry are we.

[x] … let's give it a shot.

Well okay lets show the rich how Busyness is done.
>> No. 30458
>“As I said, they have never broken a binding.”

That has been reported in the written accounts. Of course, they could just kill everyone who has ever seen differently.

[x] … let's give it a shot.

400 souls a day is pretty expensive, and the city seems almost entirely depopulated already. If worst comes to absolute worst, we can evacuate who we can to the hills, wait for the contract to lapse, then wage guerrilla astral warfare.
>> No. 30462
Called, update most likely later today.
>> No. 30465
[x] … let's give it a shot.

“... let's give it a shot.”

“You, ah... sure about that?” Marisa asks, looking a little uneasy.

You nod, turning back to Patchouli. “It'll be fine, right?”

“Most likely,” She mutters, back in book mode. “It will be about thirty minutes.”

Like a zombie, she gets up and heads for the door. With but a word uttered under her breath, the thing returns to how it was before – wide open – and she leaves. You feel a bit more exposed as well; it's likely that whatever enchantment she threw up has been dispelled.

“Huh.” Marisa notes, as you both watch her leave. “She doesn't talk much, does she?”

“I've met rocks that talk more than she does,” You laugh, turning around to face the table again. “Still, I guess it's better than talking too much. At least she gets to the point quickly.”

“That's true,” Marisa says, taking a sip of her tea. You do the same. It's not very good, but, like noted earlier, not terrible. “So, now what? I don't suppose you got any leads on that servant while you were out there, did you?”

“Not much,” You say, shrugging, “Whoever it is, I get the feeling that they do their work as invisibly as possible. It'll be hard to find them.”

“Yeah, we thought maybe they were able to teleport or something,” Marisa nods. “Even in a place like this, you shouldn't just be able to vanish. And we've got a whole cloud of those... eh, what did she call those devils?”

“Koakuma.”

“Right. We've got a whole cloud of those koakuma watching the halls,” She continues, “So they've got to be moving via some magical means.”

You give a nod. “That sounds right. Or they're using some magical means to conceal movement.”

“Almost the same thing,” Marisa laughs, waving her hand. “Either way, we'd probably need you to spot the guy.”

As if on cue, you feel a presence behind you. You spin around to catch a glimpse, but see nothing. Well, no... perhaps a little silvery bit of tail, just behind the doorway.

“Hm?” Marisa asks “What's up?”

“... whoever the dog is, they're still around,” You say, shrugging. “She just walked by, I think.”

“Wanna go after her?” Marisa asks, honestly. “It was kind of annoying when we couldn't find her earlier.”

“Itching to blow something up?”

She gives a hearty nod. “Yeah. Revenge is always nice.”

[ ] “We can worry about that later. The dog isn't a threat tonight.”
[ ] “Sounds good. I wouldn't mind getting rid of the mutt.”
>> No. 30467
[x] “Sounds good. I wouldn't mind getting rid of the mutt.”

We got thirty minutes to kill, might as well be productive.
>> No. 30473
[x] “We can worry about that later. The dog isn't a threat tonight.”

I don't think we should offend Remilia any more than we already have. If we can do anything about her astral contractors, we'd be doing her a favor, really, since those girls aren't cheap and nobody wants to pay for flawed security. But offing her most loyal servant? No.

Besides, I just want to have a nice chat with Marisa. Jack hasn't had much time to speak with her yet.
>> No. 30490
[x] “Sounds good. I wouldn't mind getting rid of the mutt.”

We need to find out more about her, even if what we find out is that she is totally out our league. We want to go into this meeting with a good idea of how capable Scarlet is of carrying out her threats.
>> No. 30501
[x] “Sounds good. I wouldn't mind getting rid of the mutt.”
>>30490
>> No. 30502
[x] “Sounds good. The knife she used should make a good focus."
>> No. 30507
Called, etc.
>> No. 30510
[x] “Sounds good. I wouldn't mind getting rid of the mutt.”

“Sounds good,” You say, taking a gulp from your tea. Thankfully the water wasn't too warm to begin with. “I wouldn't mind getting rid of the mutt. Let me finish this up real quick first, though.”

