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44373 No. 44373
[x] Get the attention of the sparring mages. This can't end well.

“Whatever it is, it isn't good,” You say, standing up. You're very careful to watch the tree line, half-expecting an attack. “Get their attention for me, would you?”

“Certainly.”

Fredrik nods, presumably doing something illusory to get their attention - the sounds of the duel stop almost immediately after he rises up off the ground. Ichirin continues to watch on her own, however.

“What's going on?”

Marisa's one of the first to make her way over. She doesn't seem particularly happy about the interruption. You just point, and eventually she notices what you're talking about. Her look grows even more sour as she does.

“Oh... that's disgusting. Is that blood?”

“It isn't normal, whatever it is.”

Alice arrives in a timely fashion, with her two accompanying mages right behind here.

“They're in pain,” Kalik says, talking about what you would guess would be the trees, “Something unnatural has passed by here.”

“... that's right. Something dark. A demon...?”

Makoto adds his observation after a few moments of pause. Ah, good - he seems to have picked up on something, already.

“Can you see anything else?”

“I... it's leaving, that way,” He says, pointing almost straight into the grove, “It's hard to... give me a moment.”

He trails off. “Be careful,” You add, remembering that thing that Alice had said earlier about the other diviners. It won't be good if this is one of the ones that can see and possibly attack a diviner when they're out of their body.

Everyone quiets up, as if that would make a difference. He's probably somewhere else right now, somewhere far away, so you doubt that it does.

“If it's a demon, and it's leaving,” Marisa says, “We can't wait. We need to go after it.”

“Blindly?” Alice asks, “This could be a very powerful one - we should wait for our diviner.”

“All the more reason to go,” Marisa quickly responds, “I mean, town is that way. Do you want the people to start looking like that, too?”

“We need to make sure that we don't start looking like that.”

[ ] Side with Alice. Once Makoto gets a lock, you should have a much easier time.
[ ] Side with Marisa, but stay as one group. Better to consolidate your forces.
[ ] Side with Marisa, but split into two groups. Then, you can cover more ground.
[ ] Remain silent.

>> No. 44374
[x] Remain silent.

What the fuck is leadership? Is that a thing we do?
>> No. 44375
[x] Marisa you, and the slower half of the group start to follow the demon while looking for traps and ambushes, to make sure he doesn't harm anyone.
-[x] The fastest half of the group, along with Alice, will remain with the diviner and catch up to us as soon as they get his intel.
>> No. 44376
[x] Side with Marisa, but stay as one group. Better to consolidate your forces.

But we have a diviner
>> No. 44377
[x] Side with Marisa, but stay as one group. Better to consolidate your forces.

Because splitting up never ends well, and doing nothing ends well even less often.
>> No. 44388
[x] Side with Marisa, but stay as one group. Better to consolidate your forces.

We can handle ourselves better than civilians.
>> No. 44404
[x] Side with Marisa, but stay as one group. Better to consolidate your forces.

“I'm sure that, whatever it is, we'll face worse tomorrow,” You interject, cutting off this little argument before it has a chance to escalate, “We should go after it now, as a group. This could end very badly if we don't.”

Marisa shoots a glance at Alice, but tactfully says nothing more. Alice simply closes her eyes, and sighs. “Very well. I'll defer to your judgment for now.”

Her two initiates nod.

“Wish I had brought my broom,” Marisa grumbles, “Any of you able to fly well enough to scout?”

Most everyone shakes their head, although Rikako fishes around inside her coat before doing so. Ichirin attempts to talk Unzan into it, but he doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with that idea. No go on that, then.

“... well, actually,” Alice says, “I have flying scouts. We can use them.”

“Dolls?”

“Indeed. I only brought one with me, though.”

“Better than nothing,” You say, looking to the as-of-now unresponsive diviner, “Can someone carry him?”

“I can,” Youmu says, moving over to Makoto. With one swift movement, she hoists him over her shoulder. It looks a little ridiculous, since she's around the same size as he is, but she doesn't seem to be having any trouble. He does seem to notice it, but doesn't really respond.

“Then,” You say, “Let's go. Keep your eyes peeled.”

Alice has the doll that she brought with her take to the skies, heading up above the treeline. You, as usual, don't end up taking the lead - Marisa and Youmu are more than eager enough to take that role, while the rest of you sort of form a blob behind them. It isn't very organized, but it'll do for movement.

The group moves swiftly - enough that the younger Kyou has a little trouble keeping up - as you follow the mark of whatever this thing was through the thin tree line. The trees nearest to you weren't the only ones bulging out, although none of these have any of that blood-red sap running out of them.

Eventually, you do come to the city walls, the whole group stopping dead as you do so.

“Shit,” Marisa curses under her breath, “Where did it go?”

“Right.”

Makoto, who up until now had been silent, speaks that single word clearly.

“Right?”

It also seems to be the only word she's going to get out of him. Marisa shrugs, and motions for Youmu to follow. “You heard the diviner.”

“I did. Let's continue.”

Kalik, too, seems to be mostly lost in thought. He's still lucid, but you still get the feeling he's trying - and failing - to get some answers through more supernatural methods as well. Every once in a while you hear him mutter something, but you can never tell what.

Either way, you all continue on. It seems to be leading off into the mountains that shelter the town from the east. A good place to flee towards, you suppose. Part of you wonders if this thing hasn't just gotten away because you weren't quite fast enough.

“Stop.”

Again, Makoto utters a crisp and certain command. The group immediately obeys, coming to a stop - while Marisa turns around.

“Uh, why?”

“Above.”

Collectively, you all look up, but there is nothing to be seen. Remembering the little tip that Tewi gave you, though, you take in a deep breath... and there's a definite hint of something fowl in it. Something that wouldn't be from the burning city to the south, you think, since you hadn't noticed it before.

“There's nothing up there.”

“Nothing you can see, my dear, but I most certainly am something.”

A male voice, somehow managing to be both sinister and playful, rings out through the otherwise quiet scene. It's even enough to frighten the birds, you notice, as the ones nesting in the nearby shrubs and trees all decide to leave immediately. Marisa raises her hakkero, pointing it upward - but with this thing as it is, she has no idea where to point it, and instead ends up scanning the sky.

“My, put that thing down. We wouldn't want your precious diviner to get hurt, would we?”

“What did you say?” Marisa growls, keeping it raised regardless.

The voice chuckles. “He was in such a rush. So easy to spot... that's why I have him now. But don't worry, he is unharmed.”

Marisa seems to be at a loss for words, but before you can take over, Alice speaks up. “What do you want, demon? Why did you bring us to you?”

“I brought you to me so that we could talk on my terms. I want to leave unharmed,” He says, “I... may be a match for you, but I would not risk my life on it. We will trade your diviner's life for my own, if you are wise.”

Kalik moves closer to you, and although he does not move close enough to whisper in your ear, he somehow manages to do so anyway with an errant breeze. It's a little odd - you don't even see his lips move.

“I can see him. He is perched in that tree, and does have our diviner's spirit body. He's also on our plane, strangely enough, while Makoto isn't. We could strike it him if we could do it with enough force.”

There's only one tree reasonably close, so you're pretty sure you know which one he's talking about. Unfortunately you can't talk back without this thing probably hearing you, so you just give a slight nod. So, in theory, you could strike at him... the trick would be getting that order out without the demon hearing. Those precious seconds would almost certainly mean Makoto's death.

“Well?” The voice asks, “What do you say?”

[ ] It's not worth the risk. Take the deal.
- [ ] (Write-in some additional terms)
[ ] Attempt to double-cross. Take the deal, but turn on him as soon as Makoto is released.
[ ] Be as stealthy as you can, but get Marisa aiming and firing in the correct direction.
>> No. 44407
[x] Be as stealthy as you can, but get Marisa aiming and firing in the correct direction.

A worthless diviner's life for the life of a demon capable of taking this group on. I'll take that deal.
>> No. 44409
hard choice but I'm inclined to take the deal as well... having Makoto die would be bad for team morale and raises the chance that Jack's head is among Marisa's targets.
>> No. 44410
[x] It's not worth the risk. Take the deal.
- [x] We'd like to know what were you doing here. (If it was just screwing around, ask for information about his comrades)
>> No. 44412
[x] Be as stealthy as you can, but get Marisa aiming and firing in the correct direction.
>> No. 44415
[x] It's not worth the risk. Take the deal.
- [x] We'd like to know what were you doing here. (If it was just screwing around, ask for information about his comrades)

I get the impression he isn't around to do much fighting despite his strength as he tried to negotiate for his life as opposed to forcing them to disarm.
>> No. 44441
[ ] Be as stealthy as you can, but get Marisa aiming and firing in the correct direction.

Makoto's body is on another plane, so he shouldn't be hurt.

And even if he is, well, damn. At least he has replacements.
>> No. 44453
>>44441
it's implied that the demon has a way of harming him in spite of this.
>> No. 44463
[x] Be as stealthy as you can, but get Marisa aiming and firing in the correct direction.

You say nothing, but that deal is completely unacceptable. You cannot allow this demon to leave - if it's a scout, that could be absolutely devastating to everyone and everything in the area. Although you're not exactly sure why they're remaining penned up in the capital as they are, you have no doubt that they'd make an exception to come and stamp out your group.

An idea comes to mind, although it takes you a few moments. You do have those hand signals up your sleeve, still - hopefully Marisa remembers them well enough to aim in a particular direction. Her sparks are wide enough that she doesn't exactly need pinpoint accuracy.

“Marisa,” You say, stepping forward. She doesn't look, still busy waving her hakkero around looking for the demon.

“Marisa, look at me.”

There is no softness in your voice. She lets out a very frustrated groan, and turns.

“What?”

You begin your signals, trying to be as subtle as you can. Spark. Direction... and power. She doesn't seem to get it.

“What do you think?”

“Goddammit, you know what I think. Why'd you let him go off like that?”

She still doesn't seem to be paying attention, too frustrated with the current situation to get something so subtle. You can't really be any more obvious either, because... well, that would be far too obvious. Did you come up with any signs that you could be obvious with? You think, but can't come up with anything.

“Focus,” Youmu says, “Do not let your rage cloud your vision.”

Youmu gives you a nod, very slight, when you look in her direction, before looking directly at your hands. She gets it. It's a shame that she won't be quite as useful in obliterating the whole area like Marisa would - a good fallback, you suppose, but not your first choice.

“You are the one in charge, Jack,” The demon says, “Why do you need her input? Decide. I grow weary of staying here.”

Why does that thing know your name?

“I am also in charge,” Alice says, “Jack, if you aren't going to make one---”

“I will make one,” You interrupt, hoping to buy yourself just a little more time. “Makoto is my responsibility, just as Fredrik was. Do you remember that battle, Marisa?”

You make one dramatic sign - hopefully something ambiguous enough that it goes unnoticed - as you say that last part. She gets ready to say something, but then stops as you begin your subtle signing again. Finally, she sees what you're doing.

“Yeah...” She finally mutters, turning back around, “Yeah, I get it now. Fine. Whatever you say.”

“Then,” The demon says, hopefully none the wiser, “I will return your diviner... but you will first leave. Turn around, and go back to your town.”

“Fuck you!”

In an instant, she swings her hakkero into a good firing position and fills the area with a blinding light. Just as intended. There's a shriek, confirming the hit, while the more informed members spring into action the moment the beam ends. Youmu quickly dashes forward, having laid Makoto's body on the ground, while Kalik makes demands of nature itself.

“Reveal our foe!”

The effect is less dramatic than you'd expect. A handful of leaves seem to get stuck to... well, something that's now attempting to scuttle away into the mountains with great speed. Youmu manages to be faster, cutting it off at every attempt.

“Everyone, strike!”

The command seems to bring everyone else out of their stupors, as the rest of the field lights up with the magic crackling across it. Everyone has a clear shot with the removal of that tree, although at that distance their accuracy isn't particularly good. You lead the group forward.

Youmu puts up a good wall, but when the demon decides that fleeing may no longer be an option, the situation changed dramatically. Instead of dealing with the obviously adept swordsman, it instead rushes headlong into your group. The result is not pretty.

The group flies apart like a strong gust of wind parting a pile of leaves, sending you and almost everyone else sprawling out across the gentle slope. You watch in horror as it springs on the nearby Kyou, only to see that there are in fact two Kyous - and that the one that it sprung on was an illusion of some kind.

Before the demon can spring again, Youmu quickly makes her way back. Unzan, too, seems to have made himself known, as he attempts to smash the mostly invisible demon.

“YOU!”

The demon lets out a scream as it dodges all of that, and heads straight for you. Sakuya attempts to get in it's way, but she's simply blown aside like before. Then, although you attempt to shield yourself with your arms, he somehow manages to grab your throat anyway and pick you off the ground. There's a faint sensation as he does, but it's difficult to tell what exactly it is.

And, oddly enough, you can now see him clearly. He looks like an older gentleman, only his arms are far too long and end in claws. It does not look good with the suit that he's wearing, although you suspect from the wear and tear that it has seen better days.

You see a second Makoto, too, near the tree where he was once perched. What---

---has this demon done? It has the ability to rip souls from bodies as well?

You had sworn off your abilities since you learned that divination might be harmful, but... this is not good. Not good. The demon knows it, too - he laughs heartily, giving up his mad flight around the battlefield now that he has a slightly better strategy.

“I have your leader now!” He says, boldly, “Surely you won't try the same trick again!”

Ah... you spot your own body, now, lying limply on the ground. So, that's what this thing can do. What this has to do with exploding trees remains to be seen, but maybe you'll find out later.

Assuming you live, of course. Makoto seems to have been spared - you see his spiritual body stir a bit, which bodes well. You, on the other hand... this is quite the bad situation. The only thing you have going for you is that you aren't the one making the decision.

Oh... but Marisa is out there, isn't she?

“I'll kill you,” She says, “Let him go!”

“My, but those are mutually exclusive,” He laughs, looking you right in the eyes as he does. His eyes are cold, black. “You can have one or the other. This time, do not try to surprise me. It will not work.”

A stalemate, and everyone knows it. It's as if the chaotic battle from moments ago had never happened - everyone is frozen in place.

You... could probably escape from this, you think to yourself, but... well, does the fact that all demons would instantly hate you in this form even matter if you're being held hostage by one? Ah, if only you could divine the answer to that without divination. You don't even know how far the “instantly see” thing does. Would other demons pick up on it?

[ ] Risk it. You will not die here.
[ ] Let this run it's course. You can't risk drawing any attention.
>> No. 44464
[x] Risk it. You will not die here.

I have a feeling I'm going to get everyone else detected and killed just so I can see cool divination powers.


Worth it.
>> No. 44480
[x] Risk it. You will not die here.
>> No. 44485
[x] Risk it. What could make the demons hate us more, dare I ask.
>> No. 44488
[x] Risk it. You will not die here.
>> No. 44501
[x] Risk it. You will not die here.

>Ah, if only you could divine the answer to that without divination.
Heh.

Good to see that Makoto's likely okay.
>> No. 44513
Nothing tonight, because it's been a long day and an even longer evening. I'll update twice tomorrow.
>> No. 44532
[x] Risk it. You will not die here.

You really, really do not want to die here - not like this. That much is clear. You can deal with the fallout from your skills later. Aside from the whole being-held-by-a-demon thing, this situation is almost ideal to work in.

“I will handle this,” Alice says coldly, stepping forward. She shoots a glance towards Marisa. “Stand down.”

...she's going to let him go on your account. The demon actually has no intention of that, though - he works for---

You feel the grip on your soul tightening.

“You are disgusting,” He says, without moving his mouth as he had done to speak earlier, “Cease that.”

--- some very powerful demons. Ones who would rather kill you themselves. You can't make out who, but you've definitely wronged them in some way. None of that is relevant, though.

“I said cease!”

He's actually fairly weakened after Marisa's blast, just very good at ignoring it. A second blast would do him in, although it doesn't look like anyone will be taking one. Would that binding trick you learned yesterday work?

---ack.

“I can do terrible things to you,” He says, “I do not need to kill you. Cease.”

“Demon,” Alice speaks up, “Let him go, and we will allow you to leave unharmed.”

“She's lying,” The demon says to you, snarling a bit. You guess that he can speak on different planes, or something, because

“No,” You choke out, “Unlike me, she intends to let you go.”

“Your word is worth even less,” He says, a sinister grin forming on his face. Then, a bit louder and clearly to your more worldly companions, he speaks. “No. You will let me go, and I will release him.”

“Unharmed?”

“Yes, I will release him unharmed.”

“You're lying,” You say, “Typical of a demon.”

“I am not,” He says, sounding almost offended, “I will release you unharmed. You will not remain that way... but that is none of my concern.”

“We should not trust him,” Youmu says, “He will betray us.”

“Ah... can she hear you?” The demon asks, looking in her direction. “Girl!”

He speaks with his astral voice, but Youmu doesn't so much as flinch. The response is generic enough that you... oh, actually - she can hear all of this. But she won't be able to for long, whatever that means. Does the de---

Your consciousness fades for a moment, but quickly returns. “I will put up with no more of this,” He says, “Be glad that I am not permitted to kill you immediately.”

[ ] Tell Youmu to strike. It's your only chance.
[ ] Bide your time. The demon is definitely prepared for something like this.
>> No. 44534
[ ] Tell Youmu to strike. It's your only chance.

Who the hell is this guy, and who the hell wants to kill Jack personally?

I'm kinda expecting that demon we captured to return, now.
>> No. 44535
[x] Tell Youmu to strike. It's your only chance.

I have faith in her abilities.
>> No. 44539
[x] Bide your time. The demon is definitely prepared for something like this.

