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File 158949140140.jpg - (158.09KB, 800x600, mountainpeak.jpg) [iqdb]
42837
Thread 1: >>41094
Thread 2: >>41628

[x] A stroll somewhere exotic. We could compare our philosophies and spells.

“Perhaps a trip to some dark, mysterious forest?”

“A dark forest, really?”

I pulled away from her. Clasping my hands behind my back, I strolled toward the gate. “Why? Are you afraid I’ll do anything… inappropriate?”

“What? Why would I even think that?”

Still clasping my hands, I shrugged. “Why, indeed?”

And yet, after a few steps, she fell in line beside me. “Surely, there’s somewhere better we can go.”

“Hm.” I chuckled. “Why yes, I think I know just the place.”

“Oh? Where is that?”

“Let’s allow it to be my little surprise, darling.”

She pouted. “Very well.”

Waiting barely until we left the gate, I unhooked my hands, grabbed one of hers, and dragged her toward the lightning-singed tree I’d come from. With a hop and skip, we’d returned to the infinite void and, from there, come out from another damaged tree, this time by a coarse dirt pathway, winding in switchbacks up a mountain face.

She frowned. “A dark forest on a mountain. Your wisdom impresses me, dear.”

“Oh, hush. You’ll see its beauty soon enough.” I offered her my elbow. She glanced at it, a mask of uncertainty flickering across her face before she shook her head and linked her arm with mine. Together, we began a trek up the mountainside.

I breathed in the thin but crisp, mountain air, feeling its chill touch on my skin. “So, how was your temple today.”

She sighed. “For some mysterious reason, your presence has them rattled. Perhaps we should spend our nights at your place, instead.”

I gasped in mock shock. “Why, you’re not trying to kick me out, are you?”

“Oh dear, no. Why, I believe you had to lose to accept sleeping under our roof. You wouldn’t already be seeking to return to it, would you?”

I shook my head, still striding up the steep, winding road. “Of course not. I would just hate to think I’d become unwanted.”

Her eyes narrowed at my banter, but she said nothing. And as it happened, I had no interest in further elaborating anything. And so, we walked, passing free of the trees as we reached a small, rocky ledge, not far from the mountain peak. The trail turned from dirt to rock as we continued, stepping into the open, where a vast expanse of trees laid far, far below us. A faint, multicolored shimmer ran through the air.

The sunlight had faded, growing just a hint bluer as it did so.

Slipping my arm out, I stepped forward and turned around. Grinning, I stared back at Byakuren. “So, darling, what do you think?”

She stood, sweeping her head across, to the side, as she took in the view. “What… is it?”

“The barrier, or so I hear. One of its impassible segments.”

She tilted her head just slightly, in contemplation. “I’m quite sure this is not what lies on the other side.”

I shrugged, tapping my shaku. “Reality is full of illusions. This may well be one of them.”

“Perhaps, but…” She brought a hand to her chin, rubbing it. “This would be a good place to meditate, to ponder such things.”

I approached her, stepping up to the ledge. “Now you see the beauty. Mysterious environments like this make excellent places to seek understanding of the fundamental nature of reality. To become one with the primordial force that drives us.”

She huffed. “True understanding would separate us from such base needs, not bind us closer to them.”

I waggled a finger in the air. “What if one doesn’t want to separate from them?”

She shook her head. “Then they would remain chained to the endless cycle of suffering, until they learned the truth.”

I planted a hand on her shoulder. “How sure are you that it is the truth?”

She then turned to face me, expression firm. “What else would be the truth? Do you not wish an end to suffering?”

I shook my head, stepping back on the path. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“You… don’t know?”

I placed my shaku to my chest and stepped forward, away from her. “I want to achieve. To continue to create, to change, and become something better, more glorious. What would that mean, without at least a little struggle?”

She stepped up beside me, muttering something about a conflict with my habits before clearing her throat. “What achievement could be better than nirvana? Better than the end of all suffering and the ultimate understanding of life?”

I shrugged and started walking forward. “One that doesn’t end there but instead keeps going. The greatest achievement is the one you never reach, because each one tops the one before.”

She giggled. “You know, you could’ve been a great Zen teacher.”

I snickered. “You should’ve seen me when I still preached your faith.”

At that, she paused. “I think it’s for the best I didn’t. I’ve been betrayed enough already.”

I sighed, glancing toward the mountain peak, now so very close. “So have I.” I then grabbed her arm and marched forward. “How about we do some of that meditation, eh?”

She hesitated, then let me lead her up through the last few bends, to the rocky summit. It was round but coarse, leaning out in the opposite direction from what we’d seen, toward Gensokyo. Maybe five people could’ve fit here, sitting back-to-back-to-back.

We both settled down, facing the same direction it did, staring out over the village, fields, forests, and other mountains. We breathed in deep, what little air made it to us this high up. We sat in silence a few moments, hearing only our breathing, interrupted by the occasional bird cry.

Byakuren broke the silence first. “You know, the temple has a big festival coming up in a week or so. Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to help us out.”

I blinked. “Me, help prepare a Buddhist party?” Where was that eagerness to spend our time?

“It’s not a party!” She breathed in, desires cooling. “It would be an excellent way to convey our cooperation and to endear you to the temple, would it not?”

I hummed, listening to her heart. She was troubled. She feared sabotage from inside her temple, but also worried about letting me too close to her more sacred rooms or rituals. She did want to spend the festival with me, though.

Likely for more reasons than one, though.

And above all that, she seemed less interested in what I answered with, so much as why.

She wanted to know more about me.

I rubbed my shaku. “That seems a lot of work. What would I gain from it?”

She groaned. “This would be a chance to show charity and industry, Miko. Would it bother you so much to do so out of the kindness of your heart?”

I chuckled. “I think my charity would be better spent on my disciples first. I daresay they’re in greater need than yours.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Very well. What do you have in mind?”

I tapped the shaku to my chin, thinking. I…

[ ] I wanted to learn some of her magic.

[ ] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.

[ ] I expected assistance with the next festival my dojo hosted.

[ ] I’d offer HER a favor to keep me out of it.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/05/18 (Mon) 19:00

[X] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.

Give the byaku lewd thoughts
[x] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.

I maintain what I say. Giving up on desires is an ideal, but so is achieving our every desire. Is there a middle ground?
[X] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.
[X] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.
[x] I wanted to learn some of her magic.

Just how does she color her hair like that?
[X] I wanted to learn some of her magic.

No no teach us that gold glowey spell she uses. I wish to be grossly incandescent.
[x] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.
free us from physical addictions
File 159071705169.jpg - (226.56KB, 800x527, colorfulripple.jpg) [iqdb]
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[x] I wanted to see how she handled Taoist meditation.

I smiled, sparing her a sideways glance. “Asking me to devote precious time and energy to the festival of another faith? How audacious, Byakuren!”

She snorted. “Can you not bear to lend a hand to your wife’s endeavors?”

I snickered. “But of course, of course, I’ll help. I just need a little show of… faith, first.”

She settled her hands in her lap. “Well then, you’ve come to the right place, haven’t you?”

“Oh, have I?”

She closed her eyes. “I certainly have more faith to spare than you, I imagine.”

“We’ll see.” I hummed, rocking back and forth. “I want to do some meditation with you, first.”

She blinked. “Meditation? That’s all?”

I grinned. “Just that. But we do it my way, not yours.”

“Oh.”

She held still. I waited a moment, breathing in the thin air as I watched the sun hover ever closer to the far mountains. Finally, she shook her head. “Your form pushes you toward pleasure and excitement, does it not?”

“It pushes us toward liberation and discovery. But those are common side-effects.”

“Then, I cannot. It would bring me closer to the base desires we must escape from.”

“Oh?” I gave her a sly grin. “You want me to show some solidarity with your faith, but you’re unwilling to do the same?”

She glanced away. “This is completely different! Offering a hand for a festival is nothing compared to this!”

“But how will my disciples see it if I help? You don’t think it could cause them confusion? That it may make them stumble in their life journey?”

She sighed. “Then, then I retract the request.”

I shook my head. “My wife is unwilling to follow me in even the simplest of my rituals. How tragic…”

She held quiet a moment longer. “You play dirty, Miko.”

“Oh ho? You don’t?”

She pulled her back straight, interlacing her fingers as she stared out over Gensokyo, pointedly looking away from me. “I expect your aid in our festival, Miko.”

“Sure, sure.”

We sat there a moment before she cleared her throat. “So… how do you begin this thing your way?”

I smiled, leaning back as I settled my hands on my knees. “Much the same way you do. Calm yourself, close your eyes, let go of outside worries.”

As she closed her eyes, mine followed. “Breathe in and out. Think of it, focus on it. In, then out, then hold. In, then out, then hold.”

