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Evening Stroll
Previous Thread: >>28002

[X] Go for a walk in the plant

The rest of the rabbits more or less head directly for the stairs up to the dorms once we get down to the main area of the plant. Not sure what they have planned, if anything at all, but I know that Sumi and Ringo at least aren't the types to go to bed this early. I'm not really that worried about them finding anything to occupy themselves so much, but it makes me feel a little better that Yuzuki will be around to make sure they use to pass the time isn't too disruptive or anything. As for myself, I'm feeling like I should take a bit of a walk.

Granted, I've already spent a pretty significant portion of today out of the company of all three of the rabbits around me. It's not like I'm already sick of them, just that I feel like I wouldn't mind another chance to think by myself. My talks with Ringo haven't gone poorly, all things considered, but they haven't really resolved the situation one-hundred percent either.

And yes, I'm well aware that the bulk of the responsibility for making sure that anything does actually get resolved is on me. The possible unfairness of that is definitely not lost on me.

Rather than following along with the rest of the group as they start up the stairs, I stand aside and let Sumi pass me by. Both she and Yuzuki notice the gesture, which makes them react enough that Ringo catches it too. "So, I think I might wander around by myself for a little bit, if that's okay," I tell nobody in particular. Ordinarily I would have to ask Ringo, but with how little she seems to be enforcing the chain of command lately, I just say it in general to the group instead.

"I'll tell you right now, there ain't much to see," Sumi warns me, looking out the door to the stairwell with an unimpressed look on her face. "Even if you poke into the areas they don't want you to poke around in, it's all nerd stuff. Nothing flashy or interesting really."

"You do know that we're restricted from full access for a reason, right?" Yuzuki clearly already knows the answer, but still starts the inevitable scolding with a rhetorical question.

"Yeah yeah, they don't want us getting cancer or blowing something up or whatever else. I've heard it all before," Sumi doesn't even look up at Yuzuki as she moves back out of the hallway. "Not like I jumped into the plant itself or anything, I just had a look at stuff around here."

Yuzuki sighs and shakes her head at that, but surprisingly doesn't push the argument. Weird, I was kind of expecting her to be more persistent about the rules, but it looks like she's letting it drop for whatever reason. What's done is done I guess, and while I know that it won't make much difference to try and argue with Sumi, Yuzuki usually goes for it anyway just based on the principle of the matter.

I guess this is fine too though. No need to drag out an argument for no reason. "That's not really what I'm after anyway," I say. "I really just want to walk for the sake of walking."

"Coulda done that up top," Sumi points out, though the problems with that idea are obvious enough that even she admits to them readily. "But I guess it's warmer and less dark and spooky or whatever down here. Yeah fine. You do you, and anybody else you want to do," Sumi shrugs then starts heading up the stairs. I wasn't really looking for her permission though.

Luckily, Ringo also seems to agree. "Yeah, it's fine," She seems pretty neutral on the idea, though maybe it's a point in her favor that she's not asking to come too. "Err, I'll wait up for you then?" She asks.

Right. That's definitely... Well, there isn't really any getting around the question of sleeping next to Ringo or not, even if I delay it for now. That's fine though. Once I clear my head a bit, it'll probably be easier to talk that bit out. Hopefully. "Sure," I nod to Ringo.

Ringo gives me a quick thumbs up, then her and Yuzuki turn to head up to our dormitories, leaving me alone. I'm not really relieved by that or anything, but I guess it's more or less what I wanted.

I check the signs around me, trying to decide where to go when the destination doesn't actually matter all that much. Don't want to go down toward the reactor, obviously, so that's out. Don't want to go back up to the surface either. That leaves either the path toward the library and research labs, or the way to the cafeteria and eventually the rest of the underground.

Honestly, the idea of talking to Yamame very briefly crosses my mind, but I dismiss it almost immediately. Too long of a trip all the way out to the underground capital, and no way to know if I could even get in contact with her either. She could by busy don't something or sleeping or whatever else. Even if she did say that she wants me to visit her again sometime, I have a feeling that doing it right at this moment would only complicate things. Brainwise, that is.

So yeah, I think I'll just... Not even go that way for now. With that option crossed out, I head in the direction of the library, records, and research labs.


Despite saying that I want to walk around by myself to clear my mind, I don't really feel like I'm using the time very well. I'm not really sure what to focus on, and the fact that I'm in an unfamiliar environment kind of keeps me a little occupied, at least enough that I can't completely devote myself to my thoughts.

Okay, no, this place isn't that unfamiliar. I've been idly running my hand along the wall as I slowly make my way through the halls, and it mostly is just more of the same that I've seen anywhere else in the plant. Dull colors, the occasional door, labelled or not, and a complete lack of other people. Really does remind me of some of the more permanent military buildings back on the Moon. The kinds that are a lot bigger than they need to be considering how few people are actually occupying or doing any work them. A lot of resources and materials used for not much reason, as far as I can tell. Not really my place to tell people how to spend their budgets though. Especially when they're the ones paying me.

But um, yeah. See this is the kind of thing that I was thinking about. It doesn't have much substance, but it occupies my mind enough that I can still keep track of where I am as I head deeper into the plant facilities. There are still signs around, so I don't think I'll get lost, but it still doesn't hurt to pay attention. Where the hallway leading out of the plant to the underground is more of a straight shot with a few rooms off to the side, this section of the plant appears to be just a bit more complex. There are more extra hallways leading off to different spare rooms and laboratories. Places with signs saying stuff like pressurization research, turbine testing, coolant pump development... It's pretty much way over my pay grade, but I'm not really here to check this stuff out anyway.

So what exactly am I here to do then? I haven't really gotten that far on that. Keep getting distracted by the sightseeing, even if I'm only reading signs. Need to switch back into actually clearing up some of the leftover problems in my brain. Maybe I can't immediately solve the big issues like the thing with Ringo or what I'm going to do about going back to the Moon, but there should be other things that I can sort through to make myself feel better.

I guess that the big order of the day is my powers. There are some big changes there, and trying to think about the implications is kind of daunting. Just from the practice session with Sanae, the reactions that I saw from Ringo, and the comparisons that I can make mentally with data I already have, it seems like I've suddenly rocketed into being the highest fire power member of the team. That's not to say that I wasn't already. If you ignore danmaku, then yeah, having more control over my powers doesn't matter that much. It was between super strength and gunshots, and while there are pros and cons to each, in most situations my powers would usually come out on top of that debate.

Now, with more finesse in what I'm actually doing? More ability to pick and choose what I'm summoning? More time to actually look at the bulllet dimension thing without getting a headache? Yeah, the others can't really compare to me offensively. Not that I'm trying to sound arrogant or anything. The others obviously have utility from their abilities that I can't get anywhere close to. It's just that objectively, I am the most powerful. There isn't really much argument to be made against that idea.

That worries me a little bit. Partially because it's another excuse for Ringo to be lazy, but also because it's another thing pushing me to pick up her slack. It's not really that hard to notice that I've already been doing that a lot lately. When Ringo doesn't care to make a decision or push things along, I do it for her. When somebody needs to be proactive and get things done, I'm the first one there. I don't really know when or why this started, maybe shortly after we came to Earth in the first place, but either way, it's not normal. That's not to say that it's bad, I suppose. Ringo is obviously intending to stay here, and in that case, she can't exactly lead the unit anymore. If she's trying to step down a bit to let me gradually get used to taking charge...

Err, that only works if I want to lead the team though, doesn't it?

Aaaand just like that I've run into that issue again. The bit where I don't know if I want to stay here or go back to the Moon. I feel like I'm hitting this subject pretty often. It would really be easier if I could just come to a conclusion on it, but-Woah!

I come across another intersection of hallways just in time to almost run into somebody rounding the corner toward me. I manage to avoid a full on collision, but my legs trip over this other girl's, causing me to stumble and almost fall to the ground. From the thump sound behind me as I regain my balance, the other party had it worse. I turn around to check the damage, only to find Rika laid out on her stomach, neck and head angled up enough to read a clipboard she's holding out in front of her. If I didn't already know it wasn't the case, I could almost believe that she was lying there on purpose. As it is, it just looks like she meant to fall over.

"Are you okay?" I'm taller than her, so it's no surprise that Rika was tripped up more by us running into each other. I stand over her nervously, not sure if I should help her up or what.

"Fine," Rika responds, still looking over the paper on her clipboard. It kinda looks like plans or blueprints to something, but I'm not close or technically versed enough to figure out what. "This angle actually helps a little bit. Good perspective. Very artistic, like I keep saying," Right, now that I have time to remember, Rika was the one that was kind of difficult to understand completely, wasn't she? "Good morning, by the way."

"Err," Morning? We're not even close to that. "Evening," I correct her gently.

"Evening still?" Rika rolls over ninety degrees onto her side, turning her neck to look up at me. "Crap. They're not gonna take me seriously like this. Working away like crazy, you'd expect me to lose track of time and at least work all night, but I'm almost done with what I wanted to do. Doesn't look nearly as impressive if it's not an all-nighter," I... What? Rika sits up abruptly, crossing her legs and staring at her clipboard. "Nope, nope. Guess I'll have to rework this again. Not going to have kappa think that I half-assed this."

I'm... Kind of a little bit lost here. She was working on something, assumed that it took her all night, so she decided it was done. Now that I've told her that isn't the case, she thinks that will make her look worse somehow? I'm missing something here. "What um, what are you working on?"

Rika frowns, looking up at me for a moment, then holds up her clipboard. "Here."

... Yeah, this means nothing to me. Just a bunch of lines, symbols, and numbers. There aren't even any notes that could give me context about what I'm actually looking at. "I don't really know anything about this um... This stuff."

"Do any of us, really?" Rika asks what I'm pretty sure is a rhetorical question as she pulls the clipboard back down to her face. "No, I didn't think so. Not like these. Not like this. Trying to reproduce it, but the Moon is weird. They do weird circuit things. Weird machine things. Brilliant. Pretty. But weird. You, you're weird."

"... Sorry?" Not my fault that Moon tech is massively far beyond Earth stuff.

"Apology acknowledged, not accepted," Wow, that seems a little harsh, but there's no real intensity to Rika's accusations of my guilt as she stands back up. She brushes her pants off a little bit, then gives me a serious look. "Do me a favor? Distract me for a bit. I do good work when I'm distracted. Or hungry. Or other conditions apply. Or just when I do work really. It's all good."

"Um?" Before I can even really process the request, Rika has already given me a half hearted beckoning motion to follow her, then started walking away. She doesn't even look back to see if I'm following or anything.

Err... This isn't exactly what I came over this way for, but maybe it's still okay to go along with it. Rika is clearly a very outside perspective. If she wants me to just distract her, maybe I could get her input on things? I mean, I don't really have any idea what she's doing, but it's not really my job to know, as curious as I might be.

On the other hand, I don't really know how long this is going to take, and it's not like I'm being forced to follow her. She still hasn't even looked back at me, so I doubt she cares that much what I actually decide to do.

[ ] Talk to Rika about the Moon
[ ] Talk to Rika about the Dream World
[ ] Talk to Rika about the plant
[ ] Talk to Rika about my problems
[ ] Talk to Rika about something else (write in)
[ ] Don't talk to Rika, just keep walking

Multivoting is on as usual.
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[X] Talk to Rika about the Moon
[X] Talk to Rika about the Dream World

Hmmm... not sure we want to vent to Rika about our personal problems, might just want to keep it mission-focused for now.
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[x] Talk to Rika about my problems
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[x] Talk to Rika about the Dream World
[x] Talk to Rika about the plant

Smalltalk with a side of relevance.
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[X] Talk to Rika about the Dream World
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Inspiration from strange places
[X] Talk to Rika about the Dream World

"O-okay uh, wait!" Sheesh, she really isn't giving me much time to think this over. I have to hurry to follow along before she disappears down one of these random hallways that all look the same. Even if I don't think that I would get lost, I definitely wouldn't be able to figure out where Rika's going if I lost track of her. Everything is too similar, and I'm not even sure where I would want to start looking. What does Rika actually do aside from generic science engineering stuff?

Obviously I'm not dumb, but that doesn't I'm well versed in scientific concepts. Research and development was one of those rare fields that the lunarians actually made sure to work on for themselves, rather than pushing it off to the rabbits. Personally I think that we could have done a good job with it, but it's hard to argue with the results. Even if you only look at the stuff that Eirin Yagokoro developed, lunar technology really is orders better than anything I've seen down here. Unfortunately, that gap just makes it even less likely that I'll have anything in common with Rika right now. Even if she says that I'm just here to distract her, what should-?

Oh, there's an idea. "Um, you know about the Dream World, right?" I think that's a pretty relevant subject, considering it's kind of the goal right now. At least in the more immediate sense. I speed up a little bit so that I can catch up and actually be in a decent range for conversation.

Luckily, Rika's a bit shorter than I am, so it's not that hard to close the distance just by having longer legs. "Deep down, everybody does," She answers vaguely, not even turning her head my way. Her eyes are on her clipboard again. I'll try not to let that bother me I guess.

"But I mean, you have some kind of specialization in it, right?" I don't recall exactly how Kanako described the credentials, but she definitely did count Rika as someone with some kind of expertise. If she had a choice, I have a feeling she would have preferred to consult Rikako instead. "It's your work that's going to let the portal get us to the lunar capital, right?"

"Probly," That's not even a real word, but okay. "It'll probly work."

"Right," I'd really like her to be a bit more confident. At the very least she shouldn't sound less sure of things than I do. "Well if it does work, what can you tell me about what comes after that? I've been there once, but we were just passing through an approved channel. It was supposed to be a lot safer than anywhere else. What is the rest of the Dream World like?"

Rika looks up from her clipboard for a moment, staring forward as she keeps walking. She fidgets with the thing a little bit, apparently trying to think of how to answer. "Dark," is what she settles on. "You can still see though, which I always thought was weird. You see what it wants you to see usually, but when you're not dreaming, how does it work?"

Err, I'm kind of missing some of the thought process there. "What it wants you to see?" I repeat.

"Subconscious," Rika answers with a word that doesn't really explain anything. "It's not your friend, not anyone's friend, doesn't even have any friends. Can you imagine that? Don't know how it works either, but it knows what it wants you to see somehow, and that's what you get to see when you dream. That's how the Dream World works, at least that part of it. Collective subconscious. Everyone's connected to it and through it," Okay, I kinda get that a little bit more, but there's probably a better way to explain it than that. "But it's also its own place, because you can go there with your body."

"Right, through portals and stuff," That's part of the plan and everything, but it doesn't really answer my original question. "And what was it like when you went there with your body? Err, you did do that, right?"

Rika pauses mid stride, holding her foot up for half a second before it comes down stiffly. I see her blinking a couple of times, though she doesn't appear to be looking at much of anything in particular. "Different. World of Fantasies," She mutters, almost more to herself then as a response to me. At least she continues after that. "That's what I call it anyway. Full of ideas, fantastic ones, scary ones... Way too much inspiration at once, I'm still trying to work through it all from the first time I was there... And every other time hasn't lived up to the hype... Hype while sleeping doesn't work, by the way. It's irritating. Distracting from the point. Not the good kind of distraction either."

"Um..." I'm really not sure that I follow. I'm also not sure how to ask for more information. Is she saying she went somewhere other than the Dream World?

We continue through the facility quietly after that. Rika goes back to staring at her clipboard after a minute or so, awkwardly trying to scribble on it while walking. From what I can see, she's making a bit of a mess, but it's apparently good enough for her. She never erases or corrects anything as far as I can tell. Either she's not making any mistakes or she's just working around them.

After another couple of minutes, I realize a couple of things. Firstly, I'm not being a very good distraction. It's hard to feel too badly about that though, considering Rika is kind of strange to talk to, and she's not doing a good job of keeping the conversation going either. I decide not to say anything about that, but there's definitely another point that I want to bring up. That's the second thing that I realize. "Um, am I even supposed to be back here?" There haven't been any signs about the area being restricted, but I haven't seen any signs like that anywhere. In fact, I'm not sure if such signs actually exist.

"Supposed to?" Rika repeats. "Nnnnope," Crap crap crap... "We're gonna send you back in a few days though."

What does that... Oh, so I just started panicking for nothing then. That's not exactly new, but I'd still rather not have done it. "Err, I was more talking about this part of the plant..."

Rika just shrugs as a response, then falls back into silence. Not really reassuring.

Yeah, I can see why Sanae said that Rika can be a little difficult at times. She hasn't really given me much of a concrete answer for anything. Maybe I could be pressing her harder, sure, but feeling like you're constantly having to force a conversation just to keep it going isn't exactly a fun experience. Doesn't help that I know very little about Rika in the first place. Rikako and Kanako could handle her by having authority over her to do so, but I don't have that.

Still, she asked me to be a distraction, so I'll keep trying for at least a little bit longer. "Okay, so, World of Fantasies then?" I prompt her, hoping that she'll give me a little more to work with.

Rika nods, glancing up from her clipboard again as we turn another corner. "Might have been something wrong with me, or maybe not. Probably just something different," she mutters. "Always always always went there dreaming as a kid. Not normal, but I liked it. Go to sleep at night, wake up with all these ideas. Things that I can build. Things that I have to build, because nobody else is going to do it if I don't. Doesn't give me a complete picture, so I gotta fill in the blanks while I'm awake. That's where the art comes in, I think. I'm a good artist."

Huh, some of that was surprisingly a little more lucid. I'm getting a bit more of an idea of what's up with Rika, though I still don't quite understand the whole World of Fantasies thing. Maybe it's something that you have to see to really get, but if I take her word for it, Rika's behavior starts making a little bit more sense. Just a little. "So then-"

Before I can get more clarification, Rika turns and opens up one of the doors nearby. Before I can even read the words on the sign above to see where we're stopping, a streak of white and red zooms out of the doorway with a high pitched noise that sounds like a girl yelling "NYYYYOOOOOOOOOM!". I jump back in surprise as the blur passes by me, narrowly avoiding whatever it is colliding with my head. "What the-!?"

"Oh, that's where Mimi-chan was," Rika says calmly, looking past me to wherever that thing sped off to. After a second, something occurs to her, making her turn back and stare at the door that she's still holding open instead. "Hm... How did she even open the door in the first place?"

That's the first thing she's worried about? I almost got my head taken off! "What was that?!"

"Mimi-chan," Rika repeats, not even looking up from the door, as if it was going to give her an answer to her question.

"And Mimi is?"

"Mimi-chan," Rika repeats. For a moment, it seems like that's all the response I'm going to get. Once Rika finally gives up on the door revealing its secrets to her though, she speaks again, offering slightly more of an explanation. "An intercontinental ballistic missile. Kind of like a pet but she doesn't make as much of a mess. At least, I hope she didn't make a mess, or if she did, I hope it's a good one. Ruukoto always ruins all the good messes. Doesn't get the distinction. Pleb."

"I um, okay, What!?" As much as I want an answer, I don't get one before Rika has already headed inside the room.

Well if she's not here, I should be able to groan out loud, right? Sure. Let's go with that. I could use a good groan right now. Maybe some time to compose myself too. Yeah, just a moment.


A ballistic missile? As a pet?

I have many questions.

Before I follow Rika into the room, I make note of the sign saying what I'm entering. Hangar, upper entrance? How does that work if we're underground? What would they even need to put in a-



... I now have many more questions.

The hangar itself isn't the surprising part. While I didn't expect a room like this to exist in the first place, its appearance isn't that weird. It's kind of similar to the storage area that we stored the broken drone in. Long metal catwalks surrounding the perimeter of the place, with another freight elevator allowing people to get up and down. Where that room had had shelves and storage though, this one is full of mechanical parts in various states of disrepair, tools for taking them apart, and equipment for moving stuff like that around. Yeah, that all seems normal enough. Not that big a deal.

So why are there two GIANT ROBOTS?!

Taking up a large portion of the back wall, set in behind even the outer rim of the catwalk, there are a couple of cylindrical silos. Standing inside each of those, thankfully not moving or anything or they would be even more intimidating, are a couple of humanoid, golden and red, giant robots. If they're almost from floor to ceiling in this hangar, that means they're what, three stories tall? More than that?

I just... What do I say to this?

"Second one's not finished yet," Rika calls out, suddenly floating up to the walkway where I'm at. She's riding in some black orb thing, but I can't see what it actually is from this angle. She's too low. It looks like a big ball with wings. Not really sure what the wings are for though, considering they aren't flapping and the thing seems to be hovering just fine. I'd be surprised enough about that thing if the giant robots weren't overshadowing it just a bit. "The circuits giving me trouble, specially since I have to base the new one off the old design. Kappa stuff. Doesn't match my design sense at all. Messy, but luckily the original doesn't do very much. I can make a lot of stuff on my own. That's what I was working on during some downtime tonight."

"I..." Yeah, still speechless here.

Rika floats up a little higher so that she can actually see over the railing of the walkway. She stares at me as I try to think of what to say, looking like she doesn't at all understand why I'm surprised, or maybe more like she doesn't even realize that I am surprised.

[ ] Um.
[ ] What?
[ ] Why?
[ ] How does...?
[ ] ... Cool.

Multivoting still fine. Also write ins.

Hey I did a second update this week again! I'm getting back into it!
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[X] Um.
[X] How does...?
[X] ... Cool.

...I probably should've been, but somehow I was not expecting either Mimi or the robots.
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[X] Um.
[X] How does...?
[X] ... Cool.
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[X] What?

Might as well get it spelled out in character as well as to us, the readers.

[X] How does...?

Because I have to know how they work. Do they fly? How many pilots? What kind of weapons do they have? Are they both still steam powered? How much of an improvement is Great Hisoutensoku upon the original? Does it have a Rocket Punch?! It had better have a Rocket Punch! Seriously though, the entire update could be spent detailing those two and I for one would not mind at all.

[X] ... Cool!

Because at the end of the day, that's all that really needs to go into a proper Super Robot. Making it as cool as possible is paramount from a design perspective, and everyone knows that chicks dig giant robots. Actually, there's a thought...

[X] ... Will either/both of them be combat ready by the time we head out?

I don't want to get my hopes up, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least ask.
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[x] What?
[x] How does...?
[x] ... Cool.

> Mimi-chan
> pet

LMAO. I fucking love this story.
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Somebody decided this was a good idea
[X] Um. What?
[X] How does...?
[X] ... Cool.

"Um..." Please stop looking at me like that Rika. No matter how much you stare at me, I'm still going to need a minute to try and think of anything intelligent to say here. Maybe more than a few minutes to be honest. This is just so much higher than the level of technology that we were briefed to expect down here! Did command do any kind of recon before shipping us out? I mean, I have to guess the answer is no, or they would know how stupidly underequipped we are for the job. A robot thing that size? It could have just stomped the purification drone into the ground without a problem, right? Did we ever even stand a chance of succeeding at all? Considering how without us, the capital is just stuck in the dream world indefinitely, it strikes me as really odd that command put so little resources into actually making it so we could pull this off.

... Not that I really like the idea of purifying things, especially now that I know about the area that we started in initially. In a way, I'm glad that we failed. If the drone had kept expanding the area it was working on, it would have run into the Moriya shrine before too long. Just the idea of destroying Sanae's place and everything... No. They don't deserve that.

But um, anyway, I'm kind of getting away from the point here. Probably because I still don't know what to actually say or do about the main point in the first place. I don't have enough worldly experience to properly react to the sudden appearance of giant robots. My bad I guess? If it's any consolation, I'm trying to fix it right now. It's going poorly, but I am trying.

I just... I need more details here, I think. Maybe focusing in on something specific will help. "So, what are those, specifically?"


"I... Yes," I really should have seen that response coming. "I-I know. Aaand?"

Rika glances back at the indentations where the robots are being held for a moment, then back at me. She shrugs, saying nothing else despite my prompt.

I have to work really hard to suppress a sigh. Not very much ground gained. Not much specific to focus on. Rika just seems to have a way of speaking that prevents me from making any real progress. "Okay... Okay. How does um," I pause, trying to pick a question that can't just be answered in one word. "How does Earth have something like this already?" Is what I end up settling on.

There's a brief metal tapping noise from beneath Rika, followed by her beginning to slowly float along the length of the walkway. I'm not going to let her get away, even if I don't think she's really trying to. I follow along anyway, just in case.

"Why wouldn't we? It's not really anything impressive," She says after a moment, looking across the room instead of at me. If we weren't the only ones here, I would almost think she was talking to somebody else. "Stuff in my head is way better than both of them, though the little bro is getting a bit closer the more I work on it. The big brother? Yeah, he was hopeless, and still has a long way to go. Like I said, a kappa project. Couldn't do much, only steam powered, meant for advertisement of something or other. A waste really."

"Advertisement?" What, was it going to walk around holding a big sign or something? Wouldn't that freak people out more than attract them? I can't imagine the normal humans from the village understanding this. Heck, I barely understand it.

"Originally, yeah. I thought that's what Kanako bought it off them for too, at first," Rika continues. I'm noticing that she's gliding along smoothly. What exactly is that thing she's standing on anyway? "I didn't even get to finish complaining about all the design shortcomings before she said I'm supposed to make another one. A real one, with combat modifications and actual features. Change it to be nuclear instead of steam powered, make it so someone could pilot it, improve durability, flight speed, manuverability, harder, better, faster, stronger, and all the rest of it. The kappa've been making changes to the original based off my design on the new one ever since... And I guess they've been helping a little in their own way too."

Okay, so it's one of Rika's projects then. I guess I have to expect that she, along with the rest of the people down here, have to spend their time working on something. I just wouldn't have expected that something to be this. "What for?"

"Eh?" Rika finally turns back to me, a confused grimace twisted onto her face. Was my question really that strange?

"What are they for?" I emphasize.

Rika's expression turns to one of bemusement instead. A little better I guess. "... I don't think you're asking the right questions here," Well what else am I supposed to ask?! "Look, sometimes some things just need to be built," She stresses, making a long, sweeping gesture toward the robots as we walk toward them. "We need to make progress and advance forward technologically. It's something the boss lady is big on. Science doesn't have enough of a place in our normal society, people just aren't interested. We have to stay separate so we can work on things that need to get done. Advance technology enough on our own, and people are bound to want to follow, whether it's for convenience or just because we've made something too amazing to ignore. I think that's what she was saying anyway. Might've paraphrased a bit."

By the time Rika has finished her speech, we've made it to the silos on the side of the room. The walkway puts us at just about chest level of the robots, the lack of distance making the whole thing look a little bit more real, and therefore more intimidating. "And you're uh, planning to use this robot for that?" While this thing is pretty amazing, I don't know if it'll inspire people to follow the Moriya shrine like Kanako wants. If anything I can imagine it making people panic, though I guess maybe Kanako might know more than I do.

"If that's the plan higher up, sure," Rika answers back, sounding pretty non-committal about it as she climbs up over the railing and onto the walkway next to me. "I haven't been told if it is though. I'm just working on it because I want to. Not everything we finish down here has to see the light of day. Long as it meets my standards, we're good."

"Uh... Huh." Didn't she just get done calling the original robot, the one that actually got used for its intended purpose, a waste? What is her criteria here?

"So, any comments?"

That's just a bit of a loaded question, I think.

To be honest, I'm a little worried about these things. Sure, Rika hasn't said much about what it can actually do offensively, but that's not really the problem. A nuclear powered, walking, flying robot. More than one of them, in fact. Even if the Moon can handle something like this relatively easily, what about the rest of Gensokyo? How would they deal with the threat of two giant robots looming over them? What about three or more? Could these things end up mass produced? Is Kanako going to build so many of them that she can just overrun Gensokyo and rule it or something?

Although... I might be going a bit overboard here. I'm assuming a slippery slope that doesn't necessarily exist. Rika isn't even finished with one of these, and building more of them can't possibly be cheap or easy. They don't have the space or resources to mass produce a bunch of hundred meter tall robots down here. Even if that were the case, I have a feeling that something like an invasion of giant Moriya shrine robots would be treated as an incident, and people like Marisa or Reimu would deal with it with the same kind of efficiency (and extreme prejudice) that Reisen had when she dealt with the one I was in. That's what they do, right? The impression I've gotten from talking to miscellaneous youkai is that they're quite good at it too.

And also, I mean, technically it's not my problem right now. It's an Earth thing.

"Honestly," If you push aside all the little nagging worries that they cause, "I think they're pretty cool," Really though, command wouldn't build something like this, and even if they did, I would never get a chance to be so close to it. They'd probably keep it a secret forever, or at the very least not tell the random soldiers about it. As it is right now, I could basically lean out over the edge of the railing here and touch the bright red, metal chestplate of this thing, and I could probably get Rika to tell me about it pretty easily. Pretty big difference there.

... Huh, you know now that I think about it, I guess I technically can't rule out the idea that the Moon does have giant robots and I just haven't heard about them. Seems a bit too whimsical though. Moriya shrine? Sure. Lunar defense corps? Probably not.

"Pretty cool," Rika repeats, nodding a couple of times before apparently thinking better of it. "Be much cooler when it's done. Still having problems with the finer motions, dexterity, and some of the user interface. Thing's clumsy in more ways than one. More ways than I am."

"What can they actually do then?" Clumsiness isn't really a trait that I would normally want to associate with a giant robot.

"Right now? Mostly walk around, pick stuff up, fly for a while," Rika lists off, leaning somewhat precariously over the railing to look the second of the two giant robots up and down. "Got a hell of a punch too. Later I'm gonna strap more danmaku cannons and lasers and stuff onto it so it can fight better, the current design is one of my old ones. Sanae also says that we gotta make it so it can transform, or maybe combine with the original. Not sure how she's gonna get that part approved, but I'd be down to try it as long as I get to set the standards for both systems."

"Huh, so it's already usable then?" That sounds like most of the things you would want a robot like this to be able to do on a basic level at least. If there's supposed to be more to the thing, it sounds like even Rika doesn't know about it.

"More than Hisoutensoku mark one, at least." Hisoutensoku? Is that the name? Doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it? Rika apparently catches something in my expression, because she quickly mutters "Working title."

That aside though, it sounds like it's usable to a degree, but still has a while to go. Unfortunate, but I guess it doesn't matter that much to me. Originally I was kind of thinking that maybe we could use this thing to help with our mission, but even if it was completely finished, something this big wouldn't fit through the portal that we're going to use in the first place. I guess Rika was more showing me this to show off or something, or more likely she didn't put much thought into it at all. I kind of have a feeling I'm not even supposed to be in this hangar in the first place.

"Want to go for a ride?"

... What?


As it turns out, the silos that both Hisoutensokus are in can go either up or down. Inputting a few commands into a wall mounted control panel, the platforms that the robots are standing on can be raised or lowered. Raising them up and out of the hangar eventually puts them in a large, mostly vertical shaft which, once the thing launches and flies up, will apparently let out into the main hole in the ground that we've been coming in and out of the plant from. Obviously, using that is kind of out of the question right now. It would mean flying a giant robot around Gensokyo, and that's the kind of thing that draws a bit too much attention.

Instead, if you set the platforms to lower, you drop the robots down into a tunnel, which leads out into the underground. More specifically, the Remains of Blazing Hell part that Sanae showed off to me during an earlier walk through the plant. The part where everything is either on fire, made of fire, or next to a fire. Possibly all three things at once.

And that is, unfortunately, the area that we're allowed to ride the robot around in.

"Um, maybe you should try adding a bit of air conditioning into your design?" I try to make the suggestion gently, but I almost feel like I'm getting cooked. This is way hotter than I'm used to, and having somebody sitting practically on top of me doesn't help. Bleh, I'm sweating already.

"I did," Rika answers bluntly, not even turning her head back to me. Instead, she opens a panel in one of the armrests of the seat, giving it a glance. "It's working too. Nice."

The cockpit of Hisoutensoku mk. II is situated in the upper torso, inside the chest part where the armor is the thickest and most durable, which makes complete sense, sure. The problem is that it really isn't made for two people. I had some misgivings when Rika opened the thing up and told me that we were going to have to share a seat. Now that she's sitting in my lap, piloting the thing like I'm not even here, I have even more issues with it.

I don't have anyone else to blame but myself really. She offered a chance to ride around in the thing, so obviously I took the opportunity. "When am I ever going to get a chance to do something like this again?" was the thought process I had in my head. Now a big part of me is hoping that the answer to that is never.

There are a couple of screens in here, showing the scene outside the robot from the perspective of its eyes, as well as another one that seems to be from the chest. Redundancy I guess. Aside from that, I can't really think of what most of this stuff even is. Too many blinking lights, gauges, meters, and switches with not enough labels. It seems kind of crude compared to what I would expect if people from the Moon were to build it, but I guess that's to be expected. To Rika's credit at least, she doesn't seem to be having a difficult time getting the thing going, and all she's had to use to pilot it are a couple of arm controllers, as well as some pedals under her feet.

"I'm gonna get it up to speed. Hold on to something," She mutters back to me. What do-there's nothing to hold on to! "Other than me." That just makes it worse!

The back and forth rocking of the robot intensifies as the pace of its steps speed up. We're still walking around the ground, somehow managing to not sink into the molten lava or catching on fire. At least the robot seems pretty durable, given that I can both hear and feel the crunching of stone underneath us with every step. We move from slow steps to a power walk to a brisk jog, the whole machine shaking more intensely the entire time. I clutch the arms of the pilot's seat as much as I can, but still feel myself being shaken around enough that my butt hurts.

"This is um... Kind of way more dangerous than I thought it would be," I say, trying not to let the worry leak through my voice too much.

"It's fiiiine," Rika insists, pushing forward harder. The robot responds by breaking out into a run. Rika urges it forward verbally as well, leaning forward in my lap. "C'mon c'mon..." Suddenly she pulls back with her arms, slamming her feet down on a different set of pedals "Yeah!"

I feel a lurching sensation as we lift off. Not anywhere close to as easy or comfortable as normal flying, the robot blasts into the air, flying above the burning ground of the Remains of Blazing Hell. Its body flattens out horizontally, giving the screen showing the chest level view a good view of all the fire we're flying over. The head view keeps itself oriented forward, showing us soaring past a collection of ravens, fairies, and the vengeful spirit thing Sanae warned me about earlier. As we get higher, we even have to dodge out of the way of the occasional stalactite.

Rika whoops excitedly, pulling back a little bit to make the robot fly a bit more slowly. We're still cruising along, but at least I don't feel like we're going to crash into something at the slightest mistake. Luckily it seems like the underground is quite a bit bigger than I expected.

Unluckily, I am hot, sweaty, cramped, a little achey, kind of terrified, and in a place that I'm probably not supposed to be just because I was curious about riding in a giant robot. I can appreciate that Rika seems to be having fun, but this might have been a bad idea in the first place. If she's just doing this to test things out, I don't know if I want to be a test dummy for her. We haven't even hit a point where this thing's supposed clumsiness is a problem yet.

[ ] Try to get Rika to go back
[ ] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

Hello thanksgiving holiday break, you certainly are playing hell with my schedule.

Also I figured there was no point in having a 'get in the fucking robot' or 'don't do that' vote so I skipped it to go a bit further than that.
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[X] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

Time to live a little, and yes there is exactly one way a get in the fucking robot vote could have gone.
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[x] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied
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[x] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied.
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[X] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

Yeah, there's really only one way that vote could have gone. And probably only one way that this vote can go as well.

>Got a hell of a punch too.
I am choosing to interpret this as yes, the Mark II does indeed come equipped with a Rocket Punch.

>Sanae also says that we gotta make it so it can transform, or maybe combine with the original.
She would say that, wouldn't she? Well, I for one am totally in favor of Symmetrical Docking, though I doubt Seiran will have any influence there, or that it would be in-character of her to say that.

Good show, NRFB. This was all I was hoping for and more, plus now we can see what this thing can really do. Keep up the good work!
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[X] Screw it, if Rika's fine, we can keep going until she's satisfied

While I might have some decent reasoning for why I kind of want to turn back, I think I might as well stay quiet for now. More than most people that I've met here in Gensokyo, Rika seems to play things by her own rules and thought process. Just making an argument might not be sufficient. It would probably be better to wait for now. Bring up my problems when something goes wrong or Rika seems to be getting bored or whatever. Maybe I'm being a bit passive though.

On the other hand, this is a little bit interesting. Not an experience that I'm likely to get again. Sure, it's not exactly pleasant, but it is unique, and kind of cool too. Flying through the burning underground like this, just passing over everything. Obviously I wouldn't be able to do this kind of thing without some kind of protection from the heat. As far as protection goes, you could do a lot worse than giant flying robot.

We've more or less leveled out into a steady flight forward now. I don't think we're going top speed, probably not anywhere close to it, but that suits me just fine. The less chance to get slammed around in here the better. It's a bit difficult to get a proper sense of scale, both from the limited perspective of the cameras and the fact that all the landscape looks pretty much the same, but there is a kind of beauty to it too. The bright flames on the ground flickering and dancing around each other. I wonder how long everything down here has been on fire? Sanae only gave me a tiny couple sentence explanation to what all this magma stuff is. Turns out it's something of a sight to see. Earth really is much more varied and interesting than the Moon in that way.

"Clear. Still favoring the right engine a little bit. I told them. I told them that I'd need to it recalibrate again," Rika looks around at various dials and meters around us as she mutters to herself. I can't really follow it, especially considering I'm mostly only seeing the back of her head. "Four times is enough, pfeh... They're probably even worse off too. Need more readings."

At the very least, it doesn't sound like she's saying positive things at the moment. Just a little worrying, that. "Is there a problem?"

"Always a problem..." Rika says automatically. I flinch as she shifts, pushing into my lap for a moment before half standing up in the already too cramped cockpit. She somehow manages not to step on the pedals by her feet, which means that the robot keeps flying normally. "Here, hold this," Okay, never mind! Rika shoves the big thruster things she's been holding with her arms around her self and into my personal space, causing the robot to lurch uncomfortably.

I grab the things, more to steady myself, because I don't actually know how to use them. The best I can think to do is hold them back in the same position that Rika had them in, though that's a little difficult to do without leaning forward and sticking my face a little bit too close to Rika's um... To Rika's butt. "I don't um..."

"Push them up or down as needed. Forward if you're feeling adventurous, or don't," Rika answers a question that I didn't ask, sounding nonchalant as she raises up on her tiptoes to look at something. After a moment, she reaches up to manipulate whatever it is. Looks like she's too busy to properly instruct me about anything. Great.

Okay um... I can't see the screens very well with Rika standing in the way, but I think that we're more or less stable again. Maybe a little bit more angled upward? Hard to tell. Okay, if I push these thruster things up, then... Oh wait no no no don't!

My head slaps back against the seat for a moment before I pull back. Ugh. Pushing up changed the angle, right, but I didn't adjust in time and it made me push forward too. That's how we speed up then? Definitely felt like it. I don't really want to do that again. Ugh, this whole machine is way too much of a deathtrap when it's being flown by someone with no training. What was Rika thinking?

... I mean, probably about something else entirely, sure, but...

"Nice," Rika says, glancing back at me with a smirk before- Oof. Before falling into my lap again. "It's good now," She says. "Okay now," She corrects herself. "Better than average now," She decides after a moment. "Better than it was before," She finishes.

"That's not very reassuring..." I probably would have felt better if she had said nothing at all. Constantly moving her assessment down is probably a bit of a bad sign. How many times has she flown this thing around anyway?

"Gimme," Instead of trying to make me feel better, Rika grabs at the thrusters again. I gladly give them up, returning my hands to where they can properly hold onto the seat for some stability. "Alright, diagnostics done, watch this."

Oh no, don't-Gah!

