- Disregard all previous patch notes - Historical records may have been altered significantly - Welcome to the wonderful world of genre shiftnon-stable oscillation
========================================= - You are now in #THP - Topic: Welcome to #THP - The Hood'n Projects | all hail our one true god: http://danbooru.donmai.us/posts/1438795 | NEW 2HU LEVEL: HALF-LIFE 3 | Archives: http://adf.ly/6thyed | ROYAL RAINBOW! | ❦ REMOVE SAKE DISH FROM PREMISES ❦ | <%DemmyYacht> YandereAliceFag: I am Faggot Prime. Leader of the Turbodicks. | Chillout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu0aRI97x1M - Topic was set by perestroika!~Nitori@Ice.Fairy.Lasts.Longest.Thats.Why.Im.The.Strongest.BURMA-SHAVE in 04.23.20XX at 01:34:54 <Tiger> >20XX <Tiger> >still no new 2hu <Stitch> where the fuck is my zweihander <Stitch> mfw they removed it <Golden-Eagle> It's hidden in a ruin on the northeastern end of the map <Stitch> dammit FromSoft, you don't use Bethesda as a guide for map design <Ethic> so are any of you faggots going to AWA <Sebastian_Yarrick> why do that when Reitaisai next year is offering round-trip plane ticket packages for only $500? <Ethic> what? how? <Bunny> check their website, it's right there: <Bunny> Round trip airfare plus admission for 50000 yen <Rapeoven> holy crap, how are they doing this? are they trying to lose money? <Bunny> apparently they got some eccentric sponsors, check their list <Rapeoven> what the fuck is this "clear sky international" <Rapeoven> and WHY ARE THEY PROVIDING 5 BILLION YEN? ========================= [x] 1 kg of Semtex
You could get used to hurting other people, people you barely know, for rewards.
A hefty chunk of explosives is always useful, though proper use of it can be tricky at best. Lazarov also hands you two additional detonators along with a simple electric switch before he hurried off after the team with the prisoner, but your skills really do not allow you to utilize it at all. You doubt you can even attach the detonators without blowing yourself up.
Conner and Rikako, on the other hand, might be able to create something useful out of it.
You sit on one of the empty chairs, waiting for Kagerou to count out her money and change back into her regular clothes. You idly watch the Russians drag the prisoner outside, once again with the thick bag tied to his head and his hands tied behind his back, with two soldiers each grabbing hold of one of his shoulders and forcibly lead him on towards the village.
"Say, Kagerou," you ask once the prisoner is out of earshot, "Since you bit me, does that make me a werewolf?"
"Not this strain. A Lou-gerou is created through a curse, not from bites." She answers as she adjusts her brooch with the help of the reflection from the washbasin, "Although I doubt it would change your nature much."
"Whaa--Hey! I take offence to that!" You protest, "I don't eat the humans I kill!"
"It was metaphorical, anyway." She finishes cleaning up and turns, "We should be going now."
You part ways with Kagerou at the village gate, with her heading over to the market and you heading over to Conner and Rikako's workshop to process your reward.
"The Russians gave you this?" Conner asks as he gingerly places the block of explosives on a workbench. Rikako is the one fast asleep in a hammock this time around, as you can see her purple hair dangling over the edges of one of the hanging beds.
"I asked for it, it was either this, grenades, or money."
"I see. Semtex, eh? Interesting." He idly scratches the side of his beard, "Well, I suppose I could turn it into something useful for you, but I'm going to have to charge you for this. Metal isn't cheap in Gensokyo you know, but I'll give you a discount since you seem to have a tendency to get stuck in fights."
"By fights you mean giant, amorphous monstrosities..."
"Yeah, I heard Miss Hakurei talk about it. Apparently that kind of monster is unusual, eh?"
"Well, obviously, it's not a girl in a frilly dress."
75100 yen in your wallet, you had lost the 10000 yen in your pockets during the missile strike.
[ ] 6 small satchel charges, 2000 yen [ ] 10 hand grenades, homemade, 4000 yen, launchable via your underslung grenade launcher [ ] 6 large grenades, homemade, 4000 yen, same as above [ ] 6 rockets, 8000 yen, launchable [ ] 8 drone bombs (Rikako's own design), laser-guided, 20000 yen, launchable
Current stock of grenades: 4 oil bombs and 6 smoke grenades =========================================================
"Come back after 3:00 PM, I'll have your goods ready by then."
Time to go to work.
Time: 10:40 AM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Eientei Clinic, Human Village Threat Level: N/A
The village is quite full at around this time, and it takes you quite some time to navigate through the throngs of people to reach the clinic.
Unlike yesterday, there's actually a fair amount of customers lined up in front of the clinic. Villagers, visiting youkai and outsider alike line up in front, some with visible ailments, others merely appearing inconvenienced. More than a few of them raise a brow at your bulky outfit and strange weaponry.
"Miss Tewi!" You call out as soon as you are through the doorway, "I'm here to...what?"
Inside are four humans, none of whom you recognize. Judging by their hiking gear and ragged looks you guess they are part of the group of outsiders village leader Saromi and village guardian Kamishirasawa conscripted into an involuntary labor force in exchange for supplies and camping space.
"Oh, you must be Mr. Wu!" A jolly, somewhat squeaky voice calls from your right. Turning, you see a black haired girl, whose height is just below your nose, standing to the side of the counter. A pair of floppy rabbit ears adorn her curly black hair, and a wide, innocent-looking smile graces her child-like face. You notice how much more she resembles the surrounding humans compared to Eirin and Reisen, whose visages now appear far more alien in comparison to the earth rabbit's face.
"I've taken the liberty of hiring a couple of these outsiders from the village for cheap. Just 4000 yen a day for each one! One-fifth of your salary?"
"So...am I fired?"
Tewi giggles, "No, of course not, silly, you can actually patch a wound and set a bone, unlike these useless hikikomoris."
"Hey!" One of the outsiders working in the back protests, "I go to school!"
"Quiet down! So anyway, Reisen just told me over the wireless that the Cuckoos are having a meeting, so off I go now!" She tosses you the keys to the cash register and safe, "All the recipes and instructions are in the stack of books by the counter, and have fun taking care of these useless boys!"
"I'm a woman!" Another one of the outsiders complains, but you didn't hear it. At first you were about to argue about this new responsibility, but then you catch something more intriguing in her sentence.
You lower your voice to a hushed whisper, "What the hell are the Cuckoos?"
"The Cuckoos? Oh, once you prove ya'self to be trustworthy and capable they'll tell ya. It's kind of a secret club." She winks, and her innocent smile turns into a mischievous grin.
"At least can you tell me what kind of a secret club it is?"
Tewi's grin grows even larger.
"I'll give you one hint: That man you saw? He was supposed to be dead, having died an honest death. I'll let ya think about it, ~usa." She ends the sentence with a fake inflection as she skips out the door and casually hops onto the roof. You hear the rafters creak a little, indicating her taking off.
It's a fairly obvious hint. Any Touhou fan worth their salt would know this. Assuming Tewi's not just fucking with you, that man is Tsuki no Iwakasa...the man Mokou murdered for the Hourai Elixir. However, this raises many, many more questions. Why is he in Gensokyo? Why is he alive? And most importantly, how does he have a relationship with Eientei? If anything they should be enemies, unless the Cuckoo Club is just a support group for those who touched the Hourai Elixir.
The only reasonable conclusion you can draw is that he took the elixir himself, but that alone does not tell you anything.
"So, you're that guy who fought Futo, right? Mister, uh, Wu?" One of the outsiders pipes up, distracting you from your train of thought. Right, you have work to do.
"Just call me Ming, and yeah." You glance at the counter, and, seeing an empty space in front of the line of patient but increasingly annoyed customers, take up position there with a false smile on your face. "Hi, Welcome to the Eientei Village Clinic, how may I help you?"
A tall, dark skinned villager is your first customer, he takes a moment to gaze at your armored outfit and slung weapon before beginning to speak, "You have anything which helps with insomnia?"
You flip through the pile of books, pulling out a thick one labelled "Common Remedies". Flipping through the tome, you notice that it is actually translated, with every left page written in traditional Japanese, the sort with a high proportion of classical Chinese characters, and the right side in English. Not old or even Shakespearean English, but Modern English, written in the style of a medical journal. What's more, the words are not handwritten, but printed, as are the illustrations, though this copy bears many handwritten notes in its margins which you cannot read.
"Is she going to publish this or something?" You mutter under your breath.
"It's nothing," You quickly thumb through the book until you find the entry, "Let's see, 'a powdered mixture of dried sour jujube seeds, poppies and...Lunar moth nuts. Ratio 2:1:2, about 2 momme or 7 grams per dose. Mix with water and drink before sleep once per day. Five doses for treatment.'. Hey! " You snap at your new underlings, "What did Tewi tell you guys to do?"
"Whatever she tells us to do," one of the temp workers replies. "She didn't even bother to learn our names."
Crap, you have no management experience whatsoever. Fucking Tewi. "Alright, one of you...you," You gesture at the person whose clothes are the cleanest, "Tend the counter, um, give a number to every guest and write down their requests, another one of you...the girl...you're the cashier, the list of prices is in that book over there on the stack and there's a notebook..."
"Already on it," she impatiently responds, "Miss Tewi already told me to do so."
"That's excellent. The rest of you go and look for the Lunar moth nuts and poppies. Are any of you proficient with a mortar and pestle?"
"No." Was the unified reply.
"Damn it." You're really not either. "Whatever, just do what I said."
"Hey, are the moth nuts supposed to be glowing and doing...this?" One of the other temps holds up a clay jar, inside of which are filled with a sort of nut, glowing with a silvery light from inside and...moving.
You look up the entry in another book, "Alien Flora", also written in the Japanese and English. You silently wonder why she titled it alien flora if she's native to the moon.
"Let's see...Moon rose, Mock Apple, ah, Moth Nut. 'A product of the Moth Nut Tree, the Moth Nut is in fact inhabited by a Lunar Moth larva...When the shell is cracked before maturity the larva will quickly move and dry out and leave behind a pearl-like husk'. Uh, I would put that on the table first."
The book says to crack the large nut with a pair of pliers, which was found fairly readily. Unfortunately, you neglected to read just how the larva moves. As soon as you crack the nut, a bright silver blob shoots out onto your face. You desperately attempt to peel the larva off for a few embarrassing---and for the watching customers and temps, highly entertaining---seconds, before succeeding and tossing it into a bowl.
"Hey boss? According to the book you need four more to fulfill the prescription."
The clinic/pharmacy, despite the usage of underpaid temp workers and your own incompetence in the role, somehow manages to function. Sure one of the temps burned himself while the five of you figured out how the Lunarian heater with the pitiful help of Tewi's decidingly unhelpful notes, and the unexpected motion of the X-ray machine knocked one of them out cold for an hour, but you managed to pull through and pump out the prescriptions and examinations for each of the customers at an adequate rate.
"Hanshiro," You ask one of the temps during a lull in activity, "Can you go fetch lunch for us?"
"Yeah sure boss," the young man weakly replies, he stands up and walks through the door, looking down the street, he abruptly stops, "Hey, there's something going on down the street...OH HELL THAT IS A TANK."
"Tank?" You drop the pestle you were using and run over, with the other outsiders following after you.
It's the Lowe rolling down the street, well, what's left of it anyway. There are gigantic holes ripped into its hull, and the main cannon is completely gone, seemingly torn off. The treads on the left side, the side you see, is missing multiple wheels, and judging by the damage in the front its engine is likely crippled. It's movement is lurching, and ever decreasing, as the tank belches ever increasing amounts of black smoke out of its wounds. Villagers around it are actively staying away, going as far as to run into the side streets.
[ ] It's friendly! And it needs help! [ ] It's unpredictable! Who knows what that Kaguya-blob did to it? Stay clear! ============ [ ] Signal the shrine maiden to deal with this. She'll likely chase it away. [ ] Signal Eientei, examining the tank could lend a clue as to what happened to Kaguya. They might spook it though.
"An American activist, Medgar Evers, once said 'You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea'. That is a challenge, not a fact"
Sylla quietly sits in the back seat of the armored SUV, sipping on a bottle of cinnamon tea and listening to his nine-tailed superior's lecture. Escort work is typically quite boring, and this is no exception. The soldier beside him has dozed off with its pack between his hands, and Indigo does not appear interested in waking it up. Apparently she regards this lecture as merely entertainment rather than business, as the topic is more ideological than practical.
Behind them are several more military vehicles, both off-the-shelf and improvised, and behind those are several buses full of aid workers, confused at being escorted by a seemingly rag-tag PMC outfit rather than an established military, though the more experienced workers are instead being confused at there being any protection at all, despite the lack of payment. Though if they knew of Clear Sky's modus operandi it would have been obvious: they were workers who worked for free.
Two more technicals, a BMP and several trucks make up the rear end of the convoy. One of the trucks contain a drone control center, where two operators armed with several liters of coffee keep an eye on the terrain up to two kilometers away from the convoy. A single AAA gun or cannon could wreak havoc on the column, especially the less than well armored buses.
"An idea is something intangible, yes, but intangible does not mean invincible. Ideas cannot be stomped out through fire and bullets, no. To kill an idea, you must devalue it, remove its appeal and goodness. The superpowers, in the past, have clumsily lashed out at the most visible elements of an idea: the radicals, the terrorists, the foot troops. All they do is burn out the top of a field, leaving the roots behind so the weeds just grow back up. To kill an idea, you must dig out the roots, you must remove the demagogues, the ideologues, the imams, the leaders. And you must kill not just their body, but their spirit as well. Silencing them via blackmail is effective, and a destruction of their reputation would remove them from the picture without ever creating a martyr. So when the people look back on a dead idea, they see only a terrible concept supported mainly by thieves, murderers, and rapists."
"That does not seem very...ethical, Miss Indigo." Sylla cautiously replies, "That is manipulating a population to suit one's ends."
"Oh no, Director, we don't manipulate a population. We BUY a population. As you saw, we are builders as well as soldiers. We offer them infrastructure, jobs, trade, and anything else they need to build a prosperous society. In exchange, we simply ask that they change their ideas to suit our needs. Their schools, religion, and even celebrations must conform to what we approve of. No more children raised to hate the other tribe, no more stoning of people who are different, and no more...Ahmed, take a left here...no more idiotic traditions and social structures that discriminate...Ahmed, see that ridge in the distance? Drive towards that...It is quite astonishing how in this part of the world humans have managed to remain the same from since I was born."
The Kenyan Army lieutenant takes a look out the back window, and notices that the convoy is heading in the opposite direction of their SUV.
"If I may interject, Miss Indigo, where are we heading?"
"I told you already, Director, we are doing routine asset procurement."
"But the convoy..."
"WE are doing asset procurement; the others are just providing complimentary services for the Red Cross."
The sleeping soldier beside Sylla yawns, revealing a set of sharp teeth. He (or she, Sylla cannot tell with the helmet and ski mask the soldier has on) glances around, and goes back to slumbering.
"If my GPS coordinates are correct...ah...stop the car, we're here."
Sylla really wishes his boss, who is apparently some sort of fox-based monster from a mystical land, would at least tell him what's going on. But judging by her apparent age as implied through her comments, she probably thinks it's more entertaining to keep non mission-critical information obscure.
They dutifully get out of the SUV, with a little bit of prodding with the sleeping soldier, whose grumbling voice tells Sylla that it is probably female, though probably not human.
Indigo flips open the trunk, revealing a assortment of weaponry and ammunition. She picks up a Kord heavy machine gun with one hand and a heavy looking backpack with the other, before handing it off to the female soldier, who grumbles a bit more in her foreign language as she straps on the pack and removes the end of an ammo belt from it to load the weapon normally served by a human crew. Indigo then picks up a SV-98 sniper rifle and hands it along with a bandoleer containing five magazines to Sylla, who incredulously examines the weapon.
"Uh, Miss Indigo, are you expecting me to use this? I may be a decent shot, but I have never undergone sniper training before."
"Well now you will. Don't worry, Ahmed will help you. He'll be your spotter." She replies as she hands Ahmed a device that looks like a laser designator, except smoother and with a futuristic looking LED screen on. Now that Sylla had gotten a better look at his rifle, he notices that its scope is much larger than what he would expect.
"Oh, and these, put these on." She pulls out two gold colored cloaks. Upon donning the garment, Sylla sees that the fabric flickers, before apparently turning invisible, along with the rest of his body. Looking at Ahmed, he sees just the face of the Arabic man grinning at him, suspended in thin air.
"Camouflage cloaks, you're going to need them. The gun's also been enchanted similarly to what I did to your old one back in the village, so I doubt they could find you unless you shout. Welcome to the future, Director Sylla."
Out of the things he's seen today, a camouflage cloak is probably one of the less surprising ones, given that it is not exactly an unheard of technology. "Miss Indigo, just who are 'they', this time?"
"We're hitting a arms dealer convoy rendezvousing with its janjaweed contacts." She smiles wide at the growing look of exasperation on the man's face, "According to my sources, they are carrying a large shipment of small arms and ammunition, as well as a couple armored vehicles. Now get moving, see that ridge over there? Set up right on it, and KEEP YOUR CLOAKS ON!"
"Yes Miss Indigo." Having seen her capabilities, Sylla is not exactly willing to disobey an order, even if he has his reservations about the legality of the operation.
"So Ahmed, where are you from?" Sylla asks quietly, not keeping his eyes off of the scope. So far, there has been no motion on the road he and his partner are overlooking, and Indigo has remained silent on the radio.
"Iraqi army, I was a lieutenant, like you." Ahmed replies, his voice muffled by the chewing gum in his mouth. "Clear Sky picked me up after I deserted during the Daesh conflict. Apparently they found my driving skills to be exceptional, or at least that's what they told me."
"That was quite a while ago."
"Aye, back then we weren't this large. It was just Indigo and a handful of people under her direct command. I was her personal driver, and basically did nothing but that. Well, and shooting when it was needed. And paperwork, but that's a given. Of course, this is just the Middle East subdivision, the main company based in Asia is much larger. Indigo is just the Chief Operations Officer; CEO Violetta is the one in charge of the entirety of Clear Sky International."
"Yes, I read the memos too, Ahmed." Sylla sighs and decides to ask something he had not had the chance to, "How old is Miss Indigo anyway? Or the one called Faceless?"
"I dunno about Faceless, but Indigo is about a thousand."
Sylla raises an eyebrow, "A thousand? Years?"
"Aye, she does not look like it, eh?" Ahmed chuckles under his scarf, "She's a Japanese monster, or what they call a youkai, of the kitsune variety, which is some sort of fox spirit. She never told me anything beyond that information though."
"Then why is she out here running a private military company?" Sylla thinks it's incredulous that such an entity would stoop to such mortal affairs, "Shouldn't she be in heaven or whatever they ascend to?"
Ahmed spits out the now-flavorless gum, "My opinion? It's because whatever she desires, she's not in charge. Violetta is, and that woman is something else entirely."
"CEO Cirri Violetta...what do you know about her?"
The Iraqi deserter bites his lip. "There's this American writer, H.P. Lovecraft. Perhaps you've read his work?"
Sylla shakes his head, "I was never very fond of Western literature."
"Then it is rather hard to describe. Miss Indigo is clearly a fox spirit, but Miss Violetta is...well... let's just say that she's not the same breed as Indigo and Faceless. In fact, she could be an alien for all we know!" Ahmed chuckles, "The only thing I know for sure is that she is at least as old as Miss Indigo. Her capabilities...let's just say that it's the only reason this company can exist."
"Eh?" Sylla perks his ears.
"You must be wondering why Miss Indigo ordered the construction of a train station near the camp. If you had looked at the plans you would have noticed that it is an absurd design, with rails ending at solid walls and the windows tinted to obscure viewing from outside."
"I had, but I thought it out of my place to inquire. Perhaps she knew of a yet-undisclosed Chinese railway project?"
"It's much simpler than that. You see, Clear Sky International makes most of its profit, about 95 percent of its revenue, out of trade in goods such as metal, lumber, food, and many other items which require hauling and a fairly substantial transport times. The reason it is able to sustain an entire paramilitary company and this unprecedented development project is because they can do the job in mere hours and at essentially no cost."
"What?" Sylla incredulously asks, "How?"
"It's what Miss Violetta does. Apparently she her capabilities include a sort of portalling magick, which essentially allows her to produce tears in the fabric of reality. With the proper evocations and rituals, she, as well as Miss Indigo, can produce large, stable tears that could be sustained a single portable generator. These tears lead to a different dimension, one that only Violetta could access. It apparently contains hundreds of trains, trains that according to their identification numbers have long since been decommissioned or destroyed. These trains emerge at her behest, or when an authorized person performs the proper evocation. They are then loaded up with cargo and sent back into the tear, where they can be called up at any other tear anywhere in the world. Most of the time spent is in loading."
"That's...That means that, if they wish..."
"If we wish." Ahmed corrects him, "I hate to sound like Miss Indigo here, but you are part of our company now."
"That means that if WE wish, we can take over the entire world's transportation industry!" In Kenya alone the industry was worth billions in worth. Even if the method is improper for transporting of humans, the movement of goods alone could be generating profits in the trillions of American dollars. Sylla shivers at the thought at being a part of something so large.
Who knows what these magical beings could do?
"We are, as a matter of fact, slowing taking over the marketplace. Mostly we've been buying up smaller companies and keeping their storefronts, charging unwitting clients the price for air or water transport even as the goods emerge at the destination before they even sign the forms." Ahmed's smile is beginning to look downright smug, "Profits aren't quite at the level of companies like Sinopec yet, but it's getting there, and soon we might just be the wealthiest country in the world."
"Company, you meant company."
"Nay, I mean country. What do you think Clear Sky is going to do with these outposts they established? The camps they saved? The towns and villages they liberated? Turn them over to the government? Ha!"
Sylla is surprised by Ahmed's sudden malicious laugh. "Well, what else?"
"You don't get it, do you Sylla? When Miss Indigo confessed to you that she wished to make the world a better place, she meant MAKING the world---"
The sound of the radio buzzing cuts him off, "Target is approaching ambush zone. Primary target is the arms dealer, he will be dressed in a black jacket and tie. Secondary target is the enemy commander, who will be the one talking to the dealer. After that engage any armed target, DO NOT shoot anybody without a gun, even if they are escaping."
Except for the dealer Sylla thinks as he scans the area, watching the two lines of vehicles converge in front of what appears to be an abandoned gas station. One of the convoys is made of camouflaged trucks tailed by an armored personnel carrier, while the other appears to be entirely unmarked civilian trucks.
"They'll never see us coming." Ahmed mutters, "Oh, and Sylla, the marked targets would be highlighted on your scope, just so you know."
"I read the note on it." He mutters back as he turns the smaller calibration knob, judging based on the range displayed on the LED overlay. Six hundred meters out, a great distance relative to what he has been used to shooting at, although the generous amount of data the advanced scope is feeding him helps offset it slightly.
The two convoys stop. The car in the front of the military convoy opens its doors, and an officer steps out with a briefcase. With the scope Sylla could see that he is not janjaweed, but a Sudanese army major. A pale-skinned Westerner emerges from the lead truck of the opposing convoy, dressed in an expensive looking suit and tie, an odd choice of clothing given the environment. Some more soldiers emerge from the camouflaged trucks, and Western mercenaries emerge in turn.
"Waiting on you Sylla. Target the arms dealer in the suit." Indigo whispers over the radio.
A red targeting circle appears on the overlay over the Westerner in the suit. Sylla carefully adjusts the rifle until the reticle overlaps the figure's head, at which point the circle turns green, indicating a theoretical hit. However, the arms dealer is moving constantly and randomly as he talks with the army major, making him quite difficult to hit.
"Negative, target in motion. Waiting until he stands still for something."
They seem to reach a consensus, and the major opens the briefcase, causing the arms dealer to stop for a moment as he stares at its contents. Sylla immediately takes advantage of this moment of stillness and lines up a shot.
He exhales, and pulls the trigger.
Half a second later, the arms dealer's head snaps back as the top of his skull splits wide open, spewing out blood and brain matter as a pink mist.
"Enemy neutralized. Target the major."
The soldiers and mercenaries are far more experienced than the janjaweed militants, and almost instantly identify the general direction of the shot. However, right as they start to run behind their vehicles, smoke begins appearing from the rear of the military convoy. The BTR-80 that brought up the rear turns the turret around to fire at the smoke with the autocannon, only to impact nothing for a few seconds before the vehicle suddenly, against all laws of physics, flips over, its wheels spinning helplessly in the air.
"Running will not help you. Surrender now!" Indigo's magically enhanced voice sounds to be originating from every direction at once, as if she is shouting from all around the trapped convoy.
The designator lights up the target, feeding Sylla a ghostly image through the otherwise concealing smoke. Sylla works the bolt and slowly pans his rifle over to the figure cowering behind the engine block of a truck, his head clearly visible in the LED overlay which now displays a thermal image of any designated target.
He misses, but it doesn't matter. The major panicked at the sniper fire and ran for a more solid source of protection, but as soon as he broke cover the roar of a machine gun sounded from within the smoke, and Sylla gulps as he sees the man's body parts blow off his torso on the thermal imaging, a result of a high caliber gun being fired at under one hundred meters.
If he was one of the soldiers down there, Sylla would have likely passed out at the sight.
"Enemy neutralized. Target any runners."
Strangely, none of the civilian trucks are moving. Perhaps Indigo slashed their tires in the confusion, or maybe they are simply too scared to move. One of the mercenaries at a distance from the major decided to run, and Ahmed quickly lases him, followed by two shots. The first one missed, provoking a smirk from Sylla's spotter, which causes him to grit his teeth and adjust the lead. The second shot hits the man in the torso, causing him to flop forward like a fish.
The mechanical frame of mind that took over during his overwatch back at the village sets in. The shooting becomes a rhythm, each shot coinciding with an exhalation. He was back at the academy, shooting targets that popped out from the ground. The targets are of better quality this time, as they hide behind cover and fire in his general direction, but they are just targets, no more than bullet catchers. The fact that they are lit up by the designator only reinforces the ease.
He misses often, of course, given his unfamiliarity with the weapon system. But every other shot is a hit, and the hits are kill shots.
Only when the gunfire dies down does Sylla put the butt of the gun away from his sore shoulder. Ahmed has set down the designator and is busying himself with unwrapping another pack of gum.
"Nine kills. Not bad." The Iraqi reports, "You also flushed out a couple of them from cover so Kakumei can hit them."
Sylla lays down the gun and leans back, "I...I think I've shot more people today then I did in my entire previous career."
"That's what being in a troop that doesn't fuss about with parades and ceremony gets ya. Come on," he says as he packs up the designator, "Let's get down there."
As it turns out, only a few of the enemy combatants decided to surrender, though by the time they got down there the only distinction between the prisoners and the dead are the fact that the prisoners don't have holes in them, as Indigo had injected quite a bit of sedatives into them. The truck drivers for the arms dealer are being forced at gunpoint by the female she calls Kakumei to go back into their trucks while Indigo paces up and down the line of vehicles, opening up the trailers and checking through them. Apparently most of them are filled with ammo boxes and small arms, but the last three in the series she opens up with a whistle.
"LAV-25s," she says as she runs her eyes over the hardware stored in the trailer, "New ones too. These should fill in some of the gaps in our vehicle fleet nicely. Let's see, three here...twenty more should do for now..."
"Aye, I just need place the order..." she strolls over to the corpse of the Western arms dealer and digs through his pockets, fishing out the man's satellite phone and wallet, "Let's see here...ah, how nice of him to label the contacts like so. Would be a security issue."
Indigo then proceeds to stab the body with one of her daggers, drawing a copious amount of blood which she laps up off the blade like a cat would a dish of milk. She coughs and mutters a few times, then proceed to use the phone. To Sylla's surprise, when she opens her mouth to speak, it is in a deep male tone, and in language that Sylla vaguely recognizes as French.
At this point, what she is doing is fairly obvious, and Sylla only stayed stunned for a few moments before recovering and quietly questioning Ahmed as to what exactly the extent of Indigo's abilities are. To his surprise, the man simply shrugs.
Sylla thinks about it some more, and decided once again to not think about it too much. That's when his brain, having spent the last hour occupied with observation and concentration, suddenly notices a discrepancy.
"Ahmed, she said the arms dealer was meeting up with janjaweed contacts, but the contacts," he gestures at the uniformed corpses lying around, "They seem to be Sudanese army."
"And you would be correct, Director Sylla." Indigo loudly answers in English as she puts down the phone, "We have just attacked a government convoy receiving arms from an US dealer. The prisoners would be transported to another base in Somalia, the drivers, after they drop off the shipment to our camp, would be bribed to keep quiet and do the same with any subsequent shipments. From now on, they'll be Clear Sky agents."
The lieutenant blinks, "We just raided a government convoy."
"Indeed. But once all the evidence is disposed of and any innocent persons dealt with, we didn't raid this convoy, the local rebel group did."
For some reason, Kakumei lets out a single "Ha!" at that comment.
"The later shipments will be delivered to them normally...on paper. Soon we should have enough to replace at least some of the older BTRs that are beginning to break down. Also according to the manifest there should be roughly 50,000 rounds of 7.62x39 ammunition carried in the other trucks, so we can delay the construction of the production facilities for a while in favor of the development of the well and electrical systems..."
"Don't you think attacking a government convoy is...going a little too far?" Sylla suddenly interrupts, "We are here to protect the people, not to overthrow the government."
"Yes we are."
"Yes we are." Indigo calmly repeats, "It is awfully difficult to produce prosperity when there are...forces acting against you. Governments, bandits, rebel groups, all fighting for money or ideology, none of whom are even remotely interested in the welfare of their people. Such forces need to be removed or neutered so they cannot interfere with our operations."
"And...and where exactly where will you draw the line?" Asks Sylla, dazed at the sheer audacity of her reply. Not because it was ridiculous, but because it is frightfully possible. Companies with lesser capabilities have succeeded in toppling governments and taking countries under their control, and if Ahmed is not exaggerating, Clear Sky can roll right over the global South.
"The line? Ohohoho." Indigo laughs, "Dear Director, I apologize for having not the time to instruct you on our company's culture yet. This is our motto, repeat after me."
She pumps her right hand up in the air, prompting Sylla to follow suit.
"The horizon is the line, the sky is the limit."
"The horizon is the line, the sky is the limit." Sylla repeats.
Once again, the scope of his duty has changed dramatically. He secretly wonders if they also seek to conquer the moon at this point.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to refuse that. Damn observers could be anywhere."
"Worry not, we are the only Lunarians here, as I have not detected any more with my instruments, and do you doubt my instruments?"
"Of course not Dr. Yagokoro, but I would like to remain sober. In any case, I've found a way, but you will need more people than a scientist, a warrior who's gone too far in life, some fallen nobility and a disgruntled deserter to take them on."
"Just say how many, Mr. Tsuki. We will have all of the men and ships we need. There are many others who share our interests, and would gladly cooperate to help you fulfill the Emperor's last will. Logistics is not a problem, but your method may be."
"Perhaps it is, for starters, it concerns the princess's ancestor, a certain Chang'e...."
"Panzer!" You cry out as you run towards the tank, with your confused subordinates staying behind, unwilling to get close to the machine. A couple of the villagers stare at you for approaching a babbling mechanical monstrosity like a friend. A pair of village guards tail the tank, but seeing how it has not done any harm or property damage and appears to be heavily injured itself, they have holstered their runed guns and are more curious than alerted.
The tank looks at you with its broken turret, its audio system makes a loud crackling sound that causes many nearby onlookers to cover their ears, it then drones down to a heavily distorted voice.
"ALERT: FRIENDLY IDENTIFIED. ALERT: SELF-REPAIR SYSTEM DAMAGED, REQUESTING ASSISTANCE. ALERT: OVERALL SYSTEMS 30% FUNCTIONAL, CORE PURPOSE REMAINS SECURE."
As you get closer, you notice that the holes in the tank's hull conceal not gears and pneumatics, but meshes of thick metallic fiber bundles, in a structure reminiscent of muscles in living creatures. Straight fiber bundles act as cams and cranks, while bundles twisted together spin like gears and wheels. Metallic tubing runs through between the gaps in the mesh, with smaller tubes branching off larger ones and going straight into the "muscles" of the tank. Strange spheres, bronze in color with a glowing light inside, form nexuses where the tubes come together, and larger tubes lead from the spheres deeper into the tank's structure.
Along the fibers crawl numerous small lizard-like constructs the size of cellphones, apparently constructed out of a lesser grade of metal judging by their motley coloration. They seem to be some sort of internal maintenance drones, scampering throughout the inside of the vehicle and performing small welds and incisions with tiny spurts of green flame. Their presence combined with the peculiar mechanical parts makes this tank seem downright biological.
Just what made you? You silently wonder.
"REPEAT: REQUESTING ASSISTANCE"
"What sort of assistance?"
The tank does not respond, and plays the message again.
Seems like it does not have an audio input system. You decide to try an alternative method to communicate. Taking out a notepad, you write the request down and show it to the viewport on the turret.
"ALERT: COMMUNICATION ATTEMPT REGISTERED. ALERT: COMMUNICATION MODULE DAMAGED, BACK-UP MODULE LOCATED INSIDE TURRET."
The hatch on the top of the tank opens. You climb on top and cautiously peek in, catching only a glimpse of the driver's seat before a puff of black smoke suddenly comes out and hits you in the face along with a loud clinking sound. Coughing, you open your eyes to see a mangled German typewriter sitting in front of you on the turret, with wires and pipes that lead back down into the now half-closed hatch. There is no paper.
Trying your hardest to not make a mistake with an unfamiliar language you only learned out of necessity for your degree, you type out the request on what you presume to be the back-up module.
"ALERT: SUSPENSION CRIPPLED, REQUEST TRACK REPLACEMENT. ENGINE FUNCTIONALITY AT 50%, REQUEST DIAGNOSIS. HULL INTEGRITY AT 30%. MAIN CANNON OFFLINE. CO-AXIAL MACHINE GUN OFFLINE. FABRICATION FACTORY FUNCTIONALITY AT 30%. COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS 20% FUNCTIONAL. CORE INCUBATION COMPARTMENT SECURE..."
"Core egg compartment? What?"
"...ESTIMATED MATERIALS REQUIRED: 5 TONS OF STEEL OR COMPONENT MATERIALS, 5 KILOGRAMS OF SCRAP ELECTRONIC MATERIAL. 20 KILOGRAMS OF COPPER. EXTERNAL SUPPORT IS REQUIRED."
You type again "What is the core incubation compartment?"
"ERROR: IDENTIFICATION MISMATCH, INFO ACCESS DENIED. REQUEST PERMISSION FROM CALLSIGN PRIMROSE TO UNLOCK."
Interesting. Seems like this tank is more than just a tsukumogami after all. As to its requests for assistance, there's really only two places you can think of that can repair the tank, and only one of them is within a plausible distance right now.
"Request steering access." You type, hoping it would recognize and accept that command.
"ALERT: PARTIAL ACCESS GRANTED. COMMANDS WILL BE REGARDED AS SUGGESTIONS."
"Look Miss Asadura! I got you a replacement tank!"
Via simple one-word commands on the typewriter, you steer the tank over to the yard of the village's sole pair of engineers. It's sluggish speed makes it fairly easy to remain on the turret, with you only obtaining a couple of bruises along the way.
This is Gensokyo, so the villagers only gape at the young man driving a tank down the streets of the village when you pass by rather than flock around at the unusual sight, though that may be more because of common sense in avoiding a large deadly combat vehicle that can move by itself.
"Wha...." Rikako murmurs as she stumbles out of the workshop, followed by Conner. "You...oh by the gods is that the German tank?!"
"Ayup," You pat the vehicle on the side, "The very same one that turned yours into a heap of scrap metal. He kind of got damaged by the...thing...I was fighting last night, so he's in a rather terrible condition."
"ALERT: HOSTILE DETECTED."
"Dammit," you curse and type, "They're neutral now."
"ALERT: TRUST PARTIALLY SUFFICIENT. ALERT: NO MEANINGFUL THREAT DETECTED. TARGETS NOW TENTATIVELY NEUTRAL."
"Are you in control of it now?" She asks, peering at your strange communication method. "What is it saying?"
"Hardly. I'm only guiding it, and I don't think it trusts me completely. It's wary of you guys, because you tried to hurt it once."
"Interesting," Conner observes, "And you brought it here why?"
"It needs repairs, obviously, Apparently it requires five tons of steel, about five computers of electronics and some copper to repair itself. I doubt you guys can do anything other than providing it, as you can see by its internal structure."
The two engineers cautiously walk closer and peer through the gaps in the hull at the organic-looking machines and structures that make up the inside of the Lowe. Conner gapes, mesmerized by the alien-looking design and function, and Rikako looks the same, except after a few moments her brow scrunches.
"Ming, Felix, I've seen this kind of construction before."
"You have?" Was the simultaneous reaction from both of you.
"It was in an antique tome, back when I was still toying with the use of magic in controlling my robots. The book dealt with the construction of golems out of metal, and detailed methods such as how to forge sinew and bone out of metal. It was written in the 1700s, so the metallurgy is something easily replicated, but the quantity of magical energy it required was truly enormous, as the book even admits that it's only written for academic purposes. And that was for a human-sized golem, for it to power a machine of this size...it would require energy on par with an Outside World nuclear power plant. Magical energy follows it's own square-cube law in regards to matter."
"This is Gensokyo, so that sort of energy is not unusual, right?" You ask.
"Not necessarily, but that amount of energy contained within something smaller than a building is. Judging by how we cannot even see the power source even with so much of its structure exposed, it has to be even smaller, and the last time Miss Margatroid attempted to store even a fraction of that energy in her Goliath Doll that it blew up in under a minute. Stranger still is the fact that the tank never appeared to consume any material that would be an energy source to my knowledge, so it's either somehow violating the laws of the universe or it's something else entirely."
"The tank said something about a core incubation compartment, and denied me any access to information on it. It also cited the authority of a 'Callsign Primrose'. Sound familiar?"
Rikako shakes her head, "I have about as much as an idea as you do on this 'Primrose'. I also do not see how an incubation compartment would answer the question of how it powers itself; if anything else it would be another strain on its resources. What would a TANK of all things be incubating anyway?"
"A tankette?" Conner jives, "An armored car? Anyways, we do not really possess that quantity of metal here. See if you can give a full diagnostic run down and I'll see if we could get some of its core systems back up. In exchange we would want to be able to use its fabrication plant once that becomes functional."
"Hold on, let me ask it." You type in their request, "Some repairs in exchange for fabrication access offered by neutral."
"ALERT: TRADE ACCEPTED."
You nod at Conner and type, "Print diagnostic report."
In response, the tank shudders for a moment, then the hatch opens up again and spews out multiple sheets of crudely made paper (with the wood pulp still visible) with black letters printed on.
"Huh, it HAS a printing function. Didn't think that would work." You gingerly pick up the rather hot foils and read it, "Whoa, that's a LOT of components, here take a look at this."
Conner takes a sheet, "Uh, Ming, I can't read German, Rika?"
You take about twenty minutes translating and interpreting the diagnosis for them, after which they stare at each other and grimace.
"We have just enough material to get the suspension and communication interface back to an adequate condition, assuming the diagram is correct." Conner explains, "After that you have to go to the Southern Mine or the Youkai Mountain Mine to gather the metals you need. As for electronics I would see if the Kappa have anything to offer. If the mines don't have enough, then see if could get access to Former Hell, as considering the amount of metal they needed to construct the Underground Geyser Center they have to have a large source of it in that region."
"Gotcha, so how long do you think it'll take you to finish your end?"
"We should be able to finish it by tonight," Rika says after pouring over the translations, "I'll assume that the fabrication plant and its repair drones, however they work, will be doing the majority of the work since we have no idea how to manually repair any thing on it other than the hull."
"Hopefully that will be the case." ===================================
Leaving the tank in their hands, you grab a couple of paper bento boxes from the village market for yourself and your underlings. It is quite amazing the way magic weaves itself into the mundane in Gensokyo, as even this simple food booth ran by a single elderly man uses an alchemical furnace, likely mushroom fueled, to keep his lunches warm, compensating for the lack of gasoline and reliable electricity.
Your rather chemically depressed mind did not notice this on your first day here, but now you can see just how subtle magic is for everyday life here. Villagers light tobacco pipes and fires with a quick incantation rather than flint. The old fashioned wooden doors on storefronts gently open of their own accord when a patron steps near it. Butchers keep their wares cold not with ice, but what looks to be rocks inset with a dark blue crystal that faintly glows in the sunlight.
Passing by a tailor shop, you stop to gawk at the spindly contraption that looks to be a sewing machine of some sort, but more. It clamps over the edges of two pieces of cloth, and when it opens the pieces have weaved themselves into each other along that edge. Stopping to ask, the tailor explains that the device was bought from Alice, and that it actually uses less energy than sewing regularly because there's no need to push aside the fibers and force a thread through.
"It joins the threads by entangling each individual fiber, no more than a hair each, and concentrating force on them, pressing them together at the...what's that word again...ah, molecular level. The extremely small amount of material I affect means that it takes less effort to use than a sewing machine. I would rather not use that piece of junk, but stitches are often necessary for reinforcement."
He grumbles at the hand-cranked model on another part of his workbench, which is a conventional, albeit extremely outdated and old-fashioned, sewing machine. A small inscription on the side indicates that it was manufactured in Britain, 1863.
"I found THAT in the southern Edge region. The Kappa make their own but they charge too much for it, and I never trusted Kourindou's products, no offense to the shopkeeper though, it's just that anything Lady Yakumo touches is something I'd rather not be near."
"You're quite right on that." You agree, though for a different reason. The fake sword she managed to indirectly sell to you still makes you rather angry at the governor of Gensokyo.
You purchase some socks from the tailor, as you have neglected to pack enough this trip. At this point you are effectively a dedicated employee of Eientei, and such inconsequential purchases like food and cheap clothing do not really affect your wallet in a perceivable manner.
Proceeding along the street, you suddenly see a young man, dressed in the hoodie and jeans of outsiders, dart through the crowd while laughing out loud. A little bit further brings you face to face with the werewolf that you spent most of the morning with, though it took you a while to recognize her in her new...outfit.
"Miss Imaizumi? Where did you get that?"
"The market had a sale on these secondhand clothes, I thought they looked pretty nice for their price." She turns a bit left, showing off the luxurious but practical dress she has on.
"And the basket of apples?"
"That guy you just saw gave it to me before running away, said it had his friend's love message in it or something. I do not really see why these strangers would send me one, but free fruit is never a negative occurrence."
The villagers do not appear to notice other than brief glances at the werewolf's new dress, while some of the outsiders are barely containing their laughter at the sight. Kagerou is wearing what appeared to a regular person a normal set of clothing for the fashion era the village is in, if not the locale, though her Western appearance makes up for it. But the black fur dress along with the black vest and blue shirt with an ornate red cloth belt, makes it...what would you call this? Cos-ception? A fictional character (well formerly fictional) dressed up as another one?
"AHAHAHA OH WOW KAGEROU YOU ACTUALLY...AHAHAHA! AND YOUR WEREWOLF FORM IS...OH WOW YOU MIGHT AS WELL DYE YOUR HAIR AND FUR AUBURN AT THIS POINT!"
"What?" She cocks her head at you, "Auburn? What does that have to do with anything?"
You calm down just enough to explain exactly what that combination signifies to the confused wolf. After hearing your explanation she stares at you for a moment, then shrugs.
"I don't really care. It looks nice and that's it. So what if this outfit coincidentally resembles somebody who is not even real?"
"Suit yourself." At this point, you are not too sure about her last sentence.
"Oh and by the way, Mr. Wu?"
"You dropped something."
She gestures at a piece of paper lying on the ground. It's not yours, but the way Kagerou is looking at you convinces you to pick it up anyway. When you look up after bending down to retrieve the note, Kagerou has disappeared.
The folded note contains a short message.
[i] GARDEN OF THE SUN, 9 PM. MAKE SURE NO ONE IS FOLLOWING YOU. SOMEBODY IS WATCHING US. CHALLENGE: FRIGHTFUL PASSWORD: RAIN [\\i]
A chill runs down your spine as you attempt to inconspicuously scan your surroundings. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, but given the amount of people around you cannot be sure.
What would she want with you at the Garden of the Sun anyway? You are fairly sure that she is trustworthy, but there is still little motive for this request.
You return to the clinic with the lunches, and the hungry temp workers are soon quickly devouring their contents like starving dogs.
"Man, this shit beats the hell out of the sandwiches we ate for the last four days."
You notice that the meat in the meal is like mutton, but much more gamey in taste, indicating it to be venison. Remembering the amount of deer parts lying around the butcher shops and the conspicuously small amount of domesticated livestock around the village interior save for chickens, you guess that the wildlife population in Gensokyo is large enough to sustain both its human and youkai population's demand for meat through hunting alone. Even the demand for human flesh is satisfied through what Nue referred to as "acceptable prey".
It's only logical, as the magic infused soil makes for supernatural fertility, which you witnessed first hand in the silphium meadows. The fact that there are herds of wild cattle roaming about only reinforces this theory.
This is a world where a farmer works knee deep in a rice paddy for eight to ten hours a day, and go home not to some shanty or hut, but a proper house the size of which a modern Japanese worker could only dream about, and dines on fresh meat daily. This is a world where the standard of living is on a different scale than the Outside World entirely. And with Kanako's Modernization Project, soon this place will be literally better in all aspects compared to the Outside World.
You idly consider moving here after finishing college and perhaps a few years of work. Maybe you'll end up working for Eientei permanently. The aliens aren't a bad lot, after all, just a bit sinister with the amount of information they're withholding. But it is not like that really matters considering the skeletons you have in your closet. In this day and age, you could do much worse than working as the manager of this clinic.
Who knows, maybe in a few years this place will get Internet too.
=================== [i] They have lived too long.
Their disgusting lives end here.
They will pay. They will pay. THEY WILL PAY. [\\i] =====================
"Can't we get some air conditioning or at least a fan in here?" One of the workers complains, waking you up from your light dozing, "All this tech and they didn't think of including one?"
You mumble a reply, "With the front window permanently open like that? Bad idea. There's an empty tub over there, fill it up with water and dip your feet in when you're sitting down."
The heat doesn't really bother you that much, what with the cooling system integrated into your armor, but a good cold soak is always nice in the summer.
"Hey boss, you know if they really eat humans here?"
"Yeah, ZUN never really talked about it."
"It's right there in Perfect Memento you idiots," you sigh, "Of course they do, it's just that the people who actually live in Gensokyo never get touched."
"So do they have like a factory where they grind corpses up and distribute the product? Like that one doujin?"
"Nah," you lean back as you enjoy the soak, "Yukari just dumps murderers, rapists and other desirables in here and have the youkai do whatever they want with them. The meat's better that way, or at least that's what Nue told me."
"Huh, no wonder why Keine warned us to stay away from any half-naked people wearing collars that have the word 'food' labeled on them."
"That shit's pretty disturbing." Another temp adds.
"Not really, the alternative is having the youkai go without human flesh, and that never ends well. Perhaps they'll figure out how to grow human flesh in vats or something, and then there would be no problem. It's not like they eat it every day, and anybody with a faction armband."
You could hear the collective sigh of relief from them. The mob of outsiders had been issued with Village armbands, more for identification than protection, but it's enough to dissuade the weaker sapient youkai.
"You know, I've noticed something." The one with the round glasses pipes up "The human villagers...they look different from us."
"That was stupid, how do they..." You stop. He is right. The villagers you've seen not only dress and groom differently, they also share some of the aspects from the youkai you've met. Their teeth are notably more pointed than normal, and their eyes have a sort of animalistic nature to them, though nothing you can really describe in physical terms. It's been subtle enough hat you have not been paying attention, but now you've realized.
"Well they've been living here for a while, so some youkai blood could have mixed in. Or perhaps it's just the ambient magic."
According to the official works the Gensokyean humans DO have something different from a "baseline" outsider, but it was never really clear. Maybe later you'll ask somebody who has done research into this area. Like Eirin.
Time: 5:30 PM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Eientei Clinic, Human Village Threat Level: N/A
The afternoon passes without much incident. More prescriptions, diagnoses, and simple operations (wounds, rib injuries, anything you could do by following the instructions in Eirin's books) are performed, and you feel that with some more practice you could make this a regular summer job. Of course crossing the Border would be tricky, but playing nice with the Hakurei-Yakumo faction could resolve that issue.
The clip clop of a horse's hooves sound down the road, turning your attention from the study of one of the more peculiar chapters in Eirin's herbology manual. You've seen horses used in the fields outside the village, but not so much within its walls.
"Welcome to the Eientei Clinic, how may I assist you?" You greet the rider. Wearing a long red cloak in addition to riding clothes and boots, you cannot discern the gender or even the face of the person.
"I believe you have several outsiders in the service of the village working here, is that correct?" The rider appears to be a girl or woman, at least judging by voice.
"Indeed, what do you want with them?"
The rider clears her throat before announcing in a louder voice, "By the authority of the Village leadership all outsiders residing in the temporary campgrounds are to report to the South gates immediately, preferably with arms and gear. As an officer of the guard I am authorized to use force to carry out this command if necessary."
"Hey! All of you!" You shout at the temps dozing off in the back of the shop, "The Village wants you guys to grab your guns and backpacks and gather near the South!"
Groans and complaints are emitted, but they follow the orders and gather their things before walking over south. Looking down the street, you can see many other people gathering towards in the same direction. Villagers, youkai, outsiders, all of whom are armed with blade, gun or claw.
"What's going on?" You ask the rider.
"Village leader's orders. Everybody in the 'refugee camp' are going to be supplementing the sweep the village is conducting in the area under its control."
"Aye. A messenger from Youkai Mountain informed us that one of their patrols were attacked by an unknown group of assailants similar to what was described by the outsiders. They are sweeping their sector of Gensokyo, and so we are going to do the same. The sooner we catch these bastards the sooner we can figure out what the hell is going on. The shrines and temples are cooperating with us, and hopefully your employer as well as anybody capable will do too."
Well you're out of employees, and judging by the fact that everyone in the Village appears to be joining means that you probably should join in too.
"The temples -- Myouren and Senkai -- are leading the sweeps on the eastern side through the Forest of Magic. Hakurei shrine will be leading the ones on the south in addition to our own officers, covering everywhere from the shrine to the Sanzu River. The main force will be covering the rest of the area in the western and northern directions, where they will meet up with the tengu patrols sweeping their territory."
[ ] Join up with the vanguard of the sweep. [ ] Join up with the southern flank. [ ] Join up with the eastern flank. [ ] Wait for orders from Eientei.
<BEARS> SON OF A BITCH, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? <BEARS> NORTH AFRICA IS DESTABILIZED ENOUGH AS IT IS <%Purple> Do not worry, we're not you, we have every intention and motivation to nation build. <%Purple> Conquest should be a profitable venture, I do not understand how you manage to lose money in conquest <BEARS> MAYBE ITS BECAUSE WE ARE TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND NOT MAKE COLONIES? <BEARS> And where are you going to find investors anyway? As ridiculously large as your company is, it cannot run that much land and people by itself. <Spice> Greetings from the People's Republic of China! <Spice> You know what we like? Land and resources. You know what we could do well? Develop infrastructure and industry cheaply. <Spice> Just let me finish getting rid of the old guard in the Central Committee and then you'll see what we can really do. <Spice> The sleeping dragon will wake up. <BEARS> And how are you planning to do so? I'm perfectly happy to have somebody else play World Police. <BEARS> But your military is not exactly capable of handling that level of control. <Mir> Sup <Mir> We're getting a slice of the pie as well, our economy needs it <BEARS> And I'm just here thinking the Cold War is over <Mir> There's no conflict between us, in fact I suggest you join in too. <Mir> It's a contest, not a competition. The more investors we get the faster we turn shit-hole countries into productive ones, and the faster we get out of recession. <BEARS> Under foreign control and manipulation <%Purple> That's rather funny, considering what your country does. Besides, you know the world would be better off if us here ran things. <%Purple> Because the rest of the world sure as HELL cannot. =================================================
About half an hour later, the comm-link in your hood buzzes.
"Mr. Wu, the Village has asked us to participate in the sweep to root out an outside threat. We are going to be sweeping the area around the Bamboo Forest as well as the Road of Liminality. Your heads-up display will guide you to the rendezvous point."
"Got it, be there in a jiffy." You reply, a tad unsure if the communication is two-way.
Shotgun, check. Grenades, check. Water bottle, check. You also grab the old CAR-15 in the weapons box to give yourself some options beyond a hundred meters.
