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93369 No. 93369
I've only stumbled onto this site relatively recently, and I've received great enjoyment from both the writefags and ingenuity (or lack thereof) on the part of anon. Thus, I'd like to give back in my own way with this yet-to-be named LA. Updates will be relatively frequent and criticism is welcome, as I've never done this before.

------------
You shade your aching eyes. Another sweltering day. You've doffed your cassock in favor of going barechested, but it's still unbearable, even for one as accustomed to travel as yourself.

Of course, the fact that business has been terrible as of late isn't helping things. You'd traveled to this desolate mountain region after
hearing reports of an alarming youkai infestation spreading to nearby kingdoms; surely this would be a singular opportunity to gain unmatched spritual prowess in the ameliorating flames of self-sacrifice, right?

Wrong. While you've received an unforgettable lesson in the virtues of asceticism, you haven't become a Buddha, Bodhisattva or an Arhat. Heck, you haven't made any progress at all; you've barely seen any people (as your nigh-empty begging bowl reminds you), much less any youkai. Looks like you'll have to chalk this journey up as a failure, assuming you don't die of starvation before you make it back to Nara.

The sun sinks lower, and so does your spirit. You haven't passed any houses all day, so it looks like you'll have to make do with the handful of millet you've carefully rationed, along with whatever you can find in the woods. Thankfully, it's finally getting cooler and so, you're able to unwind a little bit. You set your hat and staff aside, spend a few minutes clearing your mind and then set off to look for water, firewood and edible plants before it gets too dark and...

...is that smoke?

[x] ???
-----------

>> No. 93370
>>93369
[X] Retrieve your hat and staff; investigate the smoke.
>> No. 93371
[X] Retrieve your hat and staff; investigate the smoke.
>> No. 93376
-----------
You freeze and slowly take in the situation. Since your childhood, you've been possessed of uncanny intuition and your time in the priesthood has only sharpened it further. Even as sore, hungry and dehydrated as you are, you're completely certain that smoke isn't the welcoming afterflow of a sympathetic hearth. No; it's a harbinger of whatever horrors stalk the night in this wasteland.

Snapping out of it, you don your hat and cassock, heft your staff and begin sprinting in the direction of whatever terrible sight may await you at the smoke's origin. With any luck, this journey may not have been a waste after all, assuming you can get there fast enough.

The ground starts to slope upwards, just as your heart begins to sink in your chest. The greasy black smoke wafting out from above you is far too dense to be anything innocuous or manmade. A horrible sight likely awaits you at the top of this ridge.

Steeling your mind and readying your weapons in preparation for your ascent, you notice something. At the leftmost edge of your vision, you see a dirt path sinuously winding amidst the scattered trees. If anyone's in danger, it would be the fastest way to the summit though advancing by that route would likely place you face to face with whatever caused this.

Directly ahead of you, the hill climbs at a 40 degree incline. It's considerably steeper and would take longer to ascend, though thanks to the tree cover and brush, you'd likely be able to stay hidden and properly ascertain the situation before jumping in.

Either way, there's no point in indecisively vascillating.

You:
[ ] Follow the dirt path to the summit with all haste
[ ] Climb the side of the hill making as little noise as possible
-----------
>> No. 93377
Also, tired. Next update will be tomorrow. In the meantime, think carefully about your choices.
>> No. 93379
>>93376
[X] Climb the side of the hill making as little noise as possible

Advancing while exhausted is perilous regardless of which path we'd take: I'd rather take the one that wouldn't lead to immediate confrontation.
>> No. 93381
[X] Climb the side of the hill making as little noise as possible
>> No. 93383
[x] Climb the side of the hill making as little noise as possible

Silent, but deadly
>> No. 93384
[X] Follow the dirt path to the summit with all haste
>> No. 93413
Interesting choice. Writing now.

I'll be around for a couple of hours today, so expect semi-frequent updates.
>> No. 93419
----------
You rule out use of the path almost immediately. Foolhardy heroism would be a terrible idea in this case, given your physical condition and the volume of smoke. Whatever's causing this is likely a serious threat; one which you'd need to approach unseen and observe before attacking. On a more grim note, you have not even sure that haste could make an iota of difference in this case, assuming any people got caught in the blaze.

Removing the rings from the end of your staff and tucking in the ends of your cassock, you pick your way up the slope. It's not as hard as it would be under normal circumstances, thanks to the treeline and foliage on the slope giving you handholds. After a few minutes of climbing, the hill abruptly gives way to flat ground. Nonplussed, you stay low and scan your surroundings.

The sun's setting and the smoke obscures your visibility, but from what you can gather, this place looks like a small complex of some kind, of which multiple buildings are ablaze. Directly in front of you, a low, thatched building is burning brightly, while the smoking remains of another, larger building lies behind it and to your left. Turning your gaze in the opposite direction, the biggest building of all; two stories high and with a peaked roof, seems to be yet unscatched. Altogether, it's an unpleasant sight, but similar to most of the others to which you've born witness on your earlier travels.

What bothers you more is what you haven't found in your analysis. For one, there's no signs of life - or death - to be found. In a place this size, you would expect to have encountered fleeing people or in the worst case scenario; corpses. You haven't seen anything of the sort.
Secondly, it's far too quiet. Even considering the way in which wildlife avoids fire, this silence seems almost unnatural. It's a disheartening possibility, but you may have taken too long to g-

From the direction of the largest building, a shockwave, followed quickly by a cacophonous, inhuman roar, rends the suspiciously silent twilight.

You:
[ ] Leave. NOW. This is beyond your abilities.
[ ] Rush to the scene; if there's someone you haven't seen, he/she may be in danger.
[ ] Stay hidden. Circle around to the estimated spot from the edge of the hill.
[ ] Inventory and status; need to consider your capabilities before taking further action.
----------
>> No. 93428
[ ] Inventory and status; need to consider your capabilities before taking further action.

roll the dice
>> No. 93433
Writing now.
>> No. 93434
----------
It occurs to you that this may not be the best time to do this. Setting such thoughts aside, you make a quick appraisal of your condition and gear.

>>[ ] Inventory and Status.

Equipped:
-Straw Sunshade (Hat)
-Black Cassock (Body).
-Brocade bag (Neck).
-Pack (Back)
-Baldric (Hip)
-Rags (Legs)
-Hemp-lined sandals (Feet)
-5 Ringed Iron Staff (Held, Rings currently detatched and pocketed)

As for your other things, you've placed the lighter things on your person, with the rest in your pack.

Inventory:
-Begging Bowl. Heavy, yet perpetually empty.

-Buddhist Scriptures.
In particular, you've stocked up on the Heart Sutra, as its succinctness makes it convenient to place on smaller pieces of paper without sacrificing sanctifying power.

-Bronze Vajra x 4. For those situations calling for overwhelming firepower.

-Binding Rope. Reinforced to better facilitate the purification and restraint of youkai. Also good for climbing.

-Black Cloak. Stylish, but impractical in summer. This one in particular is well-worn and a bit small for you.

-Knife. Never leave home without one. The hilt is cast to resemble a lotus flower.

Status: Good.

Status changes:
- Hungry.
- Fatigued.
- ???

As you've been checking your things, the air around you has become a bustling of activity. Almost as if trying to make up for lost time, the roaring and hissing sounds from earlier are now occasionally punctuated by metallic clanging noises and shockwaves, both of which seem to be getting louder. It seems that whatever's out there is coming towards you.

As you're wondering whether fight or flee, you're forced to duck as the burning building to the front of you blows apart in a shower of wood, plaster, straw and crimson.

... wait, crimson?

A bright red form is flies backwards through the turbid veil of smoke, landing heavily in the brush next to you. As you raise your head, it stirs. A voluptuous young woman dressed in an elaborate outfit and wielding a naked blade is frantically trying to untangle herself, while something starts to move in the smoke ahead of you. As you look on in wonder, her eyes meet yours.

[ ] ???

Make a good impression, anonymous.
----------
>> No. 93435
[x] Help her out, make a battle plan.

I'm sure our lead can detect youkai, and if he didn't feel anything from this woman then she's safe.
>> No. 93436
[x] Help her out, make a battle plan.

>bright red form
>wielding a naked blade

Konngara, maybe?
>> No. 93454
>>93436
Holy shit, that would be awesome.
>> No. 93490
Strictly business, huh?

----------
Take a deep breath, remember your training. You're a man who's renounced his worldly desires. Don't let your gaze wander across those elegant breasts or graceful hips; maintain your composure and keep your eyes on hers.

Resolving so, you wordlessly approach her and offer your hand. She has a complicated expression on her face, in which confusion, suspicion and admiration are written. But only for a moment. Her emotional turmoil gives way to a grateful smile and slowly, she takes your hand and climbs to her feet.

Taking a deep breath, she clears her expression and steps in front of you, brandishing her sword. While keeping you at her back, she looks over her shoulder.

"Can you fight, sir?"

You nod in response, lifting your staff and readying a roll of scripture sheets with your free hand.

"I'd be in your debt if you could help me with my problem. If you're willing, please cover me, and focus on its heads when you have a chance to strike. The body is too well arm-"

Instantly, turns away from you, and in a single motion, reaches in her robe with her free hand and throws something into the smoke. Acting purely on instinct, you quickly shield your eyes as a screech of pain accompanies an explosion of smoke and rubble. Looking back up, the woman in red has begun to dash towards a huge, stumbling shape.

You feel a chill run down your spine. It's at least twenty feet long and twelve feet tall, all of it dull, dark green scales and muscle. Five red-crested heads, set with reptilian eyes and sharp teeth lash about on sinuous necks. Thrashing wildly with its tail and thick, clawed legs, it exhales a small plume of fire.

Swallowing your discomfort, you rush it as well. How did you not sense this thing earlier? And why don't you sense it, even now?

The monster still seems to be dazed. Two of the heads bite at the woman as she gets in range of it, but she anticipates the attack and leaps to the side while slashes downward. Her sword slices clean through one of the necks, a fountain of blood erupting from the ruined stump. The monster bellows in pain and slashes blindly with its right claw at the woman's head. She turns and brings her sword to bear against it, but it seems the action of turning and blocking put her off-balance. She blocks the hit, but is knocked to her knees by the force of the blow right as you come up behind her.

You:
[ ] Jump in front of her.
[ ] Pull her towards you.
[ ] Spiritual strike with your staff. Get its attention away from her.
[ ] Vajra. Blow it away!
[ ] Scriptures. Make that open wound on its neck burn.
[ ] Rope. Catch its leg and pull it off balance.
[ ] ??? (Specify)
----------
>> No. 93492
[x] Pull her towards you.
[x] Scriptures. Make that open wound on its neck burn.
>> No. 93495
[x] Pull her towards you.
[x] Scriptures. Make that open wound on its neck burn.
>> No. 93497
[x] Pull her towards you.
[x] Scriptures. Make that open wound on its neck burn.

Could be Meira, too.
>> No. 93523
Writing action is tougher than I thought.

----------
No time for anything fancy. You grab her collar and pull her in your direction. Without missing a beat, she uses the inertia of your pull to break into a backwards roll out of which she springs to her feet. You catch her lightly, bracing her against your chest, which she nuzzles appreciatively. Putting aside how pleasant a picture this would be under different circumstances, it looks like you helped her just in the nick of time. The space in which she was standing not a moment ago is now a storm of flailing teeth and hea-

Wait. That stump. Is it... twitching? And for that matter, how has it clotted already? Oh crap. This must be...

You place your lips against her ear and reach into your cassock with your free hand.

"I'd like to test something. For now, try to keep it from moving too much and stay on the defensive. I'm covering you, so just focus on severing its heads when it bites at you."

You give her a little push forwards as you step back and to the side. There's no mistaking it now; the wound on that stump's definitely closed and something's moving right under the skin. Looks like it's now or never.

Edging to the left, you draw your hand from your cassock, clutching a copy of the Heart Sutra. You look at it for a moment before silently giving praise to Variocana and loosing it at the creature. Your shot flies true and in an instant, it adheres neatly to the stump. With a cry of pain from the beast, the wound splits open, froths over with blood and blazes with golden luminescence.

Taking advantage of the beast's distraction, you see the woman slash upwards after blocking a swipe at her legs and instinctively, you reach for another copy of the Heart Sutra and throw it before looking back at the first wound. Yep, the worst case scenario was avoided thanks to your impromptu cauterization. Almost unconsciously, a small grin breaks across your face as you reach for another scripture. You can win this.

You call out.

"Miss, this thing grows 2 heads for each one it loses, unless the wound is burned shut. But don't worry, I just did that, so focus on defending yourself and cutting off its heads when it strikes. There's only 3 more to go!"

As you're saying this, you notice that the monster has begun to change its tactics. Instead of using its heads, it's exclusively slashing with its claws while slowly backing up. Is it trying to lure her into a trap? She must also have the same impression, because after making a wide lunge narrowly missing two of its remaining necks, she leaps backwards a whole twenty feet, landing close to you. By Guanyin, she must have some great legs under tho- No, no. Bad thoughts.

Keeping the majority of her attention on the beast, she raises her left hand high in the air and turns ever-so-slightly towards you, speaking softly.

"Please, call me Konngara."

You raise an eyebrow and look back in puzzlement. It's an odd name, even by your standards, but she seems to misread the reason for your bewilderment.

"Don't feel uncomfortable. You're risking your life for someone like me, so you deserve to call me something better than just 'Miss.' If we survive this ordeal, I hope we can come to know each other better."

As she finishes speaking, something black appears in her outstretched hand.

[ ] Let Konngara take the lead, she seems to have something in mind.
[ ] Suggest that she close with and pressure the monster while you continue to cover her. It might try something if you give it time and range.
[ ] Suggest that the two of you try flanking the monster. It's lost some heads, so maybe you can catch its legs with the rope while she strikes?
[ ] Suggest that you pull it back into the trees and ambush it. It's large and ungainly, so maybe you can gain some advantage from the twilight and tree cover?
[ ] Suggest that you run away. The monster's still far from dead and likely has some unused tricks, while you're hungry and exhausted.
[ ] Blow it away with the Vajra. ZENRYOKU ZENKAI!
[ ] Say/do something else. (specify)
----------
>> No. 93525
[x] Let Konngara take the lead, she seems to have something in mind.
[x]Continue supporting her.
>> No. 93526
[x] Let Konngara take the lead, she seems to have something in mind.
[x]Continue supporting her.
>> No. 93527
[x] Let Konngara take the lead, she seems to have something in mind.
[x]Continue supporting her.

Konngara~
>> No. 93529
Just a question for you readers before I advance the story any further.

What comes to mind if I say "Tsukihime," "Hotel Room" and "[x]Don't go outside?"

Disclaimer: I will not be referencing Tsukihime in any way, shape or form, I'm just mildly curious about something.
>> No. 93530
>>93529
Shark End
>> No. 93531
>>93529

SHARK END.
>> No. 93532
So in other words, you'll punish us if we don't have balls enough to act on our own instead of depending on others?
>> No. 93533
>>93530
>>93531

Good to see that people still remember that. Does everyone run into that one?
>> No. 93534
>>93533

I ran into it on purpose.
>> No. 93535
>>93533

Well yeah, to me the choices seemed like:

1. Run out into certain death.
2. Stay close to the vampire that can protect you.
>> No. 93536
>>93532
Actually, I asked because I'm going through the story again to get a refresher on the basics of VN writing (-the sex scenes of course, lolmollusks) and that bad end just gave me a kick in the sack.

>>93534
Oh.
>> No. 93537
>>93533
I like to think of it as a sort of "rite of passage" for that game.
>> No. 93541
[ ] Don't go out. Stick to the plan. The heavy sound came from the monster, and if Konngara is in danger, she'll signal to you.
>> No. 93543
Last update for today, this is surprisingly enjoyable, but I can barely stay awake at this point.

Edit: Minor style/formatting errors corrected.
----------
Konngara lowers her hand, turns back towards the monster and speaks. While you can't see her face, she sounds considerably more grave.

"This is just my intuition speaking, but with regards to what just happened, I believe that serpent was aiming to create enough distance to disengage from melee combat with me in order to employ its breath. Wounded as it is, it can't strike us from this distance, but undoubtedly, it will try to incinerate us if we approach."

Seeking confirmation, you turn your eyes back at the beast. It's standing stock still, cast red-purple in the setting sun, with all 6 of its narrow, golden eyes trained on the two of you deliberating. You feel a heavy chill settling inside your abdomen. This is bad. If this battle goes on for too much longer, it'll become night - an environment in which this creature possesses a enormous advantage over any human.

Looking both ways, you take a step forwards and whisper.

"So, Mi- Konngara. I take it you have something in mind?"

Not looking back, she gives a small nod.

"That shining light of yours. Is it possible for you to increase its visual intensity?"

You guess what she's planning. "You want to try blinding it? I've never tried using it that way before, but I should be able to do it, albeit at the expense of its power and duration."

She gives you a thumbs up. "Please give it a try whenever you're ready. Once its blinded, I need you to sneak behind it before it regains the use of its eyes and remain hidden until I signal to you with this." She indicates the smooth, black sphere in her left hand. "When you hear this explode, charge forth and find some means by which to distract or hinder it."

As you internalize these instructions and reach for one of your scriptures, Konngara fully extends her right arm in front of her, sword in hand.

Scripture in hand, you close your eyes and search your mind for its strongest metaphor for light and purity. Not the stars. Not the moon. Not the sun. Not the Western Heaven.

This.

Yes, the infinite, radiant sea of nothingness; the effervescent void, Nirvana. The greatest of all contradictions of the cosmos. How can nothing be something?! Introspecting thus, you cast your scripture towards the beast and cover your already shut eyes with your hands.

For a single moment, the dark world becomes a haze of red and green. Taking a deep breath, you shake your head, open your eyes and start running. You've already chosen the spot in which you're going to try to hide, namely the side of the ruined building closest to you and you need to get there before it sees you.

Ignore the unusually fierce battlecry of a voice better suited to song and laughter.

Ignore the searing heat at your back.

Ignore the clods of dirt being kicked into the air.

Ignore the dull chopping sounds of metal against bone.

Ignore the acrid smell of burning flesh.

You dive behind a lone piece of unbroken wall. You must have underestimated the distance to your chosen spot, as you didn't quite end up behind the beast as much as you ended up somewhere beside it. Readying your staff, you resist the urge to peek out and train your ears and tense your body to spring forward at a moments notice.

... What feels like an eternity to you passes as you try and pinpoint the direction in which the fighting is taking place. Strangely, you don't hear much of anything. There aren't any plangent ringing noises, bloodcurdling howls or explosions.

Just something hitting the ground and a rasping voice, coughing wetly.

You:
[ ] Go out. Plans are only useful when they work. Konngara might be in danger.
[ ] Don't go out. Stick to the plan. The heavy sound came from the monster, and if Konngara is in danger, she'll signal to you.
[ ] Vajra. IF THERE ISN'T AN EXPLOSION, MAKE ONE.
----------
>> No. 93550
[x] Don't go out. Stick to the plan. The heavy sound came from the monster, and if Konngara is in danger, she'll signal to you.
>> No. 93551
[x] Don't go out. Stick to the plan. The heavy sound came from the monster, and if Konngara is in danger, she'll signal to you.
>> No. 93579
Interesting. The next part is rather open-ended, so could one or two of you rationalize your decision?
>> No. 93580
She's told us that she has a plan and I'd rather not go against her decision.
>> No. 93581
>>93580

Also, I'm against throwing a Vajra because we don't know how far away the Hydra is from her position and I'd rather not catch her in the blast radius.
>> No. 93612
>>93580
Let me say that I admire your willingness to listen to a suspicious woman in red you met five minutes ago.

----------
For an instant, you're torn by indecision as a battle of wills erupts inside your head; one voice pleading action with the arguing restraint. Perhaps it's because of your clerical upbringing, but once again, prudence trumps vainglorious heroics in your list of priorities. Sneak attacks are only a surprise the first time, so striking prematurely could throw away your chance at victory.

Yes, you're certain that Konngara will signal when she needs your distraction.

Speaking of the distraction, what will you use?

The staff? It's powerful, but it requires you to get too close.

The scriptures? No, the hide on this thing is probably thick enough to shrug it off.

The Vajra? It might hit Konngara, so you decide against it.

Making up your mind, you unwind your binding rope from about your waist and coil it in your free hand as you sit on your haunches. It's double thickness, reinforced with shide at regular intervals and set with silver weights at both ends to better ensnare its targets. Even against a monster like that, it should prove to be an effective hindrance.

A metallic ringing fills the air. What was that? Did she drop her sw-

A wretching sound, followed by an explosion.

You're on your feet in an instant, barreling around the corner with your rope arm tensed to strike.

If anyone ever decided to recreate the various depictions of Buddhist Hell you've seen in your ecclesiastical training, they couldn't do better than this. The sky's become dark, with no stars in sight. The moon's thin crescent is a pallid brown through the black, rancid air. The ground isn't much better. Each step lands you in a slick mire of ash, blood and dirt.

In the midst of this desolation is Konngara. On a paving of cracked flagstones, she's dropped to one knee and breathing heavily. Her clothing looks singed - worse in some places - and her left arm dangles uselessly beside her. Her sword, blackened beyond recognition, lays discarded on the ground beside her; her right arm dedicated to supporting her weight.

Towering over her is the beast, dazed and on its last legs. All but one of its heads have been severed, leaving naught but charred stumps. Most of its front claws have met the same fate.

No time to lose. With all haste, you pitch your rope at one of its back legs. As it wraps around the beast's leg with a satisfying thud, you pull while leaping forward with all your might. The beast topples forward as you sail through the air and unintentionally land a perfect flying kick on its shoulders before glancing down at Konngara, smiling back at you through tears of joy. You didn't let her down.

With adrenaline and awesome coursing through your veins, you pull your rope free from its leg and lash forwards. It catches its sole remaining neck, garroting it as you begin chanting. The beast flails about desperately, trying to unseat you in a last gambit to save its life, but to no avail. Your grip on the rope is as unyielding as wrought iron and your mind has the clarity and stillness of a tranquil sea. This is the end! You finish your chanting with a prayer to the Four Heavenly Kings as your upraised staff suffuses with a golden aura. With all your might, you strike downwards.

The beast's skull implodes in a shower of gore, your spiritual strike incinerating it in sanctifying flames. As the huge corpse topples over, you roll off and land on your back, your legs giving out from under you. With your face on the ground, you sigh tiredly. The rush of battle must be wearing off. Everything feels heavy, even your thoughts, to say nothing of your limbs. You just slew an Orochi in this condition? The limitations of man are truly unfathomable.

But how about the limitations of women? You recline your head back and to the right, to find yourself staring into the eyes of Konngara. She's coughing quietly on her side a few feet away from you; fearlessness, contentedness and above all, weariness, written in her expression. As she sees, you, her lips form some words which you can't quite hear as she closes her eyes, a smile on her face. While you'd like to ask her what she was trying to say, the effort of fighting while physically exhausted, mentally drained and hungry overwhelms you. You also close your eyes, falling into a deep sleep.

[ ] ???

----------
>> No. 93616
>>93612

[x] A dream of peace and quiet.
>> No. 93638
[x] A dream of peace and quiet.
>> No. 93649
[x] A dream of peace and quiet.

Dreams~
>> No. 93650
[ze] A dream of peace and quiet.

I like this. Is this based on something?
>> No. 93654
I wanted to go for shorter, faster updates since the combat sequence ended, but I was busy today and this ended up being longer than I expected.

>>93650
I'm glad you do, but I'm simply writing off your responses and some ideas I had. Does it resemble something?

----------
For now, you've abandoned your worldly cares to wander in the mesmerizing labrinyth of illusion. By all rights, you should be too tired to think, but this is truly enjoyable, even if you'll forget all of it when you awaken. The dreamscape before you is eternal but ephermeral, finite but boundless. Inconsequential memories of your daily life give way to a flaxen-haired Bodhisattva seated upon the air itself expounding liturgical esoterica on the meaning of life and nature of existence, as you stare in rapture at the birth and death of a thousand stars. After an indeterminate amount of time, this chaos gives way to order, and a single, peaceful recollection rises to the fore of your mind.