I'm glad that I got a hold of something when I did, as Rika decides to show off a bit. Expertly manipulating the thrusters and (I assume) the foot pedals, she quickly maneuvers the robot into a dive, pulling up just before we get uncomfortably close to the ground. She leans to the side, pushing her arms out and bringing us into a wide loop, then pulls back up higher again.

Okay, maybe she has more experience with this than I thought.

Aside from the occasional laugh of excitement from her or the random squeak of terror from me, neither of us can really think to keep conversation going as Rika flies the robot through a series of acrobatics. It's not really anything that would be difficult for me to do if I was just flying by myself, but it's so much different riding around in something that's doing it instead. Way less natural. The unfortunate bits of being cramped and hot and having somebody sitting on top of me probably don't help. I don't spend a lot of time in vehicles normally.

At least I don't seem to get motion sickness.

After a few more flashy moves, culminating in a full vertical loop, Rika finally pulls us back into a much more comfortable hover. Oh good, my hands were getting tired from clinging to things so hard. I think my fingers are turning white.

"Uhm... Just a suggestion," I say weakly, still trying to completely catch my breath. I might have actually yelled a little bit more than necessary when Rika made us do that barrel roll. "Maybe you should install more in the way of safety harnesses?" There's a seat belt, yeah, but it's really not meant for two people.

"Hm... Low priority," Rika says after a moment of thought. "I'll add it to the list."

It seems like it should be a high priority to me. What good is a robot you can pilot if you're just going to get slammed into the walls of the cockpit inside? Okay, that hasn't happened yet. We're not really doing ourselves any favors by doubling up in the seat either. It's probably much better when it's just Rika in here. "So do you do this kind of thing often?"

"For testing," Rika nods, staring up at the head view camera. "And fun," She adds soon after that. "Kanako's got me keeping too much stuff under wraps now. Can't fly above ground. Can't build anything that doesn't get cleared with her first. Have to work with Rikako and the kappas and everyone else even when I do get something approved. Can't hide out in the forest building a tank out of scavenged or stolen outsider parts," Woah, I wasn't really expecting a little rant like that. "It's hell. Literally."

Rika... It's kind of odd. Her emotions sound kind of muted, but she wouldn't have said all that if she wasn't bothered at least a little bit. "But you're still here."

"Better to be able to do lots of somethings than to try and fail to do everything alone," Rika reasons quietly, shaking her head. "Cynical maybe. Not like when I first started, but..." She huffs out a small sigh, but falls into silence.

What do I even say to that? "... Rika..."

"Oh," Rika raises her arms a bit, moving the robot around. I look up at the screen to see what it was that pulled Rika's attention away from the conversation. Some of those vengeful spirits? "Something else to test."

"Uh, what do you mean?" Rather than answer my question, Rika fiddles with some of her controls. I hear a series of beeps from around us, and a target appears, overlaying the chest view camera. "What did that do?"

"Activating the cannons," Rika replies, sounding a bit more chipper about it than I would like. Weren't you just sad about something? "Need to put more of them in still. This is an old design. Took it off of Sigma. Don't think he was happy about it. Don't think he's happy about much of anything. He can't be happy really, that's not programmed into him. It's the thought that counts."

Okay so the start of that was an answer, but then she just kind of kept talking about... Something. "Um?"

"Pow!" Rika declares, clicking a trigger on her thrusters.

The Hisoutensoku mk. II lurches again as a shotgun blast of danmaku is fired out from somewhere. I only know it happens because I see it through the camera. A huge spattering of plain white orbs of danmaku rain out, boring looking, but apparently effective from how they blast through a few of the spirits. The rest of the little floating things quickly scatter in random directions. I'm not really sure if they're intelligent or not, but they at least know a threat when they see one.

"Kapew... Boom," Rika continues, firing a few more salvoes toward the stragglers with each random shooting noise she makes. It seems to kick up a lot of activity on the surface below. Vengeful spirits and fairies clamber to get out of the way, moving around at random. Ironically, it really just serves to make it easier to notice them. I'm kind of surprised that nothing seems to want to counter-attack us. Not that I think they could do anything, but... Actually, doesn't that just make it worse?

"Isn't this um... Kind of cruel?" I have to ask. These targets seem pretty defenseless, and our attack seems pretty unprovoked.

"Not really. Vengeful spirits are assholes, and fairies'll forget about it by next week," Rika casually dismisses my concern, firing off a couple more shots in random directions. I don't think she's really aiming at anything in particular. After a moment, she lets go of the thrusters, craning her neck back to look at me. "You wanna try?" She offers, poking at my hands a little bit. "Stress relief."

Is that really all this is? Seems needlessly destructive. "I'll pass," I decide. Even if I had been completely convinced by Rika's assessment of what makes these targets acceptable, I'm really not up for flying the robot around again. Hopefully she doesn't-

"Guess saving the underground is up to me then."

We jerk forward, blasting further into the underground.


More than a few bombing runs on random places later, Rika finally gets bored with "testing" her danmaku cannons. I do note that she doesn't actually say or write down anything about how they performed, but maybe I shouldn't say anything. Rika's not the easiest person to understand, but I can still guess with some certainty that she's not completely satisfied with this arrangement she's in.

Not that that's any of my business.

I mean, it's kind of hard to say if I even like Rika all that much. She's not bad or anything, just difficult to talk to and more difficult to understand. I don't have any outstanding reason to dive too deeply into her personal problems, if any of those even really exist in the first place. Who knows, I could just be projecting again.

In any case, as long as she's not obviously unhappy, and can keep working on the portal stuff so that we can accomplish our goals, that's fine, right? I don't have to do anything.

Or at least that's what I tell myself as we silently wait for the robot to be pulled back up into the hangar. After Rika had gotten sufficiently bored, she summarily declared the underground saved, then flawlessly navigated back to the hole in the ceiling we had exited out of. It was so efficient that I have to wonder if she has some kind of guidance system in here. If that's the case, I can't really see it or tell intuitively that that's what it's for though. I wonder if Rika ever thought to write a manual for all of this.

As we rise up into the hangar, I have to adjust my eyes slightly to the glow coming through the cameras. It's not like the interior of the plant is much brighter than the outside, considering all the fire. There is however a bit of a switch from natural fire lighting to the artificial fluorescent ones. Nothing bad, just something that I have to squint at for a little- Oh.

As the robot comes to rest back in its silo, the chest view camera screen naturally stops at just about the level of the elevated walkway around the perimeter of the room. Standing there, looking less than impressed, I can see Rikako. Her arms are folded, and she's giving the robot an annoyed stare.

"Rika," She calls out sternly. It sounds like the cameras aren't picking up audio, or at least not very much, but she's still being loud enough that I can hear her clearly from inside the robot. "I'm sure we've talked about this before."

"We have," Rika agrees neutrally. There's no visible reaction from Rikako though, so I guess there's no audio coming out of the robot either. Rika was talking to herself.

"No joyrides. Especially before this thing is even finished. You know how Kanako will gut us if you crash or break something and this thing ends up costing even more of our budget, right?" Rikako starts scolding Rika, apparently oblivious that I'm here too. "If you want to test the thing that's fine, but we can schedule it. Do things officially. Actually design experiments and get meaningful measurements," Rikako continues with a groan of frustration. "Uugghhhh... Honestly for someone as brilliant as you are, to just ignore the scientific process and go with your gut all the time... You know how that-"

Okay, I'm not sure how much time I've got here before something happens. Rika doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get out of the robot at least... Err, actually, wait. I'm not supposed to be here in the first place, am I?

... Crap. So if she opens the cockpit and I'm sitting in here, I could get in trouble, she could get in even more trouble... Is there anywhere that I could- yeah. I could maybe duck behind the chair that we're sitting in now. It'd be a tight fit, and I'd have to find some time to sneak out later without getting caught, but... Maybe it'd be a better call than getting both Rika and I in trouble?

[ ] Leave the robot with Rika
- [ ] Defend Rika, try to lessen the blow on her by taking blame.
- [ ] Blame Rika, it was her idea in the first place.
- [ ] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.
[ ] Stay hidden in the robot and sneak out later
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[x] Leave the robot with Rika.
- [x] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.

Play it cool.
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[X] Stay hidden in the robot and sneak out later

Time to play Stealth Bun!

>Didn't get to use the Rocket Punch

Ah well, it was still pretty cool, even if we'll probably never get to do it again.
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[x] Leave the robot with Rika.
- [x] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.
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[X] Stay hidden in the robot and sneak out later

Not sure why, but this seems like the FUN choice.
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Tiebreaker? Four votes seems to be the norm lately, but I'm at 2-2 here.
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[x] Leave the robot with Rika.
- [x] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.

Honestly don't like either option here but I'll break the tie.
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[X] Leave the robot with Rika
- [X] Don't do either, let things happen how they're going to happen.

Ugh, no. While the idea of not getting in trouble is tempting, it seems a little bit too... Not risky, necessarily, but short sighted I guess. It's a plan that makes some assumptions that I probably shouldn't make. I don't know if Rika would appreciate being forced to suffer alone, even if I doubt my presence would take the heat off of her much. If she felt like it though, she could just call attention to me if I tried to hide. That's if I could even successfully hide in the first place too. Then after that there's the question of how I would actually get out of the cockpit after the thing is shut down... Yeah.

Okay, fine, then we'll have to face the music eventually. Together, rather than separately. I can mentally prep myself for that now. From the sound of things though... Yeah, Rikako is still criticizing various things about Rika's work ethic and weird habits. It's kind of a little bit naggy at this point. She's saying something about Rika spending her time on the wrong projects, not improving the efficiency of some kind of techno-babble something or other that goes over my head. Pretty sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the robot actually. "How long are we going to wait before getting out?" I whisper to Rika. There probably isn't any need to whisper, come to think of it, but it fits the mood, so whatever.

"Just waiting until she runs out of steam," Rika seems to deflate a bit, which I don't really appreciate all that much considering it means she's resting more of herself on top of me. "Bit of a waste, she could be powering a robot with all that. Apparently," I think that might have been a joke? It's hard to tell when she's so unenthusiastic about the delivery. I laugh a little anyway, just in case.

"- and are you going to stay in there all day?" Rikako finally pauses with her rant to ask.

Well, I haven't been paying that much attention, but now seems as good a time as any. "That's our cue, I think," I prompt Rika, pushing up against her slightly to try and make her get up.

Rika just shrugs, but gets the message anyway. She fiddles with a couple controls in one of the armrests of the pilot's chair, maybe two or three buttons, then the displays from the cameras turn off and the chest of the robot starts to open. Not really anything dramatic for me, I could already see the hangar. In fact, I had a better view before from the cameras. Now with just my eyes, all I can really see is the walkway and a slightly surprised scientist.

"Oh!" Rikako steps back a tiny amount, reaching up to adjust her glasses. I think she might have been getting a little into her rant. Maybe that's another thing I wasn't supposed to see. "Hello Seiran."

"Uhm... Oof," I'm not sure how to reply immediately, and have to pause for a moment as Rika suddenly pushes off of me, jumping effortlessly down from the cockpit, catching one foot on the railing, then stepping down onto the walkway. Wasn't that kind of dangerous? She could have fallen, and I'm not actually sure if Rika can fly on her own or not. Err, anyway, right. Responding to the greeting. "H-hi?"

Rikako nods toward me once, then turns, making sure to keep focus on Rika. "And I suppose you dragged her in there with you for some reason?" She continues, although Rika looks wholly uninterested in being scolded. "That adds another level of consequences if something malfunctioned. I really doubt that Kanako or any of her guests would appreciate having one of their own blown up in an experimental robot."

"I'd be blown up too," Rika points out. A little blunt, but I guess she has a point. Even if a crash hadn't done the job, being in the fire and everything would have finished us off afterward.

... Hm, it probably should have hit me before just now how dangerous being out there actually was. I was basically flying around in a giant metal death trap, wasn't I? Ugh... Maybe from now on I'll stick to just flying normally. Probably.

Rikako closes her eyes in something like annoyance. "... That's not the point I was making, but yes. I suppose you would be, and I really don't like that idea, Rika, so if you could please do things a little bit more safely?" Rikako gradually shifts tone to one that seems genuinely concerned. That's a little bit unexpected, I thought it would be all business.

Rika, however, doesn't seem to share my surprise. She walks across the walkway, leaning over the opposite railing and looking into the wide open space of the rest of the hangar. "It's fine. We didn't do anything crazy or new, and she gave me ideas," She explains. "It helped."

"I know for a fact that you are perfectly capable of having too many ideas to count on your own," Rikako actually sounds a little bit amused at the idea. "Even if you're only working with currently existing functionality, I don't think you need to add more to your plate."

"Getting an outside perspective," Rika counters, looking over her shoulder. "You did the same thing earlier. That blonde rabbit, right?" Oh, Ringo? Right, she did say she had to do something with Rikako earlier today. She mentioned that at the meeting.

"I did that inside the plant, not flying around outside," Rikako stresses, staring Rika in the eye. The two lapse into silence for a while, until the stare down is eventually broken by Rika turning her head away without saying anything. At that bit of subtle rejection, Rikako deflates, unfolding her arms and sighing. "Oh very well. I'm still not happy with you, but it's likely not worth bringing it up to anyone else while we're already limited in time and funding. Having somebody else mandating when discipline has to happen will just slow us down. Just keep that in mind that if you decide that there is going to be a next time. If you get caught by someone a lot less lenient than I'm being, I won't be able to help you out of the situation. Imagine Kanako showing up for a surprise visit while you're acting like this."

Rika doesn't visibly react, though apparently thinks it over enough to offer her opinion on the idea. "... Ew."

Speaking of avoiding getting in trouble though, I've just been sitting here listening to the conversation while still in the robot. Probably best to get out now. I pick my mallet back up from where I set it down behind the pilot's seat, then hop out from the robot. I'm a little bit less confident in the landing than Rika was, so I float a little bit, but if you have the ability to fly, why not use it for stuff like this too? It also means I can dedicate one hand to keeping my dress from flying up, so that's good as well. Modesty is important, especially around these people that I barely know. I'm getting a bit of a better sense of them now at least.

"Ah yes, Seiran," Rikako turns to look my way again when I touch the ground. Oh, am I in trouble now? "This is supposed to be a restricted area. I'm making an assumption that you aren't here on purpose, but you should probably leave sooner, rather than later."

"Sure," I could throw Rika under the bus here by saying was all her idea. Alternatively I could defend her by saying the opposite. I think I'll leave it alone though. I'll just change the subject to something that I'm curious about, but not likely to get a good answer from Rika on. "Why does this place even need a hangar? These things don't really seem related to power generation."

"True, however Lady Yasaka is interested in more than just generating power," Oh, it's Lady Yasaka now that she's talking to an outsider, huh? Probably just trying to be a bit more official sounding, but I caught the change. "Advancement in science and technology are critically slow outside of this facility. There just isn't enough public interest. We take it upon ourselves to have a large breadth of side projects, which both satisfy Rika's inventive spirit, as well as allowing us to see what works and what doesn't. Once a project is developed and tested and we're confident that it's ready for integration with the greater public, we'll have even more to offer them."

So I guess that's what Kanako means with the whole goddess of technological advancement or whatever thing. "Yeah, that makes sense."

Rikako nods at my response, but then keeps on talking regardless. "Think of it this way, while magic may be powerful, I have no doubt that any of its effects can be replicated through technology, given enough work," I think I might have let her stumble onto one of her favorite topics or something. "In that case, the difference between the two will inevitably come down to accessibility. Humans are naturally limited in their magical ability, but by contrast, the use of technology is much easier for the common man. Knowledge can be disseminated easily through instruction and teaching, and can be easily passed on after that until it is so pervasive in society that it becomes part of everyday life. Rather than hoarding magical power and artifacts among a select few of those who can use them, technological advancement done correctly means that everyone benefits as a whole. That's the ideal that I'm trying to push us toward. Lady Yasaka and the Moriya shrine agree with that vision as well. It's quickly becoming one of the major tenets of the Moriya shrine, and I'm glad to be a part of it."

"I... Okay," I didn't really ask all that, but I'm glad that she's so enthusiastic about it. It's a pretty big contrast with how little Rika seems to reveal about things. While I can agree with Rikako's saying in principle, it doesn't quite match up with my experience. Magic and technology both are major components to how advanced the Moon is, although I guess we're a bit better off in the former. Youkai are going to have an easier time than normal humans, right? "That makes sense, but it doesn't really explain the need for the giant robot," I point out.

"Well, I won't say that the Hisoutensoku was my idea originally, though I did sign off on the project for creating the mark two, with a bit of prompting," Rikako responds. "Let me just say this, there are a few projects down here that I really hope Gensokyo never needs to be integrated with."


It's interesting. That's the conclusion I come to once I've left the hangar and am walking back through the hallways of the plant. Interesting, if a little bit worrying. Both Rika and Rikako seem to be just a bit more interested in having the chance to build things and do science in general than they are concerned for what exactly they're doing. They both seem different, sure, but I think there's a lot in common there.

Rika seems to have a lot of ideas and stuff in her head, even if she's not the best at actually communicating them. In fact, it's a little hard to tell what she's thinking some of the time, while other times it's really obvious. It'd be easy to say that maybe she's just not all there, or agree with Sanae's remark of her being difficult, but from what she said, it really does sound like there's more to it. Something to do with visiting the Dream World a lot and that having some kind of effect on her creativity. I'm not sure if I should pity her over that or not.

By contrast, Rikako seems to have it together a lot more. It does seem like she places a bit more value on being able to work with technology than anything else though. Even the way that she scolded Rika seemed to be more out of obligation than because she actually wanted to punish the girl for flying her robot around without permission. Heck, the only real end result of what happened was that Rikako decided she would talk to Ruukoto and get some more signs put up to indicate what parts of the plant were off limits to people without clearance. She didn't really do any punishing at all, despite having the authority to do so. And then there was that whole speech... I don't know. I guess people wouldn't get into a religious organization like this if they didn't have something driving them. I don't think it's piety in this case, but whatever. It works for her and Kanako.

Hopefully it'll work out for us too.

Anyway, I've elected to head back toward the dormitories for now. Originally I just wanted to go for a walk to distract myself for a bit before it was time to go to bed. It definitely did that. Flying around the underground in a giant, nuclear powered robot is a distracting, and rather unique, experience for sure. The whole thing had just been a series of coincidences that I probably would never have stumbled upon if I hadn't decided to go out for a walk.

Unfortunately, it was so distracting that I didn't really get a chance to get help on my actual issues.

Not that I think Rika would have been much help. If anything, I would expect her to either give me random advice, or to just change the subject to something more or less irrelevant. Even if Rika is smart, it doesn't mean that I have to have a lot of faith in her to help me with my relationships with the rest of the unit.

But then, can I really rely on anyone that I might randomly bump into here to do that?

Sure, I've gotten personal problem help from unlikely sources before. Most people would probably raise an eyebrow about how much I let Sumi advise me, for example. I feel like that's more justified though just because she's more experienced than I am in a lot of ways, not to mention that she's had years and years to get used to people like Yuzuki and Ringo, so I can trust that she has insights that are worth listening to, even if I don't follow everything that she suggests. That's... Really not the case for Rika or Rikako or Ruukoto or anyone else that I'm likely to run into down here.

So I guess if nothing else, taking a walk like I have only served to eliminate options, rather than reveal them. I actually don't think that that's too bad though. I have a lot less reason to procrastinate now, and enough time has passed since my pre-meeting talk with Ringo that I can go into what is almost certainly going to be another difficult talk.

I climb the last of the stairs into the dormitory common room. Looks like it's just Chiyo sitting around at the moment. Huh, it's not too late I don't think. Late enough to go to bed, but still a little odd that there's only one person up and about. "Hey Chi," I greet her casually. "Everything going okay?"

Chiyo looks up from where she's sitting at me and nods. "Things are okay. I'm not sure how to manage my sleep schedule yet." Oh yeah, because of her powers affecting her earlier today, her sense of time is probably a bit off. If she just goes to bed at a normal time, she might not feel tired enough, or she might end up sleeping too much or too little. It's a balancing act that I still don't quite understand. She manages it okay, though I think she usually errs toward sleeping too much rather than the alternative.

"Have you seen the others?" I ask, walking around the stairwell to the reading area where Chiyo's relaxing. It doesn't look like she's reading anything. Maybe she's still thinking things over? I know she went through a lot today, but maybe she should talk about her issues with someone rather than thinking by herself for hours and hours.

... Although I guess I don't have a lot of room to talk. I mean, I do plan on doing something about it soon, at least. Whenever I get around to going to bed and stuff.

"Yeah, they all came back a while ago, said you'd be back eventually too," Chiyo answers back, not even sitting up all the way in her seat. She looks pretty relaxed at least. "They're all in the rooms. Yuzuki might be asleep already, dunno about the other two."

Okay, so everyone is by themselves then. Not that unusual. It happened a lot even back when we were all sleeping in separate tents. This setup even gives me a bit more privacy if I wanted to talk to anyone else before heading to bed.

Of course, that might just be me procrastinating again. I know I'm going to have to make the call on what to do sooner or later. Sleep in the same bed with Ringo or no. Be comfortable and warm, but send certain signals and possibly leave her in danger, or have to deal with the awkwardness of very clearly rejecting her... I might be looking at that trade off a little bit more negatively than I need to, but I don't know. I feel like this is kind of important.

[ ] Stay up and talk to one of the rabbits
- [ ] Who?
[ ] Go to bed
- [ ] Sleep alone
- [ ] Sleep next to Ringo

This in story day has lasted way longer than it should have. Whoops.
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Holding out for Yamame.
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Ringo is cute
[X] Go to bed
- [X] Sleep next to Ringo

This really isn't going to get any better, is it? No matter how many people I find and talk to so that I can sidetrack myself away from the issue, Ringo's still going to be waiting in the room at the end of the day. Nobody is going to go in there and take care of the conversation for me. I guess maybe if I waited long enough, she might be asleep by the time I get back in there. That's still not really making things better. It's just pushing actually dealing with things back again. Not to mention that avoiding talking to her is kind of a statement in itself. Not necessarily the one that I want to make either. Way too negative.

So no, I have to stop procrastinating.

"Okay, well I guess I'll head to my room, talk to Ringo for a bit, then go to bed," I say out loud, pointedly not mentioning a small detail that I'm still wrestling with just a little bit. Sleeping arrangements. "Um, are you good to stay out here?" I also ask as an afterthought.

Chiyo frowns and raises an eyebrow in my direction. "I'm just sitting around."

"Yeah but..." But you're sitting around alone when you could be talking to any one of the other rabbits. I mean, I guess this is normal for Chiyo, so I don't have to be concerned exactly, I was just hoping that all the opening up she already had to do today would prompt her to do it a little more. Apparently not. Maybe I'm just pushing too hard. There's probably a limit to these kinds of things. "Well, okay," I resign myself to letting her do whatever she thinks is best. No need to be even more of a busybody than I have been already. "Don't stay up to late I guess. We've got another day of working to get through tomorrow."

"Like any other day, yeah," Chiyo agrees, slumping down in her chair, not even looking directly at me any more. She does reach up to wave vaguely in my direction a couple of times though. "G'night."

"Good night Chiyo," I answer back before turning and walking out of the common room.

The hallway with all the dormitories in it is quiet, just as quiet as the rest of the almost entirely deserted power plant. There might be a little bit less of an electronic hum here at least. I would guess that since it's further up, there's less machinery noise, though I would think that most of that would be muffled by the surrounding rock even further down. I don't have the best idea of how this whole place is constructed, but it does make some sense to keep your living quarters in a place that isn't quite as loud or uncomfortably hot. Good job to whoever planned the place. I do kind of wish that there was a bit more of a walk back to the room that Ringo and I are sharing, but the fact that our rooms are close by is more coincidence than anything they could have planned for in the construction.

I sigh, fiddling a little bit with my mallet to make sure I'm holding on to it comfortably before knocking on the door. Even if it's my room too, who knows what Ringo is doing in there right now? "Yo, what's up?" Oh, sounds like nothing. She answered immediately, and doesn't sound bothered or anything.

Instead of responding, I crack open the door to the room and slip inside. Ringo looks pretty relaxed, sprawled out on the bed further from the door, and reading a book that I can't actually see the cover of from this angle. Doesn't help that she drops it as soon as she realizes that I'm the one entering the room. Flopping herself up into a sitting position, she gives me a smile. "Hey, welcome back."

"Hi," I answer automatically. I feel like it would be natural to set my mallet aside, but I'm not sure what I would do with my hands otherwise or where I would sit. "Err, what are you doing?"

"Huh?" Ringo looks confused for a moment before catching the question. "Oh. Not really something I'm into, I was just killing time," She answers, grabbing the book and holding it up for me to look at. There's no picture on the cover, but from the title I would have to guess that it's some kind of history thing. Seems a little boring by Ringo standards, definitely. She's not that much of a reader in general though. Not saying she's dumb or anything, it just isn't really her kind of hobby. "They've got a lot of books sitting around the common area," She explains. "Hey, you were gone a while. Had to fill up the time," She defends herself. Was I giving her a weird look or something?

"You didn't have to wait up for me or anything," I point out. Although I guess she said that she would, so I'm not exactly surprised. I didn't really have any idea how long I would be out walking though.

"But I figured I would anyway," Ringo answers dismissively, dropping the book again. "So," she continues on conversationally. "You went out to clear your head and stuff, right? Uhm, how'd that go for you?"

I don't know why there was a tiny bit of hesitation there, but whatever. "It was... A bit different that I expected, I guess," I answer back vaguely. Not that I'm sure what I actually did expect in the first place. "More distracting than clarifying really."

"Ah," Ringo nods once, shuffling back so she can lean against the wall while we talk.

Unfortunately... I'm not really sure what I should say next. She didn't give me much to go off of, and I'm still feeling weirdly awkward about this whole situation. I've kind of made up my mind that I'd be okay with sleeping next to Ringo and stuff, but I don't really want to be the one that brings it up, and it feels like there's more that we should be talking about too. I don't know what to say though, and since Ringo isn't talking, the two of us lapse into silence instead.


Well... It looks like Ruukoto cleaned up the bullet holes and stuff pretty well, that's good, right?

"Err," Oh good, Ringo's finally saying something. "So I'm just guessing here but uh... Did you go to the underground city?" She asks.

"What?" I didn't say that I was going that way, why would she assume that? Even if I had wanted to, I know for a fact I would have been gone for much longer than I actually was. Compare the walk from here to the hangar and the walk from here to the capital of the underground... Yeah, that's a pretty big difference. "No, I just went for a walk around the plant. Ended up talking to Rika for a while," Among other things, I suppose. There was the robot thing, but I don't really feel like telling that whole story at the moment.

"Oh," Ringo lets out a breath of relief that I hadn't realized she was holding in. What is that about exactly? Actually, her tone when she asked the question in the first place was a little weird too. Seemed like she was worried about the idea or something. "Okay, yeah. Quite the setup they've got going on down here, right? Rikako walked me around a little bit earlier while she was quizzing me over Moon stuff. The whole place is a lot bigger than I thought it'd be."

"Uh, yeah," I kinda feel like she's just pushing on and hoping that I don't notice the weirdness that I'm already feeling about her response. Maybe that's for the best? "Seems like there's a lot going on down there," I agree.

"Yup," Ringo agrees before we share another bit of silence.

... Ugh, why are things so awkward now? We both know the question that's hanging between us, but it's just so difficult to bring it up. I hate how weird things are between us. No matter how many conversations we have where we try to pretend that we're going to act normal, it doesn't really work out that way. I can't just not think about the issue now, so I'm always going to have to act differently in response.

Are we- Is this just how things are going to be from now on? As awkward as that pre-group meeting talk? As awkward as this is right now?

"So... What's left for tonight then? Need a shower? You tired? You want to talk?"

Still with that weird tone. It's not the normal Ringo. If I were to answer, would she hear something that wasn't normal Seiran? Probably.

... Yeah, no. I really don't like this. This inability to say anything or just make normal conversation. I understand why it's happening more or less though, which kind of makes it worse. It's not just me that's worried, it's both of us. The difference is that Ringo is scared because she already tried to kind of push things forward yesterday, and that ended terribly. Now she doesn't know how to try again, or even if she should. Since it doesn't look like she's going to...

I move. It isn't something that I think about very much before doing, but that probably makes it easier than the alternative. Instead of answering Ringo's question, I look directly at her, then stride forward, crossing the room in a few steps. Once I'm close to Ringo, I plop myself down on the bed directly, settling just near enough that we're not quite touching, but it wouldn't take much for us to do so.

"Talking a little bit, but I think we should both go to bed soon too," I answer with a mask of calmness. I reach down to pat the bed between us a couple of times, just trying to imply what I mean here without saying it directly. I haven't done my normal gradual work up to this decision, but now I've gone and made it anyway. The idea of sleeping next to Ringo... I was already okay with it before. Now that I might be able to avoid hurting her, that should just make it easier really. Should. Not does, should.

"Oh," Ringo glances down at my hand. It takes a half second or so, but I can practically see the realization on her face once it's clear to her what I mean. "Oh! Yeah. Yeah sure!" She responds, sounding a lot brighter about things. "We can do that. What did you want to talk about first?"

"Uh, basically..." I need some way to make things go back to some kind of semi-normal middle ground. "I don't want another day where you avoid me, alright?" That's a good first point. Temporary alone time to figure things out should be fine, but all day avoidance is pushing it. "I know there were reasons for it and everything, but it's not really... We need to be able to talk about things that happen."

"Yeeeahh," Ringo sounds apologetic, but still looks like she's in a much better mood suddenly. Did me taking the first step really help that much? "Sorry about that one. Won't happen again. Course, several things that I've done recently won't happen again too."

"Right," Talking about the drinking, I would assume. "Um, also..." Okay, I might be pushing it a little here, but it really does seem like Ringo likes it when I'm the one dictating how we go forward. It's not a position that I necessarily want to be in, but I guess it gives me a bit more control on the speed of things. Not my normal behavior most of the time, but I guess it matches up with what people have been saying since we came to Earth. I'm uncharacteristically proactive. It's kind of worked out so far, right? "I'm still trying to figure things out, but I do think it might be a good idea to maybe um... If we have time I think we should go somewhere to have fun and hang out. You know, as um, just the two of us."

"Just the-" Maybe I should have been a little more direct because- Oh, no. It took a second but she's definitely pleased. "Yeah, okay. Sure! Did you have anywhere in mind? We can go tomorrow, I'm pretty sure that I don't have anything else planned in the morning or afternoon. Oh, or we could go somewhere after we talk to Reisen, then we'd have the whole evening and-"

"Err, I don't think we can really plan it that well ahead of time," I feel a little bad for stopping her when she's clearly getting excited about the idea, but there is still the outside possibility that we won't have time to pull something off. We do have another priority. "Scheduling things is kind of weird right now. There's the mission and everything to worry about. I guess I'm just saying that if we have a chance, I'd like to try um... You know..." Okay I miiight have hit my limit here. My face is on fire, and I haven't even said the word 'date' yet.

"Well you're not gonna hear me complaining about the idea!" Ringo enthusiastically assures me, her foot tapping happily against the side of the bed where it's dangling down beside it. "Alright, then tomorrow, we'll just keep up with each other, if it seems like we hit a lull in the action, we'll figure something out. Pick a place, tell the others-"

"And they'll tease us," I point out quietly. All three of them are going to know what's up. That's kind of something that I have to deal with if this whole Ringo thing is actually going to go anywhere though, isn't it?

"Tell the others, ignore the teasing, and go off and have fun," Ringo continues. Ugh. I really shouldn't be as embarrassed as I am right now. It's just me and Ringo here at the moment. What's the point of pre-embarrassment if it probably isn't even going to make things better later? "Yup, sounds like a plan."

A plan that it took quite a lot of effort from me to set up. I don't really regret doing it, but I'm suddenly feeling a little bit drained. It's probably just relief now that I finally forced progress to actually happen. I'm still not sure exactly where that progress is actually taking us, but it's better than nothing I guess.


... I can't sleep.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'm in bed. Yes, I'm comfortable and warm and freshly showered and everything else that would normally help me relax and calm down.

But Ringo is... Right there, you know?

I don't even know why it's bothering me so much. Liking her is one thing, but like... That doesn't mean that I should feel so restless just because she happens to be sleeping next to me. Just because I can see her body slowly rising and falling under the blankets as she breathes softly. Just because one of her arms is wrapped around my own, her body oriented on its side to face me so that I can see just a tiny amount of pouting from her lips. She just looks so soft that I don't... What do I want to... Aaaghh...

It's distracting and I can't stop my blushing and I can't settle down and go to sleep. It doesn't help that I'm still apprehensive about this whole thing either. If my powers turn on in my sleep again... Ugh, that's not making it any better. I mean, it kind of is, but it's just moving my weird restlessness to anxiousness instead and I don't know which of those I prefer and they just blend together into this mess of not sleep and aaaaahhh.

More than once it occurs to me that just getting up and going to a different bed would solve both of my issues, but doing that just feels kind of cheap, in a way. It's regressive, or something. I know I want to make progress with my issues and everything, I just didn't really expect it to be so difficult, I guess. Weird to think that I was optimistic about that compared to pretty much anything else.

There's a soft brushing sound as Ringo adjusts herself in bed next to me. I have to suppress a shiver when a few strands of her hair brush against my shoulder, eventually settling to loosely frame her face in a way that's a little bit messy, but still makes her look cute. Ringo is cute. Really cute. I... I mean I already knew that objectively, didn't I? The thought shouldn't be sticking in my head so much and it shouldn't be making my heart beat faster and it shouldn't be reminding me of how we almost kissed yesterday and it shouldn't be making me wonder what that would be like and-

I'm a lot less gentle about my movements than Ringo was when I turn on my side to face away from her. That train of thought wasn't going to somewhere that I wanted, I don't think. I need to distract myself from the distractions. Just take deep breaths, try not to think about being in the bed with Ringo and all the stuff that could happen. Just stay calm. Stay calm and go to sleep.


When are things going to get easier?



This is different.

It feels like something should be happening, but... It just isn't.

There's no colors. There's no lights. There's no patterns of shifting, swirling, something. It isn't the same as before, but I don't know what before was. Not really. It feels like I'm separate from where I should be. The connection isn't there. It's usually there? No. It has been there before, but only recently.

Before that? Nothing.

Do I want that? Nothing? It wouldn't be bad, but something is telling me that I could do more. Learn more. Become more? It's scary. Tempting. Do I really need to go that far? The connection is there. I can feel it. I could use it, but...

[ ] Close the connection
[ ] Wait and watch
[ ] Open the connection

This update was really not working for me while trying to write it. I'm still not even completely satisfied with it but I really need to stop missing updates. Bleh.
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Fingers crossed this leads to shooting Doremy, not Ringo.
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If stopping the connection gave us control, then let's preservve it. At least until we can control it on our own.

But if it is something else... like a barrier someone other than Marisa put... then it should not be there.
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Unlimited power? Yes please.
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Observation first, tests after.
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[X] Wait and watch


It's interesting. Tempting. A part of me says that I should investigate, but... No. At least not all that quickly. Something is strange. Not right. Not usual. I'll wait. I'll watch. Information before action. If the answer isn't clear, then I'll do nothing for however long it takes. That's how I need to be. Careful. There's something dangerous if I'm not careful.

Still, just doing nothing is strange. Feels wrong. Makes me feel something... Restlessness, although I think that doesn't sound like the wrong word for some reason. There isn't anything to watch. Nothing to hold my attention. Very much a different kind of problem than usual.


It's hard to tell how long this is taking. Just waiting here, nothing to do. Thoughts trying to center myself, or to focus are what I choose to fill the time with. It's very difficult. I get to a point where I feel like I've done this before, but that doesn't mean that I know what to do next. What happened last time, back when I had no form? Back when I was drifting? I took control, right? Someone else was talking to me, I took control. I ran. I flew. I fought. Who was-

"Oh my, now this is crude," The voice rings out from all around me. Not loud. In fact, it's rather quiet. The source feels like the same place as whatever I'm connected to. If I just opened it up, maybe I could hear better.

No. Still no. I'll wait.

"Hmm... Hm hm hm," The voice is familiar. Humming. Light. A little drowsy. Familiar, but I can't see who it is. "You really have been different every time that I've seen you recently. Experimenting, I assume? Dangerous business, though it looks like you've set yourself up safely for tonight. I can tell that you're lucid again, at least at some level, so you must be hearing me. As long as you stay in there, I suppose that's fine. I won't need to stop you. That's good, in fact. It means I won't have to exert myself."

She keeps talking, and it bothers me a little bit. Waiting and watching isn't getting me anything like this, is it? Even just thinking about what's going on is difficult. How am I going to get any information like this? "Well then, it may be a bit one-sided, but there's little else for us to do right now. Let's chat."

I need to... Just a little bit then.

Pulling open the connection a teeny tiny amount is just as easy as having the thought. Not as easy as making the decision, that was much harder, but the thought and actually doing it? Very simple. The connection into the Dream World... The connection opens a little bit, and even that small amount is enough to cause an explosion of information, color, sights and thoughts. I clamp it down as best I can, but it's still a lot. So much more than I had around me before. Almost blinding, even if I don't really have eyes at the moment.

More importantly, I see a figure. A woman, floating along at an almost oblique angle to my own perspective. The black and white dress with the pom poms attached, the red night cap, the long thin tail with the little bushel of fur on the end. I know her. I've seen her before. Just today in fact. The baku again. The same one, I assume.

Even without anything to sit on, it's clear that the baku is reclining, or maybe even lying down. She's relaxed, barely moving as she hovers listlessly in the void of the Dream World, a book and a pillow of some kind within arm's reach.

"Ah, that's a bit better. I'll take that as a yes. Or maybe I'll have to take it as a hello as well. Unfortunate, that we have to keep ourselves so separate. Any further in, and it would be all to simple to clean you up and head on my way," She heaves a sigh. "So many people being so busy here. I'd call it refreshing but it's just too exhausting. I don't really know you, but I'm sure you can relate. There must be rules you have to follow, things that you have to do just because of what you are. I'm a baku, so I control this realm. Manage it, keep it in order. Remove those who have no business being here. You... Well you don't do any of those things at least. You have your own priorities and rules. Ones that are supposed to be far away from here," I can catch the tiny bit of edge to her statement, though her face doesn't really show it.

"Still, you're hardly the only person poking around in the Dream World when you don't belong," She continues, unbothered by my lack of ability to talk back. "You just happen to be the least direct of them all. I still know that you are involved with all that has been happening, of course. You started dreaming again shortly after the incident. I know enough about you to say that those two things are related."

"Of course, I'm still limited as well. I don't know why things keep changing around you. It would be much easier if you could go back to how things were before, or even the same status quo that you've been in for the past however many years. Right now you're a nuisance. Constant changes to the situation demanding my attention just like all the others," She gives me an annoyed look. It's surprisingly direct despite the fact that I don't know where my body actually is. She's clearly much more used to this than me. "I'm getting sick of it. Another interloper that I can't remove by force. At least your visits are temporary. Still, I suppose you've never quite been normal, have you?" She ends with a smug looking smirk. It irritates me a little bit, if only because I know she's talking about my powers.

