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111246 No. 111246
June 1582, Shinano Province of Japan

A flash of light in darkness. A dark form split in half from shoulder to hip. A gargling scream that could never be uttered by something human.

Armored head-to-toe in lacquered wood slats and iron plates, the man lowered his spear, the bladed tip encrusted with black ichor. Another of the beasts stepped forth to take the place of its fallen comrade; the man stole a glance to his left, taking note of his own allies and their state.

After destroying the once-great Takeda clan that ruled over Shinano and her neighboring provinces, the great Oda Nobunaga - whom some feared as the Sixth Great Demon King - had left it to his regional governors to settle the conquered territory. However, he had given a special task to one of those governors, a certain Kawajiri Hidetaka, to begin a search in the province for a particular reclusive shrine.

Hidetaka was the new governor of Kai, but took Nobunaga's order as priority, thus he left his post to one of his lieutenants and personally led a squad into the wilderness of Shinano to find this shrine, of which they only had its name and a vague idea of its location.

The name was Hakurei Shrine.

The location was "where the demons and oni roamed freely, and men were naught to be found."

The group of one dozen samurai - no peasant soldiers or ashigaru were present, as trained and skilled warriors were needed for the task - had rode on horseback as far as the roads would take them, and when the roads disappeared and brush and fauna populated the way, they proceeded on foot from there. It was not long before the first demons appeared. A few of the samurai had experience in fighting such creatures, and pioneered the group's path, engaging in bloody combat with all that assaulted them.

It had been two days and three nights; travel was slow without horse and road, and dirt paths being few and worn by time and weather. But now, the attacks were noticeably increasing in intensity, with this last group numbering in the dozens.

Two men had already succumbed to teeth and claw, while three others had fallen prey to the mystical and demonic powers wielded by the foe. Bullets of various colors would speckle the air on occasion, far different from the iron pellets the samurai packed in their arquebusiers.

Even with these obstacles, this current melee was won. The surviving samurai were able to dispatch what remained of the ogres, and gave prayer over the deceased.

One of the younger samurai prodded a youkai corpse with his spear. Unlike the elder soldiers, these fights had been Shuzou's first encounter with such non-humans, and it was still hard to get used to this sort of foe.

"Shuzou, come. We're moving on. Nobushige thinks the shrine is very close by now," called out Hidetaka, the group's senior by age at fifty-five. Nobushige was standing nearby Hidetaka, his arms crossed while waiting for the scattered men to reassemble. Shuzou studied the man as he approached: Nobushige was a former high-ranked Takeda samurai, having defected in the final defeat that sealed that clan's fate in order to save his own. As a local, Nobushige had knowledge of the lands that the occupying Oda troops did not, and thus he was a vital part of the search party.

However, this mission had a secondary objective: once Hakurei Shrine was located, they were to execute Nobushige to both remove him as a possible future threat, and to express what Nobunaga thought about his last-minute defection.

Shuzou walked alongside another of the younger samurai as the survivors filed off through the brush. Looking to his side, he noted his companion had taken up one of their fallen comrade's swords, his spear nowhere to be seen.

"Toshihiro, what happened to your weapon?" inquired Shuzou, though he already had an idea of what befell the spear.

"It broke. I got it caught in one of those youkai's ribs and another one took the chance to chew through it. It didn't last long to my sword, though, and with two I can now feel more comfortable in a fight."

Shuzou recalled that Toshihiro's father was a skilled swords instructor, prevalent in a form of two-swords combat. This led him to relax slightly, confident that with his friend able to fight at his best, any further attacks would fail against their spirit and blades.

After several more hours of searching the group finally reached what seemed to be the remains of a road made from packed dirt, that led only a few dozen meters before coming to a set of stone steps in obvious disrepair and overgrown with vines and weeds. The steps were a familiar design; many hillside shrines had such steps leading up to them from the local road or village square.

