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File 160247718446.png - (1.01MB, 1200x675, am disturbed at the lack of suzunaan pictures.png)
am disturbed at the lack of suzunaan pictures
Depending on who you ask. You’d get a lot of different opinions on this fantasy land called, ‘Gensokyo.’

If you were to ask the folks in the Human Village, they’d say that the land is nice so long as you stay inside the walls of the village. But if for some unfortunate reason you’d have to travel out of it, they’d still say the land was mostly fine so long as you’d stay within the well-traveled roads.

And avoided the enormous Forest of Magic.

Stayed away from any large fields of sunflowers.

Kept your distance from any large patches of spider-lilies.

Took care not to attract attention from the Tengu from the mountain

Made a large detour around the lake and avoided the scarlet mansion.

Oh and if you somehow had the ability to do so, stayed away from the big hole in the sky over yonder unless you want to visit the netherworld early.

Among other hazards.

‘But it is a nice place regardless!’ So they’d say.

If you were to ask the question to a youkai who was more willing to make conversation and not gore you for a snack ‘just because,’ They’d have a higher opinion of the land as a whole. But also mention some, if not a good chunk of the same hazards the villagers mentioned.

Then you’ve got the individuals that are practically the center of these hazards who’ll tell you that Gensokyo has no issues and will stare at you blankly and/or oddly for even suggesting that there might be some issues with this little land of fantastical paradise.

But who were you to think? You were just an outsider dropped into this hot mess out of nowhere. A case of ‘Right place, wrong time,’ that you quickly found out was all too common for something seemingly uncommon.

Months went by, through multiple strokes of luck and will. You had somehow managed to carve out a little niche for yourself as another ‘problem-solver’ of sorts. Taking cases from the village and, on the rare occasion, the more sophisticated youkai.

Luckily for you, the majority of cases were just small-time stuff. ‘There’s a weird noise coming from the attic!’ that would turn out to be a possessed heirloom and just needed to be moved or exorcised by one of the shrine-maidens’ charms.

‘There’s a kid wandering around the streets at night.’ Which would turn out that there was never a kid. Just a young youkai curious about the human village. A short bit of walking and talking and transferring custody to the local teacher takes care of it.

Of course, there’d be times where the seemingly innocuous cases turned out for the worse. A case where a farmer’s particular livestock was behaving erratically would turn out to be a sudden extermination case when it would suddenly transform into a fresh, feral youkai.

Then there’d be the high risk, high annoyance cases. Ones where a youkai had been causing either havoc or mischief to the point that one group or another puts out an ‘Extermination’ request for any able-bodied person to take upon. The kind of case where it’s not as big of a priority for the local shrine-maidens, but a big enough thorn in the side where it wouldn’t take much for it to be pushed to their radars.

One might ask, ‘Well, why not let them take that little extra step and get punished by the more severe authorities?’

To that you’d reply, “Why did a sane person like you wind up here?”

Many times it’s just a coincidence on the side of the offender and us, ‘problem-solvers,’ take care of it before it can even get the chance to escalate any further. Worse comes to worst, the more ‘specialized’ folks end up taking care of it in their free time.

But a more prominent issue is that sometimes the youkai -or sometimes even humans-, that bring themselves up to this level of notoriety are just as aware of this threshold as anyone else are; and would cause just enough trouble to where they wouldn’t get the swift and decisive hammer of the law bearing down on them quickly.

In a way, it grates on your sense of morality knowing that individuals or beings can just cause enough trouble and stop just short of getting swift retribution and slink back into the shadows waiting for the heat to die down before making another mess.

But in another way, if it weren’t for this, ‘threshold,’ folks like you wouldn’t be able to make a living in this line of work.

Which brings you to now.

A case a few days ago by a ‘concerned’ villager who happens to have an occupation in real-estate for the particularly wealthy section of the human village had led you to an abandoned mansion a little ways past the high class area of the village.

It quickly became apparent that this was going to be a high risk, high annoyance case when you started investigating. You found multiple reports of individuals going missing surrounding the area of the mansion. Which led to you obtaining the information that all victims were young men. Which then turns out that the reason why they were going inside of the mansion in the first place was because of a sudden rumor being spread around that there was a beautiful looking noblewoman inside ‘just waitin’ for her man.’

Looks like even across a magical barrier of time and space the man’s healthy yearn for the opposite sex triumphs over logic and reason. Many times.

You hit a roadblock however, when your experiences made themselves apparent again and reminded you that the last time you jumped straight into an extermination case on a level like this, you had to get bailed out by a passing youkai who thought that the offender was a bigger nuisance than you.

Which brought you to the local library of Suzunaan in the hopes of gathering information as to what the culprit might be.

Which brought you to another roadblock: While you were lucky in that the assumption slash theory that the ambient magic of Gensokyo allowed the language barrier to be traversed easily without issue. It isn’t wholly benevolent as to grant the same pardon for literature and writing in general.

And as much as you hoped it to be, there weren’t any books written in English or any other language you could understand, that focused on the Japanese mythos relevant to your line of work. Which only served as a crude reminder of your early decision to postpone learning the Japanese alphabet in favor of getting by with general vocabulary for your vacation to the mainland, not knowing that you were going to get swept up in a barrier mishap like other poor sods before you.

Sucking up your pride at the time, you sheepishly asked the young lady manning the store if she could find such a book, and additionally had to give her an awkward request to find an entry that sounded similar to the case you were taking.

Of course, she says it is not a big deal. But that little pessimistic voice in your head is no doubt playing multiple phrases in your head exclaiming that the lady is quite annoyed with you for taking up her time to be your personal interpreter and translator. Despite her assurances to the contrary.

A bout of time passed by in an uncomfortable atmosphere. Every once in a while the girl would turn the book around and point out an entry that would seem to fit the case description, you would write down a summary on a notepad, and ask for her to continue. All the while throwing in an apology here and there for her taking the time to assist.

After a little more time, the both of you managed to narrow it down to one likely suspect.

An Aonyōbō.

While it relieved you to have a term to pin this to, it also shoved a seed of doubt into your stomach as you were told all the information there was on it.

Rather, the sparse amount there was on it.

All that was written was how one would theoretically come to be. A lady of the noble courts of low social status, desperate to rise in the ranks yet never managing to do so. Her desperation and envy towards her fellow peers of higher status thus followed her into death and coalesced into what is most likely residing inside of the abandoned mansion right now. Luring in young men and devouring them as sustenance. A staple detail of many of the more ‘instinctual’ youkai.

Faced with this information, and the lack of a ‘textbook’ solution, usually meant one of two things.

Either this youkai can be removed through more, ‘conventional’ means of extermination.

Or this youkai requires a specialized method that is only known to those with prior experience.

It was a decision that made you think for a short while. But not dwell upon. if this youkai was as dangerous as to require a specialized method, then you doubted the human village would put out a request for a general ‘handy-man’ like you to take on.

Even if they did…

Well, if you fail, it’s not your problem anymore.

You expressed gratitude to the young lady of the store. Leaving behind a fee for her trouble -despite her insistence to the contrary-, you begin heading back to the primary area for your case. Stopping shortly by your temporary abode to grab your equipment.
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Type 2 Hamada
Briskly walking down the village streets, you shift slightly as the weight of your gear makes itself known on your hips. The dated ‘Battle belt’ as you’ve taken to calling such items holding everything you hopefully require to handle this case.

Ideally you’d wish you had more ‘offensive’ means to aid you. But all you have to your name is just an old knife and antique pistol seemingly manufactured in World War Two.

Speaking of, you remove said firearm from the tan leather holster it resides in on your belt. The barely worn exterior of the firearm shining off in the sun’s reflection as you mindlessly admire the ergonomics of such a dated pistol.

The shopkeeper in the forest who sold you the pistol wasn’t able to tell you much. Only that it was a “Hamada Type 2.” It was by a stroke of luck that it even had a box to reside in with the manuals. Unfortunately said manuals were written in the language of the original manufacturer.

If you had more time on your hands, you’d try and figure out the history of this pistol. As it no doubt had a story to tell with its circumstances. You were always a sucker for this kind of stuff too. So to know that you held and used what was potentially a historical artifact instilled some sense of vague respect in the maker and the pistol itself.

The only real important things you had to know though was that it fired eight millimeter cartridges and the general operation functions as well as a pistol of its age should. Pushing back on the hook release on the bottom of the grip, you eject the magazine. The weight of the bullets stacked inside of it alerting you to its full capacity.

Due to the size of the cartridges, there’s only enough space to carry six shots, plus one in the chamber. A little less than you were used to when you were doing contract work around the world. But you have no space to complain. Finding firearms is easy enough here, albeit not as prolific. Ammo aplenty too. But the issue stems from trying to find a compatible pair for the two.

Could find any old M4 or similar looking rifle no problem. But any five point fifty-six cartridges was trying to win the lottery. Any that did come by was snatched up by other outsiders who were too used to the modern stuff. Mostly never getting used, as they ended up getting too cocky and went around thinking that they’re Superman now that they’ve got a firearm only for a feral youkai to come around and prove them wrong.

As it turns out, magically enhanced animals and the like are surprisingly resilient to non-enchanted bullets, particularly insufficient quantities of them.

Once again though, you’re one to talk. Seeing as how you’re making your way to an abandoned mansion with the intention of using a knife and gun to handle the youkai inhabiting it. Granted, you have more options. Notably the stack of varied-yet-generic charms and seals stashed inside your belt pouches.

The usual pattern with these kinds of encounters is to just whittle down the youkai’s strength with the lesser items or your weapons and then finish it off with one of the more expensive sealing tools. Usually being a talisman of a sort. Just slap the baby on the weakened youkai, step back, and watch the lightshow. Usually.

Hell, not even your conventional weapons would help you much either. In order for it to even do any damage at all to a youkai would require you to have one of the local priests or shrine maidens bless the weapon with a charm or talisman of a sort. Even then it would only last for a certain amount of time before you’d have to go back and get the ‘buff’ refreshed.

Although you have an inkling that it’s just them monopolizing the methods for their own profit.

All in all, being a lower ‘handy-man’ is a profession that always seems to feel like you’re not getting back enough with how much you put in. But, in a world where the only thing that’s actually stayed somewhat consistent between here and the outside seems to be fighting. It’s something you figured you’d have to jump on less you want to just lay down and die.

“Ain’t much, but at least it’s honest work. Right?” You mumble to yourself in what you guess is an attempt to reassure that you are a somewhat decent path.

Doing one last readiness check on your gear, you rack the slide and catch the ejected round to confirm functionality. Before removing the magazine and placing the lost round back into the mag and holstering the firearm after putting the mag back in. The gun is lubed, smooth, and workin’ good with two spare magazines in reserve.

Next is your knife, which isn’t all much to talk about. You never were a ‘knife’ guy, as usually any fights that involved one meant you would have to get really personal with whatever’s on the other side. All you can tell is that it’s just a standard Japanese Tanto, looked more oriental than practical with no... ‘guard’ of a sort. For lack of a better term.

It’s a simple design, but you always have the slight concern that at some point your fingers are gonna slip when using it and slice your pinky. But beggars can’t be choosers. You were lucky enough to find it in somewhat good condition shortly after your drop inside the border and you’ve had enough excursions with it that upgrading it to something better would put you off somewhat unless the blade drastically failed.

That, and finding a more modern knife inside the border would cost you an arm and a leg due to the high demand from other outsiders looking for similar gear.

All in all, with the old tan uniform you purchased from the shop that deals with outsider goods, you feel as if you’re just one step away from recreating a historical IJN kit. Which is somewhat ironic, considering your American nationality.

You’ve become aware of the sudden atmosphere shift from the usual hustle and bustle of the human village to the quiet, tense atmosphere of the abandoned high-class district. The wind slightly picking up and causing a worn down shop lantern to rattle from its perch on the corner of what used to be a general store.

The story behind the district according to the real-estate agent who asked you to take on the case was that apparently it was a moderately flourishing area. What you assumed to be the ‘leader’ of the district made one too many mistakes, and he panicked when the quality of life started plummeting and caused businesses and families to leave to other districts. More shenanigans happened over months, probably years, -you weren’t here yet when it was going down-, until he essentially ran it into the ground and ran away from his position, leaving his estate to deal with the fallout.

Considering that the culprit behind this case is in the very mansion the old ‘leader’ used to reside in, you can safely assume that the fallout wasn’t pretty for the subordinates involved.

Now, due to the nature of the human village itself, space can’t be wasted. So the real-estate agent wants someone of your profession to resolve the remnants of the past so he can get to work on reviving the district into something comparable to it’s prime.

When you summarize it in your mind, it really doesn’t seem all that out of place. You’re ‘technically’ just evicting a squatter who’s been sitting on a prime piece of land that the ‘bank’ wants to reobtain for their own purposes.

It’s just that the squatter just so happens to be an otherworldly entity potentially filled with malice and is ‘disappearing’ young men upon their entrances into the abode.

Nothin’ out of the ordinary...

You’re coming up onto the estate now, the old wooden walls in disrepair only show a fragment of what used to be a respectable home. Said building beyond the walls looking none the better to the walls protecting it.

A figure stands near the entrance. A guard you asked to be placed to prevent any more ‘healthy youths’ from testing their luck with whatever’s within. His lax stance as he shifts on foot to foot with his arm resting on his katana only shows that he’s had an easy shift.

Still, he perks up when he sees your figure coming closer to the mansion. His hand that was resting on his katana twitching to ready the sheathe just in case it was someone not supposed to be here. Only relaxing when he notices the tan uniform, switching back to the lax stance he held previously, irritation gracing his features.