We'll get more information this way.
>> No. 44546
[x] Bide your time. The demon is definitely prepared for something like this.

I think he's working for Gengetsu and Mugetsu... you know the two demons we sort of screwed over in the past.
>> No. 44555
[x] Bide your time. The demon is definitely prepared for something like this.

Basically what >>44546 said.
>> No. 44556
[x] Tell Youmu to strike. It's your only chance.

There are several places better to be than in the grasp of a dirty evil demon.
>> No. 44565
[x] Tell Youmu to strike. It's your only chance.
>> No. 44574
[x] Tell Youmu to strike. It's your only chance.

It's now or never for Youmu, if your divination is correct, and you'd rather it be now.

“Youmu! He's weak, you can take him!”

Youmu immediately springs into action, but unfortunately, so does the demon - and the demon doesn't have to move to take his first action. You lose consciousness almost immediately, unable to fight the void that seems to open up behind your eyes.

... you feel a light breeze on your face when your mind begins to piece itself back together again. Grass on your back. Opening your eyes, you can see that you haven't gone far. Or... perhaps you have? The slope that you're resting on is very familiar, but the sky isn't quite right - it's filled with stars, while the rest of the area is lit as if it was still late afternoon.

The demon must have done... well, something, to place you on a different plane. Yes. You don't know what, or why, but that's definitely what just happened. You don't even need to divine that answer - it feels correct.

You can't sense your physical body either, you realize, as you pull yourself off the ground. A tinge of fear creeps into your mind at that. Not only are you on an unfamiliar plane, but you don't know the way home? This could be rough.

Floating up off the ground, you can see a shadowy version of Vandenburg off in the distance. You don't gain enough altitude to see the capital, though, uncertain of the dangers of doing so. There's something really troubling about the sky here, aside from looks, and you're not exactly sure if you want to find out what it is.

Setting back down on the grass, you wonder what you should do.

[ ] Immediately set to work divining a solution. Hopefully, you can come up with the answer quickly.
[ ] Begin setting up wards and circles, to at least give you some rudimentary protection.
[ ] Head back to town. The state of the place should give you some nice clues as to what kind of plane this is.
>> No. 44577
[x] Head back to town. The state of the place should give you some nice clues as to what kind of plane this is.

Neat! Let's explore! The old-fashioned way, not this divining nonsense.
>> No. 44580
[x] Head back to town. The state of the place should give you some nice clues as to what kind of plane this is.

inb4 things get ever worse.
>> No. 44582
[x] Immediately set to work divining a solution. Hopefully, you can come up with the answer quickly.
We keep screwing up
>> No. 44584
[x] Begin setting up wards and circles, to at least give you some rudimentary protection.
>> No. 44621
[x] Head back to town. The state of the place should give you some nice clues as to what kind of plane this is.

Although you could divine an answer, there's a good chance that this plane is related to hell in some way - after all, a demon put you here. You don't get that sense of dread from the land that you do the sky, so simply moving around should be fine.

Heading back to town seems like a pretty good option at this point. Checking out the state of the place should give you enough clues as to what kind of plane this actually is. The fact that it exists at all suggests that this plane is closely linked to your own, but how remains to be seen.

You give one last look around the battleground, just to make sure you haven't missed anything. Satisfied, you begin the short trip back to town.

The town, from the outside, is very much like it was when you left. Passing through the gates, however, causes you to stop dead in your tracks.

The town does not exist.

Instead of buildings and roads, you find a shadowy mass of... things. They seem to suggest buildings, but trying to see where they begin and end is impossible. Whenever you look, they seem to slink away or expand. You wouldn't even know where to place your foot if you tried to enter

Very disconcerting. You decide to not actually enter the town.

Attempting to walk around the west side of the town produces the same result - a shadowy undefined mass where there should be fields and road, making it impossible to go any further. You return to and sit next to the gate, attempting to make sense of all this.

It's like your world, but... it's very incomplete. Static. Almost as if this was a memory of some kind, or a dream. Not yours, though, that much is certain.

For a brief moment, the thought that you may be dead crosses your mind. This certainly seems fitting for a land of the dead. Do you actually have any way to tell if you are alive, you wonder? Even if you were all-out divining, you'd still need to locate the right plane to check up on yourself.

... well, something passive would be fine for this, you suppose. Ah, good - the things lining your pockets seem to have made the journey with you. The things you remember, anyway. A lot of it is like the town, and makes you shiver a bit when you touch it, but you find what you were looking for.

It's a coin. A very old one, used by many diviners in the past. Quite a lot of that energy has been absorbed by the coin; although it works better if you channel through it, it can be used passively and still be almost certainly correct.

You laugh a little grimly, forming the question in your mind as well as on your lips. “Am I dead?”

The coin... manages to get wedged between two cobblestones in the road as it lands. Not that landing on the edge is particularly rare for this coin, but the answer is a little disappointing. Either it doesn't know, or you're sort of dead, neither of which is what you were looking for in an answer.

Better than a yes, though, you suppose.

As you think of what to do next, a bolt of fire shoots across the sky, heading south. ... no, it's actually two bolts, just very close to one another. There's a large boom as they land, probably near where the capital should be.

There's something about them, though... something that tips off your danger sense. Those bolts were nothing good.

[ ] Enough of this uncertainty. You need to find out where you are, and how to leave... and you need to do it quickly.
[ ] Slow and steady. Work on masking your presence and protection before you worry about any divination.
>> No. 44622
[x] Slow and steady. Work on masking your presence and protection before you worry about any divination.

I do not want whatever shot those bolts aiming them at us.
>> No. 44634
[x] Slow and steady. Work on masking your presence and protection before you worry about any divination.
>> No. 44638
[x] Slow and steady. Work on masking your presence and protection before you worry about any divination.

No reason to be rash
>> No. 44649
[x] Enough of this uncertainty. You need to find out where you are, and how to leave... and you need to do it quickly.

There's a war to fight
>> No. 44657
I didn't sleep well last night... I've tried to update, but it is looking pretty bad. Update tomorrow.
>> No. 44681
[x] Enough of this uncertainty. You need to find out where you are, and how to leave... and you need to do it quickly.
>> No. 44716
[x] Slow and steady. Work on masking your presence and protection before you worry about any divination.

You need to be very careful about how you do this. One shot is all you're going to get, so you need to be careful and meticulous in your escape. You need to stay hidden and well-protected until you're able to get out of here, lest some foe find and dismember your spirit.

Although you're not sure how effective masking your presence will be given your current condition, it's worth a try. Your wards are nothing to scoff at, either.

Of course, for them to be most effective, you'll want to ward an area and stay inside it. The first step is to find a suitable area, such as a small shed... although, finding one that has an interior might be difficult.

You check all the buildings lining the road just outside of town, and all of them have that kind of problem. For one with a particularly odd looking door, you find that it doesn't even work. You eventually settle on a lean-to that happens to be facing the road.

Warding on a separate plane is a lot different than doing so on the physical one. You don't have the benefit of physical wards, like chalk or salt, and instead need to rely on the power of the symbols themselves to do the work. They aren't necessarily weaker, but you do need to put a bit more care into making them correctly.

It takes a good twenty minutes to get the initial runes up, but how that translates to real-time is anyone's guess. You decide to rest for a bit, to regain some energy before setting up some of the more intensive ones.

As you do, you see another bolt cross the sky. This one isn't fiery, though - it seems almost cool, soothing. There is no impact from this one. It seems to land... well, not far from where you woke up, actually, if your directions are correct.

This one is decidedly less unsettling. You feel like investigating wouldn't get you killed, although whether it would be worthwhile or even safe is another matter. Who knows what might be drawn to something like that.

[ ] You won't be distracted from your task. It can be ignored for now.
[ ] Well, you know one thing that might - you. It's worth investigating.
>> No. 44720
[x] You won't be distracted from your task. It can be ignored for now.

Obvious trap. Nothing shall stay me from my self-appointed task.
>> No. 44722
[x] Well, you know one thing that might - you. It's worth investigating.

It might be someone helpful.
>> No. 44737
[x] You won't be distracted from your task. It can be ignored for now.

Trap.
>> No. 44738
>>44737
what if it's one or our allies trying to help us? If it was an enemy they've have struck out with their advantage.
>> No. 44744
>>44738
If it's our allies, they'll just have to sit tight. Jack's got this.
>> No. 44746
[ ] You won't be distracted from your task. It can be ignored for now.

It practically screams trap.
>> No. 44749
>>44746
And watch as it backfires again. The common train of thought seen in votes as of late appear to be self-defeating.
>> No. 44759
[x] Well, you know one thing that might - you. It's worth investigating.

He doesn't have to run through wide open areas screaming about how he's coming to take a look. The guy's not an idiot. He knows to be careful and stay out of sight while taking a peek at whatever this thing is.
>> No. 44774
[x] You won't be distracted from your task. It can be ignored for now.

You decide to leave it be. Somehow, you can't imagine it being anything beneficial given your current environment. It's best to stay hidden, and get this protection up as soon as you can. So, that's what you do. After another few minutes of rest, you begin working again, setting up an equal mix of warding and masking runes.

It takes the rest of the hour to reach the point where you're satisfied with your work. People will have difficulty seeing you even if they directly look into the lean-to, and you're almost sure that they shouldn't be able to sense you. Even if they do, a lesser demon would burn to dust if it tried to enter, and a greater one should at least pause.

With that done, you take another rest before setting to work on your actual divination circle. You try reading the air, but with all the warding and protection you don't really get much in the way of anything that happens to be traveling through the aether. It's very quiet, still.

For a little bit, anyway. As you wait, you notice an eerily familiar ghostly figure walking along the road.

“Makoto?”

He can't hear you, of course, given your present location. It's also difficult to discern if it's really him, given the interference from your runes and his non-solid form. Unless it's a demonic trick, however...

... ah, actually...

A second look through your diviner's eyes shows that this is, indeed, the case. There's other forces at play here, and none of them are Makoto's own. Just what is this thing? A demonic trick to lull you into a false sense of security, most likely, but you suppose that you won't know unless you go outside and check.

Well, for now at least, you seem to be safe. Maybe it is best not to worry about it, and instead set to work on finishing your last few circles. Although you check again a few minutes later, the apparition is already gone.

With your final circle complete, you set down and begin to divine a solution to your current problem. Your mirror also seems to have made the trip.

The moment you try to enter a trance, though, you end up being bombarded by images of those two demons that you met with back in Rokford. The image is unmistakable, and incredibly distracting. Like it shouldn't be ignored.

However, you are not interested. There is very little you can do against demons like them, so even if they were being threatening like the images suggest, that knowledge doesn't help you at all. With a bit more effort, you force yourself past those images.

You soon find out why you've got no idea where you are. It's a fringe plane, one made by a single being on accident. Something like a personal sanctuary, or a dream world. Oh... yes, that makes sense. It's inside the mind of that demon who initially tore you from your body. Technically, this is where he would devour you, were he set on devouring you.

This is the equivalent of a demon's stomach. Yech.

Of course, he's very... well, not quite dead, but in a state of temporary death. Youmu must have gotten him, then. Someone did, anyway.

How to get out? It's simple if you know the way. It's simple to enter, too, like those three did. Three? Two, now, but there were three. Those things that were streaking across the sky earlier - two demons, and one diviner. Not just demons, though. Those demons. They're looking for you. They know that you're here, somewhere, and they want to rip---

You shake your head. So distracting. This is going to take ages if every thread is going to lead there. You simply do not care right now.

The way? The way is like a safe path through a treacherous mountain range. Impossible to find unless you know where it is, and difficult to follow without a guide. At least, from your end. This isn't a place spirits are meant to leave, after all.

--- again, the image of those demons flashes across your mind. You get the feeling that they can feel you, too, even if they can't find you right away.

Didn't the third leave? Did he leave a trail of any kind? Yes, he did. What does it look like?

A very loud noise, some combination of glass and wood and brick shattering, knocks you out of your trance this time. Ok, it might be getting serious now. If you really wanted, you could deactivate a few of these runes to get a clearer reading on this exit Makoto made. It may not be fast enough, however.

[ ] Deactivate the runes. You need to leave now.
[ ] Stick with your current method. Your protection will suffice.
>> No. 44775
[x] Deactivate the runes. You need to leave now.

Okay, now is the time to run like hell.
>> No. 44776
[x] Deactivate the runes. You need to leave now.
>> No. 44777
>>44775
I feel compelled to add a reason for this: There will probably be more jolting and shaking. That is not conducive to divining, as we just saw, so getting the hell out of dodge is probably for the best.
>> No. 44778
[ ] Deactivate the runes. You need to leave now.
>> No. 44821
[x] Deactivate the runes. You need to leave now.

>>44777
Makes sense to me
>> No. 44824
I wasn't able to finish this tonight, so update tomorrow. I'll probably update twice on saturday again.
>> No. 44877
I lied apparently. Double updates tomorrow and Sunday to make up for my inability to write during weekdays
>> No. 44895
[x] Deactivate the runes. You need to leave now.

It's better than nothing, however. They've kept you safe until now, but this is growing very dangerous very quickly. You need to leave, and you need to do it now.

With one sweep of your hands, all but the most basic runes deactivate. You waste no time dropping into a trance, plowing past the incessant warnings of impending doom. The trail. It's... there. He left it specifically for you, even - and it's so obvious when you look at things in this light.

“Hahaha, there he is~”

“My, what shall we do with him?”

You leave your trance to find two very unwelcome figures staring at you from the road. However, seeing that trail gives you a bit more insight into how this plane works. You may need to leave from that point, but getting there doesn't require you to travel across the land.

“Let's rip him apart, sis.”

“Should we do it now, or save him for later?”

“Hmm...”

Before they can answer, you decide to take a route that requires you to neither travel closer to them, or in their sight. You take a single step - a metaphysical one - and end up in the true form of this place.

Those shadows you fond earlier actually compose everything - it's just that they sometimes take form, resembling places the demon has just hunted. One step, though, and you can head into the world behind the curtain. You slip through the ground, and into a writhing mass of nothingness.

“What? Where'd he go?”

“You think you can escape, Jack?”

They don't seem to catch on right away, blowing what was the lean-to to smithereens. Most of the surrounding area, too, by the sound of things. By now, though, you're far below what they can destroy with a blind shot.

It takes them a little while to give chase. It seems that, even for them, the underlying nature of this plane is at least a little bit of a mystery. You manage to gain significant ground before they realize what you just did.

It's a good thing, too, since they're significantly faster than you are once they do get into gear. You can't see anything through this chaotic and swarming blackness, but you can feel them - and they're gaining fast. Fast enough to make you worry. You won't make it at this rate.

You do know a few tricks that might work, but none of them are ideal. There's a few wards you could lie down as traps, and hope that the demons manage to not only be affected by them but also slowed up enough to give you time to escape.

Although you do know a few ways to make yourself faster, only the most drastic ones will work on this plane. You'll be hurting for days from the sorts of sacrifices that they require.

[ ] Trust in your luck, and hope that the wards work.
[ ] Go for the sure option. You'll deal with the consequences.
>> No. 44897
[x] Trust in your luck, and hope that the wards work.
>> No. 44902
[x] Trust in your luck, and hope that the wards work.

Jack does not need crippling injuries at such a critical time.
>> No. 44924
[ ] Go for the sure option. You'll deal with the consequences.

I think pushing our luck is a really BAD idea at this stage.
>> No. 44931
[x] Trust in your luck, and hope that the wards work.

all or nothing, the surefire option will leave us hurting for days, which is time we don't have.
>> No. 44946
[x] Trust in your luck, and hope that the wards work.
>> No. 44949
[x] Trust in your luck, and hope that the wards work.
[ ] Go for the sure option. You'll deal with the consequences.

... well, you'll give the wards a shot. You aren't quite desperate enough for the alternative.

It's difficult to prepare them while moving, and without anything concrete to place them on, but you manage something passable. It should work if they're following at a sane course.

You continue your flight through the shadows, waiting for some kind of reaction from them. It does come, eventually, in the form of a feeling of slight relief. You've got one of them incapacitated for maybe thirty seconds - more than enough time.

The other one doesn't stop, however, and you get the feeling that the same trick won't work twice. Why don't you feel the sense of dread that you should? This should be incredibly disconcerting, but...

... hmm. Seems that you weren't the only one throwing down wards. Someone had the foresight to ward the exit, although this energy isn't Makoto's. If you can just make it there, you can-

“Hello, Jack.”

To your left, you hear a voice that you had hoped to never hear again. Looks like you caught the younger of the two sisters. Although you can't see the one next to you through the primordial shadows that you're traveling through, there's no mistaking that cool voice. It sends a shiver down your spine.

“Crossing us wasn't wise. I also don't take kindly to humans attacking my sister.”

She seems interested in talking, so... maybe you can use her gloating to your advantage. You swallow the lump in your throat, and manage a response. A calm one, surprisingly.

“That last one was self defense, and I did do my best to uphold our deal,” You say, “It wasn't my fault that you couldn't have your feast.”

“Hmm,” She laughs, “No, you didn't do everything you could have. And you will answer for it.”

Just a little further. “Perhaps. Not right now, though. Did you know that I'm about to escape?”

Again, she laughs that cool laugh. “And just how do you plan to do that?”

Good. She thinks that she's already won - and you can use that. “The exit is just ahead, you know. My friends left a few things to show me the way.”

“I'll rip you apart before you can leave,” She says, equally calm, “No, perhaps I'll just eat most of your spirit, but leave your mind. Forcing you to watch us kill everyone you love... that would be delicious.”

There it is - you just need to go up, through the ground and into the sky. You do so. “Well, goodbye. I'm sure we'll meet again.”

