[X] There’s nothing for you here at the store. Head off to the Human Village and search for kappa at the marketplace.
Well, it seems like a good idea to start looking for the elusive kappa in the market.
You duly make your shift report to Rinnosuke, who simply nods an acknowledgement in kind.
Coming up the gates, you see two familiar faces chatting away. As soon as he sees you, the wiry Jiro waves you in without much fuss, whilst his bigger comrade gives you a friendly hail.
“Y’know, I was kinda expecting the miko today,” Jiro smirks, “Guess she’s got no more business with us normal folk, huh big guy?”
“It’s like you’re trying to pick a fight Jiro,” the larger man frowns.
As you pass the gate, you pause for a moment, trying to catch some of their chatter.
“Eh, the fighting, it keeps em on their toes. I mean, what else is there ta do aroun’ here any who?”
Having then noticed you, Jiro turns right the way around, rapping at the gate, “Hey hey hey. Nothing ta see here youk, move it.”
In any case, you promptly make your way to the market square. Today it seems a slight bit more empty than usual, lacking the usual aroma of street food and some of the more aggressive sales pitches it would on a normal day. And perhaps with good reason; it seems as though the kappa are indeed in town.
Their stall is definitely unmistakable; a hybrid stand/showroom mish-mash is erected in all of its ramshackle glory right in the middle of the square, a rather conspicuous distance between them and the other stalls and stands. It seems as though the owners of the stands, save for one familiar rabbit-girl, have all elected to position a few sandbags across their more vulnerable sides and a few watchmen are standing by in the corner by an umbrella, pails of water at the ready and more than a few bets on when the place is going to be lit up going around.
You make your way over to Reisen, who still seems bored out of her mind at the monotony of being a shopkeep.
“Afternoon Reisen,” you greet, glancing between her and the kappa’s stand, “They take the kappa real seriously, don’t they?”
She rolls her eyes, “You have no idea; supposedly they’ve brought in some ‘pre-tested’ merchandise today. They claim it won’t blow up or catch fire, or disembowel anything, or do anything it’s not supposed to.”
“And yet the place looks like it’s been locked down.”
“Oh yeah. Just because it’s not supposed to blow up doesn’t mean the kappa won’t find a way to make it blow up. These folk could make water catch on fire.”
Well, it seems under control at the moment.
Reisen’s ears twitch minutely and she immediately reaches for a bottle of lotion in her suitcase, “A-anyway Ambrose, I’ve uh, got a special offer today on burn cream,” she offers, “You can never be too sure when you’re going to get burned. Especially today,”
“I’ll pass on that.”
“What a shame,” she groans, putting it away, “Well, I’ll be right here.”
Kappa are certainly... charming, in their own way. Just about four of them, backpacks, dresses (which most would assume are terrible for working in,) and green cloth caps. Three of them seem to be tinkering with some sort of...
What is that? Some kind of primitive antenna? Connected to a... ? This strange contraption is a great mystery to you and the various exposed diodes, vacuum tubes and wiring don’t exactly speak of safety and convenience.
The foreman... girl... lady... kappa, is sitting at the desk, ever alert, and perks up as soon as you start making your way over to the stand.
“Ooh, hi there!” she chirps, with uncommon cheerfulness, “You were taking a good look at our transmission device here, huh?”
“Yeeee~s. I suppose I was,” you reply, taking a closer look at the transmitter, “Do tell, what does this transmitter, erm... transmit?”
There is a very awkward silence as the two of you stare at the device,
“Eeeeh, all sorts of stuff,” she finally admits, leaning closer to her desk, “We’ve sorta figured it transmits sound across about a li or so.”
“... How far is that in metres?”
She taps her forehead, “Ahh right, you look kinda outsider. A li’s about... what, 500 of your metres or something? Still can’t remember so well. Call me a traditionalist, huh?”
“Right... so, I heard from Mr Kirisame that you were the people to go to for precision tools,”
The other three kappa look right at you, before continuing their work, now murmuring conspiratorially amongst themselves,
“Tools huh? Depends on what they are and why you’d need em,” the girl nods, “Can’t go around giving people things they don’t take care of or know how to use. Big problems with gettin’ it back later. What’s yer name by the way?”
“Ambrose. I’m a bit of a tinker myself, deal with clockworks.”
“Mine’s Nitori. That mechanism’s for decorative or functional work?”
“A bit of both.”
She looks a bit surprised at that, “Naw, I can’t... both? Serious? Not just machinery?”
You take out your pocket watch, letting it dangle gently in front of the girl, letting her examine it with unbridled curiosity, “Personal time keeping device.”
“Hmm. Alright, but I can make out... magic capture system right? Just under that crystal face. Ooh, that’s shiny work,”
By now, the other three kappa have long since abandoned pretending to work and have gathered around, chattering amongst themselves as you place the watch down on the desk,
“Definitely jewelled work in there,”“I reckon its ruby. Has to be.” “Smooth motion. Ya can hear it I bet,”“I thought ya can’t hear a good movement,” “The casing’s robust. What is that? Alloy or pure?”“Can’t be pure. Ain’t got the shine,” “Alloy, bronze or brass. No, scratch that, bronze.”“How’s that work then?” “Didn’t think ya could get it that small.”“My sis’ done a desk clock before. It’ll work on small scale,” “I suppose. What is that, three quarters size?”“Baaah, looks like a custom model.”
The first kappa waves the other three away, “Eeh, sorry ‘bout that. Not every day we get to see something special,” she drags out a sheet of paper from one of her pockets, “Lemme guess, ya want to work this one out, right?”
“Yes and no,” you say, pocketing your watch again, “I need a few custom tools for another clock.”
“Eeeeh? Well, is it custom or standard sorta sized?”
“I’d hesitate to say custom.”
“Bah. I suppose you’ve got it with you then?”
“Ah. No. It’s much larger, and at Kourindou,”
She raises an eyebrow, looking slightly amused, “The old man’s getting his stuff fixed behind my back?”
Since when was Rinnosuke old?
“Ain’t no good to me if I can’t get measurements”, she mutters, “Are ya planning to take it with you by any chance, or do I need to take a look see for myself?”
“I think it is too bulky to carry around on a regular basis.”
“I’ll pencil it in then,” she nods, “Two days from now sound good?”
“Sounds good, yes.”
She perches the pencil behind her ear, making a good show of folding the paper up and placing it into her pockets, “Okies, two days from now, visit Ambrose at old man Rinny’s.” She rests her head on her hands, “It’s kinda nice to meet people who actually seem to know what they’re talking about here.”
It is at that point that the transmitter groans rather loudly. The kappa working on it suddenly stop what they were doing, putting down their tools and placING their hands over their ears.
Nitori looks a bit surprised as she leans back for a better look, “Eh? Guys, what’s the-”
THE MOST INCREDIBLY ANNOYING NOISE REVERBERATES THROUGH THE SQUARE, CAUSING AN INORDINATE NUMBER OF PEOPLE TO CRINGE AS THEIR EARDRUMS ARE ASSAULTED BY THE MOST INANE CHATTERING NOISES FROM THE TRANSMITTER. SEVERAL CITIZENS HAVE ALREADY COLLAPSED TO THEIR KNEES AND THE WATCHMEN SEEM TO BE CONFLICTED BETWEEN THEIR DESIRE TO DESTROY THE DEVICE AND THE POSSIBILITY OF EXPLOSIONS IF THEY INTERVENE.
IT SEEMS TO BE DIRECTING ITS NOISE DIRECTLY INTO YOUR BRAIN THROUGH METHODS UNKNOWN. THIS IS BOTH IMPRESSIVE AND PAINFUL. GRITTING YOUR TEETH AS YOU CLASP YOUR FOREHEAD, YOU CAN SEE THE KAPPA SCRAMBLING TO TRY AND SHUT THE DEVICE DOWN. THEY ARE DIRECTING THEIR ATTENTION TO THE BULBOUS, GLOWING TUBES ON THE BOTTOM, AS WELL AS TRYING TO TWEAK THE DIALS AND SWITCHES ON THE ANTENNA. NITORI HERSELF SEEMS TO BE DESPERATELY TOGGLING SOME LEVERS ON THE MAIN BODY OF THE DEVICE.
 PERCUSSIVE MAINTENENCE (OR SMASHING IT TO PIECES,) ALWAYS WORKS. AIM FOR THE... --- BULBOUS, GLOWING TUBES. --- LONG, SPINDLY ANTENNA. --- LEVERS AND MAIN BODY.
 SNARK LOUDLY AND HOPE IT’LL GET BETTER.  BUG THE **** OUT OF HERE.
[x] PERCUSSIVE MAINTENENCE (OR SMASHING IT TO PIECES,) ALWAYS WORKS. AIM FOR THE... ---[x] LONG, SPINDLY ANTENNA.
Either this works (the thing has to be getting something from somewhere) or we cause an even worse noise. But it's the safest considering vacuum tubes are explosive (at least the most likely to explode), and the levers might lock the setting (and destroy the artifact).
“WELL. AT LEAST IT WORKS PERFECTLY,” YOU SHOUT, NODDING SARDONICALLY, “AT LEAST, I WOULD ASSUME IT IS.”
SOMEHOW, YOU COULD NOT HELP YOURSELF FROM VOICING YOUR OPINION. NOW YOU FEEL LIKE A SMUG BASTARD FOR SAYING IT AT ALL OUT LOUD.
TO YOUR SURPRISE, THE KAPPA NODS A HASTY AFFIRMATIVE, “WELL, YEAH. IF IT DIDN’T WORK, WE’D HAVE TO BRING IT BACK FOR MORE TESTING AND STUFF. THIS PROJECT WAS A FEW WEEKS OF INTENSIVE DEVELOPMENT.”
IT IS AT THIS POINT THAT ONE OF THE OTHER KAPPA SMASHES THE ANTENNA OF THE DEVICE WITH A RATHER LARGE SPANNER IN A FIT OF FRUSTRATION, CRIPPLING THE DEVICE MORTALLY... THE GRINDING, IRRITating whine of the machine slowly, mournfully dies down as the various lights fade away.
All of the vacuum tubes strapped to the control surfaces then elect to explode in a puff of blue defiance, eliciting a pained cry from one of the other kappa, who had been wrestling with various control levers and toggle switches.
“I spent all week on those tubes!” she moans, trying to scrape up as much of the remnants as possible, “Big sis ain’t gonna like this Nitori, no ma’am...”
You are frankly, quite astonished that your eardrums are still intact, despite the ringing and mild tone-deafness you are experiencing at the moment. It takes you a moment to realise that someone is shouting your name and you turn around to face Reisen, who seems to be nursing a massive headache,
“Ambrose, you okay there?”
“I’m good. Somewhat irked by the unexpectedness of it all, but good.”
She lifts a small clear bottle of tonic, “Can I interest you in All-Natural Painkiller Tonic, made from a traditional recipe? I’m selling pretty quickly right now.”
A brief, animated discussion with Nitori and several irate watchmen allow you to rapidly discern the purpose of the device; a village-wide loudspeaker system for quickly communicating emergency instructions or alarums. Despite her well intentioned aims, the watchmen have garnered an overwhelmingly negative opinion of the device itself, but agree that the principle and purpose behind the device is quite obviously positive, expressing their interest in an improved version of it.
Regardless, because the device has to be hauled away for more repairs and testing, Nitori has to bid you an unfortunate farewell, before attending to the disassembly and hauling of the device back home.
Having nothing else to do at the moment, you are briefly dragged in by Reisen in order to help her fulfil the massive influx of customers she has received in the meantime, some coming to her with burst eardrums, others with cases of extreme nausea and dizziness and the majority with various levels of headaches or migraines caused by the sudden, extreme disturbance that the device’s siren-like wails caused.
“Well, that was a remarkably good day of sales,” the rabbit girl declares, signing off a final receipt, “Never sold so many painkillers since the time the kappa brought a moving picture machine in to demonstrate.”
“What was being shown?” you ask,
“Nothing really, just a bit of white noise.” She wiggles her nose slightly as she scans over a few oddities in the paperwork, “It seemed to drive a feeeeeew people insane though, so I had to take a couple over to Master for some treatment.”
“How often does this sort of event happen?”
“I’d say roughly once every... two months or so? The kappa are really madcap like that, making weird inventions and shouting ‘SCIENCE’ at the top of their lungs whenever they come in.” She pats the loaded strongbox lovingly, “Not that I’m complaining though. Master’s going to love today’s haul.”
She gives you a very curious stare as you glance at your pocket watch (which says 3.41 PM,)
“Well, uh... what are you... what were you doing today?”
You sit up on the small, folding stool, “I finished work over at Kourindou, sorting out old books and the like. Humdrum like that. Nothing impressive.”
Her ears perk up slightly at the mention of Kourindou, “Hmmm. I thought...”
“Well, um... are you particularly... busy, tonight?”
That question raises all sorts of implications. You mentally blink away a few stray thoughts and answer,
“I’m going drinking with an oni.”
She laughs in the most wholehearted way, “Oh man, I thought you just said you were drinking with an oni! Bwaahahaa!”
“I fail to see the humour in this.”
She slams her palm on the table in an apparently uproarious fashion, “She’s gonna drink you to the floor! No, all the way to the gutter! No way any man, half-youkai or not, can keep up with the infamous bar queen of Gensokyo!”
“I really fail to see how this is funny.”
“Ambrose, you are going to wake up a veeeery different man tomorrow. Trust me; no guy survives drinking with an oni without coming out with some very fuzzy memories and a whole load of issues!”
 “Well, I've gotten drunk before. What’s the worst that could happen?”  “Wait. How drunk are we talking about here?”  “This is not funny. Not funny at all.”  “What... what happened to the last guy?”
>>35017 Obviously. It's called Computer Science, especially OpenGL and AI Theory. I wrote my best shaders after like 2 drinks. Source code was a mess and difficult to comprehend but the logic, theory, and implementation was sound.
“Waaaaaait. Just how drunk are we talking about here?” you ask, feeling the sudden urge to rub your temples, “Are we talking mildly faded or flat out ankled?”
Reisen’s laughter stops for a moment.
“Mildly intoxicated, or absolutely hammered,” you explain,
“Don’t people clamp down on that sort of drinking?”
