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kisumequest
This story originally began on MotK. Due to the very low user count associated with that forum, the updates there were done in a one-on-one update format where no voting was done. The viewer/responder simply stated what Kisume would do and I would respond accordingly, adjusting the response if necessary.

Some of the early formatting and mannerisms are a bit inconsistent, that should resolve itself as I go on.

(For convenience, the story up to this point will be reposted here. Voting on Kisume's decisions will begin once I catch up to the most recent story state, probably at some point tomorrow. Two updates per post until the story gets caught up. See you on the other side.)




(Initial post)

You are KISUME, tsurube-otoshi youkai. You are known for attacking unsuspecting humans by knocking them out cold with your trusty bucket.

There's not many other youkai that you recognize on a regular basis, given that you're not exactly the most talkative person in Gensokyo. Still, rumors do go around, and the latest one is that that same red-white shrine maiden has had to go out and deal with another incident recently. Serves her right.

(What do?)




Update 1

> [X] Go find Kusodani-san. That tsuchogumi's got something going on, doesn't she?
>> [X] Also, go find Hoshiguma-san, down in the Underground.

Might as well see what Kusodani-san's up to. Or down. Whatever. You never bothered to understand human phrasing anyway... Regardless, she's one of the two or three youkai you actually talk to on a regular basis.
"Home", as it were, was not far from "The Blowhole", the original route to the underground. When you get there, it's... completely covered in webs.
"KUSODANI-SAN!" you yell out down the hole. Crawling noises soon make way for YAMAME KUSODANI, a rather annoying earth spider youkai... for humans, anyway.

YAM: "Kisume? What's going on?"
KIS: "Two things. There's another incident going around?"
YAM: "Somethin' like that, 'eah. Komeiji was all up in arms, that kasha's ran off. Now what's the other thing?"
KIS: "Need'ta get down to the underground."
You prepare the bucket for vertical transport, though you can't go anywhere until Yamame clears out the blowhole itself. Webs suck.

Eventually Yamame clears it out, and the bucket starts to move before Yamame stops it abruptly and asks you... "Now don't-cha want me going along? Last time you went down there you got drunk and had a miserable time down there with all those alcohol-happy oni. It took Yuugi to get you out of there, remember?" You do vaguely remember that...

(Bring Yamame along or no?)

> voting currently not enabled, not there yet...
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Update 2

> [X] Accept Yamame's advice.
> [X] On our way to Yuugi kindly ask her, because we are hazy on that, to refresh our memory about our "last time we went down there".
> [X] After that, exchange what we know about the "Surface's Incident".

Advice accepted. The bucket could just barely fit two youkai, and as Yamame boarded the bucket, you started to pull the nearby rope, causing the bucket to begin descending.

You ask the question about what had happened last time you ended up down in the Ancient City. "What happened that time? My memory's a bit hazy..."

Yamame shakes her head, explaining what had happened to you.

"It was a while ago. You ended up in the Ancient City one way or another, got lost, then you got roped into a drinkin' contest with another oni down there. Yuugi eventually fished you out after the booze started givin' you troubles. When she found ya, you were out cold on the ground, outside one of them oni bars. I had'ta go and find your bucket."

You could barely manage a mumbled response to that. That must have been embarrassing. You try to not think about it too much as the bucket continues to lower.

Eventually the bucket reaches the ground level of Former Hell.

As Yamame exits the bucket, you begin detaching said bucket from the assembly that had been used to get here.

Yamame asks some questions in the meantime. "So whatcha know about that surface incident that I don't?"

"Something, hopefully. We could exchange what we know."

"While I was looking for unsuspecting humans, I saw a couple humans, couple youkai - some I recognized, some I didn't - they looked important."

You rattled off the ones you had seen before. "Red-white, blue-green, black-white, Suika as well. There were some others that I didn't recognize at all."

The earth-spider youkai summarizes her knowledge of the incident, making a conclusion based on what you've found out.

"Damn. If it's more than just the shrine maidens and the spark magician trying to resolve it, it must be pretty serious... The rest of what I know is that it's involving current hell in addition to the surface. Yuugi said it was something about beast spirits... You thinkin' the same thing I am? Kasha's probably headed that way too, if that last part's true..."

Yamame proceeds to head towards the bridge that connects the caves with the Ancient City. You quickly follow behind her.

At the bridge is... nobody. How strange... Parsee Mizuhashi would usually be camped out up here, looking for an excuse to be jealous... but she isn't there. Yamame looks a bit confused at this, but regardless, the two of you cross the lengthy bridge, eventually reaching the other side.

