[Return]
Archived Thread

File 132631054186.jpg - (96.30KB , 500x333 , imageslightning-a-1.jpg ) [iqdb]
39146 No. 39146
[x] Take a seat. You may be here a while.

Still standing for a few moments, anyway. You soon take your seat, not letting the urge to be difficult get the best of you.

“Now,” She says, “How have you been? Well, I hope?”

“Well enough,” You answer, a million questions all swirling around your head at once. Perhaps it's best to play her game, for now. “And yourself?”

“Well enough,” She smiles, responding in kind. About now, Ran returns with her coffee. The kitsune deposits the cup on the table and leaves, as Yukari continues talking. “So, I see that I haven't scared you off completely. It's not often that someone turns down a deal with me, than seeks me out later.”

“More a matter of timing,” You respond, frankly, “Than a lack of interest. I don't like having my hand forced.”

“And that's why we're meeting like this,” She says, taking a sip from her coffee, “I misjudged you at first. A mistake, on my part.”

“I also don't like being used as a tool in things I don't understand,” You continue, picking your words and tone carefully, “So, if that's what you have in mind, I won't take up any more of your time.”

“No, I understand that now,” She responds, “So, how about a gift? You've already done me some service, even if you don't know it yet.”

That makes you a little uneasy. “I'm not sure I like the sound of that.”

She laughs. “It was of your own accord, I assure you. We are working for the same thing. You see, my goal is to see the forces of Makai defeated, the same as you.” The pausing, she adds, “One of my goals, at least. Forgive me, I'm not used to explaining myself.”

“I'm not seeing how meeting with Shinki herself helps with that,” You say, “You two didn't seem like enemies.”

“You misunderstand,” She laughs, “I'd consider her a friend. We just have a little wager. She believes that her invasion will succeed, and I don't. It's a friendly game, that's all.”

“Why don't you just step in yourself?” You ask, “If I'm understanding things right, you should have no trouble taking them all out by yourself.”

“Ah,” She says, “But, that would be so boring – and Shinki could do the same to you and your allies. No, we decided that it would be more amusing for us both to only play from the shadows. She may be here, but she's not leading any assaults. Much like myself.”

“So, you both sit around and watch thousands die?” You ask, losing your cool for just a moment. She's really treating this like some sort of game, isn't she?

“You wouldn't understand,” She says, smiling an unsettling grin, “You're too young. When you're as old as I am, then you can talk to me about ethics.”

“My apologies.”

“Don't apologize!” She laughs, “No, don't do that. You meant every word, and I love honesty. No one I regularly talk to would be so... frank.”

“There's more where that came from,” You say, settling down a bit, “But I didn't come here to insult you.”

“No, you came here for a deal,” She says, “I do have a few things in mind for you, actually, if you won't turn them down immediately. You see, playing from the shadows means that neither of us can give out our motives. I can't give you information, except as payment. It's an interesting twist that I suggested myself.”

“I think... you just did?” You ask, confused.

“No, I've written off that little exchange as payment for helping Chen out of that situation she was in,” Yukari muses, “Don't worry about it.”

“Wasn't she there because you sent her there?”

“Hmm?” Yukari asks, smiling, “I wonder. Regardless, name your terms. I need to know what you want before I can make an offer.”

Great. She's fudging her own rules, playing by them when it suits her. Well, it seems like you'll be the one starting first this time.

[ ] (Write-in)
================================================================
I know that a lot of you don't like open-ended write-ins like this, but the alternative was me making a lot of assumptions and a really weird vote. This will be easier. There will also be some bargaining afterwards, so don't think that a win here means that you'll accept whatever she wants in return.

>> No. 39147
I have no clue..
>> No. 39149
How exactly are we supposed to know what we want? Aren't we here because she wanted something from us?
>> No. 39150
Have you ever asked a christian why god made AIDS, cancer, and deformed babies, and gotten the "humans are too stupid and imperfect to understand the mind of god. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, created all of this with a plan in mind."? It just makes you want to facepalm and walk away, eh?

[X] How about a blowjob?

I'll leave it to you guys to come up with a world saving wish.
>> No. 39151
Maybe I should have gone with madman voting after all.

>>39149
See >>34631, or around there. Yes, I know that was a while ago - so I apologize. Stuff like this is the main reason I feel bad about going so slowly.

You weren't put off by the idea of contacting her again, so she's assuming that there was something that you wanted to gain from her.

What I had before was something like "[x]Information. Information on how Makai was even able to get here, how to defeat them now, and how to prevent it in the future.", but I was wondering if there was anything in particular that you wanted. If not, just vote for that. This is your chance to gain information you'd like before shit really hits the fan, so use it how you see fit.
>> No. 39154
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army and who will lead them in Shinki's absence. If possible the locations of demons.

We have a lot of this information from Luize but it will be nice to confirm it with another source
>> No. 39158
File 132633537980.jpg - (26.26KB , 934x658 , 1324951619009.jpg ) [iqdb]
39158
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army: members, numbers, locations, plans and strategies.
-[x]"Also, by making this little bet, you've denied her the chance to intervene personally, increasing our chances significantly. Even if it was by accident, you have my thanks."
Let's start big, we can negotiate later.
>> No. 39160
[X] How about a blowjob?

imokaywiththis.jpg
>> No. 39162
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army: members, numbers, locations, plans and strategies.
-[x]"Also, by making this little bet, you've denied her the chance to intervene personally, increasing our chances significantly. Even if it was by accident, you have my thanks."
>> No. 39163
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army and who will lead them in Shinki's absence. If possible the locations of demons.
-[x]"Also, by making this little bet, you've denied her the chance to intervene personally, increasing our chances significantly. Even if it was by accident,
--[LOL] How about a blowjob for goodluck?

Works for me~!
>> No. 39169
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army and who will lead them in Shinki's absence. If possible the locations of demons.
-[x]"Also, by making this little bet, you've denied her the chance to intervene personally, increasing our chances significantly. Even if it was by accident."

(Must..not..re..post..stupid..joke..)
>> No. 39170
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army: members, numbers, locations, plans and strategies.
-[x]"Also, by making this little bet, you've denied her the chance to intervene personally, increasing our chances significantly. Even if it was by accident, you have my thanks."
>> No. 39171
[x] "You know what I want. My sole reason and motivation is to drive the demons back to Makai, and for that I'd need information on the enemy and how to defeat them."
[x] "I already know thei're building a gate to Makai. Destroying it or avoid its completion is a main objective for 'my side'".
>> No. 39172
[x] I don't want this invasion merely stopped. I want to make it never happen at all.

I got here too late to affect the vote, but I might as well toss out a pointless vote for time-travel shenanigans. You guys set your sights too low.
>> No. 39181
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army: members, numbers, locations, plans and strategies.
-[x]"Also, by making this little bet, you've denied her the chance to intervene personally, increasing our chances significantly. Even if it was by accident, you have my thanks."
>> No. 39182
Isn't Shinki free to give out exactly the same information concerning our forces? We probably should have used this chance to set some rules of engagement instead of blatantly trying to cheat.
>> No. 39183
>>39182
We're not cheating and Shinki has already left.
>> No. 39185
[x] Information on the make up of the demon army: members, numbers, locations, plans, strategies, and leadership.

“I want information on Makai's army,” You say, laying out your terms plainly, “members, locations, plans, strategies, and leadership, since we all thought Shinki was leading them.”

Yukari lets out an honest laugh, as far as you can tell. “My, my. That's a tall order, isn't it?”

“We may as well start somewhere,” You shrug, “I didn't really expect this to be an easy meeting.”

“That's true,” She agrees, “Somewhere is better than nowhere. Hmm...”

She pauses, that ancient mind of hers no doubt considering all of the ramifications of what you've suggested.

“No,” She shakes her head, “I can't accept that offer. If you removed locations and strategies from the table, I'd reconsider.”

“Why not?” You ask, “I'm sure you have tons of shady things that need doing.”

“It would be a net loss for me,” She explains, “And violates the terms of the bet I have.”

“Too direct?”

She nods. “If I were to take that offer, Shinki could offer the same... and I'd almost certainly lose the bet, in that case. I'm sure you don't want that, either.”

“Maybe you could offer what you need done,” You suggest.

“Yes, what needs doing?,” She muses, “For now, I need you to deliver two messages on your way out of the city. You also need to stall any counter-siege for at least one day.”

You're not really sure what to say to that. “Why me? Or even just why, for the last one.”

“I can offer that as payment, if you'd like,” She smiles, with that enigmatic grin of hers, “I can't give that for free. Shinki has the advantage in that regard.”

“What do you mean?”

“Anyone that would serve Makai knows enough not to ask why,” She laughs, “They simply accept, and take whatever power is offered. People like you are far more difficult to deal with.”

You smile. “I imagine. Is that all you want?”

“For now,” She says, “We could also add some IOUs to the table, if you'll take my word that they'll be acceptable to you.”

There's a pause, as you mull that over. “I believe the ball is in your court, Jack.” She says, still keeping up that amused look of hers. “Or are my terms completely unacceptable?”

[ ] They are. You can't agree to any of that on good faith.
[ ] They aren't, but you can try to bluff that they are.

[ ] You'd agree to:
- [ ] Delivering the first message
- [ ] Delivering the second message
- [ ] Doing your best to stall any counter-siege today
- [ ] <num> IOUs
[ ] You'd want:
- [ ] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [ ] Information on Makai's overall plan.
- [ ] Information on the task(s) you'll be performing.
- [ ] <Write-in>
================================================
I'll be updating daily until the negotiations are done, because this is pretty easy to write. You can choose one of the first two to try and get her to offer something else, or try to bargain with what's on the table currently.
>> No. 39186
[x] They aren't, but you can try to bluff that they are.

[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
- [x] Doing your best to stall any counter-siege today
- [x] 3 IOUs
[x] You'd want:
- [x] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [x] Information on Makai's overall plan.
- [x] Information on the task(s) you'll be performing.
- [x] Your abilities run on your own belief. Does she have any interesting beliefs for you?

I'm totally cool with being Yukari's lackey. Maybe she can give Jack some pointers in gap manipulation or something? That'd be sweet.
>> No. 39187
[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
- [x] Doing your best to stall any counter-siege today
- [x] 3 IOUs
[x] You'd want:
- [x] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [x] Information on Makai's overall plan.
- [x] Information on the task(s) you'll be performing.
- [x] Your abilities run on your own belief. Does she have any interesting beliefs for you?
>> No. 39196
>“They simply accept, and take whatever power is offered. People like you are far more difficult to deal with.”

So be difficult to deal with, and not content to be grasping at the low-hanging fruit.

Knowledge of the strengths and placement of enemy forces may not even be enough to counter the loss of a single day to our timetable. That's to say nothing of the difficulty of actually performing the task and not be branded traitorous, which could be all the better to Yukari, since then she'll have a monopoly on the use of Jack's multi-talented task force.

Yukari claims to be working against Makai's aims, but that doesn't mean she isn't also trying to cripple the extant power of the Guild, or even the order of the human nation as it is now. Waiting for both sides to exhaust themselves against the other and then making offers that can't be refused fits her MO.

[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Nothing, without information on the task(s) you'd be performing.
[x] You'd want:
- [x] A three-day grace period on collecting IOUs for them to even be in consideration.

Since Yukari could theoretically ask anything of Jack with those IOUs, he'd want to make sure they're not things that could be harmful to the Capital in this critical period. He also has a responsibility to the other people who'd be caught up with him in attending to these tasks.
>> No. 39199
[x] They are. You can't agree to any of that on good faith.
[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Nothing, without information on the task(s) you'd be performing.
[x] You'd want:
- [x] A three-day grace period on collecting IOUs for them to even be in consideration.
>> No. 39200
[x] They are. You can't agree to any of that on good faith.
[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Nothing, without information on the task(s) you'd be performing.
[x] You'd want:
- [x] A three-day grace period on collecting IOUs for them to even be in consideration.

Fair enough, I can get behind this.
>> No. 39207
Now that I think of it, can we get info on The Guild?
>> No. 39208
39207 here, I meant it in a way of how the Guild is faring, where they escaped to and such.
>> No. 39211
[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
- [x] Doing your best to stall any counter-siege today
- [x] 3 IOUs
[x] You'd want:
- [x] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [x] Information on Makai's overall plan.
- [x] Information on the task(s) you'll be performing.
- [x] Your abilities run on your own belief. Does she have any interesting beliefs for you?
>> No. 39254
Bleh. I grossly underestimated my homework load this weekend. So much for that, I suppose - I'll try to have something tomorrow, but I'm still not done so that's up in the air.

It also looks like it's tied, so unless the tie is broken in around 12 hours, I'll... think of something, I guess.
>> No. 39296
[x] They are. You can't agree to any of that on good faith.
[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Nothing, without information on the task(s) you'd be performing.
[x] You'd want:
- [x] A three-day grace period on collecting IOUs for them to even be in consideration.
>> No. 39329
I figure I should tell you guys what's going on, with all the delays as of late.

The tl;dr version is that grad school is hard, and although I technically have an hour or two of free time each day to write, the last thing I want to do after twelve hours of work is more work. It's work that I enjoy, sure, but writing still requires an effort. I just don't have the mental stamina for that with all the other stuff on my plate.

So as much as I don't want to do this, updates will be sporadic from now on. Annoying to check, I know, but I don't see much in the way of options. Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty much out altogether, with friday/weekends having the highest probability of updates.

That said, called. Expect an update by tomorrow.
>> No. 39345
>>39329

Hooray!
>> No. 39356
[x] They are. You can't agree to any of that on good faith.
[x] You'd agree to:
- [x] Nothing, without information on the task(s) you'd be performing.
[x] You'd want:
- [x] A three-day grace period on collecting IOUs for them to even be in consideration.

“Yes,” You say, simply, “They are. I wasn't kidding with what I said earlier. I won't work for you unless I understand what I'm doing.”

She doesn't seem fazed by your remark, maintaining her uncomfortably confident grin.. “I see you won't take me at my word, then,” She chuckles, “You already know my goals. Isn't that enough?”

“This is one thing that can't be negotiated,” You say, shaking your head. “If you're that sure that I'll agree with them, just tell me in advance. It'll save us both a lot of trouble.”

She brings one of her gloved hands to her mouth in a thoughtful pose. “I guess you are that sort of person, then, aren't you? No, it won't save us both a lot of trouble. Ah, and using you unwillingly would be even more trouble...”

The fact that she was even considering that shouldn't surprise you, but it still gives rise to a wave of uneasiness. That pawn analogy may not have been far off. Were it not for this game of hers, it seems like she'd be perfectly content to just toy with everyone and everything.

“Fine,” She says, after a few moments of contemplation, “I suppose doing it this way makes it more exciting, anyway. A bet is no fun if I'm sure to win, is it?”

“Go on,” You say, not following.

“You give me one IOU, and I'll give you information on one of my tasks. Then, we can negotiate further. It's a worse deal for both of us, but it seems like it's the only one you might accept.”

That makes you smile a bit. Maybe you still have a bit of leverage, here – which, in it's own right, is sort of worrying considering who you're dealing with. Still, you may as well use it. “I'd only consider that if you weren't able to claim the IOU for three days,” You say, “You could just ask me to do one of your tasks with it otherwise.”

“Of course,” She says, “That wasn't my intention, anyway. It'll probably be months before I cash in on it. What do you think?”

You set about thinking on it. Really, it isn't much better, but at least you're guaranteed that it won't effect the siege. You may even be able to weasel out of it in further negotiations if you're clever.

“By the way,” She adds, “As far as things that can't be negotiated, this is one of them. I can't come any closer to what you want out of this deal.”

[ ] What you think doesn't matter. You'll take it, and re-evaluate your options.
- [ ] Information on one of the messages.
- [ ] Information on why you should stall the counter-siege.
[ ] You suppose that these negotiations are over, then.
[ ] Re-consider this approach (see previous update for options).
>> No. 39361
[X] What you think doesn't matter. You'll take it, and re-evaluate your options.
-[X] Make it so that, unless they win the war, demons and anyone or anything allied with them are forbidden from harming non-combatants.

This won't help us win the war, but it's what I personally would ask for.
>> No. 39366
[x] What you think doesn't matter. You'll take it, and re-evaluate your options.
- [x] Information on why you should stall the counter-siege.

If we can't tell our allies why the counter-siege needs to be stalled, they'll never comply.

Since the story will be over before the IOUs get cashed in, clearly we should offer a billion IOUs and take everything.
>> No. 39382
>>39366
That sort of attitude only invites trouble.
>> No. 39388
>>39382
Good. This story needs spice badly.
>> No. 39407
>>39388

There's a difference between 'put more spice in' and 'kill it with fire'
>> No. 39409
[x] What you think doesn't matter. You'll take it, and re-evaluate your options.
- [x] Information on why you should stall the counter-siege.

This is the most pressing issue.

>>39366

Yes, but Jack's approach to this here colors Yukari's opinion of him, given:
>“I suppose doing it this way makes it more exciting, anyway. A bet is no fun if I'm sure to win, is it?”

We're dealing with Olympian huge figures that act out scenes in Trading Places. Try not to be boring.
>> No. 39412
>>39388
trouble is not spice, it's a good way to ruin whatever progress we made.
>> No. 39417
It doesn't matter why we are stopping the siege for one day. Because, in the absence of proof, whatever real reason Yukari gives would hold the same weight as any plausible fictional tale that Jack can come up with when it comes time to get the other guild members to go along with him.

Just throwin' that out there.
>> No. 39418
Called. Update by friday.

>>39388
Yes, sorry about that. This slow pace doesn't really help much. I'll try harder.
>> No. 39451
[x] What you think doesn't matter. You'll take it, and re-evaluate your options.
- [x] Information on why you should stall the counter-siege.

You think about it for a little longer. In the end, you suppose how you feel about this doesn't really matter. This will allow further negotiations, and you're in no hurry to end them just yet.

“Fine,” You say, “I'll do it. An IOU for some information on why you want me to stall any counter-siege.”

She smiles, although you think you detect just a hint of uncertainty behind it. “You did have to ask for that one, didn't you? Well, I won't go back on my offer now. I accept.”

Then she stands, slowly, as if she would have been much more content to keep sitting where she was. “Come with me. You'll understand better if I show you.”

Although it leaves you a bit puzzled, you do as you're told. After grabbing a parasol from a nearby stand, she leads you back outside – and, you notice that Tewi and Ran seem to be somewhere else while she does so. Chen, too. Her walk takes her back to the path that you came up the mountain on, only she takes a left instead of a right. Up, instead of down.

Yukari doesn't go very far, only a hundred feet or so around the next bend, although the path looks like it continues up the mountain a ways. She seems to be interested in an overhang there. At first, it looks like she's simply going to walk off the edge of the thing – but, right at the edge, she stops.

“Come closer,” She says. So, you do. The wind seems prone to gusting, though, so you don't get quite as close as she is. Still, it's close enough to see that this offers a great view of the surrounding landscape. If you don't turn around, there's almost nothing to block your view.

“I'm not seeing how this answers anything,” You say, after looking down on the world for a while, “Nothing is jumping out at me.”

“It's subtle,” She says, pointing with her unopened parasol, “Look through the eyes of a general.”

“A general, huh?” You ask, somewhat amused by that idea. “Give me a moment.”

It's impossible to make up individuals from up here, but troop movements and positions are doable. You feel your coat for anything that may be useful, but nothing comes up.

You notice one thing right away. Makai, at least for right now, does not seem focused on taking the inner city. Most of their forces are outside the city. On roads leading inward, of course – they could have their legions at those gates in minutes, given their speed – but they seem to be more interested in defending the place than attacking it.

Inside the inner walls, you see that the city itself isn't entirely undefended, either. The imperial army? It would almost have to be – you seem to catch a glint off of their armor every once in a while, and they're mostly concentrated near the palace. Although the numbers do seem quite low. Perhaps four to one in favor of Makai.

“A stalemate?” You ask, still not seeing anything that would prevent a counter-assault today. “A decisive first strike seems like it would be a good idea, in that case. Give them less time to settle in.”

She shakes her head. “Maybe you can't see it. Look closer at the border between the outer and inner city.”

You do. It seems... wavy, somehow. The effect is very faint, and you wouldn't have noticed it if she didn't point it out. “What is that?”

She lets out a soft laugh. “Yagokoro has her own tricks, you see. Your commander arriving from the east didn't get the message, but the entire area will be sealed off until tomorrow. Nothing can change inside that bubble.”

Meaning there would be no help from the inside. “I wonder why Tewi didn't point that out to me? She's usually keen on stuff like that.”

“She also minds her own business,” Yukari chuckles, “Well, most of the time. I did cheat a bit, however.”

When she says that, the slight shimmering that you see vanishes. All appears normal. Ah... she probably did something to your eyes with her ability, then.

“Then,” You say, “Any assault today would be without the help of the people still trapped in the city. And we'd be trapped in the outer city after we poured in.”

Yukari nods. “It wouldn't be a fatal blow to your cause, but it would hurt quite a bit.”

Still, it makes you uneasy. “This seems an awful lot like intervening.”

She laughs at that, too. “Oh, you'll pay dearly for it. You can be sure of that. My friend can now give her side something of similar value. I don't think it'll be a death blow, however, so don't worry too much.”

Then, that was the gamble she was talking about. This really is like some sort of crazy variant on chess. A bold move was just made on her part, and she's hoping her opponent won't be able to counter properly. “You have rules for cheating?”

Again, she laughs... but this time, offers no response. You continue to take in what you can of this view for a few minutes, since it will actually be quite useful later.

“Now, then,” She says, “Shall we go inside? I always prefer to negotiate sitting down.”

[ ] Yes, that's fine.
- [ ] Delivering the first message
- [ ] Delivering the second message
- [ ] <num> IOUs
For:
- [ ] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [ ] Information on Makai's overall plan.
- [ ] Information on the task(s) you'll be performing.
- [ ] <Write-in>

[ ] No. You've already gained enough from this, and who knows at what cost.
================================================
This'll probably be the last bit of negotiation, if you make her a fair offer. Just as a note.
>> No. 39452
[x] Yes, that's fine.
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
For:
- [x] Nothing.

If we take nothing, that means Shinki can't give her side anything, right?