Reisen waves the idea away with a knowing smile, “If it’s Suika, the barkeeps don’t pull any stops. She’s one of the best customers they have, always willing to help out with odd jobs and carrying stuff around, and she’s always good company.” She whispers to you, “Plus, I think the tavern owner’s got a little challenge running on how many drinks people can last against her. The payout’s pretty big if you can get past a few litres or something like that, I hear.”
How on earth could such a small girl drink that much?
It must be something to do with her being an oni. It really must. This is probably an attempt to gauge your aptitude for both drink and violence. Possibly an act of cunning, otherwise good-natured but ill-advised. Best case, she’s just here for the drink-
Maybe she just wants to drink. Perhaps, Suika is just trying to be sociable the only way she knows how. No ill intentions, no trickery, just wanting to meet someone new. She is Reimu’s friend, so there shouldn’t be much ill-will towards you. You hope. You can’t help but feel your hairs prick up on end as you reason with your inner paranoia.
“A-ambrose? You alright there?” Reisen asks, having packed up her briefcase in the interim.
“Yea, yeah I’m alright.”
“Well... take care,” she says, giving you a quick bow, “Hope I don’t see you too soon,”
As you stroll aimlessly down the streets of the village, you just observe the world around you, pacing away with hands behind your back.
The people here seem quite... content. There is no real rush to go anywhere, and the only people running are children chasing after one another in the street. People seem at peace, chatting away with asinine topics such as family, leisure... the weather.
In the distance, you can see Keine waving her goodbyes to her afternoon classes as they head off for the day, accompanied by another woman, white haired, wearing the most interesting overalls. Half-heartedly, you decide against bothering the teacher right now. You’ve got little interest in intellectual chatter right now.
Before you know it though, you’re passing by a series of housing blocks, people animatedly going about their daily lives. Occasionally, a few glances in your direction, particularly from hassled looking men and the odd watchman, giving you a cursory nod as they march past. A temple rests in the distance, warmly inviting your gaze with its .
This entire village, this entire land, it all seems far too much like,
”Are you scared of heaven?” she asks, hooking her arm around his,
“No... I think I’m more scared of wanting to go at all. If it’s so good, heaven can wait,” you mutter.
Where did that come from?
You’ve stopped dead in your tracks, your breath slightly slower than usual. Deeper, more... steady?
“Heaven can wait,” you repeat, resuming your stride, “Surely, heaven can wait.”
Damn the consequences. You’ve got to see an oni about a night out drinking soon. Where was that tavern?
After a great deal of wandering and confused direction-finding...
This must surely be a test of patience and of endurance.
“Drink up Ambrose!” Suika giggles, downing yet another mug of the most potent beer you’ve ever had the... pleasure, of imbibing.
Upon your timely arrival at the tavern, you were immediately dragged in by the oni, pleased to have seen you arriving right on time, whereupon she set forth on educating you in the local bar customs and the best of the drinks available.
This is far stronger than the sort of beer you’re quite used to. It actually reminds you a lot of- Well, you can’t really complete that comparison, because she’s just shoved another mug into your hands, despite your feeble protests. You reluctantly decide to sip away, slowly as you can, at the alcohol, moderating your intake at least a little.
It’s a warm place, this establishment; from the moment you’ve entered, you’ve seen quite a few men and women, youkai and human, just whiling away the time until they clocked out for the night, often over a few sticks of grilled meat or the like. Over in the corner, some gents are gambling their earnings away, others crowded around to witness the whims of fate, whilst a few lone men try to eke out their share of tips and attention from playing some light musical fare.
More than a few watchmen, just off their shifts, linger around the tavern, some chugging away at their drinks with reckless abandon, whilst others nervously keep the peace, their long spears slightly out of place in such a tightly packed place.
Yes, you can tell the tavern is quite the volatile place; you can’t help but draw an invisible line between the few youkai patronising the establishment versus the humans occupying the majority of the space. To her credit, Suika avoided the whole problem by dragging you right over to the western style bar, right next to the barkeep, pouring a seemingly endless line of alcohol to pass forth between the waitresses and drinkers.
Staring down at your mug, you can see that you have a good deal more to go. You take another sip...
“... it’s the new one. Looks like an absolute...”
Everything is so noisy right now. You’d rather much like it to stop. Your sight’s rather sharp right now, but it kind of goes blurry every few moments. Feel really warm inside, the chill of the outside air barely registering as the door opens and shuts.
“... that damn youk. Keeps...”
Pretty dark outside by now. Still lots of guards. Most of the working folk have gone by now. Just the dullards and the guards. Suika is still at it, laughing away at some crude joke with the bartender.
“... thinks he’s so smart... who’s he foolin’?”
Much too noisy. This was a pretty bad idea, you think. Too noisy. Guys in the back. If they’re talking about you, you don’t particularly care.
“... Hakurei bitch must have put out-“
Your head swivels to the back of the bar. Three men, drunkards, one of them. Just called Reimu a bitch.
“Wonder how much that asshole paid for her.”
“Can’t be more than a thousand. She’d do it too, miserly little whore.”
“Ambrose?” Suika breathes, barely noticeable,
“Faaarking girl don’t even appreciate proper humans any more, holed up there with those loony witches and those asshole fairies.”
“Don’t even know if she’s still a shrine ‘maiden’ any more, little bitch. Probably screws a couple of half-breed scum every-”
The ugly mug in the middle looks up at you. The bar is actually pretty quiet now.
“The hell you want, youkai?”
Your throat is really dry. “... could you repeat what you said earlier?”
“Say what now, boy?” the mug sneers, “I couldn’t hear ya over the sound of civilised discourse,”
“I asked, if you could please repeat yourself.”
He rises to his full height now, matching you easily,
“You wanna know?” he grins, pushing back his chair, “I said. The hell you want, youkai.”
“You called Reimu a whore. A miserly little whore.”
He turns to his buddies, “Did I say that guys?”
“Naw man, never heard it,” says one, raising a beer apologetically,
“Dunno what he’s talkin’ bout,” says the other, smirking in the most obnoxious way,
The mug waves you away, “Ain’t nothing going on here, youkai. Get outta my face.”
“You can insult me, I don’t care,” you growl, “Don’t you dare insult someone who’s not here to defend themselves.”
“Oho? Look youkai, just make like a ghost and fuck off, will ya?”
You make it a point to close the distance, getting right in his face, “You’re a fool if you think I’ll let an insult against a friend slide, you inbred, ill-mannered, cattle-shagging slimeball.”
The ugly mug shoves you back, “In case you haven’t noticed, you retard, this is the human village. Human, as in not one of you magically corrupted, child-eating little fucks, so simmer the hell down before I sic the guards on ya.”
By now, the entire bar is watching in silence as the two of you stare each other down. Indeed, the guardsmen in the seats behind are murmuring to themselves, some of them starting to roll up their sleeves. Suika, still sitting by the now very nervous looking bartender, is looking incredibly sober right now, those deep eyes watching you like a hawk.
Your watch is already in your hand, ticking away expectantly, a gentle wisp of magic already gathering. Seconds tick by, loudly, defiantly as you hold your stance, nearly nose to nose with the drunkard before you.
The ugly mug shoves you again, causing you to stumble against a barstool.
“Look at you, you stupid fucker,” he crows, glancing back to his two comrades, “The youk can’t do jack shit. He’s just a fuckin’ wuss. What a waste of space,”
The world slows, fading to a dull grey in a long, drawn out tick. In the split second you can observe, he is winding back a fist, going for a quick right handed punch. The guards in the seats behind him are tensed to spring, getting to their feet, one of them opening his mouth in an attempt to call the hostilities to an end.
 Block the punch.  Take the punch.  Punch first.  “You throw that punch, I will kill you slowly. I guarantee it.”
[x] Dodge any incoming punches, but don't attack back. [x] “Did you just tried to punch a youkai...?” [x] Let the guard resolve the situation.
Okay I don't think the guard can take us in if we don't even touch him. Also, how the fuck is he gonna say that last option before getting punched? I was gonna choose that, but I think he'd get hit before finishing.
[x] Dodge any incoming punches, but don't attack back. [x] “Did you just tried to punch a youkai...?” [x] Let the guard resolve the situation. Alright, the bar is full of chairs. Even without ropes or ladders, we should be able to handle these guys. Drunken master time. Oh, and we don't want no trabble.
[X] "Trying to punch a Youkai. Honestly?" [X] Dodge all the punches while counting down from 10. [X] On zero, if the guards haven't intervened yet: [X] "I forswear all responsibility for the consequences of your actions." [X] Palm strike to solar plexus.
His slow, slow fist bounces harmlessly off your buckler, his knuckles cracking noisily as he yelps in pain.
The guards have all frozen mid-pounce, their chairs clattering against the wooden floor.
“You fool. You damned fool.” You turn to everyone in the bar, “He punched first. Can I get any witnesses here?”
A few moments of sheepish hesitation, the murmurs of discussion reach their conclusion and a few people sound off quiet affirmations. A guardsman nods at you,
“Ye-es. Clearly, he struck first.”
You turn back to the drunkard, taking him up by the collar,
“What the hell were you thinking, boy? Punching a youkai in full view of the guards? Did you think they could save you, protect you from the self-controlled, sober and dangerous creature standing before you?”
You can see yourself in his eyes, the white glint of a predatory grin reflected in his quivering pupils as you bring your watch under his chin, his pale scarlet veins visible through the thick, tanned skin.
“I could have taken your head off in a blink, boy. It would have flown clean off your shoulders in the most vibrant crimson hues as your blood splashes upon the floor, soaking into the weathered wood as a faithful reminder to all of your drunken insanity. I can almost imagine it, sailing into the laps of your drinking buddies, the most pitiful expression of misery and despair upon your face as it slowly festers, the insects finding their way to your cooling, worthless carcass like the meat you are.”
You draw a minute crimson line across his throat with an edged shield, watching closely as a little blood leaks, just enough to sting, barely on the level of a papercut.
“The guards would then doubtlessly rush me, breaking their swords on my magic shield before I beat them to a pulp in my blood rage, probably killing a few by snapping their spines like so many twigs to the storm. The oni by the bar would then have to crush me like a bug to protect the rest of the village like the responsible citizen she is. People would have been hurt. People could have very well died tonight, a lot of good, honest, hard working men with families to feed and lives to live. All for your stupid little stunt there.”
You give a quiet chuckle, dropping the man onto the floor, kneeling down to poke him in the chest with a free hand, “Lucky for you, the oni is my drinking partner tonight, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint her. Youkai trash I may be, but I don’t waste life on petty grudges. Spend a day in my shoes, see how you’d like it, humans insulting me and my kin every waking moment.”
Standing up, you stand his chair back up like a gentleman and walk as composed as you can back to the bar, your vision clearing up somewhat, before turning to him one last time,
“Welcome to Gensokyo, my good man; when the humans go stray, the youkai have their day.” You glance at the bartender, “One more pint, good sir.”
About half an hour later, after a bunch of quiet reprimands from the guards, telling you to tone down the menace and thanking you for your discretion, Suika drags you away to a quiet street-
“Rule number one,” she growls, “Do not ever get into bar fights. Damn well could have sparked off another youkai hunt, ya twit.”
She’s got a good backhand, you consider, massaging your jaw. She was risking a good deal by not tackling you to the ground the moment you picked the arsehole up.
She huffs miserably, “Now I gotta get drunk all over again, making me worry like that,” she taps you in the chest, “Fer a smart guy, you sure pick fights easily.”
“I can’t just let Reimu be insulted like that-”
Suika massages her temples, “I know, I know, but those idiots don’t know what she does fer em. They ain’t shrine maidens now, are they? They don’t know how to deal with Yukari’s little schemes like she does, and they certainly can’t duel youkai to a standstill like she does.”
The little oni’s shoulders relax a little before she stares you in the face, “Holding back takes a lot of effort, don’t it? The red haze tends to blur the boundaries, right?”
“... yeah. It sure does,” you mutter, massaging the back of your neck hesitantly,
“I’d never have figured ya for that kinda threat display, though,” she mutters, leading you back onto the main street, now dark and deserted, a few lanterns lit to keep the path visible, “It’s gonna make the rounds soon, yer outburst of righteous wrath. I hope you’re ready to face the consequences.”
“Heaven can wait.”
She turns to meet your gaze, peering into your eyes with a hint of sadness. You can feel something there, a meticulous mind picking over your soul, gathering conclusions from the scraps she can piece together. She sighs,
“That look is just sadness, ain’t it?” she whispers, “Who did this to you?”
The crickets chirp, the breeze carrying the scent of the last days of winter to the fore of your mind. You can’t think. It hurts to think, leaving just a burning desire to go back and sleep, the drunken buzz dulling your senses somewhat.
“I don’t know.”
She pats you on the back gently, “For what it’s worth, time will tell us everything, eventually.”
“As it brings us all to an end,” you reply absentmindedly, looking up at the luminous moon above.
“A pleasurable sleep, master?” asks one Ran Yakumo, carrying a silver tray of goodies for her master, “Would you prefer green tea or jasmine today?”
“Mmmm, just give me the green,” Yukari yawns, tugging at her bedraggled hair, “Report?”
“In the past week, there have been four new intrusions, one accidental. The first and second have integrated well into the village, with one joining the local watchmen on patrol. The accidental landed in the Field of Flowers. I suspect Yuuka has killed them before I could investigate further. The fourth is unaccounted for, but the intrusion was near the Bamboo Forest.”
“Oh, it’s Eirin’s problem, then.” A sip, followed by a moan of pleasure, “Excellent tea as usual, Ran.”
“Thank you, master. To continue, five departures from Gensokyo, one unaided. The two soldiers, the scientist and the shut-in have been sent back across by Reimu. The time-traveller has finished his machine and has returned to his own time. He left nothing worth analysing.”
“Any developments I should be aware of? Start with the... chronomancer perhaps?”
“The chronomancer has integrated well into the village society so far.” Ran thinks for a second, “He was involved in a minor altercation at the tavern last night.”
“Oh? Do elaborate?”
“He defended Reimu’s honour, I believe.”