“Sure,” Marisa says, standing up anyway. “Don't want to waste perfectly average tea.”

It's gone in three large gulps. After giving it a good rinse at the sink, you head back towards the doorway where Marisa is already waiting. “Right, then. Give me a few seconds to get a lock.”

Where is the dog now, you wonder? You keep seeing it, little bits and pieces of it, all over the place. Seems to be quite shaggy, actually, now that you look – there's little silvery bits of hair that the thing has shed all over the place, clearly pointing you in the direction it went.

“This way,” You say, motioning down the correct hall. “You lead, though. I'll say when to turn.”

“Good idea,” Marisa says, “I wouldn't want to blast you.”

You set to focusing on the trail, leading the way for you two. This trail will certainly lead you to the silver dog.

“Left.”



“Straight.”



“Right, slap the wall a few bricks in, and then head back.”

“...seriously?”

“Trust me.”



… eventually, you both end up taking some stairs down below ground level. Yes, you two are close now.

“Be on your guard,” You whisper, trying your best to cut down the echo in this building. Marisa gives a silent nod.

This passage leads straight ahead, and is relatively easy to follow. Maybe it leads to the vault? It's certainly wide enough for that. In either case, after passing through an almost jail cell-like door, you pause.

“Close this,” You say, blocking the door as best you can.

Marisa gives a nod, working around your body to close the door as you stand how you need to. The dog can't get by if there is no room. The door eventually creeks shut.

Reaching into your pockets, you come up with a sacrificial knife you carry around with you on occasion. It's just one of those random pieces of garbage that you can't seem to do without. The “blade” actually has three edges, and makes a sort of long pyramid shape.

Although you have no lock, jamming the door with this will work just as well. You set it on the floor, in convenient gap between two of the many stones making up the floor, and give it a few solid kicks. Enough to wedge it in pretty tightly. Getting it back out will take a little work.

And, just as planned, you can see that the dog hasn't gone back through this way. It's now trapped, with you two. Checking your watch, you still have about ten minutes before Patchouli is ready. Plenty of time.

“Straight,” You whisper, pointing ahead to the end of the hall. It leads into another room, but this is the last one. A vault, like you had known all along. Rows upon rows of shelving, although there seem to be foodstuffs and drink mixed in with the usual fare of gold, money, and jewels.

And another mage, oddly enough, accompanied by three imps.

“Hey!”

A loud (for such a tiny source) voice rings out, causing you to jump. Marisa reacts even worse, pointing her magical reactor in the direction of the noise. After gathering your wits, you can see that it's a koakuma. Make that four, then.

“Too much coffee?” It asks, laughing. “What're you sneaking around for?”

Marisa lets out a nervous laugh. “Ok, I'll admit. That was a good one.”

“The dog is still here,” You say, pointing out the not-so-obvious. Then, raising your voice, you add. “Do you really intend to hide all night?”

Something... happens. You both see and don't see the dog for a split second. Then, an object lances through the brim of your hat, causing it to violently flip off your head. The hat, and the recently added knife, go clattering to the floor.

“Whoa,” Marisa says, going into full alert mode. Patchouli seem to be too engrossed in the preparations to notice. “What the hell?”

You bend down to pick up your poor headgear, finding a note pinned to it with a knife. It's of the same design as earlier.

“I am merely observing for treachery,” you read, “Do note that any further aggression against the Lady's servants will be grounds for revoking the earlier invitation and carrying out the usual punishment.”

“Pretty flowery way of saying 'attack me and die',” Marisa scoffs, as you dust off your hat. As you reach for the knife (which you had left on the floor), however, you notice...

[ ] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [ ] Try to enter it. It'll be amusing to finally see this dog.
- [ ] Try to cancel it. It's time to get this party started.
[ ] That the knife is simply gone.
- [ ] Seems she's listening, at least. See if you can't bait her into revealing herself.
- [ ] Give Marisa a 'good' angle, and have her fire. It's time to get this party started.
================================================
Choose a main option and a sub option. Write-ins also welcome, as always.
>> No. 30512
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to enter it. It'll be amusing to finally see this dog.

