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File 12813324235.png - (583.24KB, 1899x842, 5f7591c2df3c3ce031ae8f0a582d545f.png) [iqdb]
5444 No. 5444
Silence.

Clank!

...Relative silence.

Clank!

A lovely little iron metronome, pushing forward however slowly with every tick and every tock.

Clank!

After a while, it doesn't even register as noise. At this depth echos are swallowed by an impenetrable darkness before the next strike, making for an unorthodox sanctuary from the outside world. The burning in my muscles is just a price to pay for such serenity. When I first started, it was a different story; The silence was deafening, and spending days on end with black on every side let my imagination fill it with all kinds of horrors. All of them were real, yeah, but there's danger in some form or another no matter where or how you work. There's no profit without risk, no risk with enough skill, and no skill without hard work. The only people who never fuck up are the ones who never do anything, right?

Thunk.

The moment I've been waiting for. Ultrasonics brought back a huge air pocket down here, and when you're looking for what I'm looking for that's a red flag. Either way, I need to be careful – the slightest slip-up can spell disaster.

For example, letting some fucking kid throw a rock down my hole to see how far down it goes.
For example, getting hit with said rock.
For example, not properly securing myself before letting an inch-wide hole open up into a mile-wide cavern.

On the bright side, my mile-long drop is padded nicely by a mile-high building. Even in the few seconds I have before impacting with the roof, it's pretty clear that if I play my cards right the term "gold mine" would be an understatement. The distant twinkle of torches and lamps becomes a brilliant sparkle against the walls of the palace, though it's too dark to tell exactly what it's gilded with. One look at the bell tower and its incredible stained glass mural, though, and scraping walls becomes the least of my concern. Of course, that isn't too high on the list either, considering the likelihood that I've simultaneously broken something and pissed off someone important by crashing through the roof.

At least there was an attic.

[ ] Bolt. This place is enormous, and there's clearly something on the ground – plenty of space to lose any would-be pursuers.
[ ] Hide. There's plenty of boxes and things in here, and it's plenty dark; it shouldn't be too hard.
[ ] Negotiate. That degree in psychology's come in handy more than a few times.
--[ ] Play it smooth. There's no such thing as my superior.
--[ ] No one can fault a victim of circumstance. I fell down a hole, that's all.
[ ] Fuck it, my supplies came with me. I can still fight.
Expand all images
>> No. 5446
[ ] Fuck it, my supplies came with me. I can still fight.
>> No. 5447
[x] Negotiate. That degree in psychology's come in handy more than a few times.
--[x] No one can fault a victim of circumstance. I fell down a hole, that's all.
>> No. 5455
[x] Negotiate. That degree in psychology's come in handy more than a few times.
--[x] Play it smooth. There's no such thing as my superior.

I'm sure that whoever comes to investigate will be swayed by our confident attitude, wit, and roguish charms.
>> No. 5456
[x] Fuck it, my supplies came with me. I can still fight.

Iiiiiinteresting.
>> No. 5469
[X] Negotiate. That degree in psychology's come in handy more than a few times.
--[X] No one can fault a victim of circumstance. I fell down a hole, that's all.
>> No. 5470
[Q] Hide. There's plenty of boxes and things in here, and it's plenty dark; it shouldn't be too hard.

We can get a hold on things this way.
>> No. 5473
[x] Negotiate. That degree in psychology's come in handy more than a few times.
--[x] No one can fault a victim of circumstance. I fell down a hole, that's all.

I think it's kind of odd that it took this long for a CYOA to have someone tunneling into the underground.
>> No. 5478
>>5473
Is it really?

Writing now. If all goes well, I should be able to update tonight and again in the morning.
>> No. 5480
[x] Negotiate. That degree in psychology's come in handy more than a few times.
--[x] Play it smooth. There's no such thing as my superior.
MC's most important strength and weakness.
>> No. 5481
File 128139350975.jpg - (768.46KB, 1600x1200, 3534359.jpg) [iqdb]
5481
The sound of rattling from below fades smoothly into a rhythmic stomping, heavy enough to hear through the floor yet restrained, like you might hear from one of those goddamn businessmen back above. I've never met one that wasn't a manipulative, two-faced, thieving, hedonistic hypocrite.

At least I'm honest about it.

A slam and a change in the tone of the steps draws me back to the present. Laying against the cool stone floor, there's not much to do but try to size up my injuries and think of a plan with an ear to the floor. No response from my left hand...probably dislocated something. Should be easy enough to fix. A deep pressure running through my lungs with every breath and keeping them shallow, but no particularly sharp pain. Probably just a bad bruise. An annoying though not crippling dizziness, and arms just a bit too sore to chalk up to a long day at work. Nothing I can't shrug off. For the sake of the act, though, there are few roles a broken man can take but a humble one. Just as well, really. Everyone feels like a friend to men they "save", and the easiest defense to pass through is one that welcomes you.

As I wait, my eyes adjust to the vague lighting of the palace. There is no source to speak of; rather, a faint glow seems to emanate from everywhere at once, like a night sky in a village just big enough to count as a town. With my vision becoming more and more clear, so does the complete and utter emptiness of the room. Nothing adorns the walls or ceiling, and aside from the collection of smooth iron boxes (Are they even boxes, really? From this angle, all I can make out are featureless walls that stop a short way up.) the floor is equally empty. Not even a lone insect or speck of dust seems present, leaving me nothing to distract myself with but pain. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It's always good to be told that you're still alive.

"Holy shit! What happened here?" Speaking of which. "Are you okay?"
Struggling to wheeze out an answer produces a low "No," which is enough for her to drop to her knees, inspecting my body more closely than is comfortable. Poking and prodding for groans isn't the best form of medicine I could ask for, but hey, maybe it is down here. You can never tell with these underground civilizations. After inflicting what is apparently a satisfactory amount of pain, she speaks again.
"Fuck. You're alive." Not the tone I was hoping for. Her voice falls somewhere between whiney and gravelly; high and cute but with a hint of interference like a smoker or someone with a sore throat. "You know how hard it is to find fresh corpses down here? It's like nobody dies! By the time I can get anything decent back down, they're already rotting." Midway through, she grabs me by the head and turns me. Presumably, she wants to talk face to uncomfortably close face. Not difficult, considering it's all I can see now. Her features are sharp and frightfully pale, seeming to have a glow all their own aside from the building. Loose strands of fiery hair fall in front of her thin ruby eyes, which themselves glare daggers. If I wasn't on death's door, I'd probably be hitting on her.
Interrupting that thought swiftly and fiercely, she continues, "And you just had to come crashing down here and getting my hopes up. If I wasn't so frustrated with you, I'd be sad enough to cry! Then what, mister not-dead? What would you have to say for yourself then?"
"Help?" Probably the same thing I'd have to say now. It doesn't seem to be the right answer, though, as she tosses my head back to the floor with a roll of the eyes and a sneer.
"Typical. Fine, fine. I'll get you to the in-house doctor...if you can promise me something." Dropping her voice to a whisper, she practically pounces on me. Her hands land on the floor with a slap, and our eyes lock, just as close as they were a moment ago. "I want you to promise me that you'll be worth helping. I don't know who you are or what brought you here, and I don't know what you're going to do with that promise, but you have to promise me. Make it worth my time, all right?"

[ ] This can only end well.
[ ] I've read enough stories about deals with devils. No thanks.

---

I should note that we're playing fast and loose with canon. Even if you know the characters, don't assume that you know them.
>> No. 5483
[X] I've read enough stories about deals with devils. No thanks.

Fuck you, I have principles.
>> No. 5484
[Q] This can only end well.

Hopeless optimism, here we go!
>> No. 5486
[X] This can only end well.

Getting help would be nice. Random dizziness isn't a good thing to just ignore.

It's an empty promise anyway since we just have to help here at some point. No specifications
>> No. 5487
[X] This can only end well.

Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me-nya~
>> No. 5488
>>5486
I'm going to go ahead and remind you that he did just crash through a ceiling solely from gravity. That dizziness isn't exactly random.
>> No. 5489
>>5488

Yeah, that's the point. Shrugging off dizziness after a fall isn't a good idea.
>> No. 5490
[P] This can only end well.

We are off to a fine start, yes indeed. Have discovered underground civilization, and that it has hot chicks. These are important things that warrant close investigation.

I foresee wondrous things.
>> No. 5495
>>5489
>Shrugging off dizziness after a fall isn't a good idea.
Why? It sounds like something natural to me. Being dizzy all the time would be annoying.

[x] This can only end well.
>> No. 5496
[x] This can only end well.
>> No. 5497
>>5473
>I think it's kind of odd that it took this long for a CYOA to have someone tunneling into the underground.

>>/others/13294 (ongoing)
>>/underground/113 (dead)

How did you miss these awesome stories?
>> No. 5498
>>5497
I think he meant must have meant specifically tunneling underground, as opposed to just exploring caves like in ULA and Deeper Underground.
>> No. 5500
[x] I've read enough stories about deals with devils. No thanks.
We aren't even injured enough to warrant an IRON HEART SURGE. This amount of pain is nothing.
>> No. 5501
File 128142158235.png - (76.76KB, 239x234, 1270107895697.png) [iqdb]
5501
>(dead)
>> No. 5502
>>5490
Oh, my. Now I have standards to meet!

Such trusting people. Writing, though I'm unsure of whether I'll be able to finish before work.
>> No. 5503
File 128145098723.png - (1.87MB, 1075x1267, 1277897116217.png) [iqdb]
5503
"Sure." Getting easier to speak, but I'd still rather avoid it. Besides, once you pick an act you have to stick with it to the end. I've only made that mistake once, and I still consider myself the luckiest man alive for having survived it. With a devious grin that barely spreads her lips but still seems to cover her entire face, she backs off as calmly as one can when springing into the air and landing a meter away.
"Good, good! Great! Wonderful! Fantastic! I just need you to say the words yourself. 'I promise' is enough. It can wait till I get back, though, I'd rather keep you off your feet." Well, at least I'll have time to compo-"Sorry for the wait!" ...Or not.

The girl's hands snake their way under me, and she lifts me in the air gently with a strength unbecoming of her size. As I make a mental note never to get on her bad side (or at least to plan on it first) she rocks me back and forth like a child, cooing softly. "Now, we're going to make it all better. No more pain, just a nice little Orinrin ride downstairs. All I need is that promise." Quite the insistent one.
"I promise." Before the words even finish making their way from my mouth, she flashes a toothy grin with a few too many canines.
"I'm holding you to that." Wind rushes by my ears, and another impact draws forth a cringe and a curse. The smell of death shoots my eyes open, revealing a rickety wheelbarrow so deeply stained that it's hard to tell whether it was ever really clean. It doesn't take long to make the connection to the corpses she was talking about. Thankfully, my line of thought is interrupted when my face gets whipped by her long braids. Something tells me eye contact is important for her. "Don't worry about holding on. Just relax."

This girl actually reminds me of someone I met a while back. There was this young woman at an amusement park who fell asleep on the roller coaster right next to me. We hit it off, and for the rest of the day she tried to teach me the trick to it. She wasn't a very good teacher. Kept falling asleep. At the time I didn't really think it would be such a great skill to have, but at this moment not catching on is my deepest regret. Scenery passes at a blinding speed, some of it lit and some of it dark. The girl doesn't neglect to bang her cart against even a single step on the way down, taking an opportunity to do tricks on the way down just to drive home the pain. It feels like every floor is slanted, and when more than one barrel roll is punctuated by a giggle and a "Whoops!", it's easy to believe they really are.

A library, a laboratory, a church, a petting zoo, a playground, a kitchen, a gym, a group bedroom. If I didn't know better, I'd say a hurricane came through the city and built a palace by accident. The cart finally comes to a screeching halt in a bright white room (placed conveniently next to what I can only assume to be a combination torture chamber sex room, judging from the whips, chains, and assortment of fuzzy handcuffs) which quickly loses its shine to a load of half-digested ravioli. Maybe I really am getting too old for Chef Boyardee.

"And we're here! Wasn't that fun? I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to go on a ride with me every day! Just say the word!" Never again. I don't even want to look at that damn cart right now.
"My, my! Look what the cat dragged in!" Luckily, I don't have to. Another woman calls out from across the room, having spotted us through the windows of a double-door. Her outfit certainly doesn't make her look like a doctor; loose dirty blonde hair hangs over a revealing brown tube top and a matching short skirt. Underneath those are fishnets, both on her torso and legs, ending in intimidatingly spiky black boots. Around her neck is an elaborate spiderweb necklace that seems to stay together only by virtue of either luck or magic, which doubles as a choker. I wonder how long it takes to put on in the morning.
My "savior" retorts with a proud, indignant tone as the new woman steps over the puddle on the floor to inspect me closer. "I didn't drag him! I pushed him. There's a difference."
"Either way. What's he here for?" Cold as ice, and just as bored. You'd think people crash through the roof every day.
"...You know, I never thought to ask." Clicking her tongue, she rolls her eyes and starts poking and prodding again. Is this where the girl gets it from?
"Then what are you here for? This wouldn't be the first time you've been punished for slacking off, Orin."
"What, I can't stick around and help the poor lost boy get better?"
"Better? If I know you, you'll be poisoning his food the second I turn my back. Get lost."
"That hurts, Yamame. You know I only do honest work." Despite her protests, I can hear the doors behind me open and shut without another word. At least I have her name now; I'll know who to avoid. In short order, the inspection ends and Yamame helps me to my feet. She stands at about eye level to where I should be, but with everything that's been happening it's hard not to slouch.

"Quite the entrance you've made. I take it you got a ride from the attic?" Must have made quite the bang when I came in.
"Yeah. I fell into a hole, and it just kind of didn't end. When I came to, I was here." Her features are soft, but it's not hard to see the underlying annoyance in each of her motions. I can't really blame her.
"Hell of a story. It's a wonder you aren't dead."
"So I've been told."
"That's not a good thing. Get in a bed." You expect me to put myself in a more vulnerable position just after telling me that I should have died? I may do some really stupid things, but I'm not that much of an idiot. Sensing my distrust, she puts her hand on my shoulder and lets out an exasperated sigh. "Look. I'm not going to kill you. You're going to wish that I had killed you later on, but I'm not going to kill you. If you can't believe me, then go ahead and try to escape without getting lost, running into someone who doesn't have a local to vouch for you, or – if you somehow, miraculously make it out – wandering the city aimlessly until you starve to death. It's your choice, I won't stop you."
"And if I get in the bed?"
"Then you save everyone time and effort."

Options, options.

[ ] She has a point. Get in the bed.
[ ] How odd! I'm feeling better already! Ask for a guided tour, or at least to get dropped off somewhere.
[ ] Well, you have her blessing. Get the hell out of here.
>> No. 5504
[Q] She has a point. Get in the bed.

I can't see a point in resisting right now. Plus, angry Orin, bad news.
>> No. 5505
[X] She has a point. Get in the bed.

>Plus, angry Orin, bad news.
She was angry since finding out the MC was still alive.
>> No. 5506
>>5505

I mean, more angry if we tried to skip out on our promise.
>> No. 5507
[x] She has a point. Get in the bed.

I think we might have gotten in over our heads.

>>5481
>I should note that we're playing fast and loose with canon.

Is some respect being paid to it?
>> No. 5508
[x] She has a point. Get in the bed.
>> No. 5510
>Bondage queen/medicine woman Yamame
I'm okay with this.

[X] She has a point. Get in the bed.
>> No. 5511
[x] She has a point. Get in the bed.
>>5510
Agreed.~
>> No. 5512
>>5506
No one said running away and fulfilling your promise were mutually exclusive.

>>5507
Not enough for you to make any assumptions. I mean, there's a few assumptions that would be safe to make (as they would be correct) but do you really want to take your chances? I certainly wouldn't.

I highly doubt that I'll be able to update before tomorrow night, but seeing as y'all jumped on this story like hot to asphalt I'm going to try my damnedest.

For those who like to plan ahead, Thursday is my day off and I have very, very little else to do with my time. We're talking three updates if you can vote fast enough.
>> No. 5514
[x] She has a point. Get in the bed.
>> No. 5521
Well. No point delaying the (supposedly) inevitable. Which, of course, is why my legs are set to "mosey". Ambling might be nice, but I'm certainly not up for dragging or (god forbid) schlepping. After turning a three-pace walk into a thirty-second one, the surprisingly comfortable bed greets me with a characteristic crinkle-creak-hiss. "So what are you gonna do to me, exactly?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. I might have a little fun with you while you're down, but I'd be more concerned about what the boss has planned."
"Sounds kinky. I'm down." Damn, no reaction? I thought that one would be right up your alley.
"Sorry, kid. I don't take my goods pre-worn." She does however coax me to lay down instead of sit, pushing against me with one slender hand. Supporting herself against my chest, she brings her face a breath away from mine. "Word to the wise, though? Don't joke like that. Someone might take you seriously." And pulls it back, standing by the bed as uninterested as ever.
"Who ever said it was a joke?"
"You're right. The only joke around here is you." Ouch. She has a point, though – something's holding my arms and legs down, and I didn't even see her put it in place. "Anyways. She should be coming by in short order. Probably already knows you're here."
"Another woman, huh? Tell me more. Maybe I can seduce her instead." Somehow, her laugh is more unsettling than her...everything else. Somewhere between a giggle and a sharp chuckle, it echos where there was no echo before.
When it finally ends, my spine feels like it's whispering to me. "No, no. She's the sort you have to meet yourself." As though on cue, the lights flicker and distort. In one moment, they shift colors to red to green to purple to blue to yellow to silver that fades like a timeworn jewel, finally settling on all of them at once. The walls look like the bottom of a pool on a sunny day, lines of light shifting around with the flow of water, and all the while Yamame doesn't seem to notice at all.