The city is pretty quiet right now. Not many folks out and about. Looking around, Yuugi doesn't seem to be immediately apparent, but it shouldn't be too hard to find her... hopefully.

The Komeiji mansion is visible in the distance. It's farther ahead, still quite the walk from here.

There are paths going forward, as well as to the left and right.

"Which way?" Yamame asks.

(Which path?)




Update 3

> Before making a decision, tell Yamame that you would make a brief overhead lookout first.
> Keeping Yamame in your line of sight, and without being too conspicuous, float above and look ahead at each of the paths. Keep an eye out for anything unusual...
> ...and take a glance back at the bridge as well.



"Wait here a moment, I'm going to float up and see if there's anything from above," you explained, Yamame barely having enough time to acknowledge you before you started to ascend.

While a flying bucket would usually be fairly conspicuous, the general dark and dim nature of the Underground mostly counteracted this.

Looking to the left, this part of the Ancient City was especially quiet. Perhaps it had something to do with the incident...

The only exception was a burning building a bit further away. It seemed to have a group of oni - or at least figures that *looked* like oni from a distance - gathered around it watching.

Ahead on the forward path was the city center. With specially decorated lanterns, regular festivals, bars, shops, stalls, and so on, it was very much the busiest part of the city.
Again, the distant "shadow" of the Chireiden/Earth Spirit Palace loomed beyond.

On the right were buildings overlooking what could be described as "Hell's River". While not an actual river, the canyon and its absurdly strong winds were a draw for the stronger oni.

Looking back at the way Yamame and you entered from, it's still a barren bridge. There's no sign of Parsee.

Thick fog prevents you from seeing the other end of the bridge.

The bridge itself crosses a vast gorge that no other known method could successfully cross, being seemingly cursed in this manner.

Afterward, you descend again, returning to Yamame.

"Which'll it be?" the earth-spider youkai asks, waiting for your decision.

(Which path?)

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Update 4

> Answer Yamame by picking the path on the right. The odd burning building is a bit suspicious... could it be related to Yuugi, or the Incident?

The back and forth conversation between you and Yamame proceeded as follows. "...Off to the left I saw a burning building, and a group of... I assume they're oni, but they were gathered around the burning building, just standing still."

"Might be connected to the incident, though."

"It could be... but oni aren't exactly *easy* opponents, you know? If Yuugi's elsewhere, let's not get ourselves into a fight we can't win."

"...hhhmmmmmm fair 'nough. Right path it is."

Heading along the right-side path, the winds that travel in the "Hell's River" canyon intermittently echo back.

Between the echoes, the noises of oblivious oni enjoying the canyon, and the generally ambient sounds of the city, the sounds of a call for help became audible.

Soon, its speaker made a turn, revealing the source of the voice... it's Yuugi Hoshiguma!

At the sight of you and Yamame, she begins briskly heading towards you.

"Kusodani-san? Kisume!? What brings you two down here again? If it's about the incident..." Yuugi seems more surprised at your appearance than Yamame's.

(Pick somethin' to say.)




Update 5

> Tell Yuugi that you had descended down to visit, ending up here as observers to this situation, alongside Yamame, who was moreso here to prevent what happened to you last time. That, and Yamame was someone you knew and trusted.
> With the incident going on, perhaps it was time to repay the favor to Yuugi for getting you out of that mess all that time ago.

"Observers? While it's nice to see the two of you again, it's quite the mess down here. Satori is up in arms about Orin, who's disappeared again."

Yamame asks about the fire circle you had mentioned, to which Yuugi begins, "The fire circle... that..."

Yuugi proceeded to explain that she tried to get the oni to back up, but they didn't respond at all, as if they were in a trance. She tried to pull them away, but they either wouldn't budge or another oni would take their place.

Yuugi had also instructed a few oni to try and put out the fire, but the water would simply evaporate as soon as they got close to the burning building.

"Huh, how strange," you spoke.

"You could say that again. There's also been a couple disappearances. I'm not sure if it's connected to the incident or not, though. Mostly it's just been local residents, but Parsee's gone missing. I have zero ideas as to where she's gone."

You nodded in response, recalling the lack of the bridge-princess who normally lurked at the entrance.

> When it wasn't too much of a bother, ask Yuugi how related this is to the Incident on the surface.

"What else could it be? Listen, between the missing folks, the fire circle, and the incident as a whole... I'd like some help, as much as it pains me to ask. If you want to be of some assistance, here's some ideas."