You are not too sure if letting someone irritated take the reins on the conversation would be a good idea. So you prep a standard ice-breaker as you get within earshot.

“You look like you’re bored outta your mind.”

The guard shifts, glancing this way and that, looking for something or hoping for nothing. Perhaps his irritation was more anxiety then?

“Was there anyone who tried to get in?” You take a guess.

The guard gives you a blank look, apparently off-put at your question. “What? No. It’s been pretty quiet. No one’s tried as far as I know.”

“Why the jumpiness then?”

It is then that the guard's anxiety seems to increase upon getting noticed, looking like he’s about to bolt any minute as he once again looks around before leaning closer to you. “It’s been a little too quiet. And I’m not sure if my mind is messing with me or what, but I’ve been hearing things coming out of that house shortly before you got here.”

“”Things?”” You confirm, “what kind of things?”

Idly, you glance towards the horizon acutely aware of the sun’s position on the horizon. Twilight is approaching.

The guard responds, “Not too sure anymore, if I try and think about it, feels like I’m losing my mind. But if I were to try and guess, I’d say it’s more like a ‘call’ of sorts.”

You nod, “Sounds about right, if what we’re dealin’ with is true.”

“‘We?’”

Oh, right. Sometimes the folks don’t pick up on your phrases. “Don’t worry about it, it’s just me goin’ in.” Wanting to avoid the awkwardness, you push on, “Look, uh, go ahead and head back, tell the chief that I’ll be handling it now.”

The guard hesitates a bit, lookin’ at you in what seems to be in a mixture of awe and incredulousness. “All right. But uh…” He glances back at the entrance to the mansion, “You got a plan?”

You take a breath, not entirely ready to answer seeing as how most of the time you just tend to ‘wing it’ with these kinds of things. But you don’t think the guard wants to hear that.

“Of a sort. Problem with dealin’ with these kinds of cases is that usually the first plan gets thrown out the window as soon as shit hits the fan.”

“...’fan?’”

Fuck. “Look, tell ya what. I’ll leave a talisman here on the wall.” You accentuate with a slap on said wall, leaving behind a standard paper talisman. “If I don’t come back out and take it down by the time you or someone else comes to check up on it, assume I failed and call the shrine maiden.”

Not like the talisman actually does anything as far as you know. Just a sign of ‘Hey, something is going on over here. Stay away until it’s over.’ But they don’t need to know.

Reluctantly satisfied with the answer, the guard takes a few steps away, making his leave. “Okay. Just… Stay safe, all right? Whatever’s in there has already taken away multiple men, we don’t want another one.”

You nod, “Hopefully I won’t be the next.”

You turn away from the guard as you hear his footsteps grow fainter as he speedwalks away. Looking up at the gate to the mansion, you’re suddenly aware of its height and the imposing feeling it seems to give off.

And then, behind it, the mansion itself. The wooden steps leading to the front sliding door are broken down and in disarray, and the door itself is torn in half. Only showing darkness to whatever’s inside.

You take another deep breath, and clear your mind. Can’t be having the place itself scarin’ you before you even go in. You’ll need to keep your mind on the plan. Any distractions or other flights of fantasy can cause whatever’s in there to mess you up harder than you can say ‘oh shi-’

So. How are you gonna handle this?


[ ] Aggressive, but with patience. You know it’s gonna end in a fight usually, so just try and cut out as much filler between then and there.
[ ] Try and talk it out. Maybe it’s the rare chance where the youkai can at least communicate. Think you’re ready for a diplomacy check?
[ ] Take a card from the Hakurei. Fuck it, guns blazing.
[ ] Stealth? If it’s even possible. You’ve done it before, but it relies heavily on luck rather than skill.
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>>43027
[x] Stealth? If it’s even possible. You’ve done it before, but it relies heavily on luck rather than skill.
gun and a knife. might as well go full solid snake
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[x] Stealth? If it’s even possible. You’ve done it before, but it relies heavily on luck rather than skill.
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[x] Aggressive, but with patience. You know it’s gonna end in a fight usually, so just try and cut out as much filler between then and there.

danmaku strats are a go
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[X] Aggressive, but with patience. You know it’s gonna end in a fight usually, so just try and cut out as much filler between then and there.
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Assuming no tiebreaker vote by Wednesday, the 14th. CST. I'll do a coinflip.
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voting for coinflip
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[X] Stealth? If it’s even possible. You’ve done it before, but it relies heavily on luck rather than skill.
>“It’s been a little too quiet. And I’m not sure if my mind is messing with me or what, but I’ve been hearing things coming out of that house shortly before you got here.”
Maybe it's busy with something, or someone.
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callin' it for sneaky beaky times then.

let's hope I don't disappear like my last story huh? Although last time was more due to lack of planning. So since I have a more solid foundation this time around, it'll be better.
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[her world]
Aha, would you look at that. I'm already farther than my last story~!
damn. That's actually kinda sad.
-------------------------------------------------------

[X] Stealth? If it’s even possible. You’ve done it before, but it relies heavily on luck rather than skill.

You close your eyes and take a deep breath. The events of today’s investigation starting to take a toll on you.The idea of ending it with a drawn out life or death fight doesn’t sound appealing, all things considered.

So like any other strategically inclined individual, you run through some minor pre-battle thoughts.

Youkai in general are more resilient than the average human. That’s a given. While it’s not uncommon to find both, they usually get separated into two categories. Physically resilient or mentally.

(You’re also aware of the fact that youkai are spirit-based beings but that’s a different can of worms. Right now you’re just compiling the key notes into easy-to-digest snippets.)

Youkai like the Oni, general beast-type, etc. would fall into the former. Again, barring cases where they have legends rooted into a more firmer foundation.

Youkai like the Zashiki Warashi, Karakasas, or your typical spirits would fall into the second category.

Now, you know that it’s not really smart to think that a youkai would wholly be in one category or the other, it’s usually a mix of the two. With certain types being more specialized in one or the other.

The Aonyōbō, in particular, you would imagine to be more of a mentally resilient type of youkai. You can reinforce this theory by assuming that it has been ‘luring’ the victims. Which usually gets followed up with the idea that they must’ve been put into some kind of trance of a sort. Whereas a more physically-inclined youkai would just bruteforce a victim without any tricks.

With that in mind, you can surmise that a physical fight with it could potentially be a situation that it would like to avoid. So any attempts to force it into one could probably be rebuked by any tricks up its sleeve, if its got any semblance of self-awareness.

So, you don’t want to fight either, but you also don’t want to talk it out. It probably doesn’t want to do either, so it’ll most likely try and ensnare you into a trap and swoop in for the kill then.

Two beings who don’t want to engage directly, but want to eliminate the other.

A game of Spy vs Spy, then?

Well, if that’s going to be your main route. The next pre-battle step is to think about countermeasures.

Assuming the Aonyōbō does lay traps. The question is: What are they?

You can already surmise that one of them is a mental hypnosis, if the missing person reports and what the guard said to you previously are to be believed in. But then the question becomes more specific. Is it wide-range? Does the mental snare trigger upon a certain threshold? Anything?

And therein lies your issue. You don’t know. The Aonyōbō's entry didn’t have such information. So you can only rely on the basic fundamentals of mentally-focused youkai.

You can’t recall the ‘textbook’ guidelines word for word. But it boiled down to:

Keep your sense of self at the forefront of your mind.

Never give the youkai your 'True Name.'

Maintain a resolute state of mind.

Be fearless.

Although a resolute mind and a fearless mind probably mean the same thing. But you are digressing.

Maintaining your identity makes sure the youkai could not possess you or ‘overwrite’ your consciousness.

The ‘True Name’ of an individual for whatever reason here in Gensokyo when dealing with youkai seemed to have something to do with ‘authority.’ Which between the two parties can apparently put one or the other at an advantage if one obtains the name of the other. You never were clear on the details.

The final two points though were more or less self-explanatory. Youkai, being more spiritually inclined and mentally as an extension, could tell when an individual’s mind was unstable. Fear is usually a good destabilizer for that. So when a youkai ‘smells’ fear, it’s more that they notice that an individual’s mental guard has some openings they can exploit.

And if there aren't any openings, fear is a good tool to force some to open.

You idly notice that twilight has passed. Yet no new occurrences have appeared interestingly enough. Twilight was apparently the time when the boundary between ‘perception’ was overlapping so encounters with youkai were more frequent as sunset came and went. For not even a unique feeling to occur from the mansion was a detail in itself worth noticing.

You feel your eyes narrow in speculation, is the youkai already aware of you? It is something you mentally make a note of and shove away to think about later.

Were you to utilize stealth for this. You wouldn’t be entirely certain for yourself that you would be aware of whether or not the youkai was aware of your movements. You’d be banking on the hope that whatever you did was hitting all the right spots of slipping in undetected and not falling to the whims of the youkai who may or may not be watching you in amusement as you make a fool of yourself trying to be sneaky.

Hell, the last few times you actually managed to sneak up on a youkai you weren’t entirely sure how you did it. Just seemed like you walked in, saw it, slapped it, done.
Vaguely, you remember that you were in a ‘special’ state of mind that, as far as you knew, was a result of reflex or unconsciousness. But if you were to try and pin down exactly what that ‘state’ was, you only draw meager assumptions.

Rather, you would dare say that the prime mental state for these situations is a state of ‘unthinking.’ A mental form in which the prime focus is just the goal and no other thoughts save for the factors surrounding it.

So the question once again becomes: how do you fall into that state?

...

You don’t know.

But you can make an educated guess!


Right, so. Overall plan is to first get yourself into a state of mind that is ‘unthinking,’ or similar. As it is right now with your musings currently, that isn’t going so well.

You breathe in deeply. Then out. Slowly pushing everything you’ve been thinking about to the back of your mind.

Breathe in. You’re gonna enter the building like any other building.

Out. Search.

Breathe in. React.

Out.



You take a step through the gate. You barely acknowledge the lack of any new sensations. And then with another step, you fully enter the estate.

Mechanically, you take even steps through the yard. Eyes vaguely focused on the destroyed doorway. Without missing a beat, you cross over the debris and into the building proper.

You close your eyes, allowing time for it to adjust. Anything you’d see in the dark would get tainted by your imagination. When you open them, you’re greeted with a living center that’s seen better days. Dust permeates the entire interior, small tufts sprouting into the air and glistening in the moonlight through other broken paper doors and windows.

You’ve made it inside. And a shot of adrenaline courses through as the reality- Suppress.

Search.

Your target isn’t in this section of the mansion as far as you can tell. You’re moving to the next room.

And so you move. Strolling through the hallways as if you ‘belonged.’ Glancing into each room that you pass on the vague hope that something catches your eye.

Yet, nothing does. You ended up doing a lap around the mansion’s ground floor and came up empty. Most rooms either being destroyed beyond observation or empty beyond belief.

Vaguely, you notice that you are slowly losing hold on your nerves as the eeriness of the location bores upon you, as well as the subtle frustration of not finding your target.

Breathe in. The target isn’t here. Time to move to the next floor. Out.

You end up walking halfway across the mansion’s ground floor once more before finding an outstretch of the hallway leading to a staircase in moderate disrepair. Carefully climbing up it, you head up into the second floor. Idly, you notice that for such an old staircase, it didn’t creak at all.

Stepping fully into the hallway of the next floor. You begin repeating the same process, stroll, peer, move on. Only taking care to avoid any major holes in the floor leading back down due to the wood decay.

However, you still aren’t coming up with anything of note. Peering into another room, you are only met with another empty old room with decaying tatami floors. Nothing hidden in the corners as far as you can tell. You are starting to feel a mild irritation building up that’s overpowering the previous anxiousness for better or worse.

Breathe in. The target isn’t in this section. Move onto the next one. Out.
You pass by another room, glancing inside only momentarily to find another dusty, worn room with a stand holding a busted mirror frame with a pulse of ambie-hoooold up.

You look to the other side of the room quickly, purposefully ignoring the debris left behind and just staring at the emptiness of the other side of the room.

You think you found it.

Breathe in.

Out.

You slowly scan back over to the clumped side of the room. The mirror stand was damaged beyond repair. The frame that would’ve held the reflective surface material structurally broken. Off to the corner, an old clothing screen lay upon itself in a crumpled mess.

Something is off.

You gently step into the room. Careful not to hit a soft spot on the floor and cause another collapse. Wouldn’t want to also disturb the resident.

As you slowly get closer, you start to notice more details surrounding the stand. Old containers with drawers pulled out and contents removed lay surrounding the main furniture piece.

A stray moonlight beam from a broken paper window hits the mirror frame just right to show something glisten. Old shards you can assume from the old mirror.

You take another careful step and notice the old, moldy pillow, crookedly off to the frontcorner. Slowly, you maneuver yourself to a favorable position so that you won’t be vulnerable when you start the next step in the plan.

Back to the wall, but enough room on the side to dart either way. You breathe in and close your eyes.

Slowly exhaling, you let up on your ‘tenseness.’ Feeling both the anxiety from before passing through you, leaving shivers in your torso for a sparse moment, before getting replaced with an encroachingsensationreachingupfromyourfingertips-

You pause your train of thought right there. Carefully lifting your eyes, you notice that the room appears to have gotten…’vague.’ Any attempt to focus on a particular detail only serves to make it harder to focus. Like when in the middle of an almost pitch dark area, your peripherals are a better sensory tool than direct eyesight. Despite the inability to pick out concrete details.

So you use it. Letting your peripherals guide you through the suddenly darker room. Towards where you last saw the broken mirror stand and taking special care not to focus too hard on ambiguous shapes that you believe to be irrelevant to the current case. Until eventually you come up to the moldy seat pillow interestingly stationed properly in front of the broken mirror stand.