"Uh...I'm not doin' so good." Fuck. Even my own voice doesn't feel like my own voice. To make matters worse, ice queen over there is starting to look the part. Her fishnets are shifting around like pieces in those annoying slider puzzles where you think you've got it but there's one last part that's on the other side of the board so now you have to go and ruin everything just to bring it back. Her features float around like living things, crashing and spinning into one another and splitting apart. That necklace is expanding, draping over her body and onto the floor like a wedding shawl. She speaks, apparently, but any words she might have said are caught in the air. The vibrations take a second to settle down, but they never quite reach me.

A sinking feeling grabs me at the pit of my stomach as I realize how slanted the floors are. I don't know how this bed isn't sliding down into...whatever the fuck you'd call that. At the center of the slope, there's not just a hole, there's some kind of vortex of heat. Unbearable heat. Why is it so hot? I need to get my clothes off, but I can't move my arms. I can't move my fucking arms. A shock shoots through my head like lightning, and I know the source is the monster standing before me. It's formless and colorless but so vivid that it can't not be there because nothing is nothing, you can see it when you look for what's not there. My brain ties into a knot, and another and another until it's just not and the mold and ice cover it until it shatters. My spine stops whispering. My spine starts shouting.

---

I wake up to the sound of a scream, fading from my memory with the dream it inhabited. Thankfully, my alarm is set to go off in five minutes anyways. May as well get an early start on the day.

Breakfast comes and goes in the morning haze, and by the time I'm fully cognitive my boots are pounding pavement. Just as well, really. There's nothing really interesting for me at home, and I get along with the people at work better anyways. Every time I try to strike up a conversation or even give someone a friendly wave on the streets, I get a dirty look like I'm some kind of criminal. You'd think they're all Yanks or something. Maybe they just have a thing against government workers?

Oh, well. At least I have something nice to look at on the way in; the miasma is sparkling beautifully against the palace's stained glass mural, adopting its colors subtly and lending its depth to the patterns. (Who ever said city architecture was all drab?) The doors to the palace are open by the time I get to them, now that they've learned my name around here. First time I came through, there was quite the misunderstanding and a bit of bloodshed to boot.
"Morning, Parsee."
"Go fuck yourself." She'll get over it.

...Unfortunately, my sense of direction isn't what it always was. I'll get it in another couple days, I'm sure, but I still have to hail down the first person I see for directions.

"Excuse me..."

[ ] "...Which way to the site, again?"
[ ] "...Which way to the doctor's office, again?"
[ ] "...Which way to R&D, again?"

---

Last minute update in every sense of the word. No picture, no time to look for one.
>> No. 5525
[X] "...Which way to the doctor's office, again?"

More Yamame, if you please.
>> No. 5529
[x] "...Which way to the site, again?"
Racists. Racists everywhere.
Just how much time did we skip? I mean, everyone knows our name and all.
>> No. 5531
[Q] "...Which way to the site, again?"

I'm wondering if this is some kind of hallucination, or if we actually did timeskip.
>> No. 5534
[x] "... Which way to the site, again?"

What happened? I am so lost.
>> No. 5535
[X] "...Which way to R&D, again?"
Okuu choice?

Wait, was Yamame just the nurse and Koishi was the doctor? Goddamn it Koishi!
>> No. 5538
[x] "...Which way to the site, again?"
>> No. 5540
[X] "...Which way to the doctor's office, again?"

Doctor, Doctor, tell me the news...
>> No. 5543
>>5534
Mission accomplished, I suppose. Rest assured, things did happen - this wasn't just a nonsensical, random breakdown. Kind of a shame being a doctor didn't win, or it'd be easier to shoehorn in some clarification.

I am fortunate to have finished that update this morning. A number of unfortunate coincidences have taken place, and writing will be difficult this evening. I'll try, of course, but I may have to update in the morning.
>> No. 5544
[x] "...Which way to the doctor's office, again?"
>> No. 5546
>>5543
What did win then? And we didn't know it'd determine what job we'd have.
>> No. 5552
[X] "...Which way to the doctor's office, again?"
>> No. 5553
>>5546
I suppose now would be a bad time to mention that unless I explicitly say "writing now", voting is still open. If I haven't started yet it's a lot easier to change my plans, and I always feel terrible when someone's just a bit too slow and misses the vote in other stories but throws it in ineffectually anyways.(Especially when it's something big.)

In other news, up way too early and vaguely nauseous. Let's see if it shows. Writing now.
>> No. 5554
File 128161060434.jpg - (128.34KB, 333x500, 3242966904_ed6a340dcd.jpg) [iqdb]
5554
"...Which way to the doctor's office, again?"
"What, you still haven't got it down? I guess working with Yamame, you'd want to forget your day as quick as possible, but really now." I'm getting scolded by interns now? What am I, Rodney Dangerfield?
"You should be careful talking like that, you know. You can never be sure who'll hear you."
"Oh, come on. Have they already got the fear in you? Relax, it's not like they can do worse than fire you."
"Yes we can." Dropping from the high ceiling of the lobby, Yamame gives the boy a solid (if upside-down) stare which quickly softens as she cups a hand gently around his cheek. "And we can make you enjoy it, too." As quickly as she appeared, she zips silently back into darkness with the boy in tow.

You know, a lot of people don't care for the good doctor. It's her sense of humor, I think. She's sort of a lovable asshole, I've found; she'll do that sort of thing until you either start laughing with her or start avoiding her. There may also be the whole attitude about the world being her test subject, but what good doctor hasn't compromised their morals at some point or another? Progress can't be made without taking a few risks.

...Whoa. Déjà vu.
.
Another quick swing down, and I'm in her sturdy grip. I don't know how she can keep such a tight hold on you without it hurting, but she pulls it off. Getting dragged up through her personal shortcut is always a bit unsettling, though a good portion of that comes from being dragged through the air at all. It's also an early tip-off to a bad, bad mood. Normally, she likes to take it slow. Within a minute or so, the familiar sterility of the office and the subtle buzz of its lights nudges me toward the work mindset.

"Right then. We have a long day ahead of us. Subjects two and five need new doses, which means you're getting some hands-on training." Not my favorite activity, but at least I don't have to deal with three. That guy's a real prick. "Also, it's your turn to feed three." Mother fucker.
"Can I just observe for five, then? Three always takes a lot out of me." Without breaking stride, she turns and scowls at me, 'You done fucked up' written all over her.
"Why am I training you, again?" Shit. Not this again.
"To give you a chance at a day off, to allow you to run larger-scale experiments, and to eventually replace you." And what am I getting out of it?
"And what are you getting out of it?" For all the times we've had this conversation and for how easily I can spit out answers, you'd think I would remember not to piss her off after a while.
"A valuable skill set, which will in turn make me more useful to the company and allow me to gain the respect of my peers." Arriving in front of two's cell, she stops with her hands on her hips and glares at me.
"And?"
"And a place to live in relative comfort without having to pay rent." It may be boring, but you get what you pay for I guess.
"And?" Her expression doesn't budge an inch as she shifts to one leg and crosses her arms.
"And, should anything happen while you can't be reached, the ability to save lives."
"And?" ...Maybe I don't know it quite so well. Her tapping foot counts down the seconds I have to reply.
"...And..." Speaking slowly to gain even a second while I rack my brain, I can see her growing more and more irate. Her patience finally snaps, and she decides to cut me off by grabbing my face by the chin. It's a weird place to grab someone, but I think making them pucker their lips and all that is a good technique. Makes it harder for them to back talk, and easier for you to think of them as some idiot. Often times, they are.
"And you're getting the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with the lovely Miss Kurodani, head doctor of the Palace of Earth Spirits. Some people pay for this sort of treatment, you know. Don't you feel lucky?" Letting go of my face with a small slap, she doesn't wait for a reply before walking past me to open a heavy iron door. A gust of wind seems to take her aggressions with it, and she calls out with a smile and a sing-song tone. "He~y! Anyone home?"

See? Asshole.

In the corner, a young man in a plain white robe huddles up with his head buried in his knees. He only looks up when Yamame's hand grazes his shoulders, at which point he scrambles back. His hands slide desperately against the floor, unable to propel him to his feet, and when he reaches another corner I'm given the signal. Looks like I've got the easy job today. Moving toward him carefully, I can see the terror in his baggy, bloodshot eyes. His focus shifts from me to Yamame to the floor, looking for some kind of escape from the nothings assaulting him. Finally, he springs from the floor with an earth-shattering shout and a raised fist, but in the moment he chose to attack he gave me my opening. It's amazing what momentum can do for a person. All I had to do was grab his hand and spin, and before he realized it was behind his back his torso was already locked down. Good times.

Well, not for him, but you get the idea. With that same gentle face as before, Yamame steps up to him slowly and tries to calm him down. "Just relax, dear. Mom's gonna fix it all, soon." Her words have no effect on the boy, instead sending him into an even more desperate struggle. His head thrashes left and right, very nearly knocking into my nose. I know there's a better way to restrain people, but I don't know it and she won't teach me; Again, asshole. With both her step and her expression unwavering, she keeps cooing to him gently until her hand rests on his chest and her face sits close to his. Only now does the thrashing stop. "Mom's gonna put it all back the way it ought to be."

No matter how many times I see it happen, it never fails to creep me out. I can see her skin bulge under her clothes and move toward her hand, like some kind of insect is burrowing under it. When it reaches her fingertips, they turn a dark black for just a second before fading back to their usual, natural color. The boy's breathing steadies as his eyes shut, and his body goes limp in my arms. "One down. Let him rest; he didn't sleep last night. We'll continue observations when he wakes up." And so the day continues.

---

"It's getting late. You can save the rest of this for tomorrow, if you want. I'm about to pack up, myself."
"Shit, really? I could swear it's only been an hour or two. I must have been really absorbed in this." If nothing else, she gives interesting homework assignments. Though, is it really homework if you do it at work? Can work even give homework, or is that a school thing? And what if school is work? Semantics always drive me nuts.
"Sucking up isn't going to get you special treatment, you know."
"Don't lie to yourself. I saw you smiling."
"I could say the same to you." After putting her finishing touches on a paper, she starts filing things away into various folders and cases while carefully avoiding eye contact with me.
"Either way, I think I'll take you up on that. There was something I wanted to do today."
"Oh? Nothing too scandalous, I hope." Nothing more scandalous than what you'd get me into.

[ ] It's been a long time, I'm drinking myself stupid.
[ ] I can't keep asking people for directions around this damn place. I'm going to explore a bit.
[ ] Surprise myself. I'm gonna play tonight by ear. (Write-in general idea of where to start.)
[ ] "You." Bow-chicka-wow-wow.
>> No. 5555
[x] "You." Bow-chicka-wow-wow.
Bad end ahoy.
>> No. 5556
[Q] I can't keep asking people for directions around this damn place. I'm going to explore a bit.

Something about the way you do the perspective makes it hard to tell who's who and doing what sometimes. Or maybe I'm just tired.
>> No. 5557
[X] I can't keep asking people for directions around this damn place. I'm going to explore a bit.

It would help if you identified who spoke first in a dialog. It breaks the flow when I have to stop and figure it out through context.
>> No. 5558
>It's been a long time, I'm drinking myself stupid.
Yuugi encounter is tempting, but...

[X] I can't keep asking people for directions around this damn place. I'm going to explore a bit.
>> No. 5559
[x] I can't keep asking people for directions around this damn place. I'm going to explore a bit.

It's weird to be on the doctor end of the crazy psyche ward filled with monsters.
>> No. 5560
[x] I can't keep asking people for directions around this damn place. I'm going to explore a bit.

I'd think it'd take a bit more time before we can try making a pass at our boss. I think increasing our dependability would be a nice step.
>> No. 5561
[X] "You." Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

This doctor.
>> No. 5562
Looks like the winner is pretty clear, here. I didn't expect "You" to win, and I'm kind of glad it didn't because I mostly threw it in as a joke option. It still would have been fun seeing what I could come up with, though.

Writing now.
>> No. 5563
File 128164700545.jpg - (72.10KB, 504x389, sorta like this but way prettier.jpg) [iqdb]
5563
"Nah. I'm just getting tired of being lost; I was thinking a little exploration was in order." At this, she shoots me a smirk about as vicious as one can make a smirk.
"So your plan to stop getting lost is to go get lost? Brilliant."
"Hey, don't knock it till you try it. When you're lost, you spend a lot of time wandering around and landmarks get cemented into your head. Even if you forget where they are that time, the next time things will click. It's the best way to learn." Seriously. I've done it like a hundred times.
"Except when you don't find your way. People do leave this building, you know. Stay too late and you might end up locked in." Bah. What does she know? Common sense never got me anywhere. Turning a deaf ear to her 'advice', I lock up my drawer and head for the exit opposite her...personal room. That place always freaked me out. One last "G'night." accompanies the gentle swish of well-oiled double doors, and I find myself in one of the palace's few actual hallways. Space tends to be maximized, so every room has a purpose and they usually feed one directly into the next.

Even if those purposes are completely unrelated, like the printing press that sits between the glass blower and the weavers. I get the feeling this place was designed by a madman, and it's not hard to believe when the outside is as crooked as it is. It's some kind of magic holding it up, apparently, though the details are lost on me. Never really had a talent for that sort of thing. Magic or no, the passageways are winding and crooked, the room layouts are filled with doors that aren't really hidden but still manage to get tucked away behind other things, and half the staircases lead to dead ends. If nothing else, it certainly doesn't take long to lose myself.

...Maybe I should have listened to Yamame.

---

"Captain's log. Date unknown. We've been adrift for what feels like an eternity. I say we, of course, only in the sense that there were more of us when it began. The crew's morale has dropped steadily, and with it our numbers. I don't know how people manage to leave or where they're all going, but I fear that the deep black of empty space will be my only company in a short while. Despite the hopelessness of our situation, I can't help but feel like help is just around the corner. As much of a waste of resources as it may be, we can't stop moving. Any direction we may go will still be forward, damn it!" My fist pounds on a nearby wooden table, the stress seemingly enough to snap it in two with another few hits. I can't tell any more how much stems from legitimate frustration and how much is just playing the part, but either way I'd probably catch some shit if it actually broke. Scoot along, me. You'll find your way soon enough.

...is what I'd like to think, but it really has been ages. You wouldn't think an underground palace would get darker at night, but damn if it isn't nearly pitch black in here. At the very least, the place has this ambient light about it that never quite seems to go out. If you look really close, it's kind of like seeing light through water. You've seen this before. Yeah, every time I go through a dark room. No surprise there. Wait. I'm hearing things. Isn't that bad? Like, super-bad? Maybe it's time to find somewhere to lie down for a while...

The next room, for example! As I open another door I'm immediately greeted by a massive library, the far wall of which is occupied by the palace's iconic stained glass mural complete with convenient viewing benches. How long has that thing been here, anyways? It just seems too primal to be anything but ancient. No matter how many times I see it, it's positively entrancing. Getting this close and being able to make out every detail like this is an experience I'm glad to have stumbled upon.
"Why hello. So good to see you again." A person! Finally, I can get out of here! Just gotta find them through all these bookcases, and--
"Cut the shit. You know what I'm here for." People! Finally, I can hang back and not bother the clearly irate women with business to conduct. Look at that mural. So pretty!
"That I do! It doesn't change the fact that you're not getting it, of course." Yup. Not hearing anything, here. Nothing at all.
"Why are you so insistent on keeping her from me?!" Dooooesn't concern me.
"Why are you so insistent on fighting for her when you can just work for me like everyone else?" ...Or maybe it does.
"Maybe because your so-called revolution is a load of horse shit. Someone's going to catch on eventually, and then you'll have thrown away everything you were ever given. Do you really want that?" That's an odd place to put emphasis. Judging from the loud slapping sound, there's some very personal significance to it.
"Don't you fucking talk to me like that. Can you even begin to fathom what I've done for this city? What I continue to do every single day? I had to claw my way from under a pile of corpses just for a breath of fresh air, and nobody is going to tell me to do it again. I don't want to have to be the bad guy here. Just work with me, and we'll both get what we want."
"I'd rather cut off my arms."
"That can be arranged."

I can't ignore this any longer. Whatever's going down is way too serious for me to just pretend it never happened.

[ ] ...but I'm just not that strong. Time to swallow my pride and step away.
[ ] Step in. This argument can't go on like this.
[ ] Spy on them. As long as I know who's involved, I can deal with it from the shadows.
[ ] ...No. I have a better idea. (Write-in.)

---

>>5556
>>5557
Hm. Thank you for pointing that out. I'll try to avoid it in the future.
>> No. 5564
[X] Step in. This argument can't go on like this.
>> No. 5566
[x] Spy on them. As long as I know who's involved, I can deal with it from the shadows.
>> No. 5567
[Q] Spy on them. As long as I know who's involved, I can deal with it from the shadows.

