[Return]
Archived Thread

File 133809481338.jpg - (144.97KB , 600x600 , ToughattheTop.jpg ) [iqdb]
156918 No. 156918
...So it would be super-appropriate for my story to die now, right?

Thread 1: >>86709
Thread 2: >>120476
Thread 3: >>136605

X Talk to Inaba about people who can smash through walls on their own.

The hallway is as plain, labyrinthine, and Japanese as it was the first time you saw it. Clean, too. You take every turn expecting some sign that this place is “under attack”, as Inaba's said, but if it weren't for the fact that someone tried to personally knock your block off, you almost wouldn't believe it.

...Though those crashing sounds off in the distance do lend some credence to the notion. The shouting, too. It's muted, coming through the walls as it is, but it's undeniably there--and thankfully, not here. You tighten your grip on your nail-stick and turn the pointy bit out.

“I don't suppose you can tell me who's attacking this place?” you say. “I'd like to know who I'm running from.”

Gin doesn't even bother to glance over her shoulder at you. “That information is strictly confidential.”

“In other words,” Inaba says, grinning, “she doesn't know either.”

Gin's footsteps become noticeably stompier, which is no mean feat considering that neither of your companions are wearing shoes. You decide to direct all further queries towards the party that seems less inclined to murder.

“Well, you must have a theory, at least. Any rivals? Mortal enemies?”

“Oh, yeah, plenty of enemies. The folks here aren't exactly popular, you know.”

“Really? Can't imagine why.”

“I know, right?”

Inaba's grin expands a notch. You almost find yourself grinning back, but stop yourself just in time.

“So...enemies?” you ask.

“Plenty of enemies,” Inaba says again. “Problem is, there isn't one of them that fits the pattern.”

“...There's a pattern?”

Inaba raises her eyebrows. “Sure,” she says, and then, “Isn't figuring out this sort of stuff supposed to be your job?”

That stings, partially because it's true. You haven't really managed any competent detecting since you landed here. “I've only seen one guy, and one guy isn't a pattern. Just tell me, will you?” you grumble.

“Well, it's real simple.” Inaba gets a wise look on her face--or maybe “wiseacre” is more like it. “They're attacking Eientei, so you know they're morons,” she says. “But they've got organization, so they're not total morons. See?”

“...And that doesn't fit the enemies you know.”

“That's right. Say--maybe you're a detective after all!”

This girl--she's yanking at your chain with nary an attempt to hide it, which just makes the fact that you aren't angry at her all the stranger. You ought to be angry at her--you know yourself well enough to be able to say this with complete surety--but for some reason, you--

...Or maybe you're looking at this wrong. Maybe the reason you haven't fantasized about throwing this girl to the sharks yet is because she's being so straightforward, rather than despite it. You might just be grasping at straws here, but it feels like she's indiscriminate in her ribbing, which almost kind of makes it okay. And the fact that she's so cheerful about it...

Charisma, you decide. That's what it is. You aren't going to get a logical answer because there's nothing logical about it. It's charisma, plain and simple--and plain and simple, that's what this girl's got. In spades.

“Hey, you alright? You got all quiet, all of a sudden.”

“It's nothing.” You refocus your attention on Gin and her hallway to forever. “Are we there yet?”

Your question's come out a bit more childish than you would've liked, but luckily Inaba doesn't seem to notice. “Almost,” she says. “Just one more right turn, and you can ease up for a bit.”

“...We just took a right turn back there.”

“...Yeah?”

“Our last three turns were right turns!”

“Take it easy--we're just taking the scenic route, that's all. Come on, Gin, tell him.”

Gin stops marching and turns on her heel to gaze at the both of you. There's something very crisp about the movement, something very military, and you suddenly get the idea that this girl wouldn't stoop to a sneeze if there weren't a purpose behind it. “We've taken an alternate route to avoid enemy contact,” she says.

“See? Like I said.” Inaba smirks again. It's probably meant to be reassuring. Somehow, it even is. “If it's Eientei, Gin and I know it all--no way we'd be lost. Stick with us and you'll turn out fine.”

“...Yeah?” you say.

“Sure,” Inaba says.

Gin, never one for harmonious accord, elects to makes a strangled gasping sort of noise instead.

To be fair, the guy you thought you left on the storeroom floor crushing her rib cage in one meaty hand is probably a factor.

You don't like Gin. You didn't like her almost from the moment you met her, and that's why you can watch what happens next without completely losing your head. First the man tightens his grip on the girl. There's a cracking sound, and Gin's mouth goes wide in a voiceless scream.

Then he spikes her.

Like a footballer celebrating a touchdown.

There's a sound to go along with that, too.

And then, having taken out Gin to his satisfaction, the man, hand torn, head gushing blood, looks up to direct his murderous fury elsewhere. Specifically, towards you and Inaba. Mostly towards you.

Oddly enough, your first thought in this situation isn't that you're going to die, or even simply “oh, hell”, but something more along the lines of “this is bull”, and “this is entirely bull”, and “this is totally bull; he wasn't breathing, damn it, damn it, I even checked--”

But that is all the rumination you have time for before the less bloody of the man's fists lunges towards you.

There's nowhere to dodge except in the opposite direction, so that's where you go--and even “go” implies a level of elegance far past what you actually posses. It'd be more accurate to state that you stumble backwards on your heels, nearly fall on your tailbone, and only just manage to miss catching the man's blow with your face. Still, somehow you remain unpunched, and somehow you keep your balance, so before the guy can call for a mulligan you take the opportunity to turn around and hoof it. Inaba does the same, minus the mad scrambling--but she's not exactly the target of Big-and-Brawny, so she can probably hop into an alcove while the guy's busy ripping your limbs off. Really, you're the one with the main problem here.

“Plan?” you shout in Inaba's general direction. Your feet are working, but you're still worn out from the last exercise, and you don't think you can catch this guy by surprise again. Which is why you're hoping that Inaba's got a--

“Plan?” you shout again, a bit more frantically.

“Plan, huh...” How Inaba can sound this collected with a mobile mass of muscle bare feet behind her you don't freaking know. “How about an alternate route? Left!”

Inaba hangs left. You hang left. The guy chasing you hangs left and takes out a chunk of corner with his shoulder.

It slows him. For about a second.

“I thought that was the alternate route!” you shout.

“Well then, I guess this is the alternate alternate route.”

“What the heck--”

“Right!”

This turn you nearly don't make--your feet slip out from under you and you're only saved by Inaba's hand pulling at your wrist at precisely the right moment. Behind you, your pursuer is less lucky. The sound catches you by surprise--wood splintering, the impact of something heavy--and when you look back you see that the man's own momentum has sent him careening through another wall.

Maybe that nail to the head had some sort of effect after all. Still, you don't dare slow down--if a traumatic brain injury didn't stop the guy, you doubt a pair of skinned knees will do the trick.

“Right!”

“Stop--shouting--”

In any case, he's not as hot on your heels as he was a second ago--and a fall like that can only disorient him further, right? Maybe the two of you really can outmaneuver the guy. Maybe Inaba can manage to trip him up again, and maybe this time he'll fall on something with a lot of jagged edges. And while you're dreaming, maybe they'll have a portal to Los Ojos waiting for you once you get to wherever you're getting to.

Your legs are dead weight.

And then Inaba tugs you around one last corner and stops.

“Here we are!”

“Here”, it turns out, is another damn hallway, but you're too busy trying to get your breath back to care. It's not like Inaba needs you to respond, either--she seems happy enough to babble on all on her own. “I told you you'd be fine,” she says.

“Yeah? And what about Gin?” you snap back.

...Not that you cared for Gin in any way, but Inaba just saw her comrade get smashed up a minute ago, and now she's prancing around like a girl on a noonday jaunt. Even you know something's not right about that.

But Inaba just grins like you've cracked a joke. “Hey, don't worry about it! We're youkai--we don't die even if you kill us. She'll be alright. We'll all be alright.” And you'd say something now, maybe, about how utterly bull this whole youkai deal is, but she's still talking and you're too exhausted to interrupt. “Anyway, there ought to be a bunch of rabbits waiting through that door--they'll take care of you while we clean up this mess,” Inaba says.

You wait for her to point or gesture or otherwise indicate. She doesn't. Just smiles at you. “Which door?” you ask, finally.

Inaba shrugs. “I don't know.”

“...Are you serious?”

“Well, it's one of these doors, anyway. I don't do much hiding, so I can't say for sure. Just try them all yourself--you're a detective, right? You ought to be able to figure it out.” And like you need a freaking visual aid, the rabbit-eared girl walks over to the door nearest and tosses it open.

“See?” she says. “Empty--so it's not this one. Easy, right?”

You refuse to respond to that with anything more than an expression of most obvious displeasure.

Inaba sighs. “Alright, alright--I'll help you out, seeing as apparently you can't do it alone.” She moves on to the next door, opens it, and closes it again. “Nothing in this one, either. Now you do the next one--”

And that's when the door opposite Inaba explodes outwards, and that's when you remember Big-and-Ugly actually snuck up on you in the first place, and that's when your pursuer catches up to the both of you and checks Inaba into the door, though the door, all the way to the far wall where there's a crack and a thump and she falls to the floor and doesn't move.

She doesn't move.

_ Stay mobile.
_ Stand your ground.
_ Rush forth.

>> No. 156921
X Rush forth.
If we get rid of the bad ideas, all that's left is the good ones, right? Right?
>> No. 156922
[X] Rush forth.

We've taken him before, and I really doubt we're gonna be able to keep outrunning this guy.
>> No. 156928
[x]Rush forth.

He chases better than we run and hits harder than we can survive. Hopefully he's still bad at taking hits.
>> No. 156985
[x] Rush forth.

Should have killed the bastard
>> No. 157099
[x] Rush forth.

Holy shit.
>> No. 157156
File 133829532118.jpg - (23.78KB , 640x368 , People Die If They Are Killed.jpg ) [iqdb]
157156
>we don't die even if you kill us

Clearly, Shirou option is the way to go here.

[X] Rush forth.
>> No. 157202
[X] Rush forth.
>>157156
Time to see if we can kill people to death.
>> No. 157261
Why the fuck is this unanimous? I guess my subconscious is more main stream then I think?
>> No. 158366
File 133931532621.jpg - (161.12KB , 500x500 , ASmallPlotofLand.jpg ) [iqdb]
158366
X Rush forth

The world stops. Simply shuts down, in a single instant--folds in on itself until there's nothing left but a too-narrow hallway and an empty side room somewhere in Japan. You stand outside the door, looking in at Inaba while Inaba does not look out at you, does not look out at anybody, does not look out at anything in particular.

She's bent the wrong way, some part of you notes quietly. Arm and leg and leg and somewhere in the middle. Bent and bleeding.

You think: she won't get anywhere like that.

There's a man there, too, looking at Inaba. Just as you are. Only--this man's got a smug, self-satisfied expression on his face. And it isn't a man at all--you don't see how you ever thought so. Too big, too wide at the shoulders, too many muscles in all the wrong places.

No, it isn't a man, and it isn't a man's face. It's a beast's face. A beast's face on a beast's head on a beast's body, and that, you think--

That makes it okay.

Hasn't it always been okay?

You turn your nail-stick out again, and rush forth, and the last of the world dissolves behind you.

The beast's turned away from you. Only slightly, but enough to offer you an advantage. It doesn't last, of course--you don't bother to hide your footsteps, and you might even be screaming--but by then your weapon is already in its arc and the beast has no choice but to react. Part of you is disappointed when it leaps backwards in time--when the nail misses it by no more than an inch.

Another part of you doesn't mind. Wants to see this strung out. Wants to watch the beast's life ebb away instead of draining it dry in a single heartbeat.

That's your prerogative, isn't it? As long as the results come out the right way, it doesn't matter how you got there--

But the problem is getting there, you think, as the beast swings for your head. Your strike missed--this one doesn't, smashing into the corner of your jaw beneath your right ear like a cinder block. You don't fall so much as fly through a sharp-edged hailstorm of pain, landing on your side somewhere towards the opposite corner of the room with a jaw you're sure is fractured.

It's fine, though. You don't need your teeth to fight. Even as the beast is upon you you're already halfway to your feet, nail-stick curving for its skull. You barely do any damage--you've got the wrong end out and the beast simply takes the hit--but it gives you the moment you need to get to your heels, and then you use your other hand to return the favor and punch it straight across its skull.

...It doesn't even stumble. And your knuckles feel like you put them to a wall--a proper one. The beast grins.

“My turn.”

Somewhere past the haze of pain you are dimly aware of your nose snapping, and then something being driven very hard into your stomach that sends you sprawling backwards across the matted floor. Your nail-stick goes skittering away for parts unknown as your grip loosens involuntarily.

And now the beast really is upon you. And now you are out of tricks.

It kneels over you. Your legs are free, but it doesn't care; no matter how you kick, you haven't the power to do more than wear yourself out as the beast reaches down and--slowly, sadistically--fixes its fingers around your neck. One hand was enough to stop Gin; here, it's more than enough to choke the blood from your brain. You beat at the beast's arms, push at him, but it's useless. It's just too strong.

Impossibly strong.

Impossible, you think, as the darkness closes in around you. That's the problem, isn't it? Impossible. Too many impossible things--you never stood a chance, not against any of them. Human skin, or human enough, but without any of the human weakness.

Shannon.

You hope your sister is alright. You hope she gave Shinomiya the slip. You hope Valentin figures out the man in the apartment. You hope that...you hope...

You're almost gone--nothing but black spots. Any second now, whatever's left holding you up will fall away, and that'll be it--your final nosedive into the dark.

You hope...

Ha.

You hope the hole in its head festers. You hope it rots from the inside out. You hope it wakes up one morning to find maggots eating through--

Through its hand.

Its hand.

Its hand!

The last of your vision fades. You let your fingers fall from the beast's arm.

And then you turn them against its hand--its other hand--the hand you tore open with your nail-stick back when you were invincible--you find that hand with nothing but luck and panic and desperation and blind hope--and with the last of your strength and nails that haven't been cut for months, you dig your fingers deep into the meat of its wound.

There might be a shout. You don't know. All you do know is that the pressure comes off all at once, and even as the rush of blood sends your head throbbing you're scrambling away on your hands and knees in the direction of your nail-stick. You've got to get it back--it's the only thing that's worked so far. If you don't get it back, you're dead. If you don't get it back--

And then it's there--right there, right underneath your hand, almost as if it leapt to you in answer to your call. You wrap your fingers around the handle end. Turn it by your wrist. See the blood on the nail, still undried.

Feel an aching smile form on your face.

The beast is upon you once more. You don't care, not even when its grip finds your clavicle, tightens painfully, not even when you feel something else inside you start to give. You can take it fine, you and nail-stick and man-woman-all the three of you. It whispers through your ear, trying to teach you something about matchsticks and fires and letting it all burn down but there's nothing it's saying that you don't already know. Move three and the fish swims the other way.

Ain't that a laugh?

And that's why you wait until the beast takes its grip and pulls, before--

Mousetrap, you think, or maybe you just know, and you turn your waist and you twist your arm and suddenly, suddenly, that's half its eye gone, and when the beast roars you hear it.

The beast stumbles backwards, hands clutched to its face, as if trying to keep in what's left--you pull yourself up to your feet and watch and wait and when it looks like it's starting to get its bearings you hit it again. It's a good blow--you can tell, even with your brain alight. Your nail-stick fits into the space between the beast's jaw and shoulder like the missing piece, fits there and sticks there, and there's an odd feeling of not-camaraderie where you both realize what's about to happen in the moment before it does. If you were an action hero it'd be the perfect time to spout off the perfect one-liner--but you're not an action hero, so all you do is jerk the nail-stick towards you and tear open the side of the beast's neck.

There's a lot of blood. You've heard of blood “trickling” before, but this is more of a stream than anything--and even more of a futility to try to stop up by one's hands, no matter how large. This time when the beast stumbles, it falls. It's strangely undramatic--there's no final bellow of rage, no earth-rattling crash. The beast simply steps backwards, staggers, then loses its balance, landing awkwardly on the base of its spine.

It sits there, looking up at you. One hand clamped to its neck, blood running through and around its fingers, the other hand propping itself up from the floor. Looks at you like it's all your fault.

“You're going to die,” you say.

You're speaking English. The beast probably doesn't understand you.

Its loss.

“You're going to die,” you say again. “I don't care about this resurrection bull. I'll take your head if I have to. I won't make the same mistake again.”

The beast opens its mouth, slightly. Its lips moves, but it doesn't say anything. You feel like it should say something, maybe.

But you guess it doesn't matter.

“This time, you don't come back,” you say, and put the nail through its head.

The shock goes through your arm, up your vertebrae, into your brain. The world explodes. There's static, and stars, and somebody screams but it isn't you and it isn't it. And then the beast--the beast that tore through your wall, and crushed Gin, and ran down Inaba, and nearly ended your life--

The beast simply dissolves into ash.

“Huh,” you say.

You're still staring when the adrenaline wears off, and your jaw and hand and neck and shoulder happily remind you of the existence of pain. You barely make it to the wall before you sag into a huddled mass on the floor.

You're not out of trouble yet--you know that. You're lost, you can't move, and you seriously doubt that this attack is a one-man operation. Right now, it wouldn't be too out there for you to say that your only hope for survival is Inaba either fetching help or dragging you out of here by your collar.

You look at the girl in question, trying not to turn your head too much.

...No luck. She's still lying there on the floor, unmoving, unblinking. Inaba said that she had that whole youkai regeneration thing going on, but how long it takes to kick in you haven't the faintest clue. You stare hard anyway, trying to catch a hint of movement. For a second you think you might see an eye twitch--but it amounts to nothing. In any case, it doesn't happen again.

In short, you're probably screwed.

You close your eyes and tilt your head back against the wall. It would suck, you consider, grimly, to have gone through all that only to bite it at the hands of the next party. It would really, really suck.

Really, really, really...

_ Past
_ Present
_ Future
>> No. 158367
X Past

Unconsciousness? Without a flashback? Unconscionable.
>> No. 158368
[x] Past

Killing an oni in single combat?
>> No. 158401
X Future
Upward and Onward!
>> No. 158406
[x] Present

This was one of the best fight scenes I've seen on this site, KChasm. Just so you know.

>You can take it fine, you and nail-stick and man-woman-all the three of you.
...This... this seems important, somehow.

>Move three and the fish swims the other way.
As does this.
>> No. 158410
[x] Present
>> No. 158445
[x] Present
>> No. 158886
[x] Present

Damn, T. You a murder machine.
>> No. 159442
File 134164221983.jpg - (435.08KB , 1000x1000 , You'veGotMaelstrom.jpg ) [iqdb]
159442
X Present

“Now you understand.”

You lift your head. The woman in the purple dress smiles at you. You get the impression it's supposed to be a comforting smile, but right now the one thing that would land you anywhere near “comfortable” would be a generous dose of diazepam.

Some strange woman in a strange bus, lobbing strange statements your way? Definitely not going to cut it.

“I don't understand anything,” you say, and you don't bother keeping the annoyance out of your voice. “I don't even know who you are. Sometimes I go to sleep, and then you appear, and then you say a lot of vague things and then I wake up. That's it. In fact, I don't think you've told me anything remotely useful once. Who the hell are you?”

Inaba looks worse for wear. One of her ears flops over the side of her face, and she's moving like her whole body's got a limp. Somehow, she grins down at you anyway. “You forgot about me already?” she says. “That's pretty sad.”

“I didn't forget about you,” you mutter. “You're Hakurei Reimu.”

