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[-] Fallout.

After a few seconds wrestling with the mini-hakkero, Mamizou abandoned it, swearing. Even if she could stop it now, there wasn't a point; half of Gensokyo had to have seen that blast. And that meant damage control was the name of the game.

"Nue! We need to leave!"

"Yeah, yeah." her friend rolled her eyes. "I told you disguising as Akyuu was a stupid decision."

"It would have worked if he wasn't already aware I was involved," Mamizou grumbled. "Which shouldn't have been possible."

"That's a funny way to say, 'Yes, Nue, you were right all along.'"

"Nue!"

"Fine, fine. One cloud of darkness, coming right up."

"Wait," she held out a hand. "I've got a better idea. You can use another unknown seed to blend in with the servants and sneak out of here, I know exactly who should be seen leaving the scene of this crime."

Nue glanced down at their fallen opponents. "You still going to be fine holding a disguise after that fight?"

"I'm not that old, you chimeric chicken," she said with a mock glare. When Nue didn't relent, the tanuki rolled her eyes. "Hiding my tail is much easier when you have something to hide it in, and I'm not staying around for a meet and greet."

"Just don't get caught again, yeah?" Nue's gaze wandered to their fallen opponents. "What about these two?"

"Do you have enough unknown seeds to disguise them?"

"It's Seeds of Unknown Form. But yeah, I can do that."

"Great. Drag them out and stash them in Myouren Temple for now, we'll figure out a better hiding spot later."

"Will do. Don't draw too much fire, yeah?"

As one non-descript servant dragged out two others, Mamizou focused on assuming her disguise. She had... extremely mixed feelings about this part. On the one hand, taking the form of that bitch, for any reason, made every cell in her body rebel. On the other, this was another step in making sure she got what she so richly deserved. She just had to bear it for a little while, and what was a little discomfort in the name of payback?

Her ears expanded, going from their current reasonable proportions to stretch across the top of her head. Simultaneously, her tail shrunk, camouflaged among eight others, each a pale imitation of a proper tail. Her figure expanded in some places and shrunk in others, as her clothes changed to match, her sensible skirt and shirt changing to her target's dress, not to mention the ridiculous hat.

Just as the disguise finished, a figure crashed through the roof, landing in a three point stance and staring her down.

"Where's Patchouli?!" Meiling demanded.

Her again? Mamizou was caught between amusement and pity. "Ran" would have to beat her down before making her escape, of course, much like "Sumireko" had yesterday. The gatekeeper truly did have some horrible luck. She'd have to do something nice for the poor girl when this was all said and done. And perhaps for the mansion as a whole. She shook her head. Now was not the time.

Mamizou masked that train of a thought with a smile. Not a kind smile, nor an honest one, but a fierce one. An expression that used elegance as a mask for savagery, that promised ruin with every intention of personal delivery. It had been a thousand years since she'd seen it, but the memory was as vivid as ever.

"You don't get to know where she is," she replied, "but I can show you what happened to her."

To her credit, Meiling didn't back down. Not that it did her much good.

A few minutes later, Futo and Ichirin stopped fighting each other for long enough to finally investigate the Master Spark. When they did, they had a brief encounter with the fleeing Ran Yakumo, received a few bruises to remember her by, and found a thoroughly unconscious gatekeeper on the floor of the Hieda household.





Far over by Youkai mountain, a maid had frozen time to stare at the master spark shooting into the sky. A maid had to be practical. Elegant. Perfect. It was a matter of both reputation and principle. Virtually anything could be achieved with the proper plan and execution, and she had all the time she wished to come up with the former and practice the latter. With those resources at her beck and call, she should be able to solve any problem Remilia's household might face. That was the standard Sakuya had set for herself.

Seeing Patchouli's distress signal? That was a problem. Maybe one that couldn't be solved.

"Damnation." She paused, tested the feel of it, and decided that in the privacy of her timestop, she could allow herself a little more creativity. Several subjective minutes later, after giving her vocabulary a workout and possibly inventing a couple new words in the process, she stopped to reconsider the problem.

Always one for small details, Patchouli had designed her distress signal to carry as much information as possible. In this case, the elements tied into the laser were the key. The mage hadn't figured out how to integrate sun or moon with the others, but the five simpler elements let her convey five simpler pieces of information; five yes-or-no questions. They'd discussed it before leaving; what would be the most important information to know in case of an emergency.

In the end, it had been simple. In the event of an emergency, she would need to know: Whether Mamizou was involved, whether Greg was at fault, whether Yukari was involved, whether any further impersonation had occurred, and finally, whether to stay the course.

Patchouli's distress signal had been sent with water, wood, and fire. The lack of metal and wood signaled that Greg had been cooperative, and that Yukari has not shown herself. As for the three that were present... Water to signal that there was impersonation. Wood for Mamizou. And fire to burn bridges, to commit to her current path.

It was that last one Sakuya was having trouble with. Greg's theory had seemingly been proven. Mamizou had been found, and was almost certainly the one that had forced Patchouli to resort to the distress signal. And yet the mage wanted her to continue pursuing Chen? Admittedly, she was almost to the village, and kidnapping the cat should bring Ran running, but shouldn't Keine and the tanuki take priority?

The problem was, she was running up against the limits of her ability. Even with stopped time, Sakuya couldn't be everywhere at once. Rushing to the village might barely be possible. She might even be in time to assist. But that would leave Satori unaccompanied, and she clearly had not forgiven them for being taken captive in the first place. Youkai mountain was far from uninhabited; if Sakuya left her here, she might as well just free the youkai herself.

Patchouli was the superior strategist. If she said to stay the course, there was probably a reason for it... but right now, the maid couldn't see it. Going after Chen meant abandoning Patchy, Greg, and probably Meiling to an unknown fate. But trying to help from this distance was unlikely at best, would almost certainly mean losing track of Satori, and likely dealing with whatever retribution the underground saw fit to attempt.

For that matter, would Satori continue cooperating once she realized something had happened to Greg? And how would she react to the possibility of him being a youkai? She was already getting restless from being sealed. Minor issues compared to everything else, but still ones the maid had no answers for.

What was she going to do?





Finally, at a gazebo back at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, a vampire with crystalline wings saw the laser pierce the sky.

Flandre had overheard Patchouli and Sakuya discussing her little distress signal. Patchy must be in trouble. It was stupid for her to hang around here; her sister wasn't going anywhere trapped in the mansion, and it's not like anyone else was going to be stupid enough to go in there.

She considered the logic for a second and nodded. Remi always said plans had to change when serious stuff was going on. Well, serious stuff was happening. Sakuya and Patchy weren't here to plan, so that meant it was her job.

"Tenshi!" she yelled.

"What." the celestial grumbled, "If we're gonna hang around here doing nothing, can you at least let me do nothing in peace?"

"That's just it. It's stupid to hang around here doing nothing! Use that fancy sword of yours to generate some cloud cover, and let's go to the village!"

Tenshi looked at her, then back at the ruins of the mansion. "I'm pretty sure that'll make an absolutely massive mess. And Sakuya was really big about the whole staying put thing."

Flandre had heard about the scarlet weather incident. "So? Are we gonna follow their stupid rules, or do what we want?"

Tenshi thought about it for a second, and slowly began to smile. "You know, you've got a point. I like it!"

Digging through a pile of other junk, the vampire pulled out Laevateinn. "Then let's get to the village. It's time to destroy some things!"

If there's one thing Flandre was certain of, it's that people would do anything once you threatened to destroy the right target.

End of Part 4A.

((Currently leaning towards Satori as the next point-of-view, but I'm open to suggestions. Sumireko's still recovering from tasering the frog.))
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Of course Patchouli would figure out a way to encode additional information into a "message to the world" type signal. A min/maxing munchkin to the very end when it comes to magic.

Mamizou continues to try and dump as much blame as possible onto Ran- that's certainly not going to backfire, hm?

This was already a "everyone is getting involved in fights with each other everywhere" incident, and it hasn't even reached critical mass yet. It just keeps dragging people into the fray. I swear, did Greg/Sumi pick up the Greek Apple of Discord when they were hunting for the occult?

Anyways, I'd be more than happy to see Satori! Mentioned it at the end of last thread, but I'd also be interested in whatever Alice has been up to.
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>>209747
The signal being a coded message honestly was a stroke of genius and probably makes that better than the "just call Sakuya back" option.
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I'm seconding Alice
Maybe not for a full part, but it would be nice to have an interlude for her at least. We haven't seen her in like 5 threads and 2 years.

So the only member of the SDM who knows it's Mamizou rather than Ran is Sakuya, seemingly. Who won't be touching base with anyone for the next several hours. Ay carumba.

I guess Patchouli is betting on Ran going mama bear for both Chen and Greg?

(Also, you put wood both as the signal for Greg being the traitor and for Mamizou being to blame. I think you meant earth for Greg and wood for Mami)
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Ran-mama save us
Save us Ran-mama
Save us

That said, I would love to see what Alice is up to, especially since Kidnapping Incident 1 happened.
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>>209749
By the way, I should probably note that if you had chosen to go for calling Sakuya instead of the mini-hakkero, Mamizou would have disguised herself as Patchouli and tried to grab the book so she could fake the message. Using the giant laser instead averted that particular risk.
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I regret having been swayed away from the subtle route. Not because the fallout could've been avoided but because I missed out on calling Mamizou a raggedy, old coon lady (intonation: disrespectful) with a BUSHY Tail FULL OF JUNK.
Your tail is NOT fluffy, it is SCRUFFY.
S-C-R-U-F-F-Y. And Filthy! Full of Foliage. The whole thing cannot even come close to a SINGLE (smooth) strand of hair of the Kitsune's (fluffy) tails. How you can possess even a hint of Pride for the shame 《S H A M E》 you're lugging behind your back is a mystery! It is the antonym to anything that could be considered decent.
And your ears are nubby AND your hat is >A FUCKING L E A F.

...
So anyways, I hope Sumireko'll manage her blind stealth playthrough of Resident Evil Human Village in Lady Dimit-I mean, Lady Scarlet's Mansion. At least she won't have to adjust to tank-controls.
I'm sure Remilia is whimsical enough to have had at least one moving wall spike or crushing ceiling type room installed.
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>>209746

If anything, from what we know so far, Mamizou would be easier (at this point) for Greg to try to get along with Mamizou than the SDM was when Greg started interacting with them. from Canon, Mamizou has just been trying to scare Sumi (and Greg) to stay out of Gensokyo and stop poking holes in the barrier. in Canon, that went wrong because Sumi wasn't one to idly be scared... This time around things are even worse. so her explaining that to Greg might be enough to pacify him.

of course despite being one of the more human aligned Youkai in Gensokyo... she always has this habit of attaching her own schemes onto whatever thing she is helping with (again what happened in Canon was that Mamizou was working with Kasen for the plan to scare Sumi out of gensokyo, but then jumped the gun because she saw an opportunity to gain reliable access to the outside world.) this Time around she's instead aiming to go after Ran (or rather Tamamo-no-mae.) which story we’ve already been told, she lived through the time that Tamamo was consort to the emperor and Tamamo instituted some sort of Youkai purge of the area she was living in… which some of us have already mentioned, but is rather interesting that the focus of it was on the attack against youkai… with little to no mention regarding anything she did against the humans of Japan (unless it was to justify going after more Youkai)… makes me wonder if there was something similar to Type-moon’s interpretation of Tamamo was going on, where she was doing that in devotion to the emperor rather than her own schemes? Prove her devotion by cleaning competing youkai off… and thus was exposed in retaliation… guess we’ll learn more as we go.

>>209761

Whew! Glad I switched my vote then!

>>209764

I don’t think openly insulting Mamizou to her face would really count as being subtle…

also we have confirmation that Mamizou was at least the Sumi that was spotted at the SDM, and likely the one that Youmu talked about from other clues, jury's still out if she was the one at Youkai mountain.

oh and...

>the vampire pulled out Laevateinn. "Then let's get to the village. It's time to destroy some things!"

there's our downside! When Reimu finally catches up, we're going to have Greg the fox pelt

Also put me down for seeing what’s going on with Alice.
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>>209787
Why would Greg want to offer any sympathy to Mamizou though? If anything, that excuse makes it worse. The SDM, as frustrating as their actions were to kidnap us and force us to work for them, at least had a decent motivation of saving their mistress. Mamizou saying she allowed Sumi and Greg to enter Gensokyo and then proceeded to attack, endanger, slander, frame, and traumatize them all just to convince them not to enter Gensokyo would be an outright insulting response. (Also the Stockholm Syndrome probably doesn't work as well the second time). The stuff Mamizou has done to both parties is on the level of what Maribel/Yukari did, for significantly pettier reasons. Greg may be submissive and all that, but I don't see him as so much of a pushover. At best he'd want nothing to do with Mamizou. And Sumireko will probably have murderous intent towards her, especially after Suwako deciding to break spell card rules and try to kill her, it'll be a lot less easy to convince her to do the "have tea and make friends" at the end of the incident now.

Actually, I'm glad you mention Kasen, have we heard from her any since the very beginning? I wonder how she feels about how badly this has all escalated
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>>209787
What I was referring to was progressing the conversation far enough to the point where Greg'd get describe Mamizou unflatteringly.

I don't know if it'd be any good for the story as a whole, but given Kasen's inability to rectify the situation and Yukari's involvement both directly and indirectly prolonging it, it's setting the stage for Okina to make an early debut and set things straight with one of her typical powerplays. That is, if Yukari and her don't have a deal regarding the incident. Though depending how much of a shitshow this'll proceed to develop into, deals can be dropped.
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>>209789
because she's trying to prevent the destruction of Gensokyo? and likely the loss of the majority of the Youkai within eventually along with it.

That and her plan both in ULiL and here, leans on the fact that 'Exterminate' would mean something far different for an outsider than it does for a gensokyite, which as a recent arrival Mamizou would know very well.. so Sumireiko and Greg would run into one batch after another of people trying to 'exterminate' them, thinking it as the outside definition while in actuality being the gensokyo definition. thus making them afraid of gensokyo and its Youkai, while not actually doing so... which matches up quite well to some of the softsokyo views of the whole fear of Youkai thing, convincing them that there is a fear but not with the intention to act on it, if its actually real at all, and once they are back in the outside world, there would be no pursuit no revenge, etc, just the fear being used as a very clear “NO TRESPASSING” sign.