As the seven samurai reached the top of the climb, they were beset with the sight of their goal, the Hakurei Shrine. The archway at the top of the steps was still intact, and the main building itself served as a contrast to the road they had found, as it was in relatively good condition and repair.

As they approached the building, Shuzou felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise slightly. If the building was in this state, that meant someone was living here. But, without any fields or paddies nearby, what human could survive out here?

The answer was soon to show herself. A young woman with vibrant golden hair appeared from the shrine's interior, clad in the familiar robes of a miko, her hakama a vivid violet.

She made her way over to the men in a slow stride, her arms folded in front of her. Besides the golden locks, she was a typical example of a demure and beautiful shrine maiden.

"Hello sirs. How may I help you?"

Old Kawajiri bowed his head respectfully before asking, "Young maiden, am I correct in saying that this is the Hakurei Shrine?"

The girl nodded her head, a pleasant smile on her face. Yet, Shuzou still could not shake that creeping feeling of unease. His brown eyes darted to the right, where his friend Toshihiro stood. The other youth also seemed highly alerted, keeping his hands on the grips of his sheathed katanas while focused on the miko.

"Yes, this is indeed the Hakurei Shrine. I am the caretaker of these grounds, Hakurei Yukari."

Lowering one of her hands momentarily, Yukari produced a folding fan from her sleeve that she then held up to her mouth as she took two steps back.

"Please, come in for some tea. I am sure you have an important reason to be here, and have traveled a long ways."

"I would be obliged, Miss Hakurei," responded Hidetaka, and the soldiers followed Yukari toward the building's rear.

---

Gonna continue this later. Sleep time.

>> No. 111254
>>111246
>Yes, this is indeed the Hakurei Shrine. I am the caretaker of these grounds, Hakurei Yukari."
Mind = broken
>> No. 111317
>>111254
>Yes, this is indeed the Hakurei Shrine. I am the caretaker of these grounds, Hakurei Yukari."

I hear glass shattering...

WHY DO I HEAR GLASS SHATTERING ALL AROUND ME?!

WHY IS GLASS SHATTERING AROUND ME?!

AAAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

Let's see how this will go...
>> No. 111324
>>111254
You're right... what is this I don't even.
>> No. 111327
Post the continuation already, I want to see how you're going to play this out.
>> No. 111361
File 126525895371.jpg - (352.18KB , 450x1215 , 2edb49b0d05e2dc5237a22cd7a1791d5.jpg ) [iqdb]
111361
lolwut
>> No. 111382
>>111361
I thought that was Flandre first, then I saw the gap in the third box

In other news, Update Damn It.
>> No. 111386
>Update Damn It.
>Grilled Chicken
Yeah, good luck with that.
>> No. 111956
At the rear veranda, the men were served tea by Yukari, who in turn began some smalltalk with Hidetaka. Shuzou watched her intently; her golden hair was just like that of some of the foreigners that came to these lands from time to time. Was she somehow one of them? That didn't seem to be the case, but at the same time there was something very off about her.

After a few minutes, the elder samurai raised a hand to stop Yukari's idle chatter.

"I have a feeling that you know why we are here and are trying to delay us for some reason." he said tersely, any trace of amiableness gone from his voice. "Miss Hakurei, we are here on order from Lord Nobunaga to retrieve the Hourai Elixir that this shrine has kept hidden for many generations."

'Hourai Elixir?' questioned Shuzou in his mind. Was it some sort of medicine or witchcraft? His mind touched on that pervading reputation of Nobunaga as a Demon King: did he really have knowledge and ability above that of humans?

Yukari, whom had been seated on her knees in front of the group, was quiet as she set down her half-emptied cup. Raising her opened fan, she hid the lower half of her face behind it as she responded calmly, "I cannot allow you to take any such items under the Hakurei's care. Even if one such as Nobunaga asks for it."