As with the others before her, her desires calmed, growing slowly less intense, more still. In and out we breathed, in and out.

In and out, in and out.

Once our consciousnesses had dipped low enough, I spoke again, slow and calm.

“Now, think of what you want. Focus on it, grasp it.”

I heard a minute shuffle beside me.

“Of… what I want?”

“What you desire. Think on it. Not on how to reach it. Think only of the desire itself. Become the-”

She shuffled again, rising back up in a heartbeat. “No. I can’t.”

I groaned, slowly opening my eyes. I watched her shake her head and start to stand. I sighed.

“Giving up already?”

“Desires are precisely what make us suffer! You can’t insist that I dwell on them.”

I frowned. “An odd thing to say, given your beauty.”

I couldn’t help a snicker at the rush of hot embarrassed confusion that ignited. “What does that have to do with anything!”

“You control your appearance, do you not?”

“That’s-” She sighed, settling back down. “Perhaps I should ask you of all your efforts to lead and control. Do those really seem…” She shook her head. “What’s done is done. It would be a waste of effort to return to my previous state.”

I rolled my eyes, earning a sour look from her. “Of course, it would. Now, just give it one attempt, will you? Who knows, maybe you’ll learn how to finally cure yourself of them.”

“…Very well.”

I nodded, chiding myself for my outburst as I closed my eyes again. I breathed in, then out, then held my breath for a split-second. In, then out, then hold. In, then out, then hold.

The tranquility from before returned, though Byakuren came down far, far slower than I did. It seemed her awareness of where we’d arrive had clung to her psyche hard.

I spoke slowly, quietly. “Relax. Focus on the breathing. No future. No past. Just the moment.”

Slowly, shakily, she calmed to the needed point.

“Good. Good.” I exhaled. “Now, think. What do you most desire?”

“I… don’t know.”

“It’s okay. Don’t rush. Just let it come.”

Time passed. We held still and calm. But nothing came.

I sighed, slow and shallow. “What’s one thing you desire?”

“Transcendence.”

“Then, think on that. Imagine yourself, transcendent.”

We held still another moment, then I heard a bubbling up of-

“Ahahaha!” Byakuren broke out into raw, warm laughter.

My eyes fluttered open to behold a darkening sky. “Excuse me, but what the hell?”

She shook her head, shoulders quaking as she rubbed tears from her eyes.

“Imagine myself, transcendent? That’s just so, so…”

She broke off into a giggling fit.

I sat there, somewhat stunned as I waited for her to calm down. Finally, she did. Breathing hard, she pulled herself to her feet. “Well, I gave it my all! Time to go home.”

Disgruntled, I stood as well. The sun graced us a brilliant orange halo, burning against the violet sky, as it dipped past the mountains. “I’m to help you prepare a full festival, for that paltry effort?”

She huffed. “Really, it took great sacrifice on my part just to get this far.”

“Fine, fine. We’ll try again later.”

She flinched. “You’re awfully insistent.”

“I’m sorry, darling, but I won’t give you this for free.”

“So stubborn. So, how has your temple been today, dear?”

I shrugged, turning back toward the path. “They’ve adapted remarkably well. Why, I daresay that by tomorrow, all will be back to normal.”

Whether or not they’d remain so obedient remained to be seen, but she didn’t need to know that.

She huffed, stepping up beside me. “We’ll see. Now…” she paused, looking around, “perhaps we should head back. Just a little trip to make sure they’re not doing anything hasty. Together.”

I rocked my head from side to side. She wanted to stay a little longer, but also preferred not to continue this ‘meditation’ tonight. I could push her, but I preferred not to. It would be unbecoming for a representative of our path to defy it to the end of educating someone in it. Bringing up the topic of our disciples did also reignite a small worry in her, tugging her back to that temple again.

Still, I’d picked up an idea or two from this. Perhaps there’d be some things we could learn from one another, if we discussed our philosophies in greater detail. And of course, I had yet to show her any of my own domain. I could attempt to impress her with it, or I could keep her away from it, making things easier on both my future self and on Tojiko.

But if she wanted to make the most out of our time together, then, well…

[ ] I asked a few more questions of her take on Buddhist philosophy.

[ ] I made some grand romantic gesture, planning to bring her in for a kiss under the setting sun.

[ ] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.

[ ] I invited her back to Senkai, planning to sweep her off her feet. I’d keep her out of anywhere sensitive, of course.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/06/01 (Mon) 19:00

[X] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.

Time for [X]Route Stuff
[x] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.

No need for overt romantic gestures or to push too much on religion. Just enjoy each other's company.
[X] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.
[x] I invited her back to Senkai, planning to sweep her off her feet. I’d keep her out of anywhere sensitive, of course.

Byakuren's followers are incredibly distracting. Lets go somewhere where we have a bit more control.
[X] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.

Time for lewd?
[X] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.

Time for lewd?
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[x] I suggested we return to her temple, finishing our ‘date’ in one of her chambers.

“You’re right. Let’s go back together.”

I took her arm and walked back down the mountain path. “So, what has you so worried, anyway?”

She held firm, barely allowing herself to lean into my body. “If it turns out to matter, then you’ll see when we return.”

It was something she didn’t want to admit to, at least publicly, but… she quite wished her followers were less rambunctious.

Not surprising, but intriguing. Did they have some prank in mind? Something that would cause us trouble or embarrass her?

Sighing, I let her cling to my side as we returned through to the damaged tree. With a quick step in and out, we found ourselves just outside the steps to her temple.

She parted from me. “You have rather easy access to our sacred grounds, don’t you?”

I sidled up close beside her. “You’re not worried now, are you?”

She turned her head. “Of course not!”

She didn’t resist when I slid an arm around her waist, though. Shaking her head, she pulled me forward.

Together, we walked back up those stairs, toward the calming swarm of desires that mingled among her temple. Faint traces of concern and suspicious lingered, but something else had appeared. Something too confused by the swarm to identify, but whatever it was, it was mischievous.

I’d keep an eye on this, but I needed to know more before I had anything to act on.

As we stepped through the double doors, I rubbed up against Byakuren’s side. She stiffened, but also fought down a rather blatant desire to pull me closer. A sinister grin crept across my face as she guided me down the hall.

“Well, if you must spend your time here, I suppose I should show you where everything-”

I rested my head on her shoulder. A tiny ‘eep’ escaped her throat.

“You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?”

I snickered. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, darling~”

“Really, you shouldn’t…”

The faintest sound of chopsticks on tableware floated through the quiet, dim halls.

“Perhaps we should have a quiet, intimate meal ourselves, darling.”

She huffed, though with a pronounced note of hesitance to her voice. “You shouldn’t put it that way. People might… misunderstand.”

“Oh? What would they find so confusing?”

I felt a light but insistent thump to my side. “This way, dear.”

She dragged me down the hall, to a modest room of counters, a wooden stove, and a wash basin.

“This is our kitchen. It does the soul good to prepare food for someone else.”

“Oh, do you want a freshly-cooked meal from your wife?”

“Th-n-yo…” She stammered, then dragged me back out of the room. I didn’t need my ears to know she’d desperately sought a change of topic. She led me next to the dining hall, then to the chamber where I’d interrupted her group meditation or chanting… thing.

“Here I teach my disciples what I can of the Buddha’s wisdom. Our sacred principles and rules, our mantras, and, when needed, how to treat one another.”

“Perhaps you should tell me then, just how should a husband and wife treat one an-”

“Miko!”

I paused, untangling myself and pulling a half-step away.

She panted, breathing hard. “There you go again.”

I shrugged, offering a soft smile. “You committed to such things yourself, did you not? First at the shrine, then in your basement. Will you run from this again?”

“Desire binds us, keeps us suffering. I, I, I… I thought I could control it, but…”

I paused a moment, listening to her soul. She feared… release? I had to wait a moment, processing that thought, to realize what it meant.

“But this is all too much of what you want.”

She sighed, slumping. “Yes.”

I clicked my tongue, grasping my shaku at both ends and holding it against my thighs. “Remember what I said earlier? Consider this a study session. Dive into those desires. See what they look like from the inside. Once you do, perhaps you’ll better understand how to suppress them.”

“It’s not enough to suppress desires, Miko. One must abandon them.”

“And how long have you been attempting just that?”

She leveled a rather flat look my way. “How many cycles do you think the average soul goes through before they finally achieve enlightenment?”

I shrugged. “A long time, I imagine. But if you haven’t succeeded yet, perhaps it’s time to try another approach? Study them much closer to learn how they cling. And from that, how to let go. It’s not impossible to be both a good Buddhist and a good partner, is it?”

She sighed, long and heavy. “No. But such bonds will hold one back.”