“Wrong, but almost right,” the woman in the purple dress says. You want to knock the teeth out of her benevolent face, and the only thing preventing that is the fact that you can't get your arms to move. You look out the window instead. You still can't see anything through it, but it's a sight less likely to drive you into rage.

“Listen,” you say. “I'm in a bad mood. So if you're not going to explain anything, just...please stop talking at all. Alright?”

You don't get an “alright” back. The bus jumps, suddenly--and your head bounces off the seat, hard.

“Hey, be careful--he's already got enough brain damage for one afternoon.”

“Inaba?”

The girl's face pokes its way into your vision. Now she really is grinning down at you--literally, down at you. When'd you end up laid out on the floor?

“Sorry about that,” she says. “They're good girls, but I wouldn't trust them with anything too sharp--if you get what I mean.”

You don't get what she means at all. In fact, you feel like you've missed the point. “How did you get here?” you ask.

Inaba stops grinning. “I've always been here,” she says.

“I've always been here.” The girl in the purple dress takes your hand--and presses it against hers, palm to palm. It's cold, and you can't feel a heartbeat, but she smiles anyway. “See? The same blood,” she says. “Blood sings. There was never a choice.”

And that makes you angrier than any of the mumbo jumbo she's spouted so far. You yank your hand back. “There's always a choice,” you hiss.

The girl in the purple dress smiles painfully. “That may be so,” she says, and hell if she actually believes that. “In any case, you shouldn't stay here too long.”

You snort, turning your head around theatrically, as if to check--but yeah, you're still on a bus. A moving vehicle, with all the doors shut, and even if you hauled on the cord you'd still have to wait till the next stop, whenever that is. How, exactly, does this girl expect you to leave?

“Hey--wake up!”

Something socks you in the side, not terrifically hard, but hard enough that your eyes fly open. “Wha,” you mutter, stupidly--and that's about as far as you get before you realize that somebody has taken your entire face and replaced it with pain. The ache that was once your nose is bad enough to justify a bottle of painkillers, but even that's nothing compared to your jaw, which has apparently been removed with a chisel, shot, set on fire, and then put back the wrong way in.

You attempt to express the particulars of your displeasure to the sadistic soul responsible for the interruption of your relatively peaceful slumber.

“Ngh.”

For some reason, this fails to convey anything of the fine nuances of your current state. “You already slept through one day,” your mysterious tormentor says. “Two is just unreasonable. Come on, time for breakfast.”

Unreasonable. What's unreasonable is waking a man up when his face feels like shrapnel--

No, hold on. Maybe it's just your imagination, but you think you know that voice. You turn your head, trying not to hit any sore spots (and failing miserably).

“...Inaba?”

“Oh, so you remember my name this time. I'm touched.” There's a blurry smile floating somewhere off in the distance. You blink, and the smile comes a little more into focus. “You had a few folks worried, especially with that 'Hakurei Reimu' bit,” Inaba says.

For a moment you have no idea what she's talking about...and then it all comes rushing back to you. You'd be embarrassed, if you weren't in too much pain to manage. “You said it first,” you mutter, trying to move your jaw as little as possible.

Inaba makes a sort of humming sound. “I don't think I remember anything like that at all,” she says. “You sure you didn't get punched in the head a little too hard?”

“...Wasn't that hard.” Scowling, it turns out, is an even worse idea than embarrassment--too many facial muscles. You settle for an indignant huff instead. At least this bed's comfy. “Gin alright?”

“Sure, sure, Gin's just fine. And I'm fine too, thanks for your concern.”

You nearly snort before you remember that your nose is included amongst the items that hurt like hell. “You look fine.”

“I look fine, but I could be dying tragically from a fatal injury, you know.” And maybe Inaba senses that she's not going to get much more from you in the way of banter, because she suddenly changes the subject: “Anyway, how's breakfast sound?”

...Breakfast? What happened to dinner? No, more important than that, you don't think you can eat at all, not with your jaw in this condition. “My face hurts,” you mutter, and hope that explains it.

“Yeah, it looks like it hurts--you got beat up pretty badly.” Inaba smirks, and turns away from you to fiddle with something on a desk nearby. “Sit up a bit.”

“What?”

“Sit up a bit--come on, you trust your old friend Tewi, don't you?”

“You're not my old friend,” you say, but you sit up anyway, and Tewi slides a tray across your lap. It's mostly empty, except for a single bowl--a bowl of soup.

Soup.

You don't need to chew soup.

It's even tofuless.

“Eat up,” Inaba says, and if this girl weren't so full of herself you think you'd even thank her.

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

It's almost funny, how hungry you didn't know you were. You had every intention of going about breakfast in a measured, dignified sort of way, but that plan fell to pieces as soon as the first gulp hit your gullet. You go through two bowls before the addition of rice to the course forces you to slow down. It's a little more difficult to drink rice.

Still, your hunger's satisfied, or at least abated. Now the only thing that really bothers you is this terrible pain around your face--but one problem at a time, right?

Wait. Hell. Problems. Problems--

“The attack,” you say, a bit too excitedly. Pain shoots through your jaw, but you keep talking. “What happened?”

“Right, right, the attack. Well...”

Inaba smirks again.

“We won, naturally.”

“And everyone's alright?”

“Some of us are going to have to spend a few days in bed, like you--but overall, we hurt them worse than they hurt us. They won't be trying that again anytime soon.”

“So...nobody's dead, then.”

“Didn't I tell you? Us youkai don't die even if we're killed. Stop worrying so much.”

You're not “worrying”, you're taking proper stock of the situation. Sure, you managed to take out one youkai yourself, but it was a close thing--far too close for you to be comfortable with. You hate to say it, but you're mostly dependent on Inaba's band of bunnies to save your hide here. If they bite it, you're lost.

...And besides, Inaba's wrong, that bit about youkai not dying. Youkai can die. You're sure of it. You felt it, as that one turned to ash. Like a vacuum. Open it up and everything rushes in to fill it.

You close your eyes and let yourself frown, just for a second. Maybe it's the stress, or maybe it's just the fact that you've been sleeping so long, but...

Your head's starting to hurt. And not where anyone hit it, either.

_ Try to pass time leisurely in bed.
_ Talk to Inaba specifically about...
- _ Someone here in Eientei. (specify character)
- _ Someone outside Eientei. (specify character)
- _ Nothing in particular?
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 159443
[X] Talk to Inaba specifically about...
- [X] Someone here in Eientei.
     [x] Yagokoro
     [x] Patches

Where's the doc at, and what happened to the folks that dragged us here?
>> No. 159446
X Try to pass time leisurely in bed.

It probably hurts quite a bit to talk.

Also bedtop sports for indoor tewis
>> No. 159472
[x] Talk to Inaba specifically about...
-[x] No, seriously, what the hell happened?
-[x] Someone here in Eientei.
--[x] Yagokoro.
>> No. 159518
X Talk to Inaba specifically about...
-I kill things dead. Ded killy.
>> No. 159560
X Talk to Inaba specifically about...
- X Someone here in Eientei.
Patches.
Also, ask if any of the things that attacked Eientei are being held there or if they were all chased off.
>> No. 159582
[x] Talk to Inaba specifically about...
-[x] No, seriously, what the hell happened?
-[x] About the oni you killed
>> No. 160441
File 134441613879.jpg - (65.01KB , 466x465 , Fantasy-2.jpg ) [iqdb]
160441
X Talk to Inaba specifically about...
- X Someone here in Eientei. (specify character)
- - X Yagokoro

Maybe it's time to move on to safer areas of conversation. There's one question you should've asked eons ago, and seeing as you're stuck here, now seems like the perfect time. “What is this place?” you ask.

“I mean,” you correct yourself quickly, because Inaba can manage something clever, “I know this place is called 'Eientei', but I don't actually know anything about this place. So--what's Eientei?”

Inaba looks amused. Or more amused, anyway. “You got all the way to Eientei without knowing what Eientei was?”

“Patches kidnapped me--I didn't have a choice, and I didn't even know I was coming here until I was here already.” You can feel your post-repast good mood starting to fray at the edges just from having to admit it, and make to reassert yourself pronto. “So what's Eientei?”

“...Eientei, huh.” Inaba leans back against the desk, tapping her fingernails against the surface in an idle drumbeat. She actually looks like she's trying to put together a proper answer instead of the usual wisecrack. “Well,” she finally says, “you could say it's a pretty good hiding place.”

“Hiding place? For who?”

“For the Princess.”

“...There's a princess?” you ask.

“I told you it was a good hiding place.”

...Well, touché, rabbit. You muse over this newest piece of information, trying to figure out if it changes anything. It probably doesn't, though. You've already been strangled, kidnapped, and nearly murdered--next to that, what's a mere princess? Practically nothing. “So she's the Princess of Eientei, then?” you ask, extracting another lump of rice.

Inaba twists her lips. Shrugs. Does a vague sort of waving motion with her hands--the universal set of gestures for “it's complicated”. “She's the princess in Eientei,” she says--corrects you.

“What's she the princess of?”

“Her room, mostly.”

“...Uh-huh.” There's a story there, but you're no journalist--and to be honest, it's not like you care, either. You pick at your rice some more, and turn the conversation to more interesting matters. “Where's that doctor? I want to know when it's fine to get out of this bed.”

If Inaba's thrown off by the change of subject, she doesn't show it. Smooth as petroleum jelly, her. “The doctor?” she says. “She's busy. A lot of rabbits got injured, remember?”

How could you forget? “Well, is there someone I could talk to? Another doctor or nurse or something?” You frown. “How about that other woman? Tall, rabbit ears...”

“Reisen? No good--if the doctor's busy, then Reisen's busier.” Inaba takes your tray away--and then your bowl, right out of your hands, even though you've still got rice left. Not a lot of rice, but it's the principle of the thing. “Just lie back and relax, alright?” she says. “I'll send someone later to look after you.”

...It's a tempting offer. You're in a lot of pain, and this bed's awfully soft.

But at the same time, you're just annoyed enough that you're willing to do something dumb if it'll get you what you want, and what you want is to talk to somebody with medical expertise. You shift your legs up and over the side of the bed, your feet landing flush against the floor, and wriggle your toes experimentally. Everything seems to be in order.

“Take me to the doctor,” you say.

“...You want to get out of bed to ask the doctor if it's okay to get out of bed?”

“...Yes.”

Inaba shrugs. “Well, you can do as you like--as long as you don't fall behind.”

And what's that supposed to mean? Is she planning to abandon you to the Minotaur if you stumble?

As it turns out, though, your worries are moot. As stiff as your limbs are, you're able to follow Inaba with relative ease as she leads you up and down the corridors, finally coming to a stop in front of yet another totally nondescript door. You're seriously wondering how anybody keeps from getting lost in this place. You'd think there'd be signs, at least. How's anyone supposed to know which way to run if a fire breaks out?

You're so busy pondering safety hazards that it takes you an extra second to realize Inaba hasn't opened the door yet. In fact, she doesn't look like she's planning on opening the door at all. She's just standing there, instead--a lot like you, only with much more awareness of the fact.

For some reason, you feel like you're missing something. Or another something, maybe. “Shall we go?” you ask.

Inaba grins. “I already know what's in there--besides, you're the one who wanted to see the doctor in the first place.”

...And that's true. As much as you hate to admit it, Inaba's done you a service just bringing you this far. She could've left you in bed on your own and you wouldn't have been able to do a thing about it. Still, if you're being completely honest right now, you'd prefer going in there with a actual denizen of this place backing you up. It feels like things would go a lot smoother that way.

But you can't always get what you want, right?

“Thanks,” you say, and you open the door and step on through.

And then stop.

There are two chairs, you note. Even as you stand frozen in the doorway, your mind is working as quickly as ever to take the picture in. There are two chairs, two tall, broad, wooden armchairs in the center of the room, both turned towards each other. Yagokoro is sitting in one of them. She seems wholly at ease, leaning forwards slightly, her wrists dangling over the edge of her knees, a smile on her face. One hand is empty.

The other is maintaining its lazy grip around an instrument not entirely unlike a bamboo carpet beater.

The occupant of the other chair, in comparison, doesn't look half as comfortable. Perhaps it's the fact that the chair he's sitting in has had the main portion of its seat removed, leaving the underparts of his body to protrude through it and towards the floor. Perhaps it's the fact that he's stark naked, stripped of his clothes--an experience that occurred with little to no delicacy, if the torn clothing in the corner of the room is any indication. Or perhaps it's the fact that he's tied to the chair, his wrists bound to the chair's arms, his ankles bound to the legs, a cord running around his chest and under his arms and through the chairback.

You think maybe you should have stayed in bed, after all.

“Please shut the door behind you.”

Yagokoro speaks without looking to you, which is fair enough because you aren't looking to her either, not really. You take another step (more hesitant than your last) and oblige her request, your eyes never straying too far from the end of the carpet beater--or whatever it is. It's got a funny color across it, a deep red, a dark red. A real funny color for a carpet beater. A real funny color for anything.

The naked man does not greet your company. You're not surprised--there's something about the paleness of his skin, the tilt of his head forwards which suggests unconsciousness, if not the loss of life entirely. Again, the thought comes: you should have stayed in bed.

You decide to pry anyway.

“Another patient?”

The end of what isn't a carpet beater moves smoothly against the floor, coming to rest directly beneath the man's parts. It's a terrifyingly deliberate action. “In a certain sense,” Yagokoro says. “He's suffering from an excessive accumulation of information.”

And now that you look--really look--at the man's face, there's something a little animalistic about it. The ears are too high, the eyes too small--there's no doubt about it, not in your mind.

He's a youkai.

You can actually feel any sympathy you may have had draining away. It's amazing.

“Poor guy,” you say. “How's the surgery?”

“Smoothly, so far. Overnight I was able to extract something of worth--I'd wondered how an undisciplined pack of youkai had managed to find Eientei, much less attack it, but I've been told that one of their number had a magnetoceptive ability.”

“Oh, like pigeons.”

And speaking of really looking, Yagokoro actually turns her head. “Yes,” she says, after a second or so. “Like pigeons.”

Yeah. Too bad you're no pigeon fancier yourself. You'd like to send a missive to Shannon, something along the lines of “Trapped in Japanese Neverland; for goodness' sake break me out”. Or would a homing pigeon even make it through the Border?

It doesn't matter, in any case.

“In any case,” Yagokoro says, her eyes drifting back to the main attraction, “the more important question is--why?”

“'Why'?” you parrot a bit stupidly.

“Why attack Eientei at all?”

...And that's a good question, probably, but Gensokyo politics was never part of your curriculum. “Not like I'd know even if you asked,” you say. “Shouldn't you talk to this guy instead?”

Yagokoro makes a quiet humming sound, as if yours is an idea which has never occurred to her in the history of ever. “It would be better, wouldn't it?” she says. “Unfortunately, the patient seems to have somehow fallen unconscious.”

...“Somehow”, she says. Yeah, well, somehow you doubt that “somehow” is really “somehow”. Not that it's any skin off your nose, of course--the guy's friend tried to cave your head in, so as far as you're concerned Yagokoro can enhance his interrogation all she wants and more. “Alright if I listen in when this guy wakes up?” you ask. “I want to hear the reasons too.”

“By all means.”

“Thanks,” you say, and that's how you end up standing around a dingy Japanese room, waiting for some youkai you've never met before to open his eyes so that his health care provider can get back to ignoring Hippokrátēs.

It's a long wait. You don't know what Yagokoro did to this guy before you came in, but it must have really worn him out. And while he's napping, you've got nothing to do but find patterns in the floor in a futile effort to keep your mind off your aches. If this isn't worth it, you're going to be seriously pissed off.

And speaking of things that piss you off: How the hell is Yagokoro even sitting like that? It's not that she's twisted up in some uncomfortable-looking position or anything, but you're pretty sure she hasn't moved one inch since this downtime began. It's almost like she's flaunting her self-control, and that's just irritating. She'd be fidgety, too, if she'd gone through enough to need her nose bandaged.

The more you think about it, the more you're convinced that there's nothing to gain here. Why did you come here again? To ask Yagokoro if it was alright to get out of bed? Right now, there's nothing you want more than to get back into bed and away from this naked sad sack and this smart aleck doc both. In fact, you're just about to inform said doc that you're off to find Inaba when--

The youkai in the chair stirs.

It's barely movement at all, just a twitch of the eyelids--you might have missed it if you hadn't been looking in the right place. But it's movement just the same, so you keep watching, barely blinking yourself as the youkai in the chair emerges from slumber, lips parting, brows tensing, chin rising from his sternum. It's a process that seems to happen in discrete steps, a process far too slow for your tastes.

It might be too slow for Yagokoro's tastes, too. She smiles, and flicks her wrist upwards.

The reaction is magnificent. In a single instant the youkai arches, neck craning backwards, muscles bulging and straining against the binds, jaw unhinged in a silent scream--and then just as quickly as it begins it's over and the youkai is once more nothing but a pile of limp, sagging flesh tied fast to a chair. There's no struggling, no effort to loosen the cord. You could almost believe the guy's dropped off again but for the breathing, loud and hard.

It sounds a little like crying.

“I'm very sorry,” says Yagokoro, in a tone that effuses reasonability. “Unfortunately, I'm out of practice.”

“...Liar.”

It takes you a moment to realize where the harsh, guttural sound is coming from. The youkai, it seems, has declined to lift his head a second time. You don't blame him.

If Yagokoro's affected by the lack of propriety, though, she doesn't show it. “Now, now--I wouldn't lie about this,” she says kindly. “Unconsciousness is a waste of time for us both. After all, I certainly can't get the truth from you if you can't speak.” The bamboo instrument hovers steadily between the floor and its target. You see Yagokoro's smile widen.

There's teeth.

“Why did you attack Eientei?”

There's no answer, not immediately. The youkai sits bound to his chair, head hung low, breath rattling--and then his mouth moves, forms sounds. Forms a word.

“You...”

The mouth stops. Tries to continue. Fails. A tongue runs over parched lips.

The mouth begins again.

“You...talk too much.”

And the youkai smiles. The youkai grins. The youkai laughs, thin, wheezing gasps that sound more like choking than any display of mirth.

Yagokoro laughs, too. And then, with cold, inexorable precision, she reduces the youkai's worldview to a state of unadulterated agony and little else. It's only after her interrogatee has begun to resemble more a corpse than anything alive that she relents, bringing the bamboo to a rest and looking in your direction.

It's the first time she's bothered since this session started.

“This may take longer than I thought,” she says. “For now, it would be better if you asked one of the rabbits to take you back to your room.”

It's a thinly veiled order if you've ever heard one, but it coincides with your wants quite neatly. You nod, and try not to look too eager as you head towards the door--

“Wait.”

And there's no reason to be worried about what some guy tied to a chair has to say but your hand still stops, right at the doorframe.

What now?

“Just now...” You turn back, watch the youkai's head rise. It's slower than the first time. A lot more painful, too, you don't doubt. A thin thread of saliva pulls from his lower lip. “Just now,” he slurs, “you were...talking to somebody.”

Yagokoro neither confirms nor denies the fact. You suspect she doesn't care if it does get confirmed or denied. She certainly does nothing to stop the youkai as he pulls his head up straight, his eyes searching blearily about his surroundings. This would be the perfect moment to make your exit--but it's already too late. The youkai's gaze settles on you. There's a second of nonreaction, a second as the youkai's overfatigued brain works to assign meaning to what his senses are telling him.

And then the youkai's eyes widen.

“You!”