I'm not particularly interested in spoiling all these wonderful surprises, in any case. We've gained enough from this recon trip.
>> No. 39456
[x] Yes, that's fine.
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
For:
- [x] Nothing.

Restricting Shinki is more valuable than gaining anything new
>> No. 39457
[x] Yes, that's fine.
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
For:
- [x] Nothing.

Works for me~!
>> No. 39458
[ ] Yes, that's fine.
- [ ] Delivering the first message
- [ ] Delivering the second message
For:
- [ ] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [ ] Information on Makai's overall plan.

Don't be pussies. We came here exactly for this.

Also, you're agreeing to do something for Yukari for free. Why? it's not gonna help us, as it's basically our payment for something we want, and the siege stuff has already been paid for (or will be paid for, IOU).
>> No. 39459
[ ] Yes, that's fine.
- [ ] Delivering the first message
For:
- [ ] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership

We already kinda know what they are planning. To contain the humans long enough for them to build the gate and then start pouring from it.
>> No. 39485
> “Oh, you'll pay dearly for it. You can be sure of that. My friend can now give her side something of similar value. I don't think it'll be a death blow, however, so don't worry too much.”
Does this mean that the opponent gets the same type of rewards as us, or that Shiki can help her side like Yukari did now?
>>39452
>>39458
>> No. 39486
>>39485
Yukari was talking about Shinki there, so the latter.
>> No. 39488
[ ] Yes, that's fine.
- [ ] Delivering the first message
- [ ] Delivering the second message
For:
- [ ] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership
- [ ] Information on Makai's overall plan.
>> No. 39506
[x] Yes, that's fine.
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
For:
- [x] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers, and leadership, etcetera
We have remove their plan and their strategy out of the question, or she'll never accept. Their locations could have been helluva useful tho.
>> No. 39561
Called. I'll feed the results into my vote-amalgamation engine and have an update before I go to sleep friday.
>> No. 39562
File 132822132541.jpg - (152.01KB , 800x700 , waki gap.jpg ) [iqdb]
39562
Hooray!
>> No. 39599
Should have given myself another day, since it's turning out to be a bit longer than I thought. It'll be done sometime early tomorrow.
>> No. 39607
[x] Yes, that's fine.
- [x] Delivering the first message
- [x] Delivering the second message
For:
- [x] Information on Makai's army, such as numbers and leadership

“Sure,” You say, after thinking about it for a moment. “I think we'll be able to come up with another deal.”

The two of you return to the room where you were before, in relative silence. To each other, anyway - your brain is buzzing with all sorts of options to weigh. You wonder if she's doing the same.

After sitting down, both of you look at each other. No words are said for a little while, as if each of you is gauging the mood of your opponent. Finally, you break the silence.

“I'll deliver your messages,” You say, “You don't need to tell me the reasoning behind them.”

She seems pleased, although maybe that too is an act. “Decided to trust me?”

You laugh, although it comes out sounding a bit rough. “In a way, I suppose. I don't know myself, sometimes.”

“I assume you're not just going to give it to me,” She says, “Not after all that.”

You give her a nod. “I want information on Makai's army. Real data. Numbers, troop breakdown, how their leadership is structured... that sort of thing.”

“That seems like a lot for two messages,” She says, although there's something in her tone of voice that says she's not seriously going to haggle with you. “Can't you ask for something easier? It'll take me all day to compile something like that.”

“That's fine,” You say, “And, at this point, I'll probably be stalling the siege. Count that towards it if you must.”

“Can you commit to that?”

“I'll have to relay the information to the one in charge of this whole thing,” You say, “With a strong recommendation that we don't attack. That's all I can do.”

Although she's going through the motions of thinking about it, you both know that she's just playing at this point. “Hmm. I suppose I can do that,” She finally says. “I'll have that information for you later today. Don't worry about how you'll get it.”

“Then, that's the deal,” You say, “Do we need to shake on it or something? I can't say I've done many things like this.”

“Your word is fine,” She says, before adding a bit pointedly, “I wouldn't recommend going back on it, though.”

“Then, you have my word that I'll deliver your messages.”

“And you have mine that you'll have your information,” She says, before breathing a sigh. “It's done. Ran, do you thing you could pen the letters for me? All this haggling has made me tired.”

You turn around to find the kitsune standing at the door, right on cue – probably some kind of shikigami telepathy or something.

“Yes,” Ran nods, as if she already knows what the letters should be about, “How shall I prepare them?”

“Plain,” Yukari answers, a bit offhandedly, “Oh, but make sure that only the recipient can read it.” Turning to you, she adds, “Wouldn't want our messenger to get any clever ideas.”

You smile a bit at that. “Why, I would never do such a thing.”

She laughs, as Ran leaves to write up your letters. “The first one, you'll have to deliver tomorrow. It's to your Guildmaster, and even I can't get to her now.”

“Yagokoro?” You ask, “That's suspicious.”

“It's not a problem, though, is it?” She asks, “It'd be a shame if you broke our deal already.”

“It's fine,” You say, “Who shall I say it's from?”

“From me,” She grins, “She'll recognize the signature anyway.”

You suppose that at this point you're committed, but you can't help yourself. “You're not setting me up, are you?”

She laughs. “No, no, nothing like that. Don't worry about it. And, the second... well, that will need to be delivered while you're heading back to your camp. Do you know where the north side warehouse is?”

You shake your head. “No.”

“Outer ring, a block or so south the northern bazaar,” She says. “How about now?”

“I know the general area,” You admit, “If it's easy to spot, I should be able to find it.”

“It should be the only building standing in the area,” She chuckles, “So yes, it'll be easy to spot. You've met with some of the local resistance on your way to meet me, yes?”

You nod. “Some kappa helped me out, yeah. Is this related?”

“Somewhat,” She admits, “Show up, and ask to talk to their leader. Say that you've got a message for her.”

“Does this leader have a name?”

“Of course,” She says, leaving you without an answer, “Oh, and if she asks – tell her that the message is from your Guildmaster. We both know that it isn't, but it's better if she thinks that it is.”

You frown a little at that. “This is sounding shadier by the moment.”

Yukari, however, seems to get a kick out of that. “I did mention that I was playing from the shadows, didn't I? You shouldn't act so surprised.”

“Well, I guess it doesn't matter,” You shrug, trying to get yourself to believe that indeed, it doesn't matter. “One letter to Yagokoro, and one to this mysterious resistance leader. Got it.”

“Good,” Yukari says, seemingly satisfied. “Very good.”

Yukari sips her mostly untouched coffee, while you're left waiting for Ran to return with these two shady messages that you're supposed to deliver. This is going to be... interesting, to say the least. Who knows what sorts of seeds she has you sewing.

After another five minutes or so of this, Ran returns, holding two wax-sealed letters. “I've finished,” She announces.

“Ah,” Yukari says, motioning towards you, “You can give them to Jack. By the way, do you know where Tewi is?”

“She's waiting in the guest room,” Ran answers, as she hands you the letters. “Should I get her for you?”

It's pretty clear which one is for who, just by looking at the seals pressed into the wax. You recognize the Guildmaster's seal right away, while the other one seems to dance about as you try to look at it and grasp what it really is. Figures that Yukari would have her own personal signature be something like this. It would be hard to mistake.

“If we're done,” Yukari says – and, after looking up, you can see that she's talking to you. “I'd invite you to stay and chat with us, but you've got a lot of work to do.”

[ ] You think you're done, yes. Better get going.
[ ] (write-in)
================================================
Figured this would be a good middle ground. Anyway, if there's anything else, now is the time to ask. Otherwise we'll get this show on the road.
>> No. 39609
[X] Can I keep Chen for a while?
[X] You think you're done, yes. Better get going.
>> No. 39624
[x] You think you're done, yes. Better get going.

I wonder what Tewi is planning? I guess she'll turn up if Yukari doesn't let her freeload here.
>> No. 39642
>>39624

Why the heck would an old youkai need to freeload? She can walk into any house she wants and slaughter the inhabitants if she truly desired a house.
>> No. 39649
>>39642
She's here for the show. Yukari has the best seat in the house.

Tagging along with Jack is probably her second choice.
>> No. 39685
>>39642

Part of being an old youkai is growing out of that kind of attitude. Maybe.
>> No. 39687
[X] You think you're done, yes. Better get going.

This will do.
>> No. 39696
>>39685
older Youkai have ways of getting their way without violence. Tewi could likely charm her way into staying somewhere.
>> No. 39709
[ ] You think you're done, yes. Better get going.
>> No. 39750
I'm not dead, but my laptop is - so it became that much harder to find time to write. Expect an update within a few days, though.
>> No. 39773
>>39750

Hooray!
>> No. 39954
[x] You think you're done, yes. Better get going.
[ ] (write-in)

She's got that right. There's still plenty of stuff waiting for you to take care of when you meet back up with the others, much less this little side errand she's got you running.

“Yeah,” You say, standing up as you do so, “I think that's it. I can't think of anything else.”

“Then,” She responds, also rising, “It's been a pleasure, Jack. Maybe we'll meet again some day.”

That thought sends a chill down your spine. “Maybe,” You laugh, a little nervously. “I don't even want to think about what would be going on with the rest of the world if that happens, though.”

“Believe it or not, I'm not always doing things like this,” She smiles a bit, and turns to Ran. “Can you show him out?”

Ran nods. “Yes. Should I bring Tewi back with me?”

“Please do. I'm surprised she's still waiting.”

Ran turns to look at you, and you nod. Then, turning back to Yukari, you add, “Right. Well, goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Jack.”

You follow Ran out of the room, breathing a sigh of relief as you do. All in all, going by what you can see, you've made out pretty well. You've got information to prevent a failed assault today, and to increase the chances of success for one tomorrow. In the end, though, Yukari is probably the only one who really knows if it was a good deal or not. That's for you to find out, or maybe to never know.

Along the way, Ran stops at a door just off the main hallway and slides it open. Peeking inside, you hear her speak.

“She's ready for you,” Ran says, before stepping out of the way. Soon enough, Tewi emerges from the room, looking a little tired.

“Oh,” She says, looking to you, “You're leaving?”

“We're done,” You say, nodding in the direction of Yukari's meeting room, “And I have things to take care of. So, I suppose so.”

She smiles a bit. “Well, hey. Don't get yourself killed out there, alright? You've been a pretty good host.”

You laugh. “I'll try not to. Take care.”

“Yeah, you too,” She says, before heading down the hall. Then, as parting words, she adds. “Oh, and good luck.”

Ran watches her go. “Hmm, I wonder where Chen went off to,” She thinks out loud, “I'm sure she'll want to say goodbye, too.”

You shrug. “Isn't she your shikigami?”

Ran nods, and continues to show you towards the door. “She's a little... aloof, sometimes, so it can be hard to contact her.”

“I see,” You say, nodding, “Well, maybe she's outside. She doesn't seem like much of a housecat.”

Ran laughs a little. “Definitely not.”

The two of you reach the door, and head outside. The weather doesn't seem to be much different, although it's obviously well into morning by now. Instinctively, you reach for your watch... and find that it's still not there. You chuckle a bit to yourself. Maybe you should have made a deal for one. That would have been a good story.

“Jack! You're done?”

Turns out that Chen was, or at least now is, sitting on the second building in the “village”. Not in, but high up on the roof.

“Yep,” You say, watching her as she jumps down, “I'm done. Just about to head down the mountain.”

“Can I go?” She asks, turning to Ran, “It would be lots of fun.”

Ran shakes her head. “Not now. You'll have to stay in Mayohiga tonight; I have some things I need you to do.”

“How 'bout tomorrow?” She asks, “I wanna help Jack fight the demons!”

Ran laughs softly. “We'll have to ask Yukari. Maybe she'll let you go.”

That answer seems good enough for Chen, who turns to you. “I'll see you tomorrow, ok?”

“Sure,” You say, “I should be easy enough to find.”

At this point, Ran turns to you. “I should have those numbers for you tonight, but I'll need to get started now. So, you'll excuse me if this is the only way I can send you off.”

Numbers? It takes you a second to make the connection, but... she must mean the ones that were part of your deal. “Ah, you're the one that'll be producing those?”

“Chen, too,” She nods, “Take care, Jack.”

“Thanks in advance for your work,” You nod, “I'll look forward to them.”

With all goodbyes said, there really is nothing else for you to do but begin your descent down the mountain. Thankfully, gravity is working with you instead of against you this time, so the going isn't very difficult.

At one point, you turn around, but notice that the path seems to have hidden itself. What you see isn't what you walked along at all - in fact, it seems almost impassable now. You'd have to be a very seasoned mountain climber to even begin to tackle something like that. It's a rather odd sight. You've never traveled a literally one-way path before.

Those demons that you met on the way up seem to have disappeared, as well. Figures that they were with her. You wonder how accurate all those old tales of Shinki are - if she's really as vengeful and downright terrifying as they say. She may not be interfering now, but she definitely knows who you are. That alone is enough to disturb you more than a little.

Soon enough, you find yourself back down at street level, an impassable rock face behind you. Thankfully, she's not vengeful enough to have had her cronies waiting for you or something when you made it to the bottom. So, those two must not have been allowed to act on anything they learned up there, either. Good for you, you suppose, but it still leaves you feeling a bit uneasy.

The “Northern Warehouse” is your next stop, then. It should be in this ring, but if you're remembering correctly you'd need to cross at least two streets to get there - one was bad enough. Although, you did see quite a few fresh fires outside the city while you were walking. Maybe Makai isn't just huddled around the road like they were before.

[ ] Try the same route. Maybe you'll be able to make it through this time.
[ ] Get as close to the center of the city as you can. They won't be concerned with Yagokoro's barrier, so it should be mostly clear.
[ ] Maybe you could find that underground tunnel system again - you're sure that something like that would eventually lead you in the right direction.
>> No. 39957
[x] Maybe you could find that underground tunnel system again - you're sure that something like that would eventually lead you in the right direction.

Feels ronery now.
>> No. 39969
[x] Maybe you could find that underground tunnel system again - you're sure that something like that would eventually lead you in the right direction.
>> No. 39980
[x] Get as close to the center of the city as you can. They won't be concerned with Yagokoro's barrier, so it should be mostly clear.
>> No. 39984
[x] Maybe you could find that underground tunnel system again - you're sure that something like that would eventually lead you in the right direction.

It's way better than standing outside when your enemies can fly.
>> No. 40005
[x] Get as close to the center of the city as you can. They won't be concerned with Yagokoro's barrier, so it should be mostly clear.

With out a sure fire guide down there, it's a great way to get lost.
>> No. 40043
Called. I'll try to have something by saturday at the latest. Might be earlier.
>> No. 40053
>>40043

Hooray!
>> No. 40202
[x] Maybe you could find that underground tunnel system again - you're sure that something like that would eventually lead you in the right direction.

Relying on that fact would be slightly insane, though, so you dismiss it fairly quickly. You'll need to take an alternate route - and, taking the long way probably won't offer any benefit, so you begin your counter-clockwise walk around the wall.

Although you could try your luck in the inner city, Makai probably has that locked down pretty solidly. You doubt that they've got a way of knowing when Yagokoro's barrier will fall, and it would be unwise to offer them an opening if it wasn't necessary.

That tunnel system, though... that offers something interesting. Your savior from before seemed to treat it as safe, and a safe passage is exactly what you need. Even if it doesn't lead directly towards where you need, it should be able to get you closer. Finding it again will be... interesting, but it's worth a shot.

Carefully, you make your way back to where you got chased from before. Like earlier this morning, Makai seems to be mostly ignoring this part of the city. You see a patrol every once in a while walking the main road, but they don't seem to be paying much attention. They're easy enough to avoid.

Soon enough, you start to recognize a few of these buildings - and, off in the far distance, that road that you tried to cross earlier. Full of demons, as you'd expected. It would be pointless to try and cross it now. Instead, you step off into the nearest alley, and...

... well, now you're not sure what to do. The door that you used as an exit last time is locked tight. Maybe you could find the other one? At the time, you weren't really focused on where you were going, just that you were going. Couple that with the fact that it's daylight now, and this search is going to be similar to finding a needle in a haystack.

It takes you a while to find something familiar, but due to some good fortune on your part, not as long as it could have. Maybe twenty minutes or so of wandering later, and you recognize that this is as far as you got before you noticed that vampire trailing you. Another ten minutes, and a few wrong turns later, and you find yourself at the alley where you were first overtaken by mist. Finally, after three more well-guessed turns, you find yourself at a familiar heavy iron door.

You didn't get the best of looks at it earlier, but... it really is heavy. You can see why a youkai asked you for help moving the thing. It's well hidden, too. The black iron blends well with the dark stone of this alley, and the height of the surrounding buildings keeps much light from shining down here.

Pulling on the handle doesn't give you much indication as to whether this one is locked or not, either. This thing is heavy, and there isn't much of a gap to peer through.

Instead, you try pushing - rocking it a bit to see if it'll move at all. It doesn't.

You mutter a curse to yourself. How are you going to get this open? Aside from simply blowing it open, you can't think of anything that you can do that would help.

... as you lean back against the opposite wall, though, you notice something that may help. Looks like there's some debris nearby. Maybe a lever would work. You could get the force of five men from a lever, assuming those boards are still good.

It doesn't take long to confirm that they are indeed good boards, and that this door isn't locked. Maybe the weight was supposed to be a deterrent, or maybe it was left unlocked unintentionally. Either way, you're in. It's actually possible to shut from the inside, somehow, although the amount of force needed is pretty close to your limit.

The first thing that you notice is that, well, it's dark. A quick spell fixes that as you descend. You're not much of a mage in your normal mindset, but a light spell is pretty much as basic as it's possible to get. Anyone with a drop of magic in their body can manage one, including you.

Yes, this is starting to look familiar. After making your way down the irregular stone staircase, you find yourself back at that underground road that you were at this morning. This time, you're pretty sure you're alone. It's incredibly quiet.

Navigating this is going to be a challenge, you quickly realize, but thankfully you do have a small compass on you. Enough to keep you moving in mostly the right direction, anyway.

The road that you're on seems to run directly towards the center of the city, and stops when it reaches the outer wall. There also seem to be a large number of side-tunnels leading off of it, like the one that you just came down and the one that you left through earlier. Although the tunnel above the road seems to be built out of bricks, the side ones look like they've just been carved out of the existing rock.

You walk around, taking a look down a few of them. Unfortunately, they all look very similar... but you guess you shouldn't expect any “go this way” signs or the like. You'll just need to trust your luck, and pick a good one.

It doesn't take long to pick one that seems right. No immediate stairs, and it looks like it goes on mostly straight for a while in the general direction that you want. You mark the stone wall with a bit of chalk (it's always good to leave marks in places like this), and head forward.

There are no forks in the path, but it does seem to bend and twist rather oddly for no reason that you can see. It's pretty disorienting.

Eventually, though, the tunnel opens up into... something. Something large.

“Huh.”

From what you can tell, you've entered near the top of a large natural cave - although, with your current light source, you can't tell how deep it is. There's some old molding rope guardrails lined up along the edge, leading off along an edge that happens to go in the right direction.

Curious, you pick up a stone off the floor and toss it into the abyss. You count. One, two, three... you finally hear a splash at ten. Definitely not something you want to fall into, then. The winding path along the cliff's edge is wide enough that you're not too nervous about falling off, however, so you continue on without much fear.

Eventually, the path winds its way back into the stone wall and away from the large cavern below. You continue on, and shortly after come to the first fork in the road.

Leading straight, you have the path you've been following all along. Your compass shows it to be... actually, you've got no idea how far you've traveled at this point. There's not really much to reference underground like this. It's going in generally the right direction, according to your compass, but for all you know you could be outside the city. The path to your right seems to head off in a similarly correct direction, although it seems to have a downward slope while the one that you're on is mostly level.

They're similar enough that you consider just picking a random one - but, then you notice something. The stone here is smooth, and covered in a light dust... most of it is, anyway. Some of the dust seems to be missing, and in the form of footprints.

You bend down. Well, bootprints most likely, but someone has definitely been by here at some point. No telling how long ago, though. It looks like they were coming from the direction you just came, and going down the lower path. No... they look to go both ways, actually, although the ones going back to where you came from are quite a bit fainter. Seems like the upper one is wholly unused.

[ ] If there's one thing you know, it's that you don't want to go any deeper. Take the upper path.
[ ] If someone's using it, it must lead somewhere. Take the lower path.
================================================
Sorry about the lateness - I said Saturday before I realized I'd be grading all weekend. Next update will be this coming Saturday, probably. Spring break and stuff.
>> No. 40217
[x] If there's one thing you know, it's that you don't want to go any deeper. Take the upper path.

I take the one less traveled by.
>> No. 40220
[X] If someone's using it, it must lead somewhere. Take the lower path.

Lets try not to get any more lost than we already have, shall we?
>> No. 40224
[x] If someone's using it, it must lead somewhere. Take the lower path.
>> No. 40225
[ ] If someone's using it, it must lead somewhere. Take the lower path.
>> No. 40292
[x] If there's one thing you know, it's that you don't want to go any deeper. Take the upper path.

Best not to go down any rabbit holes. Besides, if there's bidirectional traffic, it indicates a patrol. Patrol by someone with enough strength to open that gate.
>> No. 40336
[X] If there's one thing you know, it's that you DO want to go deeper. Get balls deep in that path.
>> No. 40875
[x] If someone's using it, it must lead somewhere. Take the lower path.

Well... if someone else is using it, it must lead somewhere. That's more than can be said of the other path. You produce your chalk once more, mark the wall, and continue on your way.

The path itself is not much different from what you've been walking through already. Just a tunnel carved through solid rock. After walking for a while, you're no longer sure if the path is sloping or not - it's hard to tell without a good frame of reference.

Those footprints that you followed don't mysteriously vanish into the wall or anything like that as you trudge along, which you suppose is a good thing. You also begin to hear a noise, faint at first, that grows louder as you continue on. It's... hard to place it, but it almost sounds like a brook or something water-like. That seems unlikely, seeing how far underground you are, but that's what it sounds like.

Soon enough, though, you come upon the source. You can't help but laugh to yourself at the sight. Indeed, it is a sort of underground stream that crosses under the path, draining into somewhere. It's not only that, however; the stream seems to be fed by a decent sized lake. The rock ceiling only extends up about 10 feet, but the lake is wide enough that your small light can't reach across to the other side.

