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I'll admit that a route lock at this juncture may seem a bit odd, and in hindsight, a few more choices to let you clarify things wouldn't have been a bad idea, but to make a long story short, we've come to the point where the story branches into route-specific subplots, which means that we need a route. There was at least one Yuugi vs. Yamame choice that Yuugi won, though, so I don't think the choice was completely arbitrary. Branch points that could have gotten you onto other routes should be a bit more obvious, at least in retrospect, but I'll probably clarify them in the next bad end (or the postgame, should you manage to avoid death for the remainder of the story) just in case.
Also, what's with this talk of once a month updates? I'll cop to being slow, but never that slow, unless you count the site downtime against me.
[X] "... fair enough with how things seem to be going, but I expect anyone under my command not to forget that fact, as we've got a pre-existing agreement with Komeiji to do what we can to protect her property, where it does not expressly interfere with the search. Oni put stake in their word, and so do I."
”Another search with more men? Fair enough," you say. "But I expect anyone put under my command not to forget that fact."
"What are you implying?" the council head asks neutrally, taking a step backwards out of your personal space.
"You saw the reaction to this announcement," you say, gesturing to the table, where chaos somewhere between a public debate and a bar brawl still reigns. "A formality that puts me in command means nothing if I'm not obeyed." Your tongue sticks a little on that last word. 'Obeyed'... you never could have imagined that you would be having a conversation like this. "The agreement was that I would remain neutral and strike a balance between Satori's right to protect her property and the council's right to investigate." You force yourself to look the council head in the eye, ignoring his deepening frown. "Oni put stake in their word, and so do I."
"I have no more intention of forcing you to break your word than I do of breaking my own," he replies immediately, the steel back in his voice. "Do not suggest otherwise. Your agreement, however, is nothing more or less than to determine the cause of the destruction of the crop fields, and you have a responsibility to do so, regardless of the means. Do not forget that."
You... there's nothing you can say to respond to that. Fortunately, the council head seems to feel the same way, his expression softening (back to his normal stony glare) as he turns away from you towards the table.
"It seems that trying to accomplish anything further tonight will be a waste of time," he says with a sigh as he looks over the chaos. "This meeting is adjourned!" he calls out (to no apparent reaction from the crowd) before turning to leave out the back door. Oddly enough, Rasetsu stands and follows close after him, abandoning a conversation with another oni at the table.
"That actually went better than I woulda figured." Yuugi speaks up from behind you, clapping a hand on your shoulder. "You okay, Taizou?"
"Y... yeah, I guess." You're still not exactly sure on the specifics of what happened, with you being made a council member and all, but it seems to be over now and you're not dead or injured, a status which is rapidly becoming your standard for 'okay'. Still, talking to the council head has left you a little out of sorts; even if he's not actively trying to intimidate you, just being around him is enough to make you nervous. Is it just because he could crumple you into a ball and throw you away, or do other oni feel like that about him too?
"That calls for a drink," Yuugi says with a laugh, slapping a cool bottle into your palm. "Just sit tight for now, okay?" She reaches under the low table, sliding a big wooden crate out from where she had been sitting. "Zenki'll explain everything while I take care of things."
Take care of things? "You're leaving?"
"Nah, I ain't goin' anywhere." With a grunt, she hefts the crate off the ground, bringing it to rest on her shoulder, and flashes you a wide grin. "Just gonna do a little PR."
Before you can ask what that means, she moves around to the head of the table. "Okay, kids, meeting's over, and I'm feelin' generous!" she calls into the center of the room. "Who knows what that means?"
"Booze!" "Free liquor!" The chaos around the table collapses into a chorus of cheers as Yuugi sets the crate down with a ground-shaking thud and begins pulling bottles out. Before you know it, she's surrounded by a crowd so thick that you can barely see her, all clamoring for their share.
"Sit down before you get knocked down, kid," Zenki says, still in the same place at at table as he was when you first noticed him. You take his advice, sitting back down as the area around you gets more and more crowded.
"So Yuugi's gone and pushed ya off onto me, but I don't really know what she wants me to tell ya, so..." Zenki trails off and shrugs, taking a gulp of his drink. "You got questions, or what?"
"What..." You struggle for a question that will tell you everything you want to know, finally settling on the simplest one. "What does this actually mean? Being a council member."
"Eh," he grunts. "It ain't as big of a deal as you're makin' of it, really. You come to the meetings, you vote, debate, do all the same things as anyone else here. Hell, you don't have to do anything if you don't want to."