Danger? Check.
Potential gain? Check.
>> No. 5568
[x] Spy on them. As long as I know who's involved, I can deal with it from the shadows.
Stepping into the fray would be a very bad idea. Both parties are clearly hostile, and probably wouldn't give two shits about killing a wayward human who sees their confrontation.
>> No. 5569
[x] Spy on them. As long as I know who's involved, I can deal with it from the shadows.
We;re an asshole, but a smart one.
>> No. 5571
[x] Spy on them. As long as I know who's involved, I can deal with it from the shadows.
>> No. 5572
It's weird how when I have more time, I'm less inclined to use it. Gonna try to get an update out before work; writing now.
>> No. 5573
File 128171523138.jpg - (224.01KB, 565x800, 1233957545593.jpg) [iqdb]
5573
Then again, it's not really my place to intervene. I like having all of my limbs in place. They come in handy. Still, this sounds like it could concern me. Much as I hate to sneak around like some kind of thief, my curiosity gets the best of me. Thankfully, the library's carpeting is soft enough to make sneaking around and looking for them effortless. As long as I keep my head out of sight, this shouldn't be too too dangerous...hopefully. Maybe.

And while I'm busy with internal conflict, the conversation keeps going. Can't keep letting myself slip like this. "I hope you realize I'm not alone."
"Oh, I'm sure you have a few friends. A group of delinquents as ragtag as your outfit, going up against a superpower with nothing but your vague friendship and personal grudges motivating you." The woman's voice drops, and I have to hold my breath just to make out her words. "Try it. I dare you." My eye rounds the corner just in time to see the impact. A cloud of dust and rubble shoots from where there was (presumably) a wall before, and the only thing I can make out in the hurried glances I steal is a grandiose white cape fluttering gently to the ground behind a head of unkempt black hair.

Note to self: Do not fuck with white-cape.

"Get up." Rather than continuing her attack, white-cape waits for the dust to settle. "I said, get up." Now, see, this is what cements her as "terrifying" for me. It's not about whether someone can kill you; any thug on the street can kill you if they want. Hell, someone being strong enough to make it painless is actually less scary. You're getting where you're going, and you don't even need to be there for the ride! No, what's really frightening is purpose. When someone has the clarity to deliver one well-placed strike and back off, it means they have a reason not to kill you. It means that this person is going to hound you to the ends of the earth, not until you die but until you submit. Until you become theirs. I would know. Depending on what they're in the game for, that can be much, much worse than death.

A ghastly laugh rises from the dust, echoing to the rhythm of the click-clack of footsteps on gravel. "Just five more minutes? I was having such a nice dream." And into view comes nothing.
Another flash of grey shoots from under the cape, sending its target into a bookshelf and burying it under countless books. "Get up." Or maybe she really just wants to beat the shit out of someone.
"I do hope you don't intend to keep doing this until I talk. I paid good money for this room!" Finally giving up on waiting, white-cape turns and walks toward nothing with determination burning in all three of her eyes.

Well, she wasn't kidding about the ragtag outfit. Her pale skin is offset by deep brown – no, red. Dull red eyes, like the color of rust. She wears a simple white sweater, but an enormous jewel that looks like a cat's eye rests between her breasts. I want to say it's some kind of accessory, but the way it moves with her body and pulses like a heart makes it just as likely that it's a part of her. Her left sleeve is intact and hugs her arm snugly, but the right one seems to have been either torn or burned off. In its place is a long orange and black striped glove that reaches nearly all the way to her shoulder. To make things just a little less believable, she has a pair of black cargo shorts, her left leg is covered in circlets, and her right has a visibly very heavy piece of armor. What did they call those things...Sabatons?

And as quickly as it fired up, that determination fades as she stops in place. Slowly, nothing creeps up on her, sagging from her back until she's brought to her knees. "You're clearly not in the mood to negotiate tonight, and I have a business to run." There's still things to run around here? "We're done here. Now, you scurry on home. You can come back when you're ready to talk to me like an adult." Even though you've been laughing and joking the whole time. Sure. The only reply she gets (and with good reason, if you ask me) is a hard glare.
"No."
"Oh, I wasn't talking to you, lovely. I know better by now."

---

Another uneventful morning. The headache isn't really helping anything, but at least it's Friday. Yamame seems to pick up what I'm dropping, and has laid off her usual teasing. Unfortunately, it seems like that was the only real interaction we had. What would normally be relaxing, quiet moments are suddenly uncomfortable silences.

I can't ignore this any longer.

[ ] "So hey, two's doing a lot better today."
[ ] "I'm not feeling too hot. Mind if I take a half day?"
[ ] "What's got you down? Somebody leave you waiting last night?"
[ ] ;;':'/<<)%*##$/{`^^>
>> No. 5574
[X] ;;':'/<<)%*##$/{`^^>

SAN check failed.
>> No. 5575
[X] "What's got you down? Somebody leave you waiting last night?"

We can be crazy next choice. Koishi will wait.
>> No. 5576
[Q] "So hey, two's doing a lot better today."
>> No. 5577
[x] "What's got you down? Somebody leave you waiting last night?"
>> No. 5578
[x] "What's got you down? Somebody leave you waiting last night?"
I can't resist. This Yamame is delicious.
>> No. 5579
[X] "What's got you down? Somebody leave you waiting last night?"

>>5578
I agree. Let's see what happens.
>> No. 5580
My apologies, but delicious Yamame is going to have to wait. I'm exhausted for some reason, and Comiket isn't going to comb through itself.

Expect an update either tonight or tomorrow.
>> No. 5582
>>5580
Why not just say the middle of next week? Since with how much stuff Comiket has, you might be at it for longer than you planned.
>> No. 5583
[x] "So hey, two's doing a lot better

There's a time and place for the other. This isn't it, in my opinion.
>> No. 5586
>>5582
As much as I'd love to be a useless piece of shit and play these video games all day every day for the next week and a half, I've been around long enough to know that more than a one-day break will almost invariably turn into a hiatus.

No Fairy Wars or SML2 until I've updated. Writing now.
>> No. 5587
File 12818802084.jpg - (13.50KB, 400x301, Like this only not.jpg) [iqdb]
5587
This is a sensitive situation. If I don't handle things with a little finesse, it could get pretty awkward...

"What's got you down? Somebody leave you waiting last night?" They say the key to finesse is following your instincts. Blurting out the first thing that came to mind has never failed me before!
Her gaze shifts lazily over to me, and with an unchanging face she replies, "Yes, actually." ...Fuck. Maybe she really wasn't just being considerate.
The best I can muster is stumbling over my words for a second before settling on "Uh...sorry."
"Ah, don't worry about it. It wasn't the first time, it won't be the last." Somehow both relieving and depressing. At least she's mellow about it; I was afraid she'd blow up in my face or something.
"Sounding awfully jaded there."
"Wouldn't you be? I've already lost track of how old I am, and I'm not getting any younger." Your outfit says otherwise. Not that I'm stupid enough to...Actually, fuck it. She's already betrayed my expectations once today.
"Your outfit says otherwise." Today, it's a classic punk ensemble of black denim with neon pink highlights and torn stockings. That spiderweb choker is still around her neck, and her hair is tied back in two places. Every now and then it occurs to me just how strange it is that a doctor would dress like this, and I have to wonder when I stopped noticing. I guess it's easy to filter out the obvious sometimes.
Her tired eyes look down over herself, eventually landing on a ring she wears on her outstretched hand. It's an open type that has a little bit of stretch for it, ending one side with a golden sun and the other with a silver moon. I'm not much one for jewelry, but it looks good on her. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess it does." Oh, don't get all serious on me now.
"And it's right!" I don't usually make it a habit to bombard people with compliments, but for how supposedly trivial her missed date was, she looks awfully down over it. "Well, I mean. You're not getting younger, no, but you're certainly not getting old. You say you lost track of how old you are, but what does that matter? Look at yourself! You're gorgeous, you're intelligent, you've got a solid position here and you're damn good at it." Before I have time to reach some hypothetical end to my train of thought, she jumps to her feet.
"You can stop sucking up, kid. Around here, favoritism doesn't make up for skill."
"I'm not suc--" Interrupted again, this time by a surprisingly powerful blow to my already-aching head that sends it throbbing. Not a strike, really, but her hand lands on top of me with more weight than I'm really comfortable with. Waiting for some kind of reprimanding, the seconds pass like minutes until her fingers softly flow through my hair for a moment. By the time my eyes turn to meet her, her feet are in the door.
Her voice comes out barely above a whisper, but her words are unmistakable. "Thanks, though."

Wait. Did I just...Yeah, I did. This could get weird.

---

It doesn't.

The hours fly by, leaving me standing in the lobby wondering where my day went. Feels like we didn't get anything done at all, though it didn't seem to bother Yamame. Now and then I even caught her smiling to herself.

"Have a good one."
"Die in a fire." Such a character, that Mizuhashi.

For some reason or another, the air outside feels really fresh. Every breath I take makes me more energetic, until I feel like I could just sprint the entire way home. Or no, fuck that, I feel like I can lift a goddamn house! Or...jump over a stalagmite! Or get Parsee to smile!

[ ] Just chill, man. Ride the feeling; today's gonna be a good day.
[ ] CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
--[ ] I'm the fucking Flash!
--[ ] SUPLEX A TRAIN!
--[ ] Fly, like a butterfly!
--[ ] I've cheered up one girl today. Let's shoot for two.
[ ] Wait, am I forgetting something?
[ ] Y*('re #^r@ett`|g so¨eth¦¶g.

---

Short update. I thought I'd have more to do with this one, but I guess I was mistaken! Such is the way of things.
>> No. 5588
[X] Wait, am I forgetting something?
[X] Y*('re #^r@ett`|g so¨eth¦¶g.

Okay, now we can go crazy.
>> No. 5589
[X] CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
--[X] I've cheered up one girl today. Let's shoot for two.
What's a ploot hook anyway?
>> No. 5590
[X] Wait, am I forgetting something?
[X] Y*('re #^r@ett`|g so¨eth¦¶g.

>--[ ] SUPLEX A TRAIN!
How? Yukari's not allowed down here.
>> No. 5592
[X] CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
--[X] I've cheered up one girl today. Let's shoot for two.

Parsee lovin'.
>> No. 5593
[Q] CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
--[Q] I've cheered up one girl today. Let's shoot for two.

You know what? This is a lot cooler than I had expected it to be.

Which is to say it's very cool.
>> No. 5595
[x] Wait, am I forgetting something?

very suspicious.
>> No. 5596
[x] Wait, am I forgetting something?
>> No. 5597
[x] CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
-[x] I've cheered up one girl today. Let's shoot for two.
We already made Yamame smile, so as far as I'm concerned, the day is already complete. But why stop at one?
>> No. 5603
[x] Wait, am I forgetting something?
[x] Y*('re #^r@ett`|g so¨eth¦¶g.

I want to say I really fucking love this story, and I especially like your unusual taste in themes and art styles for the pictures you use. It's nice to see something other than regular-style pictures. Also the story is interesting and this Yamame is (semi-)trashy hotness. I also love Koishi mindfuck. Always. Alwaysalwaysalways.

Would it be a strange thing if I said sometimes it feels like this story is directed by Guy Ritchie?

Because it does.
>> No. 5605
>>5593
>>5603
You guuuuuys. Quit it, you're making me blush!

Unfortunately, work has set my schedule to "most inconvenient timing possible" and I'm not going to have more than a half hour or so of uninterrupted time to write each day. I'll be making use of it, but I might have to skip a day or two.

That said, that time is not now and the numbers are pretty close so I'm not calling it yet. Given the number of votes, though, I'm kind of doubting that there are even more readers.
>> No. 5607
Back into the fray. Writing now.
>> No. 5608
File 128200517662.jpg - (196.69KB, 800x600, pic unrelated.jpg) [iqdb]
5608
Or nearly trip over myself as the unmistakable sensation that I've forgotten something halts my feet instantly. That sort of feeling that's vague enough that you can't quite put your finger on it, but too strong to put off till the morning. I can't remember for the life of me what it could be, but it's put me right back out of my good mood. Times like these I wish I was a hypnotist. I bet they go through intense training to control their own thoughts so they don't accidentally end up hypnotizing themselves.

"Back so soon?" Does she ever stop glaring? That's gotta get tiring after a while.
"Yeah, I just got this feeling like I forgot something." With a scoff, she holds the door open for me in only the most reluctant and frustrated fashion that one can do so.
"You won't find your dick no matter how long you look, you know." …Normally, I don't have time to indulge her, but I've always been curious.
"Why are you always so...angry?" Her response comes without hesitation.
"Same reason you're always such a dipshit."
"See, like that! Every time I see you, you pull that shit. You're never gonna make friends if you keep up that kind of an attitude." Only now does her grip on the door let loose. Her arms fold in front of her, and she waits for the inevitable slam before continuing.
"If I wanted shit from you, I'd squeeze your head." Fine. Two can play at this game.
"But your jokes are already so crappy!" Somehow, she manages to both glare and scowl at the same time. She's turning vitriol into an art form.
"That wasn't a come back, what I left on your mom's ass is."
Before the thought is complete in my mind, my hands gesture toward what is quickly becoming the subject of conversation. "Hey! Keep my mom out of this, and I'll keep this out of your mom." Whoa. Where did that one come from?
She shifts her weight from one leg to the other, raising an eyebrow. "Sorry, kid. My mom isn't into beastiality."
"I never said she'd be into it." After a ten-second pause or so, the ends of her lips curve gently upward. That is to say, one end of her lips stops curving down quite as much. It's progress!
As though we had never gotten into this, she turns to the door and opens it again. "You're learning."

I don't think I've ever been quite so comforted by the soft thud of a closing door.

I may have time to waste, but I'd still rather not get lost in here again. Especially not at night. It's not so bad when everywhere you go is another group of people going off to wherever they happen to be going, but I've gotten unlucky a few times and been stuck walking alone. You never realize just how much a room echos until you're in it by yourself, listening to your own footsteps, wondering if there's someone else in there. Watching you. Sometimes I give myself the creeps.

Setting the pace at a brisk jog, familiar though never quite comfortable rooms pass by in a blur as I ponder what it could have been. Did I leave something at the office? Was there something I needed to do? Was it someone's birthday? Nothing's ringing a bell, but I can't stop here. Even if I wasn't being pushed forward by this bizarre feeling, I'd grab something at random. Parsee would give me hell if it turned out to be nothing after that exchange. Oh, what we do to save face.

A voice calls out from a corner too far to write off and too close to ignore. "Hey there, lover-boy." I know that voice, and no good has ever come from it.
"Good evening, Rin." As though only just being summoned by hearing her name, she appears in front of me. I was really hoping not to get dragged into some kind of shenanigans tonight.
She walks up to me in what you might call a demure fashion if you happened to be having a seizure, running her hand along my cheek softly. The scent of death wafts from her dress, though whether it's because of a busy day or because she never washes the damn thing remains a mystery. "Aww, you don't have to be so formal with little old me! Why, I still remember when I could carry you in my arms."
"Well, you know I like to keep business and pleasure separate." That damn giggle sounds like a broken record, too.
"Oh? That's not what I'd heard. In fact, I just so happened to overhear a little exchange between you and the good doctor." Clasping her hands together, she pouts pathetically and puts on a whiny, mocking tone. "Oh, Yamame! You're so beautiful and smart and did I mention beautiful? It's such a crime that someone would choose not to go through torture indulging in your kinks, puh-leeeease tie me up and whip me!" And she snaps back to her normal devious grin. Something about her eyes always makes it look like she's hiding something, which is a surprisingly effective defense. If she was, you'd be just as likely to assume she's just being normal. "You're pretty pathetic, you know that?"
"Are you done?"
"Oh, come on! You'll play along with anyone but me." You're damn right I will.
"I've got somewhere to be this time."

[ ] ...But I'm on a roll. Nothing wrong with a bit of magnanimity.
[ ] And that's how it's going to stay. I had somewhere to be.
[ ] Hear her out, at least. If things go south, nothing says I can't ditch her.
[ ] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.

---

I lose sleep for you people.
>> No. 5609
[x] ...But I'm on a roll. Nothing wrong with a bit of magnanimity.
Today is a good day, and nothing will change that. Not even an annoying catgirl.
>> No. 5610
[x] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.

Mystery choice
>> No. 5611
[x] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.
>> No. 5612
[x] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.
Annoying catgirl.
>> No. 5614
[X] ...But I'm on a roll. Nothing wrong with a bit of magnanimity.
>> No. 5615
[x] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.
>> No. 5616
[x] ...But I'm on a roll. Nothing wrong with a bit of magnanimity.
>> No. 5617
[X] ...But I'm on a roll. Nothing wrong with a bit of magnanimity.
[X] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.

Vote combinan gaems, since it seemed to work last time.
>> No. 5629
[x] H@¦d oи▒▒▒Do》t lΞ+ Ю ▓▓.
>> No. 5639
[X] ...But I'm on a roll. Nothing wrong with a bit of magnanimity.
>> No. 5643
One thing on top of another and another and another until the load is too heavy for even a pen. I am dropping any pretenses of this being a daily story until my plate isn't quite so full. I will attempt to update when I have both the time and the will, but they will come slowly and sporadically until something around here clears up. As it stands, I'm going to bed at 8:30 every day just because I'm so goddamn worn out - both physically and mentally.