Your family. How many years has it been since you've seen them? You've not seen them since you entered the faith, which was... nine years ago? Ten? Has it really been that long? It certainly hasn't felt that way.

Truly, time flies. When you were first sent to live in that monastery, you hated it; you thought your parents had pushed their ambitions onto you, forsaking your person for their dreams. But now, having travelled the world and seen so much, you realize this wasn't true. The life of people like your parents -simple farm laborers- was powerless, unenviable drudgery. They were at the mercy of the local strongmen, the weather, epidemic disease, the rapacious bands of poorly paid "soldiers" and of course, the youkai. By offering you to the faith, they had given you the power to defend yourself from both material and ideal foes and the knowledge to increase your station in life - things which they didn't have and never could have. When you see them again, be it in this world or the next, you owe them your heartfelt thanks.

Still, nine years. You're still a young man; that's nearly half your life till now! Who knows how many things have changed in that time. You certainly have. And come to think of it, she must have changed too. She... would be a young woman by now. Graceful, beautiful and intelligent. Maybe it's nostalgia, but you can almost feel her in your embrace, your hand on her waist with your face in her nape, imbibing her intoxicating scent...

You wake with a start. Darn. Just when things were about to ge-

You're laying on a soft cushion that's been rolled out on the floor of a room you've never seen before. Beside you is Konngara, sleeping peacefully in the crook of your arm. Daylight dances across her face through an opened screen. Suppressing an urge to panic, you check your person. Though dishevled and disoriented, you're otherwise fully clothed. Looks like the two of you were spooning for warmth; nothing indecent.

As you breathe out with a sigh of relief, you realize that this whole time, an unfamiliar woman, seated grandly in a lacquered chair, has been silently glaring daggers at you beneath a mane of long, dark hair.

[ ] ???
[ ] Vajra. You hate voyeurism; no one spies on your Love Love time and lives to tell about it!
----------

Tread carefully, Anonymous.
>> No. 93657
>>93654

[x] "Good morning miss, may I humbly ask why you seem to be so perturbed at me?"
>> No. 93661
[x] "Good morning miss, may I humbly ask why you seem to be so perturbed at me?"

Interesting. This appears to be set in an ancient Gensokyo. Since my guess was right and the swordswoman really was Konngara, I'll venture a guess that this new woman is Kikuri before whatever happened to make her... well, some kind of a circle thing.
>> No. 93667
[ze] "Good morning miss. May I humbly ask why you seem to be so perturbed?"

Fixed a bit.

>>93654
Nah, it's just surprising to see someone who actually knows even a scrap about Buddhism at all (or at least enough to sound the part), let alone one that deals with incredibly obscure Touhoes (aside from Snake).

Keep at it!
>> No. 93694
Only time for one short update right now. The next one will probably be this evening.

edit: Minor corrections made.
----------
Though you're caught off-guard and not quite awake, you successfully maintain your composure, reciprocating her gaze. ... She's not looking away. Does she intend to engage you in a contest of wills? You stifle a groan. ... It's really too early for this.

As the atmosphere in the room becomes increasingly uncomfortable, her expression abruptly changes from a from a frown to a small smile. Is she trying to break this meaningless tension? Though she continues to reciprocate your determination with her icy jade eyes, she looks considerably less hostile. As you're considering what to do next, she decides for you, wordlessly beckoning with her right hand, two lithe fingers extended.

With slight misgivings, you slowly stand, taking care not to disturb Konngara. The unknown woman's smile broadens somewhat, and she repeats her beckoning motion. Slowly, you take her in as you carefully approach.

She's thin and delicate. Her most striking features are definitely her eyes, crowned with a set of fine brows and radiating intelligence. And while you try and keep your eyes in safe places, you can't help but sneak an admiring glance at her legs. They're pale and shapely, peeking out from beneath a short skirt of bright blue and mated with a pair of slender feet. Delicious. You begin to wonder how they'd feel, wrapped about your waist as her arms cla-

No, no. NO. Bad thoughts. Remember your training, free yourself of your worldly desires. ...Good. Now, just open your eyes and play it co-

Oh crap. Her eyes haven't left you for a moment, and maybe it's just her smile playing tricks on you, but you can't shake the inkling that she's guessed most of your thoughts.

In an effort to salvage your dignity, you adopt your most impassive, stoic mask and quickly close the rest of the distance. After kneeling, so as to be on eye level with her in the chair, you greet her and gently kiss her outstretched hand.

"Good morning, miss. I apologize for not greeting you sooner; my labors yesterday tired me so that I was far less alert than is normal for me. More importantly, I hope that I haven't offended you?"

She answers. A soft, playful voice.

"My, you're a polite one."

Unexpectedly, her expression changes. Why is she grima-

The index finger on her outstretched hand curls as she raises it upwards. As though an invisible hand is grabbing your collar, you find yourself lifted into the air.

As you struggle to make heads from tails, you sneak a glance at your aggressor. She gives you a little wave with her left hand, before making a turning gesture. Your body makes an identical motion, slowly starting to spin you in midair.

You struggle to loose your collar, as it's pressing uncomfortable against your windpipe. You're lucky that you learned rudimentary breathing techniques as part and parcel of meditation or you probably would have fainted by now. And wha- is she giggling? This isn't funny, dammit,!

As you run over possible escape methods in your head, you hear something stir behind you.

[ ] Get Konngara to help you.
[ ] Plead with her to stop this.
[ ] Concentrate, and use your spiritual power to remove the hand around your neck.
[ ] Rope. Time your swing with the centrifugal force of your turning to pull her feet from under her.
[ ] Vajra. IT'S GO TIME, WOMAN. FINAL DESTINATION!
----------
>> No. 93697
[x] Concentrate, and use your spiritual power to remove the hand around your neck.
>> No. 93701
[ ] Concentrate, and use your spiritual power to remove the hand around your neck.
>> No. 93714
>>93694
[X] Go limp; play dead
>> No. 93715
[x] Concentrate, and use your spiritual power to remove the hand around your neck.
>> No. 93723
> [ ] Vajra. IT'S GO TIME, WOMAN. FINAL DESTINATION!

NO POWERS! NO DISTRACTIONS! VAJRA ONLY! FINAL DESTINATION!

[X] Concentrate, and use your spiritual power to remove the hand around your neck.
>> No. 93736
This one was fun to write. Another update a little later. I'm using an unsecured wireless network to use the internet and I keep disconnecting because the signal quality is terrible.

----------
This woman has all the guile and grace of a devil. Unfortunately for her, you're more than just experienced in vanquishing devils; you can beat them at their own game. Modifying your breathing, you begin to gasp shallowly while grasping at your throat in an embellished way. After a few seconds of this, you make a big show of passing out; your mouth froths with spittle and your eyes roll into the back of your head before falling shut. Though you can't see her expression, the manner in which your body abruptly begins to decelerate and return to its upright position indicates that she seems to be buying it. As your body slows to a halt, you 'vacantly' loll your head forwards, obscuring your mouth from her view as you concentrate and begin silently chanting. Just as planned.

You search for the force lifting you into the air, not with your eyes or ears, but with your heart. Even raw magic has a palpable form by which it can be countered, though most people lack the focus to see it. Their knowledge of the occult is solely confined to its effects, with little to no understanding of the causal forces which drive it. To use an analogy, they see the tides, but not the gravity from the moon acting upon the ocean to making the tides.

You find the source of your troubles almost on instinct; come to think of it, you're almost certain you unconsciously noted it earlier. Amid the dim, eddying mana floes in the darkness of your mind, a shining hand of alabaster mist grasps your throat.

But not for long.

As you're about to finish your prayer, a series of tremors run across your person as the woman shakes you in midair, speaking hysterically.

"Hey, wake up! I know you're not dead! It seems I was wrong about you and I wan-"

You don't let her finish. As you raise your head and smile in triumph, with a casual gesture, you take hold of something in front of you with your left hand. She gasps, her eyes widening. If you're not mistaken, she should be seeing a golden hand, the size of a guardian idol's, gripping her still-extended right arm.

You drop to the ground with a casual hop; thankfully, you were less than a foot and a half in the air. Summoning your best smirk, you stroll in her direction as you twist your left arm and pull it to the side. Her expression changes from surprise to horror as her right arm pantomimes your motion. As she desperately tries to free herself, you come within reach of her, placing your free hand on her left shoulder as you gently pin her against the wall.

You lower your eyes to meet hers once more, as she barely rises above your chin. ... Are those tears? You didn't make her cry, did you?

Or... Is that... Admiration?

With a different expression than she's shown to this point, she smiles tenderly. "I wasn't wrong about you after all."

Speaking thus, she leans forward and kisses you, full on the lips as a sleepy voice resonates behind you.

"mmm... Mima, is that you?"

[ ] Return her kiss, she's genuine this time.
[ ] Don't return her kiss, it would be improper for your station.
[ ] Throw her to the ground. She's trying to trick you again.
[ ] Greet Konngara and invite her to join in.
[ ] RAEPTIME. To the victor go the spoils.
[ ] Vajra. This moment IS electrifying, after all.
[ ] ??? (specify)
----------

You may pick more than one option.
>> No. 93738
[x] Don't return her kiss, it would be improper for your station.
-[x] Greet Konngara, ask her how she's feeling.

We've already had a Mima route. I want some Konngara.
>> No. 93740
[x] Don't return her kiss, it would be improper for your station.
-[x] Greet Konngara, ask her how she's feeling.
>> No. 93742
>>93738

We are a monk, and we are concerned about our new comrade. I second the vote.
>> No. 93751
[x] Don't return her kiss, it would be improper for your station.
-[x] Greet Konngara, ask her how she's feeling.

That went a lot better than I expected.
>> No. 93758
>>93751
This isn't Misadventures in Gensokyo - while you can die in some extremely gruesome ways in this story(Example, the "Go out"/"Don't go out" option could have ended much differently had you chosen certain rationalizations), I'm not going to bad end you for making courageous or dramatic actions, any more than I would for cautious ones unless you're making choices in a schizoid or outright stupid way.

Also, writing.
>> No. 93762
Last update for today. Also, lol internet.

----------
It's been a long time since you've held anyone this closely, much less in a kiss. The softness and warmth of her lips, the tickling sensation of her breath on your face and the weight of the emotional fidelity in her eyes are all pleasures you've forgotten. But you can't bring yourself to return her kiss; not like this, at least. Though you want to reciprocate her sincerity, warning sirens in the depths of your heart urge you towards caution. Instead, you wrap your arms around her midriff and pull her into a firm hug. As she responds in kind, you gently run your fingers through her hair as she rests her head on your shoulder. Before you let go, you take her hands into yours and smile broadly.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mima."

As she lowers her gaze towards her feet, face flushing with happiness, you turn to greet Konngara. She's propped herself up, red lips pursed and amber eyes looking at you expectantly. As you lightly approach her side, you breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like Mima must have tended to her wounds and given her something new to wear.

In place of the charred and bloody crimson cloak, she's now wearing a sky-blue robe trimmed with gold and brocaded with stars and moons in silver. From the looks of it though, it's too small for her; the shoulders look rather snug, the sleeves don't cover her wrists, and when she moves, the chest clings too closely to her skin. ... Yeah. Suppressing any inappropriate thoughts, you make a mental note to thank Mima later.

As you appreciatively study her clothing, you also check her wounds. They're bad, but not as bad as you initially feared. Bandages cover her hands, peek out from her waist and wrap around her collarbone. She's still not moving her left arm at all; it must either be in a splint or otherwise covered in bandages. On a more positive note, she's managed to almost completely avoid injury to her head and neck, apart from a few minor cuts and bruises. Though her hair hangs in a dishevled halo and her countenance hasn't quite shaken off its drowsiness, she veritably radiates loveliness.

As you make it to her side, you kneel and offer your greetings as you stroke her back.

"I 'm glad that both of us survived to enjoy this bright morning, Konngara; my only regret is that I wasn't able to sleep beside you longer than I did.

In response, she lifts her right arm and clasps it about your neck, pulling you to her lap as she smiles warmly.

"Please put aside that regret; it makes me happy to hear that you enjoyed my company as much as I, yours. Should you desire it, I'd be more than happy to sleep together with you again, as long as you wish. And..."

She closes her eyes brings her face close to yours and humbly kisses you on the cheek, before turning slightly red.

"While it's not much, please consider this a small payment on my debt."

You nod contentedly and lay your head back into her lap, deliberating over what you should ask her next as your heart rejoices. You've scored two kisses and the gratitude of a lovely woman! Without a doubt, this was one of the most exciting and successful mornings of your life.

Ask about:
[ ] Your name... it's charming and certainly rolls off the tongue, but it's awfully uncommon, isn't it?
[ ] What did you try to tell me earlier?
[ ] How are your wounds?
[ ] What was that you were holding earlier?
[ ] Where are we?
[ ] What's your relationship to 'Mima'?
[ ] Were there always so few people in this region?
[ ] About that monster... have you seen any others?
[ ] Vajra. If we see another one, shall I just use this?
[ ] Actually, do you have any questions for me?
[ ] Ask something else. (specify)
----------
>> No. 93764
>>93762
[X] How are your wounds?
[X] About that monster... have you seen any others?
[X] Ask something else: the residents of the village ravaged by the Orochi; what has become of them?
[X] Pardon my rudeness: do you have any questions for me?
>> No. 93765
[x] What did you try to tell me earlier?
[x] How are your wounds?
[x] Where are we?
[x] Were there always so few people in this region?
[x] About that monster... have you seen any others?
[X] Ask something else: the residents of the village ravaged by the Orochi; what has become of them?
[X] Pardon my rudeness: do you have any questions for me?
>> No. 93766
[x] What did you try to tell me earlier?
[x] How are your wounds?
[x] Where are we?
[x] Were there always so few people in this region?
[x] About that monster... have you seen any others?
[x] Ask something else: the residents of the village ravaged by the Orochi; what has become of them?
[x] Pardon my rudeness: do you have any questions for me?
>> No. 93771
Mima already kissed us just because we showed her some Buddhist badassery? Damn. I guess she's highly responsive to prayers.

Also, did we do something with Konngara? She seems awful intimate and for someone we've known for only about 10-20 conscious, waking minutes.
>> No. 93774
>>93771

We of helped her defeat an Orochi with our own life on the line.

>"Don't feel uncomfortable. You're risking your life for someone like me, so you deserve to call me something better than just 'Miss.' If we survive this ordeal, I hope we can come to know each other better."

Given the context, it seems that most people wouldn't help because of a reputation or something.
>> No. 93775
Why do you keep on putting Vajra in every single choice?
>> No. 93777
>>93775
WHY INDEED.
>> No. 93778
[x] What did you try to tell me earlier?
[x] How are your wounds?
[x] Where are we?
[x] Were there always so few people in this region?
[x] About that monster... have you seen any others?
[x] Ask something else: the residents of the village ravaged by the Orochi; what has become of them?
[x] Pardon my rudeness: do you have any questions for me?
>> No. 93779
[x] What did you try to tell me earlier?
[x] How are your wounds?
[x] Where are we?
[x] Were there always so few people in this region?
[x] About that monster... have you seen any others?
[x] Ask something else: the residents of the village ravaged by the Orochi; what has become of them?
[x] Pardon my rudeness: do you have any questions for me?

>>93775
Because its just that awesome.
>> No. 93787
Seems this one will be long.

>>93771
>>93774

I'm glad someone raised these considerations as I was going to address them anyway. You'll like the next update, methinks.

>>93775
Why wouldn't I put the Vajra in every single choice?

But to answer your question more seriously, its because using it was relevant in nearly all of the choices. Had you decided to use one against the Orochi at certain junctures in the battle, you would have won instantly. A bit later on, if you decided to throw one at Mima, you would have surprised her and events would have transpired somewhat differently. (No, not a Bad End. Also, don't try throwing one at her now that I've told you this.)

In fact, of the various ways you could have died up to this point, only one of them involves the Vajra.

Also, writing. I'm at work and keep getting called away, so who knows how long this will take.
>> No. 93788
interesting story, I wonder what other ancient Touhou characters we'd meet (and if we'd run into the generation's Hakurei Miko)

But I can imagine running into some of the oldest of the modern bunch (Yukari, Tewi)

And I somehow predict that the monk may start to discover romantic feelings. Can't they marry or something?
>> No. 93804
The rest of the questions will be answered in subsequent updates, too much to address at once. Expect at least one more today.

----------
Though you've already made an appraisal of her condition, you opt to show your concern, so as to not break the moment.

"I'm not inconveniencing you by sitting like this, am I? The wounds you received yesterday looked rather painful."

She shakes her head. "No, not at all."

"Most of the burns and bites were on my upper body; here in particular," wincing slightly as she indicates her left arm. "It'll take some time to heal, but I'm otherwise alright. No, what makes me more curious is your condition. Unless my eyes fail me, you fainted yesterday in spite of being mostly unscathed. Might have you suffered a blow to the back of your head when falling from the beast? Or perhaps you're anemic?"

You chuckle somewhat, shaking your head in bewilderment before answering. Looks like this girl's not particularly worldly.

"Anemia? The world's a hard place, Konngara. If you've reincarnated into this world with an anemic body, you'll most likely find yourself before the Yama again before too long unless you've been born to one of those decadent houses in Kyoto."

As she ponders the ceiling with a pensive expression, you belatedly realize that you've made the air rather heavy. In an effort to defuse the situation, you reach up and caress her face before offering a reassurance.

"Hey, don't look so worried! I'm definitely not anemic and I didn't hit my head or anything like that. Believe it or not, the reason for my fainting was the natural consequence of many days worth of fatigue and hunger. I don't even recall the last time I ate to satisfaction."

"Well, while we're here, you don't need to worry about that. I'm Mima's 'noble friend' and while we're often at odds, I haven't the faintest doubt that she'd treat my savior as well as she does, me. As long as we're in her house, you won't be hungry."

As you open your mouth to offer protest to this proclamation, she turns slightly and looks down at you, a glint in her eye.

"In any event, she seems to have taken a liking to you already."

Averting your gaze, you say nothing as you feel blood rushing to your face. This isn't good, she's placed you on the defensive. Time to turn the tables somehow!

Breaking into a silly grin, you tease her. "She isn't the only one, guilty of it. Not that I don't appreciate it, but you've been -awfully- affectionate for someone whom I've known for all of thirty conscious minutes, haven't you?"

She put a finger to her lips and cocks her head quizzically.

"Have I really? If anything, the only misestimation in this situation is on your part, rather than mine, as I have every reason to be fond of you."

She reddens somewhat, continuing.

"I mean, you're handsome, in addition to being possessed of a knowledgable and winsome disposition that makes conversation delightful. Furthermore, you selflessly placed yourself in grave danger to save my life; that of a complete stranger."

As you look up at her, you can't see her expression for a moment as she's turned away once again.

"Besides, I don't intend to let her win that easily."

When she turns back to you, you can't help but notice that her face has become completely serious.

"...But yes, if anything, your behavior is more unusual than mine, even when I account for your apparent profession. Why did you choose to help me? ... You don't have ulterior motives, do you?"

Well this backfired, didn't it? She's ignorant of the world, but definitely sharp. Even now, her eyes seem like they're staring straight through you.

You:
[ ] Tell her you helped her because you're sworn to save those in physical or spiritual danger and awaken them to the path of enlightenment.
[ ] Tell her you helped her because the sight of someone so fearless and beautiful struggling for her life moved your heart.
[ ] Tell her you were just hoping to score a meal.
[ ] Tell her that you just wanted to destroy some youkai, as that was the original purpose of your journey anyway.
[ ] Vajra. I WAS LOOKING FOR A CHANCE TO USE THIS.
[ ] ??? specify.
----------

You may pick more than one option. Attempts to lighten the mood welcome.
>> No. 93807
>>93804
[X] Tell her you helped her because the sight of someone so fearless and beautiful struggling for her life moved your heart.
-{X} "Besides, there is a shortage of perfect breasts in this world; 'twould be a pity to see yours damaged."
>> No. 93808
[x] Tell her you helped her because the sight of someone so fearless and beautiful struggling for her life moved your heart.
-[x] Noble warriors are rare in this world, especially one so beatiful.

not too pushy and not too perverted for our monk hero.
>> No. 93813
[X] "I'd have to say it'd just be my personality. I can't just watch someone in danger and not help them out."
[X] Noble warriors are rare in this world, especially one so beautiful.

Lets save the Vajra for Yukari. We'll probably need it.
>> No. 93814
[X] "I'd have to say it'd just be my personality. I can't just watch someone in danger and not help them out."
[X] Noble warriors are rare in this world, especially one so beautiful.
>> No. 93816
[x] "I'd have to say it'd just be my personality. I can't just watch someone in danger and not help them out."
[x] Noble warriors are rare in this world, especially one so beautiful.
>> No. 93817
Writing. This update might be the last for today depending on how I feel after my last class. I was hoping to make more progress, but slept terribly last night.
>> No. 93818
[x] Tell her you helped her because the sight of someone so fearless and beautiful struggling for her life moved your heart.
-[x] Noble warriors are rare in this world, especially one so beatiful.
>> No. 93822
>>93813
What makes you think you'll be fighting Yukari?

This one ended up being a mix of the two options, hope it turned out well.

----------
You're determined to not let this wonderful morning turn into serious business. The past few months have been nonstop serious business and you've become weary of it. You might be a monk, but you're still a human at heart until you reach enlightenment; surely you deserve some sporadic chances to have fun, right? Summoning all the integrity of your person into
your eyes, you begin.

"Well, my dear Konngara, you seem to have a faulty premise in your deductions about me, though given our presently limited knowledge of each other, it's an understandable mistake. With any luck, we'll be able to amend that issue quickly."

Crap. Her expression hasn't changed in the slightest, but nevertheless you're persevering in your explanation. No turning back now!

"Let me ask you; when we met and you chose to take my hand, was it because you were a warrior?"

A slight fracture in her composure. She folds her hands together.

"Nay."

This might work.

"When you asked me for help, placing your trust in me to save your life, was it because you were a warrior?"

She shifts the position of her legs.

"Nay."

Now, to drive the point home!

"When you chose to kiss me a few minutes ago, was it because you were a warrior?"

She closes her eyes.

"... Nay."

"So then would you say it's fair to believe that your treatment of me to this point has been chiefly dictated by something other than your occupation?"

With her eyes still shut, she nods silently.

"And do you think it's fair to believe that 'something' is what most people would call your 'heart?'

A long pause. She's not nodding, nor is she shaking her head.

As you wait for her answer, closing your eyes and praying to Sakyamuni that you haven't miscalculated, you feel something gently fall on your forehead. It's moist.

Tears stream from Konngara's wavering countenance, rolling off her cheek. Though it's nearly imperceptible, she's unquestionably nodding.

While sitting up, you turn and envelop her in a steady hug, placing her head on your shoulder as you whisper in her ear.

"I'm the same as you. Though I'm a monk by trade, I follow my heart."

She wipes her face on her sleeve, sniffling and trying to clear her voice. She looks in your eyes once more.

"... And what did your 'heart' tell you in this case?"

You stop for a moment as you consider how to fully articulate your most inexpressible sentiments.

"... To never abandon someone in need, doubly so if they're beautiful and gallant. People like that are rare." You smile broadly. "My apologies if you were expecting a more sublime or profound reason, but... those are my pure and honest feelings."

Through her tears, Konngara nods and pulls you close, wearing what must be the most radiant smile you've ever seen.

"I'm sorry for having doubted you."

You shake your head, not losing your grin.

"It's perfectly understandable given how long we've known each other. Deep trust takes time, you know."

As the two of you settle into a warm embrace, you hear the sound of clapping coming from your left.

[ ] Ignore it.
[ ] Vajra. You're not letting anyone ruin this moment.
[ ] ???
----------

To be continued. Expect the second part either later tonight or tomorrow.
>> No. 93825
>>93822

[x] Turn your head to see who it is.
>> No. 93826
[x] Turn your head to see who it is.
>> No. 93833
[x] Turn your head to see who it is.

chances are it's Mima being herself.
>> No. 93837
[x] Turn your head to see who it is.
>> No. 93852
[ze] Ignore it.