Looking directly at the wall, your peripheral vision can just make out a blurry figure with its back turned to you, situated on top of the seat pillow. This is it. It has to be the target.

Carefully, you draw out one of the more powerful talismans from your pouch. This particular talisman requires a solid, direct placement on a point where the spiritual presence is most concentrated. Heavy emphasis on ‘direct.’

Talisman in hand, you slowly ease up once more on your mental state. Breath held as you slowly inch closer to the back facing you as more details become defined. The feeling of a presence slowly spreading from your arms to your body as you carefully trigger the youkai’s mental trap.

Talisman mere inches from the noble layered robes covering the youkai’s back. You feel yourself glancing up and down between your placement point and the head of the youkai itself. The long, flourishing raven black hair pulled to the front as the young woman combs through it with an ornate comb-

You glance down, body shivering uncontrollably through the sheer intensity of the situation.

Breathe out. Slowly. Talisman centimeters from the point. You’ve got this. The youkai’s young lady’s face is clueless as she looks through the mirror and locks eyes with you.

Fuck.

You don’t freeze. But neither does she. Right as you cover the few meager points of air to her back, the figure spins and throws off your placement to a wild limb.

A cacophony of decaying flesh and exposed bone that only vaguely resembles a face is what you’re treated to before you get forced away by a sharp scream assaulting your senses.

Stumbling back to gain distance from whatever that thing is. You trip over a strewn piece of fabric debris and lose your balance.

By the time you realize that the screaming has stopped and you’re on the ground. You open your eyes to find the being leaping towards you with an acquired hair needle glass shard.

Letting loose an expletive, you only have just enough time to intercept the assailing limb and block the body from falling onto you.

Unfortunately it also treats you to another close look of your assailant and-

“Jesus fuck!

You refuse to parse the information. Looking at the ceiling over the shoulder of your assailant, you’re now able to only make out the ragged gray hair coming off in clumps, along with pieces of rotten flesh.

Don’t loook at meeeee!” Assails your hearing. Your right eardrum tingling at the proximity.

“Get’off!” You accentuate with a burst of force, yet to no fruition as even despite its appearance, it’s still a youkai.

Quickly shifting gears, you maneuver a leg in between you and the youkai. Pulling and pushing with opposite ends of your body. You manage to catapult the entity off of you after a minor struggle.

You quickly scramble up, unholster your pistol and aim it in the general direction of the youkailady. Who is covering their face with a draped sleeve in a vague sign of vulnerability.

You pause, more due to the lack of a clear target to fire at. But in a twisted sense of curiosity. You lower the pistol slightly to conserve strength, but ready to snap back up at any funny business.

A sudden wave of gentle pressure washes over you. Like a mother smothering their child in a hug in a manner to placate a tantrum, you feel any prior hosti-Suppress.

What an aggressive introduction, mister~.” A silky voice sneaks through your senses. “Don’t you know it’s impolite to peek in a lady’s room while they are getting ready?”

The robed sleeve lowers slightly just enough to reveal a pair of sharp, violet eyes outlined above by a large swath of long, raven black hair. A drastic change from what you were just dealing with seconds prior.

Your body twitches in surprise at the unexpected development. However you quickly recover, lining up the sights of your pistol to where the seemingly glowing eyes peer at you coyly from their perch.

“My~. You do not wish to be entertained by yours truly?” The voice sounds hurt, but what you see implies otherwise. “I am certain a man of your… stature would like nothing more than for a night spent with a wondrous lady-”

“Sorry. I have a job to do.”

A tick of silence. Before her shallow facade slips as she realizes she doesn’t have you ensnared in her charm. Violet eyes glaring with intensity at your curt refusal.

“Then your death shall be more painful than the rest!”

You only get a split second to hear the sound of a mechanism moving before your arms launch out in front of you. Miraculously, you catch onto the ledge up to your forearms while the floor beneath you drops out.

Gritting your teeth at the exertion of keeping yourself up, you only allow yourself to return a glare of your own to the youkai for the cheap shot.

Said glare only seems to offend the not-so-noble woman. Irritation flowing over her figure as her simple attempt to eliminate you failed by sheer luck on your side. “Insolent human.”

You feel a loose wave of pressure soak through you as the vulnerability of your position becomes known.

“If your desire is to be personally eliminated by my unmerciful hand, I will be glad to indulge in your final ri-” The youkai’s spiel is interrupted as her head rocks back suddenly. Her sleeved arm reaches up to the newly created hole in her forehead.

The smell of spent gunpowder begins to waft through your senses as you begin to pick yourself up from your awkward firing position. You swing a leg up and use it as a fulcrum with your arms to roll back onto the solid floor.

Standing up, you only spare a quick glance behind you out of morbid curiosity, and see only darkness at the bottom of the trap. You think for a second how many other victims she caught with this trick before putting your full attention on the youkai.

You are fully aware that the bullet is not enough to exterminate her by itself. You would need to place another high-grade talisman on her most concentrated spiritual point. The problem is, you would have to get up close and personal once more.

With your target currently staring at you in a mixture of shock and offense as a hand rubs the spot your bullet landed. It only serves as mild deterrence against you from launching another attempt. As you are left wondering just how badly did you piss her off.

You get an answer to your internal question, when the youkai’s uncovered eye fully realizes your capability and stares at you with pure, unfiltered contempt. Before her form blurs and meshes with the darkness, violet glowing eyes the last to fade away.

Well shit. You just proved to her you are fully capable of ruining her day. Her running off into the darkness wasn’t a sign of submission, that’s for sure.

That was her subtly saying, ‘I’ll be taking you seriously now.’

Outside of the room. You hear something slam into something else in the distance. An ominous sign of what is in store for you, you presume.

Well. Stealth was maybe a bust. What is your next move?

[ ] Hold your ground. Let her come to you and hope that the trapdoor is the only thing she can throw at you in the room.
[ ] Get moving and hole up into another area. If she’s wandering, maybe you can catch her as she passes by?
[ ] Speed. Accuracy. Violence of Movement. Can’t hit you if you are running everywhere.
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Some minor stuff in regards to the story in regards to plans that I probably should've put in the first update.

The goal is for this to be a "short" quest of sorts. Maybe lasting up to a thread or three.

Ideally, I'll try and get an update out within a week after closing of votes. A minor standard to put for myself so I don't "forget" the story like I did with my last one.
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[X] Get moving and hole up into another area. If she’s wandering, maybe you can catch her as she passes by?
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[x] Get moving and hole up into another area. If she’s wandering, maybe you can catch her as she passes by?
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Assuming no one wants to piss against the tide, I'll be closing votes at the end of tomorrow, (Monday, 26th of October, 00:00CST)
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Merry Christmas! (Technically still in the west coast at the time of posting?)
I actually sat on this one for a while not really content with the contents. Almost 3 months later here we are.
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[X] Get moving and hole up into another area. If she’s wandering, maybe you can catch her as she passes by?


You shift uneasily as a shot of trepidation worms down through your body. Suddenly aware of a pungent scent of lavender slowly mixing with the previous smell of gunpowder from your gunshot. You quickly consider your options.

If there’s one thing that annoys you to no end when it comes to conflicts. It’s when the enemy goes into hiding. As then it no longer becomes a duel of reaction and instinct, but of wit.

‘Who can outsmart the other more decisively?’

It is ironic, considering that you would frequently employ similar tactics without hesitation. But you like to think that it is in itself a testament to the viability of such tactics that brings you to such frustration when the other party uses it against you.

Kinda like when a boss in a video game has a health regeneration phase...

You are digressing however, you determine that it isn’t a good idea to stick around any longer in the current room. Banking on nothing but assumptions, you can only figure that when the youkai goes into hiding, she doesn’t become ‘omniscient’ to everything inside of the mansion.

At least you hope not.

So you figure that she is either repositioning herself into another room to recompose herself and come back out, or she’s planning to launch an attack from the shadows on the last area she knows you were in.

Which is the room you are in right now.

Another loud, deep thud reverberates throughout the wasted building. The vibrations make it hard to determine where exactly the source is coming from, and you’d rather not find out to be honest.

You hastily make your way out of the room and step back just in time to narrowly avoid the pointed end of a log swinging down from an unseen hole in the ceiling.

As the large mace trap slowly bleeds momentum and comes to a stop, your previous urgency is arrested as the old dusty halls that you were seeing previously have now changed drastically to the tastes of the youkai inhabiting it.

Wisps of multi-colored blobs and lines float about in the air spread out sporadically. You’ve had previous encounters with them before, being harmless as far as you could tell.

You’re more captivated by the sudden nightly glow bleeding through the walls of the hallways. Casting a blue-tint hue over the entire length. However, you stop yourself from staring any further, as such appreciation would have to be done at a better time.

As behind the layers of brightly colored aesthetics, lay what you assume to be a copious amount of hazardous traps the youkai somehow managed to conjure up in the short time span she scurried off.

Taking a cautious step, you begin making your way down the hall of horrors.
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Slipping into a randomly picked room, you slide the door closed behind you and take a deep breath to try and relieve yourself of tension.

You had your suspicions when the youkai’s appearance seemed to not stay the same for too long. But after trudging through the mess that was once the hallways you pretty much confirmed it.

You’ve been spirited away.

What was once old, rotten, wooden hallways turned dimly lit from unknown light sources. Multiple hidden traps that you were barely able to notice or graze as you attempted to gain distance from the original room the youkai and yourself fought in. At first you proceeded with caution, the traps you barely noticed quickly giving way to subtle cues you observed as the more traps you dodged.

Eventually it just got to the point you were almost speed walking the halls like before.

Although you wonder if it was all for naught if the youkai is able to watch your actions from wherever she’s hiding, if the last time you got spirited away to a youkai’s personal realm is of any experience.

The feeling of a spiky warmth crawls up your body, leaving beads of sweat forming on your head as you try to maintain composure at the change in circumstances. Getting caught by a youkai’s influence is one thing, but getting spirited away is almost a death sentence.

Almost, at the very least. Contrary to what the other folks in a similar line of work would tell you, you managed to break out and take care of the youkai against all odds. But it isn’t something you’d go through again. Yet, here you are.

Unfortunately the similarities between the last time you got whisked away and now end at the victim. As far as you can tell, your quarry is more than happy to hole herself up wherever and wait for her placements to do all the work. The stark opposite of your previous experience.

Which leaves you to now. Another suspiciously clean and empty room being your stopping point. What makes this particular room special compared to the multiple previous rooms you barged and darted through in various directions is lost to you. As your main hope was that by running around seemingly randomly in and out of rooms and through the hallways you would eventually lose the eyes of the youkai watching you from wherever.

You’re lost in the seemingly labyrinthian mess of living quarters. But hey, maybe in your seemingly mindless running, you succeeded in causing the youkai tailing you to lose track of you as well!

Pfft.

You already doubt that the off the cuff plan worked. (it’s the effort that counts though!) So you’ve already begun shuffling around in your pouches for one of the specialized charms you’ve commissioned from the Hakurei shrine maiden, and set to work on it.

Minutes seemingly pass, yet with no interruptions you’re sitting criss-crossed in the middle of the room with a protective charm placed in the cardinal directions surrounding you.

You feel a shiver run up your spine as you try and maintain a false sense of bravado for the benefit of the charms to work. You had it mostly pounded into by the shrine maidens that ‘they’ll only work as well as how much you believe in them.’

You’ve seen them work, so you can believe in the use. It’s just the lingering fear and doubt of ‘what if they don’t work this time?’

You take another deep breath, hands clenching knees as shivers wrack through your ribcage in anxiety. The mansion has been eerily quiet for some time now. The only detail outside of this barren room besides you is the brightness of the moon nearing its zenith shining through the open sliding doors that lead to the open air balcony overseeing the centre garden below.

A, ‘plan C’, should your initial and backup plan fail. A small relief on your mind knowing that you aren’t entirely back against the wall. Yet.

You’re unsure as to the whereabouts of the target, and you feel that any attempts to seek her out yourself would be hazardous. Such is your current plan of waiting her out and hoping that she ventures out into the hallways herself in pursuit of you.

Even if it means engaging into another physical altercation, knowing where she is and having her where you want her is loads better than letting her roam around, leaving you guessing at every turn.

Now you just have to wait for results, and man, the wait is agonizing. It’s a trial in itself to force yourself into a seemingly calm composure, but the anxiety manifests itself in you shifting about in place uncomfortably as you try to utilize every sense available to you to listen for any change in surroundings.

Snail-paced seconds pass, leading to meandering minutes. Perhaps it’s been shorter than you think or longer than it felt. But eventually your senses snap back into focus as you realize that the moonlight flitting in behind you is growing dimmer unnaturally.

You draw your gaze down, not entirely willing to move your body to ascertain your initial thoughts yet. Watching as the outline of your shadow becomes barely visible. But that wasn’t what you were focusing on.

Right above your shadow, another silhouette slowly peers from above. Growing steadily towards the ground like a quickly forming stalactite.

When it overlaps your own shadow, a sensation similar to a droplet of ice water down your spine strikes through you and causes you to finally turn around.

Just in time for the youkai to move unnaturally fast and fill your field of view with nothing but her maniacally grinning face. Ruby colored eyes glinting from some unnatural light as what you assume to be her hair slowly fills your peripherals.

Ah. piss…

You feel an uneasy smile worm across your mouth as your original expectation was subverted. The youkai taking delight in seemingly emerging victorious in outwitting you.

The both of you twitch, and it’s then you realize you can’t move away. The perpetrator being that the youkai had thrusted a limb through your stomach.

You reach a hand out, grasping for her shoulder and using it as a support to hold yourself up.

