“Despite how it looks, it’ll be easy to fix.” The young man takes a few steps back from the broken door. “Though I’ll recommend we get you a new one entirely.”
“I’m not sure we can afford it.” The teacher shakes her head. “Our budget is tight as it is, and we have to save up for winter too.”
“Forget about it.” He dismissively waves her concern away. “Regardless of what I do, I charge a standard service fee, which you’ve already agreed to pay.” Reaching into his vest, he pulls out a vial with a thick brown liquid in it. “If I take this broken door as compensation, I’ll be able to replace all other costs for making you a new door.”
“I know you run your business in an unusual way,” the teacher folds her arms, “but what exactly can you use a broken door for?”
The young artisan looks at her for a second, puzzled by her words. “Oh right, you’ve never actually seen me work.” Placing the vial on the table, he frees up his hands to cracks his knuckles. “How many years have you been my customer now, Keine? Doesn’t matter, you’re going to be in for a treat.”
Holding his hand over the vial, it starts to float. As he drags it through the air into the more open space, the cork sealing the liquid inside is popped off. Drawing his other hand away, a few drops of the brown liquid follows the motion out of the glass container.
With the vial now suspended in the air he claps his hands around the droplets. As he draws them apart again, hardwood fills the space.
Using careful movements, he guides the growth of the tree granting it the rough shape of a door. As a final touch, he flattens it before it solidifies.
“I’ll admit, doors aren’t that exciting to create. Not compared to some of the other requests I get, but this one turned out nicely.” He places his hands on his hips, admiring his own handiwork. “Though it’s not done. We still have to install the handle and the hinges.”
“What was it called that skill again?” The teacher inspects the newly grown door.
“Alchemy.” He puffs out his chest. “A rare skill passed from one master to one student.”
“Alchemy?” She thinks a bit. “It might not be a rare a skill as you think. See, I used to know this other alchemist, though his methods were quite different to yours.” The teacher holds her own hand. “Sadly he got spirited away by a winter spirit a few years back.”
“Really? How could I have missed that?” The artisan grabs the still floating vial and corks it back up before stuffing it back into his vest. “I try to keep an eye for alchemists. You know, looking for a new master, and all that.” He taps the hammer hanging by his waist.
“I can’t say I understand.” The werebeast admits. “But each youkai has its own things to worry about.”
“That we do.” He pulls out a vial of silver liquid, drawing out a single droplet in a similar fashion as last time. “Now please stand back.”
Placing a hand on each side of the new door, the alchemist drills the metallic liquid inside the wood, carefully shaping the locking mechanism. Through his skill, he can observe the matter his transmutes at all times, though not directly.
The teacher takes a silent sip of the tea she prepared. She expected this whole replacement to have taken a fair bit more time and didn’t expect to see the finished result mere minutes after she’d made the request. Instead she just enjoys her time, watching the alchemist do his work.
“And done.” He declares, pulling the handle a few times to make sure it works. “I’ll need a little help keeping it in place when I mount the hinges.”
“Oh, right, sure.” Keine places her cup on the table, running over to help.
The two of them move the door into the frame where it fits like a glove. Almost like it was made for for it.
“Now just hold it in place as I fasten it.”
One again, the alchemist pulls out the silver liquid. This time he fashions a couple of screws.
Through some gestures, he commands the screws to drill into the door, securing it.
“And done.” He declares, taking a few steps back.
“Already?” Keins asks, still surprised by the speed despite having seen it a few times already.
“Already.” He confirms. “Installation came as a free service, so don’t worry about that. I’ll take the broken door, and you can just come and pay whenever you have the money.”
“People are going to get suspicious if you keep offering them deals like that.” Keine cautions the alchemist.
“I’m only offering you deals like this because you already know I’m a youkai.” He states. “Though I don’t even need money, I have to charge a prize to keep up appearance. And I have to charge enough to not out-compete other artisans too. I doubt you’d tell on me, so I can relax this pretense here.”
“Even so.” She continues to argue.
“I’m several centuries old, Keine. I was here when Gensokyo was founded. I know how to handle myself. That said, I appreciate the concern.”
The alchemist steps over the two destroyed door. Placing a hand on a fragment, it first turns to liquid before compressing in size until it barely takes up the space of a droplet. As he picks up the other fragments, they too turn to liquid and join the droplet. Once done, he uncorks the brown vial and let the new drops flow into it before sealing it up again.
“Perfect.” He states. “As said, you can just come pay when you have the money. I’m not in a hurry to get it, so take your time.”
“Mm.” The teacher nods. “I appreciate you taking such a rush order.”
“No problem. My schedule happened to be free today.” He waves away her concern. “Then I think I’ll just get going.”
“Yeah, sure.” Keine holds open the new door. “Be sure to tell Kogasa I said hi.”
“Will do.” The alchemist raise his hand as he leaves.
“I’m back.” The alchemist shout as he opens the door to his own shop. To his surprise, though, there’s a customer sitting by the counter waiting. “Youmu? I thought I closed the store before I went out.” He says, checking the door once more to be sure.
“It was, Kogasa let me in so I didn’t have to wait outside in the cold.” She spins around on the chair, facing me. “Sorry for the intrusion.”
“Don’t worry about it. I just hope you haven’t waited long.” He says, taking his usual spot behind the cover. “So, what is it this time? Need a new clipper for the trees? Maybe a new rake?”
“No, not this time. Though my clipper could use some proper maintenance now that you mention it.” The half ghost pulls up the wrapped equipment on the table. Unpacking it reveals the longsword Roukanken.
“Didn’t I just apply a new edge to this last week?” He asks, unsheathing the blade. Drawing it from its sheath, the problem becomes quite clear. “Youmu. How did you manage to snap the blade in half?”
“It wasn’t my fault, okay.” The half ghost quickly argues. “The spirits are restless for some reason. They broke the blade when they attacked me.” She curls up a little. “I had to defend myself.”
“I’m not mad, Youmu.” The youkai pinch the bridge of his nose. “Concerned, is the word I’d use. A fine blade like this doesn’t just snap. Especially not after it’s just been strengthened.” He picks up the blade to examine the broken point.
“I couldn’t believe it either!” She exclaims. “I accidentally cut them with Hakurouken as a reaction. Miss Eiki is going to scold me for sure, I just know it.”
Pig iron typically lacks in strength, making it a poor material for weapons. To compensate, blades like katana have been folded a couple of times, to strengthen the core. As a result, they become stiff, unable to distribute the force of impact from other weapons, causing them to be prone to snapping.
Using alchemy to add new material to the blade has allowed this youkai to repair even badly damaged swords. However, in cases like this where the core itself has snapped in two, the blade will need to be reforged to properly patch it up. It can be done with alchemy, of course, but that would destroy the unique enchantment that Roukanken has.
The alchemist walks around the counter to the staircase. “Hey, Kogasa!” He calls out.
Before long, the single eye of the umbrella peeks over the edge.
“You’re home. Great. I need you to reforge Youmu’s sword, if you have the time.” He gestures to the half ghost who hasn’t moved from her spot, though her ghost half has been eagler floating around the store.
The purple umbrella disappears from the stairs, and within a few seconds the blue girl comes jumping down the stairs, already clad in her thick leather apron.
“Just leave it to me.” Kogasa declares as she pulls out her gloves. She picks up the sword shards from the counter and walks into the back room.
[ ] “I’m going back with you, as soon as the sword is done, Youmu. I’ll do what I can to help with the spirits.” [ ] “I’ll be with you in a moment Kogasa. Let’s finish this sword asap.”
Two small footnotes: I have zero plans about this story, other than trying to write some lovely Youmu, so write-ins are always welcome, as I have no idea where I’m going. And this story is for Nanowrimo only. I might do something more with it if I finish my main story. But that's first relevant next decade or so.
Going through various draws from under the stairs, he pulls out several pieces of equipment to assemble a small distillery looking tool. In it, he places a vial containing a dark pale lavender liquid slowly circling itself, and another vial with darkish orange liquid that constantly bubbles as if it’s reaching the boiling point.
Pulling out a small empty flask, the alchemist extracts a single drop from the lavender vial, putting it into the small flask. Then he extracts a handful of drops from the burning, mixing it into the flask as well.
Sealing it up with a proper lid, he picks up the flask and starts shaking it wildly.
“Is that really how it’s supposed to work?” The gardener asks. “I mean, I’m not the expert here, but I haven’t seen you do it like that before.”
“Nope.” He answers, adding some wilder moves to the shaking. “And I can feel all of my master turning in their graves with each shake.” He places the flask, now containing a pale brown liquid. “It’s just as effective as slowly distilling it, but is far more risky. Even one drop of essence could destroy the house. Never mind an entire vial.”
Not waiting for the ghost to react, he carries the small flask into the next room.
“I think I’ll have to melt some more steel.” Kogasa states as he enters the room. “We don’t have anything with the same carbon level. It’s still doable, but it’ll throw off the weight distribution slightly.”
“I figured.” He cross his arms. “I’d love to take it through the proper heat treatment to purify it.”
“I know.” The blacksmith agrees. “Though that would some base aspects of the sword. It’ll add some flexibility, making it more durable, maybe even a tad lighter.” She holds the sword pieces in place, examining the rift between the pieces.
“The problem is the enchantment. If you can’t work around it, then there’s no way I can.” He states, before placing the flask on the forge’s edge. “Ones this turns the same shade as your hair, it’ll be ready.”
“Is that spirit fire.” She picks up the flask, examining its content. “That should speed up the process a lot.”
“Yep. A ratio of 1 to 5. Works wonders on articles from the netherworld.” He leans against the forge. “You remember how to use it, right?”
“Point the lid to the forge and uncork.” Them umbrella repeats the instructions she’s been told uncountable times. “I got it.”
“Perfect. I’ll leave the sword to you then. Don’t spare anything.” He pats her on the shoulder, to which the umbrella grows the biggest grin before saluting. “Meanwhile, I’ll prepare to head off to the netherworld.”
“You will what?” The half ghost exclaims from the other room. “But it’s dangerous right now.”
“Exactly.” The alchemist walks back out to the front room, passing Youmu’s spirit as it floats into the back. “What’ll I do if I lose my favorite customer?”
“What kind of reason is that?” The gardener argues back, trying to ignore her growing blush.
“As good a reason as I need.” The youkai argues back. “This body is technically immortal, after all. As long as I keep this safe, I’ll be okay no matter what.” He declares, tapping the hammer.
“No buts.” He holds up a finger, silencing her. “I’m a friend of the clan. Your problems are my problems, and vice versa. I’m going, whether you want it or not.”
The sound of hammering starts to fill the room as Kogasa finally begins the actual work.
“Then shouldn’t you at least help Kogasa out with the sword?” The half ghost folds her arms and pouts, clearly not happy with her lack of choice.
“I’d rather work alone on this, actually.” The smithing umbrella adds from the other room. “Having a partner can be great when you need fast work done. Careful work like this is better done alone.” She shrugs. “Besides, Bro is nowhere near good enough to properly handle a masterwork like this.”
“Oi! I heard that.” He shouts back at her.
Of course, tsukumogami don’t have family in the same sense as humans, since they’re created rather than born.
“But that’s how it is.” The blue youkai argues back. “Your alchemy is one thing, but when it comes to actually hammering the metal, you’re lacking.”
He’s about to argue back, but actually consider what she said before saying anything. “I mean, you’re right. Rather embarrassing, considering I’m a smithing hammer.”
With that said, the alchemist walks back behind the counter and pulls out a couple more vials from inside his vest, placing them with the equipment before getting to work.
The half ghost, with nothing else to do other than wait, takes seat by the counter and watch the alchemist as he works. Her ghost half leaves the back room, floating along the outer wall of the front room, brushing against the work displayed on the shelves as it makes the round.
Small figures made from various materials, all carefully detailed, line the windows, displaying the level of detail the shop can achieve with their craft. The walls further into the shop is lined almost exclusively with metal works, ranging from farming tools like hoes and horseshoes, to a careful selection of weaponry. The weapons rarely make it into the hands of the public, though, thanks to regulations.
Nothing forbids citizens of Gensokyo from owning weapons of any kind. Weapons are just taxed with a fixed fee that prize it out of range for the normal citizen. The people in charge, of course, can ignore that tax because the money goes straight back into their pockets.
But we’re not here to talk about the corruption of Gensokyoian politics. That’s a story for another month.
With the methodical sound of the hammer clinging away in the background, and the focused alchemist carefully working with his elements, Youmu finds herself engrossed in watching him work, to the point where she finds herself in a daze, completely losing track of time.
That is until the sound of the hammer of broken by an uncanny sizzling sound as Kogasa gets ready to remove the blade from the furnace.
Curious as to the result, the gardener enters the back room, though not entering further than the door, as she doesn’t want to get in the way.
Grabbing the blade with her tong, Kogasa starts pulling the blade out of the furnace’s blue fire. Before long, she supports the burning blade with her gloved hand, carefully eyeing it as she moves it.
Once fully outside the furnace, the smith takes a second to admire the sight of the burning blade, before submerging it entirely in a basin of water, quenching it one final time.
“All that’s left is to sharpen the edge again and reattach the handle, and it’ll be ready.” Kogasa states. Even though she haven’t looked, she knows Youmu is watching. “But come here and look for a second.” She waves the swordswoman over. “It’s not perfect, but you can hardly see the patching.”
“You’re right.” The swordswoman notes. “But will it still hold out?”
“Of course.” The smith hits her own chest in pride. “I may not be a master, but I can fix broken cores. As long as the core holds, the blade won’t snap. It may chip and it may dull, but we’ll always be ready to fix it right up.”
“The handle’s silk pattern has been reapplied.” The alchemist joins the two girls in by the forge, carrying the handle.
“Then I’d say about 10 minutes before I’m done.” Kogasa adds.
“And then we’re off to kick some spirit ass.” He declares, punching his knuckles together.
“I’m still against that.” The half ghost adds once again.
“You don’t really have to come, you know. We can handle this much ourselves.” The gardener says as they walk the pathway from the gates to the Ghost Princess’ mansion.
“I told you, I’m going. That’s that.” The alchemist insists.
“I mean, you really don’t have to come.” The swordswoman clutch her repaired sword with both hands.
“Why are you so insistent on keeping me away?” The he asks. “Is there perhaps something you’re not telling me?”
“N-No, of course not.” She stutters. “I’d have no reason to lie about anything.”
“Then there’s no problem in me coming to help me friends, is there?” The youkai smirks.
Unbeknownst to both of them, a shadowy figure draws behind them, closing it quickly and silently.
Glancing back, the alchemist catches a glimpse of their pursuer before they hide.
“I think we’re being stalked, Youmu.” He states, suppressing the urge to smile.
“What?” Youmu replies, glancing around, looking for any sign of a pursuer. “I don’t see anyone.”
“Well, this is the land of the dead, so it could be a zombie. Or a ghost.” He suggests, laughing it off as a joke.
“There aren’t any zombies here!” She exclaims, clutching her sword even tighter.
“What about ghosts?” He asks. “You’re not denying that?”
“There aren’t any ghosts either.” The half ghosts states.
“Then I guess I must be seeing things,” he points to her shoulder, “because that definitely looks like a ghost to me.”
As he says that, their pursuer lays a hand on Youmu’s shoulder, causing all color to drop from her already pale face.
She screams as she swings her sword, without drawing it, at the so called ghost behind her. To her surprise though, the sword hits nothing, causing her to spin around once, twice before stopping.
“You really are too precious, Youmu.” A womanly figure appears next to the alchemist, wearing a bright pink kimono matching her hair, which is held back by a simple triangular headband.
“Yuyuko!” The half ghost’s face regains its color and much more. “I told you to stop doing that! I thought I was going to die.”
“You’re already half dead, aren’t you.” The princess giggles. “It’s great seeing you again, Ren. You really should come visit more often.”
“As lovely as always, Yuyu.” The alchemist greets her. “I just rarely have an excuse to come all the way down here.” He shrugs it off.
“Really? Then what, mayhap, is your reason for making this long treacherous journey today?” The princess floats to his other side, leaning against his shoulder. “Did you start to miss little old me?” She asks with playful giggle.
“Of course, I miss all of you.” He gestures towards Youmu. “But as it happens, I’ve been informed you have had some trouble with the spirits here as of late.”
“Trouble, you say?” The ghostly woman spins off his shoulder, floating a bit on her own as she ponder the recent events. “Nothing out of the ordinary as far as I’ve been told.”
Youmu, realizing her little white lie has been seen through, remains quiet, her face having grown so red it’s spreading to her ears.
“Really then? I guess you did have something to tell me, Youmu?” The alchemist asks, stroking his overgrown stubble.
“Yes.” The half ghost replies, hiding her face by looking at her feet.
“Now, do you feel more embarrassed that you were found out, than you would have felt if you’d just told me?” The half ghost nods. “Now what if I told you I knew from the start?”
“What? How?” She shoots back up.
“I never had the opportunity to tell you, but I can commune with sleeping tsukumogami.” He reach out for the sword, which Youmu hands him. “Roukanken has been around for centuries. It’s long since manifested as a tsukumogami, though never found a reason to awaken. Yet it eagerly tells me everything. About how happy it is by your side. About how well to take care of it. And about how it got broken.”
The alchemist slightly unsheathes the sword, looking directly at the blade.
“But that’s that.” He says, sliding it back in it’s sheathe, handing it back to its owner. “Accidents happen. Roukanken has been fixed and is happy. It’s all in the past.”
“Wait. Then why did you come all the way down here?” The half ghost asks, equipping her sword again.
“It was a good chance to bully you a little.” He shrugs. “Of course it was about time for me to come visit anyway.”
“Delightful.” The princess folds her hands. “Today was just getting boring anyway.” She flies over to the youkai, leaning on his shoulder again. “I’m sure someone would like it if you stayed a while, though.”
“Yuyuko!” The half ghost yells out before running off, glowing bright red once more.
“Do you think she realize why she’s embarrassed?” The alchemist asks.
“It’s obvious to onlookers like us, but she likely hasn’t realized it yet herself.” The princess lets go of her friend, giving him more room to breathe. “She likes to go tend the garden whenever I tease her too much.” The ghost notes. “Going on autopilot like that helps her think while she’s in her own little world.”
[ ] “She’ll come back once she’s calmed down a little. Let’s take the time to catch up, Yuyu.” [ ] “I think I’ll go watch her work. I’ve seen it a few times, but it still amazes me.”
>>41090 Whenever you feel like it. You can probably think of better ways to bully tease her
>>41101 >I've seen exactly zero blacksmith umbrellas on THP so far. A criminally low amount. Let's fix that, together. Whenever there's not dork to be written.
>>41101 >I've seen exactly zero blacksmith umbrellas on THP so far. There's another that recently started, also on /shrine/, but so far it's just something that's been mentioned Kogasa does. She's one of the two protags, also (other is Reimu)
“Then perhaps it’s best to just leave her be for the time being.” He notes, starting to walk towards the mansion. “Should give us plenty of time to talk.”
“Mm.” The ghost nods eagerly as she catches up.
“By the way. What’s the occasion for the dressup?” The alchemist asks, glancing over his companion once more.
“Oh this?” She asks, twirling around to give him a good look at it all. “Unlike Youmu, I have more than one set of clothes. Just because I’m dead doesn’t mean I don’t want to be pretty.”
“I can tell.” He comments as he takes seat by the low table. “One of the pretties ghost around.”
“Even prettier than Youmu?” She leans in over the table.
“In terms of beauty? Sure. There’s not many who can beat you there.” He picks up a cracker from the snack pile. “Youmu is by far the cuter one, though.”
The princess chuckles, pulling the bowl of snacks closer to herself. “Even though I can change my shape freely, she’s just too pure to compete against on that front.” She takes a snack. “Speaking of cute ghosts. You know she likes you, right?”
“Oh that’s obvious as day.” He looks outside to the netherworld’s dark lilac sky. “Though I guess that expression doesn’t work here, since the sky never changes.”
“Then why don’t you return her feelings?” She takes another snack. “You know we’d all welcome you here. Moreso if you were to marry into the clan.”
“I think you’re skipping a few steps there, Yuyu.” He taps the table with his index finger a few times. “And the answer is a little more complex than the childish “I’m afraid she’ll reject me” business.”
“Well I have all the time in the world, since I died, so take your time.” The princess unties her hair band, letting her hair flow free.
“Well, basically, we tsukumogami feed on one specific aspect of the human heart in order to survive. An aspect we don’t get to chose, but one we just know.” The youkai places his hammer on the table. While Kogasa feeds on fright, a simple yet vague feeling, I have to feed on a more complex but well defined feeling. Specifically, a desire for me. Whether it’s to buy my services or to just wanting to talk to me.”
“Wouldn’t that make our little cutie the obvious choice?” she continues to snack. “I mean, her little heart should be overflowing with such a desire.”
“And it is, which is the problem.” The alchemist leans back. “Because I can’t tell if I like her, or I like her desire, since she makes enough to keep me fed all by herself.”
The ghost chuckles. “Sure, it’s more complex than fearing rejection. But it’s just as childish.” She pushes the bowl across the table to her guest. “If you want to be with her, be with her. Whatever your reason may be doesn’t matter, as long as you want her in your life.”
“Are you speaking from experience?” He asks, knowing the ghostly princess have been around for many more centuries than himself.
“Now now. It’s impolite to ask a girl about her age.” The ghost hides her smirk behind a fan she just pulled out of thin air. A classic trick for those of immaterial bodies.
“But I didn’t.” The alchemist argues back, taking a snack for himself. “But enough about me. It’s your turn. Have you heard anything from Youki yet?”
“Ah, right. We never got to tell you.” The princess sits back up, placing her fan on the table. “Youten has succeeded him as the master of the Yureido style.”
Yureido, meaning Way of the Ghost, is the sword style practiced by the warriors of the Konpaku clan. While the general teaching is open for all clansmen to learn, the secrets of the style is passed only from the master to his one disciple. Once the master has been succeeded, they disappear for good.
“So Youki is gone.” The youkai clutch his hammer. “He always had some interesting jobs for me and Kogasa. I’m gonna miss him. How did Youmu take the news? They were rather close.”
“She was devastated. Didn’t show up for work for weeks, which is entirely understandable.” Yuyuko leans back again, supporting her nonexistent weight with her arms. “The only one who’d know what happened to Youki is Youten, and he’s not allowed to speak on the matter, thanks to the oath he swore. So for all we know, Youki is dead.”
“Then what about Youten? It’s a big mansion, but he usually hovers around you.” He looks around, more out of habit than actually searching for anything.
“He said he wanted to journey for a while longer.” The princess leans in over the table, resting herself on her elbows. “He’s grown a lot, you know. When I took him in, he was the definition of meek.”
“That just means you raised him well.” The alchemist comments.
“I’d say Youki did most of the raising after he took in Youten as a pupil.” The ghost lose herself in thought, reminiscing about the past.
A couple days have passed since then. Youmu, too embarrassed to join them, kept to her gardening, spending the rest of the day drawing patterns in the sand like a giant zen garden.
Our alchemist went to take a walk through the garden before heading home that day, admiring the work the young gardener did, though without seeing any trace of her.
With no work lined up, the store remains empty, said for the alchemist who sits by the counter reading, mindlessly passing the day away. Kogasa, his partner, has taken the day off from the store entirely to help out the temple school. That girl has a heart of gold, and a knack for children. Those two things are probably related.
The silence of the store is broken as the door swings open, inviting in the sound of the bustling streets outside, but quickly close again as the guest makes her way into the store.
“Youmu?” The alchemist asks, putting the paper he’s been reading down. “Did Hakurouken break this time?”
“Not this time.” The little swordswoman tuck on her swords.
Inside the human village, Youmu needs to carry her swords over her shoulder. The length of Roukanken means it’ll swing around too much when just walking. In crowded areas like the village, she has to move it from her waist to her shoulder, as to avoid hitting random people as they walk past.
“I actually came to apologize.” She says. “For just running off the other day, even though you came all the way to the netherworld. And for lying.” She bows her head deeply. “I’m sorry.”
“Come on, Youmu. You know I’m not bothered by small stuff like that.” He taps on the counter, inviting her to take a seat. “Besides, Yuyuko did tease you a little too much.”
“Mm.” The half ghost sits down by the counter.
“But you didn’t came all the way here, just for that, did you?” He asks, making room on the table for the little ghost to land.
The human half nods. “I did, actually. I felt bad about it, so I had to come and apologise.”
“Come on, Youmu. Now you’re making me feel bad.” He glance over at the paper, remembering what he’d just read. “Then how about this. If you feel bad for it, then come and join me for the harvest festival.”
“The harvest festival?” The little ghost asks.
“Yes. The festival the humans hold after a harvest. The harvest festival.” He reiterates.
“I know what it is.” Youmu pouts. “I’m not stupid. I was just wondering why.”
“You want me to join you for the festival?” She asks, to confirm she understood the request properly.
[ ] “Yes. You, me, Yuyuko and Kogasa. It’ll be great.” - [ ] But ask Kogasa to be “busy” that night. Yuyuko will understand. [ ] “Yeah, just you and me.”
“That’s what I just said, wasn’t it?” The alchemist sits back down. “It’s a few days from now, though. They’re not quite done with the harvest just yet, but they’re already preparing.”
The little ghost rolls off the table, down onto the floor next to it’s bigger half.
“I’ll be sure to tell Lady Yuyuko to set some time off, then.” Youmu says. “I think she’d love a festival like that, with all the food and stuff.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of just the two of us.” He corrects her.
The little ghost starts squirming as it’s color change from whitish grey to pale red. The human half, too, grows a blush, though she has an easier time hiding it by looking down.
“I mean, if you want it to be just us, then I’m fine with it.” She plays with one of the ends of her bowtie, trying to keep herself from fidgeting too much. “I just can’t promise it’ll be much fun.”
“But I can.” The alchemist declares, giving her a confident smirk. “The whole event starts at sundown. I’ll be waiting outside the store.”
“Alright. I’ll be sure to be here.” She picks up her ghostly half and turns so the alchemist won’t have a chance to see that it’s practically glowing red. She hurriedly skips to the door. “I’ll see you in a few days then.”
“Yeah, it’s a date.” He says just as the door closes behind the little swordswoman.
She freeze up right outside the door, losing grip of her little ghost, causing it to fall on the ground where it practically melts.
The chime hanging by the store’s door rings as the door swings open.
“Sorry, but we’re not taking any more orders today.” The alchemist yells out from inside backroom.
“I guess I came too early after all.” Youmu says, clutching her hand.
“Youmu?” He peeks his head out from the doorway. “What time is it?” He puts his tools down and pulls out a pocket watch.
Looking out the shop’s windows, he confirms that the watch indeed isn’t lagging behind, seeing as it’s still very bright outside, with not a single stall in sight yet.
“Maybe a little.” He pockets the watch again. “I have to ask you to wait a bit, since I’m still have some work to finish.”
“What are you making?” She asks, skipping over to the door, being careful to not dirty her red kimono.
He hold a small wooden sculpture of a bird, it’s wing spread out far. It’s still only roughly outlined, but the overall shape is clear.