So cheesy, and yet so compelling, like Doritos.
>> No. 93864
[x] Turn your head to see who it is.
>> No. 93871
[da-ze] Turn your head to see who it is.
>> No. 93898
Real life's been busy, writing now.
>> No. 93917
Our hero has a lot to say this time; I figured that I'd cover his own rationale as you've shaped it so far with your choices. If you like how he's turning out, keep voting as you've been; if not, you'll now have a guidepost as to where he is currently. He might be (presently) nameless, but you can be sure that he won't be without characterization.

----------
The facetious applause is really irritating. Struggling against a powerful urge to frown, you sneak a quick glance at your side. With her legs crossed, Mima reclines regally; her chin in her hands. As you sigh at your own negligence, she winks and blows you a kiss before bursting into raucous laughter.

"Oh man, what's with you two? You sound like excerpts from a self-help booklet, you know that?! Honestly...

She shakes her head as she turns to Konngara, giggling.

"You! I never knew you were into this sort of thing! Have you been reading sappy love stories in secret or something? You just cuddled with some guy you barely even know!"

You feel a chill run down your spine as you look at Konngara's face. With what could only be described as an impossibly huge, triumphant smirk, she puts her hands behind her back and leans forward slightly.

"Are you frustrated, my 'charming demon'?"

Mima opens her mouth to respond, but finds no words with which to respond. As she opens and closes her mouth in what appears to be silent amazement, you decide to give her your index finger and throw in your two cents.

"You're teasing her for being attracted to a stranger, yet you kissed me on the lips in spite of knowing even less about me than she does. Just what have -you- been reading?"

She instantly gathers herself, staring you down determinedly.

"And you! How can you call yourself a Buddhist priest when you're giving sermons praising emotion with a woman in your arms! Aren't you supposed to renounce worldly sentiment and pleasure when you take your vows? You certainly have *considerable* magic power, but isn't your conduct entirely wrong? You're more of a sophist than a prelate and your head isn't even shaven!" Mima snorts at that last statement, though she now looks bemused, rather than outright angry.

You smile disarmingly before shrugging. Time to awaken your inner theologian.

"I can tell you're not a Buddhist, miss Mima; it shows in your misconceptions about monastic life and duties, as well as the means by which we achieve enlightenment."

You make a broad, exaggerated sweep with your right arm, before placing it behind your back.

"As I'm sure you know, the world may be understood in cycles - the Zodiac, Trigram divination, the ascendancy of the Five Elements, Death and Rebirth, Time. My faith is no exception to this. In this age of the cosmos, Prince Siddartha Gautama was the first to awaken from the haze of Samsara and gain enlightenment under the name Sakyamuni. So that all mankind could be saved, he bequeathed unto us the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, a method by which he reached Nirvana and was released from the cares of the world. But some people forget; Sakyamuni is neither the first nor the last Buddha; merely the first in this age, nor are the niceties of his methods the only means by which one can achieve Enlightenment."

You clear your throat before continuing to speak. Konngara's scooted next to you and listening with rapt attention, while Mima's playing with her hair, one eyebrow raised.

"When Sakyamuni went on to his reward, his disciples quickly became divided over the way in which his teachings should be diseminated. Some believed that our only responsibility was to conduct our lives according to the Eightfold Path. By living in accordance with the methods given to us, we would thereby inspire an example to everyone else as to how they might be saved. However, others of us thought that this insistence on the emulation of Sakyamuni's deeds amounted to empty ritual which only captured the letter of his message, rather than its spirit. Living simple, virtuous lives spent in pursuit of philosophic truth might move some of the more intellectually inclined among the Kyoto nobility, but it would hardly attract or induce the attention of commoners. I'd know, as I'm from common roots myself. Let me assure you; a life of subsistence farming, consumed by worry over whether you'll make it through the winter or if roving bands of rapscallions will decide to carry off your mother and sister, has neither the time nor the education necessary to pursue the Eightfold Path. Out of this concern, the Great Vehicle was born, of which I am a disciple."

At your mention of the 'Great Vehicle,' Mima steeples her fingers and leans back in her chair, a silly grin on her face.

"Mahayana, eh?"

You nod affirmatively.

"I think it's important to remember that the Eightfold Path was formed out of the experiences of Gautama's own life. For example, when he counselled us to avoid the pleasures of the world, this was not because pleasure is inherently evil, but because he himself was born into pleasure. What others might obtain after an entire lifetime of hard work and virtuous conduct, he possessed since his earliest years, before even developing a moral compass. That he became addicted to various forms of licentious debauchery before falling into a depressed malaise is a given, in light of these facts. However, most people are not like Gautama - they live nasty, brutish and short lives, full of despair and with little hope. For them, pleasure would hardly have the same sort of corrupting effect experienced by him. Similarly, renouncing our emotions is at odds with the spirit of his actions. If Gautama had really abandoned his 'heart,' why would he share the wisdom of his trials with us? While he certainly was beyond such things as anger or sorrow, beyond a doubt, his actions demonstrated that he retained his compassion and love. And if Gautama retained his ability to feel love, yet still reached enlightenment, I don't see why I can't do it as well."

You avoid the temptation to look at Konngara's face and instead, draw your knife from its baldric and display it.

"As for my hair, it grew back. Sorry for betraying your expectations, but trekking over hundreds of miles of sparsely populated wilderland while barely avoiding starvation doesn't give me the time to cut my hair, save what grows on my face, with this."

As you conclude your defense, Mima nods approvingly. Her expression's strange. ... Is that admiration?

"Well, I wasn't expecting an answer like that. Though I was right about your sophistry, you're definitely a genuine Buddhist and ... a good one at that. Once again, you've impressed me." Mima nudges her head at Konngara. "It's not hard to see why she likes you, in any case."

She composes herself, becoming serious.

"While I still have some things I want to ask you in private later, do you have any questions for me? It's the least I could do to make up for earlier."

You rub your temples as you shut your eyes and look down.

"About that, do you greet all your guests like that? You must not be very popular if that's the case."

With a laugh, Mima shakes her head.

"Oh, nono. Not at all! While you're right in that I'm something of an outcast around these parts, I don't usually do things that way. I was originally going to pump you for information as to how my 'noble friend' here got so badly injured and then kill you if you were responsible, but the plan changed. When you kissed my hand, I thought I felt the spark of magic from you and I was interested to see just how capable you were. You know the rest."

She reddens slightly, as you confirm some suspicions you've been entertaining.

"So if you're an outcast, I take it that means there's a settlement in these parts?"

As her expression sours, Mima responds.

"Yeah. I doubt they'd have a problem with you, but the two of us have never been welcome there thanks to our powers." For emphasis, she snaps her fingers, instantly conjuring a miniature cyclone of flame in her palm.

You scratch your head. Are you misunderstanding something?

"But... wouldn't your powers serve to protect the village from the monsters like that Orochi? Aren't youkai the reason that so few people live here?"

Mima's face betrays her confusion. Either she's bluffing or she knows even less than you do.

"Orochi? What are you talking about?"

You wave your hands in the air and point, for emphasis.

"You carried the two of us here, right? While I'm not sure why you were sneaking around at night to begin with, did you seriously miss the severed reptilian heads and huge, scaly corpse less than a foot away from our unconscious bodies?"

Mima turns to Konngara with an incredulous expression. You do the same; just what's she not telling you? As the two of you stare at her, she looks away and makes a quiet request. "... Wait one moment."

She shuts her eyes and extends her bandaged right hand. As she does, something appears in it. You recognize it as the black sphere you saw her holding earlier, but realize your mistake - you only saw it from one angle. It's actually two hemispheres perfectly smooth hemispheres; one white, one black, molded with curled edges and set with dots of antipodal color at their respective centers. They've been fitted together to form an orb. Unmistakably, it's a representation of the Taiji - the symbol of the Great Unity embodying all creation. Why does she have a sacred symbol of the Dao? Where did she possibly get it? What's its composition, that doesn't look like wood or metal. What does this have to do with the youkai? This... raises so many questions that you're not sure what you should ask next. Resignedly, you notice the morning has become serious business once again.

[ ] ???
[ ] Bring out your Vajra. A CHALLENGER APPEARS.
----------

I'm feeling better today, so expect at least one more update tonight.
>> No. 93920
[x] "May I ask how you came upon this artifact? And might I be able to examine it?"
>> No. 93924
[x] "May I ask how you came upon this artifact? And might I be able to examine it?"
>> No. 93926
[0] "May I ask how you came upon this artifact? And might I be able to examine it?"
>> No. 93937
[x] "May I ask how you came upon this artifact? And might I be able to examine it?" and explain what it means.

Hakurei Ying Yang orb?
>> No. 93948
This update ended up being longer than I expected and my evening was busier than I expected. As such, I'll write the second half tomorrow morning.

----------
You hastily scrutinize the most distant corners of your memory in an effort to see if there's something you've failed to consider about the gem in front of you. Let's see... if you remember correctly, the white half is called 'yang' and represents the masculine, the sun, genesis and reign, while the black half is called 'yin' and represents the feminine, moon, termina and submission. Taken together, both halves are known as the 'Taiji,' which literally means 'Great Unity/Monad;' so-called because it's the most perfect synthesis of the omnipresent duality underlying all creation. But why does this girl have it? It's the most ancient and powerful icon of a religion from the Continent; in the right hands, it would be a nearly unstoppable weapon, surpassing even your Vajra in destructive potential. But she's not a Daoist priest...

Before you can say anything, Mima breaks the silence with a proposal.

"It's getting close to noon and we've been in my bedroom all morning. Why don't we take this talk to the parlor and discuss over lunch?"

You quickly agree; anything to break the unpleasant air of reservation that's settled in here. Konngara just nods, following silently with a pensive expression on her face.

... If nothing else, Mima seems to be a busy person. It looks like what she termed her 'parlor' is actually the main room of her cottage, apparently serving as both laboratory and living space. Jars of peaches, pickles and plums occupy space beside beakers filled with formaldalhyde, arsenic and hydrochloric acid on an elegantly carved and painted shelf. A lathe stands next to a desk covered in scrolls and drafting tools. A large cast-iron kettle sits on a spacious hearth topped with a mantle full of knick-knacks. And in spite of the clutter, this house looks gorgeous; its both clean and tastefully decorated. Mima herself begins throwing things in the pot as you and Konngara sit around a lacquered chair in the middle of the room. As the heavenly smell of mushroom stew fills the room, you decide to begin the discussion, pointing at the globe in her right hand.

"Konngara, do you know what that is?"

You anticipate the answer before you receive it, as you've already guessed at her provinciality. She shakes her head.

"Yes and no. I know its name and that it's been endowed with considerable supernatural force, but I fear that its symbolic properties and history are lost upon me. If you could teach me, I'd be in your debt."

As you give an abbreviated rundown of the stuff you remembered just now, Mima comes over and sets a steaming bowl in front of you before turning back towards the kettle.

"What I'm more interested in knowing is when and where did you get that thing? We've known each other for years, yet this is the first I've ever seen or heard of it. Just how many other secrets are you hiding from me, oh noble friend of mine?"

Konngara shifts uncomfortably. You can hear the hesitation in her voice.

"I... intended to tell you eventually. Perhaps I've been excessively cautious, but due to certain circumstances and details surrounding the way in which this was bestowed upon me, I felt that no one else could be allowed to know of its existence until the appropriate moment."

She exhales deeply.

"I believe that moment is now."

----------
To be continued in part II of this update. Since our hero's listening intently with no choices to make, feedback/criticism/lingering questions are fine.
>> No. 93950
>>93948

I've been enjoying this so far.
>> No. 93952
Youkai Jesus?
>> No. 93967
[x] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[x] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.
[x] Suggest that you investigate the place where you fought the beast.
[x] You'd like to visit that settlement.
[x] Ask Mima for her opinion.

Interesting... since it kinda sounds like Yukari but in more ancient garb, and what she said about the orb is quite interesting.
>> No. 93968
Hm... reading that last update again, I'll have to rewrite it sometime. I kept getting interrupted as I was working on it, so it ended up rather unpolished.

In the meantime, getting food and going home, hopefully another update later tonight.
>> No. 93972
[x] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[x] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.
[x] Suggest that you investigate the place where you fought the beast.
[x] You'd like to visit that settlement.
[x] Ask Mima for her opinion.
>> No. 93973
Some things have been worrying me.

For those who have not been as diligent in their Touhou history, I feel I should point out that when Reimu meets up with these folks --however many years down the line-- Konngara and Mima both reside in Hell, Konngara has a blood-soaked spike rammed through her forehead (or else she's moonlighting as a Summoner in the Final Fantasy games), and Mima is toting around a bloody knife and wants revenge on the whole of humanity for some unknown reason.

...I guess I'm just a bit uncertain about this story ending happily.

That said, keep writing. I like this story.
>> No. 93974
>>93973

I was actually wondering why the writer either simply forgot about the spike or we haven't reached the point where it's shoved into her forehead.
>> No. 93976
[x] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[x] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.
[x] Suggest that you investigate the place where you fought the beast.
[x] You'd like to visit that settlement.
[x] Ask Mima for her opinion.
>> No. 93978
>>93973

Perhaps our humble monk might change history, since while a human he is being kind to them.
>> No. 93983
>>93973
As it stands right now, there are three possible endings. No, they don't correspond to character routes, though I am keeping track of 'points' or 'flags' you have with the characters. Either way, don't worry too much, for as I said earlier, this is not Misadventures in Gensokyo nor was I was ever particularly fond of ultra GRIMDARK Frank Miller-esque stories. If you don't force me to write that way, I won't.

>>93974
If Konngara had a spike in her head, I would have mentioned it.

edit: stylistic/consistency edits made, otherwise, no changes to voting options.
----------
With a distant expression in her eyes, Konngara begins speaking. She's pretty clearly lost in the depths of her memory.

"It's difficult for me to select the point with which I should start this tale, as it could be appropriately said to begin with my birth. For now, confining my story to the details of the way in which I came upon it will suffice, methinks."

Hesitation. As Konngara collects herself, you sample the stew.

... Maybe it's your hunger, but this is some of the best food you've ever eaten. It's filling without being heavy and subtle without being bland. Even more surprisingly, the texture isn't lumpy - just what did Mima do to this food to get results like these? You put that question aside for later as Konngara resumes her story.

"I... was in a hopeless situation. I had no friends, no loved ones, no home; nothing in which I could believe and no recourse to save myself, with one exception. I could pray. "

You put down your spoon. Though you're still extremely hungry, this sounds like it'll need your full attention.

"You prayed? To what?"

Konngara shakes her head, slowly.

"It was less of a prayer in the sense with which you're familiar than it was an outpouring of my heartfelt wish to the world itself. As I fell to my knees and cried, I recounted the cruelties that Heaven, Earth and Man had heaped upon my shoulders. In that instant, more than anything else, I wanted to change my fortunes. I... I wanted the power to become happy."

Mima crosses her arms, expression unreadable.

"And?"

A pause from Konngara.

"... I fell asleep. Or at least I think I did. Most people would say that what happened next was a hallucination or a dream, but this is evidence to the contrary."

She lifts the Taiji in her right hand, all eyes in the room following her motion.

"As I finished my aimless entreaty, I found myself bathed in a golden light. At first, I was terrified, but... my anticipation and amazement far outweighed the instinctive, primal fear in my mind. When I turned my eyes upwards, I found a tall, brilliant figure standing over me with her arm outstretched. She was giving me her hand."

You barely let her finish speaking before indulging your curiosity.

"What did she look like? Was she wearing anything specific?"

Konngara seems to have anticipated this question, as she answers immediately.

"If I were to declare her the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, I would be guilty of gross oversimplification and reproachable understatement. But I can't really find a better way with which to concisely describe her; she was simply that far above any mortal conception of splendor. Her body was flawless in its features and proportions; radiant with warm light centering in a bright halo on her face. I wasn't able to meet her eyes, as the light wreathing her head was so brilliant that to stare into it was like looking at the midday sun. Her attire was as exquisite and outlandish as she. Over the unrestrained torrent of gold that was her hair, she wore a high headdress crested with crane feathers. A matching cloak of the selfsame plumes covered her bosom and shoulders, which were wrapped in a white robe of intricate design. Unusually, her feet were unshod, which contrasted with the elegant and elaborate nature of the garb in which she was dressed. All told, I for the first and (probably) last time in my life, I was envious of another woman's appearance and clothing. Or rather, I would have been, had I not been so overawed."

You just nod. Though you have several theories as to what she may have encountered, for now you focus on listening.

"After lifting me from my knees, this jewel I now protect appeared in her hands. She held it out to me and in a kind, melodious voice said, 'This is the Taiji, embodiment of the universal Dao. The sadness of your plight and the sincerity of your heart has moved me to entrust it to you. By accepting it, you will receive happiness according to the measure of your previous misfortunes, but in return, you and all of your line hereafter will one day carry the weight of the world on your backs.' At that point, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain - I grasped it with both hands and held it against my heart. My answer thus given, she smiled beforespeaking once more. She charged me with keeping the Taiji safe, saying that it was to become the 'keystone of order' for an entire world and that my fortunes had become bound up with it. Then, just as a sunbeam vanishes on a cloudy day, she was gone. I was standing, alone, in the benighted forest where I'd initially lost my way. "

After listening to her decision, you rub your temples as you feel your stomach turn, slightly. This girl really must have been naive when this happened, more than she is now. NEVER accept any deals given to you by mysterious supernatural beings, as they invariably result in the loss of your soul, your death or the loss of everything you treasure. Even if you stand to lose in the short term by refusing, it's better than being ensnared.

"So, did you find happiness?"

A smile from Konngara.

"Yes! That day was the nadir of my fortunes; within hours of receiving the Taiji, my sorrows began to give way before its power. There's been some ...difficulties, but I've found friends, a home and..." She looks at you.

Mima cuts her off before she can say anything else, an exasperated look on her face.

"Barring what happened afterwards, what does this have to do

with the youkai?"

Konngara's expression hardens as she hangs her head, slightly.

"Those are the difficulties of which I spoke. Though I know nearly nothing about it, one thing of which I'm certain is that this Taiji acts as a beacon for magical beings. A few weeks after receiving it, we met for the first time, Mima. And I have no doubt that my saviour here was pulled to it in the same way."

After indicating you, she keeps talking.

"At any rate, the attacks began around the same time we became friends. They never happened with any measurable pattern or frequency, occuringly randomly and at any time of the day. Youkai would wander into the shrine with me as their target. The first few assaults were frequent, but weak; fairies, ghosts and possessed beasts which I had no difficulty exterminating. But in time, the nature of the attacks changed. As the time between each attack grew longer, from days, to weeks, to months, the attackers became stronger and more intelligent - the most recent was a five-headed, fire-breathing dragon. And always, the corpses disappear, fading into a thin blue mist, before vanishing completely. I... I wish I knew what it all meant."

You have one last question.

"How much time has passed since you've obtained that Taiji?"

A quick reply. You half-expect it, but nevertheless wince when you hear it.

"Ten years."

Your blood runs cold. The same time at which you entered the clergy. Surely, the call of that orb can't influence causality, can it?

You:
[ ] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[ ] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.
[ ] Suggest that you investigate the place where you fought the beast.
[ ] You'd like to visit that settlement.
[ ] Ask Mima for her opinion.
[ ] Stay silent and observe.
[ ] Something else (specify).
----------

Touching the orb will come in one or two updates, don't worry, I haven't forgotten, just that this one's already exposition heavy.
>> No. 94012
[x] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[x] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.
[x] Suggest that you investigate the place where you fought the beast.
[x] You'd like to visit that settlement.
[x] Ask Mima for her opinion.
>> No. 94046
Now why have I not noticed this story before now? As a religion/mythology buff my hat's off to you good Anonymous, and I heartily encourage you to keep writing this tale.


[ODIN] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[ODIN] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.

Our hero and the lovely ladies are truly tangled together in Indra's net. As coincidences are mere delusions of the unenlightened mind, we owe it to Konngara to help with her problem as it certainly may be caused in part by our hero. While the other options are interesting, we shouldn't allow ourselves to get distracted.

tl;dr: Stay on target.
>> No. 94047
This one took a while because I found out the hard way yesterday that writing when tired makes for incomprehension and had to scrap/move most of it. Next update will probably be pretty short by comparison.

>94046
Given that you were one of the reasons I decided to contribute this, I'm honored.

>As coincidences are mere delusions of the unenlightened mind, we owe it to Konngara to help with her problem as it certainly may be caused in part by our hero.

While there's a lot I could possibly say about this, I'll let our hero ponder it in my stead when the time comes.

---------
The three of you finish your meal in silence; Mima looks contemplative, while Konngara picks at her food with unfocused eyes. You're probably the only decisive person in the room. Because your duty as a priest calls for you to eliminate the youkai infestation, because your heart as a person drives you to help those in need, because you're interested in that orb and its origins and because you like Konngara as a person, you made up your mind to help her before she even finished speaking. For now, you've chosen to set aside the matter of the uncanny timing; whether it's a coincidence or the sign of an alteration in the wheels of destiny, you don't have enough information to decide anyway.

Yes, for now, you should rally the others by announcing your intentions.

"Konngara."

At the sound of your voice, she jumps slightly, breaking the trance in which she had been mechanically eating. You take her hand and look in her eyes, adopting your most confident tone and poise.

"I know why you're anxious. You think that protecting the Taiji is your duty, but you realize that your own strength is insufficient to defend it. Furthermore, you're apprehensive at having told us about the way in which you received it, as you think it might have been a breach of your contract with that goddess and because it was a deeply personal memory to you."

She's... surprised? Looks like you were right on the money, time to consolidate your gains!

"You've done well - amazingly well - to have safeguarded that treasure of yours to this day. If she's watching, I bet your benefactor is as stunned as I am that her cute student turned out to be so fearless. But you're not alone now. Remember what I said earlier? Helping those in need is part of my personality and more importantly, I like you; you're gallant, intelligent and fair, with an honest heart. So if you'll have me, allow me to aid you with your 'difficulties.'"

Konngara's looking down, twiddling her thumbs with a bashful smile, though she speaks clearly and unwaveringly. Seems your speech had its intended effect.

"I thank you for your kind words and offer of aid; I accept, with the hope that my 'difficulties' don't inconvenience you too much. It seems each minute furthers my debt to you, but its not an obligation which I find unwelcome. In fact, I'm glad for this chance to 'know each other better.'

Mima breaks her silence at this point. By Variocana's eyes, she's good at being inconspicuous. Better not do anything unbecoming around her.

"I'm helping too and I won't take no for an answer, oh 'noble friend' of mine. I've known you much longer than he has and had I known about this earlier, I would have rushed to your side in an instant. After all, I can't let anything happen to you - you're my rival and life without you would be boring." She sticks her tongue out at you before leaning over and hugging Konngara, who's barely holding back tears of happiness.

"Oh, Mima. I... I apologize for keeping you benightedly unaware, but I didn't want to see you embroiled in my troubles nor did I want to drive you away. It seems that in acting alone, I've misestimated you."

Tch. She's a charismatic devil, that one. You clear your throat to get their attention, before speaking.

"Now that we've decided if we'll act, we need to choose how we'll act. Personally, I believe we should begin our investigation of this incident by visiting the settlement you two mentioned earlier. At this time, what we need most is information and that would probably be the best place in which to start searching."

Konngara nods.

"Mima and I may be unwelcome there, but I second your decision. Someone there should have an idea as to what's happening. Even if, in the worst case scenario, none of the villagers know anything of the situation, that in itself would be an important clue. Aside from the village, we should also visit my home once more. Though the outlying buildings were destroyed, the shrine itself was undamaged and perhaps you can glean some information from it."

Speaking of Mima, she's being inconspicuous again, isn't she?

Her opinion would be useful in this situation and you'd like to show her some deference anyway, so you may as well ask.