Something to remember, despite the near disaster it became in ULiL, Sumireiko accepted that explanation and Mamizou and her became good friends, often hanging out together in the outside world! So if Sumi can forgive Mamizou, you’re saying Greg can’t? (now, granted that might change on how the revelations of his mother play out, on both sides, how Mami goes about hers right now, and what, (and why Ran), aka Tamamo did all those years before.

And considering that there hasn't been any mind controlling or whatever Maribel did to change Greg's nature to invert his powers, I don't agree that Mamizou is at the same level of what Greg or Maribel did (which might I note that Greg acknowledged to Yukari herself that Maribel had a point to so.)

Now the problem here is that Mamizou's plan is running into is a problem that has been common for her in that she goes into these schemes not knowing that a critical piece of the puzzle is missing and managing to put her foot right through said hole, such as in ULiL, not knowing that Sumi was willing, and able to blow the entire Hakurei barrier open, Lotus Eaters not knowing that the no-show cancellations were supernatural in origin, and here, not knowing that the issue the SDM was asking for help in was FAR more serious than they were going to let anyone know. That and whatever Yukari has planned for Greg.

>>209797

The conversation would only get to that point of openly insulting Mamizou if Mami had been close to being caught out by not just Greg and Patchouli, but others in the village where she couldn’t react… and again that wouldn’t be subtle, if you are trying to trip them up, and especially if things are going well on that point, openly insulting her appearance to get a reaction sounds less like subtly and more that whomever is doing it thinks they have the person they are insulting pinned, it wouldn't be subtle to the one being insulted.
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>>209798
Likely valid all in all but you misunderstand me; My wanting to have had chosen to subtly test Akyuu's memory instead isn't for the sake of subtlety but about not having progressed the conversation far enough to get to - more or less - slander Mamizou to her face.
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>>209798
I think it's a bit flawed to look at ULiL when this story has diverged quite a bit from the game it's inspired on, both its premise, its past, and the events currently unfolding. How things turned out there were much different from how they are here. As one small example, Greg. In ULiL, Sumireko was just defending herself. Here, now Sumireko is defending not just herself but her friend. And Sumireko is 100% the kind of person who'd be angrier if you attacked her friend than if you attacked her.

And I do stand by Mamizou being around the same level as Maribel. Mamizou orchestrated this entire event and has allowed it to spiral into the hell it's become for all of Gensokyo now. She's framed Sumireko for some serious crimes, an act which has again led to her attempted murder (even if we believe there's a third Sumireko out there, we know that Mamizou has at least been one of them and contributing to the confusion). Mamizou is the one who has put Greg right back into the arms of Maribel/Yukari. And now, she's kidnapped Greg, his second kidnapping in recent memory. The most magnanimous argument she has is that this was all a prank to hopefully scare these kids into not throwing rocks at the magic barrier. Even Maribel had better justification for her actions in that Greg was doing some genuinely evil actions that he knew were evil.

Maribel used disproportionate retribution when she punished Greg, by deeply traumatizing him for his actions. So, with a lesser crime (sneaking into a fantasy world, they were ignorant of the potential damage that might happen to the barrier or its purpose), why do you think Greg would be accepting of retribution that's been arguably on par or worse than Maribel's? (Maribel's actions never put Greg in a life threatening situation, just a miserable one)
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>>209808

I am looking at ULiL to cover the parts we don't know about the characters, nothing we have revealed about Mamizou so far would change her thoughts about Sumireiko, so it is safe to assume that any plans that involve her (such as the plan to keep her out of Gensokyo.) are still there and running on the same assumptions that were in ULiL, I also acknowledged that her reactions to Greg would be different becuase of the differences so far seen in USiL.

So because Sumi and Greg didn't know they were coming close to accidentally genociding the Youkai of Gensokyo, the lives of thousands of beings, its fine. But Mamizou not knowing about outside factors sending the plan out of control, potential harming a handful of people means that she's utterly evul and should be punished? and oh yeah most of the Incident revolvers are in on most of the plan, so are Reimu, Marisa, and others all so Evul too? deserve to be punished, too? Could you please be consistent?

and she didn't 'allow' it to spiral out of control, from what we see she is attempting to protect the village from the issues arising . Sanae's stabbing happened while the village was obscured only a couple of hours ago. so the main serious crime has just happened where Mamizou doesn't know about it yet.

and by the way, she didn't orchestrate the events, Kasen did, Mamizou just jumped the gun with the plan and launched it early.

and disproportionate? to prevent the death of thousands by scaring a couple of kids into not returning via taking advantage of a context gap between two cultures?

and the serious crimes are centred on Youkai mountain right?

- The SDM one was the "serious crime" of being rude and refusing to help,

-Just showing up and shooting around the Myouren temple (so an average incident encounter.)

- showing up and being chased out of Hakugyokurou without much of a fight

- Spooking the inchling princess,

- And whatever happened/is happening in the underground (which considering the timeline we get during the "tea-party" and the fact that the fight between Sumi and Suwako happen as Greg was travelling to the village, happened REALLY close to "now", )

compare that, trying to spook a couple of kids via your average mid-incident pranks in order to thorw the kids into a few spellcard duels that use terminology that only makes them think there is danger despite being far less so. NO it is NOT close to reaching into some's very being and altering it.

now if she did stab Sanae and somehow dash back to the village while it was under watch would that change things? yeah. but that's not the case. furthermore, unlike Maribel the persecution wasn't going to be long term a day or so like it was in ULiL and then they would be kicked outside, with both sides safe and sound. Maribel with Greg was long-term days and days, and potentially longer constantly being exposed to the "tender mercies" of the rest of the school.
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>>209808

>hopefully scare these kids into not throwing rocks at the magic barrier.

the comparison to draw would a couple of kids throwing rocks at a pane of a habitation dome on the moon. that barrier breaks, and the 'atmosphere' within is gone, so is the ability to live for those (or at least the people that barrier was made for, aka the Youkai.) within.
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> compare that, trying to spook a couple of kids via your average mid-incident pranks in order to thorw the kids into a few spellcard duels that use terminology that only makes them think there is danger despite being far less so. NO it is NOT close to reaching into some's very being and altering it.

Hey, you know the funny thing about telling someone you are going to kill them? They tend to ACT on the belief that you are going to kill them. Usually by trying to kill you first. And funnily enough, “It’s just a prank bro” is generally not a convincing enough argument to get them to stop trying to kill you first.

> But Mamizou not knowing about outside factors sending the plan out of control, potential harming a handful of people means that she's utterly evul and should be punished? and oh yeah most of the Incident revolvers are in on most of the plan, so are Reimu, Marisa, and others all so Evul too? deserve to be punished, too?

Yes.
Because that’s what happens when you tell someone you are going to kill them. They think you are evul and try to kill you first.
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>>209827
except as seen from the walk through the Village Greg now knows the difference. and I believe around Eintei he also knows that the risk to the barrier is why they are doing that. as since he now knows that, and was willing to reconcile and help those that were pointed not following that standard, and were/ and in the case of one incoming vampire, still are very willing to kill him, yeah, Mamizou is gonna be an easy gap for him to try to forgive her with... at least until the fox ear and tail appears anyway... then she might guess that he's Ran's son and then say goodbye to likely chances of her accepting it anytime soon.
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Is Sumireko so strong and/or skilled that she can destroy Gensokyo's barrier or are Sages incompetent?
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>>209831

lunarian shenanigans. Though that is for canon at least anyway, up in the air if they are still involved here.
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As far as this story is concerned, neither lol. Yukari and Sumireko have even had a talk about how the occult orbs actually don't have enough energy to do permanent damage in an earlier chapter. In terms of whether Greg would get along with Mamizou, he might understand the initial objective to protect the barrier, but a lot of Mamizou is doing now seems to be based on getting revenge. And considering Ran is a slave and Tamomo essentially 'dead', might seem a bit pointless to him.
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>>209838
They are involved and Yukari knows; Ran has been ordered to inform Reimu of the Lunar Capital's Occult ball should Sumireko make it back to the Outside.
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>>209841

Wait... If Tomamo is all but dead, or helpless and trapped in her own body, why isn't Mamizou happy with the state of affairs then, and more importantly, How is she rebelling?

Is it that Tomamo is the body and Ran the implanted shikigami spirit? Or due to Mamizou's vague wording is it actually the other way around?

If it is that Tomamo is the body then how is she rebelling right now?

Also doesn't something about chen state that the shikigami bond can be disrupted by being sprayed with water?

(Which paints a funny picture of Greg getting shikigami'd but all that means afterwards is that Sumi starts carrying around a spray bottle and spray inghim every once in awhile. XD )
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>>209858

Well, it's likely that Tammy subconsciously knows that her son is in Gensokyo, which is why she's rebelling and trying to investigate/interfere with Sumireko, which would in turn have gotten her in touch with Greg.

Granted, even if Mamizou tells Greg that Tammy really is breaking out of Yukari's control, he's not exactly inclined to believe her, considering she lied to Sumireko and then committed ID theft on Akyuu. And that's presuming they don't use drugs/magic to keep Greg and Patchouli unconscious the whole time, in which case he wouldn't find out anyway.

Sumi would have a lot of fun spraying Greg down at random times. Though, thinking about it, he's already going to have a hard time living down the double kidnapping thing, let alone becoming a shikigami. And he doesn't even know it's the voices in his head to blame :P

>>209842

It's kind of crazy how Yukari is just straight up letting the Lunarian's plan keep going for now. Guess she's really banking on the UL she wants, huh.
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>>209883

yeaaah... about that...

>>209842
do you remember where that was mentioned? because... if that's the case

then yeah,

- the Lunarians ARE in play.
- which means that likely they are in the same spot they were in Canon, the Dream realm.
- Youmu stated that she was under the impression that Yukari is currently hibernating, and considering her master is a good friend of Yukari means that Yukari hasn't been (at least openly) visiting.
- which means that if she was hibernating, wouldn't she have been in the dream realm around the same time that the Lunarians are there in force?

- and now she's showing up doing actions that potentially threatens to destabilize Gensokyo
- on top of that she's letting a Lunarian plan that also threatens Gensokyo, that she knows about appearently, go unimpeded
-and her Shikigami is rebelling on top of that.

might be an indication of my theory that something happened to Yukari, and Sumireiko isn't the only one with doppelgangers running about messing with things in their name.

Though speaking of rebelling... that raises a question here, the point of divergence it seems to be here is not anything recent, its centered on Greg, so the PoD would be somewhere around 10 months or so at least before Greg's birth... for some reason Ran either lost control over the body and Tammy took back over, or Ran took Tammy's name. Then whomever it was then ran to the real world, got in a relationship, and had a son. Then a handful of years after Greg was born, comes, or is brought back to Gensokyo. So what happened 16-17 years ago? and did yeah, what is going on with Yukari?
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This was aaaall the way back on page 1, at
>>202395

When we were in Ran's POV, she noted this, about Yukari:

>Had your master known this would happen? She had been asleep when Kasen had come with the plan, but when you'd told her about it later, she'd laughed gently and left through a gap. On her return, she gave you three orders.

>1. If Sumireko reached the outside world by her own efforts, to tell Reimu of the Lunar Capital's Occult Ball.
>2. To carry a sealed message to the Moriya Shrine without reading it.
>3. Under no circumstances to directly interfere with or even interact with Sumireko Usami.

Of course, Ran didn't really end up following instruction 3...

And yeah, the point of divergence seems to be Greg himself. Ran seems largely unaware of his existence, so it's likely either Tammy was the one who actually had him. Now, it's possible that was a Yukari scheme, since she seems to really want him as a Shikigami, but that could have been something she came up with on the fly- seeing as how she didn't exactly bring Greg under her sway as Maribel. But either way, she at least claims to see some sort of great power within him, so she wants to put him to use, at least.

About the doppelganger Yukari thing, I admit it's a possibility. While lackadaiscal, she does seem to at least semi-acknowledge the lunarians as a threat. I will just add that she's also seemingly a time traveler in this story, at
>>203422
>[Maribel] Muttered something about someone named Renko. And then she smiled, and told me that she was going to tear me down to my foundations.

so that's a second layer of potential mindscrewery going on with her; she has some knowledge from the future, though I don't know if it's a timeline with Greg in it, or if she can go back and forth at will. So maybe she knows about the events of LoLK and AoCF. But that wouldn't explain her potentially knocking the balance of Gensokyo out of whack...
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One interesting thing about Yukari is that in AoFC's story mode there's no dream-Yukari. (To my knowledge at least - VD has Yukari present as a boss but she has zero dialogue). At the same time Yukari was able to pull the (real) Sumireko out of the dream world to the bewilderment of Doremy, demonstrating her power or some dominion over the dream realm or dreams. Judging by their dialogue (Sumireko asking who Yukari is) it's also her first time meeting Yukari?
During the entire incident she refrained from using perfect posession and engaging the Yorigami Sisters until she was certain on how to beat them.
Her victory line against herself is also vague enough to be speculation fuel.

Sharing my crack theory with zero backing I like to believe.
Yukari in this story here is Maribel, who is aware Greg existed (likely her ancestor - like a how many-times-Great-Grandfather), though his existence isn't a fixed point in reality (it being on the border basically) and so she's dreaming herself into the past as Yukari (who later appeared as the teacher Maribel) who shikigami'd Tamamo (Kitsune) via Ran (Shikigami Spirit) to compel her to get wifed up and have a son (that son being Greg).
Now she needs Greg to continue the lineage to ensure her own existence and thus ensure the existence of Gensokyo as it is.


Basically an extra elaborate Grandfather Paradox.

Now if Greg gets together with Satori and it turns out she's an ancestor to Maribel that'd be a neato reasoning for Yukari having her gaps filled with creepy red eyes all the time.. You know, like her third eye?
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>>209938
You're looking at this the wrong way. There's a grandfather paradox at play, but it's not her ancestors she's concerned about. Perhaps this is all an elaborate scheme to get Sumireko laid.
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((Not an update, but marking it as one so people see the vote.))

I've been debating with myself on the direction to take the next arc, and I've come up with an idea.

