[Return]
Archived Thread

File 131292686950.jpg - (353.02KB , 1600x1200 , this can't end well.jpg ) [iqdb]
144689 No. 144689
(Here's hoping my first foray into CYOA's is not terrible.)

Oh, it was supposed to be a run of the mill stash grab, that stalker said. He'd seen it in this old wooden house not even an hour ago but it was surrounded by anomalies and he didn't feel like risking his life to get to it. So he sold you the location of the place for cheap, no strings attached.

All you had to do was go in and not get killed in some horrific fashion and, assuming you succeeded at that part, you'd then grab any loot there and come out that much richer. An easy task for a master stalker like yourself, you thought.

If you live long enough to somehow find a way back, you are going to to punch that sunuvabitch in the <I>soul</I>.

---------------------------------

Popping your head around the doorway you're currently busy huddling behind to return fire is likely to get your skull a new hole, and even with the combined might of your exoskeleton and the bullet-resistant artifacts you've got clipped to your belt, that's not something you're going to take a chance on.

Where the hell did all those mercenaries come from, anyway? At least ten of them, probably more, came out of absolutely nowhere and opened fire the moment you neared the location of the stash, and your suit took more rounds than you're comfortable with getting into the ruined building for cover.

As the gunfire peppering your position quiets down, one of those jackasses yells in your general direction.

"Hey, asshole, come out here and make things easy for us!"

You give that request due consideration before you make your thoughts on the subject known.

"Go fuck yourselves!" Your eloquent response is met with more gunfire, of course. You swear underneath your breath as a bullet whizzes right past your head through a fresh hole in the decaying wood.

"Balls to <I>that</I>." You whisper to yourself, and quietly fall back further into the building. Fortunately, those assholes outside don't seem to notice. You keep your GP-37 up and at the ready in case of there being something nastier than the mercs.

After rounding a corner, you find yourself in what looks like what used to be a living room, judging by the couches, tables and chairs scattered around a massive hole in the floor. You peer down into it and, while it's not particularly deep, there are tunnels leading off into inky blackness. There's also what looks to be some sort of gravitational anomaly down there.

You dismiss it for the moment, turn around, and find yourself face-to-tentacle with a bloodsucker.

"Shit!" Strangling further obscenities, you instinctively take a step back as the thing swings at you. Unfortunately, you can't walk on air, so you fall back straight into the hole. To your incredible dismay, you also fall straight into that anomaly.

While you brace yourself for feeling the incredible pressure of being molded into something that could fit into a can of tuna, the actual experience is something far less painful. Indeed, all that happens is that you see varying shades of white and have an intense ringing in your ears.

You don't really keep track of how much time passes as you're busy firing shots off blindly, because <I>fuck</I> the idea of making yourself an easy meal for that bloodsucker.

This only goes on for a few seconds more before your vision clears up to the wonderful sight of the sky. What's less wonderful is that you realize you're falling. You spin around mid-air to get an idea of how high up you are, but all that get you are several tree-branches to the face, and then you smash into the ground itself.

You're stunned for a moment or two, but soon you regain your senses and roll over, propping yourself up on your elbows as you take a look around.

It's very... green. That's the first thing you notice. You're in some sort of clearing, surrounded by actual living trees, and the grass beneath your feet is so healthy looking you're not sure it isn't secretly irradiated.

"...The hell?"

Well, wherever that anomaly threw you, you don't have time to waste gaping like an idiot. The first thing you do upon getting up is to give yourself a once-over. Everything appears to be fine, surprisingly, although with a sinking feeling you note that your rifle appears to have disappeared on you.

A quick search of the clearing you're in reveals no trace of your weapon, and you smash your fist into a nearby tree in frustration, sending splinters flying.

"Looking for this~?"

That gets you to whirl around, unholstering your M1911 in one smooth motion to aim at the source of the voice. There's a little blonde girl there, of all things, a red ribbon in her hair and wearing a black dress. What catches your attention most, though, is that she's holding onto your rifle.

"I said, are you looking for this?"

It's also pointed at you, something you belatedly realize as she giggles for some godforsaken reason.

"Hey, kid? You might want to put that down."

"Why should I?" She tilts her head and smiles at you in a manner you'd find cute if it weren't for the gun she has aimed at your head.

Shit, how should you go about this?

[X] Stay where you are as a show of confidence and ask her to give it back. She probably doesn't even know how to use the thing, and you'd be doing everyone a favor if this situation could be handled cleanly.
[X] Go up to her and grab it. You're pretty sure your suit can handle more bullets if she decides to use it on you.
[X} Discretion is the better part of valor. Get to cover, and try to negotiate further from there.
[X] Hey, you've got a boatload of shiny things in your pack, right? Show off one of the cheaper ones and use it to trade for your gun.
[X] She's pointing a gun at you and you're not in a good mood. Shoot the brat and liberate your weapon from her corpse.
[X] Write-in?

Also:

[X] Select Stalker's Codename? (optional)

>> No. 144690
Formatting tags on THP use square braces.

[X] Hey, you've got a boatload of shiny things in your pack, right? Show off one of the cheaper ones and use it to trade for your gun.
>> No. 144692
>>144690 I could've sworn I had the formatting down right. Thanks for the tip.
>> No. 144694
[x] Shoot the brat.
>> No. 144695
[X] Go up to her and grab it. You're pretty sure your suit can handle more bullets if she decides to use it on you.

To be honest, I'm not confident at all, for two reasons:
-first, this is a cross-over. The website's rules are more or less against them.
-second, you are a new writer, and beginning by a CYOA is... not a good idea.

But, hey, maybe you'll surprise me.
Here, have my vote. Good luck.
>> No. 144696
For a person that never got to play S.T.A.L.K.E.R. since his computer sucks, I really want to see where this goes.

[X] Hey, you've got a boatload of shiny things in your pack, right? Show off one of the cheaper ones and use it to trade for your gun.

I suck at write-ins and this is the least dangerous option. I hope that shes an idiot and attracted to shiny things.
>> No. 144697
>>144695

I can't blame you for being hesitant about this, honestly. I've been reading on here for about a year or so now, and I've done a bit of writing beforehand, so I figured I wanted to try my luck with a story of my own.

I realize crossovers are iffy, for a variety of reasons, but the success of Troubleshooter in Gensokyo was enough to overcome my misgivings. I thought I might as well give this a shot. Worst case scenario is that it stalls out and I spent a lot of time on nothing, but even if that happens I hope to have entertained someone with this.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the story.
>> No. 144698
>>144695
>The website's rules are more or less against them

Hm, no. If it's a Touhou/X cross-over, then it's ok. We've had those before and everybody enjoyed them until the writers became fags and HIATUS END'ed them.

A crossover between CYOAS has never worked before, and is rarelly a good thing. The only one who was doing (the only) good jog with that was Fallfag, but Fallout Gensokyo is in an unboluntary pause.
>> No. 144699
>>144698
Speak about cross-over in THP, and "meta-knight" comes to mind.


Don't do the same mistake, AxA.
>> No. 144701
>>144699

Ah, I remember that now. I never read that guy's story, but I remember reading IRC's text log on pastebin, with him trying to explain why Meta Knight was in the story.

Now that I think of it...there was another guy who put Sonic in his story. On the old site, /others/, MC was named Gig (by anon, not the author). One of the MC's summons was Sonic, and the guy started blabbing about how he warned us and we got what we deserved for doing something (that we didn't do), and the story quickly died after that.
>> No. 144703
>Troubleshooter in Gensokyo

I checked the story list and see nothing by that name. I'd like to think that you're referring to Curtain Fire Troubleshooting Game, but if that's the case, I kind of have to question your taste - I find it an ill-conceived chain of slapstick and neckbeardy in-jokes, and I'm the guy who writes the damn thing. It seems to draw readers, though, so I'm kinda sorta obligated to continue, combination of writer's block and BUSY aside. Plus, my workaround for the problem of acquiring images doesn't help with this terrible Navy intarweb's inability to post images, so I can't get any of my other, less awful ideas going instead.

Oh, right, voting.

[X] Hey, you've got a boatload of shiny things in your pack, right? Show off one of the cheaper ones and use it to trade for your gun.

Distractable little girls are distractable... though success would only be fully guaranteed if we were to encounter a magpie youkai.
>> No. 144704
>>144703

Right, that's it! I was going off the top of my head and that was what came up. Sorry about getting it wrong.

Personally, I find it a funny and well-written ill-conceived chain of slapstick and neckbeardy in-jokes, although it was less the style and humor of the thing and more the fact that it's a crossover that's not reviled that got me thinking "You know, I could probably get away with writing a S.T.A.L.K.E.R story here."
>> No. 144705
[x] She's pointing a gun at you and you're not in a good mood. Shoot the brat and liberate your weapon from her corpse.
[x] Sasha
>> No. 144707
Has there been a single crossover story that has succeeded?
Seems like 'wouldn't it be cool if touhous met character x from universe z?' is pretty much the only idea any author has in mind going into it, so the story always inevitably self-terminates.
>> No. 144712
File 131296787436.jpg - (640.25KB , 1400x1050 , b874dfd7804d536b283ba9e8c3a84888.jpg ) [iqdb]
144712
You don't fancy your odds on trying to talk her down, and you're not the kind of Stalker that would shoot a little girl, even if she is pointing a gun at you.

Speaking of which, she's starting to look bored. Now's probably a good time to speak up.

"Look, maybe we can work out a deal."

That gets her attention.

"Hm? Whaddya mean?"

Your free hand rummages through your pack, and your hand clamps down on something. With a flourish, you pull out a Sparkler, the artifact living up to its namesake. The girl looks entranced by the artifact in your hand, and takes a cautious few steps forward.

"I give you this thing here, and you give me what you're holding. Sound good to you?

She nods, and once she's close enough you toss it to her. She drops your gun in surprise as she tries to catch it. While she's distracted with that, you holster your pistol and step forward to grab your trusty rifle. She's too busy being fascinated by the thing to notice.

You give the weapon a once-over, and note with relief that it seems to be undamaged. Now that it's comfortably nestled back in your arms, you return your focus to the girl. She's still busy staring at the thing in awe, at least until you whistle to catch her attention. Once she puts it away... somewhere in that dress of hers (you don't care to know the specifics) you motion towards your rifle. "Where did you even find this, anyway?"

She taps her chin in mock-thought, then points upwards towards the tree whose branches broke your fall. You look up there, then back at her.

"Is that so." You say, not even bothering to hide the skepticism in your voice. She pouts at you, and comes off so childishly you find it hard to believe she had a gun pointed at your face not even a minute ago.

"That's my line! And it totally was!"

Frankly, you think that's bullshit, but it's not really worth the effort of calling her out on it. You've got more pressing questions, in any case. "Fine, fine. Where am I, anyway?"

"Gensokyo!" She replies, beaming.

"Genso-what? Is that even a word?"

"Gen-So-Kyo, dummy! Outsiders these days, lemme tell ya..." She breathes a sigh of the long suffering. At least now you know the name of where you're at, not that it tells you much.

"What do you mean by outsiders?" You're genuinely curious. Who knows where that anomaly might have tossed you, after all? For all you know you landed somewhere where torches and pitchforks are drawn whenever someone new comes around.

"Aw, geez, you don't know anything, do you?" She pinches her nose in annoyance. Oh, shit, she's acting just like that one old stalker at the bar who kept going on and on about 'those damn newbies' ruining the zone for everyone. You brace yourself for a lengthy lecture.

"Look, you're from the outside world, right? Outsiders are humans like you who end up slipping through the cracks, and they end up here in Gensokyo, where most of 'em get eaten by all the youkai about. At least, I'm guessing you're human, but it's kinda hard to tell with what you're wearing. Good enough for ya?"

Well, that was shorter than you expected. Thank God for small favors, you suppose.

So you're in some sort of alternate world deal that's intensely inhospitable to humans thanks to roaming monsters and other such factors. Sounds just like the Zone.

You can work with this.

One more very important question pops into your head. "How do I get back 'outside', as you put it?"

"Dunno."

Well, fuck.

"What the hell am I supposed to do, then?" If what the girl says is true, you seriously don't feel like testing your luck by being outside when night falls, even with second-gen nightvision. Even if you could fend off whatever might try to kill you, you still have to sleep eventually.

She does that chin-tapping gesture again before pointing off into the distance. You can faintly make out buildings that way. "Well, you can always go to the human village and stay there for a while until you figure things out. There's all sorts of people there who could probably lend you a hand."

Her previously innocent smile takes on a rather unpleasant quality, reminding you far too much of a pseudodog's for your liking.

"Personally, though, I'd like it if you stayed in the forest for the night! My friends and I would love to have you over for dinner!"

"No."

"Aww." She deflates nigh-instantaneously, but you're not exactly feeling much pity for her after that little display. Having exhausted your well of questions, you turn around and begin walking towards the village. You even make it a good ten feet before her voice calls out from behind you.

"Hey! Don't just leave like that!"

You turn around to tell her that, yes, you are going to leave just like that, but she's not there. Confused, you look around again, only to feel something thunk against the back of your helmet. This time, you turn around, gun raised, and see a pair of feet dangling in front of your face.

"Up here, dummy!"

You crane your neck upwards, and sure enough there's that girl.

Floating on thin air.

Huh.

"You didn't even tell me your name, outsider person man!"

The two of you stare at each other for a few moments, her smile back to what looks normal for a child her (apparent?) age.

"Sasha." You force out after getting past your surprise. It's not your real name, of course, but she doesn't need to know that.

"Rumia!" She extends a hand down to you, all smiles. You take it and give her a firm shake.

"So I was thinkiiiing that maybe I could tag along?" She asks, voice sing-song and eyes brimming with eagerness.

The obvious answer rises from your throat before your brain can give its thoughts on the subject. "I'd have to ask why, given that you were pointing a lethal weapon at me just a few minutes ago."

"Oh? That's what it was? I just wanted to see how you'd react."

Damn. At least you didn't toss her a really valuable artifact.

"But anywaaaaay, things're boring around here right now, and we don't get too many outsiders dressed like you. You might stumble into something fun! I can also show you around, give ya tips, stuff like that!"

She does raise a good point, and could prove useful provided you run into something nasty. You're not entirely sure you can trust her, though.

[X] Accept her offer. Having a native along to smooth things over with the locals in case things go pear-shaped is always good. Those tips of hers could be useful as well.
[X] Decline. There's no telling whether she'll actually be helpful, after all, and in the worst case she might try to backstab you when you take your eyes off her.
[X] Write-in?
>> No. 144713
[X] Accept her offer. Having a native along to smooth things over with the locals in case things go pear-shaped is always good. Those tips of hers could be useful as well.

Because Rumia
>> No. 144714
Oh hey, a new story with a picture of my favorite character. Let's see...
Moe levels adequate, some sass, not completely naive or dumb. Decent dialogue and descriptions, funny and lighthearted so far.
>outsider person man!"
Ugh.

Good enough for me. I'd like depth, but I can't complain when the rest of the story isn't promising it either.

[X] Accept her offer.

>Because Rumia
>> No. 144716
[X] Accept her offer. Having a native along to smooth things over with the locals in case things go pear-shaped is always good. Those tips of hers could be useful as well.

The dialog is quite good, we'll see how it goes. Just a piece of advice: keep an overarching plot around, doing a 'slice of life' just moving from one place to the other usually ends up nowhere. Specially with a character that's, at the end of the day, a normal human.
Just my two cents.
>> No. 144724
Calling it in favor of taking Rumia along.

>>144714

>Ugh.

Re-reading that bit, I have to agree with your opinion on it. I'll try to tone stuff like that down in the future.

>>144716

Pretty much as soon as I posted the update I was thinking "I should probably write up some main plot ideas to prevent aimless wandering.", so I now have a TXT document with a few ideas on some trouble occurring in Gensokyo. Of course, whether I succeed in implementing them or not is the real question.
>> No. 144725
[X] Accept her offer. Having a native along to smooth things over with the locals in case things go pear-shaped is always good. Those tips of hers could be useful as well.
>> No. 144732
File 131302727521.jpg - (494.19KB , 813x1150 , dc1113f4105708a84b172f63cb271578164c273f.jpg ) [iqdb]
144732
[X] Letting her tag along can't hurt, you suppose.

"Well, safety in numbers and all that, right?"

"Ha-ha! I knew you'd agree with me!" Rumia does a delighted little pirouette through the air. You stare as she does it, because damn you're still not used to flying little girls.

"Yeah, yeah, you're amazing and a genius. Let's just get going to that village, okay?" That seems to dampen her mood a little, as she stops zipping through the air like some sort of demented bird.

The two of you walk (well, you walk, she keeps flying) in silence for a few minutes, the only noise being the crackling sound of branches and underbrush beneath your feet. Apparently unsatisfied with how things are going, Rumia pipes up.

"So what were ya doing before you landed in my neck of the woods, anyway?"

You contemplate telling her to shut up, but if she's going to be tagging along with you it's counter-productive to have her hate you.

"Running away from a bunch of assholes trying to kill me."

She starts to circle around you mid-air, but you pay it little attention in favor of not tripping on the overgrowth in this forest.

"Can you even do that?"

"Do what?"

"Run!"

"Not while I'm wearing this suit, no."

"Well, you weren't being accurate the first time, then!"

"Okay, fine, I was walking away from a bunch of assholes trying to kill me. Happy?"

"You didn't tell me why they were trying to get you, so nope."

God damn but she's annoying.

"I don't know! I was just trying to get to this stash someone told me about and they came out of nowhere to try and ventilate me! Stop wasting my time!"

She recoils at your outburst as if you'd physically slapped her, but stays quiet. You're starting to regret taking her along if she's going to act like a kicked puppy whenever you're pissed off.

The two of you move on in silence for a few minutes longer before you're interrupted by the sound of cracking branches somewhere above you. Rumia perks up instantly, while you've got your shooter at the ready and pointed up towards where those sounds came from.

"Hear that?"

Before you can respond, a woman in a grey dress crashes down in front of you. You have just enough time to take note of the fact that while she looks otherwise normal, she also has an extra pair of arms before you become well acquainted with her fist, taking one straight to the chin. It hits you hard enough to send you flying, and you reflexively pull down on your rifle's trigger as you go, spraying fire through the air until it runs dry with a click.

Your time airborne comes to a halt when you crash into a tree with enough force that it audibly snaps a bit. You rebound off, your rifle flying off as you lose your grip on it, and land on your back groaning but mostly unharmed.

Still. Ow.

You're exceedingly grateful that you acquired this exoskeleton before ending up here, because you're pretty sure that blow would have snapped your neck if you didn't have it. Your thanksgivings are cut short by the sound of stomping footsteps, and while your vision is still blurry you're quite sure it's your sudden aggressor, what with the multiple arms.

"Outsider! You dare trespass in my forest?"

"I was just leavi-" You're cut off when she grabs by the neck with one pair of arms and lifts you into the air.

"The only fitting sentence for your transgression is death."

She wastes no more words, and you're rather acutely aware that she's now trying to throttle you. Your suit seems to be taking most of the punishment, but it's not a situation you want to stay in. Instead of trying to pry her hands off of your throat, which looks like a losing proposition, you instead go for your knife and pistol. You ram the pistol up against her gut and open fire, simultaneously trying to stab at the arms strangling you.

She staggers back in surprise at your attempts to defend yourself, but those extra arms come into play to bat away your knife and gun before they grab your arms to prevent you from trying something else. Having run out of any other options, you kick at her in desperation, but all that seems to make her do is make her angrier.

At this point, you come to an important realization. You're actually going to die here. Strangled to death by a multi-armed woman. You haven't even been in this whackjob 'Gensokyo' place for ten minutes.

This is such bullshit.

"Let him go, you jerk!"

Rumia, bless her soul, comes to your rescue by a kick to the back of the monster's head, and the two of you are sent sprawling. You scramble for the closest weapon, and your hand comes down on your knife. Pulling yourself up, you turn around to see Rumia on top of the prone form of your would-be killer, delivering a truly vicious pounding to her face.

You let her keep pounding on that bitch for a minute, even as blood starts to fly. You're feeling vindictive, what can you say? Eventually, resistance from the multi-armed monster ceases, and soon after that the beating slows to a halt.

You take that as your cue to lumber over and tap Rumia on the shoulder. She turns her head to look at you, breathing heavily, and you have to admit that the blood spattered on her face combined with her smile makes for a striking (and slightly terrifying) image. You offer her your free hand, and after a moment of hesitation she takes it. As you pull her up to her feet, you realize you should probably say something.

"You saved my ass there, kid. Thanks." There. Easy, quick, gets the point across.

She grins breathlessly. "I told ya you'd need my help. 'sides, where else would I find something fun if you died?"

You're not entirely sure how to feel about that answer, so you settle for a nod before turning your attention to your assailant.

It looks like she got quite the working-over from Rumia. Her face is a bloody mess, and you reckon she'll be in need of a fantastic dentist when she wakes up. It doesn't look like that'll happen for a while, either. You give Rumia a questioning glance.

"Mind if I kill her?"

She shrugs. "Go ahead. She tried to do the same to you, after all. It's your right."

You twist the knife in your hand around. What to do, what to do?

[X] She tried to kill you, so it's only fair you return the favor before setting off.
[X] As much as vengeance is appealing, she might have friends around and you want to get to relative safety before they arrive.
[X] Write-in?
>> No. 144733
[X] As much as vengeance is appealing, she might have friends around and you want to get to relative safety before they arrive.
>> No. 144734
[x] As much as vengeance is appealing, she might have friends around and you want to get to relative safety before they arrive.

She was just defending her territory in an unreasonable way. She's already suffered for it.
>> No. 144737
[X] She tried to kill you, so it's only fair you return the favor before setting off.

She'll definitely come after him if he lets her live. With friends.
>> No. 144738
[x] She tried to kill you, so it's only fair you return the favor before setting off.
>> No. 144739
[X] As much as vengeance is appealing, she might have friends around and you want to get to relative safety before they arrive.
>> No. 144740
[X] She tried to kill you, so it's only fair you return the favor before setting off.
>> No. 144743
[x] As much as vengeance is appealing, she might have friends around and you want to get to relative safety before they arrive.
>> No. 144747
[X] Take her with you.

We beat her up, therefore, she is our friend now.

This is Touhou logic.
>> No. 144748
[X] She tried to kill you, so it's only fair you return the favor before setting off.
>> No. 144758
File 131310273764.png - (16.87KB , 336x330 , 1313037006483.png ) [iqdb]
144758
4 for sparing her and legging it, 4 for knifey-knifey time and 1 for touhou logic. Next vote to break the tie decides it, and I'll go to a coin toss if one isn't had by midnight in my timezone.
>> No. 144759
[x] She tried to kill you, so it's only fair you return the favor before setting off.
>> No. 144768
File 13131128901.jpg - (638.89KB , 1100x1524 , 3231313bc02f27337b92a2484ba8318a.jpg ) [iqdb]
144768
[X] It's time for some payback.

You glance between your knife and the unconscious figure of your would-be killer. Your hand tightly clenches down on the handle of your knife You were just minding your own business, but nooooo, this bitch comes out of nowhere and tries to kill you for daring to be from somewhere else. Besides, if you let her live, you're sure she'll hold a grudge.

"Yeah, that is my right."

Rumia hmms noncommittally as you kneel down and cast your gaze over miss four-arms one last time, before stabbing your knife downwards straight into her neck. You wrench it to the side before pulling it out, ensuring that you sever anything you may have missed with the initial stab. The woman spasms, of course, but soon enough stops moving. No one can say you're inefficient, after all.

You wipe your knife off on some grass before sheathing it, and proceed to gather your equipment. Soon enough you've got everything back, weapons reloaded and ready for action. Rumia stays quiet throughout the whole process, and soon enough follows your lead as you start lumbering off towards the village.

It's blessedly quiet as the two of you travel, and soon enough you reach the edge of the woods without incident. You're finally able to get a clear look at that town from earlier. The buildings themselves look to be of distinctly Eastern make. The stone wall that surrounds the town is probably only useful for keeping wild animals out, if people being able to fly like Rumia is the norm. There are people patrolling on top of the walls, and a quick check with your binoculars verifies that they're armed with crossbows.

You double-take at that, going for another look around with your binocs to verify that, yes, they're wielding actual crossbows. What kind of backwards-ass place did you land in?

You're suddenly glad you'd packed ten (well, nine now) full magazines for your rifle and pistol each before you wound up here, because you get the feeling that they're all you're gonna have for a while. Shrugging, you pocket your binoculars again and start heading towards the gate. Rumia touches down to the ground and starts walking alongside you, arms folded over her chest.

"Looked like you'd done that before."

"Done what?"

"The whole neck-stabbing thing, yanno?"

"A few times." You admit. There have been times in your career where a knife in the dark was far less likely to get everyone shooting at you. No one expects the armored tank of a man to sneak around back and stab people, after all.

She takes your confirmation in in with a sagacious nod. "Thought as much. It was too clean to be the work of an amateur and, trust me, I know what that's like."

You grunt in response, filing away that little tidbit for later questioning, and you return your attention to the gate. It looks like the two of you are the only ones interested in going through right now. A few of the guards them have gathered on the top of it, and when you get close they level their crossbows at the pair of you. You halt in place, grabbing Rumia by the shoulder to make her follow your example. A grizzled-looking older man steps in front of the group, apparently the leader judging by the fact that he's got an actual helmet to everyone else's bare heads.

"Oi, outsider! You're not getting in here as long as that little monster's with you!"

"What the hell did she do?" You wave a hand towards your erstwhile companion to emphasize.

"You're with a damn man-eater, outsider! Are you an idiot or what?"

That's... not entirely surprising, to be honest. Rumia scowls at the boss. "Hey, it's their own damn fault they get eaten if they're out in the forest at night!"

That was precisely the wrong choice of words, as more guards are joining the already sizable group of people pointing weaponry at you.

"You're not helping." You hiss at her under your breath.

"It's not my fault they're a bunch of idiots." She hisses right back.

The guard captain interrupts. "Outsider, look. The only way you're getting in is if she gets the boot."

[X] Tell Rumia to go away. She can follow you for fun and adventure later, when it's not likely to get the pair of you shot to death.
[X] Explain to them what you've gone through just trying to get here, playing up her part in things. That might sway them enough to let you both in.
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
[X] There's always hope that they could find something in your bag of tricks worth letting you in for.
[X] Write-in?
>> No. 144769
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
>> No. 144774
[X] Explain to them what you've gone through just trying to get here, playing up her part in things. That might sway them enough to let you both in.

If they arn't gonna be swayed by that.

[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
>> No. 144779
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.

Stalkers actually do have some sense of honor and dignity, you know.
>> No. 144780
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
>> No. 144781
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
>> No. 144782
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.

Yeah, fuck concern for their citizens; these guys are hicks. We'll be led elsewhere by our man-eater, thanks. I wonder where~
>> No. 144784
>>144769
>>144774
>>144779
>>144780
>>144781
>>144782
Yep, just one man and his bloodsucker.

Oh gods, we're going to end up like that crazy guy who lures people out into the wilderness for his bloodsucker, aren't we?
>> No. 144786
>>144784
Good thing we're not the protagonist, huh? She'd eat us on sight.
>> No. 144787
[X] Tell Rumia to go away for a bit. She can follow you for fun and adventure later, when it's not likely to get the pair of you shot to death.

Grab a bed, re-unite in the morning.
>> No. 144788
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
>> No. 144791
[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.

Is it wrong if I kinda want this to be a Touhous in the Zone fanfiction instead? With Rumia?
>> No. 144792
[X] Explain to them what you've gone through just trying to get here, playing up her part in things. That might sway them enough to let you both in.
>> No. 144795
We should at least try

[X] Explain to them what you've gone through just trying to get here, playing up her part in things. That might sway them enough to let you both in.

if that dont work then

[X] She saved your life, and they want you to give her the boot? Balls to that. You can find somewhere else to stay.
>> No. 144801
File 131319800678.jpg - (411.31KB , 1200x1600 , 55b037ec5ffb07c089697c59f458f40e9fc6552e.jpg ) [iqdb]
144801
[X] Screw these guys. Find something else to do.

It'd make sense to tell Rumia to leg it for a bit. It's not like they're saying you can't come back out and meet up with her tomorrow. Besides, you've barely even known her for about half an hour, tops, and it started off with her threatening you with your own gun.

On the other hand, you still have your pride as a Stalker, and it's grating on your nerves to let these people talk down to you and belittle your choice of travelling companions. Rumia saved you from a painful death, even though her supposed only reason was that you'd be fun to be with for a while. Even if she is a man-eating monster, she's been better to you than these guys.

It may not be the smartest choice, but you still have your honor, and you'll be damned if a bunch of crossbow-wielding jackasses are going to tell you to abandon someone who's already proven her worth.

"How about you all go fuck yourselves, huh?"

Rumia sticks her tongue out at the guardsmen, and the captain scowls further, if that's even possible. "Don't be a fool, outsider! You won't last the night out there, even with your fancy armor and your little friend there."

THOOOOOOOOOOOOM

You're pretty sure no one saw you jump when it went off, considering everyone else present seemed to have done the same thing. Turning around, it's a bit disconcerting to see a rather large amount of smoke coming from where you assume that explosion went off. One of the younger guards speaks up.

"Ah, geez, looks like Kirisame botched another experiment."

"Kira-whonow?" You whisper to Rumia, currently parked behind your legs and holding on to your belt.

"Marisa! She's a witch. One of the top Incident-solvers here, too, so don't make her mad or you'll catch a laser to the face."

So it's not enough you have to deal with monsters in the shape of people who want to tear your face off, now magic's in the mix. This place gets better and better.

Well, you're not getting any younger standing around, and it's obvious you're not getting into town. You start start walking back to the woods, although you have to double back and grab Rumia as she seems more interested in making rude facial expressions at the guards than tagging along. Before you make it too far, you're interrupted by the captain calling out at you.

"Hey, outsider? Since you seem so determined to go back out there, you might as well stop by Kirisame's place and see if she's all right. She's a good kid, but I'm not going to send my men out there unless there's a damn good reason."

You stop for just a moment, mulling the offer over.

"What's in it for me?"

"We'll let the two of you in, provided you bring back some proof on how she's doing. Might be something else for you, too, if you're quick about it."

Well, it can't hurt to leave your options open.

"I'll think about it."

There are no further words exchanged as you head back into the woods. Once you're far enough in that the guardsmen lose sight of you, Rumia goes back to floating around you.

"You're pretty cool, you know that?"

"Hm?"

"I thought you'd side with them, since you're human and all." Her brow wrinkles as something apparently springs to mind. "Probably. Are you?"

"Yes. Anyway, you'd already saved me from a broken neck, so there wasn't a reason for me to not side with you."

She grins at that bit. "Ya got that right. Anyway, I can't help but notice we're just going around at random. I can take you to the Misty Lake! Some of my friends should be there, after all, and I'm sure they'd like to meet ya!"

You cast your gaze upwards as the two of you keep moving. A speck in the sky catches your attention, and out of curiosity you pull out your binoculars to take a closer look. Even with your increased view-range, you still can't make out any detail except for what looks like a pair of... crow wings? Something like that, at any rate. Whatever it is, it's gaining ground on you at an astounding pace.

You hold your hand up to silence anything further from Rumia and take cover behind a tree. You can still see it coming, but with any luck it won't notice you. Rumia, for her part, is just floating around trying to get a better look.

The sound of the sound barrier BOOMing at you almost catches you off guard as that thing speeds overhead. You've seen jets fly by way too close to you before (the Military can be very angry at times) but even those things were a joke compared to what you just saw. Judging by its direction, it's heading towards that witch girl's place. You try to come up with a way to properly express your feelings about this.

"The hell?"

Truly, you are the most eloquent man in the world.

"That was different." Rumia pipes in.

[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
[X] Stopping by a lake that's not radioactive sounds nice. You're interested in what kind of friends someone like Rumia could have, too.
[X] Write-in?
>> No. 144804
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.

I, for one, would like to see whether or not we get a non-rage-inducing Aya for once.
>> No. 144805
[X] Stopping by a lake that's not radioactive sounds nice. You're interested in what kind of friends someone like Rumia could have, too.
>> No. 144807
[X] Stopping by a lake that's not radioactive sounds nice. You're interested in what kind of friends someone like Rumia could have, too.

The less we see of Aya and Marisa, the better.
>> No. 144808
[X] Stopping by a lake that's not radioactive sounds nice. You're interested in what kind of friends someone like Rumia could have, too.

Marisa's a big girl, she can take care of herself.
>> No. 144809
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.

Lake later!
>> No. 144810
[x] You're curious about whatever that thing was that just passed you by. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is an added bonus.
>> No. 144811
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
>> No. 144812
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
Ah yes, good STALKER quests. Glorified fetching quests.
>> No. 144813
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.

It's questing time!
>> No. 144814
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
>> No. 144815
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
>> No. 144816
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
>> No. 144817
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.

I thought Marisa tried to hide her research? It must be the worst-kept secret ever.
>> No. 144820
[X] Whatever that thing was that just passed you by, you're curious to find out. Going over to this Kirisame's house and smoothing things over with the only major human presence in the area is just a bonus.
>> No. 144821
Calling it in (nigh-unanimous) favor for investigating.