“This place really is full of surprises, isn't it?” you muse, your voice echoing off the cavern walls. It's quite the scene. Who would have thought that you'd been living on top of things like this your entire life?

Your legs have been suggesting that you take a break for a while now, and somehow the edge of an underground lake seems like a good place to do so. You lower yourself down against the cool rock wall, and glance out over the lake. Although you consider taking a drink from the waters, since they look clean enough, it's probably not a good idea. Looking along the floor, you see that some of the footprints seem to stop, while others continue on into the tunnel on the other side of the cave.

As you sit, though, the surface stirs a bit. Ripples form where there should be none. There's no wind down here, after all. Maybe it has fish in it? You've read about subterranean lakes with blind fish in them before. Maybe this is one of those. You edge closer, kneeling over to look.

The water is crystal clear, you find, once you angle your light orb in a way that doesn't produce any glare. It seems to be pretty deep as well. If you were to walk in, you'd only get a few steps before the water was above your head.

There's no fish that you can see, though, at least not this close to the edge of the water, so you back away and go back to leaning against the wall behind you. More rippling, and a small slash every once in a while. You wonder what they're so excited about?

This continues on for a few minutes until, all of a sudden, the water goes dead again. Not gradually, like you'd expect, but very abruptly. Odd.

In a flash, however, you're struck in the face with incredibly cold water. Not a small amount, but almost like someone took a bucket and threw it in your face. You quickly stand up and look around for the source, but all you find is a small ripple leading away.

... maybe those aren't fish, then. You think you hear a bit of warbled laughing, too. This may not be the best place to rest, so with hurried footsteps you continue along the path.

As you're about to enter the opposite tunnel leading away from this natural cave, something else flies out of the water and embeds itself in the wall a few feet in front of your face. You jump back.

It turns out to be a spear - and one with a rather sharp, metallic point. That could have easily killed you. You instinctively look out into the cavern, but again see nothing more than some concentric rings rippling out from a point in the water.

Quickly, you...

[ ] ...leave, heading back the way you came. As far as paths go, it seems you picked poorly.
[ ] ...leave, heading deeper still. Those footprints must go somewhere.
[ ] ...prepare for a fight. You'll just end up with one of those spears in your back if you run.
================================================
I'm really sorry about blatantly lying about when I'd update next - things came up, and I needed to take care of them. I'll stop posting estimates at the bottom and just call it when I'm ready to write.
>> No. 40960
[x] ...prepare for a fight. You'll just end up with one of those spears in your back if you run.
>> No. 41016
[X] ...prepare for a fight. You'll just end up with one of those spears in your back if you run.
>> No. 41025
[x] Leave. Deeper.
-[x] Take the spear. Mining and smelting is a bitch underwater.

Discretion is the better part of valor and all that.
>> No. 41026
[x] Leave. Deeper.
-[x] Take the spear.
>> No. 41054
[x] "Deeper. Go deeper."
>> No. 41102
File 133143230361.jpg - (33.68KB , 570x311 , inception.jpg ) [iqdb]
41102
[x] ...leave, heading deeper still. Those footprints must go somewhere.
>> No. 41530
Called, update either today or tomorrow.
>> No. 41581
[x] ...leave, heading deeper still. Those footprints must go somewhere.
[x] - Take spear.

... leave, after yanking the spear free of the wall, making your way to the exit on the far side of the cavern. Whatever this place is, it's not where these footprints lead. So, it's not where you're going.

The spear isn't buried too deep, you find, when you go to yank it free. You've got no idea how to fight with this thing, but maybe you can come up with something if the situation calls for it.

As you leave, the water begins to sound more violent, as if something is thrashing about beneath the surface. You don't spend the time to turn around and look. Hopefully whatever it was just didn't want you in the room - you'll deal with it if you hear it chasing you.

Thankfully, it doesn't. As the hallway gently curves to the left, the only sound you hear is the water growing more distant and muddled. You keep moving, but eventually, it almost sounds like it's getting closer.

Closer and closer. You finally turn around and look when the noise sounds close enough to make you uneasy, and see why.

The pond itself is chasing you.

At least, that's the first thought that comes to your mind as you come to terms with the wall of water rolling it's way towards you. The hell? You increase your speed, since the hard cavern floor allows for it. Somehow, you're able to maintain your distance.

A second glance shows that, although there is a huge wall of water following you, it's not... nearly as fast as water should be. Probably supernatural. It does seem to be gaining, though, even at your current pace.

In the distance, though, you see that the tunnel opens up and gives way to something. Another small cave, you deduce, since you can't see much more than black. You barely manage to make it through the opening and off to the side as the wall of water surges onward. It maintains the shape of the tunnel as it does so, not spilling as you'd expect. For a few moments, anyway. With another one of those faint laughs that you heard earlier, the whole thing collapses with icy water going everywhere.

The whole thing leaves you a bit dumbfounded - you can't say you've ever run into anything like that before on any of your travels - and with soaked boots.

You take a few minutes to catch your breath after that little sprint, resting the spear on the wall. The cavern that you're in now is fairly similar to the one you just left, only... much larger. The path that you were following leads to a small peninsula jutting out into the lake in the middle of this one.

The rock doesn't extend very far to the left or right of the path, only ten feet or so, leading you to believe that this is a dead end. Any footprints that may of been here have long since been washed away.

As you look out across the water, you see definite signs that there's something in it. Like fish eating insects off the surface, only with very large fish.

You sigh. “Look,” You say, loudly enough that something in the water could hear - although you're mostly grumbling to yourself. “I'm tired. If I'm trespassing, sorry about that. I'm just trying to find my way around. If you could not run me down with a wall of water, I'd appreciate it.”

The movement ceases when you get to “tired”, and you guess that's fine too.

“Hi.”

Your head snaps to the source of the sound - the water just to your left. What you find isn't unpleasant - there seems to be a small girl peeking out from the water at you with a curious gaze. Although she's obviously been under at some point, her blue hair doesn't look particularly wet.

“Uh, hi.”

“Where'd you get that?”

She points to the spear with her naked arm.

“Something up the path here threw it at me,” You answer, “I thought it might be useful.”

“That's my brother's.”

You look at it. Water spirits, or some such? You can't say you've had encounters with them, either... or know why they'd need a spear.

Ah... no, not quite a water spirit decide. On closer inspection, you see a small dimple on the top of her head holding water. It takes a bit to spot, since it's under some hair floating over it. These are kappa. Mischievous little imps when they want to be. Guess they haven't had a human to mess with down here in a while, so that explains a lot.

“Can I have it back?”

You shake your head. Your intuition says no. “Maybe later. I think I'll hold on to it for now.”

“But,” She says, coming closer, “It's his. Please?”

She reaches the edge of the water, which is somehow deep enough to hold her. You can see the rest of her body under there, naked, and distorted by the water. Somehow... she looks almost familiar, in a way.

Still, your intuition is saying no. If not the spear, she'll find some other excuse to harass you. At least this way you have something sharp to fend her off with should she get more aggressive. The magic can come later - you'd rather save that for demons. “I'm sorry. I can't give it to you yet.”

“Why?” She asks, resting her arms on the stone, “It's not yours.”

“You could try to take it, but that would be a bad idea,” You say, deflecting the question, “Forgive me, but I don't feel safe around you.”

She giggles. “It might be fun, though.”

“Not for me,” You shrug, preparing for... something. It's common practice for youkai to put humans off guard with this sort of attitude, and then spring when the victim's guard is lowered. Today, that won't be you. “For you, it would only be fun at first.”

She begins crawling up on the rock, careful to not spill the water . Her arm stretches out, reaching... although it seems to be going for you, and not the spear. She lets out another giggle. “I'm taking it, OK?”

You grip the spear, and move it to something resembling an attack stance. You'll not be drowning in any icy pools today. “Please back away.”

She's only half on the rock at this point, and stops. Looks at the spear. Looks up, to you. Then, she lowers herself back into the water.

“Ok, ok,” She says, “I'll let you rest.”

Although she backs away, she doesn't submerge, seemingly content on watching you.

You hadn't noticed until now, but there's actually quite a few half-surfaced heads that you can see further out in the lake. Quiet conversation too, although you can't make anything out at this distance. Seems like she isn't alone. Getting into a fight here would be pretty bad.

“Not!”

You try to react, but at first you see nothing to react to. A silent wave, a small one only coming up to your boot tops, suddenly sweeps across the rock platform. There's enough force behind it to knock you off balance, nearly sending you into a face plant - you manage to use the spear to catch yourself, sort of, but the wave doesn't allow for your feet to catch anything on the smooth stone, leaving your legs dragging behind.

That laugh, again, surfaces from the lake. You---

--- fire a warning shot from a finger. A small beam, just enough to singe off some hair. The wave immediately stops being so intense.

“Waah! My hair!”

More laughs. Well, maybe a fight wouldn't be so bad if they're finding this amusing.

Thankfully, your coat manages to repel most of the water. You're sure a few trinkets got ruined, though.

“Jack, right?”

An even more familiar voice calls out, as you see another head pop up between you and the young kappa. It's the one that saved you earlier today. It takes you a bit, but you seem to remember her name, too. You take this time to stand up, and relax your stance a bit.

“And I think you were Nitori.”

“That's right,” She nods, before turning towards the child.

“You have to leave Jack alone,” Nitori says to her, pointing to your neck. “See that badge? That means he's with the Mage's Guild.”

The child's eyes go wide. “Really?”

“Really. He'll blast you to pieces if you make him mad.”

She looks a little scared at this. “I-I'm sorry!” She says, before diving under the water. For good, you hope.

“Sorry,” Nitori laughs, “She was just playing.”

“I know,” You respond, “That's what was worrying me. I didn't realize that the city had a whole lake of kappa living under it.”

Another head, male-looking, surfaces beside her and whispers something in her ear. She whispers something back. Then, he dives again, but not before giving you a curious glance.

“What was that?” You ask.

“They're just wondering about you,” She answers, “I am, too. Didn't you have someone to meet or something? Why are you wandering around down here?”

“We've met,” You answer, “Now, I'm trying to meet someone else. I just figured I'd try a different way of crossing the road.”

“You're pretty lost then, aren't you?”

“I guess so,” You say, looking out over the lake. “I saw footprints leading down here, so I figured they must lead somewhere interesting. Not quite what I was expecting, though.”

“I can lead you out,” She offers, “We've got another operation in a few hours, but it shouldn't take that long.”

You consider that. It seems like an honest offer, but you can tell from her eyes that that isn't all she has in mind.

[ ] “Do you have some place I can dry off, first? I'm soaked.”
[ ] You don't really want someone tagging along for this. Just ask for directions.
[ ] You suppose that would be the best option. Take her up on it.
================================================
My head feels like mush, so this may be pretty bad. I apologize if that is the case.
>> No. 41594
[x] “Do you have some place I can dry off, first? I'm soaked.”

Will this actually stall him leaving, or will Nitori magic the water out of his clothes? I bet the message to the warehouse is telling them to call their operation off.
>> No. 41600
[x] Ask her what she is planning first.
-[x] You suppose that would be the best option. Take her up on it.
>> No. 41612
[x] You suppose that would be the best option. Take her up on it.
>> No. 41826
[X] You suppose that would be the best option. Take her up on it.
>> No. 41864
[X] You suppose that would be the best option. Take her up on it.

We can dry off best by walking.
>> No. 42031
Called, update today or tomorrow.
>> No. 42066
[x] You suppose that would be the best option. Take her up on it.

A faint grin crosses your face. It's kind of ridiculous, but you suppose that you'll welcome the help. “Well,” You respond, “If you don't mind.”

She gives you a nod. “I'll be right back. Can't go out looking like this.”

You suppose not. No attire at all is probably fine if you're living in a subterranean pool, but it's not so well suited for a war zone.

The kappa slips back underwater, with only a faint disturbance in the surface of the lake as she does so. You lean against the wall near the entrance, spear in hand and dripping wet. Hopefully someone will be able to spare some shoes or something at this warehouse that you're going to - you really don't want to walk too far in soggy boots.

As you wait, most of the other heads surfaced out in the lake disappear. They've probably got more interesting things to do than stare at you, you guess, now that you're not in a showdown with a little kappa. Even so, a few remain - and although you can't make out their features very well, they do seem to be watching you.

In a few minutes, you hear the water gently displace. Your new-found guide surfaces, dressed in the same outfit that you saw her in this morning, and quickly climbs her way onto the rock peninsula. She doesn't seem to be wet, somehow.

“Haha, sorry that took a while,” She says, “I couldn't find my goggles.”

“Goggles?”

“Never know when you might need them,” She responds, answering nothing. “So, you ready?”

You nod. “Yeah. I've had about enough of this cave.”

She laughs, motioning for you to follow her as she heads down the corridor leading back. “Wherever you're going, we've got to head back a ways first. There's not much down here but water and kappa.”

“I should probably give this back, too,” You say, with a glance to the spear, “It's not like I know how to use it. You kappa sure know how to greet people.”

“Well,” She giggles, “No one was actually trying to hurt you. I think. Humans are so much fun, and I think everyone's getting a little restless being cooped up down here.”

“That's what I figured,” You nod.

It's probably some combination of your lack of sleep and all the energy you've been expending today, but you don't really feel much like conversation - and this Nitori character doesn't see to care too much about it, either.

On the way back to the last fork, you return the spear to the pond by dropping it in as you pass. You don't see any heads pop out or hear any splashing, but you do hear a bit more of that faint laughter as you leave.

Upon reaching the fork, Nitori stops.

“So, ah... where are we going?”

“I have a message for the resistance leader,” You say, “So, some warehouse near the northern bazaar. I'm told that I'll know it when I see it, so you probably know what I'm talking about.”

It takes her a moment to process that. Finally, she asks, “When is it full?”

“When is what full?” You ask, confused at the question.

She asks again, but more deliberately this time. “When is it full?”

You shake your head. “I don't understand what you're asking.”

She sighs. “I can't just take you there, then. We've got our secrets, too.”

“Not even if the letter was from the Guildmaster herself?”

“I...”

“The message is of vital importance,” You continue. “And the sooner I get it there, the better.”

There's no way she can just ignore you now, and it's pretty clear from the look on her face that she knows this, too. By placing Yagokoro's name on it, you've already made it so that this letter is going to get delivered one way or another. Still, she doesn't seem quite ready to give in.

“I can deliver it,” She offers.

You shake your head. No, the deal was for you to talk with their leader - not to necessarily just hand off the message. Upsetting Yukari isn't something you want to do at this point.

“That won't work. I need to be the one to deliver it.”

“Why?”

You shrug. “I don't know. I didn't ask.”

“... haah,” The kappa sighs, “Look, you really won't just be able to walk in there.”

“They won't make an exception for a Guild member?”

She shakes your head. “That'll just make it worse. Maybe you weren't around, but when the demons showed up, all the Guild members in the city just kind of turned and ran. They're hiding in that bubble thing in the center of the city now, with the rest of us stuck out here fending for ourselves. Yuugi's still pretty mad about that. Well, I guess we all kind of are. N-no offense.”

Yuugi being the leader, you presume. “I'm willing to take my chances,” You respond with confidence. Somehow, you doubt that Yukari didn't know this already. Even if you're destined to be turned away, it's probably part of her plan somehow. “If you don't want to help me, that's fine - but I don't have much time to stand around and debate about it.”

After giving your ultimatum, she looks down. Thinking, you presume. Eventually, though, she answers.

“I guess I can,” She finally says with a bit of a sigh, looking back up, “You'll need to tell me something first, though.”

“I'll see what I can do.”

“Why aren't you hiding out in that bubble?” She asks, “What is the Guild doing? I really thought you all were hiding in there, and so does everyone else. I'm the only one that's seen someone wearing that badge since yesterday. Why aren't you helping us?”

With the last question, you definitely feel some frustration rising to the surface. You suppose that, in all your mysteriousness, you aren't really helping matters much either.

Still, you can't just tell her everything. From the looks of things, Makai could crush your gathering forces in an instant if they knew where to focus their attacks. Telling her would just add to the risk.

[ ] Try to give an appropriately vague, non-answer. Maybe she'll buy it.
[ ] Be honest about what you can't tell, but try to give her something.
[ ] Assure her that it's still better for everyone if you don't talk about it right now.
[ ] (Write-in)
>> No. 42077
[X] Be honest about what you can't tell, but try to give her something.
>> No. 42082
[X] Be honest about what you can't tell, but try to give her something.
>> No. 42083
[x] Tell her everything.

Fuck secrecy.
>> No. 42087
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think we should be able to tell her more than enough without breaking any secrets.
- we were outside on a job when we learned of a planned attack from Makai, so we gathered some colleagues to help in the battle. (This is why we are not in the center bubble and we do not know what those who are there are doing. Aside from probably planning/preparing a counter offensive with the reinforcements we brought or something similar.)
- when we arrived here we were busy "preparing" ourselves for a battle against Makai; announcing the cavalry's arrival or doing a Leeroy Jenkins on the Makai forces would not have been much of a help for either the Guild or the population. (This is why we are not immediately helping them and also a reason to talk to their leader Yuugi: preparations and coordinating the three resistance factions consisting of center-bubble-guild, Yuugi's la resistance and our cavalry.)

This way we tell her what she wants to know without breaking any secrets (aside from maybe the existance of our cavalry altogether), giving Nitori and Yuugi, once we meet her, good reasons to trust and listen to us.
Or so I would like to think.

This is also my [X] vote so long as nobody proves me wrong.
>> No. 42098
I'll try to think on it, just as soon as I get the mental image of a wet naked Nitori out of my head.
>> No. 42153
>>42087
[x] That. Technically speaking, what he said can also be lumped under "Be honest about what you can't tell, but try to give her something.", but on the off chance that it's completely different from the write in, I'm voting for that.
>> No. 42261
[x] "Be honest about what you can't tell, but try to give her something."
-> In the spirit of the write in.

This should do.
>> No. 42331
[X] >>42087
>> No. 42380
She has multiple questions, each of which deserves an answer, and they're likely to be the same Yuugi will ask, so I'd like to have at least one resistance member who can vouch for us on going in.

>“Why aren't you hiding out in that bubble?” >“What is the Guild doing? I really thought you all were hiding in there, and so does everyone else. I'm the only one that's seen someone wearing that badge since yesterday.
>Why aren't you helping us?”

[x] You're part of an advance force coming from outside the city, trying to secure the conditions for its relief, which includes meeting with any partisan resistance on the inside.
[x] You haven't yet linked up with the central Guild force, but they are likely dug-in, attempting to hold out as long as possible, while drawing the bulk of the invasion force away from the exterior walls.
[x] Guild forces will likely wait to breech the walls until buildup of troops outside the city has reached a critical level.

It's not like it's something the demon commanders couldn't think up on their own. There's no reason to be secretive about what is essentially uninformed guesswork.
>> No. 42554
Called, I'll try to have something either today or tomorrow.
>> No. 42596
File 133314662397.jpg - (708.09KB , 724x1024 , 16389407.jpg ) [iqdb]
42596
>>42554
Hooray!
>> No. 42647
[x] Be honest about what you can't tell, but try to give her something.
[ ] Assure her that it's still better for everyone if you don't talk about it right now.

Maybe a middle-of-the-road approach is best. You can probably answer her questions without giving anything particularly valuable away.

“Fair questions,” You nod, going over what that actually entails in your head. “Do you mind if I answer them while we walk? I can't tell you everything, but I'll do my best.”

She takes a moment to consider your answer.

“... I guess that's fine. You do sound in a hurry, so let's get going. It'll still take a while to get there on foot.”

Although she seems less than thrilled at her victory, she seems willing to accept it. She turns her back towards you, and motions for you to follow her. Seems like you'll be backtracking for a little while, since she's heading down the path that you came from earlier.

“Thank you. The truth of the matter is, most of the Guild wasn't in the city when Makai struck. They've been planning this attack for a while, it seems, and part of the plan was to draw most of us out of the city beforehand. It worked pretty much flawlessly.”

You pause to wait for a response, but she remains quiet. You continue.

“So, like most of the Guild, the group I was with was pretty far away from the city when things went down. We only found out about a day before it happened, and even then it was on some shaky evidence. There simply wasn't enough time to react properly. Maybe there was in hindsight, but not when it was actually happening.”

From the perspective of the Guild, anyway. You, personally, knew what was going to happen. It was clear from the moment you found that letter. Right now, though, you're speaking for the Guild - and that's how you should present this information.

“I can't speak for the Guildmaster's motives,” You continue, “But I get the feeling that her decision to seal herself up in that bubble was just one of a few very bad options. They had no chance of fighting Makai with the forces they had in the city. Again, I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess I'd say that she did what she could for the counter-assault, knowing that the initial defense was lost.”

“Didn't you just meet with her?” Nitori asks, “Why do you sound so unsure?”

“I met with a messenger,” You say, not exactly lying. “From what I understand, nothing within that bubble can change until it dissolves. Everyone inside is in stasis.”

Although her mood seems to be improving, she's not yet satisfied. “Where is everyone else? You mentioned that you were with a group, and that the rest of the Guild isn't here.”

“I...” You pause. “I'm not sure I can answer that. Not directly.”

By now, you've wound up back at that incredibly deep cavern that you found yourself at earlier. Nitori stops, just before the door that you entered through.

“What is it?”

“Just hold still for a moment,” She says, “It's part of the trigger.”

You do as your told. Eventually, you hear a large clunk that seems to come from the inside the wall. Nitori goes ahead, but instead of going to the right, which is where the path goes, she goes to the left - which, if you remember correctly from before, was just kind of a rock shelf.

“Come on.”

Well, it was a rock shelf. Now, it seems to be a pathway.

“Ah... a hidden door?”

“There's lots of them in this place,” She says, “It's kind of ridiculous how many there are. Someone had way too much fun when they were building it.”

After the two of you are inside, Nitori smacks an inconspicuous looking patch of wall. The door falls shut behind you, with a solid thud.

“Anyway,” You continue, “I think that sums things up. It really is a bad situation. They really caught us with our pants down, so to speak. We can't help you right now because we want to actually have a shot at helping you once we collect ourselves.”

She nods. “It makes more sense when you tell it from your side. I've always looked up to you guys, so... hearing that you all just left us was hard. Between the town guard and you guys, I'd rather have the Guild on my side any day.”