“I suppose we've played around enough,” She says, “Then, l---”

As you both leave the ground, her voice cuts out suddenly as she freezes half-way through. Ah, Patchouli. That's who's energy that is. You'll need to give her a huge thanks when you return. As you head off into the sky, following the thin thread of energy that Makoto left, you wonder how she managed to get it here.

The thread leads you beyond the sky, and out into an even more empty space than the one you were just in. Not even shadows reside in this suffocating emptiness. Aside from the strand of energy, there's absolutely nothing - and you get the feeling that if you stray from it for even a moment, you'll be immediately lost forever. The thread seems to have its own pull, however, and you feel as if you won't be able to get lost unless you try.

... which might be advantageous. By existing in this void between things that exist, you're like a new star in the sky to anyone who pays attention to that sort of thing. Very obvious, and if you come crashing down into the physical plane... well, any demon would instantly know where you were.

Drifting would be much slower, though. Time is very odd here, and your passive sense tells you that you would arrive before tomorrow, but beyond that you have no idea.

[ ] Drift. As long as you're home in time for the big finale, that's all you care about.
[ ] Split up the time. Maybe they won't notice if you're not as bright, and blinking in and out.
[ ] You need to arrive quickly. There's still things that need to be taken care of.
================================================
Sorry about not managing my double updates. From now on, I won't say that I'll do one unless I'm absolutely sure.
>> No. 44950
[x] Drift. As long as you're home in time for the big finale, that's all you care about.

I'd rather not risk doing anything fancy.
>> No. 44951
[x] Split up the time. Maybe they won't notice if you're not as bright, and blinking in and out.

The timeskip option is tempting, but so is showing the demons his location. I'll take the middle road.
>> No. 44958
[ ] Drift. As long as you're home in time for the big finale, that's all you care about.
>> No. 45004
[x] Drift. As long as you're home in time for the big finale, that's all you care about.

You'd rather not risk it. Even arriving tomorrow would have its advantages - by then, it won't really matter if the demons know where you're camping out. Riding this out may be for the best. So, you close your eyes. Close your mind. It isn't long before the void overtakes you, and you drift into a calm sleep.

---It's still dark when you wake. Dark, but substantially more real than that... whatever that was. Was that a dream? Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference. All of your selves are like dreams to the others.

Regardless, you're here now. Judging by the light from a nearby window - or rather, the lack of it - it's probably pretty late or really early. Not really a good time to wake up, but your body had been asleep a good portion of yesterday. Somehow, you feel as if trying to get any more would be detrimental.

You seem to have awoken at the inn, probably in the same place that you woke up the previous afternoon. It certainly looks the same. There isn't any light peeking out from under the door, either, but... ah, good. There's a few candlesticks and matches in the nightstand drawer.

After acquiring some light, you head out into the hall. No use sleeping now. The hallway isn't lit, either, although there is a faint glow coming from the staircase - it must be really late if they've snubbed all the lamps up here. Or, maybe they're conserving fuel.

Although you aren't sure who, it's probably someone you know burning the midnight oil downstairs. Worth a look, anyway. If you're not going to be sleeping, you should be pouring over something. Yukari has probably lived up to her end of the bargain by now, and you're sure that the scouts from the main force haven't been slacking either.

Indeed, the light from downstairs is coming from the meeting room from earlier. There's a single lamp burning there, for a single magician. Maybe everyone else is asleep. It wouldn't be odd at all if that were the case.

“'Evening. Or should I say 'morning?”

Patchouli doesn't bother looking up from whatever book she has currently. “The latter.”

“I see.”

“I am surprised to see you alive,” She says, somewhat plainly. “Makoto has done well.”

Must not have been a dream, then. “His path got me out, but I never would have been able to take it if your ward hadn't been there. You have my eternal thanks.”

“It worked against them?”

“I didn't stick around to see how effective it was, but it did for at least a few seconds against the older one.”

“Interesting.”

She flips a page, seemingly uninterested in further conversation. You're afraid you can't let her be in peace just yet, though.

“Anything I should be reading?”

“Your payment,” She says, motioning to some charts and tables that you don't recognize. “And an agreement.”

The payment can wait - you already know what that is about. You instantly move towards the second item.

“Agreement?”

She doesn't respond immediately, so you begin to glance over the wording. It's obviously been drawn up by a lawyer of some kind - that seal on the bottom makes it obvious, and the words are densely packed. It's impossible to just scan and get anything meaningful.

“Terms of service,” She finally responds, “For two of the six major tengu clans.”

“It's unsigned.”

“Yes.”

A document like this doesn't become legal until it's signed, and you doubt that the messenger showed up recently, so... they're waiting on something. You begin reading.

It's a contract to make some formal demands of the Guild. Although the 'Guildmaster's' letter was of dubious legal value, this one would be binding if signed. In it, there is a detailed request for a very large list of exiled and denied youkai - youkai who can't enter the capital for whatever reason - to be admitted into the city.

“These are their terms?”

“Yes.”

“They're rather dubious.”

She nods. “I agree.”

The contract goes on to ask for a 'Guild-free' sector of the city as well, a portion that will be governed by youkai as a town outside the walls would be governed by the local mayor. They want a few districts - probably around 5% or something of the walled area of the city.

“... and this part is completely ridiculous.”

“Yes.”

“You haven't torn this thing up yet?”

“It was not my place.”

... they're specifically asking you to sign it, for whatever reason. You have no authority to sign something like this. Why would they...?

No, you suppose that you could sign something like this if you actually had the authority to deliver the message that you delivered earlier. Are they calling your bluff? Signing something like this would land you in prison for fraud for years, if not most of your life.

“I can't believe that Alice or Marisa wouldn't have just told the messenger off.”

“I withheld it from them.”

“... why?”

She flips another page. “It was not their place.”

You can practically see that old tengu's smug look as he wrote this thing. Although no clans are specifically named, there's no doubt in your mind that he's one of the ones resisting.

“Do we know how large these two families are?”

“If the messenger is to be trusted, forty percent.”

You sigh, your eyes wandering to the other document destined for you. Well, you guess you do have what you need to make this decision.

“Is the messenger gone?”

“Yes. She will return at dawn.”

You might get some room to haggle then, but probably not much. This feels more like an ultimatum than a deal.

[ ] Check your other documents and carefully weigh the decision. Although the deal is absurd, it may be necessary.
[ ] That's fine. You've already made up your mind.
- [ ] This is absurd. Maybe Toshi and Yoshiro will pull some like-minded tengu to your side - Toshi, at least, seems willing to help.
- [ ] You have no choice. Pray that Yagokoro can come up with something to make this work.
>> No. 45005
[x] Check your other documents and carefully weigh the decision. Although the deal is absurd, it may be necessary.

Ugh. As galling as this is, it would be stupid to make a decision without checking our hard-won data.
>> No. 45016
[x] Check your other documents and carefully weigh the decision. Although the deal is absurd, it may be necessary.

I'll let him decide, because he has more information available. If it were for me... well, losing 5% of something is better than losing it 100%... and if it helps us use the Tengu for the entirety of the war...

It really depends on the terms on their side.
>> No. 45020
[x] Check your other documents and carefully weigh the decision. Although the deal is absurd, it may be necessary.
>> No. 45062
Sorry, I wasn't able to check votes last night. I'll update when I get home.
>> No. 45095
[x] Check your other documents and carefully weigh the decision. Although the deal is absurd, it may be necessary.

“... I guess I have until then to decide,” You mutter, taking a glance at the rest of the material on the table. “How much of this is strategically useful?”

Patchouli pauses, and actually shuts her book for the moment. She sets it aside, and begins pointing to piles.

“All of these,” She says, brushing a few piles in your direction. “Are numbers and positions. These are topographical maps. These are abilities.”

It's a huge amount of data, you realize, once she gets done pushing it all in your direction. The fact that they've managed to compile all of this makes you feel a bit better about the whole thing. The information that you bargained for makes up a fair portion of the 'numbers and positions' pile, and that seems to be as good of a place to start as any.

Still, before you get started, there's still something you need to ask. “Was anyone else hurt?”

“Makoto,” She says, “That was before your incident, however.”

A huge relief, that. At least the only thing you lost there was time. Much, much better than letting a scout return to Makai.

As for the documents, they're meticulously written - all the demons are divided into fairly fine-grain 'strength classes', ranging from 'human' to 'Shinki', the whole thing sort of reminding you of a merchant's log book. It's everything you asked for - no more, and no less - but the package that it's in is perfectly easy for you to understand. You couldn't have asked for more.

This... is worth a whole lot, you realize. With what you gather about the rules that Yukari and Shinki are playing by, that realization makes you a tinge uneasy. Makai now has something of similar value. You really do need to make the most of this thing.

“You did, uh... share this, right?” You muse, thinking back to the agreement lying on the table.

Patchouli, back to her reading by now, just gives a nod. Good. Then it's on you to do your most with this. Right now, that includes either accepting or declining the the deal that those two families offered.

...

By the time you feel ready for a quick break, you notice that the adjoining room is beginning to lighten up a bit. Dawn, or at least the makings of one.

You're nowhere near done going through all this information. You did start somewhere near the lower middle - what Tengu would be the equivalent of - and branched out from there, but you've probably only covered half of this with all the cross-referencing of abilities that you've been doing. Yukari's document is without positions and plans as per the deal, so you've been trying to match up groups with what you've been given.

Although you haven't gotten through it all, you can safely say that the tengu would help. A big help, actually - the demons are fairly numerous, and as it stands the Guild is sorely lacking in numbers. Even weak beings can be strong when in a mob.

You're not sure of the actual numbers of the youkai in the city, though, so that will be something to ask the messenger when they arrive. It's impossible to tell from just this right now. Well, sort of. Maybe you can glean something from the maps and abilities...

... later, that is. You need to take a break to absorb some of this. So, you stand up.

Patchouli pays you no heed. You wonder if anyone else is waking up around this time? Although you didn't give that document a full read, the main group apparently came up with the drop time of Yagokoro's barrier - it'll cease operation exactly at noon, and the assault will start shortly after that.

After, because they want to let the excitement caused by the center of the city suddenly fighting back to cover their advance. Your group - both those of you here and the ones you'll be leading in the city - are expected to do your part in causing inner-city chaos.

You give your head a good shake. Too much information for right now, though. You need to step out.

As you leave the inn, you notice two tengu sitting on the porch. Toshi and Yoshiro. They seem very alert, with Toshi giving you a nod as you step out. You return it.

Yoshiro looks fine, now, and Toshi's wound seems to be completely closed. Good, good. Aside from Youmu, these two are the ones here that you'd pick to stand watch for something suspicious. You wonder how long they've been out here. Maybe they're like you, and just tired of sleeping all the time.

Either way, you leave them be. They look like they don't really want to be distracted, and you don't really want that either. You step out into the empty street, content with taking your walk through the pre-dawn alone.

It really is a nice night outside. Although the world is starting to feel the effects of the sun again, it's still very minor. The moon has already disappeared, leaving only the brighter stars to watch over you. It's very peaceful, completely at odds with how the rest of the day will be.

You can take this one slowly.

“Jack.”

About ten minutes into your walk, you're interrupted by... ah, Alice. She was awake at this hour yesterday, wasn't she? Perhaps she's like Patchouli in that regard.

“Good morning. What brings you here?”

“I saw you leave through my window,” She says, “I've been going over my own notes upstairs. What brings you here?”

“Nothing shady,” You say, sensing a bit of accusation in that, “Couldn't sleep any longer, so I've been pouring over our new intel for a few hours now. I just needed a break.”

“It is fairly...” She pauses for a moment. “... dense, isn't it?”

“There's a lot of substance there,” You nod, “Absolutely nothing to skim.”

“Your deal seems to have turned out well for us.”

You just shake your head at that. “Maybe. We'll have to see how much use we can make of it.”

“The main group has been using it heavily,” She nods, “Although, they were a little suspicious of where we got it from.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I told them that that information was for the Guildmaster only. They seemed to accept that.”

“I see.”

The two of you continue to walk. Although you're a little put off by your walk being disturbed, you guess this isn't too bad, but it is a little more awkward than walking alone. You two have very different philosophies, and having you both have authority... well, it's only natural for there to be some tension.

[ ] May as well address it now. Work out some clear guidelines on who is responsible for what.
[ ] Try to explain the importance of not making any deals with demons. Not these ones, anyway.
[ ] Shrug it off. As long as she isn't directly vetoing your decisions, it's fine.
>> No. 45097
[x] Try to explain the importance of not making any deals with demons. Not these ones, anyway.

This is something Alice should know, I think.
>> No. 45098
[x] May as well address it now. Work out some clear guidelines on who is responsible for what.
>> No. 45101
[x] Shrug it off. As long as she isn't directly vetoing your decisions, it's fine.

Jack is a Bad Leader.
>> No. 45110
[ ] Try to explain the importance of not making any deals with demons. Not these ones, anyway.
>> No. 45111
[X] May as well address it now. Work out some clear guidelines on who is responsible for what.

Better to do this now than in the middle of a battle.
>> No. 45119
[X] May as well address it now. Work out some clear guidelines on who is responsible for what.

Hammer the details out before things explode around Jack.
>> No. 45219
>>45208

>[] It would be nice to taste Reimu's cooking as well

huh?
>> No. 45231
So, a pretty serious storm blew up my internet last night, and I wasn't able to check votes until just now. I'll update tomorrow. Sorry about the delay.
>> No. 45258
Well, a status update, anyway.

I spent the early part of today trying to fill in holes in my outline, and found more than I thought I would. I'd rather get this right than try to patch it later, so I'll have to delay again until tomorrow. Again, sorry for being so slow.
>> No. 45259
You aren't slow by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe your story is. A little.
>> No. 45336
I have no excuse, but nothing today either. Definitely an update tomorrow.
>> No. 45386
[x] May as well address it now. Work out some clear guidelines on who is responsible for what.

... and that, that is something that you'd like to get rid of if at all possible. Soon, too - it already caused some issues yesterday. Although the assault is planned for later, there's always a chance something might happen before then.

“I've been thinking,” You say, trying your best to segue into the topic, “I don't know if our current system is going to work.”

“For what?”

“Leadership,” You say, shrugging, “Yesterday was not so great.”

“I agree,” She nods, as you both continue walking, “Things get messy when the commander is ethereal.”

You laugh a little. “That demon was plotting to deliver me to it's masters from the moment it snatched me up,” You say, “It wasn't going to let me go.”

“It would have,” She says, “Or it wouldn't have left.”

“You would have let it go if it did?”

“Perhaps,” She says, “We didn't get that far. You are more valuable than our location, in either case.”

You're not sure you agree with that. “Why?”

“I'm not sure why,” She admits, “But you seem to be a major player in all of this. Is it true that the demons Gengetsu and Mugetsu were specifically looking for you?”

“They found me, actually,” You say, “But it's just a coincidental grudge.”

“I might believe that,” She says, “Were it not for Yukari Yakumo's involvement. A being like that does not make deals on a whim.”

You... well, logically, you can't really argue against that. You doubt that your second message will be a simple delivery, either. She probably does have something planned - and you doubt that anything good would come from you breaking your deal via death.

“In either case,” She says, “Yes, we should work something out. What do you suggest?”

“We should have some well-defined priorities,” You say, “And roles.”

“What do you suggest?”

[ ] You'll lead the local resistance, while she handles all Mage-related affairs. An even split.
[ ] One of you should have precedence over the other. Namely, you.
[ ] One of you should have precedence over the other. Namely, her.
>> No. 45388
[ ] One of you should have precedence over the other. Namely, you.

Now go make me a sandwhich.
>> No. 45390
[x] You'll lead the local resistance, while she handles all Mage-related affairs. An even split.
>> No. 45391
[x] You'll lead the local resistance, while she handles all Mage-related affairs. An even split.

Alice doesn't seem like she'd really screw things up.
>> No. 45392
[ ] One of you should have precedence over the other. Namely, her.

Pissing against the tide.
>> No. 45393
[X] You'll lead the local resistance, while she handles all Mage-related affairs. An even split.

This seems like a fair deal. She is the ortodox side of the guild, leading the magelings, while our MC is the wild card, leading the backbone of the army: the resistance.
>> No. 45415
[x] You'll lead the local resistance, she handles the mages.
>> No. 45416
[x] One of you should have precedence over the other. Namely, her.

Jack killed Flandre. Bad leader. No huge responsibility for you.
>> No. 45423
>>45416
That has to be the most asinine reasoning I've heard in the past two months.
>> No. 45426
>>45423
What? That's not real reasoning. It's just some bullshit I tossed out to accompany picking the non-leadership choice. Again.
>> No. 45427
[ ] One of you should have precedence over the other. Namely, you.

Everybody knows the protagonists end up leading everyone else.

Plus, since the Resistance should probably more inclined to listen to Jack, him having control over both groups should make it easier to plan things and coordinate battles.
>> No. 45429
[x] You'll lead the local resistance, while she handles all Mage-related affairs. An even split.
>> No. 45459
Update started, but it's getting late so I won't be able to finish tonight. I'll post it tomorrow.
>> No. 45494
[x] You'll lead the local resistance, while she handles all Mage-related affairs. An even split.

“An even split,” You say, “I'll lead of the local resistance, and you'll deal with the all Mage-related affairs.”

She gives you a small nod in response. “You mean lead the current Guild members here?”

“Yeah,” You nod, “That way, things should be much smoother.”

“That is acceptable,” She says, “I was going to suggest something like that myself.”

“We'll still need to work together on some things,” You say, “Like, for instance, those plans that are sitting in the meeting room. After my walk, anyway.”