> At this point Yuugi gave you (and Yamame) a few options.
> * Option one: Search for Parsee Mizuhashi and the missing Ancient City residents in particular.
>You'd have to collect any information on their whereabouts yourself (with Yamame's help).
> * Option two: Visit Satori and Koishi Komeiji at Chireiden, and seeing if they could use assistance, given their currently-missing kasha.
> * Option three: Look further into the burning building surrounded by the odd "trance-like" oni.
>Yuugi warned that, given the ongoing situation, she wouldn't be able to immediately help you or Yamame if either of you got in a fight in the process - whether with spellcards/danmaku or otherwise.

(Which option?)

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With this, the thread is now caught up with the old MotK thread. Voting is open.




Update 6

> [X] Let's search for Parsee and those missing residents.
>> [X] While searching, keep an eye out for anything that might be connected to the other two problems. They might be connected in other ways than to the current Surface incident.

> [X] Ask Yuugi if she has any further information about where these missing residents might be. Descriptions, possible locations, anything.

"...Not much. All I've heard was that they were oni and they lived here in the Ancient City. The city recordkeepers might have a better idea."

Yuugi proceeds to hand you a map (see image), detailing the surrounding areas of the first Underground layer.

She then quickly turns and briskly moves away, heading off to help other residents.

Soon after, Yamame asks you one last question.

"So, what'cha think? Should we try 'nd visit the recordkeepers and get as many details as possible? Or should we head off immediately? Time 'sn't on our side, after all..."

[X] Yes, let's visit the city record keepers. The more information we have about the missing residents, the better.
[X] No, let's get going as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the worse off they might end up...!
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[ X ] No, let's get going ASAP!
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[ X ] No, let's get going ASAP!
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[X] Yes, let's visit the city record keepers. The more information we have about the missing residents, the better.

I'm all for running off into the thick of it, but we don't even know who we're looking for (except parsee)
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[X] Yes, let's visit the city record keepers. The more information we have about the missing residents, the better.

Yeah, kind of hard to investigate a missing persons case if you only know one of the missing people.
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[X] Yes, let's visit the city record keepers. The more information we have about the missing residents, the better.
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[X] Yes, let's visit the city record keepers. The more information we have about the missing residents, the better.

Can maybe triangulate the source, or at least see which direction the incident started from.
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> [X] Yes, let's visit the city record keepers. The more information we have about the missing residents, the better.

"We should probably get an idea of who's missing, right?"

The city records office was located on the northern edge of the city, close to the path that led to Chireiden. You and Yamame began to head over there with some haste.

When the two of you reached the office, there was a lone single-horned oni sitting at the front desk. "Welcome to the Ancient City records office, how ca-"

"Yes, we're looking for some residents that have gone missing." Yamame interrupted the desk worker.

"Those... I'll get that for you." The worker handed Yamame a small stack of papers, held together by string, detailing the missing local residents, as well as Parsee.

The papers (attached to post) detailed each of the missing persons.

First was Yuko Hiramatsu, an orange-haired oni who owned a bar in the city. She had last been seen leaving the Akemi hot springs, located along the path between Chireiden and the Honomura, the so-called "Village of Flames".

Second was Kumiko Yukimura, a blue-horned oni writer wearing all-black clothes. She had last been seen in Saigo Shudan, the Village of Last Resort.

Third was Takara Nagasawa, a rather eccentric oni. Born with lime-green eyes, her hair had turned a Satori-esque shade of purple early in life. Some gave her the nickname "Komeiji's Oni" due to these, though she had no connection to either of the mind-readers. Unlike the others that've gone missing, Takara's whereabouts were completely unknown, though due to the ongoing Incident, it's highly unlikely she could have escaped to the surface herself without being seen by anyone.

Lastly, of course, was Parsee Mizuhashi. There's a subcavern at the other end of the bridge. Maybe she's there?

Leaving the records office, Yamame asked you, "Where should we start?"

[X] Search for Yuko first - head to the hot springs
[X] Search for Kumiko first - head to Saigo Shudan
[X] Search for Parsee first - head back to the bridge
[X] Search for Takara first - name a location (see map at >>17362)
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[X] Search for Kumiko first - head to Saigo Shudan.