You don't know this guy. You never saw him before you walked in on Yagokoro. But apparently he knows who you are, and you don't know what to think about that. “Yeah,” you agree, because you don't know what else to say, “me.”

And this is the wrong thing to say, or maybe the right thing, because the youkai's expression shifts in a heartbeat from surprise to pure, white-hot rage. He begins to strain at his bonds with gusto, never mind the fact that he's been under the doctor's watchful eye all night, never mind the fact that the doctor's right there next to him. “You!” he screams--rasps--chokes. “You--you bastard, you goddamn bastard--why won't you die?”

You're not sure what to say to that, either. “I'm bad at it,” you settle on. “No practice.”

The youkai in the chair spits at you. It dribbles over his chin and lands on his chest. He doesn't seem to notice. “Bastard!” he cries again. “Just got here, and already--already walking around, trying to look big--but you're running. We all know. Everyone knows! First the village--then--then Eientei--”

One last writhe--and the youkai slumps back in the chair, his second wind spent. He keeps talking, though. His voice is low, and distorted from abuse, but he won't stop talking.

“We'll flush you out. Even if you kill me, we'll flush you out. Most of you are dead--dead already. We'll finish you off. We'll bury you. That witch--and that pet oni--and you--you--Hakurei!”
>> No. 160444
File 134441795716.jpg - (1.35MB , 2560x1920 , 2012-08-08 02_22_30.jpg ) [iqdb]
160444
End of part seven.
>> No. 160445
About what I expected was happening
>> No. 160489
File 134450859352.jpg - (170.25KB , 600x800 , barcelona_trashgirl.jpg ) [iqdb]
160489
On a side note, I would like to state that I feel 100% rotten for letting the time pass so long without an update.

If any of you know how I could make up for being an absolute louse it would be very much appreciated.
>> No. 160490
>>160489
Don't want to be a dick but updating more often would be the best way to make ammends.
>> No. 160798
File 134511101558.jpg - (175.29KB , 400x400 , FunkyDrummer(Part1).jpg ) [iqdb]
160798
So your grandparents were named Hakurei. So what?

So everything, it turns out. Yagokoro gives the guy the works for speaking out of turn--it's the principle of the thing, even if he did mention something useful--but right after it's you and her out in the hallway, with you trying to beat down the urge to escape and her somehow managing to look very friendly and very threatening at the same time.

Another interrogation, only this one's got less rope and more clothes. And you'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much, so when Yagokoro starts doing that trick of asking questions without really asking questions, you let spill with the truth.

“My name is not Hakurei. My name is Harker.” You look the doc straight in the eye and tell her that. “My name has always been Harker.”

And then: “My dad's name is Harker, and my mother's name was Harker, so my name is Harker. It's not difficult to understand.”

And then: “Yeah, sometimes a woman changes her name after she gets married. So what are you saying?”

And then: “Alright, look--my mother's name was Hakurei, but then she got disowned, and then she got married and changed her name to Harker. So her name was Harker. So my name's Harker. So my mother wasn't a Hakurei, and I'm not a Hakurei, either. Got it?”

Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that Yagokoro hasn't got it, especially when she drags you out in front of everybody else and makes you repeat the whole thing. The reactions are interesting in their variance, at least. The doc barely reacted, but she probably figured it out herself as soon as that youkai called you by the wrong surname. The rest of the motley crew isn't so lucky. Reisen, gobsmacked, looks to her boss for confirmation. Patches looks you over, instead--you get the feeling you're being reassessed. Koakuma's usual smirk dissipates. And Inaba...

Inaba grins, actually. Which is odd. “That's a pretty interesting development,” she says. She's leaning against the wall, arms crossed, like the reveal doesn't bother her one bit--not that you know why it should bother her, but it obviously bothers everyone else. “So, who's going to take him to the shrine?”

Patches' frown deepens. She still looks sickly, but she's recovered enough to attend, unfortunately. “Such action would be premature,” she says. “He is the last Hakurei. That his abilities be developed first is imperative.”

“My name is Harker,” you point out.

Nobody cares.

“As his life is in danger, he should be taken to a secure location.”

“And you'll be the one watching him carefully, right, Patches?”

There's a twitch of the eyebrows at the nickname out of Inaba's mouth. You glance at Yagokoro, wondering if the doc's itching to add her own two cents--but it looks like she's content with just watching the mess she's stirred up.

_ This shrine option sounds interesting.
_ A secure location? Sounds secure.
_ Why aren't you back at the village yet?
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 160803
[X] A secure location? Sounds secure.

Secure locations are fun, the have secure things in them that makes it even more secure. Plus secrets that also make it secure.

Also repetitiveness that makes it even more enjoyable.
>> No. 160808
X A secure location? Sounds secure.
-X Someone should talk to Kotohime... maybe
>> No. 160809
>“My name is Harker,” you point out.
>Nobody cares.

Okay, that's it, I'm definitely starting this story.
>> No. 160813
[X] A secure location? Sounds secure.

Even if it means being Patchy's guinea pig for a little while, this option is probably better than dying.

Also, Mima is at the shrine. For all I like Mima, going to see her after what happened the last time is probably a bad idea. Especially if she's still into taking our precious Hakurei charms.

That said, a post-Mystic Square Mima would be a pretty good person to know.

Still, for now, until we know exactly what the devil we're doing, it might be best to lay low.
>> No. 160815
[x] This shrine option sounds interesting.

Because it does
>> No. 160819
X This shrine option sounds interesting.

Security is for pansies.
>> No. 160844
[X] This shrine option sounds interesting.

We don't need security, we are Terrence, Murderer Extraordinaire.
>> No. 160854
[x]Why aren't you back at the village yet?

Hakurei this, Hakurei that. Terrence Harker is tired of getting dragged around to 'safe' locations, the next one could probably be found by a magic goldfish. If they want to study him, we'll just drag them all to the village. They might even feed him better now.
>> No. 160860
[x] This shrine option sounds interesting.

Because you went to one to get here, after all.
>> No. 160971
[x] It seems to have slipped by everyone that you have an actual blood-related sister located somewhere in the real world, and that you arn't the last "Hakurei".
-[x] Continue to uselessly insist and subsequently be ignored by everyone that you are a Harker, not a Hakurei.
[x] This shrine option sounds interesting.

I'm sure it'll be brought up at some point anyway, but I want to be a special snowflake and vote for it regardless
>> No. 160998
X Why aren't you back at the village yet?

I don't quite understand why everyone has a fascination with seeing our character getting walked over on a constant basis.
>> No. 161000
>>160971
Hell no we don't hate her that much.
>> No. 161001
>>160971

We like our sister.
>> No. 161006
>>161000
I think she's going to end up embroiled in things no matter what.
>> No. 161046
So? The longer she has free of this mess the better.
>> No. 161091
A secure location? Sounds secure.
better chance to meet more sdm people and less likely to meet marisa seeing as she may visit the shrine alot out of grief of her dead friend
>> No. 161113
[X] A secure location? Sounds secure.
>> No. 161128
File 134611853022.jpg - (49.46KB , 600x542 , _taubman.jpg ) [iqdb]
161128
Alright, I definitely should've said this earlier, but I didn't, and that's on me. The shrine option won. I'm currently writing the update, and also doing research to help with writing the update. Turns out not knowing anything about Shinto shrines is a hindrance when writing about Shinto shrines (go figure). Like, those offering boxes. What do you do when you want to collect the money? Does the top pop off? Is there an opening in the side? What?

Anyway, I'd like to say I remembered what happened the last time the vote swung the other way in the middle of me writing, but that'd be a lie. If you want to thank anybody, get on irc and thank Wendigo, because he's the one who told me I ought to tell you. Which I definitely should've, earlier, without him having to prompt me.

I am not a good person.
>> No. 161132
>>161128
The bottom slides out to the side like a drawer. See: http://marunikagu.com/saisen/keyaki1.jpg
>> No. 161715
File 134846419280.jpg - (78.00KB , 500x500 , SteppingRazor.jpg ) [iqdb]
161715
X This shrine option sounds interesting.

Obviously, it's all up to you.

“What's this about a shrine?” You ask the question louder than you need to--but hell if you're going to get ignored a second time. You make sure they're all looking before you continue. “Is it like that temple at the village?”

And this, apparently, is the wrong thing to say, because now most of the company here is looking at you like you just raised your hand in an advanced philosophy class to ask whether the shade of blue you're seeing might be different than somebody else's. A sort of pitying contempt.

You don't need looks like that.

“The Hakurei Shrine is a Shinto shrine,” Patches says. Each syllable that passes her lips makes it all too clear how much it pains her to acknowledge your presence. “It ensures the existence of the Great Hakurei Barrier, which protects Gensokyo.”

“Ah, wait--” Because that second half's out of your purview, but the name rings a bell. “Hakurei Shrine--that run-down place? Made of wood? On top of a lot of stairs?”

“...You've been there.”

“Only once or twice.” And you didn't get much more out of either occasion than a whole lot of misery. First Shinomiya, then that Mima thing--that's the problem; you're too trusting. “So, why am I going to the shrine?”

And there's that pitying contempt again--a little more pity, a little less contempt, but still readily recognizable. Something is drawing taut in your brain, and suddenly you know that if Patches opens her mouth again somebody is going to end up with a fist in their teeth.

Inaba picks a prime time to interject.

“You're a Hakurei,” she says, and she's still grinning that grin of hers, like some particularly sharp-toothed predator who's found herself some wounded prey. “Isn't it natural that a Hakurei would end up at the Hakurei Shrine?”

“My name is Harker.”

“Well, there's no Harker Shrine, so you're just going to have to settle. Luckily, I've got some time off--eh, 'Master'?”

That last bit's directed towards Yagokoro, who's sporting a close-lipped smile that matches Inaba's pearly whites in intensity. “You do have time saved up, I suppose,” she says.

Inaba chuckles. “Sure, sure--plenty of time.”

And a psychologist you're not, but if that exchange just now wasn't absolutely stuffed with implicit significance you'll eat your hat. Or rather Patches' hat, since you haven't got one. You'd be doing her a favor, anyway. Why she'd walk around wearing a nightcap in the middle of the day is beyond you--

No. Wait. You're getting distracted here. There are more important fish to fry, like the fact that you're about to get kidnapped again--unless you put a stop to it. You pull yourself up to your full height and invoke all the authority you can muster.

“There is no way I'm going to a shrine because I happen to have the same name,” you state flatly, “and that's final.”

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

“Damn it!”

The curse is in English, but it gets the point across. Inaba turns around, at any rate. You haven't been that eager about keeping up, so she actually has to look down from up the stairway to see you straight. “You alright?” she asks.

“I tripped on a step.” You kick the offending stone lightly, the rubber toe of your sneaker bouncing off in that old familiar way. You haven't had to switch to wooden shoes, not yet. “Why the heck are there always stairs?” you ask. “I'm fed up with stairs. First there was this shrine, and then the temple...”

“Is that right?” Inaba starts upwards again, satisfied you haven't snapped a tibia or anything. “I didn't think the temple had stairs,” she says.

“It's got steps. As far as I'm concerned, one step is one step too many.”

“Maybe you ought to learn to fly, then.”

What?

And you're still stuck on that sentence as the two of you finally crest over the peak of the stairs. Well, Inaba crests. You stumble, and put your hands on your knees to catch your breath. You're not out of shape or anything--this place is just an unreasonable distance up. The fact that your aches haven't gotten any better doesn't help, either.

The worst part? Compared to going back to Kotohime's or putting your life in Patches' hands, this is still the preferable option. Talk about a sorry state of affairs.

Speaking of a sorry state, the shrine hasn't improved since your last visit. It's as shabby as ever--or possibly shabbier, seeing as it's had the time to rot in the months since. In fact, you've got a strong suspicion that one good nudge would send the thing falling, so Inaba wanting you here is even weirder, maybe. But while you've got a host of questions fermenting, Inaba's not wasting any time. You can barely keep up as she makes tracks for the shrine's front entrance, where--

Oh, hell, she doesn't want you to follow her in, does she? No way. Knowing your luck, you really will nudge the wrong wall, and the last thing you want is another stick of timber crashing down on your head.

But you might not need to worry about concussions just yet. It's not the inside of the shrine Inaba's interested in, but something else: a box, set out in front of the place. It's not a particularly special-looking box--medium-sized, with slats blocking off the open top--but it's obviously got some import, the way Inaba's fixed on it. Her behavior's curious, though. First she peers over and into it, like she's searching for something. Then she knocks three times against the side--and waits.

Nothing happens.

“Um,” you say.

Inaba smiles up at you reassuringly. “Sometimes you need a little more energy,” she notes, and knocks three more times, harder.

Nothing continues to happen.

“Um,” you point out.

“And sometimes,” Inaba continues, her smile suddenly touched with sour, like a magician who's pulled the wrong card, “you need a lot more energy. Hey, Suika!”

And she kicks the box. She kicks the box, and a drawer in the side slides out. Not “pops out”--that would make sense, even if Inaba doesn't look strong enough to manage it. No, it slides out, smoothly, as smoothly as you've worked your own desk drawer whenever you needed something inside.

And then smoke wafts out. Smoke, or mist.

And then the mist is a girl.

Clearly impossible--but impossibility and Gensokyo are like bread and butter. It's a fact you forgot, somehow, even though you've been following a girl with rabbit ears for the better part of the day so far. Well, you won't forget now--rabbit ears are one thing, but the long, gnarled horns sticking out from the sides of this girl's head are straight out unmissable. One even has a bow around it, which seems redundant considering the girl's already got an oversized bow fixed in her hair. Who needs two bows?

Nobody needs two bows. It's ridiculous.

So of course, why shouldn't that be normal here, too?

The ridiculous girl--Suika--looks like she couldn't be less concerned with bows, anyway. She yawns and scratches herself, blinking blearily at the both of you before her face suddenly sharpens itself into a thin, toothed smile. “Morning,” she says.

Inaba smiles back, that shade gone like it was never there. “Morning,” she greets back. “Sleep alright?”

“I might've. I had a good dream, at any rate.”

Inaba raises her eyebrows, like she actually cares. “Yeah?” she says. “What sort of dream?”

“Well, more a memory than a dream. Same thing, almost. So why are you here, Inaba?” The smile moves with the words, but there's something about it that feels fixed, like the carved rictus of a jack-o'-lantern. “Want to have a drink and talk about old times?”

“Sorry. Today's all business.”

“Aw, it's always business with you--of course, you've got nothing else.” And now you are sure there is something off with that grin. “What are you going to do when you run out of business, I wonder?”

“That'll happen when it happens. Anyway--this is Harker.” Inaba changes the subject with all the subtlety of a brick, knocking you into the line of fire--also like a brick. “Say 'hi', Harker,” she says.

You nod, the bare minimum of politeness. “Hi,” you say. “I'm Harker--Terrence Harker.”

“Oh, I know you.”

...She knows you. Of course she knows you. You're probably downright infamous by now. “Is that right?” you mutter lamely.

“Sure. I've been watching you. I've always been watching you, since the first time you came around here. Terrence Harker, police officer from past the Border.” And her smile shines, and her eyes shine, and you think of headlights, all of a sudden--headlights rushing towards a frozen deer. “You shouldn't have followed Mima, you know,” the girl says. “She used to be a lot more fun, but now she's plain annoying. I guess she can't be blamed for it, though. The end of the world makes people a little funny.”

The Border--but there's something about the way she says it. “Is the world ending?” you ask.

“Her world's ending, anyway. To her that's the same thing.” And while you're trying to figure out if that's supposed to be profound, the girl--Suika--waltzes right into your personal bubble to give you a close-up of that merry grin. It ought to be a comical picture, this tiny girl doing the whole leer bit at you, but for some reason it's not.

It's really not.

“I'm not perfect,” Suika says. “Even I make mistakes now and then--that's why I'm here. And now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have sent Marisa flying after you back then.”

“Alright, that's enough.” Inaba cuts in before Suika can say anything else weird. “You already know this guy, so you ought to know why we're here--right?”

And just like that, Suika's out of your space, leaning casually against the box thing. “Sure, sure,” she says. “He's the new Hakurei. Funny--he doesn't look special.”

You make another addition to the list of faces that want punching. It's starting to become a long list.

“Yeah, well, special or not, he's the only one we've got.” Inaba's not helping, either. “Of course, if you don't want him, I'll can take him back to Eientei, too. The doctor's probably itching to figure out how he works.”

...Wait, what?

“Excuse me,” you say, and your bare minimum of politeness gets a downgrade. “Am I being kidnapped again?”

“Now, I wouldn't say that,” says Inaba.

“Maybe,” says Suika. She exaggerates a sigh, a gesture so obviously fake you nearly think it's real. “I guess I'll take him,” she says to Inaba. “You wouldn't know what to do with him anyway. Humans are harder to figure out than rabbits.”

A pause. Her smile pulls wider.

“Only a little harder, though,” she adds.

Inaba doesn't rise to the bait, though you think she'd like to. “So you'll be teaching him, then?” she asks instead.

“Well, maybe I will and maybe I won't. He's out of your hands either way, right?” And the death's-head grin gleams. “Goodbye, Tewi. Hop back to your hole and get back to playing soldiers. Your part's done.”

_ Bye, Inaba.
_ Wait a minute.
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 161717
[x] Bye, Inaba
- [x] Thank her --and mean it-- for taking care of you in Eientei. If nothing else, she was less of a pain/slightly more helpful than most of the other people there, and that's worth a moment's gratitude.
>> No. 161720
[x]Bye, Inaba.

Then Suika starts throwing Terrence off cliffs to teach him how to fly. Also juggling ying-yang orbs, throwing talismans!
>> No. 161725
[x] Bye, Inaba
- [x] Thank her --and mean it-- for taking care of you in Eientei. If nothing else, she was less of a pain/slightly more helpful than most of the other people there, and that's worth a moment's gratitude.

Seems good to me, probably will catch someone off guard with the thank you.
>> No. 161726
x] Bye, Inaba
- [x] Thank her --and mean it-- for taking care of you in Eientei. If nothing else, she was less of a pain/slightly more helpful than most of the other people there, and that's worth a moment's gratitude.


Pretty much. Inaba is the closest thing we have to to a friend here.
>> No. 161729
[x] Bye, Inaba
- [x] Thank her --and mean it-- for taking care of you in Eientei. If nothing else, she was less of a pain/slightly more helpful than most of the other people there, and that's worth a moment's gratitude.
>> No. 161730
>The worst part? Compared to going back to Kotohime's or putting your life in Patches' hands, this is still the preferable option

I didn't realize/forgot he felt so strongly about kotohime
>> No. 161771
[x] bandwagon
>> No. 162283
File 135042469557.jpg - (133.31KB , 525x525 , Courage(ForHughMacLennan).jpg ) [iqdb]
162283
X Bye, Inaba.
- X Thank her--and mean it--for taking care of you in Eientei. If nothing else, she was less of a pain/slightly more helpful than most of the other people there, and that's worth a moment's gratitude.

Now, that's an invitation for a gut punch if you ever heard one--but once again Inaba defies expectations and turns the other cheek. Literally, this time--she snorts, and turns to leave, and that's it. No last shot, no pithy comment. It seems wrong, somehow, and maybe that's why you call out to her:

“Hey.”

And Inaba stops. Stops so suddenly you think she'd stumble, if she were anybody else.

Then she turns around again, and that wiseacre smirk is smack-dab on her face. “Aw, are you lonely without me already? I haven't actually left yet, you know--”

“Thanks.”