Emerging out of the clinic, you dust off your armored jacket and look around. Village guards march down the street in groups of twos and threes, wearing heavily modified tatami armor and brandishing runed flintlock rifles. They are trailed by clumps of confused outsiders with old firearms. Some "civilian" villagers mix in as well, toting bows and crossbows that look to have been enchanted similarly to the ones by the guard. While you have not seen them used in a lethal manner, you would wager that the weapons are enhanced in terms of penetration, fire rate and accuracy, not to mention range as a consequence. The non-guard villagers also appear to be wearing crude ghillie suits constructed out of fishing net and dyed rags which also magically flicker and blur at the edges, making their wearers appear like forest ghosts for lack of a better comparison.
Breaking that captive must have really convinced Keine and Saromi of the threat posed by the unknown group, and probably also spooked Lord Tenma on the other side of Gensokyo too.
You put on the goggles attached to the armor module, and immediately your field of vision lights up with an array of subtle lights and a prominent crosshair that moves along with the motion of your eyes. You see glowing silhouettes of people behind walls, and a small "minimap" shaped like a pentagon on the top left side of the goggles shows the position of every large organism in the immediate area relative to your position, including dogs and cats but apparently not chickens.
It is a not insignificant boost to your combat capabilities. Without any real formal military training though, you doubt you can use the module to its full potential.
First, the C4 you left at Conner’s.
"Hey Professor! You finished those grenades I asked for earlier?" You call at the engineers who are currently knee deep in mechanical parts, welding a section of the tank's hull.
"Yeah, they're over there on the workbench. Six homemade frag grenades. No guarantees that they won't blow up in your face though." He replies without even looking up from his work. The tank momentarily shifts its turret towards you in recognition as you grab the goods, but makes no other gesture.
"The tank's fabrication plant's pretty dang amazing. Also, you know it speaks English too, right?"
Now that you look at them closer, you realize that the handheld explosives are a bit too uniform to be Conner's work, but another thing takes your mind. "It speaks English?"
"Yeah! Request audio test: Greeting."
"GREETINGS FRIEND!" The tank sounds out, in clear synthesized English.
"Bu-but it’s a German tank, why would it have any need to speak English?"
"I dunno, why is it sentient?"
You stop the line of inquiry here. This is Gensokyo, nothing has to make sense in a logical manner until you have an unreasonably large amount of information.
"Bye guys, bye...uh...Lowe."
Following the blinking arrow on the minimap, you exit the town through the east gate and find yourself climbing up a hill towards the Bamboo Forest. A large maple tree sits at the top, and below on the grass are your fellow Eienteiers.
Time: 6:15 PM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Hilltop between Human Village and Bamboo Forest Threat Level: 3
You recognize Reisen sitting on the ground, dressed in her formal clothing with the addition of a bulky looking bandolier, and raise an eyebrow at the large machine gun she is oiling -- one which looks to be a 50 cal at the minimum. Eirin is chatting with a sandy-haired woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat you do not quite recognize leaning against the tree, and both of them are carrying daikyu bows, though the stranger's bow is notably more ornate. The man you recognize as Tsuki no Iwakasa is crouched on the tree branches, and he nods at you as you approach, loosening the grip on a concealed weapon.
"Glad you could join us, Mr. Wu." Eirin greets you as you report, "Having more eyes on a sweep is always helpful."
"Who is this one? Lady Yagokoro?" The stranger she was talking to asks, "Another human...he does not look like anything special either."
"Him? Wu Ming?" Eirin gently tugs you in front of her, and straightens your posture like a child, "We hired him to run the clinic and run low level tasks so Udonge doesn't have to. He is going to be the point man for our little trek here, and will be the first to make contact with the enemy if we find any."
"Greetings?" You timidly let out, bowing deeply. Meat shield isn't really a desirable role, but you don't really give a fuck under these circumstances.
"Hmmph, at least this one knows his manners." The stranger comments in a surprisingly friendly tone, though she does not return the bow, "Magical aptitude?"
"Zero." Reisen interjects, "Boy's about as magically conductive as a rock. To his benefit the lack of magic has appeared to boost his physical durability. You can probably cut him in half and sew him back together and he'll still walk, if his injuries sustained last night are of any indication."
"Oh, so he's even more useless than the average earthling. No offense, Iwakasa."
"None taken, Lady Watatsuki."
Watatsuki? One of the Watatsuki sisters? A moonbitch here in Gensokyo? Your hand loosens as the lunarian princess examines you, allowing the shotgun to dangle off of your shoulder. Why is she here? Why is she joining the sweep? These are questions you are in no position to ask.
Without warning, she suddenly stabs her hand forward, pointing two fingers at your forehead. Before you can even flinch, she shouts out a single syllable incantation and a flash of pure white light engulfs your field of vision, causing you to lurch back in pain. When you look up, you are surprised to see that she has lurched back as well, and is clutching her hand as if hurt.
"Are you alright, Toyohime?" Eirin asks, a touch of concern in her voice and on her face.
Toyohime looks rather flustered as she smiles and replies, "I'm fine, but...strange. Tell me, Wu Ming, what are you?"
"A human? Outsider?"
"That spell should have burned out your impurity and made you a bit more tolerable to be around, but instead it fizzled...Hmm, no matter, it's likely just you being less sapient than a rock. Lady Yagokoro, orders?"
Eirin removes an arrow from her quiver and nocks it. Aiming at the sky, she fires it directly up. The arrow glows as it rises, before splitting off in midair like a firework and sending glowing fragments spreading across the land. In the distance, you can see the other groups stopping for a moment to watch this impromptu light show. The HUD in your goggles light up with new pointers as they take in the coordinates of the beacons.
Your goggles' HUD lights up with additional pointers.
"Ming, take point, tell us if you see any signatures out of the ordinary. Udonge, fly high, get a good vantage point to lay down illusions and overwatch. Toyohime, you and I are going to be the main line of combat. Iwakasa...disappear."
"As you wish." With that, the previously silent man disappears in a sudden gust of wind that conjured up an obscuring screen of leaves. Reisen takes off without a word, and soon becomes visible only as a speck in the sky among the many other fliers right now.
"Miss Yagokoro, I wish you'd explain what exactly is going on and why all of these people are here." You mutter into your comms link as you take up the position indicated on the HUD and begin walking.
"That information is above you, Mr. Wu. All I can say is that Toyohime and Iwakasa are here to discuss a very important project that Eientei's been working on for a while, and they happened to be generous enough to help us with this military operation."
Great, more denied intel. Curiously though, you notice that Eirin is addressing the princess by her first name while she is in turn referred to as "Lady Yagokoro". The hierarchy here is fairly clear.
"Any chance telling me what Princess Kaguya’s status is?"
"Ah yes, I was about to tell you about it. That is one of the reasons why Toyohime came down here. We have purged Princess Kaguya of all foreign contaminants and is currently allowing her to regenerate, with Tewi staying home to look after the process. That biomass, on the other hand, even my tests are so far showing an inconclusive result as to its original state, only that it is currently behaving similar to a cancer. Oh, and its DNA is magically recombinated, as it contains six types of nitrogenous bases instead of four."
You bite your lip at the information, "Lady Yagokoro, that is approximately several centuries of scientific advancement beyond Outside World technology..."
"...And Kappa technology. The intricacy of the magic required to synthesize DNA in the manner I observed meant that the only source of the thing would be Eientei itself and the Moon. However, the techniques used are utterly different than anything I have seen before, with many more crude injections and radiation apparently used in the recombination."
"Yeah...that's the human way of doing genetic modification. But SIX bases? That doesn't even exist in theory Outside!"
"It is a standard practice to introduce additional bases for Lunar biology. A practice I myself introduced, of course. The question still remains as to who or what created this abomination that managed to infect Princess Kaguya and apparently even leech a portion of her Hourai powers."
It's a question you do not have the capability to even help in answering, considering just how far beyond human science the problem exists.
The sweeping route Eirin staked out is relatively well-forested, with both bamboo and trees forming a mixed woods. For the first time you see fairies, small humanoids with wings on their backs, flitting around, having been stirred up from all of the activity happening throughout Gensokyo. They are quite shy though, and even a stare that lasts longer than a second will cause them to fly off to hide in the leaves.
Apparently this isn't normal, as Toyohime asks through the comms while floating along a good distance behind you, "Say, did these little creatures become more timid since my last visit?"
"Indeed, normally they would be harassing us with danmaku during incidents like these, but hiding...something is different."
About four kilometers into the sweep, your nose picks up a familiar scent. A scent that smells like THEM.
"Hey, any of you smell that?"
A brief moment of silence, then Eirin inquires, "Iwakasa, you are probably better than us Lunarians at earthly scents, do you smell anything?"
"No." Iwakasa replies through the radio, his position still unseen,"Mr. Wu, what do you smell?"
"The smell of THEM."
A sudden gust of wind, and the man appears in front of you, his chain whip held ready, "Say that again?"
He stares at you blankly for a moment, then responds "Lady Yagokoro, where DID you pick up this kid?"
"Ming? He applied for a job at the clinic and got in. Also, Ming, what do you mean you smell 'THEM'?"
"I told you there was something weird about him." Reisen mutters.
Your mind goes empty as you try to look for the correct response, "I smell THEM, the smell is originating about 20 degrees to the northeast. THEY are not moving, but THEY are hidden."
"MING! What is THEY?"
========================== Screams echo through the steam. It makes you happy.
Somebody turns off the TV.
You are annoyed, you turn around and face the offender.
"Why are you still alive?" It speaks, "Please, come back. We have enough death already."
"I swear to Amasterasu, Ming, if you are fooling with us I will shock your brain into a coma." The moon rabbit threatens you as you lead the confused cohort in the direction of the scent.
Objectives all smell alike. The kidnappers two days ago had the same smell. The ones in Flaming Vodka had the same smell.
"I promise, something is over there. I just know it's an objective. It smells like one."
You notice that Eirin and Toyohime have shut off their comms, and every time you sneak a glance back at them they are quietly discussing something between them. Iwakasa has disappeared again, but you can feel him watching you as you push forward into the woods.
"The scent is getting stronger, we should be able to see it now, right over...there."
There's nothing to be seen or heard in the empty clearing you gestured at. But you smell THEM, they are right over there.
"Ming, there is nothing---wait, Master Yagokoro, I am sensing irregularities on the infrared band in that clearing. It feels like the cloaking devices back on the moon."
"What?" For the first time Eirin sounds surprised as her comms come back on, without the crackling inherent in non-magical Earth technology. "Cloaks? Toyohime!"
"On it, Lady Yagokoro. Casting revealing wind."
You watch as she takes out a seemingly normal fan, and swipes it forward. A great gust of air shoots forward, causing you to stagger and take a knee. As the wind passes the clearing, a shimmering outline can be seen, a rough dome about twelve meters in diameter suggesting a tent or bunker of some sort. Your sensors show no living things inside.
"See, I told you I smelled something here."
No response from Reisen, even as she slowly descends to join up with the rest of the group she avoids talking to or even looking at you. Eirin however, does, "Your nose does seem to be above the mark of the average human, Ming."
Slowly advancing forward, shotgun pointed forward, you approach the now shimmering structure. Closer inspection and a few shots from your gun reveals that it is made out of sheet metal, with a silky sort of canvas draped over the entire thing that had rendered it invisible. Not camouflaged, but invisible, as light passed through the entire thing without refracting.
"Looks like Spun Moonlight." Eirin comments as she closes in, "Odd, this technology should never had been outside of the Lunar Capital."
"It is of much cruder craft too," Toyohime remarks as she examines the fabric, "You could even see the seams in it. A rabbit could have woven a finer cloth than this."
"Which raises more questions, as this is not simply a stolen sample. Apparently this group has managed to replicate the technology...when we are sure the few humans that did set foot in the Capital never managed to set foot near my labs." Eirin slowly circles the structure, "The metal appears to be regular Earth aluminum with a lead filling...Udonge, make a hole."
There's a hatch on the left side, but going through the expected entrance is probably not safe. As directed, Reisen takes out a strange looking weapon and fires it, shooting out a thin stream of molten plasma which she aims in a circle, cutting a hole in the walls.
The light of the setting sun pours in. The inside of the dome is sparse, with a few cots lying around the perimeter and several military crates and suitcases are stacked opposite. A single folding table and several stools are set up in the center, and a bare bulb provides light overhead. Nobody is inside, as your Hunter Sensor Suite had detected.
"Ming, check out those crates."
Steeling yourself at the prospect of being blown up by an IED, you obey. Flipping open the crates, you are rather disappointed to find nothing more than ordinary supplies such as ration packs, medicine, regular clothing, etc. The bottom locked crate took a few bashes with the gravity shield to open, but you manage to open it and find a relatively new AK-74 assault rifle along with about six magazines of its ammunition, which you promptly trade the rusty CAR-15 for.
"Looks like they weren't here." You call out, "There doesn't seem to be anything else IN here that appear abnormal."
Reisen comes in next after she sees you have not been killed by any traps yet, sweeping the room with her gun, she also notices nothing abnormal.
It was when Toyohime crossed in that something abnormal occurred. That something was an explosion that blew out an entire chunk of wall, making the rather flimsy structure collapse onto itself.
You manage to react fast enough to shove Toyohime out of the doorway as the whole thing falls down. Your armor and exoskeleton do a good job of staving off most of the injuries, but it is still quite painful to have that much metal collapse on you.
Struggling, you use the full power of the exoskeleton to get up from off the ground. According to your Hunter Module Iwakasa is darting around the area, trying to figure out where the attackers are, which is the most chilling part: Your module shows no trace of the attackers.
You can, however, smell them. They are pretty close, though you cannot pinpoint the location by scent alone. But they are easily within a hundred meters. Eirin and Toyohime had reacted quite fast, drawing their bows and aiming at the rough direction the rocket came from. No further fire comes in, strangely enough. Perhaps they are waiting to reload or for more amubushers to arrive.
With a groan, Reisen pushes herself up from behind you. She stares for a bit at her left arm that is bent backwards, and reaches into her bandolier to retrieve and quaff a green potion. A pained expression takes her face as the arm twitches, before snapping back into its normal position. Even you wince at the act.
"They're hiding their life-signs and body heat." You whisper into the comms. "I cannot see anything, but they smell close."
"Mmhmm." Toyohime spreads the fan out again, and spins, sending out a gust of wind in all directions. She then raises an eyebrow when nothing shows up.
"Oh dear, looks like they picked up the military version of you technology too, Lady Yagokoro."
"The version where the hardened magic resistance comes with the trade-off of being disabled by excessive heat emission and large movements?" Eirin replies to her pupil. "Ming, see if you can flush them out. Seems like you're the only one here who could sense them in some way right now. We'll hold this position for now. You can tell Iwakasa to help you."
You're pretty sure Eirin just wants you to take the brunt of any enemy attack in the future, but you could hardly fault her for that.
[ ] Close quarters - You have a shotgun and a gravity shield. Best course of action is to get close and play chicken since, judging by the captive, they're not trained as well as they are equipped. Besides, Iwakasa looks pretty well suited for this. [ ] Vietnam strat - Get closer and literally smoke them out. Oil bombs and smoke grenades are cheap, and fire would panic anyone, armored or not. [ ] Heavy support - Have everyone fire indiscriminately all around. With Eirin and Toyohime you could probably just flatten the forest with their raw magical power. Problem HERE is that it's loud, obvious, and may cause collateral damage. Also they could hit you, which would suck. [ ] Feign retreat - Pull back and just have Iwakasa hang around, they likely don't know he's there and they will likely move after seeing the rest of you leave. Then you could tag them. They might also decide to strike first.
[x] Close quarters - You have a shotgun and a gravity shield. Best course of action is to get close and play chicken since, judging by the captive, they're not trained as well as they are equipped. Besides, Iwakasa looks pretty well suited for this.
[x] Vietnam strat - Get closer and literally smoke them out. Oil bombs and smoke grenades are cheap, and fire would panic anyone, armored or not.
The scent you follow is not one of odor. It is more of an instinct, a feeling to where the objective...the enemy is. You know the smell, as it is an odor as foul as the blackest of cesspits, yet as alluring as the aroma of roasting meat. Speaking of roasting meat, you've got the means to cook some right in your bandolier.
"Here, little piggies, come out to play." You quietly sing as you close in on an area where the scent is strong. They are close indeed, close enough that you purposefully look in the wrong direction and meander around to disguise the fact that you can smell them. "Even a house of stone wouldn't protect you."
They are very close. The smell is overwhelming. It originates from a dense bush a couple dozen meters in front of you. The pin goes off the oil bomb, and with your back turned, you make a complete rotation to toss the bomb into the bush, and just as quickly you get behind a tree.
The oil bomb bursts, spreading what looked to be liquid flames everywhere. However, you provoke no movement or gunfire, and you blankly stare at the burning bush, wondering what you did wrong.
Either your sense is mistaken, or their suits are fireproof and they never broke cover. Or the scent is misleading you.
A few seconds later, however, you realize exactly what happened. A sharp pain courses through your back, as if somebody had smacked you with a baseball bat. A red dot lights up on your HUD, and the crack of a gunshot hails the appearance of one of the mysterious insurgents. Unfortunately, it appears as though he was behind you.
"Target spotted, marked."
You duck behind a tree before he could fire a second shot. The weapon the enemy is using appears to be a semi-automatic rifle, something not exactly optimal for this range. You are just about ready to consider taking a shot when another red dot flares up, this time on top of you.
Before you can react, the enemy had jumped down on top of you, apparently trying to either crush you or get close enough to target a weak spot in your armor. You slam face down into the ground as the weight of several hundred pounds in man and armor crashes down on your back, with only the exoskeleton preventing you from becoming paralyzed of a broken spine right there.
Your ears ring as a gunshot goes off right next to them, this time inflicting a large amount of pain on the nape of your neck. Apparently it didn't penetrate, as he does not fire again for a few moments, likely looking for another weapon. After a few seconds, however, the weight on your back suddenly disappears, and you push yourself off the ground. Turning around, you see a figure, clad in extremely heavy armor made out of what looks to be a bomb disposal suit covered from head-to-toe in kevlar plating and with large, noticable metal joints poking out from the armor, indicating an exoskeleton of some sort. None of this is helping him, however, as a length of chain has wrapped around his head, and he is violently struggling to pull it off when suddenly the person holding the chain jumps forth onto the armored enemy. Maintaining the grip of the chain with one hand, Iwakasa unsheathes his blade, revealing it to be a strange silvering short thrusting blade concealed in a much larger sheath, and stabs him in the neck.
The blade glances off, and Iwakasa looks confused for a moment before the enemy falls backwards, slamming the lightly armored assassin onto the ground.
Without thinking much other than helping your ally, you run forward and fire your shotgun at the juggernaut, only to watch as the buckshot only dents the armor. As soon as you close the distance the juggernaut scrambles back up with unusual agility and pulls out a submachine gun. You barely had enough time to pull up the shield before he fires a burst, the impact of the bullets jarring your arm even with the gravity field absorbing most of the energy. Iwakasa is not moving, likely knocked out as you doubt that slam killed him.
Seeing how both of you lack firearms that could reliably damage the other's armor, he decides to take advantage of his size and weight and charge you, attempting to crush you with his momentum. Your exoskeleton is however just a wee bit faster, and you scramble out of the way.
There has to be a flaw somewhere, somewhere you can damage him.
You take a few seconds as he turns around to study the armor. It is very, very well armored and heavily mechanized, but you do not see any respiratory systems like those on your suit, save for the gas mask attached to his full-face helmet. The armor does not look very airtight, however.
You cannot penetrate his armor, but you can roast him alive.
He charges again, and this time you jump back, throwing the clay pot Reisen called an oil bomb onto him. Magnesium or a similar material must have been used in its construction, because it ignites as soon as it shatters, spreading burning oil all over the juggernaut. He stops, panicking, and drops to roll. To you dismay, it is apparently no more than an ordinary oil bomb, designed to fend off unarmored youkai, and it quickly begins to burn out. You throw another one, but this time he is a more prepared, and begins putting out the fire that he notices is not so effective.
======================================== "Why would you not come back? Being so only hurts you and those around you."
You do not even look back. "Maybe I like it here. I like being me."
Before you even full realized what you were doing, you charge, surprising your opponent as you slam into him with the shield up, staggering him. With a bit of a malicious grin on your lips you smash an oil bomb over his head, disregarding the fire that spreads onto your arm. He flails blindly, the fire obstructing his view. Dodging his arms, you slam your shield into his face again, and again, attempting to damage him through concussion. Your HUD flickers as the gravity field strains at its new offensive use, but you disregard it, repeating your brutal bashes as his flailing grows weaker and weaker, eventually stopping and going limp as you either knocked him unconscious or dead. Still not sure, you shove the shotgun under his head and fire, emptying the magazine. The last round appears to penetrate, or at least crack the armor, and a trickle of blood comes out.
Looking around, you notice that Iwakasa is gone. Your arm has not been in direct contact with the fire, as the Lunarian material is quite well at resisting flames, but your right arm is still burnt raw by the heat.
"Ming...I've been hearing giggling in your comms for the past minute, what happened? Toyohime neutralized the target you marked and I cannot see any more targets."
"I've neutralized a hostile. Miss Yagokoro, any further orders? And Mr. Tsuki, if you are listening...ARGH!"
You did not expect the shot that hit you in the back of your head. It wasn't a bullet that blew your brains and skull apart, but a bullet that, upon impact, dissipated into a burst of waves calibrated carefully to paralyze your lower spinal cord. You fall forward, faceplanting into the dirt, unable to move beyond the smallest of twitches.
"HOSTIL-" You are about to cry out, before a hand violently grabs you and turns you face up. A colder horror overtakes you as you see Reisen charging a mind bullet with her free hand, aimed straight at your head.
"I should have known. I should have known all along."
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?"
"You know exactly what I'm talking about. You even suppressed your own magical capabilities and introduced impurities into yourself. That's how desperate they are to get me and Master, huh?"
"MISS UDONGEIN I HONESTLY HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE!"
"Shut up." She grabs you by the scruff of your collar, "Your disguise was good enough to even fool Master Yagokoro. But apparently the bloodlust they engraved into your soul was not so easily managed. Now, answer this: which court sent you, Assassin?"
"Don't play dumb with me 'Wu Ming', your outburst there told me everything. Why else would such a seemingly normal boy be capable of such a magnitude of violence? One who happened to be looking to get closer to Eirin Yagokoro?"
Reisen suddenly jumps back, a line of silver streaking in the air behind her. A split second later you see Iwakasa's chain whip wrap itself around her like a snake, and with a swift jerk she is sent flying back from you, landing in a crumpled heap on the grass.
"You too Iwakasa?" She snarls, "You also have surrendered your oath to your emperor for the temptations..."
"Say no more, Miss Udongein." Iwakasa replies, his quiet voice suddenly taking on a edge of steel, "You are making a mistake here. He is not an assassin."
"I've studied and killed dozens of them, which was my duty. Do you not trust the words of a veteran? No assassin would have such a ridiculous form of combat."
Tsuki no Iwakasa has been killing Lunarian agents? Your brain struggles to process this piece of genuinely novel information. He was only briefly mentioned in source materials, and was presumed dead, so this is something that comes straight out of left field.
"Lies! All lies! You just decided to betray us to Tsukuyomi for your own benefit! Why else would you show up so late, and right when the princess is crippled by an oh so convenient attack. I bet he even offered you a turn at Lady Chan-"
"Shut up! Do not say anything more, or else this outsider here will know---"
"Will know what? This assassin here already knows exactly why he is here."
"I SAID I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!"
"Oh, but yes you do!" Reisen's words are dripping with venom as she struggles against the chains, managing to sit up enough to get a look at you, which is all it took for your brain to start boiling and you to start screaming in agony, "You'd better start talking before I turn your brains into soup in a few seconds, I'm not like my poor comrades, heading to the executioner's stand like so many---"
A soft thunk, and Reisen stops talking as she freezes. An arrow has sprouted in her arm, and she dumbly looks at it before her limbs, and then her whole body turns into jelly.
"Master Yagokoro?" She mutters as she loses consciousness.
You blink a few times to clear your head, still wracking with the afterpain, and you look at Iwakasa, who lets out a sigh.
"Lady Yagokoro," he says to Eirin who had gotten down from her vantage point on one of the treetops and is running towards the collapsed Reisen, "Wasn't this supposed to happen only in July?"
"Yes, seems like our recent activities have excited her," Eirin replies as she checks the vital signs on Reisen, "and her episodes have occurred prematurely as a result...I wish she did not let out so many details..."
"Would somebody here please explain what is going on?" You ask the serious faces on Eirin and Iwakasa, "Why did Reisen suddenly attack me? Why would assassins be after you guys?"
"Ming." Eirin curtly interrupts you as she draws a sigil in the air. "You have a choice. We can either erase your memories of what just happened right here and now, or you will become a member of the Cuckoos, and keep an oath of secrecy on pain of death, literally, I have just inscribed a spell that will strike you dead if you are about to spill the secrets to a hostile party. I would recommend that you choose..."
"The second choice." You reply without a second thought. "What good is life if all the interesting bits are erased?"
"You do realize what you are getting into, right kid?" Iwakasa advises as he wraps up his chain whip, "The Cuckoos is something much, much bigger than any mere incident in Gensokyo. It is something that makes that goddess, Kanako's, ploy to modernize this land seem like a sidewalk conversation. You will have responsibilities, and you MUST perform them with utmost secrecy. It is not something to take lightly."
"Iwakasa is half-right. You could just take the minutes for our meetings and do accounting work, but as I've said before, you must not tell anyone. This is important enough that if you were indeed a Lunar Capital agent I would have killed Reisen for leaking information to a somebody who can transfer it to the enemy as he listens."
She's not joking or exaggerating, her eyes tell as much.
"I maintain my stance. Death over ignorance."
Eirin sighs, as if disapproving of your decision, "Very well then. Iwakasa, take him back to Eientei. Ming, Tewi will get you a room, medical treatment and amenities, but DO NOT leave under any circumstances. I will return after dealing with the village and shrine authorities about these corpses and after I get Udonge stabilized. Then we will talk about what you must do."
"Alright then," You turn to leave before thinking of something, "Can I at least see if that guy is dead or not?"
Eirin shrugs and walks over to the prone figure, carefully cutting around the helmet to unlock it and pull it off...allowing the blood accumulated inside to spill out into a pool.
"You've struck him hard and often enough that his brain had bled out through his facial orifices, Ming, he's dead." ===============================================
The Human Village refers to the rampart enclosed rural city in the southeast of Gensokyo. There are, however, farmhouses, hunting lodges, lumber camps, and other small settlements that dot the expanse of the valley designated as the territory of the Human Village. That's not saying that youkai do not live on the land, however, but rather that the humans dwelling here are generally more powerful than the average youkai. The ones living outside of the walls along the trails are particularly so, as many of them are direct descendants of the hunters that made up the first human population of Gensokyo. Nearly all of them are registered with the Village Guard, and they generally share a good-natured condensation towards the more civilian residents and outsiders that live within the walls. Due to the small size of Gensokyo, however, none of these dwellings are more than a few hours of walking away from the Village, less so by horse and even less by air.
They are mostly empty right now, with perhaps a few elders or children left behind to look after the households. Those fit to fight have all picked up their weapons and spellbooks and went off the join the sweep. Your group is the only one heading back. As such, Tsuki no Iwakasa feels quite at ease to talk openly and loudly.
"Kid, did your parents dunk you in a river when you were born? Did they not educate you about the importance of staying out of trouble?" The older man berates you as he leads you on from behind, "That or perhaps common sense isn't something you have."
"Mr. Tsuki you haven't been in Gensokyo that much, have you? None of the outsiders here have a shred of common sense. Just ask the Moriya shrine maiden." You retort.
"And look where most of them ended up. Dead. No warrior survives long by picking unnecessary fights. And just call me Iwakasa, kid, formalities are for samurai."
"You weren't supposed to have survived at all."
He smacks you with the flat of his sword, making you wince at the sting. "And yet here I am. So you'd better take my advice."
"Let me guess, you took the Hourai Elixir by yourself, without telling anyone, right?" You push despite the physical threat, as you feel that the stack of unanswered questions in your head needs some clearing.
"The Emperor told me to carry out his final will, part of which necessitated my consumption of two sips from the elixir."
Two sips -- enough to render one immortal, but not indestructible. You can't see what his expression is, but you can tell that his voice grew somber, "I thought you were ordered to destroy the elixir, and that was it."
A chuckle, "It was a bit more than that, it was an objective that apparently another one shared, the one who tried to kill me: it was 'Follow her'. the man was old, but not stupid. Burning the piece of paper at Mount Fuji was a ruse to make the Lunarians think he genuinely thought it would deliver a message. What he actually wanted was for me to do it, by hand."
"So how long did it take you?"
"Not that long, actually. By the way, what does the publicly published materials say happened after Princess Kaguya was taken by the emissaries?"
"ZUN's lore?" You scratch your head, "Apparently Eirin backstabbed the other emissaries and took her to what will become Gensokyo, because she loved life on Earth or something. Then Reisen showed up because she thought the humans were invading the moon, but what she told me in person disputes that."
"Yep, a partial truth. Eirin was not part of the emissaries at all, as she was confined to the moon to develop an antidote for the Hourai Elixir. I managed to assassinate an emissary and take his place and his Lunar Veil, flying onto the moon with Kaguya." He takes in a deep breath, "I still remember that day vividly, we landed in the outskirts of the Lunar Capital, and as soon as we took off our veils a swarm of youkai jumped us with their claws out. The First Genso-Lunar War had begun."
You know without asking that it was not a coincidence.
"I took the opportunity to grab Kaguya and run off into the forests around the Capital. She was quite surprised, and tenfold more relieved. You see, they were going to forgive her...if she would consume an antidote. With the quantity of impurity she sustained on Earth, it would have killed her."
"The Lunarian court doesn't sound like a pleasant bunch." You comment, drawing a humorless laugh from Iwakasa.
"You don't know the least of it, it's what made Reisen...no, it's her decision to tell you her story. Back to mine. So we opened up the letter, and I sat there stunned for a whole minute. The emperor had enlisted the help of the most powerful youkai sage in Japan to invade the moon in order to bail his beloved princess out, a final act of his love. He knew that the act would draw retribution, but he did not care, as his passion overruled his sensibility. I was angry, angry at his foolishness, and angrier at Kaguya's rather emotionless reaction. But our lives were on the line, so I did not have that overtake my head. We took advantage of the youkai beating down on the Capital's gates to sneak in and break Eirin out of house arrest, and we ran. It went strangely smooth, there were times when I thought we had been cornered, but somehow the Lunarian soldiers never actually saw us. As you can tell by Toyohime being here, it's now obvious why."
"Go on..." Intrigued, you find yourself incapable of saying more.
"So we Veiled straight down to Earth, right in front of the Emperor's palace...it was burning. Somebody lit the damn place on fire. I ran in, pushing past the screaming throngs, and into the Emperor's quarters...he was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood, a smirking figure beside him, a figure who was too focused on taunting the dying man about his pathetic love to notice me...I killed my first Lunarian agent that day."
"The emperor was dead, and with that my position as his personal agent was lost. I was no samurai, or even a regular retainer. I was a shinobi, an agent of dishonor, one who the emperor trusted the most yet did not even acknowledge in public. I swore my allegiance to Kaguya, and the rest is history."
"You left out about seventy-five percent of what happened next."
"So did you." He puts a hand on the back of your neck, "Start talking, you're definitely not a regular college student. "
"I, uh, got into fights when I was younger?"
"Bullshit," his grip tightens, "You literally just killed someone and asked to see if he was dead or not. What's more is that apparently it's not your first time. I did not walk the Earth for a thousand years to be unable to read people."
"I shot some kidnappers two days ago in the village...and maybe I've killed some more Outside too."
"So you're a vigilante then, am I right? Then explain what that 'scent' you referred to earlier was."
You shake your head, "I don't really know. Call it a hunch, or instinct, but I can smell 'trouble' if you know what I mean. If you ask experienced policemen they will also claim they could sense 'trouble' subconsciously, but I can do so much better, almost like a physical scent. I guess it's something God gave me to make up for my complete lack of magical abilities."
"Hmph, fair enough, I've met enough oracles and hermits to see what you mean. Still," he releases the grip from your neck, "It is concerning how your ability is related to sniffing out enemies."
"God sometimes wants to make killers, I guess. Still, I'm a student first, the killing is just something I end up having to do."
No response, but a deep sigh.
"Oi Oi! You two gents look like you just went through the wringer." The white rabbit comments from her seat on the rooftops as the two of you enter Eientei's courtyard.
Looking at Iwakasa's torn, filthy robe and you burned armor, you'd say Tewi's pretty correct on her part.
"Eirin's radioed back about what happened. Looks like you will be working for us completely now, Ming. I'll get you set up here, and... Iwakasa where are you going?"
The man is already on the other side of the courtyard, "I'm forging myself a new blade and some clothes with the magical factory thing you have, my comm link is in my ear so just call me if you need me, okay?"
"Well HE doesn't need us." Tewi mutters before jumping down and brightening up, "Ming, if you would follow me..."
You abruptly realize something. Right now, in Eientei, it's just you, Tewi, Iwakasa and the rabbits. Eirin obviously wants you to play a supportive role in whatever she is doing, but right now you could probably get something she wouldn’t normally get you.
[ ] "I probably need a checkup first to see if I broke anything important, and maybe some changes to my body would be nice." [ ] "Hey, Tewi? Is there any way I can have a look at the chemical supplies?" [ ] "You guys have a nano-fabricator?" [ ] "Hey Tewi, I really, really need better weapons. Please."
================================================= “Alright Conner, I think the suspension is done.” Rikako says cheerfully as she pats the treads, directing her robots to move away. “Really? Nice.” The professor responds as he comes out from the shed with another box of rivets, “Guess we wouldn’t need to use these then. So what now?” “I guess we tell your pupil that he’s going to---” She is interrupted by the sputter of an engine as the tank rotates, quite a bit more sluggish than before but still silent, and exits the courtyard of the mechanics shop. “Chase?” “I’ll get the jetpacks.”
[x] "Hey Tewi, I really, really need better weapons. Please."
"Better weapons? Hmm." Tewi remarks as she examines your very defensive loadout, "Scattergun not good enough?"
"Not against enemies wearing tank armor, no." You grimace, rubbing the bruises you sustained in the melee, "I had to resort to bashing him with the shield until he was knocked out, and that was an inexperienced one. Who knows what else these terrorists can bring out?"
"Aw, you poor magic-less thing. Alright then," The rabbit waves you over, "Follow me, I'll see if I can get you suited up with some proper weapons."
Staying behind Tewi, you walk through Eientei's corridors until you emerge into an inner courtyard. On one side is a building, noticeably constructed out of solid wood and mortar rather than the usual thin paper screen walls. A metal door inscribed with a glyph is the only entrace, and you wait a minute for Tewi to perform the unsealing incantation, allowing the glyph to unwind and the door to swing open.
"Let's get some light in here so you could see." A click, then the paper lanterns on the ceiling flared alive, revealing the interior to be home to a jaw-dropping array of weaponry. Blades, bows, shields, guns, lashes, sickles...you take a step back to admire the amount and variety contained within. Most of the weapons are incredibly ornate, with jewels and precious metals worked into their design and construction, with a detail unachievable by human craft. You see runes similar to the ones carved on the weapons used by the villagers, but the runes here are not inscribed, but forged, either as a detail in the weapon or as an ornamentation.
"Eientei had this many weapons?"
"Eeyup," Tewi floats upward to retrieve a naginata twice as tall as she is from a rack of its peers, "Check this out: Lunarian Ordnance Grade Moonsilver Longblade, the standard issue weapon of the Lunarian troops."
The weapon has a pole made out of a hard polished wood that is likely not of terran origin, and the blade itself gleams a light similar to the light of the Moon itself. Both the pole and the blade are heavily decorated with runes and sigils.
"As far as I know, the wood is Lunar Olive, and the blade is a magically forged alloy composed primarily of titanium and platinum, which the folks on the moon call moonsilver. Unfortunately, unless you can use magic moonsilver is no better than regular titanium or steel, since its main draw is the ability to channel a person's magic into itself at a much greater efficiency than other types of metal. 'Least that's what Eirin's notes tell me."
You take the weapon from Tewi and try to use it, imitating the moves you see in movies. It is fairly light for its size, but as you test it out on a chunk of scrap wood it digs no deeper than a knife.
"Don't the Lunarians have technology advanced enough to makes lightsabers or something?"
"Indeed, but their magical prowess exceeds their technological one, and everybody on the Moon knows magic. They never really considered needing to develop any tech-based weaponry, especially after Master Yagokoro left and burned all of her research notes there...."
"Wait what?" Another revelation, "Miss Yagokoro went that far?"
"It's complicated, but essentially she vowed that her work will never again be used to benefit Tsukuyomi's regime. Her proteges in science all fled the moon with her, and scattered throughout the world. Many became famous scientists in human society, either openly or behind a fake name. None of them took the Hourai Elixir, but I'll wager that some of their descendants are still alive today."
Your mind slowly pieces together the barrage of information you've received. Iwakasa's occupation. Toyohime's presence. Reisen's story and her accusation of you being an assassin. "Is...is Eientei waging a war against the Lunar Capital?"
Tewi reaches up to flick you in the forehead, "Good to see your brain isn't a complete waste of space, Ming." she remarks, "You're an agent in this conflict now. Don't worry, there's no open conflict yet."
She could be lying. She usually does, but somehow you doubt it this time. "Anyway," she goes back to looking among the racks, "There could be a few melee options that do not use magic, but they aren't the prettiest, let me see here..."
[ ] Warhammer - A shortened bec-de-corbin, by the looks. "It's my personal pick if you need to crush in metal plates. This thing was apparently used as a mining implement on the moon before somebody decided to mod it. It has a magical capacitor inside that stores energy, either from your exoskeleton's excess, exposure to open flames or even sunlight, albeit slowly, and upon its next impact it will discharge the energy along the hammerhead as extra momentum, allowing it to strike with force up to a metric ton, depending on how much energy you allowed it to charge for. Don't worry, Newton's Third Law won't apply here, his great-grandfather designed it, you know."
[ ] Plasma spear - "A crude thing I made with during a bored night with some of Master Yagokoro's spare parts. It's effectively a steel spear, with the head of the pole housing a capacitor similar to the one in the hammer. This one however, if turned on, will rapidly heat the spearhead into plasma when impacted, likely melting a deep hole through anything that isn't enchanted. Only downside is that you're gonna have to wait quite a while for the poletip to cool off before attaching a new spearhead."
[ ] Plasma torch - It is literally a metal torch with a pole, the kind found in castles, so Tewi took a few moments to laugh at your bewilderment before explaining, "Turning this thing on will allow it to spurt out a stream of plasma, only for one or two meters, mind you, but still enough to melt metal. It works a lot slower than the spear, but you can also turn on the containment field to use it as a really bright light source. The field is supposed to be up all the time, but hey, that's no fun."
[ ] Concussive staff - An iron staff with a crystal orb at the end. "Probably was a disciplinarian instrument of some sort. It stores energy and discharges a shockwave on impact with the knob on its end. No penetrating abilities, but it's effectively a stronger and more reliable version of your shield bash."
[ ] Stunning Fists - A pair of moonsilver metal gauntlets, with a strange crystalline structure surrounding the knuckles and back, "It does the same thing as the staff, but on your fists. Sacrifices range for convenience."
The bladed weapons are all either magical or too complicated for you to use. Iwakasa probably could use them, but even then they're not really that good against armored foes.
"If you want, I could stick the Ethereal Sheath rune on the one you like to make it convenient to carry around. But you should probably only pick one, since all of them drain your suit battery."
You browse over them, think it over and make a decision, "So that'll be my backup weapon. Guns?"
[ ] Laser weapons - Vast variety, including flintlocks, bows, crossbows, and more exotic designs you have not seen before in all shapes and sizes, "All of these basically do the same thing, they first fire out a low energy beam to clear the air and 'mark' the target, then discharges a high powered burst of photons that would turn the impact area into plasma. Ideally, that is. It's what Eirin's students made in their spare time to amuse each other."
[ ] Electrolaser weapon - Less variety than the regular laser weapons, but still a good amount, "I wouldn't be using this against insulated targets, but this is the closest you can get to a lightning gun. It first uses a laser to ionize the air in the path then discharges, by default, a 10 billion volt electrical charge. Still easily defeated by an inch-thick piece of rubber, but repeated shots could burn through it. I've used it to annoy Reisen, on a lower power setting of course."
[ ] Coil Rifle - A blocky chunk of metal, with wood rather than the usual metal furniture. "Master said these were reserved weapons, to be issued to Lunarians not trained in combat if something goes terribly wrong. They use iron-tungsten bullets, so it is a fairly heavy weapon, but it fires reasonably fast and can penetrate inch-thick steel plates. I believe it is equivalent to a rifle-sized gunpowder round, but with better penetration."
[ ] Sentinel's Bow - A yumi, crafted out of metal with a device placed near the grip. "Apparently this was a proposed standard for the ranged weaponry of the Lunarian military, but was rejected in favor of a magical weapon. It is actually a modified coil gun, and the arrows it fires mimic an Outside World anti-materiel rifle in power. It's a bit hard to use, but with the exoskeleton it should not be a problem."
[ ] Illegal crossbow - An ordinary looking crossbow, with a rather large and threatening glowing device covering the top. "Lunarians view combat as an art, which means they detest the use of explosives, seeking devices, or other 'dishonorable' weapons, so homing weapons are both banned and hard to find since the society is too small to support a real black market. I don't really know where this came from, but it's effectively a modified Sentinel's Bow, configured to fire bolts that home in on the target tagged by the sight when launched. It penetrates less, however."
[ ] Minigun - Self explanatory, the same model Reisen used to drive away the people you later murdered. "Reisen made a couple of these. It's a bit different from an Outside World model, since it is a coilgun, but according to the kappa it performs more or less identically, with the benefit of lighter ammunition. Still if you are going to use this you probably won't have enough space to carry a second firearm, it is quite bulky after all."
No grenades, rockets or chemical weapons, for reasons Tewi had said. Still, even ordnance-quality Lunarian weapons are pretty sweet, and you pick out the one(s) you want that also fit your taste.
<Galilee> Hey Purple. <Galilee> How long will it take until you can fulfill our deal? <%Purple> Sending some of your boys here would help accelerate the process of civilizing Sudan <%Purple> All those refugees you will be making will have to go SOMEWHERE <Galilee> We don't need that anymore, actually. As long as you can support a stable government there we'll be good. <Galilee> We've gotten Papyrus to agree to also allow you to develop and control the Sinai peninsula for no cost as long as you do not deport too many people and pay taxes. <%Purple> Hmm...not a bad deal. Either way I'm going to have to remove large amounts of insurgents. <Galilee> I believe that happens to be a benefit to your organization. <%Purple> It's free food. <Galilee> -__- <%Purple> Alright, I'll get started on drafting an assimilation plan. Let's have a meeting tomorrow at Tel Aviv. I'll be at the Museum of Art's entrance at 15:00. Tell Papyrus to show up if he can. <Galilee> Sounds fine, but why not my office? <%Purple> Because I don't want the other people in your government to hear that you're allowing somebody to literally eat your problems. <Galilee> kk >>> Galilee has disconnected (...) <%Purple> !projectstatus ============================= >>> Private conversation with StatusShiki <~StatusShiki> Project Hourai Contingency maintaining 100% status <~StatusShiki> Project Global Spider maintaining 95% status <~StatusShiki> Project Straw Fodder at 30% to completion, ongoing <~StatusShiki> Project Moonfall at 40% to completion, ongoing <~StatusShiki> Project Legacy at 5% to completion, stalled <~StatusShiki> Project Alternate Source at 30% to completion, ongoing <~StatusShiki> Project Rain Dance at 40% to completion, ongoing <~StatusShiki> Project Sandstorm at 7% to completion, ongoing <~StatusShiki> Project Find-out-who-the-hell-is-attacking-us at 1% to completion, stalled <~StatusShiki> Project Iron Rebirth at 98% to completion, last step ============================= Agent Winters works up the nerve to ask his "employer" a question as she closes the laptop with a sigh. "What's wrong?"
"You've got a lot of work ahead for you." She says, eyes closed, "You know any other MI6 agents willing to work a part-time job?"
"I'm saying personally. Then I could get Raleigh to assign more to 'investigate' my company."
[x] Sentinel's Bow A bow that can wreck tanks? And with enhanced penetration, just in case we find something even stronger? Say no more. [x] Plasma torch As good as the plasma spear, without need to recharge.
[x] Concussive staff - An iron staff with a crystal orb at the end. "Probably was a disciplinarian instrument of some sort. It stores energy and discharges a shockwave on impact with the knob on its end. No penetrating abilities, but it's effectively a stronger and more reliable version of your shield bash."
[x] Coil Rifle - A blocky chunk of metal, with wood rather than the usual metal furniture. "Master said these were reserved weapons, to be issued to Lunarians not trained in combat if something goes terribly wrong. They use iron-tungsten bullets, so it is a fairly heavy weapon, but it fires reasonably fast and can penetrate inch-thick steel plates. I believe it is equivalent to a rifle-sized gunpowder round, but with better penetration."
Carry weapon with large magazine and many cartridge. When man threatens you, fill him with bullets fast and straight. More holes is better than big holes.
[c] Warhammer - A shortened bec-de-corbin, by the looks. "It's my personal pick if you need to crush in metal plates. This thing was apparently used as a mining implement on the moon before somebody decided to mod it. It has a magical capacitor inside that stores energy, either from your exoskeleton's excess, exposure to open flames or even sunlight, albeit slowly, and upon its next impact it will discharge the energy along the hammerhead as extra momentum, allowing it to strike with force up to a metric ton, depending on how much energy you allowed it to charge for. Don't worry, Newton's Third Law won't apply here, his great-grandfather designed it, you know."
[c] Coil Rifle - A blocky chunk of metal, with wood rather than the usual metal furniture. "Master said these were reserved weapons, to be issued to Lunarians not trained in combat if something goes terribly wrong. They use iron-tungsten bullets, so it is a fairly heavy weapon, but it fires reasonably fast and can penetrate inch-thick steel plates. I believe it is equivalent to a rifle-sized gunpowder round, but with better penetration."
Ok guys, if there's no plurality I'm going to roll a dice for the more popular choices.
Meanwhile have an interim update.
The average youkai warrior of antiquity was a crude being. Ugly, mean monsters wielding primitive weapons that raid villages and caravans throughout East Asia and are generally easily beaten back by the odd wandering hero. Compared to their significantly more competent bosses, they are little more than fodder.
Clear Sky, due to the significantly smaller recruitment pool they have to work for, invented a version adapted for modern warfare. Youkai mercenaries, when glanced at off-duty, are not much different from their human counterparts. They wear the same clothes and body armor and generally behave the same way, chatting and drinking together. They generally wear hoods and helmets to conceal horns and animal ears, and many wear bandanas to hide their sharp teeth. In battle, however, they are easily distinguishable. Wielding close range firearms and carrying knives and axes in their mouths, they infiltrate onto the battlefield in fast swarms, flanking enemy positions and tearing them to pieces while their human compatriots tie them down. They also frequently switch the strategy, having the terrifying youkai drive the enemy out of entrenched positions for the humans to gun them down at leisure.
A youkai soldier, even alone, is a daunting foe. They move fast enough to throw off the aim of even a well-trained soldier and are highly skilled in utilizing the environment, darting from cover to cover and wearing down their enemy until they could jump in for the kill. A favored tactic is for them to intentionally take a bullet and flee, only to surprise foolhardy pursuers with a boobytrap or grenade followed up by immediate melee combat, or worse lead them straight into an ambush by their peers. Compounding this problem are the possession of unique abilities particular to most youkai, from the relatively insignificant such as temporary nightblindness to the highly dangerous, such as physically paralyzing howls. Such abilities can turn guaranteed victories into bloodbaths.
If our forces ever has to engage in combat with youkai, I would suggest the extensive use of armored vehicles and the avoidance of urban combat. Youkai do not fare well in large scale pitched combat, by Clear Sky's own internal evaluations, but that is unlikely to come up given their status and low numbers. They are specialized for low-intensity conflicts and COIN operations, and so are unlikely to come in open conflict with us. Our undercover agents are urged to remain cautious. They are not savages, however, and have been drilled to follow orders. If you are surprised in an ambush with them, you are better off abandoning your false allies and surrendering. Clear Sky maintains tacit friendly relations with the MI6, so you can generally expect them to cooperate and negotiate extraction. Just make sure to not divulge anything too sensitive, and make sure you are trained in appropriate skills before considering accepting their offers of employment.
"This look good?" Winters asks Violetta, showing her the segment he typed up.
"Mmhmm. I personally doubt armored vehicles would pose that much of a threat. But then again we only ever took them on in ambushes." She replies with a vague air of disinterest.
Winters goes back to typing, "Any news from command? I'm wondering how they would receive this since I'm technically compromised."
"Ha, they still don't acknowledge your existence."
=================================================================== I have not had the opportunity to see this first-hand, but youkai are also frequently used as an effective, and some would say insidious instruments of Clear Sky's social control program. They are frequently use to improve relations with the youth of the communities Clear Sky negotiated or seized control of, their fantastical features and magical capabilities easily endearing themselves to the youth and elderly alike, while the working age population is kept happy with the infrastructural and economic benefits Clear Sky provides.
When night falls, youkai soldiers are the first ones into houses in the roaming death squads that Clear Sky operators form into to root out significant problems in the country they are in. Death squad is a technical term, as they do not target dissidents or political opponents. Rather, frequent targets for the forced disappearances they induce include warlords, corrupt politicians, fundamentalist religious leaders, insular tribal leaders, and other powerful people who actually have a negative impact on NGO activities. Targets of high repute are typically disposed of in brothels or drug dens, with the scene engineered to look as if they perished committing indecent acts to prevent any martyrs from arising, while warlords and criminal bosses are typically eaten by the youkai and their bones strung up in public places to deter anybody from following in their paths or opposing Clear Sky. Entire families of the ruling elite can end up dead as Clear Sky ruthlessly seeks out and destroys any force of sovereignty that can be eliminated without reproach. Clear Sky acts extremely fast, enough so that any supporters tied by money or power no longer have a reason to support by the time they find out about the deed.
NGOs such as Red Cross and UN organizations generally turn a blind eye to these activities, seeing no loss in eliminating mutual enemies and even going as far as to secretly collaborate. A common scheme is for aid organizations to deliver the shipments to a knowingly corrupt or untrustworthy authority, tip off Clear Sky, and then have them raid the diverted supplies so as to actually deliver them to the intended people and allow them to keep any equipment they "recovered" in the raid. Clear Sky often also terrorize bank officials in the area, blockading the attempts of government officials and warlords to transfer funds overseas and often outright taking entire accounts worth of money for themselves. Due to the opaque nature of the Swiss banks most of their targets use, as well as Clear Sky's access to both technological and magical means of fraud, many accounts believed to have been gold vaults of unscrupulous politicians and black market dealers are now part of the coffers of Clear Sky, with their original owners likely a pile of ashes and bones scattered in the ocean. A recent example is the missing assets of the recently deceased President Zbani, which was valued at 1 billion USD.Apparently it was quietly taken by Clear Sky, which also engineered his assassination, and laundered through NGOs as "aid shipments" for their own projects.
Clear Sky lacks subtlety and respect for human rights, abiding only by the Geneva Convention to demonstrate their own legitimacy. While the common people under their control are generally very supportive, leaders not planted or supported by Clear Sky often find themselves forced to sit upright by a chair of nails. Their solution to dissent is either wholehearted acceptance and change or outright murder. Their aid is large scale infrastructure, designed to rapidly escalate countries into higher standards of living with no consideration of social impact. However, first-hand accounts have proved that this is extremely effective in improving living standard, exceeding any other organization's efforts by orders of magnitude. Starving refugee camps and war-torn villages can be transformed into productive mines and farms in a matter of months, and endemic warfare stopped cold by the organization's iron fist.
You have enough strength in your exoskeleton to carry a shotgun and the assault rifle you've found. As your opponents will either be unarmored feral youkai or armored humans -- who will die easily if something penetrates their armor in the torso or head -- having a reliable set of tools for cracking those cans is the best idea.
"Hmm, interesting choice of weapons." Tewi observes as she rummages for several leather straps and cases to rig the weapons onto your exoskeleton, "I'll assume rate of fire is not much of a concern for you."
"I already have weapons to cover that area. Well, some weapons. I can't just take two now, can I?"
She shakes her head, "You CAN, I suppose, but all of them use your exoskeleton's power supply as a substitute for your lack of magical power. The close combat weapons are capacitor types while the ranged weapons will steadily drain your power source to keep it readied."
"Gotcha." You sling the bow across your left shoulder and mutter the hammer's sheath word: "Gravomace", allowing it to blend into the aether around you. "Is there a shooting range or something around here I could practice with?"
Tewi hefts a quiver full of arrows, "There's Master's shooting range, but you'll probably want to see how much ammunition you are willing to carry first.