There's been some enthusiasm in the thread about seeing Alice's POV. And Alice's thread in the plot does need to be picked up, given that she kind of dropped off the map at the end of part 1, as none of our protagonists have been near her since. (For those who need a refresher: she was cut off from the main battle by Ran, and left at Eientei when the SDM kidnapping happened.)

The problem is, Alice isn't the best viewpoint character. Her stake in the plot just isn't personal enough; she's interested in trying to make a living doll via urban legend, but she considers it a longshot where she's playing the odds. If it works, great, if not, she spends a day or two, gets to see an interesting incident, and maybe still gets a lead on a line of research. (She would be significantly more invested after finding out about Sumireko's developments Mary, but we already know that hasn't happened yet.) Basically, after the initial fallout of discussing things with Ran and her reaction to Marisa's injury and her allies' kidnapping, she doesn't have an immediate plan of action.

However, we do have a character who needs some time in the spotlight, who does have an immediate goal regarding this incident, who is extremely invested in how it gets resolved, and, to top it all off, will also let us see what happened with Alice. And, unless I'm completely off the mark, I think you'll be very interested in an arc from her perspective. But I did want to make sure before actually launching it, so let's put this to a vote.

Please choose the arc you would like to see:

[-] Arc 4B, following Satori Komeiji.
[-] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo. (This would pick up immediately after the fight at Eientei, and it ends whenever it ends.)
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.

Part of the reason I wanted Alice was also to see what she and Ran got up to, since they seemed to resolve their fight at Eientei diplomatically. So this is fine with me.
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[x] Arc 4B, following Satori Komeiji.

I just think a good point for another intermission with Ran is after confronting the catnappers.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.
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[x] Arc 4B, following Satori Komeiji.
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[x] Arc 4B, following Satori Komeiji.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.

If the story goes any further forward, it'll become increasingly hard to circle back, I find.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran.

The Eientei fallout has been a mystery for a while now. Let's see what happened, hm?
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.
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[X] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo. (This would pick up immediately after the fight at Eientei, and it ends whenever it ends.)

This should eventually neatly take us to the point where Ran realises that Chen is kidnapped, also I’m impatient and want to know the fox mama story as soon as possible.
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>>209935
>>209938
>>209941

Regarding Yukari and Maribel, there is one hint that ZUN has left regarding what was going on with them, namely he made a reference to Lafcadio Hearn, a European writer who was one of the first people to translate the Youkai legends to bring them to the west. He would become a Japanese citizen, and when doing so, changed his name to Koizumi Yakumo.
Also regarding Sumi, Maribel’s best friend was Renko Usami thus her best friend is a descendant (unknown how far, but considering that the pair inherit the secret sealing club from her… not toooo distant?)

So Hearn → Yakumo

I think I heard this theory somewhere (or it might just be me,) but sometime in the scientific century, something causes Maribel to be thrown over a millennium back in time, and either shortly before, during, or shortly after being thrown back in time, Maribel (whom had already had her power over boundaries start growing even …back then? In the future? anyways!) became Yukari, and started getting back to the future the long way.

Now being an immortal Youkai, the memory should have a better shot of being remembered, especially important stuff. (Though there was also something I recall reading on how Yukari and Maribel dream being the other, rather like how Sumireiko dreams of being her Doppelganger in Gensokyo)

So, now turning from canon to USiL we shoot up to a couple of years before we start. Ran has run away(?) and come back, but Yukari knows/suspects about Greg. Goes to check it out and finds the Greg situation as it was, and stops it.

Which might I point out I’m pretty sure not only stopped him from completely throwing himself off the moral cliff… but also saved his life!

A bit of an extension of the analogy I made earlier about Mamizou acting to prevent Sumi and Greg from breaking a hole in the barrier keeping the “atmosphere” of Gensokyo in? Well as Patchouli pointed out, Greg was probably well on his way of going full blown Kitsune when Maribel showed up, thus turning into something which the environment he was in no longer supported the ability for youkai to survive. And on top of that, tapping into his power at a very high rate to be top dog in the class, it is possible that had Maribel not shown up, that Greg would have faded by the time Sumi got there…

And this alternate story could get worse… very melodramatically worse… if Greg hadn’t faded by the time Sumi got there…should I write that out?
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[-] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo. (This would pick up immediately after the fight at Eientei, and it ends whenever it ends.)
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[-] Arc 2C, following Ran Yakumo.
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>>210004

Well, she might have. It may also have been that , without magic to absorb, he would have just remained as a human anyway. But Greg's life inadvertently being saved by the one person he can call a hated enemy... would add an interesting wrinkle.

>should I write that out?
I think it's an interesting(if grim) premise, but really, only do that if you want to.
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>>210068

you might have a point regarding the lack of magic, on the other hand

>the timing of their youkai nature emerging depends on both the strength of their bloodline and the level of ambient magic present."

when his mother is not only a nine-tails, but THE nine-tails, I think that might be a strong enough bloodline to potential overcome the dwindling magic of the outside world. though that wouldn't be a good thing in this case.

Also I think that saving Greg from fading would have been inadvertent for Maribel/Yukari, regardless of reason (to make Greg a shikigami in the future/whatever plan she has actually going vs. something happened to her and Maribel was just looking after Ran's son or something.), if he was actually going to fade.

I'll see about making an outline at least of the scenario(s) I was thinking of, might be a day or two, a little busy the next couple of days.
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>>210131

>Also I think that saving Greg from fading would have been inadvertent for Maribel/Yukari, regardless of reason

Bloody typo, i meant that it would not have been inadvertent
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[-] Yesterday, at Eientei...

Alice's difficulty as an opponent depended entirely on how hard she tried. When sufficiently motivated, the puppeteer was at least your equal in danmaku, something she was proving now. While your shikigami were individually the superior of any of her dolls, Alice's servants could outnumber yours by an order of magnitude, and quantity had a quality all of its own.

Fortunately, you'd planned for this. Winning wasn't necessary, you merely needed to delay her while Marisa and Reisen apprehended the culprits and solved the incident. Unfortunately, Alice had realized this, and had adjusted her tactics appropriately.

[Shikigami - Banquet of the Twelve General Gods]
Twelve shikigami flew out, raining down bullets as they assumed their pre-calculated positions before shooting out in crosses and spirals. These were the least of the shikigami you could use, mere wisps programmed with the danmaku you'd given them, but their sheer number and angles they came from made the spellcard respectable. It was one where the vast majority of youkai would need to deal with the pattern as intended.

Alice was not most youkai.

{Skirmish Sign - Patrolling Dolls}
The puppeteer executed a classic defeat in detail, sending three dolls to each shikigami. In each trio, one of the dolls sacrificed itself to block the bullets as the other two attacked. These shikigami had neither the power nor the intelligence to counter such an assault, as they dissipated in short order.

The process took under ten seconds.

"You're pushing recklessly," you observed. "Are you that confident in Sumireko's promises?"

"If it's truly reckless, why aren't you punishing it?" Alice retorted, as another squadron of dolls formed up around her. "Or perhaps you're in over your head?"

You frowned. Every time one of your spellcards had gone down, Alice's remaining dolls flew to the same wedge formation. One which - when combined with the right spellcard - would create an impenetrable cylinder of danmaku. Easy to dodge, but it would resist all but the strongest of spellcards, and leave a path for Alice to fly through unthreatened.

In short, Sumireko's ally was threatening to charge right past you. The only solution to such a problem was to use a spellcard to disrupt Alice's formation before it could start. Alice would then aggressively sacrifice her dolls to cancel out your spellcard, and the cycle would repeat again.

Without Yukari's active support, you lacked the firepower to continue for much longer. Perhaps a riskier play?

[Superhuman - Soaring En no Ozunu]

Boosting your own speed and strength, you hit Alice's formation like a wrecking ball. The puppeteer herself dodged, but the bullets tore through the left flank of the wedge before the dolls could scatter. As you spun around for another pass, Alice gestured and the dolls flew into a loose cloud formation. Wary of going through the center, you passed through the cloud's edge, but the dolls were too scattered, and only a couple were hit. Hm. If you wanted to do meaningful damage, you'd need to threaten Alice herself, but that was quite clearly the pupeeter's plan; offering herself up as bait to lure you into the midst of her dolls, gambling that they could overwhelm you before you could subdue her.

But that act of grouping in and of itself would give you a target. You'd just need to time the feint perfectly. You came in for a third and final approach, spinning ever faster-

[Heaven's Spider's Butterfly-Capturing Web]

Ah. Eirin had arrived. On the one hand, this was good. If she had come here, the other fight must have concluded, and Sumireko was no longer on the loose.

On the other... you were still moving at high speed, and the doctor had just laid down a dense net of lasers. Even your magic had to do business with momentum. Sometimes the only thing to calculate was how much this was about to hurt.

[-] To be continued.
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This is probably a bad idea, but I'm going to do it anyway. Because at the end of the day, nothing motivates me to write more effectively than an unforgiving deadline.

I'm officially declaring that USiL is going into Nanowrimo mode for the month of July. So I'm going to do my best to aim for daily updates, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 35k words by the end of the month.

We'll see how this goes.
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Good luck! I look forward to the updates!
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Waiting warmly...
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Good luck with that! Hope it's a good time for you.
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GoMIllus-Eirin
[-]The doctor is in.

Under normal circumstances, Heaven's Spider's Butterfly-Capturing Web wasn't the worst card to navigate. The small, precise movements it required were unnatural to most youkai, but easily calculated for one such as you. Furthermore, the crisscrossing grid of lasers trapped the target within a small space no matter where they started, perfect for locking down, say, an army of dolls. It was the perfect card for interrupting a fight, and you approved of the selection.

Or at least, you would if you weren't currently moving at speeds most cars would consider respectable. You crashed through the grid of lasers, and while your spellcard shielded you from some damage, it could not prevent all of it; and your momentum was still present as the spellcard broke.

You hissed in pain as the lasers burned you while you skidded to a stop. There was no rest for the injured, however, as you then had to avoid the bullets produced by the web's joints. You turned to the doctor mid-dodge, irritated. "Surely there was a less confrontational way to announce your presence."

"Oh, that's rich," Alice scoffed, but Eirin ignored her, staring you down.

"You involved me and mine," she said coldly. "A confrontation is exactly what was warranted."

You took a moment to adjust your hat, not bothering to hide your eye-roll. "Sumireko would have come here regardless of anything I did. I just organized a welcoming committee."

"Really."

"Reisen was more than happy to help," you said. "In fact, she seems quite pliable to unreasonable demands in general. And because of her help, the incident should be resolved shortly. Maybe you'll even reward her with a kind word, or a day off."

You were expecting an icy dismissal, or a caustic retort regarding your own servitude. But instead Eirin's eyes widened. "You don't know."

Wait, that wasn't right. Your calculations were perfect! You'd checked! "Know what?"

Eirin swore. "Alice, with me, and bring that furball."

"Eirin, what happened?!" you demanded, but the doctor had already flown off.

Alice wasn't far behind. "Understood." Dolls moved all around to flank you, miniature swords at the ready.

"Wait!" you pleaded. "I can't meet with Sumireko directly! It's against orders!"

Alice glared at you. "You think I'm giving you a choice?"

You pulled up a spellcard, glaring right back. "You aren't the one who dictates my actions!"

"Alice! Priorities!" Eirin called back. After a moment's hesitation, the puppeteer swore and flew off, leaving only a few of the puppets with you.

Which left you to do... what? You can't be seen by Sumireko, but you need to figure out what's gone wrong, leaving you with limited options. How can you best get the plan back on track?

[-] Check with the rabbits, ask around. Surely they've seen whatever's going on.
[-] Wait for Alice and Eirin to come back. They may be more forthcoming if you don't try anything.
[-] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.
We should hear what's going on from the doctor's own mouth ASAP. No time to waste waiting for them or getting a sitrep out of rabbits.

I appreciate taking a moment to fix the hat. As the true source of power, it wouldn't be fit to leave it disrupted.
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.

Seems like a Ran thing to do.
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.

Wonder what all the different types of shikigami we can use are, if wisps are described as the merest. Paper dolls, maybe?
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.

I shall call it, Mini-Me
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So I'm assuming Ran failed to gather information after the incident at the pond? Otherwise she should be aware that Sumireko isn't the only Outsider present.

Out of the choices, sending a shikigami is the one that comes closest to breaking Yukari's rule while technically not breaking it, considering that a shikigami could be seen as representatives of their master.
It's also weird of her to say she isn't allowed to come with them and then having to explain why she sent a shikigami instead in case Alice or Eirin discover it.

[x] Check with the rabbits, ask around. Surely they've seen whatever's going on.
Hoping to get at Tewi here.
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.
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[x] Check with the rabbits, ask around. Surely they've seen whatever's going on.

Casual conversation between a rabbit and a fox... this I gotta see.
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... Uh-oh, I just realized that I have forgotten/ not realized to factor a variable when the whole Foxmama thing started... and its about to become very relevant if its correct. (which it has been practically confirmed by patchouli's reaction...)

It largely depends on if Ran spots Greg with that shikigami and figures out who he is... (which is probably the point where she starts rebelling... though why would Yukari not know why she was... was she just saying that to do to Sumi what Mamizou did to Meiling?) though... in figuring out what happened afterwards is it going to come out that a certain someone put the magical equivalent of kick STAB me sign on her son's back that resulted in him getting nabbed in front of her eyes? (well, proxy eyes, but close enough.), uh, yeah I think that conversation between a rabbit and a fox is going to be really "casual".

Also, about the same time I thought that was also when I realized that uh, Mamizou has messed up more than I thought. I don't think she ever caught that Greg had been travelling around with Satori... because if so she'd realize that the Myouren temple is probably not the best place to stow him... though that will be a good thing for us as it has been a while hasn't it? =)

Not that I am suggesting cutting this arc short, I am looking forward to this... but also looking forward afterwards to not only Mamizou accidentally putting a soon-to-be Kitsune in the middle of her base(? or has she moved to the Tanuki village by this point? back-up base?) but also one that is going to have the sneakiest Youkai in Gensokyo who has a friend in the Myouren temple looking to deliver Greg a Urban Legend...
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.

Ran is already interfering, may as well cross the line a bit further.
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[X] Send a weak shikigami to observe. It's not interfering if you merely observe and nobody notices you.

Most youkai thought shikigami were complicated, that they could only be used by those who were incredibly skilled or strong.