“Indeed. Surprisingly, no violence was involved on his part, just a very effective threat display, if Suika is to be believed. The young man who was insulting Reimu is under careful guard, though I believe Ambrose is unlikely to try and chase him further.”
Yukari claps excitedly, “Excellent, excellent. We’ll find a place for him here after all. Is there anything else I should worry about?”
“The kappa have been working on a very interesting new device...”
End of Prologue
Spring: A Time to GrowNPC!!H0BGuyBGqx2012/10/23 (Tue) 16:49No. 35079▼
If you don’t know how to use the above, simply append it to youtube's URL
Two long weeks.
Two long weeks of work, of dreamless sleep, of making a life in Gensokyo.
You stretch lazily across the porch of the shrine on your rare day off from work at Kourindou, careful to avoid spilling your cup of green tea as you lounge about, whilst Reimu sits beside you, enjoying the beautiful spring day in rather restrained fashion as she sips carefully at her own tea.
Ever since that incident with the drunk at the bar, you worried about villagers deciding to take out their frustrations on you. Thankfully, the guards seem to accept your presence, what with only acting in self-defence. Your politeness and general disinclination to mischief seems to sit well with the majority of the village, but now and again, the villagers shy their children away from you or avoid you in the street.
Still, apart from the mindless, thoughtless minority, things seem to be improving greatly. After her visit to Kourindou, Nitori has decided that she can trust you with a selection of her tools, and the newer, more precise custom equipment she has provided are a godsend. You’re well on the way to making progress on the complex astrological clock, as well as some other, minor and unrelated projects on the side. After examining some of your other work, Nitori is suitably impressed, even offering to try and call in a couple of favours to get you a house and workshop built in either the forest, where all the other magicians seem to be, or near the mountain, closer to the centre of Gensokyo. You’ve held off on that offer so far, until you’ve gotten a better idea of whether your stay here is permanent.
Alice and Marisa have been, as usual, common visitors to the Shrine, and you and Reimu have paid them regular visits in return.
The black magician seems very intent on finishing the reconstruction of that magical engine she recovered, and you can swear that she’s been trying to analyse and mimic your set of shield-related moves when you’re not around. Whatever her intentions, she certainly isn’t getting tidier; you’ve had to convince her to clean up her place on at least four of your six visits to her, much to her distaste, but Marisa seems to be getting marginally more organised in her efforts recently.
Alice on the other hand, simply exists in your life to enable the most curious interactions with Hourai. Every time you visit, the ‘elder’ doll decides you are an incredibly corrupting influence on both her younger sister and her master, making all efforts to discourage relations between you in the most subtle of ways. Alice seems to be oblivious to this hidden struggle, always willing to share a polite discussion on magical theories of the Far East versus the West or the latest happenings in Gensokyo with you in her free time.
Reimu herself is actually quite busy, somewhat surprising for all appearances seeming to only laze around and drink tea all day; to your knowledge, she has conducted regular maintenance on the Shrine, done routine patrols of the entirety of Gensokyo, as well as occasionally entertaining the odd task or assignment from Yukari’s kitsune assistant. Busy days for the Shrine Maiden of Paradise, indeed.
Suika left the shrine a few days ago on a self-professed urge to get out and go places. Reimu claims it’s just her usual wanderlust resurfacing. Suika said something about visiting the Netherworld, a somewhat distant location, where she apparently is to meet with a ghostly princess for a tea party. You’ve no idea how that works out, what with the crossing into the afterlife usually being a one way trip in most cases, but given that this is Gensokyo, you’ve since just let it slide, reminding yourself that she’ll return in a few days or so.
Well. It seems as though you’ve got the exact same restless spirit right now. You really want to get out there and go do something productive today, whilst the sun’s still rising.
You look at your watch, reading off 9.21AM.
 Why not train with Reimu? She seems unoccupied right now.  Go and visit Marisa and Alice, see what’s going on in the Forest of Magic today.  Meet up with Reisen in the village. She’s always grateful for the helping hand.  It’s your off day and all, but lingering around Kourindou seems worthwhile right now.  Wander around Gensokyo, see some new places if you can, make some new acquaintances.  Eeeeh. Lazy bum you are, why not take a nice relaxing day off? You certainly earned it.
[x] Wander around Gensokyo, see some new places if you can, make some new acquaintances. -[x] Wasn't there that maid at the Scarlet Devil Mansion that could use time magic? Surely that warrants investigating.
[x] Wander around Gensokyo, see some new places if you can, make some new acquaintances.
You’ve got an inkling of an idea, that restless itch in your mind. Even as you button up your waistcoat for the day, you think a good walkabout should suit you fine. You call out to Reimu, somewhere on the grounds, telling her you’re going for a walkabout, probably coming back a bit late.
Best to take the signalling charm with you. Just in case.
It’s funny. You’ve climbed up and down that hill so many times during the last three weeks, it’s starting to feel like nothing at all to you. Still, you really have to get around to learning how to fly.
“Hullo Cirno,” you nod, feeling a familiar chill creeping up behind as you pass a stone marker.
As of late, the ice fairy has been following you around as you’ve made your morning walks to Kourindou. She seems fairly congenial, rarely trying any sort of mischief in favour of some odd chats about recent goings on and questions about you. One would suspect she’s not too fussed about hanging about you, given that you don’t seem to want to blast her out of the air on sight, unlike Reimu or Marisa are apparently more inclined to.
Interestingly, she’s quite knowledgeable about secret places in Gensokyo; a few days ago, she brought you over to a rather nice little glade in the forest when you were on another walkabout. It was remarkably beautiful, particularly considering that it was completely natural and untouched before your arrival. Today, she seems distracted by the sight of blooming plants, somewhat lost in her thoughts as she gives you a wave in reply. Her usual companion Daiyousei seems to be missing as well today. You think nothing much of it, even as you march onwards, past the village...
According to your reckoning, it should be around 1.32 PM right about now.
“Hey Waistcoat, where’re ya going today, anyway?” Cirno asks, floating lazily past your head, “Ye passed the shop and the village, like, a long way back.”
“Just taking a walk, see where my legs take me today,” you reply.
She shrugs once, taking to hovering on her back, “Tch. Never heard of legs moving on their own before. Tell me, do yer hips start moving by themselves all the time?”
You’d be very worried if your hips began to move on their own for any reason. Still, the odd thought amuses you so,
“It’s just a figure of speech Cirno,” you explain, “It’s a saying people use to excuse their random wandering, if you will.”
“Figures of speech are just weird,” she continues, pointing just ahead of you, “Speaking of figures, someone strange is walking on ahead.”
Indeed, a strange figure is making their way along the path, weaving slowly as he or she steps around unsteadily on the rough path. Squinting a little, you straighten up in alarm as the figure collapses on their face, before making a run for them. Turning the man over on his back, you can clearly see he’s been through a lot recently; his modern looking clothing may once have given him some level of warmth, but he’s been quite thoroughly maimed and torn apart, the blood, barely congealed seeps from his wounds as you try and feel for his pulse.
Well. Any hope of saving him is gone. The man’s dead.
Cirno simply watches as you fumble with the body, trying to pat him down for any sort of identification. She takes a cursory sniff as she lands beside you, kneeling down to poke the body a little.
“Y’know, he kinda smells like sunflowers.”
Well, she’s right. The poor sod has the faint smell of sunflowers on him, and in some of his wounds, you can catch the odd petal or two, blood-soaked and all, sticking right to his clothes. Just what on earth happened to him?
No ID, two US dollars and one little laser pointer are all you can find on the deceased denizen. By now, you are quite sorely tempted to use the signalling charm to get Reimu’s help on this, but the more paranoid part of you is determined to keep the charm in reserve for a dire situation. You’re not quite one to loot corpses either, so you replace the cash and the laser.
You can’t... you don’t want to just leave the body here, in the open. It feels undignified and disrespectful to this man’s story, whatever it was. Even as you cross his arms across his chest, dragging him off the path to a space under a tall, shady tree, you can’t quite place this feeling in your chest. It’s like an acknowledgement, an understanding.
This man has died. His mortal life has ended. His time has come.
Well that certainly put a damper on this walk.
It just occurs to you, some twenty minutes later, that you’ve just walked away from a dead body and feel no sense of disgust or panic setting in. This apparent lack of emotion regarding death alarms you somewhat more than the actual fact of the death itself. It also occurs to you, that you’ve made your way to a rather non-descript plain. In the distance, you can see the mountain much more clearly, and somewhat nearby it, relative to your position, you can make out a great lake, somewhat obscured by some kind of mist.
Cirno’s actually looking quite contemplative right now. She seems to be gazing at the lake.
The time is 1.58 PM.
 You should probably head back now. Perhaps you can catch up with Reimu or the magicians.  Hey, maybe you can make it to the lake if you hurry. Besides, it’s not like you’re hurrying or anything, right?  Going to the mountain. Going to the mountain seems like a good idea; Nitori lives there, right?
Hey, Cirno might have some useful input here. Why not say something to the fairy? (Pick one to strike up a conversation. Otherwise, you keep quiet.)
 See what’s up with the fairy; ask her about what’s on her mind.  Ask her if feeling nothing about death is normal.  A fairy like her has got to have some nuggets of wisdom.
[x] Hey, Cirno might have some useful input here. Why not say something to the fairy? - [x] I heard there is a mansion near this lake where vampires and magicians live. Is it far? Do they treat visitors well?
[x] Hey, maybe you can make it to the lake if you hurry. Besides, it’s not like you’re hurrying or anything, right? [x] See what’s up with the fairy; ask her about what’s on her mind. >not keeping the laser pointer We could have used that to distract cat youkai!
[x] You should probably head back now. Perhaps you can catch up with Reimu or the magicians. [x] See what’s up with the fairy; ask her about what’s on her mind.
Well, no sense in standing around. You’ve got better things to do back at the shrine, you figure, so you pivot neatly on your heels, making a straight turn back the way you came.
With nary a word, the fairy hesitates to follow you, the flapping of her wings breaking the curious silence between the two of you. To be honest, this actually worries you slightly, given that in your time with her, she never seems to stay quiet for too long.
“Is something up Cirno?” you hazard, turning to examine the fairy’s contemplation,
“You creep me out.”
“Like, really creep me out,” she continues, nodding in affirmation, “Yer way too calm for a youkai, because they all try to rip my head off or just plain tell me to buzz off every time I talk to em. And yer way too freaky to be a human like the red-white or the green-white, and they’re crazy and stupid.”
Cirno hovers just ahead of you now, the two of you having stopped in the middle of the path. “Plus, ya just feel... off. Like someone left some rice crackers out for too long. Ugh, what’s the word again?”
“Yea, that’s the word. Ye seem a little bit stale for someone who’s up and about so much.” Her face contorts once again in thought, perhaps trying to remember the word, before staring into your eyes, “So, why do ya put up with me? You a crazy monster planning to eat me later, or are you just one of those nice guys who likes talking to fairies and beating up on em when they act naughty?”
Well. This seems to be a most unusual conversation already. Well, absurdities aside, she’s made a very interesting set of points. How on earth did she find out about those three fairies?
“Well, I can definitely tell you that I am totally not planning to eat you or any other fairy around Gensokyo, ever. And those three girls were being a little bit rude, asking for sweets on such short notice.”
She smiles, “And I suppose beating up on em the polite thing to do?”
“I gave them due warning.”
The fairy seems somewhat unconvinced, but judging from her unconcealed smirk, it looks like she’s willing to let your answer slide for now. That’s well and all, considering the most interesting thought just occurred to you:
“On a side note... do the black-white or the doll-lady seem stale by any chance?”
The fairy hesitates with her answer, stretching in the most unlady-like manner before she mumbles out a reply,
“Ehm, the black-white’s pretty normal. Well, not really. She’s a bit sparky in the blowing up sorta way. The doll-lady’s kinda off, sorta like you are, but not so obvious-like. Plus, she talks to the dolls. It’s kinda weird, because some of em talk back. I dunno how that works, really.”
By the time you’ve returned to the steps leading to the shrine, the fairy bids her farewell, citing health concerns if she were to continue following you. You’re not quite sure why Reimu dislikes the ice fairy so much. She seems like nice company to have around.
You begin your climb back up to the top of the hill...
“There he is!”
You halt mid-step, taking a quick glance to the canopy of the trees above. It seems to be Sunny Milk, shaking her tiny fairy fist at you most indignantly,
“The meanie waist-coat’s come back to trick us some more!” she cries, eliciting a panicked squeak from the blonde right next to her.
“You’re a big old meanie!” says the blonde, “But you’ll never take our happiness!”
Number three seems to be sitting quietly on a branch, nodding vigorously as the other two fairies carry on with their panicked screaming. Scratching your head, you continue up the stairs, trying your best to ignore the fairies-
“Yeah, yeah, go on, get outta here you meanie!” “Sunny, I think he’s ignoring us.” “That’s good right, Star?” “I suppose.” “But what if he’s plotting to get us again next time?” “...” “...” “We need to trick him again before he can plot his nefarious plans then!”
“I can hear the three of you very clearly,” you groan, at which point the three fairies dart off into the depths of the treetops, their worried and nervous laughter still audible as they flutter off to who knows where.
“Huh? Back already?” Reimu asks, as you take your shoes off in front of the shrine’s porch.
“Yep. Had a nice morning stroll. All good in the shrine today then?”
She flutters a sleeve at you half-heartedly, the usual signal for nothing out of the ordinary. As you join her sitting at the porch, she passes you a good cup of green tea, freshly made and poured. Quite nice, this tea.
“I had the strangest thing happen on the way back. There were these three fairies were going on about how mean I was to them as I climbed the stairs up.”
“Three of them? A redhead, blonde and brunette trio?”
“That’d be them.”
A minute frown twitches from the corner of her lips. There’s a story in that twitch somewhere. Probably worth asking about some time. Eventually, the conversation turns to the sort of idle chit chat and the inevitable talk about the weather so commonplace amongst normal everyday people...
Somewhere along the line of the morning, you managed to doze off on the porch of the shrine, which was a generally bad idea, considering that you’re now sweating like nothing on earth and are nursing the worst stiff back. You thought you resolved to stop doing that weeks ago.
Reimu seems to be sweeping away absentmindedly, her broomstick swishing back and forth almost fluidly from long, unbroken practice.