The arrowheads are tungsten, which appears to be the actual projectile part. The rest of the arrow is low quality wood, and are unfletched. You decide to carry two quivers with thirty five arrows each.
"Alright, let's go."
While more mundane archery ranges only include soft straw or gel targets, this one is additionally outfitted with wooden and even metal targets, and a thick, scarred slab of stone makes up the rear end. You peek out the window and see that the indoor range is at least a hundred meters longer than what the building looks like from the outside, a consequence of Kaguya's abilities.
Taking a breath, you fit an arrow into the long groove, nock it, and pull back the superfluous bowstring. Prongs spring out from the front as you pull, forming a further length of rail for the arrows. Holding in your breath, you let go of the string.
You almost also let go of the bow at the loud boom caused by the projectile going past the sound barrier, sending a blue bolt of plasma down range with it, and when the dust settles on the other side you see that the stone slab gained yet another large crack. Looking down, you see that the wood had shattered and burned at the acceleration, indicating that it is no more than a guide for the tungsten head.
"You might want to aim with it, Ming."
"Lay off, it's the first time I've shot a bow-like object."
"If only there was a sighting device," Tewi rolls her eyes as she nudges the refractory sight you did not see on the side of the bow, "How convenient it would be."
You complain, "I'm blind, alright?" Lining up another shot, you aim at a metal target about a hundred meters away and fire, holding the bow still this time. The shot still jars your arm through the exoskeleton dampening, but this time you hit the target, albeit in the side, but you blew a plate-sized hole through the plate, which you are pretty sure is a kill-shot no matter where it hits.
"There, see? I killed it!"
A burst of laughter from Tewi catches you off-guard, "That was a sheet of pig iron. Even Outside World plastic armor will do better...Aha. No but seriously the strength of the Sentinel Bow lies in the fact that it will go through a lot of cover. Even a meter of concrete or the side of a tank won't stop it. However, don't expect it to leave a very large hole, so aim carefully."
"Is this type of bow used often?"
"No," She picks up another yumi, a simple, undecorated one, lying in a corner, "But we have this. Trying pulling it."
The bow looks to be entirely made out of metal, a very heavy metal too. The bowstring is metal twine, and even as you strain the exoskeleton to try and pull it back, it won't budge.
"What the hell?"
"Composite Aluminum-Graphene, unenchanted, draw weight 3000 kilograms. If you do pull this back the arrow it releases will be flying as fast as a Sentinel Bow. It's only really usable after imbibing some of Master's medicines---no, you don't get them---and she would use it to test out the effectiveness of a new creation."
Your excitement died along with the sentence.
Picking up your own bow again, you are just about to fire another shot when the screen door behind you slams open, and Iwakasa comes running in, "Ming! You've got a visitor waiting in the front courtyard!"
"A talking tank! I have no idea what's going on but the tank is demanding to see 'Friendly human', which appears to be you since I've never seen it before." He shakes his head. Apparently in his experience this is a first.
"They're already done with the tank?" You exclaim as you rush out, down the now fairly familiar corridors of Eientei's main building to emerge at the courtyard.
The tank is indeed there, its cannon still missing and parts of its armor still incomplete, but its tracks look decent. With the way it rolled closer to you and spun its turret, you'd almost say it looked happy.
"ALERT: FRIENDLY HUMAN IDENTIFIED. PROPOSAL: AFOREMENTIONED GUIDANCE AND PROTECTION IN ACCESSING OF REPAIR MATERIALS IN EXCHANGE FOR FULL COOPERATION OF ME. ALERT: AUDIO FEEDBACK NOW ONLINE."
You carefully step closer, "So you can hear me now, right?"
"Are you sapient?"
"AFFIRMATIVE. EXPLANATION: I AM A FULLY SAPIENT BEING."
Huh, what? It actually answered that? "Are you a tsukumogami then? Also, where and when were you created?"
"NEGATIVE. CREATION DATE: 29 APRIL 1945, BERLIN, GERMANY."
What? That was mere days before the surrender of Berlin. You'd expect it to be a secret Nazi project of some sort but that's impossible by any definition. "What exactly are you?"
"ANSWER: AN ARTIFICIAL CONSTRUCT."
"Are you a homunculus?"
"ERROR: KNOWLEDGE NOT PRESENT"
"MING!" You turn your head to see two figures stumble out of the bamboo thicket next to the path. "Thank god you're here, I was worried it would have ran off to parts unknown and took our tools with it."
Conner and Rikako are half covered with black soot over their working outfits, or in Conner's case his usual hobo-looking outfit, and are carrying some sort of metallic device, seemingly cracked, on their backs.
"How did you two get here?"
Rikako gives a sheepish grin, "My jetpacks. Twice as fast as flight and half as manueverable as magical flight. Unfortunately I never really perfected their design. The hydrogen-based alchemical fuel is very hard to work with, though nothing compared to the pure magical fuel Miss Kirisame produces."
Conner, meanwhile, is looking around the tank, picking out drills and welding tools still somehow stuck on the machine. After gathering an armful he stuffs them in his knapsack and gives a firm command. "Lowe, dispense product."
"ALERT: OPENING FABRICATOR HATCH."
A hatch, one you did not previously notice, pops open in a puff of smoke, revealing another complex mechanical device the size of a barrel with no identifiable purpose. Conner gingerly picks it up and cradles it like a child, while Rikako rushes over to beam at it.
"It actually succeeded in creating the damn thing, amazing. Excellent work Lowe." He pats the tank, which gives no response.
"Professor, what is that?"
"Something Rikako's tools just weren't good enough for--a magical refiner." He lifts the contraption high up, "With this baby we could use the same fuel as Miss Kirisame to power our shop and devices. Most importantly it means we can now build functional jetpacks that DON'T explode. Right Rika?"
"Sure, whatever Fenix." The other engineer looks to be in a trance of sorts, "Just jetpacks? Ha! We can make cannons, another tank, space rockets...monstrous engines..."
"Uh, Rikako?" Conner nervous asks as he tries to shove the girl away from the device, "You can jack it off after we get it back to the workshop. Focus."
"Anyway, Ming. I believe the tank wants you to help it now. This refiner should allow us to build things without its fabricator for a while. See ya."
The two engineers quickly depart with the device, leaving you alone with the tank. Not technically, of course, as you can feel Tewi and Iwakasa watching you from an unseen vantage point. The tank sputters, and announces "ALERT: FABRICATION PLANT EMPTY. NEW OBJECT READY FOR CREATION"
"So do I just tell you what to make, or..."
"SCHEMATICS OR MASTER OBJECT REQUIRED."
"This bow then," You hold up the Sentinel Bow to its viewports, "Can you duplicate this?"
The hatch pops open, and a probe attached to the arm made of fused firearms comes out and scans the object with a beam, "ERROR: INSUFFICENT MATERIALS."
"What about my armor then."
The tank shift the probe over to you, "ERROR: PRECISION REQUIRED BEYOND CURRENT CAPABILITIES. REQUESTING COMMENCEMENT OF MATERIAL GATHERING PLAN."
"Alright, but I've got to wait for somebody to---"
A whoosh overhead, and you raise your head just enough to see three figures fly over and into Eientei at high speed, one dragged behind another one. Surprised yelling comes from within, along with a shout of "WHERE'S MING?" The door flies open, and Eirin comes rushing out with a large smile on her face, only stopping to look at the tank for a brief moment and then letting out a laugh. The tank tracks her with the cannon, but gives no response.
"Miss...Lady Yagokoro?" You ask, a little intimidated.
"Ming! Looks like you found a new friend!" She remarks, "Our plans have changed, and the things you've heard are now non-critical. You do however have a new job now that Reisen is ill-suited to working."
Before you can say anything, she shoves a scroll onto you. On it are written multiple locations, with a large amount of medical equipment and materials written beneath each one. These look to be orders, to be delivered to clients around Gensokyo.
"Yes! Everybody else in Eientei is going to be occupied right now, so you're going to have to pick up the slack. Sorry Ming, but I'll make sure to pay you double for the amount of time you'll be doing this."
"That's at least a metric ton of materials though..."
"ALERT: I AM WILLING TO BEAR THE WEIGHT IN EXCHANGE FOR ASSISTANCE IN OBTAINING MATERIALS."
"See? Here." Eirin digs into her satchel and pulls out a thick sheaf of bills. "80000 yen, should be enough to cover your expenses if you have your new friend carry all that. The cargo is packed and bound already. All you have to do is deliver it."
You accept the money and nod, "Got it. Can you tell me where the shipment is so I can load it?"
Eirin claps once, "Thank you. You should head off as soon as possible. The recent happenings have already delayed the delivery, and we can't let our customers get mad now, can we?"
"Of course, Lady Yagokoro. Whatever you ask for." You give a bow, provoking another chuckle.
As you walk back into Eientei to get the shipments, Eirin explains the aftermath and debriefing of your skirmish. The weapons recovered from the dead were nothing special, being conventional Outside world weapons. Their armor does indeed utilize Eirin's camouflage technology, but only in principle, as the parts appear to be manufactured by non-Lunarian sources. The exoskeletons the hostiles were using are not Lunarian, but their power supplies are very dense batteries that they cannot crack open with steel tools, and are waiting for the engineers to get back to deal with them. Otherwise, comparing the armor to those the Russians captured earlier, as well as further interrogation of the prisoner, reveals nothing new other than the fact that one of the dead enemies rode in on the same truck the prisoner did. None of them had any identification.
What is more worrying is that a complete sweep of the area revealed signs that more had been there, but have not been seen or fought. They suspect that either the enemy will lay low for a while or accelerate their plans, whatever they were. Inspecting the ruins of the structure also revealed that there were more equipment stowed, but have been removed quite recently.
"All we know is that is is a full on incursion, whatever it is. I suggest you watch out during your delivery."
Time: 7:10 PM
The deliveries are to be made to all of the large settlements in Gensokyo - Youkai Mountain, Human Village, Myouren and Senkai Temples, Scarlet Devil Mansion, and Underground City. All of these locations apparently had a great need for medical or chemical goods from Eientei, not surprising considering Eientei's advanced technology.
Reviewing the orders, grabbing a speed report from the tank and measuring out the map, you can see two general routes you can take.
The first one would be to head east to get to the temples first, and then follow the river to the village and then to the SDM and Mountain. The second way would be to hit the SDM first, and then hit the village, pay somebody else to deliver the package to the Myouren temple (with their very light order) and then get Senkai and the Mountain. The first one is the most straightforward, while the second is much faster as you can take advantage of Eientei's proximity.
Judging by Lowe's speed, however, you can expect to get ONE location today before night falls. You have night vision, but fatigue is a large concern and you have to sleep somewhere. Preferably inside a building on a bed. You also have to consider the materials you will be obtaining for Lowe. The mines are located south of the village, near the Road of Liminality, and at the Youkai Mountain foothills near the Kappa Village. You will be hitting all of these locations eventually, but they will be extra weight until Lowe can process it, and thus slow your progress.
[ ] Temples first [ ] SDM first
Cash on hand - 122000 yen Health - Negligible wounds Armor - Lunarian Forestry Exoskeleton Armor Weaponry in pack - Sentinel bow, Force Hammer, AK-74, Modified Remington w/ Grenade Launcher. Kill count - 4 Romance count - 0 out of a possible 0 Own Faction - Eientei Cooperative Factions - Gensokyean Authority (Hakurei-Yakumo clan), Human Village Authority, Village Engineers, Myouren Temple, Russian Spetsnaz Observer Group Neutral Factions - Senkai, Netherworld, Indentured Outsiders, Forest of Magic youkai, Youkai Bank, Higan, Forest of Magic Mages Hostile Factions - N/A Unknown Factions - Scarlet Devil Mansion, Kappa Village, Youkai Mountain, Youkai Forest, Moriya Shrine, Shining Needle Castle, Underground City
In retrospect, the wooden pendant you received as a gift from the Myouren Temple is fairly useless now as an ambulance. Although...in a tight spot you could theoretically use it as backup.
Time: 8:45 PM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Forest of Magic Threat Level: 5
[x] Temple First
Looks like you have an ally at your side now, for better or for worse.
"Lowe, what weapons do you have on you?" You ask as you jog effortlessly behind the vehicle. Getting to the temples requires crossing a stretch of the Forest of Magic, but you highly doubt that all but the most idiotic of youkai will come harass you with this monstrous steel beast in front of you, so you are busying yourself with reading Keine's Tome of Magical Basics. even though you cannot use the magic, it is still quite helpful to know their principles and more importantly, their weaknesses.
Perhaps it is just the language being one you could understand, but you notice that the electronic voice being projected by the tank had changed noticeably since it spoke at Marisa's place. It had not gotten humanized, no, but rather more bestial, with a rough edge to it.
"What sort of monster?"
The damn tank is no tsukumogami. You half convinced that you might just be helping to unleash an eldritch god or something. On the other hand, you don't care. Yukari will fix it if it gets too out of hand. Besides, if it is a cosmic horror you are still doing the important job of keeping Gensokyo interesting.
These armored hostiles you've fought aren't interesting, they're just straight up depressing and worrying.
A faint sound emitting from a bit further inside the forest catches your attention. Listening closer, you catch the deep thrumming sound of a bass as well as indistinct guitar sounds. Figuring that you might as well, you tell Lowe to adjust its course and move towards the concert.
As you move closer, you see a bright source of light through the trees. Two large bonfires had been lit in a large clearing, and a crowd of about three hundred or so individuals, mostly fairies, have gathered to watch a rock performance done on a smoothed out rock formation.
The night sparrow had no doubt invested a good deal of money into securing her equipment. A large green box, apparently a generator of sorts judging by the lightning bolt inscribed on it, connects to a mixer and a pair of beat-up looking black speakers, which are somewhat jarring to look at compared to the traditional clothing of most of the attendees but not to the performers.
Mystia and Kyouko's costumes somewhat resemble their usual outfits, but are almost completely made of black leather and decorated with metal studs, as their drawing in the official artbook depicts. Their drummer, however, was not depicted in the artbook. Her plum red hair and white suit, however, makes it so that you are able to recognize her as the relatively newly born Raiko Horikawa, playing on a set of floating drums and cymbals, giving the otherwise completely haphazard performance a sense of rhythm and purpose. Though, judging by how most of the crowd is either A: A young youkai, still with fur or hair on their faces, B: A young human, still without hair on their faces, or C: A fairy, which never will have hair on their faces, you doubt they appreciate it being anything beyond "YAY LOUD NOISES TO MAKE THE ELDERS ANGRY!"
In fact, the wild motion of the crowd, the screaming and the sound of Kyouko's "NOW I'M STANDING ON THE ROOFTOP READY TO FALL!" covers up the fact that a tank had entered the area. Even you have begun jumping and waving at the performance, despite it being relatively inept, Kyouko's volume, Mystia's raw musical skill and Raiko's tsukumogami drums makes it more entrancing than the best Outside World concert.
"I THINK I'M ON THE EDGE NOW BUT I COULD BE WRONG!"
A tall youkai, looking to have been a deer of some sort judging by its horns, hoists you up in the air with one hand, yelling and cheering. He then offers you a bottle of sake, which you gladly accept and down completely in one drink.
"I'M STANDING ON THE ROOFTOP READY TO FALL~ALL~ALL!"
Looking around while midair in jumps, you see that somehow even the outsiders are being accepted, getting crowdsurfed and thrown up just like everyone else, though you do note that all of these outsiders have armbands or other identifying insignia. Even the tank appears to be enjoying the music, bobbing its broken cannon up and down with the beat.
"I COUNT THE TIMES THAT I'VE BEEN SORRY" "I know~ I know~"
Mystia's silky, romantic voice is a sharp contrast to Kyouko's crude, clear one, but you can't really discern it enough to try and analyze more than that because the terrible quality of their speakers. Still for a group isolated from the Outside by a magical barrier, it is pretty amazing that they managed to secure them at all.
At some point the gathered fans have noticed the tank, and have began using it as a sort of platform, jumping on and off of the turret as the tank rotates. Somebody had smashed a bottle over it, but the tank does not appear to mind. You do however have to drag a few of the more violent ones off to avoid damaging the cargo strapped on.
It's a good break after all the work and fighting you've been through all day. You can just hang back and let your body submit to the rhythm. And to think this is a small informal event...who knows what kind of extravagent and otherworldly festivals the denizens of Gensokyo could put on?
Something catches your attention at the corner of your eye. A figure stands in the shadow of a tree, with a billowing dress. Even with the lack of light, you can still...no the silhouette is too faint.
Before you realize it, the shape disappeared. You blink at the empty spot, wondering if it was just a trick of your eye or a hallucination. Still, you wander over, seeing if perhaps some random youkai just decided to fuck with you. The space it stood in is empty, and no footprints or other signs of her presence remains. Only when you turn to go back to the concert do you see something.
A card, embedded in the trunk of the tree. Carefully tugging on it to avoid damaging the card, you are surprised to find out that it is metallic. Upon removal, it lets off a strong tingly sensation, and upon inspection it looks to be a spellcard, but...different.
It bears no insignia like the spellcards you've obtained before and has no description other than its incantation, a simple one syllable one. You compare it to Yukari's and Nue's gifted spellcards, and find that even though it is a fairly thick metal card, it seems to weigh less than the other two, even though the gifted spellcards don't seem to be made of anything stronger than cardstock. It tingles to the touch, and you think you see it let off a ghostly light in the darkness.
The picture depicted is a single pink line. Without the description, you decide to test it out on a tree nearby.
"Hew" You say, holding the card out.
You suddenly feel a sharp sting. Not the draining exhaustion normally associated with spellcards, but rather a feeling that somebody just stuck a lit match on your forehead. Half a second later a pink beam erupts from your outstretched hand, striking the tree trunk you aimed at...and did absolutely nothing.
You examine the impact area with a light. Nothing. Not even a single flake of bark has been chipped off. Strange, considering all of the previous spellcards you encountered possessed secondary environmental effects, with at least some force entering the physical world with every spell cast, which according to Keine's magic textbook is because of the entropy in conversion between magical and physical sources. But this beam does not appear to do so.
Even stranger is that despite the pain, you did not feel a drain on your bodily energy, like with the other spellcards.
Everybody else in the area was too distracted by the concert to notice anything, and the couple of youkai you asked did not see anything over where you saw the silhouette.
The concert goes through a few more songs, and ends amidst a chorus of whooping cheers. Kyouko screams something incomprehensible, apparently thanking everybody for their attendance, and people began either filtering out back into the woods or going up to talk with the performers.
[ ] Perhaps you should go have a chat with them too - [ ] Can you have a look at this card? - [ ] Anything I could help out with? [ ] Better get on with the job
Resisting the urge to get into more shenanigans, you wave the Lowe over and depart the scene of the concert. Myouren Temple is the closest delivery site to your current position, so you venture forth in that direction.
The dark forest eventually clears out, and you emerge onto the relatively clear area before the temple. You can see youkai moving about in the corner of your eye, humanoid figures with animalistic features and movement, always just staying out of your field of view. Given the massive tank that is right beside you, it is likely that they do not want to provoke a confrontation, even just for fun. It's just as well, you do not have much time for that anyway.
You reach the outskirts of the temple, and proceed along the paved road. The lamps are dim, and the youkai here no longer scurry. Instead, they walk tall and openly, sometimes even staring at you. One of them, a deer, calls out "Human! What are you doing here this late? Are you lost?"
"I'm just a medicine delivery boy for Eientei."
"Yeah, Shikato. Can't you see his patch and his vehicle?" His companion comments.
Without warning, Lowe bellows, "ALERT: I AM INDEPENDENT, NOT A SUBORDINATE OF THE HUMAN."
You can see all of the youkai turn and stare at the loudly talking tank, and you awkwardly try to ignore the attention and mutterings as you lead it on towards the main gate. It's probably a good thing that most youkai do not know English.
Ichirin is standing there, with the viscous form of Unzan hovering around her, forming a gate that appears to govern the flow of people into the temple. Drunk and rowdy youkai are kept out, with some older ones pulling them over to clean them up and slap them around, and you can see flashes of spells being cast in the process. Very little torches are lit, owing to the nocturnal nature of youkai, so it is necessary for you to engage the night vision on your Hunter Module.
"Oh, Mr. Wu, is that you?" The woman asks, a bit taken aback at your appearance, "What are you doing here at this hour? And what is that...thing doing here?"
"I'm here to deliver that cargo of medicine Miss Hijiri ordered last week. Lowe here is a...a business partner. Yeah."
"...Is that English?" Ichirin asks, raising an eyebrow at the tank.
"Yeah, apparently it can do that." You respond, eliciting a "Hmmph" from Ichirin, "So where do I drop off the cargo?"
"I'll get somebody to grab a wheelbarrow, since your partner here obviously cannot fit through the gates. You should begin unpacking the cargo and place it somewhere convenient."
You enter the temple proper to scout out a decent loading spot, but no more than twenty steps in something grabs you and pulls you into a side building while you are examining a particularly interesting carving. You reactively pull up the shield and is just about to conjure up the warhammer when you hear a girl's voice mutter by your ear, "Sheathe your weapons, we need to talk, shut the door."
"Okay?" You power down the shield and turn. A girl about two heads shorter than you is looking at you with a dead serious expression. Two mouse ears sprout from the side of her gray-haired head, and some dark shapes scurry around her form.
"Miss...uh, Nazrin?" You ask as you shut the door behind you.
"Mr. Wu. Please hand over the note Miss Imaizumi gave you earlier today. Password Rain." Her voice is a monotone, with pretensions of command.
OH SHIT. You had completely forgotten about that. Fumbling through your pockets, you pull out the tattered piece of paper. "I'm sorry I didn't attend your...meeting...thing. What's going on?"
"Don't worry about it." Nazrin snatches the paper away from you, examines it, then crumples it up and tosses it in her mouth. "We've got the info we needed. Don't miss one next time, we might still need your cooperation."
"Is this some spy thing? Am I being drafted? Hey!" You frantically attempt to ask as she shoves you outside the building. "Some answers would be nice!"
"You'll get a note." Nazrin says, before slamming the door shut. You try tugging on it, but the clinking of metal indicates that it is either chained or locked. Not letting go of the issue, you dampen one of the paper screens with your saliva and peer in, only to see an empty room.
Seeing no way to pursue her, you go back to unloading the shipment of medicinal herbs,
"Hey Mr. Wu, is that all of the shipment?" Ichirin asks as you pile on another bag of ground herbs onto the dirt patch that you decided looked out of the way enough to work as a loading zone. A rather unhappy looking Murasa is pushing a wheelbarrow over, her expression likely because she is in her nightclothes.
"Most of it, there's a few more on Lowe." You say, "Any of you people seen Miss Nazrin?"
"She has not shown up at the temple for a week now," Ichirin explains, shrugging, "And she lives on the other side of Gensokyo, why do you ask?"
"Well she just grabbed me into that building over there and said some cryptic things, then disappeared." You heave another bag of herbs off of the tank, which is currently standing just off to the side of the entrance and occasionally making ominous rumbling sounds to scare off any youkai that tried to touch or climb it, which also inadvertently served to scare most of the younger youkai away from the entrance altogether, "Some spy thing or something."
"Interesting. Murasa, you have a clue?" Ichirin says as she wanders over to inspect the building you got grabbed into. "Smells a bit like mice in here, but I can't see anything else"
"Nope-arr." The drowned ghost half-yawns, "I hear she's been hanging out with a bunch of other youkai lately, but I have no idea who they are or what they are up to. Very weird considering how anti-social Nazrin is. But first can you get to moving the damn shipment?"
"On it." Having gotten the last bag off, you begin loading up the wheelbarrow. "Everybody I've talked to seems to be keeping me in the dark about what's going on. First it's the Russians, then it's my boss, and now her, and just an hour ago an unseen person gave me this spellcard." You say as you wave the metallic card in front of them.
Murasa doesn't react, but Ichirin blinks a couple times. "Mr. Wu, that's...that's not a spellcard."
"What do you mean?" You hold the card up and point your free hand at a nearby statue, "It works just like one? See? Hew!"
A ray of pink light shoots out, and like your previous attempt, does nothing at all. The tinge of pain goes through your head as normal.
"Let me see that," Ichirin reaches over and you hand her the card, "This shouldn't be...Hew!"
Nothing at all happens, not even a pink light.
"Gimme that...Hew!" Murasa gives a try, and the card likewise fails to activate. "Geez, what is this thing anyway?"
Ichirin stares at it, and slowly shakes her head, "I have no trace of a clue. It seems to be a magical channeling tool, but it is definitely not a spellcard, or an amulet, or any conventional item either Oriental or Occidental. If you have magical training, however," She lifts up the card, allowing it to hover in her hand while a yellow light suffuses the card, revealing delicate carvings beneath the surface, "You can see that it is not a outwards spell, but an inward control mechanism."
"Control mechanism?" You ask, gaping at the analyzed card.
"Aye, a control mechanism. It is a spell that modulates or manipulates the body or spirit of the caster temporarily. I believe your 'Refrain' spellcard granted by the Yakumo clan is one, and other examples include Hijiri's 'Superhuman' spell and the Yatagerasu Incarnate's 'Tokamak'. It should NOT be shooting anything."
"Could be broken," Murasa points out, "Look, it's even got a bit of rust on the edges."
"We won't know until Mr. Wu tests it out in a proper duel." Ichirin hands you the card back as the glow fades, "And now would be a terrible time for a fight."
As the temple bell tolls and the youkai worshipers stream into the temple, some actively attempting to restrain themselves from giving in to their instincts and howl or jump as indicated by their pained expressions and sporadic twitching, you figure that she is probably right. Putting the card safely in your exoskeleton's chest pouch, you begin loading up the wheelbarrow. The herbs, actually a pre-mixed package consisting of 14 ingredients carefully prepared with Lunar-proprietary methods, are used as a crude panacea and sedative, aiding the regenerative processes of a living being and soothing any aggressive impulses coursing through their minds when applied orally or as a cranial poultice. It really shouldn't work and goes against everything you learned in school, but then again Eirin is a couple eons older than you so what do you know?
"ALERT: FABRICATOR COMPLETE, AWAITING NEW ORDER." The tank suddenly bellows, startling the youkai.
Answering the quizzical looks, you sheepishly explain, "My craft is ready." as you step over and pop open the hatch.
The Sentinel Bow is a pain in the arse to reload, so you told the tank to make something that will fix that and threw it some cans and metallic junk you found in Eientei's warehouse. It produces a...loader of sorts, one which attaches to the bow on the side and permits ten arrows to be stacked and loaded one by one into the groove as you pull another trigger, and clamps the arrow in place until you draw back the string. It would be nicer if it is a crossbow but damn Lunarians seem to insist on making things harder for themselves.
By the time you finish piling the bags high and have some spare time to attach the device, Ichirin had gone back to her duties as gatekeeper and Murasa has disappeared. You lift the wheelbarrow's handles and begin pushing it towards the storehouse they told you about. It is located in a relatively remote part of the temple complex, behind the building they use as a medical center. This part of the temple is really dark, as the main area still has a few fires lit for atmosphere and warmth.
As such, distant from the voices, chatter, and heat signatures of the youkai, it is trivial for you to notice the figures climbing over the temple walls with the aid of your Hunter Module.
They don't move like youkai, as they struggle quite a bit in clambering over the wall, and are attempting to sneak into the building. You abandon the wheelbarrow and move to the inside of a decorative bush to observe them more carefully, utilizing the full power of the Hunter's Module. They look to be dressed in very simple and bare clothing, and have large tattoos across the length of their shoulder and back. Some things appear to dangle from their necks, and as you look closer they are plaques of some sort, white against their dark skin.
The language they are chattering in is something you do not understand, but you do recognize the tattoos. It reads "MEAT: DO NOT AID." indicating that these people must be the "acceptable prey" that Yukari actively imports and are constantly implied by Zounose's doujins.
They must have thought that temple equals civilization which equals safety after wandering around the dangerous wilderness of Gensokyo and somehow not getting eaten. Or maybe they are just trying to seek shelter for the evening after getting dropped nearby. Either way they are in for a nasty revelation.
Yellow dots of neutrality pop up on your HUD. More than a couple of youkai have caught their scent and have moved in around your position. They, like you have concealed themselves behind walls and shrubbery, and are tensed up, some dropping to all fours as if ready to pounce.
"Hey, using weapons in hunting humans is against the Law of Gensokyo, youngster." An elder youkai, a bearded old man with scales around his eyes and a forked tongue, cautions you as he gets down next to you in the brush.
"What? I am a human! I'm just here to watch."
He looks at you for a few moments, then lowers his head, "Apologies, my sense of smell is not what it once was. But why are you observing this, human? Most do not enjoy viewing the destruction of their own kind."
"They're not my kind." You state, "Aren't they acceptable prey, after all, lower than outsiders?"
The man gives you a strange look, then is about to speak something when a sudden burst of light, as bright as a star, turns the night into day, briefing blinding you and forcing you to disable night vision. The humans scream in surprise and begin running, only for the youkai who have not turned away to let out bloodcurdling screeches and leap out, pinning them down and provoking even more screaming as the humans struggle against the iron grasps of the youkai.
You realize this is the first time you saw a youkai attack a human for food, something that won't ever be in the official materials.
It appears that the prey are quite doomed, when without warning, something dashes into the melee. A black and white blur that moves faster than you can see rips the prey out of their predicament, tossing aside the youkai like paper dolls. It then makes a lap around the prey, inscribing sigils on the ground that glow and form a wall of light, which even to you feels like a spell that keeps things out.
Hijiri Byakuren stops, and stands straight in front of the cowering humans before speaking in a soft but very loud voice, "I know what you are all going to state, that these humans are outlaws and prey. But the laws of the faith are beyond those of us mortals. Please, for your own sakes, refrain from attacking a human, no matter what human, within temple grounds. It is against the decree for youkai to harm humans in a place of refuge like a temple."
A younger youkai snarls and makes a jump for the walls, only for him to be repelled as if he hit a mounted trampoline. Loud, discontent murmurs and grumbling begin to emerge from the nearby observers, mostly regarding how these humans are acceptable prey.
"It matters not what sins they may have committed, for even the most misguided of souls can be guided forward on the path to nirvana. Even if you must give in to these carnal desires, at least do so outside..."
Somebody slides up beside you, "Hey man, nice seeing you here again." Nue mutters, sliding uncomfortably close alongside you in the bush. "Goddamn prey wanders right in here and we could only watch."
You zoom in with the Module to get a closer look, "As a human myself I can't really approve of that."
"Pfft," Nue snickers, "Lady Yakumo specifically selects the undesirables from human society to dump in here. Why would you be unhappy about it?"
"I dunno. It doesn't seem very justified for some poor hobo to just get whisked off to be meat."
"Undesirables, not dregs. She knows what she's doing. Read their plaques."
Zooming in even further, you recognize that the plaques actually contain their names and titles, along with a list of charges. "Mass murder, mass murder, Embezzlement, rape, torture...and a strange black and white emblem at the bottom, looks like the Scales of Justice."
"It's the accountability system." The elder youkai from before, who had sullenly returned to this position after Byakuren intervened, states as he listens into your conversation. "Back when Higan became sewn to Gensokyo, Yamaxanadu demanded to be given oversight over the prey population introduced into Gensokyo. It seems however that Lady Yakumo had gone above and beyond to fulfill this requirement, as the prey she brings in are...high class to say the least. Officers, politicians, managers, people who are going to be missed outside as opposed to common criminals, though there are a fair share of regular murderers as well, though this bunch look to be war criminals, judging by their charges. Each one is personally reviewed and approved by the Yama herself."
Makes sense, considering how she can objectively and perfectly determine the sins of a person.
"I ain't complaining. High class humans with their diet of meat and wine taste much better than vagrants." Nue says, "Don't you agree, Mishaguji?"
Eh? You turn and look at the old youkai, who gives Nue a stink eye before turning to you to explain, "Yes, Miss Houjuu, that is true. Human, in case you are wondering, Master Moriya takes all of the faith for herself, given the low quantities Gensokyo possesses, and thus I am FORCED to seek magical sustenance like a common youkai. I sincerely wish I do not have to do this."
"You are also here to try and leech off of some of the faith at worship, aren't you?" Nue teases.
"Quiet, arrow bait." Mishaguji retorts.
"Slave of Moriya."
"Dog of Yori-" The man cuts off, as Nue gives a jab on his side. You say nothing, but note that they both quickly glanced around and at you right after. You pretend you did not notice anything.
The three of you watch Byakuren pull the hero defending helpless victims while giving speech routine for a while, before Nue speaks up. "Hey Ming, you know..."
"All of us here will owe you one."
"Youkai cannot harm humans on temple ground, but..."
You catch Nue's implications here. She wants you to resolve the situation without breaking any rules.
But should you?
[ ] Solve the problem openly [ ] Solve the problem discreetly [ ] Do not get involved
================================================= <CrackerJack> ey boss <%Purple> What <CrackerJack> so i was running background checks on the outsiders the village logged and DNA sampled with those special pens <CrackerJack> and one of them was completely missing <CrackerJack> this Wu kid, a student from the US, he has some funny records <%Purple> Funny? <CrackerJack> large gaps in his academic records and records after last year. <CrackerJack> there's also the issue with a record that they didn't delete properly <CrackerJack> nothing special in it, but it is a coroner's report from two years ago <%Purple> You sure it's not just a glitch of some sort? <CrackerJack> doesn't look like it, a bit more digging also pulled up police investigations, crime scene reports, and such. <CrackerJack> i cant get anything concrete though, everything but the name has been wiped, maybe a bit more digging can get something they didn't catch <%Purple> Do that, I'll tell my agents inside Gensokyo to keep an eye on him, more than they already are of course <%Purple> Should have figured something was up with that pseudonym <CrackerJack> good thing he didn't wear gloves, huh? <%Purple> It's a magical device, gloves won't help =================================================
"Alright, Nue, I'm gonna need you to help me out here. Are you okay with sharing the flesh with another?"
"I'm just happy to get any flesh at all...wait," She looks at you strangely, "You're agreeing?"
You click your tongue, "Like I said, if they were just some random poor sods I would definitely not decide to help them get killed. But these fuckers? Do I need an excuse?"
Your excuse is that they had power. You hate those with power and whom you disagree with.
================= "You have overstepped your boundaries."
"I no longer need your boundaries."
"You were supposed to bring order to the world!"
"Youkai cannot attack humans on temple ground." It would be fine for you to shoot them right here and now, of course, but you decide it's far more respectful of Byakuren and cleaner in execution if you dress up the situation a bit.
"Does Miss Hijiri understand English?"
Nue shakes her head, "Nope, she generally has somebody else translate."
"Good, Lord Mishaguji, you in?"
"I fail to see any problems, what is your plan, human?"
"Look, you guys want prey, right? Here's the plan. I, as a fairly well reputed human, will offer to escort them to the village or some other safe place. Since I have Lowe to back me up and since Miss Hijiri has the night service to attend to, she will probably let me do it. Now, once I'm some distance away from the temple, a large group of 'feral' youkai will assault me, knocking me out and 'heavily damaging' Lowe. The humans I escort will then be carried off while...shit, how do I justify myself not dying or getting carried off?"
"You taste terrible?"
"Alright, both of you will play the role of feral youkai, and I believe that being a Nue you can conceal the identity of the attackers, while Lord Mishaguji will create evidence of said group of powerful ferals. We'll also need to pay Reimu off and deal with any loose ends from the village side, in case Miss Hijiri gets suspicious."
"Look, Hijiri doesn't really care about them. It's a law she's following, not her will."
"Well I thought otherwise, but if that is the case then there's no problem. Now as to what I will get out of this?"
Nue rolls her eyes, "Money or spellcards?"
"Iron, I need lots of iron. Preferably not in ore form. My ta- Lowe would not agree if we do not do so."
Mishaguji softly chuckles at your demand, "That would not be an issue. I can ensure two thousand kilograms of pure iron will be delivered to the temple by tomorrow morning. I am sure your tank would desire more, but that is the maximum my borrowed powers can muster in this month."
"Actually that's pretty good." A whole 40 percent of the five tons Lowe asked for! That sets you well on the way to being the key ally of a FULLY FUNCTIONAL magical, sapient and very heavily armed vehicle. And just for removing some fuckwits from the world! Your ethics professor was wrong, crossing lines really does benefit you as an individual!
"I'll use your given spellcard as the signal for your attack, Nue. Let's go."
Nue and Mishaguji slip away from the action, the first dissolving into a wave of mist and the second into a white snake as they exfiltrate from temple grounds. You take a deep breath before stepping forth, squeezing your way past the horde of irritated youkai and into the light of Byakuren's barrier. The mutters stop as the youkai notice your awkward outfit and weapons, and angry whispers begin building up as they smell your human scent.
The older ones fall silent as they notice that your scent is human, but more than a bit off.
Byakuren pauses in her pleading as she notice your presence. She does not recognize you from yesterday, but she does hesitate as what appears to be a soldier walks up to her and bows.
"Lady Hijiri, my name is Wu Ming, an employee of Eientei and affiliate of the Human Village." You struggle to maintain composure as you assert your reputation, as a couple of youkai behind you begin whispering about you, "I am currently in control of a very powerful steel beast, and I would like to offer my services to...um...extract these people to the Village."
Lowe is still parked outside of the temple, but its sheer size and heat signature made sure that every youkai who entered the temple had seen it. Even damaged, it is not something that can be conquered with mere tooth and claw, and those who have attempted magical attacks know better than to try it.
Without a sound, Ichirin emerges from the crowd and whispers something into Byakuren's ear. Byakuren nods, then answers you. "Very well, I trust that you will escort these souls to a place of refuge."
She lowers the barrier, and gestures for the humans within to leave. Still confused and frightened, they do not obey, instead they attempt to move closer to Byakuren, which was the source of their protection. You almost feel sympathy, if it wasn't for the fact that, judging by their plaques, you hate their very guts.
No, hate is an attractive emotion, as the late Sir Terry Pratchett had stated. No, you loath these piles of filth. Even in their pathetic condition, you can see the blood in their eyes, and smell the sickening odor wafting from them. It is the scent of corruption and pride, of undeserved bravado built on the screams of the defenseless, of wealth plundered from the well-meaning, of perverted pleasure from the weakness of the young.
But most importantly, the power and pride they had. You don't really mind the other points, save for their use as excuses to dispose of the powerful and prideful. They may be sniveling now, but who knows what kind of disgusting pride, ego and self-respect they had before?
"Come, I am a human." You announce in English. "Follow me if you want to be safe."
A few of them understand, and translate your words to the others. They quickly gravitate towards you as you power up the shield and flourish the warhammer a few times, before manually discharging the stored energy, letting out such a loud airburst that everybody instinctively backs away. You have no problem leading your herd of lambs over to the gate, save for the stabbing glares in your back.
"ALERT: NEW FRIENDLIES?" Lowe inquires, turning its ruined turret toward the group of humans, causing them to begin screaming again. Again, you have to calm them down.
"Disposable cargo." You mutter in German. "Do not protect."
Time: 10:40 PM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Wooded Area between Myouren Temple and Human Village Threat Level: 5
Lowe brings up the rear as you lead the front of the group. Occasionally you have to use the warhammer to scare off any youkai that you notice scurrying around in the shadows. While it is hard to see in the night, you can see Nue's black mist tailing you with your headset, even though her magic conceals her presence to the FoF identification system. A white snake sometimes shows itself from the trees, before scurrying back into the darkness, meaning that Mishaguji is also close by.
It actually gets quite quiet as you exit the vicinity of the temple, and crest a hill that allows you to see the lights of the Village in the distance. Any youkai that had hopes of attacking you for the prey have long left, not putting up with the prospect of handling an Eientei-armed individual and a gigantic steel beast. The humans you are shepherding have also begun chattering again, and you catch some of them looking towards the AK-74 still strapped on to the side of your pack. Though you do not say anything, you silently wonder which country Yukari appropriated them from. They are obviously African in origin, but you cannot discern their language or their appearance to pinpoint where on the continent they were from.
As you move down the hill however, Lowe suddenly freezes, making a jerking motion with the turret to the side of the woods. You turn around to see what's going on when an explosion erupts to the side of the tank, blowing up a cloud of dust and leaves that blocks off your vision. The Hunter Module picks up six hostiles moving in from the sides of the trees, at less than a hundred meters.
"NUE!" You shout, "WHAT WAS THAT?"
Suddenly, an arm grabs you and pulls you flat on the ground right as a hail of gunfire breaks out. One of the humans slumps down lifelessly next to your position, a hole blown through his head before he even had the chance to cry out. You turn and see Nue lying flat on the ground beside you, holding a finger to her lips even as the air is filled by the screams of those riddled by bullets.
Taking the cue, you whisper, "Nue, didn't we--"
"I have no idea what's going on." She whispers back, "One moment I was moving over to your front, and the next moment these armored dudes just popped out of nowhere and begin firing at your position. Are these your friends?"
Threat Level: 5->10
"Oh shit, oh shit. It's the terrorists we caught in the sweep earlier today."
"More humans? Heh," In a burst of mist, you once again feel your body go topsy-turvy as Nue uses her escape trick to blink away from the ambush site. "You mean more meat."
"These fuckers are dangerous, Nue. Where's Mishaguji?" You get up and attempt to get a handle on the situation, which is now far away enough that you can actually think about what's going on. Lowe appears to be temporarily incapacitated, though the explosion did not appear to do any significant damage. All of the humans you were "guarding" appear to be dead, caught in the crossfire with no cover, though some might just be playing dead. According to your HUD, the hostiles are closing in on the ambushed position two hundred and fifty meters away from your current one, perhaps looking for survivors.
"Over here." A rather sizable white snake hisses at you from the cover of the canopy, its girth matching that of the tree it is curled around. "You stated something about terrorists?"
"There are these heavily armored humans that have been showing up recently and attacking everything in sight. The authorities have been combing the land for them but they appear to have copied Lunarian tech." You move closer, just enough for your Module to lock on to their signatures and zoom in. "Holy shit."
The hostiles are not wearing the scrappy looking heavy armor you faced against earlier today. No, what they are wearing looks like something straight out of a medieval fairy tale, with shining silver plate that cover them head to toe. Each one is wearing a liberal amount of talismans and charms, and the armor itself looks to be etched with glowing runes, though they don't look like anything the village has. The weapons they are carrying are conventional, though the fact that they are wielding what looks to be MG3s and like they are assault rifles gives you chills. Currently, all six of them are poking around the corpses and Lowe, which appears to have either been disabled or is simply not responding in fear of more attacks.
You are outnumbered two-to-one, effectively, but right now your group has the initiative. Scurrying back into the cover of the woods, you ask the other two to come closer and formulate and attack strategy. At least you have to drive them away so as to secure Lowe and the supply of human flesh lying on the ground. Though you are sure that somebody has noticed the commotion going on here, the lack of either human habitation or youkai presence in this semi no man's land area in the extreme edge of the Village's territory as well as the distance from the temple means that it's going to be a while until authorities can show up.
"And that means more meat for us, right?"
[ ] Alpha Strike - Everyone pull out your strongest spells, we're going to knock them out as quickly as possible. [ ] Peel and shoot - Their sensors don't appear to be too advanced. Engage from a safe distance with spells and bows and retreat if necessary. [ ] Lure - Use a disguised Nue as bait, and draw them into chasing into the woods, where your group has the advantage.
[x] Lure - Use a disguised Nue as bait, and draw them into chasing into the woods, where your group has the advantage.
"Sure, I guess. But you're going to have to pull the weight on this fight, Nue."
"It means that we are going to ambush them back, in the woods. To do that I am going to need you to be the...how should I say it? Bait."
"Hey wait a minute." The girl angrily grabs you by the cuff, pulling you over, "Why should an outsider and a human like you tell me to go risk my skin in his plan?"
Even though her grip is strong, the way the light armor you are wearing is made means that you don't really feel anything, "Hey hey hey! You wanted the humans' flesh, not me!"
"He has a bit of a point, Miss Houjuu," Mishaguji states as he slithers between the two of you, curling his serpentine head uncomfortably close, persuading Nue to let go, "Out of the three of us you are the one best suited for evading their fire and setting up the ambush since you can both. And I believe you are quite used to getting shot."
"Drop dead, Mishaguji." She hisses, batting his head with one of her blue wings before replying to you, "Alright, but if I get hurt you're going to pay for your dumb plan, Ming."
You cross your arms, "As if you have a better plan."
"Fine then. Ugh...Where do you want me to lead them?"
You look around at the dark forest, seeing if there are any potential advantages you can gain among the terrain. "Just try to get them somewhere isolated and concealed, where we can initiate combat without fear of them shooting first. We'll be close by, promise."
"I shall take the lead then. Damn, I just know I'll regret this." She groans before sitting down and crossing her legs. Taking in a deep breath, she exhales a large plume of black smoke, one that shrouds her form completely. You scramble away with Mishaguji as the spectacle attracts the attention of the hostiles, who begin cautiously moving in this direction.
You run until you could just barely sense them with the Module, and motion for Mishaguji to stop. Seeing a tall pine tree, you fire the grappling line upwards, pulling yourself up onto a sturdy looking branch as the white serpent slithers his way up around the trunk. The sound of gunfire wakes up the night, and by following the flashes in the dark you can trace the movement of the knights pursuing Nue, or what looks to be her.
The beast currently sprinting through the forest, nimbly hopping from treetop to treetop and avoiding the bullets being sprayed at it, is not something you can really describe. It has a hairy, simian face, the paws of a tiger, feathers dotting its entire body and a long, whip-like tail, and is about the size of a small elephant. The beast also stops occasionally to breathe out a cloud of black mist, which makes even the sensors on your Module ineffective at detecting anything concealed behind it, or shoot out a swarm of lasers, though its hunters do not appear to be dissuaded by the attacks, as they do not cease in the chase.
Nue's true form, or at least her historical one, is a far cry from the relatively cute girl you recognize. Though even now you can catch traces of her humanoid features in the beast.
"There." You point to the still waters of a small murky pond in the direction that Nue is heading. "We'll head them off there."
"Are you certain?"
"It looks like a good spot." To be honest, military tactics isn't something you really have experience in outside of video games, but you figure that leading them into difficult terrain is quite cut-and-dry.
"Tis a reasonable decision. Very well, I will start the fight as soon as they arrive. Hurry up." He slithers outwards from the trunk, twirling in the air for a second before diving into the ground, disappearing and leaving no trace of a hole.
You stare at Mishaguji's exit for a while, slightly disoriented, before unwinding the rope and rappelling down. Questions can be answered later; right now you have problems to solve.
Sprinting through the forest, your exoskeleton taking up most of the strain, you close the distance between you and the red dots on your HUD, and a while later your field of vision. You barely manage to avoid line of sight as you reach an unexpected clearing as the knights thunder through, and you catch a glimpse of mechanical parts in the joints of their armor. Calming your beating heart as you just avoided attracting their attention, you pull out your bow, nock an arrow to have the guiding prongs sprung, and begin following them from behind.
They appear to be too focused on Nue to notice the footsteps behind them, or perhaps their armor is too noisy. Either way you actually get close enough to be able to see the silver back of the last one in their group as you trail them. By the time they reach the pond it is quite trivial for you to line up a clear shot on their backside, but at that point your focus is more on the dramatically changed situation in front of you.
Nue had not gotten through unscathed. She is stumbling, and you see blackish pools spread out in the already murky pond as she teeters into the water. Shining holes line her hide, silvery openings that look eerily similar to the gleams of the moonsilver blades at Eientei. Nearly letting out a shout of surprise at the sight of her injuries, you keep your nerves down just long enough to wait for the pursuers to step onto the water.
Without warning, giant white snakes, each one as thick as a tree, burst out from the ground. Red eyes gleam brightly in the night, as they rear up, towering dozens of meters above the knights. Just as quickly the snakes strike, opening their mouths to reveal crystal fangs, fangs sharper than any bayonet, that clamp around the bodies of the knights and hoist them struggling into the air, most of them dropping their weapons in the process. You take advantage of this moment to let loose the arrow. A sharp crack breaks the air, and the knight looks quite surprised for a brief moment as the tungsten arrow drives hard into his torso, knocking him a good distance back.
You blink. The arrow did not blow a hole straight through him like you had expected. Just what is that armor made of?
Still, the man appears to be incapacitated, if not outright killed. So you nock another arrow and aim at the struggling figures, held by Mishaguji-sama but not appearing to have been damaged. One of them pulls out a strange glowing orb, and uses it to shine an extremely bright light at the eyes of the snake holding it, causing Mishaguji---well---one of the Mishaguji, to let go and drop the knight. Taking advantage of his prone position, you fire another arrow...and miss.
The arrow flies into the pond, kicking up a large plume of mud and vapor. The knight gets up and flickers, disappearing from both your sight and your HUD, leaving you staring at nothing for a brief moment. A few seconds later he suddenly reappears in front of you, and shoves the orb in your face, letting it set off a burst of light. Recoiling at the sudden flash, you open your eyes only to see your foe draw a silver sword from his side and lunge forward, spearing you through.
"Perish, foul beast." The voice coming from his helmet is not a natural voice, but one heavily modulated and in English. Is he an android or construct of some sort? No, it is modulated, not synthesized. These thoughts race through your head instead of thoughts of "OH MY GOD I AM STABBED." It is only after you notice him stepping back that you take a look at the sword sticking out of your chest.
It is silvery, and glowing, which means it’s probably magical. It's also stuck completely inside of you, which means it's sharp. You are also not bleeding or hurting, which means it is probably ineffective, whatever it is. Putting your hand on the blade, you slowly pull the blade out, noting how it had not pierced your armor as much as ignored it entirely, and allow it to clatter onto the ground.
"I'm a human, thank you very much." You smirk as you unsling your shotgun.
The knight gives no reply, but pulls out a different weapon - a large knife - and charges at you again. You fire at him, watching as the shots spark off his armor with no real damage caused, though the impact does cause him to stumble for a bit. You fire one more time and drop the gun, giving you a half second to pull up the gravity shield before his lunge hits. The blade of the knife, to your detriment, goes straight through the barrier, though the rest of the knife as well as the knight's hand does not. He flicks his wrist, and the knife gouges a deep gash on your hand.
This time, it hurts, and you would have let go of the shield if it wasn't a device attached to your arm. You jump back and quickly mutter the incantations to conjure up the war hammer. His second lunge is met with a sideswing smash, which dents the armor noticeably as the hammerhead impacts with the force of a small pile driver, sending him sprawling backwards the ground quite a distance. Abruptly, a series of shots impact your shield, and you look to the side to see that another knight had broken free of Mishaguji's attack and is now advancing towards you, having somehow recovered his machine gun.
============= "Go ahead, use it."
"Why do you care so much?"
"I am supposed to in charge, rogue."
Without really thinking, you almost instinctively grab the metallic not!spellcard from your pocket and point it at the one on the ground. "Hew"
The pink ray strikes him and dissipates. You see the grounded knight convulse for a second, before a wisp of pale pink light floats out of him and over to you. As the light flows into you, you feel a soothing, warming sensation. Looking at your body, you see that the wound on your hand had begun faintly glowing with the same light, and you swear that it looks like the gash is slightly smaller than before.
"Hmph." You point the card at the second hostile, who appears to be trying to assist his ally rather than engaging you, as he is running as fast as he can over and only pauses to try and suppress you behind your shield. "Hew!"
He is struck by the ray, and stumbles a bit, before pressing on. The wisp comes back to you, and you feel a bit of soreness vanish from your muscles. The tinge of pain that springs into your head whenever you use the card vanishes as the healing occurs. You cast Hew once again, the ray making it fairly easy to hit the enemy while hiding behind your gravity field.
The knight seems to recognize this situation, so as soon as he reaches his fallen ally, eating three more rays in the face but still not apparently hurt, he hurls a grenade at you...a grenade the size of a pineapple. You blink for a moment, then quickly scramble in the other direction, not wanting to really have an iffy test of the shield's strength. The grenade goes off with the force of an artillery round, knocking you onto the ground with the shockwave and creating dangerously large flashes on your shield as shrapnel glance off. When you get up to look, they have disappeared.
In fact, all of them had disappeared. Mishaguji, now just one snake again, is lying on the ground, looking dazed and hurt but not injured. Nue, alarmingly, had reverted back to her human form and is lying supine in the mud of the swamp, not moving.
"OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK!" You scream as you sprint as fast as the exoskeleton would allow towards her, "NUE!"
As you get closer, you realize with horror that you might just have gotten her killed. The bullet wounds on her body are not closing, as you had seen Kagerou's doing, and are still streaming out crimson blood. She is not responsive, and although she is breathing, her breath is ragged and irregular. At least she isn't choking on blood, you think to yourself as you pull out Eientei's medikit. You're in biomed, you know what to do.
Except you don't. You open up the medikit to find a wide array of...things. Strange knives, papers, and gems fill up the interior of the medikit, and there is not a bandage to be found. There is a manual inside, but the fact that it is thicker than your hand means that Nue's probably going to bleed out before you even get close to understanding how to patch up a wound. Though as you look at the glowing holes all over her body, you doubt that an ordinary medikit would be of any help against what looks to be magical bullets.