Geographically, the last places Kumiko and Parsee were seen at are probably the closest if we assume we're about in the middle of the city. Parsee would be backtracking, so Kumiko's last location seems like a good first stop to me.
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[X] Search for Kumiko first - head to Saigo Shudan.
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[X] Search for Kumiko first - head to Saigo Shudan.
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>>17370
We're actually closer to Yuko's last known location; as the records office was stated to be close to the path to Chireiden.
The hot springs are on the path north from there, apparently they're unmarked.
Not that I particularly mind going to Saigo Shudan first, we can just follow the bend north from there to get to the hotsprings from the back.
Just felt like pointing it out in case it matters to somebody.
Since we have two dissappearances in that general area, maybe that path inbetween I mentioned might be a place of interest.
That same path also houses the "Silent Temple"; being in the middle of two crime scenes is pretty suspicious, so we should probably drop by there after we finish at one of the two northern locations.
There's also the path into the wild unknown next to it, but let's not go on a complete walkabout through former hell of all places.

Backtracking for Parsee does seem kinda pointless, that cavern next to her bridge is the tsuchigumo cavern.
Not gonna assume Yamame would know what's happening there at all times; but Parsee moving from her bridge would be gossip amongst the other spiders, I'd say.
Not to say I don't want to find Parsee first, she's our friend after all.
Also, the description on the map at "Hell's river" (the canyon) might be a clue, since it says only oni can reliably cross it without using the bridge.
If an oni nabbed her, and she wasn't seen going into town, crossing the canyon might keep the crime out of sight.

[X] Search for Kumiko first - head to Saigo Shudan.
-[X] Make a mental note to check the Silent Temple if we pass by later.

If people really want to head to the closest thing I can change my vote to Yuko, but it doesn't really matter to me.
This current route also means we don't have to pass through Chireiden.
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> [X] Search for Kumiko first - head to Saigo Shudan
>> [X] Make a mental note to visit the Silent Temple and check it out if we pass by later

"What do you say we start with Kumiko first?" Yamame nodded. The two of you began heading for the northeast gate, en route for Saigo Shudan... the village of Last Resort.

Exiting the Ancient City, the howling of Hell's River remained constant. The path leading to Saigo Shudan was often exceedingly barren of travelers, and quite narrow. On the way there, you saw only a handful of people traveling. None of them matched the missing persons' descriptions, unfortunately.

Approaching the 'Last Resort Village', a red-horned oni wearing a stylized green dress stood at the entrance. "Hello. Welcome to Saigo Shudan," the oni greeted you and Yamame, in a rather wispy voice. "My name is Narinari. I'm looking for a good friend of mine..."

Yamame introduces herself, and you follow suit.

"Youkai... the both of you? I take it you two came here from the Ancient City... How are things doing over there?"

Yamame proceeded to explain what we had seen and learned thus far, about everything going on in the Ancient City. "Mhmm... and you said there were more missing oni?" Narinari then asked. "There were." You show her the missing person sheets that had been given to you and Yamame. She looks them over for a little while.

"Yes, this is the same Kumiko... she was a good friend of mine. Blue horn, black hair, red eyes, black clothes. I take it you're looking for her, and the other three as well?" You silently confirmed this. "I see... thank you. Please follow me. I have some information that will help you."

Narinari would proceed to bring you and Yamame to what served as her residence in the village. Inside, she would go into details about Kumiko's potential whereabouts, and also Narinari worked as an editor on a large number of oni print works in the past, at times working on some of Kumiko's scripts. The writer also sometimes turned to her for ideas and such.

> ...A little while later...

"...Now I know that Kumiko did have her competitors... writing rivalries and so on... but I don't think anyone would go so far as to abduct her."

"Y'sure about that?" Yamame rather abruptly interrupted.

"...On second thought... no, not completely. Some of those especially traditionally-minded oni tend to not like this kind of stuff."

Yamame turned to face you briefly, quietly mentioning, "If we're gonna be dealing with all these oni, what we really need is some more strength."

"Is there anything else that might help us find Kumiko?"

"There's a cave back near the entrance of the village, Kumiko once told me that she would go there sometimes when she was working on her books or whatnot."


Suddenly, there's a knock on the door. It seems harsh.

[X] Answer it yourself
[X] Have Yamame answer
[X] Have Narinari answer
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[X] Answer it yourself.

What's the fun in exposing someone else to danger?
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Well, this is Narinari's house, so having her answer it is the logical and expected choice.

Which is why if this is the kidnapper that that option is risky.

However, I think that's what we should go with, with maybe some precautions.

We should have Narinari answer the door, with Yamame behind her to web her in case she gets nabbed; or already have her secured with webbing on the floor, for example.

Ideally we set Kisume up in such a way that she can potentially ambush (bucket drop) the guy outside if necessary.

However, getting her outside in the first place would be the challenge, unless Narinari's house has a chimney or something; going out a window would be too obvious.