“Yes, our orders... they're fairly vague, aren't they?”

You shrug. “I prefer it that way. We have a job to do, but how we do it is up to us.”

“Very Guild-like, yes,” She agrees, “I also prefer them that way.”

You've got nothing more to say, and for a while, neither does she. You both fall silent as you focus more on the sky than the person to your side. Eventually though, after a few blocks, she speaks up again.

“Did you see the message that the resistance delivered for you?”

You nod. “I've been trying to work out the numbers in my head, but I just don't know. I got the feeling that there were a lot of faces that I couldn't see while I was there.”

“Hmm,” She muses, “Patchouli was right, then. It was something you actually needed to consider.”

“I really do want to just throw it out,” You shrug, “But I don't know if I can.”

“I get the feeling that they know that, too.”

You nod. “Yeah. I get the feeling that this guy is holding a personal grudge.”

She laughs a little. “I asked Yoshiro about it, actually. I can see why he would.”

You both leave it at that.

It's still not a problem that you can solve now, but... temporarily dancing around the topic seems to have given you a new outlook. It might be possible to solve the problem with just what you know, or at least make it solved enough that the messenger can quickly fill in the blanks.

“Ah... this has been a good walk,” You say, “I think I have something.”

“Oh?”

“I'll show you when we get back.”

You loop back around at the next block, heading back to the inn albeit along another street. Yes, this might actually work. By the time you actually spot your two guards camped outside your destination, you're all ready to get back to work.

It doesn't work quite as well as it does in your head, but using the huge map of the city that you have and some tokens, you manage to get some spatial groupings on what you saw in that warehouse. How large a group of n tengu would actually take up, or a group of x demons. Enough to gauge what sorts of numbers would lead to what.

Alice decides to move her operation downstairs as well - however, she mostly leaves you to your work. It wouldn't make much sense to do until you know how large your force is going to be, anyway. Instead, you all work on your own projects.

It seems like, unless there were an absolutely unreasonable number of tengu hiding away somewhere, you won't really have enough for an open confrontation... well, anywhere. Ambushing smaller groups, yes, but numbers wise you'll almost certainly lose any larger battles.

Which is about as expected, really. If they had the numbers for something larger, they would have already tried it.

So, in the end, it really comes down to how much area you think you'll need to strike at randomly. For the purpose of causing chaos, more area is always better - whether or not 40% more would be worth those ridiculous, though...

... hmm. You set to work on some scenarios where it might be helpful, given the numbers you have.

This takes well into dawn. Before you can come up with anything very useful, you hear the door leading into the inn creak open and then shut.

“Hello?”

Definitely not a voice you recognize. Female, but other than that you can't get much from it.

Alice looks up from whatever document she has sitting in front of her at the moment. “Hmm. Is that that messenger from before?”

Patchouli doesn't bother to look up. “Most likely.”

“Oh, here you are. Good morning, good morning!”

The voice, much closer now, makes you turn around. There is indeed a tengu - crow, judging by the wings - standing there in the doorway. She sounds way too cheerful to have just come from the capital, but whatever.

“Oh, it is.”

“Yes.”

“Is this Jack?” She asks, walking over to you without even waiting for an answer. “Nice to meet you. I'm Aya Shamemeiru. Tenma's messenger? They did tell you about the message, right?”

You're a little overwhelmed with her energy after being in this quiet room for so long. “Uh... actually, I was just working on my answer.”

She nods, looking over your shoulder at the map on the table. “Oh, I see. Guess I should expect that with a tactician. So, you're still working on it?”

“Actually,” You say, “I was hoping that you could give me some more accurate numbers on what our forces look like.”

“Oh, sure,” She says, “No problem. What do you need?”

She's either making up the numbers she gives you, or her memory is surprisingly accurate. Either way, you have something better to work with.

“Do you mind waiting for a few minutes while I work this out?”

“No,” She says, “No problem. I need a rest, anyway. It's so much work to get out of the city now.”

“Alright. It shouldn't take long.”

You redo your math, now with some actual numbers to use. It's... actually quite a bit better than your best estimate. Still not enough for an open conflict, obviously, but big enough to the point where a 40% increase would be significant.

After crunching your numbers, you lean back in your chair. It's really up in the air whether or not you should take this. Although you could probably serve your function without it, it would be a great boon.

[ ] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.
[ ] It's not worth the ridiculous terms set forth. You'll manage without them.
================================================
At the rate I'm updating lately, I wouldn't expect anything tomorrow either. I'll have one on saturday for you all.
>> No. 45496
[x] The extra numbers etc
We will likely be punished by the guild for overstepping our authority, but at this point thats small potatoes.

We are being offered assistance in a do or die situation, and at no immediate cost.

This could even open the door to better Human/Youkai relations after the war.
>> No. 45497
[x] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.

I'm with >>45496 in reasoning as I could see this forcing open the door to better relations
>> No. 45498
[x] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.

Could open the door to worse relations as well. But that's outside the scope of this story (probably?) so my ability to give a shit is severely hampered.
>> No. 45500
If Aya is his crony, I'd bend over for her anytime. despite having seen her speak four lines in this story
>> No. 45501
[X] It's not worth the ridiculous terms set forth. You'll manage without them.

If they don't want to get off their lazy asses to help, more power to us when we clean house on our own.
>> No. 45503
[ ] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.

That's a lot.
>> No. 45504
>>45501
They don't have much incentive to help normally, being on the receiving end of discrimination from the city/guild.
>> No. 45506
[x] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.

Agreeing with >>45496 and >>45497's reasoning.

Unrelated to the vote, but I hope we cam interact more with Aya.
>> No. 45508
[x] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.
AS long as they stay loyal, there should be no problem.
>> No. 45510
[x] It's not worth the ridiculous terms set forth. You'll manage without them.

I'm all for improving youkai/human relations, but this seems mighty extreme.
>> No. 45512
[x] It's not worth the ridiculous terms set forth. You'll manage without them.

Nope,tell tenma to stop fucking around.
>> No. 45513
>>45511
You don't think they're justified in their demands? If our luck is bad or if Jack turns it down badly, they'd leave the fighting to the city's forces and then take over when they're wiped out.
>> No. 45514
[x] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.
>> No. 45515
[x] It's not worth the ridiculous terms set forth. You'll manage without them.

I can understand having their own city, they're oppressed and all, but those youkai were banished for a reason. Sure, some of them are probably just banished for political reasons, but some of them would be the slashmaimkilleat kind of youkai. A reveiw of their cases would be acceptable, but not this travesty of a treaty.
>> No. 45517
[x] It's not worth the ridiculous terms set forth. You'll manage without them.
>> No. 45518
This story was getting 3 votes per update a short while ago. What the fuck is up with these numbers?
>> No. 45519
>>45518
My best guess is in addition to a close vote, anti-youkai elements might be acting up.
>> No. 45521
[x] The extra numbers will come in handy. You don't have the luxury of rejecting this.

“... fine.”

You really don't have the luxury of rejecting this. Were it only a few tengu, you might reject it - a 40% increase wouldn't mean much in that case - but, now, it's too significant to pass up. You need to do this.

Aya perks up. “Hmm?”

“Tell your Lord Tenma that I'll take his deal,” You say, “I accept the terms put forth in this message.”

That causes Alice to look up, although Patchouli seems like she couldn't care less. Neither of them speak up about it, though.

“Really?” She asks, “I mean, that's great! Just sign that document, and I'll take it back with me. We'll be ready to fight with you.”

You take a look at it again. It does look like it'll be broken if any of the forces withdraw early, by the wording. You'll have them for the duration of this battle... in theory. Although, you can't see them willing to make any sacrifices on your behalf. The fact that his pride prevented him from joining you in the first place isn't good.

Still, you're committed now. You borrow a nearby pen, and write your name neatly on the bottom. After letting the ink dry for a few moments, you hand it to the tengu hovering over your shoulder.

“Here,” You say, handing off the message, “Oh, and give your Lord Tenma this message: 'Well played'.”

“Yeah,” She says, “I probably shouldn't say this, but from what I overheard he really wants to stick it to you. It's kind of a bad deal, isn't it?”

“Really bad,” You agree, “But that doesn't matter, given the circumstances.”

“Right. Well, I'll get back to the city with these,” She says, before suddenly turning to Alice. “Oh, right. Do you know what the plans are for today yet?”

“Ah, yes,” Alice says, “You did want those too, didn't you?”

“Yuugi's looking for them,” Aya nods, “We still have to do some stuff on our end to get ready for all this.”

“Let me copy them quickly,” Alice nods, setting her grimoir aside, “Patchouli, would you mind helping me?” You're much quicker than I.”

Patchouli nods, but waits a few moments before setting her book aside. “What shall we give them?”

Alice pauses, looking over the table. “Probably just these,” She says, motioning to the general outline and scouting reports that you saw earlier. “Encoded, of course.”

“Of course.”

Aya laughs, backing up towards her seat. “Well, I guess I'm not leaving just yet. Not that I'm complaining.”

You shrug. “Guess not. On top of this, add that we'll be meeting at the warehouse.”

Pulling out a small notebook from a pouch at her side, she sets to writing that down. “Right.”

Aya isn't kept waiting long. It only takes perhaps five minutes for those two to skillfully transcribe nearly thirty pages of material. It's an illegible mess when they're done, being coded as it is.

“Well,” Aya says, taking the finished documents in hand. “I guess I'll see you all later, huh?”

“Me, at least,” You say, “I don't know how closely we'll be working with the Guild.”

Aya perks up a bit at that. “Oh?”

“We may have our own objectives,” Alice clarifies, “So we may not be with you.”

“Oh, I see,” Aya nods, “Well, I guess I'll get them that too.”

As she goes to leave, though, she stops again. “Oh, right, one last thing,” She says, turning around, “Are you going to need an escort into the city?”

You shake your head. “I've already got one.”

“I heard it didn't go so well last time, though,” She says, “So I was told to offer you one. You sure?”

“We'll be moving into the city as a group,” Alice says, “And we're already rather large. More would just be a burden.”

You nod. “That's what I was thinking. We're already going to have a hard time sneaking in.”

“All right,” Aya nods, “I guess I'll be off, then. I think that's everything.”

She doesn't turn around after leaving this time, so you suppose it is.

“... well,” You say to Alice, “I can't say that I expected someone like that as their messenger.”

“She's very fast,” Alice nods, “It would make sense if you watched her leave.”

“I'll take your word for it,” You say, settling back down into your chair. There's still a lot of planning to be done, now that you know what you're working with.

It's another hour or so before the silence of the war room is broken again. This time, it's by Toshi.

“They are here.”

No one needs clarification on what “they” he means, you can see, by looking around the room. It's even enough to catch Patchouli's attention.

“Now?”

“Within a few minutes. They are marching up the road.”

“How many?”

“Enough.”

“Damn it,” Alice mutters, jumping into action. “I'll wake the others. Someone secure all of this.”

Before you can say much, she's already gone.

“I can do this,” Patchouli says. She doesn't quite leap like Alice does, but her and her koakuma move faster than they usually do. “My pocket dimension will suffice.”

[ ] You'll set to warning the townspeople. Grab Toshi and Yoshiro to help.
[ ] You'll see about planning an escape route. Find a bell tower to climb and see where they aren't coming from.
[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 45522
[x] You'll see about planning an escape route. Find a bell tower to climb and see where they aren't coming from.

Picking this purely because being high up in a tower sounds like the opposite of an escape route.
>> No. 45523
[x] You'll set to warning the townspeople. Grab Toshi and Yoshiro to help.
>> No. 45525
[x] You'll set to warning the townspeople. Grab Toshi and Yoshiro to help.
This shouldn't even need justification.
>> No. 45526
[x] You'll set to warning the townspeople. Grab Toshi and Yoshiro to help.

>>45522
Convincing though your argument may be.
>> No. 45611
I'm sure that you're sick of hearing this by now, but I'll update tomorrow. Kind of in a funk lately for some reason, so planning is taking really long.
>> No. 45644
[x] You'll set to warning the townspeople. Grab Toshi and Yoshiro to help.

“We'll need to help warn the townspeople,” you say, quickly making your way out of the war room. Toshi follows dilligently after you. “Are the guard already on it?”

“They seem to be confident in their defense,” He says, “So, no.”

You make your way outside, where you see Yoshiro listening intently to something you can't hear. “I'll speak with them,” You say, realizing that you won't be nearly as fast as two tengu. Talking to some guards would be easier than going door-to-door. “You two, do what you can to warn the people.”

“Where shall they go?”

It's a good question. The next town along the north road is probably twenty or so miles away - and, really, aside from heading straight towards the burning capital, it's the only viable option for a large group of people. Probably not enough time to get a train ready to head north, either, judging by the state of the yard from yesterday.

“Send them north. Ask that anyone with a carriage lend a hand, and join up with Alice and the others if I'm not back when you leave.”

It's not ideal, but it's pretty much the only option they have. Aside from burning and being eaten, you suppose.

The two tengu give each other a nod, and take off towards the more residential parts of town. You head towards the south gate as quickly as you can.

By the time you arrive, it's pretty obvious that something is going on. Although the guard here isn't as well equipped as the guard in the city usually was, they're clearly not just a bunch of farmers or whatever. You get the feeling that most of them have some good training, and their equipment isn't terrible by any means.

It's difficult to pinpoint a leader amongst all the archers and spearmen, but you do finally notice one man running back and forth talking to various groups of individuals. He looks to be in charge, so you head over in his direction.

“Do you hear me?”

“Aye, sir!”

As he goes to move again, you lock eyes with him. It causes him to pause long enough to notice your badge.

“Come to help, Mage?” He asks, “Perfect timing. We've got a small group coming in.”

“Small?” Odd. That's not what the tengu noticed. You head up the wooden ramp, up to the platform behind the wall, to see for yourself.

Initially, you'd agree with them. There's only fifteen or twenty demons, against perhaps sixty guardsmen. However, with a closer look, the grass surrounding the road... is behaving oddly. As if something invisible, or rather a few dozen invisible things, are walking through it. It's also sizzling a bit, turning slightly brown as the demons advance.

More worrying, you think you recognize two of those demons. They're just like they looked when Patchouli summoned them up, with their horns and black eyes. Why they'd wait until now to come here, you don't know - but seeing them definitely isn't a good thing. There is no way they can win this fight. Running back down the ramp, you see the commander waiting expectantly on you.

“You need to evacuate who you can,” You say, “This battle is already lost.”

He shakes his head. “We've got some fine men here, and we're more than able to---”

There's a loud crash against the gates to the town.

“--- hold that few of them at bay.”

“No,” You say, “Most of them aren't visible, and two of them are arch demons.”

He frowns a bit at that. “Oh?”

Another crash.

“I'm telling you,” You say, “You need to grab who you can and go! We've already started warning people in the north part of town.”

He frowns, again looking towards your badge - as if he's basing his decision on that alone. A third crash, this one accompanied by the sound of the gate creaking under the stress, forces a decision from him.

“Everyone! We're evacuating! Warn who you can, and meet at the north gate!”

The order spreads quickly, causing the archers to stop firing and leave their position. Not long after that, the gate simply explodes. The logs splinter into fragments, like some kind of bomb, sending huge chunks wooden shrapnel through those unfortunate enough to be standing directly in front of the thing.

“Shit!”

The whole scene breaks into chaos, with people scrambling in every direction. People in nearby houses, too, peek their heads out for a look - and promptly run out of the house screaming. The demons seem to be getting a kick out of it, though, judging by their laughing.

However, you don't really feel a need to stick around here. You head back to the inn as fast as your legs will carry you.

Everyone is waiting outside by the time you get there, aside from Toshi and Yoshiro, everyone with a bag filled with supplies.

“There he is!”

Nitori is the first one to notice you. She's looking well - much better than yesterday. Well, aside from being completely wound up by the current events.

“Shall we leave, then?” Alice asks. She's trying to put on a cool facade, but it's not exactly working.

Although the two tengu aren't back, you're confident that they'll be able to track and find you. They're well known for that ability. “They just broke through the south gate,” You say, “East or west?”

“Why not south?” Marisa asks, “We're heading into the city anyway - may as well save ourselves some time. We'll just go around.”

[ ] West. You wouldn't mind meeting up with the main group.
[ ] East. Sometimes, having nothing of importance nearby is a good thing.
[ ] South. It's quite the hike, anyway - may as well get it over with now.
>> No. 45653
[x] West. You wouldn't mind meeting up with the main group.
>> No. 45657
[x] East. Sometimes, having nothing of importance nearby is a good thing.

We know at least some demons are personally after Jack. Perhaps he can lead them away.
>> No. 45661
[ ] South. It's quite the hike, anyway - may as well get it over with now.
>> No. 45670
[x] West. You wouldn't mind meeting up with the main group.

Strength in numbers.
>> No. 45746
I think that I just need a short break. So, I'm going to take one - I'll resume this on Sunday. I have some vacation next week, so assuming I get back into my groove I should be able to work quite a bit on this.

Oh, and I haven't started writing, so feel free to keep voting.
>> No. 45766
>>45746
Hope you feel better after your break. Waiting warmly.

[x] West. You wouldn't mind meeting up with the main group.
>> No. 45767
[ ] East. Sometimes, having nothing of importance nearby is a good thing.
>> No. 45805
[x] West. You wouldn't mind meeting up with the main group.

Technically, you're not the one making this decision - your units are elsewhere. For now, you're just tagging along. That doesn't mean you can't give your own input, though.

“How about west? I wouldn't mind meeting up with the main group.”

Alice takes a few seconds to ponder it. A loud crash, like a thunderbolt, snaps her out of it. The sound comes from near the south gate, probably, but it's a good reminder that there isn't much time.

