Thread 1: >>182674
[X] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.
You hold the drone, a gray sphere of metal and plastic about twelve centimeters wide. it's undecorated save for a small red cross stenciled over the rear maintenance hatch. The only weapon this particular one has is a short-ranged electroshock, not immediately lethal against most things worth killing, but still a useful tool for the little space it takes up. it's also waterproof to 200 meters, which should be good enough to scan the lake.
You find a dry rock to sit on and get to work, taking out your toolkit and opening up the hatch. it's a simple matter to remove the standard scanning module and slot in some more comprehensive hardware. You have to remove some other parts to make room for it, though, but that shouldn't be a problem unless the drone bumps into someone that needs emergency first aid.
You seal the hatch and put your tools aside. With that done, you boot the drone up and let it float up to eye level. After some deliberation, you send it on search pattern in the nearby woods. It seems more likely that some denizen of the forest saw something shiny and decided to bring it home.
In the meantime, you've got nothing to do but wait and watch the feed on your phone. Nothing interesting shows up as the drone drifts between the trees. Heat signatures indicate some local wildlife of the non-magical sort, but no metallic objects or noteworthy magic whatsoever.
Yukari's up to something - it doesn't take a genius to see that - and whatever it is, it's a full-blown conspiracy. She said that she had ?partners?, which has never been a good sign, and Yuuka's remarks seemed to confirm that.
Speaking of Yuuka, you get the feeling that you and your partners need to discuss some things with her sooner rather than later if Gaia's involved.
On a less far-reaching note, you need to get the local situation figured out. You don't doubt that you could make connections in the village. but conflict with some other groups seems likely. Byakuren and Remilia are obvious opponents, but you can imagine that Miko and the Moriya goddesses could find reasons to clash with you. The former is, or at least used to be, a major player in the Illuminati, and the latter are close allies of the mountain Tengu and Kappa. Given that you're a Templar... well. it's easy to see why there might be distrust. At least Kotohime sounds eager enough to meet you.
Caleb's likely to meet with the Taoists in the near future. it's less clear to you what contacts the Dragon might have in Gensokyo. The Dragon's never made too much sense to you.
Anyways, it seems that the drone just found something of interest. Right now, it's floating at the entrance of a small rock shelter a good distance south of your position. There's a small heat source and a number of small metal objects inside it. Looks like your earlier theory was on the money.
Focus now squarely back on your drone, you have it emit a chirp to see if you can get the attention of whatever's inside. You wait half a minute, but there's no response.
"Hello? Is anyone around?" You try again, this time broadcasting your voice through the drone.
Still nothing. Growing impatient, you send your drone inside to check for yourself. With some luck, you'll be able to grab what you need and leave without even being noticed.
The entrance is small enough that you'd have to stoop over to fit, but the space widens out to a much more comfortable degree further inside. You'd call it cozy if it wasn't just bare rock walls and darkness. The damp and earth can almost be smelled through the screen.
Your eyes narrow, and your drone freezes in place. There's a pile of what looks like bones, picked clean and left to moulder. A distinctly human skull grins at the camera, half-buried in the mound.
You cautiously pan the camera over to the heat source in the cave. That profile belongs to a small figure lying on a rusty-looking camping cot. It looks like a child...
There's a mumbled groan, and the figure in question rolls over to reveal blonde hair sporting a red ribbon, and a sleeping face that you recognize through the gloom. Rumia's face.
You curse under your breath and consider options. According to both Akyuu and your own experience, Rumia's only a minor youkai. Even without your guns and the majority of your Bee's power, you're confident that you could handle her without too much trouble. Of course, she hasn't so far shown signs of waking up, much less initiating hostilities.
The thought crosses your mind of stopping by her little cave with a fistful of fire, but it's quickly dismissed. Yes, it's tempting to have one less confirmed maneater to worry about, but there are too many reasons not to. Cirno and Dai are evidently familiar with her, and you did give Ran your word. Templar have been called many things through the ages, but ?oathbreaker? has seldom been one of them. You aren't eager to go down that road. Besides, giving the locals less reason to see you as a bloodthirsty warmonger must be a good thing.
