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30502 No. 30502
---
“…Even you, Harunobu?”

The strapping young mercenary nods, and produces a small bag from inside his wayworn red armor. “Forgive me, Miss. I cannot complete the job for that you have commissioned me; I cannot consent to follow you up that mountain.”

“Why the hell not?!” Ignoring the money he’s proffered me – the money I paid him at the outset of this journey – I grab him by his lapels. “Harunobu, when I hired you, it was because you said you had experience fighting youkai! …You really have some guts, feeding me that bullshit story about how you served under the son of Abe no Seimei and then turning all meek and polite at the first sign of danger. Don’t you have any fucking shame?”

“But Miss,” he stammers out, “I really did kill those Oni! It is just…”

“‘It is just...’ what? Stop being so damn evasive and tell me!”

Visibly trembling, Harunobu lowers his head and points off into the distance. “On that mountain dwells an Oni God called ‘Star Bear.’ She is one of the Four Guardian Kings who serves Shutendouji and-”

“Yeah, that’s nice. Mind translating from ‘coward’ into a language I understand?”

“She is powerful, Miss! Dreadfully powerful!” he yells, practically panicking now. “We should find another road or else turn back, because if we go up that mountain, we will assuredly be dead before sunrise of the next day!”

…As usual, he’s not using his head. “And how do you know that?”

“…Miss?”

“If you could keep from pissing your pants for one fucking second and use your brain…” Letting out a long sigh, I’m slowly manipulating my temples as I ask him, “Have you been up there before?”

“No, Miss. I-”

“Then how do you know it’s dangerous?”

The eagerness with that he was shaking his head is replaced by bewilderment. “I…” Harunobu pauses, struggling hard to remember, “I think… was it Yamagata who told me about-?”

“And there’s my point, you goddamn retard – you heard it from someone! You know what that means? It means that people have run into your ‘Oni God’ and lived to tell about it! It means that your ‘Oni God’ could just be a superstition cobbled together out of the stories of the shiftless and the imaginings of the idle! It means that in either case, we can get over that mountain and make it in time for the festival market!” Seizing him by the collar again, I confirm: “Are you with me?”

“Yes…” He manages a small nod – a nod that becomes more confident and more certain each time he repeats it. “Yes! I… I had never thought of it that way before. I… You have a very quick mind, Miss!”

“It’s because I’m greedy. Sure, you’ll never starve if you only work hard, but getting rich? That means working smart – not just doing your job, but doing it well. …Here, catch.” I take out a small bag from one of the pouches around my waist and throw it to him. “That’s an advance on your hazard pay. If we run into trouble and you distinguish yourself by working smart, I’ll double that.”

“Thank you, Miss.” Harunobu straightens up and salutes smartly. “I will do my best to meet your expectations of me!”

“…That’s what I like to hear. I know it’s tough with just you and Ransu left, but protect the goods. Keep an eye out for bandit scouts or wandering youkai. Anything more complicated than that, I’ll take care of it, alright?”

“I understand.” Having bowed and retrieved his tall spear, he turns back. “I will be returning to my post now.”

I don’t see him off. Signaling my acknowledgement with a distracted wave, after Harunobu’s out of sight, I sink down in the driver’s seat of the wagon and rest my eyes.

“…How did a routine convoy develop into something so damn difficult?”
---
>> No. 30503
---
I knew this season wasn’t going to be a good one as soon as they said they couldn’t pay me.

I had been making the annual Echigo-Kyoto run, trading the unfinished silk cloth of my hometown for the capital’s wine. It’s good money, but it’s not an easy journey with how things have been going lately. Ever since that idiotic fuckwit Taira no something-or-other started causing trouble a few years back, the whole country’s been going to shit: food shortages everywhere you go, gangs of robbers and desperate outlaws popping up all over the place, refugees and vagrants (…Is there any difference these days?) on the roads in huge numbers – you name it; it’s probably going wrong somehow. That’s not to say life was all feasts and flower viewings when we were being ruled by the goddamn Fujiwaras, but at least there was order. At least there was peace. …Now? Under that Taira guy, the soldiers have taken over, and the fabric of society’s coming undone. Those stupid motherfuckers don’t know the first thing about art or beauty or culture or making money or anything besides how to murder and steal from the people who do something to make life worth living.

…Fucking bastards. I hope their piece-of-shit leader dies in a mattress fire.