Most youkai were idiots.

Admittedly, there were uses of shikigami that fit that definition. For instance, your existence alone warned everyone of Yukari's strength. No intelligent, powerful creature is going to bind themselves for life, to someone weaker. (For just a moment, something in you is troubled by that, as if you've forgotten something. You shake it off.) But shikigami are tools, and just like tools, can range from the incredibly complex to the extremely simple.

The key difficulty of the shikigami ritual came from aligning the wills of master and servant. When dealing with a human, or a proper youkai, such details were incredibly complicated, to the limits of even your skill. With a non-sentient animal, ruled by base desires, the problem was significantly easier. Animals were predictable, and so long as you could keep them sheltered, well-fed, and occasionally supplied with catnip, they would be content.

But there was easier still. Wisps, ghosts, fractions of souls with barely enough energy to cling to the material plane. Without sentience, nor purpose, nor desires, there was no conflict of wills to begin with, and making such creatures into shikigami was only marginally more difficult than creating a spellcard.

Admittedly, such shikigami were also of limited use, unable to act of their own will, and with no strength that you did not directly supply. Where you needed to observe, but were specifically forbidden from acting directly? It was perfect.

Summoning a wisp was the work of a moment, and directing it to follow Alice and Eirin was equally simple. But why restrict yourself to merely following? Eirin was content to leave you to your own devices to get to the scene quicker, and that meant time was of the essence. You could be impressively fast when you wanted to be, and that meant so could your shikigami. You closed your eyes, took a deep breath, fanned out your tails in a quick stretch, and possessed the wisp.





Your arrival at the scene answered one question instantly, yet spawned several others. Sakuya. What was the maid doing here?

Well, no, that much was obvious. The maid was heavily injured, but everyone else on the field of battle was unconscious or close to it. Marisa, Reisen, Satori, Sumireko, and a young man you could only assume was the illusionist Marisa had mentioned - all collapsed on the ground.

You could do something. Not much, through a wisp, but you could throw out a spellcard; delay Sakuya for long enough for Eirin and Alice to arrive, and at least a chance of the culprits being properly apprehended...

But that would be interfering. Yukari had forbidden it.

So you watched, helplessly, as Sakuya materialized ritual circles around the incident culprits, and Patchouli's magic teleported them out. First the illusionist, then Sumireko, and finally Satori. And as Alice and Eirin flew down, spellcards at the ready, the maid tossed them a salute, stopped time, and vanished.

Eirin rushed to Marisa's side, hurriedly applying bandages to staunch wounds. Alice was quick to follow the moment she saw, and you grimaced. You hadn't realized it was that bad.

Maybe if you hadn't already interfered? If you'd played to the spirit of Yukari's order, let Alice do as she pleased? Had your master forseen this? No, Reisen and Marisa were only here because you'd organized them.

Eirin and Alice were in intense discussion, but the wisp had poor senses. You floated closer to listen in.

Alice's dolls were assisting, applying pressure on various wounds as Eirin stitched one of the cuts up. "How could danmaku do this?" she asked quietly.

"These aren't just danmaku injuries," Eirin said. "They aren't standard knife wounds either, Marisa would have already bled out if that was the case."

Alice seethed. "This was attempted murder."

Eirin shook her head. "It was a calculated risk. If Marisa died, I would call it manslaughter, but I arrived in time."

"I see." Alice tossed her hair back. "I shall have to pay them a visit, then."

"I strongly advise against that. At least, until the current crisis is over."

"How can you say that?"

"She's desperate. Remilia is currently in very poor condition, and she must have decided Sumireko was her best shot for a cure."

"That doesn't excuse-"

"Forget justifications," Eirin said, staring Alice down. "Sakuya did this to Marisa just for being in the way, and she was trying to resolve the incident. What do you think she'll do to someone working with Sumireko? Or have you come up with a doll that can function in stopped time."

That brought Alice up short. "It's from an urban legend?"

"Obviously. They've had me look at her, but they either don't know or won't tell me the specifics."

"That doesn't excuse-"

"Excuse? In her mind, it justifies it. Sakuya is a servant, one whom will do anything for her master. I understand the thought process."

"You understand-" Alice glared at her. "So you're just going to let this go? What about Reisen?"

"Understanding does not imply forgiveness. Rest assured, Sakuya will pay for this." Eirin said, sparing a glance towards the also-very-unconscious rabbit. "But if I exact my pound of flesh now, Remilia will be the one suffering. An immortal can afford to be patient."

Eirin finished sewing up the first slash and moved on to the next. "Now, what exactly has Sumireko been planning?"

Alice hesitated. "Why would I know-"

"Just because I can demonstrate patience does not make it advisable for you to try it."

After a brief pause, Alice conceded with a sigh. "She hasn't planned anything. She didn't intend to end up in Gensokyo, Satori's the one who found her, and even her running into me is an accident. The extent of her plans here was just to get medical treatment for Greg and work out next steps later. The closest thing she had to a long-term plan was finding a way to fix Koishi in exchange for a way out of Gensokyo, but that's just been shot down."

Eirin hummed as she tied off a bandage. "So she is just a pawn in all of this. Very well, what is Ran doing?"

Alice looked non-plussed. "I intend to ask her."

"Not what I meant. What is she doing right this instant? You left some puppets behind."

"She's just staying there, non-responsive," Alice said. "Inactive servant behavior?"

"Then she's possessing a shikigami," Eirin said. "Which I would expect to be right around..."

The brain of the moon pulled some high-tech device out of her pocket, which immediately started beeping. She nodded, pulled her bow out, and nocked an arrow. "...here."

You sighed at the arrow pointing directly at you. "Consider this encouragement to arrive quickly," Eirin said.

You could dodge one shot, but a wisp was not going to survive even a mild danmaku attack. You abandoned the spirit to its fate, and allowed Alice's dolls to prod you over for an in-person discussion.

[-]To be continued.
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ok, interesting she got a good look at Greg, did not recognize him (makes sense depending on when she left/was taken)

>No intelligent, powerful creature is going to bind themselves for life, to someone weaker. (For just a moment, something in you is troubled by that, as if you've forgotten something. You shake it off.)

... again, interesting. and in several ways here. firstly, who the perspective here seems rather vague...is it Ran or Tomamo-as-Ran? (or both?)
secondly... all considered would Tomamo be considered stronger than Yukari? am I misreading where the issue is in the statement that momentary burst of thought had?

well that, and coercion might be a possible answer to that: "you might be stronger than me, but this person here important to you isn't and can you be there every single moment that I possibly can be there?"
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I'm guessing then the thing Ran doesn't know about is Yukari's particular involvement. She probably was checking in with Eirin, which is how she came to know about the Lunar Occult Ball.

>>210278
The first thing that came to my mind from that line is the marriage Tammy most likely had.
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>>210279

oh, good point! didn't occur to me!
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>>210279

Yeah, I'm thinking Yukari threatened either Greg or Greg Senior. Maybe both. Though that does make me think. If Yukari decided she wanted Greg to be a Shikigami, why not just grab Sumireko and Mr Watanabe by the throat one day and threaten him into compliance as well? I think Yukari probably cut a deal with Tammy which the gap-hag is rules-lawyering her way around.
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[-]Meeting of the minds

Back at the scene of the crime, earth rabbits were now all over the place. Mopping up blood, patching up the floor, and general cleaning the area. You could see a pairs of squads carrying Reisen and Marisa out on stretchers, flying slowly to minimize the jostling. Tewi was leading them, but you didn't sense any mischief from the rabbit; she seemed significantly more grim than earlier.

Regardless, as the puppets escorted you to Alice and Eirin, you were idly amused at how their temperaments had reversed. The doctor had calmed her fury, reclaiming her usual detachment, while Alice seemed moments away from pulling a spellcard. Although, considering how troubled recent developments made you, maybe it was just that the problems had rotated.

You opted to open the dialogue."I assume you're willing to trade information for an explanation of my actions?"

"Or we could just beat it out of you," Alice said. "In fact, if it's not an extremely good explanation, I may just do it anyway."

You glanced over at Eirin, who merely raised an eyebrow and smirked slightly. You sighed. "You cannot possibly believe that I intended for Sakuya to kidnap the incident resolvers. Or for Marisa to be injured to this extent."

"Why not? That was the result of your actions."

"I am trying to end the incident!" you said hotly. "If Sakuya had not arrived, Sumireko would be safely in custody!"

"Except she did. And it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if she got a note too."

"What note?"

"See, that's the problem with being a mastermind," Alice retorted. "It's hard to prove that this isn't what you meant to happen."

"A puppeteer should realize that sometimes strings can get tangled."

"Only when you're pulling on all of them at once. You've already admitted you directed Marisa and Reisen here! Why was Sakuya here if you didn't tell her?"

Eirin coughed meaningfully, and both of you turned to her. "According to Tewi, Sakuya ran into Marisa in the village, and extracted that information after beating her in danmkau. Which would imply Ran was merely incompetent, not malicious."

"Now hold on-" you protested.

"Incompetent indeed." Alice scoffed. "Yukari's not that clumsy."

"I agree. Ran's acting on her own."

That... you'd figured you might need to establish that fact, but having it so bluntly stated took the wind out of your sails. "How-"

"If Yukari was acting through you, you would not have been losing to Alice," Eirin observed.

"Depends on how serious things were," Alice muttered.

The Lunarian raised an eyebrow imperiously, causing Alice to wince. "As I was saying... there's also the fact that Yukari wouldn't have left you to be interrogated if she was actively observing, nor would she have been blind to Sakuya's interference. Though I'll admit, I'm surprised you overlooked such an obvious variable."

"Sakuya should have been occupied!" you protested. "She was going to meet with Keine and get her to consume Remilia's history!"

"She was going to meet who?" Alice asked.

"Keine!" They still looked blank. "Ms. Kamishirasawa! The village schoolteacher, Mokou's friend!"

"What are you babbling about?"

"Don't pretend ignorance, you fought her during the Eternal Night incident!"

Alice didn't back down, and it belatedly dawned on you. The puppeteer was neither this dense nor this manipulative, and faking ignorance of Keine to Eirin of all people would be idiotic. She wasn't acting. You looked over at the Brain of the Moon, seeing her deep in thought.

"Interesting." Eirin said. "I need to discuss things with the princess. Consider yourselves guests in the meantime."

"The incident's still ongoing, I can't-" you and Alice started protesting at the same time.

"I insist," Eirin emphasized. She clapped her hands, causing a rabbit to jump over. "Grab Tewi, have her show these two to a room."

As the rabbit hopped off to find Tewi, and Eirin waited to hand the pair of you over, you considered your options.

[-] Escape the moment an opportunity presents itself.
[-] Spy on Eirin's discussion.
[-] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.
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Seems like the memory wipe regarding Keine(and maybe Mamizou) targeted everyone except Kitsunes. Was it meant to be a trap for Ran to go and investigate? That or Ran/Greg's propensity for illusions let them resist it somewhat?

Anyway,
[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.

Let's see how the mother's speech skill compares to the son's.
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[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.

Spying again would just be pushing our luck after we were caught doing it already, and escaping now is just going to drive up hostilities towards us.

Interesting that Ran is immune to the Keine bubble. Not only does that help anchor the timeline a little, it also raises questions on the effect further. Is her immunity related to Yukari? Is Greg's derivative from her? Fascinating possibilities.
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[-] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.

>>210295

...I have a third option... what if they are immune because they are already under the effect of one? what if Kiene was asked to eat Ran's history, or at least her connection to Tammy (thus why Greg still remembers he had a mom and her name was Tammy.) and because of that has left the two of them immune to a second round of it?
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[x] Escape the moment an opportunity presents itself.

So Keine hid history shortly after the fight at the Nessie pond, which is all according Mamizou's scheme to get Ran. At this point Mamizou's existence is hidden to everyone but Ran, Greg and Nue. Mamizou intended to hide her existence from Greg as well but was unable to. This likely means Mamizou intended to isolate only Ran but whatever criterion filtering out to Ran applied to Greg as well. >>210294 'Excepting all Kitsunes' could certainly work for that.
Or, less likely, Mamizou's and Ran's common history can't be hidden by Keine as it predates Gensokyo/Keine. This somewhat leaves out Greg, though one could argue him being Ran's son might make part of their common history as well. This wouldn't explain why Ran still knows of Keine, so I'm thinking what I first mentioned is more accurate.
Now if only Yukari would have mentioned either Keine or Mamizou by name to Sumireko we'd know for sure whether she's not affected... Personally, I'm thinking her memory is also affected by the hiding of history but she'd managed to logic it out that someone must have lured Sumireko in.

>>210291
The issue about this is that the Shikigami contract needs to be consensual. Forcing it wouldn't work. Looking back, Yukari's offer to Greg, boiled down it was "Become my servant and I'll grant you the power to fix everything". He refused and Yukari had to persuade him or let it go.
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[X] Spy on Eirin's discussion.

I know this didn't work too perfectly the first time, but surely we can do better this time.
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[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.
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Given that we've already established the basics of what Ran's up to and how much she knows, how about a bonus?

The below is something I wrote when trying to get a sense of Ran as a character. I decided to start over because it was too heavy of an internal monologue, and I figured I could work the relevant details into an actual scene, but I figured it's decent enough to show.

As such, this is not an update (and if it had been, it'd have been the first update of this arc), but it's still accurate regarding how much Ran knew and what she was thinking. You can skip it without missing anything, but if you'd like a deeper look into her thought process, here you go.


[-] Yesterday, after the brawl at Eientei...

You were growing increasingly concerned.

Sumireko's initial disappearance was aggravating, but had been neatly explained once Marisa told you about her illusions-wielding companion. It was still unfortunate. The odds of two competent magic-users in the outside world living in the same city was a single-digit percentage, without even considering them actually finding each other. Admittedly, Sumireko being competent enough to fight a number of Gensokyo's youkai raised those odds somewhat, but still... if you had you known beforehand, it would have been simple to arrange for Miko to be the pair's initial greeting to Gensokyo. Those who lacked a way to see through or otherwise bypass illusions could be paired with someone who did, and the plan would have otherwise remained solid.