Setting his own cup down roughly, Hidetaka rose to his feet, one hand on the pommel of his sword, an unpleasant grimace on his face.

"Perhaps you misunderstand, miko. I am not making a request. We will be taking the elixir with or without your consent. I have already lost some good warriors just to reach here, so blood is already spilt upon this endeavor. Adding yours to it is no difficult task if you intend to oppose us."

The rest of the samurai stood as well; Yukari's violet eyes scrunched up slightly at this. Watching her, Shuzou could swear he felt some sort of twisted bemusement radiating from her reaction.

"My dear little human, you will find that you are judging such a task too quickly. You will be leaving now, without any of this elixir you demand of me."

With a exasperated sigh, Hidetaka waved toward two of the other men. "You two, take hold of her. If she won't cooperate, then we'll simply beat the answer out of her. Or we'll end up killing her and tear the shrine apart to find that elixir. Whichever comes first."

The two armored men Hidetaka beckoned, each with their spear in hand, came forward towards the still-seated Yukari. She hadn't moved from her position. His mental alarms blaring, Shuzou gather his own spear up and inched closer towards Toshihiro, whom hadn't removed his hands from his hilts the entire time since they arrived.

When the two men got within two meters of Yukari, the tense atmosphere exploded. Something, something HUGE, barreled in from their left and slammed into the two soldiers. One man was knocked aside, losing his weapon, while the second warrior was set upon directly by whatever thing had attacked. The other samurai sprung into readiness, their weapons brandished.

It took just seconds for the scene to come into clarity. The beast was easily tall as a man and long as three, and had a cluster of golden, white-tipped tails. It was a giant kitsune, and she had her fangs bared on the grounded man under her claws. Only the shaft of his spear caught between her teeth saved him from a swift death, but the delay was not long.

With a crunch and snap, the spear was torn in half, and the man let out a bloodcurdling scream as the fox beast tore into his body with tooth and claw. Toshihiro, Nobushige and the man who had been knocked down advanced on the beast carefully, knowing it was too late to save the downed man. Hidetaka, Shuzou and the remaining warrior faced Yukari herself, whom now was standing... no, her feet did not reach the ground. She sat upon some ethereal-like crescent opening, with the two ends tied off with red ribbons. Shuzou could see a multitude of eyes within the crescent, like if it was some gap showing him a glimpse of the underworld.

"So, you were a youkai afterall, miko." growled Hidetaka, his sword held up defensively. Yukari giggled. "No need to address me as a shrine maiden; I never was one. I simply take the role for the sake of Gensokyo. It is unfortunate that Nobunaga sent you all here just to die. Especially considering what I have planned for him in the coming days."

"Silence, demon!" yelled out Hidetaka as he leapt at Yukari, slashing down hard with his sword. The attack never connected, as another of those gaps appeared around Yukari and swallowed her up. A second later, she reappeared out of another gap several meters above them.

"This will be a swift fight, you know. Your ability can't even match Ran, as you can see. Even hoping to wound me is out of your reality," Yukari commented while waving towards the other men fighting the giant fox beast. Already a second man was down, his left arm missing from the shoulder as he groped and fumbled along the ground in a stupor. Toshihiro and Nobushige were hard-pressed fighting Ran, whom seemed to have little trouble tracking both fighters simultaneously.

Hidetaka sneered up at Yukari before motioning Shuzou and the other man to follow him. The three joined in the fight against the fox, which tipped the scales from "getting slaughtered" to "losing terribly."

"Surround her, don't let her have room to maneuver! If we take away her speed advantage, we can crumble this mountain one drop at a time..." ordered Hidetaka. For her part, Ran seemed to oblige the samurai's tactic, simply turning slowly in place as she observed the warriors closing in on her. Yukari watched from her position in the air, occasionally letting out a light giggle at the scene.