"Mima, you've been awfully quiet. Might you have any ideas?"

Her chair creaks slightly as she scoots forward and places her elbows on the table while answering your query.

"The wise, philosophic priest asking *me* for advice? Well, I appreciate your consideration in asking me, but no, I don't have a place which you two haven't mentioned already,

though..."

You don't plan to just let her trail off like that.

"Though, what? If you have an idea, don't hesitate to speak; both Konngara and I respect your opinion, Mima."

There's an expression you haven't seen before on her face.

Though she's trying (and failing) to hide it. She's surprised.

"Ever the gentleman, aren't you? I like that - most of the men around here are boors and brutes. Well... what I was going to say was that I think the two of you are approaching this with the wrong method. Rather than searching for information on the attacks, you should try and learn about the orb and its original owner. You'll most likely gain some leads on the attacks if you know more about them and in the process, my 'noble friend' here may have a chance to increase her spiritual arsenal. But then again, what do I know?" She smiles wryly.

As Mima finishes, Konngara nods at her.

"As always, your words are penetrating in their discernment. But whatever our course, should we not start our journey with all haste? The afternoon hasn't much longer and even the closest places of which we've spoken are at least a day's march away."

She then turns to you, an edge of urgency in her voice.

"Where will we be going first?"

[ ] Stick with the first plan.
[ ] Follow what Mima suggested.
[ ] Do something else (specify)
----------
>> No. 94051
[x] Follow what Mima suggested.

Finding out more about this sounds like a good idea for various reasons, and it is kinda the cause of attacks.
>> No. 94057
[x] Follow what Mima suggested.
>> No. 94073
>>94047
[X] Follow what Mima suggested.

On the off chance that further probing results in more incidents, it's probably best to be away from the villagers.
>> No. 94093
[X] Follow what Mima suggested.
>> No. 94099
----------
"I'm not sure, as I wasn't told where it is." You turn to Mima. "You suggested we investigate the orb and her benefactor; I take it you have a place in mind?"

As she takes the spoons and bowls from the table, Mima answers.

"Something like that. Some associates of mine from a while ago might be helpful in this situation in which my 'noble friend' here has found herself."

An 'associates?' Why use a term like that? This sounds awfully suspicious.

"How far away are these people and can they really be trusted to see the Taiji?"

Mima replies to your question with a knowing expression. Looks like she's amused at your reaction.

"You look so concerned! Don't you trust me~?" As you shake your head vigorously, she bursts into laughter.

"One of them lives about a day and half's walk from here, while the other is considerably further - a four day march if we go at full speed. As for your second question, we won't need to show it to them if Konngara doesn't want them to know of it. Though... I might tell the-"

A simultaneous interjection from both Konngara and yourself.

"Don't kid around."
"Don't!"

A short while later, the three of you are following the course of a misty river through the forest which Mima calls home. By your reckoning, that wood in which you were travelling yesterday must be the outskirts of this place; everything here is more ancient, more damp, more alien. Towering trees and cyclopean boulders scattered around the forest floor are cast in an eerie light by the strangely shaped, glowing mushrooms and luminescent mosses. Were you a botanist or a witch, this place would be a veritable cornucopia for you. Your companions seem less interested in the sights than you are, focusing solely on finding their footing on the wet ground ahead of them. In front, Mima treads lightly and confidently, following a path invisible to everything but her memory. Konngara keeps pace with her, though not without effort, as she's breathing heavily and putting most of her weight on one leg. Bringing up the rear is you; though you're well accustomed to travel, you're carrying most of the baggage and you want to stay behind Konngara so that you can catch her arm in case she stumbles.

So passes the afternoon. Though there isn't much conversation, you entertain yourself by chanting hymns, taking in the scenery and appreciatively studying certain... intricacies of your companions, before chastising yourself for giving free reign to your lust. When it gets too dark to see, Mima summons a wisp of blue flame from her palm and fixes it above her forehead. Your group's pace slows somewhat after this, as picking your way carefully through the tangled roots and dense undergrowth of the night forest requires considerable effort. An indeterminate amount of time after the moon rises, the three of you stop for the night in a copse of pines. The ground here is dry, clear and level; a welcome respite from the leagues of fen and bog through which you've spent hours walking. Using some twigs and branches which you'd picked up earlier, Mima gets a fire going as the three of you eat a small dinner and begin to unwind. Your companions seem to need it more than you.

Laying on her side across the flames from you, is Konngara. She's soaked in sweat and perched in a strange position on one elbow, probably due to her injuries. To your right, Mima's taken her shoes off and is sitting with her knees crossed, rubbing her feet. Looks like they're sore.

As for you, you're in high spirits on reflecting at the recent change in your fortunes. Just two days ago, you were starving, weary and lonesome, having met barely ten people in as many weeks. Not so, now.

You're full, well-rested and in the company of two charming, intelligent women. Yes, life is good.

You:
[ ] Follow Konngara up on her offer of (innocently) sleeping together.
[ ] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
[ ] Offer to massage Mima's feet for her.
[ ] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
[ ] Do/ask something else. (specify)
----------

Have fun, Anon.
>> No. 94105
>>94099
>cyclopean boulders
wat

>Konngara keeps pace with her, though not without effort, as she's breathing heavily and putting most of her weight on one leg.
Hrm...

>You're full, well-rested and in the company of two charming, intelligent women. Yes, life is good.
Indeed

[X] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
[X] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
[X] Do/ask something else: Keep watch for the night
>> No. 94108
[x] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
[x] Offer to massage Mima's feet for her.
-[x] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
-[x] Ask Konngara to tell you about herself
-[x] Ask Konngara what exactly her occupation is. She already knows that you're a monk, but what exactly does she do?
[x] Ask about what to do about keeping watch.
- [x] If one must keep watch, volunteer.
- [x] If not, consider taking Konngara's sleeping offer.

Who knows Mima might know a barrier spell at night. That and the extra warmth might ease Konngara's aches.
>> No. 94112
[x] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
-[x] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
-[x] Ask Konngara to tell you about herself
-[x] Ask Konngara what exactly her occupation is. She already knows that you're a monk, but what exactly does she do?
[x] Ask about what to do about keeping watch.
- [x] If one must keep watch, volunteer.
- [x] If not, consider taking Konngara's sleeping offer.

Minus the feet.
>> No. 94116
[x] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
[x] Offer to massage Mima's feet for her.
-[x] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
-[x] Ask Konngara to tell you about herself
-[x] Ask Konngara what exactly her occupation is. She already knows that you're a monk, but what exactly does she do?
[x] Ask about what to do about keeping watch.
- [x] If one must keep watch, volunteer.
- [x] If not, consider taking Konngara's sleeping offer.
>> No. 94117
[x] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
[x] Offer to massage Mima's feet for her.
-[x] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
-[x] Ask Konngara to tell you about herself
-[x] Ask Konngara what exactly her occupation is. She already knows that you're a monk, but what exactly does she do?
[x] Ask about what to do about keeping watch.
- [x] If one must keep watch, volunteer.
- [x] If not, consider taking Konngara's sleeping offer.
>> No. 94118
>>94105
>cyclopean boulders

lolexplanation time.

Think huge chunks of unwrought limestone much larger than a man is high and too heavy to move without a team of oxen and specialized aparatuses.

As for why they're 'cyclopean stones,' there's a place called the Lion Gate in Greece dating back to the time of ancient Mycenae (ie Iliad or earlier) that was said to be made by the hands of the cyclopses and entirely composed of rocks like the ones I described above. As it was one of the first examples we've found of this style of building (basically, making stuff out of uncut and undressed boulders), all similar structures we've found thereafter have been said to be made of 'Cyclopean stones.'

Apart from that fact, the adjective cyclopean obviously suggests something massive, ancient and with faintly mystical connotations, which is perfect in context as it lets me say a great deal with very little. I'll be more oblique about this stuff in the future.

Also, I'll start writing a bit later today, need to take care of some things first.
>> No. 94130
[x] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
-[x] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
-[x] Ask Konngara to tell you about herself
-[x] Ask Konngara what exactly her occupation is. She already knows that you're a monk, but what exactly does she do?
[x] Ask about what to do about keeping watch.
- [x] If one must keep watch, volunteer.
- [x] If not, consider taking Konngara's sleeping offer.
>> No. 94132
>>94047

It's nice to know that I've inspired others. Keep up the good work.


[ODIN] Offer to help Konngara change her bandages.
-[ODIN] Ask Mima to tell you some more about herself.
-[ODIN] Ask Konngara to tell you about herself
-[ODIN] Ask Konngara what exactly her occupation is. She already knows that you're a monk, but what exactly does she do?
[ODIN] Ask about what to do about keeping watch.
- [ODIN] If one must keep watch, volunteer.
- [ODIN] If not, consider taking Konngara's sleeping offer.
>> No. 94133
To be continued, writing through all of these choices will take a while.

----------
In your infinite compassion, you decide to help alleviate the discomfort of your lovely allies. Better begin with the more more serious case. So as to not break the peaceful atmosphere that's settled over this glade, you circle around the fire to Konngara in short, quiet steps. As you approach her, she looks up and pats the ground beside her. Obliging her invitation, you sit next to her, fixing your eyes on her face.

"Your injuries are troubling you, aren't they?"

A weary smile rises through her mask of distress. A nod.

"Verily, but I'll be able persevere. As this journey is being made for my sake, I don't want to trouble you two any further than I have already; your concern alone is more than I deserve and enough to sustain me through this trial."

You frown. Why is she so determined to flagellate herself in this way? You take her right hand and rub it gently, as you mentally prepare sharpen your rhetorical sense. Proverb time.

"Konngara, I'd like to tell you a story from the earliest years of my faith which I find relevant to this situation. Please, get comfortable and I'll continue."

To your surprise, she shifts slightly in your direction and places her head in your lap. ...This is nice. Still stroking her hand, you begin speaking.

"When Siddartha Gautama, of whom I spoke at length this morning, was still a young man, he had awakened to the utter meaningless nature of the way in which he lived. Though he fled from the sorrows of the world in a life of hedonistic dissipation, they nevertheless found him. Through a certain series of circumstances, he first learned of sickness, aging and death in the span of a single day. Understandably, his heart was shaken by the sights he'd seen and the realization that one day, he too would befall the same fate. Seeking a way to escape from the merciless inevitability of the fingers of destiny, he renounced his princely birth and threw his lot in with a cabal of ascetics. He believed that if pleasure was no relief from the evils of the world, then surely, suffering would light his way. For years, he physically and mentally deprived himself in every way imaginable, balancing precariously on the border of life and death." For emphasis, you pause dramatically.

When you stop speaking, Konngara looks up at you with an inquisitive look before taking the bait. "And what happened?"

The question you were waiting for. Just as planned.

"Nothing happened, which is why he forsook the ascetic road. Gautama had learned that pointlessly undertaking suffering was no more useful than drowning yourself in pleasure for the purposes of vanquishing sorrow. Neither route results in self-improvement, but only in misery. It's from this experience that he formulated the doctrine of the 'middle path.' But that's a story for another time."

You poke her gently in the forehead as you look down at her with an expression of mock sternness.

"As for you, you would do well to heed what it took Gautama years of hardship to understand. When you tell me 'don't help me, I'll carry my pain alone,' it neither makes you a more virtuous person, nor does it make me happy. On the contrary, though we've only known each other for a little while, when you're sad or hurt, I feel it too. It's just my opinion, but I think your face is far better suited to smiles and laughter than it is to sorrow. So please - let me help you."

She doesn't answer with words, at least not immediately.

Instead, she pulls herself up with your hand and holds you in a tender hug.

Her voice wavers slightly as she whispers in your ear. "I'm glad to have met someone as wise and compassionate as you. ...Thank you. If it's not too much to ask, from now on, just as I rely on you, please ...rely on me."

Her reservations thus assauged, you signal to Mima (who was silently and unamusedly watching the whole time) and set about the business of changing Konngara's bandages and cleaning her wounds. As Mima begins to unbind her left arm, you're sent to fetch some water from the river. When you return, you're greeted by a tantalizing sight. With her hair loosed, naked save for a blanket held against her chest is Konngara. Her clothes, hair ribbon and bandages lay in a cluttered heap beside her. As Mima produces a new set of wrappings, you timidly approach and set the pot of water to boil, studying her with relish in the meantime.

... She seems to be really embarassed, which is understandable given how exposed she must feel. When it's not bound up, her hair is suprisingly long; two dark forelocks reach well past her bare, white shoulders with the rest falling down her exposed back in a shimmering wave. Her face is flushed completely a bright scarlet and downturned, as if contemplating her legs. Though she's trying (unsuccessfully) to hide it, every couple seconds, her eyes flick up and around, often in your direction, before fixing on the ground again.

Completing the picture is her exposed right arm, grasping the blanket in its vicegrip. All smooth skin and taut muscle, it's bent in a slight crook revealing the insides of her armpit.

As you feel yourself getting turned on, you can't help but notice some less savory things. She's got bruises all over right arm, a set of nasty looking puncture wounds in a row on her collarbone and a series of horrible looking reddish black burns on her unmoving left arm, centering on her elbow. Just how was she able to keep up with all you with wounds like these?

As the water finishes boiling and cools somewhat, you set about washing her back as Mima begins rewrapping her arm. An unbelievable sight awaits you. Standing out against the porcelain skin of her back and stretching down to just above the smallness of her waist is the finest tattoo you've ever seen.

Drawn in gossamer lines and painted in vibrant colors, a watery azure dragon is locked in an eternal embrace with a fiery vermillion phoenix. As you stare on in amazement, lost for words, Mima reproaches you. She sounds pissed.

"What do you think you're doing?! Gawk at her when she isn't exhausted and badly injur-"

Konngara lets out a small squeal as you bodily grab hold of her and turn her, so that Mima can see. From her expression, it's obvious she's as stunned as you are.
----------
>> No. 94158
----------
As the two of you quickly discover, Konngara was entirely unaware that she had a masterpiece painted on her back, nor did she know how or when it got there. When you ask Mima as to how she could have possibly missed something like this yesterday, she says that the placement of Konngara's wounds (all on her front, centering on her left side) resulted in a fluke where she didn't look at her back. Either way, you put aside further questions of its purpose and origins till later.

Speaking of Konngara's back, washing it is a delight; her warm, pliant skin becomes slippery and yielding under your the touch of your hands. After you've cleaned her off most of the sweat, you focus on making her comfortable and relaxed so that she can sleep easily. Thanks to a combination of pain, extertion and embarassment, her muscles are tight, drawn and rigid. Starting from her neck, then moving slowly down her back and stomach, you knead her muscles with your palms and fingertips. The tension coiled in her body loosens and vanishes as she moans with pleasure. Though you(unfortunately) can't see Konngara's expression, you see Mima's. She's looking up
at you from time to time as she works, her breathing irregular and her face red. What's she thinking about?

...

The two of you admire your handiwork. Before you, clothed in white and wearing an expression bespeaking her inner serenity, Konngara sleeps peacefully. She must have been really tired, as she fell asleep as soon as the two of you finished unfurling the bedroll. As you cover her with the blanket she'd been holding, you turn to Mima, who's staring at you with a fevered expression.

"We did a good thing, though you don't look too well yourself. Should I get some more water and put out the fire? You look like you're burning up inside."

Like she's trying to suppress a laugh at your words, her expression vacillates between a frown and a smile.

"N- No, no, I'm fine... just a little excited thanks to all the walking and that business earlier. It's... been a long time since I've had such close contact with another person. Living out here, it's the exception rather than the rule."

She's doing something she hasn't done before. She's talking about herself. Maybe she's starting to trust you some more? Better take advantage of this chance!

"I understand completely. The reason I left behind my home monastery, the comforts of Nara and all the people I cared about was so that I could approach the world with a confident, cosmopolitan viewpoint and save those who couldn't save themselves. But this wasn't without a price. I haven't seen any of my family in ten years and I rarely have a chance to bond closely with others before I'm on the move again. Just as with you, my involvement in this incident isn't indicative of how I usually do things."

You put on your best smile, before shrugging casually.

"That said, I'm grateful to have met the two of you. You're wonderful people and you've rekindled the sense of purpose in my breast that I'd lost in months of lonely, aimless wandering. It's my sincere hope that we can come out of this situation together, so if there's anything I can do to help you, just say so."

A long silence follows, as Mima just looks at you. Is she trying to decide something? She opens her mouth several times as if to say something, but no words come out and each time, she starts to look more and more uncomfortable. Maybe you should give her some sp-

With a great deal of effort, she speaks, fidgeting discomfitly.

"Is... Is your offer of help still open? Like right now?" She's not looking at you.

Your instincts tell you that given her embarassment, she's probably going to ask for something strange. Nevertheless, you choose to hear her out; if it's something indecent or unreasonable, you can just leave. You give your assent with a small nod.

... She's hesitating again. This silence is really uncomfortable.

Suppressing a feeling that you're loosing the Tempter Mara upon an unsuspecting world, you decide to encourage her.

"Mima, if it's in my power to help you, I will. Please set aside your embarassment; I'm a wandering priest and I've dealt with all manners of unusual requests. Helping you would be my pleasure, so-"

"I want you to massage my feet."

Wha- She has a really determined look her face. Where did all of her earlier hesitation go? It's as if her antipodal feelings suddenly charged one another and ended her internal battle in a single stroke! As you sit there, unsure of what to say, she crosses her legs, turning them towards you.

"I've never seen a face like that on her before. Konngara that is. She looked like she was really enjoying herself and deep down, I... I envied her. I wanted to be the one being washed, to be the one in her position. I..." Her words trail off.

You decide to indulge her request. While it definitely has intimate overtones, you're the one in control of this situation. If you can do something nice for her without breaking the bounds of acceptable behavior, then it'll be pleasurable for both of you.

Stepping towards Mima, you drop to one knee, your arms cupped to your chest in front of you. Shivering in anticipation, she slips the shoe from her left foot and drawing a wide arc in the air, places it in your hands. Averting your eyes so as to not see under her skirt, you wrap your hands around her slim ankle and gently slide off her sock, revealing a supple, milk-white sole and five elegant toes. You lean back, resting its weight on your bended knee as you run your hands around it gently, getting a feel for its shape and sensitivity. After a few experimental prods and squeezes, you start applying pressure around the ankle and ball of her foot. Though you use your palms exclusively at first, after gauging her reactions closely, you start using your knuckles too. Methodically, you trace the edges of her sole as you steadily work your way into her instep. It must be particularly sore, as she gasps with delight when you sink your hands in it.

... Mima's really enjoying this. Her breathing comes out as ragged, shallow gasps and her hair flutters behind her as she adjusts herself. You notice that she's gripping the rock on which she's sitting so hard that her hands are blanching.

You've reached her toes. You switch to your fingers, manipulating them, working the tendons and joints. As they gently pop under your touch, you decide to pose a question.

"Mima... just why are you in this forest, anyway? You didn't sound particularly fond of it earlier."

Writhing with delight, she barely has enough self-possession to respond.

"-nish... Finish f-first..."

Working quickly, finish her toes and give her shins a few more squeezes, before setting her foot down. Breathing deeply, she leans backwards and rests herself flat against the rock where she'd been sitting. For a few minutes, you watch her chest rise and fall relaxedly, with only the occasionaly breath of the night wind breaking the silence. When she's ready to answer, she slowly sits back up. She's not smiling anymore.

[ ] Oh crap.

----------
I've nearly finished the next part of this update (This one's probably 2/4) already, though I've decided to post it separately for certain reasons. A few of your concerns will be addressed at suitable points in the next few updates, as it makes little narrative sense for a physically exhausted and terribly injured person to be giving voluminous, lucid answers rather than going to sleep. You'll have plenty of chances to converse with Konngara when she's awake, fear not.
>> No. 94163
Reminder: Make your decisions with the understanding that this story is not using a character based route system and that I only keep track of character flags to determine what options I present to you at choice time.

----------
As you feel an ominous chill run down your spine, she begins. It's halting at first, with long pauses between each of her sentences, as though she's reclaiming something dreadful which had been sealed away in the dark corners of her memory...

"I... wasn't living here by choice, at least not at first. I'm not even originally from this area. ... My oldest memory is of being driven out of my home with my parents leading me by the hand. I'll always remember the way the sky looked that day. It was red; bright red and seized with black tendrils of smoke. ... For a long time, we went to different places, always on the move and never staying still for more than a couple weeks. And I remember, eventually, we joined up with a large group of people. They were nice, but wore weird clothes and spoke in strange tongues. Some of them could move things with their mind or conjure little lights with their fingertips. Many of them were old. Together, we all came to this land and settled down, building new homes to replace the ones we had lost."

She looks... really distraught. This question was a real mood killer, huh? Before you can try and change the subject, she continues.

"Our first few seasons were spent in idyllic, routine quietude; planting in the spring, farming in the summer, harvest in the fall and rest in the winter. I took those days for granted. I thought they'd last forever, that we'd finally settled down and could live in peace."

A small, bitter laugh.

"Then, some 'lads' the settlement came. In force. They were young, strong and numerous, while most of us were infirm and weak. The outcome was obvious. We saw everything we'd worked so hard to obtain burned and looted before our eyes. Those of us who hadn't been killed resisting were rounded up and taken to this forest." Mima gestures the air around her.

"The lucky ones were only run through or decapitated, like my

father. My mother suffered considerably crueler treatment. She looked like me, you know. I t
hink you can guess what happened to her."

Your stomach sinks as she continues outpouring the emotional torrent unleashed by your ill-chosen question.

"The only reason I survived is because at that time, my powers awakened. Harnessing my love, my anger and my sorrow, I was unstoppable. Whenever I found one of those brigands, I killed him in a way that returned the pain of his victims tenfold. As far as I know, none of them escaped, save one. As for that one I took both his hands and one of his eyes, before sending him off to herald my triumph to the other murderers and rapists. Since then, they've learned to fear this forest and the Witch whose domain it is." As she finishes speaking, she clenches and unclenches her hands in wrath as she struggles to fight back tears in her eyes.

... This girl's been dealt a cruel fate. Just how much karma had she accumulated in her previous lives to deserve this?

[ ] Comfort her. (specify how and why)
[ ] Don't comfort her. (specify how and why)
----------

This one turned out to be rather dark. My apologies to you all. I leave it up to you as to how it'll turn out.
>> No. 94170
[x] Comfort her.
-[x] Hold her by the hand or shoulder.
-[x] If she seems to fear rejection, assure her that you have promised to-- no, you want to help her, and that you have no plans to renege on that offer.
-[x] Ask if she has spoken to Konngara or anyone else about this.

Moralfaggotry will come later, if at all. Right now, she just needs to be comforted.
>> No. 94178
Additional question for you lot;
Since the votes thus far have been to try and comfort her, do you want to say anything special with regards to her grief?
>> No. 94181
[x] Comfort her.
-[x] Hold her by the hand or shoulder.
-[x] Console her on her loss, and that your prays will be going to them from now on as so they find their next life better than their last one.
-[x] If she seems to fear rejection, assure her that you have promised to-- no, you want to help her, and that you have no plans to renege on that offer.
-[x] Ask if she has spoken to Konngara or anyone else about this.

I hope this covers than angle.
>> No. 94182
[x] Comfort her.
-[x] Hold her by the hand or shoulder.
-[x] Console her on her loss, and that your prays will be going to them from now on as so they find their next life better than their last one.
-[x] If she seems to fear rejection, assure her that you have promised to-- no, you want to help her, and that you have no plans to renege on that offer.
-[x] Ask if she has spoken to Konngara or anyone else about this.
>> No. 94183
>>94181
On this I meant prayers, not just prays. Sorry about that.

This is definitely a different story (considering how Mima in the games seems carefree in a maniac way.