Instead, the pair had managed to give everyone the slip, and ally with Satori to boot. Which was another detail you hadn't forseen; Satori was usually content to hide underground, and urban legends should have been too uncertain to prompt any other action. What she wanted was obvious, but the potential of urban legends was clear only to a select few, none of whom lived underground, and none of whom should have cared to inform the underground. You still weren't sure where your model had broken down, which was frustrating. (Koishi, perhaps? The girl was nearly impossible to predict, even for you.) Regardless, once Satori had chosen to act it was understandable why she would choose to seek out Sumireko, and obvious how she'd be the first to succeed in actually finding her, but it was an additional complication. And a substantial one at that.

The combination of Satori's mind-reading, Sumireko's teleportation and the illusion-wielder being a complete unknown made prediction vastly more difficult. Too many variables, and too broad a set of capabilities, even assuming Koishi stayed out of things. The only saving grace was Marisa's encounter with the group. Her assessment of the illusion-wielder and the injury she dealt him made predicting their next move simple.

Someone as abrasive as Sumireko would neither make friends nor trust easily. She would seek medical treatment for him. Satori's presence was actually a boon in this regard, as she would know Eientei (due to it's rather isolated nature) was by far the most sensible choice. And while Yukari's orders prevented you from acting directly, they did not prevent you from arranging a welcoming party. Reisen neatly countered both the illusionist and Satori, and Marisa, once warned to take things seriously, should have trumped Sumireko.

It should have worked. Alice showing up could have been an issue, but she'd been separated enough from the rest of the group that you could keep her engaged away from Sumireko and the plan intact. Sumireko and her friend should have been defeated, captured, and returned home without issue. The harrowing experience would have given the humans a proper respect for youkai, and scared them into withdrawing the occult balls permanently.

((Again, this is not an update, the previous vote is still active.))
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[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.

Eirin has already proven she can see our spies and running away isn't going to do any favors to our standing. Better to try and explain our POV. Probably won't win us any allies, but maybe Alice will be slightly less likely to try and blow our head off.
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[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.
[X] Get a feel for Alice's weaknesses that can be probed into either now or in the future
Greg may have reservations about being manipulative, but I don't see Ran holding these same feelings. Let's show where Greg got his skills from.

Personally, my first thought was maybe invoke the feeling that Sumireko is just an innocent young girl (not true) who will get put in more serious danger if the incident isn't resolved (she is the danger). Maybe that might invoke Alice's sympathies because of her once being a cute innocent girl and then Grimoire'd. However, who knows how that stuff plays into this Alice, if at all. The point though is if Alice has some emotional weakness, Ran should use it.
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[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.
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[X] Explain to Alice why the incident needs to end.

Tewi's behavior leading you around was significantly more grim than you'd realized earlier. The normally talkative rabbit said nothing and tried nothing as you traveled towards your room.

You used the time to consider what you could do with Alice. The obvious idea was to try and persuade her to help end the incident, but it seemed closer to fantasy than feasible. Alice had just fought against you, clearly blamed you at least in part for Marisa's injury, and had already aligned herself with Sumireko. Both her heart and her head were against you, causing the slim chance of receiving her help to counter out the significant utility it would provide. It was a solid argument against wasting your time with pointless pleading.

Only one thing prevented you from discarding the idea entirely, and that's that you lost nothing for the attempt. Attempting to persuade Alice would not prevent you from extracting information from her. Furthermore, Marisa catching Sumireko was meant to be the completion of your plan, so there were no secrets you needed to hide. And since she was aware you were acting on your own, Yukari's reputation was not at risk. The worst case scenario was that Alice continued to work on Sumireko's behalf, which she would if you said nothing.

Try as you might, you couldn't see a flaw in the calculations. A long-shot with no downside and no opportunity cost was still worth taking. So as you reached your room (or perhaps you should say holding area), you'd resolved to make the attempt.

It was an ordinary sitting room. Four cushions surrounded a low square table, flanked by lanterns. There was a small window, small enough for a fox or puppet to slip through, but the only conventional exit were the sliding doors you'd just entered through. A comfortable enough place to wait, but not one that could easily be left unobserved. Not that you intended to leave just yet; there was information to be had.

You heard Alice thank the rabbit, and turned to do the same when Tewi spoke.

"You should know, Sakuya's luck will take a turn for the worst." she declared.

You hadn't thought she was that close to Reisen. "Do you know when, or how?"

"Soon, but not today." she said. "Can't tell how."

"That's something, at least." Alice said. "Thank you."

Tewi looked away. "I didn't do it for you."

Come to think of it, Reisen hadn't been severely injured; knocked out, yes, but she would sleep it off in time even without treatment. Some of Tewi's own pranks had injured the moon rabbit worse. Doubtless that was by design; Sakuya would want to avoid angering Eirin and Kaguya any more than she already had. This wasn't conclusive on its own, Tewi's reaction could simply be possessiveness, the idea that only she was allowed to mess with Reisen.

No, far more telling was that Tewi wasn't playing up her luck manipulation as something you and Alice should owe her for. She wanted her contribution minimized, not remembered. Was it fear, not wanting Sakuya to get wind? Was it a moment of guilt, from having helped the maid in some way? Or perhaps it really was revenge.

"Nevertheless, I appreciate the gesture." Alice replied. "I think we both agree that some actions need consequences."

"Do you know how Sakuya knew precisely when to intervene?" you asked. "Did one of the rabbits see something, perhaps?"

"No. She pulled her little timestop trick and just showed up. It was probably some magic of Patchouli's."

Alice scowled. "Patchy was probably scrying on Marisa. Sakuya finds out Marisa has a lead, then shows up suddenly after she finds Sumireko? The timing fits."

Tewi had a better poker face than most, but you saw the hint of relief there. "I agree. It's not like any of the rabbits here had a motive or the means to inform her."

That scored a wince, so you smiled reassuringly. "I don't think you have anything to worry about. I doubt anyone will draw any connection between you and anything that happens with Sakuya."

Alice offered a more innocent reassurance along the same lines, as Tewi locked eyes with you and nodded. You might have been able to pressure her, get the real story out of her or extort a bit of luck in exchange for not revealing it... but what would be the point? Having Tewi in your debt, however minor, was more likely to be useful.

Regardless, the rabbit left after that, which left you with Alice. Who wasted no time starting up what she thought was going to be her interrogation.

"No more games, Ran. What's going on?"

You sighed. "Before I answer that, you do realize the rabbits are listening in?"

Alice frowned, but half a dozen puppets flew out the room's lone window to pointlessly check the surrounding hallways. Not that the rabbits weren't likely to listen in if they could, but Eirin wouldn't rely on them for information. If she really wanted to know, she'd have bugged the room, and trying to find and destroy that wasn't worth the trouble. The only reason you brought it up was to buy time for considering your answer.

You were Yukari's servant first and foremost, and in most circumstances, that was enough. With your master's strength, few youkai could pose a meaningful challenge, and Yukari would have planned for those who could. Even aside from the raw power, speaking in Yukari's name was meaningful; her words may not be trusted, but they were always listened to.

None of that applied here. Eirin had already deduced you were acting on her own, and Alice would remember that. Not that the puppeteer would care about a command from Yukari in any case. Her original reasoning for siding with Sumireko likely still stood, augmented by her anger over Marisa's injury. If you were to convince her of anything, it would need to be without Yukari's authority. Persuasion was a skillset your past self had, but it had been so long since you had last needed it...

[-] To be continued.
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>>210306
>Persuasion was a skillset this body had
R-Ran, what are you going to do to Alice!?
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>>210307
Thank you for drawing attention to that inside the edit window. What I'd intended was Ran calling her pre-shikigami self "this body" as a way to differentiate the two, and I'd completely missed the other way that line could be interpreted.

So yeah, post edited. Ran's not trying to seduce Alice.
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File 172017419396.png - (19.53KB, 778x527, Greg's Mom has Got it Going On.png)
Greg's Mom has Got it Going On
>>210306
>>210307
>>210308
I couldn't decide the proper Ran seduction music, so I'll let you guys decide, A, B, or C

A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya1ySdk9Oao
B: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAwyWkksXuo
C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F4gG7rXw1s
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>>210306
>"You should know, Sakuya's luck will take a turn for the worst." she declared.

Given how everything has turned out for the SDM crew Tewi wasn't bullshitting. Can't wait to see how this'll affect her quest to catnap Chen
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>>210310
I think option A works best- it's got the seductive vibes even if you don't know the meme behind it.

>>210311

Yeah, the SDM crew have been having pretty bad luck... but then again, so have Greg and Sumi. Sumi even explicitly had to be exorcised of bad luck by Hina, right? So Tewi might have just hit everyone there in the buckshot.
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[-]Persuading Alice.

Predictability is often considered a weakness. And in some ways that's true. A predictable foe is easier to predict, easier to avoid, and easier to counter than one that's capable of surprising you.

But there's another side to that. When others see you as predictable, it becomes far easier for you to surprise them. Deviations from that norm become noteworthy, even shocking. It would be like Yuyuko refusing a meal, Chen not being cute, or Reimu having money.

Your pattern was decorum, upholding Yukari's dignity as her servant. (Even when, or perhaps especially when she herself seemed to care little for that dignity.)

You sat down heavily, grimacing as you squished a couple of your tails under you. You pulled them out with a groan as Alice sat down across from you, taking a more formal posture.

"I suppose I should start with the original plan," you said. "Are you aware of what Sumireko was doing with the occult balls?"

"Not the details."

You waved your hand aimlessly. "It was the magical equivalent of throwing stones in a lake to see what you'd stir up. The occult balls scatter in Gensokyo, changing hands to the victors of fights, and eventually get collected by a strong youkai."

"Or someone like Marisa."

"Indeed. That lucky winner is then transported to the outside world for exactly one hour to satisfy Sumireko's curiosity."

Alice tilted her head. "Wasn't there something about a wish for collecting seven of them?"

"That was just a fabrication. Sumireko wanted the occult balls to change hands, after all." You paused for effect. "Sumireko handled their disappointment with her customary grace."

"You say that like you know her."

You sighed. "Yukari has ordered me not to engage with Sumireko directly. By necessity, the vast majority of my information is secondhand." You paused, let a hint of uncertainty leak into your expression. "Is that inconsistent with your experience?"

Alice smirked slightly. "No, she shows all the contrition of Marisa after a theft."

You nodded with faint relief. "Regardless, some egos were upset, and when she arrived in Gensokyo, it was decided to teach her a lesson."

Alice stared you down. "Decided by who?"

"The initial idea was Kasen's, but I helped refine it. Essentially, youkai would chase her from danmaku duel to danmaku duel, allowing her no rest and giving the impression her life was in constant danger. After an evening of this, we'd allow her to escape back to the outside world, now with a healthy respect of the youkai she was provoking."

Alice stared, though this time in disbelief. "Your plan was to continually chase a teleporter working with an illusionist?"

You winced. "The illusionist was an unforseen detail. He-"

"Greg," Alice interrupted.

"Greg," you amended, "had not shown himself before Sumireko came to Gensokyo. As such, his skills were not and could not have been accounted for."

"Except, perhaps, by someone who could travel through the barrier actually investigating Sumireko before trying to trap her..."

And had you not been specifically been forbidden from interacting with the mage, you would have done just that. You sighed. "Regardless, once they disappeared, the original plan was history. It took some time for most of the youkai involved to realize that, but it's since become a more conventional manhunt to try and find Sumireko."

"And why exactly are you the one who succeeded?"

"There have been reports of Sumireko showing up in nearly every corner of Gensokyo. However, her encounter with Marisa was unique in that it was the only one to feature someone else from the Outside World. That explained how she escaped Kasen, making it the key detail to focus on. Upon learning from Marisa that the illusi-erm, Greg was injured, a trap at Eientei was the natural next step."

"That can't be correct," Alice said. "None of them mentioned anything aside from Kasen at the shrine and the fight at the village."

"Fascinating," you said grimly. "It's almost as interesting as you not remembering Keine."

"A point that I can't help but notice Eirin didn't back you up on."

"But where she didn't contradict me, either," you said. "I would estimate a ninety-three percent chance Eirin is using her own methods to independently confirm Keine's existence. Mentioning that Keine is Mokou's friend must have caught her attention."

"That only means that judgement is yet to fall."

You shook your head. "My calculations this incident may have been flawed, but do you think me so foolish to attempt lying about a long-time friend of Mokou to Eirin of all people?"

Alice hesitated. "If you needed to distract her for an escape-"

"If I intended to run, I would have destroyed your puppets and left. You can't have thought they would be enough to subdue me."

The puppeteer hesitated, and you pressed on. "No. These contradictions, these sudden changes, they all point to one thing. There's another player here."

You slammed your fist down on the table, getting a flinch. "This incident is far more serious than you've realized, Alice."

[-]To be continued.

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>>210319
>"If I intended to run, I would have destroyed your puppets and left. You can't have thought they would be enough to subdue me."
>The puppeteer hesitated
Alice totally thinks her puppets could square up against Ran. You gotta admire her confidence/pride in her work

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>>210320
I was thinking similar, even without Yukari, you'd think that a nine-tail like Ran would not be inconsequential to fight... though after thinking about it, Alice is the daughter/creation?/something or other of Shinki's, and she was an EX boss too, so maybe her confidence is not quite as unwarranted as it first appears. (still somewhat unwarranted, jut not hilariously so.)

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>>210328
Yeah, Grimoire Alice could probably take down non-directed Ran pretty easily. Honestly, if they were actually fighting to win, Doll Alice might still have a chance to defeat non-directed Ran. But if she just needed to blow up some dolls and run away, then Ran could probably do that fairly easily.

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PMiSS_lunarcapital

[-]The seriousness of the incident.

"I just saw Marisa get carried away on a stretcher," Alice replied. "I'm well aware of how serious this is."

Clenched fist, intense stare; Alice was taking you seriously. Good. "Oh, I'm sure you and Satori both grasp the potential of urban legends. But those are merely the secondary effect."

"Well, yes," Alice said, uncomprehending. "Sumireko created the occult balls to study Gensokyo-"

"Sumireko is not the mastermind here." You cut her off. "And she did not create all of them."

"The occult balls are all real landmarks that are nevertheless steeped in fantasy. That gives them a foot in both worlds, and is how Sumireko was able to send them into Gensokyo in the first place. The stories surrounding them let the balls pass through the Hakurei Barrier, into fantasy, while the actual landmark they're created from keeps them tied to the outside world. She made thirteen such artifacts, doubtless to emphasize the mystic nature of them."