As you lie on your back, you begin to think. There is a most annoying thing niggling at the back of your mind. Of late, those vivid dreams of everything, the moon, the stars, the light... they’ve stopped coming. Though Reimu’s sleep has been of late, more sound, it has merely made you concerned. Why did they happen? What did they mean?
“And where have they gone to?” you ask out loud.
You shake it off, and try to remember exactly what on earth you were doing before this. You were wasting time, waiting for something interesting to happen. How dreadful it is, waiting for the call.
This is actually somewhat... annoying. Even now, your mind seethes with boredom. There was once some challenge in trying to settle in Gensokyo, but the adjustment was easy enough. Now you need something to read. Something complicated and theoretical. You’ve exhausted the Shrine’s otherwise limited supply of reading material, and most of the collection at Kourindou are not to your tastes. What little you can consume from Marisa’s pilfered stash is either incomprehensible or irrelevant to your fields of study. All that remains is...
The Voile Library. It seems like you may have to pay Miss Knowledge a visit, sooner than later. And to get there in a timely manner, that your day is not wasted...
You sit up, patting down your waistcoat for your watch, “Reimu?”
The shrine maiden turns to face you.
“What would it take to learn how to fly?”
The disapproving look on Reimu’s face says it all really.
“You’re worse than Marisa, really,” she chides from opposite the table, having taken a short break from her duties to watch your attempt at learning how to fly.
You’ve spent some time with her, discussing the various ways of trying to harness the latent magic in the air. Unfortunately, as her ability to fly is more derived from her own innate powers, aside from some basic ideas and suggestions, she’s mostly been watching you scribble away at your papers, trying to formalise a few experimental flight spells. Most of them revolve around a magic capturing array you’ve pretty much developed from scratch.
“Seriously though Ambrose, why are you suddenly rushing to learn how to fly?” she asks, attempting to glean what she can from your scribblings, “You were just fine with the whole walking thing just this morning,”
Another line of runes. “Walking is fine for leisurely pursuits, but flying is ultimately more productive and expedient.”
“So it’s a practical issue then?”
You nod hastily, hesitating with the pen as you worry how best to finish the equation.
“So what does it all mean, then?” Reimu continues, picking up one of the sheets with a wary hand,
You barely look at her as you place another full sheet aside, “According to my estimations, it’d take too much energy for me to fly by myself to be productive. So, I’ll utilise the latent magic present in the air around here to power the spell. Should... work properly once I get the kinks sorted.”
“So, you’re doing this all by theory then?”
“Theory and practice are the two parts of learning.”
She looks somewhat sceptical of it all.
A good half-hour later, you’re at the steps down the hill, reviewing your spellwork theory as quickly as you can. Already, watch in hand, you’re beginning to form the initial framework of the spell under your feet, tentatively adjusting, feeling the magic course through yourself.
“I’m telling you Ambrose, you’re a fool if you rush things through,” Reimu warns as she follows you to the edge of the first step, “You’ve only just come up with this spell.”
Increasing the output through your watch, you begin feeling a fraction lighter as your feet begin hovering slightly. Adjusting again, making sure you’re quite well balanced, you carefully fold the papers into your pockets and take one good look at world beyond the steps of the shrine.
“There we go. I’m floating in the air.”
Reimu sighs in resignation, “Spirits, you’re actually going to do it.”
You’re certain this spell can support your weight. Pretty certain, yes. I mean, you are hovering at the moment, and you’re feeling little to no pressure in trying to maintain the spell.
 The spellcraft and theory is sound. Take a leap of faith and go for it.  Only fools leap before looking. Take a careful step forward.  Reimu’s right. This is ridiculous. Take a step back and think.  Practically everything about this scheme is theoretical at best. Better to stop and refine it more before you do something stupid.
Sorry about this update being so delayed. I have no excuses.
“Caution is the eldest child of wisdom.” Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
[x] Only fools leap before looking. Take a careful step forward.
Deep inside, a part of you suddenly realises what a fool you’d be made into if you were wrong about this. Perhaps more crippled than fool if things went differently.
You settle on trembling forwards a half-step, edging off the stone stairs with a methodical caution. As your feet begin to hold fast in the air, you can feel a brief tug of complaint from the magic within, your floating feet dipping minutely earthwards as you stumble just before you can correct it.
Taking a moment to steady yourself, you hold your hands up in mock surrender, balancing yourself before you put the other foot forward. One after the other, you end up maintaining a comfortable float, several metres away from the edge of the stairs.
You turn around, finding that Reimu has tentatively followed you off the edge, her skirt gently billowing in the day’s breeze as she drifts over to you,
“You’re really crazy, aren’t you?” she chides, “You’ve never tried this before and you looked half ready to jump,”
“What? No trust in my calculations?”
To your surprise, Reimu looks genuinely unamused, “People don’t just jump off hills to prove a theory they just came up with.”
She has a good point there, no matter how you look at it. You could have simply applied power from a standing position by the shrine. You suppose that would have been safer. But it would have been a lot less dramatic. Yes, it would have been a good deal more dramatic to just jump off the steps. But it would also have been a good deal more deadly if you had made a mistake.
You can’t afford to make too many mistakes in research with Magic; Magic absolutely hates mistakes and brooks no compromise in her pursuit of perfection, with only Mother Nature bringing some common sense and the laws of physics in somewhere along the line. Maniacal little creature that Magic is, she doesn’t even care about what nature thinks. With just about enough Magic, you can do nearly anything, short of creating energy.
Scratching your head, you mumble, “Damn, you’re right. People don’t just jump off hills.”
“Of course they don’t!” she cries, dragging you by the sleeve back towards the shrine, “Get back here before you forget to hover and fall!”
Much of the technique is still raw and unformed, but the results definitely look promising. Hovering in place is, at the very least, possible with what you’ve come up with. All things considered, it’s been a good shot at unaided flight. You quickly scribble some more notes down at the table whilst the memories are still fresh, making sure to put it all down as neatly as possible.
The occasional glance outside sees Reimu sweeping away, in somewhat of an annoyed manner. She still looks
Somewhere along the lines though, your fingers stop scribbling as your mind starts wandering. Your fingers start tapping, tap tap tapping away on the table. The pencil you’ve scavenged from one of the shelves skips a few lines and starts scratching away at another set of notes half-heartedly, forming a set of equations that are oddly... familiar. One set of equations soon turns to two. The second starts flowing freely from the pencil, your mind engrossed in its looping, ecliptic paths, not quite touching reality as it begins to roam...
Roam far and wide, until you
You may want to listen to this: watch?v=3O6yr7pv-QI
Ambrose is fourteen, waiting by himself on a bench, somewhere in a park. You wouldn’t know it, but he is dressed casually, not wearing his usual waistcoat and blazer. Just a clean, white shirt and jet-black trousers. Anyone can see that he is waiting for someone, the way he glances around, double-checking his watch occasionally.
In a moment, Elsa appears out of nowhere, her feet gliding silently across the pavement, hand keeping the brown flat cap atop her head in the stiff evening breeze, dressed in brown cargo trousers and a grey t-shirt. He looks up from his hands, waves once as he gets up.
“Hello Ambrose,” she chirps, giving the boy a good squeeze as she hugs him, “How’s the academy going?”
“Not much change, to be honest,” he concedes as the two of them begin walking down the path, “Most of the lessons right now are still elementary skills, for the ones who practice non-traditional magic.”
She makes idle chit-chat. He just listens, nods occasionally, chipping in with a few sentences carefully chosen. Their day was long and they were young, two children walking down a quiet park path.
The two of them stop by a grand old tree. For the last few years, under this tree, Ambrose talked with his masters, both of them; the old man and the young girl.
The old man taught him magic, spells which could bend time itself and spells that could protect him and others from harm. He taught him the virtues of time and of patience, kept his ever-hungry mind fed, satiated with knowledge, that he would never want for a library.
The young girl taught him to fight, to defend himself with fists and to pursue others on foot. She taught him how to keep his body fit, how to take care of himself and how to move with grace and precision, that he would be a silent storm when he needed it most.
It was under this tree that Ambrose stood his ground and looked towards the horizon, contemplating quietly about what was out there, waiting to be discovered.
“Ambrose, I have something I have to tell you,” Elsa said, slowly making her way up the tree branches far above him.
He didn’t say a word, just watching the skies overhead. Waiting.
“I have a mission that I have to take. I have to go for a while.”
She always has missions. But recently, Elsa has been on mission after mission, delivering things, picking things up, watching people. Skulking and sneaking in the way only her family knew. She always took them on with a cheerful mood.
Today, she was sombre, shaking like he’d never seen before. The easy smile that he normally sees upon her face is not there. She fears for... what?
“Can I ask what your mission is?” he asks, curious above all else.
“I really shouldn’t,” she mumbles, hanging upside down, “I really can’t tell you anything.”
Silence between the two as they exchange stares, two pair of eyes watching each other, waiting for someone to blink first. She blinks,
“Ambrose! I really can’t tell anyone!” she giggles, “It’s just really big, like, we’re being paid loads for this one thing. Even my cousins are being dragged into this.”
It was big enough to warrant a visit from her extended family. Something major was happening.
He stretches, hands touching the back of his head, “Hopefully not secret enough to tell me later?”
She nods, “Hopefully.”
“Well, if you can Elsa, it’d be a pleasure to hear about it when you get back.”
The mood changes again. She switches branches and topics to the academy and its lessons. The follies and the foibles of the people he studied with. He asked her of her training, and they shared a few lessons with each other. She laughs, squeezing him again before she bids him farewell, that she’d see him again in a few weeks. He smiles minutely, the straight line twitching at the corners as she makes her way back.
By the time he arrives at the apartment, the old man is puffing away with his pipe in the study, fussing over some letter from his friend Boyce. He sees the boy, nods at him once. Tells him to consult this page and that, finish his those equations of his and leave whatever questions he has on the table when he’s done; he’ll check it later. With that, Alders stops puffing and he excuses himself from the study.
From the room next door, Ambrose can hear him picking up the phone. Unbridled fury in his tone, a harsh interrogation of the speaker, accusations of gross incompetence, that there was to be peace between us if it weren’t for the declaration. Insults made to their house, that they see the Confederation burn in five years, damn your pride. Call it all off and apologise, he pleads, or you’ll screw us all in the- slams the phone down. Curses.
Another call. Whispering urgently... in Japanese. That their trust was misplaced. Miscalculation of the situation. Damn those warmongers. Outside forces acting upon the Association. They move too soon. He will do what he can, what he must. He expects all preparations to be made and all plans to be followed to the letter. Hangs up. Curses upon curses.
One last call, in English. Calling in a favour owed, the old man says. Trust me, above all, trust in us. Thanks given to the other side, before a weary sigh as he hangs up. Alders doesn’t leave the room for the rest of the night.
Ambrose sits there in the study, engrossed in his books. Time goes by as it always does. He puts away his books at dinner time, settles down, making his own supper before heading off to his room. He sets aside the texts he needs tomorrow, changes into his nightclothes and brushes his teeth. As he lies there in bed, he dozes off (as usual,) around ten past ten.
In five days, an envoy of peace would be sent from Asia to Europe.
You realise by now, you’ve written at least ten pages of equations. The pencil is still scrawling across the page, blunted by the work before you. You bring the current line to a stop, putting the pencil down and picking the paper up.
None of this makes sense. You pick up one of the other pages, slowly picking up on something. Something big. You grab the entire pile, piecing the equations together. It’s big. The thought of it gnaws away at your mind. You need reference books. You need the library. There are a few sums recollected incorrectly, regarding the linked driving arrays, you need to find a book of tables to write them down. AAAAAh, there are also a few incomplete diagrams that you need fixed, right there in thecircleyoucan’tquitemakeit out right there, missing something you can tell. And loooooklook, it’s lacking the sort of... grace that you’d normally attribute to-
The gentle ticking of your watch brings you back to the present. The fact that it is now 5.32 in the evening comes as somewhat of a surprise to you. Very surprising actually. How much time have you lost whilst... writing down these equations?
It’s starting to get dark now.
Where is Reimu anyway?
 You’ve sat around enough. Find Reimu, see if she’s doing anything that you can help with.  The papers demand your immediate attention. Go over them again while you can.  All this sitting around is making your legs fall asleep. Take a quick walk around the grounds.
Hi. Sorry it’s been a while. Been very preoccupied recently. Hopefully you’ve all had an eventful New Year.
That be a typo due to rush jobs in copying over from documents. Meant to be "somewhat sore about that jumping thing."
Thank you for noticing.
[x] All this sitting around is making your legs fall asleep. Take a quick walk around the grounds.
What is there to do besides taking a good walk, anyway? A nice evening walk around the grounds should settle your mind a little.
Best to keep the papers safe though, so we’ll just keep it nice and safe, folded up into the inner pocket of your blazer... hmm, no blazer. This has never occurred to you before. You need another blazer. A thousand curses upon why are you still holding those papers? Placing them aside in a neat pile on the shelves, besides one of the old reference books, you grab your pocket watch and make for the door, sliding it open to get some good fresh air.
The silence, though comforting to you, is beginning to look a bit suspicious, especially given that you can clearly see the tree branches swaying without so much as a rustle. Tapping your foot once on the paving stones, you fail to hear the clacking of your heels.
Backing up a little, the sounds of reality reassert themselves temporarily before being once again muted. How unnatural it is. It must be a recent occurrence; something here smells like the work of fairies.
“Ladies?” you venture, aiming your voice towards the canopy.
No response. You tap your foot silently, waiting for a few moments longer. There is a slight rustling from the trees just in front of you. You take out your watch and start walking towards it.
“Miss Sunny, I must have a word with you and your friends about your nonsensical antics. I'd very much like to be able to walk around freely without being bothered every single time,“ you say, pitching forwards as you phase through the ground beneath you.
You are now face-down in a somewhat deep pit, probably dug earlier.
“HA HA, got you now Waist-coat!” proclaims the ginger, peeking inwards to mock your misstep, “Thought you could outsmart us, did you?”
There is a flash of magic above you as the fairies are swatted away by a few charms, sending them scattering with both shrill cries and laughter. Reimu peers into the hole,
“Need a hand out of there, Ambrose?”