Enter Sakuya's timestop? Fuck yeah! I bet diviner could take her in a fistfight, Satori-style. Or just talk to her. Whatever works.
>> No. 30513
>“I am merely observing for treachery,” you read, “Do note that any further aggression against the Lady's servants will be grounds for revoking the earlier invitation and carrying out the usual punishment.”

Unfortunately, treachery seems a core tenet of Schizism.

[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to cancel it. It's time to get this party started.

Changing our shot type. By entering it alone we lose Marisa while Sakuya still has her knives, putting us at a greater disadvantage.

Sure the food stores & valuables might get destroyed in the crossfire, but do we really want to give any of these survivors an excuse to stay in this fucked-up deathtrap of a city? As it is now, they're practically penned-up cattle.
>> No. 30514
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [ ] Try to enter it. It'll be amusing to finally see this dog.

Shes under orders to observe, or something like that. This is our best chance to directly ask her some questions and see whats up.
>> No. 30517
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to cancel it. It's time to get this party started.

Going against an experienced knife-user one-on-one when we're in time mage mode(especially since we haven't shown any notable melee skills thus far) make me wary, and considering that people in our party tend to die in Remi's mansion... I'm not sure there's too much to discuss here. Especially since she AoE'ed the town into undead.
>> No. 30519
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to enter it. It'll be amusing to finally see this dog.
People already said my part.
>> No. 30523
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to cancel it. It's time to get this party started.
>> No. 30524
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to enter it. It'll be amusing to finally see this dog.
>> No. 30525
Called, update later today probably.
>> No. 30526
[x] A slight temporal distortion (paradigm shift).
- [x] Try to enter it. It'll be amusing to finally see this dog.

… a slight temporal distortion. You wonder why you hadn't noticed this sooner? Maybe, this time, the dog was a little sloppy in their execution. A good chronomage like yourself wouldn't make such a distortion so obvious. You decide to enter the effect.

Time suddenly comes to a near halt. It's quite impossible to stop time completely, so this is as good as anyone could do. Glancing over your shoulder, you see the source of the distortion. It's fairly obvious, as the one responsible is the only other one moving. Looks like she was hiding behind a few crates just off to your left rear. You look over your shoulder and give her a wink.

“Hey.”

What lies before you is... well, she's quite a sight. This kind of servant wouldn't be out of place in the royal palace if you were to replace her current blue-and-white outfit with a more appropriate red-and-white one, and her figure is something else. Her silvery hair, them wonderful legs, those... well, the red eyes don't quite fit, but you can forgive her for those. Yours are probably the same.

“You know,” You say, picking the knife you were originally reaching for up off of the floor, “this was my good hat. Is property damage against the Lady's rules?”

“That would depend on the one doing the damage,” The maid responds, after getting over her initial shock. “In this case, no. However,” she says, taking a look at the knife in your hand, “theft is.”

“Hmm,” You say, “Sorry, I think I'll hold on to this for now. Never know when I might need to stab a crazy maid with it.”

The scene is perfectly still, now – neither you nor her are moving, aside from the breaths that you both take. Perfectly silent.

“I think you will not,” She eventually says, reaching out her hand. “You will either return it to me now, or I will administer the law and take it from your corpse.”

[ ] They don't take any crimes lightly around here, do they? Return it. You've got things to discuss (write-in)
[ ] She's very close. If you're quick, you can catch her off guard. It's time to put her down.
[ ] She's very close. Go for the non-lethal takedown. You're sure you can come up with some use for an unconscious top dog.
[ ] General write-in.
================================================
Sorry for the shortness. I didn't think the last choice all the way through.
>> No. 30527
[x] She's very close. If you're quick, you can catch her off guard. It's time to put her down.

It's time. We are as close to even footing as we will ever get, and are within lethal striking range with a weapon. Unless she has some inhuman reflexes, we should be able to fatally injure her before she can react.
>> No. 30528
I'd like to ask her some questions while keeping hold of the knife, but I have no idea what those questions are.

... Screw it.

[x] Fling the knife at her and cancel the timestop as she dodges. Yell at Marisa to fire. Duck and cover.