You leaned forwards. "Given how Sumireko designed them, between being easily hidden, only transferred through combat, and scattering once half of them have been collected, it's understandable that very few have realized that there are fourteen occult balls spread across Gensokyo."

"So what's the odd one out?" Alice asked, unimpressed.

"The final occult ball is irrevocably tied to the Lunar Capital."

That got a reaction out of her. You'd have smiled if it wouldn't ruin the mood. "Back when this incident first began, Yukari let me see some of her calculations. The occult balls are capable of seriously damaging, or even destroying the Great Hakurei Barrier. Furthermore, the Lunar Capital is currently under siege. An ancient enemy has attacked them, in such a way that they can't respond directly. The purpose of the Lunar Capital's occult ball is to open a path between the moon and earth, for them to retreat here."

"And you're explaining this all inside Eientei?!"

"There's a reason I asked you to check for listeners," you said.

That part was a lie. Eirin's first loyalty is to Kaguya, and the Lunarians successfully invading would force them to confront the exiled princess. You wouldn't be surprised if she knew something about this, but whatever the Brain of the Moon is plotting towards, it's not for the Moon to conquer Gensokyo.

But Alice doesn't need to know that.

"Marisa told me about her trip to the moon," Alice said. "That swordswoman she ran into... was she telling the truth about her strength?"

"That would depend if she portrayed Yorihime's sequential obliteration of herself, Sakuya, Remilia, and Reimu as effortless. And the other Watatsuki sister is just as powerful. Make no mistake, the Moon would win a direct confrontation."

"If they're that strong, why would they need to plot at all? They could just have those sisters kick the door down."

"Lunarians extend their lives thanks to the moon's 'purity'," you spat. "Normal humans and youkai, with all their messy living and dying, are impure. If the Lunarians just came down and started massacring everyone, they would make themselves impure by proximity, which they consider a death sentence."

"How could they possibly retreat here, then? If being near living beings is an issue, Gensokyo should be worthless to them."

You grimaced. "They have weapons that can purify the land, making it pristine and lifeless. It would become a drawn-out ground war, and outside of emergency situations, they would leave that to the moon rabbits, the better to preserve their own lifespans."

You took a deep breath, unclenching your fists. "Regardless, it's best to avoid the situation entirely. Prevent the Lunar Capital's occult ball from being used, and deny the Lunarians any entry into Gensokyo."

Alice bit her lip as dolls buzzed around her. "Can you prove all of this?"

You considered that for a moment. "Reisen's probably the easiest source to check regarding Lunarian capabilities. Eirin and Kaguya would know, but you'd need to explain why you care about Lunarian war machines. As for the existence of the Lunar Capital's occult ball, Miko can verify that. She was the one to find it in the first place."

"Why didn't Marisa mention any of this? The only thing she brought up was the occult balls damaging the barrier."

You sighed. "Among their other capabilities, the Lunarians are excellent at spying. The precise mechanism by which they do so eludes me, but I saw no reason to reveal my hand when Sumireko was about to be apprehended in any case."

"Then why tell me this now?"

"Because Sakuya has just made ending the incident significantly more difficult." An understatement. Snatching Sumireko away from the mansion while remaining within the letter of your orders will be impossible without significant help. "I strongly suspect a Lunarian hand in her interference, and if they're already active, then further secrecy is pointless."

"You're implying the Lunarians are ultimately responsible for Marisa's injury."

"The variables fit. A party that benefits from the incident's extension, with significant information-gathering capabilities, but doesn't want their identity revealed? Who else?"

"Yukari, perhaps?"

"Don't be ridiculous," you snapped. "This is a threat to Gensokyo, and Gensokyo is everything to her."

Alice remained silent, lost in thought. You let her think. There were times when less was more, and in this case the most persuasive thing to do was to let your argument sink in. Saying more would just make you look desperate. The puppeteer closed her eyes and extended a hand to one of her dolls, seemingly communicating with it... or perhaps with the whole network? Uncertain.

"Supposing I believe all of this," she said. "What are you hoping for from me?"

[-] Damage control. If the Lunar Capital's occult ball is isolated and taken out of play, the others are significantly less threatening.
[-] Firepower. Retrieving Sumireko from the SDM is still the direct route to ending the incident, and while Alice isn't strong enough to manage the feat on her own, she's a significant step in that direction.
[-] Research. Alice is a magician of significant skill, and did spend some time with Sumireko. Perhaps there's another way to end the threat of the occult balls?
[-] Surveillance. Your instincts are telling you that whatever happened to Keine is key to all of this. The puppeteer's dolls could be a great help in searching for her.
[?] Write-in. Is there another solution?

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CHOOCHOO

[x] Revelation. Is there another solution? An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier... Your curiosity beckons.

The shit train of the clusterfuck Express on collision course with Fan station. Contact in short order.

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[x] Revelation. Is there another solution? An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier... Your curiosity beckons.

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[X] Revelation. Is there another solution? An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier... Your curiosity beckons.

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[-] Surveillance. Your instincts are telling you that whatever happened to Keine is key to all of this. The puppeteer's dolls could be a great help in searching for her.

Much as I appreciate the write in, I'm also willing to be practical- this directly steers Ran and Alice in the general direction of the action (on Greg's end), which will certainly be interesting. Additionally, Keine vanishing from history is going to throw off any personality models we have, so for good predictive algorithms we need to restore the public's memory anyway.

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>>210363
Kind of? At this point in time, Greg(and Sumi) would still be fast asleep, and Greg will only get to the village somewhere between twelve and 24 hours from now, by my estimate. It's possible that Alice + Ran get in a long term stakeout, which puts them in position to see the Great Immovable Beacon, but far from a guarantee.

For my money,
[x] Revelation. Is there another solution? An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier... Your curiosity beckons.

What will happen to Ran if she finds out her master isn't what she claims to be? What will happen to Tammy? And to Alice, who was the bad luck to be standing next to her?

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>>210363
Is that a good idea though? If Ran (and inadvertently Greg) remember Mamizou, it's likely intentional. Mamizou was only surprised at Greg knowing her, and not the fact that anyone knew her. (Nue herself is proof that Mamizou's erasure could pinpoint exactly who would be affected). Isn't it reasonable for Ran to assume this might be a trap?

It's not unreasonable for Ran to assume that her alone (to her knowledge) remembering Keine means one of three things;

1. Something about Ran makes her uniquely able to remember Keine.This may be intentional or unintentional by whomever or whatever made everyone forget Keine. If it is intentional, pursuing Keine is what this unknown will want.
2. Only a select amount of people have forgotten Keine, and Ran simply has not met those people yet. If this is the case, there is likely to be some unifying trait amongst those who remember that allows them to do so. The more people that remember Keine, the less likely this is to be the intentional act of some mastermind.
3. Something is faulty in Ran (highly unlikely).

One is currently the most likely based on the information Ran has available to her. Knowing this, and following that there is at least a decent chance someone or something wants her to pursue Keine, is it a good idea to follow up on it at the moment?

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I'd say, "Go home, go back to playing with your little dolls, and stay out of my way," but I won't bother the smarter tacticians.

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[x] Revelation. Is there another solution? An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier... Your curiosity beckons.


>"Yukari, perhaps?"

>"Don't be ridiculous," you snapped. "This is a threat to Gensokyo, and Gensokyo is everything to her."

yeah, that's what has me puzzled on this whole thing, what is going on? especially since Ran has just confirmed that the occult balls threaten the border... but Yukari told Sumi that it wasn't? so did she lie to Sumi, or Ran?

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>>210387

I think Yukari is sort of lying to Ran by omission. As in, yes, the occult balls could seriously damage or break the barrier... but that would require Greg and Sumi to be actively hostile agents. Similar to the tea party at Moriya's, they can re-rig the balls to do damage, but in their current state, they just don't output the energy to seriously damage or destroy the barrier.

It could also be that Yukari thought that if she told Sumireko that the balls were actually harming the barrier, then Sumi might feel guilty and decide to end the UL incident, but I'm leaning towards her lying to Ran.

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[x] Revelation. Is there another solution? An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier... Your curiosity beckons.

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96768

[X] Revelation. An unknown element... Alice's meeting with Sumireko was an outlier as she was accompanied by Satori and the illusionist. Who else can be involved? Additionally, she mentioned a note earlier...

You barely needed any time to consider the question.

"First and foremost? Information." you admitted. "It's all very well for me to theorize that Lunarian influence lead to Sakuya's attack just now, but it would be foolish to make further plans without knowing precisely how that happened."

Alice smirked. "That doesn't seem to be your only miscalculation."

"Precisely why I'm being so cautious," you shot back. "Greg, Satori, and now Sakuya. My calculations aren't infallible, but for them to be wrong this often in the same incident? The third time is enemy action."

She nodded, accepting the point. "So what is it you want to know, then?"

"You mentioned a note. What were you referring to?"

"It was delivered to me at my house just last night. Somehow without any of my dolls catching sight of anyone."

"What did it say?"

"It'll be faster to show you; I have it right here."

A doll flew over to you with a scrap of paper, you unfolded it and scanned it quickly. The message was quite short, saying only that Satori would be traveling with the ones responsible for the "powerful, dangerous phenomenon of urban legends", and that it would be "highly advisable" for Alice to apprehend them if she saw them.

"Q. Nira," you said flatly. "Yukari has used that alias before; it's a bilingual anagram for her name. However, this is far too clumsy to be her work."

"Because clearly neither you nor your master could intervene in a way that accomplishes the opposite of what you intended."

You glared at her. "Telling you exactly who to look for, bringing up the potential of urban legends, and implying that said potential is enough to bring Satori Komeiji out of hiding? It makes a concise, compelling case to use the urban legend incident, not to end it. Combine that with an insulting, almost threatening suggestion to arrest the culprits? This is a textbook example of reverse psychology, and you'd have to be a fool to take it at face value."

Alice's face reddened. "I should hardly think it's that cut and dry."

You scoffed. "If Yukari wrote this, she meant for you to side with Sumireko. No, this is obviously a forgery."

"I take it that means it is her handwriting."

"It's close enough to pass a casual examination," you confirmed. "But aside from the point that my master is currently asleep, she told me about the dangers of the occult ball and this incident."

"Along with an order to stay away from the main perpetrator," Alice said bluntly.

You sighed. "Yukari's calculations are significantly more complex than even mine, and she often gives orders no one else would ever think of. I don't know the purpose of that order, but I suspect I'll understand with hindsight."

"You really are her puppet, aren't you?" Alice's expression softened, and she leaned forwards, speaking softly. "Are you not even able to consider her being wrong?"

You recoil and almost snap at the puppeteer, but there are more important matters at stake than your pride. Taking a deep breath, you take a second to compose a more measured response.

[-] That's so reductive as to be insulting. A shikigami is far more than a mere puppet in both autonomy and complexity.
[-] Letting Alice draw a connection between shikigami and her dolls is an obvious way to endear you to her. And admittedly, there are some similarities.

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>>210396
[X] Letting Alice draw a connection between shikigami and her dolls is an obvious way to endear you to her. And admittedly, there are some similarities.
No doubt Ran wants to pull an "Um, acshually", but it's far from a negative in this situation. It may not be particularly accurate, but if using a puppet allegory for Alice to understand shikigamis allows her to relate to Ran better, there's no need to fight against it.

The main point is that obviously Yukari has done no wrong.I mean, that there is an unknown enemy party to be bracing for.

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hmm, does this also determine Ran outlook on this? like the first vote would increase Ran's independence, meanwhile the second plays more into what Alice is guessing.

hmmm. we see right now that Ran can go beyond Yukari's orders, that's what is going on here right now in fact, as evidenced that Ran does not have Yukari's power boost.

I might swap this to the other depending on what you all think, but for now...

[X] That's so reductive as to be insulting. A shikigami is far more than a mere puppet in both autonomy and complexity.

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[X] Letting Alice draw a connection between shikigami and her dolls is an obvious way to endear you to her. And admittedly, there are some similarities.
- [X] Still insulting though, even if you don't comment on it.

Let the girl have her metaphor and don't raise a fuss. We can pout about it when we're off the clock and don't have to keep up appearances.

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[X] Wait. Actually... this so-called "puppetmaster" is so beneath you that there's no point in even wasting your breath on her.

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[X] Letting Alice draw a connection between shikigami and her dolls is an obvious way to endear you to her. And admittedly, there are some similarities.

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[X] That's so reductive as to be insulting. A shikigami is far more than a mere puppet in both autonomy and complexity.
-[x] Some line about how Yukari managed to achieve Alice's life goal of creating a living doll without even trying if all Ran were was merely being a puppet.

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[X] That's so reductive as to be insulting. A shikigami is far more than a mere puppet in both autonomy and complexity.

Yeah, I'm not interested in getting walked all over by Alice just to be endeared to her.

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>>210404
>>210408
What's the benefit to having Ran be so overtly hostile the moment Alice let's down her walls to show some of her humanity? We are trying to get her to assist us, right? It's not like Ran is proud to such a degree she'd become instantly combative to the mildest unintentional insult.

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>>210413
I could argue >>210408 at least demonstrates to Alice in a way she would have a hard time arguing against how Ran isn't just a tool and is still her own person, who has chosen to trust and serve Yukari.
Obviously this could backfire, but this could go for the other choice as well; Ran composing herself from her near outburst in order to gain Alice as an ally, a detached and calculated course of action that reinforces her role as Yukari's tool.

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[-] That's so reductive as to be insulting. A shikigami is far more than a mere puppet in both autonomy and complexity.

What stops Alice down the line in a misunderstanding, assume you to be being manipulated by yukari if she sees you as a mere puppet without a will of your own

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If we lash out at the statement, we could lose Alice as a potential ally. Also, letting her go down this metaphor might get Ran some sympathy and pity from Alice, making her more susceptible to manipulation. Especially due to the fact that Alice really cares for her dolls (when they aren’t being blown up).

Honestly, the only thing we get from reprimanding the statement is that Ran and Yukari’s honour is defended.

Manipulating Alice is something the Kitsune family like to do anyway.

[X] Letting Alice draw a connection between shikigami and her dolls is an obvious way to endear you to her. And admittedly, there are some similarities.