“Oh~? Now you crave for my affection?” She teases mockingly, before twisting her hand inside. “It’s a bit late for that.”

On the contrary. You’re just making sure she can’t get away.

You sense the body growing sluggish as you bring your other arm up to the opposite shoulder and notice how it’s easier to grasp-ah.

It appears that the sneak attack from earlier did have an effect on her. As she is currently missing a limb right where your misplaced talisman landed.

So it appears that she isn’t in top-form at the moment. Which is perfect for you.

You feel the corners of your mouth curl upwards in a predatory smirk as you realize the odds are about to tip in your favor. Giving one final squeeze on the youkai’s shoulder, she grows slightly confused at the lack of her expected reaction to shoving an arm through your torso.

Realizing you’re about to lose control, you let off with one final quip.

“Gotcha.”

With your vision going dark, it’s then you ‘let go.’

You feel a momentary whiplash as the sensation of being ‘shifted’ throws your mind into a mess as your sense of sight is returned and you manage to quickly reorient yourself just in time to see the body double collapse and unravel into layers upon layers of talismans. Much to the stunned confusion of the youkai.

By the time she realizes that the collapsing talismans are also acting as a binder to keep her in place, it’s already too late.

The talismans collapse deliberately like a soft pile of cards, yet retain just enough of a structure near what used to be the torso to keep the youkai’s hand in place. The arms that were on her shoulders have fallen and the uncovered talismans stretch down into a ropelike tether onto the ground, acting as additional restraints.

Though the action is useless due to the inherent attributes of the talismans. She still tries to wrest herself out of the bind to no avail.

Guess you got your money’s worth buying the charm from the Hakurei shrine maiden.

It wasn’t cheap, however. These ‘decoy’, ‘double’, or however she called them charms were a tactic used by the shrine maiden herself and required an ample amount of your savings before she was willing to give you a similar version of the charm that wasn’t as potent as her own devoted creations.

Luckily, as you now got to see for yourself, it didn’t make the effect any less impressive.

You stand up and emerge out of the shadowed corner of the room where you hid your real body. The youkai stills as she hears the heavy footfalls of your boots against the hollow wood floors and realizing the severity of the trap she’s fallen in.

“Wha-? Y-you were a-” she breathes out in apparent disbelief.

Were you in a more casual state, you’d probably express morbid amusement at how the ‘hunter has become the hunted’ now. However, you’re still slightly coming off the whiplash of ‘technically’ cheating death, and are thus more focused on finishing this job quickly before you have to use your next and final charm.

Slipping another exorcism talisman out of your pouch and into your hand, you take aim once again at where you believe to be the most concentrated area of spiritual power on the youkai. Considering she’s already eaten a similar talisman, you wager that even if you somehow miss again, it should be enough to finish her.

Not allowing her to have any more time to think, you raise the talisman and bring it down square on the center of her back.

Just in time for you to get assaulted with a blast of raw spiritual energy.

Your senses get overloaded, culminating into a mish-mash of information that you can only surmise as what would be called a ‘white-out’ as you blindly and numbly dive to the side in a shot-in-the-dark anticipation of a counter attack.

Left with your senses compromised, all you can do is get up and jerk haphazardly everywhere in the hopes that you don’t get fatally hit while you wait for your senses to come back to you.

In what feels like an agonizing few seconds, you feel the tremors of your mind ebb away as you regain mental stability from the sudden burst of energy.

Blinking your eyes open carefully, you’re met with a surprisingly quiet and empty room. Contrary to your previous expectations of an attack being prepped for you.

Looking around, you don’t notice anything obvious other than the remnants of the ‘decoy’ charm’s talismans littering the floor in a clumped pile. If the youkai made an escape, you’d expect there to be somewhat of a trail leading in the general direction of her route. But there’s no indication of such.

It’s as if she just up and disappeared…

You’re hesitant to assume that the exorcism talisman had worked properly. Considering the timing of the energy burst and the usual outcome of a youkai getting hit with such a talisman run contrary to your previous experiences. They generally don’t blow up like that.

Yet there’s no indication she went one way or the other. The only probable assumption you can think of is that she left the same way she came in, which was through the balcony past you.

Which… considering your sudden dive to the side at the explosion, might actually be the case.

Just as you turn to leave the room to look for her again, your boot bumps into something hidden underneath the pile of exhausted talismans. Bending down, you prod the clump with a hand before noticing that there’s indeed a lump of something hidden underneath.

Shifting some aside, you only have to sift a little before what you felt makes itself apparent and you raise it up to examine.

It’s… an appendage. An arm to be exact, it seems. The decoy talismans wrapped tightly across the entirety of the limb seem to indicate that the youkai somehow managed to break out of the bind. But the question then becomes, ‘how did it end up like this?’ or rather, ‘how did she manage to do this?’

Flipping the body part around, you see a detail on the limb that stops your musing for a bit.

It’s the exorcism talisman you slapped onto the youkai’s back right before she exploded like a bomb-

...bomb.

Ah fuck.

Out of the depths of your memories, a small detail emerges from an old conversation with the Hakurei shrine maiden that was brought on from a topic of the mechanisms of ‘combat’ in this land during your first days in.

”It’s something a bit advanced, but under the right circumstances, with the right timing, someone or some-thing, can unleash a burst of energy and narrowly avoid what would count as a, ‘killing blow’, in a duel.

Lately we’ve taken to calling that technique: ‘Death-bombing.’”

You let one end of the appendage drop as your hand goes up and rubs your hair in annoyance.

The youkai just, ‘death-bombed’ you. There’s no mistaking it. All the details from before point it in that conclusion, and it frustrates you.

Partly because you were close to ending this blasted job, another part because you’re also gaining some respect for this youkai for the cheekiness of throwing your ‘death-cheat’ with a ‘death-cheat’ of her own. Even if it was potentially a shot in the dark for her.

“She’s got perseverance, I’ll give her that,” you concede.

However, despite her actions. She’s now no doubt without both arms now. Which severely diminishes her capabilities. Unless she somehow regenerates them shortly or has more arms hidden away somewhere on her body.

You have a good bet that it isn’t the case. Considering she’s eaten two Hakurei-made talismans. But there’s always that tiny little chance that your mind tells you to be wary for.

You straighten yourself out and only give your immediate surroundings a glance over before exiting the room. The once glowing hallways and suspiciously healthy architecture reverting back to their present state of disrepair and size.

You notice that for all the commotion you were making earlier for moving around to avoid the unrealistic amount of traps she had set for you. The hallways don’t look like they would’ve been able to house such plentiful traps in the first place, if any at all.

You calmly stride through the hallway. Betting on the thought that since the youkai doesn’t have any more energy to expend on the hallways, she probably doesn’t have anything else to use against you.

The arrogance of the assumption is lost on you however as you’re entirely focused on moving to the only paper door at the end of the hallway that has light emitting from the otherside. Your boots echoing off the old wooden floor now being the only sound in the entire mansion.

You don’t let the lull in the atmosphere act as an excuse for your mind to wander however. Your mind is empty save for the acknowledgement from your five senses reporting in. The scent of something gently burning a sharp, yet smoothly sweet aroma grows more prominent the closer you get to the room.

The scent in a way activates your body into acknowledging the few lacerations and bruises on your body from the first engagement with the youkai and a couple grazing shots from well-placed traps that you narrowly dodged.

It’s not enough to make you relax wholly, but it does make you aware that you’ve gone through a hell of a night. With a shrug and a roll of the shoulders, you take the last few steps to the door before sliding it open nonchalantly. A solid thud as the sliding door rebounds off the end of its track being the only noise to your entrance.

The first thing you notice is the sudden brightness of the room as an unworldly ethereal beam shines through the only open window of the room. You would’ve passed it off as daytime light were it not for the fact that attempting to look out the window causes your eyes to strain intensely and force you to look away despite the light seemingly not being as intense as it looks. Looking via your peripherals only gives vague colors as the trees and structures you expect to see in the distance are shrouded by the artificial light.

The light beam illuminates down through the dusty room, specks floating about in the air getting their particles visible as the light reflects off of them in gentle swaying.

Just slightly off to the side of the light, a figure kneels in the center of the room. Her once meticulously kept and healthy raven hair is already a mere remnant of their illusionary past as stray strands poke out across the head and the once solid curtain of hair shows uneven gaps and unequal lengths.

Were the situation different, you’d think she just has a harsh case of bed head.

However, as you bring your eyes down to the shoulders, you notice that the outline of her figure sharply curves earlier than the usual silhouette. Beneath the loosely fit outer robe, your previous assumptions were confirmed as you notice a distinct lack of forelimbs.

Her eyes open, and violet irises exchange with yours with a distinct lack of hostility behind them. Another drastic change from only a few moments ago.

Your mind jumps to a conclusion, and you suppress the oncoming feeling of disgust with reprehension.

You take a few cautious steps into the room. The door sliding closed behind you without your input only serves to cement your apprehensiveness.

Circling around, you stop only a few arms length away from her. Her gaze never leaves yours.

You wait a little. Unsure why…

Other times, in other cases, you’ve had targets shamelessly turn their mood in a one-eighty and make multiple offers to you in their attempts to plead mercy or grace.

Sometimes the offer would be material. Other times it might just be immaterial, like luck or fame.

There’s also been the times where it’d be sensual in nature.

On the other hand, there’s been cases where the target only wishes to talk.

Whether about their justifications to themselves on what they’ve done, to talking about their family or friends that have long passed, and everything in between.

But the more special times were when they made a simple final request. A request entirely disconnected from the situation, yet when you delved into it, puts the final piece of a puzzle together.

The question is: considering the events that have transpired up to now; should you give her the liberty to make her case?

The emotions and thoughts behind the violet irises are undecipherable...


[ ] No words are needed for someone who was trying to kill you only moments ago. You just want to finish this.
[ ] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.
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[x] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.
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[x] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.

We're no Hakurei maiden, after all.
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[x] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.
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[x] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.
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[x] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.

Who knows we might get some good experience and knowledge out of it.
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[x] No words are needed for someone who was trying to kill you only moments ago. You just want to finish this.
I shall piss against the tide.
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[X] Stay and listen. Despite what happened, it would bug you to leave a ‘story’ unfinished. Hear the final pages and then close it.

Seems fairly safe, and far more interesting.
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Funny how I drop off at the vote talking about "leaving a story unfinished"
Anyways, let's continue this. The next major update after this chunk should have the next vote. Assuming I don't take too long again.
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[X] Stay and listen.

The meager seconds that pass feel like eons as the two of you stare each other down waiting for the other to make a move. Yet, despite the intensity, you don’t feel the dreadful hostility coupled with the atmosphere like before.

Personal arrogance notwithstanding, you feel as if it’s the kind of hesitation a convict feels, looking at the judge about to bring forth their conviction and punishment.

It brings forth an awkward feeling from you. The thought of being ‘judge, jury, executioner’ only brings internal conflict with your own sense of morality. Yet you know at the end of the day, you are potentially the only person in this line of work that still tries to hold the ‘neutral’ ground in these kinds of cases.

You are almost certain the Hakurei maiden would already be done with this and back to her abode drinking tea. The other outsiders who follow the similar field would most likely shoot first, ask questions later, no doubt. If the current rumors circulating around the village are of any indication.

The best thing you can do right now is to stop and try to gain all the facts and details. It may make things more complicated, more so than you like. But at least you can say that you’ve made a final decision with all the information you could glean.

Piercing lilac-colored eyes follow you silently as you heave a sigh and kneel down in what you figure to be a ‘formal’ style. The only compromise you can think of that lets you give an appearance of non-hostility while retaining a somewhat prepared position to defend yourself should you be proven wrong.

A moment of silence passes as you shift around trying to get yourself comfortable while attempting to ignore the scrutinizing gaze of the youkai in front of you. Not entirely willing to lock eyes with her yet, as the pressure and imagined intensity exuding from her puts you off slightly, akin to a child caught doing something bad and doesn’t want to look their parents in the eye. But you don’t outright show it in your body language that it’s the case by taking a little extra time getting comfortable sitting.

But eventually, you psych yourself up before finally leveling your gaze to hers.

Another moment passes as the both of you seemingly lock into an unannounced test of will. Hazel eyes stare into violet and vice versa as one side mentally attempts to force the other to break the gaze and take the final loss. The consequences falling out of the outcome of such a battle potentially being the one excuse the parties need to deliver the final blow.

… Perhaps you’re overthinking this.

Just before you feel yourself about to zone out, you notice the youkai’s gaze lower before a voice fills the room.

”From the beginning. It was all a mistake.”

You sit up and straighten yourself out. The suddenness of the voice reverberating around the room had startled you slightly. Least you can do is pay attention to this final story of hers as she vents to the only person willing to listen.

“I was but a naïve and spoiled little girl. A child born to parents who toiled day and night in the fields to live.”

A pause, as a gentle breeze flows through the room somehow through the still bright window. The youkai’s hair is gently jostled from it. While the slightly warm breeze on your skin brings to mind hot summer days working out in the sunlight. Mild humidity and the smell of disturbed dirt take their spots as you imagine the field workers breaking their backs harvesting and taking care of the crop fields.

It’s no magical flashback story. But you can at least put two and two together.

“The good people they were, they raised me with the purpose for me to live without the hardships of a commoner. Pushing themselves to allow opportunities for me to attain higher education with the hopes that I could achieve a life inside the upper echelons of the village.”

“They had gathered multiple resources. Textbooks, scrolls, visits and interviews with esteemed members of the village. All to aid me.”

“And I found it detestable.”

You think you’re starting to get the gist of the story now. The image of a child pushed to their wits end at the persistence of parents who wanted them to attain a life better than theirs comes to mind. It’s a common story back in the outside world, unfortunately.