>>144810
>You're curious about whatever that thing was that just passed you by.

This comment made me realize that I cannot into grammar, and that I should probably proofread more.

>>144817

I honestly had no idea she tried keeping stuff like that secret. Let's just roll with it, shall we?
>> No. 144839
>>144821
>Proofreading
We're waiting for you on IRC.
>> No. 144844
File 131331416661.jpg - (328.28KB , 600x844 , c2515a9c660272ede62bbcfeda7cb6fe.jpg ) [iqdb]
144844
[X] Let's go find out what just flew past us.

"I'll meet with your friends later. First, though, is that thing that just passed us was heading straight for this... 'Marisa', you said? It's worth checking out."

Rumia pulls off a pout that might sway a lesser man to listen to her demands, but you are fortunately of harder heart than that.

"Aww, you're sure? Now who're we supposed to have for dinner?"

She shrinks back as you fix her with a distinctly unamused stare. You're quite proud of the fact that it works through your helmet.

"Uh, I mean, over for dinner."

Despite the fact that she's floating in the air above you, you still manage to loom menacingly. It's made easier by the fact that you're encased in a suit comparable to a light tank, of course.

"In a non 'I'm going to eat Sasha' manner, right?"

Rumia seizes the chance to appease you.

"Exactly!"

You nod in approval. "Good. Let's keep going."

----------

Your trek through the woods is mercifully short, as this witch's house is surprisingly close to where you stopped. It looks surprisingly normal, all things considered. Less normal is the smoking crater a ways away from it, which looks to be the result of that earlier explosion. There's also a pair of women in front of the house chatting about something, although you can't make anything out from here. Rumia touches down to the ground and tugs on your belt.

"This is the place. You might wanna play it carefully; Marisa's known for blasting people that annoy her." You grunt in affirmation and sneak forward until you're close enough to overhear whatever the duo in front of the house is saying.

Your attention is first snagged by the blonde girl in an incredibly stereotypical witch's outfit, complete with overly-large hat. You guess that it's Marisa, and it boggles your mind that she looks no older than eighteen, if that.

The dark-haired owner of the wings that sped over you before is less stereotypical and more completely ridiculous. The wings are an obvious example, what with each one being the size of your arm. There's also that square hat perched on her head, made completely over-the-top with the white puff-ball things hanging off a string. At least her clothing isn't nearly as outlandish, as she's wearing a practical-looking combo of a white dress shirt and black skirt.

They don't seem to have noticed you, so you come to a halt behind a tree (tugging Rumia down with an undignified squawk) and you're close enough to easily see what the two are doing. The girl with the crow-wings is casually writing things down on a notepad while the witch leans on her broom, apparently inspecting her own fingernails.

"Any idea who these two are?" You whisper to Rumia. She nods.

"Yeah. The black-white's Marisa, but you probably figured that out already. Crow-gal's Aya. She runs this newspaper thing, apparently, but I've never read it."

Interesting. You'd ask for more info, but then this Aya woman starts talking.

"So, is it true that you're involved in mad magical experiments meant to raise the dead, resulting in horrible monstrosities only loosely tethered to their former humanity?"

Dear God you hope not; this place is deadly enough as it is without friggin' zombies around.

Marisa seems as baffled by the question as you are."How the hell do you get that idea from an explosion?"

Aya gives a non-commital shrug. "One of the humans at the village. You're a secluded magician who does who-knows-what all day. People start to wonder, you know?"

"I'm pretty sure you've got me mixed up with Alice there."

"Irrelevant. What's important is the reason why there's suddenly a massive hole next to your house."

Aya gestures at the crater (still smoking) to demonstrate, and Marisa twirls her broom with a grin.

"The answer, my dear friend, is Magic! With a capital M, remember. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to give you a few details."

Marisa beckons towards herself in a conspiratory manner and Aya leans in, casual attitude replace by the metaphorical stars in her eyes.

"Right, I'm only going to say this once, so listen closely."

"Mm-hm!" Aya nods, pen poised to record history.

"You ready? Master Spark."

At that, Marisa pulls some sort of octagonal thing from her dress, and then the world becomes an explosion of color. You and Rumia alike can't tear your eyes away from the sheer beauty of that massive laser being fired into the air, and when it finally stops Aya's nowhere to be seen. Marisa readjusts her hat and laughs triumphantly. Her grin fades at the sound of a camera's shutters snapping shut.

"That's an afterimage."

You stand corrected. Aya is, in fact, still in sight, and somehow got behind Marisa. She's dangling a camera in her hand and looks so smug you can literally feel waves of it rolling off of her. You wonder where the hell she got that camera, considering the general tech level of this place.

Marisa wastes no time in gawking at Aya's miraculous dodge, instead spinning around and blasting off several multi-colored stars from her outstretched hand. Aya dodges with ease, and responds by launching a miniature cyclone off at the witch.

Seems like you've got front-row seats to your first magical fight, and it looks like it could go on for quite a while. Rumia's found herself a comfortable spot on a tree-branch and is watching the proceedings with childish amusement.

"This is gonna be great, lemme tell ya."

[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
[X] This has gone too far. You're sure can find a diplomatic way to get the both of them to stop firing at each other and talk this out.
-) [X] You somehow doubt that they'll listen to a random stranger walking in and telling them to stop. Maybe a few warning shots will make them pay attention.
[X] You've learned what you needed, and you're pretty sure that pretty much everyone at that village saw that one massive laser that started this whole fight. It should be proof enough to them that Marisa's fine and dandy.
-) [X] But you suppose it couldn't hurt to stick around and watch the fight first.
[X] You've seen enough to report back to the village, but after the reception you got earlier they can stand to wait a while. Enjoy the show with Rumia, and then head over to that lake she talked about.
[X] Write-in?
>> No. 144846
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
>> No. 144847
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[X] Share some with Rumia.
>> No. 144848
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[X] Share some with Rumia.

What could the villagers possibly offer that would be worth missing this?
>> No. 144850
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[X] Share some with Rumia.
>> No. 144852
[x] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[x] Share some with Rumia.

I support this plan.
>> No. 144854
[x]Watch carefully

pray we don't get hit by a stray attacks
>> No. 144857
[x] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.

It seems like a bad idea to get between them. He would have no idea what effect those stars and things could have on him.
And they might cause radiation. Drink some vodka.
>> No. 144861
[x] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[x] Share some with Rumia.

How many times are we going to get to enjoy the sight of other people trying to kill eachother, rather than us? We should savor the moment.
>> No. 144862
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
>> No. 144864
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.

No major complaints thus far you bastard, just when the concept of a STALKER/TOUHOU CYOA popped up you beat me to it. Good show.
>> No. 144865
[x] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[x] Share some with Rumia.
>> No. 144866
[X] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[X] Share some with Rumia.
>> No. 144867
Called in favor of sitting back and enjoying the show, with a side order of passing the booze around with a little girl. You irresponsible bastards.

>>144864

Good to hear I'm doing okay so far, although I realise I've still got plenty of room to improve.

If I'd known someone else was gonna write a STALKER crossover, I'd not have started this story in the first place. Part of the reason I did is that I wanted something other than that one-shot of debatable quality in the archive to represent STALKER here on THP, and it didn't look like it was going to happen, so I figured I might as well exercise my creative muscles and make it myself. I'm genuinely interested in your take on things, so don't let my CYOA having come first stop you if you want to go for it.
>> No. 144877
[x] You've got a pack filled with vodka, plus two women trying their hardest to blast each other to pieces in front of you. This is the perfect chance to pop a bottle open and enjoy the show. You can chat with the pair once they finish up.
-[x] Share some with Rumia.
>> No. 144993
File 131370090996.jpg - (504.22KB , 970x1060 , 20987359.jpg ) [iqdb]
144993
Expression of dismay at the lack of an update.
>> No. 145006
File 131375063082.png - (628.84KB , 1200x800 , 2cee916889e7e2495f21d589dcec95c428bdf2fc.png ) [iqdb]
145006
As an apology for being late, have a larger than usual update.

[X] Kick back, relax, and have fun watching two women beat the tar out of each other.

You want no part in the fight that's happening in front of you, mainly because you don't want get hit by one of the many stars, cyclones, and lasers that are now flying about. You're only mildly surprised when the witch and reporter take to the skies to continue their battle, since people being able to fly has started losing its novelty value. Now that collateral damage seems to be out of the picture, though, they begin to really lay into each other, and enough projectiles cover the sky in such a way as to look like someone just lit up a massive amount of fireworks and set them all off at once.

Since they seem so determined to put on a show, you might as well enjoy it. You sit down on the grass and get to work on removing your helmet. It's impossible to take off all the way, since it's a part of the suit, but it's still possible to unfasten it and let it dangle. That obstacle out of the way, you reach into your pack and rummage around for your vodka. You look up at Rumia's perch on the tree, where she seems to be greatly enjoying the spectacle going on above. You pull out a pair of bottles, and their clinking together manages to wrench her attention from the ongoing dogfight.

"Ha, so you do have a face!"

One masked by a balaclava, yes, but a face nevertheless.

"I'd always assumed I had one, but thanks for clearing it up for me."

That gets a small laugh from her, before she focuses on the alcohol in your hand. "So, what's that you got there? Doesn't look like any sake I've ever seen."

She doesn't know what vodka is? Oh, this will not do. It is your duty not only as a Stalker, but as a Russian to enlighten her.

"This, kid, is the traditional drink of my people, and it doubles as a great cure if you're fulla radiation. Which, by the way, you probably are at this point, since that thing I gave you earlier is radioactive."

"Ahuh. Can I have some?"

Rumia seems supremely unconcerned by the radiation thing, although whether she really doesn't care or she just doesn't know what it means is up in the air. Personally, you're betting by the latter.

"I don't see why not." You say, before you fling a bottle in her direction. She catches with surprising deftness, and is already work trying to figure out how to open it as you screw the cap off on yours and take a swig. She follows suit soon after.

"Hm. S'different, all right."

"It takes the edge off of life."

"Is that so?"

You decline to answer that in favor of whistling as the reporter flings another tornado into the air. Flight alone is still pretty amazing, but combined with being able to toss firepower like that just makes for a spectacular view.

"So," you ask, curiosity finally getting the better of you. "Does this happen often or what? I thought most people settled things like that one bitch with the extra arms."

"Yeah, that was odd. Magic's the usual method for handling disputes and the like, although you being an outsider might've been what made you fair game."

You frown, trying to articulate your thoughts on the matter. Another drink of vodka helps you find the right words. "I get the feeling new people aren't exactly welcome here."

You have to wait for an answer, as Rumia's currently downing the entirety of her glass in one go. "Mm, depends on the person. Outsiders like you seem mostly defenseless, and that's a surefire way to get eaten if you don't make it somewhere safe in time. Tougher ones, though, usually have something that gives off an air of 'Don't mess with me or I'll pull your lungs through your nose.'. If they don't, word spreads after they thrash a few youkai, y'know?"

You ruminate on the subject for a moment, aiding yourself with another dose of alcohol before speaking. "I suppose that makes sense. You people could still stand to be more welcoming, though."

Before she gets a chance to respond, your attention is caught by another one of those Master Spark things going off. It looks like Aya got caught by it, too, judging by the way she's spiralling down to earth and, you note with a distinct sense of dread, directly towards you. You roll out of the way with all the urgency you can muster, only to find that you seem to have misjudged her trajectory a bit thanks to all that spiraling.

You barely have time to utter a quick "God damn it." before Aya crashes straight through the tree Rumia's sitting on, taking the unfortunate girl along for the ride. The two of them then proceed to ram straight into you, even as you raise your arms to try and soften the blow. The three of you are sent sprawling in a pile. You can't exactly see anything in the ensuing mess since you've got a face full of shirt, and flailing about just seems to get you even more hopelessly tangled up.

"The hell?"

That one sounds like Marisa, although thanks to the aforementioned shirt in your face you can't exactly see what she's up to. You can definitely hear her starting to laugh at this (no doubt absurd) situation you're in, though, which just causes you to redouble your efforts in trying to disentangle yourself.

"Would you please get these two off of me?" You snarl, although it seems to have the opposite of its intended effect as she laughs harder.

"I don't see why I should, man, 'cause this is great!"

In any situation where it wasn't you caught underneath these two, you'd be inclined to agree. As it stands, that only serves to make you angry.

"M-medic..." Aya groans.

"Shut the hell up, I don't want to hear it." You growl in response.

Rumia chips in with a concise "This sucks.".

----------

It took you a few minutes, but you've managed to free yourself from that mess with only your pride dented. Marisa's leaning on her broom, grin plastered across her face, and to be honest it's beginning to irritate you. Rumia's floating above you, looking only a little worse for wear after that mishap, although definitely cross about the whole matter. Aya, meanwhile, is leaning up against a nearby tree for support, apparently still feeling the after-effects of that laser she caught. Despite that, she's still snapping photos.

"So," Marisa begins, pointedly ignoring the reporter. "why were you in my neck of the woods, anyway? You're pretty obviously an outsider, but you still managed to make friends with Rumia over there, and you've got a suit that looks like it's kappa-make."

"That explosion earlier." You reply, filing away that mention of kappa for later digging. "I was trying to get into the village, but they don't like the kid here. Said if I came over and checked things out, they'd reconsider letting us in."

"Lemme guess. Older guy with a helmet? Scowls a lot?"

"Spot on."

"Bah, Hisoka's like that with everybody. He just worries too much, that's all."

Considering what you ran into just trying to get to town, you're not so sure about that.

"This is all fascinating," Aya says, cutting off your response. "but we still haven't gotten your name."

"Sasha." Rumia pipes in.

"Thank you for telling them instead of letting me do it, kid." You seethe, although it seems to sail straight over her head as she just smiles at you in response.

Marisa chuckles at your irritation. "You two get along real nice, don't-cha?"

"Well, she did save my life."

You decide that the looks of disbelief on the witch and reporter's faces were totally worth getting dive-bombed earlier. The latter even has her notepad back out.

"It's true." You say mildly. "Almost got my neck broken by some woman with four arms. I'd probably be dead right now if it weren't for the kid flying in to beat the tar out of the bitch."

Rumia gives the pair a thumbs-up and a smile. "He's right!"

Marisa's the first to snap out of it, giving the two of you an amused look. "Well, well. That's actually pretty impressive, I gotta say."

You jump back in surprise as Aya's suddenly up in your face, looking intensely curious. How does she do that? "You've got me interested too! I was going to head back home and start work on my article, but if you'd mind giving an interview...?"

She trails off hopefully, at least until Marisa shoves her out of the way.

"That's great. Anyway, I'm going to have to stop by the village in a bit to pick some stuff up, so I guess I can tell the guards you're good to go in. You're welcome to come along, I suppose."

"We already did what that old guy wanted," Rumia interjects. "and Marisa can tell him we did what he asked. There should still be someone by the lake if you feel like going."

[X] Going with Marisa sounds good. It'll be nice to talk with someone completely human who doesn't mind your choice of companion.
[X] An interview wouldn't hurt, and you're pretty sure Aya's going to write up an article on you no matter what you say. Giving it to her straight could help avoid future problems.
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145007
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145008
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145009
[X] Going with Marisa sounds good. It'll be nice to talk with someone completely human who doesn't mind your choice of companion.

Rumia can see her friends anytime, but village tours with people that don't hate her guts don't come along every day.
>> No. 145010
[X] Going with Marisa sounds good. It'll be nice to talk with someone completely human who doesn't mind your choice of companion.

I bow to the superior reasoning of >>145009.
>> No. 145017
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145018
[X] Going with Marisa sounds good. It'll be nice to talk with someone completely human who doesn't mind your choice of companion.
>> No. 145020
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145021
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145029
[x] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.

Time to Meet the Team.
>> No. 145030
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.

The interview can wait.
>> No. 145034
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.

We do still kinda owe her and a chance to meet the rest of team 9 isn't a bad thing.
>> No. 145044
[X] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.

LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE
>> No. 145046
[x] These two seem decent enough, but Rumia's higher priority. It's time to check out that lake.
>> No. 145054
Weird. I just finished watching a lets play of the entire stalker series and suddenly this starts up. Are you perchance psychic?
>> No. 145067
Called in favor of the LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE visit. Hopefully I won't be a massive faggot this time when it comes to writing it out quickly.

>>145054

If I were, I'd probably be doing something other than writing CYOA's using that knowledge.
>> No. 145235
File 131425257888.jpg - (159.28KB , 400x400 , The Stalker`s real appearance.jpg ) [iqdb]
145235
So when will we have the scenes where the Stalker meets everyone's favorite daidarabocchi?
>> No. 145372
File 131451239632.jpg - (524.71KB , 1100x800 , fucking cirno and her fucking ice boxes.jpg ) [iqdb]
145372
>Hopefully I won't be a massive faggot this time when it comes to writing it out quickly.
Welp. Expression of dismay again.
>> No. 145692
Whats the matter, bloodsucker eat the update?
>> No. 146396
Its been nearly a month. You abandoning this or what?
>> No. 146411
>>146396
Why you bump story ;_;
>> No. 146428
>>146411
>;_;

Because faggots like you exist.
>> No. 146441
>>146428
Isn't it sad, madbro? ;_;
>> No. 146442
File 13165354713.jpg - (410.68KB , 740x760 , LICK THAT EGG_ LICK IT.jpg ) [iqdb]
146442
>>146441
>> No. 146451
>>146411

I bumped it because if writers are going to abandon their story, they need to face it like a man and TELL us. Letting a story rot with no word is not cool, especially when it takes all of 2 minutes to tell us either way.

Not saying that is what has happened here, but its starting to look that way.
>> No. 146461
File 131656617016.png - (116.32KB , 800x587 , d24991c9aaed3cf031e58ff892906fae6a6a6f13.png ) [iqdb]
146461
So as it turns out I am a massive faggot. Have an update as an apology.

[X] You've done your check-up, and talking with the press doesn't sound like a good time. Let's go check out that lake.

"I think I'm going to have to side with the kid on this one."

Rumia pumps a fist in triumph at your decision, while Aya and Marisa don't seem particularly let down by your choice. The former gives you a friendly wave of her camera.

"Even if you're not going to give me an interview, I still got plenty of material. Thanks for that! And, uh, sorry for crashing into you earlier."

She scratches the back of her head sheepishly as you put your skill at looming to good use.

"Yes, you are." You intone solemnly. Marisa cracks a grin as Aya shrinks away from you, her hands raised placatingly. You realize she'd probably demolish you in a fight if that previous display was anything to go off of, but that doesn't mean you can't be properly menacing.

"Ha. Ha ha. Ha. Well, I've got a paper to write, nice meeting you!" She says, just a tad too rushed for it to be genuine. With one mighty WOOSH of her wings, the reporter rockets skyward, scattering further debris across the ground.

"'Bout time she got out of here." Marisa says, brushing off a piece of dirt on her hat. She fixes you with a grin.

"So, man, got anything else to say? Or are you just gonna around and admire the scenery?"

"The one guy said that if I was quick to report back he'd give me something." You reply. "If you claim it for me, I'll owe you one."

She shrugs. "Eh, I'll think about it."

"All I ask." You say, and start to trod off into the woods with Rumia in tow.

"Fair warning!" Marisa calls out, and you crane your neck to look back at her. She waves around that strange little octagon in your direction, causing Rumia to yelp and leap out of the way. "Try to break into my house when I'm gone and you're a dead man!"

"The thought never even crossed my mind." You assure her. She shoots you a thumbs up. You hear a "Good man!" from her as you continue into the woods.

All's quiet as the two of you travel. What that guardsman called Rumia earlier keeps nagging at you, though, and after a minute or so you break the silence with a question.

"So, have you ever actually eaten someone?"

Rumia sprouts a grin that's far toothier than you think should be allowed on a person. "Yup. You guys are delicious!"

"Ah." You reply. She sounds entirely too cheerful about that. Still, she saved you once already, so if she was inclined to suddenly jump you and start chowing down, she'd probably have done it earlier. Satisfied with that answer, you probe a different angle.

"What's that Marisa said about kappa?"

"Eh, they're the local eggheads. They make all sorts of neat stuff, although I haven't seen too much of it myself. They've got a village at the base of Youkai Mountain, if you're interested in checking them out later."

That seems a sound idea, especially if they could repair and upgrade your equipment. Your suit is certainly not in the best condition it could be, among other things. But, judging by the name of the place, you're not quite sure the residents would be welcoming. Any further musings on the subject are cut off when you reach the lake.

While you were expecting it to be clean, perhaps your time in the Zone has altered what that idea of 'clean' is. Shining, clear water covers the lake, and you can very faintly make out the shape of a large building through the mist that gives the place its name. There's a pair of kids out above the water, one with a blue head of hair and a matching dress and the other sporting green hair and a cape, buzzing around aimlessly. Odd hair colors honestly shouldn't be surprising to you considering what else you've seen, but you'll be damned if that didn't get you to double-take. Rumia cups her hands together around her mouth and inhales mightily.

"Hey! Guys!" She shouts. "Look who I found!"

That catches their attention, and the two fly over. Little miss blue-hair buzzes around you a few times on wings made of ice, while the kid with the cape and antennae touches down to earth and gives you an impressively hostile look, considering she looks like she's thirteen at most. You can't help but stare at the two's more exotic features. They don't seem to notice thanks to your helmet, fortunately.

"Hey, Rumia? Who's this guy?" That's Antennae speaking.

"Sasha." You reply, extending a hand towards the two of them. "Pleasure to meet you, girls."

The two regard you with suspicion, but after a moment's hesitation Icewings (for that is what you'll call her until you know who's who) takes your hand and gives you an enthusiastic shake.

"I'm Cirno!" She informs you. "And that's Wriggle!"

Well, that clears things up.

"Where'd you find him?" Wriggle interjects.

"Eh, I was flying around. He popped out of nowhere and crashed through a few trees. Ended up giving me this!" Rumia pulls out that Sparkler you gave her earlier from some hitherto-unknown compartment in her dress. While that catches Cirno's attention, Wriggle looks unimpressed.

"She threatened me with my own shooter." You add, motioning towards your rifle.

Before the conversation can progress any further, you spot something in the water darkening, and with a mighty WOOSH a frog the size of a house leaps out of the lake, landing a mere dozen feet or so in front of you. You pull the (quite surprised) Cirno behind you. The frog's tongue flicks out in a flash, scoops Wriggle up, and swallows the now-screaming girl.

This takes roughly six seconds.

"Why the hell does that exist?" You ask, bringing your rifle to bear. Rumia's too busy gaping at the thing's sudden assault to answer, while Cirno's face twists in rage. As she shakes a tiny fist at the monster, you can hear some faint yelling from its direction. It seems that Wriggle is still intact, at least, although you're not sure for how long.

"YOU!" Cirno bellows, and she charges through the air yelling incomprehensible insults at the frog. The beast seems supremely disinterested in her until the incensed fairy starts spraying icicles everywhere, each one the size of your arm. This is apparently enough to snap Rumia out of her shock, as she is enveloped by a ball of darkness, following Cirno in incomprehensible yelling and projectile spam.

Well, it looks like your hand is forced. The monster seems to be distracted by its two pint-sized assailants, not paying any attention to you personally. You've got a moment to think about how to deal with it.

[X] A tactical withdrawal seems to be in order. You've got range, so you might as well use it.
[X] This calls for explosives, and all those grenades you've got lying around aren't going to use themselves.
[X] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!
[X] Write-in?
>> No. 146462
[X] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!

Risky, but this should give us a chance to save Wriggle and make a way out.
>> No. 146466
[X] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!

Lost Planet time.
>> No. 146468
[x] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!

We have an air supply on this suit, right?
>> No. 146470
[x] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!
>> No. 146472
[x] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!
>> No. 146473
[X] It's nothing but an oversized amphibian. Just shoot it.
-[X] Grenades as backup plan if bullets don't work.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. danmaku.
(Yeah, it's pretty much a write-in but you can count it as [X]Grenades if you need a tie-breaker.)

Besides, even if Wriggle didn't instantly die from it, we have no idea how bad the inside of that frog is.
While she is "just" a firefly, Wriggle is still a youkai. Sasha is a regular human, even if he has a fancy Stalker suit.

The way I see it, intentionally getting eaten by that frog is like diving into a Fruit Punch anomaly of unknown potency in order to gain a tactical advantage.
And how many successful (i.e. still living) Stalkers would have chosen to take a swim if there were other options to try first?
Especially since we've only known her for just about as long it took the frog to eat her.

In before it's all Suwako's fault and the frog was actually meant for Cirno anyway.
>> No. 146474
[x] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!

Would the Varia Suit protect us?
Wait, wrong game...
>> No. 146475
Whining for updates wins again~

[X] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!

We might hit Wriggle. So we should be with Wriggle. That way we won't hit her.
>> No. 146483
[X] If Wriggle survived getting swallowed up, then you certainly can. Time to wreak havoc from within!

Moby Dick ain't got shit on us. Ismael was a n00b.
>> No. 146500
Right, I think I can safely call it in favor of the gleefully suicidal 'Let's get eaten by a frog!' option.

Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
>> No. 146574
>>146500
I can't speak for anyone else, but I love exclamation points.
>> No. 147682
File 131875356424.png - (666.40KB , 900x1050 , 22238665_p0.png ) [iqdb]
147682
>> No. 147777
File 131887423235.jpg - (44.81KB , 400x700 , OP+deliver+Thumb+if+you+liked+it_564dc1_2096740.jpg ) [iqdb]
147777
>>147682
I agree, completely.
>> No. 151794
File 132544449176.jpg - (734.16KB , 850x637 , FROG.jpg ) [iqdb]
151794
OH LOOK IT'S THIS FAGGOT AGAIN

IT ONLY TOOK ME FIVE MILLION YEARS TO GET AN UPDATE OUT (what the fuck's wrong with me)

Anyway I hope you guys enjoy the update. I certainly will now that I can come back to this site without going "OH FUCK I SHOULD PROBABLY UPDATE MY THING" and then fleeing in shame.

---------------------------------


You take a few hesitant steps backwards, observing the ongoing battle between that mutant frog and the two girls dive-bombing it spraying magic everywhere. Unfortunately, all their effort seems to be doing is making the thing angrier, and while the two are doing an admirable job of dodging the thing as it leaps about, you're not sure how long they'll be able to keep it up.

You give your rifle a once over, then look back up at the over-sized frog and promptly discard the notion of shooting it. If those icicles that Cirno is throwing are doing jack, then you're pretty sure your bullets would be the equivalent of spitting on it. Your grenades are off limits for the same reason, with the added bonus that some stray shrapnel could hit your allies.

The sound of buzzing overhead catches your attention, and as you look up a veritable swarm of hornets flies past, directly towards the frog. You watch in a mixture of awe and confusion as they begin a vicious assault on the over-sized monster, and their mere presence seems to massively boost Cirno's morale, as she whoops in glee.

"Ha ha! Go get 'em, little guys!"

"What're you yellin' about?" Rumia shouts in reply, narrowly dodging another strike of the frog's tongue.

"Wriggle's called in some of her buddies! C'mon, hit it harder!"

Any further exclamations from the ice-winged girl are halted when the frog leaps through the air once again, and this time Cirno was too slow to dodge. You wince as she's sent flying off into the woods, and you hear a faint picchun from the direction she went.

Unless Cirno's a lot tougher than she looks, it's down to two on one. Great.

That's when an idea hatches inside your brain. Stupid? Yes. Suicidal? Definitely. But you think it's about time you gave that monster's insides a personal exam.

You bring your rifle to bear and, after pausing a moment to adjust your aim, let loose a burst of lead. As you suspected they would, all the bullets do is draw the frog's attention to you. Time for step two.

"Hey, you ugly sonuvabitch! Over here!" You bellow, waving an arm around to help draw attention to yourself. The target of your invectives stops trying to eat Rumia, which is a plus, but on the downside it now looks pretty angry at you. The second thoughts about this plan start surfacing at a remarkable rate when the thing devours a good chunk of those hornets in a single gulp, but since you're already balls-in you might as well go all the way.

"Yeah, I'm talking to you, you gigantic pussy! You like eating people? Try me! I'm fuckin' delicious!"

Out of the corner of your eye you notice Rumia has actually stopped firing, having popped her head out of her sphere to glare at you. "What the hell are you doing, Sasha?"

"Rescue op!" You yell back, clutching your gun tightly in preparation for the inevitable. Sure enough, the over-sized amphibian flicks its tongue out, the thing wrapping itself around your waist. With a yank, you're sent flying through the air, towards the thing's gaping maw. You've all of a second to inhale what could very well be your last breath of fresh air for quite a while (relatively speaking, of course) before you're inside the thing's mouth, and momentum propels you down its gullet.

A vast array of thoughts scramble through your mind as you tumble through inky blackness, most of them consisting of 'I should have just shot the damn thing' and variations thereof. Your sliding comes to a gradual halt, and your rifle finds it way back into your hands before you get around to doing anything else. Righting yourself, you take a quick look around and come to the important realization that you can't see shit in here. You rectify that problem by switching your headlight on. While you're no expert on frog biology, this looks like a perfectly normal stomach you're currently in, liquids and all. Minus the fact that it's large enough to comfortably live inside, of course. There's also a battered-looking Wriggle floating around, a few of the wasps from before following her, but that's a minor thing in comparison.

You take the opportunity to re-holster your rifle before Wriggle speaks up.

"Got you too, huh?" She says, dejectedly. "How're things holding up out there?"

Well, since the air in here seems just fine, you feel safe replying. "Cirno's down, and I'm not sure how long Rumia can hold up. This swarm of bugs also came by to help, but they did jack. Also, I got eaten, but you already know that."

You see her brighten up at that mention of bugs, and then immediately sink back into depression on learning of their performance.

"Fan-friggin-tastic." She mutters. You don't pay much attention to what else she says as your hands find themselves a grenade each. You raise one of them up and wave it in front of the bug-girl.

"Don't worry, I have a plan. Step one is that I blast my way out of here."

And that just seemed to have pissed her off, as she hovers up to look you eye-to-eye.

"With what? I've tried shooting around here too, you know, but nothing happened! What do you think you can even do?"

You spy another passage leading deeper into the frog's insides, and give the grenade in your raised hand a tentative toss into the air. Wriggle watches you with unabashed curiosity as you snatch the explosive mid-fall. "Unlike you, kid, I don't need magic. Watch this."

You pull the pin on one grenade, lob it down the passageway and repeat the process with the second. Wriggle blinks once, twice, then stares at you, a lone eyebrow raised to the heavens.

"So, uh, what did you d-"

The beautiful sound of a grenade exploding answers her question, swiftly followed by another, and you almost lose your balance due to the frog's shaking from this indignity.

"Blew its ass up. Literally, I think." You reply, taking no small amount of amusement from the way her eyes are as wide as dinner-plates. You give her a hearty pat on the back, the force of it nearly sending her to the ground.

"So, kid, whaddya say we get the hell out while we still can?"

"While those things you threw were loud," Wriggle says, taking to the air. "I don't think they made an exit for us."

You pull out your knife.

"Who says that was our exit?"

Wriggle stares at you like you just grew a second head.

"You think you can cut your way out of here with that?" She questions, although she seems less skeptical of you now than when you used those grenades.

"Worth a shot, isn't it?"

"I... guess so."

Wait a second, why is everything frog-related around you glowing what the fuck.

"Uh, kid? What's going o- GODDAMNIT."

You fall, thanks to a sudden lack of frog insides to stand on. On the plus side, there's no frog left in the first place. That doesn't make your sudden impact with the ground any less jarring, though.

Taking a look around, there's no giant monster in sight. There is a Rumia-shaped hole in a nearby tree, though, which is both funny and a bit worrisome. Wriggle touches down next to you, and you look up at her. Funny how she's able to loom like that, although you chalk it up to the fact that you're both sitting down and a bit rattled from the fall. She offers you a hand, and you stare at it like it just sprouted a set of teeth.

"You gonna sit there all day?" She queries.

You pause to sheathe your knife before you take her hand and whoa nelly you're on your feet. Girl's got some good arm-strength to her, you'll give her that.

"Oi!" You look over at the source of that shout. Rumia's looking bloodied but otherwise fine, sporting a cheery grin as she floats over in your general direction.

"That, Sasha? That was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen someone do. And I've seen some really dumb things, so you oughta be proud!"

Well, on one hand, she's right. On the other, you still want to clock her for calling you an idiot.

"It worked out fine, didn't it?" You grumble in reply.

"Ha-haaaaaaah!" Cirno bellows from behind you, and if it weren't for the suit everyone would have seen you jump in shock. As it stands, you spin around and point a finger at her in an accusatory fashion.

"How are you even aliv- no, no, that's not important. Just don't do that again." You growl, but the girl is undeterred.

"So what'd ya even do in there, anyway? I heard a BOOM and then another and then it just disappeared like whoa." She asks.

"He 'blew its ass up'." Wriggle responds dryly.

"What she said." You add.

"Huh." Cirno hmphs, looking unconvinced. "You don't look like someone who can use danmaku."

"Wasn't." You clarify, and pull out another grenade. "Grenades. Very explosive, very deadly."

You toss it at the fairy, who deftly catches it mid-air.

"Explodes when you pull the pin no wait DON'T PULL THE PIN YOU'LL KILL US ALL." You say, grabbing the thing back from the fairy as she goes to actually pull the pin.