My sincerest apologies to anyone who has been following and enjoying this.
>> No. 5645
>>5643

Hey, the fact that it's not dropped or stalled is plenty already. Hope things work out for you.
>> No. 5721
My mind says, "It's already been a week?"
My body says, "It's only been a week?"
The two share an awkward glance, and get back to work.

I have a much-needed day off tomorrow. I want to say the next update will come tonight, but it may end up being tomorrow. Or, you know. Someone could spring another obligation on me. Either way, I don't want to let this go more than this long without a status update at the very least.
>> No. 5723
>>5721
Hooray!

(in bold because I am extra-happy to hear that you're still around and still willing to write.)
>> No. 5725
File 128299588893.png - (1.60MB, 2000x2500, 7ad4adc0a57d20d2f80fbcbff7dbe18b.png) [iqdb]
5725
"Nowhere I couldn't take you! Are you in such a rush that we can't even play for a minute?"
"I'd like to avoid vomiting tonight, thanks." Not again.
"Hey, nobody's ever puked after one of my rides before." That is a boldfaced lie.
"I'd be willing to bet nobody's ever survived one, either." Rather than dissuade her, it seems my retort has inspired her. She takes a step back only to put her hands on her hips and puff her chest proudly at me, never breaking her obnoxious proximity.
"I'll have you know not one person has died in my cart. In fact, a couple have come back to life!" Her haughty grin shifts to a pensive frown in an instant, and she almost falls to the floor with my collar in her hand. Every time I meet her, I have to wonder whether she's incapable of emotion and is overcompensating or if she's actually this neurotic. "All right, though. I'm layin' down something serious, here. Catch my drift? Shit just got real. This shit? Right here?" She points at the floor, now close enough to touch without moving more than a hand. "Up till now, it has been fake. Illusion. You dig? Right now, it is observable, quantifiable, and...and..." Her face scrunches up, struggling to find a third qualifier. "...and totally awesome! I'm talking about zombies, man. Freakin' zombies." Pivoting on one foot, she throws an arm around my shoulders and draws me closer to her squinted eyes and sly smile. Accentuating every few words with a shake of her pursed fingers, she continues.

"See, there's a trick to it. A lot of people think zombies are people who came back to life, you know? That's not quite it. It's close, but it's not quite it. Now, there's also the crowd that thinks those voodoo zombies are the real deal. That's more like hypnotism though – really not the same thing at all, right? Right. So, you want to know how to make a real zombie?" I don't have much choice but to play along at this point. Rin has a way of getting what she wants before anyone notices. Doesn't mean I can't go down kicking and screaming.
"I'd rather know why this is relevant to me." Almost immediately, an enormous snort bursts out from her, followed by laughter that almost sounds like desperate wheezing. As quickly as it started, though, it stops completely. Despite this, she never drops her smile.
"That's a good one. You should be a comedian on weekends. I bet the oni would love you. So anyways, the thing about real zombies isn't so much that they're alive as that they're being controlled by the dead. It's just, you know, some people can't see the dead all that great so they jump to conclusions. It's like watching a puppet show. If the guy pullin' the strings is off stage, all he needs is a realistic puppet and nobody suspects a thing. You follow?"
"Yeah, yeah. There's still the matter of zombies not existing."
"Ah, but they do exist. Otherwise we wouldn't be talking about them, now would we? After all, theories are said to exist despite being entirely theoretical. What's different about zombies?"
"So you admit that they're not real?" Finally rising to her feet, she turns on a heel and walks slowly toward the other end of the room.
"I never said that! In fact..." Another spin reveals a deathly serious face. There's no hint of her previous playfulness in her cobalt eyes, and her voice comes out in a hushed monotone. "They're more real than you or I."

Her steps are calculated and precise, each one landing on the stone floor so softly that not a single noise escapes her. Without even the echos of her footsteps, the silence feels impenetrable. Any words I might say are forced back down my throat, and all my efforts are squashed as though she were walking over them. When she stops, she hasn't really moved at all.

"I have a certain experiment that I've been conducting. With any luck, this will be a great breakthrough in necromancy which will change the world as we know it. Now, I know you're busy and I apologize for taking up so much of your precious time, but you do owe me. Would you be willing to help me a bit tonight? You're completely qualified, and I can assure you that no harm will come to your person. You are, of course, free to refuse." Her hand extends toward me, and her eyes seem to flash with a glint of hope.

[ ] Accept
[ ] Refuse
[ ] TĦ◄e ﭑt b╟ﭲk.

---

This didn't turn out right. I looked back over it, and figured waiting one more day for a decent product wouldn't be too bad. I looked back over it, and found nothing to change. I looked back over it, and started doubting myself. I quickly saved it and posted, knowing that the only way to stop a vicious cycle is not to start it.

I'm sorry.
>> No. 5726
[Q] Accept

Magical plot advancement! And/or horrible death. Either way, really.
>> No. 5727
[x] Accept
>> No. 5728
>"I'd rather know why this is relevant to me."
>"That's a good one. You should be a comedian on weekends.
In before "No, John. You are the demons"?

[X] Accept
If helping out here means we're square with Orin, I say go for it.

>This didn't turn out right.
The good thing about the serial format of CYOAs is that every update is a (somewhat) fresh slate. And for what it's worth (which I know from experience is very little), I didn't see anything wrong with this update.
>> No. 5730
[X] TĦ◄e ﭑt b╟ﭲk.

>>5728
>In before "No, John. You are the demons"?
I think what's being said here is that he's already a zombie. Possibly since he crashed through the roof.

Also, I don't think this is Orin. She doesn't have
>cobalt eyes
Nor does anyone else in the underground have them. Though it could just be a sign of the MC's insanity.
>> No. 5731
You know what this almost makes me think of? Matchstick Men.

Hopefully it doesn't end up like that.
>> No. 5732
[x] Accept
And with this, our debt will be paid.
>> No. 5733
[x] Accept
>> No. 5735
[x] Accept
>> No. 5740
[x] TĦ◄e ﭑt b╟ﭲk.

I'm not even sure what this one says. Throw it back? There it black? There it brick?

I'm getting sad because when I go back to writing Resentment, it's not going to be nearly as weird.
>> No. 5741
>>5730
>I think what's being said here is that he's already a zombie.
Yes, that is the point I was intending to make with that reference.

>>5740
"Take it back". Ħ is supposed to be an A. (For extra fun, try pronouncing the special characters as they are pronounced in their source languages. Glottal stop + t at the beginning of a word is a new and exciting way of using your mouth.)
>> No. 5742
[x] Accept
What the heck happened to her eyes?
Anyway, after this, we'll be even, and he can do what he wants with his life. Unlife. Whatever.
>> No. 5743
>>5728
Whether you or anyone saw something wrong is irrelevant - there were things I wanted to get across which I either couldn't find words for or mangled horribly. I know what I did wrong, and I know that I gave it to you anyways.

>>5731
Having never seen Matchstick Men, I'm not entirely sure how to take this. It's always a subtle fear that my story ideas have been done before and better either in popular media or other stories here. I don't really watch movies, and despite having lurked for a nontrivial amount of time there are still many more recent stories that I've neglected to read.

>>5740
And yours are not among them. I consider it an honor to have your approval.

I am unsure of when I'll be able to write again, but there are plenty of votes and I figured it was safe to say some things I wanted to say. Voting is still open, of course, though at this point I doubt there will be any more.
>> No. 5747
[x] Accept
This hole, it was made for me.
>> No. 5748
[X] Refuse

We owe her nothing.
Plus Koishi is messing with us.
>> No. 5754
I really don't want this to become a routine.

The idea that it's fine if I don't update as long as I say why is one that has crossed my mind now and then, but it is a falsehood. Try as I might, though, my aching joints and fizzling brain refuse to transcribe concepts into words. Rest assured, I am still here, and I really do want to want to write, but things don't appear to be getting any better on my end. It is at this point that I will simply have to ram against this wall until it shatters, rather than attempt to climb it.

Hopefully, today. Probably, not.
>> No. 5782
I want to hug you and make everything better.
>> No. 5784
File 128386320068.jpg - (340.57KB, 1393x773, 41fcc4752a34a12b94a17f4b2db28537.jpg) [iqdb]
5784
Let the battering begin.
---

The pale skin of her extended hand seems to glow against the darkness, the contrast reinforced by the deep, mossy green of her usual dress. Even in the light, it took me a few times to see that it was more than just black. My arm goes toward her of its own accord for just a split-second before hesitating in midair, but she makes no motion to close the gap. The decision has to be mine. Her eyes remain fixed on mine, and even after a moment's contemplation her fingers have the steadiness of a doctor's. As the gap closes, an understated smile meets her lips.

"Glad you could see things my way."
"Let's just get this over with."
"Not one to mince words, are you? Fine, fine. Come with me." Breaking the grip with a quick shake, she turns on her heels and walks briskly through the labyrinthine corridors of the palace. It doesn't take long for me to lose my way (and any recognition of the rooms we pass through) completely, but she doesn't look back or slow down even a single time. Were it not for the white tips of her tails flicking gently behind her, some of the quicker turns would almost certainly lose me.
"So what's this experiment all about?" Hopefully some conversation will slow her down. Her pace isn't unbearable, but it's still a little too quick for comfort.
"Oh, just telling you would be too boring. Let's make it a guessing game!"
"I hate guessing games." Puzzle games, sure. Games of logic or skill, the sort where you can sit down and spend some time thinking things through, those are great. Nothing's quite as satisfying as taking every bit of information at your disposal, theorizing, and making something work because you figured it out. Guessing, though, is as boring and pointless as gambling. Then again, they're one and the same, aren't they?
She seems to think differently, though. "Come on, don't be like that! How about if I give you a hint?"
"Call it a clue and you've got a deal."
"A clue, then." She turns abruptly, stopping me dead with a finger to the chest. "This is something that only you can help me with." And with a backward hop, she's off once again.
"Only me, huh."
"Only you!" Something that sets me apart from everyone else. It can't be my work with the doctor; she's more experienced than I am. Is it...no, I've never seen a part of the palace that didn't have other people in it. Even the other night. Nothing really comes to mind from the village. It'd be incredibly arrogant to think it has anything to do with Parsee...
"...Wait. I don't know anything about necromancy in the first place. How could I possibly guess?" A light giggle echos down the stairwell we've found ourselves in, but she continues without breaking pace.
"I suppose you wouldn't be able to, would you?" That would be the other reason I hate guessing games.
"Very funny. Now can we stop dicking around? What's this all about?"
"Oh, it's very simple actually. You see, necromancy isn't just about summoning the dead. That's a big part of it, yes, but it's still only a subset. A lot of people who aren't really into it just can't see past the physical plane, so they only get the part where skeletons and half-rotted corpses start climbing from the ground." She stops at the bottom of the stairwell, before a short hallway leading to an enormous iron door not unlike the sort you would find in a storybook castle. It's important to remember that popular fiction doesn't define reality – it's just fiction. I'm no expert, of course, and maybe real castles were adorned with jeweled and iron-bound gates for every room. The possibility doesn't make it definite, though.

...Maybe I should take this whole necromancy talk a little more seriously.

She turns once more, crossing her arms and looking at me with slightly furrowed eyebrows. "Now, you've gotta promise me you're not gonna freak out when I open this door." And her expression cracks into a toothy smirk. It's hard to take someone seriously when they can't even do it themselves.
"I can't promise that." Really, though. I'm not about to come to a concrete conclusion without any evidence either way. What am I, Christian?
"Do it anyways."
"Why are you so insistent on this?"
"You'll see when we get through." Her tone takes a sharp turn for the worse. She may be insistent, but technically so am I. It's pretty clear at this point that we're both getting on each others' nerves.
"Okay, okay. Don't get your panties in a bunch. I promise." No point aggravating her further.
"You say that like I'm wearing any." Well, that's a new one. I don't think I've ever choked on air before. "All right. Now that that's out of the way..." With one over-exaggerated sway of her hips, she walks over to the door and pushes against it with a single arm. It clearly takes some exertion, but no more than a particularly large office door would take me. Something about this place is awfully emasculating. As the gap between the door and the wall spreads, a wave of heat intense enough to dry my eyes out instantly (twice) floods the hallway. By the time I can keep my eyes open long enough for my vision to stop blurring over, Rin's taken my hand and led me past the gate.

I can see why she wanted me to promise not to freak out. The polished stone and metal of the palace gives way instantly to a perfectly solid sepia canyon. The surface of the ground we stand on is rough and uneven, but it's clearly made of a single enormous boulder rather than earth or small, compressed rocks. More impressive than that, however, is the river of lava that cuts through the canyon, extending into the distance further than I can make out. Its width trumps the biggest river I've ever seen, yet it flows silently. Somehow, the contrast of its peaceful flow with the natural destruction that living beings associate with lava carries more weight than even the wildest rapids.

Oh. And there's ghosts. There's fucking ghosts. There's goddamn fucking ghosts holy shit.

[ ] Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Don't freak out.
[ ] Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!
[ ] Hold me?

---

Yup. These aren't all the same option, really, honest, etc. I promise.

>>5782
I am...nonplussed. Thank you, I think. I do like hugs.
>> No. 5785
[x ] Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Don't freak out.
>> No. 5790
[Q] Hold me?

You know what? I like the way you're doing Orin. Also, this character.
>> No. 5791
[x] Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!
She's not very forthcoming, and I don't trust her at all. I wonder what she wants us to do?
>> No. 5798
[X] Hold me?

Don't mantras usually get twisted?
>> No. 5799
[X] Hold me?

Nice and slightly deadpan.
>> No. 5805
[x] Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Don't freak out.

...Was the switch from 2nd person to 1st person intentional?

>I do like hugs.
Good. You seem like someone who could use some.
>> No. 5807
>>5805
There was a switch? If it ever left first, that was a mistake. Most of that was written in a state of semi-consciousness.
>> No. 5818
There is a certain phenomenon on this site that I've seen here and there which absolutely baffles me. While not the worst, it is a great disservice to both the audience and the writer. In all my days I have never understood (and I suspect I never will) why people continue to think, "I want to write, but there aren't enough votes!" Willingness is the greatest asset we have, and a three-vote majority is still a majority. Hell, updating faster just gets you a good reputation and (gasp!) the votes you so desire.

Writing now, though whether it'll be done before or after work is a mystery to all.
>> No. 5819
File 128403969732.png - (541.23KB, 752x1017, 0c5cfc7fe2a5cf8b95c7ec6a13bd426e.png) [iqdb]
5819
Wait, no, no, don't freak out. No worries. They're an illusion or something, right? And Rin wouldn't have taken me down here unless she knew it was safe. They're just interesting gas formations, or something is in the ground that reacts to the lava, or there's a shadow just behind me. And that chill up my spine is just a nervous reaction, like when you hear a grating sound. Like ethereal nails against bone. This is not just my imagination.

With one hand on her hip and another shading her eyes, she delivers a long, impressed whistle. "They look pretty pissed today." What.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means don't worry about it. They're harmless." Another chill, this time bringing with it a cold tension like getting hit by a snowball packed around ice. Fuckin' kids are all monsters. "...Maybe."
"And if they aren't?"
"Well, they could paralyze you. Maybe they'd pick you up and throw you in the river. If they're feeling playful, they might just take up residence in your ears and see how long it takes to drive you insane."
"This doesn't sound very harmless." It's impossible to hide my concern at this point. Cracks and quivers abound. Before I realize it, my hand is already clenched around hers. When did I even close the distance between us?
"Aww. You poor thing." She spins to face me, and before her body even comes to a stop her arm is around me. Despite being shorter than I am, she pulls me in to a deep, warm embrace that makes me realize how cold I've been. Her body feels hot enough to burn, but the way the heat penetrates my muscles and relaxes them is undeniably pleasant. "Don't be scared, now. You're safe with me."

Something is inherently odd about being in the submissive position despite the other person doing the nuzzling.

After some time she loosens her grip and backs off, though her hand never quite lets go of mine. Staring off into the cloud of spirits dancing around one another, her voice comes out quietly. It's more of a calm quiet than a hushed one, like a mother gazing over a field as her children play in the distance. "So, like I was saying before. Necromancy. Like so many terms, the idea was coined by ignorant people who jumped to conclusions about the nature of it. Most magics have already been perfected in some sense or another; at least, people don't really feel the need to experiment with them any more. Necromancy, though, was almost immediately branded a forbidden art because of a few early practitioners with bad ideas. These days, people don't even bother looking into it. They're taught that it's evil and harmful to the world on the whole, and they stubbornly refuse any evidence to the contrary." Her hand squeezes a little tighter as she speaks, and the smile on her face seems to fade almost imperceptibly. Whether it's just the lighting or a hint of tension, her voice continues unchanged.