“I was asked to make a handful of these.” He says, picking up a small chisel and starts carving again. “They’re supposed to be prizes for something, though I didn’t ask what.” Without looking away, he points to the table right next to the door. “Those are the finished ones. I wasn’t told how many I should make, so feel free to take one if you like.”
“I can’t do that. Someone paid for these.” She denies the offer.
“To be fair, I haven’t been paid yet.” He argues back. “Can’t really demand money for a product that doesn’t exist yet. But I’m not going to force one on you, if you don’t want it.” He says, getting right back to work.
“These are well made, though.” The half ghost comments, as she picks up one of the wooden figures to examine. The sculpture depicts a small bunny in the middle of running, with both the front paws firmly planted in the ground and both hind legs swinging past. “They almost look alive.” She comments.
“Give them a few years and that might just happen.” He says, running a small knife down the wings of the bird, carving out the pattern for the feathers. “Don’t just stand there. Find something to sit on, if you want to watch.”
“Ah. Oh yes. Of course.” She puts the figure down on the table and runs upstairs.
The little swordswoman has been to the personal section of the house plenty of time already, so she knows exactly where to look to get a small stool. She did consider moving one of the chairs, but they’d be too much trouble to get downstairs, and the ones by the counter are bolted to the floor.
Taking seat, once again by the door, she watch the artisan as carves into the wood, adding even more details to the bird.
The artisan rotates the bird in his hand, examining the small nooks and crannies. “That’s that.” He puts down the brush. “It’ll just need 5 minutes to dry, and I’ll be ready to head out.”
He looks at his guest, who to his surprise, has fallen asleep, leaning against the door’s frame.
Looking past her, he see the long shadows being cast outside, indicating it’s almost sunset.
Placing the bird next to the other sculptures, he carefully sneak around the little warrior, walking upstairs to fetch a small piece of cloth. He dips it in the big bowl of water they have standing in kitchen, making it nice and wet before walking downstairs.
He hesitates to wake her up, in favor of the chance to look at her sleeping face more, but ultimately lifts her small ponytail and press the wet cloth against her nape.
The little ghost visibly shake from the cold surprise while the bigger half jumps up.
“What?” She looks around confused, finally spotting the alchemist, squatting behind the stool with a wet piece of cloth. “It’s just-” She looks around again. “Did I fall asleep?”
“Sadly my work isn’t exciting to watch.” He shrugs. “But at least you’ll be ready for a long night.”
“That’s not,” she stops herself from finishing that sentence. “Sorry. I’m just a little nervous.”
“Why? We’re just going out to have some fun.” He throws the rag into the counter. “You got a little dust on your shoulder, by the way.” He says, pointing to his own shoulder where it would be. “Can’t have that lovely outfit spoiled by some dirty workshop.”
The little swordswoman’s outfit for the evening is a beautiful red kimono, adorned with a simple feint floral pattern. Each of the openings, that is the collar, sleeves and the legs have had the edge decorated with a brighter pattern of more saturated flowers, against a flowing background layered between the basic floral print and the detailed flowers. Her obi has a deep navy blue with an octagonal pattern, offset slightly so it angles. Underneath you can just spot another kimono with a simple checkered pattern, alternating between the same navy blue and the usual jade color the gardener is so fond of.
Aside from having tied her short hair back in a ponytail, she has nothing else adoring her hair. Her little ghost on the other hand has a hairpin stuck into it where it’s hair would have been. The pin matches the same pattern as the kimono, with bright red flowers running along the whole pin.
“What’s with the hair pin?” He asks.
“Hairpin?” She looks at her ghost half. Ah. That.” The ghost floats over to her, and she pulls the pin out. “Lady Yuyuko wanted me to wear it, but I thought it was too much.” She slides it down into her obi. “She must have put it on without me noticing.”
“Can’t you feel anything with your ghost half?” He asks, pulling off his dirty apron.
“I can, sure.” She confirms. “But I think she did it while I was,” she stops herself, looking away, “distracted.”
“Attack while distracted. Noted.” He cross his arms and nod.
“Don’t note something like that.” She protest.
“Would you rather I note how much effort you put into getting dressed?” He asks, holding the door outside open for her.
“This is Lady Yuyuko’s choice, actually.” She looks down on her outfit. “I would have preferred something a little less gaudy. Maybe something easier to move in.” She smiles at her date. “But I guess that’s just my inner warrior speaking.”
“So if Yuyu helped you get dressed, how come to you showed up so early?” He asks, as they walk start walking down the street. “Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, but I need to deliver these first.” He says, holding up a bag with all the sculptures. “They’re for this festival after all.”
“That’s, um,” She runs her fingers along the edge of her obi. “I didn’t want you to wait long for me. So I wanted to get ready early. Then I worried I wouldn’t have time to get ready, so I did it even earlier.” She says. “Then once I was ready, I just couldn’t sit still waiting, so I decided to come to Gensokyo to see how much time there’s left, because we don’t have a sun in the netherworld it’s a little hard to judge time.” She looks away. “When I saw how much time there still was left, I couldn’t exactly just come over to you, but it’d be even more embarrassing to go back to Lady Yuyuko.”
Both of them can imagine exactly what that old ghost would say. Teasing her with a line like “young love” for sure. Especially since the half ghost let it slip that he called it a date, which really got Yuyuko fired up.
“But if I may ask, who ordered those?” The little warrior changes the topic.
“A monk from the temple.” The artisan answers. “At least, he told me to bring them there when they were ready.”
“They’re participating in the festival?” She looks up at her date.
“Of course they are. The monks participate in every event the village holds.” He explains. “In some they’re just more prominent than others.”
“I guess.” She ponders a bit. “We don’t really practice religion, so I wouldn’t really know how they behave.”
“Over here!” A bald man standing in front of the temple calls out to the alchemist. He skips through the small crowd. “I’m sorry for placing an order like that on such a short notice.”
“Don’t worry about it. It was a fun little challenge.” The artisan hands over the bag. “Since you didn’t give me a number, I just made as many as I could. I hope it’s enough.”
The monk looks through the bag. “I only asked for a couple. I’m sorry, but I haven’t prepared enough to pay you for a dozen.”
“Don’t worry about it, then.” The artisan dismiss the monk. “It’s my fault for over delivering. Just take the rest as a donation, in that case.”
“No no, I can’t do that. Honest work deserves honest pay.” The monk denies the offer. “I only expected two, but having more really is better for us. This is great news. Just let me go fetch some more money. I’ll be right back.” He says, handing the bag back over to the artisan.
The monk is gone for a couple of minutes before running back with two strings of coins. “I hope this will be enough for your trouble.”
“It’s fine.” The artisan says as they trade items. “Though I do hope you’ll accept the little extra I included with the sculptures.”
“Something extra?” He looks down into the bag.
“Since you said these were prizes, I included some wood wax to go along with each of the sculptures. So the new owners can maintain them for a while without cost.”
“This really is too much, good sir.” The monk says, despite the big smile on his face.
“Then it’s too bad I’m not giving you a chance to pay me for those.” The artisan states as he begins to back off.
Youmu gives the monk a polite bow before she follows suit.
“Is it really alright to just hand over something like that?” The little swordswoman asks. “Wax isn’t cheap, if I recall.”
“Using alchemy, I can make it myself using little more than just water.” He answers. “Besides, those figures have the potential to become tsukumogami. I’m just giving the owners a little push in the right direction.”
The young girl grows a big smile as she thinks about what she just heard. “You really are kind, you know that.”
“Are you sure you should be praising me already?” The alchemist stops up and looks at her with a smirk.
“What?” She asks, waiting for more to follow.
“Remember how I promised tonight would be fun?” He holds out his hand, inviting her to give him her hand, to which the swordswoman complies. He places one of the two threads of coin in her hand. “I thought the two of us could play a game, tonight.”
The half ghost examines the bundle of money she was just given. “What are these for?”
“That’s your budget.” He answers. “Once that runs out, you’ve lost. Same goes for me.” He says, holding up his bundle of coins. “We’ll take turns challenging each other to one of the games you can find at the stalls here tonight. Like, you can challenge me to a game of ring toss, with the condition that I need a ring on each pole within one game- I’ll then have to spend my budget to try and win, or I can forfeit, which would give you the choice of giving me a new challenge, or giving me a small punishment. Of course, it’s the same the other way around.”
The ghost looks at her bundle of coins, then back at the youkai. “What exactly are the punishments.” She asks, rather hesitantly.
“Anything.” He answers. “Of course, we shouldn’t go overboard, since it’s just for fun.” He pockets his change. “Of course, there should be a big punishment on the line, in case you lose the game as a whole.”
“Like what?” She asks, almost scared. Though her little ghost seems to tell a different tale as it’s started circling her main body.
“Why don’t we just go for the classic.” He shrugs. “Loser has to do what the winner says.”
“You’re up to something, aren’t you?” Youmu asks. To which the alchemist just smiles and shrugs once again. “You’re on.” She states.
“Perfect. Just two rules.” He holds up 1 finger. “First, be reasonable. Giving an impossible challenge is a no-go.” He holds up a second finger. “Second, don’t involve other people.”
“Alright, seems fair.” She nods. “I’ll give you the first move.”
“Confident, are we? Well, alright then.”
Main: [ Write in ] What should her first challenge be - [ Write in ] If she lose, what should her punishment be
“How about,” The alchemist strokes his beards as he ponders the many possible ways to start out the game. “How well do you think you can use a gun?”
“A gun? You mean those cork guns, right?” The little warrior cross her arms, keeping them in check as she thinks for a second. “I can’t imagine it’d be much harder than using a bow.”
“Well then. We’ll go buy five rounds. You’re goal will be to knock down five targets.” He explains as he starts walking towards the bigger crowd. “For every target you miss, your punishment will get worse.”
“Easy.” She pumps both her fists. “So, what if I fail?” She asks. “What will the punishment be?”
“Not telling.” He cross his arms. “If you know the punishment, you can forfeit before even trying, because you know the punishment isn’t so bad.” He explains. “But since I won’t tell you, you won’t know how bad it’ll be.”
“Hey that’s not fair.” The half ghost pouts.
“But it’s more fun.” The alchemist argues back. “Plus, you can chose not to tell me either. All depends on whether you think I’ll fight harder to avoid it, if I know what’s waiting for me.” He starts tapping his fingers together. “But the thing is. Yuyu and I have been friends for a long time, so I’ve picked up a few things from her.”
“Wait. You wouldn’t.” Youmu stops, suddenly looking concerned.
“Who knows. Do you dare try to find out?”
“I should never have agreed to this.” She hides her face in her hands, before slowly lifting it up again. Good thing she doesn’t wear makeup, since that would just have ruined it.
“Hey.” The alchemist leans in over the counter for the stall. “Think we could borrow this stall for a minute?”
“Depends.” The man running the stall says. “As long as you’re paying, do can do just about anything.” He strokes his thick snail of a mustache.
“Perfect. We’ll pay this much for five shots.” The alchemist says, putting a small handful of coins on the table. “We’re not playing for prizes, so we hope this much will do.”
Mr. Mustache looks over at the half ghost, who’s hidden her ghost half somewhere along the way, making her look like a normal silver haired young girl. After sizing her up, he leans in over the counter, almost whispering to the alchemist. “If you’re trying to impress her, you’ll have better luck actually winning a prize for her.”
“Nah, she’s the one that’ll be shooting.” The alchemist replies. “We’re just using this game to settle a bet.”
“Well alright then.” He pulls a gun down from the shelf, spinning it around with one hand so the handle face the little warrior. “It’s all yours, then. Do you know how to load these?” He asks.
The ghost examines the gun for a second. “I don’t think so.”
The stall owner pulls down another gun. “These are repurposed air rifles. These a small lever here you press with your thumb.” He demonstrates, and the barrel comes loose. “Then you pull the barrel all the way back, until it clicks, at which point it lose all resistance. Then you insert the bullet, put the barrel back in place, and it’s ready.”
Following his instructions, Youmu goes through all the motions, without inserting the bullet, seeing as she hasn’t been given any as of yet. “Like this?”
“Exactly. Then you just aim and fire.” The clerk says, pulling out a handful of cork bullets. “Just a word of warning. “Shooting someone with this will hurt, though not do any real damage. However, hitting someone in the eyes can obviously make them blind.”
“I would never,”
“I doubt you would.” The clerk cuts off the little ghost girl. “I just need to inform you in any case. With that said, feel free to go nuts you two.” He backs off a bit, clearing the way for the targets. “Shoot it once, to release the charge. Then load it with a bullet.”
“Got it.” She says, aiming the rifle loosely at the targets and pulls the trigger. There’s a click, but nothing more.
Once more, she goes through the motions of loading it, this time putting in the bullet as well.
She leans her small body on the table, practically lying on it. Out of the 26 targets sitting on the rear wall, the half ghost takes aim for the left middle row, where 5 targets stands lined up. She takes a deep breath before holding it, allowing her aim to stay more still.
As she pulls the trigger, she flinch, surprised by the sudden force applied, which weren’t there before. She manage to suppress the small squeal she’d otherwise have let out.
The bullet didn’t hit anything, but instead got caught by the net right behind the targets, letting it fall into a gutter.
“Well, there went the perfect game.” The alchemist notes.
The little ghost looks away as she loads in another attempt, hiding her blush. “I just got surprised, okay?”
“Feel free to use the rest of this round to practice, in case you want another attempt. To avoid my terrible terrible punishment.”
Ignoring his tease, she lies on the table and readies her second shot. Taking her time again ,she carefully aims for the same target as the last time.
This time, as she pull the trigger, she’s ready for the small shock and the bullet connects with the target, knocking it back a little.
“I hit that. Why didn’t it fall?” She looks back at the alchemist. He just shrugs, unwilling to tell her why it didn’t fall over.
The targets have been padded on the bottom, using a light metal. This makes them bottom heavy and prone to standing up again unless tipped all the way. Being how they’re tall, the implied tip is that you should go for the ‘head’ of the target, though it’s smaller and harder to hit. Youmu hit the core of the target, meaning she barely even got it to rock, and instead just pushed it a little.
Reloading, she once again takes aim at the same target. This time though, she had the idea of aiming for the head.
She graze it, but ultimately miss.
“I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.” She says. “If this next one miss, I’ll give up.” The little warrior declares.
She reloads and takes aim, carefully adjusting before pulling the trigger, hitting the target in the head dead on. The target falls down into the gutter along with the bullet.
“Hah. Told you.” The half ghost does a little jump.
“One out of four.” The alchemist sums it up. “Hit the next one, and you’ll only have to suffer three times as much.”
“Can’t you just let me have my moment.” She fake pouts before loading in the last bullet.
Going through all the motions, she hits this last one too.
“Nice. So that’s three that remained standing.” He notes. “Are you going to buy a retry?”
“Of course I am. I just got the hang of it.” She quickly pulls out her coins and place a couple on the counter.
The clerk puts the targets back on their shelves before finding a new handful of bullets for the little ghost.
She hurriedly reloads the gun and gets to aiming, shooting down another target.
It’s clear the little warrior picked up on the gun quite fast. Maybe because she has the mindset of a warrior, or because she has talent for guns. In either case, she’s begun knocking the targets down quite easily.
So instead of describing the same thing over and over again, it might be more interesting to detail how Youmu’s kimono remains form fitting, given its weight, making the sight her of bent over the table quite something to behold. Or maybe it’s be worth mentioning how her whole body tense up right before she’s about to shoot, causing her to let out a muffled little yelp with every shot.
Needless to say, she manage to knock down all five targets in just two tries.
“Have to say, I’m impressed.” The alchemist notes. “I expected it to take at least five tries, or that you’d give up before that.”
“Now I’m insulted.” The half ghost pouts, crossing her arms to really show she’s annoyed. She has some trouble keeping a straight face, though, and there’s a little smile visible. “As if it’d take me that long to pick up on something so simple.”
The two of them leave the stall, thanking the mustached clerk for his time, setting out to find the next challenge.
“I was thinking of having you eat some delicious, but heavy food in one setting.” The alchemist explains. “The amount would depend on how many targets remained.”
“Heavy food? Like Takoyaki?”
“I was thinking it’d either be Karumeyaki or some candy apples.”
“That.” She pause. “Wouldn’t actually have been so bad. I mean I like sweets.”
“Oh I know that, trust me. The candy jar by the counter always seem to be missing a couple pieces after you visit.” He chuckles to himself. Truth be told, the jar is only really there for Youmu, since kids rarely come to the workshop. Of course, they were meant to be given away for free to begin with, so there’s no problem with her taking some.
“Maybe I should just have you buy me some more snacks for your punishment.” Youmu threatens.
“Oh no, my wallet.” The alchemist says in complete monotone.
“Speaking of punishment, I have to pick your challenge now.” She looks around. “Since you’re a hammer, you should be good with nails.” She points to a small wood stump.
Said stump has several nails hammered into it, with a box of more nails sitting on a table right next to it along with a hammer. There’s a small bottle with a piece of paper labeled to it, stating the price of a single nail, presumably for the stump.
“I deal more in the fine work, but yeah, I sometimes work with nails.”
“Then can you knock a nail all the way down in one hit?” She puffs out her small chest.
“Can I? Easy.” The artisan shrugs it off. “Though, assuming you mean on hit in total, then getting it to stand right is the hard part.”
“Yeah, just one hit.” She clarifies.
“Right then.” He picks up a nail from the unmanned stand. “Since I paid for the first try for your shooting, you’ll pay for this first try of mine. Just to stay fair.”
“Sure, makes sense.” She says, pulling out her bundle. “Should I put down the same amount for the shooting, or just what it says here?”
“Same as for the shooting.” He answers. “If we stick to that price, we should have ten tries each.” He examines the stump, to find the place best suited for a nail. “As long as we don’t play for prizes, I’m sure the people will let us pay that amount.”
Since Youmu is down two tries, the alchemist has to match it at best. If he’s trying to win anyway.
He pulls out his main body, the hammer hanging by his side, and give the nail a couple small hits to make sure it stands on its own. “This is more to prove I can, than to win.” He says, hitting the nail straight on the head, driving all the way down. “There, easy. Now the trick is to do with with only one hit.”
“That was impressive in itself.” The little swordswoman admits. “I’m not much of a carpenter, so I have a hard time hitting the nails at all.”
He picks up another nail and press its tip against the soft wood, pushing it in just enough to where it might be able to stand on its own until someone touches it.
“The angle is going to be a little awkward.” He notes.
Winding up, he hammers down on it, driving it into the wood.
“Did you get it already?” The half ghost asks.
“Nope. I held back too much.” He gives the nail another little hit to get it all the way down. “Third try.”
Using the same strategy as the last time, he pushes the nail just a bit into the wood. This time, he spends a little more time trying to angle it, before giving it a good old hit.
“And down.” He states, after examining it. “Third try, but I passed.” He pulls out his chain of coins and drop two tries worth of cash into the jar. The first attempt already paid for by Youmu.
“No loser so far.” The swordswoman notes. “We’ll have to try harder.”
Out of the ten tries, Youmu is down two, and her date is down three.
[ Write in ] The next challenge for Youmu - [ Write in ] Punishment.
Since I couldn't use corn dogs for the punishment, since they wouldn't exist in my version of Gensokyo (same universe as my other story) I tried to find suitable alternatives. Karumeyaki was the thing I found, which seemed most appropriate. Basically, grilled caramel with optional flavors.
I must say, I like this story. It's cute. I've never been to a festival like this though, so I don't know much about what challenges there could be. Isn't goldfish scooping a traditional thing in japanese festivals? And that balloon game with paper hooks or something? I have no idea though, everything I know is from anime.
As for punishments, I'm definitely even worse at coming up with that, so someone else will have to fill in for that.
“Lets see if we can find a Katanuki stand.” The alchemist says, walking back into the crowd.
“Katanuki? You mean that candy cutting thing?” The half ghost quickly catch up to him. “You know you can’t eat that, right? You may be okay, but normal people won’t.”
“I’m not sure if the Konpake clan can really qualify as ‘normal people.’” He smiles at her. “But that said, it’s not to get some snacks, but it’s for your next challenge.”
“You want me to cut candy?” She looks to the sky as she wonders how that could be turned into a challenge. “How is that going to work?”
“I’ll tell you what to make, and then you’ll have to make it.” He explains. “Of course, I’ll be fair when judging it.” He makes sure to glance down at the little warrior, smiling to make her doubt his word.
“Wouldn’t it be more fair to compete directly?” She asks, not picking up on her date’s intention. “If I also challenge you, then we can compete to see who can make the best candy.”
“Not a bad idea.” He strokes his beard, acting as if he hadn’t thought of that exact idea. “What’ll the punishment be?”
“Hmm.” The little ghost girl grabs her chin, pondering for a moment. “Since we’re competing directly, it has to be something bigger than it otherwise would be.”
“Then how about this?” He spreads his arms out. “The loser has to reveal something about themselves which no one else knows.”
“Isn’t that a bit much?” She asks, without a hint of embarrassment.
“I don’t think so. You get to choose what you share, after all.” He explains. “I think I even have the perfect bit of information to share, should I lose this. Either way, you better start thinking.”
“Right. I’ll just have to not lose.” She pumps her fists. “I’m ready.”
“Perfect, cause I think I found something a little better than katanuki.” He points through the crowd. “Actually edible cardy.”
The stall is mostly surrounded by kids and the occasional young adult. It’s managed by an odd couple, an older man in his late forties, and a young woman in her early twenties. The man stays in the back, as he continues to produce various kinds of treats. The woman, taking the kids’ requests some of the candy and using some tools, shapes it onto a very general shape, from which the kids starts to scrape away using the small tools lying on the table.
“So,” Taking an opportunity where they don’t appear too busy, the alchemist place one round with of coin on the table. “What can i get for this much?”
“Aren’t you a little old for this?” The young woman asks.
“I may be up there in age, but I’m not too old for fun, yet.” He nods back at his date. “Besides, me and the little lady has a game we’d like to play using your stall.”
As a youkai that’s been around since before Gensokyo, the alchemist is indeed old, by human standards.
The clerk shrugs. “Depending on the material you chose, I’d be able to give you about one bowl of for each of them.” She says, pointing to the small bowls they use back there.
“Alright Youmu, pick your weapon.” He looks back at the little ghost.
“I think the powder cubes would be the easiest to work with.” She notes.
The “powder cubes” she speaks off, are made from sugar, ground to a fine powder. It’s then mixed with flavored water, then ground again to remove any lumps that may have formed after mixing with the water. From there, using the tools, they can compress these powder into a solid, yet brittle shape. Solid enough to not fall apart on its own, but soft enough to be easy to sculpt in.
“Right, then we’ll take two of those.” He says, as Youmu puts down her share of the coins.
Within minutes, the girl has wiped up two large cubes of pure sugar. The kids sitting around stare in amazement, seeing as their small budgets would never allow for such spending.
The artist picks up a thin wire, wraps it around his fingers and start the process of carving, already having an idea of what to make.
Thanks to the soft material, cutting out the shapes is easy for someone skilled, so the artisan quickly gets down to the point of adding details, with a level of finesse only years of experience can grant.
Almost as quickly as the clerk prepared the material, the artisan has finished his small sculpture. A small figure of Youmu’s little ghost. Though simple in shape, the little thing is filled with small details. The pose, if you can even call it that, is the little phantom circling upwards. This allows for a large area to support the shape so it won’t break from its own weight, while also adding a sense of motion.
“Amazing.” One of the kids almost shouts.
“You did that so fast.”
“Can you show me how to do mine?”
“Sure, just bring it over here, and we’ll try to work on it together.” The artisan answers.
While the kids lining up, he gets busy as he starts trying to teach them how to sculpt, if even only slightly. Youmu on the other hand, struggles to even get started.
“See, I knew you could. You just need to try.” The artisan praises the last of the kids who lined up. The the final one now running off to who knows where, he turns back to his date, who’s all but given up.
“Bushes are one thing. They’re easy.” The little warrior lifts her head from her hands. “But I’m drawing a blank here, for some reason.”
“I just gave a bunch of kids some lessons on sculpting.” He notes. “Weren’t you listening?”
“No, I was too busy trying myself.” She push the nearly untouched sugar cube away.
“I wouldn’t mind giving you a few private lessons, one of the next times you drop by the store.” He nods off the clerk as he and his date walks away. “That is, if you think you can endure a few hours alone with me.”
“I’ve spent the whole evening with you. I think I can endure a few hours.” She tease back, though her blush grows the further she gets with the sentence.
“Oh, so now we’re getting confident enough to talk back?” The alchemist cross his arms. “Should I remind you that you lost this round?”
“I know. But you promise not to laugh, right?”
“Of course I wouldn’t laugh.” He answers right away.
“I hate lightning.” The little ghost states. “It’s not that I’m scared. It just makes me feel uncomfortable, and I can’t stand it.”
“Why? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“It’s just,” she taps her index fingers together. “It’s because it makes me feel powerless. Because despite all my training, there’s nothing I can do against it.”
“That’s really interesting, actually.” The alchemist strokes his beard.
“You’re not going to laugh?” The little warrior asks.
“Why should I? Mother nature is scary. Being afraid of being powerless against her is completely natural, from my perspective.”
“I see.” She looks down to hide the little smile the appears.
Youmu is down 3 tries, the alchemist is down 3 tries. Despite having chosen a small number, expecting the game to not last too long, it seems the evening is about to pass, turning night soon. From there it won’t be long before the fireworks are lit.
[ Write in ] Yet another challenge - [ Write in ] Punishment - [ ] Cut the game from 10 to 5 to speed things along
>>41173 I spend all day every day writing magical loli fanfiction. Think I know better?
>>41163 Part of me still feels like I'm not putting enough effort into the story (lack of proofing and planning,) so I'm glad people actually enjoy it. Sadly I didn't have much time today, so this one might be a little subpar compared to the rest. Also, if you can't think of any games or punishments, try to think about the big thing you might win after this little game. You can make Youmu do any one thing, if you win. Or you could let her win and see what she might ask for.
File 154162153252.jpg - (238.09KB, 850x1186, Someone draw me some pure dorky handholding.jpg)
The alchemist looks to the sky, making big movements to make sure the little ghost girl notices. “Seems we might be having too much fun. We’re almost out of time.”
“Already?” Youmu shades her eyes as she looks to the sky, mimicking his pose. “What are we looking for?”
“The color of the sky. And judging by the shade, it’s almost time.” He relaxes his pose. “So why don’t we wrap up this game.”
“Aww.” She pouts. “I was just starting to get into it.”
“Trust me, you’ll like what comes next just as much.” He rubs his hands together for warmth, seeing as it’s starting to get chilly. “What do you say to one last, best out of three game? Of your choosing.”
“I’m going to keep you to that promise.” The half ghost smiles. “And let’s do ring toss.” She states enthusiastically. “I’d have challenged you to fish scooping, since I’m pretty good at it.” To emphasize she flex her arm, even though fish scooping has nothing to do with strength.
“Why ring toss?” He asks, as they start walking. “If you’d picked fish scooping, it’d be a sure win. Or are you that confident in your ring tossing skills?”