“Eh?” Inaba's smile twitches, briefly. “You don't have to thank me--actually, I figure you'll be cursing me soon enough.”

“Maybe. But still, thanks. I liked talking to you. You were...” You rack your brain, trying to think of the right words. It's surprisingly difficult. “You were a decent person,” you say, finally. “I haven't met a lot of decent people since I came to Gensokyo. And you got me soup with no tofu, so...” You shrug. “What I'm trying to say is--I'm glad I met you instead of someone I couldn't stand.”

There.

That's done.

And the funny thing is, Inaba nearly looks miffed you've done it. You catch another sight of that sour, as she turns her head away.

“You're not too bright, are you?” she says, and then she is following the stairway down, disappearing from your sight like a ghost into the past, and you're left alone with this grinning troll who you're certain has less than ideal intentions for your future. Then again, Inaba wouldn't bring you here without a good reason, right? Maybe you're being overly mistrustful.

“That's real touching. You want to run after her and beg her to stay?”

...Or maybe you were right the first time. “I don't think she wants to stay,” you point out.

“Sure,” Suika says, “but she'd stay if you asked her.” And she says it so assuredly you almost believe it. Only almost, though. Inaba's nice, but she's no Mother Teresa. Hell, Mother Teresa was no Mother Teresa, but that's neither here nor there.

Point's moot, anyway. She's gone now. Down the stairs, too far, too bad. You stand still in your shoes and let that be the answer.

“Good choice,” Suika says. “You've got a lot of stuff to do, and the last thing you want's a distraction.” Which is a bit hypocritical after that “all business” thing earlier, but before you can bring that up her smile goes ugly--uglier--and she hop-skip-jumps away from you, landing in the center of the untended expanse of land fronting the shrine.

You're quite certain it's further than she should've been able to jump.

“Now,” Suika says, still not looking at you--looking in the complete opposite direction, in fact, “hit me.”

“What?”

“Show me what you know.” And you can hear the smile, even if you can't see it. “Hit me.”

_ I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax
_ When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
_ I hate people when they're not polite
>> No. 162284
X I hate people when they arnt polite.
>> No. 162286
[x] I hate people when they're not polite

It's most in character to make her say please.
>> No. 162288
[X]When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed

Mystical strength gauge or not, I'm sure Terrence feels like venting a bit.
>> No. 162290
[x] I hate people when they're not polite
It just sort of feels right, considering all he has been forced to deal with.
>> No. 162310
>>162283
[X] You're talking alot, but you're not saying antyhing.


i luv u kc
>> No. 162332
[x] I hate people when they're not polite
>> No. 162363
X I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax

Tide, piss, et cetera.
>> No. 162466
[x] When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.

I'm paying for all those cryptic choices now, I see.
>> No. 163448
File 135466770189.jpg - (78.51KB , 400x400 , 01-01-212.jpg ) [iqdb]
163448
X I hate people when they're not polite

You don't need to be told a third time.

All these monsters in woman form might outclass you when it comes to power, and endurance, and the ability to shoot stars out of their sleeves, but you've got something they don't, and that's the indomitable nature of the human spirit. If you grit your teeth and show real determination, you'll always have a chance to deliver a proper rabbit punch.

Ha. “Rabbit punch”. You wonder if Inaba'd like that.

You can't throw off gravity like everyone else here, but you're nearly flying anyway. Suika hasn't even moved yet. There's no way you can miss at this range. You pull back your arm--

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

“--and then I put his face through the window and he was still asking for it! Dude was straight up prognathous.”

“Pugnacious.”

“Like I said, prognathous.” You pound your fist into your hand, like an illustration, or something. To symbolize just how prognathous this guy really was. “He went down in the end, though. That'll teach him to try and screw with us!”

Korene frowns. She's really not into this, even with your totally engaging illustrations and everything. “But he couldn't tell us anything--and we still aren't any closer to figuring out what happened,” she says, all killjoy-like. “Did beating him up really accomplish anything?”

“Yeah, well, no,” you say. “But you know. Details. Besides, now we know who not to ask, and that's all kinds of volatile information, too. Wasn't it that Greek guy who was all, 'there's stuff we know we know, and stuff we know we don't know'?”

“That was Donald Rumsfeld.”

“Yeah, that's who I was thinking of. The Greek guy. He stuck it to the man, and then the man was all like, 'stop sticking it to us,' and then they made him all off himself by himself.” Korene does a face like she's making to object or something, but you cut her off in advance. You ain't got time for bickering, not when there's some psycho killer on the loose. “Well, seeing like we're out of suspects, I guess it's time to check out the victim's place of residence. We should've done that in the first place, honestly. That's like the second place after the scene of the crime the cops perendinate in every episode of Crime & Justice. Third, at least.”

“Perambulate--wait, you watch Crime & Justice?”

Aw, nuts. “What? No way! You think I'm going to veg out in front of some show about cops and lawyers? I'm just testudineous, is all! If you want to think like a cop, you've got to act like a cop, and if you want to act like a cop, you've got to check out how cops do what they do. It's just minarchy, get it? Like moths when they want to get not snatched up. Get it?”

Korene kind of looks at you like she's trying to get a hold of your head through your eyeballs. Then she looks away. You make sure she's really looking away before you relax again.

Yeah. You think she bought it.

“Anyways, like I said, we've got to get to the vic's place or we'll never find anything.” Which is why the both of you haven't just up and gone for home like normal. You're totally getting some answers tonight. “Luckily, I got the address from that newspaper woman at the coffee place. You know, the one that's always all soniferous all the time, like?”

“Somniculous,” says Korene. And then she's all, “Did you beat her up too?”

And that's just harsh.

“Hey, just because I like fighting doesn't mean I've got to be all fighting, all the time, you know,” you say. “I mean, I can totally not fight. When I need to.”

Korene gives you that creepy-like stare again. “I see.”

It's still early enough that the apartment lobby's still open, so the two of you just walk on in. It's not like you're not allowed in there, but there's no reason for any of you to be there, so the fact you're there anyway is kind of stupid thrilling. Like you're a spy, or something.

“Alright,” you say. “Palmer was on the third floor. I'll take the stairs, you take the elevator.”

“Is there a reason for us to split up?”

“What? Yeah, totally! I mean, If there's some kind of sketchy picarel type hanging around you've got to split up to cut him off. It's like the movies and stuff!”

And that's the third time you've got that Korene stare in the last ten minutes. You're getting to think she doesn't even want to be here.

“Picaro,” she says, and heads off toward the elevator.

And that's straight up hypocorrective. What's up with that, anyways?

Meh. No time for distractions. You've got to mojamatize!

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

Or maybe you ought to lie here for a while. Just until the world stops spinning clockwise.

...And just until you can forget how utterly humiliating that was for you. Because right now, with your face pressed to the dirt and a mean bruise forming between your scapulae, there's no way you can face your foe with anything like grace or dignity. Pain and embarrassment, maybe. Dignity, no.

The worst part is how easy it was for her. You were set to hit her. You knew you were set to hit her, and you knew there was no way she was gong to be able to dodge it, even at the last second. You were simply too close, too fast for that. And you were right. She didn't dodge. She stumbled, instead--like some fuddled alcoholic thrown by continental drift. Stumbled just out of the way of your fist, and then, as your own momentum carried you past, turned and thumped you square in the back.

You went down faster than the Britannic.

So here you are, with your worm's-eye view and your brand new contusion and your anger, smoldering underneath the surface of your skin. You can feel it. It wants to be let out but you press it down, press it together--shove it back into your heart and shut the door. The message was pretty clear, after all. You knew you could hit her? She knew it would end like this. The only reason she told you to hit her was so she could beat you down.

Teach you a lesson.

You'll get her back for this. There must be something she loves.

But now? Right now you're powerless, which was the whole point of that setup the girl caught you in. You fight now and you're likely to end up with worse than a simple bruise, and the last thing you want is firsthand knowledge of the local medical expertise. So you smile, instead. You put yourself back on your feet and you look at Suika (the smug snake) and you make yourself smile, because soon you will mean it.

Soon.

And Suika's smiling, too. “First time you've felt this powerless since you came to Gensokyo, right?” she asks. She asks, but she already knows. Probably even knows you hate her.

You hold your smile anyway. “That was a good hit,” you say. Non-answer.

“But not the first time in your life.” She continues like you never said anything, and when you really don't say anything, meaningful or otherwise, she turns and walks back to the shrine steps and sits there with her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands and her smile aimed at you like the barrel of a gun.

“It's almost lunchtime,” she says. “Go to the village and pick up some food.”

A change in subject. She's just trying to trip you up now, but you won't be having it. “If you've been watching me, you know I'm completely moneyless,” you point out.

“I know--you're a detective, but you can't detect a way to get a job. Not that anyone'd hire you if you could.”

“Because some kidnapper got stabbed?”

“Because you're useless. Because nobody here cares about your Outsider skills. Because you've failed everything you've done since you came here.” And she's over there but you can feel that smile probing against your skull, feeling for the perfect place to go off and blow your brains out. “What were you going to do if Arato hadn't fallen for it?”

“...Arato?”

“You don't know his name? He tried to kill you in your sleep.”

Oh. The mailman. You'd forgotten about him. It's only been a week or so since you left the temple, but with everything that happened at Eientei and now this whole Hakurei thing...

Really, you can't be blamed for this.

“You don't know his name or why he killed Kazuhiro, and you don't care--you're honest, at least. You told Nazrin. And she got mad. She got real mad.” Suika chuckles. “Did you like it? Did it feel good, when Kotohime called you a police officer? You got to pretend, just for a little bit.”

She lets that sentence hang between you. Lets it start to fester.

And then she's walking up the steps again, pausing in the mouth of the shrine proper to grin at you over her shoulder. Standing against the dark and grime, teeth bared, she looks like a nightmare out of the head of some deranged Tenebrist.

“There's a guy who owes me,” Suika says. “Go to Nobuaki's restaurant and order two boxed meals. Utsumi Nobuaki.”

“I don't know a Nobuaki,” you say.

“You've been there before,” Suika says, and maybe she dispels herself back into mist, or maybe the shrine swallows her whole, but either way one moment she's there, and then she's not, and for the first time in who knows how long you find yourself suddenly and utterly alone.

Alone.

...Huh.

It ought to be an event worth celebrating--no ditzy police cop wannabe craning over your shoulder, no witch girl looking to haul you away--but your mood's gone sour, thanks to Suika. That part she said, about uselessness--that was on the mark. Uncomfortably so. Or at least close enough that it twinges the same.

After all, what have you accomplished since you fell in here? You've been dragged from point A to point B and back again, and--and that's about it. Like the sidekick in somebody else's story. Or possibly the MacGuffin, which is worse.

Then again, there were other bits in Suika's spiel that didn't make much sense at all. Like--“pretend”? You're not pretending anything. You're a police officer, plain and simple, and you might even always be, considering how everyone with the authority to take your things away is on the other side of the Border. Of course, you haven't got your things either, but the principle's there.

Anyway--forget it. You keep ruminating over this and you're bound to go screwy over next to nothing. You'll just count it as another mark against Suika in an already crowded ledger and move on.

_ Go to the village. Go directly to the village. Do not pass GO, do not attain peace of mind.
_ Fine, you'll go to the village--but nobody said you had to do it quick. Time to make like Lombard Street.
_ If she wants lunch, she can get it herself. You're still tired from all those stairs. Where's a good place to sit?
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 163451
[x] Fine, you'll go to the village--but nobody said you had to do it quick. Time to make like Lombard Street.
>> No. 163452
[X] Go to the village. Go directly to the village. Do not pass GO, do not attain peace of mind.

Be good to not starve. Don't have to grumble about Kotohime's food anymore as well, but still wont' be Ichirin's.
>> No. 163454
{x} Fine, you'll go to the village--but nobody said you had to do it quick. Time to make like Lombard Street.

Let's take our time and cool off a little before getting to the village, so we don't take it out on some hapless townie.
>> No. 163459
[X]Fine, you'll go to the village--but nobody said you had to do it quick. Time to make like Lombard Street.

And I was just thinking that it would be nice to have an update for this story!
>> No. 163460
God I love this story.
>> No. 164346
File 135779975438.jpg - (73.44KB , 600x600 , GangsterBoogie.jpg ) [iqdb]
164346
X Fine, you'll go to the village--but nobody said you had to do it quick. Time to make like Lombard Street.

...Now, what was it she wanted from you again?

You stick your hands in your pockets and start the stairway down, leaving the worn out shrine behind you. Somehow, you feel a lot more unsteady than you did going up--but that's probably because you've suddenly got an eyeful of the distance you stand to tumble if you miss a step, hypothetically. That'd be a rotten ending to your story, wouldn't it? All these monsters and malefactors, and what finally does you in is uneven footing.

It's a pain to admit it, but it's basically a relief once you've got yourself to the bottom of the hill intact.

Of course, now there's a different problem--namely, lunch. Suika wants you to fetch your next meal, and while you're not totally opposed--you enjoy three square meals as much as the next guy--it sort of rankles at you, getting made to play errand boy. You didn't even get a “please” or “thank you” or “sorry”. Not that Suika seems the type to be sorry about anything, but a little politeness goes a long way, even if it's fake.

You should know. Right?

Right?

Your face hurts. Your neck hurts. Your shoulder hurts. Your hand, curled stiff in your pocket of your trousers, begins to pound. You follow the path away from the shrine and think of Valentin--Valentin, safe in Los Ojos, quaffing cup after cup of lukewarm coffee and never thinking he might someday lose the privilege. You're glad you made him miserable when you could. You were always glad, but you're extra glad now.

The path splits in two further up the road, curling off in opposite directions. You remember this part. You were here less than an hour ago, with Eientei behind you and Inaba leading you ahead. The left path will take you back to Flopsy et al., and while they weren't the worst company you've got no urge to revisit them this soon. You take to the right, instead.

Not the path on the right. Just...the right.

Suika wants her lunch? Fine. She'll get her lunch. But she'll get it on your terms, and the long way around seems suddenly appealing.

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

It ain't just disappointing, it's hella disappointing. You took the long way round and you still pulled off your ascessancy faster than Korene did. Elevators are supposed to be quick, right?

Or maybe you're the quick one. You are pretty awesome, after all. Like Jim Houston in Supercop, only without the superpowered prothetic limbs. Only if you don't got the prothetic limbs, doesn't that mean you're even more awesome?

Man, you could totally be Jim Houston. You just need to get all smashed up or something.

Korene finally shows up, and she's obviously not gotten jacked up by some kind of slithy anybody so that's totally fortuitous. “Alright,” you say. “You all ready to do this thing?”

“I don't think either of us are prepared.”

Okay, that's the classic Korene thing right there. “I'm prepared! I'm 110% prepared, like, even,” you insist, looking at the keyhole all careful-like. “So give me the lockpicks, will you?”

Korene doesn't say anything. It's like the super protandrous kind of not saying anything.

“That's like the super protandrous kind of not saying anything,” you say.

“Portentous,” says Korene. And then she's got to do the whole damper thing or something because she's all: “We didn't bring any lockpicks.”

And that's totally uncool.

But also alright, seeing like you've got your plan B. “Okay, give me the bump key,” you say.

“We didn't bring a bump key, either,” says Korene.

“Hairpin?”

“Both of us have short hair.”

“Paper clip?”

Korene shakes her head. In the side to side sort of way, not the up and down sort of way. Nuts.

No, hold on, hold on. Adopt, adapt, and improve, right? That was just plan B! Or plan D! Or one of those other early-like letters. Point is, you've still got a whole alphabet you've got to go through of, so it ain't time to give it up just yet!

“Okay!” you say. And it really is okay. Seriously okay. You're talking something like a super ultra mambo-tango-foxtrot sort of okayness here. “Here's how it's going down. Korene, you're the guard. Except not the guard guard kind of guard, you know? You just stand around the corner and do the watching thing part of a guard, like, and if anyone shows up all skeevy you ring me. I've got to go to get my picks, so I'll go for home and back and parlez vous with you back here. Get it?”

“Rendezvous,” says Korene. But she also says, “Keep watch on the apartment while you fetch your lockpicking tools. I understand,” so you'll let her have that one. You're awesome like that.

“It won't be longer than hella fast,” you say. “I'm not leaving you high and dry like, okay? We're definitely seriously getting some answers tonight, just soon as we get this thing--”

You jog the door handle. The door opens.

“--busted through. Oh, it's unlocked.” Wait. “What the heck, it's unlocked? You mean someone just up and left the door open? What kind of morons do they got running this place? That's straight up petricolous! You leave the door open, any sort of anybody can just bust in anytime they want to do anything!”

“Periculous,” says Korene. “And do you mean like us?” And you can feel that stare of hers heating up on the back of your neck, but only barely, seeing like you're halfway to steamed up in the first place. So when you respond, it's a sort of a not-a-response kind of response.

“Like I said,” you grumble all dark-like, “petricolous.”

And there's nothing to stop you now from doing what you've got to go, so you do what you've got to do, which is walk in through. And then you're like, “Aw, nuts.”

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

“Oh, hell.”

You swear in English. It doesn't matter which language you swear in now, not unless the trees can listen in. Though, considering what sort of place this is, that's actually a distinct possibility.

You're no idiot. Sure, you're not on Shannon's level, but you're smart enough. You knew wandering off the beaten path was a dangerous idea--especially considering your unfamiliarity with the area--but it's not like you didn't take efforts to minimize the risk. You had a plan. What you meant to do was zigzag back and forth over the main road while moving in the general direction of the village, sort of like the switchback course of a shoelace. Or Lombard Street.

And you did! It worked perfectly!

Until it didn't.

Yeah, you thought you were smart. Real smart. Real clever. But now you're thinking you should've seen the road ten minutes ago. And you're realizing how chilly fall is in Japan when you compare it to California. And those thick-looking clouds moving in overhead? You're definitely noticing those.

For a moment you remember that old adage about staying put when lost, but you shrug it off and keep walking. Maybe it's your suburban presumptiveness, but you think this might be a special case. It's cold, you're off the trail, and nobody knows you're missing.

...It's cold, you're off the trail, and nobody knows you're missing.

Wow, when you actually put it in concrete terms like that, it really comes across how badly you're screwed, doesn't it? Everything you thought earlier about falling down the stairs--that all applies now, to this. Maybe even more so.

At least the stairs would've probably been quick. If you die out here, it's likely to be by inches--

Or maybe by miles, you think, as you very nearly impale yourself on a sword. The sword is long and sharp and pointed directly at your neck. Your feet get the message just in time.

The sword is also attached to a set of fingers, which is attached to a hand which is attached to an arm which is attached to a woman who is looking at you in a manner which suggests she could pin you to a tree in seconds and not lose much sleep over it.

“Who are you?” she demands.

_ Diplomacy!
_ Punching!
_ Diplomacy, then punching!
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 164347
[x] Diplomacy!
Trying to punch faster than a sword would not be clever.
>> No. 164351
[x] Diplomacy!
>> No. 164352
[x] Diplomacy!
>> No. 164358
[X] Diplomacy!

Be nice with the lady who can deal large amount of cutting pain.
>> No. 164359
Diplomacy
>> No. 164365
[x] Diplomacy!

This is actually my favourite story on the site
>> No. 164523
[x] Diplomacy!