It'd be funny if that goddess that spoke with Konngara was in fact a younger Yukari. (Not too many otherworldly beautiful blondes in the Touhou verse)
>> No. 94184
My thanks for the additional information. Writing sporadically, don't expect an update for a few hours yet thanks to class/work etc.
>> No. 94193
>>94183

>>It'd be funny if that goddess that spoke with Konngara was in fact a younger Yukari. (Not too many otherworldly beautiful blondes in the Touhou verse)

You know, as a mythology buff there was one detail that stuck out like a sore thumb which made me pretty certain I knew which obscure PC-98 touhou was described. For those wanting to figure this one out for themselves, I can give the hint that there is one type of especially radiant mythological being that fits the bill, and this one is customarily depicted with bare feet. Odd that this would be mentioned and emphasised if it wasn't important.

Everyone else can read my own guess in the spoilered text, and I ask you all if you are ready to dance with the Angel of Death in the pale moonlight. It's Sariel time.
>> No. 94199
>>94193

But that's Judeo-Christian, isn't it?
As you said, it sticks out like a sore thumb. As far as Touhou canon goes, it's fine because "LOL ZUN", but, here, I'm forced to ask:
What's an angel doing in Japan, and how is she/he/it connected to the Taiji?
I suppose one could go for the "all religions actually warship the same divinities" explanation, but that seems a little...

>> No. 94202
>>94199

Actually Sariel is one of the possible final bosses of the very first Touhou game, Highly Responsive to Prayers, Makai route specifically, so it's not quite modern myth based. But Touhou-Sariel has blue hair, not blonde. But we can't really rule out Yukari at any stretch.
>> No. 94203
>>94199

Well, as far as I know Angels in early judaism were originally based on the Zoroastrian Yazata (and conversely the conceptions we have of demons were based on the daeva), in the same manner as much of jewish religion was influenced by Zoroastrian concepts of monotheism and eschatology. And as Zoroastrianism shares a common cultural and proto-religious root with Hinduism, the argument has been made that Abrahameic angels are actually remotely based on the Deva of early hinduism, and thus can be at least somewhat plausibly tied to the buddhist system we have going in this story.

Then again, there may be some other explanation entirely. Maybe angels do not serve a god in this story, or maybe there's some other radical reinterpretation or syncretism going on. Or maybe it's just an excuse to include another obscure touhou that gets too little love.
>> No. 94205
Why are we spoilering so much?
>> No. 94207
>>94205

All the cool kids are doing it.

Though I guess spoilering kinda defeats its own purpose when it leads to a discussion. Might as well stop in that case.
>> No. 94214
edit: Lol formatting.

----------
You marshal your determination; this might backfire, but if it succeeds, you stand to (at least partially) exorcise the demons that Mima's bottled up in her heart. You cautiously step forward.

"But aren't you lonely, living out here?"

No response.

"You've drunk deeply from the cup of sorrow since such a young age. By no stretch of the imagination can I hope to fully understand your pain. No, I can't understand your pain, but I can do better. I can forgive you." You take another step, looking her squarely in the eye. She looks shocked at your pronouncement. "I can absolve your heart of its sadness. You don't need to feel guilty for having killed, for having been the only survivor. You don't need to hate yourself, so please..." You're within arm's reach of her now and she hasn't pushed you away. "Don't suffer alone any longer. Let it all out." As you finish speaking, you close the last bit of distance betw-

The air. You duck and roll to your left as a powerful ethereal strike rends the space where your head was a second ago. If you hadn't faced this trick earlier, you might have been sent flying from the force of that blow.

You look back up to find Mima standing stock still, rasping heavily with her face down. When she raises her head again, she's blinking rapidly, with tears welling in her eyes. At that moment, you're wondering what expression you have, because when she sees you, she buries her face in her hands. As she sobs bitterly, you can only watch helplessly and hope that your words had an effect.

Slowly, you realize she's saying something over and over again in her grief. Between congested crying noises, you make it out. "... Sooner!" As she repeats it, she becomes louder, until finally, she looks at you with a red-eyed and dishevled. Exhaling deeply, she shouts with fury, half at you, half at some entity invisible only to her, "Why couldn't it have happened a little sooner?

Everyone would have been saved! ...! Because of a few minutes, I lost everything! There was nothing I could do for them!"

She's regained enough lucidity for you to say something.

"I feel your regrets and your pain at your helplessness, but you're wrong to think that there isn't anything you can do for them."

She smiles coldly.

"Graves? Don't make me laugh. How could an eleven year old girl bury that many corpses, and with no tools to dig holes or drive away the scavenging beasts? No, I can't even mourn them properly; even their bones a-."

"Present tense." Mima stares angrily at your interjection. "I said anything you can do, not could do. Present tense, not pa-."

The grim smile becomes wider. She gestures wildly about the air and ground in front of her.

"If you're talking about ressurection of the dead, I tried that too. All you get are filthy Jiang-si, mindless h-"

You interrupt her again and this time, it's your turn to get angry.

"You were trying to cheat the Yama? Are you a fool? If you ever want any hope of seeing your parents again in the next life, repent for your crimes and never try anything like that again! Do you think they gave their lives for you to defile their memory? Where's your sense of shame?"

Your tone softens slightly. "You only got Jiang-si because their souls had moved on to their reward. You recreated the body, but without its intelligence, memory and spirit, it was just a bestial shell."

She's completely silent, eyeing you suspiciously.

"... So what is it, then?"

You're in your element and reply unhesitatingly with both compassion and dignity. If the abbot could see you know, he'd be proud.

"Pray for their happiness in the next life, for the enlightenment of their soul. You don't need graves nor do you need black magic, just your heart. If your feelings are genuine, then they'll surely rise up to heaven and reach them."

A small, uncertain voice escapes Mima's lips. She looks... worried?

"... I-I've never prayed before. Could you..."

"Of course."

You (cautiously) advance to her side. You relax; there aren't any aether strikes aimed at your face this time. You brace one hand against her waist, giving a slight push from behind. As she follows your lead and sinks to her knees, you position yourself behind her, pressing against her back as you take her arms into yours. You place her hands together as you whisper for her to tilt her head forward and to close her eyes. With Mima against your chest, the two of you pray for the souls of the deceased.

...

The night lengthens and the moon reaches its zenith. Seated on a carpet of dead leaves and pine needles, Mima stares off into the night sky beside you. With all the activity this evening, you didn't pay it much heed before, which is a pity given how beautiful it looks. It's a rich, cloudless indigo against which even the stars seem more brilliant to you than they have in months.

"...Thank you for everything." Mima's speaking, but not averting her eyes from the night sky. "I... got a lot off my chest tonight. I've been in this place for so long that I'd begun to take it for granted, I guess. I've never talked about this with anyone else, so when you asked; it all just flooding back and overwhelmed me. I felt like I couldn't stop remembering, like those events were rep-"

As she starts to sound hysterical, you stop her from saying anything else.

"Mima. You don't have to carry the pain of those tragedies alone any longer. I'm here and
Konngara is as well, so don't be afraid. You can rely on us and we won't abandon you."

She shuts her eyes a moment, before turning her head to look at you. ... Intense. That's the only way to describe her stare. It feels like those jade eyes are boring into your heart, probing every thought, every emotion. Weighing your integrity.

"... Do you promise? You won't leave me alone?"

You smile gallantly. As she sees the willpower in your eyes, you respond.

"As long as breath runs in my body, I will not abandon you, nor will I ever desire to do so. I've pledged to aid you as long as you have need of me, and I have no plans to renege on that offer." With one arm in front, you kneel with exaggerated courtesy. "So please, command me, My Lady."

With her countenance more blissful than you've yet seen, Mima laughs happily and delicately
extends her right leg to you. "Finish what you started, Sir Priest."

...


As you finish putting out and covering the fire, you assess your actions tonight. It's been... action packed, to say the least. There were both ups and downs, but at least on the surface, it looks like your aim of bonding with your companions proved to be highly successful, though you'll need some more time to *thoroughly* confirm your gains. In the end, you decided to keep watch because you couldn't sleep. You politely declined Mima's offer of supernatural aid in the task; you're too excited and too occupied with questions to lay down tonight. What's the true nature of Konngara's jewel? Who's her patron? Why are there attacks on her? What is that tattoo and does it have any relation to the Taiji? Lest your mind become acluttered any further (and to rest your body somewhat) you start meditating.

As your breathing becomes one with that of the earth and air, your consciousness extends beyond the limits of your physical form. As your mind caresses the gentle pulse of the night, something gives you pause. Something with immense spiritual power is watching you. Pinpointing its location, you reach out and touch its soul with the fingers of your psyche. Wha- ...it's cold? As your surprise breaks you from your trance, you hear the sound of leaves crunching underfoot, gradually becoming more distant.

[ ] Follow the noise.
[ ] Don't follow the noise.
[ ] Vajra. You'll show it noise, alright.
----------
>> No. 94216
[x] Don't follow the noise.

Don't fall for it! You'll end up eaten by a Rumia.
>> No. 94221
[X] Don't follow the noise.

It's a trap, you should be about preventing attacks at the moment. And since it's unknown, it's not a good idea wasting one of your trump cards on it.
>> No. 94225
[x] Wait. Quickly assess your surroundings. Are Konngara and Mima still present and asleep? Does anything at the camp look like it has been disturbed?
[x] Hurry and follow the sound before you lose it completely.
-[x] If/when you can hear it more clearly (i.e. it sounds nearby), slow down. Move with caution.
-[x] Keep a Vajra at the ready, should something decide to make your day.

Couldn't resist putting Vajra in there somewhere.

>>Don't fall for it! You'll end up eaten by a Rumia.

Is that so~
The only she'll be eating is INDRA'S FURY, MOTHERFUCKERS!
>> No. 94227
[ze] Don't follow the noise.

>>94193
>>94199
>>94202
>>94203
Nobody thought about the crane feathers part?
>> No. 94230
>>94225

Oh, and also, I guess I should explain my logic:

This (apparently) powerful being did not attack us at the camp. That can mean one of two things:

1) It has no intent to harm us.
2) It does not want to engage all three of us at once.

If we follow it, and it turns out to be a trap, then we still have our spellcard bombs Vajras. There was a reason the option was offered to us so frequently in the first fight, after all.
Even if whatever awaits us isn't obliterated, it will likely be addled enough for us to act further, depending on the situation.
Also, if the Vajra is as un-subtle as I think it is, chances are that it'll wake Mima and Konngara back at camp, as well as disclose our location to them.

Worst case scenario: it's Yukari, and she pulls some of her gap bullshit. But if that's the case, we'd be fucked either way.
>> No. 94237
edit: Added something.

Author's note:
Allow me to clarify something that I must not have came through in the writing earlier, because I don't want your choices to be unduly influenced by discrepancies in our respective understandings of terminology.

Suppose that we could use the night sky as a metaphor for what he sees when he meditates, with the stars being spiritual strength. Stuff like birds, bugs or other things are going to register as background light or appear not at all. People and lesser youkai are going to appear as faint stars. On the other hand, most bosses (of whom the weakest have "immense spiritual power")are going to appear as brighter stars like Sirius, Altair or Vega, unless we're talking about someone like Yuka, who would probably show up as the moon. Make your choices with the understanding that the hero knows what I've just explained.

To put this in context of the main characters, Konngara and Mima would both be bright stars.

In short:
Immense spiritual power =/= It's over 9000.
>> No. 94241
[x] Don't follow the noise.
>> No. 94272
>>94227

Cranes were considered sacred everywhere from Greece to Japan, so that doesn't help much with identifying any specific mythological being. Might be a reference to the blessed cranes from taoist myth, or it may be wings that Konngara mistook for a cloak, or just a piece of particularly fancy gear.


Anyway, we're supposed to keep watch, aren't we? Running of into the night would be kinda dumb in that case.

[ODIN] Don't follow the noise.
>> No. 94287
edit: small mistake corrected.

Next updates will be short and fast, assuming voting is quick.

----------
You're not going to follow that sound; caution is best in a situation like this until you can determine what's actually happening. Adjusting your hat, hefting your staff and readying your left hand for any quick draws you may need, you sit back down and focus. You can't hear the running sounds any longer, but you need neither your ears nor your eyes. Once more, you concentrate, forget your sense of self and unify your consciousness with the world around you.

You 'see' your target almost immediately. In the astral void of the dark forest, it sparkles brilliantly, a shin-.

An unsettling insight nearly derails your meditative state again. It's not moving.

You continue to unloose your mind and regulate your breathing, while making a hasty analysis of its intentions.

Why has it stopped moving? Did it move at all? ...Yes, it's definitely further away than it was. ...Is it trying to draw you in a trap? No, that can't be right. It had plenty of opportunities to attack you and your companions tonight and it didn't take any of them. Furthermore, it only started moving once you felt it with your mind, a capability of yours which it would have no way of knowing in advance, even though it had the spiritual acumen to detect your probing. Judging by these circumstances, what most likely happened is that you surprised it an-

Watch out! You instantly break your trance and bring up your staff as something pierces the air in front of you. A dull ringing sound echoes through the night as something deflects off your staff at a shallow angle, narrowly missing your heart. You hit the dirt. As your instincts shout at you for misreading the situation earlier, another shot skips off the top of the rock you've been using for cover and transfixes itself in a tree behind you with an unmistakable twanging sound. Arrows. Stilling your breathing, you try and conceal as much of your body as you can, tensing for the next shot. It doesn't come. As seconds stretch into minutes, you begin to feel uneasy.

You:
[ ] Wait it out. When you move, it'll shoot.
[ ] Advance, use the Heart Sutra to blind it and trust in your precognition to warn you of tricks.
[ ] Fake it out. Affix your hat to the end of your staff and give it a few experimental
'peeks.'
[ ] Try and sense its position, it might be using this as a chance to move in on you or your companions.
[ ] Vajra. Show this coward the 'fire' in firepower.
[ ] Do something else. (specify)
----------
>> No. 94302
[x] Wait it out. When you move, it'll shoot.
[x] Try and sense its position, it might be using this as a chance to move in on you or your companions.
-[x] Keep a Heart Sutra ready just in case.
>> No. 94303
This is a bit of a bad situation, but something like the following might work:


[ODIN] Fake it out. Affix your hat to the end of your staff and give it a few experimental
'peeks.'

If your assailant hits the hat with an arrow:

[ODIN] Still your body and mind to become one with Mu. If there is nothing alive behind this rock, your foe will surely show itself and believe itself safe.

If it doesn't:

[ODIN] Try and sense its position, it might be using this as a chance to move in on you or your companions.
>> No. 94306
>>94303

Norseman's idea sounds good to me so I second it.
>> No. 94332
----------
Has it withdrawn or is it just waiting to shoot when it sees you move? As that question replays itself over and over again in your head, an idea comes to you. From behind the rock, you quickly remove your hat and prop it up on the end of your staff, before raising it in a way which (hopefully) mimicks a peeking motion taken from behind cover. As it goes higher... higher, cresting the top of the rock, it...

...Is perfectly fine. Nothing save for the night wind strikes your hat. As you lower your staff and replace your hat with a sigh of relief, it occurs to you that the possibility it may be advancing on you or your sleeping companions exists. You quickly close your eyes and check; you should be able to locate your target instantly given the familiarity and dazzlingly brightness of its qi against the spiritual abyss of this forest.

But you don't. In fact, you don't even sense any residual traces of it, which should be impossible. Even if it could move at incredible speeds, it would have, by necessity, left traces that it was here and all the more if it used supernatural means to esca-

Snap. The sound of a twig breaking underfoot.

In an instant, your cognitive digressions grind to a halt as you empty your mind of all distractions. Almost immediately, your mistake just now becomes apparent to you. In your haste and through your fixation on finding a trace of the target, you didn't notice that from the direction in which the target's vanished, the air's become stagnant and the earth's been disturbed. As you center your thought on the point from which this distortion originates, you sense only nothingness, but of a different brand than the absence of being dominating the night. This nothingness is fluid, hungry and alive. Or rather, dead.

By this time, you don't need to meditate any longer. Not only can you hear the distinctive shambling of their approach, but you realize how you've been tricked. You shake your head with a mix of admiration and consternation at your opponent's cunning. It seems to have guessed (correctly) that their presence serves to interfere with your detection capability. By sending them to attack you, your enemy has both bought time for its escape and successfully covered its tracks.

Before they get any closer, you rise from your hiding spot. They're able to sense life within a certain radius (though it's smaller than their 'sight'), so hiding from them is pointless and doubly so since you need to protect the sleeping ladies. Good. Seems like you've got their attention, as they're standing still, 'sniffing' the air and sizing you up. You do the same.

... Faintly illuminated by rays of pallid moonlight, four post-human monstrosities stumble slowly in place about twenty feet in front of you. They look like corpses in advanced stages of decay, but with some significant differences. On their faces, pinpoints of red light swivel about in eyeless sockets. Long, prehensile tongues hang out of their mouths. Their skin, loose and rotting, is a bright, sickly green where it isn't covered by mold and the tattered remains of clothing. Oddly enough, these ones seem to be wearing what were once elaborate robes rather than the typical burlap scraps common to peasants. The biggest difference from a normal corpse, however; is in their hands. Five inhumanly long fingers, at least twice yours in size, ending in huge, blackish claws. Can't get hit by those; they can drain a litre of blood in seven seconds.

In unison, they crouch. They always do that as they're about to pounce. Reaching your left hand inside your cassock, you get ready.

"WRRRRRRRRRYYYY!!!" Their cry splits the night as they rush you with bounding leaps.

You:
[ ] Staff. Wield it with both hands and focus on defense.
[ ] Scriptures. You prepared for this eventuality in your packing.
[ ] Rope. Its range and grappling power will be useful.
[ ] Knife. Take one out of action with a throw as they close.
[ ] Vajra. Time for them to die. Again.
[ ] Laugh. You've killed these things more times than you've eaten bread. (You eat bread often, by the way.)
[ ] Something else? (specify)
----------

One more update tonight if you lot are fast enough.
>> No. 94334
>>[ ] Laugh. You've killed these things more times than you've eaten bread. (You eat bread often, by the way.)

Uh... have we? Because if we have:

[x] Move. You can't afford to be cornered.
[x] Staff. Wield it with both hands and focus on defense.
--[x] Use the extra length to keep them at bay, if possible.
--[x] If you gain sufficient distance, or are provided a safe opportunity...
----[x] Scriptures. You prepared for this eventuality in your packing.

On the other hand, if that option is a load of bullshit:

[x] Vajra. Time for them to die. Again.
>> No. 94337
>>94334

Oh, forgot to add:

[x] Be wary of arrows. The bowman may still be targeting you, using the monsters as a distraction, or to flush you out.

Also, giving a quick holler to alert our sleeping companions might be a good idea. Especially since our enemy may have instead went to kill them in their sleep while we deal with the rabble.
>> No. 94339
>>94334
>On the other hand, if that option is a load of bullshit

It's not. I will never screw you over this way, ever.

As is the case with the cognitive faculties of any sane individual, the hero (and thus, by definition, you, the reader) will be on some level made aware of any false pretenses which he entertains as a result of irrationality. This, of course, includes declarative statements addressed at the self.

In other words, I will never present to you a false statement without a means for you to detect that there are disparaties in the hero's PoV and objectively identifiable reality. In this case, the fact that he has intimate knowledge of the way in which these things attack and fight should tell you that he's experienced in combatting them.

Have I addressed your concern adequately?
>> No. 94343
[x] Move. You can't afford to be cornered.
[x] Staff. Wield it with both hands and focus on defense.
--[x] Use the extra length to keep them at bay, if possible.
--[x] If you gain sufficient distance, or are provided a safe opportunity...
----[x] Scriptures. You prepared for this eventuality in your packing.
>> No. 94349
[x] Move. You can't afford to be cornered.
[x] Staff. Wield it with both hands and focus on defense.
--[x] Use the extra length to keep them at bay, if possible.
--[x] If you gain sufficient distance, or are provided a safe opportunity...
----[x] Scriptures. You prepared for this eventuality in your packing.
>> No. 94363
>>94332
[X] Move. You can't afford to be cornered.
[X] Staff. Wield it with both hands and focus on defense.
--[X] Use the extra length to keep them at bay, if possible.
--[X] If you gain sufficient distance, or are provided a safe opportunity...
----[X] Scriptures. You prepared for this eventuality in your packing.
>> No. 94364
[x] Move. You can't afford to be cornered.
[x] Staff. Wield it with both hands and focus on defense.
--[x] Use the extra length to keep them at bay, if possible.
--[x] If you gain sufficient distance, or are provided a safe opportunity...
----[x] Scriptures. You prepared for this eventuality in your packing.
>> No. 94365
>>94339

You have, thank you.
You could have just said "I'm not Kira", though.
>> No. 94381
----------
Your hands fix on something inside your robe. No point in giving them the initiative, even if they aren't much of a threat to you. With a dramatic flourish, you unfurl a medium-length scroll in a single smooth motion and begin to chant the words written on it as you surge forward to meet their charge. "Dipamkara, Enduring Light...." Forming a marked contrast to their clumsy, disordered shuffling gait from before, they're springing over rocks, logs and branches with alacrity and grace, having formed into a tight line. "...Detatchment, Dragon-Deva..." As you close to range with the first of them, it claws at your heart with a huge swing, which misses as you sidestep to the left and counterattack. "... Gorgeous Beryl Flower, Golden Beryl Radiance..." You strike with your staff and miss, as it leaps over your swing with tremendous power. "...Image of the Moon, Sound of the Sun..." Before you've even recovered your balance, you duck. "...Miracle of the Sea of Wisdom, Shining Water..." The sinous tongue of the second one grazes the back of your shoulders as it pierces the empty space formerly occupied by your head. "...Jewel-Flame, Arresting Spire..." Not missing a step, you retaliate by jabbing forward with your staff. "Emerald Sheen of the Heavenly Lights, Peerless Emerald Brilliance..." It twists its body out of the way as your momentum carries you forward, straight into the third attack. "...Sunbeam, Phantasmagorical Flower King..." You dive into a roll as a downward slash goes wide and misses you. "...Pure Faith, Virtue-Silo..." JUMP. On hitting the ground, you leap high in the air and turn 180 degrees to see that the other two had instantly changed their angular momentum after missing and were about to flank you in a triangle completed by the third. "...Dragon-Voice and World-Dweller." You finish speaking and the scroll in your hand becomes a huge, golden wheel with six spokes. As your enemies cower in fear, you smile and pronounce your judgement. "Die."

Three huge sunbeams erupt from the ground beneath the Jiang-si and envelop them in golden
fire. They writhe and crawl, howling at the sky and at you before crumbling into dust. As you fall to the ground, you laugh heartily as you land lightly on your feet. You just dodged three attacks, perfectly synchronized to place you in the sights of subsequent strikes if avoided, in less than a second. It's a shame Konngara and Mima weren't awake to see that. Wait, three a-?

The wheel in your hand vanishes as you jump backwards, barely evading a downward lunge from the fourth and last Jiang-si. Looks like it jumped to the top of a tree before pushing away and reversing itself to slice at your neck. As it hits the ground it throws itself at you with incredible speed. You draw your knife in anticipation of the inpending grapple, but it never happens. Instead, a huge ball of prismatic light blindsides it, exploding in a rainbow of brilliance leaving naught but ashes.

Dead leaves crunch beneath her feet as Konngara, dressed in her short, white robe, walks to your side. She presses herself against you as she takes your arm.

"...What manner of incantation did you just use?"
"...What was that?

The two of you fire off identical questions in tandem and she giggles with mirth as you raise your hands as if in surrender. Thus deferring to her, she answers first and without words, instead lifting her empty hand right hand to you and cupping it. Where there was nothing a moment before, the Taiji appears in her hand, flawless as ever. She looks up at you.

"Might yours have been a hymn or a variety of song?"

You nod. "Something like that. It was an excerpt from the Greater Sutra of the Pure Land, containing the 53 names of the Buddhas of the past. I can't use the whole thing in battle as it's far too long."

As you look up at the sinking moon and enjoy Konngara's warmth, she shifts slightly and squeezes your hand.

"Should we not go to bed?" A quiet offer, hesitant of rejection. Does she think you've forgotten?

"Please. I've been looking forward to cuddling with you all day and exhausted as I am, nothing would be more refreshing to my heart." You raise your hand, holding hers and smile. "Lead me."