“Instead of listening to their advice. I was more entranced with the stories of outside fairy tales I’d read in my spare time. Tales where a man, bound by honor and of gentlemanly disposition, would become infatuated with beautiful maidens and take one of them to be wed as his wife. Living a life of luxury.”

“I had met many such men during multiple arranged visits to learn about the more detailed complexities of the village. However, they had all already taken wives. And I soon came to find out that I was not the only one who wished to attain such a position for the purpose of a life of luxury as well.”

Another pause as the youkai sighs in introspection.

“It would not be until my sixteenth birthday that I ended up falling for the tricks of one of the more… malicious nobleman.”

“All it took was words of flattery and promises that held no conviction before I was all but putty in his grasp. My parents, none the wiser, supported my decision to join with the snakeman.”

Ah. Sounds like she got played hard. That’s rough.

“I believed that it would be just the two of us. That even though he was a man of scarce accolades, he was still of a prominent class which meant easygoing lives for us.”

“I… and the six other women he managed to fool with the same trick.”

Oh. Oh. You see where this is going now. Resetting your seating position, your interest is morbidly piqued.

“It was not even a day before the personality he used to lure me had shed away. Replaced with an arrogant brute who only wished for us to hover around him like trophies.”

“However, that wasn’t the difficult part.”

“I had been dumped into a battlefield of drama, where the combatants were as desperate, cunning, and cold-hearted as could be if it meant having even a single step up on this imaginary hierarchy.”

“Anything to get closer to the snake who would promise them untold pleasures for acquiescing to his demands. No matter how unreasonable they may be.”

“The first weeks were difficult. The rest of the women were still shifting into their new societal positions as I had just replaced the last girl who... failed to meet the man’s expectations.”

Disposed of, most likely.

“Immediately I was made aware of what my place was on the grand scale. Through no gentle means.”

“For a while, I had entered a time where I lay broken. Despairing at the turn of events that had led up to then. I would toss and turn at nights when I wasn’t in pain from the constant physical reminders from the other girls about my position. Agonizing mentally about the regrettable choices I failed to make when my family did so much for me.”

You shift uncomfortably. Each segment of the story the youkai tells you is accentuated with a short bout of silence. Either from her own reluctance from recounting it once more, or just as a way to emphasize the severity of each detail at your expense.

“No matter how much I prayed to the gods above for mercy, there was never a response for the foolish girl who fell for the simplest trick in the books.”

“So then I realized. ‘If the gods refused to help me. Then they have no right to punish me for taking matters into my own hands.’”

That’s… uh. Not entirely what you were expecting. But you could see the perspective? ‘A little confused but got the spirit,’ kinda situation? Not sure if that’s right either...

“Methodically, I learned the politics that surrounded the snake’s harem. I would slowly collect every bit of information that would grace my ears from any source. Whether from the malicious gossip between fellow maidens, or from the village’s ambient noise of the townsfolk that passed by the window.”

“Eventually, I would amass a collection of information that would rival the village tabloids in scandalous material. But the spanner in the works was timing.”

You just noticed, but the youkai’s eyes attained a certain gleam in their eyes. A kind of gleam that shouts, “you wanna know the greatest plan I had?”

A gleam of bragging.

In a way, you’re both amused and relaxed at how into telling her story is. But also slightly off putting at just how eager she’s telling you this. Even if it is a good story.

“You are a priest, no?”

It took a second from your end before you realized that she was addressing you directly.

“O-oh. uh… No.”

That drew a look of surprise from the youkai, violet irises widening as her previous assumptions were apparently dashed, “You do not seem to be the humorous sort… Yet you used divine talismans, did you not?”

“I did. But those were commissioned from the Hakurei shrine maiden. I’m technically under her care. But I’m an ‘outsider’ first and foremost.”

“An outsider… “ the youkai’s gaze drifts off to the side in thought. “Times have changed quickly since my turning it seems. If the Hakurei maiden is taking on outsiders as apprentices.”

“Not an apprentice. But you’d be correct in assuming that there are more outsiders nowadays that have means of defending themselves.”

“That must be why some of them were so eager to test their will against me~.”

You were quite enjoying the previous atmosphere before she reminded you that she has and would’ve killed you and others before you.

But, there’s nothing you can really say about it now. Unless she really starts ribbing you about it, you’re willing to let one poke slide in favor of her finishing the story.

Speaking of, you motion not-so-subtly to get back on topic.

“Ah. Yes. Timing. Much like you waiting for the right opportunity to strike during our… encounter. I had to wait for such opportunities with the information I had acquired during the time spent listening.”

If she still had her limbs, I’m sure she would’ve had a sleeve held up to cover her smug expression.

“However, despite my eagerness. Such an opportunity never came at the optimal time.”

And said sleeve would’ve dropped with her expression.

“As it would turn out, by the time I had completed my arsenal of gossip, someone else had already leaked a portion of it to the village folk in regards to the nobleman.” She leans back slightly in thought, “I have still yet to figure if it was from a rivaling group or one of the other maidens that had an even worse ire with the man than I did. But regardless, my effort turned out to be all for naught.”

“Not even the day had ended then before there was a mob congregating at the estate’s entrance. The snake had already left through a secret entrance prepared for this exact occasion. Leaving everyone else to suffer the fate originally set for him.”

You shift uneasily, imagined scenarios and situations already flitting through your mind as you try to guess the extent of the outrage the mob was at.

Considering the result the estate was in now, you could surmise that they had managed to breach the premises with barely any resistance and quickly tore the place up and down.

“They came charging through the building like a pack of raging bulls. Wrenching open each and every doorway without care looking for the man that had thrown this village district into the wastes. There were those who just came for the spectacle, not interested in the man, but for other reasons.”

You can imagine other reasons like theft and vandalism, but… a part of you is hoping there was no one that went as far as assault and worse.

The look on your face was potentially discernible to the youkai, as she locked hard with your eyes before nodding solemnly. “Even actions as dishonorable such as that.”

Damn…

“They spared no recourse. To them, any kind of action against us was seen as retribution to the snake who had the village wrapped around his finger.”

“They had their way with the maids and other maidens in the building. Including us. They assaulted the servants and tore apart the estate, stole what they thought was valuable and set fire to what they believed wasn’t.”

“For the most part, I was left stunned at how quickly everything fell apart. There wasn’t anything I could do to salvage what I had built up for my personal vendetta against the man.”

“As I lay battered and used, all that went through my mind was the absurdity of it all. How unfair it was…”

“And I promptly laughed as the fires raging through the building consumed my violated flesh.”

The cold air in the room stilled as silence once again reigned for a moment. While you didn’t feel any malice, you felt a shiver crawl up your spine as the chill settled in the area.

You lost track of how long you sat there patiently,invested in the background of her. But it’s not like you were paying attention to the time in the first place. The only indication that you had been sitting for a while was the occasional shifting to get the blood in your legs flowing again from the awkward seating position.

The youkai's story concluded as an unfulfilled tragedy. The regret of throwing away a perfectly normal life for the slim chance of living a life of luxury being the start of her downfall. Her endurance through quarrels was respectable, and to an extent, you empathized with her circumstances. However, her lust for revenge pushed her to take measures you don’t agree on, and was even a factor to her becoming the vengeful spirit before you.

Her revenge left unsatiated, she remained as a spectre in the estate after her untimely death at the throes of the angry mob. Luring in young men of all natures for the usual reason of quenching on their vitality until she was done with them.

It was then she had told you that despite the nefarious nature of her trap. She was aware of the ‘rules’ of Gensokyo. As such, she only kept the village men in a state of stasis in a secluded area of the estate until someone came to rescue them.

For a moment, you had actually begun to think that this youkai wasn’t as bad as she seemed. As for a moment you could think that she was actually trying to get someone to come over and exterminate her to release her from this proverbial cage.

“The outsiders though…” She interrupted with a dry chuckle, “They were fair game. Their corpses can be found in another room.”

And any rising respect and hope you may have had were dashed.

You rise up from your uncomfortable spot on the floor, bobbing up and down to try and get the blood flowing back into your legs. As you’re about to put the final mark on this case, you’re stopped one last time by the youkai.

“Before we begin. I’d like to ask one final request.”

“Thought the story time was your final request?” You ask dryly.

She shakes her head slowly, a wry smile forming on her lips. “‘Twas the mundane ramblings of an old woman. You could’ve stopped me at any time, y’know~?”

“So you still got enough bite to be cheeky, huh? Fine. I’ll hear you out again, no promises though on whether I can actually do it.”

She pauses for a moment upon hearing your condition, pondering her next choice of words. “...Isobe Seiji.” She declares decisively, “Tell me what has happened to him.”

“I’m assuming this is the man who lured you and everyone else into his scheme?” You confirm, continuing at her nod. “As an outsider, I’m not entirely up to date on what has happened. But so far it is the same as what you’ve told me. After running this district into the ground, the villagers living here grew outraged and developed an uprising against the lord of the district. However, before they could get to him, he managed to sneak away using a secret passageway and left his deserved punishment for his servants to take.”

For a moment, a burst of air emitted from the youkai, buffeting your clothes and slapping you mildly in the face. “That’s no different from what I’ve told you!”

You raise a hand in defense, eyes still closed from the wind. “I am aware. However, if there is one person in the village who would know the outcome…”

“...The Hieda?” She hazards, “Yes… She would know the outcome as the primary record-keeper of the village.”

You nod, glad she was able to catch on. “I can arrange an appointment with them and ask what has happened. Buuuuut... “ You trail off, shifting around awkwardly. “I’m… not sure how to go about the issue of leaving you here while I find the answer you want.”

The youkai stares at you, a blank expression on her face as she remembers the circumstances surrounding the both of you. You are supposed to be exterminating her right now, the only reason you aren’t is because her request has you slightly interested.

She blinks before answering, “Ah. I can arrange a solution. It’s a simple matter of-”

“No possessing me.” You interrupt, already aware of the usual strategies from prior experience.

Struck frozen mid-speech, she exclaims after a moment, “H-how else am I supposed to find out the truth of what happened to that man?!”

For a moment, you were really, really, tempted to just go, ‘I dunno. Not my problem.’ The culmination of everything between you and the youkai had not put you into any good mood to go above and beyond for her.

However, the one thing that was more tempting than to leave her here and exorcise the site full-scale was getting this request over and done with. Especially when you think about the labor involved for setting up an area wide exorcism. Not including obtaining the shrine maiden’s help with executing it.

Overall, the effort required to help the youkai with her request vs. telling her to bugger off and dealing with the consequences afterward was leaning toward the latter, and you didn’t want to bother with the expenses required for such a decision.

Which led you to relent a little. “Ffffine.” You speak up before she gets too excited, “No possession though.”

You’re mildly entertained at her confused expression as you continue, “There are other methods of moving around as a spirit, right?”

“I… Yes? But I’m bound to this estate as its story is what keeps me here.” The youkai explains, unsure of where you’re going with this.

“Are you bound to the estate itself? Or are you able to move with anything associated with it’s ‘story’?” You clarify.

The youkai stares at you for a moment before glancing around the room in thought. Still not entirely sure what you’re getting at but trying to figure it out. Eventually, she gives up and demands, “Explain.”

“Do you have or know of any item of importance to either you or you recognize as connected to the estate?” After a second passes with no breakthrough in reaction, you try to elaborate further, “If what I’m thinking is correct, you should be able to leave so long as you recognize the item as part of the house.”

She takes a moment to digest your reasoning. Before a flash of recognition spreads across her features as she finally understands.

A wry smile spreads across her face, as she tells you of a very fitting object for the purpose.
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justimaginewithoutthesink
You leave the room, putting what has transpired inside to the side of your mind for now. You make your way through the -once again- dusty, worn, halls. This time with purpose as you now know where to specifically go.

Turning a few corners, a left. Then right at a T-junction, you walk past two sliding doors until you stop at the next one and open it.

“Ah, geez!”

You flinch at the scene that suddenly comes before you. An organized line of decayed and rotting corpses lying side by side greets you immediately upon entrance. A second later, you instinctually resort to breathing through your gritted teeth as you feel the stale, dry air waft out from the room.

You end up bringing up a sleeve as the smell was overbearing enough to register on your tongue from what you assume to be microparticles from the decay. You only caught the taste of something sharp and rancid for a second before you turn away to try and get a relative breath of fresh air and try not to gag.

Prior experiences with dead bodies be damned, nothing can still beat a body pile fermenting for who knows how long on the ranks of ‘shit most likely to make you hurl.’

You inwardly curse the youkai to a thousand suns. You have no doubts she led you here as a way to spite you pettily. Which brings to mind a reminder.

“You know I can still just walk away from all this and leave you to your punishment!?” You exclaim down the hallway, not really caring if she heard you or not.

“What are you talking about?” You startle as she appears suddenly from behind you. “I only asked for you to retrieve an oriental pot- ah.”

“Yes. ‘Ah.’” You deadpan, temporarily ignoring the fact that she’s apparently able to move around now. “I was willing to let the other pokes slide. But this just takes it too far, don’tcha think?”

“That’s because you didn’t listen. I said: ‘walk past the two sliding doors and open the second one.’ She reiterates, moving over to the door to the left.

There was an awkward moment as she made what seemed to be a movement to open the door, but then remembered that you happened to blow off both her arms. In which she just turns to you with a mildly irritated look. Subtly requesting you to open it for her.

You resist the urge to huff smugly at her inability to open doors thanks to you. But you just want to hurry and finish this up.

You step over and slide open the door.



“...There’s still bodies.” You observe, turning to stare at her.

“Yes. But they’re not dead.” She emphasizes.