Marisa will sulk if we kill Sakuya without letting her blow something up.
>> No. 30531
[x] She's very close. Go for the non-lethal takedown. You're sure you can come up with some use for an unconscious top dog.
>> No. 30532
[x] She's very close. Go for the non-lethal takedown. You're sure you can come up with some use for an unconscious top dog.
>> No. 30544
>“I think you will not,” She eventually says, reaching out her hand. “You will either return it to me now, or I will administer the law and take it from your corpse.”

Whether she's bluffing or not, she seems to be easily caught up on formality. We might be able use it against her.

[x] Tell her it's bad form to act as her mistress surrogate without providing her own name.
[x] She's very close. Go for the non-lethal takedown. You're sure you can come up with some use for an unconscious lap dog.

I have no sympathy for this Sakuya, nor do I have any expectation we can reach some kind of cooperative understanding with her outside of whatever terms we forcibly extract from her mistress. Nonetheless, she could be very useful as a bargaining chip for the coming conversation with Scarlet, and killing her here outright might lead to immediate reprisals.
>> No. 30546
Called, update either later today or later tomorrow.
>> No. 30547
>>30546

Hooray!
>> No. 30548
[x] She's very close. Go for the non-lethal takedown. You're sure you can come up with some use for an unconscious top dog.

“Here,” you respond, after pausing for just a bit. Walking closer, you grab the knife by the blade, holding the handle towards her. “You're right. If I want to stab you, I should come up with something myself.”

She reaches out to take the knife, and you do hand it to her – but that's not all you have in mind. She's very close, and to let someone that could be so valuable get away, well... that's not going to happen.

“I don't think I want to stab you anyway,” You shrug. And then, before she has time to react, you lunge at her. No, you'd rather take her alive.

You quickly realize that this is going to be a difficult fight – something deeply rooted in you doesn't want to damage that pretty face of hers, so you end up going for a tackle and pin. The two of you tumble backwards into a large crate of oranges. She collapses the distortion right before impact, and the thing makes a satisfying smash as the two of you land in it.

“What the---”

Marisa calls out, but she's cut off by another distortion. You manage to hop into this one as well, but it's a lot more difficult to do so. Seems she's getting more serious now and shielding herself better. The oranges and crate shards freeze instantly, but it seems that the dog managed to carve out a few free seconds for herself. Enough time to work her way out of your hands.

You run headfirst into a frozen wall of oranges, quickly roll, and end up back on your feet. She's already a ways down the aisle; you also notice that there are a few frozen knives between her and you. So... that's how she does it.

“You seem capable,” The maid continues, as you two stare each other down. “Are you sure you wish to forfeit the invitation?”

“What do you think?”

Well, two can play her game. Quickly, you reach into your pocket and scoop out a handful of coins. You “throw” them, although they freeze as they leave your hand. Not terribly effective weapons, but it'll certainly get some attention. Only one more handful gets launched before the distortion collapses again.

“--- he... shit! Time battles?”

Everything, including Marisa's voice, begins to move again. The oranges continue to fall, suddenly changing direction from an impact that happened a while ago to you. The knives go whizzing by, embedding themselves in some boxes, while your cloud of coins goes clattering off in the maid's previous direction.

“Take her alive!”

This time, you try to get the jump on her by slipping between time first yourself. It's a terribly messy attempt – really, the bare minimum for a successful one. You grab your focii, a tiny hourglass you carry around, and go through the most basic motions you can. A success, but a very obvious and unstable one.

With your precious few seconds, you grab one of the many pre-made torches lying on the nearby shelves, and give it a toss in the direction the maid appears to be moving. Grabbing two more, you run in her direction.

Tossing the second wood projectile from a slightly different angle, you hesitate before throwing the third. No, this'll be better than your fists. A good blow to the stomach should be enough. Before you can reach her, though, she manages to enter your distortion.

A knife quickly leaves her hand. Then, very quickly, your own distortion collapses. You barely have time to duck, just dodging the knife.

“Whatev---”, Marisa says, stopping in mid-sentence as the newly thrown objects smash into things. It's very difficult to carry on a conversation like this, you imagine. “Right now?”

“Yes, now!”

Most of that response ends up delayed as the dog starts up another distortion. You manage to hop into this one as well, only... she's moving quite a bit faster than you. Only partially in, you guess. There's one hell of a wall of knives coming at you, you notice. Four or five – where does she keep them all? - in a nice spread. It's all you can do to roll out of the way. No retaliations this time.