“Then it wouldn’t be fun?” She states without hesitation. “The best part about competing is putting everything you have into it, giving it your all.”
Looks like she’s managed to get over her shyness for the night. Which means everything is going according to the alchemist’s plan. All that’s left is to do is to put the final piece into place, then wait for the fireworks.
“Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask.” He changes the topic. “Where’s your phantom? I know they can become incorporeal, but they should be able to turn invisible.”
“Ah, that’s,” she looks away, “how do I say it.” The half ghost stays silent for a moment as she thinks of how to formulate her thoughts. ” It’s, inside me.” She tries to hide her blush, clearly feeling embarrassed by the thought.
“As in, you’re possessing yourself? How would that even work?” He ponders out loud.
“No, I just remain intangible as I stay inside my main body.” She explains. “It’s a very strange feeling, which I don’t think I can describe.”
“I would imagine.” The youkai replies, placing a hand on the hammer. “My main body is an object. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe what that feels like. To be able to hold my own body in my hands, while I occupy both bodies.”
“Seems like we’ll have this game for ourselves.” The alchemist notes, spinning one of the rings around his finger. “It’s not exactly a tent, but it’ll do just fine.”
“Mm.” The half ghost nods. “Should we move back further? It seems a little easy to hit it from here.”
“Sure. Go ahead and take the first turn, so just move as far back as you want. We’ll play the game from there.” He replies, following her steps backwards.
“Here.” She drags her foot in the dirt, drawing a line. “We’ll throw from here.”
The little warrior pulls back, getting ready to throw when she notices a minor problem. Her kimono doesn’t allow for much leg movement. This means she’ll either must deal with awkward stances, or open her kimono up a little, revealing some leg. Since Yuyuko dressed her up, Youmu has been forced to wear the dress up in the old fashion. That is, to go commando. So, the prospect of showing some leg might have some unintended consequences that she’d rather avoid.
On the other hand, the alchemist’s plan needs him to lose the overarching game, yet he can’t make that obvious, since Youmu would hate to have him throw the game, for whatever reason he might have had.
Which puts both in a spot where it’ll be hard not to reveal too much, though in different ways.
With effort and determination, the little ghost managed to throw it in a less than graceful manner. And she manages to land the first throw, no less.
The easiest way to throw the game, without drawing attention to it, would be to miss the first shot. It can be written off as “getting used to it.” Plus, they if both play it perfectly for the rest of the game, it’ll still be his loss.
Aiming for the back row, the alchemist throws his ring. The inside of the ring bounces off the pole, causing it to fly backwards and land on the ground.
“So, it’s going to be that kind of game.” He notes, smirking at the result of his throw.
Youmu ungracefully manage to throw another one, also aiming hers for the back row. Unlike her date’s, hers swing around the top before falling on the pole.
Following that pattern, both manage to continue landing their shots. Though they both miss one throw to the front poles, ending the game in the alchemist’s defeat by one point.
“Yes!” The little warrior does a little hop.
“Nice throwing.” He compliments her. “I thought I had a chance again when you missed your shot.”
“I got a little nervous, I’ll admit.” She runs over to fetch the rings. “But now the pressure is on. You have to win the next two games, or you’ll lose.”
The loud whistling of a rocket climbing into the sky echoes through the village as the first firework has been lit. It explodes with a loud bang, drawing the attention of all participants, including our little love birds.
“It’s starting.” The alchemist notes. He grabs Youmu by the wrist and starts dragging her along. “We got to hurry, before our spot is taken.”
“What spot?” She quickly catches up and follows pace, despite her initial surprise.
“There’s a small hill inside the village that will be perfect for viewing the fireworks.”
The first firework was launched as a signal, that the show would start soon, giving people a chance to come and see it. They barely made it, but the couple made it to the hilltop in time for the fireworks. That is, the show has already started.
“You’re right. This is a beautiful spot.” The half ghost admits.
The hill is just tall enough to stand above the roof line of the village, giving a clear view of the horizon. With nothing else to distract you, viewing the fireworks from here would indeed be a sight to behold.
“A perfect ending to a great night.” He whispers to himself.
Initially, he had some concerns following Yuyu’s advice. But right now, at this moment, he’s glad he did.
Youmu seems to feel the same way, as her hand slowly finds its way to his, very loosely grabbing it.
“Youmu?” He asks.
She immediately retracts her hand with a small yelp, just realizing what she was doing. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
He doesn’t say anything, but instead grab her small hand, holding it in his. “It’s fine.”
They both stand in silence, watching the beautiful colors fill the dark night sky.
“So.” He speaks up after a good few minutes of silence. “Since you won, that’s the prize you want?”
“I’ve already gotten it.” She grips his hand too, interlocking fingers. “I’ve gotten something much better.”
He gives her small hand a little squeeze in responds but doesn’t say anything.
Neither of them has noticed yet, but Youmu’s phantom has heated up to the point where it’s melting, leaking out under her feet.
“Would you mind if I stayed over tonight?” She asks, not realizing what her request suggest, or maybe she just doesn’t care at this very moment.
“I’d love to.” He pulls her a little closer, allowing her to rest against his arm.
--- No votes for today. You can probably understand why.
The two lovebirds went home to the workshop after the fireworks show had ended. Nothing happened after it, however, seeing as Youmu felt sleepy after an exciting night and went straight to bed. Not wanting to disturb her, the alchemist let her have his room for herself while he went to living area to sleep.
The next day, the little ghost was gone before either Kogasa or the alchemist had woken up. She’d left a note saying she went home, hoping the two of them wouldn’t worry about her sudden disappearance.
It’s been a few weeks since then, and she hasn’t shown up since. Business has kept going like usual, if not a little better thanks to the small amount of advertising he managed to do during the festival.
Even with the slight influx of customers, the store doesn’t feel any more busy than usual. Kogasa has picked up some orders for horse equipment and has diligently been working by the forge for days now. The customers asking for the alchemist typically want to buy some of the premade items displayed in the store, like the small sculptures or the jewelry.
Today seemed to just another day like that until the alchemist spotted someone out in front of the store. A certain little woman, seemingly unsure if she should enter, debating back and forth with herself.
Unable to hold back a snicker, the alchemist pulls down the jar of hard candy from the shelf behind the counter. He places it on the table and rest his hand on it, looking out at the ghost waiting for her to notice.
Finally, having made up her mind, she pushes open the door.
“Hey there.” He greets her, resting his head on his other hand.
The moment he says that, the little gardener grows bright red and turns around, walking back out the store.
This is probably going to take some time.
She tries again, still as red as when she left. Her movement is completely stiff as she walks up to the counter. She struggles a little getting seated, obviously trying not to look awkward.
“Are you ready now?” The alchemist asks.
“No.” She answers honestly.
“Well then.” He slides the jar over to her. “Take your time. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m not a kid, you know?” Despite her protest, she still takes a piece from the jar. A sour one, her favorite.
The alchemist pulls out a book and starts reading, waiting for his guest to be ready. A few minutes pass in silence as the ghost whittles down the candy.
“Yuyuko seemed disappointed, the other day.” She notes after some time. “I don’t think she wanted to see me so early after the festival, going from her questions.”
“Really. Do you know why?” He asks without lifting his eyes from the book. Though, having been friends with that perverted old ghost for years now, he already knows what Yuyu wanted to happen.
“I don’t.” She shakes her head. “I think something was supposed to happen. But I don’t know what.”
“Can’t really think of anything, either.” He says. He knows what the old ghost wanted, but he’s more interested in taking things at Youmu’s pace. Wouldn’t want to press her, after all. “Though, if you don’t mind me changing the topic. What did you come here for today?”
“Nothing. I just,” she scratches her nose, “I just wanted to see you.” She swings her legs a little. “Is that weird?”
“No, it’s perfectly normal.” The alchemist replies. “You can come here whenever you feel like. So, you don’t have to stand around outside and hope it’s okay.”
“You saw that?” A wide blush appears again. “That was, I just needed courage to come inside.” She admits.
“Courage? I may be a youkai, but I don’t bite.” He plays dumb.
“You’re teasing me.” The half ghost states, pouting a little.
“Of course.” He puts down the book to look straight at her. “How can I not tease such a cute girl?”
Her blush widens as she got caught off guard by that comment, causing her ears to start turning red too. “Meanie.” She takes another piece of candy, to compensate for the bullying.
Aside from the alchemist’s chuckle following her comment, the two of them sit in silence, just enjoying each others company.
“What are you reading?” The little gardener asks.
“Thirty Years that Shook Physics.” He answers, closing it to get a look at the English title. “In the outside world, they’re founding a new field of science called Quantum, I think that’s how it’s pronounced. Basically, it’s about very tiny thing that don’t make any sense.”
“You’re a scientist?” She lights up. “All the books you have are in a different language, so I can read them. I’d never have thought they were about science.”
“Alchemy is a special category that exists between science and magic.” He explains. “In order to learn new things, I have to study both. However, getting good books from the outside is hard, and more often than naught, you find ones like this which is pure fiction pretending to be fact.”
“Wait. You know magic too?” She lights up even more. “Can you show me?”
“What did you think alchemy was?” He puts the book back on the shelf under the counter.
“A skill?” The swordswoman looks puzzled. “You know, like swordsmanship or carpentry.”
“Not quite. It’s a field of study with the intend of finding the truth about the world.” The alchemist corrects her. “Science has its limits, since it’s all about observation. Magic has its own limitations because it’s all about acting. Alchemy aims to combine these two practices.”
“I didn’t know that.” She sits back down in her chair. “And here I complain about kanji being difficult.”
“You can’t read?” He asks.
“No, no, I can. Just not anything difficult.” She corrects. “It’s just hard memorizing all of them. And there you are, reading an entirely different language.”
“You don’t need to memorize all of them.” The alchemist tries to comfort her a little. “The literacy rate here is so low you’d be able to get away with 500 characters. Of course, if you want to get a job with trading or the government, you’ll have to be able to read, but I can’t see you do that.”
“Lady Yukari, one of Yuyuko’s friends, said that you’d have to be able to read at least 2000 characters.” The gardener explains. “I’ve been studying hard to learn more.”
“You definitely won’t need 2000 characters. I don’t even think we have that many anymore.” He fishes up a piece of hard candy for himself. “A lot of them got lost after the barrier was erected, because no one used them. You might need to know them if you’re reading old books, but beyond that I really doubt it.”
“Mm.” She nods. “2000 seemed a little too much, so instead I just resolved to learn as many as I could.” She lies down on the counter. “I want to be as helpful you Yuyuko as possible. To repay her for everything.”
Unable to resist the urge, he places a hand on her head. “Trust me when I say Yuyu already appreciates everything you’re doing. Oh, that reminds me.” He dives under the counter, scavenging his book collection for a specific title. “This one.” He throws it on the table before he’s even gotten back up himself. “Scribes used to favor this book when teaching others how to read. I can’t tell how relevant it still is, but it’s all the help I can give right now.”
“I can borrow this?” She flips through the paperback.
“You can have it. I got done with it ages ago.”
“Really?” Her whole face lights up. “I’ll be sure to learn anything I can from it.”
“Hey, Renkin.” The other resident tsukumogami walks through the front door. “I’m going to need help with some work. Leather and engravings.” She spots the little ghost. “I’m not interrupting anything?”
“No, no. Not at all.” Youmu is quick to deny. “We were just talking.”
“What about work?” The alchemist changes the topic back on track. “Dis they just expand the contract without warning?”
“Yeah.” The umbrella unties the strap by her neck, causing her leather apron to fall and hang by her waist only, revealing her black tank top. She takes a seat next to the ghost and flattens out on the table. “This is the last time I deal with those guys, I swear.”
“We’re finally boycotting them?” The alchemist asks. “About time. These guys always do this.” He starts explaining to his guest. “They ask for an order, then once it’s done, they append to it, expecting it to be a rush order because they’re the current customer.”
“It’s not like we need the money either.” Kogasa notes. “We’re just doing this for fun. We can just let the other craftsmen deal with these guys. They’ll probably be more than happy for the extra business.”
“How much are we talking about?” The alchemist asks.
“His entire stable. All new equipment.” She pulls off her bandana, revealing her messy hair. “That’s like a dozen horses. Why do they need so many horses?”
All new equipment for a dozen horses comes to forty-eight horseshoes, twelve bridles, saddles and masks. An order of this size is going to take time, though it’s not like the shop is very busy, so it’s entirely doable for the two of them. The prize is going to be high as well, meaning they’d be able to afford some luxury afterwards.
But on the other hand, money is worthless to these youkai, so is it really worth the hassle of dealing with a couple of stuck up noble jerks?
 Do the job, then cut off all future business.  Just drop the order. Whatever they’re offering, it’s not worth it.
“Let’s just do it.” The alchemist states. “I hate them as much as you do, but we accepted the job. That means our honor as artisans are at stake here.”
“I don’t think people care if we drop that guy’s order.” The blacksmith argues back. “No one likes him. They just like his money.”
“I don’t want to do it either, but we are pros.” The alchemist argues back. “Why don’t we do this instead. Once the job is finished, we’ll take a trip to Old Hell.”
“You mean it?” She jumps up, causing the gardener to jump back in surprise. “How much ore can I bring back?”
“As much as you can carry.” He spreads out his arms. “I need to stock up on metallic essence too, so it works out.”
She clenches her fists, fighting to keep herself from pumping them into the air, yelling out in excitement. “Sorry, Youmu, but I’m going to have to steal him from you for a week or so.”
“No, it’s alright.” The phantom averts her eyes. “I have to study hard too.”
“Work hard, Youmu.” The alchemist. “I’ll drop by once we’re finished with this job.”
“Mm. See you, then.” Clutching her book, the little swordswoman runs out of the store, wearing a big grin.
“I never thought you’d actually make a move on her.” The blacksmith notes as soon as their guest has left the building.
“I finally decided to take Yuyu’s advice.” He replies. “And I’m happy I did.”
“I can see. You haven’t stopped smiling since the festival.” She ties the apron around her neck again. “Just let me know before hand when you two plans to, you know. It’d be a little awkward to be around when that starts.”
“You’d have to ask her for that.” The alchemist pulls out a thick book containing a record of everything related to the shop, like stock and transactions. “For the time being, I’m just following the flow.”
“She’s too passive. You’ll have to take the lead.” She pulls out the gloves stored in her apron’s front pocket and puts them on. “That is, if you want your relationship to go anywhere.”
“I’ll just go at my own pace, thank you very much.” He reads through the stock, figuring out how much leather he needs to buy. Using alchemy, it’d be possible to create top quality leather, but it takes a lot of effort to create organic matter.
“Just trying to help my bellowed brother out.” The blacksmith snickers. “I’ll just take from stock to begin with.” She declares, pointing back at their workspace.
“Sure. I’ll be going out for a bit, getting the materials.” He gives her a thumbs up. “A dozen horses. The man’s a lunatic.”
“Finally.” The artisan puts his knives down. “Shaped, tanned, cut, treated and painted.”
“Are you done?” The hammering stops.
“It took four full days, but I’m done.” He falls to the chair behind him. “Twelve saddles, each uniquely decorated, and color coordinated as per the request.”
“Almost makes me wish I had a horse.” Kogasa absentmindedly says, trying to keep her soot covered hands off the newly painted saddle. “But just for a saddle like this, that would be a little too much.”
“How’s your work coming along?” He picks himself back up from the chair.
“It’s hard getting them just right.” She waves over her sworn brother.
The blacksmith has hanged up two long poles. One of the holds sets of finely polished horseshoes, while the other holds the rough ones which still need work. The so-called rough ones are still perfectly sellable to the average commoner, but nobility like their current customer demand higher quality.
“The rest of the rings for the bridle and masks are on the table, by the way.” She points out as they pass into the back room. “But as you can see, I’m almost done.”
The artisan picks up one of the finished shoes to examine. “Why anyone would want engravings on their horse’s shoes, of all things, is beyond me.” He hangs it back on the rack. “Nice pattern, though.”
“Yeah, engraving is harder than you make it look.” She picks up another one to show. “I had to start over with this one because I messed up.”
“The trick is to fully visualize it in your mind before you begin.” He notes. “Of course, if you mess up, you have to be willing to change your design to cover for that. Otherwise you have to start over.”
“That’s why it’s hard. If I have a design, I want to make that, not something else.” She tightens her bandana.
“But at this pace, we’ll be done tomorrow. The day after, at the very latest.”
“I know. I’m looking forward to the trip underground so much.” She clasps her hands. “I just can’t wait to get my hands on some raw quality ore.”
“Something wrong with the iron I make?” He crosses his arms.
The umbrella just laughs at his fake display of offense. “No, not metal. Ore.” She corrects him. “There’s just something about getting your hands on some raw ore, purifying it and forging it. All the way from start to finish.”
“Yeah, that’s a nice feeling. Not very productive, though, but it’s still nice to do occasionally.” The alchemist admits.
“Anyway. Back to work. The sooner we finish the better.” The blacksmith pumps her hands, filled with renewed vigor.
“I’m so glad we’re done dealing with those guys.” Kogasa lets out an exaggerated sigh.
“Yeah. Could you believe that?” The alchemist pinches the back of his nose. “Trying to only pay for the saddles, claiming the whole thing should be a set.”
“It’s humans like that, that wouldn’t be missed if they suddenly disappeared.” The umbrella adds.
“That’s a dangerous line of thought, Kogasa. Especially for us.” He stops her. “Instead, just be happy we’re done with him. We got the full payment. Expenses and taxes considered, we’ll have plenty for a trip underground. Might even be able to visit a hot spring, get some quality sake and a fantastic enjoyment to unwind in.”
“Oh, it’s been ages since we last went to a hot spring.” She pokes her partner in the side. “I think I can guess who you want to attend as well.”
 As long as Kogasa won’t mind, it’d be lovely if Youmu could join  The two of them worked hard, so they should enjoy this reward together
>>41207 >>41208 I can't really say you were late, since I never actually called the vote, but I'd already written a large chunk, so yeah, my fault. Still appreciate it, though.
“Of course, I’d love it if Youmu would join us.” The alchemist admits without hesitation. “The more time I get to spend with her around, the better.”
“You just want a chance to ogle at her body.” The blacksmith leans into his field of view. “You don’t need to hide that from me.”
“Whatever could you be talking about.” He steps around the topic. “I get so see her naked body every time we meet.”
“Wait. Really?” She runs a few steps ahead and turn around, so they can look at each other as they walk. “I didn’t know you two had already gone that far.”
“Of course. I mean, have you ever seen her little phantom with clothes on?” He’s barely able to keep a straight face as he delivers the line.
“Oh, ha, ha.” She follows her fake laugh with an actual snicker.
“I can’t deny it, though.” He gets back on topic. “A chance to see Youmu in her natural beauty is a thing to strive for.”
“Mm.” The umbrella agrees. “She’s a little treasure, that one.”
“I’ll need her to get a few days’ notice.” He says, unlocking the front door. “So how about we leave the day after tomorrow, on the weekend.”
“Works for me.” The blacksmith nods. “That will give me a chance to prepare a wagon for the ore.”
“Oi, don’t go overboard.”
“Overflowing Sake.” Youmu reads the inn sign out loud. “Is that right?”
“Yeah. Strange name, I know, but it’s Oni we’re dealing with here, remember.” The alchemist notes. “If you ask them, they’ll tell you it’s because the springs are filled with sake flowing from a natural spring.”
“Is it?” The gardener asks hesitantly.
Might sound like a stupid question, but keep in mind this place was once used to extract gold from souls by burning them. A naturally flowing sake spring is more believable than you might think at first. Especially since one of these did exist at one point, until the Oni drank it all, which is quite impressive.
“It’s not.” The alchemist states. “I tried extracting some essence from the water last time we came here. Alcohol almost always yield water and poison essence. Oni brewed alcohol always yield more poison than water, but the water here yielded no poisons, thankfully.” He strokes his beard as he explains with pride. “The water here did yield some stone essence, so it’s high on minerals.”
“This one is so good.” Kogasa emphasize. “You’ll feel amazing afterwards.”
The alchemist slides open the huge doors, allowing the three of them to walk inside.
The Oni are practically giants. The average adult woman stands close to 260 centimes with the men reaching 310. While the Oni are the primary residents of the underground, they build their stuff so that smaller beings can still use them. Common courtesy, they say, since they moved in here while other species still inhabited the area, so the least they can do is consider them when building.
“Hey there.” The alchemist waves for the attention of the giant clerk.
The big man looks over the counter, adjusting his glasses. “Ah, surface dwellers.” He adjusts his seat, so he gets further down, making little difference, though the gesture is appreciated by the group. “Welcome to Overflowing Sake. How can I be of assistance?”
“We would like two rooms for the weekend.” The alchemist states. “With access to the bath.”
“Certainly.” He writes in the book on his counter. “Here we run the policy to put down a deposit when checking in, counting for half the payment. The remainder will be paid when you checkout.” He turns the book around, showing a breakdown of the prices.
There’s a weekend deal where dinner is paid for, on top of the usual free daily bottle of sake. Breakfast is an all you can eat buffet, paid for when separately. Lunch has a bunch of premade food on offer, ready for takeout. Dinner is a big meal, decided upon by the chef; the only warm meal on the list.
“Alright.” The alchemist signs the book. “By the way, the two of us,” he gestures to Kogasa, “we’re tsukumogami, so I hope it’s alright for us to carry around our real bodies, even into the bath.”
“As long as you don’t dirty the water too much or break anything, there won’t be a problem.” He picks up the bell sitting on his desk and rings it.
Meanwhile the alchemist picks out the money for the deposit. It barely takes a minute for the door leading further inside the inn opens, revealing a young Oni, clad in a local variant of a maid uniform.
“Could you show our guests to room 114 and 115?” He instructs the Oni maid.
“Of course. If you would please follow me.” She gestures them through the door.
The rooms the group has been given are big enough to easily hold ten people each. Obviously scaled for the Oni, though the included furniture is scaled down. It’s likely these rooms are assigned any non-Oni given they’re prepacked with small furniture.
The rear of the rooms has access to a shared balcony, spanning all the rooms on this side. The balcony has a great view over the lava lake used to power the whole Underground, painting the ceiling with a dim orange light.
Looking at the ceiling from the balcony, several holes and be spotted in the walls, some emitting light as they act as housing.
“The Underground really is an amazing place.” The alchemist notes. “Though it may look crude, the amount of effort it’d take to make everything work as smoothly as they do is astounding.”
“Maybe getting two rooms was too much.” The gardener notes, looking around the big room.
“They might be a little big.” Kogasa admits. “But we can’t all sleep in the same room. That’d be embarrassing, right Youmu?” The umbrella winks at her, very subtle.
The swordswoman blushes but doesn’t any anything.
“Anyway.” The umbrella claps her hands. “Why don’t we start with the main attraction. The bath.”
“Great idea. The trip here was long, so let’s wash the journey off so we can get in the right mood.” The alchemist agrees. “You two head in first. I’ll go talk to the chef, then hop in myself.”
“You got it.” Kogasa gives him a thumbs up before grabbing Youmu by the wrist and drags her along to the hot spring.
Having stayed at this inn before, the umbrella knows her way around and quickly drag the little ghost with her to the bath house. Being as excited as she is, to finally enjoy a real hot spring, as soon as she’s inside the changing room, she rips off her clothes leaving them in the floor and runs into the spring buck naked.
“Kogasa, wait.” The half ghost attempts to stop her, though in vain as she’s disappeared before the ghost even manage to say a word.
Accepting she got the short end of the stick, she starts picking up the umbrella’s clothes, fold them neatly and put them into one of the empty baskets, putting the towel that was already in the basket on top, so the blacksmith would easily be able to dry off afterwards, without getting all her clothes wet.
Once her friend’s clothes have been taking care of, she starts stripping herself. She wraps the towel around her chest and continues into the spring.
“What took you so long?” Kogasa asks, sitting in the far end of the big empty spring. “Hurry up and get in.”
“I had to pick up your stuff first.” The ghost protests. “Besides, shouldn’t we wash off before getting in?”
“We don’t need that here?” The umbrella dismisses her notion. “Taking care of that with magic is the standard down here since it’s such a huge part of their economy.”
“If you say so.” The phantom just accepts her friend’s word for it. “Should I get a towel for you before I get in?”
“Why?” Kogasa just asks.
“Well, because, you know.” The ghost blushes a little. “Because it’s improper to be naked around others.”
“But it’s just the two of us.” The umbrella smiles. “So hurry up.”
“Just us?” She walks around the edge, getting closer to her friend.
“Yeah. Did you think Renkin would join us?” The umbrella grows a smug smile. “Too bad today isn’t mixed bathing.”
“I didn’t,” The half ghost cuts herself short, not wanting to embarrass herself. Instead she just sits down in the red water.
“There’s no need to be embarrassed.” The umbrella rests her arms on the edge. “Everybody already knows.”
“What?” The ghost looks straight at the umbrella.
“That you like Renkin. It’s obvious, really.” She clarifies. “Obviously, he cares about you too.”
“When did you find out?” The half ghost grows bright red.
“One of the many times you just sit there in the shop staring at him with a smile.” The youkai looks at as she tries to recall the countless small signs that Youmu has been giving off for years now.
“It’s that obvious?” The half ghost sinks into the water, covering her mouth.
“Yeah, it is.” The umbrella jumps her from behind, giving her a naked hug. “But lucky for you, big sis here can give you all the advice you need. Such as,” she holds up a finger out in front so they both can see it, “you need to be a little more aggressive, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.”
“That’s easy for you to say.” The half ghost complains, placing a hand on her small chest.
“Yeah, it is.” The umbrella admits, sitting back down by the edge. “I mean, considering we tsukumogami can change shape at will, we have that advantage over normal people.”
“Wait, what?” The little swordswoman looks back at her friend. “This is the first time I’ve heard that.”
“Yeah? Well, these bodies are just vessels we create to make it easier to move around in.” The umbrella spreads herself out, enjoying the space to it’s fullest. “Though there are things we can’t change. Like, I’m a woman. That’s something I can change, not that I would. But I’d never be able to create a male vessel.” Using one arm, she lifts her breasts out of the water. “I can freely change the size of these, though. Same below.”
“Yuyuko is a ghost, so I can understand that, but you too? That’s just unfair.” The ghost pouts.
Realizing she might not be boosting her friend’s confidence like she’d hoped, the umbrella changes tactic.
“That may be the case, but he still chose you.” She points out. “That’s why you should be prouder of what you have, because that’s what he wants. And he’s what you want, right?”
“Still.” The half ghost sinks back into the water. “Won’t he dislike it, if I suddenly get too aggressive?”
“If you get too aggressive? Sure, no one likes that.” Kogasa points out. “But being completely passive makes it look like you’re not interested.”
“But I am!” She yells out. “I mean, I just don’t know how to act around him. My mind gets all blurred and I end up just getting dragged along. Not that I dislike it.”
“Trust me, I know that feeling.” Kogasa states. “But nothing will ever come to you on its own. You’ll have to work for it. Be a little aggressive. Tell him what you want to do.” She sighs, relaxing further into the water.