Uncontrollable joy creeps into her expression as you affirm her offer. Closing her eyes, and taking a deep breath to calm herself, she guides you back to the humble bedroll and blanket on which she was sleeping. A little ways to her right, Mima's curled up under a similar affair with the faintest trail of a smile on her face. You get in first and she climbs in next to you. With the softness of her chest pressing against your side and her breath falling on your neck, you hold her close as you fall asleep.
----------

Congratulations, anonymous. You've done well to have not died (or even suffered injury) in the prologue, pat yourselves on the back as this will make your lives easier later on. Since the story is finally beginning in earnest, let me give you a few reminders. First, bold or dramatic choices made with appropriate consideration will not be punished with bad ends any more than cautious or reserved choices in the same situation. In fact, certain situations may or may not have been made significantly easier or avoided entirely through small exercises of valor. Secondly, you've made significant gains with both your companions, which is good. Though this story is not using a character based route system, you might be on the path to the best end, assuming you choose well in the future. For more information on either point, pick the commentary option and ask, otherwise, select continue the story.

[ ] Commentary. (with guest speakers?)
[ ] Continue the story.
>> No. 94383
[ ] Commentary. (with guest speakers?)
>> No. 94384
[x] Commentary. (with guest speakers?)

Morbid curiosity.
Also, shouldn't we be concerned that there could be a sniper still lurking about somewhere? Oh, fuck it, whatever. Konngara cuddle~
>> No. 94385
[x] Commentary. (with guest speakers?)
>> No. 94387
[X] Commentary. (with guest speakers?)

Cool story, seeing the prehistory of gensokyo, and Monkanon is ahead of his time (He's an intellegent, well mannered, AND open minded guy in an age where that's uncommon)

I like how he explained his view on Buddhism.

It'd be a real trip if it turns out he's the father of the first Hakurei Miko with Konngara as her mother.
>> No. 94389
[X] Commentary. (with guest speakers?)
>> No. 94392
>>94384
>Also, shouldn't we be concerned that there could be a sniper still lurking about somewhere?

About this: I guess I didn't make it clear enough, but the opponent against whom our hero was matching wits had an enormous spiritual signature and even though it was able to use undead to hide his presence in one direction for long enough to escape, if it tried circling around and catching him unawares, it would fail completely and he would sense it.

To use a different metaphor from before, the villain basically 'jammed' the hero's radar in a narrow cone stretching in one direction, and had it done anything other than run away in a straight line, it would have been detected immediately. Whether the villain realizes this or not remains to be seen, but that's what happened.

More about this in the commentary, writing now.
>> No. 94411
----------
Setting the book aside, I conjure a glass of wine and take a sip from it before fanning myself -elegantly-. It's been a long time since I'd last read to anyone and I'd forgotten the strain this places on my seventeen year old, girlish voice. It's really tiring, so maybe Ran can read the next part to her? Well, I'll worry about that later. Right now...

"Do you like this story, Chen, or shall I read something else to you?" I ask her this with a composed smile. I -never- lose my composure, you know.

As for my child here, she seems to never lose her enthusiasm, as she's practically bouncing up and down with excitement.

"Yeah! Please keep reading it to me, Lady Yukari! Sir Monk's smart and brave and Konngara's polite and nice!" She sticks her bottom lip out a bit as she continues. "Though I'm not sure if I like Mima. She seems like the kind of untrustworthy person who always tricks people and does whatever she wants when she feels like it with little regard for how they feel. And-"

I snap my fan shut with a flick of my fingers and stop her. I'm not embarassed. -Not in the least.- It's not like her description hits close to home or anything. "Chen, Mima's not a bad girl, but she's a different sort of person than Sir Monk or Konngara. For separate reasons, those two are very emotionally straightforward, while Mima isn't as much. While she's not the sort of person to try and lie about how she feels, she definitely inclines towards passivity, stubbornness and self-reliance."

She cocks her head slightly as she leans back in her chair, kicking her legs absentmindedly.

"... But why? Isn't it better to share your happiness and sadness with your friends? That way, when things are good, everyone has more fun and when things are bad, everyone can rely on each other and there's less pain."

I laugh, in a prim, melodious and ladylike manner, of course.

"You're absolutely right, Chen, and I'm proud of you for having made such an astute observation so early in life. Engrave it on your soul so that you never forget it, because what you just said to me is something difficult for even many of those counted as wise to understand." I assume a more serious tone. "But to answer your question, you heard a little bit about Mima's past, right?"

Looking a little bit sad, Chen nods. It's an expression that doesn't suit her in the least.

"Well, that's one of the reasons. People (and youkai) are a product of their environments. Given what she went through, she probably constructed a complex emotional shell around her heart to defend herself and keep her sanity in that traumatic situation. That's my interpretation, anyway."

She looks a little bit confused.

"But Konngara doesn't act like that even though she suffered too, right?"

I smile in the most conspiratorial fashion I can muster. Which is -quite- conspiratorial.

"Well, who knows? Guess you'll have to read further and see. Though based on what I've read to you so far, it could be a difference in how they handle their regrets, couldn't it? When Konngara finished explaining how she got the Ying-Yang Orb, did she seem happy or sad to you?"

Chen puts a finger to her lips and looks at the ceiling for a moment before answering me.

"She was much more positive, I think. She focused more on how she became happy afterwards than how sad she was before." Her face darkens a little bit. "Mima wasn't though. She told Sir Monk a lot about what happened to her years ago and didn't say anything about more recent things. Maybe it's because she defines herself by her pain rather than her happiness?"

I clap. Stylishly of course.

"You're so smart, Chen! That's absolutely right. There might be some other reasons which you haven't heard yet, but that's one of the important ones as to why they're different from each other. Even though all three of them lost their family ten years ago, they've become radically different sorts of people because of the simple fact of whether they focus on the past, the present or the future."

Looks like she's listening to my answer half-heartedly. She probably has something else on her mind, which is understandable given her age. She's fidgeting. Whenever she does that, she's about to apologize or ask me something which she knows is forbidden.

"Uhm... Lady Yukari? Were you the one that gave Konngara the Ying-Yang Orb? Because that person she described sounded a lot like you."

I unfold my fan and hide the lower half of my face behind it as I (elegantly) fake a villanous laugh.

"Ufufufu. Who knows? Sir Monk will be talking about it later, but aren't you being a bit rude in ruling out Amaterasu Omikami? It looks much more like her than it does a -humble- seventeen year old girl like me, doesn't it?"

Chen looks at me with a strange expression. Surely she doesn't think I'm lying about my age, does she? I fan myself with a casual motion, thinking about how I can change the course of the conversation.

"Chen, now I have a few questions for you. You said you think Sir Monk is brave. Why?"

An immediate answer from her. She must really like him. Maybe I'll introduce them vis-a-vis sometime?

"Because he saves people in danger and protects people who can't protect themselves. Even when he's afraid, he makes the best of a situation and doesn't let other people become discouraged by showing it."

I nod. Certainly, what she's saying is true.

"But... doesn't he seem a bit too cautious sometimes? In a bunch of cases, he nearly ended up in hot water because he either underestimated his own abilities or overestimated his foes."

Chen rubs her chin and plays with her tails a little bit as she thinks about my words.

"Well, I know on the first fight I thought he seemed kind of careful, but that Orochi sounded really scary. Everything turned out ok, so shouldn't we just be happy for him?"

My golden locks go every which way as I shake my head, correcting her.

"He managed to save Konngara, but barely. If he had stalled even a few seconds longer than he did, she probably would have died in a really horrible way. If I were in his shoes, I would have taken the offensive as soon as I appraised the exigencies of the situation. And then there's the second fight." I take a deep breath and rub the bridge of my nose before I continue. "I can understand why he wouldn't want to chase the criminal the instant he saw it, since he had chosen to stand watch. But when he just stood there and gave it time to do whatever it wanted? That was foolish; if he had trusted in his sixth-sense and advanced against it, it would have been forced to retreat sooner."

Chen looks confused again.

"So... the reason why Konngara is hurt that badly is because Sir Monk was too defensive? And that's why he had that harrowing fight with the undead? Then that unknown attacker wasn't trying to kill them?"

She's a smart girl. I pat her on the head as I confirm her words.

"Yes, you're right on all three counts. Specifically, the second one came about because he misunderstood the situation. The reason why his enemy shot arrows at him wasn't to kill him but to break his meditation long enough for it to summon those Jiang-Si and escape. As for the third one, if that attacker wanted to kill them, why wouldn't it just attack earlier when they were separated? It could have finished off Sir Monk when he was getting water for Konngara's bath and killed the other two as they were off-guard and without weapons. I would think that the attacker was just there to observe them and was scared into action when it was found. Don't you agree?"

Chen looks a bit contemplative now. "... How do you know so much about this story, Lady Yukari?"

I shrug -elegantly- of course. "When you become as powerful as I, little things like quantum superposition become easy to understand and manipulate." I cover my face with the fan again as I speak with a silly voice. "Though, it -might- be for some other reasons."

What? She has a serious expression on her face. "... Then, do you know how this story ends? Is it happy or sad...? I- I don't like sad endings...."

I beckon to Chen, who comes over to me. As I slice the air with an imperceptible motion, she's gapped into my lap, where I stroke her face.

"Remember what I said to you earlier about Mima and Konngara? Happiness and sadness are a quality of the observer, not that which is being observed." A sly smile spreads across my face. "You'll have to see it for yourself to know."

As Chen settles on my legs, I reopen the book. I suppose I can do one or two chapters as a reward for how smart she's grown to be.
----------
That turned out differently than what I originally expected I would do. I hope that it wasn't too oblique or opaque; if you have any other questions just ask. Next update in a bit.
>> No. 94413
>>94411
Interesting way of handling it. I approve.
>> No. 94490
>>94411

Now we might end up second guessing ourselves in the future, but nice touch.
>> No. 94516
>>94411
Interesting, and quite enlightening. Good luck breaking anon of his terminal case of heightened caution and paranoia; it's fairly well ingrained.
>> No. 94526
>>94516

That or Anon gets cocky about monkanon's abilities, since despite being a mere Buddhist monk; he's been far from helpless, opposite of most mere leads.

Who knows, but we sure do feel guilty about Konngara's state.
>> No. 94530
>Fake it out. Affix your hat to the end of your staff and give it a few experimental 'peeks.'
Whenever I think of the hat-poke idea, I think of 'Men at Arms', where the sniper just shoots the area beneath the window ledge where he figures a guy who thought it might be a good idea to try the hat-peeking trick would hide.

>>94411
When someone interrupts someone else or you're commenting on how the answered, don't put an entire long line in front of the interruption or response.

Like in >>94214 :
>"If you're talking about ressurection of the dead, I tried that too. All you get are filthy Jiang-si, mindless h-"
>You interrupt her again and this time, it's your turn to get angry.
>"You were trying to cheat the Yama? Are you a fool?
Just cut out that middle line. It loses momentum when you narrate in the middle before cutting back to the dialogue.

Also at >>94411 :
>"Chen, now I have a few questions for you. You said you think Sir Monk is brave. Why?"
>An immediate answer from her. She must really like him. Maybe I'll introduce them vis-a-vis sometime?
>"Because he saves people in danger and protects people who can't protect themselves. Even when he's afraid, he makes the best of a situation and doesn't let other people become discouraged by showing it."
The 'immediate answer' no longer seems immediate because you talked too much between the question and the response. I myself would have worded it like so:

>"Chen, now I have a few questions for you. You said you think Sir Monk is brave. Why?"
>"Because he saves people in danger and protects people who can't protect themselves," she answers immediately. "Even when he's afraid, he makes the best of a situation and doesn't let other people become discouraged by showing it."
>She must really like him. Maybe I'll introduce them vis-a-vis sometime?
>> No. 94533
>>94530
I'll be sure to take the advice; thank you. What you've noted is a product of the environment in which I do most of my writing because I haven't had appropriate time to edit before posting thanks to nigh-constant interruptions. Hence the loledits above.

Also writing now, just got home.
>> No. 94564
This is great. I should've started reading it earlier.
>> No. 94651
Will we get to name monkanon? 'Cause if we do I'm voting for Myouren Hiziri.
>> No. 94653
>>94651

WHAT A TWEEST!
>> No. 94654
>>94651
I sure hope not.
>> No. 94656
I was more tired than I thought, so I ended up falling asleep before I finished.
Couldn't stay awake while writing yesterday and ended up having to rewrite most of this today. At least one more update tonight, with any luck.

----------
For the second night in a row, you dream. Though this one isn't as spectacular or profound as the one from the night before, it's a memory of your past once again. As if seeing it through an opaque screen of oil on water, your first adventure as a novice unfolds before your eyes. Was it eight or nine years ago? The elder monks had pushed upon you the unpleasant task of collecting on a loan that had been made to a rich and knavish merchant near your monastery. You eventually collected on the debt, but only after three tries and an important lesson about the world.

The first time you approached him, you tried appealing to his faith. While you realize how foolish that sounds in hindsight, up to that point, solicitations conducted with piety and sincerity had always worked. Not in this case. Your entreaties were met with contempt and ridicule, as the merchant blasphemed the name of the Buddha and his disciples before expelling you from his
house.

On your journey back to the monastery, you reasoned that your mistake was in forgetting one of the most basic tenets of the Mahayana, 'skillful means.' Inducing people towards virtue and advancing the cause of the faith required practitioners to alter their proselytizing efforts based on their audience; the nobility would enjoy theological/philosophical discourse, the peasants would appreciate charity, hard work and spiritual guidance, while merchants would...

Contemplating so, you altered your methods and when you approached him for the second time, you tried convincing him through the prospect of interest. According to your explanation, the fiscal success of the monastery would attract new adherents and pilgrims, thereby promoting the growth of secondary industries and increasing the amounts of capital which could be lent out. By staying in the monastery's good graces, as even a small confirmation of his trustworthiness would repay itself tenfold in the future. Your performance was brilliant. In spite of your relative inexperience, your words were full of knowledge and conviction, waxing eloquence. Needless to say, you were stunned when he told you to get out. Specifically, he felt that he 'didn't owe anything to a pack of dirty, bald beggars' and that 'if you want your money so badly, you should try and take it.' With these proud words, you were once again sent away with nothing, apart from an ominous warning as to how you might have an 'accident' if you persisted in your collection attempts.

However, you remained undeterred by both this threat and your previous failures; how could
you ever advance along the path of wisdom, goodness and justice if you were cowed by a petty criminal like that merchant? In hopes of answering this question, you spent that evening in prayer and reflection, identifying and extrapolating possible solutions by which you could fulfill your duties. By the time the sun began to rise, you had resolved on a course of action which, ironically enough, was the advice of your enemy. As soon as the merchant acquired the monastery's money, he also had an acquired an obligation to pay, out of his own property if necessary, when a certain amount of time had elapsed. You didn't need to 'ask' him for something that was already yours.

Thus, when you visited the merchant's residence for the third time, you passed over his house
and instead, came to the front of his enormous granary. Whether its contents would entirely
cover his debt to the monastery was uncertain to you, but it was unquestionably the greatest symbol of his wealth. Standing eight meters tall and plated wholly in copper; it dominated the surrounding countryside and shone like a tower of gold on sunny days. You would be taking it.

Freeing your mind of its skepticism and uncertainty, you invoked the name of Mahakala, a guise of Lord Daikoku in his role as a guardian of the Dharma.* Giving an indictment of the merchant's crimes against you, your monastery and ethical business practices, you asked for a revocation of his ill-gotten gains and a boon of strength by which you could rectify your grievances. Your justification finished, you raised your hands in front of you and concentrated. Calling forth your spiritual powers, you channeled them through your fingers, wrapping them tightly about the base of the granary and twisting. Shifting and cracking as it left the ground, the granary slowly rose into the air as you smiled in triumph. The merchant didn't dare to stop you as you left, granary in (huge, spectral) hand.

Though you were reprimanded by the abbot for rashness, everyone else in the monastery saw
you as a hero. Not only had you successfully enlisted the help of Lord Daikoku, but you had
recovered the money in a way that allowed everyone to enjoy it (with their stomachs). But far more important to you than the scolding of your superiors or the praise of your peers was the lesson that you had learned from this experience. Piety and prudence were solutions to many of the ills of the world, but not all. Sometimes, whether exercised or implied, power was necessary.

Without power, you could neither ensure your own freedom or safety, nor could you protect
anyone else. It seems so obvious to you now, but to your naive former self, having just taken his vows of poverty and charity, it was a lesson not yet learned. Though... why are you seeing this dream? Is it a reminder? An omen? A pr...

Your consciousness returns as brightness fills your eyes. Struggling with it for a few minutes, you finally give up and open your eyes to a cloudless azure sky, the slow summer wind and the crisp smell of white pines. You only give those a passing glance, though. Instead, you look to your side at Konngara, who seems to have awakened before you. With her elbows pillowing her head, she's laying on her back, one knee in the air. Averting your eyes from the considerable length of her exposed thigh, you focus on her face as she notices you.

"Good morning, oh savior of mine. Pray tell, was your rest as comfortable as mine turned out to be?" A slightly drowsy smile. She must have just woken up.

"I couldn't ask for better, especially after so many solitary nights in the wasteland." You stretch relaxedly, rolling on your back. "Had you been beside me back then, those brackish fens and windswept moors would have been as restful as my own bed."

As you contemplate the sky and organize your thoughts, Konngara leans over you, interdicting your vision. Bringing her face against yours, she kisses you on the cheek and laughs.

"You don't need to be so gracious! Though, I'm happy that we could be of service to each other." She stands up and turns to you. "Shall we not get ready?"

...

A little while later, Konngara, Mima and yourself are making small talk over the embers of the fire while partaking of breakfast. The atmosphere is cheery and personable; Konngara's injuries seem to be a little bit better today and Mima looks to be speaking unreservedly and in high spirits. Since you were hungry, you haven't said as much as the others, instead focusing on finishing your rice and mushroom porridge.

Pick one:
[ ] Tell them your theories about the orb.
[ ] Tell them about your dream.
[ ] Tell them about the attacker.
[ ] Better just get moving, you've got ground to cover.
[ ] Talk about something else. (specify)
----------

*(One of the Seven Gods of Luck, governing wealth and plenty)
>> No. 94662
[x] Tell them about the attacker.
>> No. 94671
[x] Tell them about the attacker.
>> No. 94673
[x] Tell them about the attacker.

We should warn them about it, and what tricks they have.

Wow Monkanon's pretty powerful indeed.
>> No. 94685
Writing in a bit, have to make dinner first.
>> No. 94702
----------
You're in something of a dilemma. While it's important for your new friends to know about the attacker from yesterday and its capabilities, you don't want to be the one that destroys the happy mood of this morning with DOOM. As you wrack your brain for an answer, you recall a phrase from your dream; 'skillful means.' As you repeat it silently, a crazy plan forms in your head. While it has the potential to fail spectacularly and make you look like a fool in the process, compared to seeing your companions look downcast and fearful, it's far preferable. Time to go for broke.

At a break in their conversation, you gently broach the subject of the attacker and begin to explain the situation to them, but with DRAMA. Simultaneously playing the role of narrator, hero and villain, you pantomime the harrowing battle of wits in which you found yourself yesterday with as much overacting and hyperbole you can muster. And it ...works? You're a little surprised. Maybe it's just because they're usused to seeing you behave like this, but they seem to be captivated by your performance. They're laughing with (or at) you when you tell them about your attempt to fake out the attacker with your hat and break into applause as you recreate your flashy, theatric kill against the Jiang-Si, though you leave out some of the details. Based on what Mima told you yesterday and from their clothing, you believe that those Jiang-Si were probably victims of the same pogrom that killed her parents and you'd rather not reawaken her trauma unnecessarily. As you finish your story by removing your hat and bowing with a foppish, exaggerated motion, you're wearing an infectiously exuberant smile shared by your audience. Well done; you were able to turn an unpleasant story like that into something fun for everyone.

A short while later, the three of you are preparing to break camp. As Mima's cleaning the bowls and pots in the river, you fold up the bedrolls and put them in the pack you've been carrying. You sneak a glance at Konngara, sitting on a nearby stone, as she adjusts her accoutrement with the intense deliberation of a warrior. She's donned a red tunic trimmed with an elaborate floral design over the white robe and over both of these rests an unadorned black pectoral which she's just finished buckling into place. The scarlet hair ribbon she usually wears has been swapped out today in favor of a large bronze hairpin decorated with garnets. Her sword is prominently sheathed at her side, though she frowns when she draws it and checks its condition. Killing that serpent did some damage to the blade; it's blackened, notched in multiple places along its edge and the tip's broken off. An unfortunate situation, but there's nothing you can do about it. Replacing it in its scabbard, she rises to her feet and faces you expectantly. You can't help but smile at her - she cuts a really martial figure, in spite of her injuries.

... Speaking of which, will she really be all right marching the entire day dressed like that? She's physically resilient and possessed of incredible willpower, but it's only been two days since she suffered those terrible wounds. Maybe you can help her somehow?

[ ] ??? (Specify.)

----------
Let's see your creativity, anonymous.
>> No. 94780
[x] You're in a forest, right? See if you can break off a sturdy tree branch and carve a walking stick for Konngara.
>> No. 94818
[x] You're in a forest, right? See if you can break off a sturdy tree branch and carve a walking stick for Konngara.

This should ease the strain.
>> No. 94908
----------
Casting your eyes across the ground, you find a nice, straight branch. While pine is hardly an ideal material for this, a softer wood is easier for you to work with and you haven't much time anyway. Finding a place to sit, you start working on both ends of the branch. Under your knife, one side becomes a crudely rounded convex as the other is narrowed and flattened to a blunt cone. The finished product looks servicable, if not beautiful. Testing it briefly in your own hand, you decide to find Konngara. Hopefully, it'll ease the burden of marching on her.

She's left the copse; you find her by the river, watching its spray and foam refracting colorfully in the morning mist. As she looks over her shoulder, you stride confidently to her side and offer her the stick.

"Try it out. It's not as nice as mine, but it should nevertheless be of service to you."

She studies the staff in your hand before looking at you. "I had been wondering on what you were working a moment ago, but I had no inkling that you were once again expending effort on my behalf. " A small bow. "Thank you once more for your consideration; if there's anything I can do to aid you, please tell me."

You hand it to her, then raise an index finger to your lips as turn your body slightly and contemplate the sky.

"Actually... there's something that only you can do for me. Well, two things, actually."

She looks surprised, but only for an instant. With her hand on her sword and her expression emanating determination, she lowers her head. "I await your sagacious instruction."

You chuckle and shake your head as a carefree grin creeps across your face. This girl...

"Hey, don't look so serious." As she relaxes slightly, you continue. "The first thing I'd like you to do for me is to use that staff. The reason why you were so tired yesterday is that by pushing yourself to walk at full speed on only one good leg required tremendous exertion from the rest of your body to overcome that deficiency."

A quick nod. "And your second request?"

"It ties in with the first. I'd like you to tell me more about yourself." You raise your hand to stop her when she's about to respond "Erm, I didn't mean now. If you're feeling up to it, maybe tonight? I wanted to ask you some things yesterday, but we were both too tired for various reasons to converse much."

With a heartfelt smile, she answers. "A proposal as delightful to my ears as to your curiosity. I accept, with the hope that you extend to me the same privilege of inquiry."

"But of course." You agree immediately; it's only fair and you're happy that she wants to know more about you anyway.

...

Resuming your march, the morning passes quickly and in high spirits. Mima's once again in the lead, but she's more relaxed, with a spring in her step that wasn't there before. Unlike yesterday, she looks at the sky or scenery with a wistful smile every now and again. Just behind her, Konngara's able to walk with ease and dignity in her gait thanks to the help you've given her. Though she's had it for less than a day, she's handling that cane as if it were an extension of her own body.

You too find the trail today to be much more pleasant, particularly compared to yesterday. Though there's still no path, the ground's transitioned from slimy, dismal marsh to the dry firmness more typical to a forest floor. The trees are less forboding and primeval than their earlier counterparts, in large part thanks to their shorter stature and brighter foliage. Finally, the strange mushrooms and plants which you saw before have been replaced by normal undergrowth and the river's singing a more cheerful tune, having broadened and quickened.