You don't say anything, but that does make sense. The guard doesn't exactly have a reputation for being nice to youkai. It's a pretty common fact that, in Aegis, a youkai is almost second-class. In other cities, it isn't an issue, but a lot of people here think that not even a single youkai should be allowed inside the barrier.

“I just hope we can push them back to Makai,” You admit, “It's not going to be an easy task, even with all our preparation.”

“Well, Yuugi would still help you guys, even if she would rather crush your skulls right now,” Nitori laughs, a bit grimly, “An enemy of my enemy, after all.”

“That seems to be a theme today,” You say, mostly to yourself.

The new path that she leads you along steadily climbs upward and almost in the same direction as your old path, which is a good thing you suppose. Eventually, after squishing around the underground for another thirty minutes or so, you come into another brick tunnel. A street-like one, like the one that you initially entered from.

“This looks familiar,” You say, “Does this run to the city center?”

“It used to,” The kappa responds, “That bubble wall thing blocks it now, though. Anyway, we just need to go up that path there and we'll be in the warehouse. I should probably go first.”

You nod. “From what I've heard, that sounds like a good idea. This Yuugi sounds like quite the character.”

“Well, she's an Oni,” Nitori says, “So that should tell you a lot.”

You laugh. “Oh. Yeah, that does.”

Oni. Strong enough to punch through boulders, and sturdy enough to throw said boulders at each other as games. They've been known to drink entire bars dry when they show up. You didn't know that there even were any in the capital - generally, they tend not to live with humans if they can help it. They hate liars, and either can't or won't lie themselves.

The complete opposite of you, of course. This should be interesting.

“Ready?” The kappa asks you, standing near the exit.

“I'm ready,” You say, pulling the letter from your coat. You run your thumb over the counterfeit wax seal. Yes, interesting indeed. “Lead on.”

The tunnel ends in an upward leading ladder and a floor hatch which, when opened, floods the underground with natural light. It's actually painful, and you need to close your eyes for a bit to adjust.

“When is it full?” You hear an unfamiliar male voice ask from the upper floor, as you hear Nitori shuffle her way up the ladder.

“It's always full,” She answers, not having the confusion that you did with the question. So, that must have been a password or something. “Oh, and he's with me.”

“A new recruit?” The unfamiliar voice asks. You're still having difficulty making out the guard through your squinting eyes, but you do think you see a sword as you climb up.

“He's, uh...” Nitori pauses, “Well, he's a messenger. From the Guild.”

There's a low growl in response. A little too animal-like for this person to be human, if you'd have to guess. “Guild?”

“Guild,” You confirm, trying to sound as professional as you can. “I have a message for your leader.”

By the time you make it out of the hatch, your eyes are mostly used to the light. Enough to see, anyway. Ah... it seems like the guard was a wolf tengu. There's two of them, actually, but only the one is speaking. You don't recognize the clan from the crest on his shield, but you really don't know many of the families. Even more strange is the fact that they've got different crests. It's really rare for any two families to work together, but you suppose that the current circumstances would warrant it.

“You'll have to wait, Mage,” He says, his stare feeling like it's going to bore a hole right through your face. “The boss isn't taking visitors.”

The warehouse that you're in is quite a bit larger than you were imagining. It's completely full of unidentifiable crates and sacks, although you can see rice spilling out of a few of them. A good place for a base, anyway. They'd be able to hole up here for a long time, as long as the outside is secure. The roof seems to have seen better days, though – you can definitely see sky through it in patches.

“My message comes from the Guildmaster,” You say, trying that trick again, “It can't wait.”

It seems that Yagokoro's title still carries weight, thankfully. The speaking guard turns to the silent one, and whispers something in his ear. With a nod, the silent one walks away. You quickly lose him behind the warehouse stores.

“We'll let her know,” The guard states, “If she'll see you, she'll see you. Otherwise, you'll need to leave.”

You nod. Yes, you understand – but you really have no intention of leaving even if she doesn't want to see you.

Thankfully, it doesn't come to anything drastic. The second tengu returns a few minutes later, and nods to the first guard. Neither one of them seems keen on doing anything else, though.

“May I see her, then?” You ask.

“She'll see you,” The first one says, “Follow him, he'll lead you there. And don't try anything funny.”

This time, you give an earnest nod. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“We've got plenty to worry about, Mage. Now get going.”

As you walk, you notice all kinds of people mulling about the warehouse. Youkai, humans, it doesn't seem to matter. The atmosphere seems grim, but somehow hopeful. You notice people laughing at jokes, some roughhousing, fairly normal stuff. It's not quite the grim oppressiveness that you were expecting.

“Hey.”

Nitori walks up beside you, while before she'd been content with following behind.

“Hmm?”

“You should, uh... well, maybe I should do the talking,” She says, “To Yuugi.”

“It'll be fine,” You say, “Unless she'll execute me on the spot for saying something out of place.”

“Well, about that---”

“Inside.”

The tengu, silent until now, seems to be motioning for you to head into what looks like the warehouse office. It's just a section that's walled off from the rest of the place, with it's own roof. You reach out for the door, and give it a push.

It's a bit darker in the office, but not enough that you can't make out what's inside.

Sitting alone, eating lunch and sipping what is probably alcohol over a very large map of the city, is an oni. It's pretty clear from her muscular build, and from the horn on her forehead, that this is the case. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that she could probably juggle you, Nitori, and that solid wooden table that she's using without much effort.

A glance to Nitori shows that she doesn't seem to be prepared to offer anything, so you speak first. “Pardon my interruption.”

The oni laughs, finally looking up. Well, her mood doesn't seem too especially foul. “Aren't you the polite one, eh? I can't stand that formal stuff, so if you don't want me to boot you out of here you'll need to drop the act.”

You smile. Entirely different, indeed. “Alright, then. Here.”

Pulling the letter from your jacket, you approach her and place it on top of the map. “This is the message I have for you. You probably already know who it's from.”

She sniffs the air. “Why do you smell like a wet dog?”

Nitori laughs. “That's our fault. He ended up wandering pretty deep down into the caves, and, well... you know the kappa.”

“That explains why he's with you, then,” She nods, turning to face you. “Still, you've got some balls showing up here, with a message like that. Or maybe you just don't know how I feel about the Guild.”

“Nitori filled me in,” You say, as the oni takes the letter into her hands and pops the wax seal. She does look at it first, as if feeling it out for a forgery, but seems satisfied with it. You continue. “I don't know what's in the letter, but I was told that it's very important. I'm just glad you didn't make me fight my way through your guard.”

The idea of you fighting your way through all those tengu must seem pretty funny to her, because she cracks a smile at that. “Haha, I'd love to see you try! What's your name?”

“Jack.”

“Yuugi,” She says, focusing on the letter, “But, you probably already know that.”

The room falls into silence for a few minutes, as her eyes scan over the letter. You simply lean against the wall across from her, waiting. Part of you wishes she was the kind of person that read out loud so that you could see what's in it.

“And you don't know what the message was, right?” She finally asks with a grin, looking up at you.

“I don't.”

“Well, it's pretty interesting,” She says, setting it aside. “Did you know that the Guild is going to try and take back the city tomorrow?”

You nod. There really wasn't any other choice, with Yagokoro's bubble dropping then. “I did. In fact, I'll likely be leading one attack group.”

Nitori seems a little shocked by that, but you suppose that's natural.

“Yagokoro wants you to lead mine, too,” Yuugi laughs, “She thinks that by giving me an open reward, and begging – begging, from the Guildmaster! - that I'd accept. What a joke. I hope Shinki herself swallows the bitch whole. She doesn't deserve anything better.”

Yukari... wants to bring the resistance under Guild control, then? You suppose that would make victory much easier. Two fronts of attack would become at least three – front, rear, and side - and probably more given how well these people seem to know the underground. Attacking from everywhere at once, even against Makai, tends not to end well for the defender. It would boost your chances significantly.

Still, you're curious about the reward. “An open reward?”

“Anything I want,” Yuugi laughs, “It really says 'Anything that is within my power to grant' in this letter. From the Guildmaster. Can you believe that? She was willing to stab the city in the back, and expects me to believe that she won't do the same here?”

You wait patiently, mulling over what all of this means knowing what you know. You're pretty sure now that the letter to the Guildmaster from Yukari is just explaining what lies she spread with this one.

“Do you think she would?” Nitori asks, “I mean, if you save the letter... she has to pay up. It's like a contract or something, right?”

“She doesn't have to do anything,” Yuugi counters, “She's the Guildmaster. You know how the courts work.”

Nitori falls silent. In a case like that, with an oni against the guildmaster... or hell, most people, the oni would probably lose unless the evidence was overwhelming. Even then, it would be a difficult case.

“Will you be friendly when we attack tomorrow,” You ask, “Or foes?”

“You're better than the demons,” Yuugi answers, “But we'll be acting on our own. I can't trust you to do anything right.”

“Wouldn't it make more sense to coordinate our forces?” You ask, “I'm going to be honest when I say that I don't know how good our chances are. Any boost would help.”

“I've already said no,” Yuugi says, “I'm not going to change my mind - and, if you're going to keep pushing me about it, don't be surprised when you get pushed back. The message asked for a response, and you have it. That's the only thing I'll give the Guild today. Now, get out.”

She's still looking pretty amused, but her look has a dangerous edge to it now. The possibility of being thrown through the wall by an angry oni suddenly seems very real, and it makes you a bit nervous.

[ ] You've done your part. Leave, before she decides to make that image a reality.
[ ] Maybe she'd accept a compromise, then? Let her lead, but keep her in the loop.
[ ] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.
>> No. 42648
[x] Tell her about Yukari's deception.

She's probably planning to help tomorrow no matter what. Sooooo... lies bad.
>> No. 42649
>>42648
This goes against the deal you made with Yukari, since you're to say the letter came from Yagokoro. You can still vote for it, but... consider what that would entail.

Vote for the first option if relying on them to help tomorrow is enough.
>> No. 42650
[x] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.

She'll respect this response. Or Jack will get acquainted with the wall very quickly. Regardless, it's worth a shot.
>> No. 42683
[x] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.

There's a chance of this going wrong, but one could hope that we come out of this with Yuugi respecting Jack, at least some. So lets show her he means business.
>> No. 42692
[x] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.


Oni respect strength, let's show her the strength of our conviction.
>> No. 42714
>>42649
Oh. I forgot. I'd change, but the victor looks clear.
>> No. 42781
[x] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.
>> No. 42820
[ ] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.

Eh...
>> No. 42967
Called. Update... well, I'm not sure, but it could be any time from a few hours to late sunday.
>> No. 43237
So, yeah. I got a bunch of work dumped on me about an hour after I posted that, and I'm still not done yet. Should be able to write either tonight or tomorrow, though.

There's some good news, too; I'll have free time again in about three weeks. I should be able to do away with this once-a-week-maybe garbage and actually update at a reasonable pace.
>> No. 43369
Excuse the triple posting, but I figured I should say something. This will be done tomorrow.
>> No. 43378
File 133437236149.jpg - (147.23KB , 500x500 , 19400245.jpg ) [iqdb]
43378
Quadruple post guard. Hooray!
>> No. 43460
...So. About that update.
>> No. 43533
>>43378
Oh, thank you. I thought I was going to have to do that today.

>>43460
Yes, about that update. I pretty much had to finish it Saturday, because I wouldn't have time to work on it after that due to all the deadlines I'm trying to meet for this week.

I didn't manage to finish.

If my time estimates are correct I should be able to work on it again this Friday, or Saturday. It's almost done, and if I wasn't spending this week in perpetual sleep deprivation I might be able to finish it. You'd get some really bizarre things if I tried writing like this, so it's probably not a good idea.

Again, sorry for the wait. This is way too slow, and I probably hate it more than you do. Things will pick up in the coming weeks.
>> No. 43663
Just so you all know, this isn't dead. I just missed my free window again. I know it doesn't mean much at this point, but I'll try to update on Friday if I can.
>> No. 43678
>>43663
Tentative hooray.
>> No. 43805
[x] Show her that you do, indeed, have balls. Demand that she see reason and help you.

Well, you suppose that you'll take that risk. Having her say no may be an option, but it's a pretty terrible one - one you'd like to avoid, if you can. The benefits are just too great.

“No,” You respond, firmly. “I won't leave. This is out best chance at driving Makai out, and losing that chance due to a grudge is insane.”

The mood in the room suddenly goes thick, as Nitori just kind of looks on in horror at what you just said. You focus on the oni, mostly, watching for her to attack. She does stand, but there's still a table between the two of you. It's not much, but you'll still have time to react if she tries something.

“I like you, so I'm giving you one more chance,” She repeats again, leaning forward against the table while looking right at you. She doesn't seem pleased. “Get out.”

Stubborn as a bull... but you suppose you should have expected that from an oni. “I've already said no. I won't leave until you see reason. What do I need to do to prove to you that this is best?”

Quickly, she moves her hands from on top of the table to underneath. And in no time at all, the table flies through the air towards you---

--- only to smash itself to pieces against your barrier, sending splinters of wood flying across the room like some kind of bomb went off. With a bit of luck, you somehow manage to remain standing against the massive blow.

By now, Nitori has made her way towards the door. She doesn't seem to want to be anywhere around this kind of fight, and you don't say that you blame her.

“Hah!” She laughs, slowly striding towards you. It's not a laugh because you're funny, though; it's more like a taunt. Like she can't believe that didn't send you cowering in fear. You don't budge, watching and analyzing the whole situation. “Maybe you really are just stupid. Do you really think you can challenge me and get away with it?”

“I have no choice,” You say, simply. “There is too much at stake.”

That causes her pause. For a long few seconds, the two of you just stare each other down. It's as much of a battle as the one coming up will be, only with wills instead of a physical display. You're indomitable, however. That's just what shield mages are. You will stand your ground, oni or not.

The standoff finally breaks with Yuugi. It doesn't end with a charge like you were expecting, though - it ends with her taking a few steps back, and shrugging. Her expression softens a bit. Then, she begins laughing.

“Now this,” She says, “THIS is what I'd expect from a Guild mage! Where the hell were you when this all went down?"

"The letter didn't cover that?" You ask. Interesting that she'd leave that bit out. "Makai has been planning this for a while. In my understanding, almost the entire Guild was out of town at the time. It was just a few mages-in-training, the Guildmaster, and her aides left."

"A bait and switch? Figures that they'd do something dirty like that."

"We didn't notice it until it was too late, so really, the 'Guild' has been spread out over the entire country this whole time. I doubt that there was much they could do with who was here."

"They still should have tried," She says, "If your Guildmaster has enough magic to make a barrier like she did, she should have been able to do something."

You shake your head. "I can't speak for her motives, or what she can do. What I do know is that the rest of us want these demons gone as much as you do. We live here, too."

She nods. "Sure, we all want to kick some demon ass. Doesn't mean that we don't want to kick some Guild ass, too. And we definitely don't want to kiss it."

"Do you have a better idea in mind?" You ask, "A free-for-all, even if we are allies, is the absolute worst option."

"Yeah, I know," She says, "You were willing to take me on to prove it, so it must be true."

"That's what that was?"

She laughs. "Best way to tell if someone is lying is to see if they'll keep saying it when you've got a fist buried in their face. We didn't have to go that far, though. I was gonna throw you out, but my first guess was wrong."

You can't exactly argue with that logic. That's the reason torture works, after all - though the goal there is a little different. Words are cheap, but even just staring down an oni is worth something.

"Then, we need a solution. What exactly did the letter say? We'll need to stick to the letter if you're not going to get denied your reward.”

“She wants you to be the... tactician,” She says, scanning the letter again, “For both forces. She wants you with our group during the assault.”

“Interesting,” You say, “Is that something we can do to make this work? It doesn't sound like she wants me to lead anyone directly, so you wouldn't be handing over any power.”

“I'm not sure if I trust you yet,” She says, “Who's to say you won't give me an order that gets us all killed, but helps the Guild? Or wins back the city? We're fighting for ourselves, here, not for you. I'm only considering this because we've got a common enemy.”

“Does the letter say anything about you having to actually take my orders?”

She raises an eyebrow, and looks at the letter. “... no, I guess not. That's not the problem, though. All you have to do is tell me a few lies, and you get the same thing. Only we won't know it until it's too late.”

That's all true, of course, and actually something that you would do if it was necessary. Shielding your intentions can be as useful as shielding your own body. She seems to be a bit smarter than what you'd pictured an oni to be like. Maybe that's why she's in the city, and not living with a bunch of them somewhere else.

“I could say 'I'd never do that',” You admit, “But then I'd already be lying. Not a good way to start.”

“Yeah,” She laughs, turning around. “I 'd really throw you out if you said that.”

“Well, then,” You say, “You'll just need to weigh that risk against the gains. We've got time.”

“Ugh, yeah,” She says, turning around, “I'm working on that. How long can you wait for an answer?”

“Here? Not long,” You say, “I've got matters to attend to at my own camp. I guess we've got until tomorrow morning, though, technically, but it'll be easier to plan if we know beforehand.”

She thinks for a moment. “You'd better get going, then. I'll think of something. Where are you based? I can send you a message later.”

“We're up in Vandenburg,” You say, “At least, we were when I left this morning.”

She nods. “Yeah, I can send you a message. That's the best I can do right now.”

“I suppose you're not lying, either,” You say, with a faint smile. “Well, I guess I'll have to take it.”

She extends her hand. “Guess we should shake on it.”

Her grip is incredibly firm - painful, almost - but you guess you should have expected that. With this the deal is sealed, however flimsy it currently is. Still, you've got a good feeling. If she doesn't accept outright, she'll have something reasonable that you'll need to do before she accepts.

“So,” You say, after bringing your hand out of that death grip, “I don't suppose you know any shortcuts that would take me out of the city? Getting in was hard enough when everyone was asleep.”

“Yeah. You came up through the tunnels, right?”

“That's right.”

“There's one that ends up outside the walls,” She says, “I'll have someone show you. You want an escort back to your camp?”

“If it's no trouble, sure,” You say, “I'm not exactly in prime fighting condition right now.”

“Yeah, I know,” She says, “That fight earlier would have gone a lot further if you were. Come on, let's round some people up.”

She leads you back out into the warehouse proper; or tries to, anyway. As she opens up the door, though, she's confronted by a large crowd of people all leaning in close. They seem about as startled as she is, before most of them quickly back away.

“Did you hear what we were talking about?” She asks, turning to one of the wolf tengu. He looks uneasy, but shakes his head.

“Well,” She says, “Let me tell you. There's no secrets between us. Jack, get up here.”

You do as you're told, stepping through the doorway to stand beside the oni. “Everyone! This is Jack. He's from the Mage's Guild... and they've just sent me a message, saying that they want us to join forces with them. We'll be getting a reward of whatever we want. Pretty funny, huh?”

There's laughter, but of the contemptuous kind. They clearly expect you to be thrown out, although after their leader puts on a show.

“Well, I'm considering it,” She continues loudly, causing the crowd to quiet up. “So, if you've got any objections, better tell me now.”

The quietness grows into a murmur, as the crowd begins to get over the initial shock. There isn't much for you to do but look on and watch. You catch more than a few glares aimed at you. Eventually, someone speaks up. An older tengu, judging by his wrinkled and sagging face. A path opens up in front of him as he speaks, giving him a direct line of sight to Yuugi.

“Why?” He asks, “They've already shown how much they care for us common folk. We're better off without them.”

Judging by the way he said “common”, you can guess that he's anything but. His manner of dress, too... a family head? He certainly looks the part.

“We've got a choice,” She says, “In the end, it's either gonna be them or the demons. And before you say something like we shouldn't pick a side, that's picking a side too. If we don't help the Guild, we're helping Makai. They'll have a better chance of winning if we don't join up.”

More murmuring.

“I don't really like it, but it sounds like they've got their reasons for not helping us right away. Good ones.”

The old tengu sneers. “Oh? And what would those be, child?”

Yuugi looks to you, as if you should be the one to explain. Well, you have no problems with that. “Most of the Guild was on assignment. Makai had been stirring up trouble all over the place to lure us away, and it worked. I can't speak for the ones inside the barrier, but I'm guessing that it was a tactical retreat. They would have been crushed if they had made a stand.”

“Then,” He continues, “Why didn't they do the same for the rest of the city? Did we stand a better chance?”

“I don't know,” You say, “Like most of us, I wasn't here.”

“I'll tell you,” he continues, “It's because they didn't even consider us. We have no status. Right now - aren't you just seeing us as pawns? You'd let Makai devour us all in a heartbeat if it meant that you'd win!”

The crowd seems to like that, you notice, as you catch a lot more glares. You can feel the tension mounting. Yuugi may be the leader for now, but that's probably just because she's what they needed in a leader. This man - you feel like he's one of the ones who's really in charge.

Either way, you feel like this is your last chance to get something in edgewise. He's moving towards something, and if you don't cut it down before it's said you feel like it'll be devastating.

[ ] A tactful approach. If he feels like he's in charge, regardless of the outcome, he should lose his steam.
[ ] A shrewd approach. Remind him about the reward - and that part of it could be his, for his clan.
[ ] A direct approach. Point out to everyone that he's posturing, and isn't considering the reality of the situation.
[ ] Something else (write-in).
================================================
... yeah, let's just forget about the previous month or so. I'm all squared away now.

From now on, expect daily updates. I'll post when there's an exception. In theory this will work fine, but if I'm consistently missing days I'll just change it.
>> No. 43806
[x] A tactful approach. If he feels like he's in charge, regardless of the outcome, he should lose his steam.

This feels like the best choice as he seems pretty prideful and won't be persuaded by money or accusations.
>> No. 43807
[x] A tactful approach. If he feels like he's in charge, regardless of the outcome, he should lose his steam.

Direct approach is too motivate through fear for my liking. He could work with that.

>daily updates
Hooray!
>> No. 43808
[x] A direct approach. Point out to everyone that he's posturing, and isn't considering the reality of the situation.
Maybe it's due to Yuugi's presence, but I feel like lying to them right now or beating around the bush would be retarded. There's a war and they're going to get crushed in days if they don't man up. This is no time for politics.
>> No. 43810
[x] A direct approach. Point out to everyone that he's posturing, and isn't considering the reality of the situation.