“I don’t think I can.” The half ghost admits.
“I’m not telling you to jump at him wearing only lingerie, or anything like that.” The little gardener not ready for that image grows completely red by the mental image her friend has instilled in her. “Instead, start small. It’s late evening, you two sit alone in the workshop. What would you like to do? Talk? Play a game? Cook? Things like that.”
Rather than respond, the gardener just blows bubbles in the water, thinking about her friend’s words.
Having left the spring first, Youmu got herself dried off and dressed, leaving Kogasa to enjoy the vast hot spring to herself. The umbrella insisted on staying a while longer, to fully unwind.
Heading back to their rooms, she finds the alchemist sitting by the oversized table, looking into the lava lake. He looks back, as the little swordswoman approach.
“How’d you enjoy the hot spring?” He asks. “The ones down here are just on a completely different level than the ones on the surface.”
Once more, Kogasa’s advice runs through her mind. And she’s right. If Youmu wants to take this relationship anywhere, she needs to do something, anything.
 Hold hands Nononono. That’s too much. Last time was a one off. Her heart isn’t ready yet.  Lap pillow. As a reward for his hard work.  A little snuggling. Enjoy the view together.
I know. It's technically magma, not lava, since they're underground. I just want to call it lava since it's above ground underground. Plus Lava Lake sounds better than Magma Lake.
“Mm.” The half ghost agrees. “They’re nothing like the ones we have back home.” She takes seat by the corner of the table, right next to the alchemist.
“You have hot springs in the Netherworld?” He rests against the table, looking at the newcomer.
“Not exactly hot springs.” She corrects him. “They’re cold springs. But the longer you sit in them, the warmer they get, but only for you.”
“So, it’s like a localized hot spring?” He asks. “Sounds interesting.”
“They’re strange.” She shifts a little closer. “You know what this place is missing? A kotatsu.” She answers her own question.
“A kotatsu, you say.” The alchemist gets up and walks into the adjacent room they’ve rented. He comes back with the spare blanket. “This should do the trick.” He throws the blanket over the table.
With that done, he reaches inside his vest, extracting a few elements from the vials he always carries with him; one fire and three stone essence. Manipulating the elements, he places the fire in the middle, surrounding it with the stones before making the three stones spin around the fire. Once they’ve built up speed, he claps his hands together around them, and as he pulls the apart, a glass sphere containing a small flame is revealed.
“Tada.” He sings, as if performing a magic show. “Now we have a table with a blanket and a heat source.” He places the ball in the air where it remains stationary, making sure the floating spell works before pushing it in under the table. “Enjoy.”
The half ghost crawls under the blanket, and even though it was just put there, the heat is already spreading fast. She continues to shift her way under the makeshift kotatsu until she’s practically lying under it.
“This is amazing.” She notes blissfully.
“I’m glad you like it.” The alchemist says, crawling under the blanket to keep his feet warm.
“Hey.” The half ghost turns around so she’s looking out the balcony, though more importantly, away from him. “I know you know, but I just want to say it.” She takes a small break calm her blush. “I really like you.”
Completely caught off guard by her comment, the alchemist covers his face with his hand, not wanting to reveal the fact she made him blush. Something none of their friends has managed so far. “Me too, Youmu.” He says after a moment of collecting himself. “I really like you too.”
Unable to contain the sheer amount of joy welling up inside him, he ends up sitting there, grinning like an idiot, never removing the hand.
Youmu, on the other hand seems able to contain her excitement. That is until you look at the table where her phantom half has taken a seat, right above the fire orb. The little ghost lacks any form of inhibition when it comes to emotion, so just a single glance at its propeller of a tail should tell you anything you’d need to know.
Neither of them can gather the courage to say anything, but somehow, neither feels like it’s necessary to say anything else.
Kogasa came to peek at their progress but left them alone as soon as she felt the atmosphere in the room. After all, she wouldn’t want to ruin such a perfect scene. She did close the door, though, giving them some privacy.
After some time, the alchemist does manage the courage to place a hand on the little phantom. Even though it’s not physical, it managed to provide some resistance, keeping the hand on top of its little body.
Youmu responds by diving all the way under the table only to crawl out on the other side so she can sit next to the alchemist. But rather than leaning against the table, she leans into him, enjoying his warmth more than the kotatsu.
“It’s strange.” Youmu says, breaking the long silence. “My heart is beating harder than it ever has, but I still feel so calm.”
“Mm.” He answers, too distracted to listen.
“Can we stay like this for a while longer?”
“Mm.” He answers again.
The little half ghost shifts right up next to him, nestling into his light embrace. The alchemist responds by tightening his hold on her.
It’s true. Her little heart really is beating faster. He can feel it as she presses herself against him.
Somehow or another, the little gardener manages to fall asleep in his embrace, leaving him to put her to bed once again.
----- It only dawned on me after I started writing, but the idea I imagined when I used the word snuggle is likely different than the idea I have, since the english language don't have a word for it. Look up the word "hygge" if you want an idea of what I imagined, since other people can explain it better than me.
“Had a good night?” The umbrella asks as soon as the alchemist opens the door.
She’s been standing outside their room for longer than she’s willing to admit, waiting for her chance to start bullying her brother of choice.
“I had, that’s for sure.” He replies, closing the door behind him. “I’m not sure if Youmu has recovered, though.”
As soon as the little gardener woke up, she remembered how she felt asleep. Feeling the embarrassment rush over her, she just crawled under her blanket and became unwilling to leave.
The trick to dating Youmu seems to keep her in an excited mood. That’s when she feels the boldest. Unless you’d want to continue teasing her, which is easier when she’s shy.
“You two went at it that hard?” She snickers. “You fiend.”
“Oh yeah, it went on for several hours, until she passed out.” He explains. “We even had a perfect view over the lava lake.”
“With the doors open?” She looks confused for a second before sighing. “So, you didn’t do it. Even though I left you alone on purpose.”
“We did all we wanted to.” He argues back. “Just sitting down and enjoying each others companies was exactly how I wanted to spend that evening.” He motions her to start walking with him. “Besides, we did confess, even though that was already implied.”
“Really? How?” She gets that gleam in her eyes.
“Well, we said it. Then things got silent.” He admits.
“You’re not really a romantic, you know that?”
“You first figured that out now?”
They both let out a chuckle.
“Hey, as long as you’re happy, I won’t meddle.” The umbrella states. “Though I do plan on giving you two some room once in a while.”
The two of them walks to the main hall where they serve breakfast. They pay for their portions and bring them back them back to their rooms. The alchemist hands his partner one of the two trays he’s carrying, before sliding the door open.
Youmu still hasn’t crawled out from under her sheets.
He crouches next to the half ghost’s futon. “I thought you’d be hungry by now, so I brought you something to eat.”
Responding to the mentioning of food, her stomach decides to let out a loud growl, making its own desires known.
“Seems I was right.”
“No.” She protests from under the blanket. “It’s too embarrassing.”
“Ah, I see.” He places the tray on the floor. “Seems like she needs you, Kogasa. It might be that time.”
“It’s not.” The little half ghost shoots up from the bed, face burning bright red.
“Oh hey, it worked.” The alchemist smirks to himself.
Youmu looks out the door for Kogasa, but the umbrella has taken a step to the side to hide the fact she’s laughing.
“Go on, eat some.” He pushes the tray closer to her, and once again, her stomach demands food.
She picks up the tray. “You’re the worst.” She pouts, as she walks to the table.
“I love you too.” He continues to tease her.
The little woman seems to shrink even further, trying to hide how embarrassed she is, despite only making it more obvious.
Kogasa takes the chance to butt in, still carrying the two trays. She takes seat by the table corner, sitting between the two love birds, pushing one of the trays over to the alchemist.
“So, what’s the plan today?” The umbrella asks, taking a bite of her bread. “I want to go to the quarry as early as possible.” She glances over at the gardener.
The gardener looks back before realizing what Kogasa is trying to tell her. “I’d like to go sightseeing.” She states. “It’s my first time here, after all.”
Obviously, the alchemist would like to go with the little ghost, but he also needs some more metals. So, the question is, should they split up or move as a group.
 Stick together  Split up
Originally planned to have this tagged on the last update, but I couldn't ruin the moment so fast.
>>41247 Yes and no. But the way I wanted to use it, yes.
File 15421388916.jpg - (575.53KB, 900x1115, No good pic so have a kitty instead.jpg)
“Then let’s start with the quarry.” Kogasa suggests. “Despite what you might think, it’s actually located at one of the highest points of this village.”
“Oh right, we got to see that at night, didn’t we, Kogasa?” The alchemist asks.
The underground obviously doesn’t receive light from the surface, so they have had create their own sun. The whole underground village exists on the inside of a flattened sphere, making the ground and ceiling more even. In the center there’s a pillar connecting the ground with the ceiling. At the halfway point on that pillar sits a giant amber crystal. This crystal pulsates light so slowly it mimics the day night cycle, though it doesn’t change with the seasons.
“The view from up there is amazing at night.” The umbrella comments. “Of course, they view of the city during the day is great too.”
“You’ll probably be able to pick out some landmarks you’d like to visit.” He adds.
“You don’t have to convince me.” The little gardener says. “I’ll go. Just promise I can get a chance to look around afterwards.” She asks, looking over at the alchemist.
“Of course.” He downs the last of his drink. “We just need to pick up some materials. After that it’ll be all fun and games.”
“Mm. We came here to relax, after all.” The umbrella adds. “It won’t take long, once we’ve picked out the ores we want.”
“See, what did we tell you?” The alchemist asks.
Youmu is almost leaning over the railing, admiring the view. From here it’s possible to see practically the entirety of the underworld. Chireiden, the Palace of the Earth Spirits, stand prominently in one end, overseeing the whole of the underground, much like the quarry, but with less dirt and more stained glass. At the other end is the entrance to the underground; a wide staircase growing narrower the further up you go. In between these two landmarks stand countless small houses, build by the local Tsuchigumo. The houses carved into the walls were made by the Oni, though. There’s a hard line between the wall cutouts and the wooden buildings, which they seem to use as a wide road, though the angle might make it difficult to use for anyone who’s not an Oni.
“Remember to stay close to Kogasa once we go inside.” The alchemist notes, handing the umbrella his hammer. “She’ll keep you shielded, in case anything happens.”
“Are we expecting a cave in?” The swordswoman takes her eyes off the village.
“No, but it’s better to be prepared for the worst.” Kogasa says, giving her umbrella a twirl.
The three of them descend the quarry’s entrance, entering another open room after walking down a small hall. Well, small relative to the Oni. This room is supported by thick wooden beams and structures, lining the spiraling road down to the hole.
There are a few Oni on duty, planning out different ways to proceed. One of them looks up at the group arriving, giving them a friendly nod before getting back to work.
“They’re awfully calm about letting us walk in here.” Youmu notes. She expected more of a mining shaft than a big hole.
“I told them we’d be arriving.” The alchemist answers. “They’re also okay with us just taking the ore we need, since they’re here for the stone.”
“Isn’t the whole purpose of digging to get ore?” The gardener asks.
“In a mine, yes. You dig for ore, minerals or gems.” He answers. “A quarry is specifically to get stone. It’s a useful material, after all.”
“Where did your material stone came from?” He asks. “Thought that someone like me were melting stones together?”
“No. I’m not that stupid.” She pouts. “I just never thought about it.”
“There’s a good one here.” The umbrella points out. The ore she’s found is a large cluster of deep blue.
The alchemist places a hand on the blue ore and concentrates for a moment.
“Azurite.” He concludes. “Might take this one for myself, if you don’t want it.”
“No.” The blacksmith shakes her head. “I’m looking for something different.”
“Alright then.” Cracking his knuckles, the alchemist gets to work.
Pulling out a piece of chalk, he draws a circle on the ore, adding a triangle in the middle. A simple transmutation circle used by a difference branch of alchemy.
Placing his hand on it, he activates it, making it cut through the stone to separate the ore, which allows him to pull out of the wall
“The art of deconstructing and reconstructing.” He preempts the gardener’s question. “That is, the ability to break down any matter and put it back together however you want.” He drops the solid chunk of ore on the ground. “Depending on how you use it, it can be quite handy.”
“Why don’t you use it more, then?” She asks. “I mean, I’ve seen you make some pretty amazing things from what seems like nothing.”
“Creating something from nothing is impossible. Something will always be traded for the matter you create. That’s a founding rule of alchemy known as equivalent exchange.” The alchemist lectures her. “And for the question. Because it’s too easy. I like to create slowly create things, to take my time making sure every detail is perfect. Crafting is my calling after all, it’s the thing I was made to do.”
“Sometimes I forget you’re a tsukumogami.” The gardener admits. “So when you say things like ‘you were made,’ then it takes a second to understand.”
“And I sometimes forget the phantom is just as much you as your human body.” The alchemist admits. “Guess we’re even, then.”
“I think I found it!” Kogasa exclaims.
Like before, the alchemist examines the ore.
“Mithril.” He concludes.
“Just what I wanted.” She sings.
“Mithril? What do you want to do with mithril?” The alchemist asks, preparing another transmutation circle on the ore.
“That’s a secret.” She holds a finger to her mouth. “But I promise it’ll be great.”
After extracting the rare metal, the alchemist went around, scavenging other ores to break down and restock his supply of metallic essence, leaving only the azurite intact.
“Then we’re done here.” The he states, as they exit the quarry. “We have the rest of today for fun, since we head back home tomorrow.”
“Do you have anywhere you want to go?” The umbrella asks.
“Well.” The little ghost scratches her cheek. “I kind of, maybe want to try some Oni sake.”
“You drink?” The alchemist asks, somewhat surprised by this piece of news.
“Not a lot.” The ghost admits. “But Yuyuko does make me drink with her once in a while.”
“That old lady.” He can’t help but smile. “That will have to wait for last, Youmu. Someone your size will get knocked out before they even go through two cups.”
“Oni sake is strong stuff.” Kogasa taps the ghost in her side. “Besides, it’ll easier to take the next steps with a little help like that.”
With her best effort, the little swordswoman manages to suppress her blush.
“Bot beyond drinking, what did you want to see?” The alchemist asks. “Or do you just want to stroll around and soak in the atmosphere?”
 Find a resonant. Get a taste of real Oni food  Youmu thinks she might have spotted a garden down here.  Just wander around
“Strolling around sounds nice, actually.” Youmu comments. “I don’t really have any place specific that I want to see.”
“The architecture down here is nice.” The alchemist comments as he takes his hammer back from Kogasa. “Distinct from the style they use on the surface.”
“Speaking of the surface.” The umbrella adds. “Don’t they have a dragon statue down here too?”
“The human village has a dragon statue?” The gardener asks.
“Oh yeah, it’s famous.” The blacksmith answers. “The kids love of cool it looks. The adults appreciate it’s weather prediction as well.”
“Have you never seen it?” The alchemist asks. “It’s right at the center of the village.”
“No, I’ve never been that far in.” The half ghost admits. “I’ve only needed to deal with the outer ring when I come to shop.”
“The workshop is in the middle ring.” The artisan notes.
“I know, but that’s the only store I visit when I go that far in.” The little phantom girl explains.
“Then let’s go see a dragon.” He concludes.
“I’m not sure if it actually is a dragon, though.” The blacksmith corrects herself. “I just know they have a statue.”
“Then let’s go see the statue.” He corrects himself.
With that, the three of them set off from the quarry.
The atmosphere of the underground, despite what you might think, is not the full-on party time that most people would expect. The Oni drink, that’s for sure, and the many brands of alcohol they have can be smelled in the air. The Oni party, that’s undeniable, but they’re also hardworking, as can be attested to anyone walking through their streets. You’ll have a hard time spotting even just one Oni who’s doing nothing.
“Well, it’s not a dragon.” The alchemist notes, as they approach the statue. “I’m pretty sure that’s a catfish.”
“So instead of predicting the weather, it’s supposed to predict earthquakes?” Youmu asks.
“I think. But even so, they should have put a little more detail into it.” The artisan notes. “It’s a little too rough. Doesn’t mix well with the environment.”
The village center of the underground, where the statue has been erected has a fine brick road, carved and maintained to keep it at the same level, so there are few bumps in the road. The buildings around here all have that noble estate feeling to their design, though they’re relatively small after factoring in the Oni’s size.
“How would you have done it differently?” The gardener asks.
“Made it smoother, for one thing.” The artisan circles around the statue, getting a better look at the thing. “Too many rough spots. Maybe a wax finish to make it easier to clean.” He circles back around. “The pose too. It doesn’t feel alive.”
“I think it’s well made.” States the umbrella.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad in the slightest.” The artisan corrects himself. “Whoever made it clearly had skill. They just needed more time.”
Before any of them get a chance to reply, a thick beam of light shoots across the sky right above them, followed by the sound of breaking stone.
All three stand in shock trying to figure out what just happened.
“Is that normal?!” The ghost exclaims in a panic.
“No.” The alchemist states.
“Whatever it was, I don’t want to get involved.” Kogasa states.
“Agreed.” “Agreed.” The two responds in unison.
The three decides to skedaddle before they get caught up in anything. They’re here on vacation, to get drunk and bathe.
“What are we going to do now?” The alchemist asks once they’ve walked away a fair bit. “That kind of killed the mood.”
“Well, we’ve gone to the quarry already.” Kogasa says. “So, I’ve used my turn.”
“Same here.” Adds Youmu. “I’m sure I’ll be able to see more of the underground as we walk around.”
“Meaning, it’s your turn to pick.” Finishes Kogasa.
 Curiosity killed that cat, so good thing none of them are cats, because he sure is curious about that beam.  He’d love nothing more than go back to the in and pick up where they left off yesterday.
Another small update, I'm sorry, but I've been busy. On another note. I have enough ideas for a the rest of this trip, plus a few subplots I haven't started yet, but beyond that, I'm starting to run low on ideas. So if you have anything you want to see, do let me know and I'll look into it.
“To be honest, I’m curious about the source of that beam.” He answers. “But I have a feeling I’m the only one.”
“Didn’t you just say you weren’t interested?” The umbrella protests.
“I did, but that was more out of instinct than anything else.” He argues back. “Now that I’ve calmed down, I have to admit I’m curious about what could have made such a thing.”
“Haven’t you heard? Curiosity killed that cat.” She continues to argue.
“None of us are cats.” He argues back.
The umbrella ruffles her own hair, creating a fake pair of cat ears. “I beg your pardon.”
“You can do that?” The phantom girl asks.
“We can partially shapeshift.” The alchemist runs a hand through his hair, creating a new set of ears for himself. “Although, things made this fast are only cosmetic. It’ll take longer to make them real.”
“Can I,” the half ghost asks cautiously, “Can I touch them?”
“Sure?” He crouches down so he little woman can reach.
Although still a bit hesitant, the little ghost reach for one of the ears. But to her surprise, it breaks off as soon as she touches it.
“Ah. I’m sorry.” She hurriedly apologizes. “I didn’t mean to.”
“What?” He looks up to see her hold the fake cat ear. “Oh that. I told you, they’re fake. Can’t even feel them.” He plucks off the other one. “Anyway, I think it came from the palace. Should we get moving, or do I go by myself?”
“I’ll go with you.” The half ghost states, having recovered from the small shock of ripping off an ear.
“That leaves me with no choice.” The umbrella shakes her head, removing her fake ears as well. “Lead the way, bro.”
“It really did come from the palace.” The alchemist notes, as he looks over the gaping hole in the wall.
“It’s beautiful.” The ghost comments. “Is this what western buildings look like?”
“Don’t know.” He shakes his head. “My last master only reached western China before he died. I began my journey home after that.”
“I don’t believe we’re expecting guests.” A green clad youkai walks out the front door of the mansion. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Oh, sorry. We didn’t mean to be in the way.” The alchemist explains to the newcomer.
“Surface dwellers?” The new cat girl phrases it as a question, but she’s already made the conclusion. No one else would bother with something so regular anymore. “Doesn’t matter. It’s better if you keep clear of the entrance until we’ve fixed the hole.”
“No, no. We just came because we were curious about that beam.” He explains. “We don’t actually have any business here.”
“I see, then please be on your way.” She states again.
“Though, looking at it, I think I could repair that in a couple of minutes.” He says. “For a price of course. Paid after the repair.”
The cat sighs. “I knew it would be something like this. Listen, we’re used to repairing this palace, so I’m thankful for the offer, but we’ll manage.”
“I see.” He gives her a polite bow. “Then excuse our accidental intrusion.”
He gestures the two girls to turn around and they start walking when yet another youkai joins the conversation.
“What’s holding you up, Orin?” The lady of the mansion steps outside. “We still have plenty of things to tend to.”
Before the cat gets to answer, the little lady continues.
“I see. Mister Tatara.” She calls out to the alchemist. “It’d help us a lot if we could borrow your service for a moment. You will of course be compensated.”
The fact the two Tsukumogami both chose the same family name before they ever met, is part of the reason they formed a family.
“Of course.” He turns around again. “I’ll only take a moment.”
“How did she know you guys’ name?” The phantom girl whispers to her friend.
“Allow me to introduce myself.” The little lady responds to the question. “I’m Komeiji Satori. As my name suggests, I’m a satori, a mind reader.”
“A Mind reader?” The little ghost hides behind her friend.
“Done.” The alchemist breaks their conversation.
While they were talking, he injected some stone essence into the wall, allowing him to repair the hole even though it’s on the second floor, by moving the essence up to the hole remotely.
And just as he’s about to walk back to his group, the wall is blown up a second time.
“Satoriii!” The raven yells as she escapes the hole, flying down to her master. “The wall is alive. It tried to eat me.” The bird hugs the much smaller woman, almost crying.
“Now, now, Okuu. Calm down.” Satori pats the bird on her arm, trying to calm her down. “The wall isn’t going to eat you. The good man over there was just repairing it.”
The alchemist gives the pair a little wave before getting back to repairing the wall once more.
“Mind if I ask what caused that beam from before?” Kogasa asks. “That’s why we came here after all.”
“That would be this little child.” The mind reader says. “At times she still let out too much power. I hope you’ll forgive her for surprising you.”
“Ah, well, of course.” The umbrella is caught slightly off guard by the sincerity of the satori’s request. “I mean it wasn’t that big a deal to begin with.”
“Done. Again.” The alchemist declares.
“Fantastic.” She lets go of the raven. “I would offer you some indulgences, however we’re currently a little too busy.” She pulls out a small stack of coins from who knows where. “Instead, I hope this will suffice.”
For comparison, the amount the noble paid for the rush order of horse equipment, is approximately one eighth of the amount offered by the young lady.
“I can’t accept that much.” The alchemist denies the payment. “This job was far too simple for me to demand anything much.”
“But you’re not demanding anything. I’m offering you this much.” The mind reader explains. “It may seem like a lot to you, but that is how much the repair is worth it to me.”
“In that case, I’ll accept it.” He reluctantly accepts the money, knowing she’ll continue to insist.
The two groups bow each other farewell and walk their separate ways.
“What am I supposed to do with all this money?” The alchemist asks. “It’s a ludicrous amount, compared to what we need.”
“Maybe drop it off as anonymous donations for the temple school over time.” Kogasa suggests. “That’ll put Keine at ease and give the kids the things they need.”
“Not a bad idea.” He pockets the money. “What now? What do you two want to do?”
“I could use a little time to relax.” Says the phantom. “It’s exciting to see all of this, but at this rate I’ll be exhausted when I come home.”
“Agreed.” The blacksmith adds. “Going back to the inn to get a good nap sounds nice right about now.”
File 154238539562.jpg - (610.06KB, 998x702, my last excuse for dork in a swimsuit.jpg)
“You lose.” The umbrella sings, flipping the paper over as she starts to draw another grid.
“Why can’t I win?” The little ghost wracks her head trying to come up with any kind of idea.
“Because I’m the undefeated champion of tic-tac-toe.” Kogasa states, striking a pose.
“Only because she hasn’t figured out your trick yet.” The alchemist interrupts, taking a sip of the drinks they brought to the room. “Though, once she does, it’ll be nothing but ties.”
“Which still leaves me with more victories.” She argues triumphantly.
“Renkin. Help.” The ghost groans.
“That would be cheating, Youmu.” He takes another sip, ignore her plea for help.
“But she’s going to win all my snacks.” She continues to cry for help.
“And you agreed to bet them.” He lies down, watching the two girls play.
“I don’t want to play anymore.” She says, admitting defeat.
“Oh? Well, I guess I was winning a little too much.” The umbrella agrees. “There’s still some time before the baths open, though. What do you want to do until then?”
“Think you could make the kotatsu again?” The little ghost asks.
“Easily.” The alchemist gets back up again and goes to the next room.
Following the same process as yesterday, he creates an incased flame and sets it to hover under table.
As soon as it’s done, all three of them crawl under the table.
“We need to get one of these, back home.” The umbrella wishes.
“They’re easy enough to make, but I don’t think we have room for one.” The alchemist answers.
“But you would make one, if we had room?” She asks again.
“I would. It’s pure heaven to lie under these.” He admits.
The phantom girl is looking through the other baskets in the changing room. Yesterday it took all her courage to enter the bath, thinking the alchemist would be there. Today she can’t muster the same amount she would need since she spent it all yesterday. So, she’s looking for a second towel, so she can cover both her chest and her legs, since the towels barely reach past the hips when tied around the chest.
Her phantom half has gone ahead of her and is already floating around in the water with the two naked youkai.
“Remember, you have to act surprised when she enters.” The blacksmith instructs her brother in a loud voice. “She’s putting in effort to be pretty, I bet.”
“Wouldn’t that just make her more self-conscious?” He asks in an equally loud voice, making sure the little swordswoman can hear it.
“Yes, yes, but girls love it when the man they like pay attention to them.” She continues to give him questionable advice. “So, make sure she knows you’re watching.”
“But I’m always watching.” He admits.
“Right, but you need to make sure she knows.”
“Could you two stop.” The little ghost yells from the changing room.
The two youkai just chuckle, knowing they got the reaction they wanted.
The little ghost finally joins them, having found a way to tie her towels in a way where they don’t get in the way of each other, while not revealing anything. She walks along the edge, getting in the water on the other side of the umbrella, so there’s some space between her and the alchemist.
The blacksmith pokes her brother in the side. “You didn’t react on her entry.” She whispers.
“She knows I noticed.” He whispers back.
The umbrella just sighs, getting back into her relaxed position.
“Aren’t you two embarrassed?” The ghost asks, keeping her eyes fixed ahead on the empty spring. “By being naked around each other, I mean.”
The two youkai take a look at each other for a second before shrugging it off.
“Not really.” The alchemist answers.
“Me neither.” The umbrella adds.
“After all, these aren’t our real bodies.” He leans back against the edge, resting both his arms on it. “Of course, we can feel through these bodies as if they were the real deal, which is why we can enjoy nice baths like this.”
The little ghost glances over at the blacksmith, getting a good look at her since she was too embarrassed yesterday.