"Hmm?" Her amusement only grows when she somehow seems that I'm annoyed. "A connection like yours, you can't think that it was usual. No, I know that you know it wasn't. Building up into something so strong that you couldn't get rid of it even while awake. A panicked, worrying time for you, though quite interesting to me. A view into the real world. Your home, the Moon. Much less abstracted than the views I've gotten through dreams, and yet I didn't have to do anything to correct it. It was feeding me when you slept, entertaining me when you didn't, and you had so little control that it wasn't a problem," She sighs again, sounding almost wistful now. "Well, it couldn't last for long, could it? You did something. Changed. Suddenly you were different. The connection was still there, but suppressed. Nothing but the occasional prod back and forth."

I'm kind of getting more and more irritated the longer she talks. This is my power she's going on about. She's saying it from her perspective, sure, but I don't really care about whether some random baku wants me shooting bullets or not. She's talking about it so casually, despite knowing so much about it. Lady, you don't have to care, but at least have some amount of tact when you're casually examining the thing that practically ruined my life.

I still can't say anything though. The thought of opening the connection and shooting a bullet or something crosses my mind, but it doesn't seem like a good idea. Too violent. I'll just keep waiting and watching. It's all I really can do right now.

"Quite recently, it seemed like you returned to something more normal," The baku continues on, seemingly indifferent to how I feel about her speech. "Very few extra daytime pokes, and you were dreaming at night too. I knew you weren't completely ordinary, but you were close. You even produced some very tasty dreams. Well, that didn't last very long, did it? We met earlier today, I decided to chase you off, we fought, and now we're stuck like this. You have some amount of hold on the connection it seems, though it is a little bit crude. Surprisingly effective for amateur work. It's not ideal for me, but if this is the new normal, I suppose I can live with it. I don't have much of a choice otherwise, with you so closed off from anywhere I can get to. If this is really what you wanted to get out of your experimentation, fine. Keep the connection closed. Stay out of the Dream World. Do that, and this will be the last we'll see of each other most likely," Sounds fine to me. "However, let me just say this..."

"A connection to the Dream World like the one that you used to have doesn't just happen by accident. I can't claim to know it was set up, but the amount of power and finesse required to do so means that it must have been deliberate. If you set this chain of events in motion yourself, I hope that you've suffered enough to learn a lesson from it. If someone else did it to you..." Her smile changes from smug and self assured to downright sinister. I feel an urge to recoil from her, but can't exactly do that without a body. "Well, you know how to use bullets by now, don't you?"

Like a light switch being flicked off, the connection closes itself. I don't see anything anymore.



Don't wanna get up. Really comfy right now...

Nnmf... Stop that. What is-?

Ohh yeah...

Heh, cute.


Err, um. R-right. Ringo's face is a little too close again. She's got morning breath, and it's hitting me right in the cheek. I shuffle myself over in the bed, reaching up to rub at one of my eyes while I wake up slowly.

Wait, I woke up slowly? No residual nightmare screams? No sounds of gunfire?

I barely stop myself from jerking up in the bed to get a look around. Well, I still glance at as much of the surrounding room as possible, but manage to do it without bothering Ringo too much. Ceiling, walls, desks, door... I don't see any bullet holes. Ringo's breath was too calm for me to hit her, and the bed feels fine too. There aren't many more options are there? If I check everything else off the list then it has to be... Yeah. I didn't shoot anything. It was safe!

Woah, okay... Um, my heart is going a little bit faster at that than it probably needs to. It technically could have been a fluke. There were occasions when I didn't take my pill that the resulting dream wouldn't make me shoot anything overnight. It didn't happen that often, but it was possible. Let me think. What did I dream about?


It's actually surprisingly clear as soon as I try to think about it. Ordinarily, a lot of details from my dreams fade almost immediately when waking up. The general idea is there of course, but it's never anywhere near how well I remember the dream I just had.

A little annoying, because now I have to remember that baku talking down to me again, but it does feel like she said some important things. Most notably, it seems like she's going to leave me alone as long as I don't mess around with how my powers work again (and if I'm really safe to sleep without shooting, I don't have much reason to). Well, that and the condition that I don't show up in the Dream World again. That is... Much less doable. In fact, considering that getting in there is explicitly my mission right now, I would basically say that it's impossible.

So I might have an enemy to deal with, entirely separate from whoever was attacking the capital in the first place. Great.

Speaking of the capital though, that baku didn't know it, but I got my powers in the first place just by living there. She claimed that a power like mine couldn't develop on accident, but that kind of runs counter to what I know. Tons of rabbits get weird magically based powers while in the capital. There's just so much going on all the time that it's a side effect we've learned to live with. With the way the baku was talking about me using bullets, it seems like she was thinking I'd want revenge or something. I think I can chalk that one up to her just not knowing as much as she wanted to pretend she did though. It was an accident or a coincidence or whatever you want to call it. Stuff like that happens all the time.

Err, anyway, I can't really say that it was a nice dream, but at least it's over now. More importantly, the night is over too. It's pretty much impossible to tell how early or late it is down here, but I feel rested enough to get up and go. Must have been a fullish night's sleep. Guess that means I should think about my plans for today.

Let me think here... Mission related goals? We need to meet up with Reisen again later today. Either she'll have results for us to work on or we'll have to scramble for another solution. Not really actionable right now, though I would like to be there when it happens.

Power related goals? I have a check-up with Marisa at some point. It's hard not to feel optimistic about things when I just got through a full night of sleep without a problem, but it can't help to make sure. Pretty sure that Marisa would rather I not show up too late though, given how much she didn't seem like a morning person when we went there yesterday.

Other goals? Well... Tons of little things, I guess. Elly's supposed to show up later today, though I can't really do much to help her along with that. Need to set up both Chiyo and Reisen with the grassroots youkai network at some point, which can also probably wait. Need to make sure that Sumi is actually going to follow through on our agreement. We go to the concert if she stops going off on her own. I'm supposed to meet up with Yamame at some point too, but...

Oh yeah, I also kind of asked Ringo to go on a date at some point, didn't I?

It... She's still sleeping right now. Completely oblivious and... Still looking really cute. And comfy.

You know... It's not like any of these goals are that pressing. Like I don't have to get started on them right now... It's tempting.

[ ] Go back to sleep for a bit
[ ] Get out of bed
- [ ] Wonder if Yuzuki has left for Hina's shrine yet.
- [ ] Might as well get breakfast.
- [ ] Definitely need to keep an eye on Sumi.
- [ ] Maybe I should go visit Yamame again in case things get busy?
- [ ] Can't hurt to get the appointment with Marisa out of the way.
- [ ] Something else (write-in)

Kind of at a weird point this morning where most of the things that have been set up previously aren't quite happening yet. Feel free to kill time or be productive. Either way should be fine.
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[x] Get out of bed
- [x] Wonder if Yuzuki has left for Hina's shrine yet.

Yuzuki's my favourite of the OC bunnies.
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[x] Go back to sleep for a bit

She hasn't experienced a good night's sleep in a long time. No reason to give up that for a few more hours.
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[X] Get out of bed
- [X] Maybe I should go visit Yamame again in case things get busy?

Seiran you might want to think about what it means that rabbits seemingly gain magical powers at random while on the moon, and that it may not be natural at all.
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[X] Get out of bed
- [X] Definitely need to keep an eye on Sumi.

We could be in a world of shit if she gets into any more trouble this late in the game.
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[x] Go back to sleep for a bit
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[x] Go back to sleep for a bit

That's what I would like to do atm.
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Your new moon princess
[X] Go back to sleep for a bit

Okay. I don't have to feel guilty about this, do I? Even if I jumped right into action this morning, it can't possibly be late enough that I could finish up with anything that's really that pressing right away. This time is extra time. Yuzuki's going to spend it going to Hina's shrine, Sumi is going to do what she does, and Ringo and Chiyo are both probably going to spend the time on some extra sleep. There's nothing wrong with me following that example, right? It's strange, I don't really have anyone that I have to justify this to, but I'm still working at it.

Maybe part of it is that the more obvious internal justifications sound a little bit flimsy. Even if they're the main reasons they aren't really ones that I would say out loud if anyone actually asked what I'm thinking. I guess that doesn't necessarily equate to quality, more like just embarrassment over what I'm really thinking deep down.

First and foremost, sleeping is... I don't really think that I should feel all that proud about being able to sleep correctly, but I kinda do. No bad dreams, or at least not one that makes me shoot bullets. Does a vision due to my connection to the Dream World that is obviously real count as a dream? Well, either way that's not the point really. The point is that I actually got a full(ish?) night of sleep. It was nice. Oddly even more refreshing than the nights when I would just take my pill and be out almost immediately. Maybe something about the medicine was unnatural and made sleep less effective. Could just be all in my head, but the end result still means that it was a lot more pleasant than what I'm used to. What's wrong with trying to get that again?

As for my second reason, well, Ringo. That's kind of all there is to it, just because actually trying to work out much of an argument in my head doesn't really turn out that well. It feels like the best way to argue it would be to just gesture toward her right now while she's still sleeping next to me and be like "Look at her!" She's cute and soft and comfortable and it was nice to have her around and okay maybe it didn't actually help that much with how distracted and aware I was of her last night but... Argghh... It's just that my thoughts seem to get a little bit more jumbled than they need to whenever I start following that chain of thoughts. I'm not so dumb that I don't know what that's about, but that still doesn't mean I'd argue it to anyone else.

Like I said though, it's not like anyone else is going to ask me to justify this. The only person around who outranks me is sleeping too, and I don't have any standing orders toward the contrary or anything. This is fine. Not what I might usually do, but yeah, it's fine.

Shuffling around a little bit, I adjust my place in the bed while getting comfortable again. Ringo is still right next to me, but I don't really want her breathing right into my face. Luckily being taller than her makes it easy to just let her head rest closer to my shoulder, while still keeping close. It takes a little bit of focus on things that aren't Ringo. Things that aren't the adorable little almost snores as she sleeps. Things that aren't how weirdly fixated I would otherwise be on how soft her lips look... Eventually I do manage to calm my heart and my breathing down, relaxing enough so I can get a little bit more of a snooze.



Waking up again, I come to awareness a lot more quickly than last time. Only takes me a second to remember where I am and what I'm doing here. Takes another second to understand why I can't see, though it turns out I couldn't have really known ahead of time that I was going to be woken up by Ringo throwing her hat on my face.

"Mmmf," I say intelligently, my brilliant point being muffled by cloth. Yeah, I'll go with that. At first I start reaching up with my arms to remove the thing, but halfway through I decide to go into a stretch first instead. I mean, my arms are already there anyway, right? Might as well.

Hmm- ohh.

... Smells like Ringo.

Err, anyway, deciding not to put too much thought into things, I remove the hat from my face and let my eyes adjust to the light. Huh, maybe the extra sleep was a little more than I needed, or I could have been woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle or something. I feel a little bit more drowsy than expected. Hopefully that will pass befo-

"Eep! Stop that!" I jerk away when I feel somebody poking at one of my ears. "You know I hate it when you do that!" Even if it's not as bad as my tail, and it was just a poke, I still don't like it. Doesn't help that I was still stretching. Might as well have poked me in the side or something.

"Hey, how many times have you blown in mine while I was sleeping?" Ringo sounds quite pleased with herself, smiling even while I try to shoot her an annoyed look. Aside from her hat being off, she looks awake, dressed, and ready for the day. "Had to get you up somehow, didn't I?"

"I already woke up once, you could have just like, poked me or something," And even if she didn't know the first part, the second part would still be true. It's not like I'm a heavy sleeper. In fact I kinda wonder how she managed to crawl out of the bed without me noticing, especially considering she was the one closer to the wall. That's a lot more delicate than I normally expect Ringo to be.

"Oh but I didn't want to touch you while you were asleep," Ringo explains like it's the most natural thing in the world. She casually leans back against the desk, smirking like she's the smartest person in the room. "You just looked so cute and pristine. It was like I was looking at a princess of the Moon or something. Had to be really careful with her, at least until she woke up and started thrashing around."

"Yeah, right," My brain doesn't work fast enough to come up with a good comment to banter back with. I'm not the quickest at this kind of talk. Something about not thrashing? No, better idea. "So instead you throw a dirty hat on me?" I ask, grabbing Ringo's hat and throwing it at her. It doesn't fly nearly as straight or as fast as I would like, and Ringo easily snatches it before it hits her in the chest. I had been aiming for her head. Not my best shot.

"My hat is perfectly clean, thank you very much," Ringo says with obvious mock indignation as she holds the hat back up in front of her face. I see her eyes squint slightly as she sniffs at it a couple times. "Err, my hat is not that dirty, thank you very much," She corrects herself, slipping her cap back into its rightful place. "Anyway, not the point. Here, the cafeteria doesn't have the best selection, but this seemed like what you would've picked out of the options available."

Ringo turns at the hips, reaching around behind her to grab a tray that she had previously been keeping hidden. That's... That's the exact same soup that I got yesterday for breakfast. So yeah, Ringo's not wrong. "You didn't have to get this for me," I don't really mind eating the same thing two days in a row. I actually mean it. Ringo didn't need to get me breakfast or anything.

"Couldn't help it. like I said, it was the princess look," Ringo answers casually, sliding the tray over my lap. Hm, she had to carry this all the way up from the cafeteria? There isn't even a lid on it. Seems like an accident waiting to happen, though she apparently managed to avoid it. "Felt compelled to deliver her highness breakfast in bed. Get her ready for the day and all that. Shame she looks a lot less dignified once she's been woken up."


"Still adorable though, so I'll let it slide," A-adorable? Oh, um anyway, I grab hold of the tray, making sure it doesn't move around too much as Ringo sits down beside me. This doesn't leave us with a lot of room, so I scoot over a bit more to give her some space. "But yeah, not like I'm gonna take it back, so either you eat it or I'm having a second breakfast this morning."

Given how hearty this stuff actually is, I don't think that's the best idea. I know that Ringo can take it, but... Well, she has a point. Already paid for. "Thanks Ringo," I start to eat while Ringo gives me a nod in acknowledgement.

There are more than a few beats of silence after that. I'm focusing on eating, while Ringo seems to be thinking something over. I can tell just from the facial expression, though I guess other people might just assume she's staring off into space. Could be a little from both columns there too. Not counting that option out.

Knowing that, I'm not caught off guard when, halfway through my soup, Ringo finally starts conversation back up again. "So uh, looks like everything worked out overnight, huh?"

The bullet thing. Yeah, it's true that I haven't noticed any evidence of me shooting the walls or anything. I guess I could give the room a more thorough look, but it sounds like Ringo may have already done that, just to make sure. I swallow another spoonful of soup before responding carefully. "Um, it might have been a fluke but-"

"Somehow you managed to kick that nasty snoring habit. Good job," Ringo gives me a winning smile and flashes a thumbs up.

I briefly consider dumping the remainder of my soup on her. Maybe a bit too extreme though. "I do not snore!"

Ringo laughs out loud in response. Urgh, she's lucky that I'm partially held in place by this tray of soup. Can't really roughhouse without making a mess. All I can do is try to shoot enough annoyed looks toward Ringo that she eventually gets the message and stops.


"Come on, Ringo! I was being serious," You can't possibly have found it that funny anyway.

Maybe it's something about the tone of my voice, but Ringo does finally stop giggling. She even gets rid of the smug expression and gets serious again. "I know, I was just trying to play it down a little bit. Still though, it looks like things turned out fine, yeah?"

"Yeah," I agree. "No bullets. I did have a dream, but it wasn't really a nightmare or anything. Not shooting could have been pure luck-"

"Or it could mean that it's not an issue anymore," Ringo finishes for me, sounding way more optimistic than I would normally feel.

I mull it over for a moment as I eat a little bit more soup. I think that maybe two days in a row is my limit for this stuff. Tomorrow I'll have to go with something else. "Maybe," I respond cautiously. "I'll feel a lot better after I have a check-up with Marisa though."

Ringo shrugs like it isn't a big deal. "Alright, is that the plan for today then?"

It's one of the plans at least. "Um, maybe," I answer. "Marisa apparently doesn't like getting up that early, and is fine if I show up at any time. I have no idea what time of day it is while we're still down underground."

"Sounds like an easy fix then," Ringo slides off the bed, landing with both feet and happily hopping forward. "We gather up whoever else we wanna bring, then head out. Doesn't even have to be Marisa's first either. We've got money, and at least some time. Should be nice and easy."

Easy enough, though there are still decisions to be made.

[ ] Actually, maybe we can just stay here and talk for a bit longer?
[ ] Let's head for Marisa's place first.
[ ] We were going to go on a da- a thing together, right?
- [ ] I have this coupon for some underground hot springs...
- [ ] The village is nice. I don't know if we need to get dango from there though.
- [ ] This sounds weird, but it might be nice just to hang out at our old camp for a bit.
- [ ] We could just relax by the lake for a while, as long as it isn't too cold.
- [ ] Somewhere else (Write-in)
[ ] I kind of have somewhere I want to go by myself first... (I'm not going to mention Yamame out loud though)
[ ] Something else (Write-in)

Also if you're leaving the plant to either Marisa's house or some other write-in:
[ ] Bring Yuzuki
[ ] Bring Sumi
[ ] Bring Chiyo
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[x] Let's head for Marisa's place first.

Gotta look after your own health first.
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[x] Let's head for Marisa's place first.

Its the only thing we really NEED to do until we talk to Reisen in the evening. Get it out of the way, and then we have the entire rest of the day for our date.
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[X] We were going to go on a da- a thing together, right?
- [X] The village is nice. I don't know if we need to get dango from there though.

Let's not bug the witch first thing in the morning, shall we? Might as well get this out of the way while we're at it.
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[x] Da-a thing at the village

Maybe we'll see Reisen and feed two bunnies with one carrot.
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[x] village bunnies
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[X] We were going to go on a da- a thing together, right?
- [X] The village is nice. I don't know if we need to get dango from there though.

Should be nice and easy. Should be. Nice and easy. I try to keep the words that Ringo said in mind, turning them over and over in my head as if that's going to make them more true. It should be nice and easy to just pick a thing to head out and do together. Should be easy to figure out which of the other rabbits we need to pick up before we go. It sounds like Ringo is down for whatever I want, so I just have to settle on an option and say it out loud. The only problem is that... All of that stuff just isn't true.

We need to use our down time to the fullest, although that might be a bit silly coming from somebody who just slept a chunk of what was probably the morning away. It's kind of impossible to tell how big that chunk was, but I think that's kind of beside the point. Whether I did or didn't use my morning well, that doesn't change the fact that continuing to sit around would be downright excessive. We need to go out and accomplish something at some point. Clear up the schedule now, just in case some kind of emergency pops up later. So what is the only thing on the list that we can for sure accomplish right now?

That um, thing with Ringo.

Okay okay, I know that it's a date. That's what I was intending when I pitched the idea. That's what I'm sure Ringo is billing it as in her head. All I'm doing by avoiding the word is saving myself from the mental embarrassment, but if that's really such an issue, it's really not doing me any favors. If I can't think it, I definitely can't actually say it. If I can't say it, then we won't actually do it. I want to do it, so I need to fix my thinking. This is going to be a date. A date. Date date date. Date with Ringo. Ringo and I, on a date.

"Err, you alright? Your face is turning red," I almost jump in surprise when Ringo interrupts my thoughts. Kinda funny that she managed that considering how I was completely aware of her. I mean, I'm looking right at her right now, isn't that weird how I'm so surprised that she's talking to me? Man, I'm being silly. There's no reason that I should be surprised by the person I was talking to talking back. No reason at all. Let's um, let's just move on. My face is red?

"I'm fine," I rush out, reaching up to poke at my face. Yeah, definitely a little warm, but let's just try not to dwell on that. "A-anyway, it'd probably be best to just get topside for now, then make plans based off of what time it turns out being, right?"

"Sure, sure," Ringo agrees, thankfully not going on about my awkwardness. Maybe she can tell how easy of a target I would be and doesn't feel like bothering. I'll take it at this point. "And the others?" She prompts me. "I saw Chi while I was getting you food, and Sumi should be around here on standby like we told her to be yesterday. We gathering anybody to come along?"

Of course, since I didn't really make the date thing clear, it's a fair question. Maybe I should spell things out a little better. "Um, no. Just us for now. We've got a bit of free time, so I thought maybe you and I could just um, stop by the village first," It's not the most graceful, or even the most explicitly obvious invitation, but I can still see the realization hitting Ringo's face. "See, because we'll be relatively close to Marisa's house that way, plus might get lucky and run into Reisen ahead of time. Even if we don't, it's still a nice place to be, right?"

It doesn't look like Ringo cares all that much about my justifications to the idea. She's already smiling and nodding along with it before I've even finished explaining it all the way. "Sure," she happily agrees. "Oh, but I gotta drop the tray back off in the cafeteria first though, so unless you're done already..."

Oh, right. There are only a few spoonfuls of soup left in the bowl. Not really enough that I feel like I need to finish them. I'm already full enough from the stuff. Plus, I kinda want to move right now before I have more time to be awkward about things. "I'm done," I agree, lifting up the tray off my lap and shuffling with my hips to get off the bed. Ringo helpfully grabs the tray from me and backs off while I stand up. Okay, where did I put my-? Oh, there we go. Mallet acquired. Minor amounts of mental stability reestablished. Even if I might not even need it much anymore (which isn't proven), it's still reassuring to have a hold on my hammer.

Okay. All good. I straighten myself out a little bit, pat at my hair a little bit. I had a shower last night, but maybe I should comb it out again first? Get myself looking nice before this d-date... Yeah.

"Hey Ringo-" I start talking, but freeze up when I actually turn back to her. She's um... That's my spoon. That's my soup.

"What? You weren't gonna eat it," Ringo defends herself before I've even said anything, not that I'm sure what I was going to say in the first place. "Hm, guess you were sick a couple days ago though... Eh, I'm sure it'll be fine. C'mon, get ready and let's get going!"

I... Yeah.


I know I'm overthinking things. I have to be overthinking things. It really isn't a big deal. Ringo and I have shared food a ton of times before. Tons of times really. She regularly acts as excess food disposal for the entire rest of the unit, it's not even just me. There's nothing weird about it. She has an appetite that never really quits, while the rest of us are much more normal. I get that. It really shouldn't be something that I think twice about, Ringo eating my food, but it is. Somehow.

Indirect kiss is such a silly, dumb concept. Oh no, somebody else put their mouth on the thing that your mouth was on! Even I can't think of that as a legitimately inappropriate thing, and that's saying something considering how sensitive I am to stuff like that. It's not the same as kissing, not even something to bring up in the same conversation. The act in itself isn't something that has ever bothered me, and it's not like it suddenly started to now. Not really. It's more like it just kinda prompted me to think about stuff. Think about this whole situation and how things have been for the past couple days.

I think what's bothering me more than anything is the frame that's around all of the interactions between Ringo and I now. Things are different between us, and it's not going away. I can't stop thinking that in my head. Even if it ends up that different is better (the much nicer assumption), it's still different. It's still something that I have to get used to. It's still something that's making me uncomfortable enough that I have no idea what I'm supposed to say to the rabbit that's silently flying along next to me right now.

When Ringo and I had finished getting ready and made our way out of the plant, Ringo had been quick to identify the time just by looking at the sun's position in the sky. Still morning, and before noon, but not as early as we'd normally be moving out. Seems like we're kind of going at this in a bit more of a leisurely way than normal, but hey, we've got time, right? Time enough for a date... Time enough to spend the whole flight toward the village wondering what I'm supposed to say.

In a way, it had kind of been easier with Yamame. We didn't really know each other, so there were a lot of preliminary 'getting to know you' questions that we could use to fill up the time. With Ringo that doesn't really work. We know each other better than anyone else, and neither of us know the area any better than the other. So many topics that there just isn't much reason to actually talk about. How am I supposed to act now? I know that things are different and new, but what is the dynamic between the new, dating, Seiran and Ringo? How do you figure something like that out?

Overthinking. Definitely overthinking. Problem is, acknowledging that doesn't fix it. If anything it just makes me think harder to try and come up with a solution and... Ahhhgh... I just don't get how our interaction from this morning was so easy but now I'm just lost. Nothing should have changed but somehow-

"We going in?" Ringo's voice suddenly breaks me out of my thoughts again. Oh, we've made it to the village already? That's... Huh. I hadn't been paying much attention. Kinda focused internally. Anyway, what was the question?

"Um, yeah," I answer back automatically, slowly floating over the outer wall and above the village proper. "I'm not actually sure where we're going though. In a specific sense, that is."

"Riiight," Ringo nods as she follows along. "Well, we just ate, so that's probably out for now. Maybe later?" She asks hopefully, glancing toward me. "Maybe later," she agrees with herself before I can respond. We really don't need to get more dango here. The stuff I make is still much better. "Actually, why don't we just go shopping?" She goes on to suggest. "I got some more money from Kanako this morning, and I can think of at least one thing that I wanted to buy."

I don't really have any better ideas, so that sounds okay to me. "Sure, as long as you know where we're going," I slow down to let Ringo pass me, then let her lead the way as we fly further into the village.

It doesn't take too long for me to see our destination. I'm not too surprised to see that at this time of day the markets are already in full swing, so where we're headed is basically just the place where all the other people are headed. Not wanting to just drop in on all of them, we get relatively close, then move off to the side to land somewhere with more cover and walk the rest of the distance. We still obviously don't belong, but it's better that than swooping down on everyone's heads.

Moving into the marketplace, we run into the most populous area of Earth that we've ever been to. I'm not completely sure if this is the exact center of the village or anything, but it certainly seems to be functioning as a hub of sorts. Tons of open aired stalls set up in front of and between more permanent shops. Food, clothing, tools, books, toys, jewellery, all kinds of things really. It'd be easier for me to figure out a more complete list if there weren't so many people crowding all over the place. Bartering, window shopping, or just hanging around talking, there really are a lot of them. In a way, it kind of helps. Seems like everyone's too busy to give Ringo and I much of a second glance.

I almost jump when I feel a hand wrap around my wrist, but it turns out to be Ringo. "Stick together?" She says, sounding more cautious than she should need to be. What's the big deal it's not like... Oh, holding hands, right.

The wrist isn't quite the same thing as the hand, but it works, doesn't it? At least for sticking together. We're not likely to get separated from each other even in this kind of crowd. "Right," I agree, adjusting myself so that we're closer together and Ringo's grip can stay on me more easily. "What were we looking to buy anyway?"

"Eh, it's just something that I thought of on a whim, but you know how we woke up and had no idea what time it was?" Ringo answers my question with a question as she starts moving through the crowds, leading me along. Right, that is one of the big problems with living underground. "I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that they're advanced enough here that they'll have something to tell time. A watch or something. We hook ourselves up with that and suddenly we won't be as confused in the plant."

Huh, I hadn't really thought of that, but she's got a point. Mostly anyway. "I'm not really disagreeing with the idea," I begin, narrowly avoiding bumping shoulders with some human. "But we've only got a couple more days down there. Do we really need to spend our limited money on something like that?"

"Hey, I'm the one that's gotta keep staring up at the sun," Ringo laughs lightly. Hey, not my fault that I never figured out how that time telling trick works. Honestly I don't even know how Ringo figured it out. "Besides, you're the one that's gonna be carrying it around. Think of it like a uh, a souvenir or something."

"Isn't that even worse?" Souvenir's aren't really known for their usefulness, right? "Makes me sound like a tourist or something. Do I even need a souvenir?"

Ringo casts a brief glance toward me before she has to turn back to leading us along some kind of path. It's a bit difficult for her to keep her eyes on me when she's trying to watch out for other people and check what's being sold on the stalls we're passing. "I don't know, do you?"

I wouldn't really need a souvenir unless I actually left, so... "Errm," That just kinda brings up the question of staying here or not. Did Ringo do that on purpose or have I just been agonizing over it too much and too often. Ugh, I really hate how my brain seizes up and panics whenever this subject comes up.

Ringo once again does a good job of not noticing my awkward hesitance. She just keeps talking as we pull further away from the dead center of the market. "Anyway, from what I can tell, Kanako's being pretty generous with our stipend. You already said you didn't disagree with the idea, so we can at least shop around and see what's what. Grab something if it seems like a good idea, and otherwise just see the sights, right?"

Well, I don't have a better suggestion. "I guess so."


Gensokyo really does keep surprising me, though I can't really say it's always in a good way. That's a statement that ended up coming to mind twice over the next hour or so.

The first time was for a rather innocent reason. The surprise was mostly caused by the massive gap in technology between different parts of Earth. I woke up this morning in an underground nuclear power plant, after riding around in a giant flying robot last night. Fast forward to this morning, and Ringo and I had to visit three separate jewellery stalls before we found one that happened to carry something that works as a timepiece. A pocket watch, and not a particularly fancy one either. It was certainly functional though, which was enough for Ringo. She bought it and gave it to me, even though she's the one with the pockets. While I'm thankful for that and everything, right now there's a bit more of a pressing matter.

Namely, the second thing that Gensokyo threw at me that is quite a bit more surprising.

"I've been getting complaints," The girl goes on, despite the fact that Ringo and I are being completely unobtrusive to anyone else in the village, sitting on a bench in a mostly unoccupied side street. "New youkai showing up are a problem, especially when they just come and go like they own the place. People don't like it, and it ends up falling down on me."

I want to refute us apparently acting like we own the place, but I'm not really sure if that's in my best interest or not. Ringo seems to agree that staying quiet is the best course of action. That and subtly shifting to put herself between me and the girl who is currently listing off why we're such a problem.

"At least one count of theft was reported, with a riot almost being incited a couple days later," I'm not sure how fair that is. The riot was more like just a handful of angry people, and we left before it became a problem, right? Somebody is fudging the truth. "I talk to the gate guards, and apparently they've had zero rabbit youkai check in with them before coming here in the past week, so that's another problem. Flying over the walls. Humans want to keep track of potential trouble makers, you know? No, apparently you don't. You've shown up enough that that much is obvious."

"So... What?" Eep. Ringo, are you sure you should be interrupting her? "You want us to leave and never come back or something?"

"I'm still deciding," The girl reaches into her pockets, shuffling about some of her belongings. Sounds like a lot of paper? "One the one hand, visibly throwing you out right now would be the right move for public relations. It'd make me look good, and I don't think it'd be that hard either. On the other hand..." She trails off, glancing back in the direction of the main congregation of humans nearby.

"O-on the other hand?" I stutter a little bit when prompting her to continue. I've heard enough of her reputation to feel the nervousness is warranted.

"Well, I've never seen you before, so you're obviously new. You don't seem to be hostile or that troublesome either. You could be acting, but I'm not getting that impression. So basically, I'm willing to be reasonable," Reimu Hakurei folds her arms over her chest, looking at Ringo and I expectantly. "Convince me."

[ ] Correct some facts. She's only got one side of the story on Ringo's "crimes".
[ ] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.
[ ] I... I don't know how to deal with this!
[ ] Don't convince her, just promise to leave and not come back
[ ] Something else (Write-in)

Happy New Year and all that.

All the date options had something that would interrupt them, but it's totally recoverable, don't worry.
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[x] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.

I haven't looked back in the story to check, but as far as going past the gate guards I'm pretty sure we never even got the option. So yeah, rules were broken, our bad.
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[X] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.

Ohhhhh shit. At least she seems to be in something approaching a good mood right now! Let's hope it stays that way.
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[x] Claim ignorance on entrance issues.
[X] Explain the other side of the theft thing.

If only one can be chosen, consider this a vote for the first
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[x] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.
[x] Correct some facts. She's only got one side of the story on Ringo's "crimes".
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Incidents require investigation 2
[X] Claim ignorance. We're new around here, and nobody really told us the rules. We can do better.

Convince me. As if we're going to know how to do that, especially when we've been put on the spot like this. It really doesn't help that Reimu seems to have gotten a technique of passive intimidation down pat. Some of it may be her reputation preceding her, sure. Pretty much everyone that we've talked to who has mentioned the Hakurei has been regretful of crossing her. I don't put a lot of faith in us breaking that pattern either. Even without that knowledge though, just the way that she's standing makes it pretty clear that she wouldn't hesitate to jump into a fight if we gave her a reason. She's relaxed and loose, ready to move. Her hands are in her pockets, though I don't know what she's got a hold of in there. Nothing good, I feel comfortable guessing that much.

Although maybe comfortable is the wrong word. Definitely doesn't feel appropriate right now.

I'm getting sidetracked though. I don't need to be thinking about how Reimu is standing right now. She obviously knows, and is doing it on purpose. I need to think of some way to keep her from throwing us out or blowing us up or worse.

... I guess when it comes down to it, following along with the same lie that we've been using is probably the easiest, right? I was almost getting comfortable in not having to hide a million things back up in the plant, but I know for a fact that the Moriyas don't want me being honest in this situation. Okay. Recently displaced bunnies, kept to ourselves, don't know anybody or much of anything. Okay.

"Um, well it's just like you said, right?" I start. Even though Ringo is clearly posturing as if to guard me, it seems that I'm a bit quicker on the draw as far as thinking up what to say goes. Not really a good thing. "We're new here. We haven't run into anybody who just sat us down and told us the rules and what we had to do to not make trouble. If you want to do that, we'd be happy to listen. We can do better," Even if I'm not that crazy about using up free time getting lectured about the rules of human vs youkai relationships, I know it beats the alternative.

Err... Oh. That's probably not good. Reimu is still eyeing me suspiciously once I've said my piece. "New around here, but you know somebody old school like Elly?" She asks, barely masking the accusatory tone to her voice.

Urgh, of course she would know about that visit. Chiyo and I came around here with Elly as recently as yesterday, and we weren't exactly stealthy about it. I wouldn't know anything about Elly's supposed 'old school' status, but apparently it means something to Reimu. Think, think... Elly only joined in on meetings with the grassroots youkai network a few weeks ago, so she hasn't been in her jobless situation for very long. If she mostly stuck around the mansion, then we'd have no way of knowing about her... Wait, no. Sanae mentioned that Reimu vetted the grassroots youkai network herself, would it be safe to mention attending one of their meetings? No, maybe not. How would we explain knowing about that? Would it reflect badly on them that we're claiming ignorance about peaceful coexistence with humans here? Too many questions.

"We only met her in the last week," Ringo answers. I'm kinda happy about that. I was getting a little caught up in how much truth I should give out. Ringo just being vague is probably better. "We've kinda been moving all over the place to try and find a place to stay after our old place got destroyed."

"Hmm..." Reimu brings a hand to her chin thoughtfully. "Ah yeah, those rabbits," She nods slightly to herself, as if remembering something.

"You've heard of us?" I wasn't really expecting that. Should I be worried? I mean, I'm already worried, but should I be more worried?

"The tengu's newspaper," Reimu answers somewhat dismissively. Sounds like she doesn't much care for it, but apparently she still read the article Aya interviewed us for. "Seemed a little sensationalized, especially since I haven't heard anything about any spider robot since then, and you look fine."

"Well, we saw enough of it, I'll tell you that much," Ringo gives her best wry laugh at the idea. "If the thing's disappeared, then that's good, right? I'd rather have it get blown up or something, but just disappearing is fine."

Reimu answers with a non-committal grunt, lowering her hand back down to her pocket. Her posture relaxes again and she starts slowly pacing the alley as she talks. "Thing is, it doesn't really mesh completely. I wouldn't call myself entirely convinced that you're harmless. Not just yet."

"W-what?" Okay, definitely getting more and more worried now.

"Let's say first that I accept there being more rabbit youkai I didn't now about before. Ones that didn't come from the bamboo forest," Reimu begins, sounding entirely too happy to be running through her reasoning. "I've been fooled on that point before, so I'm not crazy about going along with it, but let's pretend that I will for now," Fooled by it before? "So these rabbits exist, and are reclusive and self-sufficient enough that nobody has even heard of them, right up until the point where they randomly appear and a bunch of people start running into them over the course of about a week. Suddenly they're meeting people like Elly who aren't exactly known social butterflies, interviewing with the local newspaper, and waltzing into the village multiple times without a care in the world. Not exactly reclusive anymore. Strange, right?"

It's a little strange, yeah. I obviously can't say that the reason why we changed so much up was because of the loss of our stealth, but what excuse am I supposed to give here instead? "Uh, well-"

"I'm not saying it's impossible," Reimu runs over my words with more of her own. "I'm just saying that if you're being reasonable, you should see why I'm thinking I need to look into this more, right?" She shoots Ringo and I an almost warning glance, but doesn't wait for us to answer. "I hope so, because as long as you're reasonable, then I can keep being reasonable too."

"Ssssure..." It's hard not to catch the threat there. 'Play along with what I say or I won't feel the slightest bit bad about ending you' is how I'm interpreting it.

"And the most reasonable thing to do here, is investigate," Reimu concludes, casually reaching up and stretching her arms behind her head. I notice she's pulled out some kind of stick with paper dangling off the end. Kind of similar to Sanae's, but not exactly the same. One of those shrine maiden things that I don't understand. "So no, I'm not convinced, but I'm not going to pick you up and throw you out of the village right now either. My gut is telling me that that doesn't need to be my priority, compared to something else," She says, pointing the stick at Ringo and I. Ringo reflexively squares her shoulders in front of me, blocking me a little more completely. "Talking to you has given me a bit of a hunch that I'm gonna follow up on. I could just try beating an answer out of you, but like I said, reasonable," She stresses the word again. "And that approach might not work, I guess. Nah, you're off the hook for now."

Just like that. I'm caught off guard, and I have a feeling that Ringo is too. I'm behind her, so I can't see her face, but... "Err, what about the village?" Yeah, I can hear it in her voice.

"You can hang around if you want," Reimu sounds dismissive again, like she's made up her mind already so she doesn't even feel a need to keep talking or putting effort into the conversation. "I'll get some more complaints, but like I said, it's a lower priority than what I'm thinking. I don't really care whether you dig the hole deeper here or not. It's minor."

And without another word, before we can even think of what to say to her, Reimu flies off.

"That... What?" Ringo looks back at me, obviously confused. I'm not sure what I should say to her in response.

Even though we were the ones keeping information a secret, somehow Reimu was the one that came out of the conversation completely sure of what she's doing, leaving us lost. I don't even know what just happened. Was she figuring out a bunch of stuff just from our vague half-truths somehow, or was she bluffing to try and read our reactions? Where is she going now, and what exactly is she investigating? She couldn't have put together the full story, right? We don't know what she knows, that's true, but there's too many gaps for her to hit the truth already.

One thing's for sure though, I can see why people are intimidated by her.

Ringo let's out a heavy sigh as she slumps her back against a wall, reaching up to rub at her face for a moment. In a way, I appreciate what she did just now. Not only did she fill in holes in the conversation when I wasn't sure what to say, but she was intent on covering me in case a fight broke out too. I don't know how much of a difference it would have made, but it's hard to feel bad about someone so clearly having your back in a tough situation. Not that I was really doubting it or anything. Even if things are weird between us, that's still the same.

... Actually, why do things have to be weird between us if that important part is still the same?

"Welp, I dunno what to do," Ringo finally admits, giving me an uncomfortable smile.

"Uh... Same here," I consciously ease up my grip on my mallet. I hadn't even noticed that I was holding it too tight, but my fingers are starting to hurt.

As for what to do now... Honestly it doesn't feel like there's much we can do. Reimu is going to investigate, and we don't know enough to stop that from happening. She has years and years of experience working in Gensokyo. She probably has contacts and information sources we're not even remotely aware of. Not only that, but she clearly had some plan, or she would have kept questioning us. I mean, I guess we could follow her, try to find out where she's going...

Oh man, it just hit me.

She might actually end up trying to talk to one of the people that she knows we're associated with. The rabbits in the bamboo forest or Elly most likely. I don't think she'll make the connection between us and the grassroots youkai network or the Moriya shrine, but that's just guess work. Granted, all of those groups know our cover story, so it might not be that bad. That doesn't mean there won't be inconsistencies between us and them though. It's hard to keep a lie running between so many different people.