By the time you’ve floated up, with Reimu dragging you up by the hand, you can’t see a trace of those fairies around, what with them having been sent scrambling to their forest by the shrine maiden. Still, that was remarkably embarrassing. Inspecting the pit trap reveals nothing much unusual about it, besides being fairly deep for having been dug out by fairies. They must have cast an optical illusion of some kind across the top to look like grass, because it would seem fairly obvious otherwise.
Why does this seem ridiculously pathetic?
“Where did those three fairies go, Reimu?”
She points at one of the big, sturdy looking trees in the back of the compound,
“There, somewhere in one of those trees. They have a house somewhere in the branches or the trunk.”
Which strikes you as somewhat odd. Most fairies you’ve studied find holy places intolerable to tread upon, what with religious premises usually being safe havens for those seeking refuge from the fairy folk. Not that you’d see many fairies in Europe nowadays.
You start on a route behind the shrine, “I’ll be just a moment then.”
“Don’t do anything crazy again, okay Ambrose?” she grumbles, “You exceed today’s idiot quota, you don’t get dinner.”
Whatever happened to all those fairies in Europe anyway? They can’t have simply upped and gone.
The Churches got them. Blessed them to death and the great beyond in their zeal to eradicate the supernatural, challenge the control of the world by the magicians of the era, responsible for the general decline in magic in Europe since the late 12th Century. Magic breeds magic. No magical creatures, no magical springs. No springs, no new magicians emerging naturally. No new magicians, the magic dies out.
With a careful leap, you begin climbing the tallest tree very carefully. You stretch out for the one overhanging branch.
Magical community is still strong though. Magic breeds magic. New blood needed to keep magical traditions alive, so families were ‘encouraged’ to marry out of the traditional circles. Some say the gift was diluted, reduced in power and capacity due to this policy. Others claim invigoration of the community with new ideas and larger pool of family traits.
Swinging across one branch, you slowly shimmy over to a small door in the tree trunk.
The new-blood and old-blood debate. Some of the old-bloods maintain their lines zealously; defend what little purity they have left fiercely, resisting the inclusion of outsiders into their families. Discriminated against, new-bloods eke out an existence on the fringes, struggling for recognition in a society which values strength and ability where they have none as of yet. Thrown into the fires of magical training and socialising without much aid, they struggle to prove their worth, their right to contribute.
You knock three times on that small door. A tiny voice tells you that she’s coming, just wait thank you. The door opens wide, and Star briefly looks confused, before bowing.
“Good evening, Miss Star. By any chance is Miss Sunny in at the moment?” you ask, carefully perched on one of the branches nearby,
Star nods quite quickly, “She’s just inside right now. Why?”
Sunny looks up from her place on the couch, eyes widening as you peer into their house. You can hear her squeaking in absolute surprise as she starts racing around the room to grab her shoes,
“Could you call her over, please?”
“She might be a while. She’s kinda slow at answering the door.”
Behind her, you can see the ginger hastily snatching a half-nibbled sweet roll from the coffee table and munching on it furiously as she stumbles over to the back of the room, kicking her shoes on clumsily,
“Very well. I shall wait for her here.”
Sunny is throwing a window open now. Now she’s just jumped out of it, cackling triumphantly at her escape.
“Did Sunny just jump out of the back window, Star?” you ask in exasperation,
Star turns, observing the window swinging shut.
“She’ll be back in a few minutes, I think.”
“Nevermind,” you mumble, “I’ll have a talk with her later. Give my regards to the other one. Have a good evening Miss Star.”
“You too, Mr Waist-coat.”
Brushing off your knees as you walk back towards the shrine, all lit up for the growing dark of the night. Cloudy skies block the passage of the stars, leaving the reflected light of the rising moon passing through them in dull beams.
How curious. The moon just basks in her dominance of the night sky. How distant she is from the world, yet silently judging, almost certainly aloof in her rule. Briefly, you watch as the moonlight reflects off the face of your timepiece, the markings glowing in the stillness of the light. You turn it over once in your hand.
Clenching your free hand, you start walking back in, stowing the watch as you take your shoes off and head back into the shrine.
You have a vision in your dreams. A vision of battle.
Looping, whirling arcs of danmaku dance in the darkness of your dreams. You can see them, wave upon wave of bullets streaming away from within, challenging all before you to weave and bob through the curtain of fire. You can picture it now: of entrapment within the wanderings of the mind, capturing themselves as they move deeper and deeper within your lanes of fire, circling the gears and the springs of the maze itself, until at last they come to a halt in a final, decisive movement at the core, escape only by the slimmest of margins.
[i]She’ll serve you well if you treat her right. Brass is rough and ready, but with her own brand of rustic, simple beauty. She’s warm like gold, half as bright, but twice as useful. She’s practical, yet won’t start a fire. But unlike gold, she’s vulnerable, corroding under stress until she breaks.
Can you feel her? That beating heart, the core of your very self?
Here. Reach out and touch her. Smooth as a girl’s cheek, warm to the touch. Soft and firm, always by your side. Wonderful feeling, isn’t it? She draws lines across your arm, plays and teases in her own little way. Titters pleasingly, melodically.
Aren’t you the least bit curious about it? How she keeps it in check?
Now you can feel the scars on your arm. Smooth, unfeeling scar tissue, silver edge drawn across that pale scholar’s skin, cool just like the rest of you. A loud blast behind you. Turn from your desk- Now it’s burning, you’re feeling the searing pain once again as the skin parts in a spray of crimson-
Falling. Crashing to the floor. Writhing and screaming as the shadows stamp at her. At you. They stamp on you, kicking her away. All over you, you’re bleeeeeeeding to slake the thirst of the flooring below.
Dragged across, away from the light. Through the doorway. The splinters digging into your face as you are pulled up. The world has since been covered in a haze of red. Something-
something slams into your facecan’t see in one eye-
it drives into your chest! Why are youdo-
Sto-! S-st- Pppplease- I don’teven
Dragged off the floor, held up by the shirt. Blind. Panting.
When everything is traced to its origin, we know what causes what. Everything can be explained, eventually, if you go back far enough. Nothing is down to simple chance and tricks of the mind such as fate or destiny.
The more important question is, why not?
“Just leave me alone. All I ever wanted was some peace and quiet.”
“You and me both, Ambrose.”
Cracking an eyelid open, you can see Reimu kneeling besides you. She looks worried. Unusually so.
“...mrbl- meds...mmr rabbit...” she mumbles as she gets up, pulling the sliding doors open and getting some much needed fresh air into the room.
“... was I sleep talking again?” you ask,
“You were,” she replies, moving over to the other open door, “Look, Ambrose, if you’re not planning on throwing yourself off the hills or going after the fairies today, please...”
Reimu? She never really looked so, ________ before.
“Please go and see Eirin about these nightmares, for your own sake.”
HAH. See what you’ve done now? You’ve scared her now, overly-emotional little fool you are. If you are as intelligent as you claim, I sincerely pray that you’ll find a way to keep this charade-
“Erhm... please, Reimu... don’t worry too much for me,” you hazard, pulling the covers off, “I’ll be alright, okay?”
She rounds on you, the widest frown you’ve seen to date stretching across her face,
“Please, Ambrose. As your host, I have to make sure... I-if not for your sake, then do it for me,” she grabs your outstretched hand, ”I won’t ask you again,” the oracle whispered, “I mean... I don’t mind if it’sokay with you?”
She’s closer. She hasn’t tied her hair up yet, those brownish locks framing that worried face of hers.
“Ambrose. Don’t give me that look. Did you space out again?”
She’s kneeling beside you. Her soft hand on yours. Hands. Close. Her eyes so curious. B-back up a bit damnit, you’re not supposed to- too close! S-she shouldn’t really, I mean, shesheshe’s just going to tak-
“You okay? Do you have a fever-”
Reimu grips her hand carefully as her eyes widen.
Your free hand is stinging as you back up against the wall. You’re breathing heavily, crap, why is your heart beating so fast right now? What the hell? Why is she on the other side of the room? She’s halfway to rising again, hesitant as she watches you, her eyes focused on yours.
Oh crap, you just slapped her hand away. Apologise!
“I... whu... buh,” you fumble, unable to control the chattering of your teeth, “Just... I-I don’t know what happened-“
“It’s alright,” she says, “Just... just go see Eirin before it gets too bad, okay?”
Reimu left the room several minutes ago to make a start on her chores. You're still sitting on top of your futon, clenching and unclenching your hands.
As much as she’s correct, you’d still prefer not to go. Think of the breakthroughs you can make with those spells if you buckled down and got on with it. Hmph, frankly, you suspect yourself of being rather irrational in your worry, overemotional even. Yes, overemotional.
Spare me the indignation, you are merely proving my point.
If you look at it logically, you’ve had great leaps of intuition from all those memories you’ve been having. You’ve actually made good progress on regaining your magic since you started remembering things. I daresay you could work out the tables by memory if you just thought about it more. Yes, easily, if you simply let me-
You’re not convinced.
Must I argue with you about the validity of this all? We waste her time and her gift with every second we spend on this farcical act you are maintaining.
You’re having a conversation with yourself. Something is not right here. When did this start?
Wait.Why are you arguing witYou’re hiding. Running, Ambrose. Why are you running? You’re delaying the inevitable. Fine, waste your precious time.
Hmm? What were you... thinking about? Something about seeing a doctor?
Ye-es, that’s about right; Reimu asked you to go and see Eirin, Reisen’s master.
Speaking of which, you hope Reimu’s not too ticked off at you right now for wasting too much time thinking about it. Get dressed, get dressed...
Well. The best way to find the doctor, you conclude, is to follow the rabbit. There is a popular story about following well dressed rabbits... you can’t quite remember it. Something about being late?
It’s midday, and the village marketplace is slowing down at the moment as the morning crowd trickles away to sort out lunch and other such things. Many of the stall owners are hurrying about, rearranging their wares or hastily attending to their own needs before the rush. Watchmen laze about in the shade, their assorted hats and helmets resting carelessly by spear point as they while away the time with some cards.
It’s much easier to navigate around the square, with the much diminished crowds now floating away from the stalls. But this does not surprise you. The real surprise would be the lack of well dressed rabbits in the marketplace. In fact, Reisen’s usual spot is vacant and unclaimed at the moment. Not even an 'out to lunch' sign and the umbrella, usually open and providing some respite from the sun, is closed tight.
“Mr Ambrose?” The lady at the next stall is waving at you. “If you’re looking for Reisen, I’m afraid she hasn’t turned up this morning.”
“Is that so?” you grumble,
“It is so. She’s probably at home, poor thing,” the lady tosses a few coins to you, which you catch deftly, “If you see her, tell her she missed a really grateful customer this morning, wanted to give her a tip.”
Well, this limits your possible avenues for advancement today. Perhaps Miss Keine has some good information on her whereabouts then.
“... and so I was wondering if you’d know of anyone willing to help me find her.”
Keine’s fingers drum over the desk as she thinks,
“Well, I know someone who can get you close enough to Eientei without fail.”
“Excellent. Who are they and how soon can we be off?”
The schoolteacher beckons for you to sit. You do so.
“I must warn you beforehand,” she begins, gazing right into your eyes, “Fujiwara no Mokou can easily get you to Eientei. I cannot however, guarantee that she’ll be the safest guide there.”
Safest guide? “May I ask, why is there a question of safety?”
“Well, the bamboo forest around the mansion is incredibly thick,” Keine begins, beginning to draw a diagram on the blackboard behind her, “Few paths through the forest are clear enough to travel for more than two days before they get overgrown, with no real landmarks to indicate the way deeper into the forest. In addition many wild youkai and beasts wander throught he forest and they’re certainly quite dangerous if you were alone, plus there are the innumerable pit traps dug around the forest by the rabbits to protect themselves from the beasts. With so much danger, that is why it is called the Bamboo Forest of the Lost.”
She finishes the last label with a flourish, setting the chalk down,
“Mokou has travelled around the thicket long enough that she is more or less certain of her direction, most of the time. However, she is a mortal enemy of the lady of Eientei, Kaguya-hime. And I do not think that the princess will let her get too close to her home without good reason, much less stay with you until your business is concluded, leaving you stranded in the bamboo forest without a guide.
As such I think it is safe to say that, until she permits you to leave, should you go to Eientei, you could be a guest of Kaguya for quite some time.”
“I see. May I ask a little about the lady of Eientei?”
Keine’s eyes droop a little, “Uhm... well, I haven’t really talked with her much. I do know however, that she is an exiled princess from the moon.”
Silence passes between the two of you.
You rub your aching temples, “... exiled moon princess?”
“I suppose she is princess of a kingdom of Lunarians?”
“Weeeeell, technically, it is not a fully fledged kingdom, being presided over by a lord, much in the way of a traditional feudal manner. In a sense, it’s not really a kingdom as much as it is a state or province, one with its own sovereignty... there is a sort of precedent in it being similar to one of the provinces of Japan, if you were to look at it like-“
Oh dear. Is... is this a lecture?
Why are you nodding so attentively?
Keine has dug up a few tattered old textbooks and a pair of reading glasses from a drawer somewhere, and is scribbling away at the board, filling it with diagrams, timelines and convoluted family trees.
“- it was then, you see, that Lord Tsukuyomi left for the moon, setting up a heavenly palace and city, away from what some would call the filth of the earth. Which brings us to around the Isolation Period of the Lunar Capital-“
She doesn’t look like she’s going to stop any time soon.
Much, much later, still nodding away politely as Keine finishes with her impromptu history class, she is finally coming to a conclusion, finishing the last set of diagrams with a rough sketch of Princess Kaguya.
“- and so, that is how she came to be here in Gensokyo. I still think that she retains her title. Though, I think it would be appended to reflect her status as a princess in exile. Whether or not she remains in the line of succession is unknown to me.”
“... how interesting.”
Keine smiles at you as she adjusts her reading glasses slightly, “It’s always a pleasure to teach something new, Ambrose.” She looks outside, slightly surprised at the resurgent crowds, “My, where did the time go?”
“I suspect she’s made a right fool of us again,” you suggest, checking your watch (3.12 PM), “Is there still time to catch Ms Fujiwara perhaps?”