Beyond her endowment, which she highlighted yesterday, Kogasa has a fair bit of muscle built up. Unlike the little swordswoman, the blacksmith doesn’t have many muscles that stand out, though they’re clearly there if you look. Youmu, on the other hand, has built up enough muscle to where they’re always visible, thanks to her training with the sword, though they’re still subtle enough to not stand out from her tomboyish frame.
The phantom’s gaze continues over to the alchemist.
Likewise, he too has a lot of well-defined muscle, likely as a result of working with his hands every day. Sure, he’s not a walking bundle of muscle, but he’s above average compared to the men Youmu have seen.
“Youmu.” The alchemist calls out to her. “You’re staring.”
“Sorry.” She quickly looks ahead to get his eyes off him. “How did you know? You weren’t even looking.” She asks before sinking into the water a little, trying to hide.
“Have you forgotten what I eat?” He asks, without even looking at her.
“No, you,” she starts to answer, but when the fact hit her, she instantly grows bright red and turns away, trying to hide it.
The alchemist chuckles in response to her. “You’re too easy, Youmu. But that’s part of why you’re so cute.”
She flinches at the last word. “Stop teasing me already.” She pouts.
“Sorry. But it’s just so easy, that’s it’s hard not to tease you a little.” He says, unable to hold back a smile. “But we’re getting real Oni sake after this, so that should make up for it.”
“Then I’ll allow it.” She says after a few seconds. “But only a little.”
“This is the one I’ve prepared.” The alchemist says, presenting a bottle with ‘Shojo’ written on the label in big characters. “Authentic Oni sake.”
“Isn’t the flask a little small?” Kogasa asks.
“This should be plenty for just the three of us.” He answers.
Youmu, staying seated by the makeshift kotatsu fidgets a little as she eagerly awaits her share.
The alchemist places three cups on the table and pour one for all of them.
“Cheers.” Kogasa raises her cup before downing it without giving the rest a chance to follow.
Renkin downs his too, and Youmu tries to follow suit but starts coughing after the first mouthful.
“Easy there.” The alchemist reaches out to help her. “It’s strong stuff, after all.”
“I noticed.” She coughs a little more. “I just didn’t expect it to be this strong.”
“What do you think this taste is?” The blacksmith asks, examining her cup like it’ll give her the answer. “Cherry?”
The phantom girl tries to drink it again, but slower this time.
“Can’t put my finger on it.” The alchemist answers.
“Either way, it’s tasty.” Kogasa declares, pouring another cup for herself. This time, instead of drinking it with her vessel, she lets her real body drinks it.
Like you might probably have figured out, a tsukumogami’s vessel doesn’t require sleep or food to survive, since it’s fueled by the main body. Consequently, the vessel remains unaffected by things like lack of sleep, or poisons like alcohol. For a Tsukumogami to get drunk, they must drink with their real bodies.
The alchemist, lacking a mouth on his real body, has no way to get drunk, but he still enjoys the experience of drinking with friends. Plus, he gets to taste all the alcohol instead of getting too numb to taste anything.
The blacksmith on the other hand, is an experienced drinker. Though, when she gets drunk, she tends to get more energy while revealing more of her true nature.
Then there’s Youmu. She may drink with Yuyuko occasionally, but she has no real experience with alcohol, which is why the alchemist chose a milder sake, so she’d be able to enjoy drinking as well.
However, it’s barely been five minutes since they started, and she’s already showing signs of being tipsy.
Pouring another cup, Kogasa decides to suggest another game to play. “How about truth or dare?”
 That sounds dangerous, maybe it’s not the best idea  One of them will stay sober, so it should be okay
“Me first, then.” The umbrella states, downing the cup she just poured. “Ren, truth or dare?”
“Truth.” He answers, not feeling like he has anything to hide.
“What’s your honest feelings towards Yuyuko?” She smirks.
“A trustworthy old friend who likes to make sexual advances towards all her friends.” He answers honestly.
“Mm.” The umbrella agrees. “She’s a bit of a pervert. But I like her.”
“Youmu.” The alchemist takes his turn. “Truth or dare.”
“I’ll take truth, too.” She answers.
“What’s your opinion on Yuyu?” He asks.
“Aunt.” She blurts out. “She took care of me like the other orphans, even though I still had grandpa.” She starts smiling. “I’m really thankful, and I wanna make her happy.” She pushes herself up from the table. “Kogasa.” She passes the torch.
“Guess I’ll go with the flow and take truth as well.” She pours another cup.
“Have you ever kissed someone?” The ghost gets straight to the meat of the game.
The umbrella stops her pour. “Have I ever kissed someone? That would be a yes.” She finishes her pour. “I’m not really picky when it comes to partners.”
“How lewd.” The ghost half turns a light shade of red.
“Then, I’ll ask back. Truth or dare?” The umbrella asks the ghost.
“Uh.” She quickly glances over at the alchemist, who’s watching the two with the same smile he always has. “Truth.” She states after a second.
“Then, have you ever kissed someone?” The umbrella asks, putting as much of a tease into her voice as she can. “Of course, I don’t mean those little pecks on the cheek, either.”
The ghost’s shade of red grows a little more crimson. “I have.”
“Wait, really?” The blacksmith drops the snack she was eating, one she won earlier on the night. “Who?”
“No.” The ghost folds her arms. “My turn.” She looks at Kogasa.
The blacksmith rests her arms against the table. “Dare.” She accepts the challenge.
This is turning out about how the alchemist would have expected it, so he just leans back with another cup and enjoys the show.
“Uh, then,” the ghost hurries to try and think of something, since she didn’t expect her friend to actually pick the dare. “Then I dare you to take off your underwear right here.”
Judging by the smug look on the swordswoman, she clearly expects it to be too much for her friend and that she’ll skip ahead to the punishment. Evidently, she’s forgotten their conversation in the bath just an hour ago.
The blacksmith reaches beneath the kotatsu, pulling up her skirt enough to undo her side-tie. Using her other arm, she lifts herself up enough to pull it. She dangles it in front of the ghost, to show she actually did it, before throwing it to the side.
The gardener gapes in disbelief. Not just because she took off her underwear, but because she has the courage to wear side-tie, something she herself would never be able to muster the courage for.
“Now then, you’re going to tell me who took your first kiss.” The umbrella threatens playfully.
“No.” The ghost continues to deny.
“Then perhaps I should dare you to strip too?”
The ghost frowns, thinking thoroughly about what would be more embarrassing; stripping before the person she loves, or admitting her first kiss.
“Dare.” She states, hoping to hide the fact she had a crush on one of the other orphans.
“Oh boy.” The blacksmith rubs her hands together. “Then drink this in one go.” She pushes her cup over to the ghost.
“I don’t that’s a good idea.” The alchemist interjects.
Albeit a little too late, since Youmu has already started, holding her breath and doing what she can to hold back her coughing.
She drops the cup on the table, trying to place it, wearing a full-face blush now. She takes a moment to clearing her throat from the burning alcohol, wiping a tear in between.
“Dare.” Kogasa states, before even allowing the ghost to say anything.
“Kiss another person in this room.” She blurts out. The alcohol is clearly starting to take effect now.
The umbrella looks at her brother, asking for permission with her eyes. The alchemist just shrugs it off.
Letting her tongue hang from her mouth, the umbrella crawls over the table, wearing a big grin as she approaches the little swordswoman.
“Wait” is all the protest the ghost gets to say before the umbrella locks lips with her.
Youmu tries to draw back to protest, but Kogasa decides to be a little aggressive and follows her, not allowing their lips to part even for a moment. Not being able to extend herself further, the ghost falls to the ground with the umbrella lying on top.
Finally, the umbrella breaks apart from her, allowing the little swordswoman to breath once again.
“Tastes like strawberry.” She notes, rolling over so she’s not sitting on top of her friend. “Did that satisfy your dare?” She teases.
Youmu is unable to answer, however, as she’s busy regaining her breath. Instead she covers her face, trying to hide a blush no one would be able to see because of how red her face has become as it is.
“So, now that I’ve shown you how you do it, it’s your turn.” Kogasa reveals her master plan with this game. “I dare you to kiss Ren.” She empties what was in Youmu’s cup, since she drank from hers.
The little phantom looks at Kogasa for a moment before turning her gaze to the alchemist, who’s just been sitting back, still enjoying the show.
She gets up enough to crawl her way to him. Trying to imitate Kogasa, she places her hand on his shoulder to push him down, but she instead falls against his shoulder, unable to support herself.
The alchemist sits there for a moment, watching what she’s going to do next. He places a hand on her back to get a feel for her breathing. It’s calm.
“She’s fallen asleep.” He concludes.
The blacksmith starts laughing. “I expected her to be a weak drinker, but I didn’t think she’d just pass out.”
As if on cue, the blacksmith faceplants into the floor as well, going completely motionless.
That’s when the umbrella, as in her real body, push off the wall to stand up. She looks at the alchemist with the one stoic expression she can in that body, before hopping over to her vessel. She gives it a good lick, expecting something to happen. Seeing as nothing does happen, she decides to lie down next to her vessel and go to sleep.
It appears Kogasa’s real body drank too much, and when the effect finally kicked in, she lost connection with her vessel. The vessel is like a puppet after all and needs to be controlled. If the Tsukumogami can’t concentrate enough, or if they get too far away, the connection to the vessel is lost.
That game went pretty much as the alchemist had expected. The kissing at the end was a surprise, though it led to another great meal.
He picks up the sleeping ghost, still clinging to him, and gently pushes her under the kotatsu, making sure she’s lying in her side, just in case. He pulls out a blanket for the umbrella, packing her in nicely.
With the two girls taken care of, he walks to the other room to go to sleep himself.
“It’s unfair.” The ghost complains, slugging her way after her friends.
“You just need to practice some more.” The umbrella sings. Despite her unfortunate disconnect yesterday, she’s back to normal again.
“I don’t even remember what the sake tasted like.” She continues to whine.
“How much do you remember?” The alchemist asks.
The little ghost hits her head, trying to recall as much as she can. “You opened the bottle and poured it up for us.” She tries to concentrate. “That’s all, I think.”
“Aww.” The umbrella pouts. “Even though you were so cute.”
“What?” The ghost asks, exhausted from her hangover.
“Telling me to strip, with such a stern voice.” She puts the hand on her cheek, faking a blush.
“What?” She asks again. It comes out, sounding the same as her previous question, but in her mind, this one is filled with confusion.
“If you weren’t taken, I could have gobbled you right up.” Kogasa continues her tease.
“I’m too tired to be surprised.” The ghost concludes, ignoring the tease. Or rather, she’s stopped caring for the time being.
On their slow way home, the three of them walk through the village to the workshop.
“Go ahead an unpack.” The alchemist hands her partner his keys for the store. “I’ll walk Youmu home, so she doesn’t collapse on the road.”
“I can get home by myself.” The ghost groans.
“You don’t sound very convincing.” He argues.
“Sure.” The blacksmith unlocks the store. “I’ll go check for mail, while I’m at it.”
“Thanks. I’ll be back in an hour or two.” He hands her his baggage while taking Youmu’s instead.
The two of them then sets off for the netherworld.
After they’ve walked alone for a bit, Youmu finally speaks up. “What actually happened last night?”
“A game of truth and dare got a little out of hand, thanks to the alcohol.” He answers. “Though it seemed like you two had fun.”
“How so?” She asks.
“Well, it started with you asking about Kogasa’s first kiss. Then you refused to say who took yours.” The ghost groans in the background, too tired to be embarrassed. “Then you two kept challenging each other with dares, which ended with you two making out.”
The ghost stops dead in her track, crouching and covering her head. “Is this what it feels like to want to die?”
The Konpaku clan, being a clan of youkai the borders life and death by their very existence, lack two of the then desires usually found in humans; attachment to life and envy of death.
“Lets just keep it as our little secret.” The alchemist suggests, stopping up to wait for her to recover. “If Yuyu finds out, you’ll hear no end of it.”
“I’d rather not have known it in the first place.” She whines. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
Somehow or another, the ghost managed to pull herself together and the two of them makes it to the netherworld. Yuyuko doesn’t question it when her little gardener shows up with a hangover, but just lets her have the rest of the day for herself.
“Hey, Ren. Look, look.” The blacksmith comes running down the stairs, almost tripping herself. “It’s a love letter.” She slams the piece of paper on the desk.
“I’m flattered, Kogasa, but you know I like Youmu.” The alchemist rejects his sister.
“Not for you.” She places the envelope next to the letter. “It’s addressed for the blue-haired woman working in Smith & Hammer. So it has to be me.”
“I see.” He takes seat behind the counter, getting back into the business. “What does it say?”
“Well,” she skims through the letter again. “It says about what you’d expect. That’s he’s admired me since he first saw me, adding in a lot of adjectives, before saying he’d like to meet with me a few days from now.”
“What do you think of him?” The alchemist asks. “Going by the letter alone.”
“Hmm.” She hums as she takes a seat for herself. “The fact he knows how to write means he likely comes from a wealthy background. Sounds maybe a little too lovestruck, so it might be a case of first love, or maybe he’s just a womanizer.”
“Are you planning on going?” He asks.
“I don’t know.” She folds the letter again and puts it back into the envelope. “I was hoping to get your advice about it.”
 “Go for it. In the worst case, remember you’re still a youkai.”  “I get some creepy vibes from this guy. Maybe you should just ignore him.”
File 154265785567.jpg - (222.92KB, 1500x1500, I don't have a good picture for this so have .jpg)
“Go for it. In the worst case, remember you’re still a youkai.” He leans in on the table, resting his head on his hand. “Or maybe you would feel better if I tagged along?”
“It would just be awkward with a third wheel.” She teases. “But you really think I should go?”
“Only if you actually want to, of course.” He corrects himself. “But as long as you two remain in public spaces, I doubt anything will happen.”
“And even if they do, I’m a youkai.” She repeats diligently.
“You got it.”
“Then I think I’ll go.” She states. “Though I don’t think I have anything fancy enough for a wealthy date.”
“Just buy some.” He shrugs. “We have plenty of money lying around.”
“Yeah, but I’ll feel bad for spending money on useless things like fancy clothes.” She lies down on the table.
“If you want me to make you some clothes, then just say so.” He sees right through his sister’s little act. “I won’t be able to add too much in just a few days, however.”
“You’re the best.” She jumps off the chair. “I’ll leave the designing to you, then.”
“Same measurements as last time?” He asks, not showing half the excitement she does.
“Yeah, I believe so.” She looks down at herself. “I don’t recall changing anything, at least. Maybe make it one size bigger, just to be safe.”
“Afraid you got fat?”
“Oh ha, ha,” She follows her fake laugh with a genuine. “I’ll leave it to you, then.” She skips up the stairs.
It’s been a good while she’s the alchemist has needed to tailor anything, but it’s not a skill he’s allowed to get rusty.
Still, what kind of clothes should he make? Tailoring some every-day clothes is one thing, easy in fact. But to make something worthy of a date? That’s a challenge he hasn’t had to tackle before. How gaudy should it be? It’s starting to get cold outside, so he’ll have to make it warm as well.
“What do you think?” He asks as the umbrella steps before the mirror.
She spins around a little, trying to get a good view of the whole thing before she remembers she could use her real body to get a good view.
The design the alchemist went for was simplicity, decorated with a pattern overlay. As a base, he used a long-sleeved shirt with a loose skirt reaching just above the knees. The sleeves have been padded to help keep the warmth a little better. From there, he added a thick piece of cloth, adorned with fur, the covers from the neck to halfway down the arms. Aside from the white shirt, the rest is colored in light azure. The only exception being the leggings, made from treated wool, it’s been colored a pale shade of crimson. The same pattern of stylized flowing water is used on the set, with varying degrees of visibility.
Overall, he’s satisfied with it. The outfit manages to promote her cuter side, without becoming too gaudy. The color scheme was designed with her usual outfit in mind.
“With how quick you managed to make this, I’m actually rather impressed.” She admits.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” He jokes.
“It’s lovely.” She finally answers. “It’s not what I had in mind, but I like this more.”
“There’s still time to make changes, before you have to go.” He offers.
She shakes her head. “No, I mean it. I really like it.” She gives her brother a hug. “Thank you.”
“Any time.” He pries the umbrella off himself. “Now, remember to take your keys when you leave. I have a job out of the house today, so I won’t be home.”
“Yeah, I know.” She states. “I’ll try not to be home too late, if it turns out to be a good date.”
“Stay out all night, if you want.” He encourages her. “We’re not busy right now, so feel free to enjoy your yourself.”
She nods eagerly. “I’ll try to.”
“Great, then if you don’t have anything else about the dress, then I’ll leave.” The alchemist gives her a final chance to get something changed.
“No, it’s fine.” She shakes her head.
“Then I’ll see you later.” He waves her off as he walks downstairs.
 Keine mentioned Mokou could use some help getting some of her tools fixed sometime soon.  Keine asked for help, whenever the alchemist had some time, about some personal problem.
The clouds are starting to get darker. When the alchemist left home it was only overcast, but it seems to have gotten worse. Probably not the ideal weather for a date, though Kogasa is going to enjoy the weather quite a lot.
He knocks on the teacher’s house, seeing as there’s light inside. He hasn’t been to her home more than a handful of times. While the two know each other as youkai, are remain in friendly terms, neither of them would claim to be friends.
The teacher peeks out the door. “Renkin?” She opens the door all the way. “What can I help you with?”
The teacher has already gotten out of her work clothes and dawned something more comfortable; a set of clothes made mainly of wool, perfect for the colder weather.
“Actually, I’m here to help you.” He corrects her. “You said you had something you would like to talk about, whenever I had time.” He spreads out his arms. “And now I have time.”
“Oh right, of course.” She stands aside and waves him inside. “Please come.”
The inside of Keine’s house has a distinct old European feeling to it. The halls and rooms are small and cramped, since she doesn’t have a particularly big house but still have a lot of rooms.
The were-beast leads him to the living room. It’s a small room with a fireplace in the corner, currently lit. In front of it sits a very soft looking chair with faded green stripes running down the fabric. There’s also a bookcase, standing perhaps a little too close to the fire, filled with all sorts of books.
“Is there anything I can get you?” She asks, walking towards the other door in the room.
“I don’t need to drink, so anything is fine.” He answers, looking around the room, taking in the relaxing atmosphere.
“Alright then.” She takes the book lying in the chair and bookmarks it before laying it on the small table right beside the chair. She pushes the footrest towards her guest. “I’m afraid that’s the best I can offer since, as you can see, there are no other chairs in the room.”
“Don’t worry about it, Keine.” He says, taking seat on the footrest. “Just relax. You seem a little tense. Did I perhaps come at a bad time?”
“No. No. I was just reading, it’s fine.” She walks over to the bookcase, pulling out a paperback book, flipping through the pages. Once she’s found what she was looking for, she sits down in the chair. “So.” She tries to buy a little more time. “You know I’m a youkai. Or half youkai, at least.”
“Yeah?” He urges her to go on.
“And you know that not a lot of people actually know this either, right?” She continues to drag it out. “So, there’s not a lot of people I can even think about asking this.”
“I see.” He allows her to take her time, since he’s not busy with anything else.
“And out of all the people I know, who I can talk to about this, you’re the only one who can craft items.” She continues.
“So, I’m the only one you can actually talk to.” He concludes.
She nods. “But it’s still embarrassing to talk about.”
“I’ve worked on a lot of strange requests.” He tries to reassure her. “I doubt whatever you have in mind would surprise me.” There’s a moment of silence before he realizes something. “Wait. Don’t tell me you actually managed to break Kusanagi?”
“Kusanagi?” She looks up, confused. “No. The old thing is chipped, sure, but it’s far from breaking.”
“Oh, thank god.” He lets out a sigh of relief. “I doubt any mortal would be able to repair that sword.”
“No, it has nothing to do with the sword.” She gets back on track. “Actually, it might be easier if you just take a look at this.” She hands him the book she just fetched.
The page she shows him has an image of a woman, wearing only a towel, drawn so well that it appears to be real, no trace of a pen with perfect shadows. The woman is running her hand across her leg, which seem to make this white foam like thing disappear.
“That’s a pretty woman?” He asks, not sure what he’s looking at.
“No that’s, well I mean, she is pretty, but that’s not what I wanted you to see.” The teacher points to a tool drawn a little above the woman. “This thing.” The tool she’s pointing to looks like a thick, curved chopstick, but with blades going across it. “Do you think you would be able to make something like that?”
He examines the tool a little more. “I’d be able to replicate the shape easily.” He concludes. “But without knowing what it’s for, I might have some trouble make it actually useable.”
“Um, well. I’m a were-beast.” She states. “That means,” she trails off, thinking about how to word it properly, “it means that my hair grows a lot faster than humans’.”
“This is a tool for cutting hair?” He examines the page once more.
“Well, according to a friend, the one who sold me that book, it’s meant to cut hair.” She explains. “Just not what grows on the head.”
“I see.” He ponders the use of the tool a little, thinking about its design when it hits him. “Oh. Oh, I see. That’s how it is.”
The were-beast blush slightly. It doesn’t matter how old she gets, it’s still awkward to talk about matters like this with people of the opposite gender.
“Well, it’s going to be a little difficult to test.” He concludes. “But I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you. You really are a lifesaver.” She thanks him. “Oh, and please keep the book, if you need it for reference.”
“Do you know what this shaving tool is called?” He asks, closing the paperback. “Or should we give it a name?”
“I think she called a racer, or something like that.” She suggests. “That book is written in a language I can’t read, so I can’t say for sure.”
“While I’m here, there’s nothing else you want me to take a look at?” He asks.
“Not that I can think of.” She shakes her head.
“Alright, then.” He stands up. “Then I’ll take my leave. I’ll try to work on this whenever I don’t have anything else.”
“Take your time.” She assures him. “Just knowing it might be a possibility makes me feel a little better.”
The clouds have gotten even darker. It’s going to rain soon, that’s for sure, though it looks like it could still be a little while.
 There’s still time to see what Mokou’s problem is.  Better not take any chances. Head straight home and start working on this ‘racer.’
Unlike her friend, the immortal lives and works by the village’s edge, making the track from the teacher’s house to the immortal a long walk.
Within her area, the immortal’s food stand is well-known by the locals that leave the village to work. Despite their attempts, however, the locals have never been able to strike up a conversation with the gal, though she’s well respected and liked despite that.
The alchemist knocks loudly on the wall of the food stand to make himself known.
After a moment, the immortal walks through the rear door holding a cup. She looks over the alchemist before pointing to the sign saying that the stall is closed.
“I’m not a customer.” He explains. “Keine told me you could use some help with some repairs.”
“Alchemy.” She says.
“Yeah, I’m an alchemist.” He answers.
The immortal down the sake she was carrying and place the cup on the end table. She unlocks the door, allowing the alchemist inside the shop. She leads him over to the main grill, which she gives a good hard tap.
“This is what needs fixing?” He asks.
The immortal doesn’t respond, instead just looks at him with the same stoic expression she always has.
Taking her silence as a yes, the alchemist places his hands on the grill, sending a small surge of mana through it to prospect.
Yakitori grills work pretty much the same as regular grills, with the exception being their shape, which is specifically designed to hold skewers, as well as the vent used to regulate the heat.
The coal is put on a grid halfway down the grill. However, the grid in this grill has been exposed to a high level of heat, resulting in the metal melting. It’s very unlikely that whatever food she was trying to cook turned out to be anything but ash.
“This is going to be an easy fix.” He says. “I’m going to need some space to work in, so I hope you don’t mind if I move it outside.”
The immortal just shrugs. It doesn’t really make a difference to her. Either he manages to fix it, or it continues to be a worthless collection of metal.
With little effort, he picks up the grill and backs out the door, placing it on the ground.
Mokou follows him outside, taking the chance to light a smoke. It’s not that she’s addicted to the those, since her condition prevents any form of addictions. To her, it’ more of a habit that’s formed, and since none of the drawbacks apply to her, she’s yet to see a reason to quit.
The alchemist draws a fundamental transmutation circle in the dirt. Since nothing is missing from the grill, he doesn’t need to add new materials to repair it. Instead, he can just restructure what’s already there back into its original shape.
“Rain.” The immortal notes, staring up into the sky.
“Yeah, it’s going to rain any minute now.” He replies without looking at the sky. At this point, you can feel it in the air, that’s it’s going to rain. “But this will just take a second.”
He places the grill inside the circle and start working.
Try to his word, the repair took less than two minutes, since he just needed to move around some parts.
“That’s it.” He declares. “Should be good as new, now.” He picks up the grill again and moves it back inside. “Don’t bother with paying, either.” He says. “This was such a small thing it’s barely worth anything, even before the youkai discount.”
The immortal runs her hand across the grill. “Hungry.” She looks him in the eyes.
“Well, I’m not going to turn down the offer.” He walks outside and takes a seat.
Mokou pulls out some charcoal from under the counter the throws the into the grill. With a snap of her fingers, she lights the grill on fire, revealing how it might have suffered the fire damage.
While the grill gets warm, she turns around to prepare some skewers on the rear desk. With the efficiency of a pro, she quickly prepares a handful of yakitori.
“You wouldn’t have something to wrap them in?” He asks. “I might have to head home soon, if I want to avoid getting drenched.”
The chef pulls out a smooth paper like leather cloth, which she wraps around the skewers. She then takes a normal piece of cloth and wrap around the wrapped skewers, trying it neatly so it’ll hold the warmth a little better, before handing it over the counter.
“Thanks. And sorry for the haste.” He apologizes. “If anything comes up, just ask Keine where our workshop is. Youkai like us get a great discount.”
She nods, though her stoic expression still hasn’t changed.
The alchemist has barely made it halfway home when the rain starts to fall. It doesn’t take long after the first few drops before it becomes a shower.
He’s about to shield his food inside the vest, but he spots a familiar figure standing in the rain.
She’s standing in the rain by herself, using her real body to take cover from the rain.
“What are you doing here by yourself?” He hurries up to his sister.
She doesn’t respond.
The alchemist doesn’t need any more context to figure out roughly what’s happened. The guy never showed up, and she’s been waiting diligently.
And there, if even just for a fraction of a second, anyone who would have stumbled upon this scene would unmistakably recognize the alchemist as the youkai he is. Thankfully he still has enough sense to, in the most literal sense of the word, knock the boiling rage out of himself by throwing the hammer at the ground, causing the bricks to crack.
Kogasa is obviously startled by this but doesn’t react beyond the small jump. She doesn’t feel like caring about that right now.
After picking up the hammer again, he puts his arm around the umbrella. “Let’s go home, Kogasa. You’ll catch a cold if you stand here all night.”
As a rule of thumb, the one thing Tsukumogami want more than anything else is to feel wanted, to be needed and to be useful. After all, they’re items, tools created to serve a single purpose, which make that purpose the very core of their being. To appeal to the hope of being wanted, no matter how tiny, is to touch a Tsukumogami at their core, so the act of trampling on that hope is beyond unforgivable.
Kogasa, someone who was abandoned because her color went out of fashion, wants nothing more than to belong, to feel wanted above any of the other traits.