"Okay, you don't get to have the explosives, kid." You say, after recovering from that heart attack she just gave you. She sticks her tongue out at you in return.

"So," you ask, tucking away that one grenade. "are giant frog attacks normal around here or what?"

It's Rumia who pipes in this time. "Nah. I mean, Cirno there gets attacked by one every so often, but that's 'cause she goes 'round freezing frogs for fun."

"So it is normal." You reply.

"Maybe~"

You're not sure whether it makes you want to smack her or ruffle her hair. Maybe both?

"Well, now what?" You ask, folding your arms. "I mean, you wanted me to come by and meet your friends, but what happens past that?"

"Whaddya mean, what happens now?"

"I assumed there was another reason besides me buddying up with these two. You mean to tell me there wasn't?"

"Ya still haven't met Mystia, have you?" Cirno interjects.

"Haven't got a clue who you're talking about, kid."

"She runs a food-stand what sells some grilled eel. You'd like it, I'm sure!" She declares, a beaming smile having now taken the place of the sour look she was shooting you earlier.

*BEEP BEEP*

You hold up a hand as a signal for quiet as you fumble around for your PDA. Once you've got it out, you can't help but notice that there's a 1 on the Contacts display.

You're not quite sure how to feel about this.

"What're you doin' with that?" Wriggle asks, floating up to get a better look, consequently blocking Cirno and Rumia from trying the same thing as a result.

"Looks like someone else from home just fell through here." You reply, brow furrowed.


[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.

--) [X] Of course, you don't necessarily have to talk to him yourself. You could probably get away with sending one of the girls off to greet him instead. Then, well, nothing says you can't do something else.

[X] Bah, to hell with whoever it is. For all you know, he's just another one of those damn mercs who tried to kill you, and in that case the forest can take him.

[X] This could be an excellent chance for a resupply, and if you get the drop on him this shmuck won't really be able to do anything to stop you.

--) [X] That might be a better idea for a solo op, though. You're not sure whether your new friends would take kindly to you robbing someone else from home.

[X] Write-in?
>> No. 151795
[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.
-[X] Of course, you don't necessarily have to talk to him yourself. You could probably get away with sending one of the girls off to greet him instead. Then, well, nothing says you can't do something else.
--[X]Be ready for anything, you're still not completely sure who it is.
>> No. 151796
[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.
-[X] Of course, you don't necessarily have to talk to him yourself. You could probably get away with sending one of the girls off to greet him instead. Then, well, nothing says you can't do something else.
--[X]Be ready for anything, you're still not completely sure who it is.
>> No. 151797
[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.

Maybe its because I played AMK Stalker a lot but I always gotta try to save a fellow Stalker. If its a dude that will try to kill us, we'll just kill the sucker and take his ammo. Maybe give his corpse to Ruminants for a snack!
>> No. 151799
>>151795
>>151796

Double voting Duty scum?
>> No. 151804
[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.
[X]Be ready for anything, you're still not completely sure who it is.
>> No. 151805
>>151799
Looks like a classic case of errors causing double posts.
>> No. 151806
Whoa, I was not expecting an update for this. Awesome.

[X] Bah, to hell with whoever it is. For all you know, he's just another one of those damn mercs who tried to kill you, and in that case the forest can take him.

>(what the fuck's wrong with me)
You use arbitrary culturally significant dates as an excuse to not update your story, duh.

>I'm fuckin delicious!
Cracked up here and was smiling the entire update~
>> No. 151810
>>151805

Heh I thought so. Just joking around with him with a bit of Stalker humor.
>> No. 151812
[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.
-[X] Of course, you don't necessarily have to talk to him yourself. You could probably get away with sending one of the girls off to greet him instead. Then, well, nothing says you can't do something else.
--[X]Wriggle seems to have a better head on her shoulders than the others, so have her handle it.

And welcome back, sir.
>> No. 151813
File 132546588532.png - (677.08KB , 608x1587 , 3b6dce03782118b930b2443f7cc41674.png ) [iqdb]
151813
[c] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.
-[c] Of course, you don't necessarily have to talk to him yourself. You could probably get away with sending one of the girls off to greet him instead. Then, well, nothing says you can't do something else.
--[c] Be ready for anything, you're still not completely sure who it is.

A S.T.A.L.K.E.R, eh? I wonder if we have been named yet. Also, I love this Rumia.
>> No. 151846
[X] You've gotten lucky here so far, but there's no telling how long another Stalker might last without help. You can spare some time for a detour to pick him up, or at least point him towards the village.
[X]Be ready for anything, you're still not completely sure who it is.

I don't think sending one of the girls is a good idea as it raises the likelyhood of a bad reaction from the other guy.
>> No. 151856
Right, it's tied between going after this S.T.A.L.K.E.R. yourself or sending one of your groupies to handle it. I'll leave it to a tie-breaker, next post decides. If there aren't any within the next few hours, I'll just flip a coin to decide so we can get on with it.


>>151813

Sasha's the name for our guy, sirrah.

>>151812

Thanks for not running my incredibly lazy ass out of town.

>>151806

If you're enjoying the story, then I'm doing my job right.
>> No. 151869
After a coin-flip, it's called in favor of investigating personally. I'll try to have an update out by tomorrow, and I'll delete this post when I've got it done.
>> No. 151884
Hooray!
>> No. 152003
>going "OH FUCK I SHOULD PROBABLY UPDATE MY THING" and then fleeing in shame
Stop that. A status update is fine too.
>> No. 153866
File 133017600034.png - (1.34MB , 1024x768 , the man himself.png ) [iqdb]
153866
It only took me two months, but I've got an update for you guys.

Also, I'd like to get this outta the way right now. Unless I specifically say this story is dead, you can assume I'm just being lazy when an update takes this long. Or that I'm dead, in which case I guess I'm shit outta luck.

Anyway, enjoy the update!

-----

[X] Time to find yourself another Stalker.

You're not going to just leave this guy out there, no matter who he is. Even bandits, mercs, or God forbid, military goons, don't deserve to get mauled by what this place has to offer.

"We're going after him." You say, and that announcement is greeted by two heads tilting in curiosity and one set of eyebrows disappearing into green hair.

"...Why?" is the query from the aforementioned eyebrow-raising Wriggle.

"I think the words you're looking for are 'why not', kid." You shoot back.

One of her eyebrows twitch as she glares at you. "You do know I'm older than you are, right?"

"Moving on!" You say, raising a hand to silence any of her objections. "I'm going to pick him up for this merry band we've got going, or at least show him where the town is at. Any questions?"

Rumia raises a hand. "One, yeah. Why should we care?"

"I'll give you the same answer I gave her." You say, pointing at Wriggle. "Why not?"

Rumia pauses to think about that for a moment, and Cirno takes the opportunity to elbow past her and hover up to meet you. "I get to freeze something, right?"

"If something nasty tries to crush me into bits, go for it. Otherwise, don't." The fairy seems satisfied with that explanation, and as she flies off you check your PDA again.

"Hrm." You grunt, seeing that the little blip on your radar's disappeared. "That's less than good."

You look up at the three girls chatting amongst themselves, and are suddenly struck by an Idea.

"Hey!" You call out, catching their attention. "I need your help with something!"

-----

THIS WAS THE WORST IDEA

"FUUUUUUUUUUU-" is what you yell as you fall through the sky yet again, and this time it's Wriggle who catches you mid-fall. Rumia and Cirno are busy laughing their asses off at your latest outburst.

"I AM NOT A TOY STOP DROPPING ME JESUS CHRIST." You bellow, which only seems to make them laugh harder.

"You did ask for a lift, you know." Wriggle points out, sporting a cheeky smirk of her own.

"I never asked for this!" You growl. "Just fly steady for a goddamn moment, will you?"

You fumble around for that PDA of yours while Wriggle acquiesces to your demand. Your mood brightens considerably, and now you've got your update on the Stalker's location you tuck the device back in your suit.

"What's the news?" Wriggle asks, looking genuinely curious.

"He's close." You reply. "If you could just let me down here, that'd be perfect."

"You asked for it." She replies, a sly grin overtaking her features.

"Wait, wha- GOD DAMN IT!" is your shout as you find yourself plummeting once more, only for your drop to be arrested by Wriggle's grip on your hand. You shake your other fist at her in anger, but all that does is amuse her more.

"I thought that'd stop being funny by now, but you're still hilarious." She admits.

"Just. Just. Gently let me down, please?" You plead.

You almost expect her to just drop you again and laugh as you plummet towards the ground, but thankfully she listens to the order and hovers down before letting you go. The other two float down as well, and you turn to face all of them.

"Okay," you begin, "all of you should stay back for a bit while I seek this guy out."

"You're sure?" Wriggle interjects.

"Look, no offense to all of you, but he might've had a nasty run-in with some of your friends. He might get the wrong impression, you know? If you hear me yelling like an idiot, that's probably a good time to come running."

Rumia perks up at this line of questioning. "Weeeeell, if he does try something, can I eat him?"

You stare at the girl for a moment, and wave the question off as not even worth answering. Looking past her, you note Cirno making a snowball out of nothing and launching the projectile straight into a bird soaring overhead. Her aim's good, if nothing else.

The peace of the scene is broken when the sound of a shotgun firing goes off once, then twice, from a fairly short distance away. Moments later, a man-shaped blur literally comes flying through the air, and his flight ends when he crashes straight into the rest of your group. By this point your rifle's already found its way into your hands, and you spray a few shots into the woods to deter whatever just threw that man like a toy.

"Aaaaaaaargh." is the groaned response from the quartet behind you, and you spare a moment to look back at them. They're all tangled up in a mess of limbs, and don't look like they'll be getting up anytime soon.

"I'm getting sick of all these random monster attacks." You grumble beneath your breath, before a rustling in the bushes catches your attention. You turn just in time to see a rock the size of your head barreling towards you. You hit the dirt immediately to avoid getting beaned upside the head, which proves to be a good call given the sound of splintering wood behind you.

You fire off a burst at where the rock came from, and are rewarded with the tell-tale sound of lead hitting flesh and a distinctly feminine yelp. You immediately spray fully-automatic fire at the source of the noise, but elicit no further sound. Your current magazine runs dry and you rise to one knee. With quick, practiced movements, you set about reloading your rifle, and moments later are ready to fire again.

Seconds pass by without incident.

Your finger twitches next to the rifle's trigger.

More time passes.

"What, you run away?" You call out.

The silence is palpable.

"Yeah, you'd better run, ya goddamn pussy." You grumble as you rise to your feet. "Next time you come by I'm going to stuff a friggin' live grenade down your maw."

A cough from behind you causes you to spin around, and you end up mask-to-mask with the Stalker who'd been tossed past you. He's wearing the standard-issue Stalker suit and mask combo most Stalkers pick up after a while in the zone. from the general look of his equipment. His suit has definitely seen better days, judging by the claw marks, bullet holes, and other such signs of wear. The shotgun he's holding onto has traces of blood splattered on it. Behind him, the girls are busy dusting themselves off and muttering to each other, shooting glances at the Stalker while he isn't looking.

"Uh." He begins. You stare at him. "What's up, man?" is what he settles for asking, as he scratches the back of his head.

"Not a whole hell of a lot." You reply, lowering your rifle. "What's your name, Stalker?"

"Gijko, bro." He replies, offering you a handshake. You return the gesture, and while occupied with that you spy Cirno creeping up on the Stalker. The man seems not to notice her, but she looks you in the eye and holds up a finger to her mouth in a shushing gesture.

"Ahuh." You say, oddly fascinated by the fairy's scheme. Fortunately, your mask prevents the rookie from noticing where you're looking. "Right. Mine's Sasha, man."

"A pleasure, I'm sure." He responds dryly. Cirno's started hovering behind him now, and the soft sound of her icicle wings (that still confuses you) is apparently enough to catch Gijko's attention, seeing as he whirls around and grabs at the hand about to reach into his pocket. The fairy yelps and tries to pull away, but the Stalker's grip is firm enough to prevent that.

"Oi." He says, without rancor. "And what d'ya think you're doing, girl?"

Cirno refuses to answer, instead pouring all her might into trying to pull free from the man's grip. You watch the display with amusement for a moment before you decide it's time to interfere. "You mind letting her go?"

The Stalker does so, and Cirno flies back from the sudden lack of resistance. You wince as she cracks her head against a tree, but she recovers well enough and floats on over to the rest of the group.

"Now that that's settled," You begin, cutting off any further conversation. "I'm interested in seeing if you want to come with us."

The man looks at you, then around the woods. His gaze lingers on where he was thrown from.

"That'd... probably be best." He agrees, stuffing his hands into his pockets. The fairy takes the chance to escape and flutters back to the other girls, a sour expression on her face.

"I think I've already used up all my luck not getting my face broken back there." Gijko continues, sounding rather nonchalant at having dodged death.

"What the hell threw you, anyway? I'm pretty sure I tagged it back there." You ask, thumbing back at the woods. He shrugs again in response.

"Looked like some chick with four arms, man. Didn't really get a clear look, since I was more busy trying not to get pulverized."

He pauses a moment, looking up at the sky.

"Pretty, though." He concludes. You roll your eyes.

"Fantastic." You mutter. "More homicidal women with too many limbs."

"This is a thing with you?" Gijko asks, wonderment in his voice.

"Sasha~" Rumia cheers, and you almost jump at her sudden interruption. She waves at you. "We found your buddy, let's go!"

"Mm." You grunt. Where to?

-----

[X] There should be enough of a blood trail to track down Four Arms V2 and exterminate her.

[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.

--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.

--> [X] You'd really rather get back to that village and the ensuing safety it offers.

[X] Write-in?
>> No. 153867
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.

That guy needs emergency characterization to stabilize my ability to give a shit.
>you can assume I'm just being lazy
Way ahead of you.

>THIS WAS THE BEST IDEA
>> No. 153869
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
-[X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
-[X] Ask them about that four-armed woman.
>> No. 153870
File 133018888031.jpg - (24.95KB , 321x371 , lamprey.jpg ) [iqdb]
153870
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.

Let's go get some night blindness. Which is probably a good idea. Saves you from seeing what you're eating. (Lamprey, man. Fucking crazy things.)
>> No. 153874
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
>> No. 153876
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
[x] You probably should clear up that fake name thing.
>> No. 153878
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
>> No. 153883
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
>> No. 153885
[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
>> No. 153888
Lamprey already looks suitably a suitably radioactive mutant. Little preparation needed.

[X] You've done all you came here to do, and you don't much feel like risking your life on a hunt with no obvious gain.
--> [X] That food stand Rumia pointed out earlier sounds like a good place to stop. You could definitely stand to eat something other than canned meat, mysterious bread and dry sausage.
>> No. 154290
File 133114250090.jpg - (72.59KB , 1000x707 , 25622424.jpg ) [iqdb]
154290
>> No. 155176
File 133384291171.jpg - (93.13KB , 777x777 , 26407745.jpg ) [iqdb]
155176
Get back to work nigger.
>> No. 160095
File 134377126020.png - (470.74KB , 800x600 , mystia is love.png ) [iqdb]
160095
Hello again, fellow stalkers! I don't really have much to say about my absence besides it being entirely my fault. Let's see if I can't get updates out at a steady pace now, eh?

[X] Time to move on.

You take one last look at where you sprayed bullets everywhere and promptly decide not to chase after the multi-armed terror. You've already scared her off anyway, and it's not like anyone's paying you to go hunting.

"I think we're better off letting her go for now. Let's get out of here." You say, and in return are given a cheer from Rumia. Cirno and Wriggle are just hovering around looking impatient, but they seem to brighten up at the fact that they're going to be moving on soon. Gijko, meanwhile, just rests his shotgun on his shoulder and waits. It doesn't seem like anyone's going to make any offers on what you should do now, though. Of course, an idea worms its way into your brain, and you promptly set about voicing it.

"You said something about a food stand, kid?" You query, and Rumia immediately perks up.

"Yeppers!" She chirps. "Well, okay, it's more of a cart that hauls around parts for a stand, but it's the same difference, right?"

"You mean actual food? Not any of this canned crap I'm hauling around?" Gijko interrupts, looking between the two of you with (what you assume to be) awe. It's hard to tell through the mask. "Shit, that's something I wouldn't mind stoppin' for. Why're we waitin' around here?"

"Unless there are any objections, charge." You say flatly, and start trundling back into the woods. After a moment Rumia catches up to you and takes the lead, enveloping herself in that orb of darkness thing she does. You briefly wonder why she wasn't doing it earlier when you first met, but dismiss it as unimportant.

Gijko falls in step with you as your ever-growing party advances into the woods, looks around conspiratorially at the rest of the group, and leans in close to you. "So, bro, how did you manage this, huh?" He whispers, waving his hand around at everyone else.

"Blondie took a liking to me." You reply at a similarly low volume, and he grunts in understanding.

"Actually, I was gonna eat him, but then he gave me this! So I changed my mind." Rumia cuts in from up front, giving the two of you a start. You suppose she has sharper hearing than you thought, which isn't entirely pleasing to know. She's stopped the darkness thing again to show off that Sparkler you gave her earlier.

"I might have tossed her an artifact, yes." You grudgingly admit.

"Aha. So, why didn't she just eat you anyway?" Gijko asks, and while it's a perfectly valid question you still have to strangle the urge to punch him in the mouth for bringing it up.

"He's kinda fun! Even if he does yell at me sometimes." Rumia explains, shooting you a particularly dirty look at that last bit. You feel the need to defend yourself and raise a hand.

"Look, I said I was sorry, didn't I?" You say, putting on your best airs of wounded dignity.

"Nope." She immediately replies, and you open your mouth to dismiss such slander before realizing that she's actually right.

"Huh." You say, carefully thinking of the best way of putting this. You decide to go for the straightforward approach. "Well, I'm saying it now. I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier, okay?"

The beaming grin she gives you should be outlawed on the basis of being a weapon of mass adorableness, even if it's slightly marred by the too-sharp teeth. "Now really, Sasha, was that so hard?" She asks, tone sugary-sweet. She's doing this on purpose, the fiend.

"Yes." You grumble, and while Rumia looks far too self-satisfied no one breaks the silence that follows. For a moment, her use of your fake name makes you briefly consider telling the girls about Stalker code-names, but you're interrupted by the sound of... is that singing?

"Hey, hold up!" You order, stopping in your tracks to try and listen closer. Everyone else follows suit, and for a few moments there's nothing. The singing starts again, definitely female in origin, and while you can't quite make out the words there's a sudden feeling of dread settling in your belly. You can't help but note that your surroundings have darkened a fair bit too, although you can still see clearly. It's not really anything more than inconvenient right now, but there is definitely something foreboding about it.

You're about to call attention to this when your fellow Stalker pipes in. "Not to worry anybody, but I can't see past my hand. Anyone else?"

"Things're a bit dark for me, but nothing nearly so bad." You reply, chalking up a point towards psychic influence being behind this.

"Oh boy, oh boy, psy-effects, here we go." He says, voice laced with sarcastic joy. "Five rubles says it's a new breed of controller."

"Given this place's track record so far, I'd make it twenty." You retort, before Wriggle coughs loudly to draw your attention.

"I'm just going to head you two off there and tell you it's just Mystia singing." She explains, adopting a sort of lecturer's pose you remember from high-school.

"Oh, well, that explains everything." You say, pausing for effect before you continue. You direct the next question at Rumia. "So, kid, there something you forgot to tell me?"

"Yeah, Mysty's voice only messes with humans, sorry. You're outta luck!" Cirno replies with gusto, sounding way too happy about this.

"I wasn't talking to you, but all right." You say, accepting her answer with grace.

"Hooray, it's what I've always wanted when I set off into the Zone. Premature blindness!" Gijko complains. Cirno rubs her chin for a moment as she watches the Stalker grumble beneath his breath, before she flutters over and grabs his hand.

When the Stalker grunts in surprise, Cirno deigns to explain. "Y'said you can't see, right? You're just gonna run into trees all the time like Rum does if you don't got someone holding on."

You have to admit, that does make sense. However, Rumia seems more than a little aggrieved with Cirno's use of her as an example, given the way she lobs a bit of danmaku straight into the back of Cirno's head, causing the girl to pitch to the ground in a heap.

"I've been doing just fine!" She angrily calls out. By this point, Cirno has come back up looking extremely annoyed, and all of a sudden she tosses an icicle straight into Rumia's face and knocks her senseless.

"How about now!" The fairy calls out jeeringly, and yelps as she barely dodges another bit of magic from the blonde. Given their positioning, Gijko catches the errant projectile to the face, and with a curse he staggers back.

"Oh, girl, as soon as I find you it is on." He warns, but as he stumbles forward to exact vengeance Rumia suddenly takes off with a laugh, her bad mood evaporated due to his suffering. Cirno follows suit, albeit with remarkably less cheer and more anger as the two blast away at each other.

It only escalates from there, as the two take to unleashing barrages through the sky. Gijko turns, stalks over in your general direction, and after fumbling around for a moment, he plants a hand on your shoulder.

"No offense, man, but you got some unreliable friends." He says. Looking at the display above, you have to agree with him.

"Got that right." Wriggle says, watching the ongoing little brawl between black and blue. "They'll catch up." She decides, and suddenly flies onwards. You curse her under your breath for leaving you behind, holster your rifle and draw your pistol. You then follow Cirno's lead from earlier by grabbing your fellow stalker's hand, and while his grumbles about it he doesn't make any attempt to break free. This arrangement in order, the two of you follow the singing.

"You know, I've been wondering." He asks, after a minute passes without incident. "What is this place, anyway? With all the women and the flying and all that?"

You give him a quick run-down on the magic, the girls, the village, and pretty much everything you know about Gensokyo so far. He absorbs it quietly, and for a few moments you think he's just going to stay silent.

"Sounds like a fairy tale, bro." He finally says.

Frankly, you have to agree.

-----

Eventually, you burst out of the forest and into another fairly clear area by the lake. It's similar to the one you met everyone else at, save for the fact that it's a good deal more rocky. The place is more notable for the small food stand set up nearby, complete with a sign in some scrawl you can't make heads or tails of. There's some stools in front of the stand proper, Wriggle herself seated upon one of them. She's chatting with the young-looking girl manning the stand, who at first glance seems fairly normal save the feathery wings and pink hair. She's wearing a brown cap and matching robes along with an apron, which is a pretty good choice of outfit given the grill behind her.

At the sight of the two of you she breaks into a brilliantly fake-looking smile. Given what you've been told, this is probably none other than Mystia. You holster your pistol before continuing onwards, because you've found that waving guns in people's faces is generally a good way to piss them off.

"Helloooooo, you two~" She trills out as you approach, and it's a damn sound better than that earlier singing. "Welcome to the Lorelei Food Stand! How may I help you?"

You get a better look at her now that you've closed the distance. Her wings, both a light shade of pink, extend out about a foot each, while the feathers are a motley grey. Her golden eyes are fairly striking, too, especially given the way they're tracking your every move. The smile she's bearing seems a fair bit too bright to be genuine.

"All right, I can see a bit better, now lemme go." Gijko says, pulling free from your grip and barreling up to the duo. He slams his hands down on the counter-top, rattling the plates thereon, and almost knocks Wriggle off her seat from sheer surprise at his particular approach. "What're you selling?"

"What're you buying?" The girl replies, an arch eyebrow raised. "I've got grilled lamprey and eel. Excellent cures for sudden cases of blindness from magic overdose!"

Wriggle coughs loudly, and you're pretty sure you catch 'bull' mixed in with it. Mystia's eyes flit over to the bug-girl for just a moment, filled with annoyance, before you sit down in front of her. She fixes you with that unnaturally bright smile, and you feel just a little uneasy.

"What if I don't want lamprey or eel?" You ask, and she points to a placard on the wall to her side. You have no idea what it says, but take the chance to look around the rest of the stand. It's actually pretty well put together, all things considered. There's all sorts of little notices on the walls, pictures of various people and little notes stuck everywhere. It looks very much like someone's put their heart into this place. You're frankly surprised all of this can be packed into a cart.

"It says you're out of luck." Wriggle helpfully interjects, and you give her a quick thumbs up.

"All right, just wondering. Lamprey it is!" You say, pulling out a wad of rubles and dropping them on the counter-top. Mystia looks between you and the cash several times, the smile slipping to be replaced by a bit of pity.

"Oh, dear, I'm sorry. Your Outside money's no good here, stranger." She says, and this revelation hits you like a freight-train.

The tens of thousands of rubles you have in your possession are completely worthless.

"Fuck." "Shit." You and Gijko reply simultaneously, having made the same connection, and the girl blinks in surprise at the language. The Stalker buries his face in his hands in despair, but you press onwards in your quest for decent food.

"I suppose you don't take credit?" You ask hopefully, and the unamused look you get from Mystia in return is enough to puncture your hopes is all the answer you need. Wriggle sees fit to break the ice at this moment by leaning over and planting a hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Hey, Mysty? Y'know the guy I was talking about earlier? Guess who this is." She says, squeezing Mystia's shoulder tight for just a moment, and the bird-girl's eyes widen for a moment as she 'ah's in understanding.

Turning back to you, Mystia offers a warm and genuine smile. It's a fair sight better than her earlier one. "Well, seeing as you've been good to Wriggle, I guess I can let you eat for free. One time only, all right? Next time you've got to pay me properly."

"Deal." You say, extending a hand to her. You promptly reconsider that decision when you get a good look at her inch-long green fingernails, because Christ Almighty those things look like they could carve through steel. Fortunately, Mystia seems plenty hesitant for the same reason, so you retract your hand before something unfortunate happens.

"Ah, the last time I shook someone's hand, it... wasn't pretty. Blood got everywhere, and there was a lot of screaming. I think they had to amputate." Mystia explains, her smile turning sheepish. "Anyway, I suppose you're wanting some lamprey now, right?"

"Sounds good." You reply, and your attentions are diverted by your fellow Stalker rapping his knuckles on the counter-top.

"I don't suppose I get some for free too?" Gijko asks, voice full of hope.

"I... suppose." Mystia replies, with no small amount of reluctance. She folds her arms together and frowns at him. "But like your friend, only this once, you hear me! I can't just go around giving free food to everyone or I'll never hear the end of it!"

"Fair enough." He replies, but she's already hustling over to the back to grab a pair of dishes. She quickly stacks a lamprey on each plate, and deposits them back at the counter in record time.

"These were already done." She explains, but you're too busy staring at yours with no small amount of horror to pay much attention to her. For some godforsaken reason its mouth is wide open, and there are dozens of teeth lining the insides of its maw. You can't help but feel like it would gladly jump on your head and eat your face were it still alive.

"It's actually pretty good." Wriggle says, no doubt noticing your horror even despite your helmet. "Kinda tastes like... Okay, I don't know how to explain it. It tastes like lamprey, I guess?" She finishes lamely, giving you an apologetic shrug.

"Looking at this, I think there's definite proof in a Creator who lives solely to get his jollies from making horrible blights upon this earth." You mutter, truly amazed.

"You can't seriously tell me we went all this way to not eat, right?" Gijko asks, staring at you in what you're sure is disbelief behind that mask.

"Maybe." You grumble, glancing at Mystia before quickly averting your gaze at her hurt expression. You give your meal another look intense look, and Gijko smacks his forehead in exasperation while you debate with yourself about the merits of lamprey versus the horror of its appearance.

-----

[X] Well, this wasn't what you expected, but you might as well give it a try. Besides, it'd be rude to not have any after getting it for free.

[X] You know what, all of a sudden you're not hungry anymore. Fancy that. Excuse yourself and haul ass towards-

--[X] The Village, because you've dallied enough out here and you'd really rather be among regular humans by the time night falls.

--[X] Marisa's house. You know what you told her about not busting in and looting things? Total lie. Plus, payback for her blasting Aya and Rumia straight into you.

--[X] Write-in?

If staying to eat, choose what to talk about.

[X] Yourself, including such fascinating topics as life in the Zone.

[X] Your companions, because if you're going to be stuck here for any length of time it wouldn't hurt to know a bit more about them.

[X] Gensokyo in general, because this place is actually pretty interesting.

[X] The deal with all these superpowered individuals running about, and their general relationships with the Village.

[X] Mystia personally, about her singing and that blindness it apparently causes.

[X] You don't exactly have much on Wriggle, so it wouldn't hurt to ask a few questions.

[X] Just go with the flow, man. Let them talk, interject when you feel necessary.

[X] Write-in?

You can take more than one option, but try to be reasonable.

If the second option:

[X] Wait for Cirno and Rumia to catch up before moving on.

[X] Your current party's fine as it is, and Mystia can tell the two stragglers where you went.

[X] Grab your fellow stalker and get out of there, leaving everyone else in the dust.

[X] Now's the perfect chance to get away from everyone else before they adhere to you like glue.

Seperate from the above.

[X]Write-in for a different course of action entirely, because all these options suck.
>> No. 160097
Ooh, this story's back.

[X] Well, this wasn't what you expected, but you might as well give it a try. Besides, it'd be rude to not have any after getting it for free.

At least give it a shot, y'know. As for topics of discussion:

[X] Yourself, including such fascinating topics as life in the Zone.

[X] Your companions, because if you're going to be stuck here for any length of time it wouldn't hurt to know a bit more about them.
>> No. 160100
I had given up hope! Keep up the criminal levels of cuteness and stalker references and I won't even complain about the lack of plot~

[X] Well, this wasn't what you expected, but you might as well give it a try. Besides, it'd be rude to not have any after getting it for free.

[X] Yourself, including such fascinating topics as life in the Zone.
[X] Your companions, because if you're going to be stuck here for any length of time it wouldn't hurt to know a bit more about them.
[X] The deal with all these superpowered individuals running about, and their general relationships with the Village.
[X] Just go with the flow, man. Let them talk, interject when you feel necessary.
>> No. 160106
[X] Well, this wasn't what you expected, but you might as well give it a try. Besides, it'd be rude to not have any after getting it for free.

Topics of discussion:

[X] Yourself, including such fascinating topics as life in the Zone.

[X] Your companions, because if you're going to be stuck here for any length of time it wouldn't hurt to know a bit more about them.

[X] Gensokyo in general, because this place is actually pretty interesting.
>> No. 160117
[x] Well, this wasn't what you expected, but you might as well give it a try. Besides, it'd be rude to not have any after getting it for free.
[x] Yourself, including such fascinating topics as life in the Zone.
[x] Your companions, because if you're going to be stuck here for any length of time it wouldn't hurt to know a bit more about them.
[x] Gensokyo in general, because this place is actually pretty interesting.
>> No. 160141
Four votes may make calling it now a bit premature, but I'm in the mood to write and the votes looks pretty unanimous in favor of the conversation option so far. Besides, this thread needs some quicker updates to revitalize it anyway.

Best case scenario is that it's out by tonight, but more realistically tomorrow or in a few days.
>> No. 160142
File 134385451023.jpg - (944.62KB , 1100x1550 , 28950148.jpg ) [iqdb]
160142
Hooray! Four votes this quickly is pretty good for a story recovering from such a long "hiatus".
>> No. 160184
File 134396893434.jpg - (543.68KB , 614x846 , i couldn't think of an appropriate image so h.jpg ) [iqdb]
160184
Trivia time! All the words of this update, choice text included (and this foreword excluded) comes up to exactly 4004 words! By far the longest update I've written yet.

-----

[X] Food and Conversation, ho!

"Ah, hell, I guess I'll eat it." You grumble, working at removing your helmet. Gijko peels his mask off as well, revealing absolutely nothing as he's also wearing a balaclava beneath it.

"Damn straight you will, bro!" He says, giving you a slap on the back. You finish unfastening your helmet and give him a distinctly unamused look, and he withdraws his hand with due haste.

"Not a touchy-feely sort, are you?" He asks. You don't dignify that question with an answer, instead pulling out your knife in preparation to carve up the lamprey. That plan is interrupted when Mystia grabs your knife hand, frowning. She's brandishing two sets of matching knives and forks in her other hand.

"There's no need for that." She says sternly, and you acquiesce by returning your knife to its sheath once she releases your hand. She daintily sets one pair of implements on your plate, and you start carving away at your meal with them as she deposits the remaining payload on Gijko's plate. The Stalker cuts into his food with gusto, shoveling each bit he severs down his gob so fast you'd think he hasn't eaten in days.

You, meanwhile, spear a severed bit of lamprey up with your fork and carefully place it inside your mouth. It's... Wriggle was right, it tastes like nothing you've ever had before. Despite yourself, you find it surprisingly good. Of course, that probably has something to do with how you've not had a cooked meal in weeks, but still. That darkness that's been around you is finally lifting, too, which is an excellent bonus.

"D'you like it?" Mystia asks, her hands clasped together and her eyes brimming with hope. She's looking almost breathless with anticipation. Normally you'd be unfazed, but the fact of the matter is that she's looking so hopeful you'd feel like a total jackass if you let her down. Thankfully, the food is actually decent, so you can be honest and make her happy.

"I surprise myself, but yes." You say, and the smile she gives you could melt butter. Your heart is made of sterner stuff, but even so her cheer is infectious enough that your lips upturn just a little.

"Good answer! If you didn't, I'd have had to sic the harvest mites on you for hurting Mysty's feelings." Wriggle says this casually, as if there's nothing wrong with threatening murder over dinner, and that brings your good mood crashing down. You turn in your seat and lean around Gijko (who is still devouring his meal at an alarming rate) to get a good bead on her.