“West,” She says, “We're going west. They wouldn't have the strength to take on all of us if we make it there.”

“That's fine too,” Marisa says, “Let's just get the hell out of here.”

Alice nods. “Agreed.”

The going is a little slow, due to the two younger mages, but you all manage to make your way to the north gate with fairly decent speed. It's quite the chaotic scene - you can see that Toshi and Yoshiro were able to warn quite a number of people, and they're all eager to leave right now.

“Did you do this?” Alice asks.

“The tengu did,” You say, scanning the faces for sight of them. “I don't see them, though.”

“Hmm.”

You told them to meet you back at the inn, but... well, this situation went south fairly quickly. That isn't going to happen now, you don't think.

“Well,” Alice says briskly, “We don't have time to wait. We need to be over that hill before the demons start looking west.”

That's very true. It wouldn't end well if they spotted you hiking over that relatively open space. You wouldn't be surprised to see those two demons take off the top of the hill outright if they caught someone trying to escape.

[ ] You'll catch up with Alice's group later, then. You can't just leave them.
[ ] They're smart. You have faith that they'll make it back to the city on their own.
================================================
A bit short, but I wasn't thinking properly when I made the last vote. Things should be back to daily updates now.
>> No. 45807
[x] You'll catch up with Alice's group later, then. You can't just leave them.

It's Risky but it's a sign of faith in them.
>> No. 45809
[x] They're smart. You have faith that they'll make it back to the city on their own.

It's a well-known fact that every person in a crowd adds to the crowd's intelligence. They'll be fine without us.
>> No. 45810
Oh yeah, is Jack supposed to obey Alice's orders? Cause this looks suspiciously like an order to me.
>> No. 45814
>>45810
I thought the agreement was that Jack leaves the mage stuff to her and he handles his side of things.

>>45809
I don't see where you're going with that. Let's hope they don't assume they're being abandoned in such a case. I don't doubt their survival, just their faith in Jack/the agreement after such a thing.
>> No. 45824
>>45814
Jack is a mage. He falls under mage stuff.
>> No. 45835
>>45824
May I ask how you got that logic? Because it's... special.
>> No. 45843
>>45810
Not really. That's why I had two options - one that was definitely that, and one that was sort of to give the two of them each a group to lead. Sorry if the narrative wasn't clear.

Also, I know that I said I'd do daily updates, but I really wouldn't feel right writing with two votes when it's tied like this. I guess I'll flip a coin tomorrow if that's still the case, but for now I'm going to let it ride.
>> No. 45862
[x] You'll catch up with Alice's group later, then. You can't just leave them.
>> No. 45879
[x] You'll catch up with Alice's group later, then. You can't just leave them.

"We'll catch up with you later, then," You say, "It would be hard for you to move undetected, but three of us could probably manage it."

"How about four? ... you don't count."

Ichirin takes a few steps closer to you, relinquishing her position at the very back of the group. Nitori also nods, and steps forward.

"Five? I didn't really get to thank them for yesterday, yet."

Before you can respond, Sakuya speaks up.

"... you make this difficult, Jack."

The maid seems less than pleased, her gaze shifting between you and Marisa in particular. Given her current self-assigned mission, you guess that she's having doubts about what group to go with. It would be hard to protect Patchouli, Marisa, and you if you're not all together.

Alice looks weary at all the help that you're being offered. When she looks to the rest of the group, Marisa just laughs.

"Hey, we're with you," She says, "You're our leader now, right?"

That garners some nods. She must have broken the news to them in the earlier chaos, then. Somehow, you feel a little guilty for sort of handing it off like that, but you guess there was really nothing that you could have done.

"R-right," She says, nodding to herself more than anyone else, "Sakuya, you are free to do as you like. If you think that this is best, Jack, then good luck. The rest of us are going to get moving.”

Sakuya seems to be thinking it over, while you give Alice a nod. “You, too.” Then, to everyone else, you add “All of you, take care.”

They go on their way, everyone giving you their own personal goodbye. There don't seem to be any hard feelings about the leadership decision being made between you and Alice alone. That's not to say that anyone seems particularly happy to see you go, either - Marisa in particular says something that sticks with you.

“Hey,” She says, “Take care, alright?”

It doesn't really feel much like a 'see you later' sort of deal - more like 'maybe we'll meet again'. You guess that that's also a possibility. In a situation like this, there's no telling what will happen - if you'll get to see any of them again before this assault goes down, or at all.

“You, too.”

Although Sakuya hasn't really said her intentions yet, she seems to be hanging a little too close to be going with the mage group.

[ ] Encourage her to go with them. She'll be more trouble than she's worth.
[ ] Let her do as she will. You don't care either way.
[ ] Encourage her to stay with your group. A chronomage would be useful.

Also, choose a wait method:
[ ] Passive. You said you'd meet them back at the inn.
[ ] Active, but cautious. Stick to the safe parts of the city, and don't get too far apart.
[ ] Active. Split up and search.
>> No. 45886
[x] Let her do as she will. You don't care either way.
[x] Active, but cautious. Stick to the safe parts of the city, and don't get too far apart.
>> No. 45890
[x] Encourage her to go with them. She'll be more trouble than she's worth.
[x] Active, but cautious. Stick to the safe parts of the city, and don't get too far apart.

Marisa needs Sakuya's help more. Jack has his plot armor.
>"R-right," She says, nodding to herself more than anyone else,
Poor Alice.
>> No. 45892
[x] Encourage her to stay with your group. A chronomage would be useful.
[x] Active, but cautious. Stick to the safe parts of the city, and don't get too far apart.

The more the merrier~!
>> No. 45900
... tied again.

I'll update twice tomorrow - once when I get up, and once around this time.
>> No. 45904
[x] Let her do as she will. You don't care either way.
[x] Active, but cautious. Stick to the safe parts of the city, and don't get too far apart.
>> No. 45906
[x] Let her do as she will. You don't care either way.

[x] Active, but cautious. Stick to the safe parts of the city, and don't get too far apart.

... well, you don't care either way. She can go where she wishes. Patchouli does have her limiter right now, although she seems to be paused near the gate looking at you two.

“So,” You say, “What will it be?”

She looks to you, and then towards the leaving mages. “I will stay with you,” she says, not bothering to offer a reason.

You look towards Patchouli, and give her a nod. Sakuya does the same, although much less exaggerated. The elementalist, sharp as she is, immediately understand what you mean. She sends a koakuma over with your little silver coin.

“Here. Oh, I'm coming too. That's what master says.”

With one final look, you see Patchouli finally leave through the gates. You're not sure if you'll have any use for this koakuma, but you suppose that she's not worth sending back.

You drop the silver coin into your pocket. With Marisa not around, and most of these people not knowing her back story, you're not particularly worried about keeping her powers in check. Not at the moment, anyway.

“Right,” You say, turning back towards everyone who remains, “Let's start looking.”

You decide that a multiple-street search pattern is best. Sakuya opts to remain near you, but with everyone else taking a street and synching up a the intersections, you manage a fairly fast search without too much of a risk to anyone. The four of you quickly sweep south, following the steadily decreasing stream of people leaving their homes.

Eventually, you begin to reach a point where it's clear that going any further would put you in danger. A few blocks down, you see a group of people being chased by two demons... being chased by a figure with a very large blade. Yoshiro, judging by the style of dress. They're heading perpendicular to you, towards the outside wall.

There's an intersection in a few yards, so once there you cut towards Nitori. Ichirin follows.

“Shall I?”

Sakuya asks the obvious question. If the two demons are cut down right now, this chase will immediately end. You give her a nod.

“Very well.”

“You could help too,” Ichirin says, to the invisible Unzan, “One blast, right there.”

The chase ends rather quickly. A small blast, and three knives are all it takes. Both the humans and Yoshiro stop, turning towards you. The humans do so in fear, while Yoshiro does so in confusion.

“Hey,” You call out, as you get closer, “We're going to find Toshi and get out of here. Come on!”

Yoshiro nods. He seems to have no qualms with that. You waste no time, turning around to head for the other side of town as a group.

The human, however, seem to think that you're talking to them - and instead of heading north, towards the gate, they head after your group as you cut east to head towards the side of town that Toshi is probably on.

“Head to the north gate!” You call out, “It's too dangerous here.”

One of them, clearly already tired from all this running, doesn't seem to like that. “We'll get killed! You have to help us. They're already--- look!”

Ah... you see what they mean. Looking down a street heading north, you see another group of two demons plodding along. They don't seem to notice you, being too busy setting fire to random things alongside the road.

[ ] If they run, they might just make it. Wish them luck.
[ ] You'll have to leave through the north gate, anyway. Send (write-in) with them, and meet up later.
[ ] If they really want to follow you, you guess they can't stop them. They'll be safe enough if they can keep up.
================================================
With all the ties lately, I figure I should say this so you don't get discouraged from voting for the second option. For minor differences like that one, I'll usually just flip a coin or something, but if it changes things completely I'd rather wait.
>> No. 45907
[x] You'll have to leave through the north gate, anyway. Send (Sakuya) with them, and meet up later.

She's the stealthiest combatant we got.
>> No. 45916
[x] You'll have to leave through the north gate, anyway. Send (Sakuya) with them, and meet up later.

If they stick with you, they might get caught in some crossfire. If they try to make their way alone, they might get caught defenseless. The only humane option is to send someone with them.

“Sakuya,” You say, turning to the maid, “Do you think you could escort them to the north gate?”

“I will not.”

She gives them, and you, an cool look. If there's any compassion in her, she's not showing it in the slightest. Right. She's not following your orders - she's dedicated to keeping you alive and resolving this whole conflict, but escorting them wouldn't help those goals at all.

You guess you could do drastic, like swear to run headlong into a group of demons if she doesn't obey, but that would be foolish. Instead, you:

[ ] Let someone else guide them (write-in)
[ ] Wish them luck. You can't spare anyone.
[ ] Let them do as they like. That is, stick close.
================================================
... where did everyone go? I'll try to update twice tomorrow, if there are votes.
>> No. 45917
I should have seen that coming.
[x] Wish them luck. You can't spare anyone.

>Where did everyone go?
My guess is either votespam for important choices or people not bothering to vote for mundane choices. Probably both.
>> No. 45918
[x] Wish them luck. You can't spare anyone.

It's more like the site is extremely slow over the summer, so much so that I don't even bother checking daily.
>> No. 45919
[x] Wish them luck. You can't spare anyone.
>> No. 45920
[x] Let them do as they like. That is, stick close.

I was thinking on the choice not expecing you to pull another update so quickly. Next thing I know I'll spend tomorrow F5ing to no avail. Consistantly over speed.
>> No. 45947
... I'm extremely sorry, something important came up. I'll update tonight when I get back.
>> No. 45956
[x] Wish them luck. You can't spare anyone.
[ ] Let them do as they like. That is, stick close.

You sigh. Nothing you can do, then. You'd rather not spare anyone else, should something else happen to further split up the group.

“The street we just came down was safe,” You say, motioning back to the proper one, “Run, and you may just make it. Godspeed.”

Without a second glance, you turn around and begin running yourself. Your group takes the cue - and the group of people behind you seem to take the hint. You're the slowest member here, and you're not slow by any means - so, in no time at all, you can make out the west wall at the far end of the street.

It's hard to make sense of the chaos, though. As you draw closer, you can see that the demons have been working this side over pretty well. There's already a large number of dead bodies strewn about. Perhaps you should head north a bit...?

“He is this way. Hurry.”

Yoshiro speaks up, after seeing you pause. Good. Looks like you won't need to comb the area this time.

After heading few blocks north of where you were, you see why he wanted you to hurry. You can't see Toshi himself, but you can see a group of three demons hanging out outside of a residence. They seem to be waiting for... ah.

The roof seems to be aflame, and judging by how tightly packed the buildings are in this part of town there's a good chance that there is only one door. They're trying to flush someone out.

Yoshiro stops dead when you finally get into a position where you can see it. He's waiting for you to give the word. ...well, you've got no problem doing that.

“Attack, everyone.”

Everyone aside from you - this won't even be a match, judging by how weak those demons look - although Sakuya opts not to join in either. You'll just watch this one. Sakuya doesn't join in this time, either.

In the time it takes you to move the hundred feet or so over to the building, the three demons are quickly beaten. It's actually heartening, for once. If this is the weak class, even a hundred of these wouldn't be a match for a mage like Marisa.

Everyone seems to be intent on staying outside the building. It seems a little odd.

“Is he in there?”

“He is exiting now.”

*Thunk*

As you wait, you hear a noise behind you. Turning to your left, you see that Sakuya - who had been there until a few moments ago - is now ten or so feet behind you. Near her feet is another demon, currently impaled with one of her knives. She reaches down to pluck it out, but something makes her stop.

She displaces a few more feet, as another demon appears from another side street. Yoshiro rushes to her aid, but it's not necessary. The second takes a knife in the skull, and drops not far from the first.

“W-what?”

Nitori didn't seem to have been expecting that. Right - she wasn't there for that little group training session yesterday.

“Chronomage,” You say, “She's a very good one.”

“Oh, I've---”

“I told you someone would come for us!”
“Thank the gods.”

There's more than a few people who were hiding in there as well. A man, probably his wife, and a few children also make their way out. Toshi follows behind, something like a faint scowl on his face.

As they do, a loud explosion echoes from somewhere near the center of town. It's easy to pinpoint by the huge pillar of smoke rising from that direction. Sakuya and Yoshiro notice it as well. Almost immediately after, a second one echoes out - and a third, and a fourth.

Did some flame reach a powder store? Do they even have cannons here? Maybe those two demons are having a bit of fun, or something. That would be bad, if they're in that direction - you need to leave through there. Maybe they've already had their fun with the people at the gate.

Either way, that's everyone. You need to get out of here, one way or another. The people nearby seem to think the same, and with the way that they're looking at you, they're thinking you'll be the one to lead them.

[ ] Go over the west wall. With a bit of youkai strength and magic, it should be manageable.
[ ] Move quickly north, via the streets. You need to get out before the demons stop toying around.
[ ] Maybe they've left the south gate clear? For how few there were, they seem to be causing a lot of damage.
>> No. 45957
[x] Maybe they've left the south gate clear? For how few there were, they seem to be causing a lot of damage.

This means running toward the explosions, right? My reading comprehension isn't so good right now. Possibly meeting a mid-boss sounds way more interesting than running or sneaking.
>> No. 45970
>>45957
You'd want to go the other way. You're somewhere in the southwest part of town, while the explosions came from near the center.
>> No. 45971
>>45970
Oh. Well. If we're in the south, going south sounds fine.
>> No. 45976
[x] Maybe they've left the south gate clear? For how few there were, they seem to be causing a lot of damage.
>> No. 45977
[x] Maybe they've left the south gate clear? For how few there were, they seem to be causing a lot of damage.
>> No. 45978
Update tomorrow.
>> No. 45998
Managed to not sleep hardly at all last night, so my writing is probably trash. I'll proofread this tomorrow when my eyes aren't going wonky and post it then.
>> No. 46032
[x] Maybe they've left the south gate clear? For how few there were, they seem to be causing a lot of damage.

Out of all your options, leaving through the south gate seems like the best. These demons seem to be tearing through the city - and, with how few there were, that means they probably don't have many demons left in that direction. Fire and smoke, sure, but that shouldn't be an issue.

“Right,” You say, making up your mind, “Let's get out of here.”

You get a few nods in response, although it does throw them for a little bit of a loop when you start walking towards the little piece of hell that seems to have spread into the city, instead of away from it.

The family also tags along, probably more out of fear than anything. Sending them on their own way would be almost certain death, so you decide to give them at least a small chance by not turning them away. Once outside the city, they should be able to take the long way around.

As the air gets thicker with heat and ash, you ended up putting up a---

--- weak barrier. Very weak - a large fly could probably punch through if it gained enough speed first, but it's more than sufficient for ash. Heat, well, you don't feel like bothering with that.

“Are you, uh... sure we should be going this way?”

Seems that the head of the family finally has had enough of seeing his town burning, so he speaks up. Ichirin saves you the trouble of responding, though.

“They're pushing in to the city,” She says, “It's probably safer this way.”

“Ah...”

He doesn't seem to buy it. Regardless, you don't want to be making any unnecessary noise in a situation like this.

“No conversation,” You say, “Be quiet until we're out of the city.”

Again, no complaints. You continue on.

Luckily, you don't pass even one group of demons roaming about. Those four or so back there must have been all of them on this side of town. There are a few more explosions, however. It's not long before you see the wall - or what's left of it, anyway - in view. You can't see the gate from here, but it looks like those two had a little more “fun” after blowing the gate.

Unfortunately, as you round the last corner to head out the gate, you see that they haven't left this exit to the town completely undefended. Even worse, it seems that one of the two sisters opted to stay behind.

You catch yourself almost mid-step, and slink back behind the building. Being in the lead, you hope that you didn't make a sound. Shit. With a serious look on your face, you manage to cut off any questions before they're spoken. Everyone looks to you, not only wondering what's going on but what to do.

[ ] The tengu are fast... you might be able to have one act as a distraction.
[ ] Backtrack, and head north. You've lost some time, but it should still be safe.
[ ] Backtrack, and try to get over the wall. No telling what's safe and what isn't now.
[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 46038
[x] Backtrack, and head north. You've lost some time, but it should still be safe.
>> No. 46039
[x] The tengu are fast... you might be able to have one act as a distraction.