"But you know, the name's misleading. It's not just about the dead. It's about the spirit. Mediums are necromancers, monks are necromancers, priests are necromancers. Even teenagers sitting in their parents' attic with a Ouija board are practicing necromancy. People think the difference is control, but that's not true. It's really more like...persuasion." She glances over at me, presumably expecting a response. There's not really anything I can say to all this, though; I can choose to believe or not to, but I still don't know enough to even ask questions and to interrupt her with nay-saying at this point would be nothing less than callous. "See, spirits are living beings like you or I. I mean, they're not really living in the sense that we know it, but would you say that a plant is dead just because its body is different from ours? Or an insect, or a fish?" Well, that's just silly.
"Of course not. They're absolutely alive."
"But we can't communicate with them! Lots of times, we can't even see them!" I think I see where this is going. All right, I'll bite.
"That doesn't change the fact that they're there. It doesn't change the fact that they have senses and experiences, and it doesn't change the fact that no matter how small that consciousness may be, they have one." The more I go on, the wider her grin becomes. If I know my dramatic speeches, we're about to get to the point.
Sure enough, her words flow seamlessly into one another, hastened by her excitement. "And they aren't self-aware. You can't expect a fish to know what a fish is, or that it's a fish."
"Not being self-aware doesn't make you dead! Life is still life, no matter what form it takes."
"Turn around." What?
"What?" Rolling her eyes, she throws my hand to the side hard enough to send me spinning. When I stop, my eyes meet...me. On the floor.
"You didn't even notice, did you? I didn't really do anything to you. I just invited you out." Invited me out...So, me as in...
"...I'm not dead, though."
"Nope. You just have a corpse instead of a body, now. Nothing's really changed."
"I can't say I'm thrilled about that. Can I get it back?" For being told that I've just died in the traditional sense, it's rather shocking how well I'm taking this. Maybe that's part of what she means by persuasion.
"Not yet, you can't. Though, you might not even want it by the time we're done with this experiment. This is all just a preamble." Now that she mentions it, there was supposed to be an experiment going on, wasn't there? "I want to know whether a spirit can learn necromancy itself. All these guys are cool, but none of them really care about having a body any more, and anyone in the village would just call me crazy or get violent. You're the only one that can help me with this." Her other hand comes round and clasps mine, bringing us face-to-face again. Enthusiasm shines through her eyes, their usual red shade obscured by a brilliant reflection of the energy pouring from my bo– no...spirit. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you what I wanted sooner, but...let's face it. Could I have?"
"Not really, no. I'd have probably tried to get you in one of our cells." Yamame would have a field day with her, that's for sure.
"And then the art would lose yet another practitioner to ignorance. Now, I know you already said yes, but I want to make sure you're doing this because you want to. An unwilling student will never learn, no matter how good the teacher is."

[ ] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.
[ ] ...Maybe later. This is a bit much to take in all at once.
[ ] I'd rather not try to balance this with medical school, thanks.
--[ ] It's a worthy cause, though. Try and find a replacement pupil.
--[ ] Lies and trickery. Have her dragged off to the loony bin, and never speak of this again.

---

Proofreading? What the fuck is proofreading? Also, at this rate I'm gonna need to find more Orin pictures.
>> No. 5820
I should mention that those sub-options are indeed optional. You can go with just the base "No thanks." Yay four consecutive posts.
>> No. 5823
[Q] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.

Okay, yeah, I'm biting.
>> No. 5824
[x] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.

Since the MC a result of necromancy, he might as well try and understand the magic behind how he was made.
>> No. 5825
[X] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.
[X] But if you're planning on killing me in any other ways today, I'd like to know beforehand.

Seriously. Relieving someone of their body without even asking first is kind of a dick move.
>> No. 5826
>>5825
She didn't just kill us. We've being dead from the start.

[x] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.
>> No. 5827
>>5826

>>5481
>After inflicting what is apparently a satisfactory amount of pain, she speaks again.
>"Fuck. You're alive."
So either she killed us back then, or she killed us just now. (Or somebody else killed us in the intervening period, but I'd think we would have, y'know, noticed being killed if that was the case.)
>> No. 5828
[x] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.
We should probably look into getting our body back. As an aside, does anyone beside Rin know we are actually dead? Is it just something our coworkers never mention?
>> No. 5829
>>5824
>>5826
>>5828
I'm sorry, did I miss something or are we just accepting theories as fact now?
>> No. 5831
>>5818
True, even if it's 2/3 votes, it's workable.

[x] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.

I wonder if being a spirit will hinder certain processes IYKWIM.
>> No. 5832
>>5824
>>5826
>>5827
>>5828

"Out of body experience" is probably more accurate than "dead".
>> No. 5834
[x] Well, I'm sold. Let's get started.
>> No. 5835
Unanimous votes can be nice now and then, but they always feel a little disappointing. I think it's because I see some romanticism in differing votes; a struggle of wills that ultimately decides the fate of the character who, through writing in first person, I've come to sympathize with. Or maybe I just like the discussion that variation spawns. Either way, this vote is done. I doubt I'll be able to finish the update before tomorrow evening, barring my waking up at some ungodly hour of the morning and actually feeling spirited enough to write.
>> No. 5846
File 128434404847.jpg - (97.09KB, 800x600, sort of like this yeah.jpg) [iqdb]
5846
No, I don't want to be the first of my kind to learn a legendary art from someone with honorable motives. Why the hell would I want that? My life isn't boring enough.

"Am I to take that as meaning that you're a good teacher? So far your lessons have been pretty disjointed." Of course, I can't just let it go without a bit of snark. That'd be a crime.
"Hey, it all works out as long as you learn, right?" At least she's the type to roll with it. There's nothing worse than someone who turns humor into an excuse to get offended.
"Maybe I'm just a good enough student to learn without a real teacher!" Puffing out my chest turns out not to be the greatest idea, as she knocks the air out of it with a single poke. Wait, I thought I was just a spirit. Shouldn't stuff like that not work?
"Fine then, super student. Pop quiz." Shit. "What just happened to you?" Fuck.
"Do I get time to think?" She turns to watch the cloud of spirits, lifting a finger to her chin pensively before dropping to the ground and stretching out on the floor unceremoniously.
"You get until I'm tired of waiting." How relieving. Okay, if this is a quiz then it's not gonna be as simple as 'You knocked the wind out of me.' It's got to have something to do with necromancy, too...which means it has something to do with my spirit, which I'm still almost completely ignorant about.
"Yeah, uh...I still don't really know anything abo-"
"Not gonna work this time. You got yourself into this mess, you get to make it right or face the embarrassment of being completely and utterly wrong." Shit-fuck!

So. Theory time. Time for theories. Getting all theoretical up in this bitch. Hypotheses just kicked in, yo. She poked me, I felt winded. It probably isn't the environment, as we've been standing around for an unspecified period of time and I didn't notice a change. She either did something, or didn't. Even if she didn't technically do something, it would be something like before where she just 'invited me out'. Necromancy is supposedly about persuasion or some such, and it's something monks, priests, mediums, and kids with Ouija boards have in common. It's obviously not something that really needs a lot of formal training, if random kids can do it, but with it you can accomplish some crazy shit. Monks would involve the self more than anything, what with the whole snapping iron with your neck thing. Mediums and Ouija boards...are pretty much the same thing, right? Just one has a bit more control. Priests, then...Wait.
"When you said priests before, did you mean like Catholic priests or Shinto priests?" That could make a big difference.
Without turning her head, she responds nonchalantly, "Either one, really." Lot of help you are.

They both commune with gods that may or may not exist, but let's just ignore that particular existential crisis for now. If not that, then...They both do exorcisms? Sure, I guess. Wait, isn't that exactly what Rin did? Yeah, then, that totally works. It still doesn't explain what just happened to me, though. Unless she was talking about the exorcism itself?
"Nope. I already told you, I just invited you out." She rolls over onto her stomach, balancing on her elbows and gazing at me lazily. "That's all any exorcism is, really. The stubborn ones just take a little extra oomph."
"You mean a little more persuasion?" A calm smile this time. Somehow it seems warmer than her usual toothy grin.
"Now you're getting it. You should probably stop talking to yourself by the way. Bad habit, that."
"Nah. I tend to prefer intelligent conversation."
She rolls to her back again, continuing on for several rotations as she speaks. "Suuuu~it yourself." Continuing from before...I really haven't gotten anywhere at all. This could be a problem.

"Screw it, seeing you flounder isn't amusing any more. Time's up, what's your answer?" Cocks! Last second thinking go! Weird phrasing means it wasn't her, it was me. I'm new to being a spirit which means it was easy to manipulate me which means...something. Nothing! Fuck!
"I'm gonna guess...uh...Something about my composition as a spirit. I'm still new to not having a body, so your finger messed with me that badly just from touching me?" Raised eyebrows! Good sign!
Rising to her feet, she claps her hands slowly and softly. Did I...get it right? "Good guess! Very close. But no. I knocked the wind out of you. Have you just never had that happen? Most people would have gotten it instantly." ...You bitch.
"See, this is why people don't like you." All at once, her expression gets dreadfully somber. You'd think she was an entirely different person as she stomps toward me, punctuating every sentence with a push.
"Hey, whoa. Don't get all mad at me just because you're cocky. First lesson: Drop the pretenses. Right now, you know quite literally nothing. Just because you're an important student doesn't mean you're better than any other student. However you choose to treat me outside of our lessons is up to you, and I won't hold it against you, but when we're in the proverbial classroom I will not. Tolerate. Disrespect." Her last three words come with pushes all their own, sending my back against the wall. "Got it?" Okay. Never mind, then. No more snark.
"Yeah. I've got it."
"Good. Now, there's no real good place to start with necromancy; usually people take care of that part by themselves. You know, those kids who can see dead people and all that." So anyone with some kind of spiritual background? Considering the state of things, that doesn't sound too hard.
"Does being a spirit count as beginning?"
"No, actually. I wasn't kidding about it being a good guess. You know that whole thing about spirits being impossible to touch or whatever?" At 'impossible to touch', she raises her hands to her shoulders and puts on the most exaggerated expression of shock I've ever seen. It fades back to one of relative disinterest almost instantly, though.
"I've heard talk of such things, though the theory behind it has eluded me."
"Well, it's true...sort of. It's not so much the make-up of your 'body'," she stops momentarily to use air quotes, "as it is that you're capable of moving to a different plane of existence. It's not easy, and it's not something you just know how to do. From what I've heard, the first time is kind of like getting a bad case of the hiccups and not noticing for a while."
"What a colorful analogy." Not that I can relate to it at all. Without that, there's no use for all the color in the world.
"Mm. Real nice kid that came up with it. Quite the cunning linguist. Anyways, that's why I was able to mess with you like that – and, let's face it, you don't really count as much of a spirit if you can't at least go all non-corporeal. That's gonna be the focus of our first lesson."
"But you aren't a spirit. How can you teach me something that you need to just get a feel for?"
"I'm not. Not alone, at least..."

[ ] "He is." Bringing her fingers to her mouth, a piercing whistle calls down from the cloud of energy a dapper yet spry young man, whose descent comes so quickly that a small skid mark forms where his boots meet the earth. With a glint in his eye and a cocky smirk, he extends a hand toward me wordlessly.
[ ] "She is." As though it was rehearsed in a play, the very earth before me melts away as a tall and slender figure rises from it, obscured by the darkness of a hooded white robe. Her deep blue eyes stare silently at mine, awaiting further introduction before daring to make a move.
[ ] Cut her off. You've got work in the morning; suggest making the first lesson how to enter and leave your body at will instead of when she decides to let you.

---

Chest pains? Fucking chest pains? There is a god, and he doesn't want me to write this story. Further delays may or may not occur in accordance to whether this turns out to be something serious. In any case, if it wasn't clear enough the last option is "Get on with the actual plot, we can go back for more subquest action later."

Oh yeah, and those first two choices are indeed unique and fleshed out characters who will be appearing for more than just this one segment, except only one will be appearing because they will be your spirit guide. (Pardon the pun.) Choose wisely, or choose neither and end up with more choices later assuming I come up with another character.
>> No. 5847
>Chest pains?
Shit sucks. Hope you feel better.

[X] "She is."

We need a foil to Rin's more... exuberant side. Maybe I'm just reading too far into her actions, but it still seems like there's a significant possibility of her damaging us in a fit of mania.
>> No. 5848
[x]"He is"
His entrance sounds much more awesome.
>> No. 5850
[x] he is

Can not deny the dapper
>> No. 5855
[Q] He is

Hell yeah.

Also, nice details on spirits, there. I like that kind of stuff.
>> No. 5863
[X] "She is."
Judging from the description, she might be a more patient teacher. That and the 1st option teacher might get on the nerves too much.
>> No. 5864
[X] "She is."
>> No. 5865
[X] "She is."

I'd rather have a calm teacher than a hyper one.
>> No. 5868
[x] Cut her off. You've got work in the morning; suggest making the first lesson how to enter and leave your body at will instead of when she decides to let you.
>Chest pain
Let's hope that's just a muscle issue.
>> No. 5875
[x] Every single last part of >>5847.
>> No. 5876
If anyone's at home reading and not voting (or counting), I'd recommend you do so. I won't have a chance to write until tomorrow-ish, and the votes are close enough that you can and will make a difference.
>> No. 5877
[x] "She is." As though it was
rehearsed in a play, the very
earth before me melts away as a
tall and slender figure rises from
it, obscured by the darkness of a
hooded white robe. Her deep
blue eyes stare silently at mine,
awaiting further introduction
before daring to make a move.
>> No. 5878
[] She is
>> No. 5879
[X] He is
>> No. 5905
Where by "a chance to write" I mean "enough uninterrupted free time that procrastination for the sake of doing other things I also enjoy takes up the entire duration," if that wasn't clear.

I'd apologize, but sometimes a man's just got to spend his day off with the people he loves. Writing now.
>> No. 5906
File 128509457642.jpg - (151.36KB, 600x800, numberstring.jpg) [iqdb]
5906
An awkward silence falls over the three of us, each waiting for another to speak first. Ages pass as we stand, unmoving but for the minute twitches of pleading eyes. Finally, the woman steps forward authoritatively with a steadying breath, getting a syllable into her name before tripping on her robe and falling face-first into the ground and making me reconsider my definition of awkward. Shaking off our attempts at helping her up, she rises clumsily to her feet and brushes herself off before disappearing entirely.

"So...She wants me to get so embarrassed that I want to disappear? That's certainly a creative method." If she keeps it up, it might just succeed.
"I don't think that's really what she had in mind. I'd take a few steps back if I were you." Upon doing so, we're given an encore of the previous performance. This time, though, it's joined by a green vortex that swirls around her as she rises, picking up bits of molten rock and carving into them as it goes. When she finally reaches solid land, the small, ornate chunks line themselves around her wrist and join the small golden bracelet that her pulled-back sleeve reveals.

Bit of a flair for the dramatic, this one. Does the extra flashiness make up for needing a do-over, though?

And once again, she steps toward me with an extended hand. If I'm not mistaken, though, there's a hint of caution in her feet. "Lyndia Dustin. I'll be teaching you everything you know."
"But I already know all that. Can we learn something new?" Curse my snark reflex. Before I have time to stop myself, I'm met with a pair of scowls that could melt an appropriate analogy to something very difficult to melt.
Without shifting her gaze, my newest tutor addresses her senior through clenched teeth. Some first impression I've made. "Rin, are you sure about this one?"
"No." Ouch. "That doesn't mean we shouldn't try though."
Somehow, her smile isn't so reassuring. "Then let's try something. Tell me; are you much of an escapist?" Escapist? Like Houdini?
Before I have a chance to reply, Rin butts in. "You're not."
"I am." The reply comes instantly, drawing forth a wince from Rin.
"You're terrible." Great. Very reassuring. Really. It doesn't help that her tone is that half-joking one, where you're never really sure what they mean until it's too late.
"Thank you. Now, as I was saying. There are many things that can help you get comfortable with yourself. Some people try meditation..." Counting off by slapping her fingers together one by one, her form shifts to that of a bald monk, complete with a giant rosary, "Others actually rationalize it, though it takes a certain special kind of insanity to pull that one off." And she shifts again, this time to a young man with slicked hair and severely bent glasses. "Most people just go about their lives, and one day they realize that they're not really there any more. Sad bunch, those. If more people had such good, dedicated teachers, it wouldn't be a problem." Another shift puts her in funeral garb, complete with running mascara. I'm going to have to ask how to do that trick one of these days. "What we're going to do, though, is something very special. You should be honored." And back to her normal form. Her robes, however, have been traded in for a simple dress that matches her dark brown hair. In her hand, three tiny lights dance about her palm.

"Luckily for you, I'm indecisive. Pick one."

[ ] A red spiral that swirls around itself, occasionally tying itself into a knot before piercing through itself and reforming.
[ ] An amber oval, bubbling over with enough force to send its relatively solid form jumping around. Oddly enough, she never needs to chase it to keep it on her hand.
[ ] A spiky-looking silver light, keeping its position perfectly still above the tip of her pinky. It slowly twists one way for a short while before turning back, like a yo-yo hanging slack.

---

Hm. Not enough? Too much? Whatever. Let's hope I can actually write before another week passes.
>> No. 5907
>picture
aieeee

[X] A spiky-looking silver light, keeping its position perfectly still above the tip of her pinky. It slowly twists one way for a short while before turning back, like a yo-yo hanging slack.
>> No. 5908
Curse that picture.

[ ] A red spiral that swirls around itself, occasionally tying itself into a knot before piercing through itself and reforming.