"Come again?" You ask, and she's about to reply before Mystia bops her on the head.

"No death threats to my customers, Wriggle!" She chastens, and Wriggle has the decency to look embarrassed. The bird-girl then goes to the back of the stand while you redouble your efforts to consume the lamprey. You catch her casting a curious look at you when she thinks you're not looking, and she promptly squeaks in surprise before making herself look busy.

"You can ask whatever's on your mind. We are eating your food, after all." You remind her, and she pauses for just a moment before turning and walking towards your end of the stand. She pulls a seat behind the stand over to the counter-top and sit down on it, fixing you with an inquisitive gaze.

"Ah, I was just wondering where you were from. Outside, I mean. I've met a few outsiders in my time, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone looking quite so... suited for war." She pauses and looks away from you, self-consciously rubbing the back of her neck.

"That's the Zone for you." You reply before you devour another piece of lamprey. Damn, but this stuff is good even despite the appearance.

"The what now?" Wriggle asks, a questioning eyebrow raised to the heavens.

"Oh, it's just a horribly dangerous place where something terrible can come out of nowhere and eat you at any time. And that's just the monsters." Gijko explains in your stead, having taken a break from utterly annihilating his lamprey. While you wouldn't have explained things like that it's still fairly accurate.

"So why would anyone want to go there?" Mystia asks.

"Artifacts." You answer, reaching into your belt and pulling out a Fireball. You turn the sphere of red crystal over in your hands for a moment to admire it before you toss it at Mystia. She catches it with a surprised gasp.

"Feel the heat?" You query as she examines the object. She seems enraptured with the thing, which is no great surprise to you. Newbies usually do get pretty excited when they get their first artifact. She 'ah''s even more when she sets it down for a moment and the thing starts floating. That catches Wriggle's attention too, but she stays quiet and simply watches.

"Y-yes, actually! It looks beautiful, too." She says after a moment of reverie, picking it up and handing it back to you. You stuff it back into your belt before continuing.

"That, miss, is why people go to the Zone. Dozen, if not hundreds, of artifacts like that are absolutely everywhere. There are ones that make you heal faster, or run for longer without tiring. Some will make you all but immune to electricity or, in that Fireball's case, fire." You lecture, and the two girls drink it in. Gijko, meanwhile, just resumes devastating his food, having likely heard all this before.

"But why's that so important?" Wriggle says, tapping a finger on the counter.

"There's always a demand for stuff that violates natural laws. The eggheads love these things for all of their science experiments, and they pay out the nose for any they can get their hands on. Great demand for civilian use too, because some of these things are plain useful. Hell, I know one guy who sent a healing artifact back home to his mother, encased in lead and disguised as a 'good luck charm'. Apparently her arthritis stopped acting up, if his words are anything to go off of."

"You're getting off-track." Wriggle interrupts. "It can't hold up, though, can it? I mean, there can only be so much demand for those, right?"

"You got it. Now that there's been a steady stream of artifacts going for a while the demand for the common ones has dried up. Sure, you'll still get paid decently for handing in a common one, but it's only enough to maybe get you a day's worth of food. Plus, you gotta worry about bandits trying to kill you and get their hands on your loot, and the anomalies that'll compress you into something that could fit on my plate, or shock you to death, or tear you into so many little pieces you'd be lucky if there's enough left to bury. That's not even counting the military. Shit, technically it's illegal for us to even be in the Zone in the first place. The whole place is cordoned off from the rest of the world, and the army guarding it has orders to kill trespassers on sight. Of course, there's only so much they can do when most of their men are underpaid, unmotivated idiots who got assigned to Zone duty as a punishment. A little bit of cash here and there is enough to grease a few palms, and they tend to look the other way until you're inside."

"I don't get it." Mystia says, her brows furrowing as she speaks up. She's propped her elbows up on the counter and clasped her hands together again, her eyes thoughtful. "Even if these artifacts are worth a lot, why would anyone ever want to go risk dying over it? There's got to be some easier way to make a living that's safer than going into this Zone, right?"

"You underestimate people's greed." You reply, chuckling. "Still, most of my fellow stalkers are generally decent sorts, just in it to make a living for themselves. Some are getting away from unhappy marriages, others are wanted for murder, yet others are touched by the Zone and simply can't bear to live outside it, it's so much a part of their being. Yet no matter who you are or where you come from, the Zone makes it so you have a chance. Hell, look at me!"

"What about you? Why did you go into the Zone?" Wriggle asks. She's resting her chin in her hands now, staring at you in curiosity.

You hesitate for a moment, but then throw caution to the wind because you did invite the obvious question.

"I was an idiot." You admit. "I dropped out of high-school, I had no prospects to get ahead, I lived in a shitty apartment. I worked a dead-end job just... drifting, I suppose. Somehow, I lived like this for a decade, just subsisting. Then, of course, I got the bright idea to try and make something of myself, and I was stupid enough to take a loan from the mob to try to start up a laundromat. A fucking laundromat got me into all of this, seriously? I can hardly believe it now. Of course I didn't know the first thing about running a business, so it didn't work out and I had a bunch of angry gangsters on my ass. Eventually, some thugs showed up at my door to rough me up, but when they broke my door down while I was eating my dinner I just snapped. I ended up stabbing one in the throat with a paring knife, and then I smashed the other asshole's head into my television so many times his brains leaked out. Obviously, I couldn't stay there anymore, not with their buddies ready to show up and murder me slowly and painfully. They'd find me wherever I'd go, I was sure of it. So, where else but the Zone?"

Everyone's eyes are on you now, since your fellow stalker has stopped inhaling his food to watch you. He looks... impressed, you think. Wriggle and Mystia, meanwhile, look completely gobsmacked by this story. The latter's jaw is hanging open, which you can't help but find amusing even despite what you're talking about.

"It was hard, I won't deny it." You continue. "Almost died just getting in, since the military saw me trying to sneak in and opened fire on my ass. I was so full of bullets by the time I stumbled into the closest stalker village it was all I could do to not die right there! But the local doc decided to take a charity case on me, and after a while resting I was as good as new. All I had to my name when I got in there was a crappy pistol and a few magazines of ammo, owing a debt to a guy who, by all rights, should have just let me die since I couldn't pay him."

You exhale and pause for a moment, mulling over what to say next. No one interrupts you as you think, and soon enough it comes to you. You smile.

"After all that, look at me now! I've been quick enough and smart enough to get artifacts before other stalkers could, dodged bullets others couldn't, lived where other, better men than me have died. At the end of it all, I've come out of it ahead. I've got this suit, I've got a good weapon and ammo to shoot with, I've got food to eat every night, and people respect me. I can shoot half-a-dozen bandit scum, or mercenaries, or even those bastards from the Monolith, and people will call me a hero because I just saved their lives!" You lean back in your seat, your eyes drawn skyward. To your honest surprise the sun's gotten fairly close to the horizon. You must have burned more time than you thought with all your trekking about.

You shake your head, clearing that thought from your mind as you continue. "Without the Zone, I'd likely be dead or in prison already. It gave me a chance for a better life, and no matter how likely it was that I'd die in the process it was better than what was behind me. That's why I went in. I won't presume to speak for anyone else."

The silence that follows after you finish is the most awkward you've ever experienced in your life. Mystia's still looking absolutely stupefied at how the conversation took this turn, whereas Wriggle seems to have snapped out of her shock and is staying quiet. Gijko is following her lead, too, carefully avoiding making any noise whatsoever.

"So!" You say brightly, clapping your hands together. It seems to break the tension, insomuch as everyone's startled by your mood-swing. "Now that I've told you that story, I think I'm entitled to everyone else's. You, Wriggle! What do you do?"

She's still reeling from the sudden mood-shift, so it takes her a moment to catch up to speed. "Uh, bugs! Right! That's it! I control bugs! All kinds, from wasps to hornets to those harvest mites I talked about earlier. They're pretty great."

"I'm sure they are. You, Mystia! You're up!" You say, and Wriggle emits a strangled sound of outrage at how quickly her turn has passed.

"Right!" Mystia exclaims, seemingly glad for the change of topic from your fairly grim story. "I sing a lot! And I run this stand for people who catch sudden cases of blindness from magic overdose." She says that line with a completely straight face, and you have to admire her for her dedication to a complete lie.

"Okay! Gijko, you!" You call, pointing at the Stalker as he annihilates the last of his lamprey. He takes a moment to finish chewing and swallow before he swivels around to answer you.

"I enjoy long walks on irradiated beaches and shoot people as an integral part of my lifestyle." He says, tone completely flat. You scowl in response.

"Smart-ass." You grumble, and the bastard has the gall to smirk.

"Anyway," You press on. "What about Rumia and Cirno? I know they're not here and all, but I'm still curious."

"Well, Rumia can control darkness a bit. You've seen that black orb thing she's got? That's her at work. Of course, she can't see in it, so it's about as useful as you'd think. She goes around trying to eat people sometimes, but it's not really hard to get her distracted with something else. Cirno, meanwhile, says she's the strongest fairy in existence, which isn't really saying much, but she's still pretty cool." You groan at the unintended pun, but Wriggle continues unabated. "She's pretty bull-headed and not all that bright, but she's still pretty nice."

"All right, that's the quick version. I suppose I can get into details later, but right now something else is bothering me."

"Yeah?" Mystia asks, resting her arms on the counter.

"Just what's the deal with Gensokyo anyway?" You question her, mirroring her pose. She's assumed a thoughtful expression at the question.

"You know, I don't really think about it all that much." She admits. "But since you've brought it up, what do you want to know?"

"Well, for one, just where is it? It's no place I've ever heard of, and I'm pretty sure a magical fairy-tale land would catch more attention."

"Gensokyo's been sealed off from the Outside world for hundreds of years now, I think. I wasn't alive when it happened, and I don't really know much about it. What I've already told you is about all I've got." She shrugs apologetically. "There should be some records at the village giving more detail, but I don't know how you'd get your hands on those."

"Okay, what's the local area like?" You say, changing course. She 'hmm's in thought for a moment, and starts ticking off fingers as if going through a mental checklist.

"Right, there's the Bamboo Forest, with Eientei inside. The Lunarians live there, and Doctor Eirin runs a clinic for anyone who's sick or injured. The forest is really tricky to get through, though, so you might want a guide. There's the Human Village, of course, but you already know about that. It's a decent enough place even if you're a youkai like me, so long as you mind your manners. The Tengu have their town on Youkai Mountain, and they don't take kindly to trespassers. The Kappa have a village at the foot of that mountain, and they're a fair bit more friendly. They make all sorts of weird things that kinda look like your outfit."

She takes a deep breath before continuing onwards.

"There's the Garden of Endless Flowers, and I don't care who you are, you want to avoid that place. You'll know it when you see it. Just across the lake here is the Scarlet Devil Mansion, and unless you can beat the guard outside you're not getting in. There's also the Netherworld, but it has a border to separate the living and the dead. Granted, you can just fly over that, so it's not really a very good border if you ask me."

"The... Netherworld?" You hesitantly ask, hoping it's not what you think else you're going to have to find religion very soon.

"Yeah, it's where the spirits of the dead go to rest." Mystia says this completely matter-of-factly, because the afterlife is now a thing, apparently.

"Christ." You say, running a hand over your masked head in disbelief. Now it's your turn to be gobsmacked.

"Aw, fuck." Gijko groans, planting his head face-down on the counter-top. You assumes he's reached the same conclusion as you have. Given just what you've done in the Zone alone, you're probably not getting a happy ending when you die. Wriggle's picked up on the source of your discomfort and gives you a reassuring smile.

"Well, you two are Outsiders, so it's a bit different for you." She says "Gensokyo doesn't really have any claim to your souls or what to do with 'em, so long as you don't do anything really nasty here."

"Oh. That's... reassuring." You say, your mouth still a bit dry. "Where else?"

"There's Heaven, of course, and all you have to do to get there is climb really, really high. And, of course, there's Hell in the Underground. A great place to party, actually, so long as you've got a liver of steel."

You wheeze in existential terror at these revelations. If you needed any more motivation to not die, this just gave it to you.

"How about something less deadly?" You ask, weakly. The corners of Mystia's lips are upturned, but besides that small tell of amusement she's completely straight-faced.

"There's the Sanzu river, which is where the souls of the dead get ferried across to be judged on their death." She says, and you swear she's breaking all of your preconceived notions about the afterlife on purpose.

"I said less deadly, damn it." You groan, covering your eyes in despair. When you peek through your fingers, you notice Mystia's eyes getting wider and wider as she's looking past you, and briefly wonder why for a moment before she suddenly ducks underneath the counter-top.

"Take cover!" She cries from underneath the counter. Wriggle looks behind you, yelps, and promptly leaps over the counter to join the owner, while Gijko leaps away from you to the ground. You have no such mobility, so you make do with sliding off your seat and hitting the dirt. Just in time, too, seeing as your errant traveling companions come flying through in a bundle of fists and yelling and crash into the back of the stand. There's the sound of general chaos inside as you pull yourself up, and congratulate yourself on successfully saving the remnants of your meal. Wriggle promptly leaps back over the stand and makes it a short distance away before stopping to watch what's going on.

"Hey, stop fighting, you'll break something!" Mystia calls out angrily, and you hear the sound of something wooden repeatedly hitting flesh. You move to peer inside at what's going on, and barely juke out of the way in time as Rumia and Cirno scramble over the counter and away from the angry stand-owner wielding a wooden club. You wince, despite yourself, because you've been on the receiving end of one of those before and they really hurt. Rumia takes cover behind you and Cirno ducks behind Wriggle, even as Mystia's busy ranting at both of the trouble-makers.

"I work really, really hard to keep that clean and organized, you two!" She snarls, smacking the club down on the counter-top. "So why? Why do you feel the need to come flying in and mess everything up, huh? What stupid argument did you get into that got you to smash into my stove and everything!"

"She blasted me in the back of the head!" Cirno calls out, holding onto Wriggle with desperate strength even as the bug-girl tries to dislodge the fairy. You note Gijko steadily edging away from what's going on, as if afraid to catch a club to the face as part of the collateral damage.

"She freakin' headbutted me!" Rumia calls back, and she sticks a tongue out at the fairy. The insult is promptly returned, and you find yourself holding onto the girl's arm as she tries to resume the brawl. To your amazement she's actually dragging you onwards inch-by-inch.

Mystia drops the club and slams both hands down on the counter-top with a resounding THUNK, before she delivers a fearsome ultimatum. "That's it! No food for you!"

"What!?" "No!" The two cry out in horror, abandoning their feud with each other to move up to the counter and try to argue with the owner. This proves to be a mistake, given that before they can even get any words out Mystia grabs them both by their dresses and hauls them up onto the counter-top.

"You heard me!" She snarls, slamming their heads into each other before giving them a shove off onto the grass. The two lay on the ground dazed from this sudden assault, their clothes ripped where Mystia grabbed them thanks to those nails of hers. She hustles back to examine the fairly extensive mess the two made. There's notices scattered everywhere on the ground and all over the rest of the back, a fairly sizable crack in the back wall of the stand, and the stove is dented, among other things. It looks fixable, but at the same time it's still a pretty big mess.

"Aw, damn it all!" She curses as she bustles around and gets to work tidying. You're honestly surprised at her language, if only because she's been so charmingly polite otherwise. You can't help but feel a little put-out at how quickly things deteriorated, and linger around for a few moments uncertain whether you should go or not.

"You can get going, you know. This'll be fine if I just keep at it for a bit." Mystia calls out in an annoyed tone, not sparing a look back for anyone as she continues working.

-----

[X] Now seems to be an excellent chance to retreat, yes. Get going for the Village before it gets too dark.

[X] Offer to help Mystia with the clean-up first, because you're not just going to leave her to deal with this mess after the food and information. You can get going afterwards, and with a clear conscience to boot.

--[X] She liked that Fireball you tossed her, right? It's incredibly overkill for a single meal, but you're sure she'll appreciate it as payment.

[X] Write-In?
>> No. 160186
Wow, you updated in a reasonable timeframe. Shocking! Good update as usual too. Cool backstory and I laughed a few times.

[X] Offer to help Mystia with the clean-up first, because you're not just going to leave her to deal with this mess after the food and information. You can get going afterwards, and with a clear conscience to boot.
[X] Where does everyone else sleep? Maybe they have a place you could crash at?

No, you do not get the incredibly valuable fire immunity artifact. We need that in case of Mokous.
The write-in is interesting whether it gets us a new destination or not.
>> No. 160193
[X] Offer to help Mystia with the clean-up first, because you're not just going to leave her to deal with this mess after the food and information. You can get going afterwards, and with a clear conscience to boot.

While I do think handing it to Mystia is a bit much at this point, but I wouldn't assume Mokou would be absolute hostile from the get-go.
>> No. 160204
[X] Offer to help Mystia with the clean-up first, because you're not just going to leave her to deal with this mess after the food and information. You can get going afterwards, and with a clear conscience to boot.

These quick updates make me happy.
>> No. 160253
>>160184
[X] Offer to help Mystia with the clean-up first, because you're not just going to leave her to deal with this mess after the food and information. You can get going afterwards, and with a clear conscience to boot.

We have an escort of sorts in Rumia, so it is not like being out too lates that bad. Atleast getting lost isn't gonna be much of a problem
>> No. 160255
[x] Offer to help Mystia with the clean-up first, because you're not just going to leave her to deal with this mess after the food and information. You can get going afterwards, and with a clear conscience to boot.
[x] Where does everyone else sleep? Maybe they have a place you could crash at?
>> No. 160283
Calling it now, gentlemen. Expect an update withing a few days, or perhaps more seeing as I'm currently fighting some evil shit that's doing its damndest to kill my computer.
>> No. 160540
So you know that last status update I posted and then deleted? I'm still slogging through writing this update, and now I'm almost at twenty-four hundred words. It's just a massive pain to get through, I'm sorry.

Anyway, update (hopefully) soon, fellow stalkers!
>> No. 160576
Hooray! Take your time.
>> No. 160789
All right, I'm pretty sure this'll be the last status update I post before finishing the actual update. Word count checks out at 4027 at the moment, but like as not it's probably going to get a few hundred more added before it's done.
>> No. 161156
File 134622085498.jpg - (266.03KB , 960x744 , something witty.jpg ) [iqdb]
161156
Well, this took way longer than I wanted it to take. Enjoy it anyway, fellas!

Also, for some reason the site thinks I'm about three thousand words or so over the limit, so this update's in two parts.

-----

"Ah, hell." You grumble, walking up to the stall and hoisting yourself over the counter-top. You may not be able to run in your exosuit, but you can still maneuver over things. Mystia shoots you a surprised look as you kneel down in front of the stove and examine it.

"What are you doing?" She asks, understandably confused. "I said I had this under control."

"It's those idiots fault." You explain, tilting your head towards the two pint-sized troublemakers. They're still out of sorts from Mystia's earlier disciplinary action. "Since they're with me, I figured I ought to help out."

"Hm." She grunts in reply. You get back to examining the dent in the stove, and to your satisfaction you've got access to both sides of it. It's a fairly thin stove, after all. So, naturally, you limber your fingers up for a moment and then you smash your fist into the protruding piece of metal. Mystia fairly jumps in shock at the unexpected CLANG that ensues.

"What was that noi- Oh." She cuts herself off, staring at the now mostly undented stove in wonder. "You... punched it back to normal?" She asks, an unbelieving smile on her lips.

"My fists! They are made of steel!" You reply with exuberance, raising your hands up to Mystia's eye-level and clenching them to show them off. Technically, they're only plated with titanium, but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

"Well, how about that?" She says, examining your fists with fascination.

"Just consider that our payment, eh?" You reply, jerking a thumb back to Gijko. The man's currently busy helping Wriggle try to keep Rumia and Cirno from restarting their earlier brawl. He's apparently taken how you got dragged around to heart, seeing as he's giving the fairy a bear-hug and leaving Wriggle to deal with Rumia. You chuckle and turn your attention back to around the stand, going through papers and stacking them up on the counter.

"Sure, sure, sounds good." Mystia says distractedly, yanking your attention back to her as she's examining the stove from all over. One of the scattered notices on the ground near her catches your eye, so you kneel down to pick it up. There's a rough sketch of a woman with pink hair, an odd hat, and overly pointy teeth on it. Beneath it is some of the same unintelligible scribble that adorns all the other notices scattered around. Seeing as you can't read any of the words, you tap Mystia on the shoulder and hand her the note.

"Oi, who's this?" You query, and she looks it over once, her distraction giving way to a most peculiar mix of fondness and absolute terror.

"Ah, that's just a... preferred customer, yes, that's it." She hurriedly explains as she sticks the note back on the wall. "She inhales everything I set out for her when she shows up. Like, for example, me. That's why I toss everything I can at her if she ever stops by as a distraction."

Well, seeing as she's still here to talk about it, that knocks out the cannibalism option. That only leaves one possible meaning, unless she somehow pulled a chestburster move on Pinky. "So, was she any good at it?" You ask, eyebrows raised.

"Huh?" She replies, her brows furrowing in confusion as she tilts her head just a fraction of an inch to the side.

"'Eating' you." You say, lending air-quotes to the first word. For a moment, her expression remains unchanged, but then her face flushes an astoundingly brilliant shade of crimson as she gapes in shock.

"W-what? No! No, it's not like that at- how did you even get that idea? No!" She exclaims in scandalized horror. She jerks her head away and steadfastly avoids looking you in the eye, her hands clenched at her sides. Your time in the Zone has done wonders for your skill with weapons, pain tolerance, and liver strength, but what it hasn't done is help your social skills out all that much.

"Pfffffft." You snigger, and that somehow lights her up even more; a feat you weren't sure was physically possible. She looks almost as red as a tomato now, and you're fairly sure if any more blood rushes to her face she's going to collapse from the lack of it everywhere else. Your mirth promptly ceases when she grabs that club on the counter-top, and you find yourself rapidly backpedaling as she takes a swing at you.

"It's not funny!" She squeaks, and her voice sends you careening right back over the edge of hilarity at the speed of light.

"It really is!" You call out, and block a head-shot with your arm. The fact that her weapon just bounced right off does little to deter her seeing as she keeps thwacking you with it. She's constantly trying to nail you on the head, seeing as it's the only exposed weak-point you have. Knowing that, however, you're able to guard against her constant strikes with ease.

"You'll never hit me! You'll never hit my head!" You call out jovially, and this goads her on to new heights. Your latest step puts you right back up to a wall, but you're not worried in the slightest. You idly muse on the fact that you've never managed to fluster a girl like this before in your life, and file it away as one of better things you've managed to pull off here right before casually knocking another head-shot out of the way.

"Stop doing that!" She cries, but you refuse to bow down to her demands as you intercept her next strike with one hand. She tries to wrench the club free from your grip, but you refuse to budge an inch. Even when she plants her foot on your chest for leverage and starts pulling on the bludgeon with both hands, you are undeterred.

"You ain't gonna win, y'know." You casually say. She scowls at you for a moment, but then her efforts to pry her weapon loose fail spectacularly as you let go of the club. The bludgeon goes flying out of the stand as she falls flat on her rear.

"Jerk." She mutters, shooting you a dirty look. The exertion from the beat down she just attempted on you seems to have calmed her down a bit. You crouch down in front of her and poke her on the forehead.

"What did we learn?" You jokingly question, but then she reaches behind her and whips out another club from underneath the counter. You yelp as she swings it for your face, and you fall back on your ass and scramble away.

"I always keep a backup, that's what we learned." She says, sporting a smile entirely too wide as she pats the club. She raises the weapon and you instinctively raise your arms to shield yourself.

"You do know you'll still never hit my head, right?" You helpfully offer up, and her smile instantly deflates into a thinly pressed line as she sighs in vexation.

"It was going fine!" She complains, rolling her eyes as she tosses the club over her shoulder. In the background, you hear an 'aargh' from Gijko. Mystia follows the exaggerated toss by flinging her arms wide open in faux exasperation. "But then you had to go be a wise-ass. Way to ruin the moment!"

"It was a pretty crappy moment if that's all it took to derail it." You counter, pulling yourself up to a standing position. Her lips twitch upwards just a little at the jibe as she folds her arms and leans back against the counter.

"Eh, I don't think so." She says airily, shutting her eyes as she tries to affect the very image of superiority. Her earlier outrage now forgotten, you take the opportunity to kneel back down and grab the last of the scattered notices.

"To answer your question, I was serious when I said she ate me." She continues, after you've picked up all of the papers strewn about.

"I somehow doubt that, seeing you're still here." You reply, shuffling things into a proper stack before depositing them on the counter.

"I'm serious!" She says, pouting just a little. "I got better, of course, but it still kinda sucked."

"You got better from being dead." You say, voice laced with skepticism. "No offense, but has anyone ever defined that word for you?"

"I never did tell you about that, did I?" Rumia interrupts from a seat at the counter, and Mystia chokes in shock at the sudden interruption. You do too, but manage to disguise it as a cough halfway through. The blonde's sporting a bloodied nose, and looking behind her you espy Cirno triumphantly strutting around. Admittedly, the fairy's looking more than a little torn up herself, so it probably wasn't an easy victory. You notice Gijko's sprawled flat out on the ground next to that club Mystia tossed. Wriggle, meanwhile, is kneeling down next to him and shaking him on the shoulder.

"Tell me about what?" You hesitantly ask, and Rumia puts a finger to her chin and 'hmm's in thought for a moment.

"Well, youkai don't really stay dead unless you really mess 'em up." She cheerily states.

"What." You gape for a moment before fixing her with a frown. She offers a sweet smile in return, but you do not falter.

"Pretty cool, huh?" Mystia interjects, grabbing the stack of papers and sorting through them again. Somehow she's being deft enough with them that her fingernails aren't damaging them in the slightest.

"Pretty bullshit, more like." You say in return, now scowling fiercely. You slam your hands down on the counter, rattling the plates. "You mean to tell me you girls can't die? What kind of shit is this?"

"The real kind, that's what." Rumia replies, still smiling as sweet as can be. Mystia chuckles at her response, but you are distinctly less amused by this situation.

"So what about that bitch whose neck I opened up? Is she going to come barreling out of the woods any second now to break my face?" You snarl, and the blonde shrugs.

"Maybe." She admits, and you groan. She follows up by reaching over and firmly gripping your hand in what's probably supposed to be a reassuring gesture, but it doesn't help in the slightest.

"You opened up whose neck, now?" The little birdie asks, her delicate eyebrows raised sky-high.

"Four arms, punched me so hard I flew a ways, ended up stabbing her in the throat." You tersely explain, and she seems to get the message as she backs off and goes back to putting all the notices up in their proper places.

"Anyway, here's the important part! I never said we got better right away, did I?" Rumia continues, giving your hand a quick squeeze. You tolerate this for all of a second before jerking it loose from her grip, and she looks distinctly unamused by that gesture.

"Christ, girl, you didn't think this was important?" You ask, scanning the woods just in case your sudden paranoia was justified. She just shrugs noncommittally.

"Well, yeah, I did." She replies, not a trace of embarrassment present. "But on the other hand, you're always so funny when you keep finding out that everything you know is wrong."

You bite down an invective, and instead settle for swatting her on the forehead.

"Ow!" She yelps, and she shoots you a dirty look before massaging the impact wound.

"That's what you get for not telling me earlier." You say, your voice conveying a sufficient amount of annoyance. As she moves to launch into a tirade against you, you interrupt by raising a hand.

"Oi! Dumbass number two! Get over here, I got a question!" You call out, and the fairy nigh-instantly flings an icicle at you in response. The projectile goes wide and crashes into tiny pieces against the back of the stand, causing Mystia to dive to the ground once again in alarm. You pull a bolt out of your inventory and fling it at the fairy as a counter-attack, and the bit of metal soars through the air powered by righteous annoyance at getting a spear lobbed at you.

It then ends up landing several feet past Cirno, despite your aiming to hit her on the face with it.

You are reminded why you usually just shoot people.

"Wow. Your aim sucks." She says in wonder as she crouches to examine the bolt on the ground. Rumia just snickers at you, and promptly ducks the next swing you send at her.

"Nrgh." You grunt in return, this little diversion having cooled your temper a fair bit. You discard your previously-planned question for the fairy in favor of watching a now-recovered Wriggle talking about something with that Loner you picked up. You can't really make out what they're talking about, but it's still nice to see them getting along decently enough.

"Well! I think that's about everything!" Mystia cuts in, smiling brightly. You crane your neck around and give the stand a quick look, and her words seem to check out. All the notices are back where they should be, and while the stove's looking a little odd it's better than before you punched it. The cracked back wall is still jarring, sadly, but there's not really anything you can do about that. You're actually pretty surprised everything got dealt with so quickly.

"Since that's done, I think it's my cue to get going. But first!" You snatch up the remnants of your earlier meal, still situated on the counter, and cram it down into your mouth in one fell swoop.

"Thish ish delishoush." You state solemnly, and you draw a snicker from both the stand-owner and Rumia in response. Then you re-affix your helmet so it's not just hanging off your suit like a wobbly second head. Now fully protected against whatever might be thrown at you, you vault over the counter, grab hold of Rumia's arm, and move onwards. The blonde is too shocked by this sudden change of pace to try pulling against you, else you're pretty sure she'd be dragging you around instead.

"Hey, wait a minute!" Mystia calls out, and you grudgingly come to a halt and turn around to face her. She's folded her arms and looks a bit miffed about something.

"Yeah?" You ask, releasing Rumia in order to match your hostess' gesture. You'd like to think you do a markedly better job of it, albeit mostly because you look like a mean mountain of metal.

"You can't just walk off without telling me who you are!" She says, both looking and sounding vexed. "Wriggle never got around to that part."

"Really? Hold up a second." You reply, and stalk over to where the bug-girl's still talking with other man in the group.

"You do tricks with 'em? Seriously?" Gijko says in wonderment, rubbing his masked chin in a gesture that you can't help but find comical.

"Sorry to interrupt... whatever it is you two are talking about, but-" You begin.

"She puts on fireworks shows. With insects. Well, not really fireworks, seeing as they're not exploding or anything, but you get what I mean." The Stalker explains, cutting you off with impressive speed.

"How in the- never mind that." You continue, forcing things back on track. You jab an accusatory finger straight at Wriggle's face, but she's less than impressed by the gesture.

"Yeah, what is it?" She demands of you, and you redirect the finger to an impatient-looking Mystia.

"You never told her my name, kid? Really?" You say, sounding vaguely offended. The young lady immediately finds a nearby tree fascinating enough to completely divert her attention away from you.

"I... never got around to it." She sheepishly admits, steadfastly avoiding your gaze. You apply your palm directly to your face.

"Wow." You mutter in amazement, and trundle back over to Mystia. She's tapping a finger on the counter-top now, but brightens up when you finally arrive. She leans over the counter in anticipation.

"The name's Sasha." You explain, and her brows furrow in thought for a moment as she looks you over again.

"That's the first time I've heard it as a guy's name." She says uncertainly. "Are you sure that's really it?"

An awful idea strikes you, and you say the next few words with as much deadly seriousness as you can muster.

"If my voice isn't enough to prove it, I suppose I could always just show you in private." You'd waggle your eyebrows, but the helmet/mask combo ruins your ability to make visible facial-expressions.

The way she reddens up instantly at that blatant pick-up attempt greatly helps your mood. "That was a terrible line." She finally forces out through grit teeth, but then she's thrown off-course when you laugh.

"Yeah, I'm just screwing with you. The name works for both genders back home." You admit, and now that she knows you aren't so horrible at pick-up lines she breathes a sigh of relief.

"Well, all right then!" She says, giving you a playful smile. "Be sure to pack some actual money next time you stop by, okay?"

"I can do that." You respond, and turn back around to trudge onwards into the woods.

"What, we're going already?" Cirno asks as you pass her by, and that question you'd intended to ask her earlier returns to the forefront of your mind, so you seize her by the arm.

"Question, kid." You say, marveling at how the chill seeps through your suit as she tries to pull free from your grip. "D'you come back to life too?"

"Of course I do! All fairies just kinda pop right back up if we get mulched." She explains, still putting up a heroic effort to free herself.

"Bullshit." You grouse, but let her go anyway. She flies out of your reach pronto, giving your brain enough time for her statement to click that, yes, she actually is a fairy. You'd just kinda stuck the moniker on her because she looked the part. Good to have it confirmed, at any rate.

"All right, you lot, we are leaving!" You announce, and are promptly stymied when it doesn't have the intended effect of everyone grouping up on you.

"We just got here!" Rumia complains, and Cirno lends her support with a fearsome scowl.

"Yeah!" She exclaims, her arms folded defiantly. Seems the two put their little squabble behind them in order to unite against you.

"I gotta side with him on this one." Gijko interjects as he sidles up to you. "Not our fault you got caught up fighting each other."

"Still two to two. Wriggle, geddover here!" Cirno calls, but her target shrugs.

"Sorry, but they're right." She says apologetically.

"Betrayal!" Cirno cries out, and inhales mightily to continue slinging invectives.

"If you stay here, what do you think she's going to do about it?" You cut her off, pointing at Mystia. The birdie seems to get the gist of the conversation, seeing as she's waving that club around again for effect.