You crank your head back towards the room. At first, you were inclined to retort with another petty remark. But upon closer observation, it does appear that the bodies inside are healthy and lack a distinct rancid smell compared to the room next door.

You step in and press your fingers between the wrist of one of the lying bodies. A faint pulse throbs between your thumb and middle finger, further confirming that they are indeed alive. It seems that the youkai was indeed telling the truth.

You just stare back at her, whatever expression on your face is the only sign she gets for this mess of communication.

“See? Not dead,” she further rubs it in. “And for the more prominent purpose... “

The youkai wades over the line of bodies strewn on the floor. Idly, you note that despite her current condition, she does take the little care needed to make her movements seem floaty and graceful. Interesting…

She stops at the edge of the room, near where a dilapidated dresser stands in disrepair. “Here. Open this up.” She demands.

“‘Please’ is a strong word around here.” You gripe, but open the dresser door regardless.

Inside, in stark contrast to the current state of the dresser, is a decorative pot that stands out against the dull colors of the room around you. Its green and pink body with gold accents slightly subdued from the dust covering it. A gentle wipe with your sleeve reveals the immaculate condition it’s currently in.

Immediately, you recognize its significance. Amidst all the violence and vandalism, one item managed to avoid all of it, hidden away in plain sight all this time. You could stand there and idealize a bunch of perspectives about it. But overall, you can tell this would be a good fit for your current purpose.

On a whim, you ask. “So was this a funeral pot for ashes or…?”

“It was a commemorative gift from my family to myself as a celebration for the union between myself and the snakeman, Seiji,” she explains curtly. Her tone indicates she wishes to speak no further about it.

“I see…” Seems you’ve really stumbled upon something of significance. “Right then!” You exclaim abruptly, wanting to change gears before the atmosphere gets anymore awkward. “So uh… How does this work?”

“You mean you don’t know how to seal spirits?” She questions with a raised eyebrow, mouth slightly pulling upwards in another grin of astonishment.

You bet she’s wondering, ‘How the hell did this guy beat me?’

Your response is a blank stare, a thought halfway out of your mouth but frozen as your mind occupies itself with its imagined scenario.

She rolls her eyes, “Not like we need the full ritual anyways. If you don’t know, it’s fine.”

“W-well, I figured it’s something on your end that you have to do. Like mental or some other…” You peter off as you realize you are entirely talking out of your own ass.

“No.” She states with decisiveness, “It’s… a little more than that.” Said decisiveness quickly deflated, “I’ve never actually done it myself. Especially not of my own volition.”

“So how do you know what to do?”

“Wandering spirits,” she says matter-of-factly. “Between feasting on the vitality of outsiders, there was very little I could actually do while inside the estate. The spirits were my only source of reprieve from falling completely into madness. In exchange for their time and interaction, I’d send them on their way.”

Huh… What an interesting little detail!

“Of course, I’d only hear about the ones that got sealed after the fact when one of the religious factions of the village dealt with it for causing a mess in the village.”

Hum. Interesting...

You still don’t understand how she’s supposed to go into the jar!

Impatiently, you interrupt. “So how does this connect with you getting into the pot?”

She is mildly offended at the interruption once more. But after seeing your irritation growing, she decides not to poke further. “...I don’t know.”

Ah for fuck’s sake. If this pot wasn’t significantly important to your goal you’d bash it on the ground in irritation. Or on her head in some caveman manner to get her into the pot.

In fact, you are sorely tempted to attempt just that. However you are brought back to sanity after quickly realizing how silly it would look if it most likely failed. As well as the pissed off youkai you would have to deal with afterwards.

You sigh in exasperation. “Well, it’s not like we’re pushed for time. Let’s start with the obvious.”

“And what’s that?”

You lay the pot on the ground and gesture to it, “Try getting into it.”

A second of silence passes between you two as she glances back and forth between you and the pot in bewilderment.

“Surely, you jest?!”

“I ain’t jokin’,” you ignore the follow up. “Come on. Just act like you’re going into a hole or something.”

“That’s…!” She looks down at the pot again, showing signs of contemplation. “I couldn’t! It’d break for sure!”

“Lady.” You say, deadpan, “Right now you are a ghost with capabilities of disappearing and teleporting at will. Getting into objects should already be within your expertise.”

You plop a fist into your palm as a realization comes to mind, “Treat it as if you were possessing a person!”

“Possession?”

You have a finger pointed at her in a ‘Eureka!’ gesture, “Yeah! It’s not all that different! You’re just possessing an object instead of a person. In fact, it makes sense from a ritual standpoint.” Cupping your chin in thought, you continue, “After all, it’s just a forced possession of an object that you lock from the outside.”

You plop the fist into your palm again with a self-assuring nod as an alternative pat-on-the-back for your brilliant deduction. Clearly, you are too smart for your own good. They should get you into the priest academy or something.

The youkai stares at you for a while, contemplating your theory. Slowly, her gaze gets fixed on the pot. “Possessing an object…“ You hear her mumble to herself.

After a bit, you notice that her figure becomes hard to focus, and you stare in the general area where she’s disappearing in interest. After all, this is an idea of your own fruition! You need to know if you were right or not! That way you can gloat in glee at being proven right on something you entirely guessed on!

Slowly, you notice that the contrast of her colors against the building is slowly getting smaller and smaller. In which you can only assume that she’s actually entering the pot. But you have no way of confirming other than to wait.

You also realize that she was somewhat blocking the odor of corpses from the room over with what you assume to be her perfume. As your nose wrinkles in disgust at the rancid odor wafting over from the next room.

Once you were unable to see any trace of her, you look around the room just to make sure that she didn’t up and disappear somewhere else somehow.

‘Course, you were hesitant on actually believing that she went into the pot. So it was no surprise to yourself that you crouched down near it to check and see if there were any noticeable changes.

You hover around it, checking from all sides for something different. Reluctant to grab it out of fear that something was going to pop out or shake and startle you.

Eventually you went with the most sensible, yet silly, action and spoke out. “Hellooooo~?”

There was no reaction however.

You try again, rapping a knuckle gently on the side, “Hello, hello~, anyone hoo- ohshit!”

As soon as you knocked on it, you were startled back from the sudden reaction from the vase shaking in response to your interaction.

It continued shifting for a bit, as if it was trying to reorient itse-

“-ar me? Are you able to hear me now?” You suddenly hear come from the hole in the jar.

You blink in astonishment. You’ve already seen some weird stuff happen in Gensokyo, but seeing something so out of place from common sense still throws you for a loop. It’s a bloody talkin’ vase!

Holy shit!

”Y-yeah! I hear ya!” You start, leaning forward in immense interest, “How’s it look in there?”

“It’s…” The jar jerks to the side a little, “It’s quite cramped, actually. I can see why spirits are reluctant to get shoved into these and look for any method to get out.”

That reminds you actually, “Okay. That’s good -er, good that getting into it worked, I mean. But can you get out?”

“Give me just a moment… I’m still trying to figure out my orientation.”

And so you wait patiently for a moment, sitting cross-legged with a finger tapping against your knee in anxiousness. You already want to jump up and down in joy at your initial guess being mostly correct so far, but you also want to make sure she can leave so that she doesn’t feel constrained and will end up getting pissed at you.

Although when you think about it, it does feel rather silly how you’re concerned for the comfort of a youkai who was trying to kill you just a few hours ago. But you’ve already gotten used to it as it seems like these kinds of transitions are mostly the norm in Gensokyo. If the shrine maiden’s stories are anything to go by.

You’re brought out of your thoughts as you notice a change of colors contrasting against the dull walls of the building in front of you slowly materialize the youkai from before. Albeit slightly disheveled from what you presume to be the rummaging from inside the jar.

You raise your arms in glee, “Huzzah! It worked!”

Despite her current state, she offers a small smile and nod. “So it seems. Well done.”

And you get praised by a former enemy! You’re on a roll!

You pump up your arms again and let loose an indoor-voice level ‘wooooo!’

With a clap of your hands and a jump back to your feet, you’ve gained a new burst of energy! “All right! Let’s get rollin’. The sooner we get out of here, the quicker we can answer your request and out of my hair.”

“So eager to help me, I wonder what for?” She hums slyly, seemingly under the assumption that you have or want something to gain from all this.

Luckily you have no such ulterior motive! “A good day’s sleep back at the house!” You announce, “‘cause I’m freakin’ tired!”

You ignore her reaction in favor of picking up the jar, cradling it under your arm. “C’mon! I wanna blow this popsicle stand already.”

She’s halfway through asking ‘what’s a popsicle stand?’ when you’re both interrupted by one of the comatose bodies coming to life next to you with an annoyed grumble, “Will you guys keep it down? It’s not even time for work yet…” Before turning the other way and seemingly going back to sleep.

Huh… That just happened.

“It appears that I am indeed connected to the vase then, as my effects on the building are losing power. It won’t be long before the village folk wake back up from their temporary stasis.”

“I imagine they’ll be really hungry and thirsty then,” you assume.

“Not necessarily.” She corrects, “The stasis should keep them at the point I started it. Therefore if they already had a full stomach, they should be fine for a while. However, they will most likely suffer from mental fatigue from the gap in memories between then and now.”

“I’ll still have someone come over and take care of them,” you decide. Better to be safe than sorry.

Plus someone will have to clean up the rotten bodies in the room next, and it ain’t gonna be you.

You start once more as a thought comes to you, “Ah shit, that’s right.”

“Hmm?”

“C’mon, I want to look again at the corpses you’ve made of the outsiders,” you gesture as you walk past her, pot in arm.

“When you say it like that, one can have a misunderstanding of your motives, young man.” She teases.

“Please. Whatever I’m gonna do, probably isn’t that far off from the level you’re thinking of.”

“Ah, so you aren’t going to compliment me for the methods I’ve used to dispatch previous challengers onto my domain~?”

“No. I’m going to loot their bodies.” You say matter-of-factly.

“Ah… Wait, what?” She starts as you enter the room with the corpses.

“You heard me.” You’d say more, but even with her perfume obfuscating some of the smell. It just mixes in with it and turns it into some weird shit-mix of odors as you get closer. Leaving you to cover the lower-half of your face again with a sleeve.

If you encountered this situation when you were still a newcomer to Gensokyo, you’d have a moral dilemma with looting the equipment off of dead outsiders. However you found out early on that such behavior is more or less encouraged. As the waste of the equipment outsiders usually bring to such situations would just be left collecting dust, rot, or rust.

And in a land where every piece of material is precious: Waste not, want not. Especially when most of the time the outsiders will be carrying stuff from the outside. Which is really valuable. Both to you personally and for bargaining reasons.

Kneeling down to the first corpse, you mentally give some points to the youkai for giving the mercy of lining them up neatly instead of dumping them on top of each other. But regardless, you can tell this is going to need both hands. As such, you take a deep breath from behind your sleeve, put down the vase, and reach into one of your pouches and grab a loose fabric to tie as a makeshift mask.

Sucks that you forgot to bring your gloves though, you weren’t expecting things to get this messy.

As you get started with checking the first body, the youkai speaks up.

“Wait. You’re actually looting them?” She continues when you nod at her, “There’s no… y’know. Honor amongst yourselves?”

You shake your head. While not entirely true, there is a mutual respect between outsiders as being individuals within the same circumstances. But there isn’t much you can do when an outsider is dead.

You correct your head shake with a head tilt in thought.

“Wait, so there is honor?”

You shake a hand side to side.

“...Some?”

You nod.

“But not enough after death-”

You pull your mask down, irritation overwhelming you for a moment. “Lady, they can’t do much with the stuff on them when they’re dead. And they’ve got a lot of equipment that I can still use either for myself in the future or for bargaining.”

You take a quick breath in between and almost gag again, “If they were still alive, yeah, I’d help them. But since they’re dead I’m not going to let all this equipment go to waste when the usual village resident would just trash it thinking it to be useless.”

You pull your mask up and get back to shifting.

“I see... “ The youkai ends, understanding your subtle plight.

And so you worked, turning corpses over and checking each pocket available for anything of value. Sorting anything of note into organized piles. Money into one, outside phones and gadgets into others, and the sparse amount of ammunition and starter charms you could obtain from the few equipped outsiders near the end.

All in all, there were six dead outsiders that she killed. Judging off of their attire, you can surmise that the first four were outsiders who were either lured in or wandered in accidentally and were met with a cruel fate. While the last two were outsiders who appeared to be hired similar to yourself but failed. You can make a guess why though, as one of them was wearing an old Vietnam-era US military load-bearing vest stuffed with M4 magazines. While the other was in a similar setup, but more older as they seemed to be equipped for a more dated rifle. Not necessarily equipment best suited against a ghost. Especially if they didn’t have it blessed by one of the religious factions.

Speaking of firearms, while you were able to loot the M4 magazines from the former body, you don’t actually have a use for it as you don’t have an M4-type rifle yourself. You do find an XM177 next to the body. But it was rusted beyond natural means and the usual moving parts were stuck shut.

You stare at the youkai who was the most likely culprit, who only gave a half-hearted shrug. “He was shooting fire with it. Naturally I doused it off.”

Yeah, you can’t really fault her for destroying it in battle. Just sucks, is all. Would’ve been nice to run a familiar weapon system.

The magazines themselves also suffered some corrosion, although to a lesser extent. Removing the first two rounds from the magazine shows that the rest of the ammunition are in near-perfect condition. You can probably make a case for bargaining with the usual shop to exchange for some ammo you can use yourself, and then some.

The other equipped outsider didn’t have any equipment you could use. Aside from the starter charms handed out to every outsider from the religious factions for general protection/luck. (Fat help that does.) You couldn’t find the rifle he used and the stripper clips loaded with ammunition that were in his vest pockets were all corroded to hell.