Anyhow, when I got to Kyoto, I found out that my clientele wasn’t buying this time. The soldiers had been cutting their stipends and squeezing them with confiscations and levies, so the aristocratic types to that I normally end up selling didn’t have as much money as they used to. ...Yeah, you shouldn’t feel too bad for them. I mean, do you know the dire straits in that they landed me? Half-a-year’s worth of capital goes into this trip! If I didn’t sell my stuff and sell it fast, I would be facing financial ruin!

Lucky for me, I’m a professional when it comes to thinking on my feet. I called in a couple of favors and talked to a few people I know, and I managed to move a bunch of big lots on some wholesalers in the end (at a small loss). Problem is, when all was said and done, I still had something like half of the silk left unsold.

So I took a risk. I didn’t want to dump my the rest of my merchandise in an already saturated market, which is why I bought up as much wine as I could and left the city – I wanted to see what I could pull in from the surrounding area.

Turns out, the towns and villages around Kyoto had more to offer than Kyoto itself. It’s probably because a lot of those guys had never worn silk in their lives, but I made a killing exchanging my remaining stock for the local handicrafts: scroll paintings, wooden tools, simple weapons – stuff like that. A few of the ones who were more well-off wanted to pay in rice, but I didn’t take it. I’m not about to take food out of the mouths of a hungry community, and it wouldn’t command a good price back home anyway. See, even though the last couple of years have been really bad all around, there are a few places that haven’t been as hard hit. Echigo’s one of them. It’s the biggest growing region in the country and the most bountiful single province – I’d be lucky to break even selling rice there, the whole “time of general dearth” thing notwithstanding.

I was getting ready to head back there with the wine and trade goods, when I saw the date and thought of something – a place.

…A shrine.
---
>> No. 30506
---
Around ten or eleven summers back, I took a load of glassware to Kai and traded it for raisins. It wasn’t a really eventful trip compared to some of my others, but looking back on it, two things stand out in my memory:

One – never deal in fragile, useless shit like glassware again. It’s semi-lucrative if you know the right routes, but it takes up too much space per unit and it’s hard to liquidate when you see an opportunity and need cash fast.

Two – the encounter I had with that man.

It happened when I was passing through unfamiliar country, this mountain valley out in the middle of nowhere. The lonely road travelling through it had ended days ago in a swamp, but I couldn’t afford to stop or go back the way I came since I was already behind on time. …You know what it’s like having to forge a path with your own hands? It fucking sucks. Clearing logs and rocks and helping your cart out of sinkholes makes you tired and dirty, and when you haven’t seen any signs of civilization for weeks with your food about to run out…

…I don’t know what would’ve happened if I hadn’t come across his shrine.

I’ll never forget it – how relieved I was for having escaped out from the miles of marshy lowland into a pine forest, how sore my arms were from trying to cover as much ground before nightfall by beating the oxen, how shocking it was to see a footpath, stone steps and lights over the next ridge. After I parked the cart and set out a censer of blessed incense to keep away any curious youkai, I went to see what was going on. (I’m curious like that.) The long staircase, which wasn’t laid but had been cut out of the bedrock, ran in a straight line up the densely wooded hillside and opened onto this vermillion-colored gate hung with festive lanterns.

It was like I had stepped into another world! I mean, here I am in this ratty old weather-beaten cloak and these heavy travelling clothes that are all greasy from having been waterproofed, and I’m surrounded by crowds of celebrating people in yukata! A couple of them stopped and flashed me weird looks before going on their way, but most were too busy having fun – eating, drinking, laughing, going between the various stalls that had been set up on the grounds – to give me a more than a second thought.

Everyone except him.

“Would it please you to join us, traveler passing-by? My gods would be gratified if you should have their company – and I would be gratified if you would have my company.”

The one who had emerged from the mass of revelers to offer me his arm was something else: tall, light-brown hair, a smile that was easy on the eyes, a nice voice and even nicer manners. If it weren’t for his white clothes and peaked black hat, I’d never have pegged him as being the shrine’s priest! I’m not really a person who embarrasses easily, but goddamn if I didn’t get all red-faced and flustered at his invitation! I remember mumbling some bullshit excuse about not feeling well and how I had things I needed to do, and… man, what was it he said again?

“Lady Merchant, might you be familiar with why every shrine is adorned with a torii?”