"You raise a good point." Rumia admits, rubbing her forehead once and wincing, but Cirno just scowls further.

"Bah, you're all losers." She growls, taking to the air with a fwoosh. "All I've gotten outta this trip is people hitting me, anyway. I quit."

"What, seriously?" You ask her, and she nods.

"Ain't like I'm tied to you, right? The frog thing was neat, but it's all been boring past that!"

"If by neat, you mean incredibly terrifying, then yeah." Wriggle interjects.

"No, no, it was pretty awesome." Cirno insists, but then she shakes her head and gets back on track. "Anyway, I'm out. Try not to die horribly, I guess!"

Just like that, she's off like a shot.

"Well. Huh." Gijko says.

"Guess that one goes to you." Rumia says, folding her arms behind her head. Where we headed?" Rumia asks, and you pause to contemplate the question.

"I was aiming to stay at the village for the night." You begin after a moment's thought. "But, hell, you got any better ideas?"

"I got a cave!" Rumia offers up.

"No."

"It works for me." She says defensively. You roll your eyes and round on Wriggle.

"You!" You exclaim, pointing at her. "Tell me you've got somewhere better to stay than she does!"

"I just sleep up in the trees, usually." She offer, and you groan. "Speaking of which, Mysty's got a nice hollow one somewhere."

"Only room for one in there, and I plan on it being me!" Mystia bellows, and you have to give her credit for being able to hear the ongoing conversation.

"Right." You sigh. "Anywhere else?"

"Cirno's got a house she made outta ice." Rumia says, but you shake your head.

"I'd rather not freeze to death, thanks." You say. Gijko taps you on the shoulder.

"Don't I get a say in this?" He asks.

"No" "Nope." "Nah." You, Rumia, and Wriggle, respectively, reply. He smacks a fist into his palm.

"Damn." He swears, and you turn your attentions back to the young ladies. You clasp your hands behind your back and straighten up, trying to exude a proper authoritative air.

"Right, seeing as all of your options are horrible, we're going on a town run." You announce, and they seem to take it in stride.
>> No. 161157
File 134622164051.jpg - (181.03KB , 1000x825 , tech issues not letting me upload.jpg ) [iqdb]
161157
You arrive at the village gates without any incident, for once. Dusk has fallen by now, and the sky is starting to light up with dozens of tiny little stars. The village gate is open at the moment, thankfully, and there are a few guards patrolling on the walls. Only one of them is paying your party any particular attention as you approach.

"Yo, what's up?" You call out to the one actually watching you once you get into talking range, and she peers down at you uncomprehendingly for a moment.

"Who the hell're y- Oh!" She says, her face lighting up in recognition as she takes in the rest of your group. She rests her crossbow on her shoulder as she shoots you an amused look. "You're that one guy who told the boss to go fuck himself, right?"

"Yep." You reply without an ounce of shame. She shakes her head in an amused fashion.

"That was pretty good, I gotta say." She compliments you, smiling brightly. "Still, whatever he said to get you riled up, don't hold it against him. We've just had a bit of an increase in feral youkai attacks lately, so he's been a bit tetchy. Anyway, 'Risa stopped by and told us you're good. Boss tossed her something, I didn't get a clear look. I haven't seen her flying around anywhere, so she might still be in town. Anyway, long as you and your friends mind your manners within the village walls we'll have no trouble."

"What's the point of the walls if everyone can just fly over them?" Gijko asks, and the woman scratches her chin before responding.

"Ferals and wild animals, mostly. Also helps make a statement to newcomers like yourself." She explains, and you seize the opportunity to move onwards. You shoot the woman a mock-salute as you walk through past the gates.

Inside the walls, the village looks a fair bit more lively. There are a fair number of people on the move around you, even for this time of day, and most seem to be in high spirits. Some give you and your party a wider berth than strictly necessary, but for the most part the most attention you get is the occasional curious look and some small children trying to sneak up on you. After you're sure you've got a moment to yourself, you turn back to the party and take a deep breath.

"Civilization!" You fairly trill in delight as you clap your hands together, getting some odd looks from both your cadre and a passing villager. You may not have any useful money whatsoever to pay for food or lodging, but if it comes down to it you can always just crash in an alley.

"So now what?" Rumia puts in, and you open your mouth before promptly shutting it again with an audible click. You have to admit you hadn't planned that far ahead.

"We... explore, I guess? Anyone here know the place?" You query, and Wriggle nigh-instantly raises her hand.

"Sometimes, when I feel like working for it, I stop by to sell honey." She explains, and makes a come-hither motion at a nearby flower. A previously unseen bee flies from it and touches town on the tip of her finger, and she gives it a tiny smile. "I can harvest it from beehives outside the town without them stinging me, you know?"

"Clever girl." Gijko mutters. The bee takes off from the girl's hand, and she shoves her hands into her pockets as she resumes talking.

"Anyway, I know my way around the market pretty good, at the very least. I suppose I could be your tour-guide for a bit, 'cause I really don't have much else to do."

"Maybe. More importantly, this place got a bar?" Gijko interrupts. "Might have job postings and the like available. Money's probably going to be necessary if we're here for any length of time."

"There's always some louts who have problems that need solving." You add. "Not that we're going to work for any hobos, obviously, but it might give out a few leads."

"I'd imagine you'd have more luck asking the watch commander or the mayor, personally." A new voice cuts in from behind you, and you turn to face some blonde [strike]girl[/strike] woman you've not seen before in your life. She's wearing a red headband atop her head, and sparkling blue eyes complement it. She watches your party with mild interest.

A white shawl lies atop her shoulders, and one of her hands is covered by a gauntlet. That part throws you off a bit, considering the rest of her dress. Of course, that's not counting the rather more unnerving fact that there's a good half-a-dozen golden-haired dolls that are just floating around her. Two larger ones in particular stand out, one with a red bow and the other with a blue bow.

"Huh. That's... that's a thing." Gijko looses, sounding as off-put as you feel. Wriggle and Rumia are slowly edging away from you, which doesn't fill you with confidence.

"Do I know you, lady?" You ask, trying your level best to focus on her and not on the- the blue one just waved at you- dolls. The woman shrugs in return.

"I'm afraid not." She replies. "Has anyone ever told you that you stick out like the proverbial sore thumb?"

"I hadn't noticed, miss..." You state, tone as dry as can be managed given the sight before you.

"Alice." She says, giving you a brief curtsy that's mirrored by all the manikins. You have to give them credit for synchronization, even if that's supremely creepy.

"Sasha." You offer in return, bowing stiffly. You've not had much chance to be all formal before, after all.

"Okay, not gonna lie, we're dirt-poor right now." Gijko cuts in, grabbing hold of your shoulder and giving you a vigorous shake. "You were saying something about work and where to get it, right?"

"Yes, but-" Alice begins, but she's cut off by a loud snort from Rumia.

"Pfff, speak for yourselves!" The girl says, her earlier caution forgotten as she folds her arms. "We got plenty to spend. Don't we, Wriggle?"

"Hate to break it to you, but we're as poor as they are." Wriggle says, her pockets demonstratively turned inside-out, and Rumia immediately applies her hand to her face.

"You didn't have to tell them that, y'idiot." She grumbles through her fingers. Alice watches them for a moment longer before returning her attention to you.

"One wonders how you gathered these two as companions." She says, her head tilting just a fraction of an inch to the side.

"Bribery." You explain. "Also, there was a bit where I was being threatened with my life. That was definitely a part in things."

You can almost see the cogs turning in her brain as she processes that statement.

"Yes, that would do it, wouldn't it?" She replies, giving you a thoughtful look. "Why you'd be in danger in that suit is another question entirely, however. I wouldn't be surprised if you could have a tree fell on you and be fine afterwards."

"I wouldn't be surprised. It's already come in handy, seeing as I've already been punched and throttled, and then me and Greenie there got swallowed whole." You continue, and Alice drinks it all in.

"That's quite the tale. But don't you think 'Greenie and I' would be more accurate?" She says, a trace of merriment to her voice.

"You are seriously lecturing me on my grammar." You breathe out in disbelief, taking a step forward so you can better loom over her. She's outwardly undisturbed by this act, but her dolls shift in formation and a few of them pull out sharp little lances and swords.

"He's very sensitive about how he dropped out of school." Gijko theatrically whispers, and he promptly steps outside of your strangling range when you turn and give him a withering look.

"Ah, that explains it." Alice replies, nodding sagely as if that told her everything she needed to know about you. You begin to grimace, then remember that she can't actually see your expression, so you unfasten your helmet and then frown at her.

"Now that's uncalled for." You say, putting on your best wounded airs. The dolls fall back at this, for which you're fairly grateful.

"He reveals himself!" She exclaims, eyes wide and holding a hand up to her mouth in mock-shock. "But what lies beneath is only another mask. Dare I question if you have a third?"

You find this sudden change in her attitude far too jarring to come up with an immediate response.

"Just a little joke, my apologies." She says, now smiling in full at your expense. "In any case, I think I should be off soon, else I'll like as not be late for the show."

"Really? What kind?" You ask, despite Rumia frantically waving her arms in a tell-tale 'abort' gesture. Wriggle simply hides her face in her hands.

"A puppet show, of course!" Alice cheerfully explains, motioning towards the floating marionettes surrounding her. "I hope you didn't think these works of mine were just here to hover around and unnerve people."

"Well, yes, I did." You hazard, and the red doll makes an exaggerated throat-slicing motion. "Also, I think that one with the red bow is actually alive and threatening me, and so help me God I will punch it if it gets any closer. Anyway, you run things there?"

"For the children, naturally." Alice explains, completely ignoring your comment on the evil doll as she continues smiling. "They get to attend for free. Adults have to pay, of course, so if you're as poor as your friend suggested you'd be out of luck."

"What about these two?" You ask, waving your arm at Rumia and Wriggle. Alice's smile retreats so quickly it's as if it was never there in the first place.

"Despite appearances, they're more than old enough to start paying. Aren't you?" She accuses, eyes narrowing at the duo.

"Hey, don't look at me!" Wriggle protests, before grabbing Rumia and shoving her ahead. "It was her idea, remember?"

"Traitor!" Blondie hisses, before fixing a winning smile at the unimpressed Alice towering over her. "Right, right, no sneaking in and pretending to be one of the little kiddies. Won't happen again, cross my heart."

"And?" Alice presses on, and Rumia sighs gustily.

"And I won't try to eat their limbs when they're not looking. We done here?"

Alice 'hmph's, but otherwise declines to press on in her lecture. You raise a hand, and her attention snaps back to you.

"Yes?"

"You know one Marisa? Silly hat, witch, all that noise?" You question, and she blinks owlishly in surprise.

"Let me guess. She happened to liberate you of your belongings?" She asks, and now it's your turn to be bewildered.

"What? No, no! I just checked up on her place for the guards after that one explosion earlier today. They said they'd give me something if I did," You explain, and she looks upwards for a moment in consideration for a moment.

"If that's the case," She begins, refocusing on you. "I'm quite certain I saw her getting spectacularly drunk at a nearby bar not too long ago."

"Is she even old enough for that?" You query.

"It's never been a problem before." She replies, brows raised.

"You ask that after you let me have vodka?" Rumia cuts in.

"Shit, man, you gave her alcohol?" Gijko wonders, but he immediately stiffens up when fixed with a glare from Alice.

"Language!" She chastens, a hitherto unvoiced authority in her tone.

"Won't happen again, ma'am." The man hurriedly states, and Alice nods in satisfaction.

"Very good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really should be going." She says, and you can't quite help but feel that's the end of that conversation as she walks past you. That red-bowed doll somehow manages to leer at you without being able to make any facial expressions, which is pretty impressive.

"I haven't felt that cowed since fifth grade." Gijko mutters in awe as he rubs the back of his neck.

"Eesh, glad she's gone." Rumia says, her previous bravado evaporating. "Those dolls gimme the creeps."

"Tell me about it!" Wriggle agrees with a shudder.

-----

[X] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.

[X] Eh, the witch should be fine for a bit. Chase after Alice and inquire further on work details because you are so poor right now it's embarrassing.

--[X] You may not be the biggest fan of theatre, but the last time you remember relaxing in a way that didn't involve alcohol was... well, it's been a while. Turn on the Stalker charm for a free show while you're with her.


[X] Knowing your surroundings is always good, especially if you end up having to lumber away from a threat as fast as you can. Take Wriggle up on that tour offer and get it out of the way.

[X] Write-in?

Also, having checked, it's the character limit I exceeded! That clears things up.
>> No. 161158
[X] Knowing your surroundings is always good, especially if you end up having to lumber away from a threat as fast as you can. Take Wriggle up on that tour offer and get it out of the way.
[X] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.
>> No. 161160
[X] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.

Worth the wait.
>> No. 161166
[X] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.

Loot is good. Also, if we have no use for it we could probably pawn it off for a bit of quick cash.
>> No. 161167
[x] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.
>> No. 161168
[X] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.

Character Limit reached? Well then, you better kill off some characters.
>> No. 161169
By the way. Is our knife the standard CoP and Clear Sky knife? Or Strelok's Anti-tank knife?
>> No. 161171
[X] The natural first destination of any Stalker when he gets to base is to stop by the bar, and who are you to break from tradition? Also, Marisa's there, and she's got your loot. That's important too.

Heaven help me, your Alice is awesome.

Also Gikjo, just wait until you meet Keine...
>> No. 161179
Called in favor of grabbing the loot, fellas. Hopefully I'll update quicker this time.

Also, there's a special kind of agony in reading your most recent update and seeing the errors in it that you were sure weren't there before you posted it.

>>161160

This kind of comment means I'm doing my job both wrong and right. Wrong, because of the delay, and right if people actually want to wait for this to update.

>>161168

You're a funny guy, I like you.

>>161171

Glad you enjoy my take on her! I can't really describe how I think I write her, but if people enjoy it I'm not gonna complain.

>>161169

You know, I was just going to go and say "Yeah, it's the not overpowered version", but you gave me an idea that ended with me writing eleven-hundred some words. I probably should've focused on writing a proper update instead of bonus material, but what the hell.

-----
NON-CANON VIGNETTES
-----

You give the over-sized amphibian one long, cool look before you unsheathe your knife. Even as the monster continues to assault your allies, you run a finger over the cold steel before you inhale mightily and cast your sights on the frog.

"YYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAARGH" You scream, raising the blade as you charge onwards.

The creature pauses in trying to stomp on Rumia to give you what you'd swear was a quizzical look, if frogs were capable of such expressions, but you refuse to stop lumbering forward like an extremely slow freight train. It's not even bothering to attack you, instead watching you curiously as you trudge onwards to its feet. When you get there, you raise the blade up into the air, both your hands clutching onto it, and swing it downwards into the beast's foot like you're about to carve open someone's chest in a ritual sacrifice deal.

The ensuing shower of frog bits is enough to knock you off your feet. For a few seconds while you're stunned, all you can hear is the pitter-patter of fleshy bits smacking into the ground. All you can see is a big-ass red chunk on your helmet, so you wipe the giblet off and take a look at your handiwork.

"Mother of God." You whisper.

Everything's covered in gore. Everything You? Your suit has a new paint scheme. The lake? It's going to be red for miles, you're sure. The trees? Going to be redwoods now.

You hear a munching noise behind you and, despite your better judgement, take a loot.

"Oh. Hey." You say weakly to Rumia, who's munching down on a choice bit of amphibian. The girl's absolutely coated in red, not helped by her choice of meal. She pauses for a moment as she looks up at you, and you stare right back at her. The pause continues for a few awkward moments as you continue to watch each other, and even through the blood covering her you can tell she looks distinctly embarrassed.

"What? I'm hungry!" She states defensively. You roll your eyes and just lay back down, steadfastly ignoring the chomping noises that resume shortly afterwards.

-----

"What about you? Why did you go into the Zone?" Wriggle asks. She's resting her chin in her hands now, staring at you in curiosity.

You hesitate for a moment, but then throw caution to the wind because you did invite the obvious question. You draw your knife free in one smooth motion and, using both hands, stab it into the counter.

The entire stand explodes outwards, save the spot you're sitting at, and it carries a screaming Wriggle and Gijko off with it into the distance. You weather the blast, along with a few stray shards of wood impaling themselves into your suit, with nary a flinch. When the dust settles all that remains of the building is the chair you're resting on, the bit of counter-top you embedded the knife in, and a gobsmacked Mystia, who's staring at you with eyes wide as dinner plates.

"Whenever I cut into anything it blows the fuck up." You casually explain as you wrench the weapon loose again. "Made life outside the Zone less than tenable."

You hear an audible crack in the atmosphere as Mystia twitches, and a club's found its way into her hands in the blink of an eye.

"I'm going to kill you now." She says, voice icy cold, but you interrupt her by poking her with your knife.

Unusually, her clothes are what explode this time, leaving you with one very red-faced, utterly gobsmacked, and completely naked girl in front of you. You take the natural course of action befitting a man who's not been with a woman in years.

You turn your attentions to the blade in your hands and whistle.

"That's a new one." You admit.

-----

Oh, so these fancy-ass guards don't want to let you in because you happen to be kinda friendly with a small girl who really isn't actually a small girl because she eats people?

Okay, that's entirely reasonable, but still. You gotta teach them a lesson.

"What the hell d'you think you're doing?" The captain calls out as you lumber forward, his men leveling their crossbows on you. Rumia takes a distinctly wide step away from you at this new development.

"I'M GONNA FUCK YOU UP!" You yell back, unsheathing your knife and raising it high in the sky. You promptly take a good dozen crossbow bolts to the torso, and while you walk forward like a man of steel, you can't help but note someone's going 'aaaaaaaaargh'

Oh, wait, that's you.

You write down in your head that getting pierced by a bunch of steel bolts feels like absolute agony, and file it away for later reference in case you come across a situation like this again.

Before they can finish reloading, you reach the wall and slam the blade into the wall with the force of a very angry Russian man riddled with crossbow bolts.

The wall collapses. Not just the part you stabbed, oh no. The entire village wall starts coming down, and all the guards above you tumble to the ground into a boneless heap. You're pretty sure you can hear people screaming in the background, but you can't really make anything out thanks to the dust kicked up everywhere.

"That's the first time I've ever seen anything like that!" Rumia breathes out in awe, now at your side and looking up at you with worshipful eyes.

"Huh. That's good." You say, your vision getting fuzzy. You look down at your chest and blink a few times at the blood starting to ooze out of your suit. You give this due thought for a moment before patting Rumia on the head.

"I'm gonna go die now, all right?" You drawl out as you start to wobble just a little.

"Sure, su- wait, what?" She replies, looking up at you in sudden alarm.

This is about when you start to collapse to the ground. You've still got your hand on Rumia's head, though, and end up pulling her down with you entirely by accident. Or, rather, underneath you. She yelps with due terror.

You hear a faint crunch when you land on top of her, and wince at the ensuing shriek. That just isn't right.

At least you don't get the chance to dwell on it as your vision fades into blackness, blessedly free from pain.

BAD END: GENSOKYO HAS CLAIMED ANOTHER LIFE
>> No. 161181
>>161179
I admit I snickered a bit.

Also I don't remember a tank in SoC...
>> No. 161185
>>161181

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS3RjrsKBMM

Behold, the super-SoC knife in action.
>> No. 161281
>>161185
That's an APC not a tank...
>> No. 161344
File 134718157089.jpg - (154.50KB , 1680x1124 , think something like this.jpg ) [iqdb]
161344
Pulling all-nighters is the only time I get real work done. Huh.

Anyway, I've proofread this pretty well. Now that I've said that, of course, something glaring is bound to pop up, but it's four in the morning here and I'm tired. Enjoy!

-----

"So," You begin after the lull in conversation has gone on just long enough for everyone to start getting a bit shifty. "I'd say we'd get your little tour done, Wriggle, but right now whaddya say to going and finding ourselves a witch first?"

"Before that, there was something about a giant frog, that's a thing that apparently happened." Gijko asks without missing a beat. "Y'mind explaining that one, or do I just have to assume you've got some way to not die when you get swallowed whole?"

"It was surprisingly hospitable in there. Anyway, I just threw a grenade down its ass when it got me." You explain. "Blew it to hell and back, too."

"While you two were inside it, yes." He replies, giving Wriggle a meaningful look. "Is it just me, or does that come off as a bit too much?"

"Oh, well, I suppose we could go back and find the me-shaped hole in that tree it knocked me through, if that'd be enough for you." Rumia says, folding her arms and giving him a stony look. The man gives this due consideration for a few seconds before he shrugs.

"I'll take your word on it." He says, accepting defeat.

"Now that that's out of the way," You say. "Alice said there was a bar nearby, but I've no clue where. Might be a bit problematic."

You hear the telltale shattering of glass from behind you and look back in time to see someone in a deeply familiar black-white dress fall out of a second-story window.

"Well, that's convenient." You remark, as Marisa lands in a heap on the ground hardly fifty feet away.

A few seconds later, she pulls herself up and pats herself down a few times to confirm everything being in order. You can already spot the problem, however, because she is missing her hat. Her pat-down becomes more frantic as the lack of headwear becomes apparent.

"SonuvaBITCH!" She bellows, turning right around and charging straight through the door of the establishment she was so recently defenestrated from. Naturally, you follow. There is an astounding amount of noise coming from the building as you get closer, mostly of the 'people bludgeoning each other' variety.

"I'm going in alone." You say offhandedly. "It'll cause less of a stir then having all of us charge in."

"Says the man of steel." Rumia deadpans.

"And a tiny little girl like you punching people's faces in wouldn't draw attention at all." You counter, and she rolls her eyes.

"See, that's been done! People are used to that! But if you come barging in and hitting people they'll be all weirded out." She explains, taking to the air and hovering in front of you.

"She's right, you know." Wriggle adds. "Youkai being rowdy's pretty normal, but outsiders have to play it a bit safer."

"Ahuh." You reply, not deterred in the least. "Look, I'm not asking for much. Just stay a good distance away, and if you hear me yelling for help you get to come in and hit people. Sound good?"

"Sounds boring as all hell." Gijko says as he cracks his knuckles. "Sure you don't want backup?"

"Look at me." You say, tone flat as can be. "If there's someone in there who can punch through this suit, they deserve to win."

"Ugh, fine." Rumia says with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. "C'mon, let's go wait out here while the big man gets stuck in the big fight."

She even lent finger-quotes to those emphasized words, the cheeky brat. They head off down the street a short ways as you lumber over to the door. You push it open and step in, blocking any outside light as you loom in the entry-way.

You feel a little put-out when no one pays attention to your entrance, but it gives you an excellent opportunity to get a look at the ongoing fight. There's a whole crowd of very angry people busy hitting each other with fists, mugs, chairs, tables, and one enterprising individual is hitting people with a bucket. Marisa is busy wading through the crowd by swinging a broom around like a mad-woman, and it's holding off any comers with alacrity. She's pushing through with speed, and rampages through and up the stairs to the overhanging second floor.

There's only one person up there at the moment, who stands out by virtue of A: Being about seven feet tall, B: Wearing Marisa's hat, C: standing in front of the witch-shaped hole in the window Marisa got tossed out of, and finally D: Being remarkably well-dressed.

"Huh." You grunt at the sight, before a wooden chair shatters on your helmet. You blink a few times and then stare in amusement at the man who just tried to bludgeon you. He looks between you and the chair leg he's holding a few times in disbelief, and then he gapes at you as you pat him companionably on the shoulder.

"At least you tried." You console, before pulling up a nearby chair and gently pushing the stunned man down into it. This garners the attention of a few more fellows with too much drink and not enough sense, one of whom decides to lob his glass mug at your head. It soars right past you and you watch it crash against the wall with regret.

"Damn it, man, that was probably good booze!" You swear, and just like that they're all over you like shingles. Granted, their fists are doing absolutely jack to you thanks to the suit, and all it seems to get them are bruised knuckles. You leave them to clutch at their hands in agony as you press onwards through the crowd. You soldier through with little trouble, the brawlers mostly leaving you alone after a few attempts end in tears of pain.

There's one goon guarding the stairway now, armed with a knife the likes of which are made to look extra-nasty. It's the kind of knife that tells people they're about to have a real bad day if they're on the other end of it, the point wicked sharp and the blade serrated to all hell and back. On top of all that, it's a good half a foot long. He waves it menacingly at you as you approach.

"I'm gonna cut you!" He snarls, giving the blade a twirl.

"Why?" You ask, quite reasonably. He freezes and looks up at the ceiling in thought for a few moments.

"I just really want to cut someone, I guess." He offers up, not sounding too convinced in what he's saying. But then he gets a mean look in his eye as he sizes you up. "You'll do!"

You give him a mean right hook to the face that drops him like a bag of potatoes.

"Where do these idiots even come from?" You wonder, as you liberate the blade from the groaning man and stow it in your pack as loot a preventative safety measure. You then ascend the stairs to the second floor, which covers about half the floor below. The rest is visible over the railing in place to prevent people from falling off the sides when they've had too much to drink.

What you come to is Marisa straddling the prone hat-thief and continually smashing her broom into his face in a rage. He's weathering it with surprising grace, a fact which Marisa fails to grasp as she continues the beat-down.

"DIE!" She yells out, punctuating the word with another smash from the broom, but any further outrage is promptly cut off when the bruiser intercepts the weapon by grabbing hold of it and snapping it in half. It's followed up by a haymaker to the witch's face, and you wince as she rockets off him and into a nearby sofa.

"Ho there, my good... man?" He calls out in a fairly confused-sounding greeting to you as he climbs to his feet. He sounds surprisingly calm given what he just went through. Up close, he's also got a truly magnificent mustache. "Mind giving me a quick hand with the lady? She's a vicious hellion, despite her appearance!"

"I think it has to do with the hat, pal! Y'mind giving it back?" You reply as you close the distance. He snorts and gives the aforementioned headgear a protective tug.

"Nonsense! I won it from her fairly, it's not my fault she wants to renege on the deal!" He says in dignified outrage.

"It makes you look ridiculous." You point out.

"WHAT." Marisa growls, having recovered surprisingly quickly for someone who just took that big a punch to the chin.

"Well, yes, I'd gathered that." The man continues without an ounce of shame. "Still, it's the principle of the thing!"

"Just give it to her." You order, in no mood for games. His brows furrow as he looks you over.

"I'm afraid I cannot do that, sir! Have at you!" He cries out in challenge. You decide that a man that big shouldn't be able to move so fast as he charges you, but you meet him with a bull-rush of your own. The collision rattles your bones, and you stop each other in your tracks as you grapple with him.

"It's just a goddamn hat, man!" You grind out as you grab hold of his arms to try to prevent him from unscrewing your head from your shoulders. He looks aghast at that declaration.

"Just a hat? You have no style!" He booms in outrage, slowly but steadily breaking loose from your hold. The suit's giving you a good edge here, else he'd likely already have folded you in half. From the corner of your eye, you spy Marisa hurriedly fishing through her dress as she watches this ongoing clash.

"I can buy you one, for God's sake!" You say as you try to pin his arms, but he's having none of that as he breaks free and hoists you up by your neck. You punch him in the face in a counter-attack, and he drops you as he clutches at his nose. You charge and tackle him to the ground, but he leverages your momentum to his advantage by extending a leg and kicking you over him.

Unfortunately, you tackled him near the railing, and he ends up sending you over the edge. You spin through the air for a moment and hear a victorious laugh from the man before you crash through a table and hit the ground flat on your back. The suit protected you from the worst of it, but you're still in a daze from the sudden impact.

"Eat this!" Marisa yells from on high, and the second floor flashes with bright light as something goes BOOM. The giant goes flying off a moment later, landing near you with a loud THUD. You find yourself suddenly motivated to pull yourself up to your feet with the aid of a nearby chair before the brute can do the same.

Turns out you needn't have worried, seeing as whatever Marisa hit him with was enough to knock him out cold. Once you're sure he's out, you kneel down and snake your hand into his pocket, and grin when it reveals a wallet. You take stock of the inventory within and pocket yourself a decent handful of coinage before returning the wallet to his pocket. No need to let him know he's been looted right away, after all.

Once you're done with that, you step over him and snatch a miraculously intact bottle of spirits from the bar-top. You turn back around to face the door and slide down against the counter until you're in a crouch, with your legs forming a nice tent. You survey the room while you take a breather, and conclude that the repair bill for this place is going to be spectacularly painful for the owner to pay. There's only a handful of people still conscious, so at least the fighting's died down now.

Marisa's wandered down the stairs by this point, and unsteadily makes her way over to her hat. She plucks it off the ground with a flourish and plants it on her head, and she beams with the radiance of the Sun. Then she makes her way over to you, steps over the bruiser's body, and kneels down in front of you.

"What're y'doin'?" She asks as she pokes you on the helmet's visor. Now that there's no fighting going on, that part where Alice said she was getting 'spectacularly drunk' is plainly evident.

"Looting the alcohol, miss." You reply, studiously ignoring the further pokes she's giving you. Seemingly satisfied by this explanation, she sits down on the floor next to you, back pressed up against the bar.

"Can see that." She snorts, before wincing and rubbing her face. "G'damn, this stings."

You give the booze in your hand a longing look before you pass it to her, and she takes a greedy couple of gulps.

"Out of curiosity, what deal did you make with that guy?" You ask, refraining on voicing your curiosity in why anyone would want that ridiculous hat in the first place. She ignores you in favor of draining the bottle completely.

"It's all kinda fuzzy, now that I think about it." She slurs once she's finished. "But I got the hat back, that's... that's what matters."

"I think you've had a bit too much to drink." You hazard, and she flips you the bird.

"Nah, I'm good. I was doin' just fine, y'know? Didn't need any help." She says, drawing herself up haughtily and turning her nose up at you. You snort in amusement.

"I'm assuming taking that haymaker to the face was part of the plan?" You ask dryly.

"Maybe needed a little help." She grudgingly amends, but that doesn't stop her from giving you a punch to the helmet. She yelps and sucks on her knuckles after learning why that's a bad idea.

"Still, I had it, don't you think different!" She continues after the pain subsides, giving you a dirty look.

"Right." You drawl out, firmly unconvinced. "Well, I didn't help out of the goodness of my heart. You got my pay?"

"What pay?" She asks, looking genuinely confused as can be. You palm your forehead for just a moment as you take her response in.

"That thing you said you would get for me from the guards." You slowly enunciate each word, and her face lights up in recognition.

"Oh, that! Yeah, lemme just, hold on, where is it?" She mutters to herself as she rummages through your dress, and you politely avert your eyes as she pats herself down.

"Aha!" She cries out in triumph, brandishing a is that a goddamn Game Boy

"What." You exhale in disbelief as she thrusts the device into your hands. You turn it around in your hands, examining it all over. It's pretty torn up, but there's a cartridge in the back slot, so you flick it on. Amazingly, it still works, and there's an introductory logos screen for a moment before the title screen comes on.

You stare at it for a few seconds before pressing the A button.

"Are you fucking with me?" You murmur as the theme music plays.

"Not my type, buddy." Marisa slurs as she leans on your shoulder to watch you fiddle with the device. You roll your eyes, but then focus your attention on the game as you press A again.

"Goddamn blocks." You mutter a scant few seconds later, and you flick the power switch off. This was not worth what you went through to get it, but you still place it in your pack with care because by God it's yours. Even if the universe does have a stupid, stereotypical sense of humor.

That train of thought is then derailed when Marisa collapses onto your lap.

"Seriously?" You ask her, and a snore is given in return. You lean back against the bar and watch as an enterprising customer jumps over the counter to grab as much booze as he can carry.

He's presumably given quite a shock (you can't see him, after all) when the main door is kicked open and a pair of guardsmen come storming in. At least, they try to come storming in, but the carnage in front of them is enough to stop them in their tracks.

"We're gonna need more handcuffs." The tall, lanky one marvels as he takes in the scene. His stocky, older, markedly better-dressed comrade picks up an empty bottle and flings it through the air. The projectile sails past you and resounds with a meaty THUNK, and you hear the familiar sound of a body hitting the floor.

"Nice one, Sarge." The wiry man replies, before kneeling down and rifling through a man's pockets. The sight fills you with outrage, not from any moral standpoint, but because they're getting all the good loot before you.

You make a point of staying very, very still as the two men pick their way through the bodies, cuffing anyone who looks particularly mean, and chatting idly amongst themselves until they reach you. The tall guard whistles as he stares down at you, the witch lying on you, and the giant sprawled out at your feet.

"What do we have here?" He says, crouching down to rifle through the man's pockets. You smirk when he comes up empty, and he sighs in disappointment before cuffing the bruiser. Then he leans over to poke you on the helmet, but he's promptly pulled back by the sergeant.

"Don't touch it, you damn idiot!" The leader curses, and the target of his ire looks outraged for moment before he takes a deep breath.

"Whaddya mean, 'it'? Looks like a man to me, boss." The lanky fellow replies as he scratches his nose, now calm as can be. "Same general shape and all that, you know?"

"You don't know anything." The stocky one replies, shooting you a suspicious look. "Could be some Kappa piece, right? Might break you in half in a flash if you mess around. Restrain it before it starts back up."

"Right you are, sir! But, ah, about the witch?" The lanky man asks, even as he whips out another pair of handcuffs. You're frankly impressed he's been able to store so many away in his uniform.