Downsides: this is somebody who can kidnap oni. Some webbing might not deter them for long if at all.

This might be entirely paranoid, but I feel it's fair to be paranoid for somebody's wellbeing when said person is a close associate of a recent kidnapping victim who's been asking a lot of questions about said victim recently.

[X] Have Narinari answer
-[X] Have Yamame (stealthily) secure Narinari using her webs.
-[X] See if I (Kisume) can find a way to get outside without being noticed and position myself above the person outside, ready to drop if necessary.

>>17375
I will say this is my second choice if we can't properly safeguard Narinari.
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[X] Have Narinari answer
-[X] Have Yamame (stealthily) secure Narinari using her webs.
-[X] See if I (Kisume) can find a way to get outside without being noticed and position myself above the person outside, ready to drop if necessary.
OR
>>17375
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[X] Answer it yourself
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Need a tiebreaker vote, thanks
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Coin flip: heads!
Heads, [X] Answer it yourself
Tails, [X] Have Narinari answer
-[X] Have Yamame (stealthily) secure Narinari using her webs.
-[X] See if I (Kisume) can find a way to get outside without being noticed and position myself above the person outside, ready to drop if necessary.
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> (Pardon the lengthy delay and shorter update. I've been a bit tired/wayward/lost lately.)

> [X] Answer the door yourself

The knocking became louder than before. Whoever it was might not be friendly. In fact, Narinari would probably be the next target after Kumiko, thanks to Narinari's connection with her. It wouldn't be a good idea to let her answer the door, in that case...

While you could have tried to plan out some kind of bucket drop, there wouldn't be much in the way of a surprise factor, given the visitor was already at the front door.

You did always keep a scythe-like weapon inside your bucket at all times, too. While it was small, it was functional.

Floating just off the ground in your bucket, Yamame tells the writer, "Please, move out of sight. This might get ugly 'f this is who I think it is." She shuffles behind a table.

After making sure Narinari was hidden from view, you proceeded to open the door. Opening the door, you came face to face with someone in a black suit, with a dark red stripe going down the middle. They seemed to have talons for hands as well.

"Is Narinari at this residence?" The figure spoke in a heavy tone. Yamame is standing behind you, staring the figure down.

How should you respond?

[X] "Not right now. Was there something you needed from her?" (Let's not blindly antagonize this person. Act like Narinari's somewhere else.)
[X] "Where's Kumiko!?" (Wearing something like that, this person probably has information we could use.)
[X] Skip the formalities - this figure's clearly here to take Narinari. Grab the scythe. Slash.
[X] --- (Respond some other way?)
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[X] "Not right now. Was there something you needed from her?"

I feel like there's potential for a "maybe. Who's asking?" write-in here but I don't particularly feel like trying to word it right now.
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[X] "Not right now. Was there something you needed from her?"
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> [X] "Not right now. Was there something you needed from her?"

"...She's not here right now. Did you need something?" You ask. The figure explained that they were also looking for Kumiko, though adamantly refusing to explain why.

You asked for their name, but they refused. "Do you know where she is?"

"No. Based off everything we know, she's gone missing." Yamame responded from behind. "...Just my luck..." They groaned, continuing, "So are you going to help me find her?"

[X] Accept.
[X] Decline, but follow behind them once they leave.
[X] Decline. Once they're gone, bring Narinari along and head to Kumiko's cave.
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[X] Decline, but follow behind them once they leave.
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[X] Accept.

Since when has trusting strangers gone poorly?
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[X] Accept.

We youkai should stick together.
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> [X] Accept.

The figure has been speaking in a deep voice the entire time. Perhaps it was normal for them.

You looked back at Yamame for a moment, nodding in some kind of silent agreement, before answering, "...We will. Give us a moment to prepare."

The figure sighed. "Okay, I'll be waiting outside," they said before closing the door.

Narinari proceeded to lean out from under the table she ducked under. After stalling for a moment, Yamame seemed to look a bit confused, perhaps even upset. That probably wasn't the answer she expected you to give. "Do you want to tell 'er or do you want me to?" she whispered, before you started explaining to Narinari what you and Yamame would be doing now.

"...We're... going to be leaving you here for the moment. I'm thinking that youkai, or oni, or whoever they are, I have a feeling that they know something we don't... If they're being as secretive about something as simple as their name, they've got to know something about where Kumiko might be."

Unlike Yamame, Narinari seemed a little more understanding. "I mean, you lied about me not being here. If I suddenly showed up with you two outside, whoever that was probably wouldn't be too happy. I'll just have to be careful and watch out... You two stay safe."