Soon, however; an obstacle presents itself. Ahead of you, a tributary joins the river as it snakes to the right. As Konngara's injuries and your collective luggage make swimming it impossible, you're forced to take a detour to find a point shallow enough at which you can cross. Thanks to the terrain, it's slow going. The banks of the tributary rise and broaden into an impassible, sheerly angled limestone ravine which doesn't give way till flat ground until early afternoon.

Seeking to break the tedium, you quicken your pace slightly and end up astride Mima. She's looking at you with a face that says 'I know what you're going to say,' but you ask anyway.

"Could you tell me about these associates of yours? We should reach the home of the first one this evening, right?"

In response to your question, Mima taps the side of her face with a delicate finger, deep in thought, before answering. "Well, about the first one... her name's Hieda. She's the distant descendant of a pretty famous scholar, from what she tells me. Whether she's telling the truth or how a branch of her family came to settle out here, I'm not sure, but compared to most of the scum that passes for human around here, she's a really liberal-minded, forward thinking individual. But the reason why I decided we should see her is that she's an expert in the folklore, legends and history of this region, with a large library besides. If anyone would know something about that enigmatic jewel or the goddess in Konngara's vision, it would be her. And..." She hesitates slightly, looking anxious. "Don't worry about the second one for now. It's... complicated, to say the least. I'm not even sure if that one will help us."

"We can deal with that when the time comes. We might not even have to visit the second one if this Hieda proves as knowledgable as you say." You pat her back in an effort to reassure her.

Though her expression lightens somewhat, she still looks worried. "I hope so. That person's infinitely devious and supremely cunning... a real devil."

Coming from her, that's quite a pronouncement. You don't say it though. Or rather, you don't get a chance to say it. As you're about to say something further, Mima stops dead in her tracks. You follow her gaze to find a stony ford, barely up to your knees in water. But that's not what has her attention though. She's looking at the short, cloaked figure on its near bank, ambling fearlessly towards the three of you with a drawn sword. When it's about forty feet away, it stops and speaks with a ringing voice.

"You've finally come. Draw your sword, woman in red!"

[ ] Disregard its message, attack immediately.
[ ] Hear it out.
[ ] Do something else. (specify)
----------
>> No. 94928
[X] Hear it out.

This seems like a formal challenge or something, acting rashly might be a bad idea. If the swordsman is honorable, he will delay the match until Konngara is at her best again.
>> No. 94933
[X] Hear it out.
>> No. 94940
[X] Hear it out, but be on your guard.
>> No. 94994
----------
Though she's likely as confused as you are, Konngara doesn't show it. Drawing her sword and stepping to the front of your group, she addresses the unknown person in front of you with a dignified bearing.

"For what grievances, real or imagined, have you challenged me thus?"

"After everything you've done, you have the audacity to ask me my grievances?! Just how many innocents have you lured and destroyed with your sinister magic?!" The figure points at Konngara in rage. "You've undermined the efforts of my mistress for years, untouchable inside that evil shrine. But no more! As you've finally had the courage to crawl out from behind that contemptible barrier of yours, I've come to seek redress! Prepare yourself!"

As the figure drops into a combat stance, Konngara sheathes her sword and raises her single good arm in a motion that says 'Wait.' Though you still can't see his expression, you can tell from its body language that the person in front of you is expectant. "What is it? Do you intend to beg for mercy?"

Konngara shakes her head composedly. "I do not nor do I intend to fight you, sir. I have neither cognizance nor culpability with regards to your listed grievances and while I enjoy swordplay, someone so dishonorable that he would challenge me without naming himself or showing his face is unqualified to be my opponent. As it would be unbecoming of me to demand this of you without doing the same myself, allow me to introduce myself." She gives a graceful bow. "I am Konngara and as you already seem to know, the current protector of the mountain shrine in this area. It's a pleasure to meet you, though I would prefer that we had encountered each other under different circumstances."

"You..." Its words betray its uncertainty. "Fine, I'll humor your request." The figure takes hold of his cloak and unfastens it carefully before throwing it to the side. "Know that you stand before Youki Konpaku, retainer of Lady Saigyouji!"

With your knife in hand and ready to lobotomize him at range if he tries anything, you take stock of this 'Youki'. Whatever he is, he's a study in contradictions that culminates to form a picture of unnatural formidability. A handsome, clean-shaven young man, his skin and hair have the lifeless, ashen hue of a corpse. Though he can't possibly be more than fifteen or sixteen by your reckoning, his deep, blue eyes betray that he's lived far longer. Dressed in a plain robe of forest-green, he's short and wiry, but nevertheless has an imposing presence because he's covered in weapons. Apart from the sword in his left hand, another even longer blade hangs sheathed at his waist and an unstrung bow and quiver of arrows peeks out from over his shoulders. Though you're nearly certain of it already, you decide to check. Closing your eyes for a moment, you sense the qi of the air around you. Yes, there's no mistake. This is the person against whom you squared off yesterday night!

Konngara speaks again, her right hand over her heart. "I'm afraid I've never met your mistress before, Sir Youki. This I swear by the waters of the Sanzu, along with the fact that I've no knowledge of the crimes with which you've indicted me." A mighty oath, one which even the most powerful and wicked of beings would fear to misuse. "Do you still want to fight me?"

Youki seems to be as taken aback as yourself, mumbling something under his breath, but as he starts to trail off in thought, he catches himself. "I do. Apart from your crimes against my mistress, my pride as a warrior demands that I defend this crossing against all comers. If you want to pass, you'll have to defeat me in single combat." Youki says this determinedly to Konngara before looking at Mima and you for the first time. "Allow me to warn you for your continued survival; don't get any strange ideas about attacking me all at once. Even if you managed to murder me, my mistress would take your lives before the moon rises tonight." He turns back to face Konngara, who's looking at him with an indecipherable expression. You're not sure how many emotions with which she must be wrestling right now.

[ ] Encourage Konngara; even with her injuries, she can defeat Youki if you stipulate some handicaps and believe in her victory.
[ ] Offer to fight Youki in as Konngara's champion; injured as she is, her chance of winning is low and even if she does win, more wounds will kill her.
[ ] He's bluffing, attack him together.
[ ] Do something else. (specify).
----------
>> No. 95001
[X] Offer to fight Youki in as Konngara's champion; injured as she is, her chance of winning is low and even if she does win, more wounds will kill her.

This seems best, Konngara can decline or Youki can refuse. Gives us a bit more time to study the situation as well with more conversation.
>> No. 95005
[ODIN] Offer to fight Youki as Konngara's champion, for this is a senseless battle, unfit for a warrior such as herself.
[ODIN] Only a troubled spirit, or one with too strong attachments to material matters, would do harm unto living beings for the sake of pride alone. In the name of the Buddha, and for his future Enlightenment, you must show him the error of his ways.

We obviously have to step in for Konngara, but doing it because she is injured would be somewhat insulting to her warrior's honour. And besides, he's obviously trying to bullshit a reason for fighting anyway. Kind of a dick move that.
>> No. 95008
[x] Offer to fight Youki as Konngara's champion, for this is a senseless battle, unfit for a warrior such as herself.
[x] Only a troubled spirit, or one with too strong attachments to material matters, would do harm unto living beings for the sake of pride alone. In the name of the Buddha, and for his future Enlightenment, you must show him the error of his ways.
>> No. 95010
[x] Offer to fight Youki as Konngara's champion, for this is a senseless battle, unfit for a warrior such as herself.
[x] Only a troubled spirit, or one with too strong attachments to material matters, would do harm unto living beings for the sake of pride alone. In the name of the Buddha, and for his future Enlightenment, you must show him the error of his ways.

boy young Youki is an arrogant short... this seems to be a short time before the sealing it seems. (So Yuyuko's already a ghost)
>> No. 95014
[x] Offer to fight Youki as Konngara's champion, for this is a senseless battle, unfit for a warrior such as herself.
[x] Only a troubled spirit, or one with too strong attachments to material matters, would do harm unto living beings for the sake of pride alone. In the name of the Buddha, and for his future Enlightenment, you must show him the error of his ways.
>> No. 95033
[x] Offer to fight Youki as Konngara's champion, for this is a senseless battle, unfit for a warrior such as herself.
[x] Only a troubled spirit, or one with too strong attachments to material matters, would do harm unto living beings for the sake of pride alone. In the name of the Buddha, and for his future Enlightenment, you must show him the error of his ways.
>> No. 95049
----------
You approach Konngara from behind, taking hold of her shoulder and whispering to her. "I know how you must feel at this scoundrel's provocation, but he's not worth your time and we can't let him see the Taiji. Please trust me for now." As she gives a small nod, you look over her back at Youki. "You're asking her to accept a challenge of which she doesn't know the terms? At what kind of farce are you playing here?" Youki narrows his eyes at you, a smug expression on his face. "Spoken like a true coward. This doesn't concern someone like you, so just mind your own business if you value your life."

You're not cowed by this threat. In fact, quite the opposite. You summon the most raucous, irreverent laughter in your person and double over, pointing at Youki as (feigned) you strike your flanks. While it's not quite that funny, you've got a plan. As you 'recover' from your outburst, you find that everyone's looking at you. Konngara's wearing an enigmatic smile that says 'Ah, I understand, keep at it!," while Mima winks and blows you a kiss. Youki, however; is less enthused. Good, looks like you'll be able to incite him with a little bit more effort.

You step forward with a confident expression. "You're calling me a coward? Have you looked in the mirror recently or are those sparkling eyes of yours only reserved for women?" You sweep your arm in broad gesture at Konngara, standing beside you. "She's going about on a cane because of her injuries and is without even a servicable weapon, yet you're asking her to fight you to the death?" You spit on the ground before pointing at Youki with a detatched, psychopathic leer on your face. "You're contemptible. Someone like you, so completely berefit of courtesy or honor, isn't worthy of challenging her. You're no warrior; you're just an arrogant, predatory thug."

Youki's teeth are clenched in fury and he's gripping his sword so tightly that his nails leave marks in its lacquer. Just a little bit more. With scorn in your eyes, you cover your mouth with the back of your right hand as if stifling a laugh. "Yes, if you really think about it, the only real coward here is you. I mean, you ran away from me pretty quickly yesterday, didn't you? Why don't you fight me instead, Youki? Or are you scared?"

The ringing sould of steel on steel fills the air. You can see why that kid's so self-assured. He's really fast. In one nearly imperceptible motion, Youki covered the distance between the two of you and slashed at your neck. You'd brought up your staff to deflect the hit, but before it reached you, Konngara met his attack in a flash of red, blocking it with her sword. Their weapons still locked, she addresses Youki sternly. "Is it your intention to prove him correct? Sheathe your sword!" His rage subsides slightly and, lowering his blade, he takes a visible step backwards as Konngara continues. "I accept your challenge, but with conditions. Though I do not fear you, nor do I find you to be unqualified, I cannot fight you." Konngara indicates you. "Thus, he will be acting as my champion in this encounter. If he wins, you will let us pass unmolested and if he loses, I'll offer myself up in bonds for your mistress' judgement. Is this agreeable to you?"

Youki throws his head back with a bitter laugh as he nods vigorously. "Of course. Don't renege on your offer; I'm not giving you any mercy after I finish killing him."

Konngara just smiles coyly at his words. "Don't be so confident."

The conditions of the bout thus established, the four of you move the location of the combat to the bank of the ford where Youki had been waiting for you. It's a broad, flat expanse ideal for single combat save in the regard that it's covered in small, smooth stones on which one's footing can be easily lost. It's a hindrance to both parties, but it disadvantages Youki more than you. If you make use of the entirety of it's length, your staff has a longer reach than both his sheathed and unsheathed sword. Well, if nothing else, this'll be an interesting fight. As Youki checks his blades and strings his bow, you do the same with your own equipment while considering how to approach the coming battle.

You:
[ ] Focus on offense: meet his swings blow for blow and try to force him into the water.
[ ] Focus on defense: gauge his swings and look for a weakness in his style.
[ ] Do something else. (specify)
----------
>> No. 95050
Author's Note:
>[x] Only a troubled spirit, or one with too strong attachments to material matters, would do harm unto living beings for the sake of pride alone. In the name of the Buddha, and for his future Enlightenment, you must show him the error of his ways.

This is great, bravo to you all for suggesting/voting it. Though it may not seem like it, this is already being addressed in a way that will be clear by the time you win (or lose) the battle.
>> No. 95066
[ODIN] Focus on defense: gauge his swings and look for a weakness in his style.
[ODIN] Ask the young warrior what he would do if the Buddha wished to cross this stream. If he answers, hit him with your staff.

Some Zen Master dickery would be warranted in this situation, I'd say. Complete with counterintuitive koans if possible.
>> No. 95071
[x] Focus on defense: gauge his swings and look for a weakness in his style.
[x] Ask the young warrior what he would do if the Buddha wished to cross this stream. If he answers, hit him with your staff.
>> No. 95085
[X] Focus on defense: gauge his swings and look for a weakness in his style.
[X] Ask the young warrior what he would do if the Buddha wished to cross this stream. If he answers, hit him with your staff.

I always approve of dickery.
>> No. 95088
>>95050

It's an interesting history note since modern Youki left to seek enlightenment, perhaps Monkanon spurred that.

[X] Focus on defense: gauge his swings and look for a weakness in his style.
[X] Ask the young warrior what he would do if the Buddha wished to cross this stream. If he answers, hit him with your staff.


I think this would be a good move, since he seems much like his as of yet unborn daughter, very straightforward. Fast but predictible. And by observing his style you can best learn how to counter decisively.

And I don't think of it as dickery but a lesson in humility.
>> No. 95090
>>95088

-- Through dickery.
>> No. 95125
Note: At the time in which this story takes place (you'll know soon), Zen has not yet appeared in Japan, though I'll give it my best to incorporate the spirit of that message somehow. Stay tuned.

----------
By the time both of you finish your preparations, you've decided on an initial strategy. You need to gather more information about your opponent; all you currently know is that he's wily and
extremely fast. Attempting to take action with such limited knowledge would be foolish and
dangerous, so for now, you just need to trade blows with him and focus on identifying his
weaknesses. You've already discerned that he's hotblooded and proud, but what else is there?
Before you end up digressing any further, Youki brings you back to reality.

"Because you are incompetent and because just overwhelming you would be uninteresting, I'm
going to do something in the interest of sport and fairness to give you a chance of winning." He points to the longer of his two blades, still in its sheath. "I won't need this to beat you. Hakurouken here is enough."

You shake your head at him with a derisive laugh. You can use this to your advantage. "Youki." He looks at you disdainfully as you smile calmly . "You're pretty obviously a poor student of literature. Don't you know that pronouncements of the sort you just made are always made by villains shortly to be defeated when they underestimate their opponents? Come at me with everything you've got if you want to win!"

He's not rushing you, nor is he getting angry. Darn. Maybe it's because of what Konngara said
to him? "Not a chance, are you trying to incite me into discarding my dignity? Fighting you at full strength would be like using a sledge to kill a fly. I refuse." A nonchalant answer. You wag your left hand at him, index finger outstretched. "Dignity? You don't have any dignity, Youki. They're not the same thing." You point at Konngara. "She has dignity," you then gesture at him, "you have pride. And as long as you continue to persist in being proud, you'll never have any dignity, nor will you be able to vanquish me." You angle your staff in a defensive posture as you synchronize your breathing to match that of the air around you.

"Let's see if your hands are as quick as your tongue."

As these words reach your ears, you bring your staff down to block your right side, before reversing your grip to parry another two strikes in succession aimed at your head and neck.

Then, using the motion of your deflection, you flourish with both ends of your staff in a quick counterattack targetting his left shin and right wrist. Youki parries your swings with a graceful sweep that becomes a lunge at your chest. In a flash, your knife's in your left hand riposting his sword upwards as you aim a strike at his right knee with your staff. Realizing the danger of his situation, Youki disengages you, but not quickly enough. As he frees his sword and gets a glancing downward cut on your shoulder, you graze his knee with your staff as he tries to make range. Leaping backwards and landing with practiced skill, Youki returns to a neutral pose and brushes his hair with a casual motion, before sneering at you. "I'm impressed you're still alive. Looks like you're not all talk. But I wonder, for just how long can you continue keep up with me?"

As you sheath your knife, you ask yourself the same question. ...It's a good one. You've
managed to keep your breathing regular and to stay concentrated, but even with that, you were
only able to defend against his attacks with the smallest margin of error thanks to your precognitive sense. You can't even begin to imagine what would have happened had he actually chosen to come at you all out. In all your battles against youkai, brigands or bandits (of which you've been in many over the past few years), you've never been this pressed in your life. Though you hate to admit it, you can see why this kid's so arrogant - he's in
a completely different league from anyone you've ever faced. Identifying weaknesses is pointless if he doesn't have any. His footwork and breathing are absolutely flawless and his blade control is almost unnautrally perfect. Every strike is light and quick, but a killing blow if it connects, with no wasted motion. Yes, if you weren't so apprehensive about your chances at survival, you'd laugh at the absurdity of this situation. You're formidable in battle, but you're fighting a bonfide sword-saint. Unless you come up with something good, you...

[ ] Knife. Throw it, then force him into a grapple?
[ ] Heart Sutra. Could you blind him?
[ ] Rope. Disarm him? Trip him? Steal his sheathed sword?
[ ] Vajra. Can you buy enough time to use it?
[ ] Recollection. The meaning of that dream was...?
[ ] Do something else. (specify?)
----------
>> No. 95127
Sorry about that. I'm typing this in bits and pieces in notepad and whenever I paste it in the window, I end up having to correct pretty much every line. You don't happen to know how to eliminate this problem, would you?
>> No. 95128
[X] Recollection. The meaning of that dream was...?
>> No. 95129
[x] Recollection. The meaning of that dream was...?
[x]Piety, Prudence & power, but most importantly: 'skillful means'
>> No. 95130
>>95127

Have you tried notepad++?
>> No. 95131
[x] Recollection. The meaning of that dream was...?
[x] Piety, Prudence & power, but most importantly: 'skillful means'
>> No. 95132
>>95130
No idea, but I'll look into it. Thanks.
>> No. 95135
[x] Recollection. The meaning of that dream was...?
[x]Piety, Prudence & power, but most importantly: 'skillful means'
>> No. 95141
>>95125

>>Note: At the time in which this story takes place (you'll know soon), Zen has not yet appeared in Japan, though I'll give it my best to incorporate the spirit of that message somehow. Stay tuned.

That's some time ago alright. The story is set in the Heian period then?
>> No. 95167
Thanks to you all for picking the most interesting choice. Writing sporadically.

>>95141
Well, you'll see.
>> No. 95207
----------
As you think about how each of your weapons could potentially be used to reverse this situation, an unusual consideration keeps flitting to the front of your mind. It's your... dream from this morning? Why now? ...Well, that was rhetorical; you already know the answer to that question. There's only one possible reason why such an apparently tangential thought is paramount in your psyche. It's the key to victory.

You've no time for doubts or misgivings. You dispel the reservations of your common sense and allow your intuition to lead you through that dream. Its meaning... what was its meaning? On the doctrine of 'skillful means'. On the limitations of piety and prudence in conversion. On the necessity of power in winning over otherwise implacable enemies of the Dharma. On...

It happens in a flash. Like the rising of the sun over a benighted world, you understand. When you defeated that merchant, it wasn't because of his weakness. It was because of your
strength! Your adaptability! Your insights! Your spiritual power! Yes, you didn't realize it till now, but you've been approaching this situation the wrong way! Analyzing Youki's limitations? Thinking about how to use those failings to your advantage? That's a mistake! Youki's no different than that merchant; his weaknesses or lack thereof are inconsequential! You just need to be stronger than him!

Stronger. That single word resonates in your head, over and over again like a mantra addressed to your soul. Then, from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, an upwelling runs through your person! You're saturated by the familiar sensation of your spiritual power, but in an unfamiliar way. A golden trail follows your left arm as you lift it and beckon Youki. "You asked me for how long I could keep up with you. I think a better question is, for how long can you keep up with me?"

He doesn't answer you with words. Crossing the space to you in a single bound, his upraised sword tears the air with a whistling howl as it slashes downward. And you can see his charge
this time; it's not just a blur.
You deftly defend your neck with a sweep of your staff, throwing his sword back in a forceful block as you reach for your knife. No good. Youki adjusts the angular momentum from your deflection into a pirouette and kicking it out of your hands before recovering his stance. He's surprised and it shows. "What manner of trick did you just use? What's that glow that trailing in the wake of your motions?"

You shrug helplessly. "I wish I could tell you."

As the two of you resume your combat, two things become immediately apparent to both of
you.

First, that you've had a tremendous increase in your speed, vision, endurance and striking power. While Youki is still markedly faster than you with regards to both the quickness and grace of his attacks and movement, your blows have much more force behind them than his and you still have the advantage of range on which you can fall back.

Second, that whenever you move, it leaves a shining afterimage. While it looks undeniably awe-inspiring, it's actually disadvantageous to you in this situation, because it means that even your most subtle actions (like drawing the knife) are obvious to Youki's sharp eyes. Looks like you'll need to rely mostly on your staff to win this.

Speaking of which, you have an idea. After blocking a particularly vicious series of cuts at your abdomen and thighs, you switch the dominant hand on your staff to your left. Before Youki begins attacking you again, you unleash a chain of fast, powerful attacks at his head and midriff. Though he's able to dodge most of them with sidesteps, backsteps and twists, he's forced to stop some of them with his sword at which you realize something. Since he's wielding it right-hand dominant, to stop your left-handed hits, he has to turn and block. Not only does that make him slower, but it also disrupts his balance so that a single good hit will knock him to the ground. This battle's yours!

Don't give him a chance to change his grip, keep him on the defense! Letting your instinct guide you, you pressure Youki with a flurry of faster and faster attacks. If he's concerned, he doesn't show it; his face is a mask of cold determination. Taking advantage of the break in your defensive posture, he lands several cuts on your arms and sides which, though light and glancing, hurt tremendously thanks to the qi in each of his strikes. Nevertheless, you don't let up and soon, an opening appears. As your attacks force him towards the water, his right leg stumbles due to its earlier injury and he loses his footing. Though it only lasts an instant, you capitalize on it. In a single smooth motion, your right hand draws the rope from about your waist and lashes his right wrist to the side as your left hand strikes downwards with all its might!

...

A piercing metallic ring. Dropped to one knee is Youki, his head lowered and expression invisible. Raised above him is his left hand, in which one of the largest swords you've ever seen is held in a reversed draw and blocking your staff. As you pull your rope free of his right arm, you take a step back, too frozen with surprise to do anything else. And as you do, Youki mumbles something to himself and looks up at you. "Are you ready to die?" His eyes are blood-red.

[ ] Insist that you've won. He's drawn his other sword!
[ ] Something's wrong. Figure out what it is, quickly!
[ ] Ask the others to help you. Screw the rules, I have friends!
[ ] Ask for a draw. Both of you have fought well!
[ ] Do something else. (specify!)
----------
>> No. 95209
[X]The match is over, he drew out his other sword.
[X] Ask for a draw. Both of you have fought well!
>> No. 95210
[x] Something's wrong. Figure out what it is, quickly!
>> No. 95215
[x] Something's wrong. Figure out what it is, quickly!
[x] Have everyone on their guard
>> No. 95238
[x] Something's wrong. Figure out what it is, quickly!
[x] Have everyone on their guard.
[x] Ready a Vajra. If he is no longer holding back, neither can you.

Vajra~
>> No. 95244
[X] Insist that you've won. He's drawn his other sword!
>> No. 95268
File 125360151450.jpg - (89.80KB , 290x500 , buddha-earth-touching-AT-B-134.jpg ) [iqdb]
95268
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.

We probably can't beat Youki in a physical confrontation. Therefore, we should employ more skillful means.