After a few tense moments, Ran stopped her circling, and focused on Shuzou. He only had a split second to react, not that he even could with how fast she was, before he felt the beast's muzzle slam into his gut, depriving him of both his breath and grip on his spear, carrying him up off the ground to sail a good dozen meters into the air before crashing down near the archway at the top of the shrine steps. Consciousness left him immediately on touchdown.
>> No. 111957
By the way, critique/discuss the story and writing as you see fit.

The story is mainly to focus on a time period of Gensokyo before the Great Hakurei Border, before the time of Reimu/Marisa/Sakuya/Youmu, and during a time in Japan where youkai and spirits were considered real and entwined with the human world.

You can expect a good amount of Yukari, Ran, the oni, Yuyuko, Keine, Youki and other long-lived denizens of Gensokyo.
>> No. 111959
Interesting, but it's too soon to judge it.
The story, I mean.
>> No. 111965
>>111957
Im enjoying it. I always like stories where normal humans come in contact with things beyond their comprehension. Pre-spellcard Gensokyo always seems interesting since fights lead to serious injury, not the usual tea at the shrine.
>> No. 111967
>>111957
I'd just like to say the small bit thus far written is stylistically excellent, and that your creative ambition in trying at something so bold is admirable.

This judgement's subject to change though, so don't give me (or anyone else, for that matter) reason to doubt you. On the contrary, write faster so that you'll prove I'm mistaken in harboring misgivings of this manner.
>> No. 112926
"Damn!" swore Toshihiro as Shuzou's body lay motionless near the archway. What use was impeding the fox beast's speed if they could not even match her power? Regardless, he kept his swords at ready, drawing on his fighting spirit as his master taught. Not every man here was an ordinary warrior, there was a reason Hidetaka picked out these specific samurai for the mission. A blue-white glow began to emanate from Toshihiro's arms.

Glancing over at his commander, Toshihiro noted Hidetaka was beginning to emit a faint green glow from his arms and chest as well. This was an advanced technique, to manipulate one's own battle spirit to become stronger and faster. Improper use of it could prove just as self-damaging as being helpful, but with it one could match or even overcome very dangerous foes, be they human or beast.

On an unspoken signal, both men leaped at Ran together, moving several faster than usual. Even the giant fox was taken off-guard by this display, and only barely backed out of range of Toshihiro's sword slash. Hidetaka's spear, however, found purchase, tearing out a gash in Ran's left hind leg. With a loud snarl, she turned to retaliate, but the hardened warrior was already on the ground and moving fast. Toshihiro ran opposite of Hidetaka, making sure to give Ran two faster-than-expected threats to track.

Nobushige and the remaining samurai were now focusing their own spirits as well, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. The giggling from Yukari had ceased, as she now watched with rapt attention to how these fighters moved.

Seemingly frustrated, Ran gave out a howl as several waves of danmaku spewed out from her body in all directions. However, in their focused states, the samurai were able to discern the patterns and nimbly avoid the bullets as they closed in on the fox beast.

A cut across her flank! A slash to her left shoulder! A nick to her ear! The intensity of attacks grew as four glowing bodies circled around the nucleus that was Ran, whom finally in a rage burst up and out of the crisscrossing web of blades. Curled forward in a spin, she rained danmaku down on the four warriors, whom danced through the hail as they tailed her descending form. In a deliberate move, she made sure to land upon the one-armed, wounded man still struggling on the ground, caving in his chest cavity with her front paws. Kicking away the fresh corpse like litter, she advanced on the four warriors; despite the damage they inflicted, she was still very much in the game and quite volatile in her rage now.

"Sir, we need to finish this fast... I don't think I can last longer than a few minutes now," gritted out Toshihiro through clenched teeth, sweat pouring down his face. Hidetaka nodded in acknowledgment; he too was feeling the heavy exertion from the technique.

"We have one more chance here. Together, we're going to charge and then split apart in front of her. I'll lead; she's not stupid and will realize what we're doing, but I need you to follow my directions. Aim for her shoulder if you can. Once we do this regardless of the outcome, I want you all to retreat. I'll be right behind you. She won't stay down for long so we'll need to move fast."