In a way, it kind of feels hopeless.

I catch Ringo stepping away from the wall out of the corner of my eye. She visibly shakes herself a little bit, getting her wits back together, then turns to me and smiles. "So, we got the go ahead from the boss lady herself. Want to keep looking around for a while?"

... It's a little tempting.

[ ] Spend a while longer in the village with Ringo
[ ] Maybe we should tail Reimu and figure out what she's doing. And what she knows.
[ ] We need to meet up with _____ before Reimu does (if she's even planning to).
- [ ] Elly
- [ ] Tewi and the rabbits in the bamboo forest
- [ ] Reisen
- [ ] The grassroots youkai network
- [ ] The Moriya shrine
[ ] Maybe we should go to Marisa's now? She's in on the truth at least.

Don't panic

Crazy day. Got laid off at my job. To be honest I was planning on quitting soon anyway but it was still a surprise. I suddenly have a lot more time though, so that's probably good for getting my update consistency back. That should be nice.
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Oh I forgot to put my name on. Whatever, everybody knows it's me posting in my own story thread.
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[x] Maybe we should go to Marisa's now? She's in on the truth at least.
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[x] Maybe we should go to Marisa's now? She's in on the truth at least.

Reimu totally killed the mood, so let's just get on with the day.
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[x] Spend a little while longer with Ringo.

It is over. She can't be stopped.

And even if she can't, going to our contacts now is EXACTLY what you shouldn't do.

It'd be like a drug dealer going directly to his boss after the police have suspciously let him off the hook.
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[x] Spend a little while longer with Ringo.

That went about as well as could be expected, to be honest. Trying to spin our story now would just make us look more suspicious, might as well just carry on with what we were already doing.
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[x] Spend a while longer in the village with Ringo

Its going to take a lot more than a mere shrine maiden to ruin our date.
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[X] Spend a while longer in the village with Ringo

Reimu... Reimu is gone. That whole confrontation is over and done with, Reimu's off doing whatever it is she's going to do, and we're not really in any position to stop her. Heck, even if we had the firepower and skill to do so, it would probably still be a bad idea. Putting aside that she's really just doing her job, however inconvenient it might be for us, there's just no clean way to fight somebody who is so clearly being watched by so many people. Reimu is important, and we'd end up important if we tried to get in her way. Not a good plan.

So following after her and doing anything is out. While I guess it might help to go and let our allies know that she might come knocking, that has problems too. No guarantee that we'll pick the right ally. No guarantee that she won't just turn it around and follow us to see where we go. Could be helpful, could be bad.

By contrast, just staying here with Ringo... Well, it wouldn't do much to actually help the situation, but it wouldn't make it worse either. At the same time, it would mean actually doing something fun, if I can manage to stop worrying anyway.

Err, I don't want to outright lie to myself. Not worrying might be a bit too tall an order. Maybe if I just focus on reducing the worry a little bit? Hopefully a little more doable.

"Sooooo?" I jump a bit in surprise when Ringo prompts me again. I think I kinda got lost in thought for a second there and didn't actually answer the question the first time.

"Um..." I cast one last glance up in the direction that Reimu flew toward. I can't even see her anymore, though that's probably more due to the surrounding buildings than anything else. Out of sight, out of mind? I'll go with that. "Yeah. Might as well."

"Great!" Ringo hops (actually hops!) over to my side again, trying to get me to follow along next to her as she starts leading us out of the side street. "So anyway," Man, she's really good at still sounding casual despite everything that just happened. That makes things a little easier on me too. "It's probably still a little bit early for a meal, and I get that, but maybe we could grab a snack? Something small is fine if you want. I'm just saying that coming out here is a rare treat, so we should make the best of it!"

Ringo... It can't have been more than an hour since we got here.


In the end, I did manage to dissuade Ringo from the snack plan. At first I felt it was kind of suspicious how easily she moved on from that idea to her next one, but once she fully explained it all to me, I found out what she was doing. Line up something I'm lightly to shoot down first, then make another suggestion after it. I start looking unreasonable if I just keep saying no to every suggestion. Now I'm stuck with either going along with this idea, or chancing the possibility that she has something even worse planned out if I turn this down.

I'm kind of proud of myself for catching on, even if it wasn't in time to prevent it from happening.

"Um... I'm not really sure about this," Even with Reimu essentially giving us the go-ahead to be here, I still feel rather out of place in this part of the village. Further away from the central markets, things are just a little bit more upscale here. There are fewer open-air street vendors and a lot more single building shops. The kind of places with clean windows, nice displays of their products, fancy signs hanging up above the doors and all the rest of that stuff. Honestly I'm kind of wondering when Ringo had enough time and inclination to even scope out this place.

"Whaaat?" Ringo jokingly exclaims, elbowing me just a tiny bit. Not really helping calm me down, that. "Come onnn, I'm not even saying that you have to buy anything. We're just taking a look."

While I know that taking a look and trying things on is common in places like this, it's still weird, Ringo. I haven't been somewhere like this in... Okay, probably longer than I should admit to. It's just that I work fine with what I have already. "Y-yeah, but..."

"But?" Ugh. Stop pushing me, Ringo. Even though I think these things in my head, half the time I'm not sure how I want to convert them into actual words. Though I'm pretty sure Ringo knows that. She's been telling me for a while that I think too much and speak too little. Is she just taking advantage of that to push me inside this building?

This isn't fair. I want to protest, but I can't really think of a very good reason other than not really wanting to do this... Actually, wait. I just had a better idea. Not a way to get out of it, but a way to turn this around. At the very least, a way to change things up so that they're in my favor instead of Ringo's. Even though I've been trying not to do this too much, I heave an almost theatric sigh. "... Fine."

Ringo smiles and pumps her fist triumphantly before putting an arm around my shoulder and leading me toward the shop in front of us. In a way, I know that it's kind of silly to be so apprehensive about it. Clothes shopping itself is something that I'm already kind of familiar with anyway. All of us rabbits have our own taste in outfits, and while we're not paid much, we're at least capable of pulling together outfits that we like for when we're not on duty. Of course, those clothes are the ones that we chose to bring with us on this mission, and are the same ones that we're wearing now.

Is a shop that boasts having one of the widest selections of clothes from outside Gensokyo really the best option for us? Sure we don't exactly fit in with normal villager clothing, but... I don't know, I'm expecting something weird.

We recieve an almost automatic welcome from the shopkeeper when Ringo brings us both through the door. What I have to assume to be the owner of the place is actually a somewhat older looking human woman. Even though I expect her to do or say something once she gets a good look at us, no real reaction comes out of the lady. In fact, she almost seems to be purposely looking the other way, like it isn't a big deal that youkai are barging into her shop. Maybe she's used to it or something?

Actually, now that I look at things... Yeah, she's probably used to it.

Is this really what outsider clothes are like? I was expecting something more exotic or strange, but it matches up with a lot of the more casual clothes that you would see rabbits on the Moon, or even some of the youkai we've seen here on Earth wearing. It's a lot smaller of a difference than what I was thinking there would be. Did the Earthlings take fashion trends from the Moon somehow? That doesn't make sense.

... The other way around then?

"Haha, nice," Ringo looks pleased, laughing to her herself as she starts looking around and pulling me along with her. She's obviously trying to pick out something for me to try on. When she first pitched the idea of going clothes shopping, it had been based on a premise of "you looked so good in Merlin's clothes, why not at least try on a few more things?" I'm not sure what criteria she's using to pick out what I should wear, but it's probably better not to wait and see.

Well, maybe. It could actually be fine, but I don't want to take the chance. She pulled me into here with a trick, now I'm going to trick her back. All in good fun, right? Now let me see...

"Oooh, hey Ringo!" I fake my enthusiasm a little bit while grabbing at a somewhat randomly decided article of clothing. A layered skirt in dark blue. Actually kind of cute, but I don't know if I could see Ringo wearing it. I'm usually the blue wearing one in the group. Still, it makes a nice contrast with her normal color scheme, so... "You should try this on!"

"Huh? Err, sure," Ringo agrees quickly without much thought, taking hold of the skirt and looking it over. "Not my normal style, but if you think so, that's fine."

"Oh! And this!" A coppery colored sleeveless blouse? Sure, why not.

Ringo eyes it for a moment, but I keep us moving forward enough that she just grabs the top automatically. "That one's a little bit-"

Before she can continue, I grab at another piece of clothing. Jean shorts? These might actually look good on her. "And maybe this one too."

At this point I'm pretty sure Ringo knows what I'm doing, especially because I've started leading us directly toward the changing area in the back to try things on. "H-hold on-"

"What? I'm the one that has to look at you wearing the same clothes all the time," I say, a bit accusingly, though I doubt Ringo will get offended by it. That's a pretty hard thing to do. "I already switched my look up once, so if anything, it should be your turn now," I punctuate my statement by grabbing a baggy, almost fluffy looking pair of pants. Were these in style with the outside at some point? Weird. Doesn't seem familiar to me, but whatever.

"You're one to talk," Ringo chuckles, now content to just take whatever I hand to her. "But you know what? I'm game. Bring 'em on. You're not the only cute rabbit in the unit," She winks at me, and I pointedly busy myself looking for another thing for Ringo to try on. "Since you're asking for it so much, I'll show off a bit too."

Even if it's a victory that Ringo let me have, I still can't help but smile about it.


I actually wind up rather surprised when Ringo finds something from my random picks that she actually likes. I probably shouldn't be, considering that I started putting actual thought and effort into picking things out for her once she started going along with. Still, I did kind of expect that she would want to stick with what she's used to exclusively. Instead, she surprised me with something entirely different. A long, loose tube dress in a pretty yellow color and just the faintest hints of patterns in the fabric. It's light and revealing in a different way than her normal clothes are, but when you add in the black cardigan and tights underneath, she actually ends up covering up more than usual over all.

There were other things that she thought looked acceptable of course, but this is a specialized store. Rare goods. Things that they can't just make more of, at least not authentically. They probably can make replicas or things in the same style, but even that winds up with an expensive end product. Neither of us want to blow all of the money we have on clothes, so we end up settling for something cute and unique for Ringo that she and I both like.

In fact, Ringo keeps it on when we leave.

"See? And you were thinking that you weren't sure if we should even go in there," Ringo is in higher spirits than usual when we step out of the store. She stretches up to the sky, holding up the single bag that has most of her old clothes in it. Even though the two are basically identical in size and shape, she still swapped from the black copy of her hat back to the original. "Seems like you had a good time. Least, I hope you had fun, because I know I did."

Kind of hard to deny it, honestly. She was a little bit pushy, but in a way, I kind of need somebody to push me occasionally. Ringo's always been like that, pushing me into new, interesting things. It usually goes well, though there are rare occasions where she doesn't pay enough attention to my pushes back. "Fine, fine. You were right," I admit, before going too much further with my train of thought. "What's next on your to-do list then?"

Ringo gives me an almost mischievous smile, one that makes me nervous about what else she could have planned. Should I start pushing back already? "Weeeellll I figured we could go back up the list to the snacks part actually," She answers casually, already walking away as if I should follow.

... Well, we were in there shopping for a while. I'm still not that hungry, but if Ringo really wants to...

"Fffffiiinne," I give up. She's going to keep bringing it up anyway, and I think she's earned this much.


I'm actually really surprised when Ringo passes up dango, though relieved about not having to eat the inferior product two days in a row. I figure that it's maybe just Ringo not wanting to get a power up for no reason, since she can't just dismiss her strength boosts once she gets them. One or two portions of dango wouldn't be that big a deal, but I'm still glad at the alternative that we pick out.

Really though... Millennia and millennia of lunarian science, and they never bothered to make anything that tastes like this 'ice cream' stuff that they have here on Earth? I feel like I should file a complaint with Command or somebody else with authority, even knowing they'd never actually read it. Something should be done to correct this lack of deliciousness back home at least.

Ringo eats hers so fast that she gets a headache (the lady at the shop assures us that this is actually a common occurrence), but I choose to take my time. I already liked strawberries by themselves. Now in this icey creamy form? Amazing.

With another groan, Ringo finally removes her hands from her temples, wincing a little bit as she does so. Too much cold all at once. She leans back in the bench that we're taking up, staring into the sky thoughtfully. The crowds have thinned out considerably, though we're still sitting in a side street rather than a main one. "So... What next? I picked the last two things. Figure it should be up to you now."

I take another small bite out of my bowl of ice cream and think about it. I'm not entirely sure if she's asking about continuing the date or if she's saying that we're done and now I should lead the way to the next thing on our to-do list. In a way, I think that might be an intentional thing.

[ ] ... Maybe making the date just a little bit longer wouldn't hurt.
- [ ] And just staying here to talk is fine.
- [ ] I wouldn't mind looking around the village a bit more.
[ ] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.
[ ] We should go somewhere else. (Write-in)
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[x] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.

I am boring.
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[x] ... Maybe making the date just a little bit longer wouldn't hurt.
- [x] I wouldn't mind looking around the village a bit more.
I'm not!
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[X] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.

We really do need to be productive today.
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[X] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.
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[X] It's been a few hours. We really should get to Marisa's.

I have some mixed feelings about this. It's not that I think that the date went badly or anything. Actually I really did enjoy it, and I don't even have to guess if Ringo did too. It's just that it was weird and different, while also somehow being really familiar at the same time. It's not that Ringo's behavior with me was all that different from normal, it's more just the context behind how she was acting that was throwing me off. It was all in my head, and I couldn't get it out. That isn't Ringo's fault, and even if it was, that doesn't mean that I had a bad time.

Meeting Reimu aside, I'd say that this was really worthwhile and fun, which is making it a little harder to bring up the fact that we should probably get back to being productive instead of continuing.

But no, this is important. There'll be plenty of time in the future for Ringo and I to walk around and do miscellaneous fun stuff together. There was in the past and I'm sure there will be in the future. Having an opportunity to actually fix what's wrong with my powers, and make sure that it stays fixed? Yeah, that's a lot more of a rare thing. Rare and worthy of being stuck in a higher spot on the priority list. Now that it's been a couple of hours, I would honestly be shocked if Marisa was still asleep. Even if she is, at this point I don't think I would need to feel bad about waking her up. We have a way to tell time now, so I can confidently say that it's past noon. Who would sleep this late?

"Next, we should probably get going," I say, although it makes me suddenly realize that I still have ice cream to finish. I don't really want to get a headache from rushing through it, but maybe increasing the size of my bites a little bit would be fine. "To Marisa's house," I add, before Ringo pretends not to know what I'm talking about.

I'm not sure if I prefer the unimpressed, almost disappointed look that Ringo gives me after I've cut off what I'm sure would have been her go to reaction here. "Really?" Is all she asks.

"If it makes you feel any better, we're going to have to come back to the village anyway. Need to meet up with Reisen later today when she's off work." I point out, pausing for a moment to eat another spoonful of ice cream.

"Eventually, but that's still more for business than for pleasure," Ringo counters. Well, we at least wouldn't spend hours shopping for clothes and stuff. "I'm thinking you won't want to stick around afterward either, whether Reisen has a good answer for us or not. You'll either want to start in on whatever she tells us or you'll want to go looking for another solution as soon as possible."

Right, today is the deadline that we gave Reisen to figure something out with what she's currently working on. I guess if what she's doing doesn't produce an answer then we're going to have to take a lot more of an active role in figuring things out. Ringo's got a point. I wouldn't just be okay with having no solution unless it's absolutely necessary, so I'm almost certainly going to have to start on something after we talk to Reisen. "Is there really anything wrong with that plan?"

"Nahhh... I'm looking forward to when this is all over though," Ringo slumps in her seat, throwing her arms up over the back. One of them ends up around my shoulders but I don't really think much of it. "Just gotta get through it. My last mission. Kinda doesn't feel real."

The last one? Oh... Right, if she stays here, she's not going to have any more missions or orders that she's going to have to follow. That's... It's kind of worrying, but I can definitely see how she would be looking forward to it. Still, it isn't the most helpful mindset for her to be going forward with. "Well you could at least end it at a good pace, rather than crawling your way to the finish line," I say. "And I'll drag you along if just telling you that isn't enough."

"Hm," Ringo gives me a small smirk, but doesn't say anything.

Instead, I feel a tapping on my other shoulder. Who is- ow!

Oh. It was Ringo reaching around to get my attention, and when I turned to look who it was, she put her finger in the way of my cheek to poke me in the face. I lightly slap at her still outstretched finger. Yeah yeah, I fell for it. Very funny.

"Ringo, I-" When I turn back in the direction of the rest of her, I see Ringo stealing a scoop out of my remaining ice cream. "Hey!"


If she had just asked nicely, I would have been willing to share. Her being all sneaky like that only convinced me to eat the rest of the ice cream by myself. She just had to wait and watch.

... Okay fine, I let her have a bit of it.

In any case, it doesn't take that much longer for us to finish up and leave the village. There was a bit of question about whether we should actually take the time to talk to the guards outside or not. The end result of the discussion being that we figured explaining ourselves and why we've been flying in and out of the village without ever talking to them before would just take up more time for no benefit. We didn't think it would really help us get into Reimu's, or anyone else's, good graces.

So we just flew off without talking to anyone instead.

I was back and forth to Marisa's house more than once yesterday, but the forest she lives in is still dense and confusing enough that I don't really trust myself to find her house directly. Instead I Ringo and I land down on the path that Sanae showed me yesterday and start walking the rest of the way. It gives me a chance to go over some of the less important details with Ringo that I might have left out in our meeting last night. Stuff like the state of Marisa's house, more details on the ritual stuff that Marisa put me through yesterday, what this appointment is about, how I don't really like how Marisa acts even though I can't disagree with the results she's already shown. That kind of stuff.

For her part, Ringo seems to slip back into something approximating a serious mood fairly easily now that we're away from the village. She doesn't have all that much to actually contribute, but she does make an effort to listen to what I have to say. I just hope she's doing more than just humoring me. I don't think I'll need her help in dealing with Marisa. I've already gotten over that hurdle. It's still nice to know that I have someone around who has my back though. Chiyo did just fine yesterday. Ringo should do just as well or better today.

Over all, I have enough information to supply her that it doesn't leave us with too much awkward silence as we cover the distance on foot. Maybe a little bit, but not too much. I at least don't get to the point where I'm thankful to finally reach Marisa's door and knock on it. I probably could have lasted a little while longer before I actually felt a need to hurry things along.

Okay, she doesn't have a sign up telling us to go away or that her store is closed or anything. I'd like to take that as a good sign, but apparently Marisa can just randomly forget to do stuff like that (or lock up her house) sometimes. A part of me would like it more if Ringo were the one to knock and take the lead. For some reason I have a feeling that her and Marisa might actually get along pretty well if I let them talk about things. This is my own issue though. I should be the one to push for it to get resolved.

Knowing how big Marisa's house actually is (and the possibility that she might still be asleep), I pound on the door a little more strongly than I otherwise would. I think Ringo is a little surprised by it. Marisa really needs to put more thought into her system here. Among other things.

When I hear an annoyed yell come from within the house, I can at least take that as confirmation that Marisa heard me and that she isn't asleep. She didn't actually say words as far as I can tell, so I'm not sure whether I should just go in or not. Instead, I just kind of glance awkwardly back at Ringo, thinking about shrugging to her before she does the same thing to me.

Thankfully, the door opens on its own soon after that to reveal a slightly messy, but at least properly dressed, Marisa. Parts of her clothes look slightly singed, with splotches of light colored powder scattered all over her. Actually, I think I see the signs of some kind of explosion a bit past the entryway of her house. Do I even want to know?

"Mornin', mornin', welcome back. Was just wondering when you'd show up!" Marisa says, sounding entirely too cheerful for her appearance.

Even though she doesn't sound annoyed or anything, I kind of feel like I am anyway. "You didn't really give me a time, so I wasn't really sure when I'd show up either," I explain, trying not to sound too prim.

"Hm, good point," Marisa acknowledges. Apparently noticing how much I'm staring at her messy appearance, she brushes (more like smears) a bit of the powder and dust off of herself. I'm not sure if this kind of first impression will be good or bad in Ringo's eyes, but if she looked like this when I first came here, I'm not sure if Sanae would have been able to talk me into it. "Well, come on in," She says, stepping back and waving Ringo and I into her house. "I've got a few things prepped up and good to go already, but I mostly wanna hear from you. Anything obvious go wrong, or am I as much of a genius as I know I am?"

That... I feel like a genius could have phrased that better, but I decide not to comment on it. Instead Ringo and I follow Marisa back to her workshop while I think over all the things that I should report. Misgivings aside, the more information I supply here, the better, right? "Um, well..."

Marisa doesn't bother with the tea this time as I start explaining things to her. I go over the difference in the effectiveness and ease of use in my powers, referencing the practice that I did with Sanae last night. It really did make a big difference, especially the fact that it doesn't give me headaches or make me dizzy anymore. The utility of it isn't bad either. Actually, Marisa almost seems a little envious when I go over how easy it is to pull all kinds of bullets and everything else out of another dimension now.

While that information seems important, none of it actually appears to be signs of things going wrong, so I move on after that. There's a brief exchange when Marisa finally realizes that she doesn't actually know the second rabbit youkai in her house, so I introduce her and Ringo to each other, but after that I move on to something that might really matter to my health. Namely, the dream I had last night.

The dead emptiness with just a hint of something there. The waiting and watching. Opening it up just a little bit. All of it comes back to me surprisingly easily even though it's been hours since I woke up.

"Hm, that's what I was worried about actually," Marisa says cryptically, scribbling something down on a random piece of paper on her desk. I'm pretty sure I see smudges forming where her other hand touches the paper to keep it steady, but she obviously doesn't care. "Wasn't sure how natural dreaming would mess with the connection. At first I was thinking that you just wouldn't dream at all, but if that's still happening..."

"I'm... Not completely sure it was a natural dream," I admit. Ringo gives me a curious look, but she's been rather interested in this whole line of conversation actually. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that if things had gone a little differently, me dreaming could have ended up with her getting shot.

"Wha?" Marisa stops writing, looking up at me in confusion.

"Well um, during the ritual thing that you ran me through yesterday, I encountered and fought a baku while I was dreaming." While Ringo seems surprised to hear this information, it had actually come up in my debriefing with Marisa yesterday. She just nods, so I keep going. "That same baku came into my dream last night and talked to me then too.

"Ohhh..." Marisa's reaction makes me worry a little bit. She takes a second to write what can't be more than a couple more words down before turning back to me. "Alright, this is important. During the dream, what did the baku actually say? Was it angry or what?"

"Um... It was more like she was kind of taunting me? Not angrily though, I kind of got the impression that's just how she talks." I'm not sure if that's exactly it, but it's a good way to summarize it I think. "She said stuff about the result of my experimentation being crude but effective, and that as long as I kept the connection closed, I probably wouldn't see her again."

Marisa seems to deflate as she sags with relief in her seat. "Phew."

"Good news?" Ringo asks hopefully.

"The best," Marisa answers, triumphantly crossing out a couple of things from her sheet of paper. "Your subconscious and conscious are handin' off control of the connection between each other properly while you're asleep. You're now in control, or at least, your brain is doing what you actually want it to do at night. No nightmares, no random dream world connections pulling in bullets!" Marisa laughs out loud. "Hah! I knew I had the right idea! And Alice was telling me I was an idiot! Looks like I'll need a follow up rub it in your face visit babe!" She yells vaguely in the direction of a boarded up window.

"So... You're saying I'm cured?" I ask, trying to cut Marisa off in case she's going to start ranting or something.

Marisa chuckles a couple more times, writing a few more things down before she replies. "Still gotta run tests, but it's soundin' a lot better the more I hear you talk about it." Shuffling a few papers out of the way, she suddenly stands up from her desk and smiles in my direction. "Let's get to work."

I'm more than ready to be told that I'm better now. "Let's."


Unfortunately, it's the same kinds of tests that Marisa ran me through yesterday. That means that they wind up being numerous and kind of unintelligible at times. I can at least use this time to make some conversation with Marisa about a few things.

[ ] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[ ] Are things okay with this Alice person? I'd hate to think that I messed with a friendship.
[ ] Am I going to need any more check ups like these?
[ ] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[ ] You mentioned having a duel yesterday. I don't know if I'll win, but I did kind of get a big powerup yesterday, so...
[ ] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[ ] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
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[x] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[x] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[x] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[x] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
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[X] this

Good pick Anon. And good job not falling for that Baku's taunts!
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[x] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[x] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[x] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[x] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
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[x] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[x] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[x] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?

Might want to leave out the lunar capital stuff, I don't think we want Marisa to get any more deeply involved in this whole mess than she already is.
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[x] Am I going to need any more check ups like these?
[x] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[x] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[x] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
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[x] Am I going to need any more check ups like these?
[x] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[x] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[x] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?
-[x] Note to self: thank the baku when you see her again.
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[X] What happened to you? You look like something exploded on you or something.
[X] Do you know of any fun stuff to do at the village? A certain rabbit that I know keeps wanting to hang out there.
[X] We kind of ran into Reimu earlier today... Are we screwed?
[X] Kind of a long shot, but would you happen to know of anything that would be magically linked to the lunar capital?

I try to think up a handful of questions that I want to ask as Marisa leads Ringo and I out back. She's been a huge help so far, and I don't see any reason why that would stop being the case now. Honestly, it seems like we got the better end of this deal, now that we're (hopefully) almost done with it. The only price to us was a bunch of old surplus military equipment that we weren't using and don't care about. Even just my powers getting maybe possibly fixed on its own would be a huge deal, but there's more to it than that. We've also got a... I won't necessarily say ally, but Marisa is somebody that we have a working business relationship with now. A business relationship that means it should be fine to swap some information, I think. I don't think Marisa is going to demand more payment just for a chat, although she totally could.

For starters though, there's kind of a most obvious point to bring up first. Marisa is... A bit of a mess. At least it means she matches with the general state of her house, but she didn't look like this yesterday. I can bits of dirt and powdery stuff stuck to her clothes. Clothes that, while not exactly in tatters, have definitely seen better days. There's also an odd smell that I can't exactly place. "So um... What happened to you?" I finally ask the question in the most straightforward way I can think of. She's the type that won't mind the direct approach, right? "You look uh... You look like something exploded on you."

Rather than looking bothered at me pointing out her appearance, Marisa chuckles lightly while glancing down at herself. "Well, yeah. It did. I was working on something this morning. Wasn't going too badly after the breakthrough of design number four."

"I'm guessing we shouldn't ask about designs one through three?" Ringo ventures.

Marisa laughs again. "Well I was looking into how those grenade things work. Thinking I could try to reproduce something like that magically or alchemically or something. If I could make it non-lethal, I could even sell it to people as a way to scare off fairies and other youkai." She pauses for a beat. "Or use them for myself. Might be fun to throw out during duels too... Yeah, actually, profits can wait."

From what I've seen of her business practices so far, I have a feeling that 'profits can wait' is actually a guiding principle of her magic shop. I gues she's staying alive somehow though. As long as she's okay enough for the check up, I guess I can put aside the previously exploded on appearance.

We exit Marisa's house out of the back door, heading into the same open field in the backyard as yesterday. Even if I hadn't been here yesterday, it seems reasonable to assume that this is the place where Marisa does all kinds of magic things that are too dangerous to try out indoors. I... Oh, and I guess non-magical stuff too, judging by the lunarian rifle that is laying out on the ground. Looks like Marisa's been doing ballistic testing with her payment from yesterday. I wonder if there are any bullet holes in the nearby trees that I'm not responsible for making yesterday.

"You sure you should leave that stuff out like that?" Ringo asks, apparently noticing the same thing as me. "If I were you, I wouldn't want fairies coming along and picking something like that up." Some personal experience on that one. I don't think that those same fairies would make the same mistake, but that only crosses three of them off the potential suspects list. There would be a whole lot more possibilities.

"Eh, they know not to mess with me by now." Marisa barely even has to consider it. She gives the rifle little more than a glance as we walk out to the middle of the clearing. "The smart ones do anyway. Doubt the dumb ones would have much use for this stuff either."

I can't really say that I'm reassured, but this is kind of low on the list of things that I'm still getting over with Marisa. As long as she hasn't left the thing loaded, she kind of has a point. It's not quite the same situation as we were in. If a fairy picks that thing up, the worst they're going to make out of it is a particularly strange looking club. A bit of a waste, but I'll let it go.

Once Marisa gets far enough from the house that she deems it safe enough, she turns and addresses me directly. "Alright, this is gonna be a lot of the same stuff as yesterday. You have any questions first, or should we just get started?"

That's actually a little bit awkward for more than one reason. "Err, I do have a few, yeah. They don't actually have much of anything to do with the check up itself though. Should I wait until after we're done?"

"Hmmm, maybe get them out of the way now?" Marisa pats a few sticks and leaves out of the way on the ground and flops herself down. She's not really sitting like she's wearing a dress, but I'm not going to be the one that points that out. I'm definitely not going to looke either.

Okay, she's not really helping me out here. I was already feeling awkward, partly just because I was dreading thinking a good way to ask them in the first place. At least on the bright side, the first question I have is easy enough. It is kind of encouraging certain parts of Ringo's behavior, which might not be the best, but it still seems like good information to have. "So... I have this friend who likes to go to the human village all the time. In fact, I just went there with her recently. While we had a good time, I figure it might be good to ask somebody who has been here longer. Do you know of any fun stuff to do there?"

"The village? Ehhh." Marisa makes a so-so gesture with her hand, not looking to enthusiastic about the idea. "Can't say I haven't had fun nights there, but there's a reason why I left, you know?"

"Seems pretty fun to me," Ringo defends herself. Actually, I'm not sure if Marisa knows I was referring to Ringo in my question or not. I guess it doesn't matter that much.

"Oh sure, to visit," Marisa emphasizes. "You can pop in, pick up some food or something, meet up with people... It's the place to go if you're wantin' to meet up with normal humans doing normal human things, or the occasional crazy mini-incident that pops up. On the whole though, it's still full of ordinary people who'd rather not have anything crazy happen to them. They'd rather limit the magic, limit the talking to youkai, limit the outsider technology... Really, it has it's upsides, but the place just moves too slowly for me."

I kinda want to laugh at Ringo's almost pouting face now. It's not even that I agree with the specific reasons to what Marisa is saying, just that I think it's funny. "Then what do you suggest for having fun?" Ringo more demands than asks.

"Kinda hard to answer that. For me it's flying around, meeting up with people, learning magic, showing off... Dunno." Marisa lays down on the grass, folding her arms behind her head. Her hat kind of gets in the way, but she still manages to look nice and relaxed. "Up to you really. It does help to have other people to give you ideas and options though. It's all about what you like and who you know."

I can hear Ringo exhale from her nose skeptically as she turns her head toward me. "So we might be a little screwed there, is what I'm hearing."

"Yeah..." We know quite a few people, but a ton of them only know us by our cover story. The number of people who know and trust us is... Actually not as bad as it could be. This functions as a good lead in to my next question though, so I won't disagree. "We actually ran into Reimu earlier. She had a few words for us acting up a bit too much, and also seemed... A bit more suspicious of us than I would have liked. Should we be worried?"

Marisa tenses a little bit, but doesn't sit up. I can at least see her craning her neck to look at me. "Ohh." Yeah, that's a little bit worrying. "Well ordinarily, I'd say no. Most youkai who are up and actively doing stuff are gonna get shut down by Reimu eventually. The fact that you're still here means you haven't pissed her off too bad. Thing is, I already know she doesn't want to deal with lunarian stuff if she can help it. She's not the type you can hide stuff from either, so... Dunno. Maybe you should be worried? I guess if the situation resolves itself before she has to get involved, it'll be fine. Otherwise..."

I don't really want to know what the otherwise in this situation is, do I? "We have a solution for our issues, and I don't think that the incident we had going on really needs to involve her at all," I explain, just to keep things moving. "Speaking of the solution though, this is a bit of a long shot, but do you happen to know about anything that might be magically connected to the lunar capital?"

That does manage to get Marisa to sit back up, interest clear on her face. "What for?"

"Like I said, we have a solution, but with the way that it works, it could be better if we had a better magical connection to the capital." I'm being a little bit vague here. While getting information is fine, I'm not sure how much or how deeply we want to involve Marisa in this in the first place. She already knows enough stuff that could sabotage us. "You know a lot about magic stuff, so..."

Marisa smirks proudly. "Sure, let me thi-" She stops in her tracks. Well that didn't take long apparently. A good sign? "Waaiiit... Ah."

"Ah?" That didn't sound like a good ah.

Marisa puts a hand to her chin, talking quickly to herself as she thinks about something. "Yeah. No way she's gonna ignore that connection. Dunno how I missed it either." She looks up, going back to addressing us. "The occult balls. That was you guys, wasn't it?"

"Um?" It sounds a little bit familiar, but not like something that we're responsible for. "I think I've heard a couple of people talk about it before, but..." Where did I hear that anyway? It must have been a while ago.

"Yeah, you probably would," Marisa grunts as she stands back on her feet, beginning to pace around the field as she talks. "Summer of this year, powerful magical orbs from different locations in the outside world start popping up in Gensokyo for no reason. Along with 'em, we get a bunch of rumors and urban legends showing themselves to be way too real. Gathering 'em up became a huge incident on its own, and then when somebody finally snagged them all, it didn't give them a wish or anything. Instead it just shoves them outside while bringing somebody from the outside in here for a bit. Sounding familiar yet?"

Um? Well, we've been here for a while, but I never heard about anything like that happening. "No?"

"Hm, figured it would." Marisa looks a little bit surprised, like all it would take is an explanation and I would suddenly confess guilt for something I don't even understand. "See, through the whole incident, one of the balls was way more magically powerful than the others. It felt like the odd one out, because it wasn't from the outside. After the whole thing was said and done, that one didn't go dormant. It stuck around. That one? The occult ball of the lunar captial."

What? The capital? I definitely didn't hear anything about that. "Command having more than one plan going on at once? Can you really say you're surprised?" Ringo comments, sounding more amused than she probably should be. Does this mean we really were just supposed to be a diversion for something else? What is going on?

"Has it done anything yet?" I ask Marisa quickly. Nobody else seems worried for some reason. What if the orb blows up and purifies everything or something?

"Hey take it easy. The thing's fine. It did about as much as any of the others while they were all active," Marisa tries to calm me down. Err, I was getting worked up again, wasn't I? "Rumors and urban legends started to manifest physically before, but that's over. Now we've been keeping an eye on it to see if it starts up again or something, but haven't been getting anything."

Urban legends and rumors? "What kind of... How would that even help the capital?"

"You got me. I just know what happened, not what's gonna happen next." Marisa still sounds annoyingly unconcerned about this. Am I the crazy one here? Ringo doesn't look that troubled either. There's stuff going on here that we don't know and can't account for, and we don't know how it's going to change things in the future! "Anyway, whether it's your boss' idea or not, that ball should fit what you're talking about. Big problem is, you talked to Reimu before this."

"Ah." Ringo appears to get it before I do, repeating the same bad 'ah' that Marisa said earlier.


Ringo starts counting off on her fingers as she reasons through things. "Magical artifact from the capital shows up, acts strangely. Doesn't stop acting strangely after everything is resolved. A while later, suspicious rabbits show up and are openly up to something. Breaking rules and claiming ignorance." She looks toward Marisa. "Reimu left us to make sure that she could get to the ball before we did, didn't she?"

"That'd be my guess, yeah," Marisa agrees. I feel a sinking feeling in my gut. Well, that's a dead lead then, isn't it? How are we going to get something like that from Reimu? "Dunno if she thought you were tryin' to steal it or what, but she definitely wouldn't have wanted you to get your hands on it to enact whatever plan your bosses want you to."

"Even if there is no plan." I really doubt that Command had a running contingency for getting stuck in the dream world. Even if they did, it definitely wouldn't involve our unit saving the day.

"Reimu's not gonna give lunarians the benefit of the doubt," Marisa says. "Hmm, that's a pretty big problem though. Occult balls are a little bit peculiar. Even if you want to, you won't be able to steal the thing from Reimu. If you don't claim a ball from someone else through honest combat, it doesn't stick. It'll just wink out and pop back to the rightful owner."

"And now... Reimu has it."

"She's probably beating it out of Kasen for safe keeping right now, yup."

Yeah. Dead lead. There might have been a slim bit of chance if we could have just stolen the thing. Reimu has to sleep at some point, right? If we have to fight her and win in order to get at it... "So we're not getting it then."

"Pfff," Marisa scoffs. "Reimu ain't invincible. Hell, we're probably at a lifetime forty-five to fifty-five matchup. Or something like that. Pretty close. Depending on which fights you're counting." She's really not doing much to inspire confidence in me here. "Plus, you've got the element of surprise," she adds.

That doesn't make sense at all. Element of surprise? "She's already talked to us and is reacting as if we're going to go for the thing," I point out.

"But she's never fought you before. She doesn't know what you can do," Marisa counters. "Me and her? We've been fighting for years. She's had a lot of time to get used to what I can do and counter it. She's never fought a moon rabbit with bullet summoning dream world powers before. Speaking of, can we get things started?"

That doesn't... Ugh. There are so many things wrong with that element of surprise thing that I don't know which one to argue first.

Of course, technically we don't have to get this occult ball thing. I asked Marisa for a lead, thinking it was a long shot. Just because she had an answer doesn't mean that that's our only option. If we could get the ball, it definitely sounds like it would work, sure. That's not guaranteed, but the fact that it's magically powerful enough to concern people like Reimu and Marisa, along with it definitely being from the capital... Well, it would be a lot better than using one of us rabbits to point our portal in the right direction. It'd also mean that none of us have to stay behind.

But then there's the whole Reimu thing...

I decide to try to think it over while Marisa starts running me through some tests.


Marisa gives me a clean bill of health for the most part. There is a bit of a question of if things somehow change further down the line, which concerns me a little bit. If something goes wrong later, I don't really have a plan for getting it fixed again. Even if Marisa was physically able to make a house call back to the Moon and magically make everything work again, I don't think that Command would appreciate it. I guess there's the alternative of just not going back to the Moon but...

A-Anyway, it's actually more than a little surprising how easily I seem to be using my powers now. I mean, I was surprised yesterday, but this time it's for a different reason. During the check up yesterday, I was still getting used to how natural it felt. Now that I've had a day like this, along with the major help of the practice session last night, it all feels so much more effortless. Making connections, finding things, and pulling them through. Really makes me wonder how things would have been if my powers had worked correctly in the first place. I know dwelling on it doesn't help at all, but I still have to think about it a little bit.

By the end of things, I'm pretty sure I've thoroughly impressed both of the people watching. Even though both of them already knew about my powers, the comparison between now and when things weren't so comfortable is surprising.

I guess that's another thing to think about. How much stronger am I going to get?


When we finish up, there's more than a few new bullet holes in the surrounding area. Marisa, true to form, doesn't seem to care. "Offer to have a duel is still standing, by the way." She points out, sounding rather eager. I don't really know why I would want to do that though. Even if I won, would I really get anything out of it? Maybe some practice, but aside from that... I don't know.

The conversation with Marisa along with the check up itself took a bit more time than I expected, mostly for extra demonstrations that likely weren't entirely necessary. Regardless, it's still only mid afternoon. If we went to go meet Reisen at the village, we'd probably have to kill time for a while longer. While Ringo might like that, I'm still a little tapped for ideas on what exactly we would be doing. Marisa wasn't the most helpful on that front.