When I told him that I didn’t, he explained that: “The torii is what demarcates the realm of men from the abode of the spirits. For that reason, no matter if it should be as humble and far-removed in the wasteland as mine, the torii is a shrine’s most important construction; it distinguishes said shrine from a simple palace, and perhaps more significantly, it comforts suppliants with the knowledge that they have surrendered their cares and sorrows by entering within.” He then pointed down at my long, hobnailed leather boots, which were just inside of the gate. “As you have already come all this way, will you not consent to forget your worries and enjoy the evening with me?”
---
>> No. 30507
Why'd you delete the old thread?
>> No. 30508
>>30507
Likely to keep the comments from interrupting the first update. Oops.
>> No. 30510
>>30507
>>30508
No, I’m appreciative of the feedback – it’s just that I made some tweaks and since the story is still at the beginning, I didn’t see any harm in reposting. I don’t think it’ll happen again.
>> No. 30516
It feels like a... 'Smart' story. I really don't know how else can I call it.

Well, except for 'promising' 'very good' and 'Holy shit Shrine has more than 1 writer now'
>> No. 30517
>>30516

>'Holy shit Shrine has more than 1 writer now'

My reaction when this was posted and DEFT updated. It's been way too long since I've had any other good writers to make me feel like I need to whip myself back into shape here.

I'm quite interested in seeing where this goes.
>> No. 30518
>>30516
I hope it isn't TOO 'smart'; AGLA while nice, isn't a relaxing story; too much brainwork.
>> No. 30519
I like where this is going.
>> No. 30532
>>30518
Let's wait and see.
>> No. 30538
I love this. I hope very much for it to continue. Very, very much.
>> No. 30549
Touhou meets Apples and Economics?

Do want.
>> No. 30556
Spice and youkai?
>> No. 30666
---
Around ten or eleven summers back, I took a load of glassware to Kai and traded it for raisins. It wasn’t a really eventful trip compared to some of my others, but looking back on it, two things stand out in my memory:

One – never deal in fragile, useless shit like glassware again. It’s semi-lucrative if you know the right routes, but it takes up too much space per unit and it’s hard to liquidate when you see an opportunity and need cash fast.

Two – the encounter I had with that man.

It happened when I was passing through unfamiliar country, this mountain valley out in the middle of nowhere. The lonely road travelling through it had ended days ago in a swamp, but I couldn’t afford to stop or go back the way I came since I was already behind on time. …You know what it’s like having to forge a path with your own hands? It fucking sucks. Clearing logs and rocks and helping your cart out of sinkholes makes you tired and dirty, and when you haven’t seen any signs of civilization for weeks with your food about to run out…

…I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened if I hadn’t come across his shrine.

I’ll never forget it – how relieved I was for having escaped out from the miles of marshy lowland into a pine forest, how sore my arms were from trying to cover as much ground before nightfall by beating the oxen, how shocking it was to see a footpath, stone steps and lights over the next ridge. After I parked the cart and set out a censer of blessed incense to keep away any curious youkai, I went to see what was going on. (I’m curious like that.) The long staircase, which wasn’t laid but had been cut out of the bedrock, ran in a straight line up the densely wooded hillside and opened onto this vermillion-colored gate hung with festive lanterns.

It was like I had stepped into another world! I mean, here I am in this ratty old weather-beaten cloak and these heavy travelling clothes that are all greasy from having been waterproofed, and I’m surrounded by crowds of celebrating people in yukata! A couple of them stopped and flashed me weird looks before going on their way, but most were too busy having fun – eating, drinking, laughing, going between the various stalls that had been set up on the grounds – to give me a more than a second thought.

Everyone except him.

“Would it please you to join us, traveler passing-by? My gods would be gratified if you should have their company – and I would be gratified if you would have my company.”

The man who had emerged from the mass of revelers to offer me his arm was something else: tall, light-brown hair, a smile that was easy on the eyes, a nice voice and even nicer manners. If it weren’t for his white clothes and peaked black hat, I’d never have pegged him as being the shrine’s priest! Now, I’m not normally a person who embarrasses easily, but goddamn if I didn’t get all red-faced and flustered at his invitation! I remember mumbling some bullshit excuse about not feeling well and how I had things I needed to do, and… shit, what was it he said again?

“Lady Merchant, might you be familiar with why every shrine is adorned with a torii?”

When I told him that I didn’t, he explained that: “The torii is what demarcates the realm of men from the abode of the spirits. For that reason, no matter if it should be as humble and far-removed in the wasteland as mine, the torii is a shrine’s most important construction; it distinguishes said shrine from a simple palace, and perhaps more significantly, it comforts suppliants with the knowledge that they have surrendered their cares and sorrows by entering within.” He then pointed down at my long, hobnailed leather boots, which were just inside of the gate. “As you have already come all this way, will you not consent to forget your worries and enjoy the evening with me?”
---
>> No. 30667
---
“…You’re kidding. So then everyone here is…?”