With this in mind, you direct the drone toward the debris on the floor while doing your best to not disturb its occupant. Sadly, it soon becomes apparent that most of the metal in Rumia's cave is junk. There's a neatly-stacked pile of discarded food tins that look like they've been gnawed open in one corner, and an absolute mess of appliances in another. Your best guess is that in an attempt to get ?infinite electricity?, Rumia plugged at least three extension cords into each other. There's a toaster, a pressure cooker, a lava lamp, and few night lights in the tangle, but not your guns.
There's nothing of note here apart from a rusty-looking sword, probably taken from a previous victim, half-tucked under the bed. You can't get a closer look without the risk of waking up Rumia, though, so you leave it be. It doesn't have any magic on it, so for all intents and purposes it's just a poorly-maintained length of metal too tall for its current owner to use.
Somewhat disappointed, you recall the drone and consider your next move. The forest had no sign of your guns, which means that it's probably in the lake. You have some durability enchantments on them, so while water damage won't be an immediate concern... the lake's not small. Even if you found the pistols, it could be a pain to get them out.
Well, you can worry about that later. You point at the lake, and the drone dives past the surface with a modest splash.
it's not long before you get new data to work with. There's quite a number of metallic objects scattered across the bottom of the lake, with a few you're sure have to be small boats or cars.
There's something else that bothers you. The camera shows that the lakebed around the shore seems to be made up of patches of different sediment. One area will be whitish sand with an abrupt cut-off to red mud on one side and a light brown on the other, like a bizarre quilt. The wildlife and plants also seem different on each patch. In defiance of diffusion, it seems that each patch also has its own turbidity.
You really have no idea how that's happening. Magic is the broad, obvious answer, and your drone is picking up faint traces of it in the water. Chances are that you aren't going to figure this out today, so you make a note of the abnormalities and move on.
Still, despite the discordance, it's rather pretty. The way the afternoon sun filters through the water is eye-catching, and small schools of fish occasionally approach the drone before being scared away with chirps. You take some photos before continuing with the search.
Hm. Moving a bit further in reveals a daunting slope into deeper, sunless water. You'd be willing to bet that most lakes don't have such an abrupt drop. It looks almost cartoonish, like an inverted sombrero. If there's anything down there, you'll need some major preparation to get it.
Sadly, your search isn't turning much up along the shallows. The metal all appears to be the sort of human detritus that tends to build up in large bodies of water - discarded containers, scraps, and the occasional bike or shopping cart. The largest of them turns out to be the rusted hulk of a car that must have been ugly even in its prime. The style looks several decades old, and it's sunk into the muck and concealed by swaying strands of algae.
it's a bit of a stretch to believe that your guns drifted this far. but you should make sure. it's possible that they're being masked by the larger signature. You send the drone in closer, bumping the edge of the car.
Suddenly, movement. A brief glimpse of something nearby, moving out of sync with the lake weeds.
You bring the drone to a halt right away and have it start scanning for large electrical signatures. Sure enough, there's a big one right behind it - almost on top of the drone.
You whirl the drone around, ready to zap whatever's dumb enough to see your stuff like lunch as soon as you see it-
The camera focuses on the somewhat startled face of a merfolk woman, blue fins poking out from matching hair done up in ringlets. She's wearing a patterned kimono in a shade of green that does a remarkable job of blending in with the underwater plantlife. In any case, it doesn't seem like she's making a threat of herself at the moment.
You slowly exhale and cancel the taze command.
Merfolk aren't particularly malicious as a whole. They were among the easier demographics to work with when you were on the beat in Ealdwic. The most trouble any of them caused you was by fainting from dehydration.
Something notable is that there's more difficulty than usual blending in with the human population due to the lack of legs. Most other creatures can just use a minor Glamor and call it a day, but those are limited to distorting or concealing features that are already there. While it's easy to make inhuman legs look passably human and still function well, the same can't be said of tails. Merfolk need shapeshifting enchantments, which are heavily regulated and a massive pain to purchase. That kind of magic is difficult to pull off well.
This mermaid seems to be trying to say something, mouthing words at the camera. You immediately regret failing to somehow foresee the need to make the audio equipment functional underwater. When it becomes clear that she isn't being understood, the two of you enter a sort of underwater gesturing match. This also gets nowhere, so you have the drone bob up and down while facing up at the surface. Thankfully, she understands your intention and swims up.