I'm pretty sure that a direct approach would work best, especially considering the fact that they're lead by an oni.
>> No. 43812
[x] A tactful approach. If he feels like he's in charge, regardless of the outcome, he should lose his steam.
[x] You're supposed to be the tactician behind this entire thing, so if he thinks you're going to sacrifice them on a lark, have him send someone with you to make sure it doesn't happen.

Time to recruit another party member, Nitori anyone?

I was halfway through writing "The guild members not in the city were out saving lives instead of sacrificing them" before i remembered the souls we bargained... and i figured that lying about that little bit would come and bite us in the arse sooner or later.
>> No. 43814
[x] A direct approach. Point out to everyone that he's posturing, and isn't considering the reality of the situation.
Seriously. Enough with that bullshit.
>> No. 43815
[x] A direct approach. Point out to everyone that he's posturing, and isn't considering the reality of the situation.
>> No. 43823
[x] A direct approach. Point out to everyone that he's posturing, and isn't considering the reality of the situation.

Weaseling your way out of this one doesn't seem like it will work very well. If this tengu is going to be a problem, it's better to deal with him now than to try to deal with him later.

“And what are you doing?” You ask, “You're willing to raise the odds of Makai's victory - the odds that everyone here will be dead in a week - because of your own personal reasons? Like it or not, this is our best chance of pushing Makai off our plane. Stop with your petty politics and see reality.”

He... doesn't seem to like your response. “How dare you! Don't you know who I am, boy?”

“Quiet, Tenma. He's right.”

Another older tengu speaks up from somewhere in the crowd. You're able to see him after the people clear out a bit. Although he doesn't look quite as old as this 'Tenma', it's clear that he's of a similar status. The tengu immediately near this new head seem to be wearing different markings on their clothes than the ones next to Tenma.

“I, for one, have no extreme reservations,” This new voice continues, “The Tenma clan is free to do as they wish, but they are foolish as always. Makai must be removed from our city, whatever the cost to our pride.”

“As if you had any pride to begin with!” Another head calls out. “You've always been shameless!”

Yuugi, seeing where this is going, attempts to stop them with a hand gesture, but it does no good.

Another voice joins in. “Fools, both of you! Takeshi speaks the truth. The Guild is not to be trusted, but we can still work together.”

Tenma speaks up. “Even you, Fujimori? Have you no spine? I thought our families were friends? I should cut you down right here!”

“Quiet!”

Yuugi raises her voice, but it does no good. The idea of helping you seems to have opened some old wounds amongst the clans.

“At least he is able to swallow his pride!” 'Takeshi' adds, “You're no better than the Guild.”

“If anyone says another word,” Yuugi bellows loudly, “I don't care who you are - I'm gonna pound your skull in and toss you through the nearest wall. Shut it.”

The word of an angry oni isn't to be taken lightly, so everyone quickly quiets up. Tenma looks - stares daggers, really - directly at you, as if he could somehow make you simply vanish by doing so. You return his glare. Thankfully, you don't have family of your own - they'd probably need to watch themselves after something like this. The families are nothing to trifle with.

“Now, then,” Yuugi says, still sounding a bit riled up, “You all know the rule about clan politics under my roof. I'll have none of it. I'm asking you as brothers in arms, not as family heads.”

“My answer is still the same,” Tenma answers, bitterly, “The fact that you are even considering this makes me doubt your leadership.”

“If you want to try taking it,” Yuugi responds, “Be my guest.”

The man shuffles a bit, as if he'd take her up on that - only, he's well aware that it isn't a battle he could hope to win. Even a whole gang of tengu is no match for a well trained oni. Yuugi definitely seems well trained.

“Now,” Yuugi says, “I can see that nothing good is going to come out of standing around here. Not right now. How about we all go think this over for a bit, and come back to it later?”

The clan heads revealed by the crowd seem to nod in agreement, and the crowd disperses. Yuugi heaves a heavy sigh.

“Ever seen that many clan heads in the same room before?” She asks.

You shake your head. “I've never seen one, much less four. Are they all like that?”

“There's actually more than four, I just stopped them before they all jumped in. It's a nightmare, really.”

Although a good majority of the crowd has already left, there's still more than a few stragglers. Mostly tengu, as you've noticed that they seem to be the main fighting force here, but there's a few assorted youkai and humans scattered about. Probably trying to see what all the commotion is about.

“Hey, Nitori. You got a minute?”

And the kappa that brought you here, too.

“Um.. what is it?” She asks, moving her way towards you two.

“Jack needs someone to show him out of the city. To Vandenburg, right?”

You nod. “Right.”

“Good,” Yuugi laughs, “I was just making sure I remembered right. To Vandenburg. You know the tunnels pretty well, so do you think you could help him out?”

“We're... well, it would be tough,” Nitori says, “We'd have to fight our way out, and with only two of us...”

“Nah, it wouldn't be just you,” Yuugi interrupts, scanning over the rest of the crowd. “Hey, you two!”

She gets the attention of two wolf tengu nearby. Two different clans, judging by the shields. One of them is definitely from Tenma's clan, but the other one must be from a different one. Neither looks particularly happy about being called over.

“You'll be escorting these two,” Yuugi says, “If you can't do that, just say so.”

The one from Tenma's clan speaks up. “I will see if I can.”

Yuugi nods. “We'll be right here. Go ahead.”

He nods, and leaves. “Now, then,” Yuugi says, “See anyone out there you like?”

You laugh. “It's not like I'm at a market or something. You'd know their abilities better than I would.”

“Yeah,” She agrees, “But I want to see who you'd pick.”

Another test, then. Well, you suppose that you're fine with that.

Looking out amongst the crowd, three candidates catch your eye. A large raccoon tail immediately gives away a tanuki, which could come in handy if you want to sneak away. Probably not much good in a fight, though.

Near the back, you notice a human swordsman. At least, she's probably human. You can tell by her stance that she means business, and that she could probably show these two tengu a thing or two about how to handle a blade. You get the same sort of feeling from her that you got from Youmu.

Lastly, near the front, you spy a gypsy-looking woman with her light purple hair wrapped up in a dark shawl. Something about her feels dangerous, although you can't exactly put your finger on what. A sure sign of someone with some supernatural powers to bring to bear.

[ ] Go with the first.
[ ] Go with the second.
[ ] Go with the third.
================================================
Provide some reasoning, too, if you want that to be considered.
>> No. 43824
[x] Go with the first.

I've never seen Mamizou in a story before. Even if it isn't her, tanuki tend to have the best personalities.
>> No. 43826
[x] Go with the third.
>> No. 43827
Another test? If we take the first one, we'll show that we do not intend to fight right now, which could be seen as cowardy or cleverness. The second one is the obvious choice, more firepower and a feeling like Youmu's... but I rather take the third, just to prove we're willing to take chances.

[x] Go with the third.
>> No. 43828
We already have lots of firepower, though. It might be good to have a stealth person.

[x] Go with the first.
>> No. 43829
[ ] Go with the third.
>> No. 43830
[x] Go with the first.

Meta-reasoning, don't bother considering it in-story.
So, I'm guessing this is Mamizou, Meira, and Satori (could also be Reisen or Akyuu, but I wouldn't expect either of them to be described as gypsy-like).

Satori could be very dangerous if we need to do something that requires screwing over the youkai faction. We don't need someone else who might turn against us especially since I'm about 99% sure that Sakuya's going to backstab us after what we told her about Flandre.

Meira could be interesting enough, but we do already have a swordswoman.

And I, too, am eager to see Mamizou finally used in a story.
>> No. 43831
[ ] Go with the third.

No sneaky tricks allowed, even thiugh that could come in handy. We need magical power and show Jack's open mind to Yuugi; just because he's human doesn't mean he prefer to stick to other humans. I think the people from the resistance would appreciate that.
>> No. 43832
[ ] Go with the third.

Gypsies make every party better. Besides, we already have a human swordwoman, and avoiding tanuki tricks might improve Yuugi's opinion again, favoring the full alliance we'd like to form.

If the gypsi is as powerful as her aura makes her seem like, that's exactly what we need: raw power to destroy as many demons as possible. Maybe even nuke an entire area, with the portal the demons are building too.
>> No. 43839
[x] Go with the third.

This should be Ichirin, she's describes as gypsy-like.
And because that aura means potential, and we're willing to take risks.
>> No. 43841
[x] Go with the third.

You hover between the tanuki and the gypsy for a few moments, but in the end, there's a clear winner.

"Her," You say, motioning over to the gypsy-looking woman. "Assuming that all these people follow you, of course."

Yuugi follows your gaze. eventually realizing who you're pointing to. "Her? The one in the hood?"

"She makes me nervous," You say, "Which means, she'd probably be a good asset in a fight. Some kind of magic user, I'm guessing?"

"Heh," Yuugi chuckles, "Yeah. She may not look like much, but she's got this... hmm, what did she call it..."

Yuugi pauses, fishing for the correct word. However, after a few moments, she gives up. "Well, it's... a spirit of some kind. Big guy, fists as big as carts. He normally keeps himself hidden, I guess, but they work together when something needs to be smashed.”

Seems your hunch was correct, then. "She'll do, then, unless you need her here.”

"Nah,” Yuugi says, shaking her head, “We've got plenty of 'assets'. Let's go and see if she'll do it.”

So, all four of you do. Yuugi's the first to speak.

“Hey, Ichirin,” She says, “You got a few free hours?”

“Hmm? I suppose so, why?”

“I need someone to help escort Jack here out of town. I've already got a few people, but he thinks you'd round out the team.”

Ichirin, as you guess she's called, looks you over for a few moments before tilting her head back as if listening to something. Then, she nods. “We wouldn't mind, even if he is with the Guild. It's important, right?”

Yuugi nods. “Yeah. Time critical, too.”

“Well,” Ichirin says, “Jack. It's good to meet you. I'd introduce you to Unzan, but he's pretty shy.”

“Unzan...”

You look around, hoping to catch a glimpse of this 'big guy', but see absolutely nothing.

Ichirin giggles a bit as you do. “See? You should just show yourself so that he can stop looking.”

For a brief moment, you catch the image of... something big. It's faint, however, and fades almost instantly. It's enough to give you a feeling that there's something there, though - something big. That power that you sensed earlier.

“Anyway,” She says, “Do you have a plan for getting out? I don't think that even all of us together could push through a main gate.”

“Um... actually,” Nitori adds, “I have an idea. It'll lead us outside the walls, but... probably not far enough to be safe.”

“Probably?” Ichirin asks.

“Probably,” Nitori echoes, “I haven't been out there yet, so I, ah, don't know.”

“Well,” Yuugi interrupts, “I'll leave this to you guys. I've got other stuff to take care of, you know.”

You nod. “I appreciate the audience, and the guard. I'll look forward to hearing from you.”

Yuugi laughs. “Sure. I'll send a message up your way once I get this whole mess here sorted out. Watch yourselves out there.”

With that, the oni leaves. And, soon afterwords, the other tengu returns - with somewhat good news.

“I'll... be accompanying you,” He says, sounding almost beaten, “Lord Tenma commands it, as much as I would rather not.”

You give a simple nod. Not much that either of you can do about that, really - although you are a little leary about this particular tengu accompanying you, it's only enough to give you a second thought. The clan head probably just wants someone to keep an eye on you. An assassination is just being paranoid, considering how many others are around.

“Well,” You say, “If no one has any objections... Nitori, could you lead the way? I'd like to get going.”

Everyone seems to be in agreement, so the five of you do just that.

================================================

I guess I never said that everything would have votes, and since I seem to have forgotten how to write short updates this will have to do for tonight. I'll try to update early tomorrow with the rest of this.
>> No. 43843
================================================

“This is it.”

It takes a while, with the tunnel that your group ends up taking being significantly more winding than the one coming over, but eventually Nitori signals that the end is in sight.

The trek so far has been mostly quiet. You're starting to feel the fatigue from missing sleep last night, and you get the feeling that most everyone else, save for perhaps Nitori, would rather be doing something else in general.

Noticing the stairs, you chime in. “We're heading up?”

“Yup,” Nitori nods, “So... we should be careful.”

“Right. Remember, no one engage unless I say so.”

The two tengu, Toshi and Yoshiro as you've learned during the few very short conversations that you have had, nod to each other and take the lead. Although Yoshiro is from Tenma's clan, and Toshi from Takeshi's, they seem to be comfortable around each other.

Along the way, that was the configuration that you all decided on. Ichirin seems confident in her (rather, Unzan's) ability to keep enemies off from the rear, while the two tengu were more than willing to take point and leave both you and Nitori in the middle someplace.

The general plan is to basically make a run for it, albeit as stealthily as possible. Any demons you do run across will need to be dealt with swiftly.

“Shall I open it?”

Yoshiro's hand stops short of opening the heavy iron door that guards this particular passage to the outside world. You give him a silent nod. From here on out, things will be especially dangerous, so you try your best to focus. You'll need to be aware of the situation if you're going to choose the appropriate response.

The old iron door creaks a bit as Yoshiro pulls it inward, although maybe not as much as you expected it to. It isn't long afterwords that the smell of fire and ash fill your nostrils, reminding you of just what you're stepping out into.

This particular entrance to the underground is located beside the river running along the western edge of the city, nestled firmly into the bank. There's a small street nearby, but it seems like you've mostly made it out into the more rural outskirts.

Thankfully, there are no demons waiting in ambush or anything, so at least your entrance into the outside is clean enough. After sealing the iron door again and making sure that it was at least as hidden as it was before, your group begins to move north, sticking to the fields whenever possible, and making sure not to linger on the open roads for longer than necessary.

Eventually, after a good mile or so of smooth sailing, you spot group walking along the roads. This one seems to be made up of well-dressed female demons, ones who remind you of Luize in their manner and presentation. If you didn't know better, you'd say that they were out for an afternoon walk. However, they're quite alert, and obviously out on patrol despite their giggling manner.

Since your group had been passing by a farmhouse, cover is easy enough to find - you all simply move behind it, and out of sight. You, however, peek around the corner to keep an eye on them.

There's three altogether, which is enough of a problem, but who knows how strong they actually are in comparison to Luize. You get the feeling that she must have been at least a few tiers above the common demon, given the fact that she was managing an entire fourth of a country's worth of deceit and lies.

Who knows whether it was the ash in the air, the field you just passed through, or both; but, quite suddenly, you hear a loud sneeze from behind you. The patrol on the road seems to hear it, too, but you quickly duck back behind the building before they notice you.

Nitori looks like she'd simply vanish on the spot if given the opportunity, so if you had to guess, this was her fault. Everyone else's gaze is split between her and you, as they await orders.

[ ] Head inside the building. The narrow hallways should give you an advantage.
[ ] Rush them immediately, as a group. If you're quick, they may not expect it.
[ ] Rush them, but split into two groups and head around both sides of the building.
[ ] Wait for them to come to you. When they do, strike.
================================================
Well, I tried, but I forgot that I had no food. Hopefully this slightly-less-than-early update is acceptable.
>> No. 43844
[x]Wait for them to come here
So far, the enemy has only heard a sneeze. They are probably not expecting a full party ready to tear them to pieces. We could take advantage of this to set up an ambush
>> No. 43845
[x] Wait for them to come to you. When they do, strike.
Standard tactic is standard.
>> No. 43849
[x] Rush them, but split into two groups and head around both sides of the building.

Same reasoning as the ambush, except they won't be expecting the second group at all.
>> No. 43850
[x] Wait for them to come to you. When they do, strike.

You motion for everyone to wait, but be ready. Hopefully, they've got no idea how many people you have back here - or even if that was actually from a person. Striking just as they round the corner should give you maximum shock factor.

--- yes, you can see it already. Although you can't see the demons, their intentions are clear - the flow of this little encounter will bring them here, one way or another. All you need to do is wait.

You do a quick survey of everyone around you. Ichirin seems calm, and unworried. The two tengu are positively itching for battle, although not to the point of being unfocussed. Nitori is... well, she's already flustered and this thing hasn't even started yet. Not good.

You do your best to counteract that while you wait, although with how tired you are it isn't very effective. Seems you'll only be good for reading the flow of this battle, only able to manipulate it through your voice and direct actions.

The demons themselves are giving off that telltale chaotic energy, and you aren't able to do much with it. You can tell that they are there, and that they're somewhere that isn't behind or beside you, but beyond that there isn't much to read. You can't even tell the number - if you didn't know that there were three of them, your guess would be four to six.

The five of you wait. The two tengu take up position on either side of the group, since no one is really sure which side the demons will be coming from, with the rest of you in the middle.

In the end, it turns out to be both sides, one on each. The first demon, for whatever reason, neglects to actually check directly behind the building. Her gaze seems to be focused on the field beyond. You can feel Toshi's eagerness to attack, as the demon appears on his side, but he waits. When the second demon appears on Yoshiro's side, you give the signal.

'Explosion' aptly captures what happens next. The two tengu pounce, and two large fists - along with an incredibly large, cloud-like being - materialize from nothing and start swinging. A few slashes and crushing blows later, and this little engagement is over.

Almost. The third demon is still out there, and a quick check around the corner shows that even that won't be true for long - she's bolting. The tengu notice this as well, and, after you give a quick signal, take off after her.

The rest of you try to keep up, but like their animal counterparts, the tengu are incredibly fast. Much faster than you, Ichirin, or Nitori, and a fair bit faster than the demon in question.

Once they reach the demon, however, she vanishes. Teleports? Either way, she ends up behind the two tengu, delivering a swift blow to Yoshiro's head with a brutal looking high-kick.

A blast erupts from Unzan's eye, causing the road underneath the demon to explode into rock fragments. After that, you lose sight of both Toshi and the demon.

Chaotic. It's all very chaotic. The battle is in your favor, but that's all you can read. It's very much a free-for-all at this point. You slow your advance - better not to risk it, seeing as you're mostly useless right now. Your role is to notify everyone if the situation changes, but you don't see that happening any time soon.

Ichirin and Nitori advance quickly, however, and as soon as Unzan enters the fray the whole thing is over within a minute. By the time you reach the site of the battle at your slightly slow pace, the dust is beginning to clear, and you can see the extent of the damage.

Everyone is relatively unscratched. Yoshiro is out cold, although his body seems to be fine, and Toshi is near his limit after his solo bout with the demon. All in all, not a bad outcome. Not a great outcome, but that could have gone much worse.

Toshi, however, doesn't have your ability to read the flow. Now that the battle is over, he suddenly becomes very aware of his friend's state.

“He's fine,” You offer quietly, as you get close. “Just unconscious. That was quite the blow.”

Toshi nods, seeming to accept that. “Can you wake him?”

You shake your head, and look to the rest of the group. They have a similar response.

“We can't just leave him,” Nitori says, stating the obvious, “Can Unzan... huh?”

That imposing cloud figure that was there until just a second ago seems to have vanished, like it was all some kind of illusion. Ichirin just shrugs.

“Don't count on him for anything other than battle,” She says, “He thinks that if there's a battle going on, that no one will be looking at him.” Then, she turns to her side, and adds. “They were, you know. You're huge.”

“Either way,” You say, “Let's get off the road. We can decide what to do then.”

“Right,” Nitori says, with an accompanying nod from Toshi. Those two take Yoshiro, draping an arm over each shoulder, and drag him towards a nearby shed.

Lying the fallen tengu down, you take a peek outside at the damage. The road is torn up, and there's at least two bodies visible from your current location.

“We can't stay here, either,” You remark, turning back to the others. “There's no way we can hide all this. Can we carry him?”

“He's... not heavy,” Nitori remarks, “But it would be really noisy, I think. ...actually, hold on.”

You watch curiously as Nitori sets her pack aside, and begins digging through it. In a few moments, she comes up with a metal box. It's smooth, and about the size of an oversized book.

“What's that?”

“Watch this.”

In one smooth motion, she pulls the corners off of the box, and the whole thing comes apart. After shedding the case and unfolding what was inside, it's pretty clear as to what this is.

“A stretcher?”

“An ultralight, portable one,” She nods, “See this? It's called 'nylon'. And the support rods are all aluminum.”

You don't know either of those materials. The part that you'd expect to be cloth - the 'nylon' - almost looks like silk, but it's clearly not when you touch it. And despite the handles and rods along the sides being made of a telescoping metal, it's incredibly light.

“It'll still be noisy, though,” You point out, “Right?”

“Well... yeah,” She admits, “But carrying him will be pretty easy.”

You take a look out the back of the shed, towards your destination. That would be quite the haul with a limp body, and definitely counter to your stealthy approach so far.

“Perhaps we could wait somewhere for him to recover,” Ichirin suggests, “Not hear, but nearby.”

That, too, is risky. Even if you moved the bodies, you'd have to hope that they don't notice the huge gaping hole in the road. If they brought out a demon that was good at sensing life energies, you'd be found in an instant. Not to mention, you're probably running short on time. It could be hours of waiting, just looking at how Yoshiro's thoughts are currently flowing.

“I can wait,” Toshi says, “You can find us both when you return to the city.”

Even more dangerous, but only for the people remaining behind. The reduced size would actually work well for stealth.

“That's... really dangerous.”

Nitori seems to have the same idea, but Toshi just shrugs. “Today is a dangerous day for everyone. We need to make sure it isn't dangerous for him.”

Toshi looks to you as he says that. He seems fully prepared to carry that out, if necessary.

Either way, you need to make a decision. Standing here, in particular, is possible one of the worst options for everyone.

[ ] Bring Yoshiro with you. Stealth matters less the further you get from the city.
[ ] Find someplace else to hole up for a while. All of you.
[ ] Split up, after moving Yoshiro to a safer location. Leave behind -
- [ ] Write-in(s)
[ ] Something else (write-in)
>> No. 43856
[X] Bring Yoshiro with you. Stealth matters less the further you get from the city.

No man left behind!
>> No. 43857
[x] Bring Yoshiro with you. Stealth matters less the further you get from the city.

Nitori can be usefuls.
>> No. 43858
[x] Bring Yoshiro with you. Stealth matters less the further you get from the city.

Sacrificing your men at the first chance is not an option.
>> No. 43861
[X] Bring Yoshiro with you. Stealth matters less the further you get from the city.
>> No. 43868
Daily updates except for the occasional Monday night, I guess.

Update tomorrow.
>> No. 43886
[x] Bring Yoshiro with you. Stealth matters less the further you get from the city.