My cheerful guide shook his head modestly. “I am no one so great. Many are merely their companions or relations, to whom I cannot be called as a benefactor.”

“Yeah, except for the part where you saved their friends from starving to death and rescued their family members from being eaten by fucking monsters. …Why the hell are you acting all modest about it?”

“Indeed? Whatever is the Lady Merchant suggesting?”

“What she is suggesting,” I responded dryly, “is that you should do away with the fake humility and take credit where credit’s due. You may not have helped every person among the people here, but you did help the people they care about. That makes you their benefactor.”

“Insofar as my having rendered a degree of indirect and accidental assistance, I believe you are correct; however, I would also make the case that I ought not to be praised for it more than are you. Indeed,” he said aloud with a completely straight face, “how many more have been fed and clothed through the Lady Merchant’s munificence and unremitting toil than were ever aided by the bungling of this coarse monk!”

“You say that, but who’s the one running a fucking festival? …Seriously, take a second and look at the people you have gathered around you – I’m the only stranger of them. You have guys from as far away as Sakitama and Odawara, and I’m the only stranger.

“Yes, you were.” Smiling warmly at me, he motioned towards a stall on our right (which had just the most mouthwatering aroma coming off of it!) and inquired, “Is the Lady Merchant partial to dango?”
---
>> No. 30668
---
What struck me most about that man was his way with people. I’m not talking about how he would bless me whenever I sneezed or how he volunteered to buy me anything I wanted after I told him I was broke (I was lying); what I’m talking about is just the intensity of his honesty and selflessness. …It’s a hard feeling for me to capture in my own words, so I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of his. This is the story he told me as he took me around his shrine: the circumstances that had led to his taking up residence there.

He had once been a warrior monk of the Tendai sect – a Captain in the temple army of Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei – but a chain of events he described as “politicization” and “the penetration of worldly affairs into monastic life” had led to him resigning and leaving the order. …Something about how these princes from a branch of the Imperial clan (which I later found out be the fucking Tairas, those evil sons-of-bitches!) had made “donations” to the tune of huge amounts after closed-door meetings with the head monk and how all this money had then gone to constructing fortifications and hiring mercenaries instead of sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry.

“In hindsight,” he told me with a troubled expression, “I believe they purchased our future cooperation against their rivals for power, for shortly before the first of their visits, I became privy to rumors that the Minamoto family had entered into a similar alliance with our sister monastery of Mii-dera. The Lord Abbot denied that this had any bearing on his decision when he was pressed for an explanation, but his orders to us afterwards revealed his deceit – we were preparing for war! The Taira Patriarch had sought us out that we should raise arms against our fellow monks!”

That didn’t sit too well with him. The reason he had become a warrior monk in the first place was, in his words, “to protect the poor, succor the sick and exterminate evil in Heaven’s behalf!” which is why he decided to give up the tonsure for the life of a wandering knight. He spent the next seven years in service to the people: organizing the defense of towns and villages against bandit attacks, driving ghosts and monsters from the devastated lands they haunted, mediating in disputes between the Eastern Barbarians and the garrisons that neighbored them, liberating widows and orphans from the exactions of local bullies – destroying injustice whenever he saw it.

The end result was that he had made enemies of not a few lords and landowners, but had won the friendship and admiration of a great many ordinary people. It was these who had helped him to build a shrine when he chose to settle down, and it was these – the very same peasants, artisans, merchants and tradesman – who were attending his festival that night!

Don’t laugh at me for saying this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be a fucking saint. …You’ll see what I mean when I introduce you to him: he’s really an amazing person.
---
>> No. 30669
...And getting that out took much longer than it should have. You'll be getting your first choice soon.
>> No. 30671
>>30669
Well don't put choice for the sake of putting choices, some stories work well with the occasional choice.
>> No. 30674
>>30671
What he said. Considering the writing so far, you already knew this but; threads here are stories first, CYOAs later.
>> No. 30676
>>30671
>>30674
What these two said, also, don't worry if you're not getting any discussion yet, it's still too early for analysing posts for details or putting things together, I'm pretty certain that anybody that has picked this story up has warm feelings towards it and are waiting for updates.
>> No. 30811
>>30676
Damn yes I am.

Can't wait for more!
>> No. 30843
>anybody that has picked this story up has warm feelings towards it and are waiting for updates

Indeed.
>> No. 31011
Really hoping this is continued...
>> No. 31012
>>31011
It is; it's just that I'll be posting everything together when it's all done.
>> No. 31019
>>31012
Everything? As in, up to the first choice? Or is this actually a CYOA at all?
>> No. 31812
rb
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