Keine’s hands shoot up to cover her mouth, “I nearly forgot about that.”
She leads you over to the door, “If you’d like, I can go and get her right now.”
[x] Go and see Mokou right away.  This can wait a while; you’re not quite-No more waiting, get on with it.
“Yes, that’d be a good idea,” you mumble, rubbing your head again, “Where is she by the way?”
This tavern again. Apart from the occasional glance towards you in mild curiosity, most of the people here are simply whiling away the rest of the day, sharing a few jokes or discussing various things over a drink and snacks. A few of them nod at Keine, with acknowledgements like 'Good-day to you sensei' and so forth.
Which of course, brings both you and Keine towards the counter, where a white haired young woman is lazing away, puffing a cigarette absentmindedly. Keine taps the woman’s shoulder urgently, grabbing her attention,
“Mmmph? Whaddya want- Keine?“
Turning on the stool slightly, Mokou is giving you the once over, paying special attention to your hair. She shakes her head in disbelief,
“Aww no. Heeeeeell no. Keine, I’m not interested, okay?” she mumbles embarrassedly, tapping her cigarette ashes into a small dish, “Doesn’t matter who it is, I just don’t- just no. It’s nice of you, really, but I’m not looking right... right now.”
Keine’s head tilts slightly, “What are you talk... Oh.” She giggles, patting Mokou on the back gently, “He’s not here for you; he needs your help getting to Eientei.”
Mokou’s eyes narrow and her shoulders tense slightly, much like she is on edge; her red eyes seem to smoulder as she stubs the cigarette into the dish,
“Is he going to see the brat?” she growls,
“No, he’s looking for the Doctor,” Keine continues, “He’s been told to consult with her on a personal illness.”
This still doesn’t put her at ease, but she seems slightly less tense. She fumbles around in her trouser pockets for her pack of cigarettes, lighting one with a little flame from her fingertips, taking a single puff as she leans back against the bar,
“Well then, if it's just a little sickness, he can wait for Reisen to come into town. I don’t intend on dragging a half-and-half over there right now. That little bitch’ll gloat if I head back so quickly.”
Keine looks somewhat disappointed, “Really? You won’t even consider it?”
“Nope. Poor guy’ll have to wait or something,” Mokou shrugs, “It ain’t that urgent, right?”
The white-haired woman seems unwilling to guide you, based on her enmity for Kaguya. She doesn’t seem to hate the doctor or Reisen. It must be a strictly personal feud of some kind then, not the messy clan-wide sort of affair you were given to believe.
That trick with the fire, is she an elementalist? No obvious focus used either; you can’t see any rings on her fingers or hear any sort of incantation. She just lit the cigarette with a snap of her fingers. That is sheer magical power for sure. Probably wouldn’t want to get on her bad side, maybe not until you know better.
Try to:  Charm  Intimidate Probably not the best idea.  Negotiate  Reason
I like your moxie. I'll accept this as a valid choice if anyone wishes to pursue this further.
I feel like I should clarify the choices a little anyway. They were a little vague.
I'll rule that challenging her directly would most likely count as a sort of hybrid Intimidate/Negotiate, with both the reasons for and against it; aggressive and direct appeals to the target as in Intimidation, with a fair bit of incentive for the target to respond as in Negotiation, but Challenging may cause serious offence and/or unexpected consequences on both failure and success. It could very well result in a Successful Failure...
Charm attempts to appeal to their sense of humour or good-nature, using flattery and sweet-talking to try and get them thinking your way, possibly raising their opinion of you somewhat. However, some people just don't find flirting or charm funny or cute, whilst others may rebuff such attempts on principle or are practiced masters of charm themselves, turning it around completely. Some may misinterpret it completely for something else...
Intimidate involves good old fashioned force, or the implications of using force to pressure your target, mustering an appropriate level of menace. However, this is Gensokyo; for some, this is a formal invitation to beat you up or get angry at you and may cause great offence if unwarranted, not to mention possibly causing friction between the two of you and any of your associates or friends in the future...
Negotiating is attempting to run the middle-ground, compromising and suggesting another course of action to take, possibly involving some financial, material or personal incentives to convince them. Of course, if you have little to offer and they have little to gain, they may refuse. Certain individuals may unexpectly raise the stakes further, landing you in a more dire situation than before. Sometimes, they may ask for something else in return that could be troublesome to provide...
Reasoning is attempting to push your logical processes towards them, outlining definitively why the target is obliged to follow through with your request or convince them to do something using a very special brand of misdirection. Of course, level-headed, intelligent folk will see right through the ruse, unreasonable types may decide not to do it anyway, whilst the outright illogical may draw the wrong conclusions or carry through with flawed logic, perhaps leading to problems down the line...
Acting consistently or inconsistently will gradually build your reputation in Gensokyo and this could make future endeavours and interactions easier or harder accordingly...
I'm inclined to go with the challenge or charm options, but I say intermittent hallucinations and delusions are serious enough problems to maybe convince her. On the other hand, we could gain an ally by charming her or gaining respect through one-on-one combat.
[x] Reason He's never really come across to me as a charming man, and even if he was I think Mokou would be the type to blow him off. He's always been a straightfoward guy for the most part, so I think this is the option that's most in character, this or Negotiate, but he hasn't much to offer.
Well, you can certainly try to talk her into helping, right?
“I don’t suppose you could find it in your heart to help out someone in need?” you ask, leaning on the bar somewhat unsteadily, “Reimu’s been pressuring me to see the doctor and she’s all but given me a direct order to go. It would mean a lot to me if you could help me get there.”
Mokou simply stares at you for just a moment, before wryly smiling, “I can see why he hangs out with the miko,” she says to Keine, petting your head a couple of times, “To think that she’s tamed a guy like you so quickly. Must be some fire left in the Hakurei line, alright.”
Despite the obvious fact that she’s not taking you seriously, you can’t help but find the petting mysteriously comforting. It seems as though some of the gents at the bar have noticed, trading a chuckles at the scene before they return to their drinking.
You cough quietly, trying to get Mokou’s attention once again.
“I’m serious. I really do need to get to Eientei as soon as possible,” you say, “A... pre-existing condition has deteriorated, and I need to get it sorted out.”
“Alright, alright, I get it,” she sighs, taking another drag from her cigarette, “I’ll take you there, just this once. But, you seem like a decent guy, so let me make something clear for you.”
Those eyes seem to reignite as they gaze into your own.
“There is one lady at the mansion who isstrictly off limits. What she passes as flattery or asks of you is to be ignored or denied. Stay away from the princess of the Lunar people, because she’s taken the lives of far too many good men with her stupid little games. Are we clear?”
Keine waves rather urgently at her, “M-Mokou! Please, your hand!”
The white haired lady extinguishes the flames, watching as the ashes of her cigarette scatter onto the counter, “Pfffft, yeah I know Keine... geez,” she turns her attention back to you, “So... uh... what’s your name again?”
“Western huh? Whatever. I suppose you’d want to get on with this little trip straight away, right?”
“If convenient, yes.”
She rummages in her pockets for a bit, pulling out a few coins to hand over to the barkeep, “Well, then Ambrose, Fujiwara no Mokou will take you to Eientei by next dawn’s light, no problem.”
“I gotta ask,” Mokou asks, “You were the guy who slit that kid’s throat the other day, right?”
Mokou seems to have lightened up considerably since leaving the bar, pacing slowly and surely through the Bamboo Forest, hands in her pockets. Though the sun set about half an hour ago, the two of you have been making your way by the light of her conjured flames, a wreath of fire about her back, like the wings of a phoenix.
“You know, the other day, just last winter,” she continues, “A half-youkai and an oni walk into a bar-”
“That sounds like the set up for a terrible joke.”
She smirks, “Damn right it does. But anywho, you did it, right?”
You cross your arms, “I only drew a barrier across his throat. It didn’t even cut that deeply.”
“That kid’s a real wuss. I remember coming in the day after, and he was sporting this huge bandage across his throat,” Mokou laughs, giving her arms a nice little stretch, “He was babbling on and on about how he nearly lost his life to this drunk youkai to these two girls. Coward.”
So far, the journey into the thicket has been quiet and uneventful, interspersed with a few random questions from her. Mostly personal questions, a few elaborations here and there...
“You’re a half-and-half, right?” she asks, barely paying attention to the path ahead,
“Who was the mother?”
Mokou pauses, tapping tentatively on a patch of earth, “Who was the mother? The youkai or the human?”
You cross your arms hesitantly, “I... where did that come from?”
“Eh, nevermind then,” she chuckles, watching as that patch collapses in itself, “Just curious Ambrose. Don’t get too many half-breeds around. You folk are something of a rarity out here. Aren’t too many humans willing to bed with a couple of man-eaters after all.”
She gives you a little smirk, “I heard you’re living with the red miko, right?”
“When you get around to it, go easy on her,” she winks, “Ordinary humans aren’t as, uh... sturdy as the rest of your kind.”
You blink. And then it clicks.
"And you would know, of course," you mumble.
Her only reply is a most infuriating smirk.
“Don’t tell me you actually subscribe to that raggy, sensationalist piece of rumour-mongering trash that passes as a newspaper.”
Mokou laughs heartily as she casts an eye into the pit, “Most rumours start from some kind of basis, even if they get horribly spun out of control.”
“I do not have any intentions towards Reimu.”
“Riiiiight. And that witch in the forest don’t have anything on you either.”
Mokou nods, sticking her hands in her pockets as she leads on,
“She’s just a colleague. I’m helping her out with artefact reconstruction,”
“Well, she seemed really excited about something when she was in town the other day.”
It must be something interesting for it to grab her attention. Still, it’d be nice to learn a little bit more about your escort. She looks and acts like the kind of person to have an interesting life.
“Tell me about yourself.”
You scratch your neck, “Outright? Not even an ‘I was born and raised’ bit?”
She waves dismissively, “Its need to know and you don’t need to know. Do you really need to know?”
“I was just trying to make conversation.”
“That curiosity is real cute, but it’ll get you hurt eventually. Isn’t there an outsider saying about it? Curiosity killed the cat, right?”
Is it just you, or did those flames just flicker more brightly, for just a second? Well, this seemed like a neutral topic to bring up…
She clicks her tongue irritably as she watches the sides of the forest. It seems like something important, so you stay very still and wait, slowly drawing out your pocket watch. Scanning around you, keeping a close eye on Mokou, you carefully prepare a shield.
“Damnit, which way was west again?” Mokou mumbles, hands on her hips.
As you venture deeper into the forest, the bamboo seems to wrap around the path, clustering and thickening until the thick foliage blocks most of the moonlight from above.
It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by youkai.
Well, you would be, if you went alone. Mokou’s summoned flames seem to be keeping the worst of them at bay, though periodically you can hear the crushing and stamping of the bamboo shoots just beyond the light. Now and again, she throws a fireball into the deeper parts of the forest, usually accompanied by a yelp of fright or a slew of curses.
That said, you are getting somewhat concerned about the lack of direction Mokou possesses. With frequent stops in the middle of nowhere, she seems to pick a direction at random, with her mumbles of confusion being quite audible as the two of you venture deeper into the Bamboo Forest.
Eventually, you both end up in some sort of clearing,
“… I could have sworn it was two left turns from the stump,” she murmurs, surveying the path before you.
“You have absolutely no idea where we’re going, do you?”
She looks genuinely offended, “W-well, I’m pretty sure we’re closer to Eientei than you think. We just need to keep on the path, and we’ll get somewhere eventually. Technically, it would be a lot easier if you could fly.”
“I’m working on it at the moment,” you say, leaning back, “Nothing short of a catapult will send me flying just yet.”
Your foot catches on something.
In the split second it takes for this to register, Mokou’s eyes have grown at least three times in size as she attempts in vain to grab your hand.
With a mighty groan, a particularly elastic bamboo plant straightens out...
There is a first time for everything, you muse, and there is certainly a first time for being catapulted by a snare trap into the great unknown. Right now, you are on your back, your feet tangled in a very tight snare and your arms protectively folded in.
Back’s okay, stings a lot, but pain is by far better than death. Your arms are bruised and battered, but still good. Fingers all okay. Can’t feel right leg from the knee down, pretty sure the left leg is good.
When you find whoever put that trap down, you will make them-
Something from just above your head snaps shut. You try and turn your head-
A giant bear trap. Just snapped shut inches away from your head…
You will make them apologise.
But first, need to get back to someone helpful. Preferably Mokou, though judging by the state of things, you wouldn’t mind anyone in particular. Untangling your legs, being particularly careful to avoid aggravating your injuries, you begin looking around.
You are in the middle of a simple dirt path, the bamboo canopy opening up to the heavens above, letting in the moonlight. The accursed bear trap is arranged just so; it seems positioned to ensure a snappy end to whoever lands in it. Ahead and behind of you, the path leads onwards, deeper into the forest, where you can observe a distinct lack of light as the canopy thickens and looms over the path once more.
Well. The situation looks kind of… troubling, to say the least.
 Call out for help.  Sit tight and wait.  Crawl/limp around a little.
Might as well just sit down and wait a while. Besides, you can’t have gone too far, right?
Seriously, snare traps can’t possibly launch someone… well on the other hand, this is Gensokyo. Something tells you that wasn’t just an ordinary snare trap, and it certainly seemed like it was intended to kill or seriously maim.
Actually, judging by the positioning of the accursed bear trap, it looks as though the target of the trap may have been bigger or taller. It would have to be a perfectly plotted trajectory for a creature to be sent flying, head first into the jaws of that thing.
What kind of sick, sadistic soul would come up with such a thing?
What if you were an injured man trying to get to the doctor?
It’s so… indiscriminate. The madman behind such a trap must be quite the character…
Shuddering at the thought, you turn your attention to the night sky above, the moon smirking through the clouds, sailing away from the horizon. It seems to be waning now, just at the edge.
Why is there a proper lunar cycle in a pocket dimension?
More importantly though, why is it so quiet?
Normally, there would be the quiet humming and buzzing of night-time insects and the shuffling and scuffling of animals and youkai. Dead silence is just the sound of death. Your watch at the ready, you keep it close to your chest as you listen carefully. Waiting, wincing as you try and move yourself to a better position, your right leg practically burning up as you twitch it around limply.