Hm, all about who you know, huh? Maybe it would be good to have another meeting with the other rabbits. We don't know what they've been getting up to while Ringo and I have been out. We were kind of planning on keeping track of Sumi, but haven't really followed up on it.

[ ] Head back to the plant and meet up with the rest of the unit. We should see what they've been up to.
[ ] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.
[ ] Head back to the village and wait for Reisen to be available. It shouldn't be that long.

I guess I'll have to do that tripcode thing for the update thing eventually.
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[X] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

Master Spark vs whatever danmaku doom laser Seiran can pull out?
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[x] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

Well, if we're expecting Reimu to come knocking sometime soon...
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[x] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.
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[X] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

We could definitely use the practice, especially if the mission goes the way I think we're all expecting it to go.
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[x] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

Gotta get swole so Seiran can be the big damn hero and have Ringo swoon into her arms.
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[X] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

We are definitely fighting Reimu, no?

Well, even if we don't, the capital is still in trouble.
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[X] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

Eh, giant laser is too mainstream. What we need are bullets that shoot bullets, that shoot even more bullets that shoot EXPLOSIONS!
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[X] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.
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[X] Marisa wants to duel. Even if I don't win, it would mean more practice.

I take a deep breath and try to steel myself a little bit. While I do have options for killing a bit more time, I feel like it isn't the most efficient thing to be flying all around Gensokyo all day. Travel time bites into productivity, and I have an option to be productive right here already. I don't necessarily expect to enjoy the idea, but Marisa hasn't been subtle at all about wanting to duel me. Only knowing her for a day, she has to have mentioned wanting to throw danmaku back and forth at least ten times. It's mostly been whenever my powers come up in conversation, but it's entirely possible she's like this with everyone she meets if she knows for a fact they can duel.

Well, I can duel. Technically. I've only been through a handful of practice sessions, along with my one seriously outmatched duel with Reisen. Hardly much to brag about, though I guess it's probably a bit better than any of the other rabbits. Really though, isn't that all the more reason that I should try to pick up some knowledge while I can? Even if we put aside the Reimu issue (which I'm not sure we'll have the luxury of doing), we're still likely to run into some kind of combat when we go to the Dream World. Maybe it's possible that Sanae and Reisen will be able to handle things, but it might be better not to put too much on their shoulders when they have less to lose than we do.

"I guess this is as good a chance as any to take you up on that then." I try to act like I'm not dreading the words even as I'm saying them. Honestly, maybe I'm being too negative again. I'm treating a lot of this Marisa stuff like it's pulling teeth or something, but there isn't much reason to. The worst that can happen here is me getting hurt when I lose. That's fine. I can deal with it.

"Hell yeah!" Marisa pumps her fist once, then snaps her fingers as she lowers it down. Even though the sound wasn't particularly loud, it seems to have been enough to call her broom out from wherever she keeps it in her house. With a startlingly loud whamming sound, it barrels through the back door to Marisa's house and into her outstretched hand. Marisa smiles at me proudly, even though I'm not really that impressed. If anything, I'm wondering how many times she's had to replace her doors.

"Ohh, dueling," Ringo sounds amused, probably because she doesn't actually have to do anything. "Showing off for me Seiran? You don't have to do that if you don't want. I'll still think you're cool."

That's the thing though. I don't really want to. I'm kind of treating this like my thought process when I was joining the military in the first place. I don't really like the idea of violence that much, but I'm not going to deny the idea that it's necessary at times. "I'm fine," I answer back, trying not to fidget with my mallet too much. I'll probably have to put it to use soon.

Ringo shrugs and takes a couple steps away from Marisa and I. "Good luck then. I'll try to grab a nice place to watch from." She casts a look at some of the surrounding trees before bringing her gaze back onto me. She smirks. "And I'll try not to look up your dress too much."

Urgh. A constant problem with flying, that. Luckily I have some precautions for that. Speaking of which, "You should watch out too, I could pay you back for that pretty easily now," I warn Ringo. Her new outfit means no poofy shorts that she doesn't have to worry about.

"If you want to, I'm not going to stop you," She lifts up the edge of her dress a bit, showing me- h-hey! That's way more leg than I need to see!

I turn away from Ringo, not seeing how far she's going to go just to get a rise out of me. I need to not think about stuff like that. It's not like I've ever been that good at this kind of banter. I'm not like, accepting a loss or feeling too teased or anything, I'm just opting out of this before it gets silly, or something.

"A-Anyway..." I'm not actually sure what I want to say, so I just lift off from the ground and start floating upward. Ignore Marisa's 'smooth' comment and Ringo's much too happy wish for my good luck. We're moving on. Dueling. Dueling.

"So how do you wanna do this?" Marisa asks once we're at whatever level Marisa has decided is suitably high up for the duel to start. Personally I'd be a bit more worried about firing bullets so close to a house I wanted to live in. Even if they're non-lethal magic bullets, I can still remember the mess around camp after Ringo and Reisen fought there. I guess it's a bit better when you have an actual house as opposed to a bunch of tents though.

How do I want to do this? "Err, it's a duel?" I don't really understand the question being asked. "We're practicing, I guess." I wouldn't really mind there not being a winner and loser here, but with Marisa being on the other end of this, I don't think that's going to happen.

"Yeah, but I've been around the block plenty on my own. There're different kinds of duels for different situations," Marisa floats in a lazy circle around me as she starts lecturing, keeping one hand on her broom as she uses the other to wave her finger at me. "Sometimes you go full contact fighting, sometimes you take turns shooting each other, sometimes one person shoots normally while the other person runs through all their cards, sometimes the one person blows all their cards while the other person just dodges and takes pictures... You don't have a camera, right?"

A camera? "No?"

"Right, didn't think you were the type for it anyway," Marisa takes my confusion in stride. What type? The only person I've seen that actually has a camera would be Aya... Huh, well I guess a nosy person like her would have made some enemies for herself. Kanako has pretty much said as much. "Basically what I'm saying is that there's a number of ways we can do this."

And I can't possibly know all the rules or anything like that. "Just the normal way to duel is fine." Whatever the default is, that's what we're most likely going to have to deal with, right? It should be the best kind of practice too.

"Alright, just danmaku then. I don't really want to deal with the hammer right now," Uh, yeah, and I don't really want to swing it at your face. Personality differences aside, it's not like I really want to hurt Marisa at all. That does go a bit at odds with all the bullets I'm probably going to be shooting in her general direction, but Gensokyo is weird. "You have spell cards, right? I'm thinking three is a good number. Go back and forth until we run out or give up."

"I have cards," I admit. Not like I feel at all confident about actually using them though. They haven't exactly served me well so far. Not to mention that they wouldn't really be the same kind of practice that I was thinking of when I agreed to doing this. "I can use my powers too, right?"

Marisa looks at me like I said something weird. "Well yeah, it would be a bit of a waste if you couldn't, right?" She seems to realize why I asked the question after another second. Snapping her fingers, she leans forward precariously on her broom over me. "Ooohhh, you haven't had a chance to make any cards with... Ah, hmm..." She thinks about it for another second. Yeah, it's not like I can just make up a new spell card "Eh, you know what? Let's just do whatever. It's just practicing. We'll go until one of us gives up or falls to the ground or something."

And with that, she floats off to a respectable distance so we can get started.

... You know, I'm kinda getting the feeling that she's expecting that the person to give up is going to be me.

Well, nothing I can really do about that aside from try and prove her wrong. I adjust the grip on my hammer and turn on my powers. Let's do this.


Holy crap I want to give up.

Okay, that might be going a little far. I haven't exactly gotten hit yet, but that's definitely not for lack of trying on my opponent's part! I thought I was out of my depth when I fought Reisen, no, I was out of my depth when fighting Reisen. This is even worse though! Is she really just practicing?

Stars and bullets and lasers everywhere. Marisa seems to have something of a space theme going, or at least that's the impression I get form her first spell card with all the stars swirling around everywhere. Stardust something or other? Dodging takes up enough of my focus that I really don't think I'm doing a good job of keeping track of her and sending any shots back. At the very least my returned fire isn't dense enough that it's going to hit Marisa. She's way too fast for that.

The biggest problem that I'm running into is that my powers require some amount of actual thought and preparation to use it properly. It's not a matter of being able to use overwhelming force like Marisa is. Even if I can pull danmaku out of a portal and fire it, I still have to go through a series of steps. Find what I want, grab it, pull it out, aim it, and fire it. Even if I can delay the actual firing for a while, all of the other steps have to be done while stationary, and I can only hold onto something that I've pulled if I stay within fifteen meters of it.

Overall, it's kind of limited. It doesn't work the same way that Marisa's mastery of danmaku seems to be working, and I don't think I'd be able to beat her at her own game even if it did. I suppose I could try to use it as a supplement. I can do a decent amount of danmaku without my powers. Maybe if I tried to gather a bunch of things together and fire everything at once-

Marisa laughs gleefully as she rockets past me on her broom, a trail of multicolored star danmaku trailing after her. I squeak in surprise as I awkwardly twist my body in the gaps between the bullets. Some of them graze me enough that I feel my clothes get tugged. It's hard enough that I'm worried I'll wind up with holes in my dress or something.

Yeesh, these things are going to leave welts if they actually hit me.

Looking around frantically, I catch sight of Marisa again, curving around for another swoop at me. This isn't working. I need to think of an idea, and then I need time to actually pull it off. Marisa's well practiced enough that she's not going to need to give me time to rest and think my options through. If I'm going to do something, I'll need to pick it and commit to the strategy right now.

Powers allowed, but danmaku only. The definition of danmaku is kind of vague, but anything too exotic will take time to find through my connection.

Marisa zooms by me again, and I feel some of the magic pelt its way through my hair. Okay, she's going to swing around for another pass most likely, so I should...

[ ] Limit mobility, gate in as much danmaku as possible and fire everything at once.
[ ] Grab something big. At the speeds Marisa is flying around, she might not be able to avoid it if something huge suddenly appears out of nowhere.
[ ] Take a chance and pull out something unexpected. My options are limitless here, as long as I manage to find what I'm looking for quickly.

Bleh. I'm not really happy with where my writing momentum is at. Things were supposed to get easier when I stopped having a job, but it's not really happening that way.

Anyway, this story recently hit its second year of running (yay~). It's slowed down a bit partially due to me missing updates and partially due to a lack of scenes that I want to push toward now, so things have been meandering a little bit. There are still a couple of in-story days left before we get to the end, so while I'd like to think that it'll be done before year three, I'm not completely sure. My estimates haven't really been the best on that front in the first place.

In any case, thanks for sticking with the story so far. I'm sure there's still stuff that you want to see happen before we get to the end and I'll try to make that happen as we go.
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[x] Take a chance and pull out something unexpected. My options are limitless here, as long as I manage to find what I'm looking for quickly.
-[x] summon flash bang grenades

Flash bangs are non-lethal grenades that are designed to disorient enemies with a very bright flash of light and a very loud banging sound. Marisa can't aim or dodge if she can't see or hear. Might want to make sure we cover our ears and look away when it goes off.
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[X] Grab something big. At the speeds Marisa is flying around, she might not be able to avoid it if something huge suddenly appears out of nowhere.

Flashbangs would probably work, but I'm not sure that really counts as sporting and we want to practice good habits in case we end up in more duels.
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To be fair, Mystia is allowed to blind people with her song during a danmaku duel, so blinding people with a flash bang shouldn't be out of the question.
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[x] Grab something big. At the speeds Marisa is flying around, she might not be able to avoid it if something huge suddenly appears out of nowhere.

Mage! Your strength becomes your weakness!
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[x] Take a chance and pull out something unexpected. My options are limitless here, as long as I manage to find what I'm looking for quickly.
-[x] summon flash bang grenades

Marisa's not giving Serian a long enough break to summon her bullets? Well then, we'll just have to force her to give us the time.
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[x] Limit mobility, gate in as much danmaku as possible and fire everything at once.

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Can I get tiebroken please? Thanks.
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[x] Limit mobility, gate in as much danmaku as possible and fire everything at once.
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you made the tie worse...
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Goddamn you useless faggots.

OP, if you haven't flipped for it yet, change my vote at >>28414 to

[x] Take a chance and pull out something unexpected. My options are limitless here, as long as I manage to find what I'm looking for quickly.

to break the tie.
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[X] Take a chance and pull out something unexpected. My options are limitless here, as long as I manage to find what I'm looking for quickly.

Nothing I do here is going to be easy. That's just how the limitations of my powers go. Err, at least it's a limitation right now. It might not stay that way later. I'm just not used to how I need to think for this kind of situation. Don't have a bag of tricks built up for what I can do. That's the whole point of this practice right now, I guess.

My (admittedly unproductive) thoughts are interrupted when I'm forced into spinning through the air again, doing a full flip to avoid some more danmaku. Danmaku is noisy, bright, and distracting, but I can still hear Marisa laughing as she does another swoop around the part of the sky we're using as our battlefield.

Yeah, this is just practice, but even then I still really want to win.

I'm not sure how long Marisa's attack is going to last. I'm not firing back enough to force her to stop, I know that much. Even though it sounds like she's having a really fun time tormenting me (maybe a little bit dramatic there), she's also got a lot less to worry about. Her concentration on her attack isn't going to just randomly break. I'm not going to get a chance to calm down and think about things rationally. There'd be no reason for that unless I actually started fighting back and forced her to let up. While I could maybe pull something like that off, I'm not even sure if it's the right move.

Marisa's made it pretty clear that she does this kind of fight often. With how casually she's talked about it, it's probably something she does for fun. That's way different from me, who was forced into learning it in the first place. I don't have years of experience to draw from in terms of attacking or defending. If I want to make this work, I'm going to have to do something that she doesn't expect. That's without knowing what Marisa actually expects me to do in the first place too.

So yeah, maybe a little bit of a long shot here, even if I do have an idea to go for.

I spin myself back around so that I'm oriented correctly, then go back to focusing on searching through the options. Splitting my focus is going to make it hard to dodge, but I'm between waves right now. I have a handful more seconds before it's an issue.

Sifting through bullets of all shapes and sizes, I brush aside a ton of stuff that I really don't need. It's kind of amazing how fast I'm able to mentally catalogue through them. I'm not exactly a gun nut. Sure, I might know more than your average rabbit, but being able to identify everything here by sight with maybe half of a glance worth of concentration on it is still... I guess that's probably just another aspect of my power that I never really thought about before.

I find what I'm looking for just in time to have to immediately switch back to focusing on dodging again. Is Marisa going easy on me by giving me these breaks or is she pacing herself? If she just unloaded everything at once, I'm doubting that I'd be able to manage to avoid it all. Even now, while I manage to pull through most of what's being thrown at me, I can feel bullets pelting at my hammer or brushing between my ears. This isn't easy. It's definitely getting close.

My concentration is broken, but when I switch back to looking through the stuff that I could pull out with my powers, it's really easy to pick up where I left off. Convenient, and a little bit unexpected. It really seems like things are falling into place much more quickly and much more completely than expected. At least as far as the bullet power thing is concerned.

Just firing shots at Marisa could work. Maybe it could. It's a big maybe, but still entirely possible that if I just forewent defense and started shooting back in one of my own patterns that something about them might catch Marisa off guard and I could score a hit or two. The cost of doing that though... Yeah, better to do something else entirely. Something that is out of context enough for Gensokyo that she wouldn't even think of it... Or at least, she probably won't. I did kind of put the idea freshly into her mind by giving her some yesterday.

Really hope she won't be able to identify these by sight. They are subtly different than the kind that she was given, but still. It's possible. Don't really have time to switch plans anyway.

I swing my hammer and feel the dimensional divide give way, at least in the small part that I make contact with. Oddly squishy, though I guess I should be used to it by now. When I pull back, my chosen ammunition comes out along with the end of the mallet. They stay suspended in the air for a moment as I mentally reorient them. Flashbangs. An airburst type that's meant to be shot out of a launcher, rather than thrown. I've never actually used something like this before, but I can at least understand the idea behind them easily enough.

As Marisa comes around for another drive-by, I finish aiming everything and fire. I decided to shoot a handful of them at once and fan them out over a large area to make their effects hard to avoid. It might be a little bit overkill. Might actually be harmful if Marisa reacts poorly to it. I'm not expecting to be that successful though. This is how danmaku is supposed to work, right? Cast a wider net than you'd ever need. If nothing else it'll be quite a show.

Letting the grenades fly, I don't watch to make sure they go exactly where I meant for them to go. I'm already slamming my eyes shut, turning away, and grabbing at my ears.

Even knowing what's coming and having a chance to mitigate it, it still overwhelms my senses for a second. The loud cracking explosions as all the flashbangs explode within a second or two of each other. I let out a squeak of pain that even I can't hear as I feel some stray danmaku pelt me in the lower body and legs. Couldn't avoid it, but there's no penalty for getting hit when we're not playing with any real rules.

Needing to capitalize on any advantage I can, I pry my eyes open before they're ready. Ugh, ow. There's still spots in my vision when I look around. I waste precious seconds blinking and trying to get my bearings. Marisa isn't firing at me anymore, but I can't see where she went. I think that's a good thing?

The blonde that I catch sight of first turns out to not be Marisa at all. Waving her hands in my direction, probably just to get my attention, I can see Ringo poking out of the top of a nearby tree. Her darker clothes actually help her stand out against the mix of yellows oranges and reds of the leaves. Once she notices that I've noticed her, she changes what she's doing, gesturing in one direction in particular...

Oh, I guess that works.

There's a spot in another tree that has clearly had a lot of the leaves suddenly (and violently) removed from their place. My first instinct is to just open fire straight down on that spot. If Marisa lost control and crashed, then she's probably not in a state to get cover from a follow up attack, at least not for a few more seconds. I hold back from doing that though. Not exactly sporting to shoot somebody while they're down during a practice session. In an actual engagement it might be different, but just for now...

Swooping down and brushing some stray leaves out of the way, it doesn't take long to find Marisa. Looks like she actually did crash, but managed to catch herself on a couple of crisscrossing branches rather than fall all the way to the ground. She's rubbing at her eyes so intently, I have a feeling she doesn't even know which way is up yet. Must have hit her with at least one of the explosions.

... Huh, I'm actually surprised that that worked. I kind of expected Marisa, one of the Gensokyo incident solvers that I've been hearing about the whole time I've been talking to people, to be a bit more prepared. Granted, it was an out of context problem, but-

Anyway, I'm getting distracted. I'll think about this more later. Right now, I think I can make a point here.

I pick out a few angry red looking bits of danmaku from my power and pull them out through the dream world and into this dimension. I'm close enough that I can just keep a hold on them, letting them float motionlessly around Marisa's head for whenever she gets her bearings fully.

A bit more blinking, eye rubbing, and swear words later, I finally see recognition dawn on Marisa's face. Through a squint, she gets a view of both myself and the situation around her. "Well... Shit," she says, sounding less dejected and more amused than anything else.

"You know, I could demand that you give up now," I point out, shaping my finger like a gun and aiming it at her while spinning the danmaku I'm still holding over her to prove my point.

Marisa snorts, shaking her head a couple more times as if to clear it. "Hmmm... You could, I guess," she agrees casually. "Doesn't really fit the spirit of the thing though. There's supposed to be a kinda beauty to danmaku. It's showy. Somethin' like a dance or a contest. Just blinding somebody and telling them to give up or you'll shoot doesn't quiiiiite fit the elegance that we're goin for."

Elegance... Really? She was flying around like a maniac filling the air with multicolored stars and laughing as I dodged them. "Cultural differences," is all I can think to say. Ugh, Gensokyo needs to make up their mind. Is this combat or a spectator sport? I guess it's possible that Marisa is just messing with me, trying to help her ego considering I have her pinned down without even her broom to fly away on. As far as I'm concerned, this should be a win for me, even if it's not a repeatable one. Even if Marisa doesn't know what exactly I did, she'll probably be ready for something similar. I'll need some other tricks. "So... A point for me, and we start over?" I suggest, trying to give her an easy way out. Shouldn't be too hard to accept a tiny loss if I imply that there'll be plenty of opportunities for more wins, right?

"Pfff," Marisa sounds amused, sitting up and righting herself a little bit. She fixes her hat so it's more securely on her head again, then gives me an all too pleased smile. "Start over? We've barely gotten started!"

What is she-AH!

Crap! That crazy...

Okay, completely ignoring the bullets that I had aimed at her, Marisa decided to somehow blast herself up into the air. I just barely managed to scramble out of the way as whatever magic she was using to propel herself up revved up and sent her sailing up into the air. I don't think that was anything that was designed for flight, if anything she just blasted a huge spell downward and used the recoil.

I hear a sharp whistle from Marisa as I look up at her. She can't fly on her own, so now that she's stopped shooting herself up into the air... Nope. I guess not. Her broom zooms out from the tree cover, zipping right into her hand. She deftly mounts it in midair, doing a quick barrel roll as she gets herself back into fighting form.

... Honestly, there's a lot to be surprised about there, but I'm more shocked at how crazy you have to be to even think something like that up. Blast into the air when you can't even fly, going directly through a bunch of danmaku that you're being directly threatened with. I wonder if that hurt or if she's just too adrenaline'd up to notice. Probably just doesn't care. From how she's already gearing up for another attack like nothing even happened, I think

Err, she seems to be building up quite a bit of magic. She's actually glowing.

... Yeah, I think I need to get moving out of this tree.


Marisa... I don't want to say it gets better or worse, but there's definitely a change in her after that point. It's difficult, don't get me wrong, but it feels a lot less like she's just trying to overwhelm me than before. I don't know if she was trying to scare me off or push me to a limit or what before, but now she seems to have cooled off from that. She's actually giving me some amount of respect during my counter attacks. At the very least, she's taking the time to watch out for them and not just running into range of any more flashbangs.

Of course, that really just makes it harder to actually catch her with anything again.

Danmaku gets dodged. Nets get blasted out of the sky. Water gets evaporated by lasers. Smoke grenades don't stay in place properly. That kind of stuff just keeps happening. Once she's stopped trying to show off, it seems like Marisa definitely has an answer for most of the projectiles and tricks I can think to throw at her. By contrast, I can't at all match up with her spell cards and everything else. It's a good opportunity, and I know for a fact that getting a chance to flex my powers a bit and really figure out how to work them under pressure helps. As for actually winning though...

It's my second time being forced down to the ground when I finally have to admit that things aren't going very well for me. Marisa isn't looking worn down at all, and I'm kind of out of bright ideas to throw at her. I don't think I've even hit her once in the last five rounds of back and forth shooting. It's not even that I'm feeling that discouraged, I'm just tired. Flying around, constantly dodging and fighting back and forth... It's exhausting after a while. And it has been quite a while. If part of the point of this was to kill time until the evening, I've definitely accomplished that much while I was dodging lasers and all kinds of other magic.

I pick myself up into a sitting position, half picking up my hammer before I decide I can't be bothered and just letting it rest against me instead. I take a deep breath, look up in the air where Marisa is making lazy circles above where I fell...

Then I just let myself flop backward onto my back.


"Nah, it was great!" Marisa assures me a while later, after I've made it clear that yes, I am giving up finally. I also might have made my feelings on that fact a little bit more clear than I meant to, considering how nice she's being about it. I kind of expected more gloating or trash talk, but she's not doing that at all. "Not like I was expecting you to win or anything, but you still threw me for a loop a couple of times!" Ah, there we go. "And even better than that, you just kept going. Most people give it up after a master spark or two, but not you!"

Ugh, don't remind me. I probably tried way harder than I needed to. Getting blasted over and over again really isn't my idea of a good time normally. I look and feel like a mess, and don't even have that much to show for it. "For all the good it did."

"Oh come on, don't be all down on yourself like that. You were great!" Ringo laughs and places a comforting hand on my shoulder. I had mostly been tuning her out throughout the practice session, but there were definitely a couple of times here and there that I noticed her cheering me on. "Have you been practicing by yourself or something? You looked really cool. Especially that first time when you caught her off guard."

"Eh, I was bein' dumb," Marisa cuts in, laughing as well, though maybe a bit less genuinely. "Wouldn't let her hit me with something like that again." For what it's worth, I'm not the only one that looks tired and messy, but considering Marisa already had a huge head start in that department, I don't think it's much of a point in my favor that we look about equal now.

"Once is all it takes though," Ringo counters teasingly.

Marisa exhales sharply through her nose, then switches her attention back to me instead. "Anyway, it was great fighting you Seiran. We'll have to do it again sometime."

Again? Hopefully not any time soon. While it was valuable in all kinds of ways, there are a lot of bad points to it too. I don't want to be rude, but I think next time I'm going to demand some actual rules instead of just throwing stuff at each other until somebody gives up. "Um, s-sure."

"For right now though," Ringo glances up into the sky. Not exactly evening, but we're almost to that point. "We need to get going, don't we?"

I check the time on my watch. I'm still estimating because I don't know the exact time that Reisen might be leaving the village, but heading out that way now might not be a bad idea. When you factor in travel time, we'll probably be in a spot to meet up with her early if we go directly there. I'd kind of like to meet up with the other rabbits, maybe bring them along, but we might not have time to do that. I don't know what's going to happen or where Reisen is going to wait for us if we're late. She probably will wait, this is kind of important to all of us, but... Hm.

[ ] We'll head to the village now and wait around for a bit. It's not really worth the trip to pick up the others if it means we might be late.
[ ] We'll go back to the plant and pick up the others first. Everybody needs to be in the know for what we're doing next.

Yeah, I handled that poorly. Should have just rolled for the tie and said I was doing so. Also actually writing helps.
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[x] We'll head to the village now and wait around for a bit. It's not really worth the trip to pick up the others if it means we might be late.

> Yeah, I handled that poorly. Should have just rolled for the tie and said I was doing so.

Eh, It's as much on us as it is on you. If I'd noticed the tie earlier I'd have changed my vote sooner, but I only really notice threads when they get bumped. Sorry 'bout that.
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[X] We'll head to the village now and wait around for a bit. It's not really worth the trip to pick up the others if it means we might be late.

Getting the band back together first would be nice, but considering it might still be a matter of life and death haste should take priority.
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[X] We'll head to the village now and wait around for a bit. It's not really worth the trip to pick up the others if it means we might be late.
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[X] We'll head to the village now and wait around for a bit. It's not really worth the trip to pick up the others if it means we might be late.
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[X] We'll head to the village now and wait around for a bit. It's not really worth the trip to pick up the others if it means we might be late.

We don't exactly have to be in a huge hurry to move, but at the same time, we don't have much reason to stick around either. I'm really not up to any more danmaku at the moment, and I'm not especially inclined to sit around socializing with Marisa either. Yeah, she's nice, and I'm thankful for what she's done, but our personalities don't really match up very well. I'm more than happy to let her do her thing while I do mine, and mine just happens to be flying over to the human village and finding Reisen.

"Yeah, we do," I agree. Much easier to just say that than to explain my whole thought process. Also pretty sure Marisa won't care either way. "Thanks again for everything Marisa." I'm not actually sure how many times I've thanked her today, but even if you dock some gratitude due to the shooting at me thing, I'm still not even close to saying it enough. From what she said, it seems like I'm actually cured, and even the idea of that is just... I can't even wrap my mind around it at the moment.

"Right-o," Marisa says, slinging her broom over one shoulder with a smile. Seems like she's gotten a bit more used to it instead of being bashful at the recognition. Maybe the training session made her feel like we're better friends or something so it isn't as big a deal. "Let me know if you wind up needing anything else, like an incident solving or some more practice or magic or whatever. I'll be... Eh, was gonna say I'll be here, but I'm just as likely to be anywhere else instead. I'll be around. Let's go with that."

"Fire enough danmaku into the sky, she'll come running," Ringo quips from the side..

"Flying, but same difference," Marisa jokes back. At least, I think they're joking. It is probably true that if there's a big enough fight and Marisa happens to see it, she's not going to stay away.

"I think we're okay for now." Involving her in helping to solve our problem more than we already have just screams messy to me. Even if she's one of Gensokyo's normal incident solvers, I think I'd turn to Sanae first and keep Marisa as more of a last resort. "I'll keep it in mind though."

Marisa gives me a (rather sloppy) mock salute, then turns and starts strolling back to her house on foot. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she didn't spare the damage that our practice fight caused a second glance. Admittedly, I'm not really in a state where I would want to go around picking up after us either, so I guess I can give Marisa a pass on this one.

Once the two of us are alone again, Ringo lets out a quiet grunt. I turn toward her to see her stretching her arms above her head, probably more stiff from sitting around than from exerting herself. "Well, she seemed cool," she comments idly.

Cool. Hm. "She's..." Yeah, I'm not really sure how I would want to describe Marisa in one word. It wouldn't be that one, but since I don't have a better one... "Whatever, you want to get going now?"

What? What's that look for? Err, oh. I wasn't really holding back my reaction very well, was I? "Aww, don't worry, you looked cool too!" Hey, stop- my hair's already messy Ringo! You don't have to rough it up even more. "Thought you had her a couple of times there. I especially like that first time you got her down." She takes her hand off my head when I move my head up and away from her, making a finger gun and pointing it at me dramatically.

I was just kind of going with the flow at the time. Did it look that dorky? I really need to think about these things before I do them. "You're not really helping."

"Aww, come on I'm not making fun of you, you're actually crazy strong now," Ringo insists, like she's covering up for patronizing me. "You know you did a hell of a lot better than anything I could have pulled off."

Doing better than Ringo would hypothetically isn't at all the same thing as winning. Even if it was, winning here wouldn't mean actually getting closer to saving everyone. "Kind of remains to be seen if it'll make a difference. Our problem isn't necessarily one we can just throw more firepower at it and hope it solves itself. Even if it was, there's better people for that than me."

I see Ringo take a breath like she's going argue, but she lets out a small sigh instead, shrugging. "Still, having that kinda power can't hurt, right?"

The practice did kind of hurt, but that's just in the short term. I know that's not what she means. In the long term though... "Hopefully not anymore it won't..."

Ringo's face freezes, apparently realizing what I'm saying. "Okay, point," she agrees awkwardly. "I guess we're going now?"

Probably better to just move on. "Yeah. If we go now, we'll probably get to the outside of the village early, but I don't think we'll have enough time to go back to the plant and round up the others. This is kind of important, so I'd rather be early than late."

"You're the boss." Already back to a smile, Ringo lifts off.

... I'm really not though.


We make some small talk while we're flying out and away from the forest of magic, but not a whole lot of it. Just silly stuff about the differences in how Ringo flies with her newer outfit. Something about air resistance. Neither of us are really versed in the physics of it, but it seems like a simple enough idea to understand. Dress has more drag than her normal shorts, but it does keep her legs from getting quite as cold.

Of course, that line of conversation doesn't last all that long. By the time we've reached the general area that we mutually decide to be our destination, we're quiet. Not an uncomfortable silence. At least, I don't think it is really. Just a regular one.

There isn't a defined meeting place for Ringo and I to wait at, so we just kind of linger in the semi-wilderness surrounding the road out of the village. It doesn't seem like there's going to be much that will give us trouble in the middle of the day, and even if there was, we could probably deal with it easily enough by flying away.

Case in point, partway through a walk through a random patch of trees, I happen to notice some fairies running away from the two of us. Neither Ringo or I really did anything to menace them, so I'm assuming they're just afraid of people. Maybe just youkai, come to think of it? It's not exactly hard to tell, what with the ears and the red eyes and everything. We definitely don't look like humans, so I guess that puts us high enough on the threat list to not be anything worth bothering.

I know that the two things couldn't possibly be related, but I can't help but feel at least a little proud of that after getting through the danmaku practice. Something like, I worked hard to try and up my abilities, and people are already taking notice. Silly, but it makes me feel somewhat better about getting trounced, so I'll try not to think about it enough to spoil the good feelings. I'm not feeling particularly bad about my current situation in an immediate sense, but the anxiety of what's going to have to happen over the next couple of days...

A-anyway, Ringo and I kill time for a while, just doing easy, simple stuff. Walking around, occasionally catching sight of Earth wildlife, bringing up how I still feel like there are way too many trees, that kind of thing.

Eventually that gets kind of old though. We're still really close to human civilization, so it's not too surprising that this area of Gensokyo is even more tame than the one that we were camped out in for months. Not a whole lot to actually see or do. We get bored, so Ringo and I have settle into just relaxing, waiting, and watching. We pick out a tree that still happens to have most of its leaves attached, while also giving us a decent vantage to watch the road that Reisen is likely going to use if she doesn't try to avoid us for some reason.

Then we sit and wait.




Yeah, I'm not that surprised. I mean I did hear her breathing slowing down a little bit, but couldn't think of anything important enough to bring up. She didn't really look tired before, but I definitely noticed Ringo settling in and getting comfortable pretty easily we first sat down. If I really wanted to be critical of her, I could call it extreme laziness, but whatever. Nothing is happening, so Ringo elected to fall back on her default behavior and take a nap. Not exactly an impressive showing for our fearless leader, but I'm still here to cover for her, so...

Well, I'd probably be doing a bit better of a job of it if she hadn't slumped down and put her head on my shoulder.

Like, okay, I know that since I'm the only person around who isn't asleep, it falls on me to watch the road by default. That's fine. It would be better if Ringo actually gave me the order explicitly, but it's still fine. It's just- I don't know. I've kinda felt like this every time that we slept in the same bed and stuff, but there's something really distracting about Ringo's sleeping face, you know? The way her face looks just a tiny bit pouty. The way her chest is rising and falling as she breaths evenly, almost but not quite snoring quietly. How cute her new outfit looks.

Err, I kinda got away from her face there, but you get the point.

I don't know why I'm finding it so distracting right now in particular though. I've seen Ringo while she's asleep tons of times. Sure, most of those times it's darker, so I don't get quite as clear a view of her. The sun is only barely setting now, so it's actually casting a really nice color that seems to be doing her a bit of a favor too. Maybe I can blame it on that. Not like I've been captivated by how cute she is over the course of the rest of the day. There's been plenty of chances to look at her, considering the entire date thing we've been doing.

... Yeah, I guess that might be part of it.

Ringo and I were on a date. I don't really know if it ended when we left the village or not, but we definitely were before that point. I don't think I would normally include getting shot up with danmaku as an ideal date setting, but I can't really deny that Ringo was with me at the time, and we both more or less shared the experience. Are we still on a date now? How do you even decide on something like that? I still haven't really gotten what the difference between dating Ringo Seiran and friends with Ringo Seiran even is! It's confusing, and weird, and I feel like I'm stressing out over messing it up, which is probably only making the messing it up worse and-

Ugh, calm down. Where is my mind going right now? I need to think about this more calmly and rationally and not get all panicky like always. Deep breath.

... Okay.

Ringo is really just treating me normally, for the most part. She doesn't seem to be stressed out about this at all. I'm a little bit envious about that. Is she so used to this kind of thing that she can just play it cool? Is she even treating this like a date? It feels a whole lot different from going out with Yamame. Not necessarily better or worse, but definitely different.

If I could just relax like her, maybe I would find this whole thing a whole lot easier. Maybe I wouldn't overthink everything. Maybe my thoughts wouldn't be all jumbled up. Maybe I wouldn't keep glancing down at her while she's still taking a nap on my shoulder.

But would that even be a date then?

If we're not doing anything different from what we would normally do, then it's not a date, right? Going out shopping on occasion, flying around and exploring here and there. It's all pretty similar to what we would have been doing back on the Moon, at least during the times when we weren't stuck in some remote base in the middle of nowhere. Those weren't dates, at least, I didn't act like they were. So what does it mean to act like I'm on a date? What am I supposed to do now? What was I supposed to be doing this morning? This afternoon? I know that nobody's going to tell me an answer, but right now, looking down at Ringo, it definitely feels like I should do something.

I'm just... I don't really know what it should be.

[ ] Act normal, do the usual. Wake her up the usual way. She shouldn't be sleeping in the first place.
[ ] Don't think about it. This shouldn't take that long. Just keep an eye on the road and try to get Reisen's attention whenever she shows up.
[ ] It's a little irresponsible, but we've still got some time, right? Joining in on the nap for a little while should be okay.
[ ] This is a date. A date... I... She's asleep, but maybe I should- I-I mean, I could maybe try kissing...

Originally I wanted to do the whole meeting with Reisen in this update. Kinda felt like it would turn out too long and I also kinda wanted to give this option just to see what would happen. Seiran sure is having trouble with this.
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[X] Don't think about it. This shouldn't take that long. Just keep an eye on the road and try to get Reisen's attention whenever she shows up.
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[x] Don't think about it. This shouldn't take that long. Just keep an eye on the road and try to get Reisen's attention whenever she shows up.

Just don't fall asleep as well. That would be bad, instead of just cute.
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[x] This is a date. A date... I... She's asleep, but maybe I should- I-I mean, I could maybe try kissing...
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[X] This is a date. A date... I... She's asleep, but maybe I should- I-I mean, I could maybe try kissing..

And then she literally dies of embarrasment when Reisen shows up juuuust before she actually kisses Ringo. Game Over. Well Played.
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[x] Don't think about it. This shouldn't take that long. Just keep an eye on the road and try to get Reisen's attention whenever she shows up.

No kissing unless both parties are awake.
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[X] Don't think about it. This shouldn't take that long. Just keep an eye on the road and try to get Reisen's attention whenever she shows up.

We are the Responsible Bun!
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[X] Don't think about it. Keep an eye on the road and try to get Reisen's attention whenever she shows up.

I'm just... Yeah. I'm not thinking about this anymore. The more I think about Ringo and how cute she looks right now- Err, not the best way to phrase that mentally. Start over. The more I think about Ringo in general, the better chance she has of distracting me. She's not even doing anything interesting. There's no need to give her any mind. It's much more important that I keep an eye out for Reisen, since apparently I'm the only one that's going to be doing that.

I guess I could just wake Ringo up, but...


Right, stop that. Caught myself staring at her again. I don't even know where my brain is going when that happens. Not anywhere important, that's for sure. Mission, mission.

I take a deep breath, then lock my eyes on the road in front of me. As long as I don't move my head, I won't see her. As long as I don't shrug my shoulder, I won't feel her resting against me. As long as I don't listen too closely, I won't hear her breathing. As long as I don't sniff... Aaaaaghh! This is impossible! How can one girl be so distracting while doing absolutely nothing?!

Really, I should just wake her up. Just poke her or blow in her ear or whatever it takes to make her stop doing whatever it is that's making me feel all weird like this. What if she asks me for a reason though? That would definitely be bad. I can't really think of a good excuse, and I'd get tongue tied and I wouldn't say the right thing and then... I don't know. I do know that it would be embarrassing though. Bad idea.

So no, I'm just going to let her do her thing. Going to try to calm down and not think about it and watch out for Reisen like we're supposed to be doing so that we can make it through the mission. That's the most important thing. Just keep telling myself that.

Mission. Deep breath. Mission.

Just. Stop. Thinking. About. It.


It takes me a little bit to notice however many minutes later when Reisen finally walks by. I blame that entirely on us being sitting down and a bit off from the road, and not at all because there is anything else that could be taking my focus at the moment. Either way, I still catch sight of Reisen around the time that she notices me, though I guess it's probably her small noise of recognition that prompts me to look up, more than me actually seeing her on my own.

Actually, what would have happened if somebody else had walked by instead? Ringo and I are kind of visible here like this...

Yeah, that's another thing that I'm just choosing not to think about.

I raise up the hand that isn't being held down by a sleeping rabbit and wave Reisen over, though she's already headed in my direction. It's a good thing that that's all it takes. If she had been keeping her eyes on the ground or something and I had needed to call out to her, it probably would have woken Ringo up.