"What've we been doing to the rest of this sorry lot?" The sergeant asks, waving an arm around at the whole crowd behind him.

"I see your point, sir." The tall guard replies as he hoists the snoozing witch up out of your lap and moves to cuff you. If you're going to make your move, now's your chance.

-----

[X] There's no way you're letting these chuckleheads pack you away. Wait for just the right moment before you put the fear of God into them.

--[X] While you're at it, call for your goon squad to come in and help out. That ought to give your impression some extra oomph.

[X] Play along. They don't know you're awake, and you've got the strength to break out of any restraints they put you in. Make your escape when they're distracted.

[X] You've got a perfectly good explanation for why you're here, in this bar, surrounded by dozens of unconscious people. You can even have it corroborated by the rest of your group, if they haven't already cut and run.

[X] Write-In?

(Sub-Vote!)

--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.

--[X] You've helped the witch enough for one day. If she gets tossed in jail for a few days, that's no skin off your teeth.
>> No. 161347
[X] There's no way you're letting these chuckleheads pack you away. Wait for just the right moment before you put the fear of God into them.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.

We came here for her, may as well get her out of trouble.
>> No. 161348
[X] Play along. They don't know you're awake, and you've got the strength to break out of any restraints they put you in. Make your escape when they're distracted.

[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.
>> No. 161351
[X] There's no way you're letting these chuckleheads pack you away. Wait for just the right moment before you put the fear of God into them.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.

Screw this, we're outta here.
>> No. 161352
[X] You've got a perfectly good explanation for why you're here, in this bar, surrounded by dozens of unconscious people. You can even have it corroborated by the rest of your group, if they haven't already cut and run.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.

We're on good terms with the law round here, best stay that way if we know what's good for us. And collaborating the story sounds like a hilarious scene.
>> No. 161355
[x] There's no way you're letting these chuckleheads pack you away. Wait for just the right moment before you put the fear of God into them.
--[x] You've helped the witch enough for one day. If she gets tossed in jail for a few days, that's no skin off your teeth.

If she made a deal and didn't like the outcome, she should be prepared to suffer the consequences. Plus, she was part of the brawl at the start. I wouldn't be surprised if she was involved in starting the whole thing.
>> No. 161373
Why does everyone want to hog all the fun? We're gonna disappoint our loyal goons...
>> No. 161383
[X] You've got a perfectly good explanation for why you're here, in this bar, surrounded by dozens of unconscious people. You can even have it corroborated by the rest of your group, if they haven't already cut and run.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.
>> No. 161385
[X] There's no way you're letting these chuckleheads pack you away. Wait for just the right moment before you put the fear of God into them.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.
>> No. 161386
[X] You've got a perfectly good explanation for why you're here, in this bar, surrounded by dozens of unconscious people. You can even have it corroborated by the rest of your group, if they haven't already cut and run.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.
>> No. 161387
It's four votes to terrorize them, three to diplomacy past, and one lonely vote to just sneak away. I'll leave it open for two more hours, so if people feel like breaking the almost-but-not-quite tie, go for it.
>> No. 161388
[X] You've got a perfectly good explanation for why you're here, in this bar, surrounded by dozens of unconscious people. You can even have it corroborated by the rest of your group, if they haven't already cut and run.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.

This is bound to end in a hilarious trainwreck.
>> No. 161390
File 134733771617.jpg - (42.25KB , 500x400 , Diplomacy.jpg ) [iqdb]
161390
[X] You've got a perfectly good explanation for why you're here, in this bar, surrounded by dozens of unconscious people. You can even have it corroborated by the rest of your group, if they haven't already cut and run.
--[X] Try to drag Marisa out of this mess too, because a good Stalker never leaves a (wo)man behind.
>> No. 161391
In a surprise turn-around, diplomacy wins! With any luck, expect an update within the week.
>> No. 161547
>>161391

To no one's shock, 'within the week' turned out to be total bullshit. However, I've managed to clear up something that was taking up a good chunk of my time, so now I'm ready to go and get to real work on an update. This is just a quick status report, so I've got nothing concrete yet. This post will be deleted once I've got a proper update!
>> No. 161759
File 134859024664.jpg - (1.31MB , 1013x1433 , 28286004.jpg ) [iqdb]
161759
Shock, no. Disappointment, yes.
>> No. 161800
Not story related, but have you read Palingenesia which is tucked away a few pages back in /underground/?

Its about Strelok Pandora trying to solve the mystery of The Zone Post-apocalyptic Gensokyo's Nuclear reactor causing blowouts artificial sun attracting mutants and Monolithshadowy visitors to spawn as a result of activities by The C-Conciousness a cabal of elder youkai while being consumed in an all-out war between Duty and Freedom two opposing youkai lords while Clear SkyYukari's faction gets the short end of the stick.

A rocket launcher is also involved somewhere in the middle.
>> No. 162978
File 135347345286.jpg - (18.18KB , 622x325 , i'm just reaching for picture ideas right now.jpg ) [iqdb]
162978
FUCK IT'S NOVEMBER WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN

-----

They want to arrest you? You almost rise up right then and there to unleash an unholy beat down on these two lawmen who'd dare try, but at the last moment you manage to push your outrage aside in favor of a more diplomatic approach.

"You know, I can't help but feel we're having a big misunderstanding here." You say in as casual a tone you can manage, and the way the cops jolt back is just plain amusing.

"The hell?" The older one asks, pulling his truncheon loose with one hand and pulling his subordinate back to him with the other.

"I'm just going to cut you off right there and tell you I'm from Outside, before you leap to conclusions on me being a robot or something." You continue, hauling yourself up with the aid of the counter.

The two men size you up with that in mind.

"To be honest, I'm not surprised." The younger one says after a few moments in thought.

"Anyway, name's Sasha." You offer, extending a hand outwards in an attempt to seem friendly. "What about you two?"

The two men are noticeably recalcitrant to your gesture, but you expected such a reaction. The officer in charge clears his throat and steps forward, looking at you very seriously. "I'm Officer Lock. That's Officer Webster."

You thrust your hands into your pockets and stare the two men down. "So, officers, what can I do for you?"

"You can start by clearing things up, seeing as you've obviously been involved in this clusterfu-" The younger one begins, before his boss elbows him in the side.

"We're supposed to be professional in front of suspects." The sergeant warns his subordinate, who shuts his mouth in a right hurry.

"Not much to tell, really." You say with a shrug. "I came in here looking for the witch you hoisted off me. Big guy down there, you see," You point at the huge gentleman. "was busy fighting her for her hat up on the second floor. He ended up throwing me over the railing when I tried to get him to stop. He's a vicious, vicious fellow, officers."

To be fair he actually seemed kind of decent, but being thrown a story down did not do wonders for your sense of goodwill.

"Ahuh." Lock grunts, looking at you skeptically. "You got any proof?"

You look around the entire room, and can't help but notice that anyone who could vouch for your story are currently too busy being in agony.

"Not precisely." You admit with a shrug.

"Right. I'm going to have to ask you to come quietly, friend." Lock says, eyes narrowing.

"Now hold on a second! I got something here that might change your mind." You say, raising a hand up in a stop gesture. You slowly reach into your pocket to forestall any misunderstandings about you reaching for weapons. You withdraw a handful of coinage with a flourish and thrust it outwards.

"I'm sure this is evidence enough for you to see things my way!" You cheerfully continue.

"You trying to bribe us, pal?" Webster snarls, and if you hadn't seen him looting all the bodies earlier you'd have actually believed he was angry about this.

"Yes." You flatly respond. "Look, you already grabbed everyone else's money, just take this and leave me be."

"You saw-" Webster begins, his earlier outrage forgotten, only for Lock to smack him upside the back of his head. He promptly recovers and, after shooting his boss a glare, refocuses on you.

"It's actually part of standard procedure." He huffily states, and you roll your eyes.

"Ahuh." You grunt. "Face it, guys, your asses are mine."

Lock gives the cash you're offering a quick look and snorts in disbelief.

"You're a damn skinflint if that's all you're willing to pay." He says, giving you an offended look. "I should just arrest you on the principle of the matter."

Right around then is when the one intact window in this place has Gijko leap through it with a mighty CRASH, scattering glass all over the floor as he hits the deck. The two coppers whirl around to face this new threat, so you seize the opportunity to step up behind them and plant your big, scary hands on their shoulders. The way the two men immediately stiffen up is gratifying.

"And then you made the mistake of turning your backs on me!" You cheerfully state. "Now be quiet for a second so I can talk to my friend there."

The two officers obediently shut up while Gijko hoists himself up to his feet. The stalker picks a piece of glass out of his mask and dusts his pants off before he saunters over to the three of you. "Yo." He says, hands thrust into his pockets.

You sigh before you ask the obvious question. "Why didn't you just use the door?"

There's a bit of an embarrassed silence as the stalker coughs into his hand, stolidly avoiding your gaze.

"Weeeell," He says after a few more moments. "It's like.... It makes me feel like a big action hero, you know?"

You stare at him in disbelief for a couple of seconds. "You're a loony." You finally reply. "But anyway, let's put that behind us. These two men want to arrest me, can you believe it?"

You give the two officers a jolly shake to emphasize the point. You can't really see their expressions, but you can imagine them just fine, and that's enough for you.

"I was considering arresting you." Lock tonelessly corrects you, and you snicker.

"Close enough!" You reply, tightening your grip on the two just a tad for effect.

"On second thought, you're clear to go." The sergeant woodenly continues.

"Glad we could clear that up!" You say, releasing your hold on their shoulders and giving them a shove forwards. Gijko sidesteps out of their way as they stumble forwards, and just as you begin to contemplate what to do next he elbows you in the side.

"So, what about the girl? She's why you came in here, yeah?" He whispers, and you mentally slap yourself. Marisa, right, of course. Can't just leave her here for these two limey bastards to haul off.

"Good point." You say, whirling around and stomping over to the snoozing witch. Gijko falls in step with you, and as you kneel down to grab the nice gal he vaults over the bar counter and sets to searching for any spare alcohol.

First you snatch Marisa's broom and tuck it under an armpit, before following up with slinging the girl herself over the same shoulder. You turn around and start to stomp towards the exit, but the two cops seemed to have regained their previous courage since they're now standing in your way, their truncheons at the ready. You stare at the two of them for a few seconds.

"I'm taking this nice girl with me because she's also completely innocent. Just a heads up, you know." You finally announce, and the two shoot each other hesitant looks.

"Also, I could bench press both of you." You add after a few more seconds pass without them moving out of your way.

"... I'd rather not try my luck." The older cop grudgingly admits as he steps out of your way, and as his subordinate follows suit you give the two a thumbs up with your free hand.

"Thanks, pal." You tell them, and they look at you like you just kicked them in the teeth.

"Get the hell out of here." Webster grunts, and you take him up on his advice and start walking.

"Yo, buddy, hurry the fuck up!" You call out to the Stalker at the bar as you stomp past the two disgruntled lawmen.

"Oi, I'm going as fast as I can!" Gijko calls back as he hops back over the counter with an armful of alcohol. He stops by the cops and thrusts a pair of bottles into the duo's hands. "On the house." He states, promptly hustling past them as they stare at him in disbelief.

After he hurtles past you, you turn back to face them and backpedal to the door. "Now don't get it in your head to try and follow us, all right?" You warn them, and then you back out into the street, shutting the door as you go. Gijko's busy stuffing the looted drinks in his pack when you thump over to him.

"I'm giving us about five minutes before those two change their minds about chasing after you." He says offhandedly. "Optimistically."

"Ahuh." You grunt. "What tipped you off to give me that assist?"

"I saw those two going in, so I figured you might need a distraction. Told the kids to stay behind, didn't want them getting caught up with whatever was gonna happen. You're welcome, by the way."

"'preciate it." You say. "Now can we get going?"

He plunks the last bottle of alcohol down inside his bag and zips it back up before he re-affixes it to his suit. "I was actually thinking of splitting off for a bit now that we're safe inside this town." He says as he stands up, turning to look you in the eye. "You got me here in one piece, and you've my thanks for that, but I don't feel like trekking after you all day every day. No offense."

"It's your ass, pal." You say, not unkindly. "I won't stop you if you want to quit for a while, but you've got no cash and no one else who's your friend besides me and those girls. Sure you want to leave?"

He shoves his hands into his pockets and stays quiet for a moment before he continues. "I'm not saying we can't partner up again later, bro," He cautiously begins. "but right now I'd rather take my chances going solo."

"If that's how you feel, then fine." You say, and withdraw a handful of the money you looted. "It's dangerous to go out there broke. Take this."

He looks the offer over for a moment before snatching the loot and stuffing it in a pocket. "Cool, thanks. Hold on a second..." He reaches back into his booze-pack and passes you a pair of bottles, which you accept with due grace. "There, that's a fair trade. Now get your ass moving before the cops decide to start chasing you, all right? I'd hate to have to bust you out."

"They'd need a dozen men to bring me down, no worries." You say genially as you wave him off. He gives you a two-fingered salute before he fades into the crowd. You pack the beer away before you trundle off back where you left the girls.

You reconsider the implications of carrying Marisa over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes when you notice some awkward looks from passers-by. One elderly man who gets particularly close mutters something about 'degenerate brutes', so you move to crush him like a bug. Fortunately for his continued health, he gets unsettled and scurries away.

"Buncha assholes in this place, I tell you what." You grumble. Still, you switch to a more traditional bridal carry because, if nothing else, it looks more respectable. As you lumber across the street, your mind wanders back to your time in the Zone.

Heh, carrying Marisa around like this reminds you of one of the first jobs you got after you'd gotten patched up following your disastrous run past the Cordon. You and another rookie teamed up to go out hunting a pack of blind dogs as a quick job, and you were sure it was going to be easy money. Of course, you ran head-first into a pack of pseudodogs instead. Your partner got hamstrung almost immediately and hit the dirt screaming, and you blasted the mutt responsible with two rounds of buckshot before scooping the Stalker up in a mad dash. Even dead, the little mongrel didn't want to let go. If you weren't busy running for your life, you would have no doubt been laughing uproariously at the sight of the dead beast flapping around while you ran.

You were holding the stalker just like you're holding Marisa right now as you hauled ass back to base while half a dozen of those vicious little monsters chased after the both of you. About halfway back home your arms realized the critical error you'd made, but your legs and a healthy dosage of adrenaline were too busy working together and being heroic to let something as trifling as carrying seventy-five kilograms of rookie get in the way.

Fortunately, the screaming your luggage was making during all this, while friggin' annoying, was also enough to draw the attention of everyone else back at the little shanty-town everyone called home. The hell they unleashed on those mutant mongrels was beautiful, even if you didn't get to actually see any of it.

The amount of shit the unlucky Stalker got afterwards for getting carried around like that and yelling like a pansy was tremendous. While neither of you got paid, you got a round of drinks on the house for bringing the hapless fellow back alive, and the other stalkers kept laughing about it for a week afterwards.

Your reminiscing ends when you stumble upon Rumia and Wriggle going at the classic game of Rock Paper Scissors. The former seems to be on a bit of a losing streak, given her intense look of displeasure. You hold back and watch as the two, engrossed as they are in their game, fail to notice you and continue playing.

Rumia goes with rock, Wriggle paper, and when her loss sinks in the blonde looks like she's about to blow a gasket.

"You gotta stop going rock all the time, Rum." Wriggle admonishes, and she weathers a severely annoyed look from her opponent.

"How else'm I supposed to crush my enemies?" Blondie complains, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Your fists?" Wriggle gently offers up.

"I thought that was what rock meant!" Rumia pouts as she kicks some dirt up.

"Well, your mighty fists've worked fine so far." You say, drawing their attention towards you. Then they take note of the girl you're currently cradling in your arms, and to say they seemed thrown off by your current baggage would be an understatement.

"Well, huh. You found her, all right." Wriggle remarks, hovering up to get a better look at the snoozing lass. "What happened?"

"I punched a guy, brawled with another guy over a hat, got thrown over a railing, grabbed my loot, threatened two cops with grievous bodily harm, ran off with this nice gal, and Gijko decided to cut and run. What about you two?" You casually explain. Rumia stare blankly at you until you finish, which is when she then tilts her head and looks at you like you just tossed away a lifetime supply of free beer.

"You threatened them with what." She asks, her eyelid twitching dangerously fast.

"Grievous bodily harm." You nonchalantly repeat. She covers her eyes in despair.

"When they want to toss us out for any reason. Youuuuuu... dense motherfu-" She begins, only for Wriggle to force her hands over the blonde's mouth.

"Hey, whoa, hey!" Wriggle says in alarm as Rumia continues her muffled invectives regardless, and you watch in amusement as the cape-clad girl tries to keep them that way.

"Ahuh." You finally say after Blondie's rage runs its course. Wriggle hesitantly lets go and then promptly backs up to dodge any potential retaliatory swings. You pull out a bottle of the unknown alcohol Gijko gave you and thrust it right into Rumia's hands as a bribe.

"So, you done cursing me out yet?" You ask her, and she turns the bottle over in her hands a few times, torn between ranting at you some more and being pleased by the gift.

"I'll let it slide this time." She graciously allows, uncorking the booze and giving it a sniff.

"That's great and all, but what about her?" Wriggle asks as she hovers up to you and pokes Marisa on the forehead. "A strange outsider carrying someone pretty famous like her around means people'll take notice."

"Yeah, I kinda saw that myself." You inform the duo, and Wriggle immediately covers her face in disgust. Rumia's too busy exploring the depths of the beer you tossed her to care.

"Of course they noticed." Wriggle grumbles, but then she gives you a curious look. "You said you got some stuff back there, right?"

"Yeah, I grabbed some coins off this one guy. Mind telling me what they're worth?" You ask, and after you set your current cargo down (gently, of course) you pull out all the coins you snatched, not just the apparent chump change you offered up to the cops earlier. Wriggle studies your loot for a few moments.

"That's not a bad haul, honestly." She admits as she rubs the back of her head. "If you're careful, it'll probably last you for a day or two."

"Hoorah." You say, and cast a sideways glance at the booze-soaked witch as she snoozes away. "Now what?"

-----

Where do you go, Stalker?

[X] To the market! You might be able to fins something handy there, and so long as you're frugal you ought to have plenty left over for a room someplace.

[X] There isn't any pressing business you need to attend to, so you might as well wander around town a bit and try to figure out the lay of the land.

[X] You've had just about enough exploration and adventure for one day, to be frank. There's got to be be someplace around her that offers rooms for a night.

[X] Write-in?

Also, you've managed to make off with the one and only Marisa, but now you've gotta do something with her.

[X] What's the harm in carrying her along with you? Sure, it'll attract some attention, but you already stick out like a house on fire anyway. What's a little more heat?

[X] You already got her out of being arrested, that's your good deed done for the day. She can sleep things off right where you left her.

[X] Alice is a friend of hers, right? She said she had a show to do, so you doubt she's left town already. You ought to be able to foist Marisa off on her for the night before you go handle your own affairs.
>> No. 162982
Worth the wait. Be nice if the wait was shorter...

[X] You've had just about enough exploration and adventure for one day, to be frank. There's got to be be someplace around her that offers rooms for a night.
[X] You already got her out of being arrested, that's your good deed done for the day. She can sleep things off right where you left her.

Rumia seems attached to being in this town for someone who couldn't find anything better to do while waiting than rock paper scissors.
>> No. 162984
File 135349156398.png - (421.71KB , 474x434 , amazed dark souls.png ) [iqdb]
162984
>>162982

Don't you just hate it when you like a story that takes friggin' months to update because the writefag is a lazy one? I sure do!

This also means I have become what I hate, which is a terrible thing to realize.

>>161800

I'm just going to be lazy and use this picture to showcase my reaction to this news.

>>161759

Deepest apologies.
>> No. 162988
[X] You've had just about enough exploration and adventure for one day, to be frank. There's got to be be someplace around her that offers rooms for a night.
[X] Alice is a friend of hers, right? She said she had a show to do, so you doubt she's left town already. You ought to be able to foist Marisa off on her for the night before you go handle your own affairs.
>> No. 162992
[X] You've had just about enough exploration and adventure for one day, to be frank. There's got to be be someplace around here that offers rooms for a night.
[X] Alice is a friend of hers, right? She said she had a show to do, so you doubt she's left town already. You ought to be able to foist Marisa off on her for the night before you go handle your own affairs.

While we're not exactly her babysitter, leaving her in the street is a bit much. At least we can let her wake up to a familiar face. (To at least slightly offset the probably very familiar headache she'll have once she wakes up.)
>> No. 163000
I can't wait to interrupt Alice's show by making a spectacle of ourselves.
>> No. 163046
It might be a bit soon to call things at only three votes, but I'm not seeing any more trickling in. Consider voting closed in favor of finding a nice little hostel after dropping Marisa off with Alice.
>> No. 163059
>>163046
your story might have gotten buried, /th/ is a pretty busy place.
>> No. 163122
File 135391322022.jpg - (202.80KB , 1680x1050 , oh boy.jpg ) [iqdb]
163122
Could it be? An update that's actually on time? Amazing!

Also, please open the picture after the update, not before.

-----

"You know what?" You ask the two girls as your give your hands a once-over.

"Not really." Wriggle admits, leaning up against a wall while she floats in mid-air. "It's not like we're psychic, y'know."

"Of course you aren't." You continue, clenching your fists after you're satisfied with their condition. "Anyway, I've had enough of running around being everyone's errand boy for the day, and I'm tired. Anywhere I can spend the night?"

"No clue." Rumia says, having entirely drained the booze you gave her. She smashes the bottle against a barrel before she continues. "Sure you're done?"

"Of course I'm sure." You reply, annoyed. "Why else would I have brought it up?"

"No need to get snippy." She shrugs, before tossing the remnants of the bottle over her shoulder.

"Whatever, let's go." You say as you start to trundle back into the street, only to feel a hand press down on your shoulder.

"Ahem." Wriggle harrumphs. "You forgetting something?"

"Right!" You say, turning back around and pointing dramatically at the antennae'd girl. "You get to fly the witch around." You order, and the supreme overlord of all bugs purses her lips.

You stomp over to Rumia and plant your hands on her shoulders; she looks up at you in sudden apprehension. "Rumia!" You begin. "I'm in your... capable hands. Gimme a ride to Alice, then we can see to finding somewhere to stay."

You let her go and fumble around through your pack. While you do that, Wriggle holds a hand up.

"Question!" She says, narrowing her eyes. "Flying through the skies in town is your idea of staying low?"

"It's only until we find the nice puppeteer lady, all right?" You explain as you pull out your binoculars. "I'm gonna drop the witch off with her, then we can do our own thing."

"Well, okay, I guess." She grudgingly admits, hovering down to pick Marisa up. As she hauls the witch up, broom and all, Rumia does the same with you.

"Onward, goon squad!" You call out, and though there's some mumbled complaints they obey. You ascend skywards ten meters, twenty, thirty, fifty in total. From this high up you can get a much clearer look of the surrounding countryside, not just the town itself. There's plenty of forest the way you came from, but that completely fails to catch your interest.

"Mind rotating a bit?" You ask of your transport, and she very kindly obliges you. You end up facing a part of flat countryside, and to your left and right are the lake you were at earlier and a forest of bamboo trees, respectively. What's more pressing to you is the fact that there's an actual sea-faring vessel just parked out in the plains. Funny, you thought you'd have noticed that kind of thing earlier.

"What the hell's that ship doing there?" You ask, gesturing towards it.

"Myouren temple." Wriggle informs you as she shifts her cargo around. "Buncha Buddhists live there. Pretty nice people, actually!"

"All right, but how did it get there in the first place?" You demand, waving your binoculars around in agitation. "It's on a perfectly flat field! No signs of the earth being eroded means there wasn't any water there before, so it can't have beached up there naturally. How?

"Well, I don't know the whole story, but I suppose the people flying the ship around everywhere figured it was as good a place as any to land." Rumia cuts in.

You try to come up with words to express your bogglement at this subject, and utterly fail.

"I'm being carried through the air by a girl who look like she's ten. A flying ship shouldn't be out of the ordinary." You chastise yourself out loud, forcing yourself back into the moment. Rumia giggles at that bit of self-awareness you just displayed.

"Yeah, okay, you mind looking for Alice now?" Wriggle reminds you. "I don't feel like being the one holding onto Marisa when she wakes up."

"You can help too, you know." You tell her, but you bring your binoculars to your eyes and search the village.

Let's see... Your gaze wanders across a few scenes of interest. You spy, among other things, a shirtless man holding a bra being chased out of a house by another man who's swearing furiously, children playing with a ball in an alley, and you even manage to catch sight of Gijko conversing with a small child who has vividly pink hair. As your gaze wanders elsewhere, you catch sight of a wooden two-story building that sticks out in comparison to its neighbors, a sign with a bed etched on it hanging above the doorway.

"Right, I've got our final destination." You announce, pointing it out to your two flight attendants. Wriggle squints ahead and ah's in understanding.

"I see it, I see it." She confirms.

"Am I right to assume I could get a room there?" You ask.

"Probably. I've never been there, so I can't be sure."

"Well, that'll be as good a place as any to head to after we're done." You say, and return to looking around for any sign of Alice.

There's not much more of note as you continue searching, but after a minute you espy another gathering of people. For the most part, it's a crowd of children gathered around a small wooden stage, but a familiar shock of blonde hair instantly jolts you into action.

"Bingo!" You call out, gesturing ahead. "I've got our contact, due... uh, that way! Get us moving!"

"We're rolling!" Rumia responds, altering course to where you waved with Wriggle following suit.

You decide to take another look at Alice through your binocs, and as you're a fair bit closer now, you take notice of what's actually going on down on the stage. All those little puppets she had following her are currently busy clashing against each other in a sort of miniature sword fight. You turn your sights higher to Alice herself, and while her gloved hands are puppeteering in a fluid manner, she's not watching the dolls themselves at all. Disconcertingly, she's actually looking eye-to-eye with you.

"Argh!" You croak, bodily recoiling in surprise. Unfortunately, this sudden movement unbalances Rumia, and the two of you start to spiral through the air.

"What the hell're you doing!" You yell upwards at the only thing preventing you from breaking your everything on the ground below.

"Stop flailing around so much!" Rumia yelps in panic, trying to regain control of her flight path.

"Just drop me!" You snap, and immediately start to plummet after she lets you go.

As you hurtle through the air for a few seconds, you've time to contemplate that while dropping you did stop her from spinning out of control and probably smacking you into a nearby building, you're still going to break your everything if she doesn't catch you again. The kids below you are watching in a sort of horrified wonder as you fall right at them, and some of the brighter ones have already scattered.

Fortunately, your imminent appointment with the earth is canceled by Rumia's arms grabbing you once again. She gets you just in time to arrest your fall, but she doesn't seem to anticipate that you'd fallen far enough for momentum to keep you going. Your bulk drags her down with you for the last ten feet, and you land on your feet as graceful as a cat. The kids are staring up at you now, and while Rumia rights herself you take a deep breath. You've only got a few seconds to try and make an impression.

"Greetings, mortals!" You boom contemptuously, spreading your arms wide open. The effect is a bit damaged by the binoculars still dangling from your hand, unfortunately. "I come with a gift for the lovely leading lady!" You thrust a finger at Alice, who's looking owlishly surprised at this whole event.

You stare at the little kids, who are torn between being utterly gobsmacked by you and trying to get their hands all over your suit. At Alice, who's now walking straight at you with an expression not dissimilar to a wet cat. You even look at the dolls that are frozen in the middle of a battle to the death, and to your mild horror every last one of them is looking directly at you.

"The meaning of this, if you'd please?" Alice asks, having reached you. She's favoring you with a stern look, so you decide to make things quick.

"Yeah, about that. Wriggle!" You call, and the girl descends with her payload far more carefully than your uncontrolled fall.

"Freakin' finally." She grumbles, dumping the witch right into your waiting arms. You then immediately shove her at Alice, backing up as the puppeteer stumbles from getting this sudden load in her arms.

"Minions, we are leaving!" You bellow, and your two aides promptly grab you and haul you upwards while everyone watches. You espy a small group of Alice's dolls taking the witch off of Alice's hands and carrying her off as the puppeteer tries to get the show going again.

"Greetings, mortals?" Rumia asks, snickering a little. "That was the best you could come up with?"

"Maybe if I could actually fly I'd have had more ammunition to yell 'GIVE ME A REASON NOT TO SMITE THEE' at 'em." You say.

"Well, that was still something." Wriggle says, sounding amused by the whole situation. "Though I thought you said we weren't flying again?"

"I didn't want to stick around long enough for her to try and throttle me." You admit.

"Good point." She says. "Anyway, where's this place you wanted to go again?"

"Thataway, I think." You say, pointing towards the general direction of that inn you saw earlier.

Around a minute later the three of you are standing in front of the hostel. The construction looks to be of decent quality, although some enterprising hooligans have etched graffiti into the walls. There's some unintelligible writing on the sign, and you curse your illiteracy. You step forwards and pass through the doorway, followed by your two hangers-on.

Once you're inside, you note that the lobby is pretty sparse save for a number amount of electric lamps on the walls that cast shadows across the room. You plant your hands on the receptionist desk and stare down at the attendant in her ridiculously large chair. Of all the people you expected, a small black-haired child with rabbit ears reading what looked like a tabloid magazine was not one of them. She looks up at the thump, and if your appearance surprises her then she doesn't show it.

"Hello, sir! Welcome to the Charming Fairy Inn! Would you like a room for the night?"" She says, folding up the magazine and straightening up. You're close enough to read a name tag pinned to her black dress, although once more you are cursed with an inability to read the local language. One of these days you're really going to have to figure out how you can talk with everyone here without being able to read what they write.

You fish out a handful of coinage and plunk it down on the counter-top as your response. The girl blinks at the money and counts it out. When she finishes, she shoots the three of you a sly look.

"Ah, I see!" She says, shutting her eyes and nodding sagely. "You want privacy, yes? Follow me!"

She grabs a key from underneath the desk before she hops over the counter, leaving you to wonder just what the hell that comment was supposed to mean. You trundle after her, followed by your two tiny compatriots.

"What's a girl like you doing working here?" You ask offhandedly as the four of you travel down a hallway. It's lit with more of those electric lamps, and you wonder just what the hell is up with Gensokyo's technology level. Guards with crossbows and working electricity seem more than a bit odd together.

"Master Eirin felt it might help relations to have some of us integrating with the village!" Your guide cheerfully says.

"Eirin? That means you're from... Eientei, right?" You carefully venture, your earlier briefing at Mystia's stand coming back to you.

"Got it in one!" The girl says, beaming. "How'd you know?"

"I got friends." You explain. The four of you come to a stairway that leads both up and down, and your guide descends to the basement sub-level. As you follow after her, you can't help but be disconcerted by how the walls are steadily getting more flowering decorations on them. As you hit the ground floor, your guide comes to a halt in front of a door with a heart engraved on the front, and you are suddenly assailed by a deep sense of foreboding.

"Okay, we're here. Enjoy yourself~" She tells you with a knowing smile as she unlocks the door.

"Hold on a second." You tell her, and as she moves out of the way you grab the brass knob and give it a turn. You peek inside for just a moment, and espy exactly what you feared. The walls have red hearts plastered everywhere on them, matched by a large, heart-shaped bed with restraints on it. Mirrors line the walls, along with some... interesting pieces of art. As your horror mounts, you spy an open chest in the corner, and you spy something black and rubbery poking out of it. You immediately recoil and slam the door shut before whirling around and pressing your back up against the wood, trying to forget what you just saw.

"What the fuck is that?" You breathe out, aghast.

"What the fuck is what?" Rumia innocently inquires. Your eyes bulge out as you stare between her and the rabbit-girl next to her. Wriggle, at least, looks as shocked at Rumia as you feel.

"Only the finest room to avoid prying eyes, sir." Bunny-ears says, still smiling that same damnable smirk. Your horror turns into disgust at the little imp, so you grab her by the front of her dress and hoist her up into the air to look you in the eye. That changes her tune, seeing as she's now staring at you in wide-eyed terror.

"You goddamn pervert." You snarl, revolted.

"But you paid for a special room!" She quavers, frantically looking for a way out. "I, I just assumed that-"

"No." You growl, pulling her close enough that her nose touches your mask. "You could have at least asked to make sure, you idiot."

"Please don't hurt me." She pleads, and as she dangles limply in the air it sinks in that you're being something of a huge dick over a simple misunderstanding. You gently set her back down before you accidentally mulch her or something equally horrible.

"I'm not in any... relationships like that with anyone here." You explain. "All I want to do is lay down in a nice bed for the night, okay?"

"We've got plenty of those too!" She replies, thankful for your mercy.

"Good." You tell her, and she bolts back upstairs. You lean back against the door and fold your arms while you wait for her return.

Rumia and Wriggle give each other indecipherable looks before nodding, and they simultaneously kick you in the shins. Fortunately your suit tanks the blow, saving you your dignity. "That was mean." Rumia tells you, frowning hard. Wriggle stays quiet, but nods her assent.

"Hey, I laid off!" You argue. Then what the blonde girl said earlier comes back to mind, so you level an accusing finger at her. "Anyway, I let it slide last time since Wriggle stopped you, but don't swear. It doesn't suit you." You chastise, and she's got the good grace to look a bit embarrassed.