Whoever sent that letter likely doesn’t know this, which will be the only thing that could serve as his forgiveness.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder Kogasa is taking the day off.
The question is, how would the alchemist deal with this? It’s best to leave her alone since she will recover and bounce back. But should he stick around the shop working, making his presence known. Or should he close the shop and take the day off himself, leaving to do something else, like visiting the Netherworld again.
 Stick around the shop and work.  Give her some room and leave for today.
File 154290960686.jpg - (188.61KB, 850x1096, Picture I wanted to use last time but didn't.jpg)
The two of them have lived together for more than a human lifetime. Despite that, it’s rare that things like this happen, so neither of them knows how to really handle it when the other is down like this.
The only thing the alchemist can think to do is to stick around the shop. If he was feeling down, rather than being alone, he’d take some comfort in knowing Kogasa would be around.
So that’s what he does. He doesn’t flip over the sign on the door, keeping the store closed for the day. With no orders lined up, he figures that now is a good a time as any to look into this ‘racer’ tool.
He walks into his study where he starts drafting ideas for the tool.
Since it’s meant for shaving, the blades will have to be angled slightly. It’s impossible to make them move without making them unsecure, so figuring out the right angle to use is one problem.
Judging from the image, the handle is no longer than a palm, maybe less, which will provide a scale to work with. And speaking of the handle, how should it be made? Forged or casted?
The blades are hard to make, since they’re so thin. Even a shaver is thicker, though that’s essentially just a knife. These blades are small and rather fragile. Pushing them against the body won’t break them, unless you apply an unhealthy amount of force, but at that point you might have other problems than just a broken ‘racer’ blade. No, the fragility shows when sharpening them. Since they’re so thin, there’s not a lot of material to shave off to make it sharper and grinding too deep breaks them.
Putting the whole thing together is easier for the alchemist, since he’s rather dexterous with his fingers, but getting to that point is taking a lot of time.
But after that, it’s finally time to test the thing.
He rolls up his pant and mimics the women in the drawing by dragging the ‘racer’ up along his leg.
And nothing. He has a lot of hair as it is, so it should be easy to see the difference. Did he make the blades’ angle too shallow? He tried being careful about making them too steep, as that would be quite uncomfortable, but he might have gone too far the other way to where the blades are no longer effective.
Which means he must remake the handle.
After reassembling the ‘racer’ again with the altered handle, he gets ready to try it on his leg like last time.
And it cuts this time. It stings a little, but it cuts. He’s a little reluctant to make the blades just a little shallower since he’ll have to remake the handle again. Instead he considers how he might be able make it go a little smoother.
Working through the slight pain, he continues to test the ‘racer’ until the prototype blade starts getting dull and pull more than they cut.
Which expose another problem. The ease of changing blades. Maybe it would be easier with just one blade? Has Keine even tried a shaving knife?
“Am I interrupting something?” Kogasa asks, seeing the drawing of the naked woman and her brother’s half-shaved man leg.
“Kogasa?” The alchemist hadn’t noticed her entering the work space. “No, I was just testing a custom order product.” He puts the ‘racer’ on the table and folds down his pants again. “What about you? How are you feeling?”
“Better. Thanks.” She takes a seat next to the furnace. “Guess it was a mistake to go.”
“Maybe.” He turns so he’s facing her. “But if you hadn’t gone, you would probably just wish that you had.”
“Probably.” The umbrella agrees. “But it still hurts.”
“Rejection will always hurt.” He tries to comfort her. “But you’re a lovely girl. Some day you’ll find an owner who’ll care for you. Until then, you and I stick together. That’s what we promised, remember?”
“Our promise was to stick together until we’d both found a new owner.” She corrects him.
“I’ve already found mine.” He states. “I just have to find the time to ask her to take ownership.”
“Youmu?” She asks, to which he nods. “I had a feeling.”
“Mm.” He nods again. “But like I said, I won’t leave until you’ve found an owner you like. So, don’t worry.”
“Careful, or I might not want to find an actual owner again.” She chuckles.
“Well, that would be trouble.” He strokes his beard, playing along. “Then you’d have to stick by my side for even longer.”
“Yeah, what a nightmare.” She jumps back up. “How about we go out to get something to eat?”
“Sure.” He stands up with her. “Let’s eat us full tonight.”
The gate to the Netherworld has made travelling there so much easier compared to how it used to be. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends entirely on who you ask, however.
Normal humans can’t survive in the Netherworld, as they slowly have their life force drained by the world itself. Exception cases like the Hakurei shrine maiden, who has enough spiritual power to shield herself, can move freely. Youkai like the alchemist remain in an unclear territory as to whether they’re dead or alive, though the Netherworld has no notable effect on them, allowing them to run freely like the natives.
Before the gate appeared, things like this was barely considered, since getting access to the Netherworld was a major challenge by itself. The Konpaku clan, the natural residents of the Netherworld, among their other skills, have a unique ability to freely travel to and from their own world, allowing them to visit other worlds, like Gensokyo on a whim.
That’s how the Konpaku clan came to become customers of the alchemist in the first place. A couple of clansmen visiting Gensokyo, having heard of this supposed “youkai paradise” from the spirits. By sheer chance, they went into the workshop where they started a conversation with the alchemist, leading to them placing a repair order.
From there it followed a pretty stable growth in business until they entrusted him with a method to travel to the Netherworld. A method which has now become obsolete thanks to the gate.
Of course, the fact it’s become easier to travel there means he now has more excuses to visit. And that’s exactly why we find him approaching the dead princess’ manor.
“Yuyu!” He calls out through the open door. “Are you home?”
He shrugs. It somewhat sucks that he came all the way here, only for her to not be home, but so be it. The princess may be dead, but she’s not bound to this mansion in any sense of the word.
He’s about to leave when the gardener falls from the sky, just barely grinding to a halt before falling to her knees.
She doesn’t notice the alchemist but is instead focused on the other half ghost that follows her down to the ground.
The little swordswoman rises to her feet again and clutch her wooden sword, preparing for another clash with her opponent.
“How nice of you to join us.” The ghostly princess appears next to the alchemist. “Youmu is a little busy, as you can see, but feel free to wait a bit.”
“Yeah, I just came to say hi again.” He answers. “It’s been a while after all.”
“That it has.” The ghost rests against her guest’s shoulder. Her weightless form makes it almost unnoticeable, if not for the cold touch of her skin.
The swordsman, Youmu’s opponents, sheathes one of his two wooden swords, grabbing the main one with both hands. “It doesn’t feel like you’ve improved much.”
“That’s because unlike you, I have an actual job to do.” She barks back. “But it’s a surprise how much better you’ve gotten, considering all you do is chase tail.”
The swordsman snicker in response, raising his sword high above his head. “Stance of the Rose: Death by a Thousand Cuts.” He swings the blade down, pulling it slightly to the side, allowing him to swing it back around a second time. Through the entire move, hundreds of small needles shoot out from the blade, homing straight in for the gardener.
Youmu lowers her sword, keeping a tight grip. “Crescent Moon: Threefold Slash.” She swings her blade up, causing a strong gust to blow the needles off course. At the same time, her ghost has taken a translucent human shape and attacks from above.
The swordsman pulls his second blade, deflecting the phantom’s spirit blade. Continuing the motion from the draw, he spins around to gain enough power to block the swordswoman’s final blow by directing her sword into the ground.
“That wasn’t a Threefold Slash.” He notes to his opponent. “The blades are supposed to come at the same time.” He places a foot in her stomach and push her backwards. “Like this. Crescent Moon: Threefold Slash.” He swings his blade, and true to his word, the blur of three separate strikes, each with their own angle comes at the gardener.
She manages to block two of them, but the final slash hit her in the side.
“Who’s the newcomer?” The alchemist asks. “I don’t think I’ve seen him before.”
“You don’t recognize him? That’s Youten.” The ghost declares proudly.
“Really?” The he takes another look at the new ghost, and sure enough, he can see how he resembles the little vegetable Youki took a liking to. “He sure has grown a lot.”
“Wait.” Youmu finally notices the guest. “Stop, Ten. Wait a minute.” She holds out her hand. She runs over to the alchemist, still sweating and panting from her spar. “Renkin, what are you doing here?”
He shrugs. “I just felt like visiting my old friend.”
“Renkin.” The swordsman calls for attention as well. His breath is much more controlled, though he’s sweating far more than his opponent. “It’s great seeing you again.” He bows. “Thank you for always taking care of mom.”
Yuyu chuckles. “Taking care.” She repeats, finding some amusement in those words.
“If she’s ever giving you trouble, just call on me.” He continues.
The alchemist places a hand on the swordsman’s head, applying a playful amount of force down. “You’re a few decades to early to talk like that, boy.” He releases the boy who look up with a smile. “Now what’s this I hear about ‘chasing tail’?”
“Oh, just wait ‘till you hear this.” The princess starts fluttering. “Little Youten has gotten a girlfriend. A beautiful blonde.”
“Mom!” The boy interrupts her.
Obviously, the two of them aren’t related by blood, since the princess is dead and all that. But like Youmu said, Yuyuko has a habit of taking in orphans and treating them like her children. The affection rubbed off on the boy who started to call her mom.
“Seems like he’s a little quicker than you, Youmu.” The alchemist takes the opportunity to tease her a little. “I mean, it’s everything but official by this point.”
“Ren!” The gardener shouts, quickly growing a blush.
“You mean you have a boyfriend?” The boy asks. “You? The try-hard little tomboy? I don’t believe it.”
“Quit calling me little.” She demands on the boy. “You may have gotten taller than me, but you’re still younger.”
“Oh really?” The boy stands tall next to the little gardener. “And what if I don’t stop? What can you do about it from all the way down there?”
There is at most five centimeters between their heights.
“Are you asking for another beating?”
“Maybe I knocked you too hard, since it seems you’ve forgotten how badly you were losing.”
The two of them butt heads.
From their bickering, it’s hard to imagine they were each others’ first love. Though, they were kids and a lot have changed since then.
“Youmu.” The princess interrupts them. “Think you could be a darling and get us something to drink?”
“Ah, sure.” She pulls away from the headbutting so sudden the boy almost falls over. She runs out of the room to prepare something to drink.
“So, what have you been up to, Youten?” The alchemist asks. The two haven’t seen each other in years, since he left with Youki to train.
“I’m exploring modern Japan.” He answers. “Feel like I need to rack up some more experience before I’m ready to actually call myself the Master of the Yureido style.”
Yureido, Way of the Ghost, is the sword style practiced by the Konpaku clan.
“Although,” he continues, “I actually came back because I wanted to talk to you.”
“Really?” The alchemist rests his head in his hand.
The swordsman places his hands firmly on the floor and bows all the way down. “Please forge me a new sword.”
The youkai looks over at his dead friend. She shrugs, still with her carefree smile.
“Alright. But it’s not going to come cheap.” He agrees.
The boy lifts his head. “I’ll pay anything it’ll take.” He declares. “But it has to be forged by you. Every other blade I’ve used have broken.”
The gardener comes back, carrying a tray of four cups. Two with warm tea and two with iced tea.
“Youmu, I’m going to have to borrow you for a few days, it seems.” The alchemist states.
“What’s going on?” The phantom girl asks.
“I’ll need your help to secure some materials.” He answers, standing up. Just thinking about the possibilities excites him. Working on Youmu’s sword comes with restrictions. Creating weapons for humans is dull, since no one is powerful enough to wield enchanted gear. But this. A youkai asking for a sword. Now he and Kogasa can finally go all out again.
“Aren’t you going to have a drink?” She asks.
“No, sorry, but that’ll have to be another time.” He apologizes. “I want to get started on this as soon as possible.” He starts walking home.
“Hey, wait.” The gardener calls out to him. “At least let me pack a few things first.”
Exciting. Truly exciting. An enchanted sword meant to be wielded by a youkai. Oh, the possibilities.
The base material needs to be Kogasa’s mithril. It’s sturdier than anything they can craft naturally, and lightweight to boot.
Enchantments are endless in possibilities. A basic elemental attribute, allowing him to harness the power of nature? Maybe a more complex enchantment like the ability to only cat what the wielder desires?
The type of enchantment will dictate the materials they need to gather, and who to talk to about the enchantment itself, since neither the alchemist nor the blacksmith is skilled enchanters.
 Simple enchantment - [Write in] Choose an element. You’re not restricted to the basic 4 or 5 so be creative  Complex enchantment - [Write in] Anything goes
Both write-ins are optional, but if I don't get any, then I'll just have to pick something boring and generic.
Also only one week left. Thought I'd have burned out a long time ago, but surprisingly I haven't. Though I do miss my free time a little.
>>41391 Technically, spirits are already in the after-life, depending on how you define the cycle of rebirth. I believe you mean that Hakurouken can send spirits to Nirvana by dispelling their confusion.
How would cutting the attachment to life differ from that? Or is it meant to achieve the same thing through different means?
It's a neat idea, I just want to make sure I understand it right.
Hakurouken forcibly puts spirits into a state of tranquillity, which makes them ascend to Nivarna by their nature as spirits. As Eiki puts it, it's a cheat that doesn't really respect the nature of Nirvana itself.
Cutting obsession and attachment would be effective against haunting ghosts or vengeful spirits, severing their ties to the mortal world, but ultimately free themselves to carry on to the afterlife, not forcibly bring themselves to it.
Versus more ordinary spirits it would be less effective. Versus mortal beings, it tends to bring about a temporary state of clarity, especially over emotions such as love or hate.
Hakurouken will remove spirits from the cycle of rebirth by forcing them into a state of Nirvana. This new sword, which we'll have to name too btw, will do the opposite and send spirits who refuse to pass on, for whatever reason, back into the cycle of rebirth by cutting their ties to the mortal world.
“Kogasa!” The alchemist shouts the moment he enters the workshop.
The umbrella walks down the stairs, wearing a normal apron. “Yeah?”
“Your mithril. I’m claiming it.” He states, getting straight to the point.
“Sure?” She walks down the remaining stairs. “But why?”
“We’re going to forge a youkai blade.”
Her face slowly starts brimming with as much excitement as the alchemist’s. “Are you for real?”
“Youten has asked for a blade that won’t break.” He spreads out his arms. “So, he asked the best craftsmen in Gensokyo for help.”
“Please,” the blacksmith grabs her brother’s shirt, “tell me we’re going to enchant this baby.”
“You bet your tongue we are.” He grabs her shoulders in return. “And I already have the perfect enchantment in mind. Youmu and I,” he nods back at their guest, “are going to prepare the materials necessary. While we’re out, I want you to purify the mithril, make it as durable as you can.”
“That goes without saying.” The blacksmith runs behind the counter, pulling out the ore from one of the drawers, then she pulls out a red piece of coal. “I’ll be using some of these.” She says.
The red coal is an item created by the alchemist, using a skill called Delayed Activation. It allows for alchemist reactions to be sat up and prepared but remain inactive until manually triggered. The coal is made from combining fire and wood. Upon activation, it’ll ignite and burn longer and hotter than any natural fuel.
“Perfect. Youmu, we’re leaving.” He declares as soon as his partner has gotten started.
“This is going a little fast.” She runs out he door, trying to keep up with the alchemist. “Where are we going?”
“Well, let’s see. For the enchantment I have in mind, we’ll need Threads of Enlightenment,” he tallies on his hand, “Crystallized Soul Dust and the juice from a Heavenly Fruit.”
“I know what Soul Dust is, and I can make a good guess about the Heavenly Fruit.” Youmu notes. “But what’s Threads of Enlightenment?”
“When a hermit ascends to a celestial, they create these threads.” He explains. “They’re then used to create the scarf celestials use to fly. Not all threads are used, however. Some celestials keep them, others release them onto earth. There are also the occasional threads that fall when they’re making the scarf.”
“So, we need to find a celestial?” She asks.
“Or a hermit. Or a monk. Or hope we get lucky and stumble upon some.” He lists off the ways to get them. “I haven’t heard of a Taoist that produced any threads, though, which should limit our search even just a little.”
Heavenly Fruits are rather self-explanatory. Peaches from the heavens.
Soul Dust on the other hand is not so intuitive. Whenever a soul is reincarnated, they lose a part of themselves, slowly deteriorating over time unless they take care of themselves while they’re alive. The parts they lose becomes this fine mist that’s found in the Netherworld. Before it forms into the mist like dust, it can be found at graveyards as a thinly spread essence. While it’s in this formless state, it can be condensed into a crystallized shape. This crystal can’t be replicated using alchemy, nor will it ever form naturally which makes them scarce.
“Shouldn’t we start with a celestial, in any case?” She asks. “Because of the fruit. If we can get some threads too, that would be perfect.”
“Agree.” He nods. “The problem is just where do we start?”
It’s not like celestials just casually stroll around on earth and getting into heaven is a task beyond the two of them. Hermits, as the name suggest, are hermits, and thus tend to stay away from society.
 The local temple is a good place to start  Wasn’t there a celestial associated with keystones?  There’s a hermit in the mountains -  Try to ask the tengu for directions -  Ask the Taoist hermits for help  Ask a god for help -  Local shrine -  Moriya shrine -  Hakurei shrine
>>41410 That I didn't know. All I knew was that there was a difference between molten rock above ground and below ground. Whatever that difference was, beyond it's relation to the surface level, was never something I bothered to look into
“You want my peaches?” The celestial raises an eyebrow.
Youmu recalled that she once fought a celestial, which were associated with keystones. With that as their only lead, the duo headed out of the village for the closest keystone. And by sheer luck, the same celestial was sitting there, amusing over the small trifles of the human village.
“That’s correct.” The alchemist reaffirms.
“You two do know that you won’t benefit from eating it, right?” She crosses her legs, resting herself against her knees. “Especially for the little girl. These can be poisonous for youkai.”
“I’m not a little girl.” The swordswoman complains. “And we’re not going to eat it.”
“We’re going to forge a new weapon.” The alchemist continues.
“Oh?” The angel jumps down from her rock. “Going to cause any trouble?” She scans them over.
“The opposite.” The alchemist assures her. “This sword will have the power to restore order.”
“I see.” The angel turns around and shrugs. “Then I can’t help you. Things are too boring as they are.”
“What’s your price?” The alchemist asks.
“I told you, I’m not helping. Now scram.” She shoo at them, getting ready to jump back on her rock.
“I challenge you!” Youmu declares. “If I win, you’ll hand over your peaches.”
The celestial, intrigued by the sudden turn of events, looks back at her challenger. “Sounds fun. But once I’m done playing with you, I want to play a little with your man.”
“Alright.” The swordswoman accepts without even asking for permission.
The blue angel pulls out her red mist blade, prompting the green ghost to do the same. The alchemist just takes a good few steps back, getting out of harm’s way.
The ghost lowers her stance. The angel responds by taking a stance where her sword is held by the rear hand.
Seeing the stance, the ghost changes hers, raising her sword upwards, holding it next to her head. The angel responds by changing her stance to match, holding out the hand with the blade, pointing it down and back so she can support the blade with her other hand.
Once again, the ghost changes her stance to establish dominance. She moves her sword into a draw stance without sheathing it.
The angel lacks a proper counter to a move like that, and instead reinforce her current stance. She angles her sword more vertically, placing her off-hand’s wrist against the back of the blade.
“Hell Realm Sword, 200 Yojana in One Slash.” The ghost declares her spell card but doesn’t move an inch. She just stands there, hands on sword, ready to attack at the drop of a needle.
“Temperament, High-Spirited Sword.” The angel declares her card and immediately moves. She swings her up beside her before thrusting at her opponent, shooting out a laser with pinpoint accuracy.
The ghost dives underneath the laser and in a literal flash cuts the celestial clean across the chest.
Thanks to the declared duel, no actual harm has been caused, although she’s going to feel that cut for the few days to come.
“I won.” States the phantom.
The misty sword disperses as the angel clutches her chest. “That hurt.” She groans. “But a promise is a promise.” She picks up her hat from the ground, handing it over to the phantom girl. “Let it be known that a celestial always keeps her word.”
“Of course.” The swordswoman takes the hat and starts plucking off the peaches. “Honor is a warrior’s greatest prize. I would never sully the name of someone who fights earnestly.”
“You too.” The celestial agrees. “It was short, but entertaining.”
The swordswoman hands back the hat to its owner. “Thank you.” She says before running back over to her partner.
“You probably didn’t have to fight for them.” He notes. “I think she was playing us out of boredom.”
“It’s not like I hate fighting.” The little ghost blushes. “I actually like it a little. Plus, it worked out in the end.”
“It did. And thank you for fighting for this.” He wraps up the fruits and pocket them.
“Ah, yeah, well,” she averts her eyes, “this is important to you, right?”
“Of course, it is, but I don’t want you getting hurt because of it.” He starts walking. “That’s not why I brought you along.”
“Why did you bring me along?” She asks, keeping pace with him. “Now that you mention it.”
“Because I’m excited about this.” He smiles, looking straight ahead. “And I would like to share this excitement with you. After all, you’re special to me, Youmu.”
She’s caught off guard by the comment. “There you go saying embarrassing things like that again.” She reaches for his hand. “But you’re special to me too.”
He gives her hand a little squeeze. “Next up is the threads. That celestial didn’t have any scarf, so I don’t think she has any threads either.”
“Threads of Enlightenment.” The little phantom ponders. “I would have to guess that a monk would be our safest bet, since we know where to find some.” She concludes. “After that, we might have to find a hermit, since I don’t think any god would respond to a request like this.”
“Maybe.” He ponders on the matter too. “Finding a hermit will definitely be the hardest option, but it might also be the one most likely to succeed. But gods live at shrines, and monks at temples, so we can easily find both of those.”
 Talk to the monks  Pray to a god  Find a hermit -  Ask the Taoists -  Ask the Tengu
“I’m honored that you would consider us enlightened.” The head monk apologizes. “But I’m afraid none of us can claim to have reached that point yet.”
“I see.” The alchemist bows. “Then if I may trouble you, do you know where we would be able to claim some Threads of Enlightenment?”
“That will have to depend.” The tiger idol sitting behind the head monk speaks up. “I would like to know, for what purpose do you seek these threads?”
“Of course.” The alchemist keeps his head down. “It is our intent to create a tool, a sword to be exact, which will have the power to cut the lingering attachment that spirits may have to the mortal realm, allowing them to pass on and return to the cycle of rebirth.” He explains in length.
“And what is your reason for this goal?” The idol continues to question.
“A close friend has requested a new sword.” He explains. “Since he journeys in the outside world, wielding a blade capable is separating the fetter that keeps vengeful spirits in our world will serve everyone favorably.”
Youmu, who’s kept her head down as to not offend the image of Bishamonten, the god or war and valor, looks up to see the alchemist. This is the first time she hears about the enchantment since they began.
“I see. And what is the name of your friend?” The idol asks.
“Konpaku Youten.” He answers. “He is the current master of the Yureido sword school and brother-in-name to my companion.”
“Is this correct?” She asks the swordswoman.
“Yes.” The phantom almost shouts. “As fellow orphans, we grew up together.” She confirms. “Despite everything, I’m proud to call him my brother.”
“I see. I think I get the picture now.” The tiger declares. She starts pulling on her scarf like cloth, using her nail to cut off a sizeable portion. She folds it together and hands it over to the head monk, who in turns places it in front of the alchemist. “This cloth isn’t made from Threads of Enlightenment, but I can assure you they have the same clarity inducing effect.”
The alchemist picks up the piece of cloth. Just holding it, he can feel the effect calming him down, and as a Tsukumogami his attachment to the world is shallow from the start.
“I can’t accept this.” He places it on the floor again. “Something like this is too precious.”
“It recently came to my attention that a craftsman in this village was hired by us for a small job.” The idol states. “And that he over delivered and refused to accept pay equal to his work.” She places her pagoda in front of her, allowing a smirk to grow on her face. “Now we can return the favor and repay you for the work you’ve done.”
“In other words, I’m not allowed to refuse this gift.” He concludes, raising his head.
“I’m afraid not.” The tiger shakes her head lightly. “If you still can’t accept it, then think of it as an advance payment for a future job. After all, I was quite fond of the rat figure you made.”
“For a cloth like this, I’ll make you a life-sized sculpture of whatever you wish for.”
“I can think of a few things.” The tiger straightens her posture. “Anyway. I believe this cloth should serve you well.”
“Then I gracefully accept it.” He picks up the cloth. “Thank you.”
After thanking the monks, the duo leaves the temple with another material in their possession.
“Um,” the ghost starts. “Could you keep what I just said a secret from Youten?” She asks.
“Don’t worry, Youmu. It’ll be our little secret.” He holds a finger over his mouth.
“Mm.” She smiles as she nods.
“Anyway, that just leaves the Soul Dust Crystals.” The alchemist says.
“Those are found at graveyards, if I remember correctly.” The phantom speculates. “I only get to see the mist, so I don’t know much about the crystals.”
“You’re halfway correct. The crystals are not found but made.” He corrects her. “Soul Mist can’t be crystalized, so it has to be worked before it reaches the Netherworld.”
“Soul Mist, is that what it’s called?” The gardener asks.
“No, it’s still called Dust, even though it’s more like mist.” He explains. “The difference between Dust and Mist is where it’s located. The air in the underworld is very different than in the mortal world. That effect reaches Dust as well, changing how it behaves without changing the Dust itself.”
“So, it’s different? But it isn’t?” The ghost asks, obviously not following the logic.
“Sand.” The alchemist states. “When it’s dry, it’s very loose, almost impossible to hold in your hand as it just falls between you fingers.” He holds out his hands as to show her, though he doesn’t have any sand at hand. “If on the other hand you make it wet, it suddenly sticks together, to the point where it can keep its form. Once it dries, however, it goes back to falling apart.”
“I think I get it.” The ghost hesitates. “Dust is like sand. And home is like water.” She summarizes it very simply. “Can’t we just move the dust back from home to here? Then it should dry up and be able to get crystallized, shouldn’t it?”
“In theory, yes, that would work.” He nods. “The problem is, you can’t move it back out of the Netherworld. It stays there until it disappears for good.”
“Huh? Well, I never actually looked into the mist.” She tries to defend her ignorance on the matter. “I mean, it’s just been something natural that’s always been there since as far back as I can remember.”
“People rarely look into common phenomenon.” He agrees. “But that’s where all scientists, mages and alchemists start from.”
Collecting the Crystallized Soul Dust turned out to be the easiest task since they’re entirely predictable. The dust always appears at graveyards. From there, it’s just a question about assembling them into the crystal-like structure. An easy task for the alchemist.
With that, the third and final element is down. The only thing left to od, is to find someone skilled at enchanting.
The three witches of Gensokyo would be the obvious choices to pick from. But given the nature of the enchantment, maybe asking a shrine maiden to cast a blessing instead could work just as well.
On their trek up the mountain, the duo predictably encountered the Tengu guards. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for the wolves to allow the duo to continue up the mountain. The two, however, had to agree to be escorted, as to ensure that they do cause any problems.
Upon reaching the peak where the shrine is located, the alchemist walks up to the steps before the donation box. “Excuse me but is anyone home!” He yells out.