“Then take a step back to move forward.”

She let out a tiny smirk. “I’m starting to wonder if you’d be a better Buddhist than a Taoist.”

I shook my head. “Please. That’s a cornerstone of the Tao. Don’t fight the universe, move with it, like a wave. Let what comes, come. Make it your own.”

She hummed. “Are you sure you wish to impart this advice?”

I opened my mouth, then paused. It was time that I committed to just how I wanted this relationship to go. What it was that I’d attempt to achieve over the course of our time together. Would I try to impress her disciples, leave with them the seeds of my own ideology, or to learn something of Byakuren’s own tricks?

I drummed my fingers over my shaku, slowly raising it over my mouth. “Does something worry you, my darling?”

She clasped her hands. “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just… I’ve already committed to some compromise, to make this work. It’s not the faith itself that holds me back this time, but…”

But the fear that, after holding back for so long, she’d dive too deep.

I hummed, considering her worry, but also my own needs. Now wasn’t the time to commit to one path or another, but long past time to start moving forward. So, naturally…

[ ] I assured her it all would be fine. I’d be quick to help, but in my own style.

[ ] I dragged her somewhere more private, where I’d suggest she follow her heart. Getting properly close to Byakuren would be the key to any future efforts.

[ ] I decided to ask what our not-so-subtle audience thought. Perhaps I’d even go full ‘Administrator’ while I was at it.

[ ] Having second thoughts, I changed the topic to asking about this festival of hers. Perhaps it would do her some good to think it over.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/06/20 (Sat) 18:00

[X] I dragged her somewhere more private, where I’d suggest she follow her heart. Getting properly close to Byakuren would be the key to any future efforts.
[X] I dragged her somewhere more private, where I’d suggest she follow her heart. Getting properly close to Byakuren would be the key to any future efforts.
[X] I dragged her somewhere more private, where I’d suggest she follow her heart. Getting properly close to Byakuren would be the key to any future efforts.
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42875
[x] I dragged her somewhere more private, where I’d suggest she follow her heart. Getting properly close to Byakuren would be the key to any future efforts.

All in
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[x] I dragged her somewhere more private, where I’d suggest she follow her heart. Getting properly close to Byakuren would be the key to any future efforts.

I extended my free hand to her shoulder, offering a confident grin. “Let’s save this discussion for a later time, shall we?”

She blinked, frowning.

Holding my shaku out toward the wall, I lifted the hand from her shoulder to tap my earmuffs. I raised my voice, just slightly. “I’d rather save such advice for a more… private setting.”

She glanced to my hand, then my ears, then she shook her head, blushing. “No, we shouldn’t! But, well…” She clasped my hand and marched back into the halls.

A wave of surprise rolled through the temple as she hurried me along. Surprise, deepening concern, and a few pockets of delight. Pesky interlo-

“Wha-hey!” I stumbled after her. “You can’t keep dragging me around like this!”

“What?” She turned around, glancing down at her hand. “Oh, my apologies.” She let go, then returned to marching down the halls, turning up a flight of stairs. “This way.” She marched forward at a rather frantic pace, forcing me to work rather hard to keep up.

Sweating, I kept catching snippets of the temple as I jogged up to her side. Worry that I’d steal something, embarrass them, or even kidnap unwary disciples. All of them misconceptions in need of correction. I’d have a lot of work tomorrow, but for now-

Byakuren slid a door open, revealing the room we’d crashed in last night. She ushered me in but kept herself by the door. She offered an apologetic smile.

“Give me a moment, would you?”

“S…”

She was already gone, slamming the door shut.

I shuddered, feeling a pang of sympathy for her temple. How do you slam a sliding door shut?

I leaned back, grumbling. She’d gotten far too cozy taking the lead. I’d need to do something about that soon.

I sighed and took a moment to listen and ponder. The desires had moved, slightly, in my general direction. But those disciples kept far more distance from this room than they had the worship room. Did they have business to attend to? Unlikely, given their fixation on us. At most, they may have had to look busy.

More likely, Byakuren had impressed on them to keep their distance. Her, or someone of similar status here. But when and why? Was it just yesterday, to help ensure our little game worked? Or did she set this up earlier?

Did a high-ranking disciple worry about how this would reflect on them? Did Byakuren have something to hide from her followers?

I shook my head. Of course, she had secrets. More precisely, did she hide something here from her followers?

If so, the temple’s suspicion toward me could cause her grief too. I doubted it would be anything beyond her capabilities, but perhaps it would lead to something amusing to see.

Wait. The temple suspected me of wanting to steal something. Just how would I fulfill Tojiko’s request under such an atmosphere? I groaned, perhaps-

The door slid back open and Byakuren waltzed inside, carrying a couple cups of warm, steaming tea, which she set down in the middle of the relatively small room. She kneeled behind them, carefully folding her legs and setting her hands on her knees. She leveled her eyes up toward me.

She blushed, the faintest twitches plaguing her shoulders and arms.

The sheer severity she approached this all with took me aback. She both feared and desired my final comments. I shook my head, grinning. I sat down before her, crossing my legs. After setting the shaku in my lap, I, too, planted my hands on my knees, but then I leaned back, rolling my neck before staring back at her. Those tremors had grown just slightly in the intervening seconds.

I almost snickered at the sight. Instead, I cleared my throat.

“Follow your heart.”

She blinked, face flat.

“That’s… it?”

Hands still on my knees, I shrugged. “That’s it.” I put on my most winning smile. “You’ve done your thinking. Now it’s time to trust yourself. Trust where your gut leads you.”

Byakuren’s chest lifted, then deflated alongside a particularly hefty sigh.

“Then I shall hold you and your religion responsible if this goes poorly.”

“Sure, sure.”

She grabbed a cup and, closing her eyes, lifted it toward her lips. “Follow my heart? Now, just where does it lead?”

I blinked, grabbing the other cup. “You d-”

“Well, right now…” She took a long sip. “Though it pains me to say it, I may, may…” She paused, taking a deep breath. “I want to better understand last night. What I felt, what drove me to do what I did.”

I took a sip, myself. A somewhat bland tea, but with just a hint of earthiness to it. A simple, rustic flavor.

She set the cup down, beside her. Then, leaning forward, she planted her hands on my thighs. I blinked, setting my own cup down. She scooted forward, sliding her hands up my arms and around my back. Then, in a flash, she pulled me into a vice-like bear hug, squeezing me against her soft, curvaceous body.

I wheezed, feeling the hard, rigid angles of my shaku pressing into both our guts. “D-don’t tell me your really in love, now.”

She sighed. “Oh, shush. You know what I’m feeling, don’t you?”

…Yes, I did. Much the same things she’d felt last night. I suppose it made sense, that my company would be so intense she’d not yet come to terms with it. I shuddered to imagine what she’d have done had we, well…

We didn’t, right? Probably. We probably didn’t.

Slowly, the pressure eased and, as it did, I wrapped my own arms around her back. “Want to talk about it?”

She shook her head, nuzzling it into my neck. “No. I want to let it out, so I can return to my journey, and to setting a proper example for my disciples.”

“You got it.” I smiled, patting her back. “There, there. Cry into your wife’s shoulder.”

She groaned. “You’re not helping.” Her hands rubbed my back. “Besides, sometimes I think you should be the one sharing your pains with me. But it’s too soon for either of us to trust each other so, isn’t it?”

I chuckled. “Of course, it is.”

Slowly, I relaxed into her embrace.

Until she kissed my neck. Blushing, I…

The hell?

Sure, she wanted intimacy, but this? There wasn’t even any booze here. How did…

Her grip tightened again. “By the way, you’ve seen quite a bit of my temple by now, haven’t you?”

What? Where did that… She hid something underneath her need for contact, didn’t she?

“Your disciples should have a chance to see their leader’s wife, shouldn’t they?”

I groaned. “Tonight?”

She shook her head, her chest pushing and receding from mine. “First thing tomorrow.”

I sighed. That was going to happen eventually, I supposed. But I preferred not to worry about it tonight. So, before answering her, I…

[ ] Pulled her in for a proper kiss.

[ ] Slipped into Senkai to get some things and clear my head.

[ ] Asked her why her disciples avoided this room.

[ ] Sat back and waited to see where she’d take things.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/07/05 (Sun) 18:00

[x] Pulled her in for a proper kiss.

Can hear everyone's desires but not her own uh?
[x] Pulled her in for a proper kiss.
[X] Slipped into Senkai to get some things and clear my head.
[X] Sat back and waited to see where she’d take things.
[x] Asked her why her disciples avoided this room.

Can we really expect privacy anywhere in this overcrowded temple? Pretty sure we made our own entire realm to escape this kind of thing.
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[x] Pulled her in for a proper kiss.