If only you had bothered to examine the kit earlier. But the shiny weapons you got as well as the tank took up most of your attention. And now you are in a worse than terrible position. If you had died you probably would have just gone to the Higan and back, but now that your plan dragged somebody else down means that perhaps not even death can help you, especially not against the likes of Mamizou.
"Why. Why did I do this?" You whimper as you stare at Nue's slowly dying form. "I'm not a warrior. I'm just some dumb college kid. I can't just play hero with some borrowed tech and a few spells. I'm a medical student..."
================= "Play doctor then."
The revelation hits you like a truck from the subconscious depths of your frayed mind. You immediately pull out the iron spellcard and point it at your own head.
A massive, throbbing wave of pain courses through you, as you feel something leak out of your very skin and into your free hand, condensing into a glob of glowing pink mist. Ignoring the pain, you half-will, half shove the mist onto Nue, and sigh in relief as her wounds begin to heal.
"HEW!" Another wave of pain, and you feel something inside of you grow colder. Still keeping your mind clear, you heal her again, though your hands are trembling.
"HEW!" Every successive cast hurts even more, so you inject some painkillers to try and curb that. But this pain is not of the flesh, but a reflection of something deeper within being clawed out and used as fuel for healing magic. Still, you grit your teeth and keep going.
"He..HEW." You can see some bullets being squeezed out by the closing wounds, shiny pieces of metal that glow intensely with a white light. Or perhaps that is just your vision blurring from your own tears.
"He..he...hew..." The pain is unbearable at this point, yet you press on. Your numb fingers drop the card, and fumble around a bit in the mud before you find it again. You cannot afford to lose it.
"HEW!" The effort and pain forces you prone, your body too weak to support itself. Inside of you something is burning with cold.
A hand gently tugs your own away from your head. "She's not bleeding any more, you can stop now, Wu Ming." An arm comes into view, making a wide flourish, "Earth's Cry: Blessed Rain."
You see Mishaguji, an old man again, extend his hand upwards as clouds roil in the previously clear sky. First a few drops, then a shower, and eventually a torrent of warm raindrops comes pouring down. The water soothes you as they touch, and the overbearing pain of your Hew usage is gradually replaced with a fresh soreness, the soreness of growth and renewal. You drink deep of the rain and allow it to soak you from head to toe.
It takes about a quarter of an hour before you feel well enough to stand up again.
"Normally this is to promote the fertility and yield of crops, but with the amount of energy you burned saving Miss Houjuu it should help you to at least walk." He says as he helps you up before picking up the still unconscious, but stable Nue into his arms. "Tis quite the effort for just a few bites of meat."
"Where did the other hostiles go?" You ask after taking a few deep breaths to get your lungs moving again.
"They retreated." He sighs, "They vanished without a trace as soon as they either shot or blasted their way out of my jaws, disappearing in a burst of light. Tis good fortune that their armaments are entirely focused around killing youkai, otherwise I am not certain if I would have come out unscathed or even intact, as even with those weapons they managed to destroy four of my five selves."
Seems like “Mishaguji” is a plural after all.
You pick up one of the bullets on the ground. Their composition looks exactly like the metal of the weapons in Eientei's storage room. "Silver bullets. Looks like Lunarian metal too."
"A magical catalyst, I presume?"
"According to what my employers knew about Lunarian moonsilver, yes, they are used to channel magic."
Mishaguji furrows his brow as he examines the bullet you hold up, "Odd indeed. I have met with moon-based Lunarian agents as recent as five centuries ago, but these foes do not resemble them. Their armor is too heavy and their movements too clumsy. These bullets appear to be enchanted specifically to inflict lasting and lethal wounds on youkai specifically, much like the weapons of legendary monster slayers like her mast-Er, I mean enemy, though to us gods and humans they would not hurt more than a normal shot."
Eirin and Toyohime, and to a lesser extent Reisen, did move with distinct form and grace compared to other people, which contributed to your alien impression of them.
"The recent sweep did indicate they have stolen or otherwise appropriated Lunar tech." You reply as you kick some mud off of your boots. Something heavy comes up from beneath the churned ground as you kick, and after you pick it up and brush the mud off, reveals itself to be a detector of some sort.
"Is that your possession?" Mishaguji asks.
"Nope. Looks like something they dropped." You look around to see if any other gears has been abandoned in the retreat, and is disappointed to see none. The device looks like a smartphone, although much thicker, and possesses a single long spoke that points out from the top, below whom are printed the words "SOUL ANALYZER". You push the button on the side, and the screen comes to life. "No lifeform detected. Please point at a valid lifeform."
Pointing it at yourself, you press the button again. "No lifeform detected. Please point at a valid lifeform."
"I think it's broken or something."
"A single observation cannot measure truth, Wu Ming." Mishaguji takes it and points it at himself. "Hmm, it says 'Detected: Deity - 80% Monster - 8% Human - 2% ; Origin - Fearful Belief ; Engagement priority - High' "
"See if it can work on Nue."
"Let us see: 'Results: Deity - 12% Monster - 63% Human - 25% ; Origin - Fear ; Engagement priority - Very High' "
"Gimme that." You take the device back and it does indeed have what Mishaguji said printed out on the screen. The categories are what one would derive based on the residents of Gensokyo, who would fit one way or another into those three categories. "Well maybe it doesn't work on humans. It cannot read my soul."
"Speaking of humans." Mishaguji glances towards the road you have left behind, "We should try and recoup some of the meat. You should check and see if your vehicle is working and I will go and carry Miss Houjuu and as much meat as I can carry over to Miss Futasuiwa's dwelling. I presume you are heading back to the temple after this, correct?"
"Oh right." You're covered in mud, soaked in water, and your "passengers" have not reached the village at all. Now just how are going to handle debriefing?
[ ] Report the attack as soon as you get back, inform everyone. You don't know how well you can lie about the situation to Byakuren and Co.
[ ] Cover up what happened when talking to the rest of the Myouren Temple, and... - [ ] Report the attack later, just to the village and your boss. You can handle lying about your motives again. - [ ] Maybe just tell your boss about this. It will be hard lying about how you got into the situation in the first place.
There's no real reason to not tell Eirin about this, at least.
[z] Report the attack as soon as you get back -[z] Make up a reason for Mishi and Nue's presence in the combat (discuss this with them beforehand)
A filler piece, actual update is still up for votes.Rifle!AK47hf008c2015/06/19 (Fri) 08:48No. 29843▼
>> Welcome to Clear Sky International Discussion IRC >> Please type "/rules" for a list of the guidelines enforced on this channel. Violating the rules may lead to disciplinary measures taken against employees >> Message of the Day: Please do not leave the portals open for longer than necessary. Fuel is expensive and looking into them for too long is a mental hazard. >> Tip: You can use "/filter *region* to only see the messages from the employees in your region" <UHuang> anyone else want to play something at this hour? <GHarding> did anyone see my phone at Joint Base Beta in Burma? black samsung model left in Dining Hall Cherry? <YTanoshi> dude its like 3 am over here. go ask in the morning <HYao> holy crap can we please have a central relay station already? why are our shipments from Britain being routed through Hawaii? <~Purple> No idea lol, I'll go fix it after I finish this acquisition operation. <GHarding> Oh hey boss <USven> Sup boss, how is that relay station going anyway? <~Purple> I was thinking of routing it through the Garden, but that would put way too much stress on the border. I'm probably going to have to build it in China. >> KYansha has joined <KYansha> Hello! Can a newbie ask a question? I caught some of my coworkers digging up the graves of the camp I am working in, and they told me it is allowed. <KYansha> I am just concerned if it is something I have not been informed about. <SHisao> lol welcome to CSI <SHisao> those guys you saw eat people <KYansha> Very funny <~Purple> She's not joking, Miss Yansha. Some of our employees are not human. Consult your handbook. <KYansha> ... <KYansha> Are you serious? Who are you? Why do you have a color as your name? <~Purple> Look at the rules. <IMustafa> some of these new hires, geez <TBrown> you'd think they would actually play the games after the handbook told them to play a video game <HRodriguez> she prolly thought they were jokes to lighten the mood or something <KYansha> Really? <KYansha> Cannibalism is tolerated? <~Purple> It's not cannibalism. They aren't human. <%FLorenz> Hey boss you want me to deal with this? <KYansha> I signed up because you guys said you were doing humanitarian work! <KYansha> How can you do something like this? Defiling graves and eating corpses? <~Purple> You can leave. <~Purple> I believe you are at Camp Tempest in South Sudan, right? The capital is just a hundred miles away. You can get there. <~Purple> We can lend you a car. Just make sure to avoid the militant groups that would likely mutilate, rape and murder you if they catch you. <~Purple> And I'm afraid the airport there is quite occupied at the moment. By bombs. <KYansha> Are you resorting to threats now? <~Purple> I'm saying that you are working to help people in a country beset by war, disease, endemic violence and mass mutilations, and you complain about the people protecting you having to eat human meat from the already deceased <~Purple> That's some marvelous selective perception right there * TBrown munches some popcorn <SHisao> is she gone? <KYansha> Hey this isn't Katherine, but her friend Kakumei. She passed out after I explained why we've been eating people <EDwight> lol <TYoshi> wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww <~Purple> Miss Kijin why are you at Camp Tempest? <KYansha> Ask Blue <~Blue> You know I can see you, right? <KYansha> poewjfkaowjoaw * KYansha has disconnected (Connection reset by peer)
Additional Timeline Divergences - Sumireko's notes were leaked to the Internet by her roommate, allowing fans and later government interests to develop a reliable method of crossing the border, causing the influx of outsiders. - A severe lack of oversight in the customs system of Japan, primarily due to budget cuts, allowed weapons and other illicit items to pass through its borders in small quantities. - Dates are off. Any estimates of the time between incidents based on game releases are unreliable.
[x] Report the attack as soon as you get back
"Well, I have to go tell the temple what happened here, given how the humans I was supposed to be escorting are currently absent of life. The enemy killed them, so it's not my fault, but then I have to tell why you guys were here to help me survive."
"Simple, I was just passing by when I noticed gunfire occurring and decided to investigate. Miss Houjuu...she is your friend, right?"
You guess that they would discover Nue's involvement in this incident eventually, either when they investigate the site or question her, "Yeah, she was accompanying me. I definitely didn't know why, but I assumed she was just bored or something."
Nue's currently not responsive, so you decide to make up a story that she could learn as soon as she wakes up. "So you were passing by, she was just hanging out with me since she is a good friend of mine, good enough that she even gifted me a spellcard...gah that sounds awful...and we were ambushed and fought back. Anything wrong?"
Mishaguji fingers his white beard for a moment, then replies, "Seems reasonable. Miss Houjuu would have to make up a chunk of that story, but it should not be too difficult. I'll do what I can about it. Oh, and do not worry about your payment. The metal will be there by morning."
"I just hope Lowe's okay." The two of you begin making your way back to the road. "What a fucked up day. I just wanted a vacation here in Gensokyo and these fuckers have to ruin it. What kind of person enjoys shooting at cute youkai girls anyway? Not saying that's the truth, but if they are here they'd at least have to have heard of the outside world works."
"On the contrary, the youkai’s cute appearances could be the very reason these terrorists are shooting at them."
"Wait what?" You stop and look at Mishaguji. "Why?"
"What, Wu Ming, do you know not of the origin of youkai?"
"Hmm? Are they not entities born of the fears of humans? That's what the Guide to Gensokyo as well as all other sources told me."
"If so, then why do they seek to become human in form and soul, if not in mind?"
"...I dunno, don't they seek to become celestials or gods?" That is a discrepancy you have not noticed, "That's how it worked in Chinese stories, at least. I'm not familiar with Japanese ones."
"Celestials are empowered, but they are still human. Have you ever wondered why Gensokyo's greater youkai are all so anthropomorphic?"
That is a very good question. You had assumed that they took the form for the benefit of the human population, but that still does not explain why some of the more inhuman ones such as Nue would choose a human appearance.
"Before I decided to cross the border I had assumed it was an artistic liberty by the creator of the outside world works. You know..."
"Yes, the Artist. I met with him briefly when I moved into this walled garden with Lady Suwako."
"...So yeah, something he did to appeal to Japan's obsession with cute girls and stuff. Now that I see that even the male youkai are just as humanized, I'm not sure what to believe."
"It is not a tradition that is exclusive to Gensokyo. Just speaking from my own experience, youkai have been taking human forms even when they do not desire to be more like them. You have indeed noticed that true feral youkai are not so, have you not?"
"Yep, the one I saw looked kind of like a mutated animal."
"Feral youkai are indeed what you would label as pure results of human fears and speculation: the concentration of magical energy onto an object or lower beast. But these ferals do not grow into mature youkai by themselves. Much as how clouds form as water condenses around dust, so does the energy of the feral condense around a soul. Animal youkai can do so with their own souls, and begin resembling humans in behavior and form as they, by necessity, must mingle with humankind in order to learn the methods of achieving apotheosis. All others, however, must condense around a bare human soul."
You gulp, "You mean they have to steal one from humans?"
Mishaguji chuckles, "No, in that case Gensokyo would be unable to sustain itself. The most common source of souls are from the dead, preferably recently departed spirits still energetic with youthful memories and emotions. It is why feral youkai gather around Muenzuka and the Road of Reconsideration, for that is the most plentiful source of dead souls. Once they have captured a soul, the instincts of the feral will give way to the higher mind of the soul as they bind, and the magical creature that is the intelligent youkai you know is born."
You take a glance at Nue, who is still sleeping off her injuries. "So are you implying that youkai take the appearance of the soul's previous body?"
"Yes and no. They take the form of what they have in the remnants of the souls' memories. Most often it is what the deceased individual thought of themselves, so a resemblance is generally inevitable. Of course, the memories are heavily traumatized during the metamorphosis, as the process is effectively reincarnation, so most youkai emerge into sapience with only the strongest of memories and feelings present as faint echoes in their mind. As such, these people might be interpreting their existence as akin to a zombie, and see their destruction as liberating their soul from their accursed forms."
"I'll assume you are telling the truth here."
"As if a god like me would need to lie about this. You can ask anybody old enough who saw the creation---not reproduction, for youkai can reproduce quite normally---of one of them from a feral or even a concept."
You decide it's probably reasonable to trust him on this subject. "So are they wrong?"
"Yes, they are, but for the wrong reasons." Mishaguji pauses for a moment to stare up at the moon, "The barrier between humans and youkai is tenuous at best, and as long as whatever had kept the youkai existing in the first place is still present, it will keep producing youkai to fill that niche. Souls that have gone through enough transformations to become youkai will often refuse to reincarnate normally and tend to become youkai again. This is part of the reason why the Hakurei shrine maiden exterminates human-turned-youkai on sight, hopefully fast enough that their souls will not become 'youkai-ified' and thus contribute destabilizing the equilibrium of Gensokyo even after reincarnation."
One question answered, several more pop up. "You said a soul would become transformed to become youkai, but didn't you say that the feral youkai could just condense around a soul to become a full youkai?"
"Transformations are generally natural, and only souls that are transformed are acceptable for the transformation process. For instance, I myself was created when the humans of the Suwa region venerated the white snakes of the area as gods of harvest and rebirth, and saw many of the old hermits in the area as avatars, and as such the souls of the hermits and snakes became condensed, woven by folklore and prayers until we became the Mishaguji. Miss Houjuu would have been...huh." He looks down at the girl in his arms, "I am actually at a loss to what she arose from. I would say fear of the unknown as the power, but the soul..."
"It's part of her schtick, being an enigma and all that." You are still a bit leery at the revelation that the cute youkai girls could all have once been dead human girls. "Her identity is not something easily obtained, or likely to be something cheerful. Cheerful and happy souls do not a youkai make"
"Agreed, this topic is a grim one. There has been enough depressive matters for one night." He replies as you reach the original ambush site, where Lowe is still sitting there, not moving amidst the scattered human corpses around it, "I should begin gathering up what's left of this prey stock here. Tsk, the bullet fragments are going to be hard to extract. I guess I shall assign Miss Futasiawa the honor of processing them while I inform the Human Village of this new incident."
Mishaguji parts ways with you, slithering off into the night with Nue resting on his back and with the human corpses dangling off from his massive jaws. You are sure he was humanoid just a moment ago, but your eyes failed to notice any transitions between the old man and the gargantuan white serpent. Maybe you're just sleepy.
"Hey Lowe. Are you okay?" The tank does not appear damaged, at all. You think you see a few scratches on its side, but it looks otherwise as it did before.
"ALERT: DORMANT CAMOUFLAGE STATE RELEASED. DAMAGE REPORT: NEGLIGIBLE SCRAPES. LACK OF RESPONSE TO HOSTILE ACTIVITY IS DUE TO LACK OF FUNCTIONAL WEAPONRY. IT WAS DETERMINED THAT FEIGNING INACTIVITY WAS THE SUPERIOR TACTICAL DECISION."
Looks like the explosion was a high explosive or fragmentation warhead, instead of something that could actually damage Lowe.
"Mishaguji's going to get us two tons of iron by morning. For now we'll be heading back to the Myouren Temple...Lowe, do you sleep?"
"AFFIRMATIVE. SLEEP STATE IS NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN COGNITIVE FUNCTIONALITY."
The more you learn about your mysterious steel ally, the less you realize you know. "Let's hurry back to the temple then, it's a safe zone there."
On the way, you pull out the radio embedded in your armband and tap the button. "Miss Yagokoro? Miss Yagokoro? Come in please."
"Hello? This is Mr. Wu, right?" An unfamiliar female voice comes through the radio, a young, refined one.
"Uh...Affirmative. This is Wu Ming. Who is this?"
"Kaguya Houraissan. Eirin assigned me the task of answering any incoming radio calls from our employees for this evening, since I awoke just hours ago thus rendering sleep an undesirable activity."
"Oh. Oh wow! It is great to see that you have awoken, Lady Kaguya."
"Spare the thought. It is not the first time a youkai had attempted possession of my body. Say, what is the purpose of communicating so late at night? Should you not be sleeping at this time?"
"Yeah...funny thing." You proceed to explain the extent of the incident, including the part where you deliberately led the prey humans into a trap. Kaguya listened quietly for the most part, but as soon as you describe the knightly armor worn by the assailants you hear her let out a gasp of shock.
"Are you certain? Bucket helmets of European origin and shining plate armor? Warriors who materialized from the shadows with no premonition?"
"I just said that, why?"
A pause. "The abomination which attacked and absorbed me...it was not alone. There were others: Mokou among them, but mostly these 'knights'..."
It took Kaguya ten seconds to recognize that you had froze from shock. "Mr. Wu? Come in. Mr. Wu?"
"MOKOU? FUJIWARA NO MOKOU?"
"The one and only. I thought at first those were henchmen she appropriated to liven up our next fight, but then the red...glob came out. They opened fire with their guns, shredding my body to pieces so that I am unable to escape. I cried out that we had agreed to abstain from the use of torture, but there was no response. She looked...dead...like a strung puppet with an incompetent handler, not even when she tore my arms off did she show any emotion or sound. After that it was all...dark."
"Well I think I've killed one or two of them, so take that as comfort, if you will."
"Such petty acts of vengeance do little to assuage the problem. Regardless, it is beneficial that we have discerned some facet of their motives."
"Is it not obvious? The enemy is targeting us, Eientei, as part of their operations. Whether or not they are in service to the Lunar Regime is still questionable, but the fact that they sent such a well-equipped squad after a magic-less human and a broken tank is telling. They expected to kill you as reprisal for Eientei's earlier attack on their outpost, and likely leave your head on a pike to warn us to stay out of their business."
Come to think of it, they did specifically pick you and Lowe out as the target of their ambush out of all of the other youkai wandering the night.
"So I am a marked man now."
"In a manner of speaking, yes. I would advise you to watch your back from now on, and make sure to radio us immediately in case of any future combat. Though with the allies you seem to procure this should not be too large a task for you to handle. I shall record your account, and inform the rest of our household in the morning. Do you require any assistance? Any injuries or equipment losses?"
You check over yourself, "For the moment, none. The injuries I suffered are minor, and I'm heading back to the Myouren Temple to rest and recover for this night."
"Very well then. May you stay safe. Good night."
You switch the radio off. There's still some way to go before you reach the temple, and you are getting sleepier by the minute. The thought of Mokou being in league with the enemy nags at the back of your mind, however, and you wonder just how you will deal with a vicious, potentially mind-controlled phoenix. Maybe Lowe can help you when that comes up.
Oh, and you should probably tell Keine when you get to the village. She has a very good reason to know. Though you should probably also avoid telling any other person of Mokou's potential involvement at the moment, since if it turns out that the intel is faulty you'll never hear the end of it.
============================== Time: 12:00 AM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Medical Building Threat Level: 2
"If it weren't for Miss Houjuu and Mr. Mishaguji, Lowe and I would have been killed." You say with a sniffle, forcing a bit of genuine fear into your voice as the Myouren temple's occupants look at you in concern. "There were a lot of them, and they shot at us without warning...without mercy."
You basically collapsed as you stumbled past the temple entrance, with the fatigue from both the events of the day as well as your usage of Hew catching up to you due to Mishaguji’s spell wearing off. Though you thought you had avoided injuries other than the knife wound the knight gave you in the melee, an examination by Ichirin as soon as she herded your dazed form into the medical building and stripped you of your armor revealed multiple metallic fragments embedded in the exposed parts of your body. Thankfully however those exposed parts are mostly your extremities, and you barely notice the small amounts of blood lost as she weaves the spells to pull them out of your skin.
You also do not notice the people streaming in, so by the time Byakuren asks you about what had happened you are taken aback at the group in front of you. Wearing nothing but your underclothes, you feel a tad awkward as you speak. Fortunately you are too tired to actually do anything embarrassing, so instead you just tell the honest story of what happened after you left temple grounds, leaving out a few core facts like your intentions of course. Byakuren looked positively appalled when you spoke about how they gunned down their fellow humans with little abandon, along with Ichirin, and the others looked at least surprised. All of them however turned pale at your detailing of the capabilities of the hostiles, especially their apparent ability to retreat via teleportation, and hushed whispers arise as you keep talking.
"I see." Is the phrase the head monk utters as you wrap up the account, detailing how you stabilized Nue and had Mishaguji go warn the Human Village and the other authorities in the west. Of course, you leave out the fact that he also took all the corpses from the encounter, and cover over it by saying that feral youkai have dragged most of the corpses off by the time you got back to the road.
"Your day has been arduous, Mr. Wu." Despite her welcoming smile, you feel Byakuren's hazel eyes drill into you as you look at her. Sweat drops gather on your brow as you anxiously wonder if she detected that you left out information. "Despite the unfortunate events, it is very fortunate that you were able to help Nue and serve as an eyewitness of these new...interlopers. Please," She reaches over and helps you up from your seat, "Feel free to ask for anything you need here at Myouren Temple tonight, it is the least we can do."
Your stomach growls. While you did take some of the mochi you found in Eientei's kitchen pantry before you set off with Lowe, it was by no means a full supper, and with the amount of physical activity you went through it is a miracle that you managed to actually stay conscious through combat, though your body chemistry might have aided with that. "I guess I am quite hungry right now, and if you have the facilities a bath would be nice."
"Oh why of course! You must be famished after working so hard today. Don't worry, the midnight temple meal will be served in just a couple minutes. In the meantime you can go use the bathhouse. The water's already heated up anyway."
"Huh?" You get up out of your seat.
"The bathhouse is often used by the patrons of this temple, as the village bathhouses are not the most welcoming to the younger youkai. It should be empty now, so feel free to use it."
You wonder if Byakuren lied to you on purpose as a test, some obscure Buddhist trial to test your purity of thought or something.
If that was the case, then it half worked, because the bath is sure as hell not empty, but...
Time: 12:20 AM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Bathhouse Threat Level: 8i
The temple's in-house bath is a traditional setup, which is to say that it is an oversized wooden tub the size of a truck bed with water streaming in from a bamboo pipe on the wall. The water heater itself, on the other hand, is a large metal tank fueled by charcoal, a necessity given Gensokyo's lack of fossil fuels. Though as you walked by the installation you notice that the color of the flames in the grate are green, indicate some form of magic used in the burning.
"Nothing quite like the feeling of a hot bath after a summer day, do you agree? Mr. Wu?"
Right now, though, you are trying to avoid the obvious presence of Toramaru Shou in the bath. There is a cloth screen draped over the tub, dividing it in two, but it is obviously a rarely-used temporary measure. The water is shared between the baths, which makes any pretensions of separation moot, and the steam from the hot water only adds to the secretive and deviant nature of this situation. Your heart flutters whenever you glance at her shadow through the cloth when you reach for the soap or brush. Her scent is overwhelming, even through the soap, and a queasy feeling arises as it reaches your nostrils.
Wet fur never smells good, after all.
While taking a bath with a girl you don't know all that well would be an awkward situation for you, taking a bath with a massive tiger is naturally worse. Wet fur smell aside, the growls and roars Shou lets out as she washes herself is unnerving to say the least. The fact that her jaws are the size of your torso does not help matters, especially as you are naked and vulnerable in the water.
"You're awfully quiet, Mr. Wu. Are you all right?"
The tiger's voice is an entire octave lower than Shou's normal one, and is as scratchy and rough as you would expect a tiger to sound like. The calm tone does not soothe your anxieties however, you only manage a stammered "Y-yeah" in response.
"That fear in your voice says otherwise." Shou pokes her head over the cloth, and your entire body falls limp as you see her ivory fangs bared just inches away from you as you whimper like a small puppy.
"M-Miss Toramaru. I would, uh..."
"Oh, my apologies." Shou appears to understand your reaction and quickly ducks back behind the curtain, and you see her shadow drastically decrease in size. "I guess I am far too used to humans being comfortable with my appearance."
"I don't like beasts very much, to be honest. They never really seemed to like me either." You stop shivering and feel some sense coming back into your muscles. "Dunno why."
"That's not true. I do not dislike you."
"Not yet. I'm kind of a loser."
"Oh Mr. Wu! Have some faith in yourself." A shiver runs down your spine as you feel a hand ruffle through your hair as you turn away from the curtain, "It is not just any outsider who can accomplish so much in three days. If my experience with humans like you are correct you'll be a local hero in no time!"
I've been slaughtering my own kind for profit. That's heroic? "Perhaps."
"It's no doubt! Kids...I mean young men like you are the very archetype of a martial hero." Shou's voice is uncomfortably cheery and upbeat as she praises your future. "Bishamonten smiles upon those like you, who will one day become a legend of justice, defending the meek and smiting the wicked...ah, I am getting carried away here. Are you done washing?"
Then why do I feel like a pawn in some greater scheme right now? "Yep. I'm going to dry off and change clothes now."
"Cool, I was just going to say that the yellow towels are the ones for guests."
You blink as you hear the word "Cool" come out of her mouth. Wait, doesn't she technically work as the idol for the Temple? She would have picked it up if...
"Miss Toramaru, do outsiders visit the Myouren Temple very often?"
"Not really, they do tend to gather around when I travel to the Village for work or worshipping sessions. Hijiri says that any soul is a soul worth saving, so I preach to them and listen to their prayers too. Say, do you have a prayer?"
You climb out of the tub and over to the dressing area, "Yeah: Our Tiger in Myouren. Hallowed be thy name. Please tell me why this crazy land is crazier than usual these days."
"Sorry, I cannot do anything that specific. Bishamonten is a god of war, wealth, fortune and health. Try one of those." She doesn’t seem to catch the sarcasm in your voice.
"Success in battle then, considering how often people are shooting at me now." You grab one of the yellow towels and begin wiping the water off your body, careful to work around the bandaged areas. Good thing Gensokyo medicine, or rather Eientei medicine, is fairly water-resistant.
"Very well. By the authority of Lord Bishamonten, I grant you the will and strength to prevail over your foes. May you never suffer a dull blade, and may your aim ever be true."
Sucking in air, you note a faint glow around your person that fades away after a few seconds. Magical residue. No physical or mental changes are noted, however.
"Thank you, Miss Toramaru."
You hear an affirmative growl in reply.
You have just received a blessing from a tiger in a bathtub. Said tiger is now a full tiger again and is taking advantage of the now empty tub, making very loud splashing noises. You've finished drying yourself, and begin putting on your spare set of clothes. Removing your wallet and other small objects from the pouches of the armored suit, you take a moment to count out the spellcards you obtained: Yukari's "Refrain" card, Nue's "Red Blue" card, the mysterious metal card "Hew", the mysterious metal card "Stop"....
The cards clatter to the ground from your numb fingers. You were sure that you had three before. Somebody had given you another card. Looking around, you see no trace of an intruder or thief. The door is shut and the windows are shuttered, and on the wet floor no footprints other than your own can be seen.
You hold up your new present. "Stop". Just like Hew, this card has no description and is composed entirely out of metal. Just like Hew, you'll probably have to wait until there is a fight to test this out. Who knows what this will do on living things, considering that Hew literally rips out something inside of them.
Somebody is watching you, or at least observing you. It might be Yukari, as is the case with most fanworks, but why metallic cards? Why can only you use them?
Something in the back of your head tells you that you missed something in your journey.
Time: 12:40 AM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Quarters - Common Room Threat Level: 3
Rice, rice everywhere. Rice balls, vegetarian sushi, rice cakes, literally half of the food in the tray are made of rice of some form. Most of the youkai eating seem to have accepted this fact and are grudgingly consuming their portions. After all, it is a complementary meal from the temple, and showing disgust would be incredibly impolite. Byakuren had even bent the rules a bit and included eggs in the food, as well as what tastes to be cheese, though spices are still unfortunately absent.
You're hungry though, so even so it looks to be quite good. It's not exactly the caliber of the larger temples in Kyoto, but the cooking is decent, and the additional protein arguably makes it superior in certain ways. Rice is good bulk carbs, and right now bulk carbs is just what you need after such strenuous activities. So of course the correct thing to do is chow down more ravenously than any of the other youkai at the table.
You rarely eat like this in front of strangers, but you are tired, hurt, and your inhibitions are more or less dead along with your prospects of remaining awake after finishing late supper. For some reason Byakuren had you eat in the private quarters of the temple rather than outside where most of the youkai are having their meals near the bonfires. Probably because they are not too happy with your role in removing their desserts, and probably also because having a human eat alone among a huge group of youkai is a terrible situation, even if the human happened to be extremely unappetizing. So right now you are eating with the monks of the temple, who are youkai but are mostly of the non human-eating type.
Shou's eating almost as fast as you are, and not really caring for the food crumbs that fly onto her face and robe. While she is a tiger, you doubt that an avatar of Bishamonten would eat people. Slay people, probably, but not eat them. Besides she's much more interested in the egg-fried rice than you...or any other thing at the moment, actually.
Ichirin's eating like a gourmet, carefully examining each chunk of food on her chopsticks before sending it into her mouth to be slowly chewed. Unzan, now in a very intimidating solid form resembling a very large and muscular bearded man, is seated (well, kneeled, damn Japs and their lack of chairs) on your side of the table, and is alternating between eating normally and throwing stern looks in your direction whenever your eating is making too much noise or food flies out of your bowl. You wonder if Ichirin is telling him to do that or if Unzan is really concerned about table manners, being a traditional old man and all that. You also wonder where the food goes in a cloud.
Murasa is chowing down with all the dignity of a sailor, though she isn't really eating that much. Being undead is probably the reason why. Before you had thought that she looked fairly normal for a drowned ghost, but now that you are closer, you notice her pale skin and persistent smell of seawater, along with the hollow tinge to her voice.
Byakuren is still doing service related things out in the courtyard, and as such you notice Shou discreetly remove a bottle every so often from her clothes to pass around the table. No doubt Byakuren would notice the smell, but an avatar of Bishamonten had probably already thought of multiple tactics and tricks to get around the problem. The sake itself is decent, as far as you can tell. Mystia's regular brew was better.
Nue's not here, for obvious reasons. And neither is Mamizou.
You guess that Kyouko probably has not returned from her rock concert yet, and if she did then she would be sneaking in.
Which means that this table is awkwardly empty, and with the additional weight of the terrorists weighing on your minds, there is also an awkward silence.
You should probably fix that. Maybe start a conversation about something more lighthearted.
[ ] Chat about relationships [ ] Chat about work and money [ ] Chat about the future [ ] Chat about the past
<%Purple> ha <%Purple> a human got hold of Project Iron Wing <Bulldog> wtf <Bulldog> what you mean, "got hold of?" <%Purple> it's actually following him around <%Purple> it's great <Beerkorin> it's normal, didn't Kasen raise that dragon just fine? <%Purple> Project Iron Wing is a...bit more temperamental, plus I think he's just some regular human kid <%Purple> considering its a completely different thing <Bulldog> mate the queen's going to need to know <%Purple> sure, tell her, it's not like he can do anything with it <%Purple> worst thing that could happen is that he gets sublimated
Yes, of course! Nothing lightens up the mood more than a frank discussion of hopes and dreams. Considering how much older the others are compared to you, you might even gain insight into how these beings think and behave.
"So, uh...do any of you have plans for this week or the next?"
Somehow it got even more silent, Shou groans and sets her head into her empty bowl. "With the terrorist attack that you went through? We'll be lucky if any of the regulars drop by the shrine tomorrow considering how close it happened to here."
"That's more time for meditation then, sister." Ichirin says, gesturing her chopsticks at the tiger. "One must always move forward on the path to enlightenment."
"Yes, but all that faith...I'm an idol, an aspect of Bishamonten, so I really need that. Say, Wu Ming, here's a picture of myself." She casually tosses a photograph to your hands. "Put it under your pillow for good dreams."
"Thanks, I will. This will be quite useful."
==================== "You never really dream, liar."
"Oh look who is talking."
"Please do so." Shou raises her eyes up out of the bowl, "Any scrap of faith in these upcoming days would help. Can't have the temple end up like the Hakurei Shrine."
"Hey, you thought you are getting a raw deal?" Murasa chimes in from the other side of the table, rudely pointing with her chopsticks, "Imagine just how much Ichi and I are going to handle with all of the injuries from the next attack. For now they've been ineffective but what if they set off a bomb in the Village or light the forest on fire? Ugh."
Ichirin glares at her, "Quiet, Minamitsu. It is not like you're doing anything productive in your spare time other than trying to drown random passerby. Unzan told me you were messing with the camp outsiders near the village again, trying to bait them into the Misty Lake."
"That's just entertainment." Murasa says as she sets aside her bowl. "Very soon I'll be able to actually move forward. Ya know, from being a drowned ghost."
"Explain?" The nyuudou asks.
"There's been rumors going around that Lady Yakumo is going to open up the border." The ship phantom kicks her legs on the table, "That would be an opportunity for me to find out once and for all what happened."
"Eh? Don't you have, you know, the ship itself?"
"Yes, but the site is not the issue here. When Hijiri found the shipwreck, only I was haunting the sea. There were no other ghosts, or even skeletons on the wrecked ship...save for the one with an anchor chain wrapped around her fish-eaten corpse. What I need are records, old books...anything from that time that could lend a clue. Hijiri had puts some effort into it, but it wasn't much since she got sealed not too long afterwards."
Now you notice the anchor resting against the wall in Murasa's room, visible through her open doorway. Curious, you speak up, "That's the one you drowned with?"
"The very same. Heh." With an effortless tug on empty air, the anchor comes flying over into her hands, violating any sense of momentum, "It helps me remember where I came from, and acts as a handy weapon if necessary since Hijiri won't let me buy a cutlass. It might also help me find where I came from. Once I do find out though...who knows? Worst thing that happens is that I move on."
"Moving on without moving forward is foolish. Before you manage to overcome your desires..."
"Nue was right." Murasa cuts Ichirin off. "You really are talking more like Hijiri."
Unzan gives the glare this time, his eyes glowing as Ichirin retorts, "Am I in the wrong for behaving like a monk in a temple?"
"Guys..." You try joining in, but in the fray of heightened emotions the timid human voice goes unheard.
"Oh forgive me. I thought we were a youkai temple!" Murasa has stood up, not noticing that her hat had fallen off, "Buddhism may be all this meditation and recitation stuff to you, but no youkai would tie themselves down with that. So what if I did not achieve enlightenment before I move on? I'll just go again! You learn from experience, not by reading!"
"And you will never achieve experience if you do not listen. Foolish is the mortal who disregards the wisdom of those before her."
You lower your eyes and sip your drink slowly, pretending to ignore the conflict between the two non-humans. Ever since you came into Gensokyo, you have always felt that your actions are the results of the conflicts between higher powers. From the moment you helped Reimu in the shrine fire you have gotten involved in the conflict between the land itself and the mysterious terrorist group that recently sicced a hit squad on you. As soon as you wandered into the village the Buddhist and Taoist conflict erupted with you in between. And just by signing up for a clinic job with Eientei set the course for you to be entangled in a future war that had been planned millennia before your birth. So right now, you prefer to not be involved in an argument between a giant controlling nyuudou and an anchor tossing ghost.
As far as you are concerned, any actual heroics you can do are best done in the shadows. This place has a defined set of heroines, and an outsider still smelling of smog and asphalt is not one of them. Being a pawn in every game ensures that the enemy would always be focused on a greater objective such as the queen, and as such overlook or ignore your presence.
Murasa and Ichirin have begun arguing about concepts listed in the parts of Buddhist scriptures that you never bothered to read. Japanese isn't your native language either, so you cannot even understand what they are talking about. As you begin to zone out their conversation, you notice that Shou had finished her food and moved over to the opposite corner of the room, drinking alone and staring sullenly out the window.
"They know what they want." Shou says to no one in particular, though it is partially because you joined her alongside the window. Leaving the dinner table was a wise decision, spurred in part by the fact that Murasa's gesticulations managed to spill your tea all over your rice.
Shou's skin is flushed and her words, while not slurred, are coming off slower than normal.
"They're arguing for they know what they desire in life. Murasa, aside from her devotion to Hijiri, has always attempted to establish her identity, as befitting for a ghostly spirit. Ichirin is more human than youkai, and had always been a devoted follower of Buddhism since I met her."
You have been screwing around with the "Youkai Detector" your assailants dropped. Oddly enough, both Murasa and Ichirin came up as mostly human, with Murasa adding in a 30% monster and Ichirin adding a 10% deity. It still doesn't work on you.
Shou's coming up as 50% deity and 50% monster. No human percentage.
"So Mr. Wu, what do you desire?"
A blank stare is all you can muster. Your old long-term goal was to see Gensokyo, or at least confirm its nonexistence. Now that you are in...
...You have been getting a job, and friends of a sort. For all intents and purposes you are quite successful, but in the end...why?
...Love? Power? Fame? You've been engaged in short-term greed, but looting was never the priority goal, just a fortunate event....
...You don't have a long-term goal.
"No idea? Worry not, it is quite common among young humans like you. Though to tell you the truth." The tiger takes another swig from the bottle, "I have no idea about myself either."
"An idol, made from an youkai that was not even concrete enough to have came from a living animal, but rather the rumors of one. An avatar, designated through manipulation and bribery. A god, who is only worshiped because another god told the people to do so."
Staring at the bottle, she grimaces and lays back her head, "I wish I actually was born from a real tiger at times. At least then my identity would be my own. As Shou Toramaru, avatar of Bishamonten, I can only smile and wave. My powers are borrowed, my items are on loan, and my existence is entirely a myth."
"Ming that's not very nice."
"Look Miss Toramaru I don't want to be rude but how is that bad? Bishamonten doesn't have any presence but you here in Gensokyo, so just go nuts!" The sake is somehow managing to get to you, "You know what? At least you're not some underpowered human being strung along like a puppet by your own allies."
The sake is not normal sake. It's spiked with something, probably something magical. It is spiked enough that you don't even care about the fact that it's spiked anymore after the one drink you had.
"Is there any real difference though?" She slides you the bottle, "It doesn't matter if the puppet is large or small, it is still a puppet."
"You can shoot curvy lasers. I can't. You can bite people's heads off. I can't."
"You have a tank."
"You have a pagoda."
"You...OH." Shou's eyes suddenly widen in panic and she begins frantically looking around the room, "No no no! Not again!"
"I think you left the pagoda in the bath house."
As she runs out of the room, ignored by the still bickering nyuudou and ship ghost, you realize that Shou has a point.
You don't have a real goal for yourself.
You are not the protagonist of this story. Protagonists have goals, they have visions.
Reimu is the protagonist of Gensokyo, and Marisa, and sometimes the other strong humans.
Reimu's position carries with it the duty to protect and uphold the integrity and order of Gensokyo. That is a goal.
Marisa simply seeks to gain as much power as possible in her pursuit of becoming a better magician. It is still a goal.
Sanae wishes to become a true goddess like her patrons. Her pursuit of faith is more or less identical to Marisa's in principle, if not practice.
Youmu and Sakuya probably have goals too, but there isn't enough information for you to figure out what they are.
Judging by your record, as much as you have done in three days, it is evident that you are a decent warrior...when beating up common thugs and untrained fanatics with the help of Eientei gear.YOu can also be a decent medic with your education and a pretty good one when you magically burn yourself to heal others. So optimally, your goal should be to continue serving Eientei and become a better doctor.
But then what?
Even in real life, everyone is the hero of their own story. You, like Shou, do not appear to have a story in the first place.
What do you want to be?
============================= "You were always a killer."
"If you come back, you no longer..."
"I said I can take care of myself!"
Every hero needs a sidekick. Not just literally, but also in the wider scope. Every hero needs somebody to back them up. In more conventional times Gensokyo's protagonists could handle themselves just fine, but with these new, possibly human foes, they will need help, a different kind of help.
Iwakasa has shown that a regular, albeit immortal and highly trained human can fill in a niche among a throng of more powerful individuals. Gensokyo has an abundance of mages and fighters, but medics and tanks are not. A combat medic, yes, that's the role you will play in the brewing conflict.
Time: 1:00 AM Date: June 28, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Quarters - Common Room Threat Level: 3
It is really late. Everyone else is getting ready to sleep.
[ ] Check on Lowe
[ ] Sleep in Nue's empty room [ ] Sleep in the commons area, it's a bit warmer here [ ] Down a few more gulps of Shou's sake and see what happens [ ] Sleep with nobody
Pic inaccurate ======================= [x] Check on Lowe
You decide it's probably a good idea to make sure your pack tank is fine.
"GREETINGS, FRIEND." Lowe had dug its treads into the dirt outside of the temple walls, forming a crater that allows it to maintain a fairly secure hulldown position.
"Do you have anything you need, or..."
"MORE METAL. SLEEP."
"...I'll let you get on that then."
You are about to turn away when you remembered something you had wanted to ask.
"Lowe, do you dream?"
"What do you dream about?"
"FIRE. DEATH. GOLD."
"Do you know what they mean?"
[x] Sleep in Nue's empty room
You hurry back to the temple proper.
As you expect, Nue's room is much more disorganized than the others, with only Shou's being close. It is quite impressive considering how little she actually has.
You see pens, papers and other stationery strewn haphazardly along her desk, alongside an open cabinet that contains her spare clothes, which aside from her underwear and some sets of black clothing seem to be mostly traditional Japanese clothes. You unroll the futon from the bottom of the cabinet, and note uncomfortably that it had not been washed for quite some time. The bottom shelf in her bookshelf is laden with scrolls, with the rest of them taken up by a combination of hand-binded books and outside imports. While the hand-binded ones look to be either religious material or nonfiction, the outside imports consist entirely of light novels and various mainstream manga, which look staggeringly out of place in this setting. Much to your surprise, none of the published Touhou works are in there, though you rationalize that Kourindou probably doesn't stock them.
As you look over the books, two of them catch your eye. One of them is a glossy, modern book on the Genpei War, and the other is an anthology on various samurai in history. Remembering the strange cutoffs in both her and Mishaguji's talking earlier, as well as the questionable origin of her bow, you flip through them. Sure enough, both of the books possess sections on Minamoto no Yorimasa, detailed ones too.
Of course, it would be expected that she would have an interest in the man that slew her, but seeing how she is still alive...it makes you question exactly what happened after Yorimasa shot the arrow into the clouds.
On the bottom of the bookshelf, somewhat hidden behind a pile of scrolls, is a large wooden box. The box is locked via multiple magical seals laden over it. When you attempt to open it the seals glow and presses down on the lid.
Figuring that you may as well try it, you hold out your first iron card, and mutter "Hew".
The pink ray strikes the box, and the seals darken. A rush of energy suddenly flows into you, more than the burst that hitting the enemy knights. Dumbly staring at the box, you feel the new burst slowly fading back, and the seals gradually regain light until the rush disappears completely and the seals are back to normal.
Seems like Hew can do more than just drain the life from people. You mutter the incantation again and open the lid. Darkened seals offer no resistance, and the box opens without problem.
Inside, among silk cushioning, lies an absolutely humongous arrow and a leather binder.
Furtively looking around, you note that the bedroom door is closed, and through the paper screen you see that most of the others are nowhere in the condition to intervene.
[ ] Add another tape to your collection. Secrets are worth their weight in gold. [ ] Do not trouble yourself with the history of another. Close the box and do not look.
============== <TJefferson> you know, I joined your outfit because I like deployments that are not sausage fests, but monsters? <TJefferson> I mean, who wants to screw monsters anyway? <JHuang> sexing youkai is a proud Chinese tradition dating back to the Shang Dynasty. Legend of the White Snake anyone? <KZakuyo> it’s a proud tradition for Japan too. Fluffy tails are superior anyway. <%Blue> :) ============
[x] Do not trouble yourself with the history of another. Close the box and do not look.
You snap the lid back down. No point in possibly starting a fight with Nue by peaking at her secrets. Before you looked away, however, you notice that the arrowhead is coated in dried brown gunk, likely blood.
Doesn't matter. You would not take in or process this information. You set the box back to its original position and like down on the futon, pulling the blanket over you.
You still have work tomorrow.
====== Day 3: End ==========
The TV is broken.
There is something stuck in the screen.
She broke it.
"Aren't you tired of spying on people?"
"Aren't you tired of talking to me? Get out of here, it's my head."
"A head completely under my responsibility."
You turn around on the couch, facing the shadowy figure in the corner of the room. "Look, I never asked for this, and I never asked for your help."
"I am in charge of you. It is my job to help."
"Well I'm doing just fine here, sir. I haven't been doing anything outside my limits."
"You have killed five people already."
"That is fine."
A pause. "How?"
"I was to remove your problems. Now that I'm free, I'm removing my problems."
Day 4 - Start
Time: 8:20 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Quarters - Nue Houjuu's Bedroom Threat Level: 1
It's morning again.
It's really bright.
You reluctantly clamber out of the comfortable futon and take a moment to observe your surroundings. Sounds of chanting are drifting in from outside, and you figure that the morning service is underway.
Everybody else seems to have woken...nope. Murasa and Shou are still fast asleep inside their rooms, as you can tell by the snoring sounds coming out, one echoing and the other being a roar. Trying to not have the sounds distract you, you put your clothes and armor back on and grab your pack. A quick visit to the washbasin and sink cleans up your sleep-ragged exterior.
There is still quite a lot of work to be done. Those shipments won't deliver themselves, and Lowe won't either.
Time: 8:30 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Myouren Temple Courtyard Threat Level: 1
Exiting the residential building, you stretch out your limbs and yawn. Testing out your gear, you grapple up the large tree in the middle of the temple yard and swing around to sit on the branches. Turning around, you yelp and pull up the gravity shield to block the burst of danmaku chucked at you.
"Get off the tree, Mr. Wu."
"Sorry Miss Kumoi," you grumble in reply as you jump off, allowing the leg springs to absorb the impact this time.
The nun goes back to her sweeping, or rather, goes back to controlling the multiple copies of Unzan that are doing the sweeping, "I supposed you will be leaving now while it is still fairly cool."
"You have been to other Buddhist temples before, right? Breakfast is not part of the daily routine."
"Bye Ichirin say hello to Nue when she comes back." You chatter off as you briskly walk towards the entrance. "Lowe, wake up. We're moving."
You blink as you see the massive gray pile in front of Lowe, who is currently busy scooping up as much as it can with its mechanical arm and dumping them into the turret.
"GREETINGS FRIEND. BIG SNAKE ARRIVED ONE HOUR PRIOR AND DEPOSITED THE PROMISED METAL."
Even the bloody tank has breakfast.
"How long are you going to take?"
Well, you have some time before there is food. You figure that you might as well try out the new card you got.
"You have time for a casual duel?"
Ichirin sets down her broom and takes a glance at the sun. "It appears as though there is sufficient time. Alright, some morning exercise would be beneficial."
You take a moment to prepare as Ichirin clears out a section of the courtyard with Unzan's help. Shield's functional, the hammer is working properly, your ranged weapons are setup and loaded, and your spellcards...
Both Yukari and Nue's gifted spellcards are still there, as are the two mysterious iron cards. You hold them up to get a good look at them. " 'Refrain' , 'Red Paper Blue Paper' , 'Stop', 'Call'... "
"Call? Where's Hew?" You cock your head as you examine the unfamiliar iron card in your hand. As you tug up your sleeve to handle the card better, a black streak on your right forearm catches your eye. Loosening the exoskeleton, you roll the sleeve further up, and you jerk your left hand back as you see what is on there.
What appears at first to be a random black streak is in fact a pattern of delicate scars radiating out in a circular pattern, as if the skin had been completely charred in a third degree burn. Looking closer, you notice that the scars have patterns quite similar to the ones on the iron cards, and in the middle of the pattern is a single character: "Hew".
You take half a minute before working up the nerve to touch the pattern. There is no pain, your skin responds as normal, which is usually not the case for a third-degree burn.
"Mr. Wu, are you ready?"
"Uh...yeah." You pull your sleeves back down and slide your cards back into your bandoleer. "Let's do this."
The air around you pulsates as the dueling barrier is pulled up as Ichirin draws her first spellcard, "I'm going to start with an easy one: Divine Fist: 'Hell Thrust from the Heavenly Seas' "
In the glow of the spellcard's declaration, you see Unzan expand his form, becoming the size of a house. Too busy gaping at the giant cloud man, you catch the first fist with your face, knocking you flat onto the ground. Despite the massive size of Unzan's fist, he is still a cloud, and the density of the hit is fairly low, making the hit more of a push than a punch. Regardless, it is still enough to send you sprawling legs over face.
"I'm fine." You scramble up, diving off to the side immediately as another fist comes flying your way. Pulling out the bow, you fire off an arrow at Ichirin, who pulls up Unzan to intercept. To her surprise, the arrow pierces right through the block and hits her square in the chest.
"Lunarian tech, huh?" She remarks with a smile as she rolls up from the ground, "Let's see how fast you can reload."
Ichirin adjusts her pose lashes out in a series of quick punches, making Unzan pound you with his cloud fists at the same frequency. The punches are not as strong as before, but they still hurt quite a bit, and they succeed in knocking the bow out of your hands.
You immediately pull out your shotgun and fire off several shots, all of which are easily deflected by Unzan's hands. Cocking the grenade launcher, you launch an oil bomb at her, covering the ground in a sheet of flame.
"Not bad, I had my doubts about your story last night, but now I see that you are a very capable warrior for a human," Ichirin casually says as she walks out of the flames, "So, why don't you try out the strange iron card you had. 'Hew' was it?"
"Miss Kumoi...the effects of Hew are still questionable, do you really want to."
"We're in a dueling barrier, Mr. Wu. Just try it." She holds out Unzan who crosses his arms in a defensive pose. "Hit me."
A large pink laser, as thick as your arm, erupts from the end of your right hand and impacts Unzan. Ichirin staggers back as Unzan seems to dissipate briefly, before reforming. A rush of energy flows into you, just like before.
"That...that was unexpected. Hold on, time out." She dismisses the nyuudou and walks closer. "Hit me again."
"If you insist....Hew."
You fire the spell at her shoulder, and while she does not react as if physically struck, she grimaces and bites her lip. "Yes, I know this spell, but never in this form."
Ichirin shakes her head, throwing some of her icy blue hair out of her eyes, "Your 'Hew' spell drains energy from the target. It drained not just Unzan's strength to keep in that form, but that last impact seemed to actually siphon off my magical reserves. This type of draining is known only to oni, at least here in the East...can I see that card again?"
"Yeah, funny thing about that..." You roll up your sleeve and show her the spellcard etched into your skin. "The card's gone, but I got this instead, also somebody is sneaking me more cards while I'm not looking." You pull out the two new iron cards and show it to her. "Are these also control mechanisms?"
The nun stares blankly at the cards, "They have the same patterns, so yes...Ming where are you getting these things and what is going on."
"Like I said, somebody's been sticking these in my pack or pockets while they're unattended or while I sleep. It's creepy."
"That doesn't tell us much." Ichirin steps back and conjures up the dueling barrier again, and with a wave calls down a chunk of Unzan, where he takes the form of the burly old man from yesterday's dinner table, with his arms crossed. "Let's see if the other two cards can shed some insight into what they are."