"Says the bad influence himself." Wriggle retorts, and you search for a proper reply.

"Got me there." You give up.

It's quiet for a few more seconds.

"So, uh, what was in the-" Rumia begins, and you stare her down.

"No." You rumble. She backs down.

Any further discourse is interrupted by the rabbit-child sprinting back down the stairs.

"Right this way!" She says, spinning on a dime and retreating upstairs again. You chase after her, and once you're back above ground she leads you to a door that is miraculously free of any hearts.

"Ever get the feeling that all we're doing is just walking everywhere?" Wriggle says, stuffing her hands in her pockets. You remain silent as your guide unlocks the door and quickly heads in. You follow suit.

This room, you note with approval, is far more in line with your expectations. There's a pair of twin-sized beds at the back, there's a glass window near the ceiling that lets the outside light stream in. There's a cabinet on the opposite end of the room, next to a desk with a chair. The room's lit by a pair of lamps, one fixed above the desk and another between the two beds. You whistle as the worker hustles over and turns both on before she comes back to you. As she tries to slip past, you plant your hand on her shoulder. The way she squeaks manages to make you feel a bit guilty.

"I just wanted to let you know I'm sorry about earlier, little lady." You tell her, and she exhales in relief. She starts to head back out, but you hold up your hand.

"But!" You say, and she freezes mid-step.

"But?" She asks, stuck with a foot in the air as she turns her head to look at you.

"I get the feeling that other room costs a lot." You say, rubbing your forefinger and thumb together meaningfully. "Whereas this one, eh, not so much."

"...Right!" She exclaims. "I'll get your change, sir, just give me a minute!"

"Good girl!" You tell her as she runs off. You turn back around to find both of your girls sitting down on a bed, testing how springy it is.

"I like it!" Rumia happily notes, making a point of bouncing up and down.

"Yeah, this is kinda nice." Wriggle admits, and then she hops off and starts for the door. "Still, I'm not really tired. Gonna go mess around town for a while. You?"

"Nah, I'm good. It's been a while since I've had a proper bed." You tell her.

"Well, enjoy it! I'm going with Wriggle, so you've got it all to yourself." Rumia says, sidling up to her partner.

As you move to sit down, you freeze. Slowly, you turn around to face the two girls, both of whom are giving you puppy-dog eyes.

"Why are you staring at me." You ask flatly.

"We're... kinda poor." Wriggle admits, and you curse internally.

"Let's be clear what you're asking here." You say, applying your palm to your face. "You are asking me to give you pocket-money."

"Yeah!" Rumia says, holding a hand out. "Now gimme!"

The receptionist girl chooses this moment to burst back in past the two blocking the doorway, and as they stumble she thrusts your spare change onto your desk and takes off again like a shot. You grab the cash and continue the cycle of it changing hands by pushing it into Wriggle's, mostly because she seems mildly more responsible with it.

"Yeah, whatever, good luck." You tell them as you wave them out.

"Score!" Rumia cheers as the two of them take off. Of course, they forgot to shut the door, so you get up and handle that first.

Alone at last, you remove your weapons from their holsters and set them down on the desk, and after a moment's thought add your PDA to that pile as well. Since you're finally alone, you've got various sundry issues to handle.

You go through the arduous process of prying yourself loose from your suit; while you're well practiced it still takes about a minute to get all the way out. Free from the armor's confines, you set it up against the wall in a bundle before you go through your usual stretches. Afterwards you pull off your balaclava and run your hand over your face and through your hair; you wince as you press down on a previously unnoticed bruise.

Instead of just dealing with it, you rummage through your suit's pack and whip out your one and only Kolobok. You look down at the ball, the hundreds of brown needles sticking out of it looking like they should by all rights pierce right through your hand. Instead, they only prickle your skin. Despite its foreboding appearance, you press the artifact right up against the bruise, and in less than ten seconds the wound utterly fades away. Satisfied, you return the wonderful little thing to its pack and retrieve the Bubble.

Contrary to its name, the sickly-green artifact looks more like a crystal than any bubbles you've ever seen. You press it up against yourself and let its radiation-eradicating powers get to work. After half a minute, you're sure any traces of radiation you'd gotten from the Kolobok have been utterly annihilated, so you toss the artifact back where you had it before.

You worm your way out of your sweater and toss the overshirt into a corner, and then you sit down at the desk with your weapons. Before you do anything else, you shut your eyes for a long few seconds and take a deep breath.

Your situation is... less than promising. You're stranded, almost penniless, resupply is unlikely, and a good chunk of the world outside the town walls wouldn't mind eating you. You've been through worse, though not by much. At least you've still got all your equipment and a few friends; that ought to even the odds.

You type down a log of your situation here on your PDA, including what's happened so far, before you shut the device off and set it aside. You give your weaponry a once-over, and to your good fortune they look to still be in great condition. You flick their safeties on before you grab them and head over to the bed, setting the rifle at the side of the bed and the pistol underneath a pillow. You keep your knife in your hand, however, because you never know when something nasty might want to wake you up.

You crawl underneath the bed's covers and rest your head on the pillow. Looking up at the ceiling, you think on just how you're going to get back home. You've got no leads on that goal so far, but you're sure you'll find a way to change that soon enough.

You drape an arm across your eyes, and a tiredness you didn't know you were holding off smashes into you like a sack of bricks. You're sleeping before you even know it.

-----

You wake up with a start as thunder BOOMS in the distance, a sound like the sky itself crashing down. You've grabbed your pistol in an instant, the safety's off in the next, and you're out of bed by the third, knife and pistol at the ready. Then, after a few seconds without anything savaging you, you loose a breath you didn't realize you were holding in.

"Mmn." Rumia groans, sitting up from her spot on the other bed. You whirl around in surprise at her sudden appearance. "What's going on?"

"Sounded like a storm." You answer, flicking your pistol's safety back on and straightening up. "I'm going to go give it a look.

"Aww, why bother?" She asks, thumping back down and pulling the blanket over her head. You notice a mop of green hair poking out from underneath the covers when she does so, which at least explains where Wriggle's at.

"Just go back to sleep." You tell her as you head for the door, and she covers her head with a pillow.

You peer out the doorway and down the hall. Most of the lamps have been shut off to save on energy, a scarce few remaining on to provide a small amount of lighting. With nothing else to do, you slip past the door and head towards the inn's entrance. No sign of anyone here, but you're hearing shouting from outside, so you go to the entrance and carefully open the door to take a look.

Your eyes bulge out as you take in the sight before you. Villagers are rousing each other from their houses, and people are already hustling everywhere with their belongings in tow. Wise move, given what you're looking at.

Whereas the rest of your surroundings look completely peaceful, that only serves to contrast even further with how the world seems to be ending inside this pillar of hellishly red sky. Even though it's several kilometers away from the village, the light inside the pillar is as bright as day, horribly clashing with the general darkness of the world surrounding it. You can only stare in awestruck terror as the world inside that cylinder seeks to tear itself asunder, thunder and lightning lashing out as if controlled by an angry god.

Worse, it's getting bigger. Not incredibly quickly, but it's still added roughly a tenth to its total diameter in just the time you've been watching it.

"Oh, fuck." You mutter, paralyzed by awe. Your grip on your pistol goes slack, and the weapon slips from your hand as you stare at the oncoming storm. "Oh, FUCK!" You say again, the urgency of this hitting you.

You don't know why or how, but somehow a blowout's leaking through from the Zone.

This is not good. Oh, this is not good at all.

You turn around on your heel and sprint back inside, pounding down the hall and back to your room. You crash through the door, and this naturally gets both girls up with a start.

"Geez, what's the problem?" Wriggle asks, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Rumia's shielding her eyes as she glares at you.

"Shit's fucked, we gotta move!" You warn, and that's enough to convince them to hop out of bed in their pajamas (you inanely wonder just where they got those in the first place). You cast a longing look at your equipment, thinking on just what you're going to do.

-----

[X] You should be able to wait things out in the basement, because no matter how distasteful you find that place it's still better than getting killed. Grab your gear and get down there before everything goes down.

[X] Get out of here, Stalker! You don't trust this place to stand against what's about to hit it. There's got to be somewhere else you can take shelter in.

[X] Write-In?

-----

If the second option, choose your loadout.

[X] Keep calm and carry on, Stalker. This wave of doom is approaching slowly enough that you've got plenty of time to get your gear in order, exoskeleton and all.

[X] You've no time to suit up, but you can still get everything else you own. The suit will only slow you down, and even its protection won't save you if you're caught in the blowout. Abandoning it hurts, but you need your mobility and you can probably retrieve it later.

[X] Don't burden yourself down with anything besides your main weapons and some choice artifacts. Your remaining gear should survive without suffering too much damage.

[X] Write-In?
>> No. 163123
[x] Get out of here, Stalker! You don't trust this place to stand against what's about to hit it. There's got to be somewhere else you can take shelter in.
[x] Don't burden yourself down with anything besides your main weapons and some choice artifacts. Your remaining gear should survive without suffering too much damage.
>> No. 163125
>An update that's actually on time? Amazing!
! Now find a way to do it consistently without burning out.

[X] You should be able to wait things out in the basement, because no matter how distasteful you find that place it's still better than getting killed. Grab your gear and get down there before everything goes down.

:getin: If I was going to vote to leave, I'd say to have Rumia and/or Wriggle carry the suit.

So many good lines. I love this story.
>> No. 163126
[X] You should be able to wait things out in the basement, because no matter how distasteful you find that place it's still better than getting killed. Grab your gear and get down there before everything goes down.
And bang on all the doors as we go past them, tell anyone who sticks their heads out to get down there, now.

Man, an awful lot of youkai are going to be waking up with killer headaches. Probably a bunch of humans aren't going to be waking up at all.
>> No. 163127
[X] You should be able to wait things out in the basement, because no matter how distasteful you find that place it's still better than getting killed. Grab your gear and get down there before everything goes down.

No way we can out-run it. Just armor up, get to the basement, and wait it out.
>> No. 163128
>>163127
It's my understanding that running doesn't mean trying to outrun it, it means trying to find a better place to wait it out.
>> No. 163132
[X] Ask Wriggle and Rumia if there are any heavily sheltered locations nearby. If not, we can hunker down in the basement.

There isn't enough time left to search for a suitable shelter before the blowout hits us, so our best hope is to take the closest shelter if the girls don't know if there's a better place to hunker down in. We'll be trying our luck if we wander around with an emission bearing down on us; we might even die because we're unable to find a good piece of shelter.
>> No. 163147
[X] You should be able to wait things out in the basement, because no matter how distasteful you find that place it's still better than getting killed. Grab your gear and get down there before everything goes down.

The worst part about this? Guess who Yukari's going to blame for this.
>> No. 163149
[X] Write-In?

TO THE SUB-BASEMENT! MINIONS! CARRY MY GEAR!

We should be able to get to the basement fairly quickly, but it might be best to grab some blankets off the bed, sling all our gear into them, and hustle ourselves and our minions down there. For that matter, if they can fly carrying US, they can probably fly carrying our stuff. No reason to leave it behind. And then, to cover in the "special room"!

Though it might be charitable of us to warn other people to get the hell to cover right the fuck now.
>> No. 163154
>>163147
This whole mess is probably her fault.
Or some Kappa muckin' about.
Or the Asakuras.
Or some combination thereof.
>> No. 163161
[X] Write-In?

TO THE SUB-BASEMENT! MINIONS! CARRY MY GEAR!

We should be able to get to the basement fairly quickly, but it might be best to grab some blankets off the bed, sling all our gear into them, and hustle ourselves and our minions down there. For that matter, if they can fly carrying US, they can probably fly carrying our stuff. No reason to leave it behind. And then, to cover in the "special room"!

Though it might be charitable of us to warn other people to get the hell to cover right the fuck now.

Why is it that anytime the word minions is uttered i picture rumia and wiggle in "Despicable me" style minion cloths?
>> No. 163173
It's looking pretty solidly in favor of taking shelter downstairs, with a side-order of having your minions carry your loot while you go around warning people what's about to hit the town.

Optimistically, expect an update by the end of the week.

Pessimistically, expect it sometime next February.

Naw, I'm just kidding, it'll be out this week.
>> No. 163462
Okay, status report for anyone checking page 2. I was wrong about getting an update out last week. HOWEVER, I've got about 2900 words typed out here, so it shouldn't take too much longer.
>> No. 163473
>>163462
I believe you.
>> No. 163549
File 135518465265.jpg - (266.51KB , 1440x900 , an accurate depiction of a blowout.jpg ) [iqdb]
163549
>>163473
And your belief is rewarded!

Anyway, have a two-parter. The second half isn't quite finished yet, but I figure you guys have waited long enough for an update.

-----


Your mind lights up with the figurative idea lightbulb as you look between your equipment on the ground and at the girls as they tumble out of bed. After you make your way over to your own bed, you take both your rifle and your knife (it must have slipped out of your hand while you were sleeping, you suppose), pull the blanket off your bed and move over to the spot you dumped your equipment. You toss your weapons on top of the pile before you get to wrapping things up in the blanket.

"Whaddya doing?" Rumia asks, having taken up a spot hovering over your shoulder.

"Packing." You tersely explain as you finish wrapping everything up in that blanket. With no small effort you haul the makeshift sack up into your arms and turn around to face the girls, and Rumia floats back a bit to give you space.

"What's that supposed to tell us?" Wriggle wonders, her expression torn between being annoyed with you waking her up and actually worrying about what's happening.

"That we're all dead if we don't hurry up, all right? Take this and go downstairs." You command, your voice giving no room for argument as you shove the bundle into the blonde's hands. You shoulder past her and over to Wriggle, and you grab the antennae'd girl by the shoulders. "I need you to go up to the second floor and alert anyone up there that a big storm's going to hit." You tell her, looking the kid straight in the eye. "Get them down to the basement as fast as you can."

She opens her mouth and clicks it back shut when you let her go. "What about you?" She asks as you go grab your sweater.

"I'm going to round up everyone on this floor, that's what." You say as you pull the shirt over your head. "Get moving, and I'll join you soon."

"Y'alright." Rumia agrees, before she floats outside with your equipment in tow. Wriggle follows soon after her. You wait a few seconds for them to get out of the way before you head out as well.

Okay, looking both ways you've got about twenty-odd doors to go through before you've cleared out this floor of anyone who's still sleeping. You move up to the door opposite your own and loudly bang your fist on it.

"Shit's going bad! Get downstairs!" You yell, and move on to the next door without waiting for a reply. You catch sight of your two girls hustling to their respective floors as you continue shouting your alarms, so you put your full attention on this current task. As you bang on the next door in line, the first one opens up and a cross-looking young man pokes his head out.

"Gods be good, what's up with all the racket?" He snarls as you continue your rounds. You whirl around and give him your best murderous glare.

"Get downstairs or you're going to die." You growl out, pointing down the hall. Your homicidal look is enough to cow the boy into submission as he backs away from you and retreats down the hallway. As you go down the hall, you manage to wake up about half a dozen more people in total, and shortly thereafter they're all moving to the (hopeful) safety of the basement. When you bust out into the lobby again, you spot the small rabbit-girl peeking out from underneath a blanket on her chair.

"What's all the fuss?" She asks, bleary-eyed, and you detour for a moment to head over to her and firmly plant your hands on the desk.

"Huge freakin' storm, that's what." You tell her, and then gesture down the hallway. "You know where everyone's at in this place, so get them downstairs as fast as you can, all right?" You waste no more time in explaining further as you pull a one-eighty and storm out through the front entrance.

As you skid to a halt and kneel down to retrieve your dropped pistol, you make a note of just how much closer that crimson pillar of death has gotten. It's still a fair ways off, but as you try to gauge how fast it's growing it envelops a flock of birds. You wince as they immediately drop out of the sky.

...You'd give yourself five minutes, at best, before it gets here. Time to move.

You snatch your fallen sidearm and flee back inside. As you retreat back down the hall, you spy Wriggle leading a small group of people down the stairs, while the receptionist is busy checking some of the doors you missed. You leave her to it as you bound towards the stairs, and by the time you get there everyone in Wirggle's party has already gotten downstairs. You descend the steps two at a time and leap through the open door at the bottom.

Okay, so far so good. You look over the crowd in here and take a quick head-count, coming up with a good twenty or so people in here. This room is pretty large, so while things are crowded you've still got space to comfortably move around in.

Now that you're relatively safe, you allow yourself to relax some. Now you've just got to deal with the fact that you're taking cover inside a damn sex dungeon with a good two-dozen people, most of which are grumbling about why they just got woken up and hauled down here.

"Okay, we're all here." Your first rescue-ee asks, looking far more assured of himself now that he's surrounded by other people who also happen to be annoyed at their sudden wake-up. All eyes are on you right now. "You mind telling us just what's going on?"

"The whole village's going crazy outside since some mega-storm's coming." You tell him. "Looks like it's going to go and wreck things, so I figured I'd go around and tell folks before I got down here."

He blinks a few times at that, annoyance replaced by surprise. "Oh. Really?"

"Really." You assure him.

"Well, damn." He says, and now that you've explained things the crowd calms down.

The little bunny comes in leading a handful of bedraggled guests, and when the last one's in they shut the door behind them. You pay them no heed as you sight in on your two tiny friends, both of them huddling in a corner blessedly free of any sort of erotic ornamentation. Convienently, your blanket of supplies is right next to them, so you walk on over before someone has a misunderstanding about your personal property. The girls peer up at you as you cast your shadow over them.

"Sup?" You ask, shoving your hands into your pockets. Rumia cocks her head to the side, and Wriggle draws her legs up so that she can rest her chin on her knees.

"...You know, I expected your face to look a lot more horrible." Rumia finally says, seemingly unfazed by the threat of imminent doom hanging over everyone. "I thought you'd at least have loadsa scars or something."

"When I can just make them go away, why would I bother keeping them?" You reply, kneeling down to unwrap your makeshift goodie bag.

"You can do that?" She asks, eyebrows disappearing into her hair. Wriggle's intently watching the exchange.

"Sure thing." You say, and just to show off you pull out that Kolobok again. "This thing'll bring a man back from the brink of death if you keep it on him for about half an hour, for example."

"Neato." She remarks, leaning forward to inspect it more closely. Wriggle looks between the two of you and huffs.

"Why does she get to check it out first?" She asks, and you raise a finger.

"Because I like her better." You inform her. She gasps at that, covering her mouth in faux horror.

"Hey, you haven't even tried to kill me yet. She's already had you beat for a while." You tell her, and Rumia gives you a thumbs up for your explanation.

"So I've gotta try to kill you before you show me the cool toys?" Wriggle deadpans. Then she sniffs once, twice, and her nose wrinkles up. "Geez, when was the last time you took a bath?" She asks, giving you a bothered look.

"Not many chances to clean up back home unless you liked having your skin melt off." You admit, and then you store the Kolobok away before turning your attentions towards the rest of your equipment.

"Personal hygiene is the first step towards making a good meal for the locals." Rumia recites off-handedly.

"Is that so." You say distractedly as you pull your exosuit free from the pile. You spy a few odd looks from other people as you straighten the suit out, but after you look right back at them they find the rest of the room intensely fascinating.

"Ayup." Blondie continues, and you're a bit surprised she doesn't try to dog you for stealing her 'catchphrase'. She takes a look around the room while you're busy sifting through your inventory. "Yanno, I don't recognize half the things in here."

"In this room or in my equipment? If the first one, be thankful." You say, inspecting the suit more closely before you go put it on. The thing's suffered some abuse, but it's still in servicable condition. You'd like to get it repaired soon if you could help it.

"Bit of both. Like, there's this rubbery thing over there that I poked a few times 'fore Wriggle pulled me away. It just sorta flopped around, y'know?" She casually says as you start going through the motions of becoming a walking tank once again.

"If that was what I think it was, you're better off not knowing." You tell her, and then snarl as you hit a snag in getting the suit on.

"Looks like it's a pain to get that on." She remarks as she watches you battle with your suit. You're actually a bit thankful for the change of subject.

"You have no idea." You grunt, struggling with one damnably tempermental part of the armor. You look up at her and an idea strikes. "Here, help me with this, would you?"

"Pfff, can't be that hard!" She snorts as she hovers up to your back and tugs on something. Either she got really lucky or she secretly knows how to handle these suits from personal experience, because she gets it in one.

"I'll be go to hell, that worked!" You say, genuinely surprised at how easily she dealt with that little problem.

"See? Easy!" The kid tells you, sporting a cheeky little grin. You get the rest of the suit on before you shoot her a thumbs-up. You take a moment to grab both that Bubble and Kolobok and stick them in the artifact containers in your belt, just so you've got something actively healing you in case things go south.

Then the world above you explodes with a massive THOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

You knew it was coming, but there are some things that you just can't get over no matter how many times you hear them. The sudden crashing of a blowout declaring that it was going to kill you is one of them. You have no shame in admitting you flinched, given how most of the other people here just jumped like they saw the devil himself. Both girls are covering their heads and cowering, but you can't blame them for it. You, meanwhile, hastily go through the rest of your equipment and pack it all away now while you still have the chance to do so.

Fortunately, you're safely entrenched down here that the blowout's impotent against you, but the world's still shaking like a mild earthquake's going on. More concerning is that you hear the telltale sounds of the building above crumbling to pieces outside the door. It goes on for a few seconds before you notice some very worrying cracks snaking through the roof. On top of that, the lights go off and leave you completely blind.

The room explodes in a cacophony of noise as people start to panic, but you force your anxiety down as you plot out what you're going to do. You switch your night-vision on, and curse as all it does is add a purple overlay to the pitch-blackness you're in. Fortunately, you still have your flashlight, and with a quick flick of a switch you've got a bright cone of light coming from your head.

"I'm checking the door!" You call out before you cautiously move to the doorway. You open it up and are greeted by the sight of the entire stairwell having caved in. Things have collapsed in just the right way to let a little bit of light stream in from outside, luckily for you. As you peer out the gap, you can see lightning flashing everywhere across the blood-red sky. You promptly shut the door and turn to face your captive audience.

"Okay, we may be trapped." You inform them, clasping your hands together.

The rooms explodes in a cacophony of questions, curses, and general chaos.

"Shaddup!" You bark, raising a fist into the air. People quiet down for a second.

"Look, we're still safe down here." You continue, more levelly now that you don't need to shout. "That storm can't reach us, and it can't last forever. Once it calms down, we're going to try and shift the rubble out of the way."

You push through the crowd and make your way back to the girls, the better to take a seat by the wide-eyed kids. The earthshaking intensifies, but you soldier through it without stumbling.

"This is something that you're used to?" Wriggle asks, shielding her eyes from your flashlight as you look down at the two.

"When they happen every day, you're damn right." You reply, turning around and sitting between the two girls. You toss an arm around each girl and pull them close to you.

"Hm?" Rumia questions, and you lean your head back against the wall instead of answering.

"Want me to be honest with you?" You ask them after a few seconds pass.

"Shoot." Wriggle acknowledges, and you sigh.

"We're actually in quite a bit of danger." You admit. "On the plus side, I'm planning on using the both of you to shield me in case the ceiling falls down on us."

"I will punch you." Wriggle tells you, voice grimly serious. You chuckle, but your planned rebuttal is cut off when you look up at the ceiling and take note of how the cracks in the roof have spread into a veritable spiderweb.

"Oh, that's not good." You flatly state, and as the cracks spread out through the ceiling you pull your two little friends closer to you. Everyone else in the room's taken notice of it, too, thanks to you shining light on it; they're wise enough to take as much cover as is possible in this room's confines.

"I've never had an entire building fall down on me before." Wriggle casually says, stoic in the face of what seems to be your impending doom. "It'll be a learning experience, I guess."

"Hey, Sasha?" Rumia quietly asks as she squeezes your hand. "I'm not worried 'bout myself, but, uh, whaddya say your odds are if everything comes down?"

"I've been through worse." You tell her, and it's seemingly enough to quell her concerns as she falls quiet. You take one last deep breath, and all at once the ceiling gives way.

Everyone else starts yelling in panic, but all you do is mutter a quiet "Oh, hell." before you hug the girls as tightly as you can. When the rubble hits you, everything goes black.

-----
>> No. 163570
Good half-update as always. I wasn't expecting quite that many occupants. Wouldn't most people have homes? Or are they long-term residents?

We sort of saved them. I guess.
>> No. 163572
We need a serious Kappa-upgrade.

So, what are the odds that Reimu's going to come looking for us to 'talk?'
>> No. 163576
>>163572
Pretty low? He hasn't done anything that warrants Reimu's "attention." She'll definitely investigate the blowout, but it seems more likely that she'll touch base with Akyu, who met up with Gijko, before tracking down the weirdo in the huge suit.

Wait a minute. It's Reimu. She'll go for the weirdo first.
>> No. 163742
This is actually an Emission? or "just" a storm as he described?
>> No. 163751
>>163742
>As you peer out the gap, you can see lightning flashing everywhere across the blood-red sky.
>> No. 164209
File 135755198227.jpg - (69.57KB , 710x600 , 2bddb6f34be25bd6e1a156b0ced7c17e.jpg ) [iqdb]
164209
As Sasha and co. are currently out of action, it's time for someone completely different!

-----

You are now Gijko, and you are currently running for your life.

"Oh man, oh boy, oh man," You ramble, sprinting as fast as your legs can carry you. You glance over your shoulder, and flinch at the sight of that red wall of death closing in on you. You round a corner and spy people streaming into a stone building roughly fifty meters down the street. It looks like a serviceable shelter, so you change your course towards it. You cover half the distance moving like an Olympic sprinter, but then your foot catches on a discarded piece of trash and you stumble.

"Of all the times for people to drop their crap." You grumble beneath your breath as you get your momentum back. Your Geiger counter starts going ballistic as the blowout overtakes you, and you somehow manage to run even faster with it urging you on. Lightning crashes through the red sky above you, and-

ohgodithurts

You're flat on your back before you know what hit you. Your brain is scrambled for a few seconds while you try to process this new source of immense pain coursing through your body, but then it catches up with you that a frickin' bolt of lightning just arced out of the sky and gave you what for. Your suit was never meant to take a hit like that, but the fact that you're still conscious and breathing is enough to tell you it still took a good chunk of the blow. You manage to lift your head up to look around before tragically discovering that your strength has fled you, the traitorous bastard. You stare up at the red sky and make one last gargantuan effort to raise your hand.

"Fuck you too." You curse as you flip God off. Your arm slumps against the ground, and you can feel yourself already weakening from the onslaught of radiation pounding into you.

"Ow, ow, agh, sonuvabitch!" A woman roars, and all of a sudden you're looking up at an angel with the most brilliantly white hair you've ever seen. You hastily amend your previous statement at God as she hauls you over her shoulder and flees towards the shelter. Everything goes dark once you're inside, and you jolt in your perch as she pounds down a dark stairwell. As you descend, you catch sight of a metallic trap door. When the two of you hit level ground she pauses and props you up against a wall.

"Don't move, gotta lock us in." She growls, storming back upstairs as you slide down into a crouch.

"Aaaaargh." You groan, a new wave of pain pushing through you as you look down at your suit. There's a big-ass scorch mark where you got zapped, but amazingly enough that's all the damage there seems to be. You blink away unbidden tears, thankful that your mask conceals at least that much from all the prying eyes now upon you.

"Piss off." You wearily tell them, and the crowd has the decency to sheepishly turn their attentions elsewhere.

Now that you're not in any immediate danger, you're able to take in the sight around you. You're in the main chamber of an emergency shelter that somewhat reminds you of one of the underground labs back in the Zone, although this one's thankfully lacking the bowel-loosening horrors usually contained in such places. It looks completely at odds with the rest of the village's aesthetic, but as long as it's keeping you and the huddling masses alive you couldn't care any less about how it clashes.

You run your hands over your mask and inhale deeply as the emission above tears the world a new one. You're deep enough underground that it's not shaking things around, and while you can still hear it clearly it's something you can easily tune out.

"Christ, I was actually in that." You say, and weakly chuckle with relief. You pry the mask loose and lay it aside, taking in the fresh air with a breathe of pleasure. Your hand darts into a pocket, and you withdraw both a pack of smokes and a lighter. Just as you go to light it, descending footsteps bring your attention upwards and you look eye to blood-red eye with your rescuer.

Well, for one, it should be physically impossible for her hair to be both that white and that long. The stuff goes down to her ankles, fer chrissakes. And while you're on the subject of legs, what must've gone through her head when she got those red suspenders? Why would she put bits of paper on them? At least her overshirt's nice and white and respectable.

Then you remind yourself she just saved your ass, and shove your complaints aside.

"The hell you lookin' at?" She grumbles, giving you the stink-eye. You wordlessly proffer a cigarette to the haggard woman as your reply. She stares at you for a moment before snatching the tobacco and lighting it with a burst of flame from a fingertip. You blink a few times as she puffs away, not entirely sure how to react to that display of pyrotechnics.

"You know, I can't help but wonder about something." You begin, hoping that the burst of nicotine's salved her spirits. She favors you with a raised brow. "Just how much hair conditioner do you go through?"

She looks up at the ceiling and takes a massive drag of the tobacco. A few seconds later, she exhales a ridiculous amount of smoke and stubs the stick out on the ground, and turns her attentions back to you.

"It's just naturally this silky-smooth." She says, giving her hair a casual flip to demonstrate. "Because magic, I think. I'm sure as hell not complaining."

"Lucky lady." You admire, sticking a new cigarette in the corner of your mouth. You pause to light it up before you continue. "Now, how the hell did you survive going out in that bl- storm?" You swap words at the last second, not keen on revealing your knowledge just yet. Her eyes narrow at the slip up, and you curse internally.

"I just waded on through. Stung like a bitch, I tell you what." She says, thankfully not pressing you further. She withdraws her own pack of smokes from a hitherto unseen pocket.

"So you went out there with no protection and yet you're able to shrug it off." You wonder aloud; she defers answering in favor of sliding a cigarette out of the pack and lighting it up with another burst of flame.

"I'm pretty much invincible, yeah." She explains, stuffing the container away as she takes another drag of tobacco.

"...Really." You flatly say, and she nods. You blink a few times as that runs through your head. "I guess you'd have to be." You admit, and for the next few moments the two of you bask in the simple pleasure of smoking.

"Gijko? When did you get here?" A new voice asks, and the both of you look at the arrival.

"I could say the same for you, 'Kyuu." You greet, waving at this girl with hair and eyes that, somehow, are naturally purple. Even her robes follow the same color scheme, and the flower in her hair? Yep, purple. Looking at her brings to mind a grape, which is something you're going to keep to yourself since it's not an especially flattering comparison.

Akyuu no Hieda, or 'Kyuu', as you referred to her, glances between the two of you with curiosity plain as day on her face.

"I see you've already run into Mokou." She says, a hand reaching up to adjust the flower in her hair.

"You know this guy?" Mokou questions, a brow raised.

"Ran into her yesterday." You explain. "We talked about work, where I could find a place to stay, and how irresistibly sexy I am." You toss that last part in just to see how she'd react. Akyuu's expression remains calm, but you can see a spark of mischief dance in her eyes.

"I didn't know I had a thing for mysterious masked men until he came into my life." She concurs, not missing a beat.

"Yeah, that happens." You casually add. "Everywhere I go, women get mask fetishes. It's a crippling social problem."

Akyuu chimes in by waggling her eyebrows in such a scandalous fashion you feel violated just looking at her. Mokou's cigarette slips out of her mouth, that gesture apparently the last straw.

"...You're screwing with me, aren't you." She eventually states, giving the two of you a bemused look.

"What, us? Nooohohohoh. Nope. Not at all." You lie, making a grand sweeping motion with your hands.

"Points for effort, but that was a bit too over the top." She judges.

"Okay, yeah, you got me." You admit with a shrug.

"It's not every day I get a chance to pull one over on the infamous Miss Fujiwara, after all." Akyuu tells her, a smile playing across her features. She turns her attentions towards you and favors your suit with a critical eye. "Now, if I had to guess, you were just struck by lightning."

"Ring a ding, got it in one! So how're you doing, little lady?" You say, taking one last drag of your cigarette before snuffing it out against the floor. Mokou gives the both of you an indecipherable look before she plucks her cigarette out and exhales a plume of smoke.

"Well enough, even with what's happening right now. How are you still alive?" Akyuu asks, immediately redirecting the conversation back to you. You rub your chin as you think.

"I got no frickin' clu- waitasecond." You say, realization striking you as you reach into your belt pockets. You withdraw the Flash artifact you'd clipped there, given to you as a loaner by another Stalker so you could pick through a field of Electros for artifacts instead of him.

Of course, that little raid ended up with you crash landing here in the 'Soak, so for now he's shit outta luck.

"Sumbitch, I guess this little baby took a bit of the hit for me." You say, and hold it up higher for the two to see.

"Ain't seen anything like that before." Mokou notes, but Akyuu's the one who leans in to get a better look at the blue sphere. Electricity arcs around inside the semi-transparent ball, and to your sudden horror you remember that the Flash needs to discharge after taking a big hit. You fling the ball away just in time as the thing explodes in a miniaturized storm of electricity. It smashes into a wall and bounces off, sparks flying around it for a few seconds more before they peter out.