The distortion collapses, sending the knives flying into a bunch of crates behind your previous position. Seriously, she can't have that many. What will she do when she runs out?

A very, very bright light erupts from the entrance of the room, where Marisa is standing. But, at almost the same moment, another distortion. Again, you manage to tag along with a bit of difficulty. However, by the time you enter, the maid has vanished from sight without a trace. No knives, and you don't see her slinking around.

Maybe she's getting tired, and just finding a place to hide? Either way, you use the opportunity to roll underneath the shelves you're currently beside, and find shelter behind another large unmarked crate. This whole place is about to get lit up, you think. Marisa isn't one for subtlety.

Sure enough, when the distortion ends, a whole bunch of shelves and crates and whatever else was in a line from you to Marisa two distortions ago gets blown over by a brilliant golden light. Huh. Not burnt to a crisp, at least. She must be taking your advice.

Another stream fires, and another, and another. Five beams in total before she stops. And, oddly enough, no distortions arise. The dog must have found some cover as well.

You've only got enough left in you for one or two more hops, but you decide to try once more to get the advantage on the maid. You freeze, and begin to sprint over to her last known location.

The dog doesn't follow you into this one, strangely enough. You fish around in your pockets. Didn't you have that... ah, yes. You pull out a small vial of liquid, labeled “tears”. Who the hell knows where you got this from or why, but you remember coming across it a few times. Maybe you can gas her out?

“I believe this is the end. Nice try.”

You turn around to find a knife hanging in midair, pointed at your abdomen, and a maid just out of arm's reach behind it. How the hell did she get in here?

As she tries to collapse your distortion, you suddenly remember something you read in some incredibly obscure book. It's always possible to divide time with a finer grain. Even within your own distortions. You give it a shot, as a knife to the gut isn't a good thing.

It... mildly works, only buying you a few seconds. You're far too beat to keep this up for long. But it's enough to deflect the knife in her direction – not at her, but just below. She tries to enter this one, too, but you collapse them both before she gets the chance.

The two of you suddenly reappearing doesn't phase battle-mode Marisa in the slightest. Not one half of a second after the knife hits the floor, the entire area is blown away by hot light. Interesting. You note that it has a paralytic effect as you get pushed to the floor and slid along with a few crates.

“Hah! Take that!” Marisa yells, rushing over in your direction. “Hey imps, pin her down!”

“Yeah!” “Got it!”

Marisa, and the four imps currently in the room all converge on the fallen maid. At least that's what you assume, as your head is currently facing a box and you can't move it. You hear a bit of shuffling, some cries for rope, a bit more shuffling, and finally some footsteps as your muscles begin to respond a bit. With a bit of effort you manage to roll your head over, and see Marisa heading your way. She doesn't exactly seem too concerned with hiding that huge grin on her face.

“Sorry,” She admits, “But I didn't think I'd get another chance. You alright?”

“'Suppose so,” You say, “You've got her all tied up? Did you grab her focii?”

“Oh... yeah, I suppose I should,” Marisa admits, “'Though, I don't think even a million years would help her out of those ropes. Here,” She says reaching out a hand to you, “I wouldn't know what one of those would even look like.”

“Look for some kind of time-keeping device,” You say, brushing the hand away. “I think I'm going to lie here for a bit. I'm beat.”

Marisa gives a nod. “Yeah, you've had a busy day, huh? I'll be right---” She pauses, and looks over behind you. “Oh, you're still alive, huh?”

“I was busy,” You hear Patchouli respond. Rolling your eyes and tilting your head back, you see that she's made her way over here. “Ah,” She continues, tilting her head, “we have a prisoner now.”

“Time mage, I, uh, think,” Marisa says, “That stuff is always so confusing to follow.”

“That explains a lot. So, we've lost our diviner, then?”

“Hmm?” You ask, “What diviner?”

Patchouli nods. “Nevermind. I am ready for the summoning when you are.”

“Like I told her,” You say, “I'm going to lie here for a bit.

“Right,” Marisa says, “Well, I'll go frisk the maid for that focii. After all that, I'd be pissed if she got away.”