How does one accidently wonder off to the base of youkai mountain when his intended location was the human village?
>> No. 165139
File 136081018914.jpg - (875.58KB , 1417x1417 , Magpie.jpg ) [iqdb]
165139
X Diplomacy

You hold up your hands in a show of surrender. There's a time for punching and a time for diplomacy, and this is probably the latter. “I didn't mean to bother you,” you say, quickly. “I was just walking through this forest, and--”

The sword makes a short but significant advance towards your Adam's apple. Whatever context you've got, this woman is totally uninterested. “Who. Are. You?” she asks again, this time with painstaking enunciation.

...Like clarity of speech is the issue here.

But an informal tracheotomy's not your style, either, so you make with the proper nouns, pronto. “Terrence--Terrence Harker. Now would you please point that thing somewhere else? Like I said, I didn't mean to bother you.”

There's a second of silence as the tip of the blade lingers at your neck (a second of you wondering if you aren't about to be run through anyway), but then the woman steps back, resheathing her sword. “I apologize,” she says, her tone even. “I was practicing my forms and didn't expect to be interrupted.”

“Well--I didn't expect to interrupt anyone.” You give her a once-over as you speak--a lot easier now that nothing's about to cut your throat open--but all you can figure out is that you still have no clue what any of these clothes are. That seems to be the usual robe, sure, but there's also something that isn't really a vest, and what looks like the Japanese version of palazzo pants.

It's an outfit that's meant to shout formality, and maybe it even did, once. But now the stitches in those shoulders are pulling themselves free, and the hem of those trousers are more than a little frayed. Not that you can critique her attire openly.

You've got your own trousers, after all. And you're keeping them, hell or highwaters.

This woman can't know that, though. All she gets is that you've been staring at her tattered sleeves for a little too long--and she reacts to that, her arms tensing, like she's going to swing them either out of your view or into your face. “Still--what are you doing here?” she asks instead. “Somehow, I don't believe you just happened to come here to practice too.”

That last bit's said sharply, almost snidely. Is she trying to pick a fight? You deflect it with an embarrassed laugh. “Actually, I was trying to get to the village, but I lost my way--I think. If it's not any trouble, could you lead me in the right direction? Please?”

“It's a little cold,” you add, when your only immediate response is an incredulous stare.

The woman closes her eyes and scowls, and that's all you need to know she's going to help. She wouldn't look so conflicted if she were the type to just leave you here. “Very well,” she says, finally. “The village is north of here. I'll take you. It'll be your job to keep up, though.”

“Got it! Er, got it.”

And that gets you a look like your rescuer can't decide if you're worth the effort to curse--but who cares? You're saved. She moves through the trees and you follow, just a few paces behind.

It's a nice forest, now that you're not going to die in it. You've spent all your life in the suburbs, so you're not used to how it smells so...fresh. Natural. Real natural, and not the kind you've always gotten from aerosols and the like. Autumn's nearly done stripping the trees bare, with each step of yours shifting through the layer of deadened leaves, but even so there's a palpable sense of life to your surroundings--as hokey as that sounds. You think you can even hear birdsong, though that might just be your imagination. Now, if only it weren't so chilly...

“Hey, you know my name, but I don't know your name,” you say, breaking the silence. “That's kind of off, isn't it?” Not that you care about that, either. You just want to distract yourself from the weather.

Once again, though, there's no immediate reply. Heck, this time the woman doesn't even look at you. You end up staring at the back of her hair as you keep pace, wondering exactly how far away the village is and how long it'll take to get there.

It's becoming a real unpleasant theme, you getting led around everywhere by everyone. Sure, it's unavoidable, seeing as you're wholly unfamiliar with the area, but there's only so much indignity a man can take before he starts turning unreasonable.

You've been doing a very good job staying reasonable so far, but it's wearing off. First thing you'll do when you get to the village is find a freaking map--

“Meira,” somebody says.

You snap out of your rumination so fast you nearly give yourself psychological whiplash. “What?”

“My name,” says the woman in front of you. She still hasn't bothered to turn her head. “It's Meira.”

“...Oh.”

Another lull. This one's shorter.

“...'Meira',” you say.

“Yes.”

“Just 'Meira'--”

“Just 'Meira'.”

“...Right.”

If there was any birdsong, it's gone now. There's nothing to hear except for the sound of two people who'd rather be elsewhere kicking their way through pile after pile of decaying foliage.

Still probably beats snow, though. Less wet, less cold--or so you assume, seeing as everything you know about the stuff is secondhand. Well, that'll change soon enough, won't it? Give it a month or two, and you'll be able to make the comparison yourself, right before you die of hypothermia. At least the guy in the Jack London story had a husky for company. You've got no one and nothing here, and Shannon will never know what happened--

“So,” you say, stretching a cheery smile up the sides of your face, “seen any good TV shows lately?”

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

Meira, as it turns out, has not seen any good TV shows lately, though you have to explain the concept first before you can be certain. You suppose it's to be expected, considering how Gensokyo predates regularly scheduled television services by about 45 years. Her knowledge of good movies is similarly lacking, though the gap in time is shorter in that case--privately, you can't help but wonder what she'd make of film, if you strapped her to an easy chair and turned her eyeballs to the screen. Would she be amazed? Or is there some jerkwater genius around here who's already worked out the arcanepunk version of the movie camera?

You're just about to ask Meira if she really doesn't know anything about automatous doppelgangers or pestilential hematophages or wardrobed somnambulists when she stops and tells you that you've arrived--and so you have. Your questions will have to wait another day.

“You would be wise not to stray from the road again,” Meira says, as you cast an eye for any changes that might've cropped up since last you were here. Too bad--the village is the same as ever. “The Forest of Magic is dangerous to those who do not know their way.”

“In that case, it's a good thing I ran into you, huh?”

“...Yes.” Your rescuer seems unsure what to make of your (artificial) joviality. Maybe she thinks you're loopy. You hope so. “Anyway--now that you're safe, I'll be taking my leave--”

“Ah, wait a moment.”

And Meira stops, mid-retreat. “What is it?” she asks.

“Well...” You form a vapid, vaguely apologetic expression. “Do you know an Utsumi Nobuaki? I know he's got a restaurant, but, ah...I'm not very familiar with the village, either, so...”

“You want me to take you to his restaurant.”

“...I'd be happy if you just told me how to get there, really.”

To Meira's credit, the most you sense of her annoyance is the tensing of her fingers and the stare burning through your skull. “Fine,” she says, once she's decided your brain's fried enough. “Come with me.”

And the journey continues.

You follow dutifully behind as Meira makes her way through the village's streets--though calling them “streets” is a little too generous, in your opinion. They're more like very wide paths. Very busy, very wide paths, but very wide paths nevertheless. Unmarked, too--you haven't found a single signpost since you started looking for one, which makes you wonder how these folks manage to get around. There must be some system, you're sure, but you can't see it.

What you do see are the glares. Lots of glares, from lots of people, all focused in your general direction. Some of them are quick, barely more than glances. Most of them aren't. Sure, you don't mind being a pariah--you're not looking for acceptance, here--but you can feel enough eyebeams coming your way that it's honestly uncomfortable. You won't go down so easy, though--you straighten your back and lift your chin, even as another village girl you don't know swivels her head to follow your passage. You won't be cowed. You've got nothing to feel guilty about.

You keep that healthy attitude up even as Meira stops in front of a building that looks like it ought to belong in an illustrated dictionary alongside the term “hole in the wall”.

“This is it,” she says. “The restaurant.”

_ Thank her, and part ways here. She's no longer necessary.
_ Thank her, and ask her to come with you. You're not done yet.
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 165143
[x] Thank her, and part ways here. She's no longer necessary.

No need to stretch our welcome
>> No. 165148
[x] Thank her, and part ways here. She's no longer necessary.

Well, that went better than expected!
>> No. 165163
[x] Thank her, and ask her to come with you. You're not done yet.

Thank her with food, maybe?
Would be nice to have a not-entirely-hostile person around while in the village. Does Terrence even know how to get back to the shrine from the village? Tewi took him there from Eientei.
>> No. 165164
Nobody wants to offer some of our lunch to Meira? I guess it would be sort of out of character for Terrance to be nice lately.
>> No. 165168
[x] Thank her with food.
>> No. 165175
[x] Thank her, and ask her to come with you. You're not done yet.
>> No. 166482
File 136550113647.jpg - (46.29KB , 600x600 , FallingAwake.jpg ) [iqdb]
166482
X Thank her, and ask her to come with you. You're not done yet.

This is it?

You didn't have high expectations, but even this seems below par. “This is Utsumi's--”

“Utsumi's restaurant. Yes.” Meira says that more than a little impatiently. Clearly, she's itching to drop you off and move on with her life, though you can't imagine why--there's not much allure in swinging a sword alone in a cold forest. You ought to do her a favor.

Hell, why not? You will do her a favor.

“Thank you very much,” you say, and when Meira makes the quick, polite not-a-smile-at-all and turns to leave you keep talking anyway. “Would it be alright for me to treat you to something? As a token of my gratitude.”

The not-a-smile-at-all becomes a lot more not. “I have to get back to my practice,” Meira says.

“Just a small meal, then--I owe you, you know.” And you'd rather wipe out that debt right now, which is why you sweep your arm in that classic “after you” gesture. Or is that even a thing here? Well, Meira gets it anyway, so you guess it doesn't matter. She ducks through the doorway and you come in right behind, just like you've been doing since you found her in the woods.

You hope you can stop after this. Seriously--you're starting to feel like the tail end of a two-man marching band here. And you can't even play the recorder, let alone the drums.

The restaurant is almost completely empty, the only sign of life the man behind the counter--and even he seems to recognize how dead the place is. Instead of preparing for the lunch rush (which seems to be ignoring the storefront), he's busy poring over a piece of paper, his massively meaty face balanced in one similarly meaty hand. A few used bowls stand stacked up here and there, indicating some amount of business--but overall the scene's one of stifling desolation.

It doesn't help when the man does notice you. You see his eyes shine as he belts out the usual welcome--but then he realizes who you are and his voice dies in his throat. He looks more confused than hostile though, like he's trying to figure out what you're doing here and coming up short.

There's something familiar there, but you honestly don't care. You push yourself in front of Meira and speak up. “Excuse me, but...ah, are you Utsumi Nobuaki?”

“What? Er--”

The man goes instantly on edge. You don't blame him--the fact that you know his name is probably a red flag. He straightens up in a hurry, his elbow sending his paper spinning off the counter behind him.

“Yes,” he says. “Yes, I'm Utsumi, but--I mean--er--” His eyes flicker back and forth between you and Meira nervously. “May I help you?” he manages, finally.

“Suika's dispatched me,” you say. “She told me to order two boxed meals.”

As quick as you want to leave the village, maybe you could've taken the few seconds to phrase that a little less bluntly--it's kind of painful, seeing what's left in the man's eyes fade away as he figures out he's not getting a profit out of this little encounter. Not that you could pay him if you wanted to, with your wallet across the Border. The man nods and mutters and heads off into a back room, and you grab a seat at the counter.

After a moment, Meira takes the one next to you.

The silence that hangs over the both of you is an uneasy one. You're fine with idle conversation, usually, but whenever you open your mouth here you hesitate. You're not friends with this woman. You can't even call yourselves companions. Meira's affected by the same awkwardness, at least, judging from the way she keeps glancing at you from the corner of her eye.

She gets over it first. “You know Ibuki,” she says.

“Who?” you say.

“Ibuki.” And when your remain silent, she explains irritably: “Ibuki Suika. The oni of the shrine. How do you know her?”

And you're honestly not sure how to answer that question. You met Ibuki--so that was her name--because Inaba led you to her. But you only met Inaba because Patches took you to Eientei. And Patches only took you to Eientei because Margatroid was there because you stabbed her, and that happened because she bought you from Hake, and you wouldn't have been working for Hake in the first place if Shinomiya hadn't attacked you and tossed you into this place somehow, so--

“Well...I might be staying at the shrine.” You pause. “I think.”

“You're not sure?”

“It's been a very strange month. I was staying with Kotohime only yesterday, but...”

You trail off. Come to think of it, Kotohime might be a problem. Does she know you've been relocated? The last thing you want is her dropping by just to call you--

“Suspicious.”

Meira's tone is flat, no-nonsense, but the word still sounds more pleasant coming off her lips than it ever did off Kotohime's. You feel a grin start to form despite yourself--a real grin, not just the sort you paste on. “Oh, you've met her too!” you say. “What was your crime?”

It's a joke, or at least something you can pass off as a joke. But when Meira looks at you, her eyes have gone flint-hard.

Utsumi returns just in time.

The food boxes are plain wood, with a shine--some kind of finishing. They're warm, too, which makes you wonder exactly what's inside. You'd ask the man, but he looks uneasy enough already.

“This--” Utsumi cuts himself off--swallows, and starts again. “Ah--this should make Miss Ibuki and I even, now. Could you tell her that?”

“Yeah, sure,” you say.

And then you slide one of the boxes over in Meira's direction.

“Here.”

“...What's this?”

“It's food. You ingest it for its nutrients.”

“Wh--I know what food is!”

“Oh, good. I didn't want to explain chewing.”

“No--I--” Meira closes her eyes and takes a breath, like she's trying hard not to show how irritated she is. It doesn't work. “Why are you giving this to me?” she says.

...What, does she think you've poisoned it somehow? You don't hate her enough for that--not yet, anyway. “I wanted to give it to you, so I gave it to you,” you explain, like you would to a child. “If I hadn't wanted to give it to you, I wouldn't have given it to you. See?”

But she doesn't see at all. She's too busy looking at the air somewhere between you and her next meal, like that's something more interesting than either.

“I'm not taking your pity,” she says.

And if you'd known being generous would be so irritating, maybe you wouldn't have bothered. “That's fine,” you say back, your reserves of patience draining rapidly, “but it's not pity. Think of it like a business transaction--you helped me when I was lost, and now I'm giving this in return. That's it. Now--are you taking this or not?”

She takes it, of course. She takes it and doesn't even say thank you, the standoffish sword-swinging stain of spit--just nods, stiff, and then off she goes, out the door, box in hand and back held straight like she's using up all the dignity she has just to manage. A wasted effort, considering that you couldn't care less. Heck, if anything, it just makes you wish you could've dosed her, somehow--you'd like to see her try to act so grand with a lunch laced with hallucinogens.

Then again, she's got a sword. You don't want to be around anyone with a sword when they start thinking there's bugs coming out the walls--

“A friend of yours?”

You nearly jump, but settle for turning around so fast you're sure it wears out a spot in your outsole instead. Somehow, you forgot about Utsumi's existence. “What?” you sputter.

“Ah...” Utsumi's unease rises a hefty notch, like he suspects he's gone too far. “I was wondering if you and her were friends,” he says quickly. “But--if you don't want to say--”

“No, no, it's alright.” Because if this guy gets any more high-strung he'll snap. “She's not a friend. You heard everything, right? Like I said--I got lost, and she led me here. That's the extent of our relationship.”

“Oh. Good.”

Yeah. Good.

Wait. Good?

“Good?”

“Er--well--that woman--” Utsumi stops mid-sentence once again, though this time it looks like he's actually mapping out his thoughts instead of just locking up from nerves.

“That woman,” he says, carefully, “is...not someone you can trust.”

“Because she stands around in a forest swinging a sword all day?”

“Because she tried to kill a nine-year-old kid.”

...Oh, hell. You didn't need to visit Japan to get acquainted with unpleasant surprises, but it's certainly helped. “Seriously?” you mutter.

Utsumi nods, mouth stretched into a grim line.

Ugh. No wonder she shut up. “Thanks for letting me know,” you say, and you take your own boxed meal and leave before you can lose that one to someone worse. Like a professional hitman, maybe. Or a lawyer.

“W-wait!”

Or at least you start to. “What?”

Utsumi meets your gaze. Holds it, with something almost frantic, as anxiety breaks out across his forehead in a sheet of sweat. “Please be careful,” he says. “Kazuhiro was kind to me, and I'm grateful to you for catching the man who killed him, but--that woman and the Hakurei shrine maiden weren't friends either. Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” you say, “I understand.”

You're no stranger to connect the dots.

And this puzzle's easy.

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

This was supposed to be easy.

You planned it all out. Before you started it all up, even. You were just going to bust into the vic's apartment, find clues, and catch the dude who did it. Simple! You like simple. It's simple to be awesome and awesome to be simple. An American said that, that one guy who wrote all those essays decked out in that bobble hat and the candy cane shirt that no one could find. What was he called?

You'll ask Korene later.

But see, here you are, and here's Korene, and it's like simple got blown up at step one. You blame this dude here. There isn't even supposed to be this dude here, but it looks like you got beat to the busting before you could bust in yourself, and by him, which is actually totally skeevy because who busts into someone else's habituation? Someone totally skeevy, that's who.

Which means actually that this is the sort of totally skeevy anyone Korene was to be all eyes-out for before. Which means actually that this is a clue, only just maniform-like. Which means actually that step one might've got blown up, but you're making it up in step two in spades! Man, that's hella serendipitous!

“Man, that's hella serendipitous!” you say. “We were going to go after your tail out of here anyways, but now your tail and your head are all up with the ouroboric superposition and we ain't even got to bother! Hands up, psycho!”

It's a speech so awesome you almost couldn't say it in time before you already did, but this dude here is unmoved. His heart's got to be too cold and twisted to even get it, or something. Plus he looks old, and old people don't get awesome stuff either.

“What,” he says.

See, right past his head.

“Looks like there ain't no use in interlocution! Korene!” you shout, your awesomeness shooting up by the mile by the second. “Time to teach this dude here the feeling of coefficiency!”

“What,” he says.

Korene's eyebrows do that squinching thing. “All of those words were used correctly,” she says. “I'm very impressed.”

And any other time you'd have something or something to say to something like that, but this dude here's not punching out himself, that's for sure. You screw up for a mega-haymaker--

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

You screwed up.

Suika--Ibuki told you to order two boxed meals. And you did, technically. Sure, you gave one of them away, but you did order two. And that's what counts, right?

Wrong. Because the one you gave away went to maybe the worst possible person available. You figured you were paying off a debt before it could form interest. You didn't think the woman would turn out to be a would-be murderer.

Damn it, you bet that was supposed to be your lunch, too. Not that your breakfast was lacking, particularly--but the knowledge of a meal lost makes your stomach ache, and that makes you remember that your face aches, and your hand, and none of that helps when you're trying to claw your way up Mount Whitney.

...Alright, so these stairs aren't that bad. But they're close, and when you finally do get over the top it's a relief to lay your delivery aside and just sit on your haunches awhile. You're even willing to take whatever biting remark Ibuki's got lined up for the occasion if it'll give you a chance to catch your breath. You won't like it, and you probably won't forgive her for it, but you're willing to take it.

To your surprise, though, there isn't much in the way of Ibuki's causticity. There isn't much in the way of Ibuki at all, in fact, which would be a relief if your brain weren't suddenly breaking out in hives. There's something wrong here, you realize. It's too quiet. Birdsong again, and the lack of it--

And then you look up. And there's Ibuki.

Flying.

Floating.

Hanging there, high above the shrine, like an accident against some painter's cloudscape.

She smiles at you. It's the same smile as before. And then you can't see if she smiles any more than that, because the sky is full with a thousand lights.

Some large, some small. Some faded, some blinding.

All of them bearing down on you.