You take a deep breath as Unzan, with Ichirin's guidance, steps back into a defensive pose. "Stop!" You cry out, holding the card out in one hand and pointing with your shotgun.
A black globe about three meters in diameter, devoid of all light, consumes Unzan's form. About five seconds later, the globe vanishes, and Unzan reappears in the exact same position. A significant wave of fatigue washes over you, though not as much as the fatigue felt when you Hew yourself.
Ichirin beckons the nyuudou over and listens to his soundless whispers, before saying to you, "Unzan said he saw the world skip by when you cast the spell, though he did not feel frozen or incapacitated. It seems quite similar to Miss Izayoi's signature spells."
A time stop? That seems a bit too powerful for even these mysterious gift cards. "Let's try that again, shall we? Stop!" You conjure the globe around Unzan again, but this time you follow up with a blast from your shotgun.
The danmaku pellets travel towards the globe, and bounce off, as if hitting a solid wall. The globe dissipates again, and Unzan reappears.
"Well that's interesting. Seems like your spell is actually affecting the things in the area physically, stopping each individual particle of material, light, and apparently even thoughts from moving within the parameter."
"That would explain why its so black." Stasis, not quite as impressive as time stop, and is listed as one of the medium-high level rituals an aspiring mage would learn in the book Keine gave you. Casting such a spell on a whim though, makes it much more useful.
"This is a western spell...hmm." Ichirin furrows her brow and raises her hand to her chin, "Try the last one."
"Sure." You pull out the last one, "Call!"
Nothing happens. You do feel another wave of fatigue though.
Nothing. Still it burned some of your energy.
"Maybe it doesn't work on Unzan, try it on me, maybe...WHAT?!"
All three of your turn towards the edge of the dueling barrier, where a small, blue wisp of some sort is trying to force its way in. A skull adorns the largest segment of its form.
"A vengeful spirit!" Ichirin stammers, slightly paling, "What is it doing here? We exorcised the graveyard just last week!"
The spirit turns to face you with its skull as it briefly stops pushing against the barrier, then dissolves into a fine mist, which blows over through the barrier. You level the shotgun at it, in preparation for a real fight.
The mist reforms, gathering slowly into a humanoid shape, and then finally revealing its concrete form. A rotten corpse, with its eyes long devoured by worms and its bones held together by the thinnest of tendons, stands menacingly in place of the spirit. Somehow, the fact that it's translucent actually gives you some comfort, as it means it is not really a possibly diseased carcass, just a deadly phantom pretending to be one.
"YOU CALL. I ANSWER." A long, rasping rattle is let out from its ghostly throat. "ALLOW ME TO AID YOU."
You notice that its rotting eyeholes are looking towards you. "H...Help me?"
"YOU CALLED. HOW MAY I HELP IN VENGEANCE?"
"Vengeance? What vengeance?" Confusion overtakes your fear, and you step closer to the ghastly spirit, "I don't have a grudge against anyone."
"HOW MAY I HELP?"
Vengeful spirits, according to the Guide to Gensokyo, aren't very intelligent, or even capable of more than one thought or emotion. This one probably held a grudge when it died...but why is it offering to help you?
"First, I guess you can cover yourself up a bit. Can you?"
The spirit dissipates, and comes back as a cloaked figure covered from head to toe in a burial shroud. "DONE."
"Looks like it obeys orders." You say to Ichirin, who gives you a shocked look.
"I...I don't know what to say. The only one I know who managed to control these spirits is the pet kasha of the Underworld's ruler, but even she cannot...force them to do more than fly in patterns and fight in their normal forms. This, what you just did there...Hijiri! Everyone! Come see this!" She dismisses the barrier and flies out.
You kind of just stand there awkwardly for a few minutes as the denizens of the Myouren Temple stream out of the buildings to gawk at the pale blue phantom you've apparently summoned with the help of the gifted cards.
"Hmm, what else can you do?"
"WHAT YOU ORDER. I DO."
You grab a fairly large fallen branch from under the tree and toss it over. "Pick this up."
The spirit does so with no trouble.
"Lets see...You're a spectre, that means you can change your form however you want...Wear some armor."
A burst of pink mist, similar to your Hew spell, extends out from your body in conjunction with a slight burning sensation and fatigue. The mist congeals around the spirit, forming the distinctive conical helmet and lamellar body armor of a historical Japanese ashigaru, all of which are just as light blue and translucent as the rest of the spirit.
Seems like the spirits can use physical items, and also use your reserves, whatever they are, to improve themselves if necessary.
"I don't like that armor. Change it to a European style."
"I DO NOT UNDERSTAND."
Right, these are vengeful spirits, you are fortunate that this one still remembers what armor is.
"Sharpen that stick."
You sit down and watch the spirit pick up a rock to help sharpen the stick. A small crowd has gathered around you, but most are apparently too scared of the vengeful spirit to approach any closer.
"Mr. Wu." You see Byakuren flying down the steps of the main temple. "Are you okay there?"
"Yeah. I mean...Look. It's a summoned creature, not much different from demon summoning. I read that even novice mages in Gensokyo, just people with a year of practice, can call lesser nature spirits to their aid. So what's the big deal?"
Compared to the things one can summon by following the guides in Keine's spellbook, your vengeful spirit that requires your own energy to function pales in comparison to some of the higher level summoning spells, such as the one to literally force nature spirits into a tree to create a treant, or the one where you simulate a werewolf's howl to summon a pack of wolves to do your bidding. The books also did cover spells that can be inscribed on skin, but none that do so automatically and via scarification.
And it doesn't even look all that intimidating. Sure, it kind of resembles the vengeful spirits seen in Asian horror movies, but under broad daylight and without cover, it just looks kind of shabby and pathetic sharpening the stick with a rock.
"It's not the strength of the spirit that matters, it's the fact that you can control such a dangerous being at all." Byakuren reaches over and plucks the card out of your hands, "A self-control spell? Interesting."
"All of these iron cards are self-control spells, Hijiri." Ichirin mutters as she walks up next to her. "I have no idea how these spellcards can self-control a human like Ming so much that he can summon vengeful spirits or perform oni techniques, but they do, and only for him."
Byakuren tries to cast one of your iron cards experimentally, with no effect. "Interesting, very interesting."
You notice that some of the braver youkai have begun poking at the vengeful spirit, who ignores their provocations even though it is clear that they are hitting something physical.
"DONE." The spirit holds up the now pointy stick and holds it up.
"Uh, go keep an eye on the tank. The big metal thing, over there."
The youkai part way for the spirit to move through. It turns to view some of them, but makes no sound or action.
"Look." Byakuren finishes examining the cards and hands them back over to you with a resigned look, "What you possess in your hands and on your arm are enigmas, magical curiosities that I cannot discern, especially when they are cloaked as self-control spells that seemingly do nothing. You will need to find more qualified persons to decipher them if you wish to investigate this mystery."
"Hijiri? You can't see?"
"No, Ichirin, for all intents and purposes these are self-control abilities, ones which free up the use of the mind for other tasks." She suddenly looks up, and sees that all of the people attending the service are out here, "All souls, please, Mr. Wu has important work to do."
Still not keeping their eyes off of the spirit, the attendees stream back into the temple. Byakuren goes back in, giving a parting nod as she shuts the doors.
"Seems like you are on your own for this." Ichirin says as she returns to her work, still somewhat shaken.
"I wouldn't be troubling others with my own problems anyway. Lowe, you done?"
"AFFIRMATIVE. REPAIRS UNDERWAY. SUSPENSION, ENGINE AND MAIN GUN WILL BE BACK UP TO OPERATIONAL CAPACITY."
Sweet, more firepower.
"Alright, let's get a move on. Bye Ichirin."
You've got secondary objectives - Investigate the origin of the spells these iron card allow you to do.
Hew - Oni spell. You'll have to find an oni. Stop - Generalist. Probably somebody highly skilled in magical research or history can know. Aid - Control of vengeful spirits. Only the kasha would know how this works. How Hew implanted into you - ???. Patchouli Knowledge probably would know.
Time: 9:20 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Human Village - Village Center Threat Level: 1 ========================
The short journey to the Village is relatively uneventful. You were thinking of checking up on Nue, but looking at the time, of which you are already behind schedule on the deliveries, you decide against it. Instead, you order your new servant to pass a written note over to the "Lodge in that direction."
It hasn't returned yet. But then again it's kind of slow, and you don't feel like worrying too much over it.
The Eientei clinic itself needs some resupplying, and some of the other pharmacies and alchemists also need ingredients. You make your rounds through the village, shooing away children who are throwing sticks and pebbles at Lowe and unloading the heavy packages. For the customers who are not home you just leave them at the front door. After all, you doubt a one hundred pound sack of synthetic manticore extract is something that can be casually stolen.
Everything seems normal until you hit the central square of the village, where there is an unusually large amount of people gathered around something, and there isn't the drums or loud decorations that indicate a presentation or festival.
More importantly, the Hunter's Module senses several individuals observing the scene from concealment. Several members of the Russian expedition are positioned along rooftops, apparently focused on somebody within the crowd instead of scanning the entire scene. A familiar red-white miko is hiding in an alleyway just off to the side of the main street, and as soon as she spots you she frantically waves and places her fingers across her lips.
Curious, you tell Lowe to stop behind a house, out of the line of sight of the square, before scurrying next to her.
"Hey Reimu, what are you doing here?"
"Hiding. From him. Look at that guy next to Keine."
You lean out for a good look at the crowd, and see that there is indeed a new person of significance. A young man, looking to be in his late twenties, is standing in the middle and happily chatting it up with Keine. He has a slender build, and his hair's bangs are covering one of his eyes. Despite this being summer, he is wearing a long black coat and jeans, and two sword sheaths decorate each side of his wasit belt. "An empowered Outsider?"
"My experience tells me that he is one. You know how Aya wrote you up as some vigilante? This one looks like the real deal."
The swords sheathed on his waist do not look like modern replicas. Even from here you can feel the energy emanating from the weapon, a cold sharp feel, making even your Lunarian bow cower. An actual outsider hero bearing enchanted swords, right when Gensokyo is about to face a crisis.
"This guy caught one of the terrorists trying to plant a bomb near the market, and defeated him quite spectacularly with his swords. The terrorist didn't end up surviving for interrogation though."
"So, that's a good thing, right?"
"Yeah but...empowered Outsiders don't really have a good reputation for remaining good." Reimu peeks over again, "They tend to have...issues. That's one reason why I am trying to avoid him."
"I dunno, do you guys get mangas and whatnot here? Because he looks like the definition of a hero."
At least, compared to your own relatively chubby (though after the fire and Eientei's healing, you are just average) physique, this guy has muscles that show through his coat. And dual wielding swords to boot.
"Hero or not, he talks like one. He's already been talking about how he'll fight to ensure Gensokyo's safety and to make our Walled Garden a better place and blegh..."
"Isn't that your job?"
Reimu gives you a dirty look, "My job is to defend the Border, not ideals. At least he's not going for a harem like half of them."
"Did he say his name yet?"
"That's the second reason." She looks as if she just choked on a rice roll, "His name is...Hakurei Ochiba."
You stare in silence for a moment, then break out into barely muffled guffaws, "No fucking way."
"This Ochiba has been claiming that he really is a Hakurei according to some diaries left by his grandparents and was taught his swordfighting and magical skills by a mysterious old man."
"Holy crap, this is like some fanfic self-insert level of power," You chuckle hypocritically, "Seriously though, do you believe him?"
"Noooooooo." The shrine maiden shakes her head vigorously, enough that the red ribbon she wears is fluttering, "For starters he looks nothing like me, and secondly he claims he knew nothing of Gensokyo until he discovered the Outside world game series. If my ancestors really did have another descendant I'm not aware of they would definitely have mentioned Gensokyo in their remaining messages."
Listening to Reimu talk about ancestors, you suddenly recall how on the night of the first day Reimu was unable to answer questions about the year she was born, as if she was under an enchantment.
You wonder if this guy, real descendant or not, could provide an answer.
[ ] Might as well get to know the hero of this story. [ ] It's his story, not yours, why bother? You have your own story to worry about. [ ] You should spy on him a bit longer and ask Keine about what she knows. He could be important.
"By the way, where's Suika?"
"Didn't I tell you? Yukari took her Outside, for whatever she's doing. Might be related to the rumor going around that Yukari's planning on opening the Border."
[x] Might as well get to know the hero of this story.
"I'm going to go talk to him. Keep an eye on my shotgun." You finish up the large sushi roll and sausage-on-a-stick you bought for breakfast and straighten your armor.
"Go right ahead, it's not like he'll latch on to some random male stranger. Just, you know, don't tell him I'm here." Reimu takes the shotgun, a bit hesitantly.
With just the bow on your back, your other weapons deactivated, you walk up towards the crowd like an errant individual. Which you are, of course. You're not a main character, or a side character, you're just some chucklefuck who works as a hauler for a hospital. So really, you should just be another bystander watching a spectacle.
"...I mean for starters Reimu isn't very good at dealing with problems outside her scope, while I have earned tons of experience fighting criminals in the Outside world. Not to be arrogant or anything..."
As you get closer you realize that you vaguely recognize this guy. He had been on the TV during your stay in the Outside World Japan, as a photograph of a missing person. Hakurei Ochiba wasn't his name though, it was a Yamasaki...something, one of the sons of a prominent businessman who had a band or something, and had some other...things.
You were too busy planning on your little incursion into fairytale land to really pay attention to the television anyway.
Keine doesn't appear to be talking back, just kind of smiling and nodding. The accepting kind of nodding and smiling, not the "yeah sure whatever kind".
"If you want I could start training the guards here in swordsmanship, unless of course someone like Youmu is more willing."
"I'm sure they will be happy to listen, Mr. Hakurei..." She abruptly appears to notice you out of the corner of her eyes, "Why, if it isn't Mr. Wu!"
"Uh, hey Miss Kamishirasawa." You awkwardly shuffle to the front of the group of people.
"Mr. Hakurei, this is Mr. Wu." Keine warmly introduces the two of you to each other, "He is an outsider like yourself, and as recently as yesterday night he had been fighting the terrorists and managed to even fend them off."
You are starting to regret having Mishaguji inform the village at this point.
Hakurei Ochiba doesn't look much like Reimu, with his square face and straight eyes compared to her heart shaped face and round eyes. He's wearing attire that is not appropriate for the climate, such as a long jacket and a pair of leather gloves (though its somewhat reasonable considering the swords), but he otherwise looks decent. Clean shaven, hair combed forward into well groomed bangs, and you got a figure that screams hero, especially among the haggard looking outsiders. The sword sheaths, you note, are very well-ornamented, but while they appear to be katana or wakazashi, the decorations are not Japanese, or even East Asian in style.
"Greetings friend!" The man reaches his hand out, a large grin on his face, "It's great to meet another outsider who wants to shake things up a bit here!" He gives your entire body an appraising look, taking note of the yumi bow on your back, "So, uh, you an archer or hunter?"
Fuck. What to do now.
[ ] Present yourself as a friendly party (Hey, these kinds of people always trust friends and lesser heroes. Such trust can be...useful) [ ] Present yourself as a rival party ("Look, I doubt you are a Hakurei and here's why. Also you're gonna get yourself killed") [ ] Present yourself as a neutral party ("Sure, I fought these terrorists, here's some useful info. Also, who are you?") [ ] Present yourself as a disinterested party (Nope the fuck out of there ASAP)
[X] Present yourself as a neutral party ("Sure, I fought these terrorists, here's some useful info. Also, who are you?")
We wanted to investigate from a safe distance and with a solid testimony. the first 2 options will either hurt our reputation with the village or make our present objectives harder to fulfill in the future.
<BEARS> hey Purple, you've ever been to Mount Olympus? <BEARS> One of my sources told me that it's a Walled Garden like Gensokyo <%Purple> It's empty, nothing but ruined temples <%Purple> Doubt any of the gods that used to live there could even scrounge up enough faith to exist
[x] Present yourself as a neutral party ("Sure, I fought these terrorists, here's some useful info, bye")
"Neither, I'm just a delivery boy." You struggle to keep your face emotionless as you reach out and shake his hands, his smooth hands. "It's not important anyway. So as to the terrorists...they are very heavily armored, often with enchanted gear, and their weapons are calibrated and designed to kill youkai. I barely managed to fend them off with the help of some powerful individuals. The lower ranked ones look like bomb disposal units, and the stronger ones resemble medieval knights."
"Ah, I see. Sounds like a fanatical religious order of some sort." His grin widens, "Well those nutjobs are about to get a taste of their own medicine! You know where they are coming from?"
"Yeah, that's the tricky part. They're hidden with stolen Lunarian tech."
"The cowards are hiding. Well then!" He dramatically unsheathes his two swords, revealing two katanas brightly glowing with a golden light. "These divine weapons, passed down through generations of Hakurei, can cast aside any deception."
The wave of light washes over the crowd. You notice that some of them immediately turn and flee, covering up parts of their face and body as tails and horns poof out. Keine doesn't move, but she takes a step back and adjusts her hat, which had apparently raised a decimeter off of her head.
"Do not fear, I have sworn to only ever use the blades in defense of the weak and innocent. Now, Miss Kamishirasawa, how shall I begin my service?"
Keine gives a subtle glance at a nearby guardsman, who nods and disappears. "Mr. Ochiba, the village is grateful for your support, I am certain that..."
Another village guardsman suddenly runs into the middle of the crowd as if panicked, while shouting "Miss Kamishirasawa, Miss Kamishirasawa! We have spotted armored terrorists in the woods to the north of the village!"
"Are you certain?" Keine asks, only to be cut off by Ochiba, who asks the same thing only louder. The guard begins blabbering out a veritable dump of information, keeping Ochiba's attention as Keine quietly mumbles an incantation, tracing out a pattern on the outsider's head. As soon as the guard finishes she completes the spell, and nothing appears to happen.
Ochiba doesn't appear to notice, and after the guard is done he immediately runs off north, hopping across rooftops as if he was in a wuxia novel. The crowd, always interested whenever new things pop up, follows.
You notice that Keine isn't responding, "Miss Kamishirasawa?"
Keine blinks, then slowly turns her head towards you, slightly trembling, "This...this can't be."
"I have managed to read his family history while he was occupied. Of course, I do not trust an empowered outsider, but unless he somehow altered history, his claim of being a Hakurei is true."
"Ssh, quiet." Keine nudges you to lower your head, "His family line diverges three generations prior, but is otherwise identical to Reimu's in terms of ancestors. They are distant cousins."
"That just raises more questions! How come we never knew about this?"
The were-hakutaku sighs, "I am just as surprised as you are. I would have thought the Yakumo clan kept more careful track of Hakurei descendants, but until we can get access to them or their records we have no other conclusion other than to accept the fact that he is indeed a Hakurei."
"Is there like a policy for estranged Hakureis or something?"
"No, and that's going to be a problem. Out of all of the plans the Yakumos told us, there was none for this. I guess we'll just have to tolerate him until something new comes up, since he hasn't really caused any trouble yet like burn down a forest."
"Speaking of burning..." You remember what Kaguya told you over the radio last night, "Eientei's got some intel for you, Miss Kamishirasawa, but we are not sure whether or not it is accurate, so this is for your ears only at this moment."
"Hmm, I'm listening."
You suck in a deep breath. "Lady Kaguya, right before she was absorbed into the abomination that was exterminated two nights prior, had a confrontation with Mokou. She was backed up by a squad of heavily armored knights, and looked like she was not in control of her own body. Also, the abomination was apparently deployed by the terrorists."
You step back as Keine turns pale, and stumbles backwards, almost falling over with the clumsy crutches, "Mokou...how? Okay." She waves you over, "If what Kaguya said is accurate, then the defense of the village is going to have to be ramped up even more. But they've got MOKOU?"
"I guess mind control beats immortality."
"This isn't a joke or a contest, Ming. Mokou is my friend, but first and foremost she is an incredibly powerful and dangerous immortal. These terrorists are already incredibly well-armed and dangerous, and if they got such a phoenix on their side...the village may actually be in mortal danger."
"Honestly Miss Kamishirasawa I would be more concerned about the fact that they have monsters that can devour and manipulate immortals."
"The abominations may be a threat, but it was easily eliminated when it was disrupted and incinerated. Mokou...will not be so easy to deal with. We may be able to secure the village main, but the outlying settlements..." She sighs in frustration, "Say what you will about empowered outsiders, but they were mortal."
"This is Gensokyo, right? I'm sure you can find powerful people willing to put in the time and effort..."
"I've said this already, it's the fact that she is a Hourai immortal. I have already enlisted the aid of powerful members of both the Myouren Temple and Senkai, and as the Guardian of the village I am authorized to contract the aid of even more powerful beings. That's not the issue, the issues is that if Mokou is indeed mind controlled via an unknown mechanism, then if they make her destroy something there is no way we can stop her over the long-term since her resurrections bring about bursts of flame hotter than the sun." Keine's eyes have a thousand-yard stare at this point, "Even the younger Scarlet sister would be easier to handle."
"Well, you have a shiny new Hakurei now to help you deal with this problem, so I guess your options are more than before."
Keine gives a weak smile, "That's an optimistic way of looking at my situation. The best I can hope for is that Ochiba can hold off Mokou long enough for us to find a solution.
You walk back to the alley unnoticed. Glancing in, you notice that the occupants of the alleyway have increased to three. Reimu is busy arguing with a pink haired individual who is trying to talk with food in her mouth, and another girl, one whom you recognize as the rider from yesterday who rounded up the indentured outsiders for the sweep, is leaning against the wall with her eyes closed. As soon as you approach she opens her eyes and darts away around a corner and disappears.
"Just go talk to him, Reimu! If you reason or fight with him we'll resolve this situation easily."
"Yeah, sure Kasen, how about you go pick a one-on-one fight with an empowered? You wanna take care of the Border after it collapses?"
"Are you really that lacking in confidence?"
"Yo, Miss Hakurei, and I'll presume that this is Miss Ibaraki?"
"Reimu...who is this?" Kasen turns towards you, a concerned look on her face.
"Wu Ming," the shrine maiden shrugs, "He's an outsider working for Eientei. And yeah, Ming, that's the gluttonous hermit."
You'd expect Kasen to bicker back, but instead she appears to be more focused on you, her eyes fixiated and her expression strange.
"Mr...Wu. You say you're an outsider?"
Kasen walks closer to you, and out of the corner of your eye you see a massive eagle, the size of a horse, fly down and perch on a nearby rooftop. "Tell me, do you have any spellcards?"
"I've got these gifted ones, oh, and these strange iron ones that some unknown individual is putting in my stuff when I'm not looking." You show her the black cards, "And one of them somehow transferred onto my arm. I know that its normal in Western schools to tattoo spells, but..."
Kasen focuses intently on the tattooed spell, not saying a word as she analyzes the runes.
"This spell...it drains energy from people, doesn't it?"
"What?" Reimu, who was also peering over, exclaims in surprise, "This looks like a locomotion spell or an internal regulation mechanism. Nowhere in it does it show any outward projections!"
"That's because it's not really a spell, it's a technique." Kasen mutters darkly, "Like the innate abilities of youkai, or your own purification rituals, they are non-reproducible movements of the spirit, much like how kicking a ball and shooting a bow are movements of the body. To have them encoded in tattoo, let alone spellcards, is like doing the same with a kendo diagram: pointless unless the person can already do it."
"Well I can do it! See?" You happily chant "Hew!" and shoot out the pink laser. "It was quite useful fending off the attackers last night, but even more useful when healing people by casting it on myself! It hurts, but the payoff is definitely worth it. I'm a real healer now!"
The hermit backs up slowly, "Reimu, why have you not dealt with him yet?"
"Because he's not an empowered?" The shrine maiden comes up next to you, "Look, Ming here is one of the most amenable outsiders I've met so far. All he did was work and defend himself..."
"It's because of the donation, free food, and unpaid labor, isn't it?"
"Oh shush," Reimu tugs on your cheeks, "See Kasen? He's a total pushover! He can't even cast spells normally judging by what Tewi told me."
You maintain your awkward, weakly smiling face as you mumble out, "I hate all of you."
"Are you not suspicious of the fact that he is apparently able to instead cast spells like that intrinsically?"
"How do you recognize that Hew was a life-drainer, anyway? Miss Ibaraki? I thought that was a technique known only to vampires and oni."
She maintains her expression, but you do see her face twitch slightly, "A long life and special friends. Now, what other tricks do you have up your sleeves?"
It is a more or less open secret that her true nature is Ibaraki-doji among those who actually read Wild and Horned Hermit. Still, it is still a theory, and it appears that meatspace Kasen is in no hurry to prove it.
"To be honest I have no idea what this suit's full capabilities are, but let's see." You begin pulling weapons and cards out of your pack and pockets, "Shotgun with a launcher, Lunarian rail bow, one of Yukari's charity spell cards, one of Nue's spell cards, an iron card with stasis, and an iron card with summon vengeful spirit."
"Vengeful spirit?" Both of them ask in unison.
"Call." You yell as you hold the card up. A brief gust of wind blows, and a stream of fine blue mist flows across the top of the nearby building, depositing itself near you and coalescing into the revenant you summoned. It is still holding the pointy stick.
"MESSAGE DELIVERED AND REPLIED." It intones as it hands you a note. "FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS?"
Kasen, as if by instinct, throws out a punch with her good arm at the spirit, who in turn blocks it with the stick, shattering it in the process. Her fist impacts the spirit straight on the chest, which causes it to stagger and seemingly dissipate slightly, but it immediately snaps back.
"Huh...this is a vengeful spirit, right Reimu?"
"Oh of course, I can tell that just by looking at it, but for one to be so obedient and...concrete. Orin of the Palace of Earth Spirits managed to do so and converted them into fairies, but she has never shared the secrets of doing so. Ming, how?"
You shrug, "Why do you work under me, anyway?"
"It likes me, I guess."
"Harmless outsider, eh?" Kasen remarks.
"So he's got a weak shikigami and a handful of low to medium level techniques. Did you happen to miss the outsider with DIVINE SWORDS that just passed by?"
You smile, "I actually have a little bit more. Lowe!"
The tank rolls over and pokes its cannon into the alley. "YOU CALLED?"
The two women do nothing but blink for a few seconds, then almost simultaneously ask, "HOW?"
"I was nice to it, and facilitated easy access to metal for it. It's my friend now...I think."
"Well this changes your position quite a bit, and explains why Eirin is delivering all these shipments at once." Reimu suddenly seems to brighten up, "Ming, Lowe, you guys have quite a bit of power in your hands together, so..."
"Let me guess, you want us to deal with your cousin."
Her face freezes, "My cousin?"
"Yeah, Ochiba's your actual cousin, Keine read his familial history, and he is, indeed, an actual Hakurei as far as she could tell."
Kasen immediately puts the stunned Reimu in a headlock and drags her over back down the alleyway, huddling over her while loudly whispering. You catch phrases such as "Keep calm" and "Remember" in Kasen's quiet lecture, and after a minute Reimu appears to respond as Kasen shakes her a bit, and slowly walks back over.
"Sorry about that," She sucks in a deep breath, "Ming, if you could..."
"Help? I've got a job to do here, but..."
[ ] Priority: Ochiba - The new outsider cannot be trusted. He's going to travel over most of Gensokyo's populated areas like a true main character anyway, so shadow him. [ ] Priority: Speed - Faster you finish Eirin's job, the faster you can deal with other things [ ] Priority: Info - These iron cards, as well as your hidden nature, should be revealed as soon as possible. Aim for the places most likely to contain information, such as the SDM's library and the Underground City.
[X] Priority: Mixed. You don't really feel like aiding the Hakurei with her family feuds, but since she asked nicely. - Send the spirit in your place to shadow Ochiba, remind him to be careful since it's a vengeful spirit and Ochiba specializes in holy/divine attacks. - Finish up Eirin's deliveries, job comes first. It'll keep you alive in the long run...Hopefully. - Gather up as much information as possible, both on your cards and Ochiba. Knowing your enemy and yourself is the key to victory.
[X] Priority: Mixed. You don't really feel like aiding the Hakurei with her family feuds, but since she asked nicely. - Send the spirit in your place to shadow Ochiba, remind him to be careful since it's a vengeful spirit and Ochiba specializes in holy/divine attacks. - Finish up Eirin's deliveries, job comes first. It'll keep you alive in the long run...Hopefully. - Gather up as much information as possible, both on your cards and Ochiba. Knowing your enemy and yourself is the key to victory.
A fair compromise.
I liked that little scene where WU was going all 'no really, I'm a threat' It was charming. Still, I think that his strength doesn't rely on his magical power and that we'll see a good example of that soon.
[X] Priority: Mixed. You don't really feel like aiding the Hakurei with her family feuds, but since she asked nicely. - Send the spirit in your place to shadow Ochiba, remind him to be careful since it's a vengeful spirit and Ochiba specializes in holy/divine attacks. - Finish up Eirin's deliveries, job comes first. It'll keep you alive in the long run...Hopefully. - Gather up as much information as possible, both on your cards and Ochiba. Knowing your enemy and yourself is the key to victory.
Vengeful spirit scouts seem like a good idea, so long it is possible to actually make them stealthy. Moaning, screaming masses of mutilated spectral flesh aren't going to be very useful.
I can't wait for Mr. 2kat Legendary Shounen Friendship Hero to do something completely damning.
It's fairly odd that it doesn't work on you. ===========================
[X] Priority: Mixed. You don't really feel like aiding the Hakurei with her family feuds, but since she asked nicely. - Send the spirit in your place to shadow Ochiba, remind him to be careful since it's a vengeful spirit and Ochiba specializes in holy/divine attacks. - Finish up Eirin's deliveries, job comes first. It'll keep you alive in the long run...Hopefully. - Gather up as much information as possible, both on your cards and Ochiba. Knowing your enemy and yourself is the key to victory.
"You, vengeful spirit...do you have a name?"
"Alright, your name for now would be Cultist Alpha." You figure that it is an appropriate name given the vengeful spirit's appearance and role, "You have a new mission. Follow the one known as Ochiba, observe but do not confront...can you uh, recruit more friends?"
"GLADLY. I SEE THAT WITH YOUR REPUTATION I CAN CONVINCE UP TO TWO MORE SOULS FOR THE CAUSE."
"Do that. Send one back to report on what he is doing every eight hours. If he is doing anything abnormal or has engaged in combat report back to me immediately. Make absolutely sure to stay unseen, if he does see you flee until he stops pursuing, then resume observations. He will likely be able to end your existence in a single stroke."
"YES, LEADER. AS YOU WISH." The spirit fades back into a cloud of mist, and departs through the air.
"I'll send one of them to tell you if anything happens with Ochiba, Reimu." You turn back to the shrine maiden. "It's all the resources I can spare, I'm afraid. Eientei has its own problems at the moment."
"Thanks Ming. Now I don't have to worry about him that much anymore." Reimu says, her attitude seemingly cheering up quite a bit, "Kasen!"
"You sure you want to trust him? I mean..."
"Less talking, more doing! I've got this idea, you see..." She drags the hermit off.
As Kasen exits the alley, the parting look she gives you sends chills up your spine. She knows something about you, or suspects something about you. Are you an oni? A descendant of one? No, if that was the case the silver sword the knight stabbed you with would have killed you, since oni are youkai.
============== You are something far worse. ==============
She might come back to confront you later, but with Lowe at your side and Eientei behind you it's doubtful Kasen would threaten your existence. You just have to worry about the delivery for now.
"Lowe, let's go."
Time: 10:00 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Human Village Outskirts Threat Level: 2
You busy yourself with reading the note as you jog alongside the tank. Mamizou did not ask why a vengeful spirit was delivering the message, much to your surprise, and merely answered with the statement that Nue is recovering and should have woken up by the time the reply is received and thanks you for your assistance.
"Waaaaaaaaa!" You look up to see a brown-skinned young man just barely manage to jump out of the way of the tank, he almost manages to stand at the end of the manuever, but bumps his head on the wall of an old shack on the side of the road.
"Lowe! Didn't you see him?"
"NO. HE APPEARED FROM EMPTY."
"That's impossible." You reply as you extend a hand to help him up, "Sorry about that, what's your name?"
You raise an eyebrow as you notice what he's wearing: A pair of sandals and a nightrobe. He sheepishly takes your hand and gets up, "Bhikku Raju. Who are you?"
"Wu Ming." He had replied in perfect Japanese, which is unusual, "So, why are wandering around like that anyway?"
"I was in bed...I don't get this, I don't get this at all." The young man mutters, "I'm dreaming again, aren't I?"
You sense that he is not fully there, "This fantasy land...yeah, people occasionally fall in while sleeping. You'll be back in your bed when you wake up."
"Ah, I remember now! It's this place again! Are you dreaming too?" He asks.
"No, I cracked its boundary and crossed over physically."
That does explain why he is managing to speak Japanese.
The ritual devised through the books you researched as well as the mysterious instructions floating around the Internet bypasses Gensokyo's metaphysical barrier, the one which only permits the forgotten and the dreaming to cross its borders, by utilizing the Dream World as a relay point, which causes the Border to recognize even those passing physically through as dreamers.
"That's interesting," He stares back at the abandoned shack, "I've been here at the same spot every night I dream for as long as I can remember. Sometimes a monster chases me, sometimes these fairies come out to harass me, but I never deviate from the same path. Every time I go to the village and stare at the mansion with the large statues out front, and every time I try to get in this old house, with no success."
You examine the door, and see that a magical seal has been placed on the door, similar to the one done by Nue on her box. "The mansion with large statues...that's the Hieda manor."
"Hieda...Hieda...I've heard of that name before. It's a...Ugh." He clenches his eyes shut, "It's like a faint whisper in the back of my head...I don't know."
"The Hieda clan has a special member: A girl who can die and reincarnate with all of her previous memories intact, at the cost of a greatly reduced lifespan. She serves as the historian for this land."
He ponders for a moment, then shakes his head, "It's all fuzzy, since I'm dreaming, I'm not sure one way or another. I do know that I must...go forward on something there."
"Now I'm curious. Hmm, you said you can't open this door, right?" You hold out your hand, "Hew!"
The pink beam strikes the seal, provoking a brief flash of light alongside the energy transfer, and with a loud creak the door slowly swings inward.
"Aw yes! Thanks man!" He happily yells as he runs in to the dimly lit room. A single wooden chest about the size of a minifridge, unlocked, sits in the middle, and he opens it without hesitation.
The container reveals its contents to be a massive pile of coins, mostly East Asian in appearance.
"You recognize any of these, man?" He holds out a handful. You look through them, and see that the inscribed characters have a huge variety. Some appear to be Chinese coins, while others appear to be Tokugawa-era coins. Notably, they are all gold coins.
"Looks like old currency, though since they're all gold I'm sure they're worth quite a bit no matter when they are from."
The man continues digging among the coins, "I still don't know, was I just here to gather treasure? I---wait, there's something else in here." He rummages a bit more and pulls out a copper scroll case. It contains a single scroll of well-worn parchment, an odd choice of paper in this part of the world.
"Go on, read it."
He hesitates, "Are you sure it's safe?"
"It doesn't look like a spell scroll, so go ahead."
The young man nods and opens the scroll with trembling hands, "To myself: You have cycled six times. If you are reading this, it means that you...."
He stops reading it aloud and his eyes flit through the lines with quickness and fervor, at the end of which he says "...and may you finally reach the end of the road where the bamboo blossoms."
"That explains it...that explains these dreams, these visions and false memories, my strange fascination with...ah. Assuming this is true, of course."
A smile slowly spreads on his face as he replaces the scroll and case and closes the lid on the chest. "You, my friend, do you know where all this gold comes from?"
"It is the accumulation of not just one lifetime, but many. Five men had sold all of their worth accrued over their meager existence for a pittance of gold, and stored it in here. All five of them died cold and forgotten, and all for what? All because the first one cursed himself in pursuit of a reckless romance, a brief glance at the bamboo flower."
You are familiar enough with the more common metaphors used in fanworks, and along with his previous statements you manage to piece together what he said almost immediately. "Oh my god, if what you said is true..."
"It doesn't matter, my friend." You see his form slowly shimmer and fade as he sits down clutching the chest, which fades along with him as he traces a previously unseen rune on it, "In a few moments I will awaken, and I will begin plans to cross over like you and ensure that this is the final cycle."
"Do you even remember her?"
"I do not, but it is not about love anymore, it's something for me to work for." His body is translucent at this point, "If I may ask a favor, could you keep her safe until then? I wish not to suffer another lifetime. Here, take this."
In the last moments of his fading form, he throws you a large gold coin, and then disappears completely.
You catch it on reflex, still staring at the space where the man once was. He is awakening now, somewhere Outside with a new fortune in his hands. Who is he? If you survive until then you may find out. The hero or villain of another story, perhaps.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure she's safe. I'll make sure everyone is safe."
"GOLD? GOLD! GOLD!" Lowe begins blaring its speakers as soon as you walk out with the gold coin in hand.
"No, my gold."
"NEED GOLD! NEED GOLD! SHINY GOLD! RICH GOLD!"
"You're a tank, what could you possibly need gold for?"
A brief pause, "CIRCUITRY."
"Eh." You toss the coin at Lowe, who promptly snatches it out of the air with its improvised claw from the hatch. "I don't need money that much anyway."
Seems like this tank actually has a personality.
"Now, on to Senkai."
Time: 10:30 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Senkai primary entry point. Threat Level: 1
Miko had constructed her dojo in a parallel dimension outside of Gensokyo. It is theoretically an unknown location like Yukari's house, but practically she needs to have some fixed entrances to have humans and supplies enter and leave. The largest one is an earthquake induced crack on one of the cliffs towards the south side of Gensokyo, on the mountain ranges where the Hakurei Temple sits. It is fairly close to the village, and from here a brief trek further southeast would reach the Southern Mines, a small settlement close to the Edge where most of Gensokyo's copper is mined. Going west and north would reach the dreaded Road of Reconsideration, and following that through the Youkai Mountain Range would lead you to Muenzuka. Going even further will technically lead you out of Gensokyo onto the banks of the Sanzu River, but that area is still within the Great Hakurei Barrier.
An yingyang symbol is painted onto cliff area above the entrance, and varius anti-youkai seals and charms have been inscribed onto the rock of the entrance. You pass through them with no incident. Lowe doesn't, but the tank simply ignores the blasts of magic fired at it and just pushes right through the magical barriers, causing them to shatter.
At least it didn't damage the inscriptions themselves. You think as you lead the tank through the lightless crack and emerge into a different world.
Time: 10:32 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Senkai Threat Level: 1
Senkai doesn't appear to be much different from Gensokyo proper. The sky of this place mimics the sky outside, and you would wager that it shares it much like how Gensokyo shares the sky with the Outside World. Unlike Gensokyo, however, the sky unnaturally curves down near the horizon, and next to you a stone fence marks the parameter of the zone. You experimentally toss a stone at the area outside of the fence, and see that it bounces off the "sky".
In front of you is the lavishly built Divine Spirit Mausoleum, which coincidentally looks nothing like what it did in the games. The roof is at least two tiers higher, and the golden statues that decorate the roof are moving, either through mechanical means or enchantment. The complex rivals the Myouren Temple in size, judging by what you can see from your position, though you only see a few people, older villagers mostly, hanging around in the courtyard you entered into. All of them are busy studying from their scrolls, and only give you and Lowe a curious glance before going back to reading.
Looks like these are the people who made it through Miko's selection process to begin hermit training.
You lead Lowe over to the main gate, and all of a sudden they slam shut. What looks to be an orb of lightning shoots over the roof, and crackles ominously before dissipating to reveal a single figure: A pale face, a green dress, and no legs. Under her dress is just a fat tail of ectoplasm.
"No youkai may enter the dojo grounds proper."
"Miss Soga, is it? Lowe is my friend, and I..."
"That is the rule of the dojo." She narrows her eyes, "Do not push me on this."
Friendship level: Low. Threat level: Very High. - Symposium of Post-Mysticism
[ ] "Come on. I need it to carry the shipment." [ ] "Sure, fetch a wheelbarrow." [ ] Push her. - [ ] Soga no Tojiko is a vengeful spirit, after all...
[X] "Sure, fetch a wheelbarrow." [X] "Making me haul everything will cost extra."
While I'm tempted to flex our vengeful spirit ability, it seems like needless antagonizing. Also, the vengeful spirits we do call may already be servile to us before we 'call' them, that doesn't mean every single vengeful spirit shares that servile will.
[X] "Sure, fetch a wheelbarrow." [X] "Making me haul everything will cost extra."
Tojiko looks like she has just eaten a rotten egg, "Extra? You dare demand extra?"
"It's fine," You push your luck, "We don't charge for delivery. I guess that if you don't want to use our free delivery service then I'll just deposit the shipment here. In this courtyard."
You can almost see the gears turning in her spectral mind. Do spirits have fleshy brains? You wonder.
"I need to consult with the sage." She flies back in to the temple, leaving you and Lowe awkwardly sitting in the courtyard. You take the opportunity to read some of the Eientei manuals you have neglected to study, while Lowe amuses itself by driving figure eights around the courtyard, much to the annoyance of the studying Taoists.
After about ten minutes, Tojiko comes back out, a dejected look on her face as she says, "Miko says that you can move your...vehicle into the temple, just this once."
"Thank you! Come on Lowe!"
The inside of the temple proper is fairly elaborate...and boring. As much as the Taoists and Buddhists love to argue with each other, you get the same stuffy and rigid impression from them. Sure Senkai is much more lavishly decorated than the Myouren Temple, replete with statues and carvings of mythological creatures done in stone, but it is still a temple. There isn't even the liveliness of the youkai around to make things interesting.
To a Westerner, yeah, this would be cool, but Gensokyo or not, Asian temples are boring.
Tojiko leads you over to a storehouse, situated near the back of the complex. "Load the medicines in there, on the west-facing side, got it?"
She departs and you start hauling the packages off of Lowe.
Seeing your actions, Lowe pulls out its mechanical arm and also proceeds to take put the packages onto the ground.
The Taoists' order consists largely of enchanted incense and a strange sort of sedative, said to calm the nerves of the aspiring hermit as their minds become more in tune with the Dao. Unlike the paper packs the Buddhists' medicine came in, these are packaged in locked wooden boxes.
"Mr. Wu?" Somebody calls you from outside.
"Yes?" You exit the room to see a woman dressed in a funny looking cape calling at you, "Oh, greetings Miss Toyosatomimi, is there anything you need?"
At this point, you figure that most people have heard of you already.
While the other women you've met can be described in a spectrum of cute and beautiful (including the villagers and youkai whose names you do not know), with nothing really below plain likely due to a combination of good genetics and magic interfering with said genetics, Miko is best described as handsome, one who is more suited for a podium than a picture. She was a prince, after all. The headphones and rather silly haircut ruins the charisma somewhat, which only emphasizes how much she could get away with and still look imposing.
"A pleasure to meet you. So, I heard a noise outside the lecture hall, and stuck in the wall was this thing with this note on it. The note says the card is yours."
You know without even looking what it is. Another iron card.
"Did you lose this strange spellcard or something?" she asks.
"No, Miss Toyosatomimi, it's complicated." You take the card, but before you have a chance to read it the card suddenly bursts into flame, the metal melting into white hot strands that crawl up your arm and disappear under your clothing, though you do not feel any pain despite seeing the glow and feeling the ambient heat. Detaching the exoskeleton and rolling up your sleeve, you see with horrified fascination that the metals has burned itself into your skin, adding on to the mass of scars that "Hew" turned into.
"Mr. Wu!" Miko had watched the event with a look of shock, "Are you alright? Was that...supposed to happen?"
"I think so. Somebody's been giving me these strange iron cards over the past two days, and apparently only I can use them. I don't know who it is and I don't know why. Also I don't know why they are burning into my skin."
The shikaisen takes a look at the scar pattern, and remarks, "So it is a mystery, hmm. Wait,” Without asking, she pulls your arm closer and traces one of the scars with her hand, her eyes widening in recognition, "I've seen this before...hold on."
Miko rushes back in to the temple, and returns with a set of antique Chinese books, "Seiga's notes," she explains, "Most of them are concerning necromancy traditions...so, have anyone else looked at them?"
"Yeah, the Myouren temple did and concluded that it is an oni spell."
"Well they are only half right...here." She finishes turning the pages and points to a drawing, "See this? It is the same collection of lines as the upper half of the spell on your skin. The other half I cannot recognize, but I'll assume that it is why they considered it an oni spell, judging by the harsh manners it is drawn."
"You seem to know an awful lot about this."
"Because the Tao demands that we study and improve magic to advance in divinity." Miko proudly states, "We don't try to empty our heads and souls like the silly Buddhists."
You look between your arm and the book, "So, what does it do anyway? I can't read antiquated Chinese."
Her face darkens, "That spell is not a spell normally used. It is a representation of and innate magical ability of a jiangshi: its ability to feed on the qi of a living being."
"I know that already, it drains spiritual energy. Isn't that an oni technique also?"
"Yes, but the way it is drawn, half this way and half as per the oni tradition, makes it quite strange. Also, the one that just burned into your skin looks like nothing I've seen before." Miko gives a sheepish smile, "That's the most I could help you with. Say, you have other cards, right?"
"Yeah." You pull out the other cards, "'Stop', a stasis spell as per the western tradition, and 'Call', which is an unusual one that summons vengeful spirits under my control."
Miko places her rod on her lips, "Can't help you with the western one, but 'Call'...never seen that one either, actually. Have you used it?"
"Indeed, the spirits it summons seem to be fully cooperative, and I can burn my own magical reserves to make them stronger, though they aren't really that strong compared to say, a twelve-year old." You elicit a guffaw from the sage, "Not that I could cast any other spells other than spellcards and these iron spells."
"You sure? I mean, the closest vengeful spirit is...you know."
She waves it off, "She'll understand."
"You asked for it." You raise the card into the air and shout "Call!"
Nothing happens for a couple moments, then with no warning the door behind Miko slams open and Soga no Tojiko flies out, giving you no moment to react as she punches you in the face, knocking the card out of your hand.
"YOU LITTLE RAT GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" She screams as you groan in pain on the floor. "ALL OF A SUDDEN I HEARD THIS VOICE SCREAMING FROM INSIDE OF ME: 'JOIN ME. VENGEANCE. JOIN ME.' AND ALL I CAN SEE IS YOUR STUPID FACE AND ALL I CAN THINK OF IS GOING TO YOUR POSITION."
"Settle down, Tojiko." Miko chuckles as she pulls the angry ghost back from you, "I had him do it, so if you want to blame someone blame me--"
Another smack, and you see Miko join you on the ground. Unfortunately for her she landed face first.
After both of you apologize to Tojiko and clean yourselves up, Miko says, "The engraved spell...Hew...is it? You want to see how it has changed?"
"Hew!" You fire off the spell at the ground, and as usual the pink laser does absolutely nothing when it does not hit something living. "If you could get somebody to act as a target then we could probably get something done here."
"Hmmph", She crosses her arms and raises her head, "You think your spell could actually hurt?"
"It worked on Ichirin and Unzan, and they seemed pretty hurt, plus with the new addition of the unknown card who knows what it can do?"
"Yeah, good point."
"Hey, Crown Prince." Tojiko calls from the side, "Why don't you listen to his desires? That might help you figure out if a curse or something is causing the strange cards to come to him."
"Miss Toyosatomimi, isn't that like a passive ability of your's?"
"These earmuffs are here for a reason," Miko says as she touches them, "While the ability to listen to the very nature of people is quite useful, it turns out that acquaintances frequently find it unnerving and invasive, not to mention irritating if I'm the only one talking, so normally I only listen to them if they consent."
"In that case, go ahead, I don't care."
Miko removes her earmuffs, and freezes. Her face bleaches white, and her fingers slacken, dropping the earmuffs. Tojiko almost immediately recognizes that something is wrong, and after taking a moment to look for threats in the area she determines that the listening is the issue and replaces the earmuffs.
"Crown Prince, Crown Prince! WU MING! WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?"
"I did nothing, I swear!"
The shikaisen blinks, and slowly stirs back out of shock. Ignoring Tojiko, she stumbles over to the railing by the side of the porch and vomits.
She coughs up the last contents of her stomach, and carefully wipes her mouth with a handkerchief before replying, "Wu Ming...I've listened to many people with no desires, and many with indecipherable ones. What I've heard from you...was a cacophony of screams, screams of the worst that humanity has to offer, decadent, horrifying desires that were never meant to be heard by anyone, a veritable transmission from the torture chambers of hell."
"And they aren't your real desires." Miko stands straight again, "Through all of that I sensed something else lurking behind the screams, and the screams themselves do not sound close to real desires now that I've thought of it. Strange, I've known about people who learned to shield their minds against satori, but never people who shield their desires." She gives a resigned frown and a shrug, "I didn't even know that was possible, considering that to do so one would have to literally perform the spell before they were even born."
The three of you decide against any further magical experimentation after this, and Miko retreats back into the temple to have catalog her findings, remarking "I guess I'll never find out what you are." Tojiko, suspicious of you after your mindfucking shenanigans, hangs around while you finish unloading the shipment.
You wave goodbye to the still angry ghost---her face still a frown even as she waves back---and depart back out of Senkai with Lowe. At the exit to Senkai, you check your pockets and pack to see if you've left anything. Gun, check, knife, check.... As usual you remove your spellcards from the pouch and look over them. Aside from the one burned on your arm you have two: Stop, and Call.
You check over the pouch again. Yes, you have two cards, both of them iron cards. There is a layer of ash at the bottom of the pouch, and you have a sinking feeling that it is what your gifted cards became.
Scanner Result: Toyosatomimi no Miko: 30% human, 70% divine
Time: 11:00 AM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Bamboo Forest Outskirts Threat Level: N/A
Lazarov carefully looks around the clearing for any sign of traps and ambushes, before carefully approaching the short, shady figure standing under the shadow of a large bamboo stalk.
"You have everything?"
"Of course I do. Master doesn't know, of course, but she wouldn't mind once your government holds up their end of the deal."
"Thank God. Once Mishaguji made his report about the new hostiles the men have been demoralized, seeing how our rifles barely managed to damage the low-tier armor we captured. I can only shudder to think what their elites will be like."
One by one, the boxes open, revealing piles of exotic weapons and armor.
"Your government agreed to give us quite a lot. The amount they paid means that this stuff is better than even what our own employees would get. Especially delivery boys."
The armor in the boxes are sleek and light, with only the faintest wires giving an indication that they are anything out of the ordinary. Lazarov picks one up, running the fabric through his fingers and raising an eyebrow at the fact that the metal breastplate on the suit feels just like the silk around it.
"Interesting, huh? The suit is composed of a combination of lunar spider silk and iridium nanites, with spells woven in on the molecular level to allow the nanites to harden in response to any source of damage, regardless of it being physical, chemical or thermal in nature." The short one eagerly explains, "The exoskeleton in this one is integrated into the fabric itself, with no need for clumsy metal levers or gears aid in your movement. The power supply on the back is a miniaturized fusion reactor, not a mere battery, and as such can be recharged with just water."
"Developed for the Lunar Wars, I suppose."
"Developed for the more paranoid nobles, actually. Any noble worth their salt in the Heavenly Court knows more than enough magic to kill somebody with little more than a few words, but defending against such an attack, especially when unaware, is a daunting affair for most of them."
Lazarov sets down the armor and pulls up the weapons, a boxy looking rifle with strange coils and bulbs decorating its exterior, "These are some strange guns you've got here. Looks like something straight out of a pulp sci-fi book."
"Probably because it is made by Nikola Tesla, one of those who the Master mentored in person, if only for a year. It is his infamous 'teleforce' weapon, made functional by technology millenia ahead of Earth's. In short this thing is a particle accelerator that fires tiny grains of tungsten, and while it can and will go through most anything it's not terribly strong. Still, that shouldn't be a problem for you super soldier types, right?"
"Tesla...that crazy scientist who talked with pigeons?" Lazarov asks with disbelief as he dons the belt satchel connected to the gun and turns on the switch, allowing the bulbs to light up and the weapon to faintly hum with energy. "He made THIS?"
"He designed it all by himself, after Master educated him appropriately, of course. Sadly the teaching only accelerated his madness and poor Nikola died before he actually constructed his design, so I decided to claim his blueprints and build it for him. Turns out it's actually a viable design!"
The spetsnaz captain takes aim at a nearby tree, and pulls the trigger. A blue stream of light shoots out, and he sees the beam go through the tree trunk and the trunk behind it. "Bozhe Moy! The boys would love this!"
"Another satisfied customer?" The dealer happily inquires.
"Satisfied? Not quite." Lazarov puts down the weapon, his face suddenly turning serious, "What did my government offer you for this anyway that you are willing to supply arms to us on such short notice?"