After Marisa leaves, Patchouli ceases floating and takes a seat on the nearby crate. “I must admit, this is interesting. What plans did you have for the woman? Surely it would have been easier to kill her.”

[ ] Write-in.
================================================
Just looking for a good, well-defined reason so I can make sure I don't forget it.
>> No. 30549
[x]Informant and hostage.

I got nothing. If anyone can actually come up with something better, I'll delete and re-vote.
>> No. 30551
[x] "I'm not going to crash the Lady's gates without at least bringing along my invitation."
[x] "We can always kill her later if she causes more problems; if her mistress is as harsh on failure as I think, she might just save us the trouble."

Lets not give the wrong idea that Jack is going to melt over any pretty face, just because he doesn't want to ruin it. After all, she did murder that poor patrolman and probably countless others under Skrad's aegis.

However, there's always the chance Sakuya might level if she thinks it's the only way for her to survive. Fighting in that disadvantageous position instead of temporarily retreating suggests to me that there's absolutely no room for failure in her mistress' household.
>> No. 30552
>>30551
Bringing her along, unharmed? Nice idea. Remilia will definitely appreciate someone strong enough to take out Sakuya. If we can take out Blue Copy and Red Copy, we should be in an even better position.

[x] "I'm not going to crash the Lady's gates without at least bringing along my invitation."
[x] "We can always kill her later if she causes more problems; if her mistress is as harsh on failure as I think, she might just save us the trouble."
>> No. 30556
>This kind of servant wouldn't be out of place in the royal palace if you were to replace her current blue-and-white outfit with a more appropriate red-and-white one,
...Yumeko?

>>30552
>Blue Copy and Red Copy
Somebody remembers!
>> No. 30558
[x] "I'm not going to crash the Lady's gates without at least bringing along my invitation."
[x] "We can always kill her later if she causes more problems; if her mistress is as harsh on failure as I think, she might just save us the trouble."
>> No. 30559
Called, update either today or tomorrow.
>> No. 30560
>>30559

Hooray!
>> No. 30563
[x] "I'm not going to crash the Lady's gates without at least bringing along my invitation."
[x] "We can always kill her later if she causes more problems; if her mistress is as harsh on failure as I think, she might just save us the trouble."

“I'm not going to crash the Lady's gates without at least bringing along my invitation,” you say, giving a lame shrug. “We can always kill her later if she causes any more problems. And, who knows? Her mistress may finish the job for us.”

“Interesting,” She answers, after thinking it over for a moment. “A hostage, although we're not sure if she's a good one.”

“Yeah,” You admit, “I figured it was at least worth a shot.”

“A chronomage, and a pair of circle demons,” Patchouli adds, nodding in the direction of the fallen maid. “I wonder what other kinds of servants this Lady has?”

“Who knows,” You ask no-one. It's not like any of you are diviners. But... wait, what was that place you were in earlier? Those demons were in the way, but---

“... shit,” You mutter, suddenly losing your school. “Well, guess I really won't be doing any more magic for a little while. Dropped it.”

“Understandable,” Patchouli nods, instantly catching what you're talking about “I can imagine switching rapidly like that would get confusing.”

You toy with the idea of auto-suggestion, or temporarily sealing some memories, but you're really tapped out. “That fight took a lot out of me, too.”

“Unless we plan to fight tonight,” Patchouli says, “I don't think it will be a problem.”

“I'll be fine in an hour or three,” you say, propping yourself up by your arms. They're still working a little funny after that blast, but... well, there's work to be done, regardless.

“Hey, is this it?” Marisa asks, having come over to join you. She's holding a silvery watch in her hand. “It's the only thing I could find.”

With a little more effort than normal, you get back on your feet. The maid is lying ten or so feet away, giving a cold glare in your direction, and the whole vault is a mess. Turning to examine the watch, you shrug. “Hell if I know. I'm not a chronomage.”

“It likely is,” Patchouli adds, “Who shall hold it?”

You shrug. “I've got a ton of pockets. I can do it.”

“Here,” Marisa says, handing it to you. You place it on one of the better hidden pockets, up your sleeve. “Summoning now, yeah?”

You nod. “Go start it, I'll be over in a second.”