"Vote? About what?"
"Y'know, day-to-day stuff. Whether to build more houses up north, how to divide up the council's farmland, stuff like that."
"That's... it?" From all the uproar that joining the council caused, you were expecting something more... significant.
"It's a symbolic thing, that's all. Dirty, lyin' human on the council, what's the world coming to, all that shit. Most everyone'll be over it in a few days." He grins. "Or by tonight, if Yuugi has her way."
Now that he mentions it, it seems like the frenzy that Yuugi's handout caused things to calm down somewhat; it's still loud, but looking around, you see less angry shouting and more raucous laughter. You look up and down the table and spot Yuugi herself near the other end of the room. She seems to have exhausted her crate full of bottles already, and now she's holding an oversized glass of her own, chatting happily with a small group of oni you don't recognize. "What exactly did she mean by PR, anyway?" you ask Zenki.
"Never you mind," he says, waving off your concerns idly. "Anyway, important thing is that you remember what position you're in." "You're the human councilman now, in charge of buggin' Komeiji, and that means you're the one all the warmongers are gonna wanna bump off and replace with one of their own."
"What? Bump off?!" you screech, and Zenki gestures at you to quiet down as a few heads turn your way.
"Not like that. Gimme a damn break. I mean get you off the council." He leans in, lowering his voice to a whisper (or rather, to a normal speaking voice, which carries about as far as a whisper with the background noise). "I don't know how the laws work up where you come from, but down here, they make sure that nobody's abusin' their power, and that means there's lots of ways to kick someone off the council if they act out." He holds up a hand, counting off on his fingers. "If you start a vote someone doesn't like, they have the right to fight you, loser gives up their position, and the vote stops for 24 hours regardless. If you're the only one who votes against something that passes, you aren't allowed to participate in the next vote, or propose a vote for 48 hours. You propose something that nobody votes for, you lose the right to make another proposal for a week."
...Holy shit. "You expect me to remember all this?" you ask, incredulous.
Zenki sighs in response, chuckling slightly. "Look, what it all boils down to is that you shouldn't try to stand out too much." He looks you in the eye. "Truth is, it doesn't hurt us, either, having someone else who'll vote for people gettin' along. If you end up gettin' kicked off the council, we're a step closer to outright war."
That's... wow. Somehow, it seems like the stakes for your staying underground have gotten much higher over the past few hours. First you nearly get attacked on the street, and now you're the lynchpin that's stopping a war?
Zenki notices the look on your face and laughs, a deep, belly laugh that might be contagious if you didn't feel so stressed all of a sudden. "No point dwellin' on it," he says, putting a hand on your shoulder. "Just try to have fun, take it easy. Always works for--"
"Okay, people, time for round number two!" Yuugi's shout interrupts your conversation. "The bottles're over by Taizou, so why don't ya go over and shake his hand when you get one!"
Another cheer erupts from the crowd, and this time, the clump of people descending on the alcohol is moving towards you.
"So this was her plan after all?" Zenki chuckles to himself, standing and pulling another bunch of bottles from under the table. "Try not to get crushed, kid," he says, passing you a bottle before walking away.
"Hey, where're you--" You turn to look, but he's already gone, disappeared into the mass of people rapidly converging on your position.
Quite rapidly converging, in fact. How did they get up to that speed inside, anyway? And what, exactly, is their plan for stopping before they reach the liquor? Or, for that matter, before they reach you?
You take a gulp of your drink.
The crowd roars around you as your arm slams against the table. You try to wrench it away, out of the grasp of your opponent, but he keeps you trapped, pinning you there for just a second longer before finally releasing you. "Shit!" you hiss, pulling yourself away before he changes his mind.
"Pay up, Yuugi!" your opponent hoots, thrusting a hand across the table, palm up, as you pull your hand off of the table, examining your bruised knuckles.
"Keep your pants on, Aoki," Yuugi replies from next to you, taking another bottle from her rapidly dwindling supply and passing it to him. "You're gettin' drunk on my dime, you can wait your turn."
"Don't think I ain't grateful, babe," he replies with a shit-eating grin, reaching out with both hands and trapping Yuugi's hand along with the bottle. "And I know just the way to make it up to you, too."
"That what you think, casanova?" she asks with a smirk, pulling her hand away.
"Over here too, Yuugi!" someone calls from behind you, and she reaches around your back, handing off another bottle to someone else who bet against you.
"Geez, Taizou, how many is that in a row now?" she asks with a laugh. "You're gonna bankrupt me."