The most interessing one.
>> No. 5909
[x] A red spiral that swirls around itself, occasionally tying itself into a knot before piercing through itself and reforming.
This one seems more practical.
That pic jesus fuck.
>> No. 5910
[x] An amber oval, bubbling over with enough force to send its relatively solid form jumping around. Oddly enough, she never needs to chase it to keep it on her hand.
>> No. 5911
[X] A spiky-looking silver light, keeping its position perfectly still above the tip of her pinky. It slowly twists one way for a short while before turning back, like a yo-yo hanging slack.

Stability.
>> No. 5917
[X] A spiky-looking silver light, keeping its position perfectly still above the tip of her pinky. It slowly twists one way for a short while before turning back, like a yo-yo hanging slack.

Stability is the best. At least I hope this choice for stability. Meditation can help. Look at Paul Luther and how he regains his sanity through meditation in Eternal Darkness.

Also that picture is disturbing. Is that supposed to be a zombie?
>> No. 5918
[x] A red spiral that swirls around itself, occasionally tying itself into a knot before piercing through itself and reforming.

I would normally vote for the option that makes it a perfect three-way tie, but I love you and this story too much to do that.
>> No. 5932
[X] A spiky-looking silver light, keeping its position perfectly still above the tip of her pinky. It slowly twists one way for a short while before turning back, like a yo-yo hanging slack.
>> No. 5974
I assure you, there are excuses to be made. I just haven't thought of them yet. Writing now?
>> No. 5977
File 128594636215.png - (23.32KB, 279x388, no_pun_intended.png) [iqdb]
5977
My finger hovers hesitantly over the dancing figures in her palm, before finally settling on the sharp, stable one. Maybe the shape appeals to the action star in me, and maybe there's some soothing connotation of stability and simplicity that the others don't have. Maybe – just maybe – it was the easiest one to catch. Either way, it brightens until the others are completely obscured, then jumps some distance from our little group. As it travels, the air around it distorts sharply, as though it was a pair of scissors cutting through a sheet of paper. When it touches the ground, the sheet falls to reveal...nothing.

"You're lucky, you know that?" By the time I look back at Lyndia, she's trying and failing to conceal her excitement. Her eyes narrow, and what should be a reserved smile quickly turns into a devious grin. "I had some fun ideas, there, but you chose the most fun."
"I was wondering what you do for fun around here."
"Oh, we have our old haunts." An unexpected pun, even a bad one, has always been enough to get a chuckle out of me. Even Rin is visibly holding back a snicker, though she's keeping it silent and well out of her range of sight. "...What?" ...No. No way.
"That wasn't intentional?" And she finally loses the fight, letting a giggle slip. Flustered, Lyndia spins to face her. "I mean, that...you were joking, right?" And back to me, this time with eyes halfway between pleading and frustrated.
"Keep digging that grave, kiddo!" Oh, god damn it. Don't laugh. Don't laugh.
"Why are you laughing? Am I not getting something here?" Her tone is steeped in rage, but Rin persists in worsening the situation.
"Oh, man. The suspense is killing me." And great guffaws finally force their way past my clenched throat. Let me be remembered with honor, as I fought to the bitter end.
Despite the now-boiling anger that shows both in her voice and her face, she keeps relatively calm about the whole situation. "All right, fine, whatever. Here's what's going to happen: You're gonna work backwards. Get a feel for what's different about the other side and this one. It'll be like learning to wiggle your ears." Except for the push. Shit but that girl is strong.

When it happens, there's no big shift of perspective. The world doesn't turn blue, ash doesn't fall from the sky, I don't have a glowing green...gotta come up with a solid term for it. Body would work if only it didn't actually mean body, in this context. Why couldn't I have been born one of those people who doesn't pay attention to details like that? Rather, there's just a...sort of sideways feeling. Sort of like what being awake would feel like if dreaming was normal, with a touch of tightness like when a limb's just finished going through the prickles after waking up. It's just different enough to bother me, but not quite so different that it's easy to describe...I can see why it takes some effort to figure it out. Rin wastes no time lying back down, which is less than encouraging.

Listlessly, she calls off to nothing, "And he's off! I wonder how long it'll be."
"Knowing him? Forever." Looks like Lyndia won't be missing me.
"So you might say he doesn't stand a ghost of a chance." God damn it, Rin.
"I suppose not, though it seems an...odd..." Finally, a look of dawning comprehension crosses her face, followed by such exaggerated embarrassment that I'd bet anything she'd be red as a beet if she had any blood to speak of. Rin's laughter continues mercilessly, even as Lyndia stomps toward her with balled fists.
When she can force herself to stop long enough to speak, her hands take up a vaguely apologetic pose. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Please, spare me your wraith." To no effect.
Right. So. I somehow doubt either of them will be helping me through this. She said it's like...wiggling your ears? What's that supposed to mean? For minutes I ponder, the changes I felt becoming more subtle all the while. With each passing second, the sideways feeling straightens itself out – which, in my experience, means I'm just too sideways to notice it...like tensed muscles. So I...no, there's no reason to this. She already said it would take some kind of insanity to do it that way, and even if I am insane I'd rather keep right on ignoring it.

In the time it takes me to reach that conclusion, the two of them draw apart from each other. They sit, backs facing each other, in grudging silence. Minutes later, Rin calls out just loudly enough to be heard without looking back. "Are you keeping an eye on him?"
And is responded to in kind. "Why should I?" At this, Rin's eyes widen, and her head turns slightly to the left – the first motion toward Lyndia since their scuffle ended.
"You know why. Are you that far gone?" Something tells me I should be legitimately worried.
"Don't act like you would mourn him." And it speaks up.
"This isn't like death. It isn't just temporary. Have you ever imagined what it would be like?"
"Yes, and it happens every day. If he's too stupid to live, then he doesn't need to."
"You heartless bitch." Rin's voice cracks, sending pains through me. I've never been able to listen to girls cry. Call it a weakness. It seems like they're more than just professional acquaintances, from how hurt she sounds.

Of course, there's also the whole 'I might die for real this time' feeling. That's never pleasant, especially when you're not sure what to expect. It's like those horror stories; the imagination is more horrible and terrifying than any truth. All of this isn't helped by the fact that I have no idea how to approach this shit.
"Hey! First time over?" An oni comes flying from across the room, there there's another cloud of energy. I'm not sure how I missed that the first time.

This might get a little more involved than I thought.

[ ] Act casual. I've talked with oni and ghosts, and I've trusted them both. Why not an oni ghost?
[ ] Keep my guard up. I won't be making many friends, but I won't get betrayed by them either.
[ ] Complete shutdown. I'm doing this myself, or I'm not doing it.
>> No. 5978
[x] Act casual. I've talked with oni and ghosts, and I've trusted them both. Why not an oni ghost?
Act casual, do what comes natural, blah blah. We got this. If only to see their faces.
>> No. 5979
[X] Act casual. I've talked with oni and ghosts, and I've trusted them both. Why not an oni ghost?

Keep calm, don't panic.
>> No. 5980
[X] Act casual. I've talked with oni and ghosts, and I've trusted them both. Why not an oni ghost?

Seems like a good idea.
>> No. 5981
[X] Act casual. I've talked with oni and ghosts, and I've trusted them both. Why not an oni ghost?

So Rin can't kill/discorporeate herself and come after us if things go south?
>> No. 5984
Do I have time? As long as the question remains unanswered, there's still a possibility. After all, success is decided by effort...usually.

Writing now.
>> No. 5987
File 128611527735.jpg - (114.18KB, 800x600, honne-campfire.jpg) [iqdb]
5987
And why shouldn't it? If this place is really full of spirits, it's about time one of 'em came over to say hello. "Yeah, I think."
He lets out a warm chuckle and offers his hand, which I gladly take. "Sounds like it, then. I'm surprised you can see straight. People around here don't like to admit it, but the transition is rough."
"I got pushed along, actually. Those two," a quick nod in my so-called tutors' direction is met with a look of understanding, "are supposed to be teaching me the ropes, but they've got me doing everything backwards."
"Well, I guess that's one way of doing it. Seems a little silly to me, but it also makes it all the more impressive that you'd take to it so well!" His voice picks up in enthusiasm, and he punctuates his sentence with a slap on the back that knocks the wind out of me. Getting pretty sick of that, now.
"I kind of wish I wouldn't. It makes you wonder about yourself."
"Nothing bad ever came of the truth." That's debatable, but I'm not stupid enough to say it to an oni, let alone the first person down here to show me some honest hospitality. "Speaking of, you got a name, kid?" Why is it always 'kid' with these people?
"Not one that I give out easily." A business like I'm in, you pick up odd habits like that. Wait...the hospital business? That doesn't seem...
My line of thought is cut off abruptly when he continues. "Just as well, really. Plenty of people this side have been going by nicknames so long they don't even remember what they used to be called. What's in a name, anyways, right kid?"
"Your attention, if I need it. What can I call you?"
If there's one thing I've come to like about oni, it's the smile. They don't really know subtlety, and it can get 'em in trouble, but you can always trust their face. "You're a clever one, kid. I like that. Just call me Blue."

My eyebrow raises reflexively as I look him up and down. His features are smooth and soft aside from the stubble that peppers his jaw, but his age shows subtly in the slight sag of his brow and the condition of his nose, visibly crooked from breaking. His black hair flows proudly around two spiraling horns reminiscent of a ram's, though no more than an inch or two – long enough to show off, short enough to maintain. Under a simple but well-fit white dress shirt and brown corduroys, his muscles are clearly toned, though not built to bulging like some of his more brutish brethren. What catches my curiosity and holds it, though, is the reddish tone of his skin. It breaks convention in that it's perfectly normal for a human, unlike the almost garish tones of many of the other oni I've met. "On account of how blue you are?"
"Ah, the story's twice as boring as it is long. You don't wanna hear it." Or maybe you don't want to tell it. I've never been one to pry, though.
"I'll take your word for it."
With an arm around my shoulder, he gently guides our steps before I even realize we're walking. "That's a wise move, I think you'll find. Come on, let me introduce you to some people. Sure you've got your head on straight?" Now that he mentions it, the odd feeling from before has mostly subsided. I can tell it's there if I focus, but it's pretty well normal at this point.
Cocking my head back and to the left, I give him a grin and an enthusiastic, "Nope!"

The flight over is spent trading bad jokes and laughter, and the mood spills over from all the people we see there. When I realize how long it's been since I've been given a chance to really relax, the thought of training and work fades to the background for a while.

---

"...So the bartender says, 'That's no duck!'" Another explosion of laughter is accompanied by snorts, slaps, and streams of tears. The crowd is as merry as it is diverse; an assortment of oni, youkai, and humans of all races and creeds. In death they've found a common ground, and (if what they've told me is to be believed) spend their days as they please. A guy could get used to this.
Across from me, a girl with bottle-glass spectacles (Worn more out of habit than necessity, at this point) and hands as long as her lower arms calls out to the scholarly-looking man who just finished his joke. "You tell that one every time, and it's always new! How do you do it?"
He pauses to ponder for a second before replying. "Well, it's all in the delivery. Or maybe it's all in the company."
A friendly slap on the back from the withered old man beside him interrupts whatever point he was trying to make. "Ah, it's not all in anything. You're just a natural comedian."
"Yeah, yeah. Butter me up all you like, you're not getting any favors."
"Damn! Saw right through me. Hey, you! New kid! Tell us a joke!"
"Ah, I'm no good at telling jokes." Always been more of a wallflower, actually. It's kind of nice just to enjoy people's company.
"Bullshit! We haven't had new blood in years, even a bad one's a new one."

[ ] Play along, why not?
--[ ] Go for a corny one-liner.
--[ ] Something a little raunchy couldn't hurt, right?
--[ ] I am in the mood to make a shitload of crappy puns.
[ ] Stick to my guns, peer pressure be damned.
[ ] Hey, actually, I've got this thing I should be doing...

---

You don't have to vote for a sub-option if you're in a comedic mood. I'll just take the reigns. And once again, this is not just a filler option.
>> No. 5988
[x] Play along, why not?
-[x]Puns. Puns everywhere.
We should probably get on out of here after a bit though.
>A guy could get used to this.
Shit like that is a little worrying.
>> No. 5989
[X] Hey, actually, I've got this thing I should be doing...

We left a girl crying back there, you know.
>> No. 5990
[x] Hey, actually, I've got this thing I should be doing...
>> No. 5991
[X] Hey, actually, I've got this thing I should be doing...
>> No. 5992
[x] Play along, why not?
-[x]Puns. Puns everywhere.
>> No. 5996
[X] Hey, actually, I've got this thing I should be doing...

Like living. The afterlife does seem awesome, but Orin does seem pretty worried about us. We also can't woo Cynical!Yamame if we're "dead", either.

I've noticed that the insanity blackouts have died off since a little before Orin puled our soul out of our body.
>> No. 5999
[ ] Play along, why not?
-[ ] But we need to get back soon. Left two lovely ladies waiting for us, eh?
>> No. 6001
[x] Hey, actually, I've got this thing I should be doing...

But not unfriendly-ly. Rather, kinda in the sense of "Hey, you people are awesome, and you've made something that by all rights should have been fucking terrifying into something tolerable and even entertaining, and I thank you for that. If I don't fuck things up, I might run into some of you again, and that would be cool, but I really do seriously have to be going."

You know?
>> No. 6002
It's good to see you still have a sense of duty. I've got a lot on my plate today, but I'm going to make some attempt at writing. The probability of it being finished before tomorrow is quite slim, though.
>> No. 6003
File 128620329187.jpg - (216.93KB, 1280x1024, Hotblood unrelated.jpg) [iqdb]
6003
"Nah, really. I should actually get going. I was talking to Blue about it before; I'm doing this whole...training. Thing." Dissenting cries abound. They really must not get out very often.
A girl in a loose robe and overdone makeup clings loosely to my arm, draping herself on air. "Aww, come on! You can stay a little longer, can't you?"
"Afraid not. I've got people waiting on me."
"Yeah, and when you leave you're gonna have way more." Blue jumps in with a hand on my shoulder.
"Staying longer isn't gonna change that, is it? Seriously, guys, I'm not gonna be gone forever."
The scholarly man from before speaks up to defend me. "He's right. Look over there," He gestures vaguely toward the spot I left Rin and Lyndia, "They've just been sitting around while we've been having a good time."
"Well, okay. Just don't forget about us, kid. You know you're always welcome around here." Another friendly slap on the back, this time sending me tumbling on my way.

As I make my way back over, a certain weight comes over me. Nothing physical, but that sort of sinking feeling you get after going down a long hill, or when something you're eating gets caught in your throat. Something is wrong. Something is, in fact, very wrong, and it's made worse by the fact that I can't quite tell what it is. The feeling stews in uncertainty, spiraling around and fogging my thoughts. I breathe sharply out of habit, but it does nothing to calm me. I close my eyes, but they still see. My spirit aches like my blood is boiling, but through all my trembling I stay perfectly still. Where's Rin? For that matter, where's Lyndia? I could swear this is where I left them. Isn't this where I left them? My body is...gone. Every instinct is telling me to run away, but I don't really know where "away" is. I might already be there. There's a pounding in my leg, like a struggling heart. It moves to my shoulder, to my eye, to my ring finger, not knowing where to settle.

"Snap the fuck out of it!" To my cheek, where it stays.

The faint image of an enraged Lyndia fades into existence, flickering at first but gradually stabilizing, as does the room that I never left. Not the best word, but it's not easy to describe. It's like when you're looking for something that's been in front of you the entire time, and there's that moment of realization. How did I ever miss it? I could swear I was looking straight at it. In this case, though, it was everything; some hallucination that wasn't a hallucination, and it didn't go away all at once. It occurs to me that I was...somewhere. Not here, but here.

"Now focus. Grab on to what you're feeling, and pull!" It hurts, but so do a lot of things. My grip is slippery, but the longer I keep it the easier it becomes. Just when I think I've got it, a body collides with mine, which collides with the floor. Looks like I'm back.
"You did it!" Rin's muffled voice shouts into my chest before her hug backs into a straddle. "You did it!"
A cursory glance around confirms that yes, I am indeed corporeal. "I did it."
"Yay!" Her arms fly into the air in victory, forcing Lyndia to move her head out of the way. Her mood isn't quite so bright, judging from the scowl. Just looking at it seems to suck light from her surroundings.
Grabbing Rin's hands and pulling her off of me, she speaks with a quiet rage. "You're an idiot, you know that?"
"I've found that my good fortune more than makes up for it." For all her foulness, she still reaches down and offers me a hand to stand with. "More than my share comes in the form of company, though."
"And you've just as much poor fortune. You should pay more attention, we very nearly lost you."
Rin wastes no time butting in at that. "Wait. You really weren't looking in on him? I thought you were just messing with me." Hell no you didn't!
"You seemed awfully broken up for being so sure." Rin's neck turns so fast I could swear I heard it snap, but before she can reply Lyndia cuts her off.
"I'm not a liar, Rin, but I'm also not heartless. I looked once and only once, and when I did he was on his way out."
"On my way out of what? I'm not an expert like you guys, you've got to slow down around me." The two share a glance. In no more than a second, their faces show a silent agreement and Rin steps forward to explain with a look of legitimate concern.
"I want you to understand that, no matter what happens to you, you're a human. You're still alive, you still have a body, and you still have time. I know I've been trying to teach you that life doesn't really end, but it's still a very different form of it and not everyone can understand it. Not even I really get it. Right now, you're bound to this plane one way or another. Whatever you felt over there is the normal state of things for spirits that went there naturally, and just like you had to go through effort to leave, so do they."
"Wait, wait. I thought you said that the first shift takes a lot of effort."
"It does. Think of it as maturing, though. If I asked you to, do you think you could perfectly emulate a child's point of view?"
"No. Not a chance." There's a few out there who can, but even that takes years and years of study.
"The first shift is like puberty. It's a long and difficult process, and it's even harder to come back. Why do you think ghost stories are so uncommon?"
"Point."
"I've been trying not to scare you about this training because it's such a large step, but now that you've seen what you're really getting into, you can back off if you want. We haven't even really started, and it's not going to get any easier from here on out. You're going to need to keep a constant grip on yourself, too; we won't always be around to pull you back."