I slid my hands up her back, to nestle in her rather full, silky hair. My heart beat harder than before. Without alcohol, without the mood of noise and revelry, was I really going to do this?

I snorted. Of course, I was. It would be… easier to play my role, if it continued even behind closed doors.

Parting my lips, I pulled her head close. She closed her eyes, not puckering her lips or anything. Just smiling. I felt her breath waft over me.

Slowly, I pressed my lips to hers.

At first, she responded only with some quiet, cocky huff of her own. Then I felt a tongue pressed to my lips.

I blinked. As much as I would have loved to truly taste her, I disliked the thought of letting her take the lead here, of all places.

And yet, her challenge demanded my answer.

So, as I parted my lips for her, letting her tongue slide in, I pushed it back with my own. She resisted, but I knocked hers aside to explore her mouth.

Warm tingles traveled across my body at the sensation. While it would take far more than a kiss to truly turn me on, I couldn’t deny the quiet pleasure of this-

Her hands wandered across my back, one sliding up to keep my head pressed tight to hers. I answered in kind, even as her tongue pressed itself to mine, pushing it back. She dared contest me?

Grunting in defiance, I fought back, rolling my head as…

Her spare hand wandered down, then grabbed my butt.

I squeaked, surprised. I pressed myself forward, into her, until she fell to her back.

Well, more drifted onto it.

In retaliation, I wrapped a hand around one of her rather full breasts. The surprise came when I gave her a good squeeze. She squealed. Squealed.

And I had to admit it. Her breast… felt nice.

Shaking, I pulled back, lifting my face off her. My shaku fell out from between us, thumping into the ground below. She stared up at me, pink and grinning.

“You’re a powerful temptress, Miko.”

“Wh­-temptress?” I stared back, stunned.

She ran a hand along my forehead, nudging my bangs aside. “If you’re not careful, I may find it hard to… end our union when the time comes.”

I huffed, glancing away. “You’d be a terrible Buddhist if you still clung to it, wouldn’t you?”

She chuckled, then tutted. “But I’m afraid I must take all of this seriously, now.”

I shifted my weight, gulping at the sensation filling my hand.

She continued. “We are married, dear. What I really desire right now is to dive in. To know, to feel what it’s like to be not only a wife, but your wife.”

I swallowed, refusing to display any surprise. Whatever she felt now, she would still separate when the deal ran its course. Surely, she would.

She grasped my cheeks, pulling my gaze to hers. She frowned, sighing. “I’ll follow all of your advice for now. But in return, surely the least you could do is tell me how, specifically, you truly feel.” She smiled. “Tell me what this marriage is to you, really.”

Still feeling her breath, one hand still on her breast, I held my face neutral. “I really want that favor.”

“That’s not what I meant, Miko.”

“I think I’ll have her advertise my dojo. I bet if I put her in something really eye-catching, she could…”

“Miko…”

I shrugged. “That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To win favors with the Hakurei?”

“You know very well that’s not what I’m asking.”

“Fine, fine.” I leaned closer. “Then please, accept this as my answer.”

I planted another kiss on her lips. She frowned.

“We already did that.”

I kissed her again, dragging it out this time. She hummed until we parted.

“You know that’s not what I’m looking for.”

I sighed. Indeed. Of all her desires, I found far more of them centered around me than I should have. But above all, she sought certainty that, wherever this weird… thing went, I’d be available to-

She dragged me back down and pulled her arms tight around me once more. Pressing my head into her shoulder, she laid back, wrapping her legs around me. She hummed, smiling.

She really did want that contact, it seemed. I closed my eyes, listening close to her heart as she rocked from side to side. I heard a vague sense of age to this desire, perhaps a few weeks? A month or two? Either way, she cared how long she’d felt it. It didn’t spring up the past couple days, nor had it lingered for years.

I felt little direction to it, suggesting I was merely a convenient outlet. That explained some things, but as to why she singled me out earlier, that must’ve been from another…

I gasped as she gave me another tight squeeze, before easing up again. She sighed.

“Tell me, Miko. Do you think we’ve done everything we could?”

I narrowed my eyes, listening for those other desires. Why did she ask that?

Close contact, atone for misdeeds, be a good Buddhist… none of that explained the question. She squirmed slightly, starting to squeeze me again. Answer the question already! No, that wasn’t it…

Fulfill the role of…

Oh. She was still on about that marriage thing.

I chuckled. She eased her grip. I pulled myself up and rolled to the side, dropping myself beside her.

“Neither of us have had to have vomit or filth cleaned off the other. That’s a pretty important part of the full experience.”

She glanced at me, then stared up at the ceiling. “Hm…”

“But never mind that.” I cleared my throat, picked my shaku back off the floor. “What really matters for a marriage is that our families grow stronger through the connection. If your lands…”

I paused, blinking. She snickered.

I grunted. “Well, neither of us have families anymore, nor do we have lands in the usual sense. So, the point to our union would be…”

“Is that what you married Tojiko for?”

“Of course. As a favored daughter of the Soga clan, she was invaluable for…”

“A clan that no longer exists.”

“That’s…” I paused. That pesky fear of death bubbled back up to the surface of her heart.

She pulled herself up, turning around to face me. Slowly, she placed one hand on my shoulder and the other on the clasp for my cape.

“Forget that. Let’s focus on this one. We should make the most of our time together, so…”

I narrowed my eyes, setting the shaku back down as she unclasped my cape and set it aside.

“So, what should we try to get from this marriage? From each other.”

Her hands wandered down, to the buttons on my vest. I placed my hands on her wrists, looking her in the eyes.

Apart from any more sinister schemes, what I wanted was…

[ ] Whatever she had in mind right now seemed an excellent start.

[ ] A deeper understanding of Buddhist magic.

[ ] The experience of being closer to her and her faithful.

[ ] Perhaps to trade or study a few texts or relics between our temples.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/07/31 (Fri) 18:00

[X] Whatever she had in mind right now seemed an excellent start.
[X] Whatever she had in mind right now seemed an excellent start.
[x] Perhaps to trade or study a few texts or relics between our temples.

Can we at least pretend we aren't horny, here?
[x] The experience of being closer to her and her faithful.
Closer and closer.
[X] Whatever she had in mind right now seemed an excellent start.

Fucking yeet one option only
[X] Whatever she had in mind right now seemed an excellent start.
[x] Perhaps to trade or study a few texts or relics between our temples.

This is a religious building, no horny permitted.
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[x] Whatever she had in mind right now seemed an excellent start.

I held her hands a minute, staring into her eyes. “Finally diving in now, are you?”

She snorted. “Will you try to stopme?”

I shook my head, smiling as I let go. “Lead the way, oh wise sage~”

She pouted, but undid my buttons, one by one. “Good, then let’s continue.”

“Only if you show me how to undo all those ribbons on your dress…”

She paused, fingers poised halfway down my stomach. My vest laid half-open, exposing my plain, cotton bra. For nights like this, I normally wore… well, never mind that right now.

Those fingers still lingered, hovering over my last few buttons. I frowned up at her. “Oh? You expected to witness my gorgeous skin, but didn’t think to spare a me your own in return?”

She glanced down, to my bra. “That’s, that’s not very fu… I mean, you don’t need to, right?”

I planted a hand around her mouth, squeezing her cheeks and dragging her eyes back to my own flat gaze. “Show me, darling.”

She lifted an arm and snapped my hand away, then returned to my vest, undoing it entirely.

“Fine. Fine.” She reared back and started work on the front of her dress, undoing the straps one by one…

Piece by falling, piling piece, her soft, smooth skin grew bare. Wide, curving breasts soon came into view, barely restrained by their wrappings. But what really made me shiver, was what I heard. Whether she did so deliberately or not, her desires made it crystal clear what would follow.

I licked my lips in anticipation.

|--------------------|

Daylight streamed through the temple windows. A sight I’d likely grow used to before we were done. Slowly, I stirred. As I did, I felt naked flesh against mine. Warm, wide, and soft flesh. The body of a woman that…

I grunted, slipping a hand between my legs to rub a sore crotch. I shook my head, baffled at her ability to… No. Not my concern right now.

She’d draped one arm over my side, resting the other up against me, her fist curled near my chin. For my part, I’d rested one over her hips and the other between them. Her warm breath blew across my face.

I grunted, pulling myself-

The arm against my body snapped out, somehow slipping beneath me to join its sister in curling around my back, pressing me closer to her. I grunted, her arms pressing me tight against her naked breasts.

Slowly, her eyes fluttered open. She blinked. I stared down at her round, fat n…

I cleared my throat. Then she did. She stared into the distance, possibly to our door. I glanced up, through the window. I pushed against her, but she held tight.