You ended with a nod before opening the door back up. "You two done yet?" was the response, you and Yamame stepping outside before closing the door - for good this time. "We're ready," was Yamame's rather flat answer.

"Good. Follow my lead. Or else." The figure started heading down the road. You and your earth-spider friend soon started trailing them.

The group of three left Saigo Shudan behind surprisingly quickly, even for what was just a simple village. The number of youkai and oni that you passed by fell to a trickle once again. "...While I was traveling over here, I saw several different caves that I could access from the road. I suspect that wherever Kumiko's gone off to, it might be in one of those caves. Maybe they lead to somewhere, I really don't know." The figure remarked.

"Here it is. Two of them, actually." The group came to a stop. They were on the road to the north of Saigo Shudan, at a place where the path had cut into a hill. The entrances to two caves stood around you, one to your left and the other to your right. They looked mostly identical from the outside. However, the cave to the right had a skull and a couple bones sticking out of the surrounding rock.

"I'll... I'll leave it up to you two. Which cave would you prefer to check?" The figure asked, an eagle pin attached to the end of their left sleeve.

[X] Cave to the left
[X] Cave to the right
[X] Screw these caves, let's go somewhere else (write in location)
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[X] Cave to the right

Obviously, these bones are meant to discourage you from going into the right cave. He wants you to go to the left cave and get ambushed.
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[X] Cave to the right
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> Heyo. My apologies for the constant delays.
> My scheduling ability has never been the best. Recent IRL goings-on have left me far less time to spend on things like Kisume Quest.
> I believe it would be best to formally put this thing on pause so as to not leave the thread (and y'all, for that matter) hanging.
> KQ will return once I have more time, probably within a few months - May or June, hopefully.
> Kisume and company will be exploring the right-side cave in the next segment.
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> Things are looking better, so let's get going again.

> [X] Cave to the right

It took a little while for you to come up with an answer. The left path seemed less dangerous at first, but this odd taloned fellow was a mystery. They could mean well, or they could be looking to hurt someone, who knows...

One - or possibly both - of these caves could be a setup for something, at worst. However, you guessed that if this figure had gone and trapped one of these caves in advance, they would trap the cave with the less unnerving entrance, and not the one with the skull and bones.

"Let's go to the skullbone cave," you finally responded, making your way to the entrance. "Stay behind me." The figure and Yamame followed behind.

The entrance was fairly wide, but the cave itself quickly narrowed, and the already-dim light level that enveloped Former Hell took a further nosedive once the group took more than a dozen steps into the cave.

"Hm... Red? Talon? Don't-cha have any sort of light source?" Yamame tried to get the figure's attention. "What? I... no. I could get a fire going with magic, though... better than nothing." A dim flame subsequently appeared in their hand, emitting a bit of light around the group of three.

From the many wells you had inhabited in the past, you always had a decent sense of altitude, regardless of whether you were able to see or not. As a result, you were able to sense that the group had been descending for a while, and it was only now that the cave soon began to divide into branches. The group continued into the cavern at the first junction, but stopped at the second split they encountered.

"Talon, could you extinguish that flame for a moment?" you asked the figure - giving them a nickname in the process - to see if there were any lights that illuminated down either path. "My name's not Talon. But I could." The light from the fire disappeared, and you began to look at the two branches, squinting your eyes in search of any sign of lights down either path.

Briefly, you saw a brief shine very far away on the branching path, as if someone was shining a lantern into the cave from the other end. Shortly afterward, there was a repeating echo of footsteps, seemingly coming from inside this cave system somewhere. 'Talon' (for lack of a better name) seemed to notice the echo as well, given that they started audibly moving something around in the dark.

"Do you wanna 'eep searching the cave for Kumiko? Or do you think she's gone out the other end?" Yamame asked you.

[X] Take the branch - she's probably leaving the cave!
[X] Stay on the main path - that echo might be Kumiko!
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[X] Stay on the main path - that echo might be Kumiko!

Search party in branching path?
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[X] Stay on the main path - that echo might be Kumiko!
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[X] Stay on the main path - that echo might be Kumiko!

definitely. those footsteps have to be something.
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[X] Take the branch - she's probably leaving the cave!

Shiny!
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> [X] Stay on the main path - that echo might be Kumiko!

The answer to that question was relatively simple... Kumiko was probably down here, if that noise was to be believed.