He crouched into a ready position. "On my mark... one, two ...three!"

All four warriors burst forward in a dash, their glows trailing behind them like will-o-wisps. The fox beast hesitated, backing into a defensive posture at their concerted charge. Hidetaka split to her left, while the other warriors split to her right. Ran glanced towards Hidetaka for a split second, only to snap back suddenly towards the trio, believing Hidetaka was the feint and they were the real attack. Toshihiro and the other two evaded her swipes, and began to pull back as planned. For his part, Hidetaka had his spear raised high as more energies coalesced around his arms and weapon.

"This should put you out for a bit..."

With his weapon held high for an overhead strike, Hidetaka flew at Ran's undefended flank. She noticed him at the last second, turning back towards him, but too late to react.

There was a flash of violet-white light.

Hidetaka's smoldering lower torso scattered across the stone, as Yukari floated down above it. The rest of the veteran samurai was gone, to the others it was obvious what had just occurred. Yukari giggled once again. "That was quite a magnificent display. Unfortunately, I do happen to like my shikigami undamaged. Mostly. I am afraid the show stops here."

At about the same time, Toshihiro collapsed to one knee as the glow from his collected spirit dissipated. Time was up. The other samurai also lost focus, leaving only Nobushige left in any fighting capacity.

"So much for this farce. Hey, kid," said Nobushige over his shoulder. Toshihiro looked up at him, catching his breath. "Grab your friend over there, and the three of you RUN. Harder than you've ever run. I'm going to hold them here as long as I can."

"But Si-"
"Shut up and do it, kid. You guys think I didn't know that Nobunaga wanted me axed, thinking I'd be disloyal after betraying the Takeda? Well, I'll show you what loyalty means. Loyalty to one's comrades in battle, I know that well. Loyalty to an incompetent daimyo like Takeda, that's something else."

He snatched the spear away from the third samurai, and held both it and his own weapon crossed before him. "Now, GO!!"

Unable to even utter thanks, Toshihiro and the other survivor fled, sheathing his swords and scooping up Shuzou as they made their escape down the shrine steps. Walking forward, Nobushige let a grin cross his face.

"Do you happen to know a monster who once dwelt upon Sendo Mountain, youkai whore?" sneered Nobushige, his spears still crossed before him. "Well who cares if you do, just know that I, Oyamada Nobushige, have slain beasts like you before, and that death in doing so is the true way to die!"

---

There was a loud clap like thunder behind the escapees as they neared the bottom of the steps. Not pausing to look back, Toshihiro muttered a prayer for the man who gave them the chance to escape.

---

Yukari nudged the blackened form with the sole of her sandal. She'd seen such acts of sacrifice and bravery before in her long life, but it never really got old. Humans were quite fascinating indeed.

"Lady Yukari, shall I hunt down the others?"

Yukari hmmed, tapping her closed fan against her chin before shaking her head. "No Ran, I think we'll let them be. I am certain they will try to go back to Nobunaga to warn him of what I mentioned, but they won't arrive in time. And even if they did, they would expect a youkai attack, not the plan I have already set under way."

Turning around, she clapped twice, and the entire scenery changed as if water dripping off an oil painting. No longer was the shrine run-down and decrepit, but instead in pristine condition and well-kept. The blood, corpses and other damage to the area were all wiped away as well.

"Now Ran, let's get those wounds treated. You really ought to work more on your fox-form combat."

The giant beast glowed blue for a brief moment before the glow shrunk down to a humanoid shape; when it dissipated, a tall and attractive blonde woman stood there in the nude, her head adorned by fox ears and multiple golden tails growing from her lower back.

"You also should work on summoning your clothes back when you transform."
"My apologies."
>> No. 113032
GODDAMNIT RAN YUKARI