Though her face burned red as she did so. Finally, she parted her lips, licking them once before daring to speak.

“We, we, we did… it.”

I groaned, dragging a hand down over her bare bubble butt.

“Yes, we,” I licked my own lips as it started to sink in, “did.”

She sighed. “Then, what now?”

I gave her butt a light slap, getting an embarrassed grunt from her. “Do you want to… go again?”

She shut her eyes, shaking her head. Then, slowly, she opened them back up. “I, I, I… I have a temple to run!”

“Good.” I rubbed her butt. “Then let’s get dressed.”

“Y-yes. Of course!” Finally, she… still held on.

“Um, darling, I need to…”

She sighed. “You still intend to end this, right?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, obviously. I go back to my dojo, you go return to being a boring, ascetic monk. Why?”

“What if… what if we shouldn’t? What if I shouldn’t?”

I shifted my legs, feeling the weight and texture of her thigh between mine as I did so. “Why? Will the Buddhist leader need me even after she has her favor?”

Now she shifted, that thigh wandering a little too close to my bare crotch. “My disciples… they barely listen to me. They eat meat, they drink, they start fights and, and…”

I slipped my hand up her side, rubbing her back. “Hey. Last time was when you got drunk. Don’t go spilling your heart to me now.”

The faintest hint of a pout crept into her face, before dissolving into a calmer, firmer gaze. “I can teach humans just fine, but… I just can’t seem to get through. Even worse, you…”

She slid a hand up to stroke my cheek, then pulled me in to a short but firm kiss.

As she pulled back, she smiled. Though it was a rather tense, frustrated smile.

“You may have been right last night. Perhaps, by truly feeling my deepest, most forbidden desires again, I can begin to understand what it is that drives them. And from there, finally get them to understand. Finally learn how to reach them.”

I shrugged, squirming. “You’re still convinced you can do it, huh?”

She huffed, her eyes dropping to the pillow. “They appreciate me, and they at least try to follow my guidance. If I could just get a little closer, if I could just understand what keeps them back…”

As far as I was concerned, they didn’t try. They-

Knock, knock.

We both froze, pulling the blanket tight around ourselves.

“Ms. Hijiri! We have a visitor. She wishes to see you.”

Her panicked eyes locked with mine. She wanted time to compose herself. Given she’d just done something nearly unthinkable for her position, I supposed I could sympathise.

I turned my head, breathing in. “Give us a moment, would you?”

“W-Miko? What are…”

Byakuren rubbed her scalp, lifting her head as well. “We’ll be there soon.”

“O-oh, understood, Ms. Hijiri.”

Footsteps scampered away. We looked at each-other another moment before languidly rolling out of the futon. I found my clothes lying in a rumbled but organized pile by the futon. I first grabbed the stylish black panties and shimmied them up my leg. I then grabbed my bra and pulled it on.

I needed a new set, but I couldn’t just start streaking. Once we’d wrapped up this business, I’d take a nice, relaxing bath…

As I pulled my vest over my shoulders, I glanced back to find Byakuren working the wrappings over her breasts. She still wanted time to think, but I’d already grown tired of a temple with no special accommodations for me. So, as I got myself dressed, I decided I would…

[ ] Let Byakuren deal with the visitor while I took a quick stop in Senkai to pick up things and see how some of my disciples were doing.

[ ] Dealt the visitor myself, leaving Byakuren to her thoughts.

[ ] Insisted we see the visitor together, dealing with her feelings later.

[ ] Grabbed Byakuren and ran away to Senkai, letting the temple handle this visitor themselves.
>As far as I was concerned, they didn’t try. They-


She's pissed on her behalf? Oh wow. I thought Miko was being a stubborn egotist but Byakuren IS getting through!

[x] Dealt the visitor myself, leaving Byakuren to her thoughts.
-[x] But only if she agrees to. Otherwise...
[x] Let Byakuren deal with the visitor while I took a quick stop in Senkai to pick up things and see how some of my disciples were doing.

Dealing with the visitor for her is cool and all but what if she doesn't want us to?
[x] Let Byakuren deal with the visitor while I took a quick stop in Senkai to pick up things and see how some of my disciples were doing.

The visitor is clearly for Byakuren, and it isn't our place. Besides, the sooner we beat the rumors of this tryst to Tojiko the less electrocuted we may get.
[x] Let Byakuren deal with the visitor while I took a quick stop in Senkai to pick up things and see how some of my disciples were doing.
Once more, I've taken way, way longer than I should've to let you all know anything, but for the record: computer troubles have come up, making it difficult for me to get any kind of writing done. It's not the only hurdle I've encountered in trying to write the next update, but it's definitely pushed me back a few days more than I normally would be.

Hopefully, I'm mostly done with it, but I can't say for certain if I am. Hopefully, I'm also mostly through the other issue. Either way, I'm sorry for leaving this so quiet for so long without any explanation as to why.
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[x] Let Byakuren deal with the visitor while I took a quick stop in Senkai to pick up things and see how some of my disciples were doing.

Gathering up the rest of my clothes, I stepped toward a wall, feeling along it for…

Another twinge of worry flitted across Byakuren’s silly heart. I turned to give her a single, cheeky but sympathetic smile, then slipped through the wall.

That would be far from the first or the last concern her temple would face without my personal aid.

I slipped back out, directly to a secluded section of Senkai. A small, calm pool nestled into the smooth stones of my grounds, surrounded by a high wall of polished pine panels. Slipping around it, I stepped up onto the temple’s walkways and, from there, to the washroom. The only room you could reach this section from.

No reason to hold off on rinsing myself down if I wasn’t sticking around to help her. Setting aside the sword that housed my soul, I went to work stripping and washing. Last night… felt good but left deep worries behind. If my followers found out that I engaged in such activities with her, of all people, would they still put their faith in me? Would Byakuren cleave more to her public image and keep these things private, or would she fall back on her other, less noble habits and try to manipulate me through it, somehow?

And what of Tojiko?

Either way, I was… I was all in on this, now. Perhaps I should have reined us in a little more, rather than hoping to count on her. But then, fortune seemed insistent on pushing me to her bosom. In some sense, this seemed the inevitable conclusion of that push.

I grunted, dumping a bucket of water over myself and grabbing a towel to dry off. Regardless, I needed to act, to show the world the confidence and smoothness it had come to expect from me.

I gave myself a quick sniff, then glanced the clothing over. The smell had barely touched them, but I felt a strange uncertainty now in returning to them.

Which is why, still naked, I slipped back out, through the space beneath the outer walkway, and into my personal chambers. Once there, strutting through my chamber, I slipped into the side room, sorted through my effects, and slipped on a fresh, new outfit. Simple but elegant black underwear, a plain, peach-colored vest, and simple skirt. Feeling casual, I opted to leave the cape behind for now.

I belted my blade back to my waist and clasped the bracelets and anklets back around my limbs. Perhaps I’d want to dip a bit deeper into my wardrobe soon, but not today.

With that settled, I glanced through my room for personal objects or affects I wished to keep on hand when I spent time at my rival-and-wife’s temple. A change of clothes, perhaps. Some fine dishes, perhaps one or two of our less-important scrolls.

I chose a single scroll containing an excerpt from the Tao De Ching, a fine cup, and a soft, white nightgown. Sorting them into a small, oak box, I snapped it shut and listened to the temple, considering where to visit first.

I felt a disturbance in the quiet desires of my temple. Futo. I hadn’t seen her for a day, having left her in uncertain circumstances. So, naturally, I tucked the box under my left arm and, swinging the shaku with my right, strolled through the halls in her general direction.

On the way, I took idle stock of the atmosphere that floated through the rest of the temple. Some hopes that I’d do something as dramatic here as I’d done in the village dojo. Some lingering concerns, some worries about Byakuren’s influence, her or her followers sneaking in here, and…

More Futo.

I sensed a lingering agitation as I turned a corner and walked up to an open door, where I found her…

Tilting her head at the furniture of a communal lounge, one that faced the back wall. She’d stacked cushions on tables and spent her time nudging one to the left, another toward the back…

She feared its previous arrangement had invited misfortune, though that was a shallow desire. One she attended to in order to cover up or calm down from something else. Something deeper.

I waited, tapping one foot, until her efforts slowed.

Then, a split-second before she moved, I heard it. Her realization that someone was near, manifested in the form of sudden curiosity; a desire to know who it was. And so, she turned around, less a smooth spin or spirited twist, more a twitchy, jerking motion.

At my visage, she sighed a sound of relief, tinged ever so slightly in frustration. “Oh, it be only you, crown prince.”

I smiled. “Good morning, Futo.”

…And she returned to fiddling with the tables.