“We'll bring him with us.”

It's clearly not ideal, but the other options aren't any better. You're running low on time, but leaving people behind just to ensure a better situation in the future isn't something a schizist needs to do. Adapting is your specialty, and this is no different.

“You're sure?”

Toshi doesn't seem to accept your answer, and you don't blame him.

“Yeah,” You nod, “But we should get moving as quickly as we can. We definitely don't want to be around when the next patrol moves through.”

The tengu does seem to accept it this time, taking one end of the stretcher. Nitori and Ichirin look between each other, and then to you, neither of them particularly eager to take the other end.

“I'm pretty weak,” Ichirin shrugs, looking between you and Nitori, “You're both probably stronger than me.”

That just leaves you and Nitori, but that tie is decided pretty quickly. “I can do it,” Nitori says, nodding, “If I'm really the strongest left.”

Aside from Unzan, that is - but he's apparently too fickle to be of much use. Pressing that will get you nowhere, though, so you don't bother.

Thankfully, the tengu and the kappa seem more than up to the task of carrying the fallen warrior. The group's pace hardly slows, although the amount of noise that you're making does increase by quite a bit.

After cutting through one field, it's clear that doing so is no longer viable, so you begin to stick to the roads. Your new formation ends up with Ichirin scouting ahead, making sure that it's safe for the rest of you to move on. There's enough buildings and random debris that hiding until you're sure that the coast is clear is easy.

For a few miles, at least, the coast remains clear. Clear of enemies, and unfortunately increasingly clear of places to hide behind. The further away you get, the less you have to hide behind, and it's not long before your entire group is just moving down the road.

Just as you reach the part where the roads begin to slope up towards Vandenburg, perhaps another mile or so away, you see something that makes you mutter a curse under your breath. Although they're quite far away, it's easy enough to make out another patrol group closer to the city.

You hiss an order out for everyone to slowly get down. Again, you seem to have spotted a patrol before they spotted you due to some freakish luck. However, there really isn't much you can do except to wait here in the dirt and hope that they don't notice you.

Running would also be an option, this close to your destination. You may be no good for manipulating the energies of others right now, but you're confident that you'd be able to give yourself the stamina to make it. Yoshiro, on the other hand...

... no, he's still out cold. Walking doesn't seem hard, but there's no way that Toshi and Nitori could run with him in tow.

Everyone watches the patrol group intently. They're walking a road perpendicular to yours, and the intersection is a few hundred feet away, but if they just look in the wrong direction... there's no way they will miss you.

Six of them. Seven? You count at least six figures, but there's a hunched over one as well with very strange movements. Almost animal like. Far too many for your liking, and that animal-like one is behaving even more erratically than your average demon.

You wait, and watch. And...

“Hey!”

... they notice you. Seems that your luck won't hold out forever.

[ ] Fight.
[ ] Flee, forget Yoshiro.
[ ] Flee, with everyone.
[ ] Something less generic (write-in).
>> No. 43894
[x] Fight.

Manipulator gotta manipulate, and that animal thing looks suited to manipulation. Or not suited.
>> No. 43913
[x] Fight.

No choice.
>> No. 43922
[x] You're tired, and got inferior numbers. You'll have to restrict yourself to simple direct illusions instead of the fanciful stuff you like so much. You're purpose is to give your heavy hitters the best chances to strike the enemy after all.
>> No. 43923
[x] Fight.

Then, there's no choice. You need to fight.

“Get ready, everyone,” You say, standing up. Rushing them would be pointless, and since there's no cover anywhere, you'll just have to brace yourselves. They haven't started running, but the idea is definitely beginning to take root. “Defensive positions.”

“W-we're going to meet them head on?”

Nitori doesn't seem to like the idea. She's the last to move, with everyone else taking up a position a bit in front of Yoshiro. Not that you really rehearsed any defensive positions or anything, but everyone seems to have a good idea of what one should look like. With a bit of tweaking, you all fall into a strong position.

... so, maybe you've got a bit of energy left after all, just not for anything drastic. Subtle will need to be the name of the game today.

Toshi takes point. You end up directly behind him, with Ichirin to your right and Nitori to your left.

By the time you get organized, the group of demons has already decided that rushing at you is indeed their best option - with the disfigured one lumbering along on all fours like some sort of dog, even though it's clearly humanoid. The head seems far too big, though, and it's back seems to be designed for running like that.

It lunges, arriving well before the rest of the party, and Toshi greets it with his blade. There's a sickening thud as the creature attempts to bite it. The blade ends up lodged in the back of it's jaw, but it shows no sign of relenting.

The blow didn't even register, or if it did you couldn't see it. This creature, too, is just chaos - it has no natural purpose. No flow to it's actions. A clear stranger to your plane.

However, that doesn't stop a gigantic fist - Unzan's, of course - from batting it away before it has any other chances to react. Toshi manages to keep his blade, even as the creature goes sailing off into the nearby field.

Suddenly, the flow begins to turn against you. At least one of those demons has decided to resort to a spread attack of weak magical bullets, and another lasers.

You duck - as does everyone else - but you manage to get struck by a glancing blow, which scorches its way through the side of your coat. A few vials spill to the ground, as well as some charm made of animal teeth that you had no idea existed.

Although you expect more bullets, they never come. Unzan simply puts up a huge hand to block them, followed by his own eye-laser onslaught.

With a nudge from you, luckily, you're able to make them give up the projectile idea and just charge before Unzan gets seriously injured. You weren't able to tell that they were leaning that way, but they must have been.

Nitori had been fiddling around with her bag until now, and you see why. She's produced something very large and mechanical looking, although you're not sure how such a thing fit inside in the first place. It looks like an arm, but she's wearing it over her normal arm... and it does still attach to the pack.

When your two groups collide, you do your best to stay back - as does Ichirin. With swords and limbs flying everywhere, it's not really a good place for a non-warrior. Unzan proves to be good at this, but not quite good enough.

Naturally, he's the focus of the battle. You can't be that big and not be a target, and every blow naturally flows to him. Eventually, he decides that he's had enough. With a giant arm, he scoops up Ichirin and takes off into the air. Although he continues to assist with bullets and lasers, they simply don't have the same power.

It's around that time, too, that that creature from before decides to rejoin the fray. The tide of battle, although you're doing all you can, doesn't seem to want to flow in your favor.

Not until one lucky blow, anyway.

Nitori throws a punch, and due to interesting staggering on the part of the enemy, one of the demons incapacitates their own. Three down. Four down, actually, as one lucky dodge on Toshi's part sends that unholy creature after you into another one of their own.

The tide begins to turn. It's still not enough, though ---

--- for that, you'll need to take down one more. That's all. The big one in particular. Something tells you you need to take it out, and fast. You begin preparing a big blast, as big as you can manage.

Toshi ends up engaging the beast, leading it away from you, Nitori, and Yoshiro, while Nitori does her best to keep the other two demons entertained. They're both good, but in straight combat, neither will last very long.

You pull all the energy you can muster. From the air, from the ground, from reserves you didn't know that you had - anything you have access to, you take. Even from your mind itself. You feel your vision begin to go dim as you do so - you're only going to get one shot at this regardless, so a bit of downtime won't change things much. With your incredible recklessness, you're ready to fire within ten seconds at most.

Still, it's so dark. Hard to aim. You just watch Toshi and that creature dance for a moment, waiting for... an opening. Yeah. Like that... one!

A brilliant light floods the area, but that's all you can tell. Hit? Miss? It doesn't matter. You're done. You'll just... rest for a bit, now.

================================================

I'll split it here, since I need to go to bed. The rest of the update will be up tomorrow.
>> No. 43933
================================================

...?

It takes you a few moments to get a grip on the current situation. Where are you? In... some kind of building. When? A nearby window shows that it's light outside, but you don't know any more than that. How? Last thing you remember...

... right. You did what you needed to do to win that particular battle. Assuming that you woke up at all, it probably worked.

The room that you're in is narrow, only slightly wider than your bed, but well lit and warm. Your first guest would be some kind of inn - that, or you've somehow ended up back in a small house in the city. Someone seems to have taken off you jacket as well, although where it ended up is currently out of your sight.

You sit up, as more worries come back to your head. Did you all make it? What happened after the battle? Did your message get through?

None of it can be answered here. Whoever undressed you left your boots and a pair of socks, completely dry, near the foot of the bed. You put them on. A quick peek out the window shows you to be up on a second story, and streets far too wide to be part of the capital. Probably your destination.

And this is definitely an inn, you decide, after leaving your room. There's far too many doors in this hallway for it to be anything else. There's also someone you recognize, sitting in a lone chair next to your door - Youmu.

“Good... afternoon?”

She manages a faint smile at that. “Yes. Good afternoon. It's good to see you awake.”

“How long have I been out?”

“Not long,” She says, “If your youkai friends are correct, about two hours.”

“Did they mention that we need to not attack today?”

She nods. “Yes. Something about a barrier put up by the Guildmaster?”

You breathe a sigh of relief. “Good. I was worried that we wouldn't make it.”

“I was told to send you down to see Alice and Patchouli if you woke up,” She says, “She wants to know what you saw on your surprise scouting mission.”

Like always, Youmu doesn't beat around the bush. All business. She's definitely preferred to Marisa, though. Aside from maybe Alice, Patchouli probably wasn't fooling anyone when she said you had gone out scouting. You probably wouldn't have woken up at all if Marisa was the one watching your room.

Still, you've got stuff to do.

[ ] Alice can wait. You want to thank the people that got you back here, first.
[ ] You'll check in with Alice, and then go see how Yoshiro and the others are doing.
>> No. 43934
[x] You'll check in with Alice, and then go see how Yoshiro and the others are doing.
>> No. 43935
[x] You'll check in with Alice, and then go see how Yoshiro and the others are doing.

Duty is first.
>> No. 43936
[x] Alice can wait. You want to thank the people that got you back here, first.

They got us back here in one piece. Besides, I think we'll have a bit of explaining to do when it we meet up with Alice.
>> No. 43937
[x] Check in with Alice

If our companions are OK, then great
If they're injured then lets trust that our allies have seen to them
If they're dead then we'll have time to mourn after the capital has been liberated..
>> No. 43939
[ x] You'll check in with Alice, and then go see how Yoshiro and the others are doing.
>> No. 43941
[x] You'll check in with Alice, and then go see how Yoshiro and the others are doing.

Debriefing~
>> No. 43947
[x] You'll check in with Alice, and then go see how Yoshiro and the others are doing.

“... where can I find them?”

“There's a room for private functions downstairs,” Youmu answers, “We have the whole inn rented, but they'll probably be there.”

“Thanks. I'll check in with them, then.”

Youmu just nods, leaving you with the feeling that there's nothing left to be said. You return the gesture, and begin to make your way to the obvious stairwell at the end of the hall.

The first floor is laid out like a traditional tavern. There's tables and a bar, although it's very empty right now, with only a few people sitting around. You don't recognize any of the four, so you walk up to the bar. The bartender gives you a grin.

“Ah, I see you're back up on your feet.”

You nod. “I was told that there was a private room down here...”

“... right, where everyone who's in charge is,” He says, “It's right over there.”

“Thank you.”

“Don't mention it.”

You head over to the room you were pointed to. The door isn't exactly prominent, and you get the feeling that there's been plenty of backroom deals made behind this thing. It isn't locked, so you open it and walk inside.

Sitting in front of the paper-covered table in the center of the room are Patchouli and a woman you've never met before. Lithe, and elegant looking, you almost feel out of place simply walking in like this. Both of them turn to look at you as you enter. Her gaze is... intense. She means business. You'll need to be careful with what you say around her, you think.

“This is Jack.”

Patchouli introduces you immediately.

“I know. I saw them bring him in.” Still, she does embellish her greeting a bit by bowing her head. “My name is Alice Margatroid.”

“It's good to finally meet you,” You say, returning the gesture, “I heard that you both wanted to see me?”

“Then,” Patchouli says, standing, “I believe my duty is also done, since Jack has returned.”

Alice motions for Patchouli to sit back down. “Wait a moment. I do want to see you, Jack. We were supposed to meet this morning, but I heard that you left to go do some... scouting, I think? How did that go? Your new-found partners didn't say much, other than the information they gave us about the Guildmaster's barrier and your desire that we not attack today.”

Nope, she doesn't buy it either. She seems like she's trying to play along, though, for better or worse.

[ ] It went well. Leave out Yukari, and make up some tale about how you met with the rebels.
[ ] Be vague. If you deflect the questions, you won't need to give her answers she doesn't like.
[ ] Come clean. You went to go see some ancient youkai about a deal, and made one.
>> No. 43948
[x] Come clean. You went to go see some ancient youkai about a deal, and made one.

Truth tellin' without heed for the consequences gaems.
>> No. 43954
I'm trying to think of what Alice values as doing the wrong step could make yet another problematic ally like Marisa. At least we didn't bargin any souls this time.
>> No. 43955
[ ] It went well. Leave out Yukari, and make up some tale about how you met with the rebels.
>> No. 43957
Was there something in Emperor's Color's deal that forbid us from telling other people about it?
>> No. 43959
>>43957
Within the Guild, no. You just need to uphold the illusion that the Guildmaster was the one that sent the letter Yuugi and company.
>> No. 43963
[x] Come clean. You went to go see some ancient youkai about a deal, and made one.
>> No. 43964
[x] Come clean. You went to go see some ancient youkai about a deal, and made one.
>> No. 43970
[ ] It went well. Leave out Yukari, and make up some tale about how you met with the rebels.

Deny, deny, deny.
>> No. 43971
[x] It went well. Leave out Yukari, and make up some tale about how you met with the rebels.

I'd rather not give much information to Alice until we have a better grasp on her character and how she might react to that information.
>> No. 43972
[x] Come clean. You went to go see some ancient youkai about a deal, and made one.

“I'm sure it's obvious,” You say, “But 'scouting' only covers half of it. I apologize for having Patchouli lie to you, but I thought it necessary at the time.”

Everyone except for maybe Makoto and Kyou probably guessed that that's what you did, and you'd rather not start off your first dealings with this Alice on a lie. There's no shame in what you did, even if others may think so.

Alice gives you a cold smile. “Well, we all have our ways. What was the other half?”

“I had a meeting with Yukari Yakumo, on top of the mountain behind the city,” You say, “Have you heard of her?”

Alice's smile fades fairly quickly upon hearing that name. “One of the founders of Gensokyo?”

“Yes,” You say, “We struck a deal while I was there. In return for some real, hard data on Makai's army, she's having me deliver some messages for her.”

Alice, like she suddenly came down with a headache, rubs her brow while she thinks of how to take this.

Patchouli, on the other hand, seems not to miss a step. “Then, you did make a deal with her. Where are the messages to?”

“The first was to Yuugi, an oni running an in-city resistance group,” You say, “It... well, it was a forgery. Yukari had it written, but it was signed from the Guildmaster. The letter promised a reward of whatever the Guildmaster could reasonably grant, but Yuugi didn't seem very interested in it.”

“How large was this group?”

You give a rundown on what you saw at the warehouse - the tengu families, and the various other players of note. The fact that they assumed that the Guild had all but abandoned them - but, after having that message delivered, that they'll now almost certainly be under your command.

Alice remains silent throughout all this, with Patchouli asking simple questions.

“The other letter,” You continue, “Is to the Guildmaster herself. It's signed with Yukari's name and seal.”

“Did you read it?”

“Both were enchanted against reading,” You shrug, “That, and I was told not to.”

“Your ways are... troublesome,” Alice finally speaks up. “These are troublesome times, but this... it's too much.”

“It is how it is,” You say, “It can't be undone now.”

“Even more troubling,” She sighs, leaning back in her seat. “She would never deal with you if she wasn't getting something much more valuable out of it. If she's giving us our city, our country, back...”

Alice trails off, opting to let that thought finish itself. She's right, too, but you don't agree.

“Did you see anything else of note?”

“Shinki is indeed here,” You say, “But, it seems that neither her nor Yukari will directly act.”

“That,” Alice says, “That is good news. But isn't Yukari acting by making a deal with you?”

“They're...” You think of the best way to describe what you got from your little meeting, “I think this whole thing is a game between them. Neither one is acting directly because then it would just be a battle between them.”

“They would annihilate all opposition,” Patchouli confirms.

“So, they're... making deals with mortals, and generally being shady. Not acting, but not exactly being completely passive either.”

Alice just shakes her head. “Let's talk about something else. I think I've had about enough of this topic.”

“I will have questions for you later,” Patchouli says to you, “But, yes.”

“Fine by me,” You say, “What's been going on since morning here?”

“You already know, but we found out pretty quickly that communication with the Guildmaster was impossible,” Alice says, seeming more at home with this topic. “I sent Marisa out to do some scouting of her own. The lines between all the rally points are cut, as well, so we've had to use pigeons to relay messages. Had your body arrived thirty minutes later, we would have been locked into our failed attack for today.”

“Who's the leader, then?” You ask, “I recall the Guildmaster assigning one.”

“Keine Kamishirasawa and Akyu Hidea,” Alice says, seemingly comfortable with that, “They're acting jointly.”

“Ah... I think I've heard of them before.”

“I've worked with them before. Neither is a particularly good mage,” Alice says, “But Keine is a fine leader, and Akyu is a walking library of knowledge.”

“Yes,” Patchouli nods, “I have spoken with Akyu on many topics.”

“You had no trouble convincing them to hold off?”

She shakes her head. “They verified it with their own diviner. I guess that when they tried to enter the city center, they got... stuck, or something, and had to have another diviner forcefully pull them back.”

“Were they able to divine any of the rest of the city?”

“No,” Patchouli answers, “Their astral bodies would not be safe.”

Alice nods. “They didn't want to risk it, given the list of demons that your group compiled.”

Ah... so, that list did come in handy, then. “Well, I'm glad it was of use. We should send them a message informing them of our new allies in the city. Given how easily they were able to move around, with some coordination we can be pretty much everywhere at once.”

“Didn't you say that they would only probably help?” Alice asks, “Will they, then?”

“It seemed like there was a lot of infighting to quell,” You say, “But... I don't think there would be a problem. Aside from a few tengu clans, they all seemed willing, if reluctant, to help.”

“We should send that message, then,” Alice says, turning to Patchouli. “Could you draft one?”

“Certainly.”

“Tell them that the barrier over the center city will drop tomorrow, too,” You say, “I don't know when, though, so they may want to get some diviners working on that.”

“Yes.”

“And... leave out Jack's meeting,” Alice says, “That matter is far above our heads. We should let the Guildmaster deal with it.”

A nod.

“So, how many mages did you bring with you?” You ask, while Patchouli writes away, “I suppose you've already met my team.”

“Not as many as I would have liked,” She sighs, “I brought three mages - those were all I could find.”

There's a pause, as you think of something else to ask.

“How are the youkai that I traveled here with doing? I haven't had a chance to look for them yet.”

“... they'll all live, according to Rikako,” Alice says, “But, aside from Ichirin, they're all recovering right now. It was quite shocking, actually. Ichirin and Toshi showed up with a cart containing the rest of you - although I'm still not sure how that tengu was managing to move. Sheer force of will, I suppose.”

Did things really go that badly once you dropped from the fight? It's amazing you made it back at all.

“I have finished.”

Patchouli is incredibly fast, as always. Being a magician has it's perks, you suppose. “You included all the numbers I gave you and everything?”

“Yes.”

“Well, good.”

You expect Alice to reach for the letter - she seems to be looking at it - but instead, a small doll leaps up from under the table and into her lap. To be honest, it startles you a bit. You already knew about the dolls, but... seeing one just appear like that is a little disturbing.

The doll snatches up the letter, and hops back on the ground. Alice stands up as well.

“Then,” She says, “I don't have anything else to talk about now. I'll go deliver this letter to the bird-keeper. For now, I think that all we can do is wait.”

[ ] Accompany her, if she doesn't mind. You'll be working together, so you'll want to get to know her.
[ ] You should go check in on your team. You're sure that they'll want to know that you're awake.
[ ] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.
================================================
>>43970 >>43971
Ah... sorry, I didn't see these before I started writing. Next time you vote, try to do it earlier if you can so I don't miss it.
>> No. 43973
[X] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.
>> No. 43974
[x] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.
>> No. 43975
[x] You should go check in on your team. You're sure that they'll want to know that you're awake.

I don't care about the others.
>> No. 43978
[x] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.

We should try to build up some good faith with this team and I think they'd like to hear such a thing.
>> No. 43984
[x] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.
>> No. 43985
[x] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.

They did drag us back here after all.
>> No. 43986
[x] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.
Well, of course.
>> No. 43988
Got sidetracked, update tomorrow.
>> No. 43989
[x] You should go check in on Nitori, Ichirin, and the others. You owe your life to them.

“I agree. I'll let you know if anything happens.”

“Yes,” Alice says, “Do that. I'll want to know when those numbers come in, even if the source isn't exactly...”

“They will be correct,” Patchouli interjects, “Yukari Yakumo may make unfair and unscrupulous deals, but not dishonest ones.”

You nod. “Where are the others resting?”

By now, Alice is almost out the door. You follow after her. “Upstairs, for the wounded ones. I'm not sure where Ichirin is.”

Patchouli, already opening a book, opts to answer. “Outside.”

“Right.”

You decide that, for now, you'll see if any of the wounded are awake. Finding Ichirin might take a bit of effort if all you've got to go on is “outside”.

So, upstairs you go, only to be greeted by another gaze from Youmu. You head over.

“Come back to rest?”

“I'm looking for the people I traveled back with, actually,” You say, “I want to give them some proper thanks.”

“Ah... those two rooms, then.”

“Thanks.”

“They may not be awake, however,” She says, a bit cautiously, “You were one of the least wounded.”

Silently, you nod. With the way everyone is talking, you get the feeling that they don't want you to see them because they're horribly mangled, or something. Well, regardless, peeking in won't hurt anything.

You lightly knock on the first door. Much to your surprise, you receive a response - a curt “yes?” - from one of the two tengu. So, you enter. The room itself is quite a bit bigger than yours, with two beds. Toshi is lying on the bed near the door, and Nitori is asleep on the one on the far end of the room. Both have... definitely seen better days.

Toshi's side is wrapped up fairly tightly. Judging by the amount of blood that seems to be slowly working its way through the thick wrap, you can guess that the wound underneath is fairly large. There's a splint on Nitori's lower leg, but who knows why she's asleep.