"Y'know what they call it, where I come from, when you make a bet you can't win? They call it 'arm-wrestling an oni'," you grumble, shaking your hand out after your crushing defeat. "Besides, you're the one who won't stop betting on me."
"Why would I? At your odds, if you finally pull off a win, I'll be the richest person in the underground!" She gives you a playful shove, reaching across the table to fill your cup again.
"'Sides, she's gotta bet on you, right?" Aoki says with a grin. "Wouldn't wanna make the husband unhappy."
"Real funny," you deadpan, before laughing a little despite yourself. If Yuugi's plan was to make you popular with the oni, it seems to have worked; the alcohol did its part to loosen everyone up, you included, and after a few drinks, you may as well have been one of the guys, complete with friendly ribbing about your 'shacking up' with Yuugi.
Well, maybe that's not quite true; you're better liked now, at least among the people you've met, but their reaction to you was similar to Yuugi's, when she first met you: curiosity. You've gotten two or three requests for fights (none of them in the near future, fortunately, but Yuugi made sure you accepted all of them anyway), and dozens of questions about every aspect of life above ground. Most of them haven't been hard to answer at all, though you have gotten a few more pointed ones about what humans in the village are like, and it sounds like there's still plenty of animosity towards humanity as a whole.
You can't say you haven't been popular, though; it seems like everyone here has a story about some contest or another they had with a human, and you're pretty sure you've heard every last one of them now. To your surprise, they aren't nearly as bad as the stories humans tell about oni, at least in terms of vilifying the other side; most of the humans they talk about fighting sound like the kind that wander around looking for a fight in the first place. The stories don't end the same either: for one, the humans never, ever win (though they do come pretty damn close at times, and you find yourself getting drawn into a few particularly well-told tales). They're a lot less bloody than you would have expected, too; a few of the stories are about deathmatches (try as you might, you couldn't laugh along with the crowd at the one that ended "...and I kept his jawbone as a good luck charm!"), but the majority end with the defeated human being sent back home with a jug of alcohol for his trouble.
"So, we goin' again or what?" Aoki asks, putting his elbow on the table. "I need another refill."
"How about we try something I have a chance of winning?" you ask, leaning back from the table and stretching your arms. "You're not gonna get any weaker, no matter how much you drink."
"True." He brings a hand to his chin in thought. "So if contests of strength won't work, how about the other great oni pastime?"
"And that would be?"
He raises his glass, the same oversized saucer-type as Yuugi's, in your direction. "Why, drinkin', of course!"
A drinking contest with an oni? Oh, wow. "I think I'll--"
"He accepts!" Yuugi says gleefully, pulling another case of liquor from under the table (when did she put those things there, anyway?) and grabbing a few bottles. "I'll provide the alcohol!"
You accept? "Hey, Yuugi, I dunno--"
"C'mon, jus' go with it!" Yuugi says, cutting you off again. "It's part of livin' here, along with the fightin'! Trust me on this one!"
"..." You're still not convinced, but you stay quiet for now, deciding to see how things play out from here. You've had a few cups, but you're still far from at your limit, and you don't think Yuugi would let you drink enough to injure yourself.
"First to pass out loses?" Yuugi asks Aoki, sliding a bottle his way.
...Okay, maybe she would. "How am I supposed to compete with an oni in a drinking contest?"
"Whine, whine, whine," Aoki mocks. "My cup's, like, three times bigger than yours, y'know."
"So what's the wager?" Yuugi asks. "I'll take Taizou, naturally."
"Eh, bettin' liquor on a drinkin' contest is kinda boring," he says.
Yuugi shrugs. "S'what I've got, unless you got any alternatives."
"I got nothin'." Suddenly, his face splits into a wide grin. "Buuut I think you just might." He leans over the table in a stage whisper with you. "How's a kiss from Yuugi sound to you, Taizou?"
"Say what?" Yuugi asks, incredulous. "Can't bet what's not yours, casanova."
"I think it's the perfect bet," Aoki counters. "How about it, Taizou? You on?"
[ ] Accept the contest.
[ ] Decline the contest.
If you accept:
[ ] Yuugi doesn't seem to like this. Change the bet to... (Write-in)
[ ] Yuugi... kiss... yes. Don't change the bet.
[ ] You still don't think this is a fair contest. Isn't there some other handicap you can get?
[ ] The glass size handicap should be enough to give you a chance.
[ ] Ask for a bigger glass. You don't need any handicaps to win this.