I groaned, but waited for her to speak, as I knew she would.

And sure enough, after another couple shifts this way and that, she growled. “The youkai meddle and scheme. They’re wont to ruin us, if permitted.” She jerked one table to the side. “Break us away from them, crown prince.”

I spun my shaku, chuckling. “Now, now. They haven’t been sneaking in, have they?”

“It mattereth not.” She grumbled. “Those scoundrels will undo us. Already, they hast ruined my day.”

“Ruined your day?” I stepped inside and leaned against the wall. “That sounds quite serious. What did they do?”

She… blushed. I narrowed my eyes and honed my ears, but the faint, warm streak in her desires matched up. She wanted to… find something. Or someone. It was there briefly, a hint of a face, something… green? Whatever it was, it soon faded into a morass of unfocused frustrations.

She rotated one table a single degree or two. “They’re of no value, save their talent for mockery.”

I raised a brow. She glanced my way for only a second before fixing her gaze back on the table. I waited, studying her soul. But that just raised more agitation within her. If I wished to know what really bothered her, I’d need to confront her directly. Otherwise, I would need to wait quite a while for her to truly calm down.

My interest had been piqued, but I’d yet to spend much time with the rest of my temple, to say nothing of what might be occurring back at my ‘wife’s’ temple.

Thinking a moment, I chose to…

[ ] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.

[ ] Return to Myouren Temple. I was awfully curious who had visited and was certain they wouldn’t mind my surprise re-appearance.

[ ] Spend time with the rest of Senkai. The others were right; I needed to show off again.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/09/26 (Sat) 18:00

[X] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.
[x] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.
Prod prod.
[X] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.
[X] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.

Koishi, did you just rait the Taoists?!?
[x] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.

Does futo havew a cru'ush?
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[x] Press Futo for details. I could not leave a close friend in distress, not matter how much my prodding irritated her.

I chuckled. “Aw… you can trust me, can’t you?”

She huffed. “It was but a trifle, crown prince. Worry not of it.”

I hummed, tapping my chin. Curiosity, desire, embarrassment… quite the concoction, but one I’d have a hard time piercing through.

I gave her my most charming smile. “Come now, I can’t let my loyal friend and disciple wallow in confusion, can I? Please, pour your heart out to me.”

She paused, letting go of the table as she dropped to sit at it. She shook her head, that cute ponytail flicking about as she did so. “It is naught but an awakening of hoary feelings at the instigation of a fool and miscreant.”

I stepped around, between the tables, until I stood across from her. “Then, perhaps it’s best if you share these feelings with me. That way, we can work through them together.”

She dropped her head into a propped-up arm. “I was born to the empire’s ruling clan. I gave birth to one who would have been the emperor’s wife, had we lingered. With your pestering, I had mastered much of both the Buddhist and the Taoist arts. And yet, and yet…”

I leaned forward and patted her shoulder.

She huffed. “None take mine efforts with seriousness. Mine lessons are ignored, mine preachings dismissed.”

She thumped her fists on the table. “I am mocked. Mocked. What may I accomplish in this land, suffering under such scanty honor?”

I frowned, rubbing her twitching shoulder. “There, there. We’ve built things we couldn’t have hoped to back then, didn’t we?” I smiled. “Why, this very temple would have been impossible for mere humans to build. You don’t need the favor of every man or woman, do you?”

She sighed. “You art right, crown prince. Yet…” She glared at the table.

Grabbing my shaku, I poked it at her chin. “Let’s take a few breaths, first.” I inhaled, long and slow.

Futo frowned but followed suit. I exhaled, and she followed me there, too.

One breath, then two, then three.

As she exhaled, Futo looked down. “I was beautiful back then, you know. It was no accident my daughter caught your eye.”

“Aw~” I giggled. “You’re plenty cute now, too.”

She frowned. “I caught a dashing, charming husband. One most worthy of mine station. Why, the poems he wrote to me during our courtship, they would…”

“Ooh. Let’s hear one.”

She glanced aside. “…Perhaps another time. They wert too advanced for your young ears.”

“Oh, intimate poetry? What did he like most? Your legs, your delicate hands, or dare I say, your ne-”

“That art quite enough of that!” She fumed, face red.

I threw my hands up, waving my shaku. “Yes, yes. How about some exercises to calm you down?”

She huffed, then stood. “I boasted a fine husband, a strong clan, even a stunning son-in-law.”

I grinned as I stood, mirroring her motions. “Daughter-in-law, technically.”

She lifted her right leg. “Nay. In all respects save the most subtle part of your body, you wert my son.”

I tilted my head as we raised our arms. “Was I even that? She wasn’t the only…”

Futo shook her head. “A trifle. There art no men of such caliber here.”

I blinked. She’d changed the subject.

“Then, perhaps you should try the women? They can be quite-”

“They’re even worse! They, all of them, either cower behind their men, or they consort with youkai, or-” she paused, “it mattereth not. There are none so strong in their conviction, so gentle on the eyes, of such stature as…”

I couldn’t help a chuckle, finally hearing the depth of her true desire. “You really have reawakened, haven’t you?”

She frowned. “I said that, did I not?”

“Yes, but to love? I’d never have guessed.”

Her face turned a faint shade of pink. I answered with a warm smile. “You need a good date.”

“A d-date, huh…” She lowered her leg, then dropped back to the table. “Yea. I desire such. But as I said, there’s none to heed me. None worthy to cleave to.”

I lowered myself down as well, grinning wide. “What if I found you someone?”

She scoffed. “This task lay beyond even you, crown prince. Worry about your own wives-both my daughter and the imposter-for I shall confront mine needs alone.”

I grinned. “Your needs? That’s a bit much to share with your daughter-in-law, isn’t it?”

Her eyes narrowed, lips pursing. Then, her eyes widened and her faint blush went full red again. “That-that-that… that be not what I mean. I merely…”

I laughed. “Relax, relax.” I patted my earmuffs. “I know what you mean, of course. But you also know that I can handle multiple tasks at once, don’t you?”

She grunted, looking down. “You’ll be wasting of your time but,” she sighed, “do what you must. I shall go about mine obligations, regardless.”

“Oh, I shall certainly do as I please.”

And I pleased to…

[ ] Asked more about what sort of men or women intrigued her. If she sought love, I’d be sure to provide what I could.

[ ] Give her a little encouragement before going on my way. This was a matter to leave to her, until she understood herself better.

[ ] Asked more about who had awakened this in her, and how. Someone laid behind this change and I had to know who.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/10/11 (Sun) 18:00

[X] Asked more about what sort of men or women intrigued her. If she sought love, I’d be sure to provide what I could.
[X] Asked more about what sort of men or women intrigued her. If she sought love, I’d be sure to provide what I could.
[X] Asked more about who had awakened this in her, and how. Someone laid behind this change and I had to know who.
[X] Asked more about who had awakened this in her, and how. Someone laid behind this change and I had to know who.

The most effective path is to start with the root cause.
[x] Asked more about what sort of men or women intrigued her. If she sought love, I’d be sure to provide what I could.
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[x] Asked more about what sort of men or women intrigued her. If she sought love, I’d be sure to provide what I could.

“So, what do you like in your men? Big muscles? Lean and firm muscles? Maybe silky hair or suave smiles or…”

Futo turned away, face pink. “Need you put these matters so crassly, crown prince?”

I grinned. “I’m only here to help~ Please, tell me what sort of man-or woman-you desire~”

She huffed. “I’m in no need of such prodding! You understand mine desires, do you not? Use those. Make not me spell this out so plainly!”

“Aw, but that’s half the fun~”

She sighed. “I’m in no need of teasing. The foul youkai hast heaped it enough upon mine shoulders.”

I rocked back and forth. “And you’ve yet to tell me anything about it, haven’t you?”

She stared at the ceiling, grumbling. As she did, I heard a rather blatant desire slip from her mind. This fretting of hers arose from a need to prove someone wrong. She wanted to prove she wasn’t interested in some specific person, but also, well…

What she’d essentially expressed already. She wanted to prove her prowess and value on the marketplace, so to speak.

I wondered. Did someone suggest she was undesirable? Would I need to correct some youkai, if so?

But of course, these were all matters to consider another time, when I knew more of the matter. I clicked my tongue, sighing. “Please, Futo. I know the hearts of people. No one can act as a better matchmaker than I.”

She thumped a fist on the table. “I need no matchmakers!”

I leaned back, answering with a light chuckle. “Humor me. If it goes poorly, you can heap all the blame upon my capable shoulders.”

She groaned. Then, exhaling, she leaned back. “Very well. I…” she breathed in, “tolerate not people who disrespect humanity, or who shirk in their duties. I insist that I not shelter my very partner behind mine own power. They must provide and protect as often, at least, as I.”