“Good,” Toshi says, weakly, “You're awake.”

“And you're alive,” You say, “I was hoping that last shot of mine would help.”

He nods. “It was enough to give me an opening. The shot was well placed.”

You glance over to Nitori, who doesn't seem ready to wake up any time soon. “What happened with her?”

“A loss of focus,” He says, “She thought you needed immediate assistance after you fell.”

She was worried about you, then. Not a good thing to do when you're dueling with two demons, but the sentiment is touching. “Did you finish off those other two yourself?”

“One,” He answers. Then, with a bit of distaste, he adds, “The cowardly cloud took the other.”

Then, for just a moment, a bit of pain flickers across his face. Hopefully, that wound of his will heal fast. He's a youkai, after all - physical wounds aren't much to them. It must be really bad if it's still bleeding a bit after all this time.

Still, he seems to have a question for you. “How is Yoshiro?”

“He's next door,” You say, “But I haven't seen him yet.”

“Hmm.”

He leans back, all this talking seemingly taking up a bunch of energy - although, to be honest, it's the most you've heard him talk all day.

“Well,” You say, “I should let you rest. I just wanted to thank you.”

“It was my job.”

“Still, I appreciate it.”

You bow, and back out of the room. Two down, sort of. Hopefully Nitori won't be out too long. She really doesn't seem like she's seen much combat, so you feel a small bit guilty for making her fight like that. It might have made more sense to send her back after you reached the edge of the city, even as eager as she was.

Yoshiro doesn't answer when you knock on his door. Something must have been rattled around pretty good inside his head.

“He'll be out for a while.”

A voice from behind that you weren't expecting sends your mind racing for a counter... until you realize that it's just Rikako. Probably up here to change some bandages, giving what's in her off hand.

“Haha, did I scare you?”

“I've been around demons all day,” You say, trying to play it off, “Excuse me if I'm a bit jumpy.”

“Well,” She says, “I'm glad I won't have to check up on you, anyway. You feeling fine? Any lingering headaches or anything?”

“I wouldn't say fine, but I'm doing alright. All things considered.”

She nods. “That's good. What 'all things' are we considering, anyway?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” She laughs, “First, you vanish in the dead of night with two strange youkai. Patchouli won't tell us anything except that you've gone 'scouting', and then later you show up unconscious and with a bunch of new strange youkai. Half dead ones. We've been trying to figure out where you went all day.”

“I was technically scouting,” You shrug, “What have you all come up with?”

“Marisa seems pretty convinced that you went to go see... well, that really old youkai. Her logic seems solid, too.”

She seems more curious than offended, or anything of that sort.

[ ] Indulge her curiosity. Do the same for anyone else you come across, but only if they ask.
[ ] It might be a good idea to get everyone together later to explain yourself.
>> No. 43990
>>43989

[X] It might be a good idea to get everyone together later to explain yourself.

Later is better. Even if Yukari's involvement is known and obvious to the movers-and-shakers, the particulars should probably be kept quiet. The more times we need to say it, and the less formally we do so, the more likely it is that it will leak.
>> No. 43991
[x] Indulge her curiosity. Do the same for anyone else you come across, but only if they ask.

Marisa can chew us out in private. No need to give her a soapbox.
>> No. 43992
[ ] Indulge her curiosity. Do the same for anyone else you come across, but only if they ask.
>> No. 44003
[x] Indulge her curiosity. Do the same for anyone else you come across, but only if they ask.

“Well,” You chuckle, “We have known each other for years. She's probably spot on.”

“So you did?”

You nod. “I did.”

Although you briefly consider doing something a little more formal to break the news, you decide that that isn't really your style. It isn't something they need to know, and it isn't something you need to explain. However, you're not hiding anything, either - so this sort of informal conversation is probably the best option. Even if the topic is serious.

“How, uh... how did it go?”

You give her the short version. Deals, numbers, and scouting. More deals, and youkai. All the important stuff, but none of the hard details.

“So yeah,” You say, wrapping up the story, “That's how I spent my morning. How about you?”

She just shakes her head. “We've mostly been waiting around all day for orders. Trying not to tire ourselves out. Alice seems to know what she's doing, anyway.”

Again, you nod. “She seems very organized. Not a bad person to work with.”

“You already met her?”

“I just got out of that meeting, actually,” You say, “Right before I came up here to check up on my escorts.”

“Well, I'm sure Alice already told you then,” Rikako continues, “But they're all going to be fine. Eventually. Youkai heal extraordinarily fast, you know. I'm sure Toshi would be dead if he were a human - he was literally holding his guts in when he got here.”

Unfortunately, you don't have a hard time picturing that from what you saw. “Is that who the bandages are for?”

“Huh?” She looks to her hand, “Oh, yeah. I was just going to change them.”

“Well, don't let me stop you. Have you seen Ichirin by any chance?”

Rikako thinks for a moment. “I think I saw her outside taking a walk just outside the inn. She's been mostly keeping to herself.”

“Thanks. Take good care of those three.”

She gives you a thin smile. “Will do. See you later.”

It takes you longer to find where they put your coat, which has also definitely seen better days, than it does for you to find Ichirin. She's just sort of walking around without any destination, having what appears to be a one-sided conversation with the air.

“... so, what do you think? ... no?”

Must be Unzan. She doesn't notice you as you approach, so you greet her.

“Hello.”

That gets her attention. “Oh... you're awake. That's good.”

You've seen people get more excited about finding a penny on the street. She seems a little frustrated about something - maybe that conversation she was just having. “I just wanted to thank you for getting me back in one piece.”

She shakes her head. “If Unzan wasn't being so flaky, we could have got everyone back in one piece. What? I'm still mad, you know. Maybe tomorrow.”

Maybe not. It's kind of bizarre, having a conversation like this. “Still, I appreciate it. We would have been completely done for if you hadn't been with us.”

She laughs a bit. “For Guild, you aren't as strong as I thought you'd be.”

“I'm not very good in direct combat, and especially not at the end of a long day like today,” You admit, “Have you met any of the other mages? Most of them would have put our performance to shame.”

She shakes her head. “Not really.”

[ ] Strike up some conversation.
[ ] Offer to introduce her to everyone. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.
[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 44004
[x] Offer to introduce her to everyone. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.

Given where the conversation stopped, this seems the logical next step.
>> No. 44005
[x] Offer to introduce her to everyone. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.
>> No. 44006
[x] Offer to introduce her to everyone. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.
>> No. 44009
[x] Offer to introduce her to everyone. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.

Wandbagoning.
>> No. 44011
[x] Offer to introduce her to sex. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.
>> No. 44013
[ ] Strike up some conversation.
-[x] Also ask how she and Unzan met, if he's so shy.

Ichirin route is go.
>> No. 44020
[x] Offer to introduce her to everyone. She'll likely be stuck here until tomorrow.

“Well, you're probably going to be stuck here at least until tomorrow,” You say, “I can introduce you if you'd like.”

“We might not be here, actually” She says, “Well, not if I can talk any sense into my friend.”

“What do you mean?”

“I'm not much of a warrior,” She says, “And... well, the demons are all behind me now. I was thinking it might be better to head north before tomorrow. Unzan doesn't agree.”

She's thinking about leaving, then. It's a reasonable response, you guess. Before you can think of anything to say, she continues.

“I don't know, though... No, it's not the same thing. What? No, not at all.”

For a little while, she goes back and forth with a voice only she can hear. It's not a heated exchange by any means - not from her side, anyway - but you can feel a bit of tension in her voice. Although it's hard to follow the topic, judging from her vehement disagreements, she seems to be set on her position. You briefly consider leaving, but she turns to you before that train of thought goes anywhere.

“I guess we'll be here for a while, anyway,” She says, with a sigh. “I'll take you up on your offer. I think we both can use a break.”

You chuckle a bit. “Do you two always get along so well?”

She smiles a little at that. “We're good friends, so we can disagree with each other. Don't worry about it.”

Those words strike you a bit harder than normal, considering who you were thinking about introducing her to. Marisa... hah. You wonder if you're still allowed to disagree with her. You hope so. Hopefully she'll spare Ichirin from seeing her fury, at the very least.

“Well, let's see,” You say, “I guess we could start with the people in the inn. I know where they are, at least.”

“There's a few outside, too,” She says, looking at your Guild insignia as she does, “I've noticed a few of those badges while I was walking around out here.”

“Were any of them pinned on the front of a really tall, black, pointed hat?”

“No, I... oh, I guess Unzan saw one.”

“We'll have to find her later, then,” You nod, “I'll introduce you to Patchouli first. She's an elementalist.”

Ichirin frowns a bit. “I'm not a mage, either. That doesn't mean anything to me.”

You start walking, heading back in the direction of your temporary home. “Fire, water, earth, air, metal, sun, and moon. She deals with those - manipulates them.”

“Oh, I see.”

Thankfully, Patchouli really hasn't moved from where she was before. She's still sitting at her spot in the meeting room, eyes cast down on a book.

“So, right. Patchouli.”

Patchouli doesn't bother to look up, so Ichirin just looks to you. “Can she hear us?”

“Yes.”

That response comes from Patchouli. She still doesn't look up, so you clear your throat to ease the silence. “Well, I can introduce you to Youmu next, and maybe Rikako if we're lucky.”

The two of you begin to back out of the room.

“I think I met them already,” She says, “The girl with the swords and the doctor, right?”

“Ah... yeah, that's right,” You nod. “I suppose they met you when you got here.”

“Youmu was the one that we first ran into. We went and found Rikako after that, to help get everyone patched up.”

“In that case,” You say, “How about Alice?”

“She's your leader, right? She was pretty insistent on me telling her what happened.”

You laugh. “Well... we're both technically the leaders here. Patchouli was acting in my place, but she was probably busy reading or something.”

“Oh, she's always like that?”

“Only when she has a book around.”

“A nyuudou?”

As you two stand there in the inn, discussing where to go next, you hear Patchouli's voice from the hallway. She seems to have set her book down for the moment, and her gaze seems to not be locked on Ichirin but a few feet above her head.

You definitely feel a very sudden breeze, enough to fluff your hair a bit as it passes by. Ichirin giggles.

“What are you going to do now? She can see you, even when you're trying to hide.”

The breeze passes by a few more times, Ichirin laughing as it does. Patchouli doesn't seem to react much, other than to follow the breeze around lazily with her eyes.

“Ok, ok,” Ichirin finally says, “Calm down. You're just overreacting now.”

In the meantime, you turn to Patchouli. “A what?”

“A nyuudou.”

As if that explains anything. “Is that what Unzan is?”

“You can't see it?” She asks, looking back to the air, “I see. Unzan?”

She pauses for a moment, then nods. “Yes, that's who that is.”

Still, she doesn't seem to want to tell you exactly what that means. You'll have to ask her about it later, if you remember.

“I'm surprised,” Ichirin says, “Most people can't see him. Well, not unless he lets them, anyway.”

“I am well suited to seeing magical beings.”

“He's not really... well, maybe he is. I don't know much about that.”

Patchouli nods, and turns to you. “Who is this?”

“Ichirin,” You say, “She was one of the ones who brought me back here.”

There's a flicker of recognition in her eye, as she turns to face Ichirin. “I am Patchouli.”

“Nice to meet you.”

She gives a small nod before turning back to you, “I have found something interesting. We should discuss it when we can.”

“Interesting?”

“It pertains to why the great barrier fell. Possibly.”

Her language seems to suggest that this isn't really an urgent thing.

[ ] You still haven't introduced Ichirin to everyone. Tell Patchouli that you'll be back in a while.
[ ] Ask Ichirin if she doesn't mind hanging around for a bit while Patchouli explains her findings.
[ ] Excuse yourself, and go with Patchouli. It's urgent enough if it has to do with the barrier.
>> No. 44021
[ ] You still haven't introduced Ichirin to everyone. Tell Patchouli that you'll be back in a little while.

It apparently isn't urgent, and we've only introduced Ichirin to one person. We can probably come back to this later.
>> No. 44022
[x] Ask Ichirin if she doesn't mind hanging around for a bit while Patchouli explains her findings.

I'm curious and I don't see a problem with Ichirin being there and I figure after we find this out, we can perhaps share with Alice as she'd be interested.
>> No. 44023
[x] Ask Ichirin if she doesn't mind hanging around for a bit while Patchouli explains her findings.
>> No. 44028
[x] Ask Ichirin if she doesn't mind hanging around for a bit while Patchouli explains her findings.

You turn to Ichirin. “Do you mind if we put the introductions on hold for a minute to go listen to this?”

She gives you a grin. “I'm doing this because I don't want to do anything else, remember? It sounds kind of interesting.” Then, turning to the unseen person here, she adds, “It's not like being in a room with her will kill you, right? ... right. So quit worrying.”

You mostly ignore their banter - and you think you're getting the hang of doing so - as you turn to Patchouli. She seems to be smiling a bit.

“I had not expected a nyuudou to act like this,” She says, causing another few gusts of wind to spiral around Ichirin. “Interesting.”

“So, what did you find?” You ask, trying to deflect some attention away from Unzan.

Patchouli looks away from whatever sight that she and Ichirin can see, and turns back to you. “It will take a bit of time to explain. Come.”

She seems to be leading you back into the meeting room, so you follow. Ichirin ends up behind you both.

Since you've left, the number of papers and parchments spread across the table has multiplied by at least tenfold. It looks like she's been getting some intense research done.

“Here, here, and here,” She says, pointing to some papers written in some incredibly old language. “Can you read it?”

“No.”

“Hmm. Then, let me summarize. They all have to do with the Hakurei lineage.”

“The Empress?”

“Yes. Specifically, her duties. They are all very, very old laws and codes. They seem to suggest that she doesn't simply manipulate the border, but that she... becomes it, so to speak. The wording refers to her and the border as one object in many cases.”

It's common knowledge that, when you make an appeal to be granted access, it eventually goes through her. She has to be the one to grant the exception.

“This is a very old collection of psalms, from a cult formed near the founding of Gensokyo,” Patchouli admits, lying the book she had on the table, “But it speaks of the border in an anthropomorphic way. If we take the two together...”

“... then,” You finish, “You could guess that it might be talking about the Empress. Maybe. What does it say?”

“The connection is very tenuous,” She admits, “But the teachings speak of the border splitting into two at a 'moment of great strain', but also a 'new beginning'. It then goes on to speak of this second barrier as a second individual. Eventually, the old one will fade, but the second one will take its place.”

“... I don't get it.”

“Many of the euphemisms used are archaic ones for childbirth,” She explains, “As if this split occurs when the Empress gives birth.”

This topic is getting slightly weird, and you're not sure where she's going with this - or where she even found this old cult text anyway. “I still don't get it.”

“The split,” She says, “Aside from the obvious connotations, would also apply to the border itself. They were once referred to as the same entity.”

“You think that the border 'splits' when the Empress gives birth to a child?”

“Yes,” She says, “And, the Empress gives birth roughly every twenty-four years, according to these records. That would put it well within this time frame.”

Although you said those words, and she answered them, it still doesn't make much sense. “Why would the split be permanent?”

She shrugs. “This is as far as I have gotten. I just thought you should know.”

The papers flutter a bit as a breeze moves across the room. “Ah... yes,” Patchouli says, looking towards someone you can't see, “Perhaps.”

“Huh?”

“He just said something about it being like a thread tied to itself,” Ichirin says, “If you want to make two threads out of it, at some point you need to cut it. You need to make it not closed. Right?”

Patchouli nods. “These texts used a different metaphor, but yes. A portion of the border splits of, and grows on its own.”

“So,” You say, “Why would it permanently break this time?”

“Perhaps someone removed the source.”

“The Empress?”

“Perhaps,” Patchouli says, “But I would rather not jump to such harsh conclusions.”

The Empress is effectively a demigod. She ages, but it's supposed to be impossible to even touch her... much less do something as crazy as kill her, or whatever Patchouli means when she says 'remove'.

“The Empress is dead?” Ichirin asks, “Is that what you just said?”

“No,” Patchouli answers, “I said that her death is a possibility.”

This line of inquiry that she's picked up on is interesting, but with your understanding of the barrier, it won't be of much use. Even if the root cause of the failure is found, and somehow corrected, with your understanding of how the barrier works... well, it wouldn't be very beneficial.

If someone who isn't allowed to pass tries to do so, they simply end up disoriented and outside the city walls. Ejecting all the demons from the city would only do that - they'd still be a huge problem.

[ ] Taking care of the demons is more important than the barrier right now. See if she can't focus on something else.
[ ] Encourage her to continue. Perhaps she'll dig up something that will help.
[ ] ... how did she even end up researching this, anyway?
>> No. 44029
[x] ... how did she even end up researching this, anyway?

I can't help but to wonder if Yukari's involved in setting this up as part of her game with Shinki....
>> No. 44030
[x] Encourage her to continue. Perhaps she'll dig up something that will help.

Anything linked to Reimu is a thing worth continuing.
>> No. 44046
[x] ... how did she even end up researching this, anyway?
[x] Encourage her to continue. Perhaps she'll dig up something that will help.

Curious about the former, might as well do the latter.
>> No. 44048
I'll update this tomorrow, things happened.
>> No. 44102
[x] ... how did she even end up researching this, anyway?

“How did you end up reading old cult manuscripts, anyway?” You wonder out loud. It doesn't seem very relevant to what's going on currently, so it's kind of curious. “It seems kind of obscure, even for you.”

“A small note,” She says, “It was conveniently written in the margin of an article about the border.”

“Can I see it?”

She shrugs, motioning to one of the many books placed on the table. You move over to take a look, but see nothing on the page. She does too, presumably to show you, but instead just stares.

“What is it?”

“It's gone.”

“What is?”

She continues looking, as if to be sure. After a few seconds, though, she nods. “The note.”

“It was on this page?”

“Yes.”

Normally, your suspicion would switch towards her memory. However, you honestly can't see her forgetting something so recent, given what she seems to know - and her answer showed no hesitation. This is where it should be - yet, it isn't here.

Eventually, she just shakes her head. “Odd. It was here.”

Odd, indeed. “You're sure?”

“Yes,” She says, again without hesitation. “It was right here. 'See Randal Vol. 6'.”

About then, you hear a knock on the door leading to the room. Turning around, you see that Alice is standing there... Marisa, too. Perhaps they met up outside somewhere.

“Yo. Good to see that you're awake.”

Marisa is the first to break the awkward silence. It seems directed at you, and you can sense a bit of coldness in it - it seems to be lacking her usual overflowing energy. Still, you welcome it.

“Good to be awake. Have you met Ichirin yet?”

“Well, now I have,” Marisa says, as the two exchange a mutual nod. Then she turns back to you. “She's one of the ones that brought you back, right?”

“One of many,” Ichirin shrugs, “It isn't exactly easy entering or leaving the city right now.”

“Yeah,” Marisa says, “I was out checking it out earlier. I'm amazed you got through it at all.”

She seems to be avoiding what you actually did in the city for the moment. Maybe Alice filled her in, which you doubt, or maybe she just doesn't want to know. Either way, the conversation continues for a while without any actual substance. No joking really, either - it's just conversation.

Eventually, though, Alice decides to speak after a bit of silence.

“Where did all these books come from?”

“They are mine,” Patchouli says, “I have a pocket dimension to store them in.”

“Are you researching anything in particular?”

“The great barrier,” She says, “Before I came across a note... one which has since vanished.”

“Vanished?”

“It was on this page,” Patchouli states again, as if saying it would make it reappear, “But now it isn't.”

“We were just trying to figure out where it went before you two showed up,” You clarify, “It seems strange that it would just disappear like that.”

Patchouli agrees. “Very strange.”

“Perhaps it was set to vanish whenever it was read,” Alice suggests, “I have seen notes like that before.”

“... perhaps,” Patchouli admits, although she doesn't seem to buy it. You're not sure you do, either. Maybe you should just chalk this one up to something you can't understand. Or someone? No, now you're just being paranoid. Maybe you're right, but it's an unreasonable jump.

“Anyway,” You say, “This seems like an interesting line of research. I want to see what else you can dig up.”

Patchouli nods. “I will continue, then.”

“So, Jack,” Marisa says, “Do you have a minute?”

She's being civil, and it's kind of terrifying to be honest. Very polite, and so unlike her. “Actually, I was just showing Ichirin around.”

You get a small nod in response to that. “Ah, alright. Later?”

[ ] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.
[ ] Continue with your introductions. You've still got to find the initiates and Fredrik.
================================================
... sorry, that took a lot longer than I expected. It shouldn't happen again.
>> No. 44106
[x] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.

I always have time for disturbingly calm witches. This should be fun.
>> No. 44107
[x] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.

She is so gonna try to break his jaw.
>> No. 44109
[x] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.
>> No. 44110
[X] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.
>> No. 44121
[x] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.

Might as well let her get it all out now.
>> No. 44151
[x] ...well, you could make some time now regardless.

“Now is fine,” You say, turning to Ichirin, “I think. Is it fine with you?”

Ichirin shrugs. “Whatever it is, it's probably more important than showing me around.”

You nod. “Right. I'll find you when we're done.”

Marisa seems to not have been expecting that, judging by her look. “Oh, uh... alright. Let's go.”

Following her out of the room somehow gives you the same feeling that you had this morning, when you were walking into the demon infested city. It isn't pleasant. You've seen her really angry once or twice, and if she's like that right now... well, this won't end well.

Fortunately, she doesn't kill you the moment you two step foot outside the inn. She doesn't turn to you, instead opting to continue walking. You follow for a good five minutes. The awkward silence between you two is probably thick enough to cut with a knife, but no one makes a move to break it.

She leads you to a small shrine to some unknown god. There's a pair of benches facing each other in front of it, and she takes a seat on one of them. You take a seat on the other.

“... you know,” She begins, her voice sounding a little off, “I wanted to be there.”

It's pretty obvious what she's talking about. You... vaguely remember her saying something like that, now that you think about it. It's pretty clear that this isn't going to be an easy conversation, either.

“What did you give her?”

Again, very cold. It's not scornful or anything, just... distant. You feel like you should answer, so you do.

“She gave me two messages to deliver,” You answer, “I've already delivered one. The second is to the Guildmaster, and no one can get to her now.”