[ ] Fuck it. I'm gonna write this off as a dream, I was happy enough before. Decline – for real this time.
[ ] How the fuck am I supposed to just drop it after this? It's just gonna eat away at me. Accept – for real, this time.

And for my own benefit.
[ ] I like the technical aspect of things. Keep going.
[ ] Timeskip, motherfucker. I want out of this hell-hole.

---

What luck I have today, to be blessed with not only a pardon but a muse. I know this is a "Really? Really really? You're sure, now?" vote, but I didn't think it was entirely fair to go along this route without informing you that it can and will prevent certain other possibilities. After all, these things take time that could be spent on other ventures.
>> No. 6004
[Q] How the fuck am I supposed to just drop it after this? It's just gonna eat away at me. Accept – for real, this time.

[Q] I like the technical aspect of things. Keep going. Though maybe a tiny bit less technical.
>> No. 6005
>>6004
Tiny bit less technical like how? Gotta plan for these things.
>> No. 6006
>>6005

Like what you've got, only very slightly less so. It feels a little bit too long-winded sometimes.

Sorry I can't be more specific.
>> No. 6007
[x] How the fuck am I supposed to just drop it after this? It's just gonna eat away at me. Accept – for real, this time.
-[x] Timeskip, ho!
I'm down for more of your detailing, but I want to go back to delicious character interaction between Parsee and Yamame, and whoever else.
>> No. 6008
>>6007
that's assuming the ghost training doesn't interfere with that.
>> No. 6009
[X] How the fuck am I supposed to just drop it after this? It's just gonna eat away at me. Accept – for real, this time.
-[X] I do kind of have a full-time job at the hospital though, so I won't be able to make it here on a consistent schedule. I'll try to inform you ahead of time when I can come though.

Well we do. Bias towards Yamame helps too.

[X] Don't timeskip, but I won't mind if you decide to just give us a general report of the process. Especially if it's dull.
>> No. 6010
>it can and will prevent certain other possibilities.
Hopefully you don't mean that saying yes will flat-out prevent us from investigating Okuu-related goings-on, working at the hospital, or sorting out the voices in our heads? It seems a bit soon in the story for a choice like that.

[X] How the fuck am I supposed to just drop it after this? It's just gonna eat away at me. Accept – for real, this time.
-[X] I do kind of have a full-time job at the hospital, though.

[X] I like the technical aspect of things. Keep going.
>> No. 6011
[x] >>6009
>> No. 6012
[x] I like technical things
[x] Option that leads to more Yamame in this story.
[x] Continue Magical Orinrin Ghost Adventures if that and the previous choice do not conflict.
>> No. 6013
>>6012
...I suppose that and >>6009 are almost the same thing. But if I have to choose who I want to see more of/who I want this story to be about, I'll choose wonderful trashy Yamame.
>> No. 6014
[X] How the fuck am I supposed to just drop it after this? It's just gonna eat away at me. Accept – for real, this time.
>> No. 6015
>>6006
>>6009
You see, that's where I have trouble. I'm the sort that finds boundless entertainment in detail, no matter how mundane - I have, in the past, spent very nearly an hour at a time observing the inside of a split rock or a particularly detailed mural. Because of it, I don't really have a sense for what's "long-winded" or "dull" to others. I'll simply have to ask that you call me out when the occasion arises, so that I might form one.

>>6008
>>6010
>>6012
Why, I'm not that cruel. No, all that has been a main part of the story thus far and will continue as such. I mean more your night life - The story was intended to be extremely open-ended in that regard, allowing for any number of misadventures in a number of genres. To be honest, you'll likely still have options there, but having agreed to a long-term commitment they won't be as common and will at times carry certain consequences.

>>6013
Is she really that trashy? I was shooting more for punk rock girl. Either way, I'm happy you like her.

I won't be able to write for some time, but I think the winner is clear enough. I'll be spending my free minutes planning, to take better advantage of the time I have to write.
>> No. 6019
>>6015
I didn't find her so much trashy as edgy. I'm curious if under her harsh shell lies a deliciously soft center.
>> No. 6022
File 128646226216.png - (828.90KB, 1280x634, brucefuckinglee.png) [iqdb]
6022
"You keep talking to me like I haven't already said yes." Women. Always so indecisive.
Only now do her features soften back to her usual...Actually, does she even have a usual? "Good. Wonderful! Fantabulerific!" Taking my hands, she swings me by the arms in a circle and tosses me in the air like a child. Her arms wait in the air for my descent, which doesn't come. "...Hey! When did you learn to fly?" Just now? No, I was flying when I was with Blue and the other guys...but it felt natural then, too.
"That'sssssa good question actually. It happened, though!"
"Well, you know what they say about horses and mouths. Now come down here so I can hug you!" Her voice has the stern, commanding, yet loving tone that only a mother can get quite right.
But she's not my mother. "And break a rib? No thanks."
For once, Lyndia looks genuinely amused. "Might I remind you that you currently lack ribs?"
"And break a ghost-rib? No thanks."
"Oh, fine. Make things hard for me, why don't you." Before I have time to realize just what that implies, she's in the air. If I had a better grip on the whole plane shift thing, I might be able to avoid her. As it stands, though, her monstrous leap catches me mid-air and drags me tumbling to the earth. Oddly enough, it doesn't hurt so much this time.
Either it shows or Rin doesn't care either way. "We have so much to go over! You've got to learn to harness your emotions, link spirits, see into--"
"Rin!" Lyndia to the rescue. "He's had a hard night. Maybe we should wait for tomorrow."
Her enthusiasm is sapped in an instant, and her features drop to a pout. Even her ears fall flat on her head. "Aww, come on. He hardly even got warmed up," She turns to me for reassurance, allowing herself to perk up just a touch, "Right, big guy?" Ah, man. I hate taking sides with girls.
"Lyndia has a point. You don't really know what just happened to me." As her features drop again, my heart goes with them. Damn it, when did I get so soft? "...But so do you. I should get some more practice in while the feeling is fresh."
With a "Yesss!", she delivers one more quick rib-crusher. Her head quickly turns back to Lyndia, as energetic as ever. "See? He's fine!"
And she's met with a noncommittal shrug. "If you say so. It doesn't seem like we're going to have a whole lot to do if he's just practicing, though." Except maybe keeping me from trapping myself in another dimension?
"Got any cards?" Or cards. That was my second guess.

---

As it turns out, cards weren't such a bad idea. The first time was a new and frightening experience, but it sort of ingrains itself on your mind. After a game of something that looks like a local variation of rummy, the transition to that sideways feeling becomes more familiar and even pleasant, and after another the shift back becomes effortless. I still come out of it with my eyes crossed every time, (Which never fails to get a giggle out of Rin) but that's still worlds better than it was initially.

Which is good enough for me. "I think I've got this down, now."
"Well, keep practicing. This is our last hand." Way to take all this seriously.
"Come on, Rin. You're two hundred behind, there's no way you're going to win."
"Shut up and draw!" Her eyes dart to her tightly-gripped cards, then Lyndia's bored face, then to the pile of cards between them. She shifts her hands back and forth nervously the entire time.
"Fine, fine." A dozen cards or so arrange themselves in the air and deposit themselves into her hand, but only one set drops before her discard.
With shaking hands, Rin reaches down to pick from the deck, deposits a single card into her hand, and drops the entire thing between them in neatly-arranged hands. A look of dawning comprehension spreads across Lyndia's face, sending her into a stuttering, bewildered heap. Meanwhile, a sharp grin crosses Rin as she counts aloud.
"...165, 185, 215, and 295. I do believe I win."
"But...How did you...Why would..."
"Right, then. Show me what you've got." With a quick hop, shahfuck! "Too slow! There's no point in shifting if you can't dodge a punch with it." The impact sends me flying backward, and the lingering soreness makes it harder to dodge the follow-up.
A pivot on my heel puts my face just out of range, giving me a half-second while she corrects her stance. With how far she threw herself forward, that probably would have put my head in the ground. "What the fuck are you doing?!"
Her hand touches the floor, giving her enough of a grip to spin around with a kick to the legs. "Teaching you why I'm teaching you! Now stop dodging and start fighting!"
Getting my head together, I shift an instant before a nasty stomp meets the space my chest used to be. Halfway through scrambling to my feet, the utter pointlessness of scrambling in this state dawns on me. After taking a second to give myself distance, I shift back, crossed eyes and all. "God damn it, Rin! I'm a doctor, not a medicine man!" Which reminds me. I should talk to them about scheduling these around my job at the clinic.
This time it's Lyndia to retort. "Not while you're training under us, you aren't."
Rin expresses her concurrence in the form of another rush on my position. It looks like a simple tackle, but with her agility there's really no telling.

[ ] Try to beat her honestly, but keep shifting as an option. Those martial arts classes had to come in handy some time.
[ ] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.
[ ] Lyndia's gotten me out of trouble more than once today. Try to get her to convince Rin to use a different method.
>> No. 6023
Incidentally, I've never written a fight scene. This is kind of an experiment for me.
>> No. 6024
[ ] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.

Like she said. Shifting is why she's teaching us all this.
>> No. 6025
[X] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.
>> No. 6027
[X] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.
>> No. 6028
[Q] Try to beat her honestly, but keep shifting as an option. Those martial arts classes had to come in handy some time.

Well, I'd say you're doing okay with the fights.
>> No. 6029
[x] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.

!!!
>> No. 6030
[x] Try to beat her honestly, but keep shifting as an option. Those martial arts classes had to come in handy some time.
Can't really rely on a skill he is just starting to learn, as that's a terrible idea.
>> No. 6031
>"Teaching you why I'm teaching you! Now stop dodging and start fighting!"
Hwa?

[X] Try to beat her honestly, but keep shifting as an option. Those martial arts classes had to come in handy some time.

I want to see how our combat prowess stacks up, and keeping shifting as an ace in the hole seems like a sound strategy anyway.
>> No. 6032
[x] >>6028
>> No. 6034
I pop in to see what I should start thinking about tomorrow to find a 4-4 tie! Normally a tie wouldn't bear mentioning, but that's already more votes than I usually get. If anyone's out there who still needs to vote, it's your call whether I flip a coin when it comes time to write.
>> No. 6035
[x] Try to beat her honestly, but keep shifting as an option. Those martial arts classes had to come in handy some time.
>> No. 6036
[X] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.

It's what all this training is for.
>> No. 6044
[X] Try to figure out ways to use plane-shifting to my advantage. There's no way I'll get a hit in if I'm not sneaky about it.

That's the point of all this, isn't it?
>> No. 6047
This shit is, for lack of a better term, bananas.

I have an unspecified amount of time available to me, and will try to get an update out either tonight or tomorrow. I somewhat doubt that I'll be able to do it any earlier, but I've proven those doubts wrong more than a few times in the past so whatever.
>> No. 6057
File 128683786026.png - (465.99KB, 800x1044, d8e328d317cc9e86f18dfcc8bded73b9.png) [iqdb]
6057
Either way, I'm not sticking around to find out. A quick shift comes just in time to witness a dramatic backward flip-kick that would have absolutely destroyed my groin. The fluttering of her dress makes me think for an instant about her earlier comment as pertaining to her panties (or lack thereof), but ultimately the darkness makes it impossible to check. Oh, well.
When she lands, she glances around for a half-second before relaxing her stance. "See, now that's what I'm talking about. Do that more."
"But it's hardly a fair fight, that way." And another shift for a backhand with her entire body put behind it. She's really not one to waste time.
"Are you saying I'm as clumsy, slow, weak, and unobservant as you?" Ouch. It's all got roots in truth, but still. I want to retort, but that would involve shifting again. There's no doubt that she's just provoking me, which means she has a plan.
"And cowardly. Don't forget cowardly." Lyndia, meanwhile, is content to sit at at distance on a throne of...wait, throne? She's definitely got more than just ghostly mojo going on. "He's over there by the way." Bitch.
"Thank you!" Another flash of motion, and the distance I'd made disappears. Her stance falls again, readying another sweeping kick. It doesn't mean much, though, what with my stashitfuck! How?! "Lesson two. Resisting control from others." Before I have time to even fall, her foot falls square on my chest and pushes me down to the ground with a stomp that echos in my entire body. With a single heel on me, she leans forward and rests her weight on her knee.
I'm beginning to hate that uppity grin. "Why is this important?"
"Because," she starts with an extra little stomp, "You're a spirit, you dolt. You're going to be naturally vulnerable to anyone with a shred of control. Just like you have to stay in control in the face of nature, you're going to have to learn to stay in control in the face of other necromancers." She punctuates her sentence with another kick, this time letting herself fly back a ways. It's all I can do to give her an indignant glare as I get up, which doesn't faze her in the least. She's right, though – completely right, actually. I shouldn't have had to ask. "Now fight me." Okay.

Rin stands waiting, either a gesture of kindness to let me gather myself or a smug form of condescension. The first thing to come to mind is plane-shifting, getting behind her, and delivering a swift strike somewhere that'd leave her open. Her expression doesn't change in the least as I walk by, and there's no indication that she can see me. My mind is very clearly set on the sideways feeling, so she's not just being facetious. How is it, then, that she spins to face me, grabs my descending arm, and puts me on the floor within the space of a blink?
"Come on. A rear sneak attack? Really? A child could have seen that coming." Her incessant prodding is starting to get on my nerves. "I mean, if you had attacked me anywhere else – literally anywhere – that counter wouldn't have worked."
Thankfully, Lyndia shouts something neither mocking nor outright insulting. "He gets credit, though. On the way over, he was still cautious of you."
"Wow, really? It's almost like I've been kicking his ass." Clearly I'm going to need to employ some creative problem-solving, here. My mind races for something to grip onto; methods, tools, maneuvers, old kung-fu movies, quirks to exploit, the environment, Rin, Lyndia, the other ghosts...The other ghosts? If nothing else, the other cloud can give me a quick reference for what plane I'm in.

And with the swiftness of a bolt of lightning, a beautiful, wonderful, horrible idea pops into my head.

Once again, I work my way toward her back, staying terribly focused on staying ethereal. This is going to take some finesse, but if it works...well, if it works then I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Probably punch her a few times. God knows she deserves it at this point. When I finally reach her, I can see the minute twitches in her eyes. She's on her guard, but that's exactly where she needs to be. Either she has a fantastic sense for timing or there's something giving me away, because like clockwork her heels spin to face me even before I completely finish shifting back. Should look into that later. Her blocking arm meets nothing but air, though, and in the split-second she spends scanning for me my legs spring up from their stance at her feet, alongside the frills of her dress. She wasn't kidding.

My desire to get a few good blows in overrides my curiosity, though. Throwing as many kicks, punches, knees and elbows as I can before she gathers herself, both on her now-exposed skin and on whatever happened to be moving under that fabric, one thing serves as a constant distraction: Laughter. No matter how much force I put into a blow or where it lands, her only response is laughter. Seeing the edges of her dress beginning to fall, I hop backward and shift again to avoid her inevitable counterattack...which never comes. Even coughing and bleeding, she struggles against her own onslaught. After a time, the giggles fade into winces more readily, and she addresses me with a disturbing calmness and simplicity.

"That's the spirit." Judging from the soft blue glow in her eyes and the slow sharpening of her nails, this fight isn't over just yet.
"Orin. That's enough for now." Judging from Lyndia actually getting up for a change, this fight is just about over.
"Oh, come on. It's probably not even the witching hour!" Oh yeah. Time does exist!
"Actually, she's got a point. I agreed to do all this, but I do have a job at the clinic and all. I should really get some sleep; I'd hate to put a needle in the wrong vein or something."
"See? There'll be plenty of time." The two stare each other down long and hard, not once glancing in my direction. Eventually Rin's eyes fade back to their normal shade, and Lyndia breathes a heavy sigh of relief. Or is that me? I can hardly tell any more.
With a light push and a huff, Rin starts making for the door. "If you say so. You get to teach him next time, though."
The comment raises a smile on Lyndia's lips, and her head turns to face me. "You keep talking to me like I haven't already said yes."
The creak of the enormous iron door straining under its own weight makes me remember one tiny little insignificant detail that decides to itch at me just now. "Hey, uh...How do I get back in my body?"
Rin flashes a lopsided, blood-stained grin over her shoulder. In the second before she speaks, a shiver goes down my spine and my stomach tightens. "What body?"

And the door slams shut.