I winced. “You’re a little strict there, aren’t you?”

Her eyes narrowed, resting halfway between a glare and a nostalgic twinkle. “My past partner was most admirable. I insist that I need not settle for less than he.”

I rolled my shoulders. “Very well, very well.” I placed my shaku to my lips for only a moment. “Why, the village has its share of capable guards, even a few decent exterminators. Perhaps we should start there.”

She turned aside. “I… trust not their qualities.”

I tilted my head. “Then, perhaps the village protector?”

Returning her gaze, she tilted her head in response. “Whom?”

“Why, Ms. Kamishirasawa, of course.”

“H-her?” She leaned back. “I suppose she art a fine woman, but to wed her? Doth she even like women? Would she consider me in a generous light? Even if she did, would she be…”

I shook my head. “Who knows? Best to risk embarrassment than to let oneself be trapped in routine, right?”

“I… be not sure.”

“Then, perhaps madam Hakurei herself?”

Futo rose to her feet. “Didst you mishear me? She is far too lazy!” She turned on her heel.

Swiping up my shaku, I leapt to my feet, slipped around the table, and threw my arms around her. “Now, now. You know I’m just throwing ideas out there. If we could persuade them to take humans more seriously, how about some of Byakuren’s disciples? They’re strong, sometimes dependable, occasionally diligent…”

She shook me off. “They’re youkai. They honor the witch, and they…”

I took a step closer to her. “But imagine a youkai who tries to make humans safer and happier~”

“Impossible.”

“It’s very rare, but there are a few who’ve shown themselves to be terribly well-behaved.”

She stepped away. I followed close.

“I shall handle this on mine own. Leave me to it!”

I tapped her shoulder. “Are you sure? If you find anyone, I’m sure I could improve your chances with them~”

“I am most capable. I won a most honorable partner before and I shall do so again. I… need only find one that aligns with mine standards.”

I slowed. “And if there’s none here?”

She slowed, then stopped. She shook her head. “I am a hermit. I shalt make do on my own, then.”

I slid a hand over each shoulder and pulled her back around to face me. Gently, I slid a hand up her cheek. “At least consider a provisional partner, would you? Someone to share in your struggles while you seek out the one.”

She sighed, slumping back. “I shall consider it.”

I stepped back, tapping the shaku on my chin. She was so cute, really. I just wanted to pester her more.

But… in what way would be best? Ought I attempt to drag her to meet some fine prospect, or to let her stew?

But then, was this really the time? If I dallied too long, that temple visitor may have disappeared by the time of my return. To say nothing of other concerns.

So, I…

[ ] Dragged her to the village to meet eligible men and women. I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass.

[ ] Visited the village to find her prospects on my own. I wanted to play matchmaker, but I favored a subtler role this time.

[ ] Left her to ponder my wisdom while I looked into the youkai who’d bothered her. I was sure my ‘wife’ would be missing me, anyway.

[ ] Turned to the mausoleum to meditate on the meaning of last night. Futo’s romantic troubles had reminded me that I had plenty of my own to fret over.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/10/25 (Sun) 18:00

[x] Turned to the mausoleum to meditate on the meaning of last night. Futo’s romantic troubles had reminded me that I had plenty of my own to fret over.

Futo's ghost crush is cute, but we still have our own ghost to deal with. Lets go see Tojiko and muster up some excuse and/or lie for last night.
[X] Left her to ponder my wisdom while I looked into the youkai who’d bothered her. I was sure my ‘wife’ would be missing me, anyway.

I'm curious whether or not the hint of green really is pointing more towards a boat sinker as opposed to a mountain echo, and following this option seems like it'd clarify which of the two it is.
[x] Turned to the mausoleum to meditate on the meaning of last night. Futo’s romantic troubles had reminded me that I had plenty of my own to fret over.
>>43042

I am basing my assumption on both the green hint and the fact Futo and Murasa were dancing together at the impromptu party a few days ago. I could be wrong, but in the absence of other evidence its what the author is pointing to.
File 160487293853.jpg - (10.43KB, 275x155, mausoleum.jpg) [iqdb]
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[x] Turned to the mausoleum to meditate on the meaning of last night. Futo’s romantic troubles had reminded me that I had plenty of my own to fret over.

I smiled. “I trust you, Futo.”

She nodded, expression firm, but chose not to respond.

I patted her shoulder. “You’re plenty lovely. I’m sure you’ll find someone.” She pouted, but her heart told me she appreciated the thought. I smiled, then turned back to the halls and soon, from there, back to Gensokyo.

Warm, curling mists greeted me on the other side, rising from the broad pool filling the familiar chamber. I eased myself onto the smooth rocks and took a deep breath, spending a moment to prepare my thoughts.

Gently, I set my shaku before me and set my hands on my knees, closing my eyes.

I stifled a groan. I’d crossed a line last night. For good or ill, that monk was utterly useless in keeping any of our undesired urges in check. I should have known, really. She’d shown plenty of weakness before then. Taking a breath, I waited until the calm returned.

I would simply need to do what I was best at. Changing, rerouting, and adapting. It would certainly yield better results than the rather muscle-headed way she sought to approach her own challenges.

I sighed, unsure of how I, myself, ought to have felt. Fate and fortune had refused to hold back in their steady efforts to push us ever closer together. Idly, I wondered if that absurd, barely remembered night was even the first time. Perhaps our tag-team battles were the first sign.

Regardless, something had been drawing us together.

I worked through my breathing exercises, allowing myself to descend ever so slowly into the void. Into the space away from fleeting distractions, first to the stillness that came in letting go of fleeting distractions. I needed a moment of calm before turning into the more passionate side of my practices.

Passion…

We… cleaved together, last night. Why? What did I see in her? Why did I find her so alluring? Her looks alone would have failed to overcome her shortcomings. The stubbornness, the pride, the foolishness.

So… why?

She stuck so doggedly to her silly, sometimes harmful ideals. She was sincere at times, but sometimes deceptive.

The cozy, moist air eddied around me as I began to hear the universe’s primal beat.

She constantly fought against its tempo. Against the push and pull within her. All for ideology. And yet, it had failed her.

We…

My hands remembered the feel of her bust. The feverish thrusts, the grinding…

I shook my head. She was too distracting!

Her strong, lively body. The sheer power and stamina she possessed. Despite her professed values, she’d cultivated a body, a soul, truly worthy of envy. Of aspiration.

Somehow, her endless series of seeming mistakes only made her stronger.

Her mistakes…

I sighed. The universe beat a slow, quiet rhythm, refusing to bestow its wisdom upon me. I would need to make the decision myself, but…

My instincts warred with one another, one side seeking to revisit that woman’s weight and warmth, to explore the prospects of closer relations to her temple and better access to her knowledge. The other insisted I hold true to the foundation I’d already built, to trust in the people I’d already had.

The tempo held steady, but the quiet beats grew louder.

Slowly, it dawned on me where my path would lead. Timidity was not my style. To hold back merely on account of what might be, of what I might lose, would be to resist, to deny my nature. I needed to reach out, to seize for both futures.

Perhaps that was why, so long ago, I lost…

I chuckled, just a little bitter, as I rose from my meditation. I boasted no lordship, no children, and technically, not even a real wife. Not at this moment, anyway. I had my share of followers, my vast charisma, and the power of my transmuted body. Idly, I rubbed the scabbard in which it rested.

I wielded enormous potential but had little to lose. I would not choose between the two paths.

They would both choose me.

I tilted my head upward, to the monument from which I’d arisen, the structure in which my former teacher resided. Perhaps, she’d rubbed off on me more than I cared to admit. I shook my head.

Nonsense. I was plenty crafty before I’d met her and the only thing she imparted upon me was her insights on the Tao.

I rocked back and forth, taking in the smooth, fragrant scents floating on the air. This place really did soothe the soul. The only question that remained, really, was how I would go about securing my favor with the monk’s followers while retaining the trust of those who already supported me.

And… how I’d break the news to-

A desire dragged through the air.

One that poked at my heart. A desire for company. For comfort and physical intimacy.

From me.

I returned to the breathing exercises for a moment, though not to any meditation afterward. Instead, as my heart stilled, I cleared my throat and started humming. If she was here, then I may as well clear the air before it gets the chance to bite me.

In only a moment, I heard the disruption to those desires, then the shift, the movement.

Tojiko floated into the room behind me. A vague sense of nervousness clung to her. One that hurt me, knowing that I could only add to her concerns.

She huffed. “What is it?”

I blinked, keeping my face forward. “Can I not meditate at my own pool without suspicion?”

“Not like that, no. You called for attention. What is it about?”