She doesn't say anything for a little while, instead switching her gaze to the shrine. “I don't even know if I can believe that. If lying gave you a better chance of beating Makai, you'd do it.”

There's nothing to say about that. Any reasoning you can think of just relates to winning in some way, so you decide that it's best to keep quiet.

“Why didn't you come find me first?”

Again, you have no good reason. This is a question, though, not a statement - so you feel like you should answer. Honestly.

“It felt like I should meet her by myself.”

She nods, as if that actually was an acceptable response. “I'm still really mad. When you finally came back, seeing you knocked out like that... it felt good, you know? Like you deserved it.”

There's a bit of that venom, but it's shaky - like she's not comfortable saying it. Then, she laughs. It comes out pretty bitter.

“Sorry. I shouldn't say stuff like that. Seeing the city like this made me realize that, you know - we can't be fighting each other. There's so many demons running around... it's really impossible to think that we can win. It's like Rokford all over again, only way worse.”

Or, maybe... she's just down - really down, too beaten to be angry. Seeing one's home like this would be a real shock to anyone, and she's been strung up for close to two weeks now in terrible situations. She's a lot less adaptable than you are by, well, definition.

[ ] Try to assure her. Mention the Guildmaster, and the fact that Shinki isn't actually fighting.
[ ] Try to assure her. When have you ever been unsuccessful? You will win.
[ ] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.
>> No. 44153
Geez. This is almost feelings porn. Pity that it's not the right genre...

[x] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.

I'd start talking about the shrine if I were him. Maybe we can attract the attention of a god or two if we pray?
>> No. 44157
Nice scene, Klaymen.

Hmm. I'd want to pick the first but it's likely someone else would overhear / find out, and second will likely turn out badly given the methods we often take to win. So...
[x] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.
I guess.
>> No. 44158
[x] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.

We should change the subject as it'll remind her of the Rockford disaster (and the small part Jack played) at any rate.
>> No. 44159
[x] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.

Works for me~!
>> No. 44173
What. I was expecting a landslide for the Guildmaster option.
>> No. 44174
[ ] Try to assure her. When have you ever been unsuccessful? You will win.
>> No. 44178
[x] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.

“Have you ever met an oni?”

The question comes out of nowhere. To be honest, it was the first one that came to mind when you were looking for something unrelated to all this death and destruction - it's not quite distinct from all that, but it will have to do.

“Huh?”

She wasn't expecting a question like that. Good.

“I fought one today,” You say, “Well, it was only a staring contest, but still.”

She laughs. It's uncertain and weak, but still a laugh. “You feeling alright? What does that have to do with anything?”

“Nothing,” You admit, “But I get the feeling you're not looking for assurance that this will all be over.”

“Not from you,” She says, very matter-of-factually, “I already know we're going to win. It's the how that I'm worried about.”

Indirection failed. Maybe pulling her away from this line of thought won't be as easy as you thought. “Do you know who that shrine is to?”

She follows your gaze to the shrine that the two of you have been sitting in front of for a while now, and shakes her head. “It's some farming god, I think. I don't know though.”

“Me either.”

She laughs. “You're really bad at this, aren't you? If you're trying to take my mind of things, at least do it properly.”

“Oh... am I being that obvious?”

“Now you're just being dumb,” She says, “You know what would really take my mind off of all this?”

“What's that?”

“Nothing,” She says, a bitter smile on her face. “I'm so mad right now - you really have no idea. It's a good thing my lasers are powered by love, because if I could shoot hate I'd just fry the whole city and get it over with.” With the way she's sitting, you're actually in the line-of-fire - and she makes sure to point this out by raising her hakkero, as if sighting the shot. “I think I could even hit it from here.”

“Should I sleep with one eye open tonight?”

She laughs. “Sleep with them both open. That way, you'll get to see your killer. ...I'm joking, by the way. I wouldn't wait until you were asleep.”

This seems more like Marisa. You're not sure exactly what switch flipped in her head, but she seems to be a little closer to normal now.

“So, what's up with that Ichirin person?”

“We met in the city,” You say, “She's not much to speak about, but she's got this... nyuudou, I think Patchouli called it, hanging around. Basically a really huge, cloud-like guy who can punch through barns. He's usually invisible, though.”

“Maybe I should see if they want to spar,” She says, “Honestly, I just want to scream, but lasers are just as good.”

“Make sure you take Kyou with you,” You nod, “She seems like she could do from watching you a bit.”

“Yeah, she's a little green,” Marisa nods, “I bet that you'd probably be able to take her on with your weak shots.”

That makes you laugh. “Not today. I'm beat. I literally gave that last one I shot everything I had - that's why I ended up here looking like I did.”

“Huh,” She says, “Did you just sort of vomit all that energy out, or what?”

You shake your head. “I don't know. You'd have to ask me when I was like that.”

She accepts that. “Ah... right. You've got no idea.”

“I really don't,” You say, “Sorry.”

“I'll just have to remember. It's not like I see you doing lasers very often, though.”

“That's because you're much better at them than I am,” You laugh, “I never have to pick up your slack.”

“That's 'cause there is no slack,” She says, laughing. “Say, you want to join us? I'm going to grab whoever wants to come.”

It sounds like your introductions will be taken care of for you, then, if Ichirin decides to go watch her little sparing session, so you don't need to worry about that.

[ ] You'll pass. Youmu would get more out of it than you, so you can relieve her.
[ ] You'll pass. You're sure there must be some intel around that you can study.
[ ] It would be fun to watch, probably - maybe you should join them.
================================================
>>44157
>>44153
Ah... thank you. I liked it too.

>>44173
It's funny, because I almost wrote that option without taking a vote.
>> No. 44180
[x] It would be fun to watch, probably - maybe you should join them.

To be honest, I'm operating on the assumption that Marisa scene = good right now.
>> No. 44182
[x] Try some indirection. She just needs to get her mind off of this.

Our mind-affecting magic seems pretty useless in battle. The best application then is for support.
>> No. 44185
Huh, guess the truth-spilling option would have been the better one. For Marisa, at least.

[x] It would be fun to watch, probably - maybe you should join them.
>> No. 44186
>>44185
It's nice to keep an ace in the hole for when her confidence drops even further.

[x] You'll pass. Youmu would get more out of it than you, so you can relieve her.
>> No. 44194
[x] It would be fun to watch, probably - maybe you should join them.
>> No. 44201
I'm going to take today's writing time to do some planning instead of writing an update. I'll try to update twice on Saturday to make up for it.
>> No. 44206
>>44201

Hooray!
>> No. 44237
[x] It would be fun to watch, probably - maybe you should join them.

Anything you can think of to do requires someone else to do something first - whether it be Ran and Chen to get back to you on that information you wanted, Keine to send some communications, or Yuugi to send some extra terms your way, it all needs to wait. You see no reason to turn this down.

“Sure,” You say, “Don't expect me to do much more than watch, though.”

“That's alright,” She nods, standing up, “I wonder if any of Alice's initiates would be up for it.”

“Have you met them yet?” You ask, standing up as well. It seems like you'll be going now, as Marisa takes the lead. “I'm kind of curious about them.”

“You probably saw at lease one of them sitting in the inn,” She says, “They're pretty, uh... normal. Well, the two I've met, anyway. The other one has been asleep since she got here.”

“Asleep? Why's that?”

Marisa shrugs. “I guess what she does is pretty draining, so she's resting up. I forget what you call it, but she does that thing where you force your mind into others' minds.”

The two of you begin walking back. “Ah... an egoist? Is she any good?”

Another shrug. “Dunno. If she needs to sleep for days at a time, though, probably not.”

That makes you chuckle. “Days?”

“You'll need to ask Alice,” Marisa says, “I really don't know.”

“How about the other two?”

“One's a real earthy divine channeler, and the other is... well, ok, I guess she's a little creepy too.” Marisa laughs. “She might actually power her lasers with hate. I think she takes after Seto.”

“She doesn't use blood magic, does she?”

“I don't think so. That's illegal to train now, right?”

“Right,” You nod, “That's why I was wondering. They sound interesting, regardless.”

“Yeah, they seem alright.”

It takes you surprisingly little time to actually gather everyone. Rikako deems every one of the people upstairs alive enough to leave unattended for now, freeing up Youmu, although she does ask the bar tender to check on them every once in a while. Sakuya was missing at first, although she seemed to have found you fairly quickly when more people started to gather.

Patchouli opts to stay behind with her research, but aside from her you all form a group and head... outside.

You do see what Marisa means about the two initiates that you haven't met yet, though. Kalik, the divine channeler, really doesn't dress like a mage at all. He had been sitting in the inn all along - it wasn't until someone pointed it out that you noticed the tiny Guild symbol carved into the top button on his long coat.

Janus, well, you also see what she means. Very dark, hostile, and generally unpleasant. She could almost be a vampire herself, but from what you've been told, she isn't. For whatever reason, she seems to get along fine with Alice and Kalik. Maybe she just needs some time to adjust to the new people around.

“Where are we going to go?” Marisa asks, “I know that this place has a pretty big - and empty - square, but maybe we should head to the outskirts. Less collateral damage to do out there.”

There doesn't seem to be any strong opinion from anyone. Alice does turn to you, though. “What do you think?”

You're not sure that it really matters, but you guess you could still try to form an opinion.

[ ] Town Square. It might give the townspeople something to feel good about.
[ ] Outskirts. She's right about the collateral damage.
[ ] You think... nothing. Pass the decision again.
================================================
Even though it's technically Saturday for me now, I wasn't referring to this update as one of the two. I'll start writing in about ~11 hours from this post, and then again in ~19.

If the writing keeps flowing, I may do this for Sunday and Monday as well.
>> No. 44238
[x] Outskirts. She's right about the collateral damage.

Don't need any stray fire adding ventilation to someone's home.
>> No. 44239
[x] You think... nothing. Pass the decision again.

This option made me laugh.

It just occurred to me that all this hatred might hamper Marisa's combat ability. I'm not really sure how lasers powered by love work.
>> No. 44240
[x] Outskirts. She's right about the collateral damage.
>> No. 44245
[x] Outskirts. She's right about the collateral damage.

I'm doubtful that a mages' duel would endear us to the locals.
>> No. 44246
[x]Outskirts.
>> No. 44248
[x] Outskirts. She's right about the collateral damage.

“I think Marisa is right about the collateral damage,” You say, “We definitely don't want to overstay our welcome.”

Alice nods. “That seems wise. I just worry about leaving the place undefended, now that they know that we're here.”

“I've noticed quite a few guards around,” You say, “It'll be fine. I doubt they'd send a crushing force immediately, if they ever decide to send one.”

From... nowhere, really, you notice that a handful of tiny dolls seem to have appeared. She silently motions to them, and they scamper out into the city like some sort of miniature battalion. “I'll leave these here, just in case.”

With that decided, Marisa takes the lead, and the rest of you follow. You, Ichirin, and Sakuya hang near the back of the group, with the rest of your team hanging out near Marisa and the initiates Alice brought with her staying close to her.

It almost looks like two distinct groups - three, if you count the people hanging near the back - so you can see that this may have been a better idea than you initially thought. At the very least, they'll need to follow Alice. It won't do to have two groups like this if you're fighting as a unit. Some sparing will work towards that end.

You'll need to do your part, too, which includes introducing the two strangers who are next to you.

“So, have you met Sakuya, yet?”

Ichirin, who had just reached a lull in her ongoing argument with Unzan, turns to you. “Oh... no, I don't think so.”

Sakuya takes the cue, and gives a curt bow. “I am Sakuya, servant to the Lady of Skrad. And you are?”

“You can call me Ichirin... but who is the Lady of Skrad?”

Sakuya turns to Ichirin. “She was the true ruler of the ancient lands of Skrad, until she was slain by Jack and his group of Guild mages.”

There's no malice or anything in the way she delivers that - it actually seems very natural, like she was giving a presentation to a bunch of interested scholars. It's a little unsettling, to be honest, and with the way that Ichirin sort of switches her gaze back and forth between the two of you for a few moments, you can tell that she feels the same way.

“That's... a story for another time, I think,” You say, “But that is the short version. It's what we were doing before we came here.”

Ichirin nods, still seeming a little confused. “Well, alright then. ...no, I won't ask that for you. Do it yourself.”

“Who are you talking to?”

“Unzan,” Ichirin says, “I'd introduce him, but he's way too shy to even ask you a question, much less show himself.”

“Ah... I see.”

It takes a while to get far enough north of town that you're almost sure that there will be no accidents. The town is walled, but it's spilled out a bit from the walls like any sort of growing city does. Eventually you all settle on a meadow near the road.

As people begin to pair up for some 1v1 and 2v1 bouts in the case of the initiates, you can see that they're still split up into two distinct groups.

[ ] Try to organize it a bit. That's no good.
[ ] Let this little session take its natural course.
>> No. 44249
[x] Let this little session take its natural course.

Relax.
>> No. 44250
[x]Let this session takes its natural course.
No need to micromanage. These guys are scholars not soldiers: They can think for themselves.
>> No. 44251
[x] Try to organize it a bit. That's no good.

I sense something about how they're being in two particular groups, it'd be better to find out and deal with it before it affects a real battle
>> No. 44265
[x] Try to organize it a bit. That's no good.
>> No. 44283
[x] Let this little session take its natural course.

That's fine, you suppose. Forcing things will just lead to trouble. You've got no problem kicking back and just watching for now - it'll be good to observe the group dynamics, to see how they play out without your intervention.

So, that's what you do. While everyone else discusses arrangements, you go off to the side and take a seat. Fredrik decides not to join in, and although Ichirin tries her best to get Unzan to join in, it seems like he's refusing fairly adamantly. Alice also opts out. Everyone else pairs up however.

Ichirin simply stands nearby, leaning up against a nearby fence. Fredrik gives you a nod as he sits beside you, while Alice takes a seat on the opposite side of the bouts.

“You're sitting out too?” He asks.

You nod. “I've had a long day. What's your excuse?”

That makes him chuckle a bit. “My abilities aren't well suited for sparing.”

“Ah,” You smile, “But, look. Even Makoto is up there, and he's a diviner.”

Fredrik turns around to look. Makoto and Kyou have teamed up to try and tackle Youmu. It's clear which side will win, but from what you've seen Youmu is very good at pulling her punches and providing a 'fair' fight, if necessary - it should be interesting. That just causes Fredrik to laugh a little, and take a seat.

“True,” He says, “That's very true. To tell you the truth, I don't think I've fully recovered from yesterday. I'm still rather embarrassed about that whole thing.”

“It's over and done with,” You say, “Don't worry too much about it. Honestly, I'm still surprised to see you up and moving after all that.”

That makes him smile a bit. “Yes, I heard it was quite gruesome. I look forward to a bit of payback tomorrow.”

Hearing this old gentleman talk about revenge like that strikes you as a little odd, but you guess it's not entirely out of place. You don't really know him that well, after all - perhaps he just looks the part.

“You're not the only one,” You nod, “Marisa seemed eager to wipe the whole city off the face of the earth if it meant getting rid of the demons in it.”

“... well, I'm not that eager,” He says, “But I haven't had the misfortune of having to scout it out yet, either. Is it really as bad as she says?”

“It's bad,” You say, knowing that he can handle it, “Both outer rings are burning, and everything outside the city is all but destroyed.”

“It sounds terrible.”

“It is. Did you have a home in the city?”

“Certainly,” He says, “But mine was in the third ring. It sounds as if it is safe for now. Hopefully, my wife is as well.”

Third ring would make him pretty wealthy, actually. Aside from the old money and a bunch of the older organizations like the Guild, which call the ring just around the center home, the one beyond that is where most of the wealthy citizens live.

“Anyone in the inner city looks to be safe... at least, until tomorrow,” You nod, “So, I'm sure she's fine. They struck pretty early in the morning.”

“How about you?” He asks, “Did you have a home in the city? Family?”

“Did,” You nod, focusing more on the battles going on in front of you than this conversation, “Fifth ring. I didn't see if it was around or not when I was in town today, but it doesn't look good. Guess I'll find out later. No family, though.”

He nods, not pressing that question any further. Not that you would have minded, but it wouldn't really be tactful to ask.

Focus shifts back to the battles for both of you. In particular, you're paying attention to the bout between Kalik and Janus. Neither one seems particularly good at what they do. Kalik seems to be trying far too hard - his divine blasts and whatever those golden rings are that he's throwing seem to be effective, but he seems to be going through great effort to produce them.

Janus seems to be having a similar problem to Kyou where her beams are simply too weak to be effective, and it doesn't seem to be by design. That, or perhaps she always looks frustrated when trying to do magic.

What could the Guild have sent these two off to do? Honestly, you wouldn't trust them with much.

“Ah, such form.”

The comment sort of comes out of nowhere, and Fredrik clearly isn't talking about the battle you're watching, so you turn to see who he's talking about. Marisa and... Sakuya? Interesting. You hope she's not venting her frustration too hard on the maid.

You quickly see that he's talking about Sakuya when he's talking about form, however. She never appears from a time stop in a pose that could be considered anything but elegant.

“What do you think?” He asks, “I'd place ten on her.”

A wager? So, he's a gambling man, is he?

[ ] You suppose you could go for that.
[ ] You'll pass.
================================================
>>44265
Didn't see this one until I began writing, my apologies.

Anyway, I'll try to update again twice tomorrow, though expect the second one a lot earlier because I got sidetracked after I started.
>> No. 44290
[x] You'll pass.

Without another chronomage distracting Sakuya I don't see Marisa winning that one.
>> No. 44295
[x] You suppose you could go for that.

How could I not root for Marisa? It doesn't even matter if she loses; it's not like money plays a huge role in this story.
>> No. 44298
[x] You suppose you could go for that.
>> No. 44299
[x] You suppose you could go for that.
>> No. 44301
>>44298
>>44299
The server hiccuped, so I'm pretty sure these are both mine. Just disregard one.
>> No. 44302
[x] You suppose you could go for that.

We're a rambling gambling dude.
>> No. 44303
[x] You suppose you could go for that.

“I'll put fifteen on Marisa, then,” You say, “It's not about form, believe it or not.”

He grins a little at that, pleased that you took him up on the wager. “No? She's certainly more pleasing to look at.”

You shift your gaze back to the fight, “Marisa hates losing more than anything. She may not look pretty doing it, but it's rare to see her lose.”

“You two do seem to know each other quite well. Do you have a history?”

“We've done a few long, involved missions together,” You say, “So we've gotten to know each other pretty well. We also joined the Guild around the same time. I guess you could say we have a history.”

“Any romance?”

The absurdity of that idea catches you off guard. You can't help but laugh. Gambling, women... just what kind of man is beneath that air of sophistication that he puts on, anyway? It takes you a few moments to come up with a response.

“No. We're friends, but only barely. We spend about as much time fighting as we do talking.”

“Like my wife and I, then,” He laughs, before leaning forward quite suddenly. “Oh hoh!”

You return your focus to the battle, and see what he's so excited about. Marisa is on the ground - tripped or something similar - while Sakuya's elegant form slowly walks towards her. It looks like it might be over, but Marisa blinds the maid with a quick blast and rolls away.

Fredrik lets out a sigh. “Ah... I thought she had her there.”

“She's especially riled up today,” You say, “It's going to take a lot to bring her down.”

“Yes,” Fredrik chuckles, “Quite the fiery lass, it seems. It makes sense that she'd be hard to handle, even for you.”

“Oh?”

Fredrik lets the question hang for a minute.

Now, you can see that Marisa has changed up her strategy a bit. She's summoned a few orbs to act as automated fire and a barrier, and they seem to be doing fairly well at keeping Sakuya out. She's also changed over to firing out hundreds of tiny stars instead of lasers, as blanket coverage is probably more effective against a target that can move instantly.

“You're quite the opposite,” He says, “Cold, calculating. Not that I mean anything bad by that, but that's just my first impressions.”

“I've heard the same from multiple people,” You shrug, “Maybe it's true for my ordinary self.”

“Oh, yes,” He continues, “You are a schizist, aren't you? Does your personality not remain intact when you shift?”

“It does, but doesn't,” You say, unable to help being vague. “They're like alternate me's, I suppose. Like I would be if I had taken a different path in life. We're different, but the same.”

A particularly ferocious assault from Sakuya - who seems to have shifted over into using glowing, hopefully non-lethal knife-shaped shots - steals the spotlight from your conversation. It doesn't end in any change to the battle, though, and eventually Fredrik responds.

“That's very interesting,” He says, “I do the same, but to others. It's easier to alter what they believe than to completely defy it.”

A loud popping sound from behind arrests your attention. You first look to Ichirin, who also seems to be looking at... a tree. It would be for a normal tree, if it weren’t for the fact that there's a large hole in the trunk oozing...

... well, it almost looks like blood from here, but it has to be sap. Probably a stray shot or something hit it, one that you didn't see.

At least, that's what you think until you hear it again, and see another tree beyond that simply eject part of it's trunk and start leaking the blood-like sap. And another. Four in total, and you do see some of the surrounding trees bulge out a bit before returning to normal.

“My word, what is that?”

[ ] Get the attention of the sparing mages. This can't end well.
[ ] Take Fredrik and Ichirin with you, and go investigate.
[ ] Very odd. You'll go investigate, and be right back.
================================================
Actually, I guess I'm only updating once today. I'll still try for two tomorrow.
>> No. 44304
[x] Get the attention of the sparring mages. This can't end well.

I really can't think of a situation where this is a good thing, so I'm going for MAXIMUM ALERT.
>> No. 44305
[x] Take Fredrik and Ichirin with you, and go investigate.

I don't want to interrupt a fight we're betting on unless it's absolutely necessary. And I want to see Frederik use his apparent mind-altering powers to make a tree think it isn't a tree. Or whatever it is he does.
>> No. 44306
[x] Take Fredrik and Ichirin with you, and go investigate.
>> No. 44307
[x] Get the attention of the sparing mages. This can't end well.

Bleeding trees? No thank you.
>> No. 44318
[x] Get the attention of the sparing mages. This can't end well.
>> No. 44319
[x] Get the attention of the sparing mages. This can't end well.
>> No. 44324
[x] Get the attention of the sparring mages. This can't end well.

ackbar.jpg
>> No. 44345
I got very sidetracked with things today, sorry about that. Update tomorrow, along with a new thread.