"Ace reflexes." Mokou notes with approval, even as she stubs her latest cigarette out.

"Fascinating." Akyuu adds, intently studying the artifact for any further outbursts. You scoop it up and gingerly return it to your belt.

"...Anyway, I couldn't help but notice you swapped words earlier when talking about this 'storm'." Mokou waves a hand at the ceiling. "Something beginning with a bluh, if I remember it right."

"Really?" Akyuu concurs. "If you know anything about this, it'd be helpful."

"Isn't this a lot of questions for a guy who nearly got his ass killed, fellas?" You half-jokingly ask. Akyuu blushes a tad at that little needling, but Mokou just snorts.

"You took a bolt full on the chest earlier and you're worrying about your ass? Ugh, men." She says, and rolls her eyes.

"It's a mighty fine ass, if you ask me!" You say, affecting a wounded tone. You open your mouth to continue further, but a sudden lack of apocalyptic noise above you jars your thoughts loose.

"It's over already?" Mokou asks, brows risen. "Figured it'd last a little longer."

"They usually do." You wonder. "Now, if what usually happens after a blowout still applies here..."

The white-haired woman gives you a very smug look. Akyuu, meanwhile, looks completely out of the loop.

"...I let that slip, didn't I." You sigh, applying your palm to your face. You peek out at the two between your fingers, and Mokou's resting her chin on a fist, giving you a knowing smirk.

"Aaaayup." She confirms, and you groan.

"Okay, yeah, this was a blowout, you got me." You grumble.

"I'm lost. What's a blowout?" Akyuu asks.

"Oh, just daily emissions of hatred from the center of the Zone." You elaborate.

Now it's Mokou's turn to be confused. "The hell's a Zone?"

"All you really need to know is that it's a place that hates everyone, and if it's spilling over into here then we're in deep shit." You explain, and pull yourself to your feet.

"Where d'you think you're going?" Mokou asks, standing as well. She's got at least a head on Akyuu, now that you can compare the two accurately.

"I need to check and see how bad things are up top." You say, grabbing your mask and inspecting it.

"In that case, count me in." Mokou declares. Akyuu nods.

"I've nothing better to do." The kid admits.

"Well, then, let's go!" You order, and don your gas-mask before heroically ascending the stairs.

At least, you try to heroically ascend the stairs. What actually happens is that you make it a few steps up before your vitality nips off for a smoke break and leaves you breathless from sudden pain.

"Okay, maybe gimme a sec." You wheeze, and you stick a hand in your medical pouch as you plunk your ass down on the steps. The two women watch you with concern as you withdraw an orange medical kit and open it up.

"Medical supplies?" Akyuu asks, leaning over to inspect the little box.

"Yeah. This is some good shit, lemme tell ya." You conversationally say as you roll up a sleeve and grab a syringe from the kit. You promptly inject yourself and lean back as the cocktail of drugs work their magic. One nice thing about the Zone is that all the artifacts that Stalkers have smuggled out have lead to leaps and bounds in all the sciences, including medical. Even a basic medkit like this puts most conventional first aid supplies to shame.

"Now we can get going." You announce, newfound vigor flowing through your body as you leap to your feet and charge up the stairs, very nearly bowling the two women over as you surge past them.

It takes you a little while before you get to the top of the stairwell and exit into a lobby. Nothing really stands out here after you give it a sweep with your flashlight, so you head for the main entrance. You're stopped in your tracks by the sight ahead of you once you exit the building, and you're soon joined by your two fellow explorers. The three of you stare as the street is lit up by electricity dancing around in a pocket of ground.

Also of note is that while things are as dark as a normal night in the area surrounding the village, off in the distance surrounding you the skies are still red and the blowout is still raging. It seems to be expanding outwards in the form of a ring, far as you can tell.

"The hell?" Mokou says, visibly bewildered, and you refocus on the anomaly at hand.

"Nobody move." You order, withdrawing a bolt from a pocket. You fling the metal bit out ahead of you, and the moment it touches earth a miniaturized electric storm bursts to life. Akyuu's eyes light up with a scientific curiosity as lightning shoots around within a man-sized sized circle of space. The light show goes on for the span of roughly a second before it finishes as abruptly as it started.

"Fuckin' A." You grumble, taking a step forward and turning back to face your two squaddies. You fling your arms out and drop them to your side in exasperation.

"That thing, ladies, is an anomaly." You tell them, heading off the obvious question. "It's one of the shittiest shits to ever grace God's green earth. And where there's one, you can bet your ass there's going to be more."

"How many we talking about?" Akyuu asks, an intense look to her features.

"If we're lucky, just this one. If we're realistic, they're going to be everywhere that blowout hit, which seems to be everything." You say, and gesture towards the red skies in the distance. Her brows furrow at this new information.

"...The potential for collateral damage is staggering." She worriedly notes. Mokou spits in disgust at this newfound information.

"Damn straight. Still, as long as you're careful and don't run around like an idiot, they're easy enough to avoid." You say, and just like that your detector starts to beep more rapidly. You blink as a bubble of distorted space visibly moves down the street, pulsing as it passes your party by.

"I'd reckon that there's another anomaly." Mokou states, showing an astounding grasp of the obvious.

"Out of curiosity, what manner of horrible death would that inflict on us?" Akyuu adds.

"No, no, I think those just teleport people." You say.

Just to prove your point, a human shape pops out of the bubble. You focus your flashlight on the man to reveal a Stalker in a torn-up SEVA suit. Despite the reflective face-plate obscuring his head, you're pretty sure you recognize the suit's markings. He bends over and pants heavily, hands on his knees.

"German, man, that you?" You hazard, and he looks up in surprise. He limps over to you, and up close you can see he's bleeding fairly heavily from a bunch of claw marks spread across his suit, and also OH SHIT HE'S GOT YOU BY THE NECK

"Run."
He snarls, and then he lets you go in favor of hobbling down the street like a man possessed. Mokou scratches her head in bemusement at the sight.

"Now what was that about, I wonder?" Akyuu asks, brows risen.

Something else pops out of the space bubble, and as you shine your light on it your hair stands on end. It's a large dog-like creature with mottled brown skin, but the two human-shaped heads it sports shatter any illusion this might be a normal animal. Four eyes glare at your group with malevolent intelligence.

"I suppose that answers my previous question." The flower child amends, eyes wide as dinner plates.

"Chimera!" You cry out, drawing your shotgun free as the monster looses a blood-curdling roar.

"Yeah, okay, I'm lighting that bitch up." Mokou growls, right before she spontaneously combusts. You don't even spare her a second glance as you take aim at the mutant, and two rapid presses of the trigger unleashes both barrels. You see the shots hit, but the buckshot only seems to make the thing angrier.

It leaps through the air with far more grace than befits such a horrible creature, and your blood chills as the mutant soars past you. Akyuu makes an admirable effort to juke out of the way, but the mutant clips her side as she tries to dodge. There's an audible CRACK of bone snapping, and the kid hits the dirt with a whimper.

You load another pair of shells into the shotgun's chamber as the Chimera rounds on you, but before it can pounce again Mokou dive-tackles it. The beast roars in fury as the two tumble across the ground in a fireball, fires spreading from the pyromaniac and onto the mutant even as she's pummeling the ever-loving shit out of the thing. While it's distracted, you hustle over to Akyuu

The girl's ashen-faced as you kneel down and look her over, her breath coming out in ragged spurts. Her side's oozing blood, jagged claw marks on her robe giving a hint as to the cause, and her arm's bent at an unnatural angle. You set your shotgun aside as you rummage around your medical bag for bandages.

"I know it's not much consolation, but you're in really good condition for someone who got winged by a mutant that can flip cars over." You conversationally say, and she blinks away tears.

"What's a car supposed to be?" She whispers as you withdraw a roll of medical tape. You quickly set to applying it while Mokou keeps the Chimera busy.

"Is now the best time to be asking things like that?" You question, making sure to be as delicate as possible given the fight going on right behind you.

"Maybe no-ahahahow." The kid hisses as you tighten the bandages. She's got surprising fortitude to not be crying her head off, you'll give her that.

"Okay, that should keep you steady for now." You assure her. She grits her teeth and pulls herself up to a sitting position while you turn to face the ongoing brawl behind you. You're just in time to see one of the monster's claws dart upwards and oh God it just clawed Mokou's head clean off. Blood sprays through the air as she slumps down atop the Chimera, her head rolling off into the darkness. As the animal dislodges the dead weight atop it you snatch your shotgun up and take aim.

Mokou managed to follow through on her promise to light the mutant up, seeing as it's now fully ablaze. Unfortunately, all that seemed to do was piss it off more. As it scrambles to its feet you unload two more shells into it, eliciting a synchronized howl from both of its heads.

"Aw, shit." You curse, sweat dripping down your face as you break the gun's chamber open and slam another pair of shells in. You think it's about time for a change of tactics, because this is definitely not working out.

-----

[X] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.

[X] A Chimera is tough and incredibly strong, but they're predictable. In an open space, you'll be able to easily sidestep any pounces while still being able to pepper it with shot.

[X] It can't leap at you if you close in to melee range! That just leaves the problem of dodging its claws, but you're fast enough that you should be able to dance around it.

[X] A different course of action entirely! (write-in)
>> No. 164217
[X] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.

Any moment now Mokou should be reviving. Pretty nice Akyuu; hopefully she'll make it through this.
>> No. 164234
[x] Grab Akyuu and run.
>> No. 164245
[X] A Chimera is tough and incredibly strong, but they're predictable. In an open space, you'll be able to easily sidestep any pounces while still being able to pepper it with shot.

I was skeptical about the change in viewpoint, but this is really working for me.

The 'Soak. Heh. Love it.

Also, Bravo on not making Gensokyans simply overpower anything they come across. Really makes the chimera come across as a deadly threat.
>> No. 164249
[x] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.
German had the right idea.
>> No. 164261
>>164209

[X] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.

In an interesting stalker related coincidence, I was reading Roadside Picnic when I took an internet break to check up on thp.
>> No. 164288
[X] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.

With a bit of luck we can use the electric anomaly for cover, and maybe even get the chimera to electrocute itself for us.
And, if nothing else, Mokou will be back soon and ready for Round 2.
It'll be fun to see Gijiko's reaction. Especially since pretty much everyone important (i.e. Akyuu in this case) already knows that she's immortal and used to it.
>> No. 164297
[†] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.
>> No. 164298
I don't care what characters you write, just keep writing. This shit's great.

[X] It can't leap at you if you close in to melee range! That just leaves the problem of dodging its claws, but you're fast enough that you should be able to dance around it.

If he's carrying Akyuu, he won't be able to dodge when the flaming beast leaps for his back. If he concentrates on dodging its pounces, it'll go after Akyuu. I think. Are they smart enough to do that? Doesn't matter, running has all but won anyway.
>> No. 164299
[X] You're up against a creature that eats buckshot like candy. Fortunately, you don't need to fight it. Grab Akyuu and run, letting the fire do the job for you.

Not giving that thing a chance to get the child.
>> No. 164301
Holy shit the status quo just got... blown out.

[X] A Chimera is tough and incredibly strong, but they're predictable. In an open space, you'll be able to easily sidestep any pounces while still being able to pepper it with shot.
>> No. 164302
File 135768393758.jpg - (20.81KB , 327x224 , YEAAAAOOFFFF.jpg ) [iqdb]
164302
>>164245

No tension in having the ladies just win everything without effort, y'know?

>>164301

>see picture

Well, anyway, it looks like voting's solidly in favor of going on a Rescue Run, so that's what we're gonna do. No clue on how long it'll take me to write it, but with any luck it won't be almost another month.
>> No. 164304
[x] A Chimera is tough and incredibly strong, but they're predictable. In an open space, you'll be able to easily sidestep any pounces while still being able to pepper it with shot.
>> No. 164362
[X] A Chimera is tough and incredibly strong, but they're predictable. In an open space, you'll be able to easily sidestep any pounces while still being able to pepper it with shot.
>> No. 164390
File 13579825834.jpg - (114.22KB , 950x685 , one ugly motherfucker.jpg ) [iqdb]
164390
Writing late into the night and working past annoying colds, it's STALKER time!

-----

You briefly consider firing on the Chimera yet again, but then the efficiency of your previous attacks comes into question.

"Noooope!" You yelp, holstering the shotgun even as you spin on your heel and move for Akyuu. You scoop the wounded girl up in a bridal carry and HAUL ASS.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God," She breathes out, having a perfect view over your shoulder and of the mutant you can hear chasing after you. And also her arm's kinda bouncing around in a way that it shouldn't, which is both disgusting and distracting. You blitz around the nearby Electro, hoping to lure the monster into it and save you the trouble. You skid to a halt and turn to face it, only to see the thing soar over the anomaly and directly at you.

"Ho shit." You exhale, and strafe just in time for the monster to soar past the spot you'd previously occupied.

"Okay that's not working time to go." You utter in the span of a second, and charge ahead while the mutant reorients itself. All the blood has rushed from your cargo's face, most likely from utter terror seeing as you already bandaged her up. You thought you moved fast when you were chased by that earlier blowout, but you're getting a unique sort of rush from Super-Kujo's pursuit.

"Uh, shit, I'm kinda busy not tripping over myself, so if you could tell me when he jumps that'd be great!" You order Akyuu, too busy to look for yourself.

"Well it's a good thing you asked because now!" She shrieks, and you strafe out of the way just in time for the monster to soar past and hit the ground skidding. Were you given any time to think, you'd have gone through a complicated series of calculations on which way would get you out of here with all your bits intact. But, since you don't have that time to think, your mind promptly decides that the way out is through.

"OH GOD WHAT AM I DOING" You bellow, and you jump straight at the chimera. It snaps at you, barely missing as your foot touches down on its back, and your suit's legs are singed by the fires licking away at the creature. You springboard off it with your next step, flying several meters through the air before you hit the ground running, your entire body shaking from a massive adrenaline rush as your heart beats fast enough to power the Moscow Metro. The chimera snarls and pounds after you once again, and you wish it'd just get the hint and burn to death already what is its deal.

"Why did that work." Akyuu blankly asks, but you keep your mouth shut because your breath is already starting to hitch. She's not even that heavy, but a teenage girl still weighs a hell of a lot for a man who's running for his life. You cover a good hundred meters with the chimera in hot pursuit before your anomaly detector starts to beep again and SHIT EVERYTHING IS FIRE

Your rapid movement is the only thing that kept you and Akyuu from getting more than a bit toasted by the pillar of flames suddenly shooting up into the sky, and you leave the burning tower behind you as it flails around in a manner that wouldn't be out of place at a rave.

"Fuckin' anomalies, gimme a break." You curse as you continue to beat feet down the road.

"It feels like I just got a very thorough tan." Akyuu breathlessly says, a sense of wonder to her tone even as she keeps watch on the monster pursuing you. "Aaaand it just ran through the fire like it wasn't even there." She adds, still too hung up on her near-broiling to actually be scared.

"Aw, shit," You pant, looking around for any place to lose the horror monster chasing you. Quite a few of the buildings are wrecked from the blowout, and they're packed tightly enough together that there's few alleys you could slip into.

"Incoming!" The girl warns, and you execute a magnificent twirl out of the mutie's way. You're barely fast enough that it flies past mere centimeters from you, and a bit of flame licks at your suit. The creature lands and rounds on you with impressive speed, but it pauses to howl.

Then Mokou executes a flaming elbow drop from orbit.

"Awesome!" Akyuu cheers, pumping a fist as the human fireball smacks elbow-first straight into one of the Chimera's heads, and there's an audible SNAP.

God above as your witness, that woman just broke a chimera's neck with a wrestling maneuver.

"GOTCHA, BITCH!" She roars, immediately grappling the mutant and trying to get its remaining head in a choke hold. The creature has none of it, however, and it voices its displeasure by biting her hand off.

Naturally, instead of being shocked by this grievous maiming like any normal person, she headbutts the beast.

"Holy God, what." You exhale, your earlier terror-rush giving way to intense amazement as you observe the rematch of the century.

"Yeah maybe a little help would be nice!" She calls out, and you shake free from the reverie you were in. You suppose you should lend a hand, because now that the surprise has faded the chimera's putting up a hell of a fight. Besides, it just wouldn't be cool if it decapitated Mokou again.

"Be right back, 'Kyuu." You whisper as you kneel to set her down. She grasps you by the sleeve with her working arm and shakes you.

"Give 'em one for me!" She urges, and that simple request sends a jolt of newfound energy coursing through you as you leap to your feet. You pull your knife free and yell wordlessly, and both woman and beast pause in surprise at the sight of you barreling in on them. The shock only lasts for all of the second it takes you to arrive, but that's long enough for you to ram the blade hilt-deep into the chimera's remaining head.

"Eat that shit!" You scream, wrenching the blade back and forth to inflict maximum trauma, and as the beast goes limp you feel incredibly badass. Then you realize that while stabbing a flaming chimera to death is awesome, it's also a bad idea because oh fuck oh piss you're wearing fingerless gloves that's right ow.

Mokou hops off the mutant and scoops up her severed hand, grimacing as she sticks the bit back on her wrist. You, meanwhile, rip your mask off and frantically blow on your singed digits.

"That worked out pretty well, all things considered." She says as you suck on your fingers. After the pain subsides, you sheathe your knife and shoot her a thumbs up.

"Your entrance was fuckin' awesome." You tell her, and she visibly preens at the praise. "Now I'm just wondering what the deal is with you being, y'know, alive. What with the decapitation and all."

"I'm invincible, remember?" She says, shooting you a cocky grin. You whistle.

"I was kinda skeptical before, but now you've convinced me." You say, impressed.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool sometimes." She admits. "Now what the hell was that thing, anyway?"

"Mutant from the Zone." You tell her, and she nods as if this explains everything.

"Your world kinda sucks, doesn't it?" She asks.

"Sorry to interrupt but this kinda freakin' hurts." Akyuu calls out, and you're reminded of her predicament.

"Oh shit that's right." You exhale, pulling out that medkit you'd previously used earlier as you trot on over to the kid.

"Don't tell me you used up all the good stuff already." She groans, but you procure another syringe from the kit and twirl it among your fingers.

"You're gonna need some professional aid, but this is a good first step towards mending things." You inform her, right before you stab the little syrette into her wrist.

"Ffffffffff-oh wait this is actually pretty nice." She says, sounding surprised as the painkillers course through her.

"Give it a bit and you'll be feeling nothing at all!" You assure her as you stand up. Your eyes are drawn back to where those flames scorched you.

"Now you two just hold on a second, I'll be right back." You tell the two women, and you march with purpose towards the anomaly. You stop a good five meters away from it and reattach your mask to shield your face from the heat before you withdraw your Bear artifact detector. Flipping the device's cover open activates it, and green lights appear on the display pointing straight ahead.

"Score." You whisper, grinning. You swap the device to your off-hand and take a careful step forward. Sparks of fire dance up from the ground, as if floating from an invisible campfire, and you can feel a mild amount of heat caressing you. Another step forward, and the heat ramps up to uncomfortable levels. The detector still points you straight ahead, so you cautiously advance another meter. It's getting swelteringly hot now, and beads of sweat run down your forehead. You inch ahead just a little more, and the heat feels as if you'd been shoved into a live furnace. Space distorts at your feet, and from nothing a red eyeball-shaped artifact comes into existence. You reach down and grab it, and then AGH FUCK IT LIT UP

You recoil backwards, artifact in hand, as the Burner activates. You hastily backpedal away as the pillar of fire dances around, and once you're far enough that the heat has subsided you take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. The heat inside your mask is still like an oven, so you stow the Bear detector away before you pry the mask off and return it to your pack. And then you keep sweating, so you grumble and pull your balaclava off as well. Cool air washes over your face, and it feels damn fine. After a few moments thought, you add the other mask to your pack as well, intent on enjoying the night air.

You bring your prize up to your face so you could take a better look at it, and you recognize it as an Eye. You feel pretty safe in assuming that the Stalker who came up with the name for this one was not a very creative man. Anyway, your geiger counter is ticking slightly, but even despite the radiation coming from the artifact you find yourself feeling rejuvenated as you hold it in your hands.

"You know you could have just asked me to go in there, right?" Mokou asks from behind you, almost making you jump. Fortunately, you reign yourself in and turn around like a normal person, and find yourself face-to-face with both ladies in your entourage.

"Unless you wanted to get extra-crispy, I don't think so." You reply, and she looks at you like you're an idiot.

"Did you not see all the times I set myself on fire?" She says, disbelief in her voice.

Oh. Wait, shit, that's right.

"Now I feel like a retard." You complain, but then you shoot the artifact in your hand another look. "Still, I think this is worth it."

"That's not going to just combust out of nowhere, is it?" Akyuu asks, giving it an inquisitive look. She's surprisingly calm for someone with an arm bent all wrong like it is, although that's probably because of those painkillers you nailed her with.

"No, but what it does do is, to quote the eggheads, 'rapidly accelerate the body's natural healing processes'." You say, and offer it to her. She blinks with surprise and reaches out for it with her good arm, but pauses.

"You're sure you want to give this to me?" She questions, giving you an uncertain look. You smack your hand against your face.

"No, I went and almost charred myself back there just so I could dangle this in front of your nose like a fuckin' asshole." You state, sarcasm rolling off you in waves. "Of course it's for you, y'dope."

Despite your crass language, she graciously accepts the gift.

"So... what do I do with it?" She asks, idly turning it over in her hand as she looks up at you.

"Keep it pressed against your skin and you'll be right as rain in an hour or two." You inform her, even as you withdraw a plastic container of radiation-killing pills. "However, it's also a bit radioactive, so after your arm's fixed you need to take some of these. If you don't, you'll get pretty sick and then die. Probably."

"Probably?" She flatly asks.

"Just make sure to take the pills." You tell her. Then, looking over her shoulder, you squint at the night sky.

Everything's dark again, the moon providing merely adequate light to see by. No sight of red skies anywhere, so that must mean the blowout finished up during your mad little chase. Just when you think everything's peaceful, however, the sound of cannon fire shatters the air. Both girls jump, but you remain rooted to your spot because you've just about had enough bullshit today that nothing else is going to startle you.

"Oh, what now?" You grumble. It can't be Sasha, because that guy's got himself one of those NATO assault rifles. As for German, the last time you saw him back in the Zone he was touting a silenced Vintorez sniper. That crosses those two out, which means you've got a new party with a gun so loud you'd wager it could break the sound barrier. Looking between the two in front of you, the only obvious choice comes to mind.

"I'll go check that out." You wearily declare, and move to stride past the duo when Mokou grabs you by the arm.

"Now hold on-" She starts, but you wrench free and stare her down.

"No, listen." You interrupt, your tone serious. "You think that chimera was the only mutant that's going to pop up here?"

"Why do you think-" She tries, but you flail your hand around at your surroundings.

"Because," You grind out. "it sure as hell isn't going to be the last. Now we had a hell of a time just dealing with that single chimera, which is why I'd like it if you could at least get Akyuu to safety."

"I'm mostly fine!" The kid protests, and you round on her.

"Now, yes. But you almost died a few minutes ago, and as long as you're out here it could still happen."

"What about you?" She questions, a hard edge to her expression. "It wasn't exactly like you were winning until Mokou showed up."

"Look, I know for a fact that I can outrun damn near anything that might go bump in the night here." You tell the two. "Just, please, listen to me and get somewhere safe. I don't want you getting hurt again, okay?"

"I... I suppose you're right." Akyuu deflates, and you gently place a hand on her unharmed shoulder.

"Thanks. I appreciate it." You tell her, smiling just a little. She looks back at the artifact in her hands as you turn your attentions to Mokou.

"Ugh." The combustible woman grunts, displeased. "I busted my ass getting you out of that blowout, so if you're going to run off into the dark at least try not to get yourself killed."

"That shouldn't be a problem. I like living." You casually tell her as you unsling your rifle. "Now, ladies, if that's all?"

"There is one thing." Akyuu quietly says, and you pause to turn on her.

"Ye-?" You begin, but then she stands on her tiptoes and plants a kiss right on your cheek.

"Thank you." She whispers, clasping the artifact close to her chest as she looks up at you, purple eyes twinkling in the moonlight as her face blushes a light shade of red.

"Uh." You intelligently say, your jaw slack as you blankly stare back. Mokou matches your expression for a second before she snaps out of it.

"Oh, get your ass moving already!" She urges, slapping you so hard on the back you stumble forward. You level out and spring into a run, newfound stamina coursing through your veins.

"Be careful!" Akyuu calls after you, concern lacing her voice. You keep running as a tumult of thoughts race through your head.

Christ, you entered the Zone to get rich and see action, so ending up having a teenage scholar crushing on you was not on the list of things you expected in the slightest.

More gunfire resounds through the night, shaking you from your thoughts and urging you onwards.

Soon enough you come to a halt in front of a building that doesn't look entirely unlike one of the Zone's Mobile Labs. This one has windows and is generally not as reinforced, but it still looks like a formidable piece of architecture. Speaking of those windows, most are cracked or outright broken, and blood is sprayed across one of the intact pieces of glass. Light flashes from inside the building as another pair of shots ring out through the air, and you cautiously advance towards the building's entrance.

The main door is pushed open just before you reach it, and out limps a purple-haired woman clad in a scientific lab coat and suit that were both once an immaculate white. The key-word being once, as the garments are now splattered with red and torn as if by dozens of tiny claws. You can't help but wince as you take in the sight of the blood trickling down from an astounding number of cuts spread across her entire body, but the sight of the 'fuck you and the town behind you' huge double-barreled sawn-off shotgun in her hands draws your attention.

Mostly because she's aiming it at you. You raise your weapon in kind.

"You here to fuck with my science, son?" She growls, menace coating her voice even as she unsteadily sways back and forth. "Because if you are, it'd behoove you to know that you're jack shit after what I've just dealt with."

"Bitch, you do not even want to go there." You growl, finger on the trigger. Her hands twitch, but then the door behind her creaks open again. As you adjust your aim to this new target, she spins around to fire at whatever was trying to sneak up on her. Her gun resounds with a BOOM not unlike a cannon shot, and giblets fly out the door from what the scientist just mulched.

You lower your weapon and whistle. "I will give you all of my rubles for that gun." You offer, a sudden burning desire to own such a beauty kindled in your heart.

"You could offer me the moon and I'd still tell you to piss off." She says, dashing your hopes mercilessly. Her grip on the weapon falters and she nearly collapses then and there, only just catching herself on the building's wall. Now that she's not pointing her hand cannon at your face you're feeling far more charitable.

"Y'want some bandages?" You ask, and holy Jesus she's up in your grill real fast.

"Man, I have so many cuts on me that when this heals up I'm going to have more scar tissue than regular tissue. What do you think?" She says, a dangerous glint in her eyes.

"Yeah okay I get it." You respond, procuring several rolls of bandages. "Go nuts." You tell her, and she greedily snatches the bundle from you before going to town with them.

"So, who do I have to thank for saving me from an ignoble death via blood-loss?" She questions, having laid her rifle aside in favor of wrapping up the worst of her cuts with the first roll of bandages.

"Name's Gijko, lady." You reply, checking your rifle over as she handles her first-aid. "Now who's this egghead in front of me who shotguns mutants and isn't afraid of anything?"

"Call me an egghead again and you're a dead man." She grunts, bandaging a nasty gash to her forehead. "Since you asked, though, it's Rikako."

"Pleasure to meet a scientist who can actually handle themselves for once." You tell her, resting your weapon on your shoulder. "Most of the ones I've met have been pansies."

"Most?"

"That's where you come in." You say. "Regular scientists in your position would usually, I dunno, die."

"Most scientists aren't as great as I am." She states, self-assured.

"I can see that." You say. Having dealt with the most pressing cuts, she stands up and sighs, her voice filled with disappointment.

"Bitches screwed up my tests." She grumbles, trying to wipe some blood off her and only succeeding at smearing it around some more.

"You were running experiments during that blowout?" You hazard, and her eyes light up.

"Damn right!" She proudly declares, thumping her chest. "I was just lucky to be working late in the first place. Managed to get some interesting atmospheric readings on that... you called it a blowout?"

"Ayup." You respond. But anyway, I'm sensing there's an 'and' to that story, somewhere." You venture. She nods again, looking rather annoyed.

"Well, like I was saying." She continues, and suddenly looks very annoyed. "This hole in the wall opened up, rats the size of my boots came pouring through it and wrecked most of my equipment while they tried to kill me. And that was just the first wave!" She explains, and she angrily scuffs up some dirt.

"And then there was whatever that thing you just blasted was." You add. She scoops her gun up and heads back to look at whatever she shot, and she wrinkles her nose at the sight.

"Ugly motherfucker." She grumbles, breaking the gun's chamber open and shoveling a pair of shells from her coat into it. "Although I suppose having your head blown open like that wouldn't do anyone any favors."

"So that's all of them?" You ask, looking around in case anything was lurking in the shadows.

"I'm pretty sure I got all of those bastards, yeah." She responds, snapping the shotgun's chamber shut again. "Think I'll see what bits of my findings on this blowout I can scavenge. What about yourself?"

That's a very good question.

-----

[X] Learning about what Rikako managed to find out before things went to hell sounds like a promising first step. Maybe then you'll be able to figure out how the hell this happened besides just guessing that 'Oh no, blowout in Zone = blowout in Gensokyo.'

[X] Where there's blowouts, there's anomalies. Where there's anomalies, there's artifacts. Back in the Zone you'd have a mere few hours before all of the latest wave of artifacts were picked dry, but here in Gensokyo you've practically no competition. Get hunting!

[X] You'll have time for technobabble and artifacts later, but first you need to go gather the two Stalkers you definitely know are around here somewhere. Two veterans of the Zone, and their guns, are certain to be a welcome asset.

[X] Write-in?
>> No. 164392
[X] You'll have time for technobabble and artifacts later, but first you need to go gather the two Stalkers you definitely know are around here somewhere. Two veterans of the Zone, and their guns, are certain to be a welcome asset.
We can get loot everything later.
>> No. 164394
[X] You'll have time for technobabble and artifacts later, but first you need to go gather the two Stalkers you definitely know are around here somewhere. Two veterans of the Zone, and their guns, are certain to be a welcome asset.

Safety in numbers and all that. I doubt they'd require much convincing being in unfamiliar territory, and since you're probably the only ones you can get a crazy amount of artifacts and split it three ways and STILL come out rich as fuck.
>> No. 164395
[X] Learning about what Rikako managed to find out before things went to hell sounds like a promising first step. Maybe then you'll be able to figure out how the hell this happened besides just guessing that 'Oh no, blowout in Zone = blowout in Gensokyo.'

Maybe we can learn this before going for the others, they can take care of themselves for now.
>> No. 164396
[X] Learning about what Rikako managed to find out before things went to hell sounds like a promising first step. Maybe then you'll be able to figure out how the hell this happened besides just guessing that 'Oh no, blowout in Zone = blowout in Gensokyo.'

I vote we help Rikako out now, and go searching for the others later.
>> No. 164397
[X] You'll have time for technobabble and artifacts later, but first you need to go gather the two Stalkers you definitely know are around here somewhere. Two veterans of the Zone, and their guns, are certain to be a welcome asset.

Right now, we want backup. Artifacts are good and all, but you really want someone to watch your back while digging through the rubble to get them.
And whatever Rikako found out probably won't do us much good anyway. I doubt any of the stalkers here have the necessary education to even get close to understanding anything but the very basics of it.
It's not as if they've ever needed to know more than "Blowout soon, fellow stalker", anyway.
>> No. 164398
[x] Learning about what Rikako managed to find out before things went to hell sounds like a promising first step. Maybe then you'll be able to figure out how the hell this happened besides just guessing that 'Oh no, blowout in Zone = blowout in Gensokyo.'

I'd like to search for artifacts, but getting information about the blowout is good, too.
>> No. 164400
[X] Learning about what Rikako managed to find out before things went to hell sounds like a promising first step. Maybe then you'll be able to figure out how the hell this happened besides just guessing that 'Oh no, blowout in Zone = blowout in Gensokyo.'

Odds are the other two are doing their own thing in response to this, and when they meet up some info would be nice. And Hey Rikako.
>> No. 164402
Hardass Rikako was not something I expected to see in this story. Or any story. Awesome.

>Akyuu crushing
Fuck yeah. Wonder how long it'll take him to get clued into the whole reincarnation thing.
>Mokou headcrushing
Fuck yeah.

[X] You'll have time for technobabble and artifacts later, but first you need to go gather the two Stalkers you definitely know are around here somewhere. Two veterans of the Zone, and their guns, are certain to be a welcome asset.

Wanna see more Sasha and company.
>> No. 164414
[X] Learning about what Rikako managed to find out before things went to hell sounds like a promising first step. Maybe then you'll be able to figure out how the hell this happened besides just guessing that 'Oh no, blowout in Zone = blowout in Gensokyo.'
>> No. 164424
Since it doesn't seem like any more votes are going to come in, I'm calling it 5 to 4 in favor of Science Times with Rikako!

writing her is so fun you seriously have no idea
>> No. 165209
Where da science at, yo?
>> No. 165287
I think the stalker disappeared again. Darn.
>> No. 165291
get back in here, stalker!
>> No. 165692
Eagerly awaiting update.
>> No. 165693
>>165692

Fucking sage your post next time. Damn.