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>>210426
>and Yukari’s honour is defended
Not even that, I think just Ran. Aside from, by Ran's own admission, Yukari being less interested in her sense of honor, it doesn't really matter to her or anyone else if a shikigami is a puppet or something more autonomous nor does it particularly convey any more honor or pride to its owner. I think the only people who will care about the minute distinction are people deeply invested in magic (nerds) or shikigami themselves, like Ran.

Personally, I think if Ran denies it heavily, it's going to do that reverse psychology she was just talking about and make her look like even more of a puppet.

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[X] Letting Alice draw a connection between shikigami and her dolls is an obvious way to endear you to her. And admittedly, there are some similarities.

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((Finally decided on just splitting the difference for this one.))

[X] Insist a shikigami is more than just a puppet, regardless of similarities.

"There... are some similarities," you said grudgingly, "but there's a key difference. Your dolls rely entirely on you for orders; they can't function on their own. Shikigami have wills of their own. I could not function as I need to if I relied entirely on Yukari's orders."

"You and Chen might, but what about those crows of Yukari's, or those wisps you were throwing around?" Alice countered. "There's no intelligent decision-making to be found there."

You shook your head. "It's still different. You can think of the shikigami programming as software and the body it's installed on as hardware. In theory you could create a shikigami of arbitrary will and intellect from a mere wisp, it would just be a waste of effort."

"How far does that will go? Can you question Yukari's decisions? Can you believe her to be wrong? Can you act against her?"

"A direct order is absolute," you said, bristling. "But I would be a poor tool if I could only follow her orders mindlessly. With how frequently my master hibernates, I sometimes have information that my master does not, which in turn means I need to be able to adjust to new developments. Yukari's planning ability is superior to mine, but new developments can invalidate a previous plan, even one of hers."

Alice drummed her fingers against the table, glancing at her dolls. "But you do obey her orders absolutely." she said absently.

"Yes!" you growled.

"And you prioritize any previous directions she gave, even when new information arises?"

"What exactly do you think I've been doing this incident?!"

"Just checking," she said, nodding. "What kind of restrictions does the body place on the shikigami? Obviously a ninetails is a particularly powerful host, but what are the limits if you started with something lesser?"

That was an abrupt subject change, but a more comfortable topic. "The body of the shikigami is what provides its power and knowledge," you explained. "For instance, Chen is an ordinary bakeneko when I'm not possessing her."

"And the same would be true for any vessel used," Alice murmured. "What do you mean by knowledge?"

You hesitated. How to explain... wait, Alice was one of the few who might just get it. "Have you ever tried to make a doll that's anatomically correct?"

Alice glared at you. "No. And if you start any rumors along those lines, I will skin you."

Why would she- oh. You coughed, blushing a bit. "Not like that! I mean in terms of joints! A doll that imitates a human's skeletal and muscular structure, all the way down to having three joints for each finger."

"Ah." Alice looked away, taking a moment to compose herself. "I tried it once as an experiment, but abandoned it quickly. It required prohibitively complicated instruction for even the simplest of tasks."

"Exactly. Just to hold an object in your hand, you need every joint of every finger to be at a precise angle, the individual muscles exerting just enough force to maintain the grip, but not so much you damage the object, automatically adjusting to any changes from gravity, momentum, or outside forces... quite the difficult problem when you think about it. To say nothing of actually walking."

"Which no shikigami has any trouble with," Alice murmured.

"That have the necessary body parts."

"Yes, yes." She rolled her eyes. "So the shikigami retains all the skills of the underlying creature?"

"Exactly," you confirmed. "This also extends to their ability to think. Sufficiently skilled programming can navigate around this, but an intelligent creature will have an easier time interpreting instructions than a stupid one. Animals tend to react instinctively, and wisps need to be explicitly told."

Alice sighed. "So the shikigami uses the actual brain of the creature it's possessing."

"I use this body's arms, legs, eyes, ears, tails, and digestive tract," you replied. "Why would you think I didn't use its brain?"

"Recent events aside?" she asked drily.

You ignored her, as befitting one of your station. "So if that satisfies your curiosity-"

"Were you exaggerating before, then? Could you not bring a wisp up to your intelligence?" she asked.

You sighed. "That level of programming is beyond me, but Yukari almost certainly could."

"Almost certainly, as in she hasn't," Alice nitpicked. "Can a shikigami's autonomy and intelligence be separated from the creature beneath? Does your intelligence come from your programming, or from the kitsune you're possessing?"

You stopped to consider the question, not because you were unsure of the answer, but because Alice had overplayed her hand. Her real aim was obvious; could she bring a doll to life by making it a shikigami? You were almost certain the answer was no. Making one a shikigami could be possible; but without desires or memories of its own, it would only do what it was told. A far more effective tool, to be certain, but ultimately a lifeless one.

But Alice didn't need to know that.

[-] Confidently assert that a shikigami's intelligence can be made independent of the creature.
[-] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

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>>210432
Considering how intense last vote was, it seems it won't let up anytime soon.

I don't think it's in Ran's best interests to be completely deceptive. Alice will eventually find out that it's a dead end and Ran knew. At best, it'll make Ran look foolish but more likely it'll make her and Yukari by extension look like lying charlatans. Yukari's reputation is already mixed, but Ran's reputation shouldn't be that bad, outside of her association with Yukari. Also, while Alice isn't the most political or powerful, she's not someone to be completely dismissed. And she's someone who's going to be in Gensokyo for a long time. She's not like Sumireko, someone who's a human or a passerby with no real connections and can be fucked with for no long-term consequence.

But even if we were willing to do all of this, what would we be gaining in return? Alice's help with this incident is nice, but it doesn't seem worth risking our reputation and future cooperation for, especially when it still seems possible Alice can assist us without such strong deception.

That said, I'm not against all deception, just nothing so bold that would absolutely piss off whoever fell for it.

[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.
-[X] Theorize that, if anyone could do it, Yukari probably could. Or someone else of similar skill and power. Though they'd probably need and want more information about how shikigami are made and function if they've never made one before...
Here, we're being a bit more realistic in that it's not really something done. But I think the line about it needing to be someone of high skill and power will tug at Alice's pride. Along with the comment about us providing more information about how shikigami work gives Alice plenty of bait.

If Alice's pride and passion are invoked, she'll be interested in working with us in order to learn more about how shikigami work. We give her some knowledge, and if it ends up being a dead end for her, at least we were upfront about it only being a possibility in the beginning, so she'll at most just be kind of annoyed.
And if Alice decides not to bother with the shikigami route, we still haven't risked our reputation or burned any bridge with her.

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[X] Confidently assert that a shikigami's intelligence can be made independent of the creature.

Failure is a part of learning.

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[x] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

Can a program be made to engage in metacognition? Is it only dependent on the hardware? Are brains qualitatively unique from processors and machinery?

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

I don't know what we gain from deception in the long term, Alice is smart if we lie to her now she will find out later, I think we should gain her trust with the truth

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

We are honorable and honest shikigami of Yakumo Yukari.

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even if it doesn't work for Alice's current line of thought, the shikigami process could still be a helpful tool for Alice's goal couldn't it?

[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.
-[X]or at least it could be a useful step for making a "servant"

That was probably not the best way to word that, and if someone words it better I'll probably switch the vote to that, but even if the Shikigami ritual/whatever ends up only making a lifeless servant, that still gives Alice more options and tools towards her goal.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

Well, this is still deceptive. But the difference between this and the other choice is that this is just omission. The other one is making an extremely bold claim.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

Hey, maybe she'll prove us wrong and do it.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

Set it up as a challenge, but one which can be overcome- with the right assistance, of course.

... I wonder what would happen if someone tried to turn Mary into a shikigami as she is now? She's kind of in-between a sentient being and a non-sentient doll as it is.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

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[X] Admit that an intelligent shikigami from a non-sentient creature hasn't been done, but claim that it should be possible.

"My intelligence is a mix of the two. This body was by no means unintelligent, but I am capable of things she wasn't." Yukari uses all the tools available to her, after all.

"And Chen?"

"Her mind is largely unaltered from the youkai beneath. She is... not fully programmed," you admitted with a sigh. "But that's not what you care about. You want to know the limits of a shikigami made from one of your dolls."

Alice was completely unbothered by the callout. "Yes."

You could just give her the answer, say point blank that it's possible, that she should think of it as a promising line of research, but it's too obvious, and would let her doubt you. Far better to argue unconvincingly against it, and let Alice convince herself it's a promising line of research.

"Frankly, it hasn't been attempted," you replied. "It is less difficult to subdue a will than it is to create one, and a sentient youkai is a much stronger base to work with than other options in any case."

"Even if you can duplicate that programming across other shikigami?"

"Do you craft your kamikaze dolls with your most difficult techniques? Or do you give them a basic shell that's sufficient to deliver their payload? If I create a shikigami from a wisp, I intend for it to be disposable." After a moment's pause, you decided to throw in an extra jab. "Your dolls are perhaps a little sturdier, but it's a minor upgrade at best. It would be wasted effort."

"Only because you're thinking small!" Alice said. "Calculate something for me; what is the difference between making a shikigami from one of my dolls, and a shikigami from a modular, customizable magic item?"

Oh, interesting. Alice did have plenty of different varieties of doll, but they were all universally weak. "If you can make your dolls significantly stronger, why haven't you?"

"You never saw the Goliath doll, I take it." Alice smirked. "But in most circumstances, a team of three dolls is more flexible than a single doll with three times the power. A wider variety of dolls working in concert has proven to be a more elegant solution, and more fitting to danmaku. But for a purpose like this? I'd use something special."

That was enough to believably concede the point, so you gave her a slow nod. "In that case, the idea may be workable. There would still be challenges; with no memories to work from, you'd need to teach it how to walk, fly, act, and all of those other things-"

"All of my dolls are already capable of that much," the puppeteer interrupted.

"You're still combining two entirely different fields of magic. How feasible that will be is difficult to predict, but..." you hesitated for a moment, affected a thinking pose, "it's at least theoretically possible."

Alice remained silent. For most people, this would imply you'd said something wrong, somehow gone too far. But for this mark, it meant she was in deep thought. Alice simply didn't bother to observe social niceties like responding when she was sufficiently engaged. Which was a good sign, though even you found it disquieting when the dolls were livelier than their puppeteer.

"It would appear we each have something to bargain with," she finally said. "You desire my aid, and I desire a greater understanding of shikigami and their creation."

That, by contrast, was not a good sign. If Alice intended to agree, she would have come out and said so. "The logical conclusion would be an exchange of services, then."

"Perhaps," she replied. "If not for the opportunity cost. Ending the urban legends will close a different line of research, one that Sumireko offered to help with in exchange for my aid. And as you earlier pointed out, if Satori is convinced of the potential urban legends hold, they must show promise. While I could research shikigami on my own."

Not as bad as you thought, since she hadn't rejected the idea outright. Alice was looking for concessions. However, she wasn't the type to bluff. You would either need to refute her argument, or find some way to sweeten the deal.

[-] "How many centuries are you planning to spend learning that art? And from what source do you intend to learn it? There is a reason so few youkai are shikigami-users."
[-] "I take it you have something else in mind?"
[-] "What if there was a way to end the danger the incident poses without ending the urban legends? In that case, you suffer no opportunity cost at all."

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Huh. Apparently when I refreshed the thread while starting the update, I managed to accidentally vote on my own story. Honestly not sure how I pulled that one off.

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Eh, it's fine. If presidents and Prime Ministers can vote in their own elections, why not Quest Masters?

Anyway, I think I'm undecided right now. For option 1 I'm pretty sure the only 2 shikigami users we see in Touhou are Yukari and Ran. Although other characters have ways of bending things to their will, like Karen with animals and Okina with her Nishida and Tereida. Thing is, Alice does have time- the Urban Legends are her prime opportunity, and might only last a week. Ths concept of Shikigami, in contrast, isn't going anywhere. The second option throws the ball into Alice's court. Just let's hear dictate terms.
The third is probably the one I'd favour knowing everything from a third person perspective(seeing as how the main issue is the Lunar Capital ball), and it sort of opens the door to a hearts and minds approach to convince the other three we're not their enemies. The main issue is that 1) Ran is prohibited from speaking to Sumireko directly and 2) Ran might still think the regular balls are a threat to Gensokyo.

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I'm not sure about the third option. Surely certain parties have plans to end incident if their goals can't be met, if only to deny others the opportunity?

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There's a decent chance, yeah. Reimu/Byakuren/Miko will still want to end the incident at least. Mamizou might try to end it just to spite Ran if Ran isn't trying to end it. And the SDM would try to end it if they thought it would help Remilia, no matter whose goals it interfered with. But Ran would only really know about team Reimu.

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[x] "What if there was a way to end the danger the incident poses without ending the urban legends? In that case, you suffer no opportunity cost at all."

Afaik after the events of LoLK the Lunar Occult Ball was taken by Marisa to further study it... and then it was mostly forgotten by ZUN? (I haven't checked.)
So instead of Marisa yoinking it, lend it to
Alice. What's another hypothetical red button magical artefact in the hands of the puppeteer?

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[X] "What if there was a way to end the danger the incident poses without ending the urban legends? In that case, you suffer no opportunity cost at all."

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[X] "How many centuries are you planning to spend learning that art? And from what source do you intend to learn it? There is a reason so few youkai are shikigami-users."
The urban legend incident may be an opportunity cost loss if it's resolved, but consider the opportunity surplus(?) she'd be granted shaving potential centuries of research away.

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[X] "How many centuries are you planning to spend learning that art? And from what source do you intend to learn it? There is a reason so few youkai are shikigami-users."

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[X] "What if there was a way to end the danger the incident poses without ending the urban legends? In that case, you suffer no opportunity cost at all."

>>210488

That sounds like an Alice problem and not a Ran one! XP

though its not like they can't continue trying to use an urban legend if it initially fails, just because one person has an UL doesn't prevent others from getting one either.

though that reminds me:

>>210389

it doesn't seem like especially now that it was a lie of ommission the we're dealing with here, even Ran recognized that the ability to crack the border is a secondary issue that can be accounted for without needing to end the incident, its the Lunarian orb that Ran is fully aware of that is the issue. one which I just checked, "Yukari" did not bring up at all when she talked with Sumi just before the fight with Suwako.

though she said n the same conversation that it is not "her" conspiracy... but Greg is somehow involved in said conspiracy and or the urban legends that it is working towards, despite it seeming like Mamizou doesn't know his background, but Yukari(?) does.