Judging by the size however, you wouldn’t have a use for them anyways. Looked to be a specialized rifle cartridge.

Overall, you made out with a handful of smartphones and wearables, a small stack of various currencies, a mix of the (mostly) useless starter charms/talismans and some more tougher variants, and some ammunition you can barter for something useful you hope.

Could be worse. But you can’t complain. This is just bonus stuff on top of the commission reward you’d receive after finishing this case. Still loads better than the few near-suicidal runs to Muenzuka to look for fallen outside stuff.

You wipe your hands on whatever dusty cloth you can find near the wall and get up from your position. Stuffing everything you could find into your general pouches. You leave other stuff like their IDs with them so that at the very least, if and when the cleanup crews get here, they’d have names to place.

You realize with a glance that the youkai wasn’t in the room with you anymore, although considering the slight jostle the vase gave you when you picked it up, you can surmise she just went inside the pot of her own volition.

Taking one last glance back into the line of decayed bodies, you let loose a shiver before setting up straight. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

And so you make your way out of the haunted house of horrors, vase in arm.
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The morning light sears into your eyes and makes you very much aware of the time that transpired while you were in the building.

Letting out a yawn, you feel exhaustion welling up inside you and you feel just about ready to find a nice patch of grass and just crash.

But you can’t do that now. At least not yet. You still have a little more to do for this job before you can safely call it closed and head back home.

Your thoughts are partially interrupted when you feel a shove on your side as a small stream of villagers make their way past you with exclamations of relief and confusion. Some cover their eyes, falling into the same trap as you. Yet despite having suffered inside the dimension longer than you did, they still smile against the measly eye pain as they all make their way to the villa’s gate entrance.

Despite the sun’s efforts to blind you early in the morning, you can vaguely make out other figures waiting outside the entrance. You can only assume they’re here to assist the rescued villagers.

You wait a little bit more near the doorway. Mainly to make sure that all the villagers that you saw inside came out safely. Standard goody-two-shoes stuff.

Once you do a quick head-count and make sure there wasn’t anyone trailing behind, you step down and begin following everyone out to the exit. A small growing relief wells up inside you as you near the exit.

The small group of villagers fans out after passing the gate. You catch a glimpse of something that immediately replaces your relief with embarrassment and slight genuine fear. Although you wouldn’t admit the latter out loud.

Flitting through the swathes of urban fabrics from the villagers, peaks of a brighter color poke out from the back. A bright red and white combination belonging to a seemingly irate wearer who stands, arms crossed, next to the village guard you saw when you entered.

If you were to pin down this feeling, you'd say it was similar to when you tried to hide something from your mother as a child, only for her to be waiting for you to get back home with hands on her hips ready to drill you for it.

...Yeah. You’d say that it’s a good representation of what you’re feeling right now.

You feel the vase in your arms vibrate a little as a whisper wafts out from it. “Such pressure I feel…”

Damn. Even the youkai is affected!

“And here I was, hoping for a good excuse to beat up someone for waking me up early!” Reimu huffs as you approach, solidifying your current embarrassment. “I better hear a good reason why I shouldn’t make you the substitute,” she says, accentuating with a slap of her weird ritual stick on her palm.

Weird or not, she knows how to use it well.

You can’t think of an appropriate excuse. Besides, you did interrupt her sleep. Who wouldn’t be upset? You’re upset that you’ve had to stay up this long! The feeling is mutual! If not coming from different perspectives!

You’re also aware that she is most likely just pulling your leg.

...hopefully.

Idly, you stare in the direction of the sunlight, for no particular reason other than to give some sort of feeling to your mind.

You look back at the shrine maiden, with nothing to offer for an excuse other than a simple shrug and a sheepish explanation. “I wasn’t expectin’ to get caught up for so long. My fault for tellin’ the guard to get you when the sun came up. Sorry ‘bout that.”

Reimu stands in front of you for a moment, tapping her stick against her shoulder as she digests your unenthusiastic reaction. After a bit, she closes her eyes and lets out a sigh as her previous tense expression ebbs away.

“Can’t be helped. You look such a mess that it’d suck the fun out of punishing you.”

Hmm. Backhanded compliment? Better than the alternative, you guess.

“What was in there that wrung you so hard anyways?”

“Aonyōbō.” You answer.

“Aonyōbō!?” She repeats in surprise. Although it seems more out of disbelief than worry. “You practically got your butt kicked by an Aonyōbō?!”

You scratch the back of your head, not entirely sure of the answer yourself. “Seems she’d been under the radar for quite a while,” you say, tightening your hold on the vibrating vase. “Collected quite the stack of bodies and had a nice little house of horrors with it.”

You hear Reimu mumble, ‘radar?’ under her breath but don’t think much of it when she continues. “I see… So she’s been dealt with, right? No more issues?”

“Nah. None that I’m aware of.” The vase feels slightly heavier. “Although you might be requested to assist with the burial of those who didn’t make it in a moment.” You nod towards the recovering group of villagers and the guards tending to them.

“...Any villagers?” she asks, with an ominous tone.

According to her, villagers are a sort of ‘protected’ class. In this isolated world where supernatural beings subsist off of their fear, faith, human meat, and vitality, it becomes an issue when youkai start killing more than the village can reproduce. Hence, these so-called, ‘spellcard rules.’

Although for something that seemingly has established rules and regulations, everyone is severely lax with their use and enforcement.

Anyways, the short of it is that it’s bad if youkai kill humans too much. But it’s doubly bad if humans start turning into youkai en masse. As that leads the possibility into a snowball effect and further strains the balance between youkai and humans. So if word starts to spread that a villager turned or a youkai is killing villagers, everything comes down hard on them.

‘Course, none of those protections apply to us poor outsiders. We’re the meatshields of this reserve.

“None. It’s just the usual unlucky outsiders,” you tell her. “Typical circumstances, wandered or lured in, met with a terrible fate, all that jazz.”

Reimu hums to herself in thought while giving you an odd stare. “You and your weird phrases...”

The stick goes back to tapping against her shoulder as she ponders the next course of action.

“Well, Not much to do about it, I guess.” Her eyes drift across the village guard as they aid the crowd. “Seems it really did have quite a bit of time to collect all these people.”

“Appears so,” you say, awkwardly.

You lift your arm, bracing against a gust of chilling wind. Winter is slowly lessening its vice on the region, thank goodness. The last few months of harsh winter was not a time you’d like to go through again.

“So what’s with the vase?”

For a split second, it felt as if the morning wind had been but a feint to lower your guard for the icy spike of panic that coursed through your body. The early warning sign of a precocious decision that must be made quickly.

You’re frozen mid-pose for a second, internally debating whether you should come clean or not. You know ordinarily, she’d come to understand given the circumstances. Reimu is a reasonable person when it comes down to it.

It’s just this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and she’s already given you shit for doing exactly what you’ve done now.

And with the split second of hesitation, as well as the sudden stone faced expression you put on. She put two and two together.

“You took on another request from a youkai?” Once again, Reimu gives you a look of disbelief and exasperation. “How many times now are you going to let them have the last word? You know if it were me I’d just be in and out and done with it!”

You let out a self-aware, “hah,” before answering. “That was the plan at first. Always is, generally. But somehow with these kinds of cases I always get stuck with one final request before they want to leave.”

You stop Reimu before she can start lecturing you. “Way I see it, if it means that they get out of here with no more resistance and effort on my end. I’ll go through the menial legwork to answer a few questions they have remaining.”

“-until you end up with one asking to take over your body or take revenge in their place,” counters Reimu.

A puff of laughter erupts from yourself as the earlier negotiations with the youkai in the vase surface in your mind again.

“That’s where I draw the line,” you tell her. “If they don’t want to give up with something reasonable I’m more than happy to force them out. In fact…”

You heft the vase up in a presentation to her, “here’s the current compromise.”

She stares in mild interest at the decorated container, analyzing it with an unknown purpose.

Truthfully, a minor part of you wants some verbal praise for getting a spirit into a vase without using force. But you aren’t expecting much.

“...You didn’t seal it?” she asks, and despite your current confidence, you can’t help but feel like a chastised student.

And while you believed your decision to leave the vase unsealed to be the best outcome, the issue of once again justifying yourself to Reimu is a hurdle you must overcome if you don’t want her usurping your authority on the case while calling you an idiot.

It’s… happened before. Not often, but the few times it did hurt your pride enough that you’d like to avoid it.

As such, it would be in your best interest to pick your words carefully in order to make a iron-clad case for Reimu as to why you aren’t a dumbass who’s gotten this far on dumb luck alone.

“Nah.”

Brilliant.

Granted, you aren’t wholly sold on the self-sacrificing deathwish of carefreeness, so you actually follow up after seeing the split second of absurdity flash across her face. “Considering the circumstances, sealing it would’ve been counterproductive. After all, the spirit is inside of her own volition. It’d be like a spit in the face if I went back on my word and locked her in now.”

“...I see.”

“Plus I don’t even know how to properly seal it.”

Another look of incredulity. “You still don’t know how to do a sealing ritual after all this time?!”

It is then, to your surprise, the vase speaks up, “I made a similar comment earlier. It sounds like you have your duties cut out for you, Hakurei maiden.”

“And the vase talks!” she exclaims with mock surprise.

You are more or less certain she is just taking the piss out of you now.

You are actually surprised to hear the spirit announce herself considering the person she’s talking to. Wouldn’t being in front of a renowned character in this area who is known for neutralizing and exterminating creatures and entities like her with cold precision and prejudice (citation needed) be a good reason to stay quiet and let the big people talk? But it seems you were proven wrong!

“And to whom do I owe the pleasure of almost offing one of my top donors?” Reimu asks with an intimidating tap of the stick on her shoulder.

And yet of course. You are only favorable so long as you keep spending or donating my earnings to her for the equipment you use in these cases. The moment you’ve been sucked dry, her good graces for you will evaporate just like the empty feeling in the wallet.

Shit. She’s even stopped trying to correct herself in front of you in order to maintain the appearance of care!

It’s a good thing you have a vague semblance of fiscal responsibility.

It’s always been the case, however. She’s made no attempt at hiding the fact that her loyalty is towards money, right behind the safety of this land. Although you tend to question the order a lot. After all, she can’t necessarily show favoritism to certain outsiders, nor does she have any reason to do so for you. She only provides the little extra service due to a small amount of pity due to the reasons behind you being stuck in Gensokyo for the last three months.

Otherwise, it’s a strictly business relationship.


“Just an unfortunate vengeful spirit who is graced by the mercy of the man holding me.”

You notice, despite your exhaustion, that she’s distinctly avoiding formally announcing her name to Reimu.

You hazard a guess that the reason why she’s playing coy is due to earlier discussions with Reimu as to the significance of names when it comes to the supernatural. You wonder if the spirit is either trying to keep her name to herself as a way to keep Reimu from-oh, that must be it, actually.

The youkai must be afraid that if she were to give away her name, Reimu would have higher authority to exorcise her. Hm. Makes sense when you think about it. You did hear those stories about learning the ‘true name’ of youkai would submit them to one’s will.

“I don’t have any intention of going over his authority and exorcising you if that’s why you are withholding your name.” Reimu responds, practically reading your mind. “I’m not that mean…”

“All the same, Hakurei maiden, it would ease my worries were I not to announce it.”

Damn. This spirit really is scared of Reimu.

The shrine maiden lets out a huff of indignation, but drops the matter. The three of you are left in silence.

You would pick up on the opening, but your thoughts have been drifting due to exhaustion. You are at the point where you don’t care if the atmosphere is awkward or menacing, you just want sleep.

The two of you stand there for a while. You’re just trying to focus on staying awake while simultaneously trying to rest your eyelids standing up. When you open them, Reimu is staring at you once more.

“You really look like you need the rest. Go on, I can at least finish things up now that I’m here.”

“Mmmyeah… that sounds like a good - wait.” You perk up as your mind reminds you of a pressing note. “Can’t just yet. Gotta go to the local chronicler first.”

“Heida? What for?”

“Just need some information as to what happened after the lord of this mansion fled. The spirit wanted to know as a last request before fully passing on.”

“I see…” Reimu contemplates, looking at the villa like she’s trying to remember something about it.

“Well, good luck with that!” She crosses her arms with a self-satisfied expression.

Very helpful...


You would be staring at her with a deadpan expression if your exhaustion wasn’t already a good substitute. “...Anyways, I’ll most likely swing by the shrine sometime in the near future. I used some of the heavy-duty talismans dealing with this ghost.”

“Really? I should have a few still left over. For sale, of course~!”

“Right. Yeah. I know the drill,” you mumble, already feeling the pain from your wallet manifesting. You might have to take some easier cases until you can safely restock without worrying about food. “Any news on whether ‘that’ is fixed yet?”

“‘That’?”

“‘That.’ The Uh… whatwasit…” You snap your fingers trying to recollect the term. “Border! Yeah. That's it. The border thing that’s been preventing me from headin’ home for the last three -almost four- months.”

Reimu stares blankly at you for a few seconds. Head cocked from where she was staring at the villagers earlier. Yet, the slowly drifting of her eyes away from you already gives you an answer as to what the situation is.

“Uh… About that.”

“That don’t sound good,” you drawl out.

“It’s complicated!” she quickly explains. “Well… in a way, it’s not. It’s just-”

“Does it have to do with that youkai sage you’re always grumbling about?” You ask, hazarding a guess.

“Yukari? Sorta! Yeah!” She jumps at the excuse. “It’s all a complicated mess that's best explained the next time you come by. But the gist of it is that she’s supposed to be up now that winter is almost over. But for some reason I keep getting redirected to her servants whenever I try to look for her, who keep saying she’s still asleep.”