[ODIN] Shall this battle now be one of hatred? Pride is a sin, but the worst fever a being can be gripped by is wrath, for it is wrath that gives cause to conflict and dooms one to countless painful rebirths.
[ODIN] Yet if there is a fever there must be a cure, and is not the Buddha the best physician?
[ODIN] Sit down on the ground, your left hand in your lap, and the fingers of your right touching the ground. Like the Enlightened One you shall banish the presence of dark Mara, for how could wrath abide in the same place as one of Buddha's disciples?
[ODIN] It is mind that makes the world, your mind makes yours, and Youki's mind makes his. Self-destructive is the delusion of hatred that has filled his world, and with your knowledge of this fact you shall turn back anger with stillness, so that he knows his blade will only cut himself in the end.
>> No. 95269
[x] Shall this battle now be one of hatred? Pride is a sin, but the worst fever a being can be gripped by is wrath, for it is wrath that gives cause to conflict and dooms one to countless painful rebirths.
[x] Yet if there is a fever there must be a cure, and is not the Buddha the best physician?
[x] Sit down on the ground, your left hand in your lap, and the fingers of your right touching the ground. Like the Enlightened One you shall banish the presence of dark Mara, for how could wrath abide in the same place as one of Buddha's disciples?
[x] It is mind that makes the world, your mind makes yours, and Youki's mind makes his. Self-destructive is the delusion of hatred that has filled his world, and with your knowledge of this fact you shall turn back anger with stillness, so that he knows his blade will only cut himself in the end.
>> No. 95271
[x] Shall this battle now be one of hatred? Pride is a sin, but the worst fever a being can be gripped by is wrath, for it is wrath that gives cause to conflict and dooms one to countless painful rebirths.
[x] Yet if there is a fever there must be a cure, and is not the Buddha the best physician?
[x] Sit down on the ground, your left hand in your lap, and the fingers of your right touching the ground. Like the Enlightened One you shall banish the presence of dark Mara, for how could wrath abide in the same place as one of Buddha's disciples?
[x] It is mind that makes the world, your mind makes yours, and Youki's mind makes his. Self-destructive is the delusion of hatred that has filled his world, and with your knowledge of this fact you shall turn back anger with stillness, so that he knows his blade will only cut himself in the end.
>> No. 95272
[x] Shall this battle now be one of hatred? Pride is a sin, but the worst fever a being can be gripped by is wrath, for it is wrath that gives cause to conflict and dooms one to countless painful rebirths.
[x] Yet if there is a fever there must be a cure, and is not the Buddha the best physician?
[x] Sit down on the ground, your left hand in your lap, and the fingers of your right touching the ground. Like the Enlightened One you shall banish the presence of dark Mara, for how could wrath abide in the same place as one of Buddha's disciples?
[x] It is mind that makes the world, your mind makes yours, and Youki's mind makes his. Self-destructive is the delusion of hatred that has filled his world, and with your knowledge of this fact you shall turn back anger with stillness, so that he knows his blade will only cut himself in the end.
>> No. 95274
[x] Shall this battle now be one of hatred? Pride is a sin, but the worst fever a being can be gripped by is wrath, for it is wrath that gives cause to conflict and dooms one to countless painful rebirths.
[x] Yet if there is a fever there must be a cure, and is not the Buddha the best physician?
[x] Sit down on the ground, your left hand in your lap, and the fingers of your right touching the ground. Like the Enlightened One you shall banish the presence of dark Mara, for how could wrath abide in the same place as one of Buddha's disciples?
[x] It is mind that makes the world, your mind makes yours, and Youki's mind makes his. Self-destructive is the delusion of hatred that has filled his world, and with your knowledge of this fact you shall turn back anger with stillness, so that he knows his blade will only cut himself in the end.
>> No. 95312
This will either be huge or 2 updates long. Writing sporadically.
>> No. 95357
Turns out this choice might be more than two updates. I've started writing the next part, but I cut it off where I did for coherency.

----------
He's waiting for your answer, silently and expressionlessly watching you with those terrible crimson eyes. You're extremely startled and more than a little shaken by this unexpected turn of events, but you don't show it on your face. Whether you're facing monsters, thieves, wild beasts or unpredictable teenaged swordmasters, your experiences have taught you that presenting a fearless disposition serves to embolden your own spirits as well as whomever may be watching you. As Youki rises to his feet, you meet his heartless and unyielding glare with unflustered tranquility.

"'Am I prepared to die?' ...That's a question I've heard many times before; always from troubled souls ensnared by materialism and worldly attachment." Youki's watching you unblinkingly, seeming untroubled by this pause in the battle, so you cast your glance sideways and acknowledge your companions. Konngara's watching you closely, anxiously gripping her blade and its sheath while Mima clings to her arm bodily with a worried look. After giving them what you hope is a reassuring salute with your left hand, you continue.

"Do you think death is the worst punishment that can be inflicted upon a living creature? Or for that matter, do you think it's a punishment at all?" You chuckle and shake your head. "Death is hardly the most torturous trial through which the soul may be forced, nor is it the mandate of any higher being. Death is just the indiscriminate cessation of life." A golden glow follows your left arm as you raise it and force it into a fist, for emphasis. "So many misunderstand that relationship - of life and death. They spend the sum of their years fleeing from that which they can't see and can't escape, without realizing that they're already in the palm of its hand. Though they still draw breath, they've 'died' because as soon as they fall into that state of mind, they cease to 'live.' ...It's a foolish mistake. Death is mourned only because life has value and its on life and its betterment that we should focus. This is the reason for which I made this journey of a thousand miles and it's also why I do not fear your threats."

You raise your staff in front of you in a defiant pose.

"I've lived well. I've enjoyed the love of my family and the affection of my friends. I've had the opportunity to experience the joys and sorrows of the world in equal measure and to grow as a person in defense of the infirm, the impoverished and the oppressed." A dramatic pause. "...I don't know when I'll die, how I'll die or if my soul has one death or a hundred deaths to yet overcome. But I'm not troubled. So long as I follow the Buddha's law graven upon my heart, then I will one day escape the anguishing cycle of rebirth. And there's nothing you can do to hinder that."

You motion with your staff before angling it down in a defensive posture.

"So come, Youki; let's finish this! Kill me as many times as you can! I've already won, because no matter the outcome of this battle, neither death nor the fear of death have any claim over my soul!"

A long silence follows before he answers you, smiling impassively as he readies his blades.

"It's good you've made your peace with the world."

He finishes speaking and a ferocious gale begins to whip up around your feet. Though it has all the intensity, swiftness and fury of a genuine tempest, it's not the wind.

It's a storm of steel.
----------

This is an effort to address the previous writein as well as the current one, but it acquired something else as I was writing. I hope I made it clear enough in the first paragraph, but the speech here is as much intended to awaken Youki to an awareness of his limitations to as it is an effort by the hero to embolden himself.

And by the way, the writein this time is absolutely fantastic, but I have to wait for the right mood to use it, which isn't quite here yet.
>> No. 95550
----------
In an instant, you're enveloped by a literal cyclone of blades that's far too fast for your eyes to follow and from which you can barely defend yourself.

One at your right eye.

One at your throat.

One at your knee.

One at your groin.

In three-fourths of one second, you deflect four hits, all of which would have been crippling or fatal had they connected. Only the disturbances in the air around you gave any indication of where you should block. And he doesn't let up. As you frantically try and make heads or tails of the situation, Youki continues to loose strikes against every section of your body.

...The increase in his abilities is frightening. It's clear to you that he's mastered fighting with both of those swords simultaneously; the level of swordsmanship you were facing before doesn't even rise to the heels of his efforts now. His attacks are more than twice as fast as they were with only one sword; seamless and in perfect unison, giving you no space in which to take any actions except a desperate, stopgap defense. Even with your physical enhancement and your ability to intuit events several seconds into the future, you're slowly buckling under the speed and volume of his assault. Interdicting the cloud of killing blows at your head and chest causes small cuts to appear on your unprotected arms, legs and sides. Though you hardly feel them through the adrenaline and don't have the luxury of checking, you're certain that you must be bleeding profusely. ...Is there anything you can do to survive?

You don't fear death, but for the sake of your companions, you have to survive. You have to win! As this determination to emerge victorious becomes a heartfelt prayer, the prophesying spirit in your mind awakens and guides.

Make vulnerable your chest!

A brainwave; you act immediately as the situation becomes clear to your judgement. Adjusting your staff to better guard your limbs, the battle progressively becomes more favorable as Youki's strikes gradually begin to focus on your torso. This single defensive alteration makes his potential striking area smaller, more predictable and actually managable, though in exchange for this advantage, you've given him the chance to kill you in single hit if you miss any of your deflections.

Needless to say, this nearly happens several times. In one particularly harrowing case, he lunged at your head after forcing your guard downwards with a series of surreptitious attacks. The only reason why you managed to avoid decapitation was that you caught his sword in the rings of your staff purely by accident.

In spite of these tricks and others like it, you become acclimated to the faster tempo of the battle, regaining enough confidence to calculate your chances of a reversal. You don't have your knife, you've used your rope already (surprise attacks aren't a surprise the second time) and using your Vajra at this range would engulf you in the blast. It's an incredible risk, but...

You shunt his swords wide with a huge swing as you leap sideways. Only one chance to pull this off; the loss of your footing guarantees your death if this should fail. As he recovers his balance and charges boldly, your left hand reaches before raising high in the air.

"Radiance."

You close your eyes and greet an unbroken curtain of brilliance as the Heart Sutra unleashes its blinding light. As you retreat backwards in a reckless attempt to make distance, you half-expect to feel a sword skewering your heart, but it never happens. Youki treads every which way, slashing wildly as you draw out a Vajra and begin to rec-

Wait a second. Something's wrong. Why do you still see nothing but brightness with your sightless eyes? The Heart Sutra doesn't last this long, so what is...? You turn your head to the point from which you think the whiteness is emanating and focus, looking not with your eyes, but with your heart. As its silhouette solidifies under your concentration, your breath nearly stops in your throat.

Floating about 3 feet behind Youki is a tall, spectral being whose movements follow his own. It looks to be at least seven feet high and vaguely humanoid, though the proportions are all wrong. It's too thin; its 'chest' and 'waist' are impossibly narrow, its 'head' is elongated and sloping and its 'limbs' are lanky and oversized. But in spite of the strangeness of its build, it cuts an intimidating figure. Ghostly armor completely covers every inch of its 'body' and in its 'hands' are a pair of phantasmal swords. An almost overpowering amount of qi radiates from its burning red eyes and across its quicksilver form.

While many things are still unclear to you about it, one thing's certain. This... is the personification of his soul and the origin of his powers! This is your target!

Choking back a smile, you taking a deep breath and caress the Vajra tenderly with your fingers as you extend your arm to its full length. Time to bring this battle to its conclusion.

You:
[ ] Invoke the Five Thunderbolts with the Vajra.
[ ] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.
----------

Also, sorry about the delays. Wednesdays are always busy for me, yesterday particularly so.
>> No. 95552
[ ] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.
>> No. 95558
[X] Invoke the Five Thunderbolts with the Vajra.
Just cause I think this sounds coooler.
>> No. 95565
[x] Materialize your Stand Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.
>> No. 95575
[x] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.
>> No. 95585
[x] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.

We've learned to rely on our own strength in this battle. Why stop now?
>> No. 95591
[0] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.
>> No. 95602
[x] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.

It's not a stand, honest.
>> No. 95612
[x] Invoke the Five Thunderbolts with the Vajra.
>> No. 95617
[ℤℯ] Invoke the Five Thunderbolts with the Vajra.
>> No. 95620
[x] Materialize your Fighting Spirit with the Vajra.
>> No. 95905
Updates?
>> No. 95995
File 12541117964.jpg - (97.00KB , 284x269 , McCoy.jpg ) [iqdb]
95995
>> No. 95996
>>95995
A bit early for that.
>> No. 96074
Writing now, tomorrow should see updates back to normal speed. I had been hoping to make great progress over the weekend but was too tired from lack of sleep during the week to do much of anything. My apologies.
>> No. 96103
----------
Your Vajra. Painstakingly adorned with purifying mantras and polished to a mirror finish, the might of Indra and of the Five Great Virtues exists peerless crystalized within its fine bronze. Its spiritual power is nothing short of incredible; it can summon unstoppable lightning to strike down the wicked, dispel the most ancient of curses and enchantments, cure any sickness or injury short of death or...

Raising it aloft, you focus and clear your mind of doubt and uncertainty. Though this is easily the most demanding miracle you've actualized and though you've only a few seconds before Youki regains his sight, you're confident that this silent prayer will be completely and unfailingly answered. That's because this time, you're not petitioning a God, Buddha, Bodhisattva or any such supernatural agency. No, this prayer is to yourself - to the 'instinct' that resides in your mind; the guardian spirit that's protected and guided you through the myriad troubles in your life. It's never failed you when your life's been in danger, and with the Vajra's help, you'll surely reach it.

In but a single moment, you communicate the situation completely and in a way which transcends the limitations of language. Your entreaty isn't of words, but of feelings; of your amazement at the skill of Youki's technique, of your fear blossoming into a high disdain for death, of your unbreakable resolve to emerge victorious, of your desire to demonstrate to Youki that the 'why' of fighting is as important as the 'how,' and above all, of your (presently) platonic love for your new companions and your genuine longing to protect them. You exclude nothing, no matter how trivial or embarassing, laying bare the most sincere emotions of your heart.

As if in answer to you, an overwhelming brilliance, as if the light of the stars was incarnated into your left hand, dissolves the lengthening shadows of the afternoon around you. Has your plea been heard? As the Vajra in your hand smokes and crumbles, you-

"Thanks for not running away. Here's a token of my gratitude."

Four blades, two corporeal and two spectral, scythe at your ribcage and left shin as Youki closes with you in a single step. ...By all rights, you should be dead. With your left hand occupied by the ritual and your staff lowered in a neutral position, stopping any of them, much less all of them, should have been impossible for you.

...For you.

The first slash was riposted to the side by its knife.

The second slash was blocked with its scepter.

The third slash was entangled in its rope.

The fourth slash was caught between the spokes of its wheel and shunted aside.

And then, silence.

Though he doesn't show it on his face, the extent of Youki's apprehension is evident. He's stopped attacking; nearly dropping his swords in surprise as he backs away from you with measured steps. When he's about twenty feet back, he stops, sheathes his longer blade and closes his eyes as if in concentration. As he does, the spectral knight following his actions fades from your vision.

"How were you able to call one?! " His dispassionate mask completely shattered, he grits his teeth and points to your front, his eyes burning with fury. They're blue again...?

Either way, it looks like he can see it too. Floating crossleggedly in a seated position in front of you, its eyes closed and palms upraised is a powerfully built humanoid. The dignity of its golden body and high crown stand in stark contrast to the faded crimson rags exposing most of its chest and barely covering its waist. A different weapon is held in each of its six, muscular arms; a bejeweled rod, a rope, a knife, a pagoda, a thunderbolt and a blazing wheel. Since its figure is strongly reminiscent of the mighty Wisdom Kings, you've chosen to call him...

"Acala. Praise be unto my glorious name." Leveling his staff at Youki, he answers for you in a booming voice.

"As for your second question, I'm just a wandering, itinerant priest who's slightly displeased that his companions have been threatened. Nothing more. As I said to you earlier, you would do well not to underestimate your opponents. Rather than asking me why I'm so outstanding, maybe you should ask yourself if you're as strong as you think you are?" Once again, you just smile and shrug nonchalantly. It's the truth.

Youki glares at you for a long moment, before closing his eyes and drawing his huge, left-hand blade again. His 'soul' once again flickers into your sight as he looks at you with an emotionless expression and... red eyes.

"Talking would have given you a bit longer before I decided to kill you. A shame."

You drop into a defensive posture, but his charge never reaches you. Your protector, Acala, magnificently intercepts Youki's attack on your behalf. Without even leaving his seated pose, his six arms work in perfect synchronization and not only block every single hit, but counterattacks with his unoccupied weapons. For all his skill, Youki seems to be unused to fighting a six-armed opponent and is quickly forced to abandon his aggressive strikes. The momentum of the battle becomes familiar to you; its a higher stakes mirror of your earlier fight against single-sword Youki. The quicksilver knight's agility and swiftness far outstrip Acala, but if slower, his attacks are both more numerous and more dangerous. From every side, the 'soul' parries and wards against skewering, stumbling, bludgeoning, blasting, electrocution, and incineration. Unless something changes, this will be your victory.

And something changes. Youki isn't blind to the danger of allowing this situation to repeat itself; it's obvious that if you were able to recognize this pattern that he would also. He sheathes his swords and leaps, covering fifty feet in a single backstep. Acala doesn't make it easy for him, lifting the pagoda high and summoning a burning ray of light as he lobs his wheel and hurls his thunderbolt. ...What happens next is unbelievable. With a graceful step, Youki dances around the pagoda's light, spins low to evade the wheel and grazes the thunderbolt as he twirls to the side. Coming out of the spin, he draws and throws his both swords at you in a single smooth motion as his doppelganger follows suit. The four deadly blades rend the air with a blue light, singing a deathly dirge as Acala phases out and materializes in front of them. His rope catches the first and next two are blocked by his rod and knife, but the fourth...

You double over with pain as your left palm splits open with a sickening crunch. Acala's frozen in the same position as yourself, a spectral sword pierced cleanly through his left hand; its tip mere centimeters from his heart. Suddenly, Youki is in your face. Or rather, his knee is in your face. An explosion of color races across your unfocused eyes and you're knocked backwards, falling on your rear and dropping your staff.

The sound of footsteps from behind you. "Stay back or he gets it!" Youki shouts with a look of insane determination before planting another knee in your gut and knocking the wind from your lungs. From between the second and third knuckle of his right fist, something gleams as he swings it at your face. Pain runs through your arm as you catch his clenched hand and feel an arrowhead cut your right palm.

...

Laughter. A quiet, feminine giggling that could only be Konngara's envelops your back, takes hold of your ears and calls an enigmatic smile to your face. She understands. He's miscalculated; you've won. As you retemporize your breathing, a golden afterimage follows your right arm as you lift his hand and squeeze. Youki screams with pain as you break most of the bones in his right hand before elbowing him in the chest. The power of your blow sends him flying backwards and into the ground with incredible force. You walk over to him, picking up your staff and placing it to his throat. Weakly coughing up mouthfuls of blood, he stares at you with a murderous expression in his (deep blue) eyes.

All traces of your earlier provocation and mockery gone, you look down on him with resolution and gravitas. "I've won this contest. Do you yield?"

"You... Yield?... I'll s-" He answers haltingly, spitting out blood between each of his words before stopping altogether midsentence. He's no longer looking at you but at something above you, behind your head. ...Does he honestly think you'll fall for a juvenile trick like this? Where's his honor? Why doesn't he just admit defea-

Something makes you stop speaking too. Above you, beside you and in front of you are butterflies. Pink and blue butterflies with wings of shining gossamer blink into existence all around the two of you. The air around you stagnates and chills as a sickening sweetness, like the smell of overripe fruit, turns your stomach and makes it difficult to breathe. Even without your training and experience, you'd be able to recognize this presence. The capacity to see it is graven in the hearts and minds of every living being. This... is the death knell, made manifest and stunningly beautiful, if not less dreadful.

And then you notice. Youki's not just staring at them with rapt attention. With the slightest of nods and shakes, he's communicating with them, his expression entirely unreadable, showing nary a hint of mirth or discontent. But you're too late. When he realizes that you've finally become aware of this, he looks at you for a long moment before turning his eyes back up at the now-clouds of butterflies and giving a nod. They swirl downwards, fluttering their wings in a ghastly waltz as they swathe around you. As a single pink butterfly slows to alight on your right hand, you:

[ ] Welcome it. You don't fear death, remember?
[ ] Bat it away. Don't you need to save your friends?
[ ] Ignore it. If you finish off Youki, will these disappear?
[ ] Do something else. Specify?
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>> No. 96106
[x] Welcome it. You don't fear death, remember?
>> No. 96110
[x] Welcome it. You don't fear death, remember?

Perhaps we can share our side of the story.
>> No. 96114
[x] Welcome it. You don't fear death, remember?
>> No. 96128
[x] Welcome it. You don't fear death, remember?
>> No. 96131
[x] Welcome it. You don't fear death, remember?
>> No. 96187
Reading this again, I noticed I missed something while editing.

>"How were you able to call one?!"

This should actually say:

>"How were you able to call one?! And just what are you, really?!" His dispassionate mask... etc

Also, writing now.
>> No. 96208
----------
You're not afraid of death and even if you were, they're surrounding you too thickly for you to possibly resist. No matter what happens, you'll face it in level-headed, self-respecting manner with no regrets. But there's one thing you need to do first.

Dropping your staff, you look over your shoulder. Her pale face illumined by ambient pink and blue glow, Mima's confronting the bright veil of butterflies between you with her eyes closed and hands crossed, as if incantating. Immediately behind her, whispering to her from over her shoulder is Konngara, a worried expression on her face. Both of them notice your attention at the same time and lest they try and do anything rash, you act first. With a courageous smile, you lift your right hand to your hat in a salute. No further words are necessary. As you turn back around, you open your palm and catch the butterfly, which had been circling your head patiently. As the world becomes a blur...

...

>You're... the one who defeated Youki?

Yes and no. I am but a fragment, empowered to act on his behalf.

>I-I didn't... kill him, did I?

Negative. He is merely indisposed as a natural consequence of blood loss and magical exhaustion. It is of no consequence either way, for when you address me, it is no different from addressing him."

>I... see. W-well, that's fine I suppose. Um... I'm Youki's master, the Lady Saigyouji."

So I discerned. What business do you have with Acala, High King of the Four Directions and Protector of Variocana?

>Er... you're the great Wisdom King? No wonder Youki was defeated...

Indeed.

>A-anyway, please allow me to humbly make a request of you, O Wisdom King.

Rectificying speech impediments or deficiencies of self-confidence is outside my sphere of governance.

>...Hey, that's mean.

I apologize to you for my jesting at your expense, but it was not without good intentions. The timid and insecure lack the necessary disposition to adequately receive the Dharma and thus, they are consigned to wander blindly and benightedly within the Wheel of Death till they realize their error. So as to attain Nirvana more quickly, strive to reform your conduct.

>Um... I'll give it my best effort, then.

Good. Now what was it you wished to ask of Acala?

>Well... feel free to refuse, but... I'd like to meet you and your friends. I never wanted things to turn out like this! I-I sent Youki to extend my greetings and invitation to the mountain shrine's current protector, but... he disobeyed my orders a-and...

Your servant has undeniable skill with his weapons, but a surfeit of willfulness, pettiness and condescension.

>Yes, I know. Please forgive him, Wisdom King. Youki's possessed of many faults, but he honest cares about me, maybe too much. He's my... only real friend...

I bear him no grudge. Though his afflictions are numerous, his virtues are no less significant. If he strives to learn from his mistakes, he may actually reach Enlightenment within this lifetime. Now, with regards to your prior request, I...

[ ] ...Accept.
[ ] ...Decline.
[ ] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?
[ ] ...Must consult the opinions of my comrades.
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>> No. 96212
[Ω] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?
>> No. 96213
[x] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?
>> No. 96217
[0] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?
>> No. 96221
[x] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?

Hasty, Hasty, like Father, like Daughter it seems (youmu's infamous for her impulsiveness with her sword)

We should find out what she has in mind then consider it. She might be of assistance to our quest, especially since her servant acted so rashly.

But this kinda confirms Konngara's position... a hakurei most likely.
>> No. 96223
[ODIN] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?

Don't agree to anything without knowing what you're agreeing to. Tends to end badly.
>> No. 96226
[x] ...Would like to know, for what purpose do you require our presence?
>> No. 96238
Writing in a bit (need to get home, make dinner etc.) The bump limit is 250, right?
>> No. 96239
>>96238

Yes.
>> No. 96284
>>96239
Alright, thanks. Writing's mostly done, but I need to polish it, etc. New thread tomorrow.
>> No. 96577
continued at >>96336