The two witches nod and head away towards the circle, while you head towards the fallen maid. Yeah, very cold. You're also impressed by the ropework, too – you wonder if the imps did it? “Sorry, I never caught your name,” You say, “I'm Jack, but you probably already know that.”

“My name is not for you to know,” She says, “But you may address me as Sakuya. And know this – your punishment will be much more severe now.”

“Eh,” You say, shrugging, “The law's only good as long as the Lady rules. We intend to fix that.”

Your conversation is interrupted by a blast of sinister energy, making you feel a certain bit uneasy. It's enough to blow around some of the lighter debris like paper and wood splinters back a little bit.

“Gotta go,” You say, turning towards the circle. You can see two more figures over there now, familiar ones but not exactly the same.

Coming closer, you can see why – they're certainly the two from earlier, but they definitely seem more demonic when seen in the physical relam. Both have horns, for one, and their eyes are completely black. The winged one's wings seemed to have become black instead of white, as well.

The set-up itself is composed of a large magic circle, in which the two are standing, with a shimmering barrier around the edge. It's faint, but well-defined enough that it can be seen.

“Say what you will,” Patchouli says, as you move closer, “But make no statements that can be considered deals.”

“Ahaha, it's him, right?” The maidly one asks, to which the angelic one responds, “It's him. Shame he's out there, though. We can't shred him out there.”

You don't bother to respond to those remarks, so the angelic one continues. “You wanted something, I assume? I doubt you'd waste your time with a summons if you didn't.”

You give her a nod. “I'm interested in getting inside that mansion you two are guarding.”

“See?” The maidly one asks, “Told you, Gengetsu. I win.”

Gengetsu shakes her head. “No, you said he was going to try and make a deal.”

“Well I don't think he called us all the way here to try and beat us,” The other one, Mugetsu, responds. “Right.”

“Right,” You say, “I thought we could come to a more peaceful solution.”

Gengetsu lets out a sigh. “You've just cost me fifty souls. I hope your offer is good.”

“We need the terms first,” Patchouli remarks, stepping up to join you. “Or has the Lady protected those?”

“'Fraid so,” Mugetsu laughs, “She's got enough souls ready for us, and it doesn't cost much more.”

“From where does she get them?” Patchouli asks.

“Oh, we can tell her that, right sis?” Mugetsu asks.

“Certainly,” The second demon nods, “I'm sure you've seen the human husks wandering the town. They're quite soulless now.”

You can't help but feel a wave of nausea rise up in your stomach. “... ugh.”

Looking back towards Marisa, you notice that she's begun to look away. You don't blame her. Even Patchouli seems at least a little shaken by that idea, but she continues. “Has she paid with a lump sum?”

“No, no,” Mugetsu responds, “She's got 'em stashed away somewhere.”

“And that's as much as we can say about that,” Gengetsu cuts in. “So, you had no deal in mind?”

“Not... really,” You say, shrugging. “You three get along OK? The two of you and the Lady, that is.”

“Guard duty sucks,” Mugetsu cuts in, “So boring. But not many people are willing to pay our price, so we take what we can get.”

“She has kept in terms with her contract, as far as I can tell” Gengetsu states, “Unless you are able to come up with an offer we can't refuse, or able to somehow obtain a copy of the contract and find a violation, I think this conversation is going nowhere.”

[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 30564
The dog is down, Meiling apparently isn't present,
the astral guards are busy currently, so ...

[x] divine yourself with the letter as a focus into the mansion.

Only problem is flandre and Remilia.
>> No. 30565
[x]"That's true. I suppose you two are dismissed."

>>30564
MC is exhausted. He's in no state to be doing astral reconnaissance. We've done enough today, we should probably call it a night and go rest up for tomorrow.
>> No. 30566
[x] "How about this dog's soul? A talented chronomage must be worth more than a few hundred villagers."

I'm curious if this will get us somewhere. We don't exactly have much information to go on here...
>> No. 30567
[x] divine yourself with the letter as a focus into the mansion
Being an ace-of-all-trades is quite difficult no?
>> No. 30568
[X] Have you seen the inside of the mansion?
>> No. 30569
>>30566
I like the way you think.