“Think she’s giving you the runaround?”

“Maybe? I can never tell what goes through her mind. I doubt anyone can. I can only make a guess that if she’s still hibernating, there’s something odd going on. But if she’s just avoiding me, then there’s still something odd going on. The issue is what.

“And I take it that any guesses on that front isn’t anything good,” you surmise. Reimu nods solemnly. “Great. Well, can’t say I’m surprised.”

The shrine maiden looks like she’s about to give some words of encouragement, but whatever she was about to say is interrupted when one of the guards comes up to her suddenly. “Miss shrine maiden! We must ask for your help with the last rites for those we found in the building.”

Seeing as there aren't any more pressing details that can come to mind, you use the opportunity to start breaking off. “Told ya they’d be needing you.” You wave as you start walking away. “I’ll be taking off, see ya ‘round.”

“Right. Don’t die now!” Reimu waves in response, before heading with the guard to the inside of the mansion.
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It isn’t long before you’re out of the old residential district and back into the more developed areas of the village. Those used to waking up at the crack of dawn are already starting to make activity. Wagons carrying merchandise for the market stalls pass by you in a steady stream towards the main market area. Some of the more luxurious looking carts are guarded by official village guards. Others are guarded by individuals wearing a mish mash of equipment and an armband pinned to the sleeve indicating a contracted outsider.

You give a slight nod of acknowledgement to the latter as you pass by, however it is more out of sympathy than respect.

Idly, you think about how much food you have at your temporary residence at the outskirts of the village. You should be good for a few more days so long as you skip one or two meals and don’t splurge. Hopefully this case gives you a little more flexibility to budget with. But the more you stay here in this sugar-coated death trap of a realm the more you have to start thinking about the worst case scenario of being here for the long-term.

Your stomach growls in displeasure at the idea of losing your favorite Western foods. That, and you might just be hungry. The deep, rich smell of soy sauce and grease wafts through your nose as you pass by various food stalls populated by villagers getting their morning breakfast in before the work day begins.

You considered getting a bite. But you already have some food at the residence and you don’t feel comfortable blowing your wallet until you get paid for this case. So with some reluctance and more complaints from your stomach, you continue walking through the village. Choosing to distract yourself from the thoughts of food, you think back to the circumstances that brought you here.

Three-- almost four months you’ve been stuck here.

It was just supposed to be a nice vacation over to the land of the rising sun in celebration for ending your shoddy 4-year stint with the Army and few years of contract work. You were planning to go check out a bunch of the historical sites, maybe visit some of the arcades and novelties, perhaps see some of the more degenerate stuff and then head back home and get back to the grind of finding a career in the civilian world.

Honestly, back when you were on vacation, you dreaded having to get back to the net of adult responsibility. But the last four months here were quickly becoming as unbearable as the four years you were stuck in the military.

At least you can argue that during your deployment you didn’t have to worry about man-eating beasts twice your size or femme fatales that are just waiting to change into another man-eating beast the moment you let your guard down or the man-eating beasts the size of ankle biters that look harmless but then prove you wrong when you do something that inadvertently pisses them off with no warning whatsoever.

Then there are the man-eating beasts that look like any normal individual but are still just as dangerous if not more!

Did you mention the man-eating beasts?

At this rate you’ve probably attained more combat experience from this deathtrap of a land than the sporadic spats you had in deployment and contract work. At least then it was comparatively quiet. Sitting at the base, days on end sorting through caches of weapons and ammo that other squads bring in from their patrols and seizures. Rotating out with them and just driving around the area of operations doing the whole ‘hearts and minds’ shindig the chain of command wanted you to do. You used to sit in a watchtower bored out of your mind. The only entertainment was the occasional ballsy kid goaded by his friends to cross the wire and yell crudely learned English swears at you for both your amusement.

You could count on your hands the number of times you had to use your service rifle, and even fewer instances where you actually fired it in an engagement. It got more use from the training drills at the range and you messing with it out of boredom!

And then you got dropped into this cursed land out of nowhere during a trail hike with nothing but the clothes on your back and whatever you brought in your backpack. Which admittedly, helped you greatly for the first few days. But out of everything you had in it, the only things that remained now were some spare clothes, a portable cookware set, solar charger and a portable speaker that you kept inside your current residence for safekeeping.

Spare food? Eaten.

Water filter straws for emergency use? Used.

“Survival” tools? Couldn’t bring ‘em.

So it boggles you to this day that you were somehow able to escape the initial hunt upon your entrance from the supernatural beings starved for human flesh.

That’s not to say you got off easy, however. The beasts of the land managed to get some good licks in when you were still trying to make sense of what happened. The wounds from your welcome party had finally healed last month.

The tried and true method of biting someone to their senses still works!

Unfortunately there’s not much else to the story. You snapped to your senses, ignored some of the reality of the situation and focused on fight and/or flight.

You ran, stumbled over another poor sod’s corpse who looked moderately more prepared than you did and grabbed the first thing that made sense off of him, the worn tanto stuck to the ground. Then went back to running until you found something that looked remotely close to refuge. You Zig-zagged and slashed wildly all the while to throw off the aim of the creature trying to land a fatal blow on you or stopping at random intervals when you’d hear it aim for an adjusted lunge to make it overshoot past you.

You don’t know how long the game of deadly cat and mouse played out back then, because what felt like an eternity would turn out to be a little under an hour before the creature gave up.

“You have been giving off an aura of intense melancholy and anxiety for the entirety of this walk,” says the voice underneath your arm, interrupting your reminiscence. “Although I’m more amazed that you didn’t bump into anything at this point.”

Just like that, you were snapped back into reality. “A-ah. Sorry. Just thinkin’ things.”

“May I ask about the nature of these 'things'?”

You mentally push aside the slightly amusing thought that the evil spirit that was trying to kill you a few hours ago is now trying to play therapist. “Just thinkin’ about when I was first dropped in here. How long it’s been. That kinda stuff,” you say.

“Mmm. That’s right. You are an outsider, I remember you stating.” The vase shifts slightly in your arms. “Outsiders are not exactly common, but it feels like I have been seeing more of your kind as of late.”

“Not sure what I can say about that.” You shrug. “From what I’ve seen, it looks like the major parties of this land are realizing that outsiders can be used as a more… varied labor force.”

“What do you mean by that?”

You chew on your inner lips for a second in thought, trying to think of a way to explain it tactfully for your personal mental benefit. “Expendable,” you conclude.

The vase is silent; you take it as a signal to elaborate.

“You know how it goes, why bother risking the safety and lives of villagers when you can hire eager or desperate outsiders looking to either make a living or a name for themselves? At best, unless you hold some revolutionary knowledge that wouldn’t flip this land on its head too badly, you could have it slightly easier by letting the people pick your head for the information. But at worst, we’re either unneeded, an annoyance, or an extra mouth to feed. Most likely all of the above.”

“That is… a harsh conclusion.”

“But is it wrong? You and I have seen firsthand how this world works. Sure, the villagers have the protection of the land.” You emphasize the point with air quotes. “But one slip-up that kills a villager and you’ve got the entire area coming down on your ass. Why risk it when outsiders work just as well? Everyone realized that. Especially the village.” You mutter the last bit quietly, although more out of theatrics than worry.

You continue. “What better way to deal with the sudden influx of people than putting them to work? But the majority can’t take formal jobs. Either due to inability, like me, or just plain political reasons.”

“So they make you take the most dangerous jobs,” guesses the spirit.

“Yea- well kinda,” you say, cutting yourself off. “They don’t force us. And it’s not like they don’t offer decent rewards or payment for the jobs either. Which makes sense; you don’t want to piss off a group too badly to the point they start unionizing or worse.”

“Revolution...”

“Shush.” You jiggle the vase slightly, before glancing around. “Apparently that’s still a sore topic around here. Some groups already made a couple of attempts to overthrow a major party recently.”

You continue when you feel the topic cooled down enough, “But yeah, they treat us relatively decently in exchange for taking the more dangerous jobs like construction, menial labor, bodyguarding, bounties, and of course, extermination.”

“So that explains why all the attempts to handle me were done by outsiders… But that does not explain the religious sponsoring?”

“Sponsoring? Oh, you must mean the amulets and stuff,” you unconsciously pat a pouch containing a set upon the reminder. “That’s simple, the village found their use for the outsiders, so the other big groups wanted their slice of the pie. Notably the religious parties. They can’t have us outsiders taking all of the credit for doing their jobs, so a bunch of ‘em find fresh outsiders that made it to safety and give ‘em a little kit of their own branded amulets and stuff. They figure that if an outsider likes a certain group and goes on to take on extermination jobs and succeeds, the religious groups can take some of the credit by going, ‘See! This person couldn’t have done it without our help!’”

“I see… Are you personally favorable to any of them?”

“Not really.” You shrug once more. “They certainly try from time to time to make me go all in. But from what I’ve seen, they’ve all got strengths and weaknesses. But if I was threatened with my life on the line to pick one, I’d probably say the Hakurei Shrine.”

“Is that so? I would not have guessed…”

Hey, don’t think you didn’t notice that sarcasm. “Of course. Miss Reimu is pretty much the only person I know that can get me out of here. So I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side either.”

“‘Out of here.’ Are you trying to leave?” asks the vase.

“Been tryin’ since I got here,'' you grumble. “Soon as I got the chance, I went over to her shrine to ask to be returned back home. Imagine my surprise when right as I thought I made it back, I turn around and see her still standing there with a confused look on her face.”

“The esteemed Hakurei shrine maiden could not fulfill her duties? What a surprise~.”

“You say that, but I’ve seen her do it to another outsider before and watched it work,” you tell her. “Plus, her talismans did a decent job at neutralizing you, didn’t it?”

You hear what you think is a mumbling noise from the vase. “-little too well. What that girl lacks in graciousness and refinement she makes up for in sheer talent and power.”

“She’s that powerful, huh.”

You’ve heard the stories from her, and some of her other acquaintances. But hearing it from a new voice really puts into perspective just how respected Reimu is, despite her actions making you doubt otherwise.

“If her talismans were able to do as much damage as they did with you, an outsider, handling them, I shudder to imagine the kind of wounds I would have received were it her personally.” The vase jitters slightly in your arms. “I probabl- no, I most definitely would not be here right now if she came to deal with me.”

“Lucky you. On a separate note, we’re finally here.” You speak up as you see the familiar walled mansion coming up around the block. “Although we probably could’ve gotten here sooner had I not slowed down to talk about society.”

“It is fine. I was able to learn from a perspective I rarely get to hear from. But indeed, let us make haste. I am slowly growing impatient knowing the truth is close.”

You pick up the pace slightly, passing the block and rounding the corner until you see the familiar gap between the walls of the entrance. And the servant guarding it.

With practiced ease, you walk up and introduce yourself before asking whether Miss Heida is present.

Now, ordinarily, you’d have no issue with the greeter and the servant would bow before indicating that she is indeed in before leading you to her.

Ordinarily.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the mistress is currently occupied for the time being.”

...Well shit.

The vase in your arm suddenly feels heavier.


-Options-
[ ] Try to negotiate/persist for an audience.
[ ] Explain that you’re a regular visitor
[ ] Try to bluff that you’re making a delivery for a precious decoration.
[ ] Call the servant out, is she bullshitting you?

[ ] Accept, and leave.
[ ] Come back again later, get some food in the meanwhile and kill time around the village.
[ ] “leave.” The walls look pretty short.
[ ] Head to Suzunaan, Heida usually passes by there, and you can read some stuff that’s actually in your language.
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[X ] Head to Suzunaan, Heida usually passes by there, and you can read some stuff that’s actually in your language.
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[X] Head to Suzunaan, Heida usually passes by there, and you can read some stuff that’s actually in your language.
Kosuzu
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So I didn't notice until now. But the options are actually grouped into categories.


Should've looked like this.
-Options-
[ ] Try to negotiate/persist for an audience.
- [ ] Explain that you’re a regular visitor
- [ ] Try to bluff that you’re making a delivery for a precious decoration.
- [ ] Call the servant out, is she bullshitting you?

[ ] Accept, and leave.
- [ ] Come back again later, get some food in the meanwhile and kill time around the village.
- [ ] “leave.” The walls look pretty short.
- [ ] Head to Suzunaan, Heida usually passes by there, and you can read some stuff that’s actually in your language.

Granted, I've worded the votes so that it's easy to tell (hopefully) what the voters were aiming for overall. So the Suzunaan votes won't get affected. This is just for clarification in case someone else gets confused.
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[x] Accept, and leave.
-[x] Come back again later, get some food in the meanwhile and kill time around the village.
I want to see more of what this interpretation of Gensokyo looks like.

Caught up after reading through it. Interesting premise (even riding off of the somewhat typical outside dropin)! The lack of spellcards/danmaku is curious, and at first I thought this story might precede the spellcard rules stuff, but then 'death bombing' was referenced so I'm not sure. Also Reimu isn't a tiny girl. I'll pay more attention from now on.
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>>43321
Oh, a quick ctrl+f tells me im an idiot:
"Although for something that seemingly has established rules and regulations, everyone is severely lax with their use and enforcement.

[...]

‘Course, none of those protections apply to us poor outsiders. We’re the meatshields of this reserve."
Neat. Overlooked it at 1am last night.
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[X] Try to negotiate/persist for an audience.
- [x] Try to bluff that you’re making a delivery for a precious decoration.

Bullshitting mode is a go.
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Closing votes.

Looks like we'll be heading to Suzunaan after grabbin' some grub.
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Holy dam, Damn good story
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Holy dam, Damn good story
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