_ Aversion
_ Insertion
_ Immersion
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 166490
[x]Immersion
>> No. 166493
[x] Aversion

Seems the best move
>> No. 166497
[x] Aversion
Yet I get the feeling that no matter what is chosen someone is going to be in pain after this.
>> No. 166502
[X]Aversion
>> No. 166507
[x]Insertion

Into the storm
>> No. 166509
[x]Immersion

There's a lake nearby?
>> No. 166524
[X]Aversion
>> No. 166614
X Insertion

get some.
>> No. 169572
File 137078304494.jpg - (29.66KB , 280x280 , SmallDeal.jpg ) [iqdb]
169572
X Aversion

You move. You don't even think about moving because you don't think. Your instincts scream at you, and your conscious mind cannot consider the message--cannot consider considering it--before the command is already down your spine and in your limbs and your body obeys, muscles tense and you blink and you are across the grounds running as light flickers at the edges of your vision and you don't know how you got there but you know it is better than being where you were, before.

And you know, also: You shouldn't have trusted that troll, not even for a second. This was always going to happen. This, or something like it. Always, always--

A stray shot grazes your heel, sends needles down to the ball of your foot, and you curse yourself. Don't think, Terrence--stop thinking. Haven't you covered that already? You don't have time to think. If you want to beat yourself up, you can do that later, when no one's set to do the job for you. But that time's not now, Terrence, so quit with the self-reproach--turn your head--

Turn your head and look, damn it!

And you do--

And the world focuses, narrows down to you and Ibuki and everything in between, and just as your thoughts start up again (you can't fight this, no way, impossible), the chaos seems to solve itself--resolve itself--and you can't help but notice how the shots line up in neatly organized rows which is impossible on its own because there couldn't have been those gaps in between, could there? The whole time? But there are, now--you can see that there are--and there always were (it's your right) just like the young woman painted in the hag and you only had to see it to believe it and believe it to see--

Do you see, Terrence?

And you jump--twist--let the light take away the edges of you; that's fine, because the less you feel the more you hear, and the more you hear the easier it is to see the places to slip through, to fall like you've been doing this all your life, to land--

And you land--

And--

And you look up at Ibuki, Ibuki still floating there, Ibuki with that look on her face like she's got you in check and it's the strangest thing but you were running a moment ago and now she seems so small. Like you could blot her out with your hand, if you wanted to. And you do want to. It seems like a good idea, all of a sudden. You raise your palm out towards her as the whisper becomes a gale, as your heartbeat gains an echo, as your veins stretch tight like piano wire waiting for the first chord.

Yes, you think.

Yes, this feels right.

Unfortunately, it also feels like another of Ibuki's light balls coming in from low and to the left where you weren't looking to get you right in the ribs. Those things pack a surprisingly large punch. You've got time to wonder if your shoes are still on before you hit the ground.

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

You ain't looking at your shoes.

It probably maybe looks like you're looking at your shoes, like you're all downbeat and beat down and all that, but you ain't. You'd know if you were, seeing like it's your own looking you're looking at. But no way. The thing you're looking at isn't your shoes but your nose, only you can't look at your nose straight so it looks like you're looking at your shoes. Which you ain't.

You're looking at your nose.

You're looking at your nose because this skeevy dude mashed it.

It ain't broken. You've got broken noses before, and this ain't one of them. But it's sore, and Korene going Eggs Benedict in the back of a cop car next to you ain't helping.

“Jamie's very sorry she tried to punch you,” says Korene, totally ignoring the fact that you're totally not. “I think she thought you were a 'skeevy dude'.”

The skeevy dude is a skeevy dude, and stays mum. He doesn't even look at you not looking at him and looking at your nose and not looking at your shoes, which is hella skeevy-like.

Korene's not feeling any of this skeeviness, though. She keeps not clamming up, even with it mega-obvious she's supposed to.

She's liking this, and that's kind of skeevy-like, too.

“We wanted to find a clue to Ms. Palmer's death,” Korene goes on, and this time the skeevy dude does like he's all of a sudden paying attention. Of course he does. “We found you instead, and Jamie assumed the worst.”

Yeah, now the skeevy dude actually looks at you. Like he's checking you all over for being threatening. “That I was an 'aardvark superstition'?” he says.

“'Ouroboric superposition',” says Korene.

“And that means what, exactly?”

Alright, party time's over. You're cutting this boudinage off before it grows into a full-grown bantering. “It means,” you say, and all the history of all the really awesome detectives is backing you up here, and even if you can't point all dramatic-like with your hands cuffed you know you're as awesome as them, “jacule!”

And then everyone's all into a hella stunned silence.

Stunned at how totally awesome you are.

Because that's what you are, right now.

Awesome.

“What,” says the skeevy dude.

“J'accuse,” says Korene.

“Like I said, jacule,” you say. “Because that's what I'm doing. Because you being where a woman who was there when she wasn't murdered is hella skeevy! Extra seeing like everybody knows you bunch of you ain't even trying to figure it out anymore.”

“What.”

“Jamie says your being in Ms. Palmer's apartment is awfully suspicious, especially as the local police have given up on the case,” says Korene.

“Like I said,” you say, “what she said. Which is what I said. We said the same thing!”

The skeevy dude does a look like he's going to be all “what” again. Then he doesn't be that, and pulls over all suddenly instead. “Listen to me,” he's all like. “This isn't TV. People are dead.”

And that roils you up more than seeing him standing around Palmer's room like he owned the joint after he busted in himself ever did. “Yeah!” you say. “Yeah! I know who's dead! I got the news, same as you! But somebody gave the wannabe bibliothecary an involuntary gastrectomy, and what are you doing about it?”

Nothing, that's what.

Nothing except forgetting about it, all quiet-like, and making like if they do nothing everybody else is going to forget about it too.

“Jamie says--”

“I know what she says,” says the skeevy dude. “'Involuntary gastrectomy'.” He looks at you like he's chewing something over with his eyes, and then he's all fiddling with something against the dash you can't see.

And then he gets out and over and you and Korene out of the car and cuffs, which is kind of completely not what you thought was going to be happening out of this, unless he's going to shoot you now and stick you with something to make it look like shooting you was something that was okay, which is. But it isn't. What he sticks you with is a piece of paper.

“Don't make me regret this,” he says.

And you're all, “What?”

But the dude just walks and drives off back to being the quiet type without looking back like he's trying to be awesome, too, even though he already totally blew it forever ago.

“Maybe his skeeviness ain't as skeevy as I thought,” you say. You can be wrong, too. You're just real honest and real about it, which is another reason you're awesome. Plus, you found that clue. You read off that paper, all speedy-like.

“I don't know who're these Shannon and Knife dudes,” you're like, “but I want to know who're these Shannon and Knife dudes. That Knife dude mostly. With an ekement like that, he's probably hella awesome.”

“Ekename,” says Korene.

“Like I said, ekement.”

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

There's been an ekement in cloud.

Sure, you saw that grey moving in earlier, and it was plenty overcast just before Ibuki put on her light show, but what you're seeing now has moved far past “party cloudy” and into some serious oktas. It's a perfect mirror to your mood: dark, and more than likely to end in an outburst.

...Alright, as far as comparisons go, even you have to admit that one's pretty tortured. Unfortunately, you don't get the chance to think of a better one before Ibuki herself pokes her head into view, slick smile and all.

“Pretty impressive,” she says.

You glare. From your supine position, it's less than effective.

“You think I'm lying?” Ibuki says. “I haven't lied once, and I'm not easy with my praise, either. Of course, in a real fight you wouldn't last a minute--but you already know that, right?”

“I've been in a real fight.”

“You've been in a brawl. And if that crate hadn't been there, you'd be dead. Tewi's not here anymore--your luck's running out.” That oily look that Ibuki's wearing spreads. There's a flash of teeth--

And then her face changes, abruptly. Into something almost friendly. False, but fascinating all the same.

“Well, that's alright,” she says. “Don't worry about it! I'll give you a chance to get what you want.”

There's the sound of rolling thunder. You pop yourself up by the elbows, looking into Ibuki's face. It's too close. “What I want?” you echo.

“Power.”

And the first raindrops fall, thick and heavy from the sky.
>> No. 169573
File 137078355557.jpg - (1.53MB , 2560x1920 , 2013-06-09 06_07_16.jpg ) [iqdb]
169573
End of part eight.
>> No. 169585
Need to read this from the start again
>> No. 169601
File 137086533620.gif - (54.18KB , 320x240 , 1268693909251.gif ) [iqdb]
169601
>>169585
That would be a bad course of action. That would be a tremendously bad course of action, and I would like to discourage it as thoroughly as possible.

Tell you what--if you need a quick recap, in lieu of you reading all those pesky words I'll gladly sum the whole thing up for you myself. Is that acceptable? Nod if that's acceptable. Or just type "nod".
>> No. 169606
>>169601
What?
>> No. 169635
File 137092066094.gif - (342.88KB , 500x329 , tumblr_lenq8jqwuS1qe0eclo1_r8_500.gif ) [iqdb]
169635
>>169606
Dude, I can't even read my own posts without cringing.

To not provide an alternative option would be cruel.
>> No. 169636
> Dude, I can't even read my own posts without cringing.

Of course _you_ can't read them. You wrote them, and know them already, all you see is the mistakes/problems.

Trust me, they are not that bad.
>> No. 169638
>>169601
I actually enjoy your writing
>> No. 169642
>>169635

Just finished reading the previous posts for the first time. Good sir/madam, I stayed up much later than I should have and I neither noticed nor cared. This was some good stuff.
>> No. 171239
File 137333226373.jpg - (76.66KB , 500x500 , TheFire.jpg ) [iqdb]
171239
Update to occur presently.

In the meantime, please pretend that this image accompanies post >>163448, as was intended.
>> No. 171243
File 137333797287.jpg - (195.38KB , 500x500 , Tears.jpg ) [iqdb]
171243
It's been two weeks.

At least, you think it's been two weeks. You've been doing your best to keep track of the days (even if you're not sure what day you started), and you're reasonably certain two weeks have passed since Suika's dubious offer. Only reasonably certain, though--without a cellphone or smartphone or partner to pester you can only take your best guess, and your best guess in a place like this isn't very good at all.

Is it November? It must be November by now.

Right?

It feels like a November, anyway. Cold, and getting colder. You tried to keep stoic, but you gave it up the day Ibuki came up the stairs with a wrinkled Japanese-style coat over her arm. Some would call that a nice gesture--you call it proof Ibuki wants something out of you. There's no way she's helping you for generosity's sake.

The same goes for the training--which is another set of issues all on its own. Ibuki said you could become powerful, but apparently the path to power involves your tormentor appearing out of thin air (literally) to blast you with a thousand fireworks and see how long you can dance. It doesn't matter what you're doing at the time--you can be sweeping the walk, or sleeping, or even just about ready to dig into one of those boxed meals she's just brought up from the village when suddenly--

She calls it a “barrage”. You've got much ruder names for it.

You get the concept, though. Ibuki doesn't just want you healthy, for whatever plan she's got cooked up in that subsize noggin of hers--she wants you able to fight. So the surprise attacks do have a purpose. She's trying to teach you to be on your guard at all times. And she's trying to teach you to dodge, too, because the longer you can dodge, the longer you can last. It's a good idea, nearly. Too bad it's not working.

...No, that's a bad way of putting it. It is working, at least on some level. You can last about a minute now before you get hit, which is a marked improvement any way you look at it. The problem is that you're not the one improving. You're not learning how to dodge any more than the average guy learns how to blink. Because every time Ibuki jumps up from nowhere and stays there--

Every time that first volley comes at you--

Your feet kick. Your body turns. And you're moving through the air in just the right way that all those lights go whizzing past you, which would be fine and dandy if you were actually the one doing that.

You're not.

You didn't realize it until the third day. You didn't realize it until that moment in the middle of when you were supposed to be scrubbing the shrine but weren't because you knew it was meaningless--something dumped on your for the sake of distraction and the eating of your time. So you looked out upon the pathway instead, out where Ibuki had tested you and toyed with you knowing that you couldn't win, and realized, suddenly, and with epiphanic clarity, that you had no idea how you'd even done that jump. Or the next jump, the day after. And later, when you finally did finish scrubbing down one wall and Ibuki launched her surprise attack, the first of many--

You fell away from yourself. Yes--that's a fine way to put it. Every time, you fall away from yourself, and something else moves up and in to take your place. It's something you don't like to think about--don't want to think about--but in a place like this with nothing to do worth doing and nothing to see worth seeing, your mind inevitably returns to the subject. Stumbles around it feverishly, in laps. Because the core of it is this--there is something wrong with your brain. There is something wrong with your brain. And you know there is something wrong with your brain, because most people's brains don't need to deal with dissociative fugue or dissociative identity disorder or whatever dissociative disorder this is supposed to be, and that's assuming that it is in your head at all, and not someone or something else out there that's decided to reach in every once in a while and wear your body like a--

Oh.

You look down at your broom, which is now a much shorter broom and a new stick. Great. Knowing Ibuki, she's probably going to make you make do with just the bottom part.

Damn it.

And you wouldn't mind so much, you think, bending down to pick up the broom's sweeping half--though you certainly would mind, still--you'd mind a lot--you'd mind a hell of a lot and it'd be a negligible difference at best--

But you wouldn't mind as much if it weren't getting easier to fall each time.

You feel the familiar buzz of frustration. You've felt it a lot since you landed in Gensokyo. You take a deep breath and try to pretend you haven't started to suspect that you're closing in on a dead end.

You also try to pretend your pulse isn't bounding from the feeling of eyes at the back of your head. Time to move, you think, but when you turn you do it awfully slow.

It's Ibuki, of course.

Who else would it be?

There's no sign of the usual light show, though, even as the seconds tick by with your consciousness on a precipice. Ibuki just sits there on the shrine steps, smiling, no doubt perfectly aware of what she's doing to you.

“Let's go for a walk,” she says.

_ Hamlet
_ Sylvanry
_ Leave me alone
>> No. 171246
Sylvanry

Before, I was certain that he was channeling some form of instinct that comes from being related to the Hakurei. I am surprised I never though of possession or external manipulation. The number of entities that could use him like a sock puppet is disturbing/interesting when thought about.
>> No. 171247
[x]Hamlet
Hakurei bloodline at work, or maybe a certain evil spirit?

Also, I bet Suika would shoot after the talking just for fun.
>> No. 171248
[x] Sylvanry

I think it's the Hakurei bloodline, but maybe taking too many liberties with Terrence's head.

Let's get that shit under control, man.
>> No. 171249
[x]Hamlet
Mima~~
>> No. 171254
[x] Sylvanry
>> No. 171353
X Sylvanry

I don't even know what's going on anymore and I've been following this for a while. I, for one, would appreciate a recap.
>> No. 171359
X Sylvanry
>> No. 172415
File 137509296339.jpg - (81.67KB , 600x600 , TTV.jpg ) [iqdb]
172415
X Sylvanry

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

Walk, Ibuki says, but where exactly you're walking to is a mystery, and Ibuki seems dead set on keeping it that way. You do try to ask, a few times--but of course you get nothing. The first time Ibuki just hums, like she missed the question. The second time she says something about sea routes and good weather. Sea routes?

And the third time, you turn your head and she isn't even there.

There's a moment of indecision--you're only partway down from the shrine, so you're not unwilling to climb up again, not yet--but then Ibuki's voice is in your ear. Directly in your ear, in fact. “Were you worried?”

You flinch. It's a perfectly reasonable reaction.

“No, you weren't worried,” Ibuki's voice says. You can hear the smirk. “It doesn't change that much to you if I'm here or not, does it?”

“I think I'll be a lot more annoyed,” you retort.

“But it doesn't change you.”

And you have no idea what that means. If anything's changing around here, let it be the subject. “That's a neat trick,” you say, continuing your steady path down and off the stairs. “Invisibility?”

“I'm just thin. Turn right.”

You turn right, deeper into the forest. This way goes towards the village--or at least it did, the last time you took it. Who's responsible for the geography, anyway? When it takes a nature hike to reach the closest thing this place has to civilization, it's pretty clear somebody screwed up. And it doesn't help, either, that Gensokyo woodland's given you nothing but a variety of troubles.

...Damn it, you should've brought a weapon. Sure, now you know you can kill things even if they're not human. And that revelation's left you a lot more sure of yourself. But making with the pugilism didn't exactly work last time, did it?

“Turn right again here.”

You nearly comply before your eyes catch up. “There is no right,” you point out. “The road doesn't go right.”

“I know. Turn right here.”

“You're telling me to leave the road.”

“You didn't care last time.”

“You weren't there last time.”

“Sure I was. Didn't I say I've been watching you?”

Not the point--but you turn right anyway, suppressing a groan. Or maybe not a groan. Maybe another remark to dig yourself deeper with, instead. Or maybe both. “Fine?” you ask.

No response.

Of course.

“In the cartoons, there's usually an angel on the other shoulder,” you mutter, and march straight ahead. This is going to go south quick.

Even you end up surprised at how quick, though. You've barely gone walking five minutes when you catch the sound of something moving in the brush. Instinctively, you turn your head--and find yourself nose to point with someone's sword. Isn't that familiar?

“Uh,” you say.

“Were you following me?”

And that voice is familiar, too.

“...Meira?”

“Were you following me?” Meira demands. She seems irate, or maybe downright hostile. It's hard to tell when your eyes keep sliding back to the tip of her blade.

You almost shake your head before you think better of it. “I'm not following you,” you say. “I wasn't even thinking about following you. I don't want to follow you, honest.”

And that is honest. If Meira's willing to off a nine-year-old, she's probably got even less of an issue when it comes to someone older. It's not the sort of company you want to keep, if only for the sake of your own health.

Meira doesn't seem set on murdering you, though. Not yet, anyway. She stares you down for a few seconds more before she takes her sword away from too close to your head and resheaths it. “Did you leave the path again?” she asks, in the way people ask questions when the answers are perfectly obvious to all parties involved. “I told you the Forest of Magic was dangerous.”

If someone else tells you they already told you something, you're going to do something drastic. “It wasn't my idea,” you say, putting on an unsteady sort of smile. “I would've more liked to stay at the shrine, but...”

“Ibuki.”

“Ibuki,” you confirm. “Blame her today, not me.”

Meira getting the picture is almost a nice surprise, but she's not much interested in commiserating with you over your recent misfortunes. Rather, she peers at your face, close, like she's trying to get a good look at your pores. When she finally stops, her expression is something tangential to pity. “What did you do to make her so interested in you?” she asks. “You don't look special.”

“Um, I had a real unlucky day, basically. And then things got worse.” You wonder if you could punch this woman in the nose and get away with it. Maybe if you played it off as an accident. Probably not. “Anyway, I didn't think I'd meet you again, but I really shouldn't chat for too long. I don't know what I'm doing, but I know I'm in the middle of doing something, so sorry, but...”

And you make it that far and halfway through the semicircle you're tracing around Meira and her sword when Meira says very suddenly, “Wait.”

Damn it. “Er...is there something else?”

“Yes,” Meira says. “Do you actually know where you're going?”

“...Not particularly.”

“In that case,” says Meira, “I think it would be better for me to accompany you.”

_ Oh, hell no.
_ You don't like it, but...
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 172416
[X] You don't like it, but...

It's not like Suika is good company either, but we're not buying her lunch again!
>> No. 172426
[x] You don't like it, but...
Suika keeping tabs on everyone.
Let's make suspicious stabby friends, crazy circumstances for all.
>> No. 172432
[x] You don't like it, but...

It's for the best if we build up some connections of our own.
>> No. 173257
File 137699122092.jpg - (35.73KB , 600x600 , HangOnInThere.jpg ) [iqdb]
173257
X You don't like it, but...

Hell no--that's what you're thinking, and that's what you want to say, but pragmatism weighs a lot more than principle at this point. Meira's got problems--understatement--but murderousness aside you've already had more help from her than you've had from Ibuki.