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[X] "What if there was a way to end the danger the incident poses without ending the urban legends? In that case, you suffer no opportunity cost at all."

>>210496

Yeah, seeing as how we have this option at all, it seems Ran at least has enough info to know that it's mainly the Lunar Capital Ball they have to watch out for. Which does match up with the canon ending of ULiL, as >>210490 pointed out, which was just sort of letting Sumireko go without destroying the occult balls. Most of the incident resolvers, of course, are still under the impression that the occult balls are worrying in and of themselves. If it was just the LC ball to worry about- I think Miko might have stored in it in her Senkai at the moment? So it seems to be out of play for now.

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[X] "How many centuries are you planning to spend learning that art? And from what source do you intend to learn it? There is a reason so few youkai are shikigami-users."

I'm sure we could put a good word in for her with Yukari for a college course on Shikigami. Heck, we could even give her front row seats to Lady Yukari shikigamifying Greg. No better way to learn than direct observation.

...granted, we don't know that she wants to do that, but if we get a sudden power surge while trying to kidnap him from the youkai who kidnapped him from the first group of youkai who kidnapped him, we'll know it's aligning with her will.

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>>210506
>Heck, we could even give her front row seats to Lady Yukari shikigamifying Greg
If Ran knew about this, that would genuinely be a funny offer to give her.

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[X] "What if there was a way to end the danger the incident poses without ending the urban legends? In that case, you suffer no opportunity cost at all."

Alice keeps her composure, but you can tell you've startled her. "The logic holds," she said. "Though I'll admit, I thought you would be more stubborn."

"It's triage," you admitted. "Retrieving Sumireko from the Scarlet Devil Mansion would be a difficult task, especially because I would be unable to act directly. Your aid alone would be insufficient, and convincing others it's a plan made in good faith would be difficult."

"Yes, I imagine 'You fight Sakuya, I'll stay back here' is always going to be a hard sell. Especially given recent events," Alice said darkly.

"Indeed. As such, it's better to leave her there for the moment and focus on limiting the harm the occult balls can cause. If the Lunar Capital's occult ball is removed from circulation, the others are merely dangerous."

"What about Sumireko?"

"She'll be enjoying Sakuya's hospitality for the forseeable future."

"I see." Alice said darkly. "Do you even know where the Lunar Capital's occult ball is?"

"I have a lead on it. Miko was the last one to have it, and nobody has collected seven occult balls to force them to scatter again. If she's still holding on to it, then great, otherwise she can point me towards whoever won it from her.

"And can you disable the occult ball once you've obtained it?"

"After a fashion," you said. "There's several options, but the simplest is to transport it outside the barrier and leave it there. For example, I could have Chen 'win' a fight against me, and tell her to stay in the Outside World until the incident is more properly resolved."

"And you want my help to... what, find the ball?

"And if necessary, in acquiring it."

Alice nodded, frowning.

"You seem dissatisfied. Is this not what you were hoping for?"

"The terms of the deal are fine. However, I dislike leaving the maid alone."

"Sakuya will receive her comeuppance in time. Marisa will recover, and between her revenge and Eirin's wrath... I don't envy the maid's future." Not to mention Kaguya, Reisen, whatever Tewi's luck accomplishes, and possibly Satori and her pets as well.

"It's not that. Or not just that. I did agree to aid Sumireko and Greg."

You sighed. Alice's sense of honor was useful at times, and an unfortunate constraint at others. "If Sakuya is willing to twist the spellcard rules, it is almost certain that she's willing to utilize Flandre. As such, any plan to rescue Sumireko and her friend would require besting Meiling, Patchouli, Flandre, and Sakuya, while dealing with them disregarding spellcard rules whenever it would yield them an advantage. In fact, with Remilia's current state, the harder you press them, the more likely they are to resort to lethal measures, especially Flandre. Furthermore, I cannot directly assist. What exactly do you suggest?"

[?] Alice: Write-in.

((Word of advice here, you are in the past a little, and we already know Alice doesn't show up at the mansion in the next day or so. So you're advised not to try planning any immediate rescues.))

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>>210512
[x] What about your shikigami, Chen?

Ran can't interfere directly, but that doesn't mean she couldn't give Chen an order right? I don't think we really know where Chen has been lately (though we know later Sakuya and Satori will be hunting her down). Why don't we have Chen act as a spy from a distance and watch over the situation until Alice is in a position to take advantage of whatever weakness there is? Chen obviously ain't going to be solo-ing the SDM, but she can at least keep track of what's happening to Sumireko and Greg in the SDM. Plus, maybe this can test that freewill of a shikigami and see if Chen is able to make solid judgements on her own about the level of support she can provide while watching over them. And Chen offering support to Sumireko and co. is probably the best Alice can offer right now, until she secures the Lunar Orb and is in a better position to rescue them.

Since this is the past, we know that, assuming we go with this option, Chen doesn't barge in any to play hero, but it'd be interesting to see what she'd do from a distance and react to the various events.
I was thinking earlier it'd be interesting if Alice's request was inadvertently what led Seija to Sumireko, but I can't think of the butterfly effect that would lead into that.

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[x] Alice: Suppose, once Eirin confirms it... I believe that this village schoolteacher exists; Someone who, apparently, is able to vanish from one's memory. Wouldn't they with an ability like this be able to help with retrieving everyone from the Scarlet Devil Mansion?

Keine going Koishi-mode (Most likely not)

These ones came to mind and maybe inspire some more write-ins
[-] What's stopping us from getting Reimu's help? Surely she should be on board after she hears what Sakuya did to Marisa...

[-] Wouldn't Satori's pets want to help their master? We simply have to find a way to properly convince them.

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>>210514
>[x] Wouldn't Satori's pets want to help their master? We simply have to find a way to properly convince them.
This one I can't imagine being on the table. Ran and most of Gensokyo probably want to keep this disaster of an incident from getting any crazier. Telling a bunch of undergrounders that their master is kidnapped and in danger is going to be pandemonium. Especially when one of those pets is a nuclear bomb. A dumb nuclear bomb. It's a recipe for disaster to send them into Gensokyo with no master controlling them and a desire to cause trouble until they get what they want (which involves pitting them against a very violent force, which will be met with violence in return).

[-] What's stopping us from getting Reimu's help? Surely she should be on board after she hears what Sakuya did to Marisa...
Reimu I don't imagine will be interested in the politicking, backroom deals, etc. She probably agreed to this whole charade because she assumed it'd be a quick one-and-done and then Sumireko is scared back to the outside world and incident resolved. While she'll certainly be angry at Sakuya and get the Lunarian's Orb, she's not going to be too pleased with the idea of letting the Urban Legend incident perpetuate.

Depending on her mood, I could even see her demanding Alice and Ran stay back if she thinks they're scheming and making the incident worse.

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[lol] my mother, Shinki

The max chaos option. I think Alice has too much pride to run to her mother, though. And it might lean a bit too much into "immediate rescue".

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>>210516
I want Shinki
I want Shinki
I want Shinki

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>>210514 here

Another, admittedly boring, idea that came to mind:
[-] With Ran's help put the shikigami dolls to the test. With enough a few prototypes and enough time to program them you might have enough firepower to attack the mansion.

and I'll adjust my vote as well:
[x] Wouldn't Satori's pets want to help their master? We simply have to find a way to properly convince them. I trust we can keep them under control.

I desire chaos.

>>210515 Did you intend to vote for the Satori Pet option or did you put that cross in by accident?

>>210516 Assuming this vote isn't entirely tounge in cheek, Pc98 isn't part of this story (unless Soul comes out and says otherwise now).

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with how gung-ho She is to beat Sakuya up, the 'get Kiene to help Remilia and use that to negotiate for Sumi's rele- er transfer of custody, and just smack Sakuya later.' wouldn't probably fly for Alice, yeah?

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>>210518
>>210515 here, thanks for pointing that out. Yeah, that wasn't a vote, don't know why I put the x there. I need to recheck my formatting more often.

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>>210519
Well, depending on how Alice spins it, she could be granted a major favor by Remilia, one she could use to get revenge on Sakuya and Patchouli. Best served cold and so on.

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>>210521
hm, good point, let's see if I can word something usable for that.

[X] "you mentioned this Keine being able to 'consume Remilia's history', what if we did that in exchange for Sumirieko, Greg and Satori, as well as a future... favour regarding Sakuya."

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>>210518 here, again

Chiming in to add a vote to
[x] What about your shikigami, Chen?

Having someone observe the hostage situation is obviously something that both of them would agree with. Additionally it'd be interesting to see whether or rather how much of the truth Chen will witness and figure out. Will Yukari be aware of her shikigami's shikigami and use it for her plans as well?

I do NOT retract my vote about getting the underground dwellers involved as they are not strictly mutually exclusive.

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[x] What about your shikigami, Chen?

Commence the Benny Hill shenanigans with Sakuya looking for Chen and Ran while Ran and Chen look for Sakuya, never quite catching each other.

I reckon the undergrounders will probably get involved, but at this point Alice probably doesn't know Chen likes to chill with Rin. Sussireko will trip some security ward in ~19 hours or so, but that doesn't require Orin or Okuu to be down there, so no real timeline issues either.

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[x] What about your shikigami, Chen?

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[x] "What about your shikigami, Chen?"

"Absolutely not," you shut that down immediately.

"I don't mean to fight," Alice explained, "just-"

"To keep an eye on the mansion," you interrupted. "No. It's too dangerous."

"But if she's ever in danger, you could just possess her."

You shook your head. "That's wrong on several counts. I don't instantly know what my shikigami is doing at all moments; she could very well be hurt before I find out. Furthermore, even if I did possess her instantly, Sakuya or Flandre would still be a dangerous foe. In addition, Chen's possession state is fragile, and can be disrupted by water, something that can easily be wielded against her. Finally, Chen lacks the necessary discipline for a stake-out, and is likely to wander off or act out at the worst of times."

"What happened to shikigami being tools?"

"You don't break a valuable tool by using it on the wrong job! Would you use one of your dolls as a hammer?"

"Surely you see the utility of keeping an eye on Sumireko," Alice argued.

"I do. Which is why I'll use the crows instead."

Alice blinked. "Come again?"

You smiled. "Yukari doesn't always use gaps when she spies on people. Small animals frequently go unnoticed, and with their eyesight and flight, birds are among the best at information-gathering."

"Is there a reason behind the choice of crows in particular?"

"Yukari found it amusing to pick the most ominous-looking birds for her spy shikigami."

The puppeteer sighed. "Somehow, I'm not surprised."

"Regardless, Zenki and Goki can keep us informed of any developments at the mansion. Does that satisfy your conscience?"

"I'll need to organize something more later," she grumbled, "but it's a start."



In the end, you were able to reach an agreement. Alice would help in defanging the Lunar Capital's occult ball, and in return you would teach her about shikigami, and fully answer any questions she had on the subject. You had a feeling the puppeteer would look for additional steps to take against Sakuya at some point, but that was her problem, to deal with at a later time.

Which still left the question of what your next step should be.

[-] Wait for Eirin to come back, see whatever news she might have about Keine.
[-] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.
[-] Enough delays. Slip out, set up the crows to spy on the SDM, and start looking for Miko.


((Ran has heard your plan and rejected it on the grounds that Chen is too cute to die.))

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[x] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.

Chen's purpose as a tool is to be cute and be spoilt and be used as a living cannonball and purr affectionately when given headsets.

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Ah, I was about to suggest branching Alice's house for the big guns, aka her grimoire. Too late though. Didn't think I'd wake up to Chen getting pretty privilege today. I'm sort of leaning towards waiting for a bit, in story it'll increase credibility with Alice and out of story, we've got time to burn. Wouldn't mind snooping, though we could get caught again. I'll make a more concrete decision when I can sit and think for a bit though.

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[X] Enough delays. Slip out, set up the crows to spy on the SDM, and start looking for Miko.
Let's be real, if Eirin really wanted to keep us locked down, she would've prepared much more for it or made some play by now (considering the small time skip, Ran and Alice have been talking for a while). I imagine she just wanted to eavesdrop. I don't think either of us are much use to her now that she's heard whatever information she has, and Eirin doesn't really have much to gain by keeping Ran or Alice prisoner.

Also, Ran just deciding to just up and leave being a "guest" sounds both funny and fitting for her character.

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[X] Enough delays. Slip out, set up the crows to spy on the SDM, and start looking for Miko.

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[X] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.

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[x] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.

Time for this dogg to go snooping.

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Not voting yet, but should we see if Marisa is up and maybe recruit her? Or (not that Ran would know this.) Let Sumi do so later?

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I think Marisa is going anywhere for a long time. She's still hospitalised at least until tomorrow. So it might be best to wait and let Sumi try. They can bond over their grudge against Sakuya and the SDM, especially when Marisa finds out Patchouli messed with her hakkero. Although, hmm, that might depend on whether Sumi can convince Marisa the regular occult balls aren't doing too much damage.

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>>210580

yeah, I realized a little after posting that Eirin doesn't work THAT fast! XD

though I wonder if Marisa is going to have as much of a grudge against Sakuya that we'd normally expect, If the PC98 incidents were a thing for USiL, that means when they were barely double digits, Marisa and Reimu we spell duelling, Without Spellcard Rules, So yeah, she might still be a bit Ticked, but more interested as to WHY more than at least automatically Master Sparking them in the face... (or wait that would still happen even under spell card rules so she'd probably do that first regardless...) caving their face in automatically. though probably still open to help Sumi in order to get the opportunity considering how FUBAR the situation has gotten.

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[X] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.

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[-] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.

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[-] ... come to think of it, Eirin's been gone a long time, hasn't she? You should investigate what she's up to.

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Thinking about Ran and Chen's dynamic gave me some inspiration, so today's update is the beginning of a new side-story!

https://www.thp.moe/border/res/32148.html

This story takes place in USiL's continuity, back when Gensokyo was first made. (Or to be technically accurate, when it was first separated from the outside world, so a little over 100 years ago.) It's not necessary for the main story, but considering who we're following right now, it's definitely relevant.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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