The waking hours are coming soon, and your vigilance has been duly rewarded.
The blinding pain has finally begun to subside as the sun rises. You’ve stopped grinding your teeth and actually have breathed proper, deep breaths for the first time in hours.
First time in hours, you’ve breathed deeply. You’re taking this fairly well actually.
It’s going to be alright. You know it. Someone will come. Definitely.
You’ve just got to sit tight and wait it out.
Oh who are you kidding?
Damnitdamnitdamnitdamnit it bloody hurts! You can see the damn knee swelling up and the throbbing and the- DAMN. Why did you twitch?! Where the hell is everyone! This is a path in the forest, travelled and obviously maintained!
You’re bloody lucky there haven’t been any youkai coming in this close. There is absolutely no way you could have realistically defended yourself last night. Damnitdamnitdamnitdamnitdamnit. The cursing in your head is actually proving to be mildly therapeutic.
Think of other things. Other things. Watch. She’s just as unamused as always. Tick tock tick tock. Brass needs a bit of polish to stay shiny. Tick tock tick tock. Going on and on off your own magical energy.
Your capacity for magical feats is not spectacular right now. Half awake, half drained. Perhaps instinctive attempts at using magic to dampen pain? Hmph. Would make sense. Half assed attempts at protecting yourself seem to work out most of the time for you. Instinct. Bah. Who needs instinct when you can plan, you can think?
Think. Think think think.
Time to think is so valuable. You can see so many ways you could die right here, right now. Most of them involving youkai of various sizes deciding to attack a weakened target. Some of them involving doing something foolish like trying to move and falling unconscious from the pain. Worsening condition, permanent damage to your right leg. Starvation or dehydration. If it rains, it would get worse…
Worse. How much worse, you wonder.
“Damnit,” you mumble, collapsing on your back. Everything just seems to fade into black as give up on keeping your eyes open. Just too tired to keep thinking.
Pacing. You can hear pacing, walking. Humming. It’s the happy, carefree humming of someone in control. You can hear more than walking. Marching. Multiple feet. A crowd. Commotion. Joking, laughter.
Both male and female. Higher pitched, smaller people.
“Eyah! Looks like we caught ourselves something today, gents!”
“That’s another one for the boss!” “Yep yep, she’s done it again.” “Amazing innit?”
Hmph. Cheap praise. How interesting.
Crack open an eye, you roll slightly onto your uninjured side for a better look…
Rabbits. More of Reisen’s people. Most of them dressed simply, casually lugging around spears and bows. The little one in front, dressed in pink interests you slightly.
They all seem to be heaping the flattery on her, and she’s just nodding away, clearly enjoying it. She does this little puffing up of her chest as she strides confidently to you. Bending down over you in a obviously pleased manner. Thinking.
“Hey, I recognise you, you’re that guy in the papers, right?” she turns to one of her lackeys, “He’s that guy, right?”
“Yeah boss. Ambrose, half-youkai, lives at the shrine,” he answers, taking a short bow.
“Hmm hmm hmm. What’s a nice guy like you doing in a place like this? Come to visit Reisen, have ya?”
Throat’s dry, a bit too confused to really answer. Wait. She’s a rabbit and she mentioned Reisen. She knows about Reisen, therefore she would most likely have some contact with her. By proxy, she should logically know about the doctor. Therefore, best choice to help get to Eientei. You answer,
“Before, to see the doctor about bad dreams. Now, see the doctor about grievous injury and complaints about hospitality.”
Well, that was what you wanted to say, but it really actually ended up as,
“… d-doc… see the doctor ‘bout... hospitality.”
Her ears twitch uncomfortably as she starts gesturing at a few of the guys behind her.
“Cotton, Buck, get the stretcher, get the boy outta here. No jostling. Hop to it.”
Grunts of affirmation from beyond your darkening eyesight.
“You’re gonna be fine there Ambrose. How about you take a deep breath-”
You wake up in a rather comfy western style bed.
Blinking several times, you pat your body down, confirming that most of your clothes are gone, replaced with several very annoying rolls of bandages and slings, leaving you only a pair of borrowed shorts for modesty.
This is uncomfortable on some levels. But then again, being alive and in considerably less pain than before is always nice. Blinking away the rest of your unconsciousness, you take the time to observe your surroundings more closely.
As far as first impressions go, this is pleasant. Across the walls, there are light green panel doors, with translucent paper windows, through which light gently wisps in. Floors that seem so clean, you swear you can see the little reflections of the light playing off the ground.
And yet this room is so sparsely decorated; just two wooden stools and a simple wooden table. You can spy your watch resting atop a neatly folded pile of your dusty discarded clothes.
On a small scrap of paper on the little bedside table, there seem to be instructions for you:
#1: For your own safety, I suggest that you do not get up, move around or squirm in your bed. This will aggravate your injuries.
#2: Meals are at 7.30AM, 12.30PM and 8.30PM. If you have been cleared as able, you may join the household at mealtimes.
#3: If you need something, call for Reisen or Tewi.
It ends with an exquisite looking stamp, something you recall being equivalent to a signature. How fascinating.
Something flutters out of a small portal onto your lap.
Looks like a note from Yukari:
I’ve heard you’ve gotten yourself into trouble again, so I’ve taken the liberty of telling Reimu where you are. she’s told me to tell you to tell her when you’re better.
She also says that Marisa’s gotten a hold of something that may interest you when you get back.
 You’re recuperating in a comfy bed. Why move? --- Call for Reisen. --- Call for Tewi. --- Take a nap.
 Bed or no, you’re itching to get up… --- … just to fetch your watch. --- … to check around the room. --- … take a walk around outside.
[x] You’re recuperating in a comfy bed. Why move? ---[x] Call for Tewi. Bad rabbit. Naughty rabbit. Pass the watch, please. We might also want to ask her to get word to Mokou that we have arrived at our destination in surprisingly few pieces.
>>35413 It was pretty obvious that she feels guilty for gravely injuring a person who just wanted to get treatment from the doctor. I doubt she'll pull anything. Also, what are the chances of Eirin not noticing that we're not half-youkai?
[X] Bed or no, you’re itching to get up… ---[X] … just to fetch your watch.
Your watch is there, waiting for you to pick it up. Pick it up.
Steadily, you slide your legs off the bed. Slowly, you let your recovering leg carry your weight. Easy, easy does it, and you are now on your feet. Whatever the doctor has done, they’ve done it well, not even a twinge of pain as you begin moving towards the table.
There she is, glowering at you, the dim light reflecting off her face, ticking steadily onwards. As you pick it up, you feel an overwhelming surge of relief. A cursory examination of the watch reveals nothing untoward, besides it being a little on the slow side. Rolling it over in your palm, making sure it’s fine, you click the crown, feeling the mechanisms reset themselves.
The seconds hand ticks faster, the minute hand twitches uncertainly, the room around you seems to stretch and flex. What was that?
The time, what is the time… It is now 4.43 PM.
Sadly, you have nowhere to pocket the watch, so you decide to start rummaging through your gathered possessions.
Not that you’ll need your shoes inside. But still, the notion of getting undressed whilst unconscious is unsettling. You decide against getting dressed in the dusty clothes, for obvious reasons, and return back to the bed to sit down on something comfy whilst you wait…
If you stay very quiet, you can hear conversations and laughter around you, footsteps on creaking floor boards, the opening and shutting of panel doors. Every now and again, the words ‘Doctor’ and ‘master’ keep popping up, sometimes with concern, but always audible.
The silhouettes of figures outside play on the external wall; all of them are clearly rabbits, long ears and short statures, robes and dresses, a skip and a hop in their steps, carrying tools, chatting to each other, content and carefree. It must be a nice existence.
Carefully, you keep watch over the internal door, turning your watch over and over. Something here makes you uneasy. It is like a constant presence. Something that seems to linger on the edge of your awareness. Isolating it, you begin to notice the… ‘feel’ of this place doesn’t seem to be quite right. Your watch ticks away, almost pleading for something.
And then you notice it.
Out of the corner of your eye, you watch as the second hand stops for just a fraction, before a tiny ‘click’ sets it on its way again, the device grinding away in frustration, bolstered somewhat in its action by your magic.
Here, in this place, it is like the seconds seem to bleed away into a strange sort of… timeless, eternal void.
Is this place temporally locked?
No, it cannot be. Everything is as it is. It is an irregular occurrence; there are sometimes seconds between these voids, at other times minutes. Something or someone is controlling the flow of time here. But it doesn’t feel forced, like the times with Izayoi’s time-stops. Rather, it feels…
Lethargic, almost unnoticeable. Like time herself just decided to slow down for a while.
Flickers of a new silhouette hesitate at the door before disappearing again. That feeling passes by you in just a moment-
It is difficult to while away the time after that. The presence has not returned since then, but the uneasy feeling you have in your chest doesn’t fade at all. You get up again to rummage through your waistcoat, looking for something. Yukari’s little note, the doctor’s instructions, parts and pieces of your incomplete calculations and frameworks, but Reimu’s little charm is nowhere to be found. Think. Think.
You remember you left it on that shelf in the shrine.
“Idiot,” you mumble.
You’re stuck here in Eientei, in the middle of the Bamboo Forest, your original guide nowhere to be seen. You’re alone and vulnerable, with this strange presence circling around you, with only your watch, wits and good intentions.
Nononononono don’t think like that. Calm down and think carefully.
You were rescued by some rabbits. They clearly had the decency to help an injured person on the road. You remember some calming words, the usual affirmations of security and comfort being spoken as you blacked out. Malicious intent seems… unlikely, to say the least.
There is a strange presence around that slows the passage of time. An unfamiliar figure, which you are certain does not belong to a rabbit, hesitates by your door before disappearing.
Add it all up.
It wouldn’t be the doctor. The instructions seem authoritative, firm and very professional. It doesn’t match up. If it was Eirin, it seems she would just announce her presence, open the door and come in.
Sakuya had some control over time. What is there to say that servants of the affluent do not all possess skills of a similar bent? It would make some sense.
You are missing pieces of the reality behind this situation. It would be bad to start coming to conclusions now, so you decide to wait further.
You’ve been waiting somewhat patiently for the last thirty minutes, occupying yourself by going over your equations in your head, trying to figure out what it all means, when you hear some panicked words:
“Woah! Calm down a bit, space cadet!”
Equally panicked footsteps. Coming closer to the door, sliding it open.
Looks like Reisen, looking somewhat relieved as she puts down that heavy looking briefcase of assorted drugs.
“I was wondering when you’d turn up,” you say, “I was beginning to think I was in quarantine.”
“I only just heard about your little accident when I got back!” she groans, “But it looks like master has gotten you all sorted out.”
“The doctor’s work is remarkable.” You chuckle, recalling the phrase, “Space cadet?”
Her brow wrinkles, her lips stretching slightly taut, “It's in the past. Please don’t ask.”
“Understandable. How have you been, then Reisen?”
She grabs one of the stools, taking a seat,
“Oh, I’ve been alright. Sales are as always, nothing too exciting. I heard from someone you were looking to visit for some consultation?”
“Mmm. Bad dreams still going on. Is the doctor a qualified therapist as well?”
Reisen laughs happily, “Oh, I’m sure she’s more than qualified. I mean, she is a magical medical genius after all. She’s definitely the best I’ve ever known.”
“High praise indeed. When may I meet with her?”
“Oh… um,” that cheerful little smile has turned to slight nervousness, “I think… right now? She’s running her usual tests and experiments before she meets with a few other patients… it could be a while.”
“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be done soon though. Perhaps in a few hours?”
You certainly hope before dinner. Shaking your head slightly, you continue with your little chit-chat with Reisen for a while. Soon though, she taps her forehead in exasperation, apologises for having to leave because of chores and heads back, shutting the door behind her as she lugs the briefcase away.
It was nice to see a friendly face, even for a few minutes.
How many minutes can you see right now?
You’ve counted and thought. Maybe three… three more seconds to go before your fourth? The watch concurs, ticking away with undiminished enthusiasm as you continue to tweak and tinker with what you can. It’s funny, really. You’ve started attributing almost human traits to the watch recently. It’s a she, you’ve decided, and she seems to be enjoying the attention as she works the time away at a steady pace.
A little bit of personification seems harmless enough, right?
It is 8.23PM right now, as you confirm.
The door slides open, and a little rabbit comes in with a small tray of food, excusing her intrusion as she hands the tray off to you. A sort of vegetable stew and rice, served with some cool green tea. Someone’ll collect the tray at nine, enjoy your meal. She leaves without much more to say.
A simple meal. Pleasant enough.
Finished, you place the tray aside and think.
The door opens again, far too early to be the tray collection…
It is definitely not a rabbit. Her posture is somewhat stiff, with a somewhat regal expression on her face as she walks in. Yes she is most definitely someone of high class; the judged and precise footsteps seem composed. You can’t quite make out her intentions as the young lady stands before you, staring long and hard into your eyes.
She seems very much the classical Japanese beauty; long black hair, pale white skin. Expressive yet unnaturally beautiful eyes, with a hint of pale red or auburn in them. A fine dress, cut well for her size and body. It really does suit her. Wait. There it is. That lingering presence from before. It seems to be focused around her personage.
“[Messenger, praytell what the Lunarian Court desires of me at the present?]”
Wait what? What was that?
She sighs quietly, “[Please do not waste my time and yours, messenger. What does his lordship want now, what message do you bear?]”
You don’t even understand a word she’s saying. What is that language?
“[Hmph. Not a word. I suppose then, you are here for the Doctor perhaps? Is this a summons?]”
Questions, you are pretty sure they’re questions, by the rising inflection at the end.
“[What!? What do you need, who are you here for? Confound it, man! Can you not even speak? Do they send deaf-mutes to deliver all the messages through the court now?]”
That was exasperation. The lady seems to be getting somewhat impatient with the lack of reaction or comprehension right now. Huh. She seems to be pouting. Oh, she seems to be… hmm. You should probably do something right now.
 “Pardon?”  Shrug cluelessly and apologetically.  Tilt your head and stare at her.  Call for someone to help.