Sitting down like this, it's a lot easier to get a better look at Reisen's face. Her work clothes usually do a pretty good job of covering her up, but that's more because we're at similar heights. Huh, you know, it's really impressive how she managed to tie up so much of her hair, but that's not really the main thing that I notice, just a side thing. More than anything else what strikes me is the switch between bemusement and gradually dawning recognition once she realizes the situation that I've been stuck in by my commanding officer. As she comes to a stop next to Ringo and I, Reisen's face gradually changes to something that looks generally unimpressed. She raises an eyebrow at me specifically.

Responding with words, while it would be easier, would probably have the side effect of waking Ringo up again. While that's almost certainly going to happen at one point... Uh, I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I just give Reisen a half shrug, then point down to the top of my wrist meaningfully. I'm trying to indicate that we've been waiting a while, although it's not like it took Ringo all that long to fall asleep.

Reisen sets her oversized backpack down on the ground, letting out a quiet grunt as she's suddenly freed of the weight. When she looks back at me again she just rolls her wrist around in a kind of 'go on' motion, then points at Ringo. Guess she's not going to do it for me? Probably doesn't want to be rude, but then, I don't either. We're kind of alike in that way I guess.

I know that what she's prompting me to do, but... I don't know, the normal way that I would wake Ringo up would be to blow in her ear, and I'm feeling a little bit self conscious about it, so um. I just kind of shrug again.

Reisen rolls her eyes, then leans down over Ringo and I. She braces her middle finger with her thumb, holding it up to Ringo's nose, and flicks before I manage to stop her.


Ohh... Did she really have to do it like that? That um, kind of looked like it hurt. When Ringo had her nose flicked, she (rather understandably) recoiled backward, slamming her head back into the tree behind us. She's currently trying to wake herself up, one hand rubbing at the tip of her nose while the other works on the back of her head.

"Ughh. What was that for?" Ringo demands, looking up and freezing, hopefully realizing it wasn't me that did it. I'm innocent! "Oh, um, hi," she greets Reisen lamely, taking the hand off her face while making sure her hat is still on straight. It isn't.

Rather than return the greeting, Reisen launches into answering the first question. "It's how Tewi wakes me up if she ever catches me slacking off," she explains, taking her own hat off and letting her mass of hair down. Seriously, and I sometimes think my hair is too long. I wonder how she has time to take care of all that. "I started doing it back in return, then the Princess picked up the habit too. I don't get to fall asleep without worrying for your nose's safety anymore, so I guess you don't either."

Ringo shakes her head then looks at me, smirking. No harm done I guess. Ringo's hit her head against harder things before. "Yeesh, I'll keep it in mind. Seiran's a lot nicer about that kind of thing."

"Seems that way," Reisen agrees. "She didn't even want to wake you up."

Wait, hold on! "Err, I would have done it I just... Um."

"Well she knows what I like. We're used to each other," Ringo dismisses any implications about me maybe possibly watching her while she was sleeping on top of me with a smile, then gets right down to business, turning toward Reisen instead. "Anyway, seems like she did the job just fine. Got you to come over here without needing me to do anything. Even got you in a good mood. A good start to things. So, you made any progress then?"

Reisen lets out a sigh as she plops down on her giant backpack. Apparently it's solid enough for her to sit on, though that does leave her a bit more elevated than me or Ringo. "Not directly, but I did get information that we can act on," she starts. I notice Ringo already leaning forward in anticipation, but Reisen stops there, glancing back at the road that we're still right next to. "Err, maybe we shouldn't talk about this right here?" She suggests.

Ringo seems to think it isn't necessary, but the at a vote of two to one, we do elect to move a bit further into the patch of trees along the side of the road. If somebody looked really hard, they might be able to see us, but that's kind of unlikely. We've got some measure of privacy, which prompts Reisen to continue.

"Okay, most of the people that I tried really didn't pan out. There aren't a lot of people with a connection to the Moon, and even the solution that I found was from an unexpected source," Reisen begins. Sounds like she really has been working hard at it. Makes sense, given that it took a few days and however many different contacts she checked with to find something. "Basically, there's a human who periodically shows up at Eientei for... Various reasons. Her name is Mokou Fujiwara. The last time I talked to her, she happened to mention something about the occult balls incident that's been happening over the past few months. Apparently, one of the orbs is tied to the Lunar Capital."

... Ah.

Ringo and I share a glance. "Oh," she eloquently responds.


"Yyyeeeahh..." This is awkward. Kind of glad that Ringo is taking the lead on explaining it. This would be good information. From what we already know, it's exactly what we're looking for, there's just a bit of a complication with it. "So I don't wanna kill your enthusiasm or anything, but we kinda heard about that today too. Had a run in with Reimu, but she left without doing anything other than giving us a warning. Seemed to know something was up. Asked Marisa about it, and she's guessing that Reimu went and grabbed the orb before we could get to it. If we want it now, we're going to have to get it from her."

And just like that, Reisen's semi-good mood that she had been in vanishes. Both hands go up, hiding her face behind them as she groans audibly. The three of us haven't sat back down since moving further away from the road, but Ringo's news is enough to force Reisen to drop onto her backpack again. "Ugghhhh..."

"Hey, you don't have to worry like that!" Ringo reassures her, although I'm kind of in the camp that thinks Reisen's reaction is relatable, if nothing else. She thought she had a solution, only to get stone walled by something that happened at no fault of her own. I'm pretty worried about us running out of time and solutions too. "If anything, this just means that we know for a fact where the thing is. No need to search. We just have to work out a plan to get Reimu's attention and snag it from her once we've caught her. It'll practically come to us, apparently all you have to do to get her to show up is make a lot of noise. She comes running as soon as she hears about youkai causing trouble."

"Even if we did catch her." The skepticism is evident even through Reisen's obvious disappointment. "We'd still have to beat her in a fight."

"And you're saying that's impossible?" Ringo argues back. "Marisa already told us that Reimu isn't invincible or anything. It can be done. We just have to think of a plan."

There's a slight pause where Reisen appears lost in thought. At least, I think she is. Hard to see what her face is doing when it's covered like that. "... Maybe," she finally answers, dropping her hands enough so that we can see her eyes. "It's really not what I wanted to hear though."

I'm inclined to agree, though the wound is a bit less fresh for me. I've had time to think about it. I probably could have used that thinking time more efficiently while I was waiting for Reisen to show up, but... I was distracted. "Well, let's think about our other options then," I push forward, trying to be helpful. "When we first decided to have you search for information, you had other plans as well, right?"

"Steal something magically tied to the Moon from Eientei and use that," Reisen recalls, not sounding enthusiastic about that idea either. "The thing is, I haven't had time to set that up. I would need something that actually counts as magically connected to the Capital, but also wouldn't be noticed immediately as missing. The Princess doesn't really care about her stuff that much, but she'll still notice if something important is gone. I haven't had time to catalog all the junk she keeps around and figure out what would work."

Huh, Reisen seems like she's being a lot more blunt than before. Maybe the disappointment and worry is outweighing whatever was keeping her more reserved the other times we've met. Can't really say that that's a good thing.

"That's just if you wanna do it stealthily though," Ringo points out thoughtfully. "Does that really matter?"

I see Reisen raising an eyebrow even before she takes her hands off her face. "Unlike you two, I have to go back there after all of this is over," she explains. "I don't even want to know what Master would do if she found out about me stealing something from the Princess to help you guys get back. Punishments..." She shudders. "Really want to avoid that."

"Then don't steal anything by yourself. Just forget to lock up one night, we'll swoop in and steal something for you," Ringo suggests. I really feel like she's skipping a lot of steps in this plan. When would we get the prep time to plan something like that? What happens if we fail? "All the fault of those damn moon rabbits. You, of course, would have nothing to do with it."

Reisen's frown stays on her face as she takes a moment to think it over. "It's... Yeah, it could maybe work. Maybe. It's risky though. There's all the other rabbits to consider. Tewi... It would be easy for you to get caught, and I wouldn't be able to bail you out."

"Alternative is fighting Reimu," Ringo reminds her, a little too smugly. Reisen's frown gets even bigger.

Okay, hold on though. Ringo's leaving out an option here. If we can't actually make something happen, we do have a last resort to fall back on. "Or doing nothing at all," I add. Reisen looks at me, obviously confused, so I continue. "The portal could be attuned with one of us rabbits, since we're also tied to the Moon. The only problem with doing that is that that means that one of us would have to stay behind, and it wouldn't necessarily point us the right direction through the Dream World. It wouldn't be efficient, it would make it more dangerous in there, but it would work."

Reisen pauses to think that over as well, but doesn't respond with any words.

"So..." Ringo cuts in just around the time the silence is starting to get awkward. She points Reisen. "Make a lot of noise, get Reimu on us, fight her and win." She points to herself next. "Steal something from Eientei and use that." Then on to me. "Or do nothing. Those are our options here, and if we're not doing the last one, we've got to make something happen in the next two days."

"I don't think that you're pointing to the right people there." While that about sums up what we can do, I don't really get what Ringo was trying to indicate by pointing to us individually. Reisen didn't seem to be happy about any of the plans and Ringo was happy with either of the ones involving us actually doing something. She could have just as well counted our options off on her fingers.

"Fine, fine," Ringo dismisses, turning toward me directly. "Then if I was pointing to you at the wrong time, when should I have been doing it? What do you want to do?"

Ugh, way to put me on the spot, Ringo. Between those three options, there really doesn't seem to be one that isn't risky in some way. Reimu probably won't kill us, but I have no idea how we're going to fight her and win. Stealing something from Eientei would be a lot safer if we had more prep time, and would definitely put us in a bad situation if we got caught. Doing nothing is safe now, but we have to pay for it later when we're wandering through the Dream World. No objectively good options, but we're out of time to find better ones.

[ ] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu
[ ] Plan on breaking into Eientei and stealing something from there
[ ] Plan on having a rabbit stay behind and attune the portal
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[X] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu

Doing nothing is the boring option, and I don't feel like Eientei is a good choice either.
If we get caught, we're in deep shit (there's a reason we don't just go there and ask, remember?), and so is Reisen because she's been helping us. In fact, she'll get in trouble even if we don't get caught because it'll be "her fault" if we sneak in and steal something, because she'll be the one leaving the door open. She'll be punished either way, and I don't think she deserves that after all she's done for us.
Besides, I get the feeling that trying to sneak such a plan past Tewi is actually harder than just rigging a danmaku match against Reimu.
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[X] Reisen was going to be given a Lunar Veil(?) from Eiren to travel to the moon with. Would that count as connected to the capital?

A thought occured to me.
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silver bullet
Back in thread 3, we talked to Sekibanki about how they got Reimu off their backs. This was her advice: "We just had to talk with her for a while and convince her that we were harmless and that we would keep her informed on what we're doing. Well, I guess there was a bit of grovelling in there too. I guess we could have tried just bribing her too. I hear she's usually hard up for cash. Dunno if she would have gone with it though. Probably would have been a pretty big risk."

With that in mind, I have a plan. First, Seiran uses her powers to summon a whole bunch of silver bullets. Then we take those silver bullets and melt them down into a solid bar of silver (the nuclear plant has got to have something we can use to smelt it down, its next to a freaking hellfire lava pit after all). We take the bar of silver to Reimu's shrine and use the silver as a peace offering/bribe. We chat with Reimu, telling her that our mission was a failure, we are now stranded on Earth, we deeply regret trying to purify everything after seeing how nice everyone is down here, and we need the Lunar Orb to get back home. Just in case, we make sure not to tell her about our involvement with the Moriya Shrine.

We know that we have to fight her for the Lunar Orb, so we use the silver bar as a bribe to have her lose on purpose. Maybe see if she'll just let us hit her with a really weak, slow moving bullet, and just have her fall over in defeat or something. If she doesn't take the bribe then we move on to Plan B.

Seiran will get into a danmaku match with Reimu, and use her powers to summon a bunch of flash bangs to incapacitate Reimu just like we did with Marisa. Since we melted the silver bullets down into a bar of silver instead of just giving Reimu a bunch of silver bullets, Reimu wont see this coming because she won't be able to guess what Seiran's powers are. While Reimu is disoriented, Seiran will quickly summon a powerful tranquilizer dart and hit Reimu with it. Then we just stall for time until Reimu falls asleep, grab the Lunar Orb, and fly as fast as we can to the Moriya Shrine before Reimu can wake up and follow us. Once there, we quickly challenge Kanako to a duel, and lose on purpose so the Lunar Orb transfers to her. The Lunar Orb is now safe, because Reimu wont know Kanako has it, and if Reimu tracks us down and beats us up she still wont get the orb back.

[x] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu
-[x] Plan A: Silver bullet solution
-[x] Plan B: Flash bang, tranquilizer combo attack
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Heeey, someone else caught on.

[X] Reisen was going to be given a Lunar Veil(?) from Eiren to travel to the moon with. Would that count as connected to the capital?

Now seems like a good time for it. Desperation-induced inspiration, we'll say.
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RE: The lunar veil (because it's probably better to clarify it now than in an update so that people know what they're voting for)

Yes it would count, but unless some theft occurs, Reisen is only going to get access to it on the night of the full moon when everyone is supposed to leave. If she gets it from Eirin and brings it to Rika instead, that doesn't leave Rika much time to set up and make sure that everything is working right. Ideally, she needs at least a few hours to a half day.

Assuming Reisen avoids arousing suspicion, it's a workable plan. Kind of similar to the 'do nothing' plan but with a better trade off. On the positive side, it would be easy to pull off and would allow all rabbits to use the portal when the time comes. On the negative, it wouldn't guarantee that the portal was working optimally and pointing them in the right direction.
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[X] Reisen was going to be given a Lunar Veil(?) from Eirin to travel to the moon with. Would that count as connected to the capital?

I like this plan, much lower risk for everyone involved in the lead-up and once we're in we can improvise if we have to. Operation Silver Bullet could have a really nice payoff, but there's no guarantee that Reimu would go for it and not get mad at us for trying to bribe her. And under no circumstances should we ever try the flashbang and tranquilizer option, because I'm reasonably confident that would count as breaking the rules and then Reimu takes the kid gloves off.
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[x] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu

We spent all that time and effort getting danmaku swole for a reason!
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[x] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu.

Everyone's talking like we have to fight the miko. Instead of, you know, talking to her. We've already seen that she's quite reasonable in this story. Hell, we don't even need to take the ball - talk her into 'supervising' Rika for a few hours and it can stay in her sight the whole time.

Worst case scenario, we lose a danmaku battle and use a bunny to tune the portal. Best case scenario, Reimu gets to kick back and let the bunnies do all the hard work.
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[x] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu.

If that fails...

-[x] Y'know, Reisen was going to be given a Lunar Veil(?) by Eirin to travel to the moon with. Would that count as connected to the capital?
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[X] Reisen was going to be given a Lunar Veil(?) from Eiren to travel to the moon with. Would that count as connected to the capital?
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It's a plan I guess
[X] Plan on getting the occult ball of the Lunar Capital from Reimu
[X] Reisen was going to be given a Lunar Veil(?) from Eiren to travel to the moon with. Would that count as connected to the capital?

Out of time to find better plans, but maybe there's more to these options than what we've talked about just now? I don't know. There's been so much going on, it wouldn't be much of a surprise for me to miss a clue or some bit of knowledge that we could make use of. Heck, I might not have even missed something at first, and just happened to have it slip my mind in the time leading up to right now. Running around and having meetings like this helps me get my thoughts in line and gives us a more clear idea of what we're supposed to be doing, but just the fact that we're here talking doesn't mean that we're automatically going to find a perfect solution.

"I guess if it really comes down to it..." I start without really knowing what exactly I want to say. Mostly it's something like 'none of those options sound good to me' but that isn't much of a contribution to the discussion. Maybe if I had anything else to offer. I can't think of anything though. "Um, maybe we should get everybody else's opinions too?" I suggest, though it sounds a little bit lame.

"Don't think we have time to round them up and get them up to speed," Ringo comments. "We're in charge here, so we're gonna need to make a decision for the group."

I was kind of afraid of that. She's not exactly wrong though. Who knows what the other rabbits have gotten up to while we've been gone? Even if we looked for them in the obvious spots, there's no guarantee that they'd be there. Reisen can't just stay out while we round everybody else up. We're on a time crunch right now, I really need to stop stalling.

... Actually, when did it become both of us being in charge here instead of Ringo? I think I missed the moment when that decision was made.

Ugn, no, that can wait. Not like it's departing from the pattern of Ringo's normal behavior anyway. Thinking about that is beside the point, and is even more dancing around the subject. Ringo wants me to make a call, no matter how unsure about it I feel. "Okay, I have been getting a decent amount of practice with danmaku and everything." I'm no expert by any means, but having control of my powers really does seem to make a big difference. "If we can come up with a good plan and some way to catch her out, I guess I would be willing to try and get the occult ball from Reimu. I don't think it will go that well, but we could at least say that we tried something."

Ringo gives me a thumbs up that quickly transitions into a finger gun instead, pointing at me with a smile. "That's my girl!" Err, I'm what now? "If you're up for it, then I am too."

Reisen looks a lot less thrilled at the idea, though after a deep breath, still nods along with the option I picked. "It's a long shot, but it does help to know we still have something to fall back on like you said. Seems like we might actually manage this." Might? I can relate to pessimism, but isn't that being a little too negative?

"Back up plan still isn't ideal though," Ringo repeats her point again, probably picking up the same vibe from Reisen as I am. "We were actually instructed on how to use the kaian passageway before this whole thing started. They made it really really clear that you don't want to wander off and get lost in the Dream World. Honestly, I wasn't sure what was going to happen when you barged in there before."

Reisen grimaces, probably remembering whatever it was she did after fighting her way into our portal. She hasn't exactly kept it a secret that it was harrowing for her. "I... Kind of got a little bit lucky," she admits, though she doesn't look happy about it at all. "I happened to run into somebody who was willing to point me in the right direction. I couldn't pull that off again without getting help. There aren't anything even resembling landmarks to work off of."

"Yeah, good point."

"Wait." Hold on. Something just occured to me. It's only just related to the discussion going on, but... "You only used the dream world once after you fought us," I state, a little unnecessarily. The logic is still folding out as I'm talking, so I'm not speaking well.


"But when you originally came down here, you used a lunar veil," I recall. "And when Eirin sends you off to go back to the Moon in a couple days..."

From the look on Reisen's face, it seems like she's getting where I'm going with this. Is that a smile? I haven't gotten one of those from Reisen before. "She's going to give me my veil again!"

"Shiiiit. Of course!" Ringo throws her hands out excitedly before- Ah! Hey don't hug me like- Sheesh. Reisen is right there, you know? I pull myself out of her arms, but Ringo doesn't seem bothered by that at all. "Well damn, that's even easier than we thought!" She turns back to Reisen. "You just need to lay low and play nice, we'll do the same. Two days from now when Eirin gives you the veil, you pop over to the plant, we stick it on the portal or whatever else we need to do, and we're off!" She claps her hands together and smiles. "Boom. Done."

"Um... Maybe." Actually, now that I'm thinking about it more, it might not be quite that simple. "Remember that Rika said she'd need time to attune the portal with whatever magical thing we were able to give her. If we can only get the veil right when Reisen is supposed to be leaving, that doesn't give Rika time to work." I don't quite understand the specifics, but I can at least understand that from what she told us. "If Eirin starts looking for us before Rika finishes..."

"Eh, might be a problem, but probably not," Ringo comments. Seems a bit dismissive, doesn't it. "Eirin's scary, but she's not psychic as far as I know." Ringo looks toward Reisen for clarification, who just raises an eyebrow in response. Ringo seems satisfied enough with that to continue on anyway. "We haven't told people who we're working for, so unless Reisen lets it slip-"

"Which I won't."

"Right, unless she lets it slip, which she won't, we're going to have time while Eirin looks for us. She'll have to go through a lot of places that we aren't before she can get anywhere close to the place that we are."

Well, that's true. There's a lot of Gensokyo to cover. I don't know how Eirin intended to search for us, but it's not like she knows where we are right now. She won't know where we are in a couple of days either. "Rika said she'd need an afternoon to work, right?" I might be misremembering, but I at least know that she didn't give a hard number. "I don't know how many hours that is exactly, but... It's still a risk."

"Every choice we've got has risk at this point," Ringo counters. Well it seems like her mind is more or less made up then. Weird how I was the one that brought up the idea in the first place.

"Fine." Not like she doesn't have a point. "I think it's a good fall back plan to have, but if we can think of anything on the Reimu side of things, then we should at least give it a shot. That plan has less chance of getting us killed if we fail."

"Less chance of getting us killed, then we'd have to fall back on the veil anyway," Ringo smirks, folding her arms back behind her head and relaxing.

"Okay." Whatever. "We have a plan then?"

"We have a plan," Ringo confirms. Reisen nods as well, so it looks like we're all on the same page now. "Or at least we know what we're working on. We'll probably still want to meet up tomorrow and hammer out any extra details on what exactly we're doing about the Reimu thing. For now Reisen, you'll just want to go home, relax, and don't look suspicious. Plan on getting that veil and meeting back up with us, for all the planning that that needs."

Reisen looks a lot less enthusiastic about the idea, but aside from the brief spark of happiness when I brought up the veil, she hasn't exactly been the happiest person in the whole time I've known her. "All I have to do is make my flight away from Eientei look convincing. And the dread beforehand too, I suppose."

Ick, yeah, that might take a little bit of acting if the flight is really as horrible as she's implied before. "Is it really that bad?"

"It's..." Reisen trails off, glancing up into the sky. The sun is still setting at this point, but I can tell what she's looking at. It's not out at the moment, but the moon should be pretty bright out tonight when it does appear. "I don't want to do it. Badly enough that I'm working with you guys to avoid it."

Oof. A reminder that Reisen isn't exactly friends with the rest of us. She's working with us for a reason, but she's still going to hold us at arm's length. I kind of have to wonder what's going to happen once this is all said and done. When we've solved everything and Reisen knows that we know where she's located. Even if I don't have much interest in turning information about fugitives in to Command, is Reisen going to be able to trust that? If not, is she planning on doing something about it? If Eirin is willing to kill us...

"And you will!" I'm broken out of my (admittedly rather dark) thoughts by Ringo cheerfully reassuring Reisen that things will be fine. "But other than that, I think we're good here."

"Hm." Reisen nods. "Not what I expected. Thought we were going to have to go out and find that occult ball tonight. Not sure if this is better or worse."

"Better I think, lucky you gets a break,"Ringo laughs. "As for us, we've still got to go back, meet up with the others, talk about all this planning stuff, then figure out what we're going to do with Reimu." "Meetings, meetings, meetings... Looking forward to when all this is over. Definitely wouldn't mind having something to distract me from it for a bit either."

Okay, Ringo. It would be easy to tell what you were implying even if you didn't do that with your eyes. Even though we spent most of the day on distractions that were only vaguely related to the mission already, she'd still rather not sit down and talk strategy some more. I'd say she's getting complacent now that we're close to the end, but I know for a fact that she's always been like this.

Reisen, while she doesn't know Ringo as well, can also take the hint. She did basically just admit that she planned to be away from her home for a while longer. She probably doesn't have much reason to actively avoid tagging along for more meeting stuff, if that's indeed what's going to happen when we get back to...

Actually, I'm not sure where exactly we should go. We're going to want to gather up the rest of the rabbits, but if they aren't at the shrine or in the plant, we're not going to know where to look for them. Probably could have coordinated this better, but I didn't really want to have to face everyone and tell them that I was going on a date with Ringo for the day.

A date that weirdly... I don't know. I feel like it didn't exactly get much of a proper conclusion? Maybe I'm just comparing it to Yamame again but...

[ ] Head back to the Moriya shrine
[ ] Head back to the power plant
[ ] Go somewhere else (Write-in)

[ ] Invite Reisen along
[ ] Don't invite Reisen

Kinda went with a blend approach for reasons that I tried to have Seiran mention in the narration here. If the Reimu part of the plan doesn't pan out for whatever reason or if people really don't want to pursue it, it can still be dropped or whatever.
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[x] Head back to the Moriya shrine
[x] Don't invite Reisen

We should ask the three goddesses if they have any tips on dealing with Reimu.
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[X] Head back to the power plant

I strongly suspect that any advice Kanako and Suwako have for us would be either "don't" or "play to her greed/laziness," both of which we can already guess. More importantly, we really need to get everybody on board with the plan. If somebody runs off half-cocked and triggers Reimu's instincts before we're ready, things might get really bad. But most importantly of all...

[X] Invite Reisen along

We need to fix this relationship, and Reisen's reaction to us tonight has proved that we haven't quite done that yet. If some/all of us end up staying in Gensokyo once everything's been resolved, she'll be one of our main contacts with Gensokyo in general and Eientei in particular, and we'll probably want her help to negotiate some sort of terms with Eirin. And even ignoring that, I think Seiran wants to be her friend, and we can't do that if we let her keep us at arm's length.
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[X] Head back to the power plant
[X] Invite Reisen along
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Doing her best
[X] Head back to the power plant
[X] Invite Reisen along

But that's not something that I should be focusing on right this second. It's not the happiest of thoughts, and I still feel kind of iffy about how things have worked out, but Ringo is still going to be around in a few hours. Reisen has already said that isn't going to be the case for her. If the only reason we're working together right now is because our goals happen to be similar, then I should at least keep the productivity up now that we've got things rolling. There's a part of me that doesn't really like the situation, but I can't do anything about it if Reisen doesn't actually want to be friends at the moment. Aside from try to change her mind over time, I guess.

"I wouldn't really call it a distraction like Ringo wants, but do you think now would be a good time to see the plant then?" I suggest to Reisen. "We could show you where to go later, but it might be less suspicious if you don't meet up with us right before the night of the full moon."

Reisen shoots a glance toward the horizon, in the general direction of the mountain. Given its size, you can pretty much always see it from anywhere in Gensokyo. "I've been in that area, but I guess I don't know where the entrance itself is," she admits. "Okay, we can go over that way for now."

"Great!" Ringo claps her hands together, taking a few steps to close the distance between her and Reisen. I follow along, figuring I'm not going to get a better reason without looking awkward. "Of course, it goes without saying, but this whole thing is pretty hush hush, you know? Teeeechnically speaking, we should get clearance with Kanako before letting people in."

"She already knows we're working with you though," I add. Really don't want to dissuade Reisen from coming along. We need all the chances to build a rapport that we can get. "It's fine. You have plenty of reason to not let anyone, least of all Eirin, know where the entrance is."

"Hm," Reisen gives a lukewarm noise of agreement before bending down and slipping her oversized backpack on again. She shuffles her shoulders back and forth for a couple of seconds, adjusting the weight or something, then puts her hat back on and steps to the side. "Shall we?"

"Uh, wrong way." Ringo points a thumb toward the mountain. "And you don't gotta walk. I'm the one in the dress, and I'm saying we're fine to fly."

Reisen turns her head toward Ringo, her eyes narrowed. "It's not going to look good if somebody sees the local medicine seller flying through the sky," she answers. Oh. Right. She has a cover story to maintain here. "We'll fly eventually, but we need to walk first."

"Uhh... Oh." For once, it seems like Ringo fails to think of something funny or smart to say that makes her mistake look less bad. Doesn't help that Reisen is already walking away. I give Ringo what I hope is an encouraging pat on the shoulder, then start following.


Reisen's forced caution about our travel path doesn't really do any favors to our speed, but I think it's still the right move. If anything, the extra walk around what could barely even be called the village outskirts does give Reisen a bit of time to talk about her job. Takes a little bit of prompting to get her to start, but it's easy to phrase as honest questions about why we're walking and not flying.

"Fewer people question the medicine seller thing than you would think, and I want to keep it that way. People know about Eientei in general, so it's not hard for them to believe that some humans live there and can bring medicine back and forth for a price. It saves them the trouble, so they'd rather not question a good thing," Reisen explains. She doesn't sound all that happy about it, but I can't really tell if it's the subject of the conversation or if she's just not in a mood to talk about herself. "Humans in the village sometimes have a tendency to settle for the most obvious, mundane answer to any questions that come up."

"Because that's what they want to believe rather than a youkai hawking them moon medicine," Ringo concludes for her.

"Probably," Reisen agrees, taking a tall step over an exposed tree root. We're walking around the village, and intentionally avoiding being easy to see. It puts us pretty far off of the beaten path, which is just another thing slowing us down. "Giving them another idea would hurt sales for more than one reason. I don't want to make any waves, so I typically don't start flying until I've gotten decently far away from the village."

"We're already pretty far away from it," Ringo points out.

"But we'd have to go over it if we flew up from here," I counter. This really isn't the time to question what Reisen wants to do. We don't want to chase her off. "I think Reisen knows what she's doing."

"Fine, fine," Ringo waves me off, but keeps talking to Reisen anyway. "And I suppose you checked that you weren't being followed before you left the village?"


"... I was joking."

"But it's come up before, so I still make it a point to check," Reisen doesn't even look back at Ringo as she responds. "Especially today, when I knew I was going to meet up with people like you."

"Oh. Um, so..." I really want Ringo to stop talking, but I can't think of anything to say in her place. Um, something happier or more pleasant or I don't know. I just don't want her to be stuck on negativity. "Thanks for doing that I guess? We didn't really um- we're still kind of figuring out what we can and can't do around the village so-"

"So you got Reimu on you."

"Um... Yeah." This does not appear to be working the way that I want it to. "Well, it did help us find out where the occult ball is, so while I'm not happy about it, there is a bit of a positive to it I guess."

Another uncomfortable pause. It's difficult to read Reisen's reactions when we're following after her. Makes me worry possibly more than is warranted. Or maybe less. "I guess," she finally agrees half-heartedly before going silent again.


It's a bit of a relief when we finally get far enough away from the village that Reisen deems it safe to start flying. Conversation isn't going all that well for multiple reasons. Reisen isn't be hostile exactly, but she is notably reserved. Combine that with me not being sure what to talk about and generally wanting Ringo to not push her buttons on accident, and we don't actually accomplish much before we lift off.

Unfortunately once we get back to the plant, it doesn't end up getting any smoother, and it's not even really our fault.

Well, no. It kind of is our fault. It's a discipline issue. One that we're well aware of and haven't fixed. Whether I feel like pinning that on Ringo directly or on myself for letting Ringo get away with not taking care of it, either way you could call it our fault. Really depends on how far up or down the chain of blame you want to move, and I'm willing to stop some of the responsibility on my own part.

At our meeting last night, we had requested that Sumi be available and stick around us rather than wandering off on her own and doing whatever she wants. It's impossible to tell how much she intended to follow that instruction, because Ringo and I left earlier today, before she was even awake. That was intentional for various date related reasons, but it does mean that there was apparently nobody keeping Sumi to her word after that. I suppose it's possible that the other rabbits actually are watching her, but that doesn't actually help us if none of them are even here.

Okay, okay. Calm down and think. Just because they could be anywhere in Gensokyo doesn't mean that they would go there in the first place. There's a pretty small list of places that most of them would actually have reason to go. We just need to run through that quickly enough that we can gather everybody up and have another meeting before Reisen needs to leave to get back to Eientei. That only sounds annoyingly difficult, not impossible.

Speaking of Reisen, she's still being generally quiet, mostly taking in the surroundings. She didn't seem that surprised when we started leading her down the big hole in the ground, and only really seemed to react when we let her in through the hole in the wall that connects to the stairwell down. Now we're in the main intersection that we always pass through when entering or leaving. Much like I did the first time I was here, I can see Reisen reading the various signs with some interest. She probably has a bit of a better idea about what this whole facility is for than I did, but that doesn't mean she's seen it for herself.

"Alright, up to the dorms, grab a radio, go from there?" Ringo suggests, her head poking into my vision as she reaches up to lean on my shoulder. "Kinda had a feeling they wouldn't be sitting on their thumbs."

Oh, radios. I had kind of forgotten that option. If any of the others remembered to grab one, that might make things a lot easier. There will still be some flying around, but it will mean a lot less searching at any likely location. "Sounds good to me," I respond. Ringo takes the lead, and Reisen follows along with me without needing to be prompted, still looking around curiously.

Reaching the common area outside the dorms, we run into somebody. Not one of the other rabbits, but still somebody worth talking to.

"Hey, Ruukoto!" Ringo calls out before I can, quickly walking toward the glowing radiation symbol on the robot maid's back. Yeah, Reisen is definitely confused now.

Ruukoto perks up from whatever she's currently cleaning in the kitchen area, looking toward the source of Ringo's voice. Instead of focusing on Ringo specifically though, she looks right past her at-

"Ah! Individual not registered! Unauthorized access detected in the dormitories!" Oh, this again. Despite having just been cleaning it, Ruukoto vaults over a counter top and goes running toward us. Probably more likely that she's running for an alarm, but it's still a little bit surprising to have her bearing down on us for the few moments before Ringo stops her.

"Hold on, hold on," Ringo catches Ruukoto by the shoulders, keeping her from going down the stairs, though not keeping her from continuing to try. "She's with us. It's okay."

At that, Ruukoto seems to recognize the fact that Ringo is there, at least enough to stop trying to run. I see Ringo's arms tense in resistance as Ruukoto attempts to bow into them. "Good evening Ringo?" Same inflection, once again. "How do you do? I am presently on my way to locate the alarm, if you would be so kind as to release me, I would be happy to assist you with whatever you need afterward."


It takes a bit of time after that to calm Ruukoto down, make sure that Reisen is registered as authorized (I don't think we should have privileges to do that?), and question her. We do so, but it doesn't get us much in the way of results. The last time Ruukoto saw the other rabbits, all three of them were together, but that was when they were leaving the cafeteria together. They're hopefully all in one group still, but as for where that group went...

"Got a radio," Ringo calls out as she returns from the dorms. "No answer at the moment, but we're not in the best place to be sending out radio waves anyway. Think I'll go up and try it some topside. Grab everybody back up and lead them back here."

"Oh, sure," I close the mostly empty refrigerator. I had been thinking I should be a good host for Reisen, but it's kind of hard to do that when I don't even know what we have available here, much less what I'm actually allowed to give away. I suppose I might be able to leave it to Ruukoto, but... I don't know how good an idea that is. I'm sure she's doing her best, but her actual effectiveness is rather questionable. "I guess we can head back out and-"

"Naahhh, I've got this," Ringo assures me, not even breaking her stride as she moves across the common area and toward the stairs. "I'll be back in a few minutes. You and Reisen can just relax for now. Take it easy, talk about whatever. Maybe you can give her a tour or something?"

I glance over at Reisen. She's seated at the table that people would normally eat at, but still mostly taking in the room quietly. The encounter with Ruukoto put her off enough that she doesn't seem to be in bad mood or anything, just generally unsure of what all is going on down here. I guess it's an improvement, but... Well, I guess if our other options are to leave Reisen here or force her through more random flying around Gensokyo, keeping her company would probably be the best thing for her mood. "Err, I guess so. Hurry back?"

"Of course." Ringo gives me a smile and a wave as she starts descending the stairs.

Leaving me alone with Reisen.

... Okay, not technically alone. Ruukoto is here too. She's entirely focused on her work though. Not sure if that makes things more or less awkward now that I suddenly have to figure out something to talk about or do with Reisen while we wait for Ringo to come back with the other rabbits.

[ ] Just sit around and talk for a while
- [ ] Talk about our plans. See if she has anything else she wants to comment on.
- [ ] Talk about her life on Earth. I don't really know much about how she's been living since leaving the Moon.
- [ ] Talk about the other rabbits. She doesn't know much about them, does she?
- [ ] Talk about all the other stuff that's been going on. Is Gensokyo always this busy? We can compare notes or something.
- [ ] Talk about something else (Write-in)
[ ] Ringo suggested a tour. Maybe that's not a terrible idea.
[ ] Reisen probably hasn't eaten dinner yet.
- [ ] There's a kitchen right here. I can be a good host.
- [ ] There's a cafeteria downstairs. We can just grab something.
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Well it's off to a bit of a rough start, but I guess that just means we really do need to put the effort in here!

[X] Reisen probably hasn't eaten dinner yet.
- [X] There's a kitchen right here. I can be a good host.

Can't hurt to be polite, plus if she likes the food that's another point in our favor. And while we're cooking/eating...

[X] Talk for a while
- [X] Talk about her life on Earth. I don't really know much about how she's been living since leaving the Moon.
- [X] Talk about the other rabbits. She doesn't know much about them, does she?

Hopefully this will be a nice balance of talking about both her and us without making it seem like an interrogation. We're already going to be talking business again once the others show up, so we should take the opportunity to have a slightly more personal conversation in some degree of privacy (nuclear-powered robot maid notwithstanding.) I'm also tempted to throw in something like "Tell her we missed her and felt sad when she left," but I'm not sure that this is the right time for that or if it would even be helpful to say. Thoughts?
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[X] Reisen probably hasn't eaten dinner yet.
- [X] There's a kitchen right here. I can be a good host.
[X] Talk for a while
- [X] Talk about her life on Earth. I don't really know much about how she's been living since leaving the Moon.
- [X] Talk about the other rabbits. She doesn't know much about them, does she?

I have no objections to this reasoning.
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[x] Reisen probably hasn't eaten dinner yet.
- [x] There's a kitchen right here. I can be a good host.
[x] Talk for a while.
- [x] Talk about her life on Earth. I don't really know much about how she's been living since leaving the Moon.
- [x] Talk about the other rabbits. She doesn't know much about them, does she?

I can get behind this.
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[X] Reisen probably hasn't eaten dinner yet.
- [X] There's a kitchen right here. I can be a good host.
[X] Talk for a while
- [X] Talk about her life on Earth. I don't really know much about how she's been living since leaving the Moon.
- [X] Talk about the other rabbits. She doesn't know much about them, does she?
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It tastes okay
[X] Reisen probably hasn't eaten dinner yet.
- [X] There's a kitchen right here. I can be a good host.
[X] Talk for a while
- [X] Talk about her life on Earth. I don't really know much about how she's been living since leaving the Moon.
- [X] Talk about the other rabbits. She doesn't know much about them, does she?

"Well, it looks like we're stuck waiting here for the time being. Might as well make the best of it!" I say with more optimism than I'm really feeling. I was kind of expecting to have more support in entertaining Reisen, or at least something to keep the conversation going. Leading situations like this isn't exactly my strong suit. "You um, you haven't had dinner yet, right?"

"Uh, no, but..." Reisen goes quiet, glancing apprehensively at either me, Ruukoto, or the kitchen in general. We're all in the same place, so it's hard to tell exactly. Hopefully it isn't me.

Well, worry aside, I would like to try to be a good host, or at least have something to do so I can keep busy aside from making awkward conversation. I already looked through the refrigerator, so I move on to the various cupboards, just to try and see if I have anything to work with. "I think there should be some stuff around here. Um..." Man, it would really help if things were labelled. I can't tell what is free to use and what isn't. The leftovers that I found in the fridge were probably spoken for, but aside from that... Well, the only thing I know for sure is that medicine stuff that I took a few days ago, and I'm definitely not serving that to anybody with taste buds. Oh, here we go. "Tea?" I offer, poking my head up from the lower cupboard I had been looking through. Found the kettle at least.

"That's fine, I guess."

"Great, just give me a bit then!"

I start some water boiling while still trying to think through what I should do here. I guess I'm just going to have to make some educated guesses. Rice shouldn't be something that people mind if a little goes missing, that's probably a given. As for anything else, I guess maybe as long as I don't use too much of it... Okay. It's not going to be anything fancy, but my options are limited. Not like I'm the best cook there is anyway. Fried rice it is then. Hopefully that will be enough.