"Let's head down there," you responded, proceeding to drop down further into the main cave. Yamame and 'Talon' followed suit, and the latter resummoned their flame light source. "Is anyone down there!?" 'Talon' called out with their deep voice, which echoed down into the cave. It wasn't long before the sound of footsteps echoed back to the group, as the three of you descended into the depths.

As you were descending, the noises were getting louder. "We're 'lmost there! Calm down, stop, don't get 'urt!" Yamame encouraged. "Damned spirit mobsters... get lost already...!" You could faintly hear someone's voice respond, as you made it to what appeared to be the bottom-most part of this cavern. Little puddles of water were scattered on the ground.

The cavern was still incredibly twisty, and every turn you made made the mystery voice louder. "I said, get lost!! I can hear your steps!!" You tried to explain yourself briefly, talking out loud, "NO no no no no, we're not here to take you away, we came from the Ancient City looking for folks who went missing!"

"I can't trust you," was the voice's answer, continuing, "So get out!!" The end of the cave was getting closer, and the cavern was getting more narrow every step. It was at this moment you made one last turn. Now, in front of you was clearly an oni... one with black hair and a dark blue horn... already running straight for you...!

Before you could react any further or try to move out of the way, the panicked oni had already reached you, slamming into you and getting their horn jammed into your head. The impact also caused you and the oni to run into a cave wall. "Stop, stop, stop! We're not... ...hurt... ...Talon... ...get..." You think you could see Yamame talking in a rush, forming webs in an attempt to get the oni to settle down, but your sight was already fading. Even youkai bleed, after all. It wasn't long before you lost conciousness.

...
...
...

"...sume! Kisume... can you hear us!?" Your sight is blurry. Seems like you're still in the cave, at least, with all the gray color around. It almost resembles blobs of brown and black in front of you, with something else standing over you on your left. Somehow, you could move your arms and legs just fine, so you shook your arm a bit, making a bit of a groan in the meantime. "Good... I didn't lose you! 'ould be a damn shame if that 'as all it took for you to give up the ghost." That's... definitely Yamame speaking.

You could gradually see better and better as time progressed, and you could feel some kind of heat close to your head. "Sorry for that," a new voice timidly spoke, walking over to your right. Soon you could see the person speaking... the same oni who rushed you in a panic. "I'm Kumiko Yukimura... I'm an author from Saigo Shudan..." Lastly, on your left was that mysterious fire-summoning figure, 'Talon'. Talon seemed to have fire in one of their hands, which they held close to your head.

"Kumiko left you with a bad cut... multiple, actually, on your head... Kisume..." the black-and-red garbed figure explained in their low voice. "If you were a human, you surely would've died from blood loss, since it took so long for Yamame and I to settle Kumiko down. But you're a youkai."

Once your vision completely returned, you begun trying to stand back up, having evidently been moved, leaning on a cave wall. "Wait, wait..." Yamame and Talon speak at the same time. After a few attempts, however, you were able to stand back up, and eventually managed to get back in your trademark bucket. The bucket looks like it took a visible beating in the commotion, but it was still usable.

Looking down into a nearby puddle, you could tell that Talon was right - you had a pretty nasty gash on your forehead. "Um... you, in the black and red suit..." Kumiko spoke meekly. Oni were rarely afraid of all that much, but maybe there were exceptions... or maybe Kumiko just hadn't drunk in a while. "Yes?" Talon had their arms crossed, revealing that eagle pin from earlier.

Suddenly, another faint light flash appeared from the direction the group came from. "Come on out!!" "We know you're in there!!" Another two different voices echo from that general direction. "...Oh great... forget the introductions, we've got trouble." Talon mumbles. Before long, the two voices reveal themselves. One appeared to be a male, with white hair and red eyes. The other seemed to be a female with blonde hair and brown eyes. Both were wearing red and orange vests, with black shorts. "...Keiga underlings..." Talon appeared to mutter under their breath.

"Damned backstabber Gouyoku! Hand over the oni!" The male demanded, drawing a weapon of some sort. Talon unsheathed a long sword in response, calling back, "Not on my life... I don't know why you fools need Kumiko that badly..." The rather hostile conversation between Talon and the 'Keiga underlings' continued for a while... which will probably turn into a fight shortly, at this rate. "Not more spirit mobsters..." Kumiko whispered, her voice clearly exhausted by what has already happened, and proceeded to shift close to you and your bucket. "I'm not much of a fighter," she explains.

You, Yamame, and Kumiko have roughly three-and-a-half reasonable options here.