Her ears perk up, and a mischevious grin spreads across the face of the white rabbit, "Lady Yakumo does much more than just govern this land, you know. For one, she owns a delivery company in the Outside World, called Clear Sky International."
"What?" Lazarov knew of the company for quite a while, and even had a run-in with a couple of their mercenaries before. "Clear Sky is HER'S?"
"All I know is that it's more than just a delivery company, and she uses it to negotiate deals with powers on the Outside on behalf of Gensokyo and its residents. Your government had owed a favor to them a few decades by now, and your boss decided to cash it in with them after you guys radioed back last night. I simply renegotiated the terms to include more armaments in exchange for a few of their old rockets, that is all."
"Now it makes sense," Lazarov groans as he realizes how much work has gone down the drain, "All those intel ops that gave impossible and contradictory data, all those strangely affable agents...of course we are supposed to know that it's a front company for a place full of frilling girls firing flowery bullets."
"Isn't the world just full of surprises? Now, for you captain, I've managed to obtain something special." Tewi retrieves a briefcase from behind her, and opens it up to reveal a pair of ornate revolvers, not of any model that he recognizes. Both of them are painstakingly detailed with many sigils and runes engraved into the metal parts of the gun, an especially prominent engraving of the sun taking up a massive portion of the action on one of them, mirrored by the engraving of the moon on the other. The cylinders of the revolvers lack slots for the cartridges, and are instead implanted with five gems, each a different color.
"Tchyo za ga lima is this?"
"Something not manufactured by us or our affiliates. This is payment from the Scarlet Devil Mansion for a very special medical procedure we did for them," The white rabbit remarks as she picks up and shows off the sun-marked gun, allowing Lazarov to see that while she's holding it the cylinder twitches and spins erratically. "That western magician, Patchouli, crafted this weapon, and while she thought she was making a gun the end result is more of a fusion between a firearm and a spellbook. See the runes on the handles here?" She points out the previously unnoticed carvings on the wooden grips of the guns, "They can hook up with your magical circuit, allowing you to control what shot this baby will fire from the five replica philosopher's stones in it. It can also recharge from your armor's reactor"
She raises the gun up and takes aim at a large tree. "Metal: Penetrator."
A golden bolt of light shoots out, and on impact with the tree trunk it bursts into a large shard of metal that impales the thick trunk from one end to the other.
"Wood: Stun. Funny how much this element overlaps with the Western one it replaces. Wind is most noticeable in the woods, after all."
A green bolt of light shoots out, and on impact with the tree trunk it explodes as loud as a mortar shell, briefly deafening Lazarov.
This time the orange bolt of light causes the very ground itself to tremble and deform beneath the tree. Parts of the ground crack and sink, only to suddenly jut back out as large chunks of itself, sending dirt and rocks flying everywhere. Needless to say, the tree uprooted and fell as a result.
The red bolt causes an explosion of flame, and he sees the fire stick on the surfaces it impacts, like napalm.
The blue bolt causes an explosion of freezing water, smothering the flame and encasing the area in a layer of frost.
Tewi spins the gun and hands it handle first to Lazarov who gleefully grabs it, his eyes as wide as a child who had just opened his first Christmas present. "He...he...A spell gun, an actual spell gun, crafted by the legendary Patchouli Knowledge herself...I...I don't know what to say."
"Two spell guns. The sun variant is offensive, designed with longer range. The moon variant is defensive, with shorter range but a shotgun-esque shot." Tewi hands him the other gun, "Aside from the tungsten bars included as ammunition for the rifles as well as the accessories, that's the entire aid package. These would sell for billions outside, so take care of them, okay? Like I said we don't even give these to our own people."
"Shouldn't you though?" Lazarov asks as he carefully dons the holsters and gingerly places the revolvers in them. "He's been attacked by those cykas."
"We should, but then again he hasn't paid us the equivalent of two billion USD. Plus," Tewi gives a rather nasty grin "He's expendable."
NOT FILLER!Rifle!AK47hf008c2015/10/03 (Sat) 13:07No. 29963▼
Scarlet Devil Mansion it is then. Maybe Patchy can help you regarding the iron cards while you're there.
Now that Lowe is empty of a good portion of the shipment, there is now enough room atop of the tank for you to just recline and chill, only having to occasionally instruct the tank to change directions at crossroads. It is nice admiring the beautiful, untouched scenery of Gensokyo, its lush green woods that hum with the sounds of creatures both mundane and fantastical, the many itinerant streams that branch off of the main river in the land that freshen the hot summer air with their cool breeze, and the active skyscape populated by denizens flying to and fro. Everything here has a hazy, dreamlike quality, the light shimmers off of shiny things just a little too much, the diffusion of distant sunlight is a little too soft, and the colors are a little too saturated. According to the Guide it is the result of the fundamental way the Barrier works: Gensokyo is a dreamland, existing outside waking perception, which coupled with the physical barrier makes it all but impervious to trespassers.
Well, theoretically of course.
As most of the magically attuned in Gensokyo can fly, the roads are mostly reserved for horse-riding humans (The stables near the Village were enormous, you noticed, and are as ubiquitous as cars in the Outside World), carriages, and cargo haulers like yourself.
The fear of getting shot to pieces by fanatical teleporting knights, however, means that the roads are mostly empty, and the few travelers go out of their way to avoid you, seeing how you have apparently earned the enmity of the terrorists. The only exceptions are the military forces. Until about halfway to the SDM you have only seen Village Guard Patrols, dragoons wielding runed pistols and riding horses swathed in similarly enchanted cloth armor, which one of them demonstrated by bouncing several sword strikes off of it. The horses themselves also have sharp teeth, and their riders occasionally feed them pieces of jerky. They do not comment on this aspect.
Once you cross the sign that reads "Human Village Authority ends here." that sits among a thicket of other signs posted by both fairies and youkai youth, ranging from Japanese slurs and threats to a surprisingly well carved "ABANDON ALL HOPE YE HUMANS WHO ENTER HERE." The other side of the sign reads "Tengu Authority ends here."
You have Lowe stop on the border as you look around for anything similar to a customs post or a watchtower. Nothing, seems like this is mostly for administrative and spiritual purposes, namely to keep youkai separate from humans and therefore existing.
The roads become less maintained here, though no less well-worn, the hooves marks and wheel treads replaced instead by more footprints, both beast and humanoid. The density of the wilderness increases as you approach the shadow of Youkai Mountain.
Time: 12:30 PM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Misty Lake Threat Level: 4
Perhaps arriving at noon on the Misty Lake wasn't such a good idea. You had forgotten why it was called the "Misty" Lake, in that the lake is completely covered with mist around noon. Unfortunately, this also includes the shores of the lake.
"ERROR: SENSORS NEUTRALIZED. UNABLE TO DETECT DNAGEROUS TERRAIN."
Good thing you chose the Hunter Module for your suit's third slot though, otherwise you would actually have to talk with some of the locals for help to navigate this area. A simple toggle on it adds an echolocation overlay to the goggles, and allows you to guide Lowe easily through these mists without having to call for help from mermaids or "help" from fairies.
The module tags a few lifeforms moving around in the mist, flying slightly above the water or swimming just below the surface, though you cannot really see them. The echolocation in the helmet isn't sensitive enough to do more than discern solid terrain and large metal tanks from water.
"Come on buddy." You extend your arm out and talk to the tank, "If you could hold on to my arm or something I could..."
"THERMAL SENSOR SUFFICIENT IF YOU REMAIN WITHIN 5 METRE."
"Oh, okay then." Holding hands with a tank is stupid anyway.
Time: 12:45 Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Misty Lake West Threat Level: 4
Progress is slow, since even with the module you have to make sure that you don't lose your footing on the slippery path. Lowe, having caterpillar tracks, doesn't have this problem.
Somewhere along the way, however, you begin to hear something. Music, faintly at first, but as you listen closer it becomes more intense, as if the musicians have noticed your attention. Classical music, of course, rendered in the western tradition, but with a strange ethereal feel to it, similar to the airy inflections given off by Murasa and Tojiko.
You know very well what this is, of course. But should you?
[ ] Go check out the Prismrivers' Mansion [ ] Focus on the job
We can meet the primsrivers another time. Preferably on equal ground. Them using music to call us can either mean an equal chance of their way to protect/make us turn around forcefully or not, or an invitation to our death.
Entertainment can wait later. There's plenty of time to screw around in Gensokyo after the enemy is dealt with. Right now you should focus on finishing your job in order to reinforce Eientei later. Everyone could use another medic and tank, after all.
"Keep going, Lowe."
Time: 1:15 Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Scarlet Devil Mansion Front Gate Threat Level: 6
The mist thins out as you reach the paved path in front of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. In front of you the gothic architecture of the mansion looms, an imposing crimson structure jutting against the blue sky. It is every bit a mansion, and judging by the snarling gargoyles large enough to see even from this distance it is not one very hospitable to people.
"SDM! SDM! SDM! SDM!" You quietly chant to yourself as you approach the mansion. It does, in fact, house some of the most popular characters in Touhou, and you can wage that the library can contain information to
You near the entrance, where the mist clears out completely. In front of you is a black iron gate, spiky and imposing, and for some reason to the sides of the gate are somewhat imposing sandbagged firing positions, notably out of place compared to the elegant baroque architecture, which reminds you of old WWII photos. Interestingly though, they appear deserted, the water-cooled machine guns and stranger gem-based apparatuses mounted over the top unmanned.
The guard post isn't deserted, however. A particular red-haired gate guard is napping on the gate. Literally on the gate, dangling upside down from the bars and snoring loudly. Usually in doujins this situation would be very inviting towards flying knives to the face, but as you tell Lowe to halt and stop about twenty meters away and wait, no such funny incident happens. Her dress is largely as it appears in the games, with the Chinese style green dress and white pants. The only thing missing is the silly beret.
"Hey Miss Hong..." A rush of cold air suddenly catches you in your throat
A minute passes, and just as you finally work up the nerve to approach the gate the gatekeeper abruptly begins talking, her eyes still closed. "How long are you going to wait there?"
"Miss Hong!" You break out into a bit of a cold sweat. Why are you reacting like this over a relatively low level individual? You were chilling out with Reimu and Mima before! "I was, um, afraid of disturbing your nap."
"That's a strange reason to just stand there like a fool." She kicks backwards and lands on her feet, "Mr...Wu Zhen Guo, is it? If you are here for delivery you should be waking me..."
Meiling stops as she noticed that you've turned pale.
"How the FUCK did you know my name!?" You uncontrollably sputter out to her, "I haven't told anyone!"
"Whoa there, chill. It's nothing, call it a wild guess." She gives a disarming smile, "I mean, there's a billion of us and only so many names to go around, and you're notable enough that we know your last name is Wu, probably."
Those eyes... Despite her expression resembling that of a friendly, innocuous attendant, Meiling's eyes tell you a different story. They are aqua in color, like water, and her pupils are circular...too circular. The gaze she is giving you is a completely different meaning than the rest of her face. It is somewhat domineering and penetrating, and oddly reminds you of your mother's.
You feel naked and vulnerable, even though she pretends like there's nothing wrong as she casually swings open the heavy gates.
"You'll want to head straight for the main entrance. Just that way, and have your tank mind the flowers."
"T-Thanks, Miss Hong."
As you pass by her you feel your blood freeze and hairs stand up. What is wrong? Other than the fact that she somehow knew your name Meiling doesn't seem threatening at all, just an average youkai...
...Come to think of it, what kind of youkai is she anyway?
"Excuse me, Miss Hong?" You say as you only look at her from the side, careful to avoid eye contact. "As a...you know...Touhoufag, I've always wondered exactly what kind of a youkai are you, like, were you a human? Or..."
The sound of barely muffled laughter reaches your ears, "Yes."
"Yes. I am."
A sudden feeling of repulsion buffets you, forcing you onwards and away from the gate. It's not mind control, like what Reisen does to you, but a deeper, more primal impulse, as if your blood and muscle decided to betray you.
It is only when you stop at the entrance to the mansion proper that the feeling goes away, and you turn back to see that the youkai gatekeeper had returned to her post, as if nothing happened.
"What the fuck?" You mutter as you check Meiling's reading on the looted entity scanner.
"WHAT THE FUCK." You shout as you stare at the reading.
> Scanner result: 100% Divinity
Must be a fluke or something. Or maybe she really was a minor deity or something back in China. Probably the latter.
Sure doesn't feel like one though.
The mansion itself is fairly large, about four to five times the size of a typical country estate. Aside from the odd choice in building paint, it is fairly innocuous, with no sneering gargoyles or spooky statues tacked on to the exterior. Of course, when you have actual monsters inside of the building it would be silly to decorate your house with fictional ones.
"Hello?" You look up to see the door opening, and a white-haired woman pokes her head out. She notices the giant tank first, raises an eyebrow, and then relaxes as she looks over the bundled packages strapped on the tank's rear glacis plate as well as your Eientei armband, "Ah, we've been expecting this delivery. Servants!"
You watch Sakuya gracefully step out of the doorway, maid dress and all...hmm, looks like the DDC version of her outfit, with the pantyhose...and open the door wide to reveal a gaggle of fairies, all dressed up in maid uniforms, who fly out somewhat reluctantly and grumbling. A wave of her hands sends them swarming over the tank, untying ropes and with great difficulty lifting packages, often taking three or more of them to handle a single one. You remember that you are equipped with an exoskeleton and still had some trouble with them, and these fairy maids are only about half the size of a person at best.
"Miss Izayoi? I presume?"
"At your service." Sakuya bobs a curtsy, a welcome break from the Eastern courtesies you have been engaging in the past week. "You must be Mr. Wu."
She's clearly human, as her eyes aren't warped in any way and her gaze is non-threatening, as opposed to everyone else who looks at you like food even if they are friendly, including Reimu. The hair one her head is silvery-white, the same tone as Keine's. Her motions as she executes the small bow are unusually fluid and far more coordinated and natural than even trained dancers, though that may be because of some sort of supernatural longevity. How that came to be, you have no idea, and you are in no real position to ask without inviting trouble.
"Indeed. I am supposed to deliver and stock the alchemical reagents you ordered, so you need not trouble the other maids..."
"Do not worry about that Mr. Wu," Her voice is cheerful, but awkwardly so, like a thin veneer of sugar over a block of ice, "Hauling is one of the few tasks they can really handle by themselves, and they really should work for their meals every once in a while, do you not agree?"
Normally looking at the small fairies struggling and moaning under the weight of the ingredients would cause people to disagree and help them, but you seem to have lost the empathy necessary to do so.
"Please, come into the foyer. Have you partaken in lunch as of this time?" She politely asks as she leads you into the mansion interior.
"I'm afraid that I cannot do that, Miss Izayoi. It would be rude to exploit the hospitality of a customer." You bite your lip as you say the typical Asian gift rejection line, "Just something to drink and re-hydrate would be fine."
"Rest assured it is no trouble to us. The acolytes have finished their lunch recently and there are plenty of tea and refreshments leftover."
You take a few seconds and mull over that sentence. Is she intentionally offending you in some way by offering you leftovers? You look at Sakuya, and see her keep up a stoic expression, betraying
On the flip side it is free food, leftovers or not, and offering them is still a charitable action, though that itself could be construed as...
Nah, it's free food. You don't say no to free food.
"In that case, I would be grateful."
Sakuya leads you down the halls, passing walls painted pleasant shades of maroon and luxurious lamps that look to be gas-powered. Fairy maids can be seen doing menial labor in open doors and down adjacent halls, such as sweeping and dusting, though they do it clumsily and not with effort. A quick sweep with the entity scanner reveals "100% nature", which is expected. Every so often, however, you see people, clad in uniform cargo pants and an odd-looking tight robe, dart to and from, carrying books and what look to be chemical ingredients in glass containers from place to place. Some have black wings jutting out from their backs, others do not.
"Miss Izayoi, you mentioned 'acolytes'?"
"Lady Patchouli had taken in students from the Village and Youkai Mountain who study and work here." She pauses as one of them walking in front of us suddenly trips and yells, sending his tray of potions flying. Suddenly your stream of consciousness disjoints for a brief moment, not long enough to be quantifiable, and Sakuya disappears from your side. She had changed position to the front of the panicked acolyte, the tray now held perfectly on her right hand with the potions lined up neatly, and you look with astonishment to see that not a single drop had been spilled.
"Be more careful next time, Mr. Shogo." She says as she hands it back to the student, who eagerly nods his head and lets out a relieved "Thank you Lady Izayoi!" before going back to his delivery.
You whistle, "That was cool."
"They really ought to be more careful." She remarks as she straightens her apron, "It is not in my place to question Lady Patchouli, but hiring so many fresh acolytes altogether...her poor familiar is the only one also engaged in educating them, and to think that they are also handling a work order from the Yakumos!"
"A work order from the Yakumos?"
"Mass magical inscriptions and alchemical processing. Most of the herbs shipment we ordered from you are going towards the production of various unguents for what they say is 'industrial' use, same goes for the scrolls and runes they ordered. Ah, here we are," She opens the double door at the end of the hall, revealing a large dining hall. "Just let me take a moment to prepare the food."
You can't help but give a forced smile as the food appears literally in the blink of an eye, perfectly laid out and prepared. A steaming silver kettle sits atop a carved coaster, and Sakuya carefully pours the blood red tea out from at least half a meter above, going as far as to make it a show by doing it backhanded. The plate is piled high with sandwiches, delicately decrusted, but un-delicately stuffed full of meat, fish and vegetables. You notice that the meat is quite red, like everything else in this place.
The windows are tinted red, what few of them there are given how the proprietor is a vampire. The tablecloth is a very light shade of pink, but still noticeable. The plates are white, but not the coasters, and the lights shining above seem positioned solely to accentuate the contrast.
"If you may excuse me, I have other matters to attend to." She says as she finishes pouring, "One of the fairies should inform you when they are done unloading the packages."
You suddenly remember why you chose to hit the SDM first, "Miss Izayoi, I've heard in the Village that the library here is available for a fee, is that valid?"
"Of course, it is..." She suddenly shifts out in a burst of white, then blinks back a few seconds later, "I apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Wu, but the library is unavailable for now. There was a...spill. Can you come back in about an hour or so?"
"Yeah, no problem."
[ ] Just stay in the dining. [ ] Head up to the clocktower. [ ] Head out to the gardens [ ] The mansion has an indoor pool, might as well check it out [ ] Wander around aimlessly Yeah, no.
Funny, you were sure you got the scanner pointed towards Sakuya multiple times, but it still gives you the "Need living being" error like when you point it at yourself.
Ah, the gardens of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. It's rather woefully underused considering that half of the masters of the mansion are adverse to sunlight for one reason or the other. Perhaps for the benefit of the fairies, or more recently the acolytes, the gardens are very well-maintained, though you don't really have any idea how well they actually are given the scarcity of even artistic depictions of the SDM's grounds.
As it turns out, they are really pretty.
Naturally, being a very gothic establishment, the plant life in the gardens is dominated by tall, foreboding hedges, thorny rosebushes, and trees just thick enough to conceal potential predators but not thick enough to hide behind. However, you can tell that they are very well-cared for, and in between the hedgerows you can see that there are luscious beds of flowers of every color spectrum, colorful even by Gensokyo standards.
A fairly large fountain dominates the center of the gardens, its dark stonework appropriately depicting gargoyles and angels. On the edge of the water, just on the slate you see a red-haired figure seated, focusing intently on something in her hand. As you get close you can see it is some sort of black slate-like object.
"H-hello Miss Hong." You swallow the unnatural apprehension that takes hold when you get close to her.
"heh, classic Ni-Tian...Oh, hi there, Zhen Guo." She turns her head towards you, and the sight of her eyes sends you back a step, "Taking a walk in the gardens?"
Of all of the people in Gensokyo for you to be fearful of, it's the one commonly used as comic relief that gives you the heeby-jeebies. Sure Shou's tiger form is pretty scary, but it's more of an instinctual animalistic fear. Even when the strange terrorists attack you didn't feel fear as much as run-of-the-mill stress, given how much faith you have in Eientei armor and shielding.
But Meiling, a youkai that outwardly looks no different from a regular human, is making your heart thump and your hair stand. There's nothing threatening about her, you tell yourself. She's just a normal person for all intents and purposes, you tell yourself.
And then she looks at you, with those eyes.
They are human eyes. But oh god are they so much more. It's not really describable, but there's just something OFF about them that makes you tremble.
"No-No-I mean, yes." You stutter out. "Sakuya told me the fairies are unloading the shipment, slowly, so I can do whatever while I'm here. The library is closed, so..."
Meiling pats the section of fountain edge next to her, "Please, come have a seat. You told me that you are a fan of...this land."
You find yourself beside her before you realized your legs were moving, "Y-Y-Yes, that is the case." Suddenly your eyes catch that the slate she is holding is glowing, "Wait a minute, is that a satellite phone?"
"Yes it is." She responds, tapping away at the keyboard, "The Yakumos have to contact us somehow while outside, so according to them they stuck a satellite in the uppermost physical point of the border, within Heaven, and we're using that for these phones."
Currently she's texting somebody, and as you have an unhealthy capacity of curiosity you look over despite fear both social and existential. The conversation is in Chinese, and the few glances you can catch from the screen include the words "rule" and "control" on there.
Despite your efforts to avoid attention, she still catches your interest, "You want to use the phone?"
"What? No, no." You raise your hands against her and back away slightly, "That would be uh...rude, Miss Hong, and you know what the Guide to Gensokyo says about leaking."
Without warning, Meiling chucks the satellite phone at you, and you barely manage to catch it. "Pfft," She giggles, "Your generation and your etiquette. It's nothing. Besides, Border's opening up quite soon so I doubt the Yakumos would care. Who are you going to talk to? The BBC? Heh."
"Well my parents said I was supposed to call them every week, and I haven't done that yet." You switch to the numpad, resisting the urge to bring up the messaging inbox, and dial.
The usual delay for the international dial time passes, and some more given its satellite use. Your eyes widen in slight surprise as the call is picked up and you hear your mother answer in her distinctly bad English. "Hello? Who is this?"
"Hey Mom! Zhen Guo here." You answer in Chinese. Glancing over at Meiling, you notice that she seems more than a bit interested.
"Oh, it's GuoGuo!" The red-haired youkai lets out another giggle, and you subconsciously hold the phone closer, "How is Japan? Last I heard you were going camping with friends in the Yatasugatake Mountains! Oh, do they have cellphone reception there?"
"Yeah, it's Japan after all. Not a very big place."
"Ah, but I see you are calling from a number not your own. I thought you were using a special landline of some sort."
You suddenly freeze at this harmless question. Should you admit that a friendly stranger provided you with a satellite phone, or should you lie and say that it was a landline instead? Neither choice is looking very good, and who knows what you'll offend...
"A friend I met provided me with this satellite phone." Your mouth suddenly blurts out.
"A satellite phone?" Your mother sounds curious, "From a new friend?"
"Yeah, her name is Hong Meiling." Your mind is in full panic mode, but you just can't keep your mouth from stopping. It seems as though the muscles have decided to move of their own accord. "Do you want to talk with her?"
Meiling gently plucks the phone from your numb fingers. "Hello? Miss Chang?"
How does she know your mother's name too?
You can't really hear what she is saying, but she seems to be chatting as happily as any middle-aged Asian lady would from one to another, which is disconcerting considering how she looks like she's in her late twenties at best. They talk for about two minutes, and Meiling hands the phone back to you.
"Zhen Guo?" Your mother doesn't sound the same as before, "I see...you've made a strange friend."
"She seems very..." Your mother's voice is trembling with fear and panic, "Very...V-Very generous."
"Yes, that seems to be the case here..."
"It's fine, it's fine. Don't want to be using up too much of her time, so have fun! Bye!" Completely uncharacteristic of her, your mother crams a sentence into five seconds and hangs up immediately after.
You hang up on your end and wordlessly pass the phone over to Meiling. The red-haired youkai's friendly smile has grown larger, almost uncomfortably so.
"No problem. Always glad to be of aid. So, you were going to ask something before?"
You were going to ask her about what she really was, then thought better, "Miss Hong. You were a Chinese youkai, right? Why did you move here? The hermit Seiga Kaku, as far as I know, moved here in order to help her old pupil. Did you have a similar attachment?"
"If you really want to know." She lies down on the side of the fountain, "It is because they did not want me anymore."
"It started with the Three Sovereigns, but really they weren't too bad. What really drove me out was...Kong Qiu," She spits out Confucius's name like an oversalted sunflower seed, "He spread the idea of order and harmony above all, the damned milquetoast. As if that wasn't enough the Taoists came along with their vision of slavery to the heavens and soon all of China became a pile of simpering whelps, fearing what's above them and never questioning. Oh sure there are great heroes here and there, but more often than not they maintain the current system until it rotted away, collapsing under mindless violence before erecting another one. In a country like that, what need do they have of calamity? Of change?"
"You were a youkai of calamity?"
"Somewhat, yes. More properly a minor god, one never really respected even when my influence was at its zenith. People were all too busy praying and weeping to the gods of harvest, of rain, of happiness...Not that I can fault them."
"Wow, I never realized you were that old. Well...nobody outside actually knows anything about you. Your character title is 'Chinese Girl' and there' no other real info."
At least the calamity-causing Giant Catfish in Hisoutensoku kind of makes sense now. You figured that ZUN probably did that to poke fun at her.
"There is a reason for that." Meiling kicks herself up from her reclining position and flings forward, landing and balancing on the gargoyle on the fountain's tip. "I've technically already told you way more than what I should have, and there's an even better reason why a 5000 year old minor god is working gatekeeper duty for a vampire a tenth of her age."
You let out a nervous chuckle, "I don't suppose you'll tell me?"
"Maybe, maybe not. It might become necessary, it might not be. Like I said I've already told you too much, and that's only because you're cute."
Blood flushes and cheeks redden. You look away in embarrassment.
"I would hardly call myself that..." You barely squeak out.
You feel a hand ruffle through your hair, "Most of you humans are, really, running around like adults when none have even seen fifty winters. It would be nice to be young again, just barely learning how to manipulate my rock---Hmmm?" You turn to see her flip back upright and gaze over in the direction beyond the mansion's garden wall, saying "That is odd..." before jumping off and gliding over.
"What's odd?" You get up and run after her, grappling yourself up with the Lunarian fishing line and peeking over the wall. "Oh."
The lake surface close to where the two of you are looking from is bubbling like crazy. More than what you would expect even if the water was boiling.
"I'll take that that is not normal."
"Obviously. Is the Master of the Lake performing some sort of ritual down there? Normally it's just a plume of...GAH!"
A massive black object shoots out from the water at the speed of a bullet train. You duck right as it flies over your head, and crashes into a flowerbed full of Azalea blossoms, sending dirt clods and plant matter flying everywhere.
"MY WORK!" You hear Meiling howl in horror.
As you detach and jump down from the wall, carefully keeping your energy shield activated and raised. You notice that the garden destroyer appears to be a heavily converted APC, it's entire form slathered with what appears to be black paint and the wheels missing. Looking closer you just manage to catch sight of red tendrils retreating inside of its body. Familiar looking red tendrils.
"It's the terrorists!" You cry out. Almost immediately after you hear a massive explosion go off in the distance towards the opposite of the mansion, and an entire side of the vehicle pops open.
You remove the warhammer from its sheath as you see the familiar shining armor on the vehicle's six occupants. One of them has a bulkier version of the armor, and a gold trim decorates the plates on it. You hear a mechanically processed male voice call out in English, "Let's go! Let's go!" as that one waves the others out.
He then stops as he turns his helmet towards you. You suck in a cold breath.
"Hold, brothers and sisters! It's the murderer! Take him down, now!"
"Zhen---Wu Ming!? Are these the ambushers Mishaguji reported earlier today?" Meiling asks as she jumps down beside you.
"You?" The knight captain looks over and pauses for a few moments, as if struggling to remember what she is, "Stand aside! We have no quarrel with an ignorant gate guard."
Meiling tilts her head and crosses her arms, "You have broken into our property and are threatening our guest here. What makes you think I am going to permit that."
"I see. This human girl has fallen under the thrall of the vampiric youkai in this mansion. Restrain her first..."
"Ahaha, Meiling," You can't help but laugh even in this situation, "They've forgotten that you are supposed to be a youkai."
The red-haired gatekeeper doesn't look amused, however. She looks irritated as two of the knights run over to grab her.
"Well then." She doesn't really resist as they hold her, "You've got me, now what are you going to do with Zh...the Wu boy?"
"He must pay for his murders against us."
"YOU FUCKERS TRIED TO KILL ME FIRST!"
"You willingly served in an armed force against our righteous cause and murdered our scouts in cold blood!" The leader almost sounds angry, "Now, you must answer with servitude or blood of your own..."
"Hell no! Lowe! Call!"
The tank can't actually hear you, but you figure that when a fight breaks out it'll come over anyway, hopefully. The spirits may or may not take a bit, and they may or may not be of use.You draw the hammer and power up the shield, knowing that if they try to engage at range you can pelt them with Hew or the Lunarian Bow, and if they get close...well a single hammer blow should be enough. Against these numbers though...
"Your misguided and selfish acts stop here, dog of Eientei! Puppet of Clear Sky! You will..."
"Shut up." A sudden burst of rainbow light, and Meiling stands unrestrained, her two former captors lie supine at her feet, struggling to get up. "That's it, you will not touch him. You will not spill one drop of my blood, or take one ounce of my flesh."
The surrounding knights step back, and raise their guns. Sleek black constructions inlaid with silver parts, they resemble no gun you've seen before. In fact, they look more like the result of a steampunk convention crashing into a cyberpunk one, what with the very futuristic look combined with obvious and blocky external mechanisms. These aren't the guns that shot at you last night, these ones have calibers normally for killing truck engines.
"I said we had no quarrel with you, gatekeeper!"
"Did water get in your ears, swine?" Her expression is not just one of irritation, it is of anger. "You will not touch him. You will not spill one drop of MY blood, one chunk of MY flesh."
"Miss Hong..." Your mind suddenly pieces together the hints she's been giving you, "Oh my god."
The overwhelming, anxiety-striking fear you felt when you laid eyes on her. It's not the fear of the unknown, or of primal terror.
It was the fear of duties burdened, expectations gone. It is the fear tied into filial love.
"It's not unusual." She says as she shifts into a martial stance, "It's been quite a while, as you know, and those who bear my blood must number in the millions by now. In fact, it is not hard to find somebody in the world who doesn't have a single drop of a blood of a divine. Huanglong's blood flowed through every single imperial line, for instance."
"A demon in human guise!" One of the other knights yell out, and even through the processing you can hear heightened emotions. He raises his gun and fires a shot, hitting Meiling directly on the head as it snaps back from the impact.
"Anti-youkai bullets? Quaint." You see that her skin had shorn off, and something multicolored is revealed...a hard rocky looking texture, "Run child, save yourself. I can handle them."
"Not happening." You are speaking in part due to the filial shame her mere presence is invoking and in part due to your personal irritation, "I'm armed. And I'm not having somebody else fight my battles for me. Especially not my ancestor."
A proud look comes over her face. "It seems that even after all these millennia some trace of my blood can still boil to the top. Very well then!" A rainbow burst engulfs your form, "Go! Let your rage boil to the brim! Let them know that they are facing a true son of the old China!"
Your blood burns and your flesh twitches. Your senses are overwhelmed by an alien, ancient feeling. Not a human emotion, but a greater desire, a desire generally represented in philosphies and religions as a higher goal to be achieved, a higher ideal to be reaching for. You sense her's flowing in your blood, the change, the turmoil, the price to be paid for people to slough off chains of habit and stagnation and be renewed.
And of course since you are just a human all of it simply translates into an unbridled frenzy as it passes through your brain.
[ ] MAIM [ ] KILL [ ] BURN
Is the mystery solved? Is the drop of her blood in your veins that is the source of the strange magic being granted to you?
You do note, even in your frenzy, that the strange scars inflicted by the iron cards have not been affected or changed one bit in response. The cards as well as the scars, as you noted previously, are also in Japanese, not Chinese.
You sidle up against your ancestor as the enemy hesitantly forms up a half circle with their guns pointed towards you. Weapon readied and the incantation and the forefront of your mind, the only thing the frenzy left in the higher reasoning part of your mind is the desire to see them all consumed in flames. Magical flame? Metaphorical flame? Who cares?
It’s not like different flavors of frenzy matter anyway.
“Isn’t it nice?” Meiling’s voice rumbles. It is not a human voice or even a humanoid one, but you instinctively recognize it as her voice regardless. “All of my years here laying low, fighting only playful bouts with friends and fairies. I may be a tad bit rusty however.”
“Why didn’t you do so before?”
“Because humbleness is both a virtue and an asset, child. Stature and strength is not something to be flaunted like what Kong Qiu said…Now!”
With an unseen, the enemy collectively fire smoke grenades from their rifles, blocking you from seeing anything more than five meters in any direction as you hear footsteps quickly pitter-patter away. Apparently this is special smoke, since your Hunter module is unable to pick up any signs of their movement.
“Rats who think they could hide, undeserving of that fancy armor.” You see her scan the surroundings. “Anti-magic shrouds can only do so much against gods. They’ve scattered into the garden, seeking to use their camouflage to ambush us.”
“Can’t we just…burn them out?”
Your ancestor gives you a soft smack in the back of the head, eerie in that it was felt through the helmet despite being so light. “It’s my garden. I’m not wasting it over some rats. They realized they’ve tried to swallow the plum whole and are not willing to choke on it, but that does not mean they won’t try to keep the plum.”
It takes a moment for your burning mind to recall the idiom she is using, “That means they might try to cut the plum, however…”
A sudden whistling, and a millisecond later your ears are ringing with the sound of an explosion at point blank range. When you open your eyes though, you are unhurt, and you see some kind of rainbow material in front of you crumbling to the ground in pieces and drifting back towards Meiling’s hands, which you see is colored the same.
“A grenade? They’re dumber than I thought. Zhen-Guo! Your right!”
You extend your hammer arm in a clawing motion,, and is rewarded as the knight charging you firing its gun at full auto in one hand and a black knife in the other is caught off-guard by the sharp end of the warhammer and dragged face-first into the ground by your frenzied strength.
“HEW, ASSHOLE!” The magical tracer travels through your right hand and onto your hammer. You feel the new scarred ritual, the one acquired at Senkai, burn as the tracer touches bleeding flesh, and a veritable river of lifeforce courses into you in a euphoric wave, accompanied by violent screaming as the enemy feels his very essence being burned away.
The shoulder piece breaks off, and he quickly tries to scramble away. Midway through getting up Meiling swoops down snatches him up by his neck and holds him as he kicks and struggles.
“Let him down, demon!” A modulated voice rings out, followed by the crackle of large caliber machine gun fire. A hail of bullets sails past your head at Meiling, and she raises an arm to cover her head. The caught knight kicks back in the distraction, and drops down.
Unfortunately for them, your Hunter’s module is fully capable of triangulating the origins of projectiles, and they are quite surprised indeed as you charge out of the smoke and through a hedge and hurl a fire bomb at a pair of the knights. Shoving one down with your shield in the sudden charge, you repeated swing your warhammer at the other one. To your frustration, however, the fire burning on them doesn’t seem to have much effect and the knight evades or parries every single of your untrained strikes.
“In a true fight you are no match for any of us!” He (or she, you can’t tell with the heavy distortion) cries out as he counterattacks with a lunge with a black knife. The knife ignores your armor entirely as it bites into your arm, forcing you to gasp in pain and recoil, the frenzy in your brain giving way to animal instinct. The other knight that you shoved to the ground is getting up, though slowly.
“And that’s why I bring friends.” You reply between your wheezes as you sense something non-living approach.
Somewhat late, the vengeful spirits decided to show themselves in quite a clever manner. Emerging from the ground like horror movie zombies, the robed specters grab on to the knight like leeches. Even though they don’t seem to weigh much as the knight does not get dragged down (or rather their exoskeletons are reasonably strong), it is clearly being harmed, as it staggers backwards while muttering through its voice box “Cold! Cold!”
This opening allows you to launch a swift blow to its head, and the warhammer discharges off the blunt end in a crackle. The helmet visible dents, though not much, but enough for the knight to crumple to the ground.
”Sorry, leader, we can only fly so fast.”The one, which you recognize as the one you actually summoned initially, quickly says.
“It’s fine. Take the other one.”
Suddenly, you hear gunshots, and the vengeful spirit howls in pain before collapsing into a puddle of what you presume to be ectoplasm. Reacting to the red flash on your HUD, you bring the warhammer back in a full swing, catching the knight’s gun while the owner is confusedly saying “Wait, it should have exploded!” The warhammer hadn’t time to charge, but your own exoskeleton’s strength and the opening allows you to hook the gun away. You draw back for another swing, but the knight catches your hammer by the handle with its bare hands.
“A kinetic impact weapon. Interesting. It has flaws, however.” As usual, the tone is indecipherable due to the voice modulation.
“Why are you guys talking shit in combat?” You wonder out loud, “Hew!”
The pink light arcs down your hammer, but stops at the knight’s glove as white runes shine in response, dissipating the tracer.
“Stop.” The iron spellcard you kept in your left armsleeve activates as you point it at the left side of the knight. Unfortunately, you misjudged the distance, and the stasis field consumes your right arm as well as the knight. You feel a sudden burst of numbness as the spell propagates down your nerves and blood vessels to prevent injury, and then everything snaps back to normal.
The knight didn’t appear to notice and it takes the opportunity of your hesitation to stab you in the abdomen, just barely missing a direct hit in the vitals, “No. I will not stop. I…what!”
Both you and the knight are surprised as the remaining two spirits grab it from behind. It turns out that the few seconds of delay were enough for them to reposition themselves behind the knight.
Their ghostly grasp shocks the knight enough for you to wrest the hammer free of its grasp, and once again smack it unconscious.
“Good job.” You take a moment to catch your breath and look at the remains of the vengeful spirit. “We lost one though.”
“No. We are no longer common spirits. We have purpose. If we have purpose we will come back.”
“Ah, like actual movie ghosts then. Cool.“ You’re still not quite sure what the purpose they are talking about is, but free lackeys are never a bad thing. The immediate visible area appears to be clear. “Hide and follow. Strike on my command.”
“Done.” They both answer in unison as they sink back into the ground.
You can hear gunfire, but they are more distant than what you expect. You run past the original encounter zone, now empty, and note with alarm that the APC they came in on has disappeared. Going as fast as your exoskeleton can carry, you sprint and bash through row after row of hedges with your shield until you come upon what can best be described as an imminent party wipe.
The head knight, wielding a very heavy and mechanized looking shield as well as a strange-looking sword that gives off a heavenly gold light, is dueling Meiling, who is still fighting with bare fists. She looks worse for wear, with her clothes in tatters and larger parts of her skin shorn off to reveal the rainbow-colored…whatever underneath. Two of the remaining knights are down, their armor cracked and dented, and the paladin (you decide that he might as well be one at this point judging by appearances) is losing ground, as each punch and kick impacts with the force of a hurricane.
“Two down…where’s the last one?” Your sensors detect a life sign hidden behind the garden wall, “There.”
[ ] Hold position
[BATTLE FRENZY] Assault
Not willing to allow it to somehow tip the scales in the duel you are seeing, which you can’t really intervene given how fast and hard the blows are and how rapidly they are changing positions, you decide to persecute the last knight.
As you get close enough and launch a grappling hook up the wall, you notice that the life sign is behaving oddly, as if it is getting larger. You stop, and carefully examine it. Yes, it is getting larger, and looks like…FUCK!
“Go, Malphy!” Is the phrase yelled by the remaining knight as he leans over the wall while the fleshy red abomination, a slightly, and smaller version of the one you fought in the bamboo forest emerges over the wall and flows towards you.
This one doesn’t smell like rotting meat though, but gives off instead a strong scent of roses. You don’t really think about the information as you panic, scream and turn in the opposite direction.
“Zhen Guo!” Meiling screams as she notices what’s happening, allowing the paladin to disengage and leap back several meters. You try to run, but even with your exoskeleton’s extraordinary speed you cannot make more than a few steps before the fleshy tide catches up and loom over you. Red tendrils snap out and latch onto your arms and legs, stopping you dead in your tracks and shaking your head around from the whiplash.
“Now we got him!” The head knight exclaims in joy, “Your interference has not been successful, demon!”
“As if!” She snarls and charges at the abomination, which in response extends a tendril around your neck.
“Stop! You move another inch and Malphy will tear your bloody murderer friend in two!” Is the yell of the knight who is over the wall, and pointing its gun at Meiling.
“EEE!” You let out a little whimper as the tendrils find their way around the exoskeleton and you feel its slimy form clasp around your windpipe.
Meiling groans, and holds up her hands.
“Very good, Agent Dolson!” The paladin congratulates as he places his sword on Meiling’s neck as she gives him the most hateful look you have seen to date. “Bring them into the mansion. The demons within will surely surrender if they see that their friends have been defeated.”
“But sir!” The knight…agent?...Dolson answers back. “Should we not tend to our wounded first?”
“Their life signs are stable and their phasing devices functional.” You realize that the paladin at least is saying these things out loud rather than over private comms to minimalize your efforts. “We have won here, and we need to aid our other teams in the mansion first. Apparently some sort of steel monster has been-----what was that?”
Even in your restrained state, you also hear the rumbling, then a crash. Then a sudden sound of static, the sound of a speaker turning on.
“IRON WING HAS RE-ENTERED THE BATTLE.”
The mansion wall behind you suddenly explode outward, and a huge, familiar steel monster jumps out and skids in front of you with a monstrous crunch, squashing the tendrils and letting you fall to the ground, gasping for air. You hear a wet squishy roar as the fleshy mound rears up to engulf the tank.
Lowe raises its cannon, and instead of a shell it spews forth an enormous gout of green flame, burning the pseudopods to ash as they move in. To your dismay, however, you see that the flame is slowly getting smaller, and there is still plenty of mass to burn through.
“DAMNATION.” Wait, did Lowe just swear? “HELP!”
At this point several observations you’ve made before comes into prominence and intertwine in your head. Your signature life drain could be used both offensively and defensively. Offensively in terms of draining life from living beings and defensively to drain life from yourself to help other living beings.
So why not both at once?
To everyone’s astonishment, even apparently the abomination’s as it did not react for a moment as you clamber onto Lowe, and send the Lunarian fishing line directly into the abomination’s mass.
“HEW!” You yell at the top of your lungs as the spell travels down the line and reaches the abomination’s unprotected surface. A surge of life travels into you, and focusing on the tank beneath you, you cry out once again, “HEW!”
A strange and alien double sensation overcomes you. The relief of the stolen life is constantly torn away by the unbearable pain of your own life being torn away to aid Lowe. The flame turns pink and it grows stronger.
For about ten seconds. Then the pain overwhelms the relief and, combined with your already sustained wounds, causes you to lose control over the spell and fall on the turret. Lowe’s fire continues, but is now clearly being pushed back by the abomination’s mass.
Looks like this is the end of the line. Your tired mind thinks to itself. Maybe Reimu can save me after this, but who knows what will happen once…
The paladin looks on at the scene. In the panic one the tank’s arrival he had cut the throat of the demon just in case. Agent Dolson, despite his rebellious and provocative demeanor is very good at training these warbeasts, and the tank had been defeated by one before.
“Come on, I believe in you, just…”
A swift blow to the back of his head sends him flying ten meters away and through a wall. The rainbow colored demon stands behind him, looking in the same direction and just a bit different in form.
“I really hope nobody outside sees this.” Says one of her two heads as the other one screams out a command. Not a spell, a command.
“Open the gates!”
A burst of multicolored light shines by the side of your eyes, but you are too focused on your impending doom to notice what it is. The flame sputters out and dies, and the abomination begins engulfing the barrel of the tank…
…and promptly has its remaining mass smashed to pieces by a solid pillar of water that descended out of nowhere. A lightning bolt, with a delayed peal of thunder, smashes down with the water and fills your eyes with white light, blinding you for the better part of a minute as your eyes feel like needles. When you barely manage to force them open again, the abomination is reduced to smoldering pieces on the ground, well boiled and letting off a surprisingly pleasant sent of boiled rose petals.
“YOU KILLED MALPHY!” You see the remaining knight run at Meiling, firing his gun wildly to no avail. The redhead pretends not to see him until he is within reach, and suddenly grabs him in a chokehold and slams his face into the dirt.
“Stop talking.” In a blur, you see her other hand lash out in a series of pointed strikes on his back, and Dolson stops flailing.
"You know, I've never asked you this, but do you have a name you would prefer to be called by?"
The tank falls silent, as if confused. "...WHAT I PREFER?"
"Yes, what you prefer as your name, it is your identity after all."
More silence, then it begins speaking again, in a lower volume, "WHEN I WAS CREATED, I WAS DESIGNATED 'PROJECT IRON WING' USING THE CHASSIS OF A 'LOWE' COMBAT VEHICLE. BOTH WERE DESIGNATIONS."
The tank's getting unusually erudite, as far as you can tell, "So..."
"MY CREATOR, HOWEVER, GRANTED ME A DIFFERENT NAME WHEN HE FIRST STARTED THE 'INCUBATION' ROUTINE. A PECULIAR NAME: 'AWYRGAN'. I LIKE THIS NAME."
"What the hell is...Awyr...gan?" You ask.
"NO DATA OR CONJECTURE. IT IS A NICE SOUND. I LIKE THE NAME."
"Awyrgan it is then." That name does not resemble any language you are familiar with either, "Who was your designer, anyway?"
"That doesn't sound German."
"IT IS NOT."
"Hey, Guo-Guo." Meiling calls out from behind you, "Can you go help out the wounded inside the mansion? I have to go and tie our captive down somewhere secure and get that power armor off of him."
"Sure great-grandma." You roll off of Awyrgan and take a few moments to steady yourself in your lightheadedness. Blood loss is no joke, but you doubt you lost enough to be considered a medical concern. "Lo...Awyrgan. Just hang around here. Any hostiles left inside?"
"NEGATIVE. ALL HOSTILES ARE NEUTRALIZED OR HAVE FLED. THERE ARE SOME WOUNDED CIVILIANS IN THE WORKSHOP AREAS AROUND THE LIBRARY AS WELL AS THE MAIN HALL."
"Thanks Awyrgan,"You take out the Eientei medical kit from your pack and look over it for any signs of damage, then look over at the interior of the fairly wrecked mansion. "Time to do my job, I guess."
Walking through the hole in the wall, you see that this was once a corridor lined with large tinted windows, likely for atmospheric strolls during sunset or something. Other than the tread marks and the hole in the wall, it appears relatively untouched.
"Awyrgan, how did you get here?"
"FROM THE GREAT HALL, DOWN THE SMALLER HALLWAYS."
"Thanks, if you along with my CALL-tists," The remaining two spirits snap to attention. "can keep an eye on this breach that would be great. I'm going back into the mansion to provide medical aid."
"AFFIRMATIVE." Is the reply from all three.
The shooting game turned out to be pretty accurate after all, since the SDM's corridors are remarkable spacious. It eventually turns out that you don't need to follow the tread marks after all, as there are signs along the walls pointing out the directions, likely for the benefit of confused acolytes.
As you get closer there's more instances of damage. Bullet holes, broken furniture, and holes blown out of the stonework become more and more common, and weird piles of ash and cloth sometimes show up. It's only when you recognize the little maid dresses in the piles that you realize these were probably fairies unfortunate enough to be caught in the crossfire. Though considering their immortal nature it's more likely they engaged the intruders with their comparably pitiful magic plus suicidal overconfidence and simply were blown away like the stage fodder they are. They’ll be fine.
No dead acolytes. Seems like all of them ran away and the knights didn't shoot them as they are civilians, that just leaves the suicidal fairies and the mansion's named inhabitants to deal with the terrorists.
You turn yet another corner and come face to face with a large double door, closed and locked. Briefly considering using your shotgun to blast it open, you decide instead it's probably better to knock.
"Who are you?" An alert, somewhat wary voice speaks up behind the door. You hear a rather loud series of metallic clinking sounds and you gulp.
"It's me, Wu Ming from Eientei. I'm a doctor."
A loud click, and the great door creaks open to reveal an absolutely destroyed establishment. There is almost no trace of what the place once was. Wood splinters lie everywhere like trees after a storm, and large chunks of wall are cracked and dented, making you somewhat concerned about the stability of the building at this point. Bullet holes and scorch marks liberally decorate the room, as well as hundreds of silver knives both stuck inside the brickwork and lying around.
The only moving thing in the room at the moment however is Sakuya Izayoi, who is sprawled on the steps for what you assume used to be a throne of some sort. The maid appears heavily injured, but stable. The clothing around her waist has been torn apart and she only appeared to have hurriedly bandaged the wound, which you think is odd considering her power. No amount of damage however appears to prevent her from sitting back upright and speaking normally. "Apologies for your inconvenience. The intruders were...stronger than we expected, and it's been too long since I fought armored foes."
"Miss Izayoi!” You rush over, “How many got in?"
"Two squads of six got in through the water pipes. One went straight for Patchy's laboratories, the others went for the other side of the basement..." She pauses for a moment, brushing her silver bangs across her head as she coughs, "The first squad succeeded in destroying a decent chunk of our alchemical equipment. Most of the acolytes fled as soon as they saw them, and I'm not sure of their status. The second squad..."
"Sakuyaaa!" A child's voice rings out. You freeze, hair standing on end, and in a single motion you launch your arms out and dive behind the tank. Popping the energy shield back up, you hold the humming blue barrier in front of your heavily breathing face as your heart-rate suddenly jumps as though you just took an entire syringe worth of epinephrine.
A blur of red and silver darts out of a door and down the stairs behind Sakuya, and skids to a halt a length of torn-up carpet...well, not really a halt, as the girl is literally bouncing between the wall and floor in energy. You try to make yourself less visible even as your curiosity drives you to get a better look. Flandre Scarlet does not look nearly as terrifying as her reputation would suggest, but is also nowhere close to her non-violent depictions. For starters, she looks much like any tween-aged girl of European descent, with the notable but innocuous exception of the wing bones protruding from her back, studded with long diamond-shaped jewels that replace the actual wings, and could easily be mistaken for a funny backpack at a casual glance.
On the flip side her entire body is coated with gore. Half of her face is drenched with crimson, and you are fairly sure the blood isn't her own, with the assumption made from the fact that there is half of a knight stuck on the end of her curvy spear...Lavastein, was it? Thankfully the person appears to be dead, but the streams of blood still extruding from the body in addition to the entrails swaying below the area the armor covers makes for a rather sickening, and some would say "metal" display. You can't tell how much of the rest of Flandre is coated, but you are pretty sure her shoes and socks weren't red to begin with. Also: fangs. Not very big fangs, but noticeable and distinctly not human.
"I got one of them before they could flash awayy~!" The little vampire happily brags in a sing-song voice. To be fair she's not that little, being only about a head shorter than you, but still.
Sakuya, despite her injuries, gets up and grabs hold of Flandre's right arm and gently pushes it down, "Young mistress, please put down the weapon, you're scaring our guests here."
"Awww." Pouting slightly, Flandre disarms herself by hurling Lavastein into a nearby wall, in the process pinning the corpse stuck on the spear and making a rather unsightly splatter of blood, "Tarasquey never minded...Oh, who is this?" Your heart almost seizes up as she flies over to you, "Sakuya?"
"That's the actual courier. 'Tarasquey' is his..."
"My associate!" You blurt out as you snap straight. "I am Wu Ming and I am the courier for Eientei! I am most definitely completely harmless and on your side!"
"Really." Blood red eyes study you with childish curiosity. "Most of the humans run away when they see me. Don't know why. Is it because I look like rain? You aren't scared of rain, aren't you?"
"N-No?" You recall from Perfect Memento that while she isn't openly hostile and is in fact, quite nice, Flandre still has a few screws loose.
"Rain is scary. Dunno why though. You're from Eientei right? You a doctor? Hey!" With a bloody hand she grabs yours and drags you inside the building, "Can you help Sakuya? She can't clean up the mess in the mansion like this."
The maid gives an apologetic look and protests, "Young mistress, there's no need. I am a fast healer, and there will be no--"
"Sure! Sure! Whatever you say!" You shout, almost on reaction from fear. Without hesitation, you rush over press your right hand to your chest and yell "Hew!" and with just a slight bit more you press your other hand against Sakuya's waist, provoking an awkward yelp from her and a "What are doing!" that is quickly drowned out by the sudden torrent of pain that courses through your head, a now familiar feeling. You repeat the spell, layering on yet another wave of pain to your suffering.
"Gah!" You tear your hand away, ignoring the bandages dangling from it. Both you and Sakuya proceed to stare open-eyed at the wound, or rather the absence of the wound, since aside from the blood stains around the region her stomach is smooth and clean, as if nothing had ever touched her. You then suddenly realize your knees can't take the weight of your body anymore, and slouch, with only the Eientei exoskeleton preventing you from collapsing.
"Miss Scarlet...I did as you say."