A few seconds pass by before the front door slides open, revealing the green shrine maiden. “A guest.” She concludes, hopping down the stairs one by one. “What can I do for you, after coming all the way up here?”
“I was hoping I could convince you to help out me and my partner.” He explains.
“Yeah?” She urges him to keep talking.
“We’re in the process of creating an enchanted weapon. And given the nature of the enchantment, I believe it would be better served as a divine blessing.” He continues to explain. “And therefore, we came to you.”
“Hmm.” The shrine maiden cocks her head, thinking it over. “Exactly what are we talking about?”
“A blade capable of cutting the desires that keeps you fettered to this mortal world.” He explains. “It’ll be used on vengeful spirits to force them back into the cycle of rebirth.”
“Oh, so it’s like one of those legendary swords?” Her expression lights up. “That sounds awesome. I’m in.” She declares. “I’ll have to channel a different kami, though.”
“Will it be possible for you to imbue the blessing into an object, or will you have to come with us?” He asks.
Even though it’s rarely used to its full extend, the forge in the workshop is the best in Gensokyo, the only place where a blade like this can be forged without necessitating the construction of a whole new forge.
“I don’t know if the blessing will stay, if you try to move it from one object to another.” She admits. “So, I think it might be better if I tag along.”
The shrine maiden won’t admit part of the reason for her tagging along, is that she wants to see the blade being forged. She’s only ever seen things like that in anime, which is far from a realistic depiction.
“At the moment, we’re smelting the ore for the blade, so there’s still some hours left before we’ll need your blessing.” He explains. “So, I’ll have to inconvenience you by having you wait. But your help will be much appreciated.”
“I’m not busy.” She states, excited about the prospect of seeing a real sword being made. “Do you have any alcohol, or will I need to bring some myself.” She asks. “That’s for channeling the kami, by the way.” She quickly adds, realizing how her question came out.
Traditionally, drinking alcohol is said to bring you closer to the gods. This shrine maidens and priests alike has been drinking small amounts of sake before performing a ritual. By moving closer to the gods like this, it becomes easier to allow the kami inside, so they can channel more of their power through the person.
“We don’t have any, but we can pick something up on the way.” He says.
“And now for the long walk back to the village.” Youmu adds, having stayed by the Tengu and waited for the alchemist to finish. “At least it’s downhill this time.”
“If it was getting tough, you could just have floated.” The shrine maiden points out. Having made the trip countless times, she knows how to do it the easy way.
With that, the last piece needed to forge the blade has been taken care of. All that’s left to do is to return to the workshop and begin the preparations.
----- No vote today. Next vote will be to decide the name of the blade, so start thinking or I’ll just use my own lazy name
Responding to the door’s jingle as it opens, the blacksmith peeks out from the working area. “Ooh. The harem keeps growing.” She comments, seeing the new girl.
The shrine maiden just utters a single laugh, seeing as there’s only one man in this building.
“What’s a harem?” Youmu asks, oblivious to the joke.
“I’ll tell you when you get older.” The alchemist replies, spreading the different materials out on the table.
“I’m not a kid.” She protests, though she doesn’t ask again, understanding that it’s a perverted word.
“How is the ore coming along?” He asks his partner.
“Pure.” The blacksmith makes an ‘okay’ sign with her hand after taking off the glove. “I’ve cast it to an ingot, which I’m keeping solid but soft.” She takes off her other glove and pockets them in her apron.
“Perfect. I’ll start making the handle. Youmu,” he hands her the peaches, “you can extract the juices from these. And Miss Kochiya,” he turns to the shrine maiden, “this is where I’ll have to ask you to wait.”
“It’s alright.” The green shrine maiden assures him. “I’ll try not to get in the way.”
Despite declaring his intend, the alchemist starts working on the cloth he got from the Buddhists. Utilizing small scale alchemy, he unweaves the threads before connecting them in the ends, creating a single long thread. He then cuts the thread into thirds and braid them back together, making the thread thicker.
After that, he picks up a block of wood and starts carving the handle.
The phantom comes walking down the stairs again, carrying a bowl of fruit juice, covered by a piece of cloth.
The shrine maiden, curious about the process, walks into the back room, to watch how the blacksmith treats the metal.
Though, to her disappointment, the umbrella is only keeping the heat of the forge for the time being. To forge a youkai blade, you’ll need special tools, since normal ones will shatter.
Having finished up the shape of the handle, the alchemist wraps the long thread around it, creating a compact tsukamaki style wrapping, leaving the diamond openings over the holes for securing the blade in the handle.
“Alright, Kogasa. Let’s get started.” He declares, picking up the remaining threads.
“Finally!” She jumps up.
He hands her the threads, after making sure they’ve been folded to the right length and secured. She places them on the work table, ready for when she needs them.
The alchemist pulls his hammer from the belt, throwing it up and catching it by the head, handing his partner the grab of the tool. “Don’t you dare hold back.” He threatens her playfully.
“Don’t blame me when you break, you rusty old fool.” The blacksmith takes the hammer, her chosen brother.
The alchemist walks to the corner of the room and takes a seat, resting before going completely motionless.
Kogasa takes another look at the tool in her hand. Having cut off all external connections, Tatara Renkin the Alchemist, exudes power in a way only few can understand, let alone use.
The blacksmith pulls out the bright glowing mithril ingot. With the skill cultivated from years of experience and the raw force of a youkai, she starts hammering. Every swing has a purpose, no movement wasted as she quickly shapes the block of metal, drawing it out into its long shape before putting it back into the forge to reheat.
To speed up the process, the blacksmith closes all exits to the forge, except the chimney, trapping all the heat inside. Every minute or so, she’ll peek into the flames for a few seconds, observing the color of the metal.
The shrine maiden carefully observes every move the blacksmith makes, being dearly interested in weapons crafting.
Youmu on the other hand, has taken an interest in the alchemist’s empty shell, taking the chance now that everyone is distracted to try and sit on his lap, something she’d never have the courage to try if he were awake.
“Sanae. Bring me the juice.” The blacksmith demands, seeing as the mithril is starting to get white again.
“Ah, right.” She snaps out of her little trance and runs out to fetch the bowl.
The blacksmith seals up the forge again and removes her gloves, placing them in the anvil. As the shrine maiden comes back with the bowel, Kogasa takes the threads and submerge them in the juice.
“Do you know what enchantment we want to place on it?” The blacksmith asks.
“Yeah.” She nods. “He told me in detail as we walked here.”
“Great.” She peeks into the forge again. “Then if you could cast the blessing on those threads first.”
“First?” The shrine maiden asks.
“You’ll need to do it three times in total to make the effect permanent.” The blacksmith explains. “Once on the core, which is going to be those thread. Then once on the shell, which is the blade itself. And the one last time on the sword once it’s been assembled.” She picks up the tongs again, getting ready to take out the mithril.
“Okay, I got it.” The green shrine maiden states. She opens the bottle of mild beer and unceremoniously takes a mouthful. With the alcohol in her system, she starts praying.
While the threads are being enchanted, the blacksmith pulls out the crude blade and flattens it, then folds it before flattening it again.
“Ready.” The shrine maiden declares.
Without a word, the blacksmith fishes up the thread and in a single move spreads it across the center of the blade before folding the metal once more. With a few quick yet powerful strikes she seals up the fold, permanently locking the threads inside the blade.
Predictably, the metal itself ignites, burning with a silver flame as the threads are being absorbed.
This doesn’t stop Kogasa, however, as she speeds up, landing hits with surgical precision, hammering out the edge while adding only a slight bend.
Before the silver flames can extinguish, the blacksmith takes the bowl with the remaining juice and pours it over the blade, before quenching it properly in a barrel of oil.
The alchemist, finally able to take control of his body again, places his hand on the half phantom sitting on him, causing her jump away, too surprised to even scream.
“That was a nice surprise to wake up to.” He comments, stretching his body.
“What?” Kogasa asks. She’s been too engrossed in the sword to notice anything.
Sanae couldn’t take her eyes off the sword, so she didn’t notice anything either.
“Don’t!” The little ghost yells, completely red in the face. “Don’t scare me like that!”
He ignores the chance to tease her and instead goes directly back to working. At this stage, neither of the two artisans need to talk to know what the other is thinking.
Kogasa picks up the still hot blade and wipes off the end for the handle so she can safely heat it back up. She removes it before it even starts to get red, however, holding out the end for the alchemist who stands ready with the handle.
They insert sword into the handle, letting the heated metal burn its shape into the wood, making it a tight fit. The two keep pressing against each other, making sure it reaches as far in as it should.
“Perfect.” The alchemist declares as they pull apart again. “Kochiya, if you could please cast the enchantment on the blade as soon as Kogasa is ready.”
“Yeah, sure.” She nods.
The alchemist then leaves the room to fetch the crystals.
He still needs to cut the crystals, so they can be used to decorate the handle. Doing so should help concentrate the power to the wielder’s will by acting as a catalyst. Then they need to imprint a name onto the blade, amplifying and sealing its powers. Then, after securing the handle, they’ll sheathe the blade to finalize the creation.
Choosing a name for the sword is going to be the hardest part. After all, a name is the greatest gift you can bestow upon anything, since that will guarantee it can become a Tsukumogami.
[Write-in] What name should be imprinted on the blade?
File 154352445910.jpg - (151.71KB, 1024x1024, Angry ghost for no other reason than she's cu.jpg)
“The blade is cool and ready.” The blacksmith announces.
“Youmu.” The alchemist calls out, tossing her the handle before she even gets a chance to respond. “For Kogasa.” He says, going straight back to cutting the small gems.
The Soul Dust crystals are small to begin with, about the size of a nail. Cutting them requires concentration, since even these needs to have engravings to properly serve as catalysts.
While he’s working on getting those to be perfect, the blacksmith has prepared the blade’s naked grip to have some holes punched into it. The little swordswoman follows the instruction given to her and slides the handle onto the blade again.
The blacksmith places a thick needle into one of the holes on the grip and gives it a good hard hit with a new hammer, knocking it down through the blade. She then flips the thing over and knocks it back out from the other side, before proceeding to the next hole.
With the gems cut, the alchemist joins the smiting as a spectator, waiting for his partner to get ready for the next step.
The blacksmith quickly finishes off the last two holes, handing over the blade to her brother. “It’s all yours.”
Taking the blade, the alchemist fastens it to a bench, pulling out a chisel and gets into position.
A name is the most important gift you can give to anyone or anything. Neither of the two Tsukumogami in this room were given their name, but instead claimed it for themselves.
“What’s the name going to be?” Kogasa asks, excited.
“Hiroshima.” He answers, surprisingly calm for decision like this. “For some reason this name just sounds right.”
“That might not be a good idea.” The shrine maiden protests. “I mean, you know.”
“I don’t, actually.” He corrects her.
“Well, you know about World War Two, right?” She asks cautiously.
“I didn’t know we had a first one.” He admits. “You’re from the outside, right? Then if I tell you Gensokyo was established in 1885, a couple years after I settled in, you should have a good frame of reference.”
“Well, you see,” the green girl scratches her arm. “The entire world went into war. And as soon as that had ended, we started another one on.” The contemporary girl explains. “And towards the end of the second war, the world’s leading superpower dropped a bomb more powerful than anything we’ve ever seen, right on top of Hiroshima, killing the entire city in the blink of an eye.”
“I see.” He turns around to the sword again. “However, that’s not part of Gensokyo’s history. As sad as it may be, that event means nothing to us.” He starts chiseling the name.
The small audience watch him as he slowly etches in the characters for Hiroshima into the blade’s naked handle, mimicking the look of brush strokes.
With the name now imprinted on the very soul of the sword, the alchemist carefully slides the handle down, securing it with the pins he adorned the crystals onto.
The blade has been forged, with an enchanted core of enlightenment. Quenched in the juice of heavenly fruits and adorned with gem created from the broken souls of the dead. Now the blade has been given a name, Hiroshima.
The only things left to do to finalize the creation is to sharpen the blade and sheath it for the first time.
He releases the blade from its secure position and hands it over to his sister, who takes the blade straight to the grindstone.
While she sharpens the blade, he takes to creating the sheathe.
For a youkai blade, the sheathe is just as important as the blade itself, since it becomes part of the whole, an irreplaceable home. That’s why you must make certain design decisions when creating them.
The sheathe being made for Hiroshima will be made entirely out of leather. A study material that can withstand the forces of nature if the wielder takes care of the sword. Once treated, it won’t rot, it won’t bend, it’s not heavy. It’s virtually perfect. And to top it all off, it’s easy to work with, much faster than a wooden sheath.
“It’s ready for the second blessing.” The blacksmith states, having finished grinding the blade.
“Oh, right, sure.” The green shrine maiden snaps back to reality, having been drawn into watching them work to the point where she forgot herself. Like last time, she takes another mouthful of the beer before channeling the kami to bless the sword.
“Here you go.” Kogasa hands over the blade to the alchemist. “You’ll do the honor.”
Taking the blade, he admires the work the two of them have managed to create. A blade with a true sliver color carrying a slightly blue tint. The handle wrapped in black dyed threads with deep lilac gems embedded into it.
The best sword the two of them have ever created. A masterwork they can truly be proud of.
“You three should probably take a step back.” The alchemist announces. It’s not the first time he’s created a youkai blade, so he knows how they behave.
After they’ve stepped back, he slides the sword into its new home, and as the lock click, securing the sword inside the sheathe, the blade releases a pulse powerful enough to know down the shelves in the store.
And there it is. The little flame of a soul has appeared in the blade. It’s a sleeping Tsukumogami that’ll wake up in 100 years.
“If you’d please, Kochiya.” He holds out Hiroshima with both hands. “Add the cherry on top and make the enchantment permanent.”
“Of course.” She states, this time being prepared. With another mouthful, she casts the final blessing.
Renkin, as a Tsukumogami himself possess the unique ability to speak with sleeping Tsukumogami; to speak with the blade he just created. This ability allows him to do more than just talking, such as actively awakening sleeping Tsukumogami. And while he called the final blessing the cherry on top, he adds his own touch and awakens the blade allowing it to fully experience its entire life.
He presents the sword to the little swordswoman. “Draw it.” He instructs her. “Tell us, how does it feel to handle.”
“I get to wield it?” She hesitates in taking the sword.
“You’re the only one here who can wield a katana.” He explains. “So, you’re the only one with experience in handling blades.”
“I,” she’s at a loss of words. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Then don’t talk. Do.” He prompts her to take the blade again.
“Alright.” She slides the sheathe into her belt, right next to Roukanken. Then with careful yet purposeful movements, she draws the blade, feeling the power connect to her through the gems.
The blade itself changes it appearance slightly, gaining a frosty looking aura of mist so feint it’s almost unnoticeable.
Just holding the blade, the swordswoman can feel the will of the sword as it peeks back into her.
She grabs the sword with both hands, stabbing the air right on front of her, shifts her weight around and stabs again, then again, moving the blade with absolute ease. The weight is perfect. It’s possible to apply force with the weight, yet it doesn’t hinder the movement in any way. Swinging it almost feel as if the blade isn’t even there, though Youmu is used to her long sword which weighs more by the nature of being longer.
“This is amazing.” She comments. “Youten will love this, I’m sure.”
------ There hasn't been as much Youmu in this later half of the story, considering she's a main character. I do hope you guys still enjoyed the story regardless, because tomorrow is the last update. After that it'll become sporadic where I'll update whenever I want to bully a lovely little dork.
Having worked through the night without realizing, the three of them see off the shrine maiden as she leaves to head home before they themselves take a long rest.
The first thing they do the following day is wrap up Hiroshima and set off for the Netherworld, leaving Kogasa behind to manage to the workshop, of her own volition.
Reaching the old mansion of the dead, they find the princess sitting in the same room she does every day, spending her time without a care in the world.
“I’m home, Lady Yuyuko.” The little phantom announces.
“Welcome home.” The ghost shouts back. “How were your night together?”
“Sorry, but we were working all night.” The gardener brushes off the teasing without even flinching. Which catches the ghost off guard a little.
“It was nonstop work, but we finished it.” The alchemist holds out the wrapped blade. “Our finest work to date.”
“Oh.” She floats through the table as she rises. “Let me see.”
“This is for Youten.” He moves the blade out of her reach. “Call him here, and you can get to see it.”
“Meanie.” The ghost makes a scene of her pouting. “Youten!” She shouts after realizing her old friend isn’t going to cave in. “You have guests!”
“You don’t have to shout.” The other phantom walks in through the open door, closing the book he’s been reading. “Renkin.” He notices the alchemist. “Is it ready? Already?”
“You bet it is.” He declares with pride. “It took all night, but we did it.”
The young swords master rushes over to get a look at it but stops before actually taking hold of it.
“We agreed on a price before you began. So how much do I owe you?” The swordsman asks.
“We gave this sword an enchantment.” He explains. “Hakurouken is a sword capable of sending spirits to nirvana.” He holds out the blade again. “Hiroshima has the ability to send spirits to Higan. Your price for wielding Hiroshima will be to help every spirit pass on to the next world. Be it cutting down vengeful spirits or fulfilling their last wishes. For as long as you journey, that will be your duty.”
“That’s,” the swordsman trails off, looking at the blade as he really thinks about what the price will mean. “I accept.” He states, grabbing hold of the wrapped blade.
“Then he’s yours.” The alchemist lets go of the sword.
The young phantom unwraps the sword, revealing the well-crafted though plain looking sheath. Firmly grabbing onto the sword, he draws it, exposing the silver blade.
Being weaker than Youmu, he feels the surge of power much more clearly than her, as it washes over him. That’s when he hears it, the voice of the sword.
“This is amazing.” He comments. “And it didn’t even take you a day to make. I had planned to wait a week or two while you were making it, but it seems like I can leave as soon as I’m ready?”
“Leaving me behind again so soon?” The old ghost pouts. “And I was just so happy that my little man came home again.”
“No mom.” He sighs. “I’m not leaving already. We’ll have plenty of time to play.”
The princess chuckles. “Just go. Your girlfriend is waiting.”
“I keep telling you, she’s not my girlfriend. Yet.” He corrects her. “But thanks. I’ll make sure to come back often.” With that said, the swordsman fades away, traveling back to the world of the living, using the unique skill of the Konpaku clan.
“It really feels like it was just yesterday I took him in.” The princess rests herself against her hand.
“Maybe that’s because there is no day cycle down here?” The alchemist suggests.
“Renkin.” The little phantom calls out. She waves him down to her level, to which he complies. Without warning, the little ghost plants a kiss on his cheek and immediately runs to the door. “That’s your reward for working hard.” She says before bolting off to her room to hide her embarrassment.
“Oh my.” Yuyu comments, hiding her growing grin behind her fan.
“Yeah, I don’t think you can top that, Yuyu.” He touches the spot where the little ghost planted her soft lips. “So, I’ll just be going home and relax a little after this busy night.”
“Oh, don’t let me keep you.” The princess places her fan on the table. “I will come see you, if I start to miss you that badly.”
“My workshop is always open for you.” He says.
“And our offer to move to the Netherworld still stands.” She replies.
“And you know why I still can’t accept that offer.” He retorts. “But one day, I will come here. Just not this decade.”
“Take your time.” She assures him. “We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”
Like I said, the story isn't over, it's just becoming sporadic as I'll only be able to write on it whenever my main story doesn't take up my time. Plus, no one else I've seen has done an actual dork route, so I'll just have to carry that burden.
And, if you guys won't mind, could you tell me what you liked and disliked about this story? "Romantic" Slice of Life is far from my strong suit, so I would like some critique to help me improve the experience for you guys. I mean aside from "Good: Dork. Bad: Not enough dork." cause let's be honest, there will never be enough of Gensokyo's best bully target
“Come on, hurry up!” The phantom gardener shouts from the top of the stairs.
“Give me a chance, Youmu. You know I’m not as fit as you.” The alchemist protests.
“Yes, but hurry.” She continues to urge him on.
The little ghost can barely contain her excitement over her achievement. Even just standing by the stairs is proving a challenge, as she’s pacing back and forth, doing the best she can to wait.
“I’m here.” He declares as soon as he climbs the last step.
“Good, now hurry.” She grabs hm by the wrist and starts dragging him along.
Even though the swordswoman has shorter legs, the alchemist still struggles to keep pace.
The gardener finally stops in front of a thick tree. “Tada!” She spreads her arms wide, looking at him for a reaction.
The alchemist carefully examines the tree, being through to not miss whatever has made his little love so excited. “I think I’m missing something.” He admits, after a few seconds of not seeing anything out of the ordinary.
“It’s an apple tree.” She declares proudly. Her little ghost flies in circles around her, expressing all the excitement her human body can’t.
“I can see.” He keeps examining the tree, hoping to spot what makes it special.
“Yeah, but we don’t have apple trees here.” The gardener explains. “This is a human world tree.”
“I see.” Knowing that, it makes sense why he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Because it is in fact a perfectly ordinary apple tree. “Wait. Did you grow it here?”
“Mm.” She nods.
“It wasn’t easy.” She turns around to face the tree. “This is the only one out of thirty-eight that’s still living.” The ghost scoops up some dirt inside itself and lifts it up for the alchemist to see. “The earth here is very different from the one in Gensokyo.” The gardener turns back around. “It’s a little hard to explain, but the earth out there is fill with life, while what we have here isn’t.”
The dirt her ghost half scooped up shows this difference perfectly. When you think about dirt, you typically picture dark brown, wet dirt with small rocks mixed in. But the dirt here in the Netherworld is pale, dry and sandy. There are plenty of plants around, so it’s far from impossible to grow anything here. The plants that do grow in the Netherworld have adjusted to the environment. Taking a plant from here to the human world would probably cause it to grow alarmingly fast.
“The fact we don’t have a clear day night cycle like you do, made it hard to grow too.” She continues to explain. “It also became apparent very early that your plants need the sun. Something we don’t have.” She plucks an apple. “The lack of seasons is showing too.” She holds up the fruit for the alchemist. “Here. The first apple grown in the Netherworld.”
“The first?” He takes the apple. “Are you sure you don’t want be the first to try one of these?”
“I have.” The gardener declares. “That’s the first apple the started to grow. It’s not the first to be plucked, though. I made sure to keep track of it.”
“Then I’ll make sure to enjoy it.”
If you were to go around and ask Tsukumogami about the things they include, when they’re making their bodies, you would probably find very few of them who would even consider including taste. They’re objects, after all, they have never tasted anything before, so no one would think to waste effort into including a brand-new sensation into their puppet. That is not to say there aren’t any who would include the sense of taste. The ability to experience the wonders of taste, the complex taste of properly spiced meat, the simple pleasure of a juicy peach that fills your mouth with sweet nectar.
And right now, Renkin doesn’t regret his choice to include this new sense. Though, he’s not particularly excited, since the apple turned out to not be as juicy as it first looked. It still has that familiar sweet taste and firmness when biting into it.
“What do you think?” The gardener folds her arms behind her back.
“It’s decent.” He admits. “But I’ve had better.”
“I’ve would hope so.” She chuckles. “There’s still a long way to go before these can match the apples of the human world.” She spreads out her arms in excitement again. “But I did it. I managed to grow an apple tree in the Netherworld.”
“Mm. That’s amazing, Youmu.” He agrees. “What’s next? Are you going to study how to grow better apples, or are you going to move on to another fruit?”
“Both.” She declares, still full of enthusiasm. “It takes a long time for trees to grow enough to produce fruit, so I’ll have lots of time to figure out more.”
“I take it you’re going to be busy, then?” The alchemist asks.
“Yeah, the next few days will,” Her ghost half drops the dirt it was still carrying, just as the little gardener realizes she forgot something.
She quickly taps down her vest, feeling around all her pockets, though it doesn’t seem like she found what she was looking for.
“Sorry, but can I ask you to wait here for a moment?” She runs off without waiting for an answer, knowing that Ren would stay and wait.
Hurrying out into the kitchen first, she finds the box neatly wrapped up where she left it. She quickly unpacks it to check its contents, before making her way back out to the tree.
“Here.” The little ghost holds up the box. “It’s still a little early, but I hope you don’t mind.”
“And this is?” He takes the box. “Lunch?”
“Chocolate. You probably shouldn’t eat it for lunch.” She answers. “You’re supposed to give chocolate at this time of the year, aren’t you?”
“Oh yeah, valentine is coming up.” The alchemist suddenly remembers. He’s never had to consider the day as anything more than another business day. But now he has a girlfriend.
“Yeah. It’s still a little early, but I’ll be busy the next few days. That’s why I hope you don’t mind getting it a little early.” The ghost explains.
“Of course, I won’t mind.” He assures her. “I had completely forgotten, to be honest, so this is a very nice surprise.”
“I’m glad.” She scratches her cheek. “I’m still new to this whole dating thing, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“Would you be surprised if I told you I’m also new to dating.” He pockets the chocolate in his vest.
“I suppose not.” Her cheeks flush. “Could you come down here for a moment?”
“Yeah? What is it?” He bends over, reaching down to the short woman.
She plants a soft kiss on his cheek. “To go with the chocolate.” Right after, the little gardener turns around, so he won’t get a chance to see how red she’s become.
The alchemist lets out a single chuckle. “Thank you.”
How is it the tradition goes again. He’s supposed to give her chocolate back next month? Or was he supposed to do it this month and she’d respond next month? Regardless, he should do something to show his appreciation.
 Use those crafty hands to sculpt chocolate. -  What to sculpt.  Take her out for dinner. -  Any preference. [Write in] Any other ideas.
Well shit I didn't really put that much thought into the write-in. Ok ok les'see, hows about something that improves environmental quality of life for the plants while maintaining the same effort involved? You know..so you still get that "feel good" aspect of working for stuff.
It's also interesting that Youmu used the term "life energy" rather than referencing the more traditional needs that plants have. We can very likely assume their maximum potential is some function of air, water, light, temperature, nutrients, and life energy.
Lets disregard temperature and air since those two are more of an all or nothing affair for plants. Seeds won't germinate unless they are within a certain temperature range, and nothing will grow at all unless there's sufficient CO2 for the plant to make food. Both of those have been shown to be a non-issue since Youmu regularly grows stuff.
That just leaves the key factors that influence HEALTHY plant growth.
I think she needs an Orb of Sunlight to better manage the day/night thing so the apples can get ripe and juicy, and a spade of Earthen Power to give the soil a healthy dose of life energy as needed.
I'm sure Kanako or Patchy can assist with the orb depending on if we can to go the divine or magical route, and the Aki twins or Yuuka can assist with the spade, once again depending on if we want the power source to be divine or magical in nature.
“I see. That does make sense.” The craftsman balances the hand-sized shovel on his index finger. “Guess I just never really thought about it.”
“Proper weight distribution is important for small tools like this.” The green youkai explains. “It makes the shovel far easier to handle, so it strains the wrist less, assuming you’re not using it wrong.”
“The weight management is going to be tough, though.” He gives the little shovel a small bump, rolling it around his finger as he admires the craftsmanship of the tool. “Reinforcing the head enough to be useful, means the handle has to be padded to balance the weight. But adding too much will make the whole thing too heavy.”