Awesome. This sounds fun. we're going to backtrack aren't we...
>Heat, well, you don't feel like bothering with that.
Is that so.
>> No. 46059
Oi. Tiebreaker needed.
>> No. 46060
>>46059
Ah, I just dropped by to post that before bed. I was kind of hoping it was resolved by now, but I guess not.

I think from now on, I'll just write regardless of a tie by picking a random winner. Is that fine?
>> No. 46064
>>46060
It's just as well given the trend of ties and maybe it might convince anon to not intentionally make ties.
>> No. 46065
[x] The tengu are fast... you might be able to have one act as a distraction.

Here ya go, Klay buddy.
>> No. 46071
>>46060
Fine by me. I'm as tired of seeing "oh it's tied" posts as you are of making them.
>> No. 46073
[x] The tengu are fast... you might be able to have one act as a distraction.
>> No. 46077
[x] Backtrack, and head north. You've lost some time, but it should still be safe.

I'm such a bad reader, letting updates accumulate before actually catching up.
>> No. 46078
>>46071
I'm just not sure if someone would be tremendously bothered by me ignoring their vote, which is basically what flipping a coin does.

Anyway, it's almost bedtime and I haven't finished this yet. It should be up tomorrow.
>> No. 46089
[x] The tengu are fast... you might be able to have one act as a distraction.

It's too late to go back now. At least here, you know what danger is lurking around the corner - if you were to head back into the city, you'd be in the dark again. You've got to find some way to lure her away, and...

... ah. Yes. The tengu are very fast - perhaps one of them would be willing to create a distraction. Out of sight, of course, and while quickly moving away. You're not sure how fast that black angel can move on your plane, but a tengu would probably have a good shot.

A sound barrier for two is no big deal, so you activate one between you and Toshi.

“It's an unbeatable one,” You say, after the rest of the world goes completely silent, “We're going to need a distraction if we want to get out of here.”

Toshi, who seems a little disturbed by the loss of the rest of his hearing, looks around. It starts to cause a chain reaction, so you quickly speak up.

“I've got a sound barrier up,” You say, “It's fine.”

He seems to buy that before anyone else asks 'what?', so you manage to avoid that.

“Me?” He asks, simply.

“You or Yoshiro,” You say, “You've both got speed that none of us can match.”

“...”

The two tengu exchange curious looks, as Toshi turns away. Although you've got reasons, somehow, you don't think that acceptance is an issue. They're just working something out amongst themselves first.

Toshi turns back after a few moments. “I will do it.”

You give him your destination. It's really the only place along the way where it would make sense to meet, given the way Makai seems to have spread all over the valley to the south. Seemingly content, he gives you another nod.

“Now?”

“Yes. Something to get their attention and make her chase you. Good luck.”

After thinking for a few moments, he nods again. “I am ready.”

At that, you drop the sound barrier. The crackling from the nearby fires quickly fills your ears. Just as quickly, Toshi slinks away - up the street to find a safe place to cross her line of sight, no doubt. No one really seems to know what's going on, but you don't particularly want to spend the energy to enlighten them. It'll be obvious soon enough.

Very soon, actually. A loud howl echoes out from somewhere east of you within a minute or so.

Peering around the corner, you wait for a reaction from the demon. The first howl only garners a tilted head - the second, however, causes her to move a bit. She reacts to something, presumably Toshi showing himself, and lets out a laugh.

She says something, and quickly heads down the main road. The gate is wide open, and you probably won't get a better chance than this - it's time to go. You quickly move towards your exit from this town, motioning for the others to follow you.

It works. By the time you all manage to scramble over the rubble from the earlier explosion, the demon still hasn't returned to a place where you can see her - and, presumably, she can't see you. You begin heading towards your destination:

[ ] The capital city.
[ ] The town in the west.
[ ] The town in the east.
>> No. 46090
[x] The capital city.
>> No. 46091
[x] The capital city.

Honestly, I don't remember a single thing about the other towns. Do we have any reasons to go to them?
>> No. 46108
[x] The Capital city.
>> No. 46109
[x] The capital city.

Yeah, we're probably forgetting something important. Ah well.
>> No. 46114
[x] The town in the west.
>> No. 46136
Aren't the rest of the forces in the West? That's where Alice's group was heading I think. It all depends on if we'd be able to catch up to then considering the time spent running around this town.
>> No. 46151
I'll update tomorrow. Sorry, steam sale kept me occupied this weekend and work has been incredibly busy this week.
>> No. 46164
I'm sure that anyone who saw that expected this anyway, but I need another day.
>> No. 46165
>>46136
We probably could. It would be nice to stick with Marisa, but we're stuck playing resistance leader...

I hope we get a chance to confer with Eirin at some point. It'd suck to have to rely on Yukari for the rest of the story.
>> No. 46194
Working late and writing really do not mix - and it doesn't help that getting discouraged about not updating makes updating even harder. I'm going to give it another shot for tomorrow, but it may not be up until saturday.
>> No. 46232
Or sunday. I am slowly chipping away at this block, but it's not gone yet.
>> No. 46291
[x] The capital city.

... that smoldering wreck of a town off in the distance. Hopefully, getting back in isn't going to be as hard as getting out was. You can worry about that after you get further away from this smoldering wreck, however - although you've moved off the road a bit, you've still got a few minutes of walking before you're out of view.

You'll need to decide what to do about this family, though. Having them with you is annoying at best, and potentially fatal at worst. For both them, and you. They need to go.

While you worry about that, your group manages to move far enough downhill so as to be out of view of the main gate to the town. Unless those two figure out that you're no longer in the city - and you're still not entirely sure how they managed to find out that you were there in the first place - it should be easy enough to stay out of sight for now.

They don't seem particularly happy, either. Although they are being quiet, it seems like it's difficult for them - the children in particular. They keep tugging on their dad's coat sleeves, while the man himself keeps shushing them. The father doesn't seem to want to cause any trouble, going as far as to avert his eyes every time you look back. The woman does the same.

You put a bit more distance between your group and the town before bringing it up. Although the man averts his gaze again when you try, you continue to speak anyway.

“Would you all be fine with an escort to Trellis?” You ask, not really having any other options. “We're heading to the capital, and I'm certain that you don't want to go there.”

By now, you've stopped - and everyone is looking at you. The man speaks up.

“Anything,” He nods, “Anything is fine. Just please, help us find somewhere safe.”

You nod. You aren't that worried about numbers at this point. Sakuya will be more than able to pick up the slack that one of the others would leave. Nothing to lose, really.

“I wouldn't mind guiding them,” Nitori nods, vehemently, “'Sides, it's easy for me to get into the city alone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don't need to hold my breath underwater,” She smiles, “And there's a whole lot more secret tunnles under the river than there are just lying out in the open. I can meet back up with you in no time.”

“Good idea,” You say, looking off towards the west. “If you hurry, you might be able to catch up with Alice and the others on the far side of this ridge.”

The man looks to her, to Yoshiro, and then to you. “Are you... uh...”

“Is there some problem with that?”

“This couple dislikes youkai,” Yoshiro says, plainly. He doesn't bother to explain why, but it's clear from the look on the man's face that the tengu was right on the mark. His wife, too, seems to shrink back a little at Yoshiro's svoice..

“Well,” You say, turning to the man, “I suggest you get over it, at least for a few hours.”

“But... you saw what they just...“

“Demons,” You say, seeing where he's going with this, “Let's be clear. The only youkai there were the ones trying to help. Now, if you think you'd be better off traveling alone...”

“N-no,” He says quickly, “We'll trust your judgement.”

Not that you wouldn't mind sending Yoshiro with them, but Sakuya is out of the question for obvious reasons and Ichirin... well, you get the feeling that if she got that far away from the action, she might just stay there.

“Sorry,” You say, turning to Nitori, “And good luck. Stay out of trouble.”

“Roger,” She says, turning towards them, “Just follow behind the big, scary youkai. Ok?”

The two kids don't seem to particularily mind, but the parents seem less than thrilled. With one last wave, they head off on their own. Now, it's just four of you - well, five, if you count Unzan.

“How'd you know?” You ask, turning to Yoshiro as you walk. You're far enough from both cities that talking seems like it won't harm anything, so you decide to calm your nerves a bit.

“Toshi would have rescued them,” He says, “But they refused.”

“You heard that?”

“Second hand.”

You don't remember that exchange, but... well, either way, you nod. “I see.”

“It's a pretty safe bet either way,” Ichirin shrugs, “Unzan even called it.”

It's then that Sakuya cuts in. “Why?”

“Why do they not trust youkai?”

“Yes.”

Ichirin laughs. “What an odd question.”

Although directly using her mistress as an example would be easy, you decide against it.

“They're strong,” You shrug, “It makes people nervous, I think, knowing that your neighbor could blow you up without much effort.”

“And Mages are different?”

“We're like the guard,” You say, “We're supposed to be on their side, so they aren't worried about us blowing them up. Otherwise, we're not so different.”

Yoshiro growls a little. “The comparison is right. Human Mages are not much better than the guard.”

You just smile a little at the comment. “What can I say? Some humans are scum. We try to expell the ones that step over the line.”

He seems satisfied with that. “And I am speaking from experience.”

“... I see,” Sakuya says, either not interested in the question any longer or just being distand as usual.

By the time you make your way down from the hill that Vandenburg was on, back to flat ground, Yoshiro perks up. Following his gaze, you see... a sprinting Toshi, much to your relief. Yoshiro even manages to smile a bit on seeing that.

Toshi comes to a stop near your group, giving the two of you nods.

“It is done. I have not been followed.”

“I'm in your debt,” You say, earnestly, “Thank you. That was a bad situation.”

Toshi shakes his head, however. “No. It was my duty.”

“So,” Ichirin says, finally, “That old iron door was one way, right? Which way are we going?”

“... was it?”

“No.” “Yes.”

The two tengu answer at the same time, then look to each other in confusion. They talk to each other for a while in a low, growling language that you don't understand. Yoshiro is the one to answer.

“We are not sure.”

So, no one knows, then. That one was a lot more convienient than the one you went in through yesterday morning, and not being able to use it would be unfortunate. Getting to the other one requires going through some more dangerous areas.

[ ] You can always force it open, if necessary. That'll be your entrance.
[ ] Head towards the one Tewi was kind enough to show you.
================================================
... sorry about that.
>> No. 46293
[x] You can always force it open, if necessary. That'll be your entrance.

Glad to have you back.
>> No. 46296
[x] Head towards the one Tewi was kind enough to show you.
>> No. 46300
[x] Head towards the one Tewi was kind enough to show you.
>> No. 46305
[x] Head towards the one Tewi was kind enough to show you.

I was worried about there being some sort of ambush or something because we used this route already, then I realized forcing the door open would attract even more attention. And there's a slim chance that picking the option that mentions Tewi might mean meeting her again. That'd be nice.
>> No. 46363
[x] Head towards the one Tewi was kind enough to show you.

"We'll go this way, then," You say, motioning in a direction that is definitely not the one you all left through yesterday, "I've got another way in that we can take.”

Honestly, blowing demons open seems like it'd be easier than trying to blow that door open. That thing was made to stay shut when shut, and you'd rather no deal with it if it was locked.

No one seems to care either way, so you begin leading the group in that direction. It's a little difficult to place the scenery you saw before sunrise yesterday to what you're seeing today, but you're sure you'll be fine once you reach that boulder. It was pretty obviously placed.

Following along these roads, though... you think that the demons had a bit more fun yesterday. Most of the buildings are completely smashed and rubble, instead of just a few of them like yesterday. The smell is getting worse, as well. It's not hard to imagine why.

Fortunately, you don't see much in the way of demons. The tengu stop you a few times to let some patrol groups roll by, but it does seem mostly empty. Perhaps they've gotten bored of the outskirts and have moved in, or maybe they're just not worried about any attacks coming from the north after...

... ah.

“It's here,” You say, quietly. Now, what did she do? She...

*Click*

It's still impressive the second time, you find out. The whole boulder simply splits vertically, slowly opening up to reveal a hole and ladder underneath.

With everyone inside, you hit the corresponding close lever at the bottom of the shaft - and, like magic, the boulder slowly shuts itself again. With it, it also shuts out the sun, leaving you all in a very deep blackness. Ichirin is quick to point it out.

“Pretty dark, huh?”

“I guess it is. Hold on.”

“Wait.”

Toshi doesn't waste words, so you decide to wait on that light spell.

“What is it?”

“I smell something.”

Yoshiro also speaks up. “Me too.”

If you remember this tunnel right, there really shouldn't be any place that something could hide. It was a straight shot into the city from here, mostly.

[ ] Let them handle it.
[ ] The rest of you work better when not completely blind.
>> No. 46366
[x] Let them handle it.

If they wanted support, they'd ask for it. Geez, it feels like we're relying on them half the time.
>> No. 46375
[x] The rest of you work better when not completely blind.

I think more people being active would be better in such a case. Better safe than sorry.
>> No. 46386
[x] The rest of you work better when not completely blind.

No need to take stupid risks.
>> No. 46462
[x] The rest of you work better when not completely blind.

Still, you'd rather not leave yourself - and everyone else - quite literally in the dark. If it's something you need to be concerned about, you'd rather that everyone involved be able to see it. Light won't hurt matters at all.

“Let me shed some light on things.”

You finish the half-spell that you had already begun, forcing some ambient energy into the form of a luminous sphere. The tengu turn towards you, seemingly not too happy with the light, but immediately turn back down the passage way.

You can't see what they're so concerned about. There's nothing but empty passage ahead for as far as your little light will let you see.

"... what is it?"

Ichirin looks ahead curiously, although you can't be sure who she's talking to.

"Hmm."

With a somewhat dissatisfied sigh, Toshi begins walking ahead. Yoshiro nods, doing the same - so you think that it might have been a false alarm. That, or whatever they smell isn't exactly near you.

You follow them, somewhat more leery than before, with Ichirin and Sakuya bringing up the rear. It does smell a bit more musty down here than you remember, and the air does feel a little heavier. Personally, it's nothing that you'd be concerned about, but maybe it spooked their supernatural senses.

But then, you see something that makes the tengu stop.

"Weird," You say, "That wasn't here before."

Most of the way through the cave, you see something that you know hadn't been there earlier.
A side passage. It doesn't look nearly as smooth as the walls making up this tunnel - almost like someone just punched it out of solid rock, rather than carved it. Maybe ten feet in, however, you see a perpendicular passage - one looks like it's been there for about as long as this one.

“Scary,” Ichirin says flatly, “Shouldn't we just ignore it?”

You nod. “That's what I was thinking. I was just pointing it out.”

The two tengu, however, don't move right away. Instead, they look to each other, deciding what to do. After a few moments Toshi takes the lead, while Yoshiro places his back up against the wall to let you all pass. Looks like he's going to take over rear guard from Sakuya for the time being.

After your group gets about ten feet from the hole, a stale breeze blows by - and, with it, your light goes out.

“Something's coming.”

You've got no trouble believing that grim statement from Sakuya. That heavy feeling is back, stronger than ever. A demon? No, probably not - you're getting a different feeling than that. You quickly set to producing another light.

[ ] Retreat. This encounter is pointless.
[ ] Stand your ground. Be prepared to strike.
[ ] Be wary, but don't attack first.
================================================
This week, I shouldn't be doing much after work. I'm going to try to get things moving again.
>> No. 46470
[x] Be wary, but don't attack first.

>punched out of solid rock
Sounds like something an oni would do. Maybe Yuugi is doing some remodeling?
>> No. 46473
[x] Be wary, but don't attack first.
>> No. 46479
[x] Be wary, but don't attack first.

Curious about what this could be.
>> No. 46491
Work decided to gut punch me yesterday, and I couldn't write for the lift of me when I got home. I'll update tonight.
>> No. 46503
[x] Be wary, but don't attack first.

Armed with that hunch, you decide that shooting first and asking questions later is probably not a good option. Demons are your enemies, now - and any non-demons are potentially a good thing.

“Whatever is hiding in there,” You say, both for your team's benefit as well as this thing's. “I suggest that you show yourself. Slowly. Let's avoid any unnecessary confrontations.”

As your light comes back on, you can see Yoshiro shift his stance a bit. Everyone else seems ready for something as well.

--- you are, too. For now, though, you'll wait a bit.

A gust of wind - far stronger than the last one - whistles through the tunnel, causing you to stumble a bit. Again, like a weak candle, your light flickers and dies with it. Fine. You don't particularly need to see to do what you do - sound will be enough.

However, as the stalemate begins to last for a few minutes... you wonder how you should proceed. Or recede, as the case might be. Perhaps that whatever it is just wants to remain undisturbed.

“Everyone,” You say, not bothering to bring back the light, “Let's continue on.”

There's surprisingly little complaint, only a few words of acknowledgment. Toshi, who's still leading, takes it upon himself to tap the floor every few steps to give you direction. After placing your hand on the cool stone wall, you've got a pretty good feel for where you're going.

Just then, though, an extremely loud bang causes you to freeze up. Probably twenty feet ahead or so, something happened - although you can't tell what - that causes a bunch of that foul air to rush into the cavern. Dust, too. The first thing you can think of is another wall getting knocked down.

[ ] Make for the exit. If this thing engages, fight back - otherwise, ignore it.
[ ] Seek it out. The moment you turn your back on this thing, it's going to strike.
[ ] Make for the exit with haste. This is not a good place to fight with something like this.
>> No. 46504
[x] Seek it out. The moment you turn your back on this thing, it's going to strike.

Oh, it's probably just some monster that hates light. I want to see what this thing is and make it take a photon blast to the face.
>> No. 46513
[x] Seek it out. The moment you turn your back on this thing, it's going to strike.