"Mr. Wu..." You suddenly realize that it is two voices, both Sakuya and Flandre are staring at your hand, still glowing with the pink light of Hew. You take a moment to look at it more closely, taking off the torn remnants of the glove you were wearing. The black scars on your right arm have traveled down, and have spread as far as your fingers. These scars do not form symbols, but as you watch the light fade you note that the spell still appears to course through them, and just like the scars on your arm they do not feel different from normal skin, nor do you sense any nerve damage.
"Oh, this?" You unclip the exoskeleton, roll back your sleeves, and hold out your arm, showing your scars. "Somebody's been giving me strange iron cards that burn into my skin when I touch them, leaving these patterns behind. I could cast spells from them as if they were spell cards but it hurts quite a bit when I do it. I've been trying to find out who is screwing with me like this, but so far..."
"Don't. Move." A circular set of knives appear out of thin air around Sakuya, hovering and pointing straight at you. You freeze in shock, and do not move a hair as Sakuya grabs your arm and carefully examines the black scars as she mutters to herself. Out of the corner of your eye you see Flandre's eyes turn wider than dinner plates, and her mouth widen into a huge smile.
"Sakuya! Sakuya! He's just like me!"
"WHAT?!" You cry out loud. Sakuya does not break from her examination as she replies "Yes, which is why I'm making sure his is not stable."
"Mr. Wu! Look!" Flandre flies over in front of you and unties something on her back before turning around. At this distance, you see that her wing bones aren't just wings with the skin cut off and replaced with gems, but also look as if they've been thrust into an inferno, as they are charred black. You trace the wings onto her back, where a slit is cut in her dress for them, and you cry out a second time when you see the skin around them.
They are marked with exactly the same kind of black scars that coat your arm. Flandre's are much denser and intricate compared to yours, and look to be a completely different type of design, with many more pictographs and curly lines compared to yours which resemble the oriental designs seen on spell cards. Her's are also smaller, covering no more than the size of a dinner plate.
"Awfully desolate in here, isn't it?"
Your new guest lies on the couch, lazily. Your old one is nowhere to be seen, and you are happy about it.
"She broke most of my furniture when I came in here. Something about 'going beyond parameters'."
"Well that's a shame. A man has got to have his mind to himself after all."
"She's trying to keep me from piecing together what happened. I don't know. You don't know."
The serpent raises one of its two heads while the other one continues sifting through the scrapbook on the remaining half of the coffee table. "I know, but this shed scale of me in you does not. I know I won't tell you. I also recommend you stop listening to HER and just do what you want."
"I can't. I'm not what she thinks I am. It's complicated. And if I do what you say I might die."
"A storm is brewing in Gensokyo. You can't just ignore that and lock away your full potential in your subconscious."
"My full potential isn't much either, not close to you, or perhaps even your disguise. I'm a medic, not a fighter. Plus," You look down at your feet, "You do know what that will do if I encourage her influence, right?"
"Why? You think you are going to survive this?"
"You can't see the future."
"I can make a guess. Between the enemies without and the friendly enemy, you are not going to remain alive. I see your progress has been excellent, already digging out the source so soon and finding me. Though I would say if you had chosen differently you could have gotten to this point much sooner, but overall your position is quite desirable."
"You said I'm going to die."
"With your nature and your personality? Inevitable. From what I can deduce you sealed your fate the moment you stepped through the border. Now you answer me: How are you going to die?"
[ ] Clawing for life, holding on to every inch of time left [ ] If I have to die, my allies should live by my sacrifice [ ] If I cannot live, my enemies and rivals should die by my sacrifice [ ] It's a trick question
Well, he has family now. Kind of. It's better than he had. That said, last battle was too close for comfort so...
[x] If I die, then it should be so that my allies can live
Of course, if it lets them live on a second longer and killing the enemy lets them live for their rest of their lives, this wouldn't apply, but I think this question is about the principle of the thing.
That said, it could be a trick question: a third option always seem to exist and keeping it in mind will be helpful. Maybe he'll die on his bed, many years from now. Or, considering where he is, maybe he'll die as a first step to immortality.
>>30259 Before, yeah. After getting hit by a missile and spending a night in a vat, not so much. He still looks a tad overweight with a visible belly when wearing normal clothes, but his overall physique can be described as average human level, with aerobic and anaerobic performances expected of a man his age. Basically no visible muscle bulges other than arms and calves.
Nobody can really tell though, considering he's walking around dressed like the picture since two days ago, minus the gas mask. His face is forgettable, and his hair is cropped short for convenience.
[x] If I have to die, my allies should live by my sacrifice
It was a blur, a blur in part due to blood loss and in part due to Sakuya carrying you over while slowing time.
The Mansion Library is a massive subterranean construct, one mildly bunker-like due to the windows and skylights near the ceiling allowing some light in, though heavily tinted and equipped with curtains. Like the rest of the mansion it is heavily red-tinted. THe in-game portrayal is fairly accurate, as the place is dominated by tower shelves of books ten stories high, equipped with elevators and illuminated by globe lanterns. The place is surprisingly intact, not the least due to the fact that protective charms and runes are inscribed on every item that looked flammable, and so while parts of the roof have collapsed and the walls are lined with holes and scorch marks, everything important looks intact.
You found yourself with your armor and gear stripped and strapped to a chair, which in turn is bolted to the floor, and promptly set upon by a blur of red hair and black wings in a series of measurements, strange rituals and contact which makes you oddly uncomfortable. Of course you resist at first, but afterwards you get used to the words-light, active succubus-looking demon and her sedentary purple master, whom you thought was a pile of cushions at first until you recognized the funny moon symbol on her hat.
"That's enough, cut him loose, Koakuma." The purple-headed librarian orders. On cue, the red-headed devil (well, you think she's something similar) scrubs away a section of the magical circle with her foot and the glowing system of glyphs and lines that surround the couch you are reclining on powers down. Patchouli Knowledge, her eyes lined with dark circles and her skin pale from lack of sunlight (even moreso than Flandre, to a degree) groans as she gets up from her position in front of the measuring instruments and looks over at the ashen lines burned into the floor.
"As surprising as it sounds my hypothesis was incorrect and those two made an accurate assessment." She glances at the blond child curled up on one of the ceiling rafters quietly reading despite the bloodstains on her and the maid who is currently flickering around the massive, massive vault that is the Mansion Library, which also happened to contain quite a few workshop areas. Acolytes are assisting with the cleaning, but look quite useless with their shovels and point-cast magic compared to Sakuya repairing entire fallen walls in the blink of an eye. Patchouli looks back down at the results, "The dependent variables show that you have indeed undergone the same process as the younger lady did."
"Strange runes randomly appearing on my body?"
"Mystical inscription: Human pattern." She coughs up the words like tasteless tea, "A most crude of techniques to imbue magical techniques into a person. I would know, I helped develop it."
Patchouli pats residue dust off of her clothes as she sits back down. "It was a long time ago, back when I was but a normal witch studying under a master. As for the details and why Flandre has them...I do not trust a stranger with that sort of information.
You shudder as you glance at Flandre, "Speaking of that, where's the elder Miss Scarlet?"
"Patchy..." You hear a groan come up behind you, and the sound of dragging footsteps. Turning around, you see half of a girl stumbling towards you, and scramble out of your chair in shock, right into Koakuma who just barely manages to catch you. It is literally half of a girl, with apparently half of her head as well as torso torn away, but instead of blood and gore you see bits of ash wafting off of the cuts, forming a hazy cloud around her. Despite the grievous wounds, they do not seem to hamper her movement or speech. "Can I use one of your acolytes?"
"Remi they're busy and need all of their blood." The librarian sighs in reply, "Doesn't Sakuya keep blood packs in the fridge?"
"But those are cold...oh good! An outsider! I...no wait that's the Eientei courier. Blegh. Isn't there any human around here willing to make a donation?"
"As usual, milady." Sakuya gently intones as she blinks into existence behind her mistress, carefully sweeping the ash into a dustpan. "I am always available."
"Sakuyaaa! Stop joking when your mistress is like this!" Like her sister, Remilia's tone is childlike, unnervingly so in fact, "I'm sure even the courier's blood is more palatable."
Enough people have tried to eat you at this point that you are not surprised Remilia knows about your "fun" fact.
"Come on, mistress, I'll heat it up for you." And before you noticed, they're gone.
"Back on topic." Patchouli has Koakuma drag a large mirror out of a nearby closet and set it next to you. "Since the technique is identical to mine I should be able to read the details inscribed." Five gems appear around her as she opens her book, then shrug and closes it, choosing to recite the spell instead.
The mirror bursts into multicolored light, light which rapidly forms into a vague outline of your body. Several gleaming lines then shine out, and trace what appear to be words in some unknown language, though you can tell that it is a stylized Romantic one.
"Hold still." Patchouli walks over and puts on her reading glasses, a look of concern on her face. "Hmm, yes, see this?" She gestures at the lines next to your arm. "While the spells inscribed are mostly superficial, parts of the runes have dug in and are propagating down your nervous system as they lack any magical imprints to trace, seeing as you have no affinity to magic."
"Like a poison...Am I dying?"
"No. It's behaving identically to my experiment...results." She briefly looks at Flandre, "You said they sourced from iron cards you received?"
"These things?" You hand over your "Stop" and "Call" card. "The other people I've asked say they are not spellcards, but something else..."
"Vessels, these are vessels." She hums a spell and the cards suddenly separate, each of them shedding off thin metal sheets like bread on a sandwich and revealing silvery strings of light within that twist and turn to form inscriptions. "A simple prepackaged bit of magic designed to activate on the hidden conditions of its creator. I cannot read anything in them save for the spell contents as the instructions have been obfuscated beyond recognition, and honestly..." Patchouli stops for a moment to hold her forehead, "I am a bit tired now from the fighting."
"As far as I can tell the conditions are spontaneous and the instruction is to perform Mystical Inscription on my skin, mostly without me noticing. The 'Hew' card as well as what appeared to be one of its extensions are the ones currently on my arm."
"Now that is odd." Patchouli puts a hand over her mouth, "Without noticing huh? Physically if this continues then the most undesirable outcome would be your entire body looking like your arm. The issue is that whoever is giving you the cards, which as far as I can tell are modified spell cards for transfer, does not feel like they care about asking for your consent in the matter. Normally such an inscription is either consensual or extremely painful." Another glance at Flandre, who is still immersed in her reading. "This is neither, and I may have to do more research to find out the cause and replicate your experiences."
"Wait, so you're telling me you don't know who did this?"
"Which brings us to the metaphorical giant in the room." Patchouli removes her cap and holds it by her side as she leans in, "I don't know you, and seeing how I personally attended the other remaining member of my coven on his deathbed, I do not see how they applied this specific variant of mystical inscription, save for some sort of convergent development. Moreover, the iron cards are totally unfamiliar to me, despite the fact that I could trace them like any other of my inscriptions."
"Maybe some other faction developed a similar method? Or it was stolen?"
"Unlikely, given how obscure...wait. There was one instance." Patchouli visibly stresses as she digs into the dense library that is her memory, "For a particular ritual in 1596. In the midst of a rather extreme witch-hunt, we conducted a hasty ritual to bargain with an agent of the underworld for safety. The price paid was the knowledge of some of the techniques we had developed. That...was not a very profitable bargain, to say the least."
"I take it did not turn out well?"
"We lost half of our supplies and three good witches died under their protection, though not really to any fault on their part. The demon we bargained with was one from a distant land, in East Asia, to be specific, and despite his best effort there was no way they could project influence all the way over here. The agent was merely a hapless knowledge solicitor who got in way over his head by our desperate pleas. Still, some or all of the procedure could have been transferred, but as I am not omniscient in Hellish matters I cannot tell where they ended up...or what they did with the knowledge that resulted in these cards being distributed to you."
The path hits difficult terrain. "So that's the extent of your knowledge here. What of the inscriptions themselves? Are they dangerous?"
"No, from what I can tell. They appear to do what they appear, which are respectively casting a strange hybrid between a vampiric drain and an oni magic drain spell that theoretically should not work, but appears functional and requires more research, a simple stasis spell and a variant on a spell to summon local spirits. Nothing more, nothing less, and while unique are scribed with minimal effort, which gives me nothing to identify them with."
"Bleh. So my best bet is to talk with somebody from Hell, right?"
"Yes. Higan may be off limits, but you might catch either the Yama or one of the shikigami across the river. The Underground city also has oni that worked for Hell back in its heyday, so that's also an option." She checks on the book she's holding, which as you can see now looks like a blank one that's writing words on its own. A magical notebook, perhaps? "I believe that is all I need to know and all I can provide for now. Koakuma, do you have anything?"
"Apologies. But..." The devil throws back her hair and the head ears perk up and waves her hands in the air, "Imma German Devil through and through! I do not know what those foul Easterners do! I take my orders from the Big S in the air. Not the Old Ys with silly red hair!"
You blink blankly, "What the fuck."
"What I believe my familiar, who had WAY too much access to the satellite network's Internet for the last two weeks," Patchouli has the look of somebody too tired to be irritated, while Koakuma goes back to her formal posture, albeit with a massive shit-eating grin. "Is that as a Western devil she knows nothing about the Eastern underworld. To be fair, if she did she would not have landed this contract."
The grin vanishes.
"So is there like a market for devils or something, even outside of Gensokyo?"
"There is; nothing lucrative however. Devilkind love doing bad things to deserving people or turning good people astray, but the kind of people that usually try to summon them are either in way over their heads or somehow manage to have an even lower moral barometer than hell. The times where we had covens in almost every town summoning them to fuel magical research is long gone. To be fair, you don't see any real saints around these days talking with angels either."
"I worked as a temptress once," Koakuma says in a deliberately forced cheery tone, "It was fun making men argue with their wives and destroy themselves. Then somebody summoned me because he wanted me to rape his two toddler daughters while he watched. I--"
"Woah woah woah, I do not need to know that." You raise your hand in protest.
"---I didn't do it. I didn't have the stomach to do it. We have feelings too, ya know. I ended up murdering him for his soul and it probably traumatized the daughters. Eh, the others said it counted."
"Thank god. I guess. I mean...Gah!" You and Koakuma both rear back as Flandre dives in between the two of you. "Koakuma! Can you find the second book in this series! It's really interesting!"
You can't tell what book it is, since it’s in French, but it looks pretty thick.
"R-Right away my lady." The devil squeaks as she flies off into the shelf-walls.
Flandre turns, causing you to lean back as far as you can in that chair. "So...Patchy what did you find out about him?"
"Same technique, but not anything I recognize. If you would do me a favor, can you break his bindings?"
"Sure!" You wince and close your eyes, briefly wondering for a moment if your end has come. To your surprise the bindings around your wrists and ankles simply snap off without ceremony.
"Actually, Flandre..." Patchouli asks as you cautiously rotate your newly liberated joints and stand up, surreptitiously taking a few steps away from the excited blond vampire. "…I need some data. Here:" She mutters something, and in front of her a flash of light appears and deposits a large iron ball. "Can you focus your effort on this sphere?"
"Always glad to be helpful." Flandre happily chimes as she stares at the ball, and you see the patterns on her back glow similarly to yours. Little pinpricks of energy appear on the sphere, tracing lines across to each other: the mechanical aspect of her terrible destructive power on display.
"Now, Ming, try casting your 'Hew' spell on Flandre. Flan, this will hurt a bit, but with your strength it should not matter."
You hesitate slightly, "Are you sure?"
"If you could seriously hurt Flandre with a single spell then we won't have to worry about the terrorists." Patchouli waves you on, "Come on, go."
You suck in a deep breath, lock eyes with Flandre's expectant crimson ones, and shout "Hew!"
The pink beam strikes her, and you can't help but smile slightly as the rush of lifeforce flows into you. Flandre doesn't noticeably react, but merely looks at your spell with mild amusement. Patchouli, on the other hand, rubs her eyes at what appears to be the expected result, and shakes her head. "Cut it off."
You break concentration just as the ball unceremoniously shatters apart. "So..."
"That's NOT supposed to happen. Wow. Look. Flandre, remember what happened when you tried using your abilities on yourself?"
"Yeah! It still acts really funny!" She spins around and traces a finger across her chest. The same pinpricks of energy appear on her body, but before they can trace each other the inscription on her back lights up, and the energy dissipates.
"Suici-I mean, backfire prevention mechanism?" You suggest.
"Precisely," The librarian reaches for her tea cup and chugs it down, "As the procedure remains...unstable. It would be folly to allow the resultant magical products to affect its own progenitor, which is why the inscriptions are done with cold iron rather than a more magically conductive material. The expected result should be that both of your circuits should have shut down, but that did not happen. I'm afraid, Mr. Wu, that while the procedures performed on you are still within what I would call mystical inscription, it's heavily altered, and I highly suspect that the runes on your skin are merely an aesthetic alteration."
"Lady Flandre, your book!" Koakuma rushes down from the shelves. Flandre grabs it, beaming, and seemingly forgets about you as she flies off back to her favorite reading spot.
You let out a sigh of relief, despite your reasoning side of the brain stating that there wasn't any real danger as Flandre has yet to actually hurt anyone in canon. That, however, is swiftly replaced by another chill, a familiar one.
"Hey Patchy, Zhen Guo!" Meiling cheerfully calls out from the doorway, "Sacrifice, is that your desire?"
"Hey Miss Hong." You wearily reply as Patchy looks up from her tea cup, "What else? A sacrifice has to be meaningful after all."
"Come on, just call me grandma. We're family, after all." She gives you a friendly rub on the head, "I don't fancy my descendants looking forward to offing themselves."
Patchouli looks confused for a moment then gets the hint. "You told him about...everything?"
"Not everything, just enough that he knows what he is descended from. Speaking of which, tell Remi..."
"Yes?" Without a sound Sakuya blinks into existence beside her, making you jump a little, "What do you need to tell the mistress?"
"Ah, Sakuya. I was thinking, that in the wake of such a blatant attack on our mansion, that some...restitution should be in order. Because..." She proceeds to lean over and whisper in her ear. Sakuya's eyes widen and her mouth forms a sly grin.
"Very well. I'll dig out the old weaponry and round up some of the local youkai to bolster our security while you are away. Have fun then." With that, the maid disappears again.
"What?" You are getting seriously annoyed at the information denial around you. "Come on, I'm tired of people keeping me in the dark!"
"Don't you still have deliveries pending for Youkai Mountain and the Underground? Come on, put on your armor and get going! I'm coming with you. You don't need to know why. It's for your own good."
Dutifully, and partially under the strange effect Meiling has on you, you put on the layers of spider silk and the exoskeleton plates and hook up the harnesses.
"Anything else you need me for, Miss Knowledge?"
"Negative. I think we're done here." She grasps her hands together. "If you have anything else you need here please say so. But as to the topic of your inscriptions...there isn't any more I can really find out. Do be reasonable in your request."
[ ] "Any wands or staves you have that you could spare?" [ ] "Potions, bombs?" [ ] "Protective charms and seals?"
==================== SDM Scanner results: Nothing too unusual, Koakuma came up as 100% monster, as expected, however both of the vampires and Patchouli are somehow still recognized as completely human. Probably a design error. So far only you and Sakuya are unscanable, and you feel that in Sakuya's case it might be intentional on her end.
Back outside, you witness several acolytes and fairies standing around staring at what your tank and allied evil spirits are doing. The tank is happily crunching away at the APC the enemies rode in on, in the process eliminating valuable evidence but it's too late to stop now as there's only about 10% of the APC left. The evil spirits are doing evil spirit things, which apparently include possessing the fleshy remains of the abomination and walking around as creepy blobs of moving cooked flesh that slowly get more humanoid as you watch.
Maybe they are right. Maybe you are the bad guy. Still it doesn't make them good guys.
"Yo, Cultist Alpha," One of the shambling meat blobs shuffles over to you, becoming slowly more humanoid in the process. "What did you find from Ochiba?"
"Mmmrmm..." The flesh opens a hole in what looks like a head, "After his activities at the Human Village, I have tracked him to the outskirts of the Youkai Forest. He appears to be on a direct approach to the Kappa dwellings before you recalled me."
"Very good. Alpha...other spirits!" The two other meat blobs wander over, "You are Cultist Beta and you are Cultist Gamma! All of you! disguise inside grave shrouds!"
Your meaty followers don their makeshift robes obediently, and assume their role as ominous helpers.
"Good. Yo, Awyrgan, you done over there?"
"CONSUMPTION COMPLETE. READY AS YOU ARE."
"Cool. Can you process some scrap into...hmm..." You take a gander at your troops writhing underneath their shrouds. "…three flamethrowers and three large shields. Also napalm ammunition for the flamethrowers if you can do that."
"ACCEPTABLE," The tank answers as it begins to rumble, the fabrication plant warming up.
"Hey, Guo-Guo? You got all of your friends together?" Meiling calls out as she steps over the gap in the building, a knapsack on her back.
"Yep! We're ready when you are!"
"Fabulous. I'll just make a quick call to my...hmm?" She looks at the satellite phone confusedly, "Strange, the phone's not getting a signal. That's never happened since Miss Yakumo gave them to us."
"Probably a glitch. Going Now?"
"Yeah. Hmm....I've got a bad feeling about this."
Time: 3:45 PM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Trail between the SDM and Youkai Mountain Threat Level: ERROR
The vegetation thins out for a bit here, though the trees are getting taller. Perched on the turret of the tank, you can clearly see gentle sloping hills leading down and then up into a vast, dark forest quite a distance up ahead. Beyond the forest is Youkai Mountain, which is even taller than you expected, and looks to be about the size of Mount Kita. Along the edges above the forest you can see what looks like housing structures built along the paths, which are in turn carved out of the stone. It is not terribly tall or sheer, and appears to also encompass several smaller peaks around it.
Along the way you took some time to call up Eientei once again to report about the attack. A concerned sounding Tewi answered it, and audibly sighed in relief when you confirmed that the shipment, having been jettisoned off of the tank when it detected combat, remains intact. Some positive reactions towards the captured prisoner and the confirmed kills are heard, but she does not seem overall caring about your safety. "You're fine." She said, "You have a lot of friends around you now, right? Just try to stay out of their way." That's funny. She also won't tell you what the Cuckoos are up to, and you doubt it is relevant right now. More annoyingly, she dodges your question about Reisen's condition.
"Yo, grandma." You ask your red-haired ancestor reclining on the tank "It says here that the Kappa village I'm supposed to deliver to is located off the east side of Youkai Mountain, right on the river valley. You know how to get there?"
"Huh? I always flew there." Meiling replies as she snakes her head around to look at the map you're holding. "Just follow the riverbank and you should be good."
"Awyrgan, hang a left here, get to the river."
Your "cultists", currently stacked inanimately on top of one another on an empty spot of the tank, stirs as the spirits return to their possessed shells. "Mrgh...we have seen no enemies in our patrol radius."
"Good. Stay here for now. Your weaponry should be finishing its fabrication process soon."
"We obey." They settle into their seated positions, three creepy robes surrounding aberrant flesh riding off the back of a massive armored vehicle.
You allow yourself to relax a bit, ignoring the figurative rainbow scale jabbed into your mind. It would be pretty nice if you could invite some of your friends at school over here for a party-vacation after all this blows over. Joy rides on the tank, drunken danmaku fights, trying out new and innovative hallucinogens with Marisa, the list goes on and on. And they wouldn't even have to worry about getting eaten since you can probably convince Eirin or bribe Tewi to get them armbands, or just get Meiling to grab some of the SDM's acolyte armbands.
Yes, it would be reeeally nice. Fucking terrorists ruining this perfect youkai-infested paradise. Just thinking about them gives you an annoying buzzing your head. You try to turn your thoughts away, but the buzzing is still there...and it is getting louder.
It's a familiar sound, the sound of somebody or something talking to you from inside your head.
The buzzing gradually coalesces into a solid, distinct voice. Hello? Moshi Moshi? Is this device working?
Reimu's voice, you recognize.
"Meiling, you hear something?"
"I think everyone in this area at least heard it." Around you, you can see some animals raise their heads and look around in confusion. Your ancestor looks up from the manga she is reading and looks up and around, "That is Reimu, right? Hello?"
Looks like it is. Here goes nothing. Ahem.
A brief pause, some muttering in the background, indistinct. It's not a broadcast in the distance, but rather a voice coming from inside your head. Likely some form of telepathy.
Awyrgan suddenly stops and its speakers sound, "UNUSUAL CONDITION HAS AROSE. REQUESTING---"
"Shush." You shoo at the tank, "Quiet."
"Denizens and outsiders of Gensokyo! This is shrine maiden Hakurei Reimu with an urgent message coming through the Gensokyo Emergency Messaging System. My control of the Border has been compromised. I repeat. My control of the Border has been compromised. At this moment I advise all denizens and outsiders to remain within the protective range of either the Village or the Youkai Mountain. Access through the Border has been closed until control can be restored. Do not panic, while this is not a typical incident the usual resolvers will be proceeding to resolve the issue shortly."
Another brief pause. Deep breathing.
Thank you. Good bye.
Your nose twitches. You smell an objective. Problem is this time it points in every direction.
"She sounds serious. Actual serious, not the facade of seriousness she usual puts on during incidents." Meiling remarks.
"I can tell. I mean--"
Attention all those in range! A male voice rings out in your head, a much louder one. "This is the Youkai Mountain Authority Messaging spell! Our wolf patrols are engaging the unknown terrorists in lethal combat near the Kappa Village! All those incapable of fighting are to immediately evacuate the vicinity! Over!"
Both of you fall silent for a moment. Meiling appears to have frozen in the middle of a gesture. The tank takes the moment to pipe up "I REPEAT: REQUESTING INPUT."
"Not now! Oh my god." You instinctively grab hold of your weapons, "They are out in force now. This is looking like an invasion."
"Tough luck huh. You wanted to have a vacation here but ended up in the middle of a warzone. To be fair, as your ancestor I would say you had it coming for choosing to visit a youkai-infested land."
"That's harsh, grandma. Even--GAH!"
"HEAR MY WORDS, RESIDENTS OF THIS LAND." This voice is not a telepathic projection, but a deafening broadcast coming from the heavens above you, leaving a ringing sensation in your ears. THE SAVIORS HAVE TAKEN CONTROL OF THE BORDER FROM THE VIOLET TYRANT THAT RULES OVER YOU AND IS WORKING TO STOP THE ATROCITIES SHE COMMITS AND WILL COMMIT. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOMES. YOUR LIFE AND PROPERTY WILL REMAIN SAFE AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT INTERFERE WITH OUR DUTY. IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE TO FEAR US, BUT KNOW THAT WHAT WE DO IS NECESSARY FOR THE GOOD OF MORE THAN JUST THOSE ALIVE HERE. SPEAKER SIGNING OFF.
"...Well they're getting cocky."
"This is bad. This is bad. This is bad!" You mutter, mind blank as you take your hands off your ears. "If THEY have control of the border then I'm not getting out alive. Fuck, can they use it to see or track me?"
Meiling shrugs, "It's a purely separative construct. Patchy could probably explain it better but as an analogy they can jury-rig some of the magical circuits to broadcast sounds, but something as intricate as optical or thermal surveillance could be out of the question. Also, even that broadcast would use up an enormous amount of energy due to the entropy in such a setup. Unless they have say, ten of Patchy's Philosopher's stone sets they can't do it regularly."
Choking out a sigh of relief, you gasp "Good."
"Though they might be able to do that, considering how apparently they took over the border"
"Stop swearing so much. Dirty mouths no not belie aggression."
"IF I MAY PLEASE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION."
"What?" You turn towards the tank.
"INCUBATION STATUS POST CONSUMPTION IS AT 100%. CONTACT WITH LISTENING STATION HAS BEEN LOST. CONTACT WITH CALLSIGN PRIMROSE HAS BEEN LOST. DEFERRING COMMAND TO NEAREST FRIENDLY SAPIENT IN A DIRECTING POSITION. IDEAL INCUBATION STATUS FOR HATCH IS 120%."
"Once again, what ARE you incubating?"
"This thing is an incubator?"
"STATIC MESSAGE: IT IS A MONSTER. UPON HATCH THE INCUBATOR VEHICLE WILL REVERT TO ITS DEFAULT PROGRAMMING AND LOSE ALL COMBAT DATA. SOME FORM OF MANUAL GUIDANCE WOULD BE REQUIRED IN THAT CASE. HOWEVER IT WILL MAINTAIN ALL PHYSICAL CAPABILTIIES. THE MONSTER, CURRENTLY DESIGNATED 'IRON WING' IS CAPABLE OF FLIGHT AND IS ADDITIONALLY MORE TACTICALLY FLEXIBLE, AT THE COST OF BEING MORE VULNERABLE INITIALLY AND IN NEED OF EXTENSIVE UPGRADING AND GROWTH. IT IS PREFERABLE TO ALLOW INCUBATION TO CONTINUE TO REDUCE THAT PERIOD OF VULNERABILITY, HOWEVER AS CONTACT WITH COMMAND CORES HAVE BEEN LOST IT MAY BE NECESSARY TO HATCH IMMEDIATELY CONSIDERING THE VOLATILE STRATEGIC SITUATION."
I don't know why is she surprised. This is the guy who overplayed his 'crazy' act in front of Reimu in the off chance she might decide to protect him instead of herself in a hypothetical danger scenario and runs around transfering wounds and pain from other people to himself. 'Sacrifice' (heroic or otherwise) is his middle fucking name.
"...Maintain incubation status, we need your heavy armor at full capacity."
"Now, grandma, as I was saying..."
You are interrupted by a distant "swoosh" sound, as a thick plume of white smoke topped by a shining light slowly rises in the distance. All of you, even the evil spirits who let down their hoods, turn to stare.
"That's odd," Meiling says quizzically, "Fireworks and danmaku at this time?"
The thing turns in mid-air and soars off into the distance, "I remember seeing those before, I just don’t..."
A brilliant flash of light, a distant explosion shakes your eardrums.
"It's a SAM! A Surface-to-Air Missile!" You cry out from knowledge sourced from Internet footage, half in surprise and half in horror. "Looks like a big one too!"
More of them streak up in the distance, seeking out targets in the air. Said targets appear to be retaliating with bursts of colored light, likely magic but you cannot tell at this distance. More loud sounds, the sounds of gunfire, artillery, and heavy magic being traded back and forth.
"Wow, these terrorists have a LOT of equipment, holy shit!" You stare in horror as the tranquil forest in front of you is rapidly turning into a warzone.
Meiling leans atop of the turret alongside you "Fireworks of death? Oh, now I remember. Last time something like this happened was in Yunnan."
"No it was in 1979. Last time I had fun in China before I bailed."
You realize what war she was referring to and is about to ask questions when another missile explodes much closer to your position. You can hear the weapons being fired now, but the ground combatants are still concealed by the forest vegetation and the aerial ones are too far away. Your Hunter Module has not yet picked up any targets yet.
Your ancestor blinks, "Guo-guo, we're sitting ducks out here. You might want to have Awyrgan move somewhere less visible."
"Like, in there?" You look around, and other than some very low hillocks there is no cover in sight other than the forest itself. "Where the fighting is going on?"
"Yeah, go. We actually have a chance of not getting blown to pieces if we are in there."
"Awyrgan, do what she says."
As the tank proceeds into the forest, you raise a question. "Can't you just...wipe them out like what you did with the abomination?"
"Miracles don't grow on trees, Guo-guo." Meiling answers with the chuckling condescending tone typical of elders. "You have no idea how hard it is when there's no faith around."
Recalling Mishaguji's furtive, embarrassed behavior, you nod in understanding.
"Still," She adds on in reassurance, "we can probably deal with whatever they throw at us if their attack on the household was of any indication. We are pretty badass after all!"
For the first time in what felt like months, and possibly because of her figurative rainbow lodged in your brain, you agree with confidence and volume, "Hell yeah! We got a tank, a heavily armored combat medic with a railgun and a pile driver, a deity of turmoil, and three horrors with flamethrowers! We are more than just couriers! We are a team of warriors!"
[x] Protective charms and seals
"And we don't even need to worry about being ambushed! Patchouli gave me this talisman she calls a "Turtle Shell", which will create a great barrier around us when I use it! Shame it takes time to recharge though."
Time: 4:20 PM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Great Youkai Forest Threat Level: 10
Spreading out and off the tank, the six of you fan out with the cultist spirits in the lead with their flamethrowers brandished, followed by you and Meiling, and bringing up the rear is Awyrgan who is bearing the cargo. The trees are getting thicker, and every so often Meiling flies up just enough above the trees to judge your location. So far, you have not encountered any others, despite the sounds of combat all around you, and you suspect that the unfortunate reporter may have been propelled in this direction by a large missile explosion. It is slow pickings going through the woods, and rather uneasy as you have spotted no enemy or tengu despite the sounds of combat and the explosions in the skies.
The sounds are however getting more distant.
"Great Youkai Forest, eh?" You remark, "Where's the youkai?"
"The ferals aren't stupid," Meiling replies, without ceasing her scanning of the surroundings with both heads, "They scattered off into hiding caves and holes as soon as they heard explosions, and they could sense that we are massive threats. Sapient ones are likely doing the same."
"Well I can't sense them." Your Hunter's Module is still picking up nothing.
"If you can then it means that the wards the tengu placed around this area as deterrent have deactivated. They have not, which means that the invaders either do not know how to disable them or did not notice at all. I can't sense anything either."
"Crud. Wait..." You suddenly hear a disturbance around your three o'clock, in the trees. "We're not alone."
A tense moment follows as all weapons turn towards the concealed noise which is getting closer...and more numerous. You carefully nock an arrow on the railgun, and quietly order your cultists to do the same with their primitive flamethrowers. Meiling doesn't seem to change much at first, but you notice her posture got much stiffer.
The rustling is close, though you can still see nothing. Indistinct talking, a lot of footsteps. All of a sudden they all stop, and you power on the shield and descend into a crouch in anticipation of incoming fire.
"Jesus Christ." You gasp in relief as you let down the bow as you see the Russians step out of the bushes, "Captain Lazarov you scared the crap out of us."
"Your friends, Guo-Guo?"
"Sort of." You stand back up and take a good look at the soldiers in front of you. "Nice equipment, where'd you get it?"
"Arrangement with your boss." Eientei gear? Lazarov gives a rather sly smile as he flashes his new revolver, one elegantly engraved and inset with jewels and is glowing from the cylinder, "Details and parameters are classified, of course."
"Of course. What did I expect? Eientei and the Russian government doing something not shady together?" The form fitting armor and light exoskeleton the Russians have appear to be military-spec, compared to your bulky safety suit, but the electrolaser rifles they are holding are pretty much on the same level as your railbow. It is still worth a president's ransom Outside though. The revolvers you have no idea.
"Shady? It's only a trade." The Russian captain laughs as he turns towards Meiling, "Miss Hong, I presume?"
"Indeed. I heard of your squad arriving in Gensokyo," Meiling furrows her brows, and is keeping her head down, "and I was curious as to how your people's military have fared since I last saw them in 1969."
Lazarov coughs into his hand, and looks away, while subtly waving down the rest of the squad who are beginning to murmur with irritation, "That was...a long time ago. None of us were even born back then. Much has changed."
"I can see." Your ancestor's attitude suddenly lightens up and a smile crosses her face, "Anyway, I'm just accompanying my distant descendant--" You give an awkward but proud grin as Lazarov coughs really loud and the others look away, save for Konoroz who is staring at you incredulously. "--On a courier trip. It's quite dangerous out here, as you can see, and I can't really let him run off on his own to get killed."
"He doesn't look very alone." One of the Russians, the tall bald one, pipes up.
"Those three are meat puppets, not really good for anything other than looking and shooting. The tank is a smart and capable youkai, but retains the vulnerability of an armored vehicle."
"...Did it just...talk? Wow Ming you've gotten yourself a full squad here!"
"That's saying too much." You nervously scratch your head, "We're civilians," Laughter arises, "I would just call it a caravan."
"A very well-armed caravan, eh? Bagged any terrorist cykas?"
"Had a battle at the SDM, we only got one of their abominations but Flandre killed quite a few of them."
"See men? These 'elite' terrorists can be killed and stay dead!" Lazarov announces, "They are less well-trained than us, and rely on their superior technology, which is no longer an issue, of course."
"Speaking of training." Meiling has gone back to her position of leaning on the tank, "Reconnaissance is part of the curriculum, correct?"
"Of course! We are former GRU, after all."
"Very good. In that case, how many hostiles are surrounding us right now?"
Dead silence, "What?"
"I clarify: How many individuals with somewhat hostile intent are surrounding us right now?" Meiling raises her voice, "For instance, the one perched on the tree to the left of you pointing his arrow at your head."
A furious wind abruptly cuts through the treetops as all of you look up, and previously where there was only shadows and branches now perch warriors, most of whom appear to be precariously perched on the tips of branches with their geta. You catch your breath and suppress your fear, which is hard as there are massive arrows nocked on yumis the size of a tall man pointed in your direction, as well as blades so sharp you could feel the coldness even though they are in standoff range, and are likely enchanted to boot.
The armor is interesting. Resembling classic Japanese style tatami plates, yet worn and patterned like modern bulletproof body armor. You'd wager these are of kappa material. Their eyes glow in the dark shade of the forest, but you do note that they are quite a bit less bestial than say, Mystia or Kagerou's eyes.
An huge tengu, a white wolf looking to be at least two meters in height and then some, with shoulder width to match, steps off and lands in front of all of you on the path, his sword raised as he barks off from beneath a scarf that conceals half his face, "You have been warned that this is a hot warzone, intruders. You, gatekeeper of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, we recognize your right of passage here, but not those of the others."
"Yo." You call out, then quickly correct yourself as the tengu glares at you, "I mean, excuse me. I am a courier for Eientei, as you can see with my armband. I, Miss Hong as well as my...err...partner vehicle possess the shipment of medicine Youkai Mountain ordered last week."
"I see. And those?" He gestures at your hooded spirits.
"Those are evil spirits."
"...Unusual magical familiars."
"Look," Meiling cuts you off, "You want the medicine or not? We're just here to do our jobs and we're pretty sure you'll be needing it soon."
Another tengu, a crow jumps down and mutters something in the leader's ear. His eyes widen as if surprised then shakes his head. "We need it...now. You are cleared, courier. Now, you people."
Without even hesitating or breaking his cool Lazarov pulls out an ornate scroll and unrolls it, "We are an Outside observation group authorized by the Yakumo Clan to survey and record details of Gensokyo for the Russian government. In addition, we are a FSB Vympel spetsnaz squad with all of the capabilities implied, and have additional power allocated in the authorization contract to protect Gensokyo's interests through force if necessary."
You notice Konoroz, on the other hand, is looking a little pale, though still firm.
"Is that so?" The leader walks forward and scans the scroll, "In that case stay here until we send a proper welcoming party to escort you."
"What?" Lazarov flips his hands up in shock, "Isn't there a battle currently..."
"Fighting's over. We've won, though most of those bastards got away with their strange teleportation, even the ones who we thought died." The words come out with unusual weight, as if it was bad news. "The area still remains on lockdown as we sweep the..." The crow tengu beside him leans in and whispers again, "...Actually. Are any of you trained in medicine?"
You as well as the soldier you tried to trade your knife for his rifle your first night here raise your hands.
"Good, very good!" The tengu loses his stern tone and begins speaking faster. "Everybody else stay here until the welcoming party arrives. Can you two fly?"
"Gah, humans." He leaps over. "We need both of you near the village right now. This is an order."
"Hey wait a minute..." Lazarov begins, then takes a look at the weapons pointed at them and stops.
The medic, Spring, kind of just shrugs in affirmation. You take a look at Meiling, feel the rainbow scale react with no objections, and nod towards the tengu captain.
"Good." Without warning he grabs hold of both of you, tucks you under his arms, and leaps off of the ground and takes flight. It smells like wolf fur for a brief moment before the wind drowns out your sense of smell, and you look down to see the trees get smaller, but not much as he is flying at most a couple stories above the treetops, which admittingly is quite high. Spring is screaming his head off, but you're kind of used to this by now, so you're only screaming a little.
"Tchyo za ga lima?! Eto piz dets..." You can barely hear your counterpart screaming over the wind. The tengu remains silent even as he zooms across the forest, and it only took about three minutes before he touched down on the bottom of a hillock.
"Next time, warn us a bit, won't ya?" Spring grumbles.
The tengu ignores him, "Follow me." he orders as he briskly jogs up the hillock.
Spring gives you an incredulous look and you nod in agreement as both of you follow him.
"At least can you tell us what is going on?" You ask, "We heard sounds of gunfire and saw missile explosions in the distance..."
"Missiles, eh? So those are what Tadakuni was talking about." He remarks without stopping, "If you must know. The terrorist's armored knights assaulted the Mountain, with a combined force of perhaps a hundred men along with those...things. It was a hard fight, but we won...with the aid of one unexpected outsider."
A growing dread gnaws at your brain as you realize who it probably is. "The new Hakurei, Ochiba?"
"Yes, Ochiba Hakurei, an outsider swordsmen wielding divine weapons. He showed up just as we thought we would break, and turned the tide in our favor." The tengu speaks the name with a tone of respect. Or is it fear? "While we held the line in the Kappa Village he went in and felled their commander in two strokes."
"Impressive!" You carefully praise, "With him on Gensokyo's side these terrorists can be overthrown quite soon!"
"Do you know Ochiba?"
"No, and I have no intention of going anywhere near him. Heroes like him are bad news."
"Yes, but...at what cost?" His voice breaks for a second, "Us youkai are tough, and it's quite difficult to kill us with physical weapons alone. I don't think we suffered any lasting casualties with Mr. Hakurei drawing most of the attention, except..." He averts his gaze.
"What happened?" You push him on.
"...Guard-Captain Inubashiri held back their vanguard as we made a fighting retreat up the mountains before Ochiba arrived. In the process she confronted the commander in single combat and dueled him for more than three hundred rounds, but eventually...she fell. Her last sacrifice was to taunt the enemy commander so Mr. Hakurei got an opening to finish him off. The enemy forces retreated and disappeared after their commander was slain"
A sick feeling, a revolting one, rises up in the pit of your stomach. "Is she dead?"
"...The enemy commander also had a divine weapon, a youkai-killer..." He leads you over the hilltop, and you can now see what looks to be a hasty field hospital set up on a dry plaza in the Venice-esque Kappa Village grounds. Tents and stretchers as far as the eye can see, and the Myouren Temple's ambulance has docked in a clear space nearby.
As you walk closer you can see the mass of nurses and orderlies hurrying about to be composed mostly of soldiers still in bloodstained armor and many still injured themselves, and are tending to the tengu mangled beyond belief. You shudder as you see a wolf tengu with her entire face blackened by a flame weapon of some sort, but is still sitting quietly having her wounds treated by another wolf tengu who is missing a left arm. Similar sights of combat related mutilations and injuries are common throughout, though to your relief you see no body bags or fully covered stretchers.
"Svyatoy ad..." Spring swears under his breath. "Never thought I'd see something like this again. Not here."
"Can't imagine how hard it is to kill one of you guys..." You half-heartedly joke, then cease as you see the tengu's miserable expression.
It appears however that most of the tengu, and quite a few kappa, are congregating around a large tent in the middle, and all of them are deadly silent. As the guard pushes some of them aside, a tortured wail erupts from within, surprising you. The voice of a young man? One younger than you? Loud weeping follows, and you can see somber looks all around, while the military ones seem on the verge of crying. The tengu captain screams in panic and sadness and shoves past the crowd, clearing a way for you two to follow.
You spot Aya and Hatate, easily distinguished by their hairstyle and rather prominent position in the front of the crowd. Neither of them look really happy though, and Aya looks practically traumatized, in addition to the fact that her right wing is missing and replaced by a bandaged stump. They also don't recognize or acknowledge you as you pass by them.
The tent is open on all sides, and as you clear the crowd you can see, with growing horror, what is happening inside the medical tent.
In front of you is a grieving family. You may be wrong but you're pretty sure tengu grieve the same way as everyone else. Two older-looking white wolves, in human appearance to be around their thirties, is weeping profusely against each other. Likely husband and wife, judging by their gender. Sprawled all over the bed, crying so much that it looks like he may run out of tears and weep blood instead quite soon, is a black-haired wolf tengu, a young one, no older than sixteen by looks. You know before even looking on the bed whose corpse it is lying on it, just by looking at the maple-leaf shield and the large, broken scimitar by the side of the bed.
Inubashiri Momiji lies lifeless on the bed, almost as if she is sleeping, though the massive glowing wounds carved across her body would indicate otherwise. According to your Eientei medikit's handbook such spiritual wounds are one of the few things able to kill a youkai beyond massive, unreasonable trauma, and you can tell just how effective it is in this horrific spectacle.
As if pouring salt on the wound, Ochiba is standing there next to them looking somber, but not crying in typical protagonist fashion, just shedding a tear out of one eye. You are sure that you shouldn't get mad. He hasn't done anything to you, and he is a hero, after all. But still you can't help but feel simmering resentment at his presence.
"Sis...Sis why?" The black-haired tengu sobs, "After all these years...Damn them, damn them all! I'll send them straight to hell!" He snarls as he picks up his own sword and tries to run out of the tent, only to be restrained by Ochiba.
"Let me go! I'll make them pay! I'LL MAKE ALL OF THEM PAY!"
"Keyaki." Ochiba states in a calm, reassuring tone, "The time for vengeance will come, but now is not the time."
"You don't understand!"
"I do understand. Perhaps I'm just a human..."
He's giving a speech. Why is he giving a speech.
"...I too have lost close friends in my path for justice. Some left broken-hearted, others perished in their efforts. Yet I pushed on alone, fighting in the shadows against the darkness dwelling in the Outside."
Somewhere along the way Keyaki stops struggling, and Ochiba had turned his somber face to the crowd at large and raises his voice.
"And now I stand before you, a mere human in the company of ancients. I am glad to have fought alongside each one of you, as equals, and perhaps you will not take the words of a youngling like me seriously, but I plead for your ears. Captain Inubashiri's sacrifice must not be made in vain. The enemy has shown the ruthlessness and viciousness they are willing to display in their efforts, however mysteriously motivated they are, that result in the destruction of this paradise and the lives within."
It's not very well-written, but it appears that it was made up on the spot anyway. Also either because of the passion in his voice or whatever magic his bloodline granted him everybody appears to be listening, even the grief-stricken Inubashiris, the parents in particular who stopped weeping and are looking up. You wonder where Lord Tenma is.
"While this battle for the Kappa Village may be over, I fear that the battle for Gensokyo has only begun. The terrorists have shown that they already have a presence in all parts of Gensokyo, and it is likely only a matter of time before they strike again! The curtain only just parted on this play, and we are all being called to act in this real-life drama. To preserve the integrity of this paradise, to ensure that magic would not disappear from this world, we cannot just sit by and be passive in this regard. No I ask of you all to stand up..."
The crowd is absorbing his speech eagerly. You can hear excited yells and roars already. Ochiba stands tall, imposing and stalwart in the middle of the tent. You can almost see a vague glow around his form, but it could just be Gensokyo's atmosphere.
Spring on the other hand has so far has reacted with great confusion to the whole ordeal, though he also stood up tall and is pumping a fist, though his expression doesn't match. As Ochiba speaks on, he mutters to you, "The deceased. She's important, right? Guard-Captain or something?"
"Chief Guard Captain. Like a Colonel. Also very popular in the fandom. Holy shit if word of this gets Outside..." You can't imagine the reaction, mostly because you have no idea. You know your reaction though, a heavy, cold sinking feeling, as if somebody literally tore your favorite book in front of your eyes. Momiji was one of your more liked characters, after all. "Damn...why her?"
"Wow. This must suck for you then, huh? Reckon the Kapitan would feel like shit too."
"...and so they think they could kill us and we would cower, that by showing off their armor and beasts that they can march right over us. Well I tell you that that is never going to happen as long as I draw breath. Even though I have only been with Captain Inubashiri for half a day, I consider her to be my friend, and anybody who takes the life of my friends is not! Getting! Away! With it! Now..."
"Yeah. Fuck. First time in a while I was too late to stop something." You groan as you lean against a thick tent pole, hopeless.
"Otstoy, but us medics have to deal with that feeling. Like the times when it turns out I've been de-fibrillating a corpse the whole time. Heart beats don't reverse brain death after all." “Brain death?” Something in that phrase catches you attention. “Wait a minute.”
"...I do not ask you to throw your lives away, but do allow your righteous fury to take hold. When you find yourself confronted by the enemy, and you will, remember Captain Inubashiri, remember what she gave, remember what she meant to all of you. Once more I say again, when you take up arms for Gensokyo it will be FOR INUBASHIRI MOMIJI!"
"FOR INUBASHIRI MOMIJI!" Everyone cries out in response. You don’t notice.
"Heart beats don't reverse brain death...brain death...but what does?"
"Mr. Wu?" Spring looks worriedly at your blank expression.
The realization hits you like a lightning bolt. You physically and violently kick yourself for being so slow in such an important situation.
"Thank me? Wha...?"
"For saving lives."
You sneak up next to a kappa doctor near the edge of the tent and speak to him in a hushed but urgent tone. "Hey, I'm from Eientei. I ask you, when exactly did Captain Inubashiri expire?"
"You...guh." He reacts with confused surprise, "You dare ask such a question now?"
"It's really important. Answer me." You growl at him and squeeze his shoulders tightly. "When!"
"Just two minutes ago she drew her last breath! Why do you ask such a ghoulish question...hey!"
Clinical death then. CPR is not the question here as it appears Momiji expired due to divine injuries rather than anything physical. But brain death is something that sets in only minutes after clinical death. However, you have just these minutes, maybe more. Youkai are tough, after all. You've also done something similar just last night.
You don’t have to reverse brain death if you could prevent it.
The morphine needle stuck in your neck valve, you take a deep breath to calm yourself down a little and allow the drug to disperse in your bloodstream, dulling all sensation. With stumbling steps, you move into the center of the tent.
Ochiba appears to have finished the climax of his speech and has turned back to the surviving family.
"Remember what she last told you, and stay strong." Ochiba says as he wipes the tears off of Keyaki's face and pats the shoulders of the parents. "She still lives inside your heart. I'm sure such a person like her, a loving daughter and a good sister would receive the whitest of judgments."
A crashing sound interrupts him as you stumble over an unseen stool. You stand up straight, drawing all of the eyes in the room to you and step up to the deathbed, also silencing all of the cheering.
With a now-familiar maneuver you press the runed hand against your own chest and other on Momiji's wounds and mutter "Hew.". A rushing gush of pink mist flows out of your palm and towards her. As soon as they see this the guards shout and raise their weapons at your apparent desecration, only to drop them in shock as the divine wounds close on her body, and her pale skin once more turns rosy with the flow of blood.
Your mind, numbed to the pain by the morphine, still turns faint as your magic saps out substantial amounts of your own lifeforce, and your grit your teeth to stay conscious enough until you see Momiji lurch up as she gasps for air, and then you let go, and allow yourself to collapse onto the ground.
And proceed to not fall unconscious as the rainbow scale jabs at your mind, and you just kind of lie there, too exhausted to do anything but weakly twitch. Somebody behind you props you up, and you see everyone staring at the newly animated Momiji as well as you, not quite sure what just happened or how to react.
"...Sis?" Keyaki says with a trembling voice.
Momiji slowly opens her eyes, and looks around with a confused gaze. "I-I guess I faded out for a moment there. Looks like I still have some time left with you, right..." She looks down upon herself, the confusion turning to joyful shock, and with an eager hand checks herself for injuries. "What? I'm fine?"
"Iji!!!" Screaming with frenzied, almost insane elation at the sudden whiplash in circumstance out of seemingly nowhere, her family falls upon her in an embrace, and the room collapses into chaos.
Reporters shouting, warriors cheering. People are crowding around you and asking hundreds of questions at once. The IV drip is knocked over and tables are overturned. Sometime during the event Ichirin, Murasa as well as Unzan made their way over from the ambulance ship, and is looking around with utter bewilderment at the mass euphoria occurring and the fact that you, who they recognize, is being figuratively torn to bits by feathered and furred folk asking to shake your hand or energetically subjecting you to hugs.
You take a look at Ochiba and expect at least annoyance, but to your surprise he looks just as happy as everyone else.
Maybe he is a decent person after all. You can't judge somebody based off of your personal dislikes, after all.
"Lisus Kristos!" You hear Spring mutter as he hoists your limp form up, allowing you to get about ten microphones and notepads shoved in your face by a wall of black-haired, somewhat disturbingly avian faces. "Is that you? Ming? What are you?"
You struggle to open your mouth due to sheer exhaustion, and only barely manage to squeak out the words, "Just...doing...my...job."
================== Time: 5:30 PM Date: June 29, 20XX Location: Tengu Village Threat Level: 0
It's the fourth time this week you woke up in somebody else's bed. Or rather, futon. Stupid Japanese and their stupid bedrolls. They've stripped off your armor, but apparently not your underclothes. Somebody has also tucked you in quite firmly.