You could help Talon directly, with Yamame's help, and get into the fight with the Keiga mobsters. This is a rather enclosed space, so movement is at a premium in case danmaku starts flying. (You also have no spell cards. Yamame, however, does.) You could also use Kumiko's horn as a blunt force weapon instead, if you had to fight. Kumiko probably wouldn't like that, though.
You could also try and distract one or both of them once the fight begins, perhaps by dropping your bucket on top of someone. You're good at making distractions. The Keiga mobsters would definitely go after you for doing that, so you'd get in the fight anyway.
...or you could just try and escape, leaving Talon to fight the two alone. If Talon really did backstab the Keiga Family, who knows if they would remain friendly towards you, Yamame, and Kumiko after the two Keiga underlings were driven off. Then again, those underlings wanted Kumiko for something... maybe the other oni were abducted and brought down to these parts too...? If so, Talon's help going forward would certainly be useful.

"What'cha thinkin' here?" Yamame suddenly prompted you. It looks like Talon's about ready to fight.

[X] Fight head-on, with help from Yamame... help out Talon!
[X] Use Kumiko as a blunt force weapon, like Kumiko mistakenly did to you.
[X] Serve as a surprise distraction with your bucket... it's what you know best!
[X] Get us outta this cave, or at least try to...
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[X] Serve as a surprise distraction with your bucket... it's what you know best!
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[X] Serve as a surprise distraction with your bucket... it's what you know best!

We should capitalize on our natural power: stealthy bucket drop.
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[X] Use Kumiko as a blunt force weapon, like Kumiko mistakenly did to you.
Return the favor.
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> [X] Serve as a surprise distraction with your bucket... it's what you know best!

"Alright, you stay with Kumiko for a moment, I'm going to try something..." you said to the tsuchigumo youkai quietly. Yamame moved over to guard Kumiko in your place. Meanwhile, the fight between Talon and the two Keiga underlings - former partners, if they were to be believed - began in earnest. The male underling starts swinging around that odd weapon, some kind of sword... it glowed red, and seemed to generate danmaku as he swung it around. Sidestepping some shots and ducking under others, Talon extended their right arm, and soon fireballs appeared to fly out of their right hand towards the underlings.

Meanwhile, you started to float up to the cave's ceiling, though doing so slowly and from around a corner, as to not draw the attention of Talon's opponents. Grasping an indentation in the ceiling and hanging onto it, you started to gradually make your way over the top of the two Keiga mobsters. The female mobster appeared to have a staff, or maybe a wand, in her hand... pointing it towards Talon and whispering something resulted in an unnatural breeze whipping through the cave, followed by a wave of dust which quickly phased through the cave's walls.

Visibility dropped to near zero briefly and you could hear someone coughing behind you, probably Kumiko or Yamame, with the occasional sounds of loose pebbles hitting stone. The male underling made more swings with the danmaku sword, one of the shots hitting Talon thanks to the lack of sightlines. "Kyah!!" They shrieked, getting knocked back before quickly sending another wave of fireballs into the sea of dust.

While the lady seemingly generated the dust on cue, she couldn't see through it either, and was eventually struck by a fireball, causing the dust to finally fade. "Damn turncoat..." she grumbled, recovering to fire off a second spell. This time, she called out its name, and loudly. "Open Ocean... December Oddity!!" The wind soon returned, stronger than before, and with sheets of torrential rain now inexplicably falling inside the cave. Lanes of danmaku swirled in a spiral, heading for Talon, though he seemed able to avoid being struck a second time.

The rain was pounding, falling at high speed onto the stone-cold ground. Yamame guarded Kumiko to the best of her ability, but the wind was clearly getting to the both of them, Kumiko closing her eyes to avoid being splashed in the eyes.

However, the wind caused you trouble as well. Your bucket began to sway violently back and forth in an arc, slamming the sides and lip of the bucket into the cavern's roof. Between your bucket running into the cavern's walls and roof, the pounding of the rain, and more small stones being tossed around the cave by the wind, the noise was getting very loud.

Despite the wind, you've got a window... if your bucket doesn't slip. The dust cloud, loud noises, and now the rain have allowed you to get above Talon's opponents without making too much of a scene, but the wind might give your location away if you don't drop now. The drop height will certainly hurt your target. You've got your short range scythe in your hand. Who are you going to aim your bucket drop towards?

[X] Aim for the guy with the weird sword
[X] Aim for the lady with the wind and water magic
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[X] Aim for the lady with the wind and water magic

Take out support.
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[X] Aim for the lady with the wind and water magic
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[X] Aim for the guy with the weird sword
We still need to deal with him before we get to the mage. He can cover the mage's retreat.
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