“The fine details are the difference between a master’s work and a journeyman’s work.” She continues. “Though, I have a feeling you already know that.” She puts down her cup to refill her drink.
“You would be right, there.” He admits. “Learning which details are important is what sets us craftsmen apart.”
“Yet you’re a sculptor, are you not? Why the interest in gardening tools?” She blows on her tea, making sure it’s not too hot. “Moreover, you decided to come all the way out here, when there are people in the village who could tell you all of this just as easily.”
“I’m an alchemist, actually. I craft anything and everything. It’s part of my pursuit of knowledge. Although I do like sculpting itself.” He explains, putting down the shovel and focus on the infamous flower youkai. “And I came here hoping for a little more than just some gardening advice.” The artisan picks up a metal ball he brought with him and places it on the table. Unscrewing it, reveals it to be a container, housing dirt from the Netherworld. “I would like to create tools that can help plants grow in dirt like this.”
The flower youkai takes the bowl of dirt and examines its contents. She picks up a small lump of the dirt and puts it in her mouth, chewing on it to get a sense of its properties. “This is not normal dirt, is it?” She concludes.
“It’s not.” He admits. “It’s from the Netherworld. Plants from there can grow in it just fine, and I’ve confirmed that it’s possible for plants from our world to also grow in it, with some difficulties.”
“It shouldn’t be any problem to grow plants with this dirt.” She states, prodding the bowl’s contents a little more. “That said, it is lacking something. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I would say it’s taste is dry, despite the water being present.”
The youkai places her thumbs on the rim of the bowl, running them around the edge. As her fingers pass, the dirt seems to grow in saturation, and following in tow are crimson stalks of grass.
“I thought as much. Is there perhaps a Kyuuketsuki near the place where you gathered this dirt? That is, the tree, not the vampire.” She corrects herself.
“If any, then it would have to be the Saigyou Ayakashi.” He notes. “It’s an old cherry blossom that used to lure people to their deaths. It has been sealed for more than a millennium, though.”
“Sealed or not, it will drain the earth for what it’s worth.” She hands over the bowl again, having learned what she needed. “Anything short of chopping it down won’t stop it.”
“So, there’s no way to restore the land’s fertility?” He reseals the dirt and places the sphere on the floor.
The flower youkai takes a sip before she answers. “I could probably do it in a day or two. Though I’m suspecting that’s not the answer you’re looking for.” She takes another drink.
“Ideally, I would like something that can be contained in a tool.” He explains to her. “Even if we have to invent a new tool specifically for this purpose.”
“That might not be necessary.” She leans back into her chair. “Can you make metal serve as a mana catalyst?”
“It’ll take a while, but it’s within my abilities.”
“In that case, I might be able to help you with a long-term solution.” She puts her cup down. “I can grow a special tree that should do just what you need. It’s going to take a few days to prepare, however.”
“It’s fine. There’s a couple of weeks until I’ll need these tools, so it’s not like you have to hurry.” The alchemist explains.
“It’s fine. There’s not much else to do at this time of the year.” She waves his concerns away. “But if you don’t mind me asking; why exactly do you need these tools? You don’t look like the gardening type to me.”
“It’s a gift.” He admits. “For a special someone.”
“Oh?” She takes her empty cup and pretends to drink the remaining, hiding her smile. “I’ll make sure to get it done quickly, then. And let’s just say you owe me a favor and call it even?”
“Yeah. Thanks.” He gives her a polite little bow. “I knew coming to you was the right choice. But can I ask, what kind of favor are we talking about?”
“I have a couple ideas for things I’d like to have custom made.” She explains. “But we’ll talk about that later. For now, you should focus on that ‘special someone.’”
With the help of the feared flower youkai, the first of three items have been all but secured. The next step is to go to the mountain to talk with some gods.
----- A little later than I had expected, but my proofer was busy. If anything goes according to plan, I should be able to make it to around march 15, give or take some days No, I don't dislike Yuuka in any way
And for April fools day, we trick her into thinking talking to the trees helps them grow faster and then get Sakuya to timehax her apple trees overnight when she does it.
First Valentine - 3Jura!OxyIF4cURI2019/03/14 (Thu) 14:04No. 41908▼
“That’s so cute.” The goddess leans in on the makeshift stone table. “Then, what’s next?”
“That’s why I came to you.” The alchemist taps on the table. “Now that the fertility of the earth has been taken care of, allowing the trees to give a great harvest.” He gestures at her. “And who else than the goddess of harvest?”
“Oh, stop it.” She playfully dismisses his apparent flatter. “But why didn’t you come here from the start?” She asks. “I could easily take care of the fertility problem as well.”
“Getting a bountiful harvest and making lands fertile are two different things, even if they’re related.” He explains. “I assumed you wouldn’t have the ability to make land fertile.”
“I see.” The goddess strokes her chin, trying to look thoughtful. “Seems it’s my own fault, then. I try to not advertise that ability of mine. Most humans think about sex when they talk about fertility, and I’d rather be a goddess of autumn than a goddess of sex. Connotation and all that.” She explains openly.
“Yeah, kami are a lot more malleable than us regular youkai, so I can imagine how that perception change would affect you.” The alchemist crosses his arms and nods along. “Tsukumogami are pretty well defined as living objects. It would be hard for me to change that, even if I wanted to.”
“What’s it like, by the way?” She changes the topic. “You guys tend to crowd around the human village, so we rarely see any up here on the mountain.”
“What’s it like being a Tsukumogami?” He asks, to make sure he understands the question. “About the same as it’d being a kami, I imagine. This is the only life I know, so I can’t exactly compare it to anything else.” He explains. “Sorry I can’t answer it any better.”
“No, it was a strange question to begin with.” The golden goddess dismisses her own question. “But let’s get back on topic. What exactly do you imagine I can help you with?”
“Like I said, I would like to create something that can increase the quality of a harvest.” The youkai explains again. “I’m not sure what form would be most effective to achieve this, though.”
“Manure.” The goddess states as a matter-of-fact. “Feeding the plants an abundance of everything they need will allow them to grow more and faster, up to a certain limit.” She rests her head in her palm. “I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for, however. Not just because it’s not very romantic to give your lady a sack of literal shit.”
“I think she would take it, but only out of formality.” He agrees with her. “So yeah, I would like something a little different.”
“Hmm.” She taps the table, thinking over the possibilities. “How much mana does she have?”
“I can’t say for sure.” He admits. “She has less than me, that’s for sure. If I had to guess, I’d say her spiritual power comes in first, with qi following right behind.”
“So, it’s her weakest trait.” The goddess concludes.
“Why do you ask?”
“The best solution I can think of right now, would be something akin to a lamp.” She sits back upright. “I would pour my blessing into it and every plant within its radius would experience a more radiant growth.”
“But it’d have to be recharged by mana periodically.” The alchemist finishes her explanation. “How much and how often?”
“I wouldn’t be too much.” She shrugs. “I’m not exactly a spellcaster, but I can keep the blessing up an entire season.”
“You’re not a spellcaster, but you are a god.”
“Touché.” The goddess chuckles. “But seriously, it shouldn’t be too much.”
“I was thinking of attaching a mana battery to it to keep it working for longer periods. Charging these batteries, in turn, won’t take too long, though it’ll cost of a lot of mana.”
“Ooh, that could work.” She jumps up from her seat. “You wouldn’t happen to have something that could be used as a container, would you?”
“That depends. Are there any requirements?” The alchemist follows her lead and stands up too. “Metal, plant, glass? Any traits specifically?”
“Glass.” She states. “The blessing will work similar to a light, so it’ll need to shine.”
“Clear, frosted or prism?” He continues to ask. “Will color make any impact.”
The goddess looks confused as she tries to process the questions.
“I’ve never thought about that, to be honest.” She admits. “Frosted glass is out for sure. But I don’t know how a prism would affect the blessing. So, let’s just go with clear. Color shouldn’t have any impact either.”
“Then it should be easy to make. It’ll only take a couple seconds.” He says as he pulls out a vial of stone essence. “Encased or embedded?”
“Embedded. That works best with blessings.” She states.
Starting the process, the alchemist surrounded the vial with his magic before uncorking it, taking out a few droplets of the grey liquid. After carefully sealing up the vial again, be starts manipulating the stone droplets, first changing them into sand, then changing the sand into glass, keeping it in a liquefied state. After shaping into a sphere, the glass solidifies into a clear, nearly perfectly transparent ball of glass.
“Done.” He states, holding out his latest creation. “Now it just needs your blessing.”
“So that’s how you make things.” The goddess awes in amazement. “I’ve never seen alchemy before.”
“We tend to be more secretive with our methods than even mages.” He explains. “And there are few of us around to begin with.”
“Why?” She takes the crystal ball. “I’m not saying this should be made a common skill, but why not write some books on it?”
“Alchemy borders in the line between science and magic.” The alchemist sits down again. “I probably don’t need to tell you what would happen if we introduced science to Gensokyo, of all places.”
“You have a point.” The goddess places both hands on the ball and starts channeling some of her energy into it, creating the blessing. “It just seems like a useful thing to have, you know.”
“Alchemy is useful in more ways than you can imagine. It just takes ages to learn, much less master.” He explains. “I’m not trying to brag. I’ve just had a long time to learn what I have.”
“No, I get it. I didn’t learn all this overnight either.” She holds out the glass ball. “That should be it.”
“Thank you. I think she’ll love this.” He stands back up to take the ball. “I’ll owe you a favor. Feel free to come by my shop whenever you’ve thought of something.”
“I already have.” The little goddess waves the youkai down to her level, to which he complies. “That wolf that’s been escorting you. Just mention to him that he’s free to come back later if he wants to.” She whispers to the alchemist.
The tengu, being as territorial as they are, don’t allow strangers to wander on their mountain. The youkai that live here can walk around freely, though they’ll be observed. Strangers like Renkin, however, must be escorted around, which is typically done by the wolf tengu because the dai-tengu can’t be bothered to do small tasks like that.
The tengu in question is politely keeping his distance with the back turned to the two of them. He knows this is mostly a formality and a display of power, more than anything else.
“I think you’d have a better chance asking him out directly, but it’s not my place to meddle.” The alchemist replies. “I’ll make sure to tell him on the way down.”
“Thanks, you’re a gem.” She says, hopping back a few steps. “If that’s all for now, then I’ll go back to sleep. I Hope the gift works out.”
As she says that, the goddess seemingly dissolves into light, flying into a nearby tree. The only tree which currently bear fruit, which is strange since it’s still early spring at best, later winter at worst. And in case you’re curious, there is indeed another tree nearby, still bearing red leaves. It’s not hard to guess where the sisters reside in their off-seasons.
Yuuka, the flower youkai, should drop off the branch one of the following days, after which the alchemist can finally get started on his gift. There’s a thought that’s been poking at him for a while now. Is all of this too much? He’s committed to the tools, which he’s sure Youmu would gladly accept. But all she gave him was chocolate, which were delicious, by the way. It may feel a little disproportionate as a return gift.
 Scrap the plans and make some chocolate instead - [Write in] Sculpt it into a shape? If so, what.  Skip the chocolate and only give her the tools  Go all out. Tools and chocolate - [Write in] Same as above.
Sorry for the delay. Seems valentine will have to last just a little longer this year. Also, forgot to add the title for the last update.
>>41876 Sell it to me. How do you want to convince her? Keep in mind she's a gardener, though I'm not above having some fun bullying our little dork.
[x] Go all out. Tools and chocolate! - [x] Something small, but delicate - the chocolate rose mentioned earlier might do the trick - [x] Remember that if your primary bulli victim girlfriend feels overwhelmed by the quantity/quality of gifts, you can point out how these tools will no doubt help her make delicious fruits, a gift of which would more than return the favor.
Also, re: >>41876 - I'm not the one who came up with the idea, but he might be able to convince her by arguing that, since the border between living things and dead things is weaker in the netherworld, the borders separating different *types* of living things (animate and inanimate) might also be weaker... /shrug
[x] Go all out. Tools and chocolate! - [x] Something small, but delicate - the chocolate rose mentioned earlier might do the trick - [x] Remember that if your primary bulli victim girlfriend feels overwhelmed by the quantity/quality of gifts, you can point out how these tools are an investment in our future together
Things been a tad too busy for comfort on my end, so I haven't had the time to write much. I'm working on it, however.
>>41919 I'm really tempted by this, but doing so would actually create the kami in question, because at least one person believes in it. Kami are weird like that.
>>41922 Potential side-effect may include but is not limited to sudden bursts of arousal and dick growth. Use without prescription at own risk.
That said, I have gotten some ideas
First Valentine - FinalJura!OxyIF4cURI2019/03/31 (Sun) 18:36No. 41984▼
File 155405738389.jpg - (1.70MB, 1200x1695, All these flowers and still not enough love for he.jpg)
“Alright, now just quench it until the hissing stops.” The blacksmith instructs her sworn brother.
Following her instructions, he dips the curved shovelhead in the prepared oil, causing it to let out a lot of steam as it rapidly loses its heated glow. Once the hissing is done, he brings it back out up from the trench to show his partner.
Hand covered by a thick leather glove, she grabs the curved metal sheet and examines it carefully. With her other hand, not covered by a glove, she flicks the shovelhead and listens for the ring it lets out.
“Give it one more cycle and it’ll be perfect.” She enthusiastically hits his shoulder, showing what can best be described as pride. “Still, this is something you should have been able to do easily by yourself.” She notes. “Of course, I’m always happy to help, but don’t you think you’re taking this a little far?”
“I might be.” The alchemist admits, staring into the flames, watching the metal sheet heat up again. “But this is all I can do; all I know how to do.”
“Yeah, I get it.” The blacksmith takes off her glove and pockets it, pushing the other glove down with it. “We’re surprisingly simple creatures. But,” she leans down against her brother’s back, “I think that’s to our benefit.”
“Maybe.” The alchemist doesn’t take his eyes off the fire. “All I really know at this point is that I want to make her happy. And crafting is the only thing I’m really good at.”
“And I think she appreciates the effort.” She reassures him. “Just be careful to not overwhelm her too early. If she starts feeling like you’re giving her more than she can give back, it’ll become too much for her.”
“I know, but when is it too much?”
“Dunno.” She shrugs. “That differs from person to person. Take you and I, for example.” She stands back up. “I’d wager we know each other better than anyone else, but just look at how many years we’ve spent together. This is the kind of thing you just have to feel out over time.”
“I guess.” He looks back at her. “Thank you for helping me, by the way. I don’t think I could make this nearly as perfect on my own.”
“Don’t mention it.” She waves him off. “That’s what family is for.” The blacksmith takes off her apron. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Flying high above the ghostly mansion, sits a big phantom looking down towards the sandy garden. From here, the phantom can see the whole garden from end to end. It watches as its young human-half is dragging a rake through the sand.
Tending to the full sized zen-garden is one of the most time-consuming tasks she has as the gardener of the mansion, but it’s far from her least favorite task. Lady Yuyuko has given her free reign in handling the gardens, allowing her to freely change them as she wants so long as she maintains their beauty.
It is as she floats up there with her bird-eye-view that she spots a familiar figure walking up the stone path that divides the front half of the garden.
“Ren!” The little gardener shouts, waiving at him before running across the sand. “Sorry I haven’t had time to come visit at all.” She immediately apologizes. “I’ve been busy making preparations to remodel the garden.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve been a little too busy myself.” He looks out over the sandy garden. “You’re remodeling this?”
“I haven’t started yet, but I’m getting ready to.” She starts walking down the stone path leading to the center of the garden. “I want to put a small pond in the back; one that fills the entire back area. It would extend until about halfway through to the center.” She points across the first, then to some lines she drew with the rake earlier. “I think having some jikangyo would liven up the garden slightly.”
Jikangyo are a fish species native to the netherworld. They’re almost a mirror image of the human world’s koi fish. They have one key characteristic that makes them distinct from other known fish, which is that they change color at set intervals. Their color varies from red, purple, blue, green, yellow and then back to red, cycling in that order. What really make this trait noteworthy is that when studied, all fish observed appear to change at the same time, with only a few minutes of variance. The local residence uses them as a means of telling time, since they have no sun in the netherworld.
“Don’t you already have clocks in the mansion?” The alchemist asks.
“We do, and that’s not why I want these fish.” She explains. “Have you seen them when they’re at their brightest?”
“I don’t think I have, no.”
“They glisten, as if reflecting the sun. It’s beautiful.” She says, practically beaming with growing excitement.
“Now, you’re giving me some huge expectations here, Youmu.” He gives her a smirk. “I’ll have to look forward to seeing it when you’ve finished.”
“You better.” She huffs, with a smile stretching from ear to ear. “Oh, by the way, what brought you here today?”
“Can’t I just drop in to visit my favorite girl?”
“Of course, you can visit anytime.” The little gardener hides her flushed cheeks behind a smile. She’s been practicing to not let herself get caught off guard by Renkin and Yuyuko anymore, but she still needs more practice. “But,” she continues, “what you’re carrying seems to say you came here for a reason.”
“No point in hiding it, I guess.” The alchemist pulls out the giftwrapped hand-shovel. “Your project with the human world trees got me thinking, and I started to look into the logic behind it.” He holds out the gift. “I think this might help you with that.”
She looks at the gift, at first a little confused. Realizing she’s frozen, she picks up the shovel and unwraps it from the thin cloth.
“A shovel.” She concludes, after looking at it for a second.
It’s first when she touches the metal that the special property imbued within the tool is revealed to her. The Konpaku clan, existing in a state between life and death, are more sensitive to life force than living beings. The renewed energy flowing into her from the shovel hits her like a jolt of electricity and she immediately pulls her hand back from surprise more than anything.
“Not just any shovel.” The alchemist starts explaining. “This one was specially made to reinvigorate the earth here in the Netherworld. It should help with growing plants from the human world.”
“How in the world did you make this?” Knowing what to expect, the gardener grabs the shovel’s head once again to examine it.
“The handle.” He points to it. “It’s carved from a special tree that’s channeling it’s effect through the steel.”
“This is amazing.” The little ghost concludes. “Are you sure I can have this? This is not some joke to make me flustered, is it?”
“That’s yours you keep. If you feel like its effect is starting to wane, let the handle soak in some pure spring water for half a day or so.”
Without warning, the little ghost throws herself at the alchemist, forcing him to take a step back to not fall over. She embraces him tightly, trying her best to convey her appreciation.
Taken aback by this, it takes a second for him to respond and by the time he can, the little ghost decides to pull herself away from the embrace and look straight up at him.
“Really, thank you.” She says, as if the gesture wasn’t enough.
“It actually makes me feel a little bad to say that I still have more to give.” Giving her a second to step back, he pulls out the glass ball from his belt-pouch.
Since it’s creation, it has been adorned with a fixture, allowing it to be hung, mounted or placed easily. The metal frame will cover some of the light the ball emits, but it should have limited effect on the light.
“This is the second tool I managed to create.” He explains, holding out the ball. “It has been blessed by the harvest goddess and will increase the bounty of any plant exposed to the light it emits.”
She looks at it, with an ever-growing amount of disbelief. “You couldn’t have.”
“But I did.”
She places the shovel on her ghost half, hovering right next to her, before reaching out for the orb. “This really is too much.” She states, holding the orb with both hands. “Do you even realize how big of a deal these tools are?” She asks still in disbelief. “These can be considered artifacts, you know. And you’re just giving them to me.”
“Well, if you don’t want to receive them as gifts,” the alchemist pockets his hands, “how about we make a little trade for them instead?”
“I don’t know what I can give you for these.” She states. “I don’t think it’s possible.”
“What I want is simple, Youmu. Once you get a good harvest from your little experiment, set aside a batch for me.”
“I was going to do that anyway.” She states. “So, it’s not really a trade.”
“It is for me.” He retorts. “That’s my price.”
“Since you insist so hard, I guess I’ll have to accept them.” She tightens her hold of the glowing ball.
“Great. Then that brings me to the last thing.” He says, folding up his sleeves.
“No, I really can’t accept anything more.” The little ghost insists.
With his forearms exposed, the alchemist folds his hands, and through a sleight-of-hand, pulls out a rose made of light milky chocolate. “Happy late valentine.”
Seeing the rose, the little ghost freezes up completely, barely regaining herself in time to not drop the glowing ball.
She looks up at him, then back to the rose.
“I don’t know what to say.” She admits.
“Then don’t say anything.” He says, handing over the rose. “Just seeing you smile is enough for me.”
Though he said that, the moment he pulled out the rose, he felt himself filled with enough desire to last for months, conveying the little ghost’s feelings better than words could ever achieve.
“You really like to overachieve, don’t you?”
“For you, I’d jump over the moon.” He states. “So yeah, you can call it overachieving.”
She chuckles in response. “I really like you too.”
---------- Think I'm gonna have to skip on the April's fool update, cause it's tomorrow and I can't write a satisfying update on such a short notice. There's probably going to be a small hiatus while I work on my other story and think up more interesting things to do with Youmu.
For anyone still paying attention to this thread, I'd like to ask for your opinion on something.
Short version, cause no one wants to read the long version. I took an existing idea I had and changed it to fit the daily schedule of NaNoWriMo. In doing so, I cut out a lot of stuff, such as the build up before the romance, and more in depth character development of the minor characters, Keine, Mokou and Yuyuko. I couldn't even properly develop Youmu, who was a main character, and ended up focusing on Kogasa who were supposed to be a supporting character.
That's why I've been thinking about rebooting the story so I have something to write on in between Priest of Hakurei updates or when I just want to write something different (it gets monotone writing the same thing all the time.)
The reason I'm having doubts as to whether I should reboot it the way I imagined it originally, or if I should leave it as is, is because I've already shown my hand, so to speak, on some big events I had planned to be the focus of character development. I don't think it'd be fun to go through the same motions again when you know the outcome. Plus there's an old lingering stigma of of stories getting reboot then being abandoned even faster.
If you guys want me to reboot it, probably go a different route to avoid following in the footsteps of this story. Though that's probably going to be hard since SoL is my weakest genre, on the grounds I haven't found many stories focused on the theme that I enjoy reading.
In terms of the reboot, I think if you do wind up restarting, the fact that you'll be spending less time on Kogasa + more on the remaining cast (esp. the titular dork) could make it still feel fresh (esp. if you decide to change some other things as well). It's been a while since the story updated, too, so that will likely also help with a sense of "newness." I'd say it's probably your call on what you want to do with things, though; you're probably the person with the best sense of your own ideal writing conditions.
In terms of Slice of Life stories, though... I'd like to say that I have some ideas on how a good slice of life narrative generates appeal, and on some ways you could potentially improve your writing for the genre as a whole, but I also don't wanna sound like a presumptive arse - I don't have much experience actually writing fanfic, with only one or two fairly amateur attempts under my belt... If you'd still like to hear my thoughts, though, I'd be happy to share them.
>>42244 Sorry for the lack of updates. Shortly after the last update, I got an exam, which was followed by an internship. Going to have another two exams lined up once I'm done with this internship. So I spent my time writing on Priest of Hakurei instead, to at least try and maintain a stable schedule.
As for advice. I'm always up for getting some advice, to help improve. SoL is my weakest topic, so I need as much help as I can get to write stories that will be engaging to read.
I feel like a big part of the appeal when it comes to slice of life is the characters. While plot and character goals are important as a driver for character interactions, when it comes down to it, it's more important to make those character dynamics and interactions enjoyable than it is to progress those goals. In regards to that, I feel like some of the more recent updates on the thread fell into a trap of treating characters as less "opportunities for characters to interact with one another" and more just "ways for the protagonist to complete his goal" - the story focused less on the characters themselves, instead placing focus on what they ultimately accomplished, largely breezing through the things they did to get there. I think the biggest issue you tend to struggle with is how you seem to jump from one encounter to the next, without covering any of the space in between or giving characters a chance to breathe and bounce off one another without any particular intent. You can get away with this style of storytelling more easily in a story like Priest of Hakurei, where the main appeal is the sense of action and the fight scenes, but imo Slice of Life generally aims to accomplish a much slower sense of pacing.
That said, I also feel like you're selling yourself short a bit! A number of updates (such as the drinking party starting at >>41324) do a decent job of just letting characters bounce off one another, giving the reader a better sense of them as people.
If you'd like an example of Slice-of-Life done well (imo at least), I'd point you towards A Fairy's Tale (starting at sdm/28203); it's the story that introduced me to THP in the first place, and while it definitely has quite a bit of plot, it also generally does a great job of building and developing its characters through simple interaction. The story has done an amazing job of sticking with me over the years, and (actual spoilers) still has me upset about Monica's roommates.
Sorry it took so long for me to reply, by the way. Life kinda happened to me, and I was only able to get back on top of things recently.
>>42264 To be fair, I was getting burned out on the last few updates of the contest, and they were far from the best I could have done. I'll concede that.
I understand that SoL is a more character driven type of narrative. I'll argue that there are only few successful stories that aren't character driven, because it's much harder to get readers invested in a world than characters. (Which kinda sucks, cause I would love to show off the Gensokyo I've been building these last few years, but rather than dumping all that info in exposition, it's better to only explain the small fragment that's currently needed to know. From there, it's just about staying consistent and slowly revealing information as it's needed. Might do a massive info dumb in a thread of it's own, if I get around to compiling it in a way where it looks like it's written by Akyuu.)
>That said, I also feel like you're selling yourself short a bit! Right. See, while I think I can make interesting characters, I'm less confident in being able to use them to their full potential. A lot of details are hammered out either by applying the logic of my verse to them and seeing how they would thrive in the world, other details are hammered out by looking into details and asking as many questions as possible. An example of this would be Keine and Mokou. In my verse, youkai are the natural predators of humanity, (summarized) meaning that there are very few youkai that have any good grace with the humans. Instead of just applying that fact to Keine, I tried applying it to her as a child and explored that idea, which lead to her being abandoned by the village, for one reason or another, and being taking in and raised by Mokou, giving the two of them a relationship I haven't seen in the fandom before. I pitched it to my proofer/editor and we fleshed it out in more detail. In my opinion, this little bit of backstory will add a lot to both their characters and their relationship, but I doubt I can make full use of it without shoehorning it in anywhere, kinda like what I'm doig right now. (Feel free to steal this idea, btw) Speaking more generally, conversation as a whole is something I consider a weak-point and I frankly have no idea on how to get better, because the usual advice of "get experience from the real world" is kinda hard to follow when I'm the silent type and don't really talk. So writing SoL where the main attraction is the dynamic between characters, explored and evolved through conversation. To get specific, it's the moment when a topic has been exhausted with no clean way of breaking into a new topic yet it's still to early to end the scene.
Also a little bonus for those still paying attention. The chapter where Keine asked for a favor. The one I ended up posting was my backup plan. The original idea I had would have been far better, in hindsight, but someone made a comment that put me under pressure. (RL stuff had built up stress so I had an unusual low threshold that day) The original plan for the update would have had Keine ask for some pottery of hers to be fixed, because it meant a lot to her. Kintsugi, a method of mending pottery with gold, would have been used to fix it. Small change, but adds more to her character than a razor.