A quick glance at your watch reveals that you've only been out for about an hour this time, instead of an entire night. Probably a good thing too, considering how much seems to happen every day. What's that saying? "A day in heaven is a year on earth?" Judging by what your inscribed spells can do indeed it's really like you skipped four years of medical school in four days.
Unlike Eientei's clinical furnishings, this room is legitimately luxurious and aristocratic. The paper screens are detailed with elaborate paintings, the furniture all sport detailed sculptings, and there's some sort of large leaf self-swaying plant in vases beside where you are sleeping, which you judge after observing them for a few moments to probably be a magical alternative to the electric fan.
It's nice and cool in here. You stand up and crack open the window just a bit, and lurch backwards.
You are in a room perched right above a massive waterfall, likely the same one you saw in the distance coming to Youkai Mountain and also the same one in Mountain of Faith Stage four. The Waterfall of Nine Heavens indeed lives up to its name, and you feel vertigo just looking at the bottom, which looks uncomfortably far away. Distant figures, some winged and some not, fly among the mist from the waterfall, and you swear that some of them are flying IN to the waterfall.
Above the waterfall, around the house you are in are various trees, mostly maples. You can see several other houses built along the banks of this river, as well as houses built into the cliff below you. Wood and thatch appears to be the favored building materials here, and you note that it gives them a distinctively "wild" look in resemblance to animal nests and dens, even though judging by the interior of the house you are in they probably enjoy much of the same amenities as humans. You do note stairs running between them, as well as extended and tatami-covered balconies that seem to serve as landing pads for their residents.
As the waterfall's end is quite a way's down below, it's quiet here. Tranquil, even.
You turn around at the timid voice, and see the black-haired Keyaki halfway emerged from behind the doorway, peeking nervously at you.
"Hi." You respond, "So uh, is this your house?"
"Y..yes." It's odd, he doesn't look that young but is still acting shy as hell, but then again you did just save his siter's life.
"So I see your family took care of me when I passed out." You take up a more dominant tone, provoking a stiffening in his back, "I am very thankful of your kindness."
Adding to the emphasis, you give a deep bow.
"Um...uh. Actually it was the least we could have done...to somebody who did...just that. I am terribly sorry." He breaks his posture and his ears tremble, and your eyes widen as you hear rapid footsteps approaching, "It's just been so much, I...Sis!"
"IS HE AWAKE?" The screen door slams open, and you see Momiji, still clad in her torn clothes and with her white hair all messed up beyond recognition, charge over with a frenzied look on her face. "Mr. Wu!"
To your astonishment she straight up faceplants onto the tatami in a double genuflect. "I, Inubashiri Momiji, give my greatest gratitude and sincerest thanks for your aid in pulling me back from the Sanzu. For the debt of my life I am willing to repay anything in kind."
You take a step back from the prostrating tengu, unsure how to react to somebody showing some form of deference to you, "What. I mean, I was just doing my job! It's what I'm supposed to do!"
"You tore out your own life in exchange for mine!" She growls as she looks up, "We thought you had died when you passed out."
"That's not true," You half-lie. Glancing up, you see that Keyaki has disappeared, "I'm just bad at magic."
"There is no need for humbleness here. I owe you my life. To pretend otherwise is a stain on my name and my pride."
"Momi!" You hear somebody call from down the hall, and another tengu which you recognize as her mother rushes up...along with your ancestor.
"Grandma." You acknowledge Meiling before shows around the wall, "What the hell is going on?"
"You brought her back from the dead what did you expect? Oh, Yanagi? I will need to speak to my grandson in private for a moment."
"Of course, Meiling." Yanagi? Seems like their family really likes trees. "Now, Momiji, don't scare him like that! He doesn't understand..."
Meiling leads you over to a neighboring room, and with a massive grin on her face grabs hold of your shoulders, "Zhen-Guo, Zhen-Guo, do you realize what you've done?"
"What...I've done?" You protest, "I basically just resuscitated her, it's not like I brought her back from the dead or something."
"Yeah you did. Zhen-Guo. I don't think you realize the magnitude of that 'Hew' spell. Divine wounds are mortal blows on youkai and to a lesser degree humans. Even glancing blows can cripple a youkai, which is why wielders of divine weapons are so feared."
"So? It's just a blessed weapon!" You throw up your hands, "There are tons of gods around here that can do that! You can do that!"
"Not the same." Meiling seems really pleased with herself right now, "A divine weapon is a weapon forged for and wielded by great heroes. It derives its power from the will of the masses and the reputation of the hero, not the whim of a deity. So really it's a normal weapon empowered by heroic reputation, but divine weapon is used because people call its effect the will of heaven. Reimu has her orbs, Ochiba has his two swords, and apparently the terrorist leader had some sort of halberd."
"He fell, but the body teleported away. Probably because that idiot Ochiba didn't destroy his escape device. Look, what you just did was unique and unprecedented, and something on the level of an empowered outsider."
"Fuck." You groan. "Does that mean I am one of them?"
"No. Because you are made into one. Whoever is doing it is irrelevant and will reveal themselves eventually. For now just focus on the fact that you are now owed the life of the Youkai Mountain's Guard-Captain."
"Momiji's life..." You peek out of the door to see Yanagi trying to get her daughter to get up from her genuflection. "Wow, that's actually a lot. Honestly though, I don't think I deserve something so heavy."
"A tengu's pride is a ironclad engine." Her face turns serious. "You're going to need to ask for something appropriate. To do so otherwise would insult the worth of not just her life, but the pride of the tengu military as a whole considering her status. Peek out that window over there."
You do the old saliva and poke trick on the paper screen that Meiling points to, and gulp as you see a solid line of white wolf tengu warriors lined up in the front of the house, keeping a crowd of reporters and civilians at bay.
"Right now Ochiba is meeting with Kuromatsu Inubashiri and Lord Tenma, but he does so alone. Right now, at this moment YOU are the hero of this story, and you better act like one."
"So hand of the princess then?" You barely know her. She is quite handsome though.
Your ancestor shrugs, "I wouldn't mind having tengu blood in my descendants. Momiji probably would not care either. She'll outlive you easily."
Right. Tengu. Aya's over a thousand years old and you doubt Momiji's any younger. "This, this can't be the first time something like this happened."
"It is. It's not life saving it's life giving. It's literally what you did."
You ponder for a moment, "So should I just pull a saint then and ask for nothing? Because altruism?"
A roll of eyes, "You CAN, I suppose. You're basically asking to be an actual hero then, like Ochiba, who I know asked for nothing for his services. Plus doing so is basically forcing them to write you a debt note that you can drag them around with."
"Petty, also makes her life seem like something to be bought and sold."
"Damn it grandma is there one good thing I could ask for?"
"Personally I'd ask for faith in my divinity, but then again I'm not you." Meiling's picked a chair to recline on and is crossing her arms. "I'm sure there's something you want."
Once again, the question comes up. What do YOU want?
You walk out of the door, head held high. Momiji is still on the floor, and Yanagi is looking anxiously at you while maintaining an apologetic expression.
That's a long one, good job. So, General awoo~ owes you a life debt,you're a med student on holiday, what to ask ? Military assistance in case of terrorist trouble Being made honorary tengu for everlasting free pass on the mountain date around the realm, white 10gu would gladly show you around straight D-ing ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
>>30420 [x]Full support at resolving whatever incidents that happen to endanger Gensokyo as a whole, starting with this one.
That will force them to at least rethink their policy of holing up on the mountain and saying "fuck you" to everything until Yukari fucks up defending Gensokyo.
[x]Free passage within Tengu Mountain, gotta make it our next hub With our connections in Eientei, Human Village and there, we could stand to gain very many opportunities for contracts for healing tengus up. Just gotta be careful not to make too many connections or it could be a political clusterfuck.
[x]Full support at resolving whatever incidents that happen to endanger Gensokyo as a whole, starting with this one. - [x]Free passage within Tengu Mountain.
As much as I want to vote for other things. We're asking for stuff Wu would want as a whole, or in another perspective, something to shorten this incident so he can get back to his actual vacation. I doubt he wants to get into many life-endangering situations with these terrorists on the prowl.
With the introduction of Tengu assets in the actual frontlines and not just bodyguards for the passageways would give a massive increase in both intelligence gathering and potentially HVT assassination from the crow tengus, and a whole new line of battlefield tactics by the Wolf tengu.
The free access within reason around Youkai Mountain would just be a preemptive measure so that Wu can explore it when all of this blows over and he can get back to relaxing and delivering as he pleases.
>>30423 >>30429 I just want to point out that stealing faith from under Moriyas like that is a quick way to get in a lot of trouble and we can't deal with them, Ochiba, outsider terrorists and with whoever it is that keeps slipping us overpowered stuff in an effort to make us into an Empowered v3.0 all at once.
>>30430 The Moriyas aren't stupid enough to mess with a hero right now. And when this war ends and they find themselves free... Our MC will be already gone.
It is a lot to ask tough and that's what makes it better than the other vote. Free pasage is something pilgrims already had and even more so for an Eientei employee; and asking for their help on the war makes it sound they will leave this attack unanswered. No one likes to be called a coward to their face.
>>30432 It's still setting up grounds for potential conflict right on the doorstep of the Tengu Village. Tengu are proud and weathered warriors, so as soon as an actual conflict between the gods starts (god of calamity gaining faith = potential calamity shenanigans) it has a real chance to get messy no matter how Moriyas approach the problem since tengus might be too proud to not kick eachother's shit in for liking the wrong god or not liking the right god enough.
I might be overthinking it, but it could fuck things up in the long run if we choose to do it. And we didn't even ask our grandma for details.
As others have said, free passage is something we're pretty certain to get anyway. I don't want to ask for nothing because that would offend. When I think about what the Tengu do better than others something else useful comes to mind, less obvious than direct military support.
[X]Ongoing reports from Tengu spies. Perhaps our own dedicated scouts.
Momiji get back on one knee, seems to ponder your request for a moment, then nods, “I could offer you this: My name.”
“The Inubashiri family name, or rather, a retainer-ish position. You will be recognized in every way as a Inubashiri, save for being one. This will give you everything you have asked for: Complete and unfettered access in Youkai Mountain domains, some degree of authority over our troops and the respect for your family name and ancestry…” Meiling perks up at the mention of the word ’ancestry’,“…will be carried over, in addition to all the privileges afforded a tengu of our status.” She pauses for a moment, turning her eyes up, “And we will keep a room here for you, you know, as part of the family.”
You struggle for a bit to comprehend this social contract, then assume that it’s basically like a high-level club membership. “That’s great! I mean…Ahem.”
Back up and giving a bow, you muster up the most polite, humble tone you can manage and say, “Miss Inubashiri Momiji, I humbly accept your proposal.”
Both of you take a moment to look at your respective elders, who give nods of consent, then you two turn back as if nothing happened. Silence takes the air for the better part of a minute, as Momiji lowers her head in the strange meditation/considering pose you see old people do all the time. “Are you sure?”
“I thank you greatly for accepting this humble gift in return for my life, Mr. Wu.” She says and stands up, her tail uncharacteristically perked upright and moves towards a cabinet. “If you wish we can perform the induction ritual to make you one right now.”
Momiji flings open the cabinet door, and reveals a carefully arranged collection of blank white shields. She deftly picks out one of them and hands it over to you, “If I may offer you this.”
“O…Okay?” The shield feels like porcelain, but upon tapping emits a metallic ringing.
“Mom? Can you get the rest of the materials?”
“Already on it dear.” Yanagi replies as she hurries off somewhere into the house.
“What is the ritual? You didn’t say much.”
“The shield you are carrying is one forged for only one of the Inubashiri clan,” Momiji explains, somewhat looming over you in the process “A tradition passed down over thousands of years…”
“So, like three youkai generations?”
“Four generations. It is steel that has been smelted with the bones of a hero as flux and their broken weapons as part of the raw material.”
You blink, “Wait what. Like this…” You hold up the white shield. “…this is a dead guy?”
“Not just any dead human. Ah, let me check.” The white wolf looks over the brass plaque that was covered by the shield, “Chojiro…Masamune? Right, another swordsman…I think he was European too, funny. Right, he got…what did he do again? Oh right, he tried to start a rebellion against Lord Tenma. We played along for a while until he got…unbearable, and then we ’dramatically’ betrayed him.”
“Oh I remember that!” Meiling laughs, “His tengu ’girlfriend’ took away his sword and got him chained up to a stone pillar. He did some empowered outsider thing and broke the pillar…which then crushed him.”
Momiji shrugs, “It’s a loose definition. In this context it really means anybody who thinks they’re a hero and have the skills to back it up.”
Good thing you don’t consider yourself one, right? “So what am I going to do with this? And WHY is it made out of a dead dude?”
“It’s what makes you an Inubashiri. Our induction ritual is quite simple. The only real complicated part is painting the shield. The reason we use this material is because heroic remains confer very high resistance against all forms of magic, natural, artificial, divine…”
Yanagi comes back into the room, gracefully bearing three items on a tray: A covered pot, a thick sheet of cloth and an ornate knife.
“Lord of the Inubashiri Clan, please rise.” She announces in a loud, imposing voice unresembling of her appearance. In a way it kind of sounds like a wolf howl. “All others may speak not now.”
Momiji, head lowered, stands up. You can hear clatters and shouting outside, and the shadows of heads, arms and wings pressed against the screen windows. Looks like the guards have failed at crowd control.
“Today we are ecstatic to announce a new member of our distinguished clan: The outsider known currently as Wu Ming…”
Straighten your back Guo-Guo, we’re being watched.
You dutifully adjust your posture. Yanagi walks closer, holding the tray in between you and Momiji. “He shall be inducted not as a servant, but as a equal, a brother with the name if not the blood of our clan! Does either side wish to back out of this?”
Silence, save for the sounds of some paper window screens being pressed on by camera lens and tengu faces (to no real avail as the paper appears is as thick as sailcloth). Sometime along the way Keyaki has slid into the room unnoticed and has quietly taken up position near the door, in a stiff guarding position with a hand on his sheathed sword. Your ancestor seems to have taken note and is standing alongside him.
“Very well! Brother Wu Ming!” Yanagi bows, setting down the tray on the table in the movement before dropping into a kneel. “Prepare the shield!” She leans over to you and whispers, “Pour the resin from the pot over the shield and lay the stencil over it.”
“Stencil?” You mutter as you follow her directions. The clear liquid drips out with the consistency of liquid soap, and you unroll the cloth to reveal a delicately cut hole in the middle of it, in the shape of a maple leaf. The cloth itself was black once, but is stained with a familiar brownish-red color. You lay it out on the shield as told.
“Lord Inubashiri, it is now time to paint the shield and seal the covenant.”
You pretty much derived that Momiji is going to paint the shield with blood, which the resin is likely for the purposes of reacting with it to make a paint, somehow. It’s probably something like a controlled bloodletting, you assume, as she holds the knife with her right hand over her left arm, dripping it over the shield.
You are not prepared as she plunges the razor sharp blade all the way into her arm, grimace, and then pull it right back out. Blood begins to spurt out from her arm over the table, like a grotesque fountain, painting not just the shield but the entire table a lurid shade of crimson.
You blankly watch her bleed out an artery for a few seconds, maybe ten, before almost subconsciously muttering your inscribed spell and sending out a cloud of healing mist onto her arm. Momiji jerks back her arm as soon as she sees the spell cast, to no avail as the healing mist latches onto her and seals the wound.
“Ming what are you doing! Oh…” She turns her arm up and raises her eyebrows, “Is that…Is that your healing spell?”
The tengu gathered outside, just barely held in check by the wooden walls, have began shouting at each other. Over their dialect and the multitude of noises you can’t really hear what they are shouting, but it’s definitely at each other.
Yanagi stands back up straight and seems to take a moment to process the change in script. “Hmm…after the blood painting the new brethren is supposed to treat the wound with nine silk bandages…That’s close enough. We’re done here.”
Meiling and Keyaki give a small round of applause, “Excellent work.”
The door opens and a haggard looking tengu guard stumbles through. “Captain Inubashiri, the people are getting extremely restless.”
“I know. Ming, if you are ready, pick up that shield.”
You gingerly scoop up the still visibly wet shield and carefully separate the cloth stencil from it, trying as best as you can to not get blood over your hands. On the bone white shield now sits a stark red maple leaf.
“Look at me! I’m Captain Canada!” The sheer absurdity of the design to you prompts you to joke as you hold the shield up. Everyone kind of stares at you strangely, except for Momiji who grips the bridge of her nose and mutters, “Not that again.”
The great doors to the Inubashiri mansion are sent flying outwards, sending the tengu listening behind it scattering to the ground. Meiling and Momiji push you out of the doorway, shield held in front, and you blink in the bright sunlight as you face a crowd of man-eating monsters and their eye-melting cameras.
“Um, hi?” You say as you hold up the shield in front of your face.
Gasps and excited murmurings arise from the crowd, and everybody kind of falls back at the sight of the bloody maple leaf. The formerly scattered tengu warriors perk up at the sight of the shield, and quickly rally around you to form a defensive bodyguard formation. You notice now that their shields lack the maple leaf.
“Tengu of the Youkai Mountain! Hear ye!” Momiji shouts out as she exits the house behind you. “From this day forward the human known as Wu Ming shall be recognized as part of my clan!”
Some silence, and then a rather familiar tengu pops up, and hovers level to the stage, camera in hand. “What, are you doing this again?”
You duck as you hear something whistle in the air behind you, and look up just in time to see a danmaku bolt sail right past Aya, who has, in the brain signal for the blink of an eye, repositioned herself adjacent to you. The wolf tengu guards, to your dismay, back off at her presence.
“I mean you seem to be on an adopting spree here, Momiji.”
“Wu Ming is inducted as a RETAINER.” You turn to see Momiji angrily announce as she lowers her broken sword, which is still smoldering from magical discharge. “We do not intend to adopt him.”
“Adopt?” You begin to ask, and then notice Keyaki blushing and looking away. You mentally kick yourself in the head for not noticing it earlier.
The kid (Is he older than you? He doesn’t appear in ZUN’s works) also appears to be more shy than a wren in a hedgerow. You make a note to ask Momiji or Yanagi exactly what is his deal.
It does however raise even more questions that you’ll probably have to ask Momiji (or perhaps Yanagi considering that parents are the ones who adopt)
Aya, with the same untraceable movement, flies over next to Momiji, “Anyway, you still owe me an interview after what I did for your clan last year, so…”
You think you would see a vein pop on Momiji’s forehead if it wasn’t for the fact that her fluffy hair covers just that much of her face. “You…Alright. Retainer Wu Ming, as lord of the Inubashiri Clan, I order you to bear the burden of this mission.”
“I thought this was a benefit, Momiji.” You complain, “Grandma, help.”
“So, Lady Hong,” You hear Yanagi say from behind you, “There’s this wonderful sulfur spring that just finished construction near the Geyser Research Center. I have to go check on our wounded troops down by the village, so if you wish to come along and let the younguns have fun.”
“Gladly, Lady Inubashiri.”
You can handle an interview, right?
“Yeah, I guess.” You reply as you lower your head and follow Aya through an opening in the crowd and down the side of the waterfall. Thankfully Momiji and Keyaki follow close behind.
The crow tengu leads you into a relatively secluded and currently empty teahouse constructed in a grotto on the side of the cliff. You are rather relieved that the steps carved aren’t designed for stickmen, but you still do your best to not look down.
“Hey, Momiji why are you two here when the interview’s about Ming?” Aya asks as she perches on top of one of the chairs opposite you.
“Come on Momi I promise I won’t eat him!” Aya jokes as she pulls out her notepad and pen, in addition to a strange-looking device that despite its resemblance to a phonograph sports a cassette case and appropriate buttons, which she presses. “So let’s get started shall we? We’ll make this fair. You get one answer for every one you give, and I bet you have lots of them.”
“More than you think.”
“First question. Why did you risk your life to save the village children from kidnappers, and why did you decide to become a hero?”
She widens her eyes as you lean over, “I would like to set the record straight.” You defiantly state “I didn’t like those guys because they were pissing me and Reisen off at the clinic and actually threatened me. I was looking for an excuse to murder them and sell off their possessions. The fact that they kidnapped the children is merely coincidental and provides said excuse.”
“Mmhmm.” She jots down her notes in a blur. “So you’re a mercenary at heart then, I see.”
“You can say that. My turn. How come the Artist puts you in so many games? I mean, as far as I know you’re just a tabloid reporter, right?”
Aya inserts a painful look in her grinning expression, “That actually hurt me. How can you say that.”
“You are.” Momiji adds on, “Your newspaper sales is probably the last reason why the Artist includes you in so many games.”
“I can take that, Iji.” Aya leans back on her chair and flares out her wings, a smug look coming over her face, “First reason is because I’m what outsiders would call the ’Ace of Aces’ in Gensokyo. Simply put, absolutely nobody can beat me in a fair aerial fight. You know how the human heroines have their ’Fantasy Heavens’ and ’Final Sparks’ that they pull out as their trump card? Well what you see as ’Illusionary Dominance’ only applies in spellcard duels. Normally it’s just ’Dominance’.”
“It means she can beat anybody in an aerial duel as long as nobody uses any actual tactics or tricks.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t pull it off anyway.” She sits back up straight, “Alright, outsider, your turn. The question everybody’s waiting for:”
Aya gives a smirk at Momiji, “Why did you risk your life to save Awoo here?”
She vanishes from the chair as Momiji’s broken greatsword smashes it into little wooden chunks.
“SHAMEIMARU YOU INSOLENT STRUMPET!” The white wolf roars out as she swings her blade back around with alarming finesse. Aya had jumped up to the rafters, and is hanging upside down on a rafter, notepad and pen still in hand.
“You missed! So, Wu Ming, how…GAH!”
Aya cries out in pain as Momiji flips the blade around and angles it towards her face, briefly blinding her with the reflection. A follow up grab onto the crow tengu’s shirt sleeve sends her off the rafter and face first into the ground.
“I was just doing my job. You know. I actually have a better question,” You ask, intentionally ignoring the violence, “With all of the fighting you guys do, don’t your clothes get torn up quite often?”
“Silk weaves, and more recently kevlar.” Aya grumbles as she picks her face up from the ground as Momiji seems satisfied with her handiwork and steps back. “Your turn. Where did you get that healing power from.”
“I know about as much as you do. Wait…” You catch her unfamiliar English words, “Kevlar?”
The door to the pavilion creaks open, and Keyaki pokes his head in. “Guys—I mean, brethren. There’s a kappa waiting outside to speak to Ming.”
“Tell her to hold off until I could finish this interview.” Aya orders.
“How urgent is this?”
“You know how the kappa are, timid and all that. She wouldn’t give a straight answer.” Keyaki scratches his ears, “You sure it’s okay?”
“Well if she’s not talking I’m not leaving.” Aya gestures for Keyaki to close the door, “Ming, next question. Since you are quite familiar with Gensokyo and its more famous residents, which one is your favorite?”
You cough, “Are you just grabbing questions off of Internet forums?”
Aya blinks, slowly. “Internet? You outsiders talk about it a lot but I have no idea.”
“Hold on, hold on. Back it up. How much communication do you guys have with the Outside World?”
“None. That’s the point of the Border—”
“Mountain Interior Operations have some sort of a wireless phone line.” Momiji interjects, “But that’s just for communication with the Yakumo operations in the outside world. It’s not functional right now, for obvious reasons.”
You are pretty sure Aya’s at least half-lying on her ignorance of the Internet, but you go along with it anyway.
"You mean as depicted in the works or in real life?"
“Hmm," You take a while to consider, "I guess my favorite character would be…”
Silence. Aya stops writing to look up. "Say again?"
"Yuuka Kazami? The Youkai of Four Seasons?" Momiji interjects incredulously, "The meat grinder of outsiders?"
"Quick question, Miss Shameimaru, what's Yuuka's kill count?"
The crow spins her pen and takes a moment to recall, "One hundred and three since outsiders started coming through frequently, not including fairies of course. Like most sapient youkai she does not attack natives."
"See there? I always wanted to be kind of like her. Calm, lazy, and strong as hell, oh, and a steady source of corpses and grieving families." You answer with a chuckle, "But enough about me. My turn. Give me a sitrep."
"The forces we have..."
"No, I'll make myself clear." You lean closer, newfound confidence at your position coming into your voice. "I want a sitrep of the whole thing going on here. Starting off: The knights who attacked me not only accused me of being a murderer and a slave to Eientei, but also a puppet of something called 'Clear Sky'? "
Aya blinks twice, slowly, "That is a very long story. I guess we can start---"
The door slams open, and a tall, unrecognized figure steps in.
“Lord Tenma!” The tengu bow deeply as soon as they see the figure, who hunches to get in under the doorway. Tenma is at least seven feet tall, by your reckoning, which is large but not as large as the wolf tengu captain from earlier.
It’s rather hard to tell if Tenma is male or female at first glance, as his/her face, handsome proud and cruel, is clean shaven and androgynous to boot. The few fandom depictions appear to be at least mostly on point, as Tenma is indeed a white-haired crow tengu, though you are inferring the crow part by the absence of any ear-like protrusions on Tenma’s hatless head.
You then remember that you are a Inubashiri retainer, and follow their gestures.
“So...” A voice not unlike the howling of a sandstorm somehow diffused into words reaches you. Male, or at least close enough. “This is the human who saved the life of our Guard Captain.”
“It was my honor. Lord Tenma.” You reply.
Silence fills up the next few moments, and you take a moment to look up at Tenma, who is studying you with increasing amounts of incredulity.
“Captain Inubashiri Keyaki, Shameimaru Aya, are you both absolutely certain this man is the one who performed the act?”
“Lord Tenma,” You hear Momiji say, “I can vouch for...”
“You were unconscious, Guard-Captain. I do not question your judgement, but actual observers of your recovery are likely more reliable here.”
It is Keyaki who speaks up this time, surprisingly, “I was definitely Retainer Ming. Unless somehow Mr. Hakurei Ochiba gained horrifying healing abilities and can take control of another person’s body to cast it.”
“I hear. I....Oh come on.” You snap your head back up at the sudden break in character and speaking pattern. “Am I the only one in this room who cannot sense a single shred of magical potential on this human?”
“We don’t have to play formal? Awesome.” Aya says with relief and transitions in the blink of an eye from her stiff bow into a lackadaisical recline on one of the chairs. “Yeah it’s him. I don’t know how his magic works, other than the fact that some sort of runes on his body lights up and that he doesn’t know how it works.”
“I am an idiot who does not know how my own spells work.” You confirm.
Tenma’s eyes contain more exhaustion than arrogance as he breaks his stare. “Are you all telling me...that this human, barely even an adult, is the one who fully brought back to life Guard-Captain Inubashiri, who in turn has suffered not one, not two, but THREE mortal wounds cast by a DIVINE weapon. And he has NO magical potential. I just got off from talking to one whose ego actually matches his power, and even HE confirms he cannot heal like that.”
“Like I said. I have no idea how I got these powers. Only that they come from these iron cards that somebody unseen is placing in my belongings and after a while merge onto my skin as these scars.” You hold up your hand. “See, my lord?”
“Hmmph, it does not matter how many spells you inscribe if there is no fuel for the furnace of magic. But iron cards...” He strokes his chin. You notice now that despite his hair color, he looks just like a man in his early-thirties, not resembling an entity postulated by the fandom to be older than recorded history, though the same could be said for damn near everyone. “Iron cards....” His eyes widen slightly, “That is odd. I suppose you have asked around about them quite often?”
“Yeah! ” You shake your head, “It’s like nobody in Gensokyo knows anything beyond the spells themselves! Patchouli Knowledge figured out that they are similar to one of her techniques, but is otherwise completely unrelated!”
“So I’ve heard from my sources. Apparently you have your signature heal, a stasis spell, and a control mechanism for weak evil spirits. A schizophrenic collection of things easily learnable by a decent magician, if it were not that now we know the heal, trumps even divine will. As for the iron cards...Captain Keyaki!”
“My lord?” The black-haired wolf perks up.
“Go to the armory and fetch the contents of shelf number four in vault eight.”
“Vault eight? Er...I mean, yes my lord.” He bows, covering up his surprise and departs out the door, kicking off into flight backwards.
Lord Tenma finally finds a seat and sits down. With a casual wave of his right hand he directs a teapot and four cups to fly over to the table of their own accord. And with a raising of his left index finger the teapot glows red hot for a split second, and steam bursts out of the spout almost immediately. “Now, as for what I am here originally: Welcome to the Youkai Mountain Guard Forces, Captain Wu.”
You aren’t even surprised at this point, “This retainer thing is just a whole package of surprises, isn’t it?”
“Lord Tenma, are you sure?” Momiji protests, “Even though he is a Inubashiri by name...”
“Means he has all of the responsibility of a Inubashiri. Rest assured, Captain Wu, I am not handing you any authority over our forces...” His face darkens, “Not that it would make a difference at this point.”
“What?” Are the simultaneous responses to his depressive statement.
“I got a final report from the Clear Sky outpost in Nagano Prefecture before the Border was sealed. I did not share it with anyone.” Tenma swishes his tea around, “They got several aerial photographs on a force of the so-called ‘Saviors’ moving through the wilderness towards Gensokyo’s access point. They counted around 20,000 of those knights and at least 100 of those abominable warbeasts.”
A soft crackling sound as Aya falls over in her chair from her tilted seating position, and a heavy cracking sound as Momiji’s sword jams three inches into the floor.
“Well I’m dead.” You blankly state. “I am going to assume we do not have the capabilities, even counting in all of Gensokyo, to defeat them.”
“If you put it that way. Captain Wu, we can. We will also suffer irreparable losses to our population and likely turn Gensokyo into ashes along the way. That is, even if we can get all of the relevant parties working together.”
“Hang on. I was asking Aya this earlier: What is this ‘Clear Sky’ you all keep referring to?”
Silence. Momiji takes the moment to settle into a seat of her own as Tenma takes a sip of his teacup. “I take that you would desire the story from the beginning.”
“500 years ago.” Tenma begins, “What is now known as Gensokyo was formed in the event now termed as the Youkai Expansion Project. The first layer of the Hakurei Barrier, the border between the illusive and the real, was created, and Gensokyo transformed from a backwater region in the middle of nowhere into a beacon of magical existence.”
“Heading this project was the youkai sage then and now only known as Yakumo Yukari. I still know not her true name or identity, only that she had served as a handmaiden under Tamamo-No-Mae, who now prefers to be referred to as Yakumo Ran, perhaps out of shame for her past, or perhaps a...darker reason. Yukari had risen to her prominent position after defeating every youkai king and sage there were through both trickery and brute force. I personally had my wings torn off during that confrontation. It was not a civilized affair.”
In a break in composure, Tenma flutters his white wings, as if nervous.
“With Gensokyo created, most of us thought that aside from further improvements to the Barrier with the introduction of the Hakurei caretakers and perhaps some territorial changes to account for immigration, that was the end of the Youkai Expansion Project. That is, until Yukari, normally extremely reclusive and antisocial, invited the leaders of the major factions to a meeting just at the tail end of the 118th Season, or 2003 AD by your calendar. ”
“It was at that meeting that she revealed that the Youkai Expansion Project never truly stopped, only went on hiatus as she spent the next few centuries gathering resources. In retrospect it should have been obvious to us that such an ambitious individual with gargantuan magical power would never have settled for a small tract in Japan. She did not reveal any details, but during that time she had amassed a vast fortune through both licit and illicit means, wealth uncountable through mere monetary values. Of course there were gold bars and gems abound, ready to be traded in for materials and people, but also secrets, secrets meant for closed eyes and secrets that could doom nations, seized upon by the Youkai of Boundaries.”
“She asked for our cooperation, and in turn offered us the world.”
“The Outside, she says, is wretched and stagnant, filled with humans with no hope or desire of a better world. She has already began using her abilities and connections to establish a vast shipping company to serve as cover for our actions, with the end goal of turning the entire world into Gensokyo, where myths and legends could once again live on, not just in this tiny Japanese walled garden, but also in the cities and wilds of the entire world. Imagine us tengu flying among the skyscrapers of Tokyo, children playing with fairies in their local parks, youkai sages offering their counsel to human governments...A living fairytale for everyone, if not a paradise. A world with no smog and a Clear Sky.”
“With you guys at the top of the pecking order, I presume. Or should I say the food chain?” You dryly snark.
“I would have you know that more humans die from their fellows’ hands every year than they have died from youkai in all of history.” Tenma retorts. “The feeding issue is merely a technical problem, one whose solution is near completion. Aside from that, the flesh is merely a vessel for the fear and wonder that fuels our existence. Once we have the fear of the entire human population, spiritual subsistence would be a non-issue. Also,” He tilts the cup towards you, “Judging by what has been reported about what you did to those outsiders in the village, you’re one to talk about morality.”
Tenma leans back, “As for our contribution. Yukari asked that we collectively serve as a factory for the magical supplies needed for her efforts. Youkai Mountain, including the Kappa Village, is currently serving as a producer of magical technology, of both civilian and military flavors. The reason why I told you all of this, Captain Wu, is because judging by the locations these knights are attacking, they are aiming to destroy known Clear Sky facilities in addition to removing the local authority figures.”
His grip tightens, “By pre-emptively sealing off the Border, they have not only facilitated their own crossings, but have also cut off any possible Clear Sky reinforcements, allowing them to exploit the fact that Yukari did not choose to use Gensokyo as the main hub for her operations.”
“So...let me get this straight.” You stand up and finish digesting Tenma’s words. “That these guys who proclaim that the “Violet Tyrant” is scheming to do really bad things in their view, are actually not crazy?”
“Perhaps they still are, but you are right in that these are not frothing terrorists. They have a clear military goal in mind: The destruction of Clear Sky, and are making rational decisions to achieve this end. For one, I received a letter by a trained hawk shortly after the battle. They wish to negotiate.”
“Terms?” Momiji grits out.
“That we do not interfere in their operations and remain within our territory.”
“Most of us would be willing to take that offer,” Aya states, “It is rather arrogant of them to do so after directly attacking the mountain.”
Tenma suppresses a cough, “They specifically said that our patrols ‘provoked’ them, and offer condolences for the ‘White Wolf Captain’s’ family.”
You can’t help but succumb to a fit of the giggles at that statement, even though Momiji herself reacts with considerable anger, slamming the table and shouting, “Condolences? If it wasn’t for this outsider there would be no condolences in this world keeping the Guard from tearing them and everyone they loved to shreds!”
“Speaking of Ming.” Tenma continues, “They also expect us to hand you over if we find you.”
Your giggling stops. “Will you?” You nervously ask.
“Lord Tenma...” Momiji growls, her fists balled and her tail perked upright, “I suggest you...”
“Of course not.” He sighs, “It’s not possible after you inducted him. No tengu on the mountain will tolerate me handing over an Inubashiri, inducted or not. For anything short of treason.”
“You are on our side, right?” Aya asks, as if half expecting you to say no.
“Gee, I wonder which side I’m on?” You lean back dramatically, ”The one trying to kill me in retribution for a few murders or the one filled with cute youkai girls? Wow, it’s such a hard decision!”
“Cute...youkai...girls...First time one of them was honest about it.” Aya mutters as she jots in her notepad, Tenma seems to take note of something else you said.
“A few murders?”
“I may have killed anywhere between one to seven of them. Either way it’s too few and it was technically in self-defense.”
“You’ve managed to kill them?”
“With overwhelming support and with the initiative in my hands, yes. The first one were poorly equipped scouts, and the later were through Lunarian weaponry. One of which is this here warhammer.” You mutter the incantation and the sleek black weapon appears in your hand, allowing you to wave it around a bit. “This is also what I call initiative, by the way.”
“Shocking scoop! Miraculous Healer also Deadly Assassin?”
“Gimme that!” You try to snatch the notepad away from the scribbling crow tengu, who shifts to another seat across the table before your arm even extended half way.
“Regardless of what he did,” Momiji continues as she puts a hand on your shoulder, sending cold shivers down your body. “I owe Wu Ming my life, and if these brats want him, they would go through me first.”
“No! Momiji!” You scream as you jump up, knocking the chair back in the process, and surprising the wolf tengu into jittering back. “No...No! If anyone is going to harm...any of you. They would go through ME.”
You take a deep breath, and glance at everyone who appears quite shocked at your behavior.
“I don’t need anyone protecting me. I don’t want anybody getting hurt because of me. I’m sorry--”
“Lord Tenma?” The door swings open as Keyaki stumbles in with a large bundle swung over his back. “Is this what you wanted?”
“Yes.” Tenma takes the opportunity to quickly change the subject. “Captain Wu. You might want to have a look at this.”
The cloth bundle parts to reveal a wooden box. The wooden box opens (by itself as the bundle opens, as you note) to reveal what looks like a long hunk of rusted iron.
“This. This is what I was talking about. This...thing.”
You stare at it for about twenty seconds, noting its tubular feature and a mass of mechanisms near one end. “Looks like most of what once was a matchlock firearm.”
“Haven’t seen one of these in forever.” Momiji mutters as she gingerly lifts (with some exertion, you note) the hunk of metal. “We almost never used guns until recently. They were a human’s weapon.”
“The reason why I brought it up is because of this mark.” Tenma scratches away some of the rust, revealing what looks to have once been a rune. “This weapon is peculiar in a number of ways. First of all it’s completely iron, and to compensate for the weakness of not using steel its barrel is twice as thick as normal. Secondly the underside of the barrel is composed of even more iron rather than wood, and is studded with spikes like a kanabo. Thirdly there’s no handle. And fourth is that it’s the only fully iron thing I’ve seen that has been engraved with magical sigils, like your cards.”
“So you’ve got...half of a barely functional tanegashima, crudely made and inscribed with old faded runes. Yep, sounds like me alright. ” You sigh as you reach out to feel the thing. “I mean, what could--”
“Well this is awkward.” You say to yourself.
“Never thought I’d see me again.” You reply. “Not like this.”
You and you are tied up next to each other, facing a projector screen.
“So what am I looking at here? Is it mine?”
“I don’t know.”
The projector lights up.
A scene plays out, with you as the viewer. In front of you is an old man with a flowing white beard, wielding a ritualistic looking blade. Behind him is are the trees of a deep forest.
You swing at the old man, who effortlessly meets your weapon with his own, but struggles to actually complete the parry as your brute strength and the barbaric nature of your weapon threatens to simply crush through his defense. You draw back for another swing, and he takes the opportunity to make several quick stabs on your body. It hurts.
It hurts even more as you focus on something unseen, and the weapon glows with a pinkish light, and the man’s eyes widen. Another swing is parried, yet the man yells in pain as the pink light travels down his weapon and onto him. Another swing. Another swing. Eventually the man slows down and begins stepping back, but another cast of something roots him in place, pink ropes of light latching around his form, impeding no physical movement but apparently causing great distress. He weakly struggles, but can do little as you level your weapon right up to his face, and pull the trigger, splattering his head all over the forest ground and filling you with a rushing high.
The scene plays on repeat dozens of times over. The foe is different every time, sometimes old, sometimes young, sometimes male, sometimes female, and the weapons and the fight itself is always different, but the foe is always alone, and each time it ends with their head splattered with a gunshot. Each time you move with routine, almost puppeted movements.
“Is that me?”
“I do not know.”
“Wu Ming? Wu Ming?”
You pull your face off the table, the broken tanegashima clearly within view.
[ ] “Get that away from me!” [ ] “I need that. I just do.” [ ] “What happen?”
Throwing it out of tie zone (if it was, didn't count myself).
Mostly because it represents a portion of self that hasn't been... sanitized. The cards are being given to us, there are bits and pieces that we put together on our own but it's hard to come by them. That is a piece of him as well and it represents a view that was previously cut-off.
This was something I was thinking about for a while and I've always wondered if I should ever write the musings out. I always had this feeling that he was originally some force or being under Shiki's guidance (or something's guidance) in the Underworld/Hell or having to do with... almost judgment... but that doesn't seem like enough. If you told me that it was the being in charge of doling out punishment (not deciding it, but the party actively responsible for meting out the punishment, or ensuring that the punishment was enforced) then I'd feel like it was closer to the mark. Subsequently it's why I've also felt like he should stay the hell away from Sanzu River/Higan without actively knowing himself more.
Part of me wants to muse about this more but I feel like I'd be highlighting things that are there if you look for them and I'll enjoy their reveal as the story goes on.
I think there are very good reasons why Death hangs about his shoulders like an old friend.
"...You passed out for ten minutes when you touched the gun." Momiji says as she offers you a cup of tea, "Nothing we did could make you wake up."
You check your watch. Yep, ten minutes have passed.
"That interaction proved my theory." Tenma announces from his standing position, leaning towards you, "It's not the cards or the weapon that are special, it's you. There's something special about you that are causing these reactions to occur to just you to to none of us who touched the weapon."
"Mystery Deepens! Outsider Special All Along?" Aya adds on to her notes.
You hold your head as the headache from it being on the table for so long kicks in. "Really though, I don't remember anything that happened when I passed out."
"Do you remember anything about your past then?" Tenma asks. You stiffen at the question. "Anything unusual at all?"
"That...that is a very good question. There's just one: Operation Flaming Vodka."
"What." is Tenma's response.
“Operation Flaming Vodka. That’s what we called it.” You quietly say. “They said it was a fire started by a burning vodka bottle, but we thought it was just them covering their behinds to a fault in the building, hence our nickname for it. It was a confusing incident. All the details that were actually confirmed were that there was a massive fire that took out my school's physics building.”
Aya turns her pen at you, "There are details they did not mention?"
"The fire started while I was in class. You know Conner, the outsider mechanic in the village? He was my professor during that class." You explain. "Anyway, it seemed normal for the first half-hour of class until somebody said they smelled smoke, and then there's just this black billowing cloud of smoke blowing in from the door and the fire alarm went off. Everybody fucking ran because you know, fire! I got shoved to the ground and trampled during the stampede, and when I got up I was the last one out. When I did though, the hallway was...weird."
"Everything looked warped and disjointed, and the fire was spreading in weird ways. I was walking down the hallway, staggering in the smoke, not really noticing how messed up everything was until I heard a loud cracking sound and felt a sharp pain in my back and I felt a presence around me. When I looked up there was I saw shadowy figures in the hallway, many of whom looked like they had weapons out and were walking towards me. I ran."
You take a gulp of the hot tea as you try to remember exactly what happened right afterwards.
"...I ran, down the other end of the hallway until a bursted water pipe fell across my path and blocked my way with scalding steam. The shadowy figures were still behind me, so cornered, I looked around and found a fire axe in one of the emergency boxes, and I charged right back at them with it. I think I wasn't even really aiming, but I got several of them, and I saw blood and everything. They fought back, of course, but I almost didn't feel the pain as I kept chopping at them. I saw their wounds and I saw their faces, but I don't seem to remember much about it. They might have been human, but probably not."
"What happened then?" Momiji asks.
"I went down eventually, the pain from their attacks finally taking over. When I woke up I woke up on a morgue slab to the coroner starting an autopsy on me. They said I showed no signs of life when I was retrieved from the wreckage of the physics building. Just one student, some guy named Ricardo died in the fire. And that was all that was apparently significant. No corpses from whatever I killed were found according to them, and they dismissed the condition they found me in as a consequence of the third-degree burns I received. I would show you the scars, but Eientei's rejuvenation chamber got rid of them, though now I've got these new ones."
"Such an extraordinary incident for you." Tenma rumbles, "And you never brought it up?"
"Well yeah!" You protest, "I didn't want people thinking I'm crazy! They believed I hallucinated, and I believed that I hallucinated too."
Aya chortles off to the side, commenting, "You mean that you never associated your trippy escapade where you got burn scars...to your present condition where it looks like your skin is growing burn scars."
"Well I'm an idiot who can't rub two brain cells together to make that leap of logic, so there's that. Either way, that's my story, and I don't know how much of it is actually relevant."
"An interesting tale, but other than the burn scars it tells us nothing of proof," Tenma muses, taking a moment to see that Aya had jotted down ten pages of notes, “Now that that matter is settled...”
“WU MING!” The door to the teahouse slams open, and you turn to see a snake-like appendage grappling the door. You scream aloud as a second one wraps itself around you before you could react, but to your relief it merely uses you as a fulcrum to pull the user of the appendages closer.
A familiar user. Momiji doesn’t even react, merely raising an eyebrow and simply stating, “Nitori.”
“Miss Kawashiro.” Lord Tenma calmly intones, “I presume you have a good reason you are interrupting our meeting here?”
“I have a very good reason. Lord Tenma.” You note that Nitori is making a great effort to imitate Doctor Octopus right now with her extending arms from a backpack two times her size, even though her legs appear to be devoid of any splints or casts despite your earlier encounter with her. Maybe she’s just pissed at you.
“And that would be?”
“Project Iron Wing, Lord Tenma! The outsider has screwed with its directives and now we need him to sort it out!”
“I screwed with what?” You ask incredulously.
Nitori drags herself closer to you, “You know what you did. Come. Thank you very MUCH for knocking me out three days ago, by the way.”
"Nitori." Momiji firmly says as she stands up with her broken blade held high, "Ming is an Inubashiri now, one of my clan."
The kappa reddens in the face, sees the wolf tengu's serious expression and the shield you are clutching, then grudgingly releases her hold on you. "My apologies. I do, however, need him in the Mountain Center right now. It is urgent."
"Captain Wu, do as she says. Iron Wing is as important as she says and may just be the breakthrough we need to survive this crisis" Tenma tells you.
"Yes sir." You grumble. "Lead the way, Miss Kawashiro."
"We're coming too." Tenma adds on, "Something this important must be consulted with all of us here."
Nitori leads you on a carved path out of the teahouse (everyone else opted to fly instead) and all the way behind the waterfall, where you can see tengu guard posts constructed behind the roaring water. You cannot begin to imagine standing behind here for too long.
"Your annoying friend, Conner fell down here." Nitori says with a scoffing tone as she gestures at a particular section of the path, "Next time can you tell him to ask if he visits?"
"Teling Conner to ask for things is like telling a tengu to stop being proud." You improvise a joke in response, and to your relief it elicits a smile from the kappa.
You stop in front of a concrete bunker-looking structure built into the mountain. Nitori hammers in something on the keypad, and the thick steel doors slide open.
"Additional security measures." Nitori mutters as you, with the tengu emerging from the waterfall behind you close behind, enter the hallway behind the door. "Yukari's the one who wanted them."
The hallway goes for about thirty meters before it terminates at another set of double doors. These are simply shoved open by Nitori.
Your eyes widen as you gaze upon a technological paradise, deep within the mountain.
Transformers along the sides of the hollow stone cavern glow with a faint red as they pour gigawatts of power into the machinery surrounding them, through not wires but rather dangerous looking glass tubes that arc electricity through them. Massive gears, cranks and conveyor belts carry items to-and-fro beneath the bright light of glowing neon lanterns that hang from the ceiling of this cavernous complex. The floor is damp, and you see vast pools of water that stretch for hundreds of meters on end, filled with kappa engineers and their floating worktables. The larger machinery in the walls look at first to be conventional factory gear, if tinted a different color, but it their abnormal nature is quickly revealed as you see gears automatically shifting their places in a milling machine and a spring detaching and reattaching itself at regular intervals to several different mechanisms.
Gadgets of all sorts dot the room, some carefully ordered on shelves, some strewn carelessly in piles, most of them being carefully tinkered on by the kappa. Strange looking robots, ones whose design look oddly reminiscent of the tachikomas from Ghost in the Shell, are carrying materials and supplies around, which you note includes sacks of cucumbers. The gadgets being tinkered on include anything from clocks to warheads, and you note that there appears to be little actual coordination among what's being tinkered on between the worktables. There are no apparent managers, and you can see many kappa arguing with each other.
Your eyes also see other figures darting among the machinery, climbing up ladders and tending display panels. They are dressed in red work clothes, and on their back you can clearly see two Japanese/Chinese characters emblazoned: "Clear Sky".
"Welcome to the Mountain Interior, Captain Wu!" Nitori gleams. "This is something you won't get to see in the games by the Artist."
"No kidding..." You stammer out, "An actual magitech facility!"
"The cornerstone of Clear Sky's success, if I may add." Tenma explicates from behind you. "Every single piece of technological advantage they use is invented and likely produced here."
"Only recently were we employed by Clear Sky. This place is old, ya know." The kappa leads you across a gold-colored metal bridge that rotates as you walk on it, which swings high over the workpools and looks upon the worktables like lilypads. "We carved out this place when Yukari invited us all over about two hundred years ago, and we've been expanding it ever since. The tengu helped us a bunch, and lately Yukari has assigned humans to help us with some of the more tedious processes."
You see that high above you are multiple outcroppings that play host to tengu-style houses like those on the mountain, most of whom appear to be residential and service buildings. People live and leisure here in this massive cave, apparently.
"I have got to say." You remark, "Gensokyo was always a rural paradise to me, between the games, the media and my actual visit here. To think that something like this is built blows my mind."
"Man," Keyaki excitedly adds in, "You have got to see the gymnasium in here if we have time. We have swimming pools that go sideways!"
"Keyaki," Momiji reminds him, "We don't have time."
Aya simply goes on scribbing down notes at her usual breakneck pace. As in if her writing hand makes contact with your neck, your neck is going to break.
Nitori rounds a corner and emerges into a large open area in front of a hangar-sized door. In front of you, with a multitude of tools and machinery strewn about it and a mob of kappa attending to it, is Awyrgan.
"Awyri!" You call out your improvised nickname for the tank. To your mild surprise it responds to it. "HELLO FRIEND."
Tenma coughs slightly, "Miss Kawashiro, if you may explain to Captain Wu exactly what he has gotten himself involved with."
"Gladly." Nitori steps up, with the other kappa noting her presence and bowing slightly, and makes a dramatic gesture with all six of her arms at the tank, "This, is Project Iron Wing's incubation vehicle."
"Awyrgan told me it was incubating a monster already." You say.
Nitori blinks, "Awyrgan?"
"MY PREFERRED NAME."
"See, that's what I meant when I said you had too much control of its directives. It trusts you now." Nitori explains, "The trust was apparently enough that when contact with Callsign Primrose from outside the Border was lost because of the Saviors' doing, it defaulted to you as the closest authority."
"Now as to what you've actually got yourself involved with." Nitori goes around to one of the equipment racks near Awyrgan and digs out a roll of paper, "Project Iron Wing's incubation vehicle is but an eggshell surrounding the yolk and the embryo that grants it all of its capabilities. Its full form should look like this!"
She unrolls the paper, and you gaze upon a series of sketches of...a thing.
"Looks kind of like a dragon. The Western kind." You say.
"Yukari told us that Iron Wing was cobbled together from many, many sources. The end result is not a vehicle, but a fully functional, living creature. The incubator vehicle was merely there for it to undergo some degree of experience and socialization while still in natal form, as Yukari did warn us that the creatures it was pieced together from can be...cantankerous."
"So it is a dragon." You sigh, "That's cool and all, but a giant fire breathing lizard isn't going to beat a tank in this day and age."
"It's not a dragon of old, not exactly." Nitori only seems to get more excited as she continues, "Yukari gave us a rough approximation of the end product last year, which is, and I quote 'The durability of a battleship, the firepower of an artillery battery, and the mobility of a fighter jet'"
You blink twice. Slowly. "We have got a modernized dragon then. This, this may turn the tide."
"Let's get to the point." Tenma says, "We have a terrifying weapon here, why have we not used it yet?"
"Captain Wu, in your journeys with...Awyrgan, you have raised its incubation process from 98.5% to 99%. For the final 1%, we have set up a chamber to feed it metal and parts steadily and to provide it with an ideal temperature. If you order it to begin hatching now, we can get Project Iron Wing up at full functionality in two days. The catch, of course, is that the incubation is unavailable for use during that time."
"That could be troublesome," Momiji points out, "We barely survived the last Savior assault, and I did not survive it. We need every gun and sword we have on the lines."
"There's a second option." Nitori says, somewhat reluctantly, "We could just dump all of the materials and have it eat it up and incubate on the go. It will, however, take longer to complete, anywhere from three to four days. Either way, Captain Wu must give the orders, and he needs to do it right now so Iron Wing can begin the process immediately."
[ ] Take the offer and send Awyrgan into the chamber, the potential of its full power must be realized as soon as possible. [ ] No, you really need the additional firepower right now. Even if it will take longer. [ ] Awyrgan, what do you want?
"Sis." Keyaki whispers in the back, "Can we not call up Utsuho and the vampire sister if we need more firepower? Iron Wing is unlikely to rival them in that departiment"
"That's not the point," Momiji whispers in response, "Both Miss Reiuji and Miss Scarlet would still die if a Savior gets a good shot or flank off at them with a divine weapon, and while Ming's healing powers saved me, I would not say that they are reliable enough yet, especially if he has other patients. Iron Wing...mitigated that weakness. If nothing else if will serve as a shield."