As I busy myself pulling out everything that I'm going to need, I'm actually surprised that it's Reisen who resumes the conversation. "This is a lot more than I expected," she comments. I have to look over to see what she's looking at, but it seems to be just the common area in general. "I guess I just never really thought about how full of a facility you would need to build to house a power plant."

She's saying that, but she hasn't even seen the whole place yet. I wonder what she'd have to say after the tour. "Yeah, I was in the same boat. Really surprising to see how far along Earth is with technology and stuff," I answer back truthfully. "But then, Earth has been surprising me ever since we came down here with all the people and the activity and everything. I'm sure it was the same with you, right?"

"Erm," Reisen's uncomfortable response confuses me for a moment before I realize who she might be looking at. Not me, the maid.

"Oh, you don't have to worry about Ruukoto," I assure her quickly. While she is a bit of a strange sight, Ruukoto has clearly not been paying attention to the conversation at all. She's been dutifully cleaning another section of the kitchen without looking up at all. I've just been working around her. "She's a robot, and a very single minded one. She isn't going to be listening in on us or anything while she's doing stuff."

"A robot," Reisen repeats, I think more to herself than to me. She thinks it over for a little bit, but eventually seems to give up pursuing the conversation further. I wonder if she was more concerned about my cover being blown or hers. "Well anyway, I guess it was the same with me, but that was a long time ago. I've had years to get used to things, but Gensokyo has a way of continuing to surprise regardless."

"Oh." Well that's less reassuring than I had hoped. How many years has Reisen been down here again? Decades, right? I knew she would be in a better spot than I was as far as stability, but I had kind of expected it to be way better than me. Seems like that isn't the case. "I um, thought it was just me being bad at adjusting."

I watch Reisen shake her head before I go back to meal prep work. The water should be up to a boil soon I think. "There's too much going on to fall into something that you can count on being normal. You end up having to just roll with whatever new thing some youkai makes happen. That adaptability is probably the most important, and definitely most difficult thing. At least, it was for me, but then I somehow seem to be one of the least eccentric people I know down here."

Huh, I guess that's probably true. For all the obvious stress that Reisen is under, she does seem to be relatively stable, depending on who you're contrasting her with. "Compared to the humans?"

"I wouldn't say I know that many humans, at least not outside of a job setting." Hm, so she doesn't actually talk with her clients either then? All the more reason she should try to meet more people. Be it with the grassroots youkai network or whatever else. "I was more talking about the others at Eientei."

"Well... I mean, I've only met Tewi and Eirin so far. I'm not going to say that you're wrong though." Tewi seemed pretty blasé about most things, and Eirin tried to attack us. Much weirder first impressions than what I already knew about Reisen.

"Tewi messing with me for fun, Master getting caught up in some kind of experiment or another and forcing me to take part, the princess and her random whims whenever she gets bored..." Reisen lets out a sigh loud enough that I can hear it from over here. "And that's without mentioning all the other youkai that get it in their heads to cause trouble. Add all of that stuff together, and I just can't do much aside from try to keep up with my own business."

"Is that a part of why you seem tired a lot of the time?" I guess. Reisen has definitely given me the impression of somebody who is struggling to keep from drowning under all the crap going on around her, even if I don't know what all of that crap is. "I don't actually know all that much about how you've been living down here." Okay, I think I've got everything together here. Should be able to get started on cooking now.

"It's... I'm okay. Life isn't perfect here, but I don't have that many complaints either. At least not ones that are worth making a big deal over." But there are complaints anyway, aren't there? I definitely heard the sigh, among other things. I wouldn't mind hearing her out. "Most of the time I get up early, do a little bit of work around Eientei, then head out to the village for the day. I sell medicine in the morning, deliver orders in the afternoon, then head back to Eientei to cook and do other housework for the evening. It's a job. I get paid enough to keep a roof over my head. It's something."

"It's relatable," I agree with her as I set down a frying pan with an audible clang. "I'm mostly in the lunarian military for the same kind of reason. It's a job that I kind of ended up falling into. Have to do something, right? We just end up going with what works and what feels natural. I think most of us rabbits are like that."

"Most," Reisen repeats what I said to herself again. "I don't know if I would even give myself that much credit back on the Moon, but... It was a long time ago."

"Well maybe it didn't fit you all that well then?" I suggest. Err, well obviously it didn't fit her if she actually felt the need to desert. Probably wasn't the best way to say that. "What I mean is, I never really thought of myself as particularly violent, and neither are a lot of the other rabbits I know. We just fell into it because it works. You just happened to get lucky enough to fall out of that and into something that suits you even better." There, I think that's a bit more positive.

... Erm, hello?

I hazard another glance at Reisen as I shuffle around the kitchen. The tea kettle starting to squeal gives me a good enough reason to do that naturally. Hm, it looks like she's lost in thought. Thankfully, not obviously upset like I was expecting, but not responding either. Maybe I should keep going? Err, after the tea is done, I think. Yeah. I'll do that.

Once the tea is prepared, I carry some out to Reisen on a small tray. Her small thanks in response seems genuine enough. I don't think I've screwed this up very badly.

... Okay, here we go.

"Anyway, I never really noticed you doing anything bad back on the Moon. I really doubt you were worse off than Ringo or Sumi still are now," I continue on, trying to keep the conversation light. Reisen seemed to get a lot quieter once the topic was revolving around her too much. I should probably switch focus on to something much easier for me to talk about while I'm cooking. "Heck, aside from Chiyo, our whole unit is full of weird disciplinary issues."

Reisen makes a 'hmm' noise of acknowledgement while she waits for her tea to cool off a little bit. I take that as a cue to head back to the kitchen and get started.

"Let me think..." I split my focus between cooking and talking, kind of favoring the former with my attention more than the latter. "Ringo hasn't told me a whole lot about it, but I know she used to work as part of a racket that smuggled and dealt contraband stuff to other soldiers. I think they did blackmail and probably some other stuff too. It's shady, so I'm glad she eventually decided to quit and take things more seriously. She actually worked so hard that she managed to get a promotion and lead our unit. I'm still not sure how she managed to pull that off either, but I wasn't around at the time to see it. I guess she got lucky, since as far as I know, she never got in trouble for it."

"I heard a little bit about that group," Reisen comments. "Just a little bit on the comms though. I wasn't involved."

"See? You never got in trouble either." I'm not really sure what point I'm trying to make here, so I just move on instead. "But that was just Ringo's thing. Yuzuki tried to keep it secret that her ESP power was compelling her to clean places and things she had no business being around. Volunteering for extra cleaning duty looks like perfectly innocent sucking up until things start getting misplaced. Even if she got that misunderstanding cleared up eventually, she's still not very well trusted. She still can't keep herself from cleaning things up now and then, but it's really not bad once you get used to her."

"Didn't hear about that one," Reisen comments quietly.

"Yeah. Still left her a lot better than Sumi. She was something like a day away from being kicked out for insubordination, and probably would have been if Ringo didn't knock some sense into her, pretty much literally." And even then, it took a while before she warmed up to the rest of us. "She wouldn't listen to people who tried to just yell at her. I'm pretty sure that if she had another place to go, she would have left the capital immediately."

Reisen doesn't comment on that, and I'm quickly reminded that there was, in fact, another place to go. I wonder if Sumi just didn't think she could get away with the same kind of stunt that Reisen managed or if it didn't occur to her or what else. I've never asked.

"And since I've mentioned everyone else..." I continue on while I keep working, since it still seems to be on me to keep the conversation going. "Well like I said, Chiyo is kind of the exception. All she ever had was an unfortunate time perception ability that means she's got problems making appointments. Really, she's probably the best of us if it weren't for that." There really isn't that much to tell, I don't think. Chiyo does have her own issues, but one of those issues happens to be Reisen herself. I don't want to take away things for those two to talk about if and when Chiyo tries working that out.

Reisen sips at her tea quietly, thinking things over for a moment. "And you?"

"I..." Ugh, I guess I probably should have seen this coming. If I'm going to list off everyone else and give an abbreviated version of their rep sheets, of course it's going to eventually fall back on me too. "I've been having some power related problems since the day that those showed up. It took a lot of time to get them into a workable state. It caused a lot of problems for a lot of people until they managed to figure out a temporary solution. Actually, coming down here is the only reason that I got a real, permanent solution. It's um, pretty crazy actually."

There's a pause. The rice is coming along pretty well. Shouldn't be too much longer. "So what are you going to do now?"

"Huh?" The question catches me off guard enough that I stop what I'm doing with the rice in front of me entirely, looking back up at Reisen and giving her my full attention again.

There's an awkward look on Reisen's face. Maybe something like reluctance to ask the question or not knowing how to phrase it correctly. I can relate to that. "If you just fixed your issues, what are you going to do now that you're better off?"

"I uh..." I kinda keep avoiding this question whenever it comes up in my head, but having somebody ask it so directly is a little bit difficult. "I just want to get through this mission for now." Even if I'm being honest, it's still deflecting. "Get back into the Dream World and save the capital."

"And then?"

And then? Yeah, I guess she saw through me avoiding the subject. No real surprise, considering that what we do next has obvious implications for her as well. It's probably been hanging over this meeting the whole time. We're close. We're really close to actually pulling this off. Once we get into the Dream World, assuming everything goes well, what happens next? Do we go right back to doing our jobs? Are we suddenly heroes or something? Celebrities? Do we get to do whatever we want? Honestly, I have no idea how Command is going to react. I have no idea what they're going to ask us to do. I have no idea what they're going to want us to tell them. It just... It overwhelms me every time I try to think about things going back to normal, and how much would have to happen for that to occur.

It would be too much, wouldn't it? For everything to just go back, I mean. I wouldn't even really want that if it could happen in the first place, and I don't know if that's what Reisen wants to hear either.

[ ] Honestly, I don't know how to answer that. I think it's too soon to tell when we don't even know the situation yet.
[ ] I need to talk it over with my friends still. The most important thing is that we all follow through on the same plan, whatever that plan may be.
[ ] After we save the capital? I think they'll owe us at that point. I at least don't want to end up a common soldier after this.
[ ] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.
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I forgot to hit the update check box on that last post whoops.
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> She isn't going to be listening in on us or anything while she's doing stuff.

...dammit, now I'm paranoid.

Okay. Expecting anything from the Capital seems out of character for all involved. A non-answer is, well, a non-answer. Talking it over is the most in-character... but it's still putting 'the plan' ahead of what Seiran actually wants.

[x] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.

So this seems like the best answer for two uptight bunnies that really need to learn how to take it easy.
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[x] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.
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[X] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.

Once Seiran gets the job done she's going to take at least a month straight to relax, and by God she deserves it!
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[X] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.

I suppose if we're lucky, once this is all over, we can stay down here as like field reporters or something. Shuttle newspapers around, things like that.
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[X] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.

You doing all right NRFB? Its pretty rare for you to be gone this long.
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[ ] I need to talk it over with my friends still. The most important thing is that we all follow through on the same plan, whatever that plan may be.

I don't trust Reisen that much, to be honest. She's been acting suspiciously. We don't have a choice now though.

Also, the pace has decreased lately ornis just the lack of updates?
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[X] I need to talk it over with my friends still. The most important thing is that we all follow through on the same plan, whatever that plan may be.

But for our 'vote' while talking it over...
[X] I definitely want a break. I'd like to be able to just relax for a while. Get away from incidents and everything else.
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Soon. Just gotta remember what the fuck I was doing with this story.
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You're alive! I was legit worried for a while there. You oughta warn somebody before you drop off the face of the internet like that.

Glad to have you back.
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We are at the endgame writefag, just a bit longer!
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Back again
There's so many ways that things could play out. Even assuming that we succeed, which is a pretty big assumption in itself. How am I supposed to know how everything is going to end up? What if I'm promoted... Okay, too optimistic. What if they see it fit to expand my duties suddenly? What if it's something that I want to do? I'm not really sure what that would be, but...

"Actually, I think what I'll want to do more than anything else is take a break," I admit. Selfish and vague. Not even really a concrete answer, but it's just me being honest. "Getting away from incidents and all the other important stuff that we're suddenly stuck with. It ties in with my power related problems too, kinda. I don't know if not having to worry about that opens up that many more doors for what I can do by myself, but..." My thoughts wander slightly and sleeping next to Ringo comes to mind again. Erm, not that that's the only thing I can do now that I couldn't do before. I don't think so anyway.

"A break doesn't seem like it's asking for too much considering everything we're going to have to do," Reisen picks up where I left off. "Who knows if you'd be allowed to have one though. Or where you'd go."

Yeah, I guess that is a concern. I've never really asked for vacation. Don't think I've known anybody else who has either. That's just kind of how society is back on the Moon. Lunarians run everything, and we do our jobs and help out when we can. Is that fair? I mean, granted, it is the Lunarians that came up with all the technology and stuff that let us live the way we do. I'm not trying to inflate our importance or anything. It's just a little hard to do the math on fairness like this I suppose.

But it's not like I would be trying to change society wholesale or anything crazy like that. I was just talking about wanting a break!

"I'd like to think even just the things we've already done would be enough." I don't know, but it's me being hopeful.

Reisen seems rather interested in her teacup for a little while, thinking rather than responding. "I'm... I think it's going to get worse, rather than better." Okay, I guess I can be optimistic if Reisen is going to cover pessimism so thoroughly. "The Dream World... It wasn't easy for me when I was trying to go through there before."

I wait patiently for Reisen to elaborate. A light pop from the still cooking rice finally breaks the silence enough that I realize she isn't going to. Man... Maybe I'm being too nice. I don't really want to ask Reisen to stop being sworn to secrecy, or whatever else it is she said.

Ugh, that's just a tiny bit frustrating though. We have next to no plan for what's going to happen once we head through the portal. Assuming we can get it pointed in the right direction by getting the occult ball from Reimu, we're still just assuming that things will work out after that point. The Dream World is still just this weird, nebulous place that we've all seen before, but nobody has any understanding of.

You know there's something wrong wen it's me that has the most reason to understand something. I didn't even know it, but apparently I've been linked with the Dream World for decades, and still, aside from talking to a baku last night, I'm not better off than anyone else.

Huh, actually that reminds me about the last thing that baku was saying. That connection, and by extension my powers, didn't happen by accident. If it wasn't me that set them up, then it only makes sense that...

The rice pops again. Erm, right. I'm letting my thoughts wander a little too much. This stuff should be just about done. Honestly, I haven't eaten either. It definitely smells good enough that I wouldn't mind having some for myself. Might be a little bit nicer if they had better vegetables available down here though.

I turn off the heat and start getting things together to serve the rice up. Reisen appears to have accepted the bit of silence that both of us have fallen into. I'm not sure how much I like that, but I don't want to call her out on anything either. It's difficult. We can talk, but it would still be a stretch to call us friends. I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong or treating Reisen unfairly, but... Maybe this is just what happens when you desert the Moon for so long.

... I just hope that it doesn't happen to Ringo, Sumi, or Chiyo.


"We're back, and just in time! Hold your applause please!" Sumi has her arms raised dramatically as she's the first one that comes up the stairs into the common room. The rest of the rabbits follow behind her with notably less flair. I'm surprised at how little time that took. I was expecting to have to strain conversation between bites of fried rice for much much longer. Pretty happy to be wrong though.

"Everybody was all grouped up," Ringo explains to me before I even need to ask. "Didn't take all that long to gather them once I got enough signal to call them."

"Kanako was running us ragged. Couldn't have split up if we wanted to," Sumi continues on, grabbing a seat next to me and plopping herself down hard. "You and Ringo are lucky you fucked off before anyone managed to grab you." Her eyes catch sight of the fact that me and Reisen are eating. "Any of that for me?" Oh, right. I guess the others might not have eaten either.

"If Seiran had to divide it among all six of us, there wouldn't be much to go around," Yuzuki thankfully answers for me. I hadn't really planned on taking enough food to feed everyone. That might have been a little much. I'm already basically stealing this stuff. "We can eat later." Yuzuki also grabs a seat, nodding to our guest calmly. "Hello Reisen."

"Unfaaaaair~" Sumi doesn't actually sound annoyed, but of course she has to act like she is anyway. "But what was I saying? Something about being lucky. Ah!" She leans toward Ringo as the latter sits down as well, looking smug. "Guessin' you didn't get lucky, huh? Huh?"

"Alright, alright. There's plenty of time for chatter after the meeting," Ringo doesn't answer whatever Sumi was trying to imply. "You don't mind, Reisen?"

"Erm..." Reisen is still in the middle of eating. I am too. Sadly, we were making more progress on the food than on continuing our conversation. Maybe it might have been better if Ringo had taken more time. "Go ahead."

"Great," Ringo declares, slapping an open palm on the table as if it needed to be quited down. I see Chiyo slink into a seat at about the same time. A seat that is purposely far away from Reisen, I notice... Well, regardless, everyone's here.

"So, normally I'd tell Seiran to go first, but since we were together all day, that would mean me going first too," Ringo begins. What, that's what it takes to not have to go first? Doesn't really seem fair. "I think what we've got to say is going to make up the bulk of the discussion, so we'll start with you guys instead. Sumi, you seem like you won't shut up. Put it to good use."

"Hah," Sumi laughs humorlessly before following the instruction. "Well just like you two were together, me, Chi, and Yuzuki were pretty much stuck together all day too. Not quite as fun as what you two were doing, I'm hoping, but eh. Kanako put us to work on a lot of miscellaneous stuff. Correcting most of the 'cleaning' that Yuzuki did yesterday, moving things between the shrine and the lake, moving documents from the shrine to the plant, blah blah blah. It was boring, and there ain't much of it that I would say was important enough to mention."

"Most of the documents were invoices between her and the kappa. They were quite old. Many of them were for parts and equipment to build this plant in the first place. There were even a few drafts of blueprints and the like," Yuzuki offers helpfully. I'm not sure if Kanako would be happy to know that she had been looking at those documents, but then it's not like Yuzuki could help but do that. Powers and all that. "I'm rather surprised that they hadn't been moved out before, but then I haven't seen where the paperwork is kept down here either."

"I figured Kanako just wanted to keep us busy, and didn't mind using the muscle she has around now," Sumi offers an explanation. I'm not sure how much I buy that. Surely it wouldn't have been hard for her to enlist people to help before this, right? "Still, would've been waaaaay easier if you were here, Ringo. A lot more muscle than the rest of us."

"And a better conversationalist than at least one of you," Ringo agrees.

"Don't talk shit about Chi." There is not a single person here that believes she was talking about Chiyo, Sumi.

"Anyway, Kanako did say she'd want us around to do stuff for tasks," Ringo keeps things moving, as much as Sumi seems prone to random asides. "Just think of this like us earning our keep... And our allowance, come to think of it. Could be worse."

"Just as long as what we're doing actually matters. Seems like it's busy work." And Sumi hates anything that she has decided is busy work. We all know that.

"Cleaning things up around the shrine is hardly busy work," Yuzuki counters primly. "Perhaps Kanako is expecting more activity soon? It could be important to make things presentable."

"I thought it was presentable already," I point out. Maybe not to whatever Yuzuki's standards are, but Sanae wasn't exactly slacking... Aside from that morning when she was, but that was only because I asked her to. "But anyway, it doesn't seem exactly mission critical."

"And you've got something that is, I'm guessing. Not sure why else Reisen'd be here." That's a little rude, isn't it? It's not like she's bad company or anything. Sumi is correct that that's what Reisen is here for though, so I can't really say anything to prove her wrong.

What I can say, with Ringo leading the discussion and Reisen offering a couple of smaller details here and there, is an explanation of what we've figured out today. The occult orb is out there, and seems to fit the bill for what we need to get a hold of perfectly. The only problem is that Reimu almost certainly has possession of it now. If we want to get it, and with it the best chance of taking the portal directly to the capital, we have to somehow fight and beat Reimu.

I also make it a point to explain the backup plans that we figured out as well, though it seems that Ringo is a bit less enthused about those. If the Reimu thing doesn't work out, which to be honest sounds kind of likely, we can still use Reisen's lunar veil. It won't be optimal due to time constraints, but it should work. Hopefully before Eirin realizes anything is happening too. Hopefully.

"Hmmm, guessing we can't just sneak up on her while she's sleeping and clock her?" Sumi asks. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that she's not going to default to the easy plan. If anything, she might think backing down from this challenge as cowardly.

"Um, Marisa mentioned honest combat, though I don't know exactly what that entails," I recall. Maybe Reisen has a better idea?

"I think she'd at least need to be capable of fighting back," Reisen sounds less sure than I would like, but at least more solid than I am on the rules. "Explains why there was more fighting in the forest this summer at least. And a lot more fires."

"I'm working it out in my head. Takes some guesses, but if it works..." I can hear the sound of Sumi lightly kicking one of the table's legs as she thinks. It comes to a sudden stop as she turns her head to our guest. "Reisen. Shrine girl keeps up to date on youkai events and stuff on the regular, yeah?"

"As much as she can? I don't know, sometimes she's scarily on top of things, sometimes she misses them completely until they get really bad." People make a big deal of Reimu, but it sounds like she might not always be in the right place at the right time.

Sumi smirks, folding her arms over her chest triumphantly. "So an event that's been in planning for a long time, and definitely happened around this time last year, involving a large gathering of youkai..."

"Concert," Ringo breaks in with the obvious conclusion Sumi was leading us to. "We already said you can go to that, you don't have to convince us more or anything."

"Makes sense though, right?" Sumi insists. "We can make an assumption that Reimu'll be there, or at least near enough to make sure a riot doesn't break out."

"Is that likely to happen?" Sumi shrugs at Yuzuki's question, barely acknowledging it.

"The concert is guaranteed to eventually switch into a party," she continues on with barely a pause. Seems like she's on a roll now, although I guess that last point is kind of a given, considering what we know about Gensokyo culture so far. "Say that that happens, and our shrine maiden friend gets involved? Probably ends up having a bit to drink. Might be a little worse off in the event of some youkai picking a fight? See where I'm going with this?"

"I can see it, but there's definitely a few jumps in logic to make that work out," Ringo agrees thoughtfully. "Sounds too easy, and it falls through completely if Reimu doesn't start drinking at the after party."

Once again, I see Sumi look purposefully at Reisen. "Maybe if somebody who happens to know her convinces her to indulge? Could even wait until after the concert. Might be easier if she's celebrating that nothing went wrong. Takes some playing it by ear, but we've got a hell of a lot of ear." That doesn't really make us any better or worse at improvising, Sumi.

Realizing what Sumi is suggesting of her, Reisen looks moderately uncomfortable with the idea. "I... I've talked to Reimu before, but getting her to drink... I mean, I've heard she doesn't need that much of an excuse, but it still looks a little suspicious. We're not really friends." It doesn't seem like Reisen is friends with anybody. That's kind of a really mean thing to think though, and I'm already feeling a little bad about it.

"Could try to Marisa or Sanae instead," Ringo offers. "They're friends with Reimu, and they both know what's going on more or less."

"Sanae doesn't drink," Chiyo points out. I was actually going to say that, but I'm glad that Chiyo is joining the conversation at least a little bit.

I've got another point to bring up though. "I'm also not sure if I want to get Marisa any more involved in this than we already have," I add. While she did a fantastic job of helping me out, it wasn't exactly for free. Even discounting the issues I have with her personality, I don't know if we could haggle even more assistance. "I'm not even sure if she would be willing to take our side in beating Reimu up and stealing from her."

"Stealing is such an ugly word," Sumi smirks.

"But entirely correct," Yuzuki adds. "I'm not going to say that we shouldn't attempt this, if we're really going to try to get the occult ball from Reimu. In the event that we're trying to plan it around this concert though, we will have a fairly limited time to prepare. The concert is tomorrow night. We might have better results if we have more than twenty-four hours to prepare and practice whatever kind of danmaku we're going to use."

"Which would be offset by Reimu being sober," Sumi counters.

Ringo snickers. "Now who's making assumptions?"

"In any case," Yuzuki continues, loudly enough to quiet down her detractors. "This plan needs time for us to coordinate things. We'd need to talk to Marisa or Sanae to get them on board. If we're bringing Reisen along as well, then we'll also need to do something about getting her a ticket. We only have five."

"Sure you couldn't just stay behind?" Sumi asks, a little too hopefully for what I'm hoping is a joke.

"I had thought you would balk at the suggestion," Yuzuki answers back coolly. "I've had quite enough of that for today."

Urgh, right, those two have been working together all day. Adding all the stress of our overall situation to having to do manual labor when the two of them already don't see eye to eye... It might be better to cut in here and wrap this meeting up before they end up arguing again.

So what are the options here? Sumi's plan is to use the upcoming Choujuu Gigaku concert as a distraction and reason to get Reimu drunk, then fight her while she's not at her best. If we bring in somebody else, they might make things go smoother by providing social pressure for Reimu to drink, but either way there's no guarantee. If it works out, it might be our best shot at beating her, but...

Well, doing nothing, or waiting for a better opportunity are also options.

[ ] Go along with Sumi's idea.
- [ ] Talk to Sanae and try to get her on board. She doesn't have to drink, she just has to get Reimu to do so.
- [ ] Talk to Marisa and try to get her on board. She must know that we're going to try something, right?
- [ ] It might be a bit of a stretch, but Reisen might be able to make this happen.
- [ ] Maybe there's someone that we haven't thought of yet? (Write-in)
[ ] The concert is too soon. Let's prep for a better opportunity.
[ ] Let's just drop this altogether... We're never going to beat Reimu.

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Its Alive! Hooray!

I came up with this plan and I still stand by it. We know Reimu is hard up on cash, so a bribe of solid silver should be pretty enticing. As for the flashbang/tranquilizer combo, Reisen just confirmed that anything is fine as long as "she is at least capable of fighting back." Reimu should still be able to shoot while blinded, and can fight off the sleepiness for a while, so the combo should be fair game.

Trying to take the orb from her at the concert party has its own set of problems. Even if we did get Reimu drunk, she should still be a difficult opponent to take down, so we would be pretty exhausted by the end of it. The problem with this is that Reimu probably won't be the only drunkard looking for a fight at the party. Gensokyans love fighting, so there will probably be a few people who would want to test their strength against ours once they see us beat Reimu. There might also be people there who would try to take the Lunar orb for themselves by fighting us in our weakened state. Either way, the chances of us losing the Lunar orb increase with every drunkard we have to fight off, especially if fighting off everyone else gives Reimu enough time to recover and come back for round two before we manage to get away.

Although I suppose we could try the bribery plan in the morning, and fight her at the concert in the evening if we don't get the orb the first time.

[x] Commence Operation Silver Bullet
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[x] Commence Operation Silver Bullet

Bribery? Bribery.
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[x] Go along with Sumi's idea.
- [x] Talk to Sanae and try to get her on board. She doesn't have to drink, she just has to get Reimu to do so.
--[x] Maybe tell her some rare strong drink is what an outside hero used to drink?

This has canonically worked before, so it should work here. And even if it doesn't, your tranquilizer/flashbang combo can take her down in a danmaku fight even if she's sober.

Taking her down this way is perfectly legal and above reproach. The problem of other people challenging us is easily solved by handing the orb to Ringo after we win. Then, losing will have no downsides.

Hell, we can simply run away if you prefer that. Stealth camouflage anyone?
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It lives! Hooray!

[x] Let's just drop this altogether... We're never going to beat Reimu.
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[x] Let's just drop this altogether... We're never going to beat Reimu.

My big concern here is that Reimu is likely in "Incident Resolution Mode" now. If that's the case then it's unlikely we're going to get her to lower her guard enough for the plan to work. Sanae's alcohol revenge plot took place after an incident, when Reimu was trying to unwind. I'm also not entirely convinced that she'll even be present at the concert. It just seems like a really shaky plan all around to me.
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Fairly inconclusive votes so far. Hopefully that clears up. What I want to do is get back to weekly updates (wednesday or thursday) before maybe hopefully going back to two a week to finish up. The story seems like it's close to its end, but I'm not entirely sure if that's accurate or not. Still a few days left, and even after that point there's what happens with the Moon to consider.

Anyway I do feel like some kind of explanation for the absence is warranted. Long story short is that having no job was actually terrible for my productivity. Having suddenly unlimited time made it really easy to put off things, especially things that required effort. I was juggling two stories for a while, ended up dropping both of them temporarily, but when I started dragging myself back into writing, It was on my other story rather than this one. No real excuse for that part, just what I ended up doing.

But the goal is still to finish this story and I always intended to come back and do that, so here I am.
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[x] Commence Operation Silver Bullet

I still have some reservations about this plan, but I can't think of anything better myself and it's certainly better than giving up entirely. Might as well give it a shot!
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Why do we have so many votes about giving up the Mc Muffin with no recourse? Do you guys want this to end like "Animating Gensokyo" where the continuous bad choices forced the writer to a bad end he didn't want?

Bribing her is barely better. Incident-Reimu is relentless. She IS protecting her home, after all.
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[x] Go along with Sumi's idea.
- [x] Talk to Sanae and try to get her on board. She doesn't have to drink, she just has to get Reimu to do so.
--[x] Maybe tell her some rare strong drink is what an outside hero used to drink?

I'm sorry, but it really feels like gifting/bribing Reimu will make her a LOT more upset at us than getting us into her good graces.
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[x] Go along with Sumi's idea.
- [x] Talk to Sanae and try to get her on board. She doesn't have to drink, she just has to get Reimu to do so.
- [x] Maybe tell her some rare strong drink is what an outside hero used to drink?

Don't fear the reaper.
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Still tied between "attempt diplomancy/bribery" and "enlist Sanae and plan on fighting". I don't really want to tip the decision making one way or the other, but I will if I need to tiebreak.
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x] Go along with Sumi's idea.
- [x] Talk to Sanae and try to get her on board. She doesn't have to drink, she just has to get Reimu to do so.
- [x] Maybe tell her some rare strong drink is what an outside hero used to drink?
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Out at night
[X] Go along with Sumi's idea.
- [X] Talk to Sanae and try to get her on board. She doesn't have to drink, she just has to get Reimu to do so.
- [X] Maybe tell her some rare strong drink is what an outside hero used to drink?

I don't want to just give up, but not doing so means doing something that I don't think I'm going to like. I would rather be honest about things, but the chance of that working out seems close enough to zero that it isn't worth bringing up. I mean, maybe if we brought in a big enough bribe to open things up? If I were to use my powers, I could probably find some kind of precious metal to exchange. I don't really know Reimu well enough to say whether she would disregard her job for money. If it worked, it would be a way to do this without fighting.

If that idea were to fall through though, that would mean losing the element of surprise, and insulting Reimu's integrity to her face.

So okay, fighting. Not something that I like to do, but it's not like anything about this whole Earth situation is exactly the way I want it. I'm not going to whine or complain. Progress. Making progress with everyone's help. Who would I want to help me out for this plan?

Out of everyone mentioned, I think I trust Sanae the most. Actually a little strange that that's the immediate conclusion I come to. Sanae is a human. A human from Earth, who we already know is Reimu's friend. I mean, I guess there are advantages to that, so it makes sense to choose her over Reisen, but I'm only going through them mentally right now to justify my gut feeling. Sanae has been nothing but helpful, and has shown herself to be as trustworthy as anyone else that we've met down here. By contrast...

I take a glance at Reisen, who has made pretty good progress on her rice while everyone else has been talking. I'm kind of glad she's not looking back at me. Even though she obviously wouldn't know what I'm thinking, I'm not sure what kind of face I'm making right now.

"You are making a lot of assumptions, Sumi," I point out, trying to sound neutral just so that Sumi and Yuzuki have someone throwing them off their stride before they can get into an argument. "I'm not saying that we shouldn't do it, just, you know-"

"We might end up playing things by ear," Sumi repeats with a shrug. "Already said that. And made a joke that nobody laughed at."

"Okay." I don't think she's expecting me to laugh now. That would be way to delayed. "I'm agreeing with you though. We have a chance to improve our odds of success later if we take a risk now. Even if we fail, we'll still be relatively okay. I think."

"You think," Yuzuki echoes me skeptically.

"If Reimu doesn't show up, we lose nothing. If she shows up and doesn't drink, we're not any worse off. If we fight her and lose, we take our lumps and go home, then still get out of here before it's a problem, just with less of an advantage," Sumi lists off. Again, assumptions, but pointing those out probably isn't going to help. "Besides, not gonna be your weak ass doing the fighting. What difference does it make to you?"

"And it won't be yours either," Ringo cuts in before Yuzuki can respond. She looks less indignant that I expected at least. "Seiran, are you volunteering or should it be me?"

Right. I was already kind of assuming that it would be me doing this, but Ringo is better in danmaku than I am, isn't she? Actually, that's a pretty legitimate question now. Having control of my powers changes a lot. If nothing else, it gives me access to a lot more versatility. Neither of us were able to beat Reisen before, and the only one of us that has changed for the better (at least as far as I know) is me.

"I might be a little better equipped," I answer back evenly. "If nothing else, I might be able to catch her off guard. I'll do it."

Ringo accepts my simple explanation easily. I definitely catch a smile on her face, and can think of a couple of different reasons why it might be there. "Right-o. As for actually getting Reimu drunk, are you thinking-"

"Sanae," Ringo was already looking in Reisen's direction, but I disagree with that choice. "She's a better friend of Reimu's and has an interest in seeing us succeed for multiple reasons. Actually doing it might make her a little uncomfortable, but she isn't exactly the only one."

"We can work things out with her I think," Ringo shrugs, still keeping her attention on Reisen, although now for a different reason. "Anyway, looks like we're probably not going to be able to get you in Reisen. Looks like you might be missing out unless we can scrounge up another ticket."

If Reisen is upset by the idea, she doesn't show it. "Might be for the best," she mutters after finishing another bite of rice. Actually, she's almost done already. That seems like something I could take as a compliment. "I don't think Reimu likes Master enough to go to her if I was caught up in something suspicious, but she could. Avoiding the risk is nice."

"Then I think we're golden," Ringo says with a slight air of conclusion. She knocks a hand on the table, and a couple of the other rabbits seem to relax. Easy to recognize when a meeting is more or less over. "We can start coordinating on prep work ASAP. We'll want to talk to Sanae today or tomorrow morning. Also could be useful to get a look at the area the concert is happening. Knowing who is likely to show up and what the schedule of events is going to be could help too. Really, whatever you pick up is fine." It looks like she's talking more to Yuzuki and Sumi, which makes sense given that their powers are well suited to reconnaissance work. "Oh, and we should pick Reisen's brain for strategy too."

"Huh?" I hadn't expected that, but it's Reisen that voices confusion.

"You have fought Reimu before, right?"

"Um, not all that successfully," Reisen reluctantly answers, then thinks better of it. "Okay, a couple of times successfully too," she corrects herself. That actually does give me a bit of hope, so I'm glad to hear it. "We can talk, but not all night. What time is it exactly?"

Ah, she's already running into the same problem that we've been having. Well, probably not nearly as bad. She's only been down here for a meal, a bit of a wait, and a meeting. Our regular trips to the surface help, but it is easy to lose track of time down here.

"Seiran." I'm confused at first when Ringo seems to be prompting me for something, but then I remember earlier today. Right, I'm still carrying around that watch. I hold it up for Reisen, rather than telling the time myself. An Earth day is roughly the same as a Moon cycle, so I'm sure I'll be able to do it, but I'd rather not look stupid if I can help it.

"Hm... Need to leave soon," Reisen decides after a second of thinking about it. Right. Travel time and all that. At least she finished her food. I'm probably happier about that than I need to be.

"Then you two can head up," Ringo points between me and Reisen. "Gives you a chance to talk and helps her deflect awkward questions in case she runs into anybody." Huh, that actually does sound pretty logical. "Plus, we still need to get a chance to eat."

... I mean, that's still logical too.


It occurs to me that I really should have brought something to take notes.

Fighting, at least with danmaku, really does appear way more common here than I thought. Honestly I feel like I've already had more fights than I've needed to, but from Reisen's casual mentions of all of her various encounters, or just encounters she's heard about, with Reimu, it sounds like I'm practically a pacifist by comparison. I'm the one in the military. What is up with Earth and its culture?

But all that aside, making our way up and out of the plant, I do manage to pick up some decent information from Reisen before we emerge. Stuff like a general idea of Reimu's more signature attacks. Just the stuff that she's likely to default to when fighting somebody new that she doesn't know. That's valuable, even if I only got a little bit of it. It's not like it's a long trip. At least Reisen doesn't immediately fly off the instant we break out to the surface. Instead, we keep talking a little bit.

"I don't really know if I can handle it or not, but I have to at least try." I probably haven't vocalized that thought enough, so I go ahead and do it again. "I have to assume that things are going to get worse when we're trying to save the capital from whatever is going on, so giving up now really wouldn't fill me with confidence."

That gives Reisen pause. She blinks at me, apparently thinking about her words carefully. "You have no idea," is what she settles on.

"What does that mean?"

Reisen exhales a breath of air. It's cold enough out that I can see it puff out into the night sky. "Think about it," she suggests. Could you be a little more specific? "... You didn't know much of anything about danmaku when you were on the Moon. It's a Gensokyo thing. When we go in the Dream World and fight people who don't have to listen to Reimu's combat rules, do you think they're going to follow them anyway?"

"Wait." I hadn't really thought of that, but it seems obvious now that Reisen points it out. I don't feel like I've been taking a huge amount of solace in the fact that fights down here are decidedly non-lethal, but the idea of suddenly having that pulled away is making me a little bit nervous. "Well um, at least you managed to get through it okay?"

"It... Yeah. Sort of," Reisen answers vaguely, still not looking at me. "It didn't go that well, but I cheated and made it work anyway. When we get in there again, I don't think we're going to be able to cheat." She brings a hand up and rubs at her face, wiping away sweat that isn't even there.

"Cheat how?"

Reisen doesn't answer, though I can see her gaze lower somewhat. It's dark, and I only have a vague mental map of Gensokyo, but I'm pretty sure she's looking in the direction of Eientei.

We stay quiet for a little while. I think it's already pretty clear that Reisen isn't going to answer my question, but I don't know what else to say. Is this more of the sworn to secrecy stuff? When is that going to stop being a thing?

Eventually, Reisen decides enough is enough. She floats upward a little bit, then finally turns and addresses me again. "We probably won't meet up tomorrow. I'm not really planning on going to the concert. The day after will probably be fine though. I think Master is probably going to cut back my hours for that day and the day after so I can prepare, so if you need anything... Actually, I'll probably come find you, since I can't give you a definite time."

"Um, sure. That sounds fine." I guess I'm the one making plans now?

Reisen nods to me, floating up a little higher before turning around as an afterthought. "And thank you for dinner by the way. It was actually pretty good."


I spend a bit of time thinking after that, just kind of standing around near the hole in the ground that leads down to the plant. What Reisen said is kinda... Very much not doing much for my anxiety over this whole situation. It suddenly makes some more sense why Reisen seemed so stressed out the first couple of times that I saw her. Having to risk all of that. Ringo and I definitely weren't trying to kill her, but anybody else she ran into...

I mean, I am in the military. This kind of dangerous thing was expected. Not acting will put us in an even worse position too. Doesn't mean I can't be nervous about it.

... It's cold out tonight. I should get moving.

[ ] Go meet up with the other rabbits.
[ ] Go over to the shrine and talk to Sanae. Need to get her on board with the plan eventually.
[ ] I could kind of use another walk like last night.
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[x] Go over to the shrine and talk to Sanae. Need to get her on board with the plan eventually.