Even if it is not hostile he'd have to make sure he doesn't leave tracks leading all the way to resistance HQ.
>> No. 46517
[X] Seek it out. The moment you turn your back on this thing, it's going to strike.

Why take the chance, honestly?
Better to seek it out right now.
>> No. 46518
[x] Seek it out. The moment you turn your back on this thing, it's going to strike.

Really does seem like the better choice.
..,Er, we're not really on a time limit, are we?
>> No. 46522
>>46518
Either things will wait for us or it won't matter so much if things don't wait for us. We're fine.
>> No. 46523
[x] Seek it out. The moment you turn your back on this thing, it's going to strike.

This thing, whatever it is, is just toying with you now. Play around until the target is jumping at their own shadows, then eat them when they're too terrified to put up a fight any longer - fairly typical behavior for a youkai. Your will, like your barriers, is unbreakable. You'll do just the opposite.

Youkai like this typically don't expect a straight fight, so the best option is to seek it out and give it a sound thrashing before it has time to run. With a swift hand motion you produce another orb of light. This time, though, you reinforce it a bit with some barriers to prevent it from being blown out so easily.

That sound was indeed the wall in front of you being blown open, revealing another passage behind the wall. There's a good chance that they're connected to each other, so you make a quick decision to cover both at once.

"Sakuya," You say, turning to the maid. "We'll go this way. Everyone else, go that way. Corner it. Meet back here in a few minutes."

There's a few nods, and in no time at all you're all moving with a pretty good pace towards where you need to be going. You quickly lose sight of the other group, but for yours you end up being in the lead with a barrier at the ready.

The passage you enter isn't exactly straight, so it's hard to tell from here if the two holes are connected or not.

"Jack! This way!"

It's not long before you hear Ichirin call out, though, her voice sounding a bit distorted from bouncing around the passage. Good. You immediately begin heading that way, although it isn't long before you end up coming to a fork in the path.

Almost as if on cue, Ichirin calls out again - not from the path that you'd think she would be on, but perhaps her group has been moving fast enough to make it down this passage. You go on.

You try calling out yourself, but for some reason, there's no response. Not for a few seconds, anyway.

Eventually, though a response does come from further ahead. An impossible one - you hear yourself answering, speaking words that you haven't said.

You stop dead in your tracks. An unnatural laugh echoes down the halls now. Human, but definitely not - it reminds you of a dozen different animals, too, all chittering or screeching away.

Right now, there's two ways you can go - forward, or back. Your light isn't enough to show you what's further ahead, and you've got no idea where the other group actually is.

[ ] Press on. The monster wouldn't be acting like this if it wanted you to keep moving forward.
[ ] Wait right here. Your support can't be far behind.
[ ] Backtrack. With just the two of you, this is suddenly more dangerous than you'd like.
================================================
>>46518
Not particularly. Story-wise, you've got a couple of hours to make it somewhere that isn't too far away.
>> No. 46524
[x] Press on. The monster wouldn't be acting like this if it wanted you to keep moving forward.

It's bluffing. Bluuuuuuffing. Calling the shit out of this bluff.
>> No. 46526
[x] Press on. The monster wouldn't be acting like this if it wanted you to keep moving forward.
>> No. 46529
[x] Press on. The monster wouldn't be acting like this if it wanted you to keep moving forward.

We should be able to handle this with Sakuya.
>> No. 46530
>>46529
We should be able to retreat safely with Sakuya.
>> No. 46531
[x] Press on. The monster wouldn't be acting like this if it wanted you to keep moving forward.

... you suppose that's fine, though. Sakuya has your back, and, although you're not so good at offense, you're very good at keeping yourself alive. This thing wants to drive you back, but you're not going to give it that pleasure.

So, after your initial pause, you move forward again. It's not time to head back yet, and you intend to chase this thing down.

A loud scream sounds from behind you, perhaps twenty feet or so, but you pay no attention. Insignificant. With this wall around your senses, you won't be distracted by such an illusion. Nor that one, or that one...

Eventually, the hall opens up into something large. Another one of those underground streets, you imagine, judging by a quick glance to either side. You stop. Where do you go from here?

Almost as if on cue, the ground begins to shake a bit and crack.

"Oof!"

You're shoved to one side by Sakuya, you see, as soon as you regain your senses. She doesn't bother to explain, blinking away not long after you hit the ground. Instinctively, your barrier goes up as you pull yourself off the ground. Sakuya is nowhere to be seen, so you make it a personal one.

Turning around, you see what she tackled you. There's a pretty large hole blown in the stone wall from... something, complete with char marks. Almost like a lightning strike of some kind.

A knife clattering off of the wall is enough to find out where the Lady's maid went to, however. Further up the hall you see her doing battle with something quite undefinable. It's as if someone stuck a rolling storm cloud in this ancient roadway.

As you'd expect from throwing knives at a cloud, though, they don't seem to be doing anything. In a few moments the whole thing just splits apart and disperses, leaving behind only that chimeric laugh that you heard before.

Something brushes up against your barrier - a maid - moments before something else slams into it. The second one was obviously intending to maim or kill, but with your barrier all it does is manage to knock you off your feet and a send you rolling back a bit. The cloud didn't exactly leave, it turns out - it simply decided to wrap around behind you and strike.

"Stay down," Sakuya orders, appearing beside you for an instant before vanishing again.

[ ] --- you'll do no such thing. She's not the only one who can fight.
[ ] Use your barriers to box this thing in. You can't let it move around freely.
[ ] This thing is too much - if either of you gets hit, you'll be toast. Pull back and wait for backup.
>> No. 46532
[x] --- you'll do no such thing. She's not the only one who can fight.

Chara change! Compressing the cloud is tempting. Kinda want to see what that would do to it. Probably nothing good?
>> No. 46533
Mmmmm, Sakuya sounds really confident that she can fight Nue.
>> No. 46534
[x] --- you'll do no such thing. She's not the only one who can fight.
[ ] Use your barriers to box this thing in. You can't let it move around freely.
[ ] This thing is too much - if either of you gets hit, you'll be toast. Pull back and wait for backup.

--- no, you'll do no such thing. A direct hit, and that's all this monster can do? Pathetic. It didn't even singe your clothing.

You're not exactly sure why not - it's not like you're wearing any wards or anything. Well, whatever. No sense worrying about that now. You need to bring this thing down. With things having progressed this far, there's no other option.

You pull yourself off the ground, a little unsteady from the previous blow, and push yourself up against the nearby wall. This way, it's fairly hard to get behind you - and your lasers have plenty of range, so it's not as if you need to move.

What to shoot, though? Sakuya seems to be blinking around while blanketing the entire hall with an endless supply of knives, giving you no clues as to where to strike at this cloud. None of them seem to be doing anything except clattering harmlessly off of the ground.

Damn it, this thing is pissing you off. You begin charging a blast, being careful not to overexert yourself like last time. The situation isn't that dire yet.

...screw it. Maybe if you just start blasting, some pattern will show itself. Kyou could probably beat these lasers with hers, but unless you find a target a big blast is going to be worthless. There has to be some hint, some ---

--- flow, rhyme, or reason that you can follow. As the cloud disperses again, however, you see the same thing. That is, you see far too much. Hints that aren't hints that are... not. It's a huge mess. Like fighting a demon, but worse because you've got nothing to follow.

This time, the cloud doesn't re-materialize. Instead, a swarm of undefined magic begins to form out of the air. You've got no idea how to interpret them.

*Crack!*

Except as dangerous, that is. One of them decides to aim for your head, but you manage to dodge somehow.

"He's here."

Entering the chamber, you see the rest of your party. As they do, the undefined objects decide to swarm them all at once.

"Tch!"

Toshi and Yoshiro are more than nimble enough to dodge. Ichirin doesn't seem to see it coming, but an unseen force whisks her away from the exploding rock.

Ah!

For just a moment, you see it. The flow of battle separating into two distinct sides, instead of one side against an infinitely vague opponent. The creature slipped up, somehow - and you need to capitalize on it.

"Over there!"

Without hesitation, your team - save for Sakuya, anyway - acts. The creature falters again, leaving the sound of a trio of footsteps as it tries to flee instead of nothing. The two tengu are quick to pick up on it, too, and immediately swing wide to flank it.

The battle is slowly beginning to tip in your favor. There's no passages along that side of the hall for it to duck down, no-

That laugh again... but not from where they're heading. From off to your side. Very near you. In that instant, the flow tipped again in this things favor - or perhaps it always was.

You see a knife streak by, but this time, there's no accompanying sound of metal on stone. Instead, there's the sound of it impacting something soft. Then, as if prompted by the knife, a brilliant white light suddenly appears at that spot. You have to look away - it's bright enough to temporarily blind you.

It doesn't stay in one place for long. Soon it's a good distance down the cavern - away from everyone, and, as you soon find out, setting up for an attack. The whole area is filled with those small undefined balls of magic in no time, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out what they're going to do next.

[ ] <Write-in>
[ ] No thanks.
================================================
If there's some neat way that you'd like to deal with this, I'll try to incorporate it. I need to mull it over myself.
>> No. 46535
Cool, Manipulator. He hasn't tried disruption yet. Probably because he can't get a proper lock on it... Can a style that prides itself on keeping track situations use its talents blindly?

I'd say he should change again, but he already changed twice in a row. Three times in such a short succession seems like it'd be pushing his limits, if limits exist.
>> No. 46536
[x] No thanks.

This isn't going to end well.

You manage to get out of the firing lane, ducking into a nearby passage before... absolutely nothing happens. No explosions, no screams of pain and agony, none of that. Another feint? This creature is probably just toying with...

No, that was probably just a distraction. This thing seems to be pretty dialed in to your particular skill set. What better way to recover than to make your opponent terrified of approaching you? You mutter a silent curse, stepping back out into the hall.

No one seems to have an idea where this creature is now. The cloud, the light, they're all gone. However, the feeling of a battle still lingers in the air... one that you're currently losing. The creature itself isn't gone, just not attacking at the moment.

Ichirin seems a little confused, but everyone else is clearly aware of this fact. How can you win a battle that you can't even fight?

“Do you intend to play all day?” You ask, frustrated by this entire battle. ---

--- “We will not run. You're just wasting everyone's time.”

It's true. If this thing is hoping to provoke a reaction like fear, it's not going to be able to. Everyone here is far from feeling fear, and will be even when you can't maintain even the smallest barrier.

In response, the ground quakes again - and, from behind you, you notice a faint red glow. Turning around, you see hundreds of orbs flying towards you.

The spread is rather wide, and the bullets themselves weak, so you have an easy enough time deflecting them. It's all show.

Another quake. This time, though, it's accompanied by the sound of falling stone. Lots and lots of falling stone. Off in the distance the cavern you're in seems to be giving way - and it seems to be spreading to your general position.

[ ] You weren't bluffing. Call everyone to you, and prepare to shield a fall.
[ ] Make for the exit. This fight is impossible - the only thing you can do is run.
>> No. 46537
[x] Make for the exit. This fight is impossible - the only thing you can do is run.

I think everyone would rather avoid a rocks fall situation. It could be just a trick, but a cave-in is just too risky at this point and falling back might be best.
>> No. 46538
[x] You weren't bluffing. Call everyone to you, and prepare to shield a fall.

It's just a cave-in. Jack's blocked worse.
>> No. 46539
[X] You weren't bluffing. Call everyone to you, and prepare to shield a fall.
>> No. 46540
[x] You weren't bluffing. Call everyone to you, and prepare to shield a fall.
All show eh?
>> No. 46544
[x] You weren't bluffing. Call everyone to you, and prepare to shield a fall.
>> No. 46547
[x] You weren't bluffing. Call everyone to you, and prepare to shield a fall.

Unlike this creature, you aren't fond of bluffing. Even if the cavern really is collapsing, your barriers are more than adequate to protect you from something like that. As long as there is a nearby exit, you'll be fine.

“Everyone, over here! I've got this.”

Ichirin shakes her head, making for the exit. A reasonable reaction - you won't hold it against her, even if it does mean that this battle is going to last longer than you'd like. The other three, however, make their way towards you.

“This is foolish,” Sakuya says, turning towards the tengu. It's clear that she doesn't like this decision. “Shall we force him to move?”

The tengu seem to be seriously considering it, but - fortunately for you - there isn't enough time to come to a consensus. In no time at all the collapse spreads to your current position. You've got a path to an exit nearby... so, you put up the strongest barrier that you can muster and sit tight.

The stones fall through your barrier as if it were nothing - another ruse. However, something does strike at your barrier from an odd, high angle. Not a particularly strong blow with your barrier at full strength like it is, but it's enough to cause a sharp sound.

Sakuya takes the opportunity to strike back, hurling a spread of knives in the direction. The tengu also take the cue, and although you can't see them really moving due to the illusory rubble that you're surrounded by, you can hear a scuffle going on.

All at once, the fake rocks obstructing your sight clear - and, again, that light is hovering about. Clearly, it's going to dart away. You take a stab at which direction its going to go, and maneuver your barrier to be there.

... it works. Sakuya manages a good volley regardless, but even the tengu manage to get in a few good slashes this time.

The light cries out, again changing. What it turns into is some sort of monstrosity, fitting for its voice. Aside from the fact that it's a quadraped and has a dangerous tail, there isn't much else that you can discern. Its constantly shifting, and even trying to recognize a body part as from one animal seems to make it shift into something else.

Sakuya and the tengu set to work, with the creature trying to fend off all three of them at once. It isn't long before Unzan's lasers start peppering the area, either, as you do your best to block blows and keep the creature boxed in with some barriers.

Eventually, the creature simply runs - however, none of you are fooled this time as it somehow manages to attack from the exact opposite direction of where “it” was running towards. The tengu meet it with a strike to both front legs, causing it to drop down. Then, oddly enough, it begins to laugh.

As the tengu prepare to deliver another blow, the creature leaps forward, knocking them aside like dolls. It seems to not be hurt at all, but it also doesn't continue its charge.

“Fine, fine. It's boring if it comes down to a brawl. You win! Get out of here before I change my mind.”

That voice clearly belongs to this creature, but it too comes from behind the group. Another illusion? You get the feeling that it's just throwing its voice this time, though.

[ ] As per usual, its bluffing. Continue the battle until you're sure its down.
[ ] You're lucky that this thing was only playing. Get out of here while you can.
>> No. 46548
Wanna recruit this person.

[x] As per usual, it's bluffing. Continue the battle until you're sure it's down.

Like I'm going to waste the last several updates by quitting now. Sunk cost fallacy? What's that?
>> No. 46550
[X] As per usual, its bluffing. Continue the battle until you're sure its down.

We can't have this thing running around, or it may come back to bite us in the ass later.
>> No. 46582
[X] As per usual, its bluffing. Continue the battle until you're sure its down.

I have a feeling that if we keep on selecting the 'call bluff' choice we might run into a surprise.
>> No. 46588
>As the tengu prepare to deliver another blow, the creature leaps forward, knocking them aside like dolls.
Am I the only one who just read this? An ilussion cannot throw down people like they were flies.

[x] You're lucky that this thing was only playing. Get out of here while you can.
>> No. 46595
[x] You're lucky that this thing was only playing. Get out of here while you can.

We have more important things to worry about and I doubt she's with the demons.
>> No. 46596
[x] As per usual, it's bluffing. Continue the battle until you're sure its down.

This thing, whatever it is, thrives on deception and lies. There's no reason to believe that this is anything different. Just another illusion to draw your attention away from the real battle. You won't fall for this one.

“Ignore it,” You say, urging everyone to action, “Keep up the pressure!”

Not that any of them actually thought that it was over - they were just waiting for the word. The two tengu spring up off the ground, going for a flanking strike, while a misty fist materializes and attempts to punch the thing right in the jaw. Knives, too, fill the air.

The creature manages to get hit by only a few of the knives, leaping to the side with incredible speed. It doesn't seem pleased, either, letting out a battle cry made up of dozens of different battle cries. This cry... it's different than before. It's as if someone had just spat a curse in your direction - a bad omen.

However, instead of striking back, it heads further down the passage. After reaching a good distance, it stops suddenly - and something powerful strikes your barrier. A... familiar? You can't make out what it is supposed to be, but it's definitely something like that. It simply dissolves after a few moments

Looking up, you see...

“... hmm.”

... a whole wall of them. In a few moments, they erupt into a brilliant purple fire - filling the area with a huge cloud of bullets, chipping away at everything and everyone.

The tengu fall first, being outside your barrier. Before you know it, you're floating - no, being carried by Sakuya - towards a side passage. A quick glance shows Ichirin sharing the same fate as the tengu. Unzan is nowhere to be seen.

However, even as fast as Sakuya is, your barriers don't last nearly long enough to make it to safety through the hellish storm. It isn't long before your protection crumbles, causing both you and the maid to take a full barrage.

“Aaaagh!”

Both of you go tumbling to the ground. They aren't lethal, thankfully - but the pain is incredible. No matter how stoic you, you can't help but cry out in pain. Sakuya attempts to get up, but she catches another full barrage due to not being at such a low angle and topples over again.

It really was just playing, after all. You were probably doomed the second this thing saw you.

“You're the leader, right? You should have taken my offer.”

A voice, familiar but not one you can place, echoes out from nearby. You're in too much pain to really look - however, you soon feel a rather violent pressure on your chest. Looking up, you see... someone feminine, dressed mostly in black. Wings, or perhaps tails, wriggle about behind her.

Her look isn't one that suggests anything good. This must be the youkai you've been fighting.

“I really was going to let you go, but I guess I can kill all of you, too. Unless you've got a good reason why I shouldn't.”

You really don't have any fight left in you to try one last attempt to strike at this thing. Aside from a few minor scratches on her arms, she doesn't look tired at all.