[ ] Ha ha ha, good one, Rin. Okay, Lyndia, help me out here.
[ ] I mean, she is kidding, right? She wouldn't...
[ ] Fuck. Fuck. FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCK!

---

Sorry, unexpected delays. Fans of Orin-rin Land, your vacation is almost over. Haters of Orin-rin Land, your hell is almost over.
>> No. 6059
[X] Fuck. Fuck. FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCK!
[X] Shift through the door and go after her.

Not cool, brah. Not cool. Even if it is just a joke/deception/exaggeration/lie.
>> No. 6061
[Q] Ha ha ha, good one, Rin. Okay, Lyndia, help me out here.
>> No. 6062
[X] Ha ha ha, good one, Rin. Okay, Lyndia, help me out here.
>> No. 6063
[x] Ha ha ha, good one, Rin. Okay, Lyndia, help me out here.
Oh that Rin, she's such a kidder.
>> No. 6067
[x] Ha ha ha, good one, Rin. Okay, Lyndia, help me out here.

Oh hell.
>> No. 6074
I'm going to have a fair amount of time available to me in the coming days, but much of it will be occupied with personal issues. Assuming all goes well, I'll be able to write something by the end of Friday. Until then, just fantasize about Yamame or something.
>> No. 6076
>>6074

Hooray!
>> No. 6083
File 12870833083.jpg - (1.03MB, 1290x903, 50f69ea76057c88123e8b22ac67334a5.jpg) [iqdb]
6083
>Until then, just fantasize about Yamame or something.
Can do.
>> No. 6084
File 128710414021.jpg - (145.65KB, 842x750, ripples.jpg) [iqdb]
6084
For a long moment, the weight of the situation sinks in on me. I can't see my body around. What's next? Do I just live like this? The world slowly warps in my eyes, which strain almost painfully, relaxing again with each blink. No more than ten seconds could have possibly passed by the time I make the connection, but they're about the longest ten seconds a man can experience. You never realize how subjective time is until you have a freak-out like that, but I've had more than enough in the last few days. There's this, there was the first shift, there was...what was there? It feels like something happened, but--"You all right, there?" I've also been shaken out of one too many reveries recently.
"Uh. Yeah. That was just a really mean joke." It's amazing how you can forget about simple things like looking for the goddamn body when you get hit with something like that. Or like where you left it. Glancing around, it...doesn't seem to be here. "...Practical joke. Help me out, here?"
All the help I get is a nonchalant shrug and a smirk. "Sorry. I wasn't keeping an eye on it. If I were you, I'd be chasing her down, though. If it's still in this room, I doubt you'd want to get back into it. Though frankly, I'm not sure why you'd want to at all."
Not funny, Lyndia. "Well, I'm just a little bit attached to it, what with being alive and all that." Or maybe it's something I'll look back on and laugh about, years down the line. You certainly don't seem to have a problem with it.
"Then go get it. The door's right there." ...That it is. An experimental push reveals just how heavy the door is, which is to say 'Much heavier than I can handle.' It also draws forth a mocking giggle from Lyndia, who remains wholly unhelpful. I can't just ask her how, at this point. Her silence just screams "Figure it out." Which means...it's something that I can figure out. Or should be able to. All I've really learned how to do tonight is...

Duh. What am I, retarded?

A shift comes as naturally as breathing, now. I hate to let insecurity get in the way, but I've got to remember to ask about whether that's normal for a single night's practice. Curse my boundless ego. Without hesitation, I run for the door, and against all of my instincts my speed doesn't drop in the least as it draws closer and closer, finally passing directly through me. It leaves a hell of a spin on my head, though. Hurts, too. And that laughing sound can't be healthy. Neither can the weird irresistible lift on my arms. "I was waiting for that! It never gets old, you know that?" How nice of you to join me, Lyndia.
"What are you doing over here? Wanted to keep an eye on me?"
The bemused smile on her face is an odd expression, but it seems to fit her. "Look at where you are." Red rock, floaty ghosts, lava river. The same training room as before. This must be some kind of magic!
"How'd I get back in here?" Following the tradition of mixing expressions, she manages to both sigh and laugh at the same time.
Under her breath, I could swear I hear a comment about men and asking directions. Without giving me time to think further on that, she continues. "You never left. Passing through solid objects isn't quite the same." Well, fuck.
"Well, fuck."
Looking over me for a second, she rubs her chin in thought. "I think you could pull it off though. Do you remember the way things were when I pulled you back from the other side?" It was...bad. Good. Weird.
"Yyyyyno. It was like a bad trip." Judging from her expression, she doesn't quite get the slang. Probably should have thought of that.
"Well, you're going to have to go on it again. Did it never occur to you that the whole time, no matter whether you were with us or immaterial, you were still standing on the same floor, seeing the same light, feeling the same air?" Now that you mention it...
"No, actually. Not until I wasn't any more."
"You said it yourself: You're still too attached. You're going to have to either put a lot more effort into pushing that door open, or abandon yourself for a while." So I can either call upon the powers of Castle Greyskull, or play it smart. Another minute or so of quiet contemplation passes as I try to get a grip on just what was going on before. I've learned enough tonight to know that self-awareness is the most important part...so far. It's certainly an important part, if nothing else. As long as I keep my wits about me, there's no limit to where I can go or what I can do, whereas letting things take their course will force me into one plane. I've already got friends in more than one, so that isn't an option. Stepping up to the door and keeping them in mind, I take a deep, readying breath. It's now or never.

"I...have...THE POWEEEEER!"

...Nothing. Fuck. Plan B, then. I shift again, but this time it needs to go further. I grab on to the sideways feeling and force it further than it can go. My stomach lurches so hard that I could swear it jumped straight out of me if I didn't know better, and a light pulse starts coursing through my body. Eventually, it all relaxes. Echos I didn't know I was hearing fade, the last cries of the material world,

and as the ripples disappear,



I just float on.






[ ] Push.
[ ] Pull.
[ ] .

---

Not all went well. I had time to kill.
>> No. 6085
[X] Pull.

God damn it.
>> No. 6086
[x] Pull.

For once, I do not trust the spoilered option.
>> No. 6087
We need to stop ignoring the insanity blackout options before it bites us in the ass hard.

[X] Pull.

But now is not the time.
>> No. 6088
>before it bites us in the ass hard.

Oh, you mean like going insane and blacking out?

Sometimes a Koishi option is just a Koishi option.

[x] Pull.

I have too many regrets.

Regrets like not pushing Rin into a crevice.
>> No. 6092
[ ] Pull.

I'll start laughing so hard if this option means he reaches out and easily pulls the door open.

Won't happen, but he's only tried pushing thus far.
>> No. 6095
>>6092
I'm guessing that's what the choice is: Pull opens the door in a very Soul Reaver-esque shift planes to solve problems kind of way, whereas Push would phase through the door. That said, I'll go with

[x] Push
>> No. 6115
The proximity to this story's second thread is becoming almost menacing. Even though it's been months, it feels like it's happening so fast.

I am not likely to finish an update today, but writing will happen at some point.
>> No. 6118
>>6115
Around two month's is actually pretty fast when not compared to those freakishly fast stories in /th/. Lion's stories, amongst the more popular on this site, tend to have the same lifespan.
>> No. 6119
File 128735816487.jpg - (32.74KB, 350x342, Nothing.jpg) [iqdb]
6119
Wait.

Go.









Hold on...

Let go...





I know there's...something here.




Nothing is here.


But nothing isn't something.

Nothing's nothing.

Right?

Nothing is here. Here is nothing.




But I'm here. Does that mean here isn't here?

There is here. Is there 'here'? Here there is




You don't have to tell me that. I already know.

Who is you?

You know. You.

Do you?

...No. That doesn't really matter though. I've got places to be.

Do I?






I do.






My head is spinning. Well, no, it's more...hot. Cold. Hot-cold. I can't really get a grip on how it feels; it's like I'm puking but with a hint of that dizziness that comes after taking a heavy fall. I know that one all too well, especially after how I got down in this fucking hole. My back is still sore from that one. Or it could be that I actually did just fall, and I'm taking it like a baby. Speaking of which, limb check. Arms okay, legs...tingly, but workable. Balls...? All right, my boys are all home. Now what the hell was I just doing? There was...whatever that was. The less I think about it, the better. Then before that was that bitch!

Nobody locks me behind doors I can't open and gets away with it; partially because I don't take kindly to that sort of behavior and partially because doors I can't open don't exist. Even if I don't know how I opened them, exactly. Normally a guy in my situation would be running like an idiot down whatever hallways he can get lost in, but I've had to chase down enough people to know that chasing isn't half as fun or effective as catching. With a delicate ear to the wall, I listen for whatever I can or can't find. Solid matter transmits sound more readily than anything, and at this hour she's got to be the only one in the building. Even as careful and as experienced as I am, though, I'm getting nothing...Which means she was stupid enough not to run.

Which also means she's still here, where there are no witnesses. Lovely. I don't have any of my usual tools on me, but there's always something to improvise with. Slow, measured, and above all silent steps mark my ascent up this death trap of a stairwell, all rusting iron and half-assed welding jobs. If this is the usual state of things in here, I'd be happy to forget about beating some respect into that hyperactive little wench and get out with my skin intact. Not that I'd know the way out, anyways.

Except I do. Why do I...?

Every room is oddly familiar, though I can't quite pin how. I can half-tell what I'm going to find before I open doors, I know where the floor's going to creak, and in a matter of minutes I've got a solid idea of how to get out. There's not a shred of doubt in the route, either; I can't see it from here but it's like walking down the street I grew up on. Either way, I've still got business in here. No matter where I go I can't seem to catch a sound from her, but she doesn't seem the type to be particularly stealthy. She couldn't have left, could she? Well, of course she could have. If I can leave, she's had plenty of time by now. So why can't I help but feel like she's still in here?

A pulse knocks me off my feet, effectively stopping any train of thought I might have started riding. Nothing like an explosion or a gust of wind; it's more like when someone drives by with the bass on their stereo turned up high enough to demolish buildings. That vibration that makes you feel like your heart is going to get thrown off its rhythm for a second. This time, it actually does. Everything in me is shouting to get the fuck away, but it's just too weird not to look into...

[ ] Fuck this noise. I'm going home.
[ ] Ignore the pulse. I'm not letting her get away with this.
[ ] Curiosity killed the cat, which is exactly why we're friends.

---

Or I'll just make it a short update after typing almost the entire thing without even having to stop to think. Is this what inspiration is like, or am I going to regret this in the morning?
>> No. 6120
So the insanity came for us instead. Huh.

[X] Fuck this noise. I'm going home.

I'm gonna have to side with his instincts here. They seem to know what they're doing right now. We'll just flat out ignore the cat from now on if he's really upset about it.
>> No. 6121
[x] Curiosity killed the cat, which is exactly why we're friends.
>> No. 6122
[Q] Curiosity killed the cat, which is exactly why we're friends.
>> No. 6123
[X] Ignore the pulse. I'm not letting her get away with this.

It's gonna be awfully awkward if we have to come to work tomorrow without the old corpus.
>> No. 6124
[X] Ignore the pulse. I'm not letting her get away with this.

Not just going to roll over and stay dead after all that. We have a sort-of nice thing going with Yamame and it's not exactly easy to practice medicine without a body. I don't dislike Orin, but the bitch is just too greedy.
>> No. 6125
[X] Fuck this noise. I'm going home.
>> No. 6126
[x] >>6124

We can't exactly do much without a body.
>> No. 6136
[X] Ignore the pulse. I'm not letting her get away with this.
>> No. 6174
I'm currently too tired and/or stupid to vote.
>> No. 6177
>>/youkai/17940
>> No. 6187
>>6177

Two writers gone because they are the same eprson. I'm actually mad at you now.
>> No. 6188
>>6187
That seems somewhat counterintuitive. It's not as though his real life commitments would have gotten any less time-consuming if he only had one identity. True, starting up new stories with old ones unfinished is not optimal form, but he's promised to finish CFA now, and is one of the few people on the boards I trust to keep that sort of promise, so all's well, really.
>> No. 6192
>>6188
Some stories are easier to do than others, though the whole alternate name thing is an annoying habit from the past. It's also Anon's fault for the pestering that leads to such things.
>> No. 6194
He clearly stated that he's dealing with personal problems right now. It's like what happens to most writers during the midterms and finals. He's coming back. He's just busy right now.

And it's not like the updates are going to stop. They just won't be as fast as they were before, which we should be used to by now.

The use of two trips does seem pointless, but it was just a countermeasure to keep Anon from pressuring him into restarting CSA, which he did anyway.
>> No. 6202
>>6194
That makes me wonder, how do we know when a story is dead and when a story is just on hiatus? What's the longest time been for a story on hiatus to actually start back up?
>> No. 6253
> That makes me wonder, how do we know when a story is dead and when a story is just on hiatus?

You don't, not really.
>> No. 6254
>>6253
I tend to go by a timeline, myself. If there's communication, then the story isn't dead. If it goes longer than a month, with or without, it's on hiatus. After two months with no word, the story is quite dead - though miraculous revivals aren't unheard of!
>> No. 6293
File 129004461892.jpg - (21.01KB, 319x320, eavesdropping-1.jpg) [iqdb]
6293
...But only if it's on the way. I know exactly what I'm here for, and I'm not about to change my mind.

I'm still clueless as to where she would be, though. No noises, no prints – not that there would be in any semi-respectable business, but a man can hope – not even a comically perfect trail of peanuts. Without waiting for a plan, my steps habitually take me into one of the mass of identical dark hallways (which, with my luck, are probably covered in spine-swallowing aliens.) I hate that familiarity. It's uncomfortable not knowing where it came from; makes every instinct I have scream, "Trap!" It's just as uncomfortable ignoring them.

Until it pays off, of course.

When actual outside noise reaches my ears, my feet stop so fast you could practically hear them screech. "I'm telling you, it's coming along quickly. It probably won't even be another week." A voice too quiet, distant and muffled as it is, to distinguish its owner.
"Do you mean to tell me you're ready to hold out for another week?" And another. A different person's, though if you need the pitch to tell that you're in deeper shit than I am.
"Oh, stop projecting. You always do this." An experimental step proves that I can still try to walk toward them, wherever they are.
Ignoring the first's reply, the other continues. "Look, we've been planning this for ages and we both know how ready this city is to go down the shitter. Now, answer the question. Are you really ready to 'probably' hold out for another week?"
Seconds pass voicelessly, eventually planting the suspicion that my footsteps are too loud and stopping me in my tracks. "Three days. We can spare that much, right?" At least I've been going the right way. I'm close enough now to tell it's that damn cat.
"If we're lucky," And that's...someone else. I know that voice, but I can't pin the face. "though I still don't know why you care so much."
"You wouldn't understand. You're too young." Oh, shit. Crashing sounds are never good. Especially not the kinds that send shakes through your legs.
"How many times have I told you not to bring that up?!" Not enough, clearly.
"Okay, okay! Fuck! You don't have to bust that thing out." At this point, it feels like they're on the other side of the wall. I'm not stupid enough to interrupt, petty revenge or otherwise, but eavesdropping never hurt anyone.
"...Sorry." Except that the sudden quiet demands an ear to the exposed concrete. But hey! A little scrape never hurt anyone!
"Hey, hey. It's all right. We're both stressed out, here."
"I just. I miss people, you know?" ...Huh?
"I know, hon. I know." Well, this conversation just took a very sharp turn. I almost feel bad about listening in on it. "Just three more days. I promise."
Another long pause, though less worrying this time. If someone were walking to the door, I'd definitely hear them from this distance. "All right. Just don't do anything stupid, please?"
"Hey, only stupid people do stupid things."
A heavy sigh from the mystery guest sums up my feelings quite nicely at this point. "Let's not get into that argument. I'll see you tomorrow."
"All right. Be safe." The mystery guest takes a few gargantuan (if lopsided) footsteps, and stops completely. Meanwhile, the cat walks the opposite way.

Toward me.

[ ] Bolt.
[ ] Hide.
[ ] Negotiate.
[ ] Wait. What?

---

Another short one. I need to get back into the habit of writing regularly. Probably going to try to update tomorrow, if votes allow; Friday's booked and I really do want to keep to that every two days thing.
>> No. 6294
[X] Wait. What?

A black-out option without the nigh-incomprehensible garble. Alright, I'll bite.
>> No. 6295
[x] Hide.
It seems Orin is connected with some shady shit. Three more days until they unveil their nefarious plot.
>> No. 6296
[X] Wait. What?

Utsuho and Orin are planning a revolution, but where's Satori in all this? Is she missing?
>> No. 6297
[x] Negotiate.

We came here for a confrontation, and a confrontation is what we're going to get.
>> No. 6298
[x] Hide.

Fuck and a half.
>> No. 6299
[x] Wait. What?
>> No. 6300
Write then. Off to the plotton fields.
>> No. 6301
>>6300
>Off to the plotton fields.

Hooray!
>> No. 6305
My sincerest apologies. Shortly after beginning to write on Thursday, my sister came to me teary-eyed and needing someone to talk to. As emotionally unstable as she can be, and as tired as my shoulder is from so much leaning, it's my responsibility to be there.

I'll try to finish it today.
>> No. 6312
Jesus, this is at the bump limit already? All right, new thread at >>6311.
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