[x] "How about this dog's soul? A talented chronomage must be worth more than a few hundred villagers."
>> No. 30571
>“No, no,” Mugetsu responds, “She's got 'em stashed away somewhere.”

This is out of left field, but the Saigyou Ayakashi would be capable of containing all those souls.

[x] "Since we could be interested in contracting your services at a later date for similar duties, surely you must be able to tell us what your capabilities are as guards."
[x] "We'll need to contact your former employers regarding your work history, so..."
-[x] "Could you give a physical description of Lady Skrad?"
-[x] "How long have you been contracted by her?"
-[x] "Have you worked for her in the past?"
-[x] "Was it she who did the actual summoning? Or a proxy?"
[x] "I understand you can't tell us the terms, but the contract itself..."
-[x] "Is it your typical yellow scroll signed in blood, or something more esoteric?"
-[x] "If the summoner is found to be in violation, what happens to them?"
[x] "You look different. Do you do that for the intimidation factor? Or is it a side effect of the summoning?"
-[x] "Is the maid uniform Skrad's eccentricity or your own?"
[x] "How about this dog's soul? A talented chronomage must be worth more than a few hundred villagers."
[x] "Thank you for your time; we'll be sure to consider you the next time we have an opening."

>[x] divine yourself with the letter as a focus into the mansion.

It's a good idea, but we're not a diviner anymore. We never were, remember?

And the idea of returning Sakuya to Remilia as one of those soulless dog monsters, is pretty funny. Plus, this is a good way of letting Skrad know that Sakuya is alive but in our custody.
>> No. 30572
>>30571
[x] This.
It's worth a shot.
>> No. 30573
>>30571
I didn't even know I wanted answers to half those questions. Amazing.
>> No. 30574
[x] "Since we could be interested in contracting your services at a later date for similar duties, surely you must be able to tell us what your capabilities are as guards."
[x] "We'll need to contact your former employers regarding your work history, so..."
-[x] "Could you give a physical description of Lady Skrad?"
-[x] "How long have you been contracted by her?"
-[x] "Have you worked for her in the past?"
-[x] "Was it she who did the actual summoning? Or a proxy?"
[x] "I understand you can't tell us the terms, but the contract itself..."
-[x] "Is it your typical yellow scroll signed in blood, or something more esoteric?"
-[x] "If the summoner is found to be in violation, what happens to them?"
[x] "You look different. Do you do that for the intimidation factor? Or is it a side effect of the summoning?"
-[x] "Is the maid uniform Skrad's eccentricity or your own?"
[x] "How about this dog's soul? A talented chronomage must be worth more than a few hundred villagers."
[x] "Thank you for your time; we'll be sure to consider you the next time we have an opening."

Holy shit.
>> No. 30575
File 12936223058.jpg - (45.34KB , 600x885 , 200 transactions in one slash.jpg ) [iqdb]
30575
>>30571
>This is out of left field, but the Saigyou Ayakashi would be capable of containing all those souls.
I wondered about what that would make it in this story. Some kind of soul bank?

"Welcome to the First Bank of Hakugyokurou. If this is your first time here, would you like to open an account with us?"
>> No. 30576
[x] "Since we could be interested in contracting your services at a later date for similar duties, surely you must be able to tell us what your capabilities are as guards."
[x] "We'll need to contact your former employers regarding your work history, so..."
-[x] "Could you give a physical description of Lady Skrad?"
-[x] "How long have you been contracted by her?"
-[x] "Have you worked for her in the past?"
-[x] "Was it she who did the actual summoning? Or a proxy?"
[x] "I understand you can't tell us the terms, but the contract itself..."
-[x] "Is it your typical yellow scroll signed in blood, or something more esoteric?"
-[x] "If the summoner is found to be in violation, what happens to them?"
[x] "You look different. Do you do that for the intimidation factor? Or is it a side effect of the summoning?"
-[x] "Is the maid uniform Skrad's eccentricity or your own?"
[x] "How about this dog's soul? A talented chronomage must be worth more than a few hundred villagers."
[x] "Thank you for your time; we'll be sure to consider you the next time we have an opening."
>> No. 30577
Called, I will update with a new thread tomorrow.