Who said there's a need for justification? Besides the comment's hardly rude considering a, she'll realize he's not some messenger in particularly from the "Lunarian Court" and b, would most likely be more inclined to being polite rather than annoyed by Ambros's ailing circumstances.
>>35439 Okay, it was a joke. Online, you'll occasionally hear Japanese referred to as "moon language" because of it's difference from English. I saw the opportunity to throw in an internet joke, and I took it. Besides, do we know what language that the lunarians speak? Would Ambrose know its name? He has been told by Mokou that there is a lunar princess there, who may be speaking a moon language.
[x] “Pardon?” ---[x] Tilt your head and stare at her.
Well, best to clear up this misunderstanding before it gets out of hand.
“Pardon?” you ask, tilting your head slightly, “What was your question, miss?”
The lady hesitates quite visibly now, lacing her fingers together nervously before she lets out a quiet little groan of disappointment.
“I should have known.” She fumbles around with her sleeves for a moment, “My apologies, sir. I um… I believe I mistook you for someone else. Please excuse my intrusion.”
“All very fine and well,” you reply, “A good evening to you then, miss?”
Ah. This is the lady of the household. Very interesting.
“Pardon me, but if you would care to indulge a curiosity of mine, Miss Kaguya?”
She turns to you once more, her expression somewhat… unsure, “If it does not inconvenience either of us, yes.”
“Is it normal for a temporal distortion to be centred around your personage?”
A few short blinks in deep thought, re-evaluating you. Judging you.
“Yes. In short, it is a part of my set of talents. Now, please excuse me. I have wasted enough of your time.”
With that, the lady of the household slides the door shut, and you are once again left alone. Glancing at your watch, you frown slightly as it returns to life once again, ticking away. How irritating.
“Dammit Ambrose. I-I-I’ve got the jitters right now.”
“Relax Hiram. You’ve rehearsed this so many times.”
Ambrose is 12 years old, and is carefully holding a small device out for the young man as he scrunches up his fists repeatedly.
Hiram twitches uncomfortably as he pulls out his speech notes, “Ach, but what if the converter sparks off again? Or or the shielding breaches in the circuitry?”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Ambrose assures him, gently patting the box in his hand, “You’ve refined the prototype so much. I doubt it will fail. Well, not too badly.”
The two of them stand just outside the main demonstration hall of the university, minutes away from Hiram’s first practical demonstration. Behind the door, dozens of magicians, craftsmen and academics await the presentation. Some with curiosity, some with mild amusement, others in faint disbelief. None of them know what to expect from the two young men.
The time comes, and they are signalled in by an attendant.
Ambrose follows behind the older boy, carrying the device carefully to its appointed position, plugging a specially shielded power cable into a socket on the device. Setting it down, he stands over to the side while Hiram takes centre stage.
“Arhm. Hyes, hullo ladies and gentlemen. I’m uh, glad to have all the esteemed members of tha University Board, the Mechanist’s Guild and the visiting members of the Council here today, to uh witness what I believe may lead to the future of magic manipulation.
What you see here in the centre of the stage, just in front of me, is the Mark One Electro-Thaumic Converter. As outlined in Williams’ earlier paper on electron-thaum interactions, I’ve extrapolated the Type-II scenario he proposes to create a functioning magic conversion circuit.”
Murmurs from the crowd, especially from the university staff.
Hiram immediately waves his hands, “I can assure you all, Ambrose and I have tested it exhaustively and have taken all precautions to avoid levelling the North Wing in this test event. But if it’s all the same, I would kindly ask for any members of the audience skilled with shielding spells to be on standby, just in case.” He edges slightly away from the front, “Now, um. Ambrose, if you could take it away. Set it to stage one.”
Walking over to the device, Ambrose tweaks a small dial on the front of the machine, which immediately lets out a low, desperate whine.
All over the hall, people start reaching for their foci, relaxing only when Ambrose begins tweaking with a few of the other controls, passing on words back to Hiram as he kept the reactions stable, the whine dying down as a low glow began emanating from the machine.
“Ahaha, really? Okay. So, Ambrose is telling me that, uh, due to the unusual concentration of magicians around interfering with the device, we’ve had to dial back the conversion rate for um, safety. So what you are seeing right now is a simple conversion of an electric current into a rudimentary magical circuit, resulting in the predicted Williams-Dreyfus Corona.
Basically, with the emergence of the tell-tale corona of magic, we’ve definitively proven the potential for electricity to be manipulated to generate a functioning magical field. What I am hoping for is to be able to further manipulate those fields to create functioning magical shielding…”
“Damn. Good work with containment Ambrose,” Hiram breathed as the last of the crowd filed out, “Coulda levelled the entire block again.”
“I thought we fixed the cascading feedback problem with the reflex inhibitor,” the boy muttered, disconnecting the device’s power supply, “Didn’t we solve that?”
“Ehrm, I think we forgot to take into account the uh, complex interactions between thaums with such a dense field from the crowd…”
The two young men quietly discuss, walking out of the hall together before retiring for the evening. Inexplicably over the next two weeks, all across the world, random buildings began exploding. Numerous papers made their way to journals, a few of them corroboratory, most of them dismissive. More than a few contained outright speculation of the existence of the Williams-Dreyfus Corona. Out of a total of seventeen papers, only two correctly identified Ambrose’s identity as a chronomancer and his purpose at the demonstration. Only one of the two was referenced by another academic within the next two months.
By now, the young gentleman has become a scholar. In between his studies and his work with Whitt, Ambrose is rarely seen outside the Academy’s archives, head stuck in between his own calculations and the various references from the glory days of long ago. His own room is packed to the seams with old paper and thick tomes, rudimentary toolkits and manuals for construction, diagrams and schematics for machinery.
“He is a prodigy,” says a teacher, “I’ve never seen someone pick up so quickly in all my years.” “He is incredibly mature and polite for his age,” say the visiting council members,
“I fear the boy is not taking care of himself,” the headmaster sighs, writing to Alders of his worries. “He frequently turns up on my isolation watchlist,” reports the counsellor, “He doesn’t appear at social events often.”
He eats late and sleeps later, his mind whirring and sparking with the sound of knowledge, his curiosity and wandering mind, lost within the labyrinthine depths of the Academy.
But Ambrose escapes once or twice a month. Puts on a good shirt and waistcoat, perhaps a jacket in cold weather. He leaves his room, the library, the workshops and the labs. Walks down to the bus station down the road. Leaves for a small park on the edges of the city.
And he waits under a grand old tree, one of the oldest in the city, where he will meet a girl. She’s about his age, often dressed in cargo trousers or shorts, a simple blouse or shirt. She smiles and waves at him.
“Hullo Ambrose!” “Elsa.”
When he talks to her, he lives in a way no one at the Academy knew was possible. His face loses its edge as his eyes soften. His shoulders finally loosen up, weeks of work and study dissolving in moments. They talk, they laugh, they walk together.
And then they part ways again. He puts on his waistcoat, puts on his face. Takes the bus back to the Academy. Walks into his room, shuts the door and returns to work.
Ambrose was many things when he was twelve. He was first and foremost, a scholar and a gentleman.
He was not normal, and his time was running out.
The door of the room slides open once more. Another rabbit patters in, trying her best to surreptitiously retrieve the food tray, barely twitching the moment you stare closely at her.
“Excuse me,” you ask, grabbing her attention with a small nod,
“Where exactly may I find a good… view of the moon tonight?”
“Um. I think the room just down the hall, the last door on the right, milord.”
“Thank you. Why do you call me a lord?”
Her legs scratch the floor uneasily, “I… we… well, there um. Some people are saying that the High Court has sent someone here.”
“Hmm, how curious. Thank you, miss.”
“The pleasure is mine, milord.”
You wait for two or three minutes as she leaves, before getting up and retrieving your trousers and shirt, however dirty they may be, stuffing your pocket watch into your trousers.
You’ve spent too much time sleeping. You must get out and breathe some fresh air.
The halls seem to stretch on forever, you think, speeding up slowly as you walk. So many doors, all the same, yet all different. Numbers and symbols are the only real indication of progress.
Which is a lie. Eternity lasts only so long. Look. You are here now.
You stop, just by the last door on the right. Glancing around, you slowly slide it open, just a crack, to see what lies beyond.
Lots and lots of rabbits, actually. Chatting away on the floor, rolling about irreverently as they discuss the day’s events. Lot of things in the room; clothes being sewn, tools and papers, toys and trinkets. They’re sewing, fixing, doing things. Industrious little creatures they are. The room itself is large, but what catches your eye is the open door to the outside; you can feel the gentle evening breeze wafting in, the scent of bamboo and spring in the air.
You slide the door open, walking towards the exit.
Within seconds, every single rabbit is staring at you as you walk by. Some of them quietly mumble polite greetings, nodding at you. Most just keep their gazes low, taking to their feet and scrambling out of the way.
You reach the landing outside and you look up into the clear night sky. The moon is still waning as it was. Disappearing into the next cycle. Unclenching your free hand, you take a seat on the wooden porch and just let yourself go for a moment. Breathing in, breathing out.
 You're done. Go back to your room and sleep.  Stay here for a while. Watch the night go by.  You need to wander around the estate for a bit.
It’s curious actually, how the moon is such a constant throughout human history. It plays an important part of so many cultures, gave rise to so many superstitions, how it became the first step in humanity’s race outwards and onwards. One of the Earth’s natural celestial bodies.
A kingdom of moon people. That is… was, hard to accept. You’ve seen one of them, you believe, in Kaguya. Exiled Princess of the Moon. The words, the title itself seems fantastic, mythical and grandiose. She held herself with dignity and poise, yet it all turned to bluster in moments.
Shuffling noises from behind you attract your gaze; a few of the younger rabbits scamper off, having apparently stacked up against the doorway for a better look. Harmless. Harmless.
By now, the lost seconds you have to keep up with are starting to return. Your watch is beginning to stop less and less as you hang about on the porch. The rabbits behind you have resumed their business, but in noticeably hushed tones, with some of the mothers already ushering their children off to their rooms. Slowly, slowly, the group begins to thin out into the night, until there is only a single rabbit left in the room, chewing on some kind of root or woody block as he watches you.
The two of you just stay there, the muted noise of his teeth against the breeze and the leaves, lit up by the reflection of the moon.
By twelve past eleven, he speaks up.
“By your leave, milord-”
You chuckle quietly, “There’ll be no need for that. I am a guest here, after all.”
“Hmm. As you wish. The servant’s quarters are just opposite, if you do require anything.” He gives a short little bow, “Good night, sir.”
He shuts the door behind him, leaving you and the lamps to burn the midnight oil. Now, the dead of night fills the air, the moon is high and the spirits are out.
Watch in hand, twisting and turning in your palm. The crescent moon on the case gleams in the reflected light as you flip the watch in hand. In a moment, you see yourself reflected in the glass. The corners of your mouth are curling downwards, eyes sharp and focused. And it’s gone as you tilt the watch a fraction more, fading away into the dim reflections of the moon.
You can feel everything around you, the work of time itself ticking away. Your watch says ten past twelve and thirty seconds. Well, your mind feels inclined to wander a little. You let your breathing slow to a crawl, watching the night go by. Everything in the sights before you seem so… actually, when you start thinking about it, this whole garden seems so unreal. Letting your eyes dart to and fro, you start noticing the odd coloration of the garden’s plants. From the slightly off bamboo shoots to the vivid blue specks and angular ‘cut’ of the moonlit flowers.
Leaves seem to float in midair whilst all the stars in the sky seem to have halted mid-flicker. You can’t quite turn your head as fast as you’d like, but everything seems so… Why is everything here so unnerving? How much of this place was engineered? You think that everything here seems far too… perfectly designed. Like someone had a picture of what the surroundings should look like and copied it, stroke for stroke. None of nature’s random imperfections. Every crack, every bend, seems engineered. A flawlessly perfect picture of randomness. How patently ridiculous.
You glance back down at your watch. There it is, ticking away, slowly.
The watch seems to be pondering something. Something important.
“Just what are you thinking of, I wonder?” you muse absentmindedly.
A series of muted clicks. The air around the watch seems to flex and distort minutely, shivering in apprehension.
“It’s kinda strange to talk to yourself, ya know.”
A rabbit in a pink dress, the leader of that patrol group, is standing right behind you.
“Is… is it true that you’re from the High Court, Ambrose?” she asks, “Because uh, if you are, the whole trap thing with the snappy jaws, that was a genuine accident. I swear.”
“If it were true, perhaps I’d be more fortunate. Still, I never got your name.”
“Tewi, just Tewi to you. Thank you for taking care of Reisen while she’s been in town, by the way.”
You nod, affecting a small smile,“Unless you are simply here to view the moon with me, I assume that I may be of some service to you, correct?”
She shakes her head firmly, gesturing at the door back into the hallways,
“Naw. Just here to remind a patient that the sick need to rest. Doctor Yagokoro is quite the fussy one, and she’ll have your head if you don’t listen to her instructions you see.”
“Oh? I suppose I should return, shouldn’t I? Can I ask a question before that?”
You point out the gardens, “If I were to hazard a guess, these gardens aren’t… natural?”
“They’re as natural as you or I, Ambrose.”
“Then, what if was unnatural?” you ask, avoiding her gaze,
She laughs half-heartedly, “Naw, halfers ain’t unnatural, they’re just different. Nothing to be ashamed of, right?”
“But seriously. I need you to get to bed, real soon,” she continues, “Otherwise, the doctor’ll have a bit of a word with you.”
Very well. Resigned to your fate, you pocket the watch again, and slowly head back to your room, with Tewi hounding you all the way.
How much time do you require, Ambrose? I can give you as much as you want, or as little as you need. All you need to do is ask. I am after all, a patient person.
Well, in any case, you hardly do yourself a service by taking such a long time to get started. I daresay that the next few days will be very busy for you. Pretty dangerous too. Amusing.
That last trap could have been pretty nasty. Very fortunate that you met that lucky rabbit when you did. Actually, how lucky do you feel right now?
 Just lucky enough.  It’s better to be careful.  Cursed. That’s what I am.
[X] It’s better to be careful. As nice as luck is, precaution is more reliable, and I'd prefer my luck to keep me out of such situations in the first place, rather than barely keep me from losing my life to bear traps.