More Sanae is always a good thing, and we're topside anyway.
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[x] Go over to the shrine and talk to Sanae. Need to get her on board with the plan eventually

Carpe diem and all that
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[x] Go over to the shrine and talk to Sanae. Need to get her on board with the plan eventual
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[X] Go over to the shrine and talk to Sanae. Need to get her on board with the plan eventually.
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[X] Go over to the shrine and talk to Sanae. Need to get her on board with the plan eventually.

Reisen is obviously well out of sight already, and I'm not accomplishing very much sitting here and trying to think about what she said on my own. I can try to put it aside. Doesn' tmean I'll be able to stop worrying about it, but I can do other things at the same time.

Is that the same thing as conquering anxiety? Not necessarily getting rid of it, but being able to remain functional in spite of it. It's probably silly of me, but the thought does make me feel a little bit better. It's more progress. As long as I can keep saying I've made progress, that's good, right?

Okay, moving on then. I just need to force myself to come up with something else useful that I could accomplish. If I go back underground right now, I guess I would probably want to meet up with the other rabbits again. They're most likely eating in the cafeteria. That's not exactly ideal for me though, is it? The food is fine, whatever. The problem is that I've already eaten. Talking to the others just to calm down does have some merit, but if I'm really looking to make more progress...

Well, it's not exactly a long trip. Ringo probably doesn't expect me to come back immediately or anything. I can get this Sanae thing started, just so she knows that we're going to need her help. Something tells me that she isn't going to outright refuse. There might be a need to hash out some specific details, but she wants to help us, right? If we need to get into a danmaku duel with Reimu, I think it's fair to assume that she won't balk at the idea. It's still non-lethal and everything, after all.

... And now I'm thinking about what Reisen was saying again. Looped back around. Not a good sign. I really should get moving.

I take a small step, then lift off, floating toward the Moriya shrine.

We've been on Earth for a while. When we first showed up, even the nights were muggy and hot out. It was actually kind of terrible, even when it wasn't raining like crazy. It really speaks to how little control Earthlings have of their environment that they just suffer through stuff like that, or how cold it is tonight. Hopefully this is just a one off thing. It's hard to fly when the wind feels like it's going directly through your clothes and freezing everything underneath.

I guess wearing more clothes, or flying lower to the ground than the top of a mountain might help a bit in that regard though. Just wish it wasn't necessary.

Once I actually reach the shrine, I quickly run into a problem. I wasn't exactly invited to come here by anyone. I can't really be sure where any of the residents are, or what they're doing. They could be busy. I doubt it, but it at least gives me enough pause that I fail to come up with an exact plan for where to go.

Just plopping myself down in the middle of the shrine grounds and walking to the building that they actually live in feels too direct. Maybe I'm being too awkward, but I'd rather have my presence be a little bit more expected. Give them some warning. I'd hate to bust in on them while they're eating or... Okay, guess it's probably still too early for them to be asleep. The point stands though.

... Eep. Okay, that last gust of wind settles it, I'm at least going to land before I make a decision. Just... In front of the main building, rather than anywhere behind it. That's reasonable, right?

Actually, now that I think about it. That might work out fine, right? The first time Ringo and I came here, at least, the first time that we came here without any kind of stealth, we rang the bell right at the front. I don't know if that will make Suwako come running again like it did last time, but it should at least make my being here a bit less of a surprise. Just trying to stay away from awkward exchanges, even if I'm the only one that cares all that much.

Regardless, I do care, so I think I'll do this. The shrine feels a bit more menacing, or I guess spooky, at night. I put a hand on one of the railings and take slower than necessary steps up the stairs to the landing of the main shrine building. Okay, there's the box that Suwako said you're supposed to put money in. I can't exactly do that this time either, but hopefully they'll understand I just want to ring the cord thing to get their attention.

"- freaking eat him?"

I freeze in place, and not just because it's chilly. I'm pretty sure that was Suwako's voice, and she didn't sound happy. She's talking to somebody, or I guess maybe herself, inside the main shrine building. Ordinarily I would be happy about that, because that would make this a lot easier, but something about her tone throws me off. Incredulous is probably the right word for it. What's going on?

"You're making assumptions." Kanako sounds much calmer, and more measured. If it weren't for the thinness of the walls and how open the main building is in general, I probably wouldn't hear her. As it is, I move a bit closer, straining to make sure I don't miss anything. I'm not actually sure what I'm trying to pick up here, and I feel a bit bad about eavesdropping, but-

"That's all I can do when you keep playing everything so close to the vest," Suwako says, exasperated. She sounds a bit less relaxed than any time I've heard her. Is this normal for the two of them in private? Is it only the two of them, or is Sanae in there too? There should be a door around here, maybe I can peek in a little bit.

"Conversation with you about this topic in the past has not been productive. While I appreciate the reminder that my demand could very well be refused," she definitely doesn't sound appreciative. "I would rather have plans for what happens if it is accepted. You do not appear hopeful of such-"

"After all the other failed plans, you need somebody trying to talk you down," Suwako cuts in critically. Kanako pauses for a moment, and I can almost imagine them glaring at each other before the conversation continues.

"Very well then," Kanako sounds more like she's trying to move the conversation than actually giving anything up. "Let's begin with the assumption that the lunarians agree."

Suwako interrupts with a scoff. "Which they won't, but okay."

"They certainly won't want to, but it remains to be seen if they will give in regardless," Kanako continues, unbothered. "In the event that they agree, and the seal is broken in exchange for the freedom of their capital, a number of different things could occur."

"I'm still betting he pops out outside."

"The worst case scenario, but consider it a good deed and a chance to put that business behind us," Kanako says smoothly. "Though it would be unfortunate, it will at least relieve us of some baggage. We can move on to looking toward the future and growing the shrine without such a holdover."

"It's so cute when you're pretending to have a charitable bone in your body."

Another pause. I finally reach one of the entrances to the main building, but it's closed tight enough that I can't even see any light coming out. Should I try opening the door a tiny bit, or try to find another place to look? I can't really follow the subject of the conversation, but it definitely sounds serious. "Personally, I believe that what little remains inside the seal will reappear here. Either inside this building, or at the very least, on the shrine grounds. If you will recall, the shimenawa, as well as anything else distinctly supernatural, were my highest priorities during our move. I'm confident that what we left behind is decidedly mundane."

"And those priorities certainly weren't about you hoping to get a chance to eat him," Suwako concludes mockingly. Sarcasm, but I really don't get the context. Eating?

"As I said, there is likely very little left to eat, if you must call it that," Kanako still sounds like she's reprimanding Suwako, even as she explains with obviously fake patience. "Over a millennium without faith. I've already taken on a part of whatever would remain as well, even if it wasn't by choice. If it weren't for that femtofabric of the Lunarian's, he would have faded away long ago."

Femto-? I don't even know what that is, but it sounds like this is something to do with lunarians? Are they discussing that 'old business' that Suwako hinted about before?

"But you're still dumping everything on getting him out," Suwako points out. "You put everything else on hold, and you're throwing money around more than usual."

"Because it is the only way to move on," Kanako stresses. "You have never made an effort to attempt to change your innate nature, and so you can't appreciate or understand the amount of work that has to go into it. I am working toward progressing myself and going forward, but find myself shackled by this relic of centuries and centuries past. He is still here, physically and spiritually. This opportunity to remove him fell into our lap, and I have to seize it. The timescale for getting any kind of leverage on the Lunarians was simply too large otherwise. If we can take care of this before Sanae comes into her own, it would benefit her as well."

While that last point sounded like more of an afterthought, all of the stuff before it... Huh, I mean, it's no secret that Kanako is helping us because she stands to gain something from it, but it sounds like this... I don't even know what it is exactly, but it sounds like her old business with the Moon was the main thing that convinced her to help. She definitely wants something from them, much more than anything from us. Something about a seal? Femtofabric? What the heck is-

"Bullshit." My thoughts are cut off when Suwako responds, clearly and loudly. It's enough force that a heavy silence follows immediately after. I have to stop moving, just because I'm worried that continuing to look for somewhere to peek in would be enough to be heard.

The pause stretches on for an uncomfortably long length of time before Kanako finally responds calmly. "Is that all you have to say?" Another silence with no response. "I am not requiring that you do anything, so if you're only going to unproductively criticize me once again-"

There's a clatter, followed by heavy footfalls coming in my direction. Without much time to think I jump off the raised landing of the shrine, ducking underneath the platform holding the building up. A moment later, I hear a door, probably the one I was standing closest to, slide open. The footsteps continue for a bit, then I hear the soft squish of Suwako jumping and hitting the ground. I think I can tell the direction she went in, but...

I stay put, not really sure where I should go or what I should do. I'm pretty sure that was not a conversation that I was supposed to hear, but I'm just too curious what exactly it was about. It was definitely more serious than I can remember Suwako being than about pretty much anything else, even if Kanako sounded normal.

Ugh... Why am I so prone to eavesdropping? Things would probably be a lot less complicated if I kept to my own business.

[ ] Stay on target. I know where two thirds of the people here are, just need to go find Sanae.
- [ ] And I should probably pretend I didn't hear anything.
- [ ] And maybe I could try asking her if she knows anything.
[ ] I could try following after Suwako. She's more open about things, and might be mad enough to want to vent.
[ ] Go with the original plan. Ring the bell and let everyone know that I'm here. I should have done that in the first place...
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[x] Stay on target. I know where two thirds of the people here are, just need to go find Sanae.
- [x] And I should probably pretend I didn't hear anything.

Tactful bun.
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Awesome, the first update posted after I caught up.

[X] I could try following after Suwako. She's more open about things, and might be mad enough to want to vent.
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[x] Stay on target. I know where two thirds of the people here are, just need to go find Sanae.
- [x] And maybe I could try asking her if she knows anything.

No reason to ignore information that just fell into our lap. Besides, she probably empathizes with the feeling of being kept in the dark all the time.
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[X] Go with the original plan. Ring the bell and let everyone know that I'm here. I should have done that in the first place...

Easiest way to make it seem like you weren't evesdroping is to ring the doorbell. Everyone presumes you just arrived.
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[X] I could try following after Suwako. She's more open about things, and might be mad enough to want to vent.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained! And this sounds like something we really need to know about.
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Slight backslide, nothing to worry about. Will have this up sometime within the next day.
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[X] I could try following after Suwako. She's more open about things, and might be mad enough to want to vent.

This really seems like the kind of thing that I would want to know about. I'm not just saying that because there's obvious effort into keeping it hidden either. Shady nighttime meetings when the goddesses think they're alone, but easy to overhear if somebody passes by... I suppose they would know more about the usual time that visitors come by than I would, but it's still a surprising lack of caution. That's curious and everything, but not nearly as bad as the actual subject of whatever they were talking about.

Even if a lot of it went over my head, it's still clearly something major. Major enough to make the two of them argue. Major enough for Suwako to storm out when Kanako wasn't listening to her. Sure, I've only known Suwako for a little while, but if you asked before this, I wouldn't have been able to name a time when I saw her genuinely angry. It's weird. Weird and worrying.

It definitely feels like I should do something. Pretending that I never heard anything, while the obvious safe option, really just means that I'm worrying about what might be happening, rather than worrying about what is. The choice between knowing and not knowing, because the option of there being nothing to know in the first place isn't up to me. Something like that.

So okay, doing something. I can already guess that Kanako would blow me off if I tried going up there and talking to her. She basically blew off Suwako, and I don't have nearly as much reason to make anyone listen to me. No, between the two of them, I would rather talk to Suwako. Sure, she's probably angry right now, but if anything that might just make her more willing to vent.

... And hopefully venting for her is only in the form of talking.

Ugh, I'm trying to make excuses to not follow her, but all it's doing is wasting time. I saw the direction she left in, but there's no guarantee that she keeps going that way. If I'm going to do anything, I should move now, not after I've half talked myself out of it.

I give myself a few more moments of hesitation, just to double check that I can't hear Kanako moving anywhere close to the door that Suwako came out of, then slip into the surrounding trees.


This is creepy.

It's not really the darkness. The Moon gets plenty dark during the night too. You can't sit through cycle after cycle of no sun on the mare bases without getting used to darkness. This is different though. Claustrophobic. All these dumb trees are once again not helping anything. Too many dark corners, too many unusual and unidentified noises, too much of a possibility of some scary youkai or something else jumping out of nowhere.

O-okay, calm down. Calm down. This is still the general area of the Moriya shrine. Kanako wouldn't let anything dangerous hang around so close by, right? Sure, they didn't notice us when we first showed up, but that's different. We were significantly further away. Different. So I don't need to be nervous or anything like that. I'm not scared. Not. Scared.

I suppress a shiver and try to take my mind off what I'm doing. I try to review what I'm doing. Think about this like a rational military mind. Be productive. Lots of stuff like that. It's good. I'm good. Good.

Absent of an actual visual on where Suwako is, I can only assume she's continued in the same general direction that I saw her run off in the first place. If I'm correct in my memories of how everything around here is laid out, I can guess at her actual destination too. Even if I don't follow her exact path, once I get to the la-


... Erm, r-right. No big deal. Just one of those little animals that are all over the place. I um, ah, what was it called again? Squirrel? That's right, isn't it? That sounds right. Yeah, no big deal. Calm down.

I should um, maybe I should pick up the pace. Don't want to lose Suwako or anything.

... Yeah.


I skid to a stop when the trees finally clear up and I make it to the lake. Okay, m-maybe I picked up the pace a little more than I needed to. It's fine though. I just have to take a moment to calm down now. You know, from all the running and everything. Erm, the increased pace that is. To catch up with Suwako.

... Yeah, I don't think I could actually convince anyone of that. Moving on.

While I catch my breath, I lean against one of the nearby trees, idly looking up toward the Moon. Almost full now. Of course, it's been like that for days, that's how that works. It's not like I'm surprised, but I still feel vaguely compelled to look at it. It's really bright and attention grabbing. It'd probably be like that even if this mission didn't give me such a good reason to fixate on it. I wonder what Reisen thinks when she looks up at-

A wet splorping sound interrupts my thoughts, followed by the sound of running water. The source is obvious once I look, though it still takes some time to register.

Just like the last time I saw her here, Suwako is standing out in the lake, evidently not caring at all about how wet she's getting or how cold the water must be. Her expression is one of quiet concentration, maybe slight annoyance, as she works on the hobby she showed me earlier. Manipulation of earth, right? Whatever she's doing, she isn't making it break the surface of the water, but it's definitely having an effect on the water anyway. Ripples and waves form from all over the place. I can almost sorta see a pattern to it. Maybe it's meditative or something.

I just stay and watch for a little while, not really sure when I'm going to work up the courage to interrupt. Luckily (or maybe not), Suwako does that for me. "Surprised to see you here," she comments, almost too calmly. I didn't even know she was aware of me. I definitely didn't see her turn to look at me.

"Erm, h-hi," I stammer out, suddenly feeling awkward. What if she doesn't want to talk at all? What if she gets mad that I was eavesdropping? "I um, wasn't exactly planning on coming here. I was actually looking for Sanae, but when I came to the shrine..."

"Ah." Suwako lowers her arms and finally turns in my direction. She slowly trudges her way through the knee deep part of the water, heading close to the shore. "Heard all of it then?"

Urgh, I guess there's no easy way to downplay this. She saw right through me immediately. "Um, maybe not all of it. At least starting with the part where you were talking about eating somebody. And um, I'm sorry if you didn't mean for anyone to hear..."

"So most of it then," Suwako concludes, not even really acknowledging my apology. Is that a good or bad sign. She doesn't sound all that upset, but something about the mood is definitely different from what I'm used to when talking to her. "Probably best for you to just forget it," she adds after a pause.

Just forget it? Maybe, but... No.

"No." I'm past the point where I should stay apologetic here. I've already admitted to being guilty. If Suwako is going to get mad, she's going to get mad. "No, sorry, that's not right. Anything that has you and Kanako arguing, if it's caused by us being here, is a big deal. I think we should know about it."

Suwako looks at me, as if trying to assess how serious I am. I make it a point to meet her gaze without looking away. When she finally sighs and breaks our staredown, I can't help but feel a bit of a sense of accomplishment. That is, until she actually continues.

"Ah," I involuntarily gasp in surprise when I see a pair of glowing red eyes poke out from behind Suwako. One pair turns to two and then three, and in the low amount of light available, it takes me a second to get a snes of what the things are. Large snake-like creatures made out of a light gray, whispy smoke. One opens its mouth slightly, showing the same glowing red color as its eyes.

"I'm pretty powerful, you know? I've been alive for a long, long time. Definitely longer than you, and probably longer than any of the lunarians you know too. There's not a lot of things that I don't know how to do, and even the things I don't know, I can figure out quickly," Suwako begins speaking nonchalantly, not even caring as a much larger snake thing appears underneath her. It lifts her up on top of its head raising her up just enough to step onto the raised bank of the lake. "If I said I could move a mountain for somebody, it isn't just a cheesy pick up line, it's real. So when it turns out I can't do anything to change Kanako, you can see why that's something I admire about her." Suwako pauses as more than one of the remaining snake creatures remain wrapped around her body. She looks one of them in the eyes before gently repeating herself. "Yeah, I admire her. I admire that idiot."

I don't know what to say to that, but Suwako doesn't appear to be finished with just that. After a quick pat to the head of the snake creature, she continues. "We're comfortable here. At least, I'd like to think so. The faith and the money both come in just enough to keep us sustained, and all we have to worry about is occasionally showing off to the locals and making sure Sanae grows up okay. Kanako still schemes. That's her thing. I get it. She comes up with these ideas, me and Sanae follow along to some degree or another. Some of our plans work out, some of them get the other big players in Gensokyo after us. We live and we learn and everything continues slowly.

"Thing is, I'm not worried about all of that. If Kanako tries to pull a big scheme and gets herself in trouble with the Hakurei or Yukari or whoever else, that's fine. What I'm more worried about is what happens if she tries something really big, and she succeeds."

That... I can't really connect what she's saying with the argument she was having just a few minutes ago. "Um, I don't follow. If Kanako is doing something, it's for the sake of your shrine, right? What else would she even want to-"

"Take-Minakata," Suwako interrupts me with a mouthful of syllables that I don't even recognize the importance of. "God of wind, water, and agriculture. Patron of hunting and warfare. Defeated by Take-Mikazuchi, another god who was serving Amaterasu and by extension Tsukuyomi." Wait, that last name... I know that one. "His lands were taken as part of a long conflict from various factions trying to unite Japan, and he was forced to run to Lake Suwa. Before he and his new wife, Yasakatome, could mount an offensive to take their land back, he was sealed away.

"Doubt it's a story you've heard, but there might be a few elements in there that might be a little bit familiar. Wind and water? Warfare? Yasakatome? Bits and pieces that have all gotten muddied up and mixed around over the course of history. Things that people started worshipping Kanako for instead of him, whether she meant for that to happen or not. Gods and Goddesses are like that though. Part of our existence is based on faith, and what people believe we can do."

There was a bit of emphasis in that last sentence that I definitely caught. "Only part of it?"

"Part of it," Suwako repeats with a nod. She shakes her arm out lightly, and the snake things, despite having settled into generally comfortable positions wrapped around her, begin disengaging themselves from her body. "Most of us however, also have to have some amount of base abilities and identity from the start. Not all of us are a collection of borrowed traits. Some of us have so much base power that even your lunarian bosses would want to seal them away, rather than have to deal with the possibility of a counterattack straining their resources and messing up their plans."

I've never even heard of anything like that, but then why would I have? Dealings between Earth deities and the Moon... It's not really a stretch to believe, especially when it's coming directly from one of those Earth deities in the first place.

"So what happens then, when Kanako demands that a god like that gets unsealed in exchange for your capital?" Suwako asks, not looking at me anymore. I follow her gaze as she watches the snake creatures she brought up return back to the lake and disappear inside the water. "If she makes it happen, and he's weakened by centuries of no faith? Does she absorb whatever power remains of Take-Minakata's powers and identity? Does she go on to take over and rule Gensokyo? Does she finally launch that counterattack after however many centuries of waiting? She barely listens to me as it is now, does she need to listen to anyone anymore at that point? Does she stay the same person that Sanae and I love?"

I... Don't have a response to that. To any of that. Silence reigns until the last snake creature disappears.

"Of course, this is all assuming that the moonies bend and actually do what she wants," Suwako says, sounding almost like she's forcing herself to sound less serious than she just was. "If she manages to hold your entire capital hostage and make it happen."

Something clicks for me. "So that question you asked a couple days ago-?" The one about what I would do if negotiations stalled out.

"You said you didn't know enough about the situation to say what would you would do if neither side budges. You didn't have enough information. Still feel that way now?"

Do I? Kind of yes and kind of no. I can't claim to understand all the rules that goddesses have to follow. I also can't pretend that I know anything about whatever ancient history and conflicts Suwako is talking about. She kind of skimmed over a lot of details there, but how important those actually are is debatable.

What I do know? Kanako is using us. That's not really as bad as it sounds. On some level, I think we already knew that. Everyone we've talked to outside of the Moriya shrine has alluded to Kanako being at least a little shady. We got into this deal knowing that, we just didn't know what exactly we were going to be used for. Now with Suwako's explanation, I guess that we have an answer. Kanako wants to force the lunarians to free some kind of sealed away god from centuries ago, then take his power for herself. That's what Suwako believes anyway.

That's... Okay, that sounds kind of bad, but even if it is, it's not like we can call off the deal now. Not when we're so far into it. Not when doing so would effectively deprive us of any kind of safety or connections. We have to ride this out, it's just a matter of what happens when Kanako has her audience with Command.

And how I feel about it.

[ ] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.
[ ] I mean, if it saves the capital, then we'll have to make it happen. Whatever happens after that, we'll just have to deal with it. For better or worse.
[ ] This... We can't let this happen. I can try to make it so negotiations don't happen and save the capital... Do something at least.

This update was weird because it involved some skirting around and interpreting information that is very VERY vaguely alluded to even in canon, but hey that's what fanfiction is for I guess. Write-ins are cool and stuff. Have fun.
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[x] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.
- [x] ...but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.

> This update was weird because it involved some skirting around and interpreting information that is very VERY vaguely alluded to even in canon, but hey that's what fanfiction is for I guess.

Dunno about you, but I like it when authors try to weave actual history and/or mythology into their stories. Or even make up 'history' whole-cloth. It's part of the charm of Touhou fanfic, everyone has their own interpretation.
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[x] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.
- [x] ...but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.

Quite literally in Kanako's place. Remember, Subterranean Animism was the fault of a Moriya Shrine Conspiracy.
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x] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.
- [x] ...but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.
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[X] This... We can't let this happen. I can try to make it so negotiations don't happen and save the capital... Do something at least.
-[X] Do you have a plan/any ideas? I'm open to suggestions.

Kanako has helped us before, yes, but not out of the goodness of her heart. If this is what she's been building up to this entire time, with all the other shit she's pulled as a stepping stone, then it has to stop. I think Suwako is right to be afraid here; Kanako has already demonstrated very little regard for possible consequences or collateral damage as long as she gets what she wants, and she doesn't possess the sense of responsibility that needs to come with that kind of power. Walking up to her and demanding a duel is right out, but we have to stop her if we can. Now that we know, I think we have both a practical and a moral responsibility to do so. And hey, the good news is, now we know that before we got her the orb! Which means the new questions are what should we do next and how can Suwako help us out?
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[x] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.
- [x] ...but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.
- [x] Wait a minute. Better idea. What if you tried to convince Kanako to let Sanae eat him instead?

If Suwako can't convince Kanako to stop her plan entirely, maybe she could try redirecting Kanako's plan. Supposedly, Kanako does all the things she does for the good of the shrine and to help Sanae grow into a successful Goddess. This is the perfect opportunity to force Kanako to put her money where her mouth is. Letting Sanae eat him gives Sanae more power and faith as a Goddess, and it proves that Kanako isn't doing this just to boost her own selfish power.

If Kanako still decides to eat him herself, then it is time to really start worrying.
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[x] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.

Suwako needs to believe in her. If she can't change who Kanako is, does she think some long dead god can?
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[X] Kanako hasn't been bad to us. I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't think she has bad intentions with this.
- [x] ...but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.

A lot to take in. Even knowing that we were being used, and that Kanako was obviously building up to something other than just getting a few bits of our technology. Ignorance is bliss, I guess? Having the shady plan thrown into my face is just a little bit worse than accepting it probably exists but not knowing about it. Knowing means that I have to do something about it.

Or... Do I? "Kind of," I answer Suwako's question about having enough information or not, a little embarrassed at my voice sounding shaky. Not very decisive. "I'm still not sure what I would do if you put the choice in front of me right at this moment. Kanako... She hasn't really been bad with us." She's been very businesslike and professional, and while that isn't friendly, it isn't terrible either.

"Comparatively," Suwako points out. How much does she know about Command again?

"Objectively," I counter back simply. Suwako raises an eyebrow, and okay, I guess that kind of was still more subjective opinion than not. "Errm, well at the very least I think she deserves some benefit of the doubt. From what I know of her, I don't think she has bad intentions with what she's doing. If she was like, outright evil or something, you wouldn't stick around with her for as long as you have, right?"

Suwako smiles wryly and shakes her head. "You'd be surprised, but I guess you have a point. Might've been different before, but I also think she's settled into a comfortable status of 'not intentionally malicious'."

Not exactly the a glowing commendation, but whatever. "So yeah, I don't think she's trying to do something terrible, but that doesn't mean I think what she's doing is a good idea either," I continue. There's a saying about the road to hell that comes to mind, but then I remember where the plant is located and decide against actually saying it. Suwako might appreciate the joke, but it feels silly to me. She's not in the most joking mood anyway.

"Guess we more or less agree then. Honestly, I didn't think Kanako's plan would be that big a deal until she started getting serious about it. Originally I thought I'd be able to tease her about her plotting a bit and convince her to back down, but nope." Suwako limply holds her arms up in half a shrug. "She's as serious about this as she was any of the incidents she caused. Operating on the assumption that she's going to pull this off, so I have to as well, and I don't like that assumption."

Yeah, that would be the cause of the argument. Actually, it brings something to mind. Back when we first struck the deal with Kanako and Suwako happened to be in the room. "I remember you mentioning before that you knew what she was going to ask Command for... You didn't seem all that bothered then."

"Thought she'd be willing to take no for an answer," Suwako explains. Had she thought I was trying to refute her? If anything I was corroborating. "Now she's throwing money around, trying to discreetly gather ritual equipment and information on what she's gonna need to do once we've got a weakened faithless god on our hands. She's not going to pour resources like this into something she expects to fail. If she'll accept failure at all. She's in too deep to back out now."

"We're in too deep too though." We threw our lot in with the Moriya's several days ago. It'd be way too much of a waste to do something that jeopardizes the mission now. "Kanako's setting Command and us up in an offer we can't refuse. We have to free the capital. Even if we wanted to get more leverage... It would mean doing something bad to Sanae, which I don't even want to consider."

"You just did," Suwako points out. Ah, I see a smirk there. Don't know why she's acting like she caught me in something. It was her question however many days ago that even brought the idea to my mind. Hold Sanae hostage to make negotiations work out better for Command. Yuck. "But I get what you're saying. Actually, it makes me feel good to hear that. Didn't think it'd take youkai literally from outer space just for Sanae to make some friends, but hey." She shrugs. "I won't complain."

... Are we Sanae's friends? The fact that it's weird to even ask that question probably indicates the answer easily enough. It's only been a handful of Earth days, but Sanae is still the Earthling I would trust the most. "She's just really nice, and helpful, and-"

"I get it, I get it. You're embarrassing me without even talking about me," Suwako cuts you off, although you don't think you were gushing or anything. Sanae has good qualities and all, but you'd say the same things about her as you would any of your friends... Some of your friends. "But okay. Kanako's probably got good intentions. Agreed. We still think it'd be for the best to change her plan."

"Well you know her better than I do," Like by however many centuries. "If you have any suggestions for what we should do..."

"Still working on it," Suwako answers before I finish my obvious question. "Tonight was my last try at talking her down directly. After this point it'll have to be taking action, but I dunno what I'm doing yet. I don't have a problem with her freeing the guy, but it's the end result that I'm not happy about. If I can change that..." Suwako falls into thought, not continuing. After a moment, she looks back up at me. "Anyway, you're not even gonna be here when it all goes down, and you aren't gonna be around for the consequences either."

I mean that is a point, sure. "I still care though."

Suwako gives me a weird look for just a moment, but it's enough to make me think about what I said. I don't really have to care, do I? I mean, assuming I go back to the Moon and everything, what happens here doesn't really matter, right? I mean, not to me personally, but if Sumi and Ringo are so set on staying here, then... Urgh. There's that anxiety again.

"Well I appreciate that I guess," Suwako moves on, possibly catching my reaction when I feel the pit of dread in my stomach again. "But you've got a lot more on your plate than just this, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so." It's true that I originally came here to talk to Sanae. This is extra. Definitely something to be concerned about, but still extra. We're not coming to any conclusion on it at the moment anyway, so maybe it would be better to get moving again. "Um, I'll try and see if I come up with anything. We'll talk about this again, I promise."

Suwako nods. "Gotcha, now let me get back to brooding and thinking. I want to enjoy my rare bad mood for all it's worth."

I don't really know if that's the healthiest idea, but then I'm the one constantly getting stuck in a spiral of anxiety. Not really much room to judge.


I decide to fly back, rather than walk. It's not that I'm scared or anything, it's just that it makes a lot more sense really. Instead of following after Suwako toward a possibly unknown destination, I'm heading to somehwere that I'll easily be able to see from the air. It means taking less risks. It's just smarter and faster. So I'm not just making excuses or anything.

When I catch sight of it, I can see that there are at least a couple of lights still on around the shrine grounds. That includes the lights in the main building. I guess Kanako is still around? I am a little bit curious about what she'd be doing in there all alone. An image of her sitting around in a half dark room, her hands steepled as she plots silently comes to mind, but um... Probably not. Either way, I don't want to run into her. I just skip over that building and head further back in the shrine grounds, landing outside the building that I know the Moriyas actually live in.

Although it's just a little awkward to not know how or where I'm supposed to make an entrance.

... Ugh. If I keep hesitating like this I'm not going to get anything done. It's cold out here, and I've been up here for long enough already, the other rabbits are probably wondering what I'm doing. I just need to go.

I find the front door, or at least the door that we used the first couple of times I've been inside this building, and knock a couple of times. There's no immediate answer, so I knock again, a little louder the second couple of times. I'm not just some random animal in the wilderness making noise. I'm here with purpose. Hopefully Sanae can actually hear me.


Still cold. Probably not going to get any warmer. Hopefully- Ah.

The door opens just a tiny bit at first, but quickly slides open the rest of the way once Sanae gets a look at who it is. Of course, once I can see inside, that also gives me a chance to get a look at her. Seems like she was ready for bed, or maybe even in it already. She's in a very light blue set of pajamas. Long sleeves and pants. Looks nice and soft too. Kinda wish I had more comfy clothes available. Not like I had the nicest stuff back on the Moon, but it was still more than what I have here on Earth.

"Oh hi Seiran!" Sanae quickly switches from cautious to the same friendly demeanor that I'm used to. On second glance, I'm pretty sure I didn't get her out of bed or anything. She still has her hair accessories in, as well as a large pair of headphones hanging around her neck. "Didn't expect you to come so late. Come on in!"

"Um, thanks." Sanae steps aside and I'm more than glad to be in the marginally warmer air of the Moriya's house. After shutting the door behind me, Sanae starts walking, leading the two of us into the same living room that we all had dinner in before. The table is set out, but obviously there's no food or dishes there.

"I'll get started on some tea, if that's okay," Sanae offers after ushering me into the room to sit down.

"Erm, you don't have to." I do actually appreciate the hospitality, but she doesn't have to go to any trouble. I'm technically here for mission related reasons, and I'd like to get down to that sooner rather than-

"But I want to!" Sanae says cheerfully as she hops out the door. "I can promise it'll be better than what we had at Marisa's at least!"

"Ah-" Well... I guess she's already gone then.

... Whatever.

Yeah sure, I could go follow her, but she did seem genuinely pleased to have a guest. Guess it's kind of like how I was with Reisen earlier. Being a good host is something to strive for. Sanae definitely seems like she would get even more out of it than I would, so I guess it's fine.

With nothing else of importance to do, I busy myself with a look around the room. The last times I was here, there were so many other people to take up attention that I didn't really take much stock in my surroundings. As it turns out, there is some good reason for that. The room isn't all that filled. A short and wide book case on one side. The table in the middle of the room. One wall that could be slid open to the outside. A couple of shelves with some nicer dishes that probably don't get used by anyone. Some appliance I don't immediately know the name or purpose of.

... Hm?

It's my second look at the bookcase when I notice a couple of framed pictures sitting on top of it. The first one is a slightly younger looking Sanae, along with an entirely unchanged Suwako and Kanako standing out in front of the shrine. The second one... Well, I'm pretty sure that's a much much younger Sanae, along with an older lady that looks pretty similar to her in some ways. Sanae's smiling way wider than she needs to, but that just seems to gel with what I know about her. Too much enthusiasm. It's cute, honestly.

Let's see, as for this next picture, it's not really a photo, and not even the same size. It's a full sheet of paper, still framed much the same way as the other pictures. As for what's on it... It's kind of a mess actually. Putting aside the parts that were obviously wrinkled or water damaged before it was framed, there are maybe two dozen different writing styles, all at different angles, colors, and sizes. At first I'm surprised that Yuzuki didn't comment on it annoying her when we were here before, but once I realize what's written, I can see why she might have kept quiet.

Personalized farewell messages. Well wishes from names I don't at all recognize. Do your best. We'll miss you. I really liked that game you lent me, wish we could play it again. Hope you'll be successful wherever you're going and whatever you're doing.

... I'd feel guilty about seeing this if Sanae hadn't obviously left it out in the open.

I mean, I can guess at what I'm looking at. Sanae hasn't lived here her entire life, so there must have been some point where she decided to leave her friends and the people she knew to come to Gensokyo. She had to have done that knowing that she would never see any of those people again.

Suddenly the wrinkles and small bits of water damage on the paper take on an entirely different meaning.

Man, I can't even imagine... Okay, yeah I can. It's the same kind of problem that I'm encountering right now. The thing that makes my stomach hurt and stress levels rise every time it pops into my head. Sanae went through something similar, and she actually did make a decision, rather than trying to avoid it at every turn.

I step away from the pictures and sit down at the table, hoping that the tea Sanae's brewing will help me calm down.

Just... I came here for the mission. I know I'm going to get around to that, but... I don't know. Maybe I should talk about other things too. It would all be extra, but if I know anything, I know I can expect Sanae to do her best to help.

[ ] Maybe some small talk first? I didn't mean to interrupt Sanae's relaxing time or whatever she was up to.
[ ] I should bring up what Reisen was talking about. The Dream World sounds pretty dangerous after all.
[ ] I should probably talk about Kanako and what she's planning. Sanae might not know.
[ ] I've been trying to avoid it, but... Moving away from home. Tips? Her experience? I don't know.
[ ] I'll just stick to the mission for now. Go right into what we decided about the concert.

Multivote is fine and stuff, you know the drill.
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> Suwako might appreciate the joke, but it feels silly to me.

Noooooooooo that's the entire reason I made that write-in! /jk

> Suwako cuts you off, although you don't think you were gushing or anything. Sanae has good qualities and all, but you'd say the same things about her as you would any of your friends... Some of your friends.

I think Seiran needs some sleep if she's suddenly thinking about herself in the second person.

[x] Maybe some small talk first? I didn't mean to interrupt Sanae's relaxing time or whatever she was up to.
[x] I've been trying to avoid it, but... Moving away from home. Tips? Her experience? I don't know.

I'm assuming the concert goes without saying, but if not, throw that in there too.
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>second person
whoops, that's just me going back and forth between stories too often. Usually it's more of a problem the other way around where my other protag shifts into first person, but I guess it happened here. Again. Bleh.
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[x] Maybe some small talk first? I didn't mean to interrupt Sanae's relaxing time or whatever she was up to.
[x] I've been trying to avoid it, but... Moving away from home. Tips? Her experience? I don't know.
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[x] I've been trying to avoid it, but... Moving away from home. Tips? Her experience? I don't know.

Earth has treated Seiran far better than the Moon ever did.
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[X] Maybe some small talk first? I didn't mean to interrupt Sanae's relaxing time or whatever she was up to.
[X] I should bring up what Reisen was talking about. The Dream World sounds pretty dangerous after all.
[X] I've been trying to avoid it, but... Moving away from home. Tips? Her experience? I don't know.
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[X] Maybe some small talk first? I didn't mean to interrupt Sanae's relaxing time or whatever she was up to.
[X] I should bring up what Reisen was talking about. The Dream World sounds pretty dangerous after all.
[X] I've been trying to avoid it, but... Moving away from home. Tips? Her experience? I don't know.

Sounds alright.
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[X] Maybe some small talk first? I didn't mean to interrupt Sanae's relaxing time or whatever she was up to.
[X] I'll just stick to the mission for now. Go right into what we decided about the concert.
[X] I should probably talk about Kanako and what she's planning. Sanae might not know.

I just read this entire story over a couple days. Is good stuff, Seiran a cute, so on and so forth. I might not be able to express myself with useful, meaningful compliments or discussion, but I do sincerely enjoy the story.
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Is this still alive?
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Man, I don't fuckin know. I do still want to finish it, but the last time I picked it up I almost immediately found myself hating sitting down to write it.

I know it feels like we're close to the end, but even IF
I get over my horrendous pacing issue (every single conversation taking multiple updates regardless of importance to story),
AND I cut out doing side stuff with characters that I've been doing just for the sake of character building (I'm not even that in love with my OCs it just makes sense to have them doing stuff since they exist now),
AND cut down on the amount of things that are coming to a head whenever I actually get to the end game (foreshadowy dream world stuff),
there's still a lot of content that has already been committed to which will translate to months and months of time. I definitely overshot my limits in terms of scope when deciding on this story.

I know that not writing isn't really fixing anything though. Basically there's just a lot of stuff that still feels like I'm going to have to slog through. Not really a problem of knowing where I'm going as disliking the process of getting there, which makes it really tempting to keep putting it off when I have other projects.

Speaking of, I've already kind of committed November to going hard on something other than this, so to answer your question... Yes kinda, but the intention of continuing is still around? I'm not very satisfied with things at the moment at least, and I personally am still alive and writing things.
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>I get over my horrendous pacing issue (every single conversation taking multiple updates regardless of importance to story)

There's always the time skip option. If this current conversation with Sanae is giving you trouble you could always just do something like this:

Seiran: I talked with Sanae for hours and she gave me a lot of really good advice, like (insert advice about moving here). Eventually, Sanae agreed to help us with our plan to beat Reimu, and before I knew it a whole day had passed and it was time to fight Reimu for the Lunar orb.

And then if you want to skip past all the day to day stuff that you don't want to slog through in order to get to the fun parts of the story you are really excited to write, you could just say that the rabbits had to lay low for a while to avoid Reimu's wrath after they took the orb. And then before they knew it, it was time to enter the portal and save the Moon.

And then maybe after they get back from the Moon, you can tie up any loose ends that were time skipped over as the rabbits try building a new life for themselves in Gensokyo.

I'm not a writer, so I have no idea if this is good advice or not. But your story is great, so just do what you think you've gotta do.
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Out, foul spambot, out!
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