Plus, there's that sword. You're not so good at Gensokyo-style fighting--Ibuki's beaten that fact into your head (and your ribs, and your heels, and everywhere in between). Having someone with a weapon around might be just enough to get you through this...this...

“Did I mention that I don't know what I'm doing?”

Meira looks very much like she didn't need to be reminded. “Yes,” she says. “You did mention that.”

“Just wanted to make sure. Anyway--I'm going to walk straight ahead until I can't walk straight ahead anymore, and then I might turn around.” You incline your head slightly. You won't bow. “Thanks a bunch,” you say.

And as the full weight of what she's agreed to settles on Meira's brow, your smile becomes a bit more genuine. Nothing helps misery like spreading it around.

You make a strange group, the three of you lackadaisically walking into nowhere. Well, you and Meira are walking--you don't know what Ibuki's doing. Still floating invisible at your ear, you'd guess, but she hasn't said anything since you left the path so you can't tell for sure. Not that you particularly mind her shutting up.

Meira, meanwhile, is walking on the other side of you. Further ahead--but not by much. Just far enough to give her the diameter her sword requires, probably, though you doubt she'd be too broken up if she caught you in the follow-through.

Amazingly, she hasn't complained yet, or even grumbled. You wonder if she's the type that buries it deep inside until it all comes bursting out at the least opportune moment possible.

Maybe that's why she tried to kill a nine-year-old kid.

But you haven't given her a reason to turn on you, right? You don't think she heard that Utsumi guy making the reveal, but for all you know she was listening in around the door. If she's planning to do you in, you might be in a real--

The sound's familiar, almost. Like a knife scraping across a cutting board--but you doubt anyone here's thinking about food. No, this is a different kind of blade altogether.

Even with the clouds, there's still enough light to reflect off Meira's sword.

You step back. “Hey,” you murmur weakly.

“Listen,” Meira hisses.

And then--

And then--

And then there's a shout in your head, and you throw yourself sideways, but it isn't Meira's blade that barely misses you but something else--something that dives through the trees to strike where you aren't with enough force to kick up a burst of dead leaves and dirt. It's the best you can manage to just stare, for a second--what the hell, you think, what the hell--but then pain flares in your bones and coherent thought's back and you scramble to your feet, quick, before you can make a too easy target.

There's no follow-up, though--your attacker just stands there, looking you over blankly. And then it says:

“Huh. I missed.”

And somehow, that's what really gets you. “'Missed'?” you cry, and the indignation's not all fake. “You nearly knocked my head off! Were you trying to kill me or something?”

“If you really can't tell, I don't know what Ibuki sees in you,” Meira says. She's holding her sword towards something else for once, and maybe you'd like to clock her for the words but that's a welcome change.

Your attacker takes the umbrage in stride, shrug magnified down the length of a long, black cape. It'd make a neat effect, if it weren't for the shorts. Even you can tell that's a mismatch. “Two against one's unfair,” your local fashion accident victim says. “You can't blame someone for trying to give themselves an equal chance, right?”

“I can blame you easy,” you retort. “I'm blaming you right now--Meira, what are we doing?”

Meira steps forwards. Her blade is steady, stance practiced. “I'm going to battle a youkai,” she says, grimly.

“Uh-huh. And me?”

“You're going to put your head down and try not to die.”

...What.

“Are you saying I'm useless?”

“Yes.”

“I'm not useless!” And that came out a lot whinier than you meant it to. “Look--I can be useful. I just need a weapon.”

“Do you have a weapon?”

This portion of the Forest of Magic is not abundant in crates. “No,” you admit.

“Then you're useless.”

“No,” you say again. And then, in a last-ditch effort to prove self-sufficiency: “How about you give me your sword?”

“I am not going to give you my sword.”

“It's not like I'm going to hold on to it forever--”

“I am not going to give you my sword!” And Meira's gone from irritated to irate. “Do you know what you're asking me? This is my sword--”

“Hey!”

And Meira's sheer unreasonableness will have to wait, because that something that tried to kick your head off is still standing there--and it's glowering.

“You,” the something says. Its mouth forms more words, but they don't come out. Its fists clench at the sides of its ridiculous shorts.

It tries again.

“You--are you mocking me?”

You aren't, honestly. “Uh,” you say.

“You are mocking me! I don't believe this! Even though I attacked you--I nearly killed you. You said I nearly killed you, but you're still mocking me--”

Those fists are trembling, now. Trembling with barely repressed anger. You're not sure how you kicked off a reaction like this.

“Um,” you offer.

“That girl--and that tengu--it's their fault--I--”

The thing in front of you flings its arm up to the boughs above. A grand gesture, but a mysteriously useless one.

And then the buzzing starts.

“I'll teach you what happens when you don't take us seriously!”

_ Attack
_ Defend
_ Retreat
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 173273
X Attack!

Hit the DBZ while it's charging before the mexibeams come out.
>> No. 173275
[x] Attack
-[x] visualize Ibuki's face instead of its, it will do wonders.
>> No. 173280
[x] Attack
-[x] visualize Ibuki's face instead of its, it will do wonders.
>> No. 173306
[x] Attack
-[x] visualize Ibuki's face instead of its, it will do wonders.

This option.
It was made for me
>> No. 173396
[X]Defend
-While dodging, try to talk her down. The easiest bullet to dodge is the one not fired, after all.

Great to see this story back.
>> No. 173442
File 137773785554.jpg - (341.88KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0001.jpg ) [iqdb]
173442
Someone told me that they'd really appreciate a recap, as they weren't sure where this story was. Or where it had been, plotwise. So--

Last time, on Fleet Fox:

PART ONE

TERRENCE HARKER is a police officer in the relatively peaceful town of LOS OJOS. He lives with his sister, SHANNON HARKER, owner of the coffeeshop CAFÉ DREAM. As the story begins, he wakes from unsettling dreams taking place on a BUS and featuring a WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS, then leaves for work, meeting with his older partner RITCHIE VALENTIN.

TERRENCE and RITCHIE investigate a murder at SUZUKI APARTMENTS. Fellow police officer GROVER MAXIM is already there when they arrive. The victim, KENSUKE YAMAMOTO, has had his stomach torn open, and his visa indicates that he had some sort of job with the government. TERRENCE calls the consulate, but discovers no significantly useful information.

TERRENCE receives a call from SHANNON, who informs him that a representative from the family of his late mother, YUKI HARKER, has called. This is strange, as YUKI was disowned by her family when she married TERRENCE's father, ASHLEY HARKER. Apparently, there has been a death in JAPAN. When TERRENCE calls the representative back (after some advice from RITCHIE), the man, KOUTAROU SHINOMIYA, introduces himself as the assistant to KUMIKO HAKUREI, who, along with her husband, HIROSHI HAKUREI, is now deceased. KUMIKO and HIROSHI were the parents of YUKI, and thus were also TERRENCE and SHANNON's grandparents, but TERRENCE knows nothing about them. KOUTAROU wants TERRENCE and SHANNON to come to JAPAN, ostensibly because of issues arising from these deaths. TERRENCE agrees.

That night, TERRENCE has another dream involving the WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS. The BUS has been damaged. The WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS has been decapitated.

The investigation into KENSUKE's death goes badly. Even though it has literally been open for a day, Captain EUSTACHIUS GRAHAM has been instructed by Chief THOMAS MODESTE to take TERRENCE and RITCHIE off the case and resolve it. The death goes down in the books as the result of KENSUKE keeping a dangerous exotic pet.

TERRENCE and SHANNON go to JAPAN to meet KOUTAROU. KOUTAROU tells them that the HAKUREI FAMILY and SHINOMIYA FAMILY have always had a very close relationship. At the MAIN HOUSE, TERRENCE overhears KOUTAROU discussing SHANNON with his son, TSUTOMU SHINOMIYA.

That night, TERRENCE has another dream with the WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS. She expresses confusion that TERRENCE is on the BUS with her.

TERRENCE finds a photograph of a woman in a purple dress (possibly the same WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS). When he asks if she's a relative, KOUTAROU confirms it uncomfortably, then shows TERRENCE to THE HAKUREI SHRINE, telling TERRENCE that he has received a certain "position" as part of his "inheritance".

Then he smashes TERRENCE's head in with a piece of wood.
>> No. 173443
File 137773790326.jpg - (293.81KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0002.jpg ) [iqdb]
173443
PART TWO

After a brief hallucinatory sequence, TERRENCE wakes up properly in the house of ALICE MARGATROID, who explains that he is in GENSOKYO, enclosed by THE GREAT BOUNDARY. TERRENCE doesn't believe ALICE, and elects to head out alone through THE FOREST OF MAGIC to THE HAKUREI SHRINE.

TERRENCE meets MIMA at THE HAKUREI SHRINE. MIMA has never heard of KOUTAROU, but when TERRENCE asks her for directions to THE MANSION (as he calls THE MAIN HOUSE), she is willing to guide him there. TERRENCE becomes hungry partway, however, and MIMA reluctantly shows him to a YAKITORI STAND run by MOKOU FUJIWARA, at which point MIMA holds TERRENCE unkindly by the neck and asks MOKOU to provide TERRENCE with a "last meal". When TERRENCE tries to fight back, he discovers that MIMA can become partly intangible. TERRENCE is only saved by the sudden intervention of MARISA KIRISAME, and while MIMA and MARISA are busy fighting in the air, MOKOU leads TERRENCE to THE HUMAN VILLAGE and KEINE KAMISHIRASAWA's RESIDENCE.

As TERRENCE and MOKOU wait for KEINE, who is out helping locate the lost KAITO KENZAKI, TERRENCE talks to the apparently preadolescent AKYUU HIEDA, somehow finding her pleasant company. KEINE returns and confirms ALICE's claim about GENSOKYO and THE GREAT BOUNDARY to TERRENCE.

TERRENCE has been trapped in GENSOKYO.
>> No. 173444
File 137773798764.jpg - (381.74KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0003.jpg ) [iqdb]
173444
PART THREE

In LOS OJOS, RITCHIE has been burning through temporary partners (such as SAM PHAM, who he left stranded on a freeway median). His latest partner is SHIN KIRIKAMI, who he finds immediately irritating.

Meanwhile, TERRENCE has found work with a carpentry team (including the cheery YOSHIHITO YARA), headed by FUKUTAROU HAKE.

RITCHIE makes a stop at CAFÉ DREAM (mostly empty, except for the WOMAN WITH THE NEWSPAPER in the corner), where the WOMAN AT THE COUNTER tells RITCHIE that SHANNON wants to talk to him. SHANNON, shadowed by TSUTOMU, gives TERRENCE's wallet to RITCHIE, calling RITCHIE "a weed and singular knife kind of person". Inside the wallet she has slipped a list of Japanese names, which RITCHIE gives to SHIN to research.

ALICE reappears and purchases TERRENCE's temporarily services from FUKUTAROU, much to TERRENCE's displeasure. When she is unable to persuade TERRENCE to come with her through words alone, she attempts to take control of his body through strings. Amazingly, TERRENCE is able to dodge the initial attack, but fails to evade the second, and is marched to ALICE'S COTTAGE. There, he serves as a thoroughly subpar manservant, but happens to learn that ALICE is from outside GENSOKYO, just like him. ALICE informs him that there is currently no way of leaving GENSOKYO, though he might have been able to leave had he arrived six months earlier.

TERRENCE becomes increasingly irritated at having been "kidnapped". When ALICE tells him to do the shopping accompanied by SHANGHAI, it is the final straw, and he stabs her with a buttering knife, leaving her lifeless on the floor. He switches the buttering knife for straight razor that the equally lifeless SHANGHAI still has, but before he can put it to any use a chance drop-in by MARISA sees him beaten unconscious.

SHIN uses the list of names on SHANNON's note to find the personal website of a CERTAIN JAPANESE WOMAN. On this website is a candid shot of KOUTAROU, as well as information about the HAKUREI FAMILY, which had a measure of influence up to the point when they were all slaughtered in a single night.
>> No. 173445
File 13777380765.jpg - (349.21KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0004.jpg ) [iqdb]
173445
PART FOUR

The WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS calls TERRENCE more "free" than she is.

TERRENCE wakes up handcuffed in a dark room. AKYUU is there. She tells him that his actually getting a trial is unusual, as are his "circumstances". Then he's dragged out by a COUPLE OF STOOGES.

At the (public) trial, TERRENCE claims self-defense. He learns from the JUDGE that ALICE is not dead, and that the trial will be completed when she is ready to testify. Oddly, the JUDGE also asks him about FUKUTAROU, JUNSUKE TACHIKI (another member of the carpentry team), and YOSHIHITO. TERRENCE is allowed to walk free until the trial can continue, but only under observation by the irritating KOTOHIME.

MARISA is less than pleased by this outcome. She tells TERRENCE that once ALICE wakes up and testifies against him, he'll be banished from THE HUMAN VILLAGE to die alone in THE FOREST OF MAGIC. She shows up at KOTOHIME's the next day, too (where TERRENCE is staying), mentions that ALICE isn't getting better, and demands that TERRENCE come to the DOCTOR to somehow prove his innocence. When TERRENCE refuses, she tells KOTOHIME that TERRENCE will kill her, too, just as he killed FUKUTAROU and the OTHER GUY. Apparently, while TERRENCE was gone, FUKUTAROU was killed in an YOUKAI attack.

TERRENCE still doesn't know what those are.

NAZRIN and SHOU TORAMARU invite KOTOHIME (and by extension, TERRENCE) to a "gathering" hosted by the MYOUREN TEMPLE. MOKOU is there, at her YAKITORI STAND. She and TERRENCE snipe at each other briefly before TERRENCE notices that KOTOHIME has gone missing. He heads to MYOUREN TEMPLE, hoping to find her, but only manages to tread on the hand of a senselessly drunk MINAMITSU MURASA. NAZRIN and SHOU break up the encounter before it can escalate and tell TERRENCE that his presence is requested by BYAKUREN HIJIRI, the MYOUREN TEMPLE head (and that they'll take responsibility for his disappearance as far as KOTOHIME is concerned).

BYAKUREN makes an enigmatic comment about something that isn't supposed to be there, then tries to talk TERRENCE through why he attacked ALICE. Nothing is gained, and neither party is left satisfied. As TERRENCE leaves, BYAKUREN tells him that he wasn't necessarily in danger just because ALICE was a YOUKAI, but TERRENCE responds that he doesn't know what a YOUKAI is and that he would have treated ALICE the same if she had been human.

In LOS OJOS, RITCHIE comes home late and finds a MAN WITH A CAMERA taking pictures of his house. He gives chase, and catches him when he slips.
>> No. 173446
File 137773812631.jpg - (323.10KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0005.jpg ) [iqdb]
173446
PART FIVE

TERRENCE dreams that the WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS wants him to talk to her friend, RENKO USAMI.

In the morning, RITCHIE talks with GROVER. The MAN WITH A CAMERA is MAKOTO NAKAMURA. He arrived from JAPAN a month ago, and claims to be interested in architecture.

TERRENCE encounters a MAN WITH A FACE LIKE A ROAD MAP (also from outside GENSOKYO) who says that he can help TERRENCE leave GENSOKYO. TERRENCE agrees to meet up with the MAN WITH A FACE LIKE A ROAD MAP and whoever else is involved in the plan later. He kills time by walking idly and ends up at the unfinished building FUKUTAROU was in charge of constructing. There's a SUSPICIOUS KID there who runs as soon as he sees TERRENCE. TERRENCE declines to give chase and stays at the building instead. MARISA appears, and accuses him of being in league with the YOUKAI and coordinating his attack on ALICE with the attack on FUKUTAROU's company.

GROVER slips RITCHIE "borrowed" copies of photographs from MAKOTO's camera. The photographs show evidence that MAKOTO has been following RITCHIE specifically. Another photograph, one of TERRENCE and SHANNON's apartment, prompts RITCHIE to go to CAFÉ DREAM, where he terrorizes the WOMAN AT THE COUNTER and demands to speak to SHANNON, who is still being watched by TSUTOMU for her "protection". After SHANNON makes TSUTOMU leave, RITCHIE gives her both the photographs and the printouts from the CERTAIN JAPANESE WOMAN's website (including the printed image of a WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS), and SHANNON tells RITCHIE the events leading up to TERRENCE's "disappearance" (including the fact that she's technically related to the HAKUREI FAMILY).

At midnight, TERRENCE sneaks out from KOTOHIME's to meets up with the MAN WITH A FACE LIKE A ROAD MAP, along with the pretentious "SHIKKOU", who gives TERRENCE a long spiel about the power of "faith" and legendary artifacts before trying to doing something him involving a knife. When TERRENCE resists, he's grabbed by SHIKKOU's associate, "TATEGAMI", and only saved when MARISA suddenly intervenes.

MARISA drags TERRENCE to a room at KEINE KAMISHIRASAWA's RESIDENCE, avoiding questions from a REPORTER-LIKE WOMAN. While he awaits his fate there, AKYUU enters and tells him that GENSOKYO has become "interesting" and "louder" since he appeared. MARISA drags him off again, this time to a dark room to be questioned both by herself and KEINE, passing on the way a MAN WITH SHEEPLIKE EYES that TERRENCE recognizes as one of the COUPLE OF STOOGES that handled him before the trial. TERRENCE tells them everything about the MAN WITH A FACE LIKE A ROAD MAP, SHIKKOU, TATEGAMI, and his wanting to go home, though he stresses the last item in a way that leads KEINE to treat him gentler than she might have otherwise. He suspects, from MARISA's frustration, that TATEGAMI escaped. Eventually, MARISA and KEINE allow him to leave.

KOTOHIME picks TERRENCE up and reveals that she let him sneak out to serve as bait so that she might have somebody to arrest.
>> No. 173447
File 137773815958.jpg - (404.94KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0006.jpg ) [iqdb]
173447
PART SIX

Two weeks later, NUE HOUJUU requests KOTOHIME's help with an incident at MYOUREN TEMPLE. She does this disguised as SHANNON (though to KOTOHIME she looks a LARGE-NOSED OLD MAN). This leads TERRENCE to punch her in the face.

At MYOUREN TEMPLE, the incident turns out to be a murder.

BYAKUREN has been allowing people to stay at MYOUREN TEMPLE to promote her teachings and bolster relations with THE HUMAN VILLAGE. The murdered party, KAZUHIRO MORIKAWA, is one such person. Also at MYOUREN TEMPLE are BYAKUREN, NAZRIN, SHOU, MINAMITSU, NUE, a NUNNISH WOMAN, a CLOUD WITH A FACE, and THREE MEN. BYAKUREN notes that more people have been coming to MYOUREN TEMPLE over the past six months.

KAZUHIRO seems well-kept. KOTOHIME describes him as someone who "takes money", "gives money", and "takes more money than he gives". There are two letters in his room, one from a THANKFUL PARTY expressing gratefulness for some kind of help, and one from KAZUHIRO'S FATHER telling him to return home.

In LOS OJOS, the FBI has taken custody of MAKOTO. RITCHIE and SHIN drive out to meet GROVER at the scene of another murder. This victim is EMILY PALMER, and she was killed in the street (but not robbed) with her stomach torn open similar to KENSUKE's. RITCHIE notes that TERRENCE and SHANNON's apartment is nearby.

SHIN questions EMILY's sister, ZOLA PALMER, who is not surprised to hear that her sister has been murdered. She mentions that her sister was "too trusting" but that "everybody loved her" and guesses (incorrectly) that she died in her apartment with her books.