[ ] Mention something about performing tasks for Yukari.
[ ] Mention something about common enemies - this is no time for people of this plane to be killing each other
[ ] You have no excuses.
[ ] <In-character write-in>
>> No. 46600
[x] Mention something about common enemies - this is no time for people of this plane to be killing each other
Well, this is true.
>> No. 46603
[x] Mention something about common enemies - this is no time for people of this plane to be killing each other
>> No. 46606
[X] Mention something about common enemies - this is no time for people of this plane to be killing each other

You seem to like messing with people, but if my group can't continue on there won't be anymore people for you to mess around with.
>> No. 46621
[x] Mention something about common enemies - this is no time for people of this plane to be killing each other

“You've seen what's happening above ground, right?”

You feel almost like someone not only drained half of your blood, but also lit you on fire and then sat on your chest. Somehow, though, you manage to squeeze those words out through strained breaths.

The youkai removes her foot, giving you at least a little relief. Her expression softens a bit, but its still very harsh. “No idea. Enlighten me.”

“Shinki herself is here, and she brought most of Makai with her. We're trying to fight them off.”

“... *snrk*. Seriously?”

Somehow, the idea of the queen of Makai running around above her head doesn't even register as something scary. This is definitely a strong youkai. You manage a weak nod, not really having the strength to explain further.

“Well,” She says, “Even if that's true, it doesn't really explain why I shouldn't kill you.”

“The enemy of my enemy... well, you know.”

“Doesn't change the fact that I clearly won,” She says, “I liked your style, but you shouldn't have stuck around if you didn't want to get eaten. You have no idea how hungry I am. By the way, what year is it?”

It's sort of an odd question, so you hesitate a bit before responding. When you do manage to choke it out, though, she's visibly shocked.

“I knew that sleeping until 'something interesting' happened was a bad idea,” She says, muttering a curse under her breath. “I didn't mean to sleep that long at all. I guess that explains a lot.”

A loud groan, presumably her stomach, echoes through the chamber. While she's still bewildered at the notion that she just slept for some absurd number of years, you try another suggestion.

“You could eat something else.”

She looks down at you, then out towards the bodies scattered throughout the hall. “I could. How about a few of them? I bet that two bodies would fill me up nicely. I guess you don't have to be one of them.”

[ ] Suggest that she find something topside. The local resistance had a pretty substantial food store, and you're sure that the food is better than she remembers.
[ ] Mention that you're working for Yukari. If she's as old as she's leading you to believe, you wouldn't be surprised if they've met.
[ ] Something else (write-in).
>> No. 46627
[X] Mention that you're working for Yukari. If she's as old as she's leading you to believe, you wouldn't be surprised if they've met.

Let's just hope she doesn't have a grudge against Yukari, eh?
>> No. 46632
[X] Mention that you're working for Yukari. If she's as old as she's leading you to believe, you wouldn't be surprised if they've met.
>> No. 46652
[X] If you come up top with us there will be plenty of things for you to eat, and I don't think anyone will give you flak for eating the things trying to eat them. Alternatively you can eat the corpses, though if you don't like eating them something can be arranged.

This will allow us to get to a more open space, so that if we need to run we aren't boxed in.
Though if this thing starts going after living civilians then we need to distract it until we can get back up to put it down.
I'd also like some clarification, are the two tengu dead or just incapacitated?
>> No. 46717
[x] Mention that you're working for Yukari. If she's as old as she's leading you to believe, you wouldn't be surprised if they've met.

It's not looking like this line of reasoning is going to pan out. You've got to try something else before her hunger gets the best of her.

“Yukari Yakumo... do you know her?”

A grin slowly creeps onto the youkai's face as she takes that name in. “You might be more interesting than I thought.”

“We've... met,” You say, “And I still have a task to do for her.”

“So,” The youkai says, again placing her foot on your chest. “What are you suggesting?”

“She might not like you killing us.”

The youkai laughs. It's a genuine laugh, like you'd just told a great joke. “Guess what? If she's sent you out on an errand that you can fail, she's already got a plan for when you do fail. Still...”

Taking her foot off of your chest, she squats down and lifts your arm. “I wonder why she'd pick you for anything,” She says, giving it a good look over, “Weird. Maybe she's finally losing it.”

Giving you about as much respect as you'd give a potato, she lets your mostly limp arm fall to the ground. You're still too weak to do much besides let it fall to the ground with a slight thud.

“I guess you wouldn't be very good anyway,” She says, now taking an interest in Sakuya. “I can tell you don't do much real work. What about her?”

Again, with the casualness of someone walking around a meat market, she starts to look at the rest of your fallen group. You guess that she isn't particularly concerned with Yukari, or maybe she's just looking to stir up a bit of trouble. Either way, you can't think of anything else to try. You really are at this creature's mercy right now.

“... she's a little better,” The youkai says, “Might be a good snack. Not a meal, though.”

Although Unzan does give her a bit of a fight as she nears Ichirin, it's not much of one. She doesn't seem particularly interested in Ichirin either, though, and ignores the tengu completely. You've heard that youkai don't generally eat other youkai, so maybe that's why.

After letting out a small sigh, the youkai walks over to you and squats down. “Tell you what,” She says, “I'm not going to eat any of you after all. Aren't you lucky?”

“... you're not?”

“I'm not,” She says, “Not a big fan of skin or marrow. Well, not by themselves, anyway. There's got to be some better food above ground.”

Well, you know that that isn't true, not with the city in the state that it's in. However, correcting her doesn't seem wise. For now, you'll just lie here. Yes. That's... probably the best option. As you do, you hear the youkai shuffle off down some side tunnel, hopefully to never be heard from again by anyone.

It's probably around thirty minutes before you really feel like you're able to move again. You're the first. You guess that Sakuya must have done a good job of shielding you with her body when you both fell, or something like that.

“... hey,” You call out, sitting upright, “Is anyone else alive?”

“... yeah.”

Ichirin answers, a bit weakly. Sakuya seems to be out pretty cold. Breathing, sure, but by how undignified she looks sprawled out like that you're pretty sure she isn't conscious. You can't make out the tengus' conditions from here, either.

With a groan, you force your muscles to work like they should and stand up. Maybe you had a few residual barriers going that you didn't even know about consciously.

“Are you alright?”

By now, you've walked over to her. She's managed to roll herself over onto her back, looking at least a little comfortable.

“Unzan's not answering.”

“How about you?”

“...”

She just glances to her side. “... no, he's fine. I'm fine.”

“Need a hand?”

You reach down, offering yours. She doesn't take it, however, just giving you a weak shake of her head.

“Let me rest for a bit.”

Well, you're in no rush - thankfully. You move over to asses the tengu next.

They don't look very well, but you're pretty sure they're still alive. That bullet storm probably wasn't designed to kill, just incapacitate.

“How about you two?”

Toshi twitches a bit at the noise. “Nue,” He mutters, although you're unsure of exactly what he's talking about. “Yoshiro. A nue...”

Yoshiro moves a bit, but doesn't respond.

“A nue...” He whispers again, “Terrible.”

“Yes,” Yoshiro mumbles, forcing himself to set upright. It looks to take a great deal of effort, and his face winces a bit in pain. “Terrible.”

Mulling those two syllables over, though... you feel like you've heard of a youkai called a Nue before. Never seen one, and you don't remember much except that it was particularly dangerous and never encountered. You're sure that if Patchouli were here, she'd be able to fill you in.

“Can you stand?”

Toshi looks to you from his sprawled out position, before sitting upright like his friend. It, too, doesn't look to be easy. Yoshiro seems a bit more motivated, though, propping himself up with his sword. It doesn't look like his legs are quite responding yet, though - and you can understand where he's coming from. Yours, too, feel a little weak.

His friend, however, opts to stay sitting for now. “Tired,” He says, to you, “I need to rest.”

You nod. “That's alright. Take your time.”

Sakuya seems to be moving a bit, so you head over there next. The moment she sees you, however, she stops, letting herself rest as well. She doesn't seem too pleased with you, but, well, she never is. You're sure that she'll try to make you explain yourself later. Although that didn't go as planned, it probably would have gone the same had you tried to run initially. You have no regrets.

After another fifteen minutes or so of rest, you all seem ready to move on. Not fit to fight after that thrashing, anyway, but fit to move. At the very least, you'd like to get closer to the exit. The air here is stagnant, and probably not great to breath for any of you.

The nearer you get to the exit, however, the more paranoid you get. Your defensive urges keep kicking in, although there's clearly nothing behind you. The tengu, too, seem a bit spooked. You get the strangest feeling that this... nue, or whatever, is still tailing you.

As far as you could tell, there was only one side tunnel on that underground street leading in this direction. All of the other ones were on the other side, and although you suppose that they could loop underneath, they probably don't. You could probably make some trouble for this thing if you wanted.

[ ] Don't. It's probably nothing.
[ ] Don't. No sense agitating it further.
[ ] If it were going to kill you, it would have. Try to get it off your tail.
================================================
Sorry about that. Just as I was picking up the pace again, I gave in to laziness. I'll try harder this time.
>> No. 46719
[x] Don't. No sense agitating it further.

Hmm, I do want a Nue in our party. I'm just afraid she'll do more harm than good.
>> No. 46720
[ ] Don't. It's probably nothing.

Even if it is something, reacting is what she wants. Nothing's wrong. Nothing at all. That's how we play it.
>> No. 46721
[X] Don't. No sense agitating it further.
I'd like to at least keep some of our attention on her, just forgetting about it would be a bad idea.
>> No. 46722
[x] Don't. No sense agitating it further.
>> No. 46724
[x] Don't. No sense agitating it further.
>> No. 46730
[x] Don't. No sense agitating it further.
[ ] If it were going to kill you, it would have. Try to get it off your tail.

Even if the three of you aren't just being paranoid, you probably don't want to agitate this thing further. Making trouble for it is only going to make trouble for you - and perhaps get you killed, if you make enough of it. You're pretty sure that the tengu aren't going to do anything without an explicit order, so you don't bother to point that fact out.

At least the path out wasn't nearly as confusing as it could have been. In very little time at all, you manage to make your way back to the original tunnel, and from there up above ground.

--- back into your usual self, too, and rather suddenly. All those experiences come rushing back, leaving you a little dizzy and very tired. If there's one thing that your barrier self is good at, it's ignoring things like that - he's a very rugged, tough guy. You, not so much.

“I'm... going to take a rest,” You say quietly, leaning against the wall of the cellar that you've all emerged into. What's left of it, anyway. Seems like someone scorched what was left of the building last night, leaving you with a clear view of the sky.

Nothing creepy pops out of the secret door while everyone waits for you, which seems to put the group a little more at ease. It's very quiet, too. No demons around, it seems like, and all the people have long since fled or been killed.

After a while, you feel a bit more stable, and begin leading the group. For a little ways, anyway. The two tengu are quick to take over, obviously being in their element. Lots of quick turns down alleys and little shortcuts that you'd never think to take.

As you walk through the empty streets and alleys, though, a rather terrifying thought comes to mind. That nue... logically, if it were looking for something to eat, you would be a good person to follow. Following a river to the ocean, or something like that. In the middle of something like this, it's a pretty safe assumption that you're going to head towards a larger group.

You slow down a little, letting Toshi catch up with you.

“Are we still being followed?” You whisper, bending over a little to reach his ears.

He listens even more intently for a little while, but only gives you a shrug in response. No idea. You suppose that the acoustics here are a bit poor for that sort of thing.

[ ] You're definitely going to have to find a distraction before walking into the warehouse.
[ ] If it wants to come, let it come. Your money would be on the oni in that fight.
================================================
I will say that tomorrow, there almost certainly won't be an update. Have some stuff to do after work.
>> No. 46731
[x] If it wants to come, let it come. Your money would be on the oni in that fight.

Now that's an awesome thought.
>> No. 46735
[x] If it wants to come, let it come. Your money would be on the oni in that fight.
>> No. 46744
[ ] If it wants to come, let it come. Your money would be on the oni in that fight.
>> No. 46751
[X] You're definitely going to have to find a distraction before walking into the warehouse.

While a oni will likely win in a straight up fight, the fleshy people we might meet en route certainly won't.
>> No. 46768
[x] If it wants to come, let it come. Your money would be on the oni in that fight.

Though... if that youkai did show up at the resistance base, your money would be on Yuugi. It's probably fine even if it does wander in with your group. The image of that fight quells your uneasiness, and you try your best to ignore the whole being-tailed-by-certain-death idea.

As you move through the city, though, you can't help but feel like its too quiet. Although you haven't crossed any of the5 roads leading directly out of the city yet, you have crossed a few major ones. You've seen nothing but charred buildings, general ruin, and corpses so far.

Not that you're complaining, of course. You're not actually looking for trouble.

Eventually, you see the warehouse come into view down the street. It's... burning. No. Something behind it is. There's a large mob in the street, too, although you can't make much else out at a glance. You stop mid stride, trying to get a better look. Everyone else follows suit.

“A battle,” Toshi says. Yes, you could believe that. Two sides do seem to emerge every once in a while, but the mob quickly descends back into chaos.

“Demons?”

“...”

Toshi and Yoshiro look to one another, then back to the battle. Toshi moves up to the front of the group, presumably to get a better view.

“... yes,” They both answer, nodding at once. Toshi turns towards you. “We must assist.”

It's not a command, but he'd clearly head off on his own if you were to just say no.

Watching for a little bit longer, you can see that it's a defensive battle. One group isn't moving - the two only merge when the one further from the warehouse charges.

“How are the rest of you feeling?”

You won't be doing much in this fight, you don't think, but perhaps the others feel differently.

“Unzan's fine,” Ichirin says, scowling a bit. “Pretty angry, though. Me, too.”

Sakuya just gives you a small sigh. “Do you really intend to fight another battle?”

“We do,” Yoshiro says, turning around to glare at the maid. He's clearly good to go. Toshi, too. “Anything else would be cowardly.”

If you didn't know better, you'd think that Sakuya didn't hear him - she doesn't even twitch at the scathing remark. Yoshiro isn't pleased. You've already decided on what to do, though, so you interject with that.

[ ] Flank the demons. Try to make it seem like a much bigger force is coming to assist.
[ ] You should get in to your tactician role. Find the leader of this particular engagement.
[ ] Have everyone else join in the fight directly. You'll do your best to support them.
>> No. 46773
[x] Flank the demons. Try to make it seem like a much bigger force is coming to assist.
>> No. 46774
[x] You should get in to your tactician role. Find the leader of this particular engagement.
It has worked before. Well not really, but it has to work once at least.
>> No. 46778
[ ] You should get in to your tactician role. Find the leader of this particular engagement.

Assassination mission is go?
>> No. 46779
[x] You should get in to your tactician role. Find the leader of this particular engagement.

Pick the leader out of a mob. Sounds like a plan.
>> No. 46791
[x] You should get in to your tactician role. Find the leader of this particular engagement.

“No,” You say, “We need to help. We don't necessarily need to fight another battle.”

Yoshiro doesn't seem all that pleased with that, either. “How do you intend to help without fighting?”

“We'll fight, but smartly,” You say, “The demons probably have a leader. We'll strike at that, not the whole thing. Can we get behind and above them without being seen?”

You can't say for sure that that is the case, but the odds of it being false are fairly small. Groups this large don't spontaneously appear out of nowhere. There's got to be a driving force behind it, and you can't imagine that said force wouldn't come in person. Not if these youkai and humans have been giving Makai as much trouble as you think.

“Yes,” Toshi answers, “This way.”

Sakuya frowns. “Must we?”

“It's something to do while we wait,” You shrug. As far as fighting ability goes, yours is near zero right now. You don't plan on doing this in a dangerous manner, but the tengu don't need to know that - so, you don't mention it. “Toshi. Lead the way.”

The tengu nods, and you all follow after him. Both tengu take the front this time. Probably eager to sink their swords into some demon.

Toshi eventually leads you into a shop overlooking one entrance to the market where the battle is taking place. Unlike the rest of the city that you've seen, most of the building around here seem to be intact. The owner, or what was probably the owner a few days ago, didn't fare as well.

The view from up here is somewhat limited, but it's enough for you to catch most of the battle. Definitely a group of demons. The tengu seem to be faring well, as most of the bodies that you can see are demon.

“Hey! Get 'em!”

Another roar surges up from the Makai forces, as they try once more to force their way past the tengu line. It doesn't succeed, but they do take down a few more with them. This one looks to be leading them. Still...

“... do you really think killing her would do anything?”

Ichirin quietly whispers that to you, pointing out the obvious. As she does, though, you see another, much taller, demon step into view and suddenly give her a good right hook. You don't hear the exchange, but she doesn't seem happy.

“That one,” You whisper back. “She's the one.”

As you do, that demon... looks straight at you. It's only for a moment, but she definitely meets your gaze. Should you run? She looks fairly tough. Not as tough as those sisters, but definitely tough enough that you're not sure about your odds.

Then, as if she hadn't noticed you at all, she turns back to her subordinate.

“... yeah,” Ichirin nods, presumably to her friend, “She definitely did.”

Those two are far enough back from the main force that you think that, unless the main force turned around suddenly, you could probably do something about them. Who knows what.

[ ] Sit tight for a while and observe.
[ ] Continue observation, but move to a new building.
[ ] She'd probably fall easy enough if you could catch her unaware. Find a way to do so.
>> No. 46792
[x] Sit tight for a while and observe.

Quack quack.
>> No. 46795
[x] Sit tight for a while and observe.
>> No. 46796
[ ] She'd probably fall easy enough if you could catch her unaware. Find a way to do so.
>> No. 46824
New thread is here: >>46823