I hunched forward, staring into my reflection upon the still waters. My dalliance with the monk was far from the first dubious action that had taken place in my quest for status and admiration, but…

What kind of person was I? How would I break the news to her?

More importantly, what about her? Which would she take best?

[ ] Tojiko was a woman of sometimes brutal sincerity. I would honor that by being blunt and straightforward. Whatever came of it, at least she would know I hid nothing from her.

[ ] Tojiko was a woman I still loved, so I would show what affection I dared and break it as gently as I could. I would show her that, at the least, I still cared for her.

[ ] Tojiko was, in some sense, a rather practical woman. I would discuss my plans with her and explain the reasoning for what I’d allowed to happen.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/11/12 (Thu) 19:00

[x] Tojiko was a woman of sometimes brutal sincerity. I would honor that by being blunt and straightforward. Whatever came of it, at least she would know I hid nothing from her.
 [x] Confess things are not proceeding precisely to plan and may continue to deviate.

A tough one here. We have already discussed the plan with Tojiko and that got her on board. But things have gone a bit sideways. Miko clearly loves Tojiko still, but trying to sugar coat it will make this more painful down the road. No, Miko loves her enough to tell her the whole truth. This is how good couples work. Tojiko can then choose her own path, as this update puts it. A path Miko is sure she will still be on, with all her charisma and hubris.
[x] Tojiko was a woman of sometimes brutal sincerity. I would honor that by being blunt and straightforward. Whatever came of it, at least she would know I hid nothing from her.
 [x] Confess things are not proceeding precisely to plan and may continue to deviate.

A decent compromise
[x] Tojiko was a woman of sometimes brutal sincerity. I would honor that by being blunt and straightforward. Whatever came of it, at least she would know I hid nothing from her.
 [x] Confess things are not proceeding precisely to plan and may continue to deviate.

I concur
File 160599817864.jpg - (80.27KB, 600x800, madtojiko.jpg) [iqdb]
43053
[x] Tojiko was a woman of sometimes brutal sincerity. I would honor that by being blunt and straightforward. Whatever came of it, at least she would know I hid nothing from her.
 [x] Confess things are not proceeding precisely to plan and may continue to deviate.

I breathed in, then out. “I had sex with Byakuren, last night.”

I heard, for a single moment, utter silence in Tojiko’s heart. All her desires, at once, had frozen. As to be expected from such news, I supposed. Not that such a thought brought me comfort. When they returned, they came in a messy frenzy. A drive to know why, for vengeance on me, vengeance on Byakuren, to calm down, to argue, and so on.

An utterly ugly, unpleasant mess to listen to. She’d tied herself in a knot of worry, confusion, and vexation.

But as they cleared, I couldn’t help a bit of a dry chuckle. There was something soothing about it all. As ugly as it was, I need not have worried over what she might want. How precisely she might feel or how she might behave. At the very least, I knew.

She cleared her throat, accompanied by a subtle crackle. One that raised the hairs on the back of my head. “Why.”

She said it with force, as bold and assured as she often was. I’d really miss that, if this path ended in the ruin of what we had. And yet, despite the confident tone, there was this odd undercurrent of uncertainty. Of fear.

That… that hurt.

I couldn’t blame her, but I slumped forward all the same.

I raised my voice a hair, holding a firm, level tone. She needed me to be clear, to be unambiguous, at a moment like this. “Despite her protests to the contrary, she’s not the prude I’d hoped she’d be. She’s a much more physical woman than she lets on. I was unprepared for her desire.”

She snorted. “Of course, she’s physical. That’s entirely how she uses her magic. Surely, with your profound ears, you should have picked that up, shouldn’t you?”

I sighed. “Certainly, I’d heard the occasional slip of carnal desire in the past, but she’s human…ish. It’s to be expected. But, like the true Buddhist she is, she’s remarkably skilled at suppressing her deeper urges.”

There was a pause, an awkward quiet clinging to the air. Tojiko floated out from behind my shoulder and circled around to face me. She folded her arms, her lips tight.

She took a breath. “So, what now?”

I straightened my back. “Chaos has filled the past few of my days and, I suspect, will continue to do so. I… am afraid I cannot predict how events will unfold from here. Perhaps I will return to the original plan soon, or perhaps I will only deviate further. I’m…” My shoulders sagged, if only subtly. “I don’t have the level of control over this situation that I thought I held. I’m sorry, but I cannot give you more than that. I don’t know.”

She sunk down, causing gentle ripples as her tails dip into the water. “Were I in a more charitable mood, I might just thank you for at least not trying to bullshit me.”

A thin, wry chuckle slipped from my lips. “Then let me know when you are feeling more charitable, as I would love to listen to your praises one more time.”

“I’ll… consider it, in case it ends up your last.” She turned away. “I can’t say I’m thrilled to hear you’re keeping around her, but…” her shoulders rose, then fell, “I suppose I shouldn’t’ve expected otherwise.”

Despite my instincts, I held my tongue. Her tone was one more of frankness than accusation, anyway. And sure enough, she soon continued.

“You’re still going to get us something from her, right?”

I brought my shaku close to my chest. “Of course.”

Still facing away, she nodded. “Good. I’ve been busy, you know. All sorts of weirdos pestering me and anyone around for where you were, what I thought about, well…” she groaned, “your intentions with her…” She drifted back, easing herself to the rocks, by my side. “How… how were your days, lately?”

I smiled, just slightly. Despite the turmoil still clinging to her, she made the effort to talk as she normally would.

Something melodramatically, I groaned, leaning back and rolling my shoulders. I opened my mouth to complain about the trouble of trying to date an ascetic, then prudently shut it. “Myouren Temple is an unruly place. Sometimes it feels like every single one of them wants a piece of me, a piece of whatever I bring, or to hear the darkest, dirtiest news they can get their hands on! And somehow, most of them distrust me.”

She chuckled. “Of course, of course. They really understand you, don’t they?”

As much as I appreciated her snark, I put on an obligatory pout.

She leaned forward. She wanted a hug, but also to keep her distance. After a bit, she spoke up. “Futo’s been quiet lately.”

I tilted my head, watching the water once more. The hint, the faintest foreshadowing, of a silly grin creeped across the corners of my lips. “Don’t worry. She’s just… experiencing a shift in perspective.”

“You know something.”

I shook my head. “It’s very private and sensitive to her. It would be terribly rude of me to share~”

She snickered. “Then you’re a terrible woman, taking such amusement from her private affairs.”

“Maybe I am, maybe I am…”

Finally, Tojiko leaned into me, resting her head on my shoulder. Gently, I leaned back into her. If the trend with Byakuren continued, I would miss this.

Hoo boy, would I miss this.

After some moments passed, she stirred. Then, with a start, she pulled herself off and jerked into the air. She patted down her dress and gave me a curt nod. “I have business to attend to. See you later, Miko.”

I nodded back, waving my shaku as she floated away.

Speaking of business to attend to, I had some of my own to consider.

I still had to pick up something for Tojiko and, especially after our exchange, I felt an urge to get to work in earnest. But I’d left Byakuren to herself for longer than a simple supply trip ought to have run. Out of curiosity, I wished to return to her, if only to learn who had visited and how it went. Then there was the concern not of Byakuren, but of her disciples. If I truly wanted their favor-or at least, their tolerance-I would need to start sooner rather than later.

So many things I needed to do. So little time.

I pulled myself to my feet and, with a few steps, slipped into the great between. As I returned toward the temple, I…

[ ] Returned to my other ‘wife.’ I had to know of this visitor and, frankly, we had a lot to discuss as well, after last night.

[ ] Studied the temple’s treasures and secrets. I had to know what it had to offer before I could bargain or scheme.

[ ] Mingled more with the other disciples. I would win their hearts and utilize such favor in my future endeavors.

Votes not guaranteed after this time:
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2020/11/25 (Wed) 19:00

[x ] Studied the temple’s treasures and secrets. I had to know what it had to offer before I could bargain or scheme.

OOF this one hurt. This might not end well, either way.
[X] Studied the temple’s treasures and secrets. I had to know what it had to offer before I could bargain or scheme.

Gotta figure out what we're working with first and foremost.
[x] Mingled more with the other disciples. I would win their hearts and utilize such favor in my future endeavors.

I feel that the other options can be pursued while using this one, seeing how keeping the followers' eyes on Miko would hopefully help avoid accelerating Byakuren's intimacy and also take off some of the suspicion of inspecting the buddhists' assets if it's done with their approval or supervision.
[x] Studied the temple’s treasures and secrets. I had to know what it had to offer before I could bargain or scheme.

If Byakuren is busy, time to snoop. Any disciples of interest will probably stumble into us anyway as we muck about.
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