The NUNNISH WOMAN wakes TERRENCE up and introduces herself as ICHIRIN KUMOI and the CLOUD WITH A FACE as UNZAN. At breakfast, NUE is indignant, KOTOHIME effectively gives TERRENCE authority as a police officer, and MINAMITSU, hungover, vomits. As ICHIRIN cleans the mess, the MAILMAN arrives and gives BYAKUREN the mail for ICHIRIN and SHOU, but gives the THREE MEN their mail personally. Two of the THREE MEN immediately head for privacy, but one of them, TOSHIO MIYAMOTO, tells TERRENCE to leave instead, saying that nobody has their own room as all the rooms are connected.

TERRENCE catches another of the THREE MEN, MITSUO HONDA, looking through KAZUHIRO's letters. HONDA doesn't trust BYAKUREN, mentioning that she's a YOUKAI. He identifies the THANKFUL PARTY that wrote one of the letters as NOBUAKI UTSUMI, a restaurateur. He also says that he heard KAZUHIRO and TOSHIO arguing, and that the last of the THREE MEN, HIROSHI TAKATO, might know the cause of the argument. HIROSHI explains that KAZUHIRO'S FATHER lent money at a high interest to TOSHIO's father, who then lost his shop and committed suicide by walking into THE FOREST OF MAGIC.

NAZRIN asks TERRENCE why he's helping KOTOHIME solve the murder. His answer, that he's doing so out of curiosity, angers her, but she answers TERRENCE's questions. Later, during lunch, TERRENCE questions ICHIRIN, who mentions that she returned to MYOUREN TEMPLE in the morning from shopping, collected her mail from the table inside, and took a walk. She also makes certain to mention that the only person who saw her do this was drunk. During this interrogation, TERRENCE compliments ICHIRIN's cooking, which seems to elicit a positive reaction.

TERRENCE asks SHOU how the postal service works. It is apparently less bureaucratic, as with the close-knit nature of THE HUMAN VILLAGE, where a particular person currently lives is determined easily by informal means. TOSHIO says that if TERRENCE has his mail delivered to MYOUREN TEMPLE, he should make sure it is delivered directly or else BYAKUREN or one of her disciples will read it.

That night, TERRENCE dreams that the WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS tells him that he neither gets on or off the BUS.

RITCHIE has spread the word concerning TSUTOMU's untrustworthiness via his wife, SANDRA VALENTIN. A search through EMILY's apartment finds nothing of interest. Neither has questioning EMILY's neighbors, or even the YOUNG PUNKS that hang around near the apartment.

The next morning at MYOUREN TEMPLE, amid the chaos of TOSHIO not showing up for breakfast and the MAILMAN stopping by with his delivery, TERRENCE announces that he knows who KAZUHIRO'S KILLER is, says that he'll make the proper reveal if lunch is "absolutely delicious", then leaves for his room, sets out his futon, and makes himself comfortable. When KAZUHIRO'S KILLER appears to take him out, TERRENCE catches him in the act.

Later, at KEINE KAMISHIRASAWA's RESIDENCE, TERRENCE admits to AKYUU that he only suspected that the KAZUHIRO'S KILLER was the MAILMAN by a hunch, and though he was correct, he was more "lucky" than "right". He also admits that he still doesn't know the MAILMAN's motive, and that he didn't bother to remember his name. AKYUU points out people will only remember later that he was successful. TERRENCE tells AKYUU that she ought to talk to KOTOHIME for more details, but AKYUU tells TERRENCE that she prefers talking to him.

The two of them are interrupted by KEINE informing TERRENCE that KAZUHIRO'S FATHER wants to see him. TERRENCE leaves to talk with him as per AKYUU's recommendation. KAZUHIRO'S FATHER says that the separation between GENSOKYO and the world outside is failing, and that nobody is sure what will happen to anyone inside GENSOKYO when that happens. He takes TERRENCE to a restaurant (alarming the RESTAURATEUR), and tells him that he appears to be the certain kind of person who is "caught up in matters of great weight", comparing him to the deceased "center of GENSOKYO", REIMU HAKUREI. He offers TERRENCE "friendship", telling him to consider his answer carefully, and to ask "anybody" for directions to his home when he has decided.

EUSTACHIUS calls RITCHIE and SHIN into his office, having gotten another call from THOMAS.
>> No. 173448
File 137773818887.jpg - (452.89KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0007.jpg ) [iqdb]
173448
PART SEVEN

TERRENCE is literally lifted from KOTOHIME's by the clearly ill PATCHOULI KNOWLEDGE and the oddly attractive KOAKUMA to EIENTEI to "solve a mystery". TERRENCE meets EIRIN YAGOKORO, and it is revealed that PATCHOULI wants EIRIN to use him to determine why ALICE, also at EIENTEI (and oddly woundless), still hasn't woken up.

EIRIN has the straight razor that TERRENCE took from SHANGHAI, and notes that there is nothing special about it. PATCHOULI becomes increasingly frustrated, but is interrupted by a serious coughing fit that leads EIRIN to summon her assistant, the rabbit-eared REISEN UDONGEIN INABA, to take PATCHOULI to a room. After she has been taken away, EIRIN explains to TERRENCE that ALICE being in a coma is strange due to her nature as a YOUKAI. She also explains what a YOUKAI is. TERRENCE, in turn, tells EIRIN that the straight razor isn't the blade he stabbed ALICE with.

In LOS OJOS, RITCHIE is spending his evening at his house, stewing over EMILY's death being swept under the carpet. SANDRA advises him to go to bed, but before he can, he receives an enigmatic text message (written to "Knife") stating that someone will be arriving shortly. The text turns out to be from SHANNON, who has dodged TSUTOMU for the moment to bring along the CERTAIN JAPANESE WOMAN who runs the website SHIN found. Her name is RENKO USAMI. RENKO has come to LOS OJOS searching for leads to the HAKUREI FAMILY murders (which SHANNON refers to as "involuntary gastrectomies"), as among the members of the family who died was her friend, the WOMAN IN A PURPLE DRESS, HEARN WITH THE STRANGE GIVEN NAME. RENKO says that with the death of the HAKUREI FAMILY, the assets go to the SHINOMIYA FAMILY. RENKO doesn't know anything about KENSUKE, MAKOTO, or EMILY, however. SHANNON and RENKO leave, SHANNON parting with the comment that she thinks TSUTOMU's trying to "woo" her.

EIRIN hypothesizes to PATCHOULI that TERRENCE's utter faithlessness and ignorance of YOUKAI nature might explain how he was able to put ALICE into a coma. In other words, he might have negated her regeneration simply by the fact that he didn't believe she would be able to regenerate. EIRIN allows that the cause might be ALICE herself, or the actual weapon TERRENCE used, which she sends REISEN to fetch from ALICE'S COTTAGE. She also summons ANOTHER RABBIT-EARED GIRL to take TERRENCE to his room, but the task is taken over partway by a third rabbit-eared girl, TEWI INABA, who seems to have a rather cheery attitude.

TERRENCE wakes from his nap with EIENTEI under attack and a MUSCLY THING smashing through a wall to get at him. He runs, and is chased into a dead end, but manages to improvise a "nail-stick" out of a crate which he uses to strike the MUSCLY THING into lifelessness. This accomplished, TERRENCE leaves the body and manages to find TEWI and ANOTHER RABBIT-EARED GIRL. The later party, whose name is GIN, is considerably more serious and concerned with protecting THE EIENTEI PRINCESS. GIN and TEWI attempt to guide TERRENCE to a safer room, but as TERRENCE and TEWI talk (with TERRENCE finding it oddly difficult to become irritated with her), they are interrupted by the MUSCLY THING, which, having returned to life, takes GIN and TEWI out. In the ensuing fight TERRENCE is significantly injured, but manages to defeat and kill the MUSCLY THING. This time, the body dissolves into ash. TERRENCE falls unconscious.

When TERRENCE wakes, TEWI, who has recovered, tells him that the invaders were driven out with no fatalities on EIENTEI's side (or at least no permanent ones). TERRENCE decides that he wants to see EIRIN, and TEWI guides him to a room where EIRIN is torturing a CAPTURED YOUKAI ATTACKER. EIRIN tells TERRENCE that the attackers were able to come to EIENTEI as one of their number had a "magnetoceptive ability", but she doesn't know the motive behind the attack. The CAPTURED YOUKAI ATTACKER is uncooperative until he sees TERRENCE, which drives him into a rage in which he calls TERRENCE a "Hakurei".
>> No. 173449
File 137773826782.jpg - (419.56KB , 1700x2338 , Scan0008.jpg ) [iqdb]
173449
PART EIGHT

Despite his protests, TERRENCE is taken by TEWI to THE HAKUREI SHRINE to be left in the care of the irritating and insulting SUIKA IBUKI. TERRENCE thanks TEWI before she leaves, prompting a strange reaction from the latter party. SUIKA says that TERRENCE could have convinced TEWI to stay, then orders TERRENCE to hit her.

In LOS OJOS, two YOUNG PUNKS, JAMIE SÁNCHEZ and KORENE LÝ, carry out their own private investigation into EMILY's death. JAMIE operates primarily violently, but has attained EMILY's apartment address from the WOMAN WITH THE NEWSPAPER at CAFÉ DREAM without having to cause her injury.

TERRENCE not only fails to hit SUIKA, but is quickly and easily beat down. SUIKA makes further points concerning TERRENCE's worthlessness and lack of power (noting that TERRENCE never bothered to learn the MAILMAN's identity, or rather, ARATO HARADA's) and tells him to go to THE HUMAN VILLAGE to fetch two boxed meals from the RESTAURATEUR, NOBUAKI.

Annoyed with SUIKA, TERRENCE strays from the path to THE HUMAN VILLAGE and becomes lost in THE FOREST OF MAGIC. He is confronted at swordpoint by a suspicious MEIRA, who, after determining that TERRENCE is not much of a threat, guides him through THE FOREST OF MAGIC to THE HUMAN VILLAGE and then to NOBUAKI's restaurant. TERRENCE conveys SUIKA's request to NOBUAKI, then gives one of the meals to MEIRA, who nearly refuses it when she interprets the gesture as one of pity. After she leaves, NOBUAKI asks TERRENCE is MEIRA is his friend. When TERRENCE says that she is not, NOBUAKI is overtly relieved, explaining that MEIRA "tried to kill a nine-year-old kid". He also mentions that, as KAZUHIRO was "kind" to him, he is grateful to TERRENCE for catching ARATO, and that MEIRA and REIMU "weren't friends".

JAMIE breaks into EMILY's apartment only to find that there is already a MAN IN THE APARTMENT. As the man is an intruder, JAMIE immediately suspects him of involvement in EMILY's death and elects to punch him.

TERRENCE returns to THE HAKUREI SHRINE with the one boxed meal, and SUIKA, floating in the air, attacks him with a barrage of lights. Strangely, TERRENCE is able to dodge much of the first volley, though he is still again quickly beaten down.

Contrary to both her intent and her expectations, JAMIE has been punched, cuffed, and placed in the backseat of a police car alongside KORENE with the MAN IN THE APARTMENT, apparently a police officer, in front. She continues to accuse him of involvement in EMILY's death, referring to the murder as an "involuntary gastrectomy". Unexpectedly, the MAN IN THE APARTMENT frees JAMIE and KORENE, giving them a note mentioning (among other things) SHANNON and someone named "Knife".

SUIKA claims to be impressed with TERRENCE's performance, but expresses doubt he would survive an actual fight. She points out that previous advantages (such as TERRENCE having a weapon) are now absent. She offers him a chance at "power".
>> No. 173450
Awesome, thank you for doing this! There are a ton of things going on in this story, so a recap is wonderful.

I like your notes.
>> No. 173464
So many probobly not clues.
>> No. 173474
Thanks for the recap
>> No. 173572
Thanks for the recap. I've been following this story since 2010, so it's good to have a quick look back. I'm glad to see you haven't lost track of your own plot threads, I'm looking forward to see how you resolve them.

On the other hand, we could just fuck up here and get killed by Wriggle fucking Nightbug.
>> No. 174269
So, awesome recap. Updates anytime soon?
>> No. 175249
File 13839873205.jpg - (559.67KB , 1300x1300 , Sabotage.jpg ) [iqdb]
175249
X Attack

Meira's the first to react. “Run!” she snaps, even as she moves in with her sword held high to cut the enemy down. For a moment you let yourself believe that's the end of it--all the other one's got is a cape, and you don't think that's much help in a swordfight--

But that would make sense, and nothing ever goes your way here so of course Meira's sword doesn't hit anything--doesn't even make a paper cut's worth before the youkai pushes back and is suddenly a lot further behind where it ought to be. It lands softer, this time, but there's nothing soft about the manic eagerness in its eyes, the rictal harshness of that smile.

“You're scared now, right?” it says, and it sounds excited. Like it's been waiting for this. “Now that you know I'm not going down quiet--right?”

Meira doesn't waste breath. She charges again, covering the space in between, sword cutting a swath--

“Too slow!” the youkai laughs, and you can't tell if it said that before or after it was somewhere else--can't tell that buzzing from inside your own head. Because you know how this is playing out, you realize, as the youkai bounds around Meira's reach, shoes skimming impossibly across the ground (and it's got shoes--shoes, how wrong is that). Meira might be the one with a blade here, but this youkai, this thing--

“Who's exterminating who now?” it shouts, and Meira's sword misses by yards--

It's fast.

Too fast.

Too fast, and the buzzing's getting louder, and it doesn't matter how sharp Meira's sword is if the only thing it's getting is the one holding it tired. Because that's what's happening here; it's clear to you in that unassuming way only bad news can manage. This youkai isn't just dodging--

“You think you can just come here and do what you want? Just because they write stupid things--”

Meira gets the closest she has since the fight started and it's still not close enough, the youkai simply sidestepping the blade, swallowing the rest of its rant. There's a moment then where Meira's defense is down and she's overextended her attack and you know that if the youkai strikes it'll all be done--

But the youkai doesn't strike; the youkai just springs out of reach again, and that clinches it.

The youkai isn't fighting Meira, not seriously.

It's toying with her.

It's dragging this out on purpose, just till it's wrung the enjoyment it can out of seeing Meira sweat, and once that's done she'll be done too--and what's going to happen to you, exactly? You're in a bad spot, and between the youkai and the forest and the buzzing that you still don't understand (you think of a needle jumping a record groove, and you don't know why), it's getting worse.

And then a very quiet, very calm thought pools into the center of your mind, and it goes like this:

You don't much like Meira, anyway.

You stand there, in the middle of a forest you can't guess the breadth of, and consider that thought very seriously. Consider it, as Meira misses and the youkai jeers and the situation crystallizes ever further into inevitability.

You unclench your hands and crouch, reaching down to the ground.

“You're just like them--saying I'm weak--just because I'm not as strong as them--” The youkai moves in under Meira's blade. There's a swift gesture--and then the weapon goes spinning through the air, landing almost silently among a pile of leaves. You see it then, in Meira's face, that cool composure cracking at the surface like a sunflower husk between a set of teeth.

The youkai is nowhere as uneasy. But of course not. It's the one doing the biting.

“See?” it says. One hand is gripping one of Meira's wrists, the other squeezing Meira's collarbone, and though the youkai doesn't look like it should be able be pin anyone down its grip is formidable no matter how Meira twists. “See--I don't have to be as strong as them. I'm quick. And maybe I'm not as quick as them, but I'm quick enough. But you--” The youkai swallows. Its breaths come hard, and you don't think it's from exertion. The hand on the collarbone crawls closer to Meira's neck.

“You--coming here like you don't care--saying you're going to exterminate me--you--”

You don't find out exactly what the youkai thinks of Meira, though, because it shuts up very abruptly when the rock nails it right above the temple. It staggers, losing its hold.

The buzzing stops.

Everything stops.

Well--not everything. But it sure feels like it, because the youkai's staring at you like it can't believe you just did that, and even though Meira ought to be trying to get her sword back she's staring at you like she can't believe you just did that, and you're not sure you can actually blame her because frankly you can't believe you just did that, either.

If there's a part of your brain that's decided to off itself and take the whole system down with it, this is a hell of a way to find out.

And it's that part of your brain, maybe, that keeps your feet flat as the youkai prods lightly at the side of its own head, eyes still fixed at yours. When it speaks, its voice is deceptively calm.

“You threw a rock at me.”

“Yes.”

And that settles it--definitely suicidal.

Lucky for you, the youkai doesn't seem to be taking the situation half as well. “You threw a rock at me,” it says again, noticeably not leaping for your throat. And then: “You threw a rock at me?”

You glance towards Meira, just barely. Meira, who's inching as quietly as she can towards her sword. “Yes,” you say. “I threw a rock at you. I picked up a rock on the ground, and then I threw that rock at you. That is precisely what occurred.”

“You...threw a rock at me.”

“It wasn't a very large rock.”

“That's not the point! That's--” The youkai cuts itself off, jaw closing with a click, mouth still twitching back at the corners. Its eyes flicker down at its fingers, then back at you again. Blood, you notice. You made it bleed.

That makes you happy.

Meira's almost there, now. You see her reaching, body set at an angle, trying to grab the hilt without disturbing the detritus more than she needs. You open your mouth to say something inane--keep the youkai looking at you--just one more second--

The buzzing returns.

In the space of an instant, louder than it ever was before.

And this time you have a clue what that noise is because the sky is gone, black, and there must be thousands up there, a million, a million dark points screaming--

“You--” says the youkai, and the words reverberate through chitin and muscle and veined wings, “are still--not taking me seriously.”

The swarm descends.

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

It's a motley crew you're in, the kind of company that wouldn't sit at the same table if it weren't out of necessity. But here you are anyway, an aging cop, dipping your spoon into chicken noodle soup while your wife makes pidgin chitchat with a Japanese wannabe detective and the local coffeeshop owner swaps adjectives with a couple of punks playing Merriam and Webster. Add a talking dog, and you'd make a nice Saturday morning cartoon.

Still, it's better than hanging from someone else's strings.

It's mid-November, which marks about two weeks since Shannon pushed Usami through your front door and that minus a day since you sent those punks over in exchange. You thought Shannon might pitch a fit over letting a pair of kids into the detective club, but apparently she thinks there's something endearing about mangling English six ways from Saturday. You don't know why you're surprised. You always knew she had a screw loose.

You just hope Usami doesn't join in. She's getting better at talking on her own, and the last thing she needs is that Sánchez kid teaching her wrong.

Your chicken noodle soup's cooling fast. You push it away and breathe deep. There's killing the mood, and then there's what you're about to do, which is more like knifing it in the back while it's trying to find the wine.

_ Let's talk about...
- _ Chief Modeste
- _ Emily Palmer
- _ Terrence Harker
- _ Tsutomu Shinomiya
- _ Other... (write-in)
_ Maybe you'll keep quiet a little longer.
>> No. 175250
[x]Let's talk about...
- [x] Emily Palmer
- [x] Terrence Harker
- [x] Tsutomu Shinomiya

The victim, the person who is gone and the one that came back instead.

Let's see what this group can do.
>> No. 175260
Let's talk about...
[x] Chief Modeste
>> No. 175268
[x]Let's talk about...
- [x] Emily Palmer
- [x] Terrence Harker
- [x] Tsutomu Shinomiya

I see nothing wrong with this line of thought
>> No. 175548
[x]Let's talk about...
- [x] Emily Palmer
- [x] Terrence Harker
- [x] Tsutomu Shinomiya