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File 164868864968.jpg - (1.08MB, 2048x1365, SnowForest.jpg)
The Little Fox hid inside a bush, his eyes combing the area and his ears perking up, so nothing could surprise him. His mother has warned him that he must not leave the den, for humans are now hunting nearby. The child, however, born in the dark winter, wanted to see what the world was truly like underneath the blanket of snow. It was a glorious sight to behold; the once barren trees were now covered in luscious green. Other forms of plants have now emerged from their slumber, rising out of the melting snow. Birds that left due to winter now return with rallying chirps, seeing their old home once again. These sights lull The Little Fox into a sense of assurance that nothing could ruin such a beautiful view. In the distance, he could hear his mother calling for him, wondering where he had gone, but he did not answer back, for he wanted to have a closer view of nature. He steps out of the bush in excitement, wanting to play under the sunlight, trying to catch the birds flying above him. He was having so much fun that he could even hear a sharp whistle that was getting louder and louder as if the wind itself was playing a song. The end of the music was a meaty thunk.

  A bloody sight broke the poor soul, a piece of her gone forever. Red was the only color seen, and a shrill scream was the only sound heard. An untouched corpse, long dead, with the only blemish being the damned arrow. Thirsting for death, but nothing more. A predator only in action, but not in spirit! An oath of vengeance was taken; eternal wrath and lunacy for the one who swore in, and eternal torment for the Hunter and all those connected to it, regardless of logic. There was no logic for the victim, and as such, no logic for the killer. Only retribution.

Present Day, Gensokyo

 Katansei growls, the cold air making his breath white from the sight before him. He shot an arrow at the fox he was hunting, but a finch flew in between and got skewered along the way. The young hunter knew he didn't have time to waste being angry as there could be danger nearby. Walking over to his kill, he can see the white fox's blood coloring the snow and the finch's blood coloring the fox's white fur. He kneels and puts his arm between the string and the hama yumi so it can rest on his shoulder. Then he grabs the arrow while he pushes the body down with his other hand.

  "On the bright side, mom will be happy to see this... " he grunts as he removes the arrow from the fox and slides the poor finch out of it.

"I didn't plan to kill you, and I'm sorry for it. I'll make sure that you won't go to waste. " He tells the finch before looking down at the fox.

"And to you, my prey, I am sorry too. Through your death, my life will continue. " He says placing the bloody arrow in his quiver

 The young hunter looks around the snow-covered forest, making sure that no predator, or worse, a yokai, can surprise him. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, but this doesn't make him feel safe, as it means there is either no threat or one that he can't see. He looks back down at his kill, unsure of what to do. His original plan was to return to the village where it's safe and then give thanks to the mountain gods for the food, but the second kill is throwing him off.

  'If I don't give thanks now, would the gods see me as being ungrateful? I don't see anything dangerous, so maybe it's okay to recite a short prayer... '

[] Pray for their safe journey to heaven.

[] Hold off for the time being; there may be danger nearby.

[] Write-in for extra action
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[x] Pray for their safe journey to heaven.
Nothing wrong with a little extra piety.
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[x] Hold off for the time being; there may be danger nearby.

Foxes are vermin, anyhow.
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[X] Pray for their safe journey to heaven.

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[X] Pray for their safe journey to heaven.
I also hate the giant rats, but this fox was not urban and either way there's no cause for suicide.
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[X] Pray for their safe journey to heaven.

I'm sure nothing bad will happen
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[x] Pray for their safe journey to heaven.
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Calling votes. A prayer to our prey coming right up!
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File 164917469134.jpg - (72.71KB, 600x426, Sakata_Nemuno_full_3095235.jpg)
Katansei places the finch on the fox and sits on both his legs. Then he slides his hama yumi from his arm and sets it on his lap, holding it with a firm grip. The young hunter closes his eyes and empties his mind so he can focus on the nature around him. The cold wind blew, pushing the branches of trees to bristle, sending lumps of snow to the ground with a soft thunk. With his mind and body lax, Katansei speaks in an old language, passed down through generations on his father's side. A language that should only be used when communicating with the gods of the mountain. For the gods who have taken the forms of the finch and fox, Katansei wishes them a safe journey back to their divine ancestors. He gives his thanks and farewells before a moment of silence. In that moment of zen, the young hunter feels something cold and sharp pressing on the right side of his neck.

 "You're a foolhardy boy, yah know? Not only trespassing but also hunting in a yamanba's terf. " He hears a woman's voice from behind him, her tone as clear as day hostile. "Shame that you didn't look at the trees closer; you would've seen me coming." She says, her blade pressing deeper, he could almost hear her grin.

 Katansei opens his eyes and focuses all his attention on the two animal corpses in front of him. "Forgive my rudeness, mam. I didn't know this was your land." He says

 The yamanba scoffs, sliding her large butcher knife as it cuts into his first layer of skin. "Didn't know? How yah missed all my warning signs then? Do you think trees look naturally cut up? " The young man can feel a bit of blood leaking out.

 "Once I track my target, everything else becomes a haze." His eyes flick up to the giant knife touching his neck before looking back down. "What do you think of this, mam? If you let me go, I'll tell everyone in the village about the scary yamanba who wants no one near her home or else they'll be served for dinner. " He feels the pressure of the giant knife lessens; it is no longer cutting into his skin.

 Katansei hears the sound of snow crunching behind him and the butcher knife grazing his neck, but only cutting through his hoodie. "Oh, that does sound nice, but chopping you up and sending your pieces back can do more." She stops in front of him with her giant butcher knife on the opposite side of his neck; his hoodie falls off him, revealing his black hair bundled up into a ball on the back of his head.

 She has diamond-shaped holes on the rim of her dress. The dress itself is no doubt home-made; it looks like she found three rags and decided to stitch them together. Detachable sleeves with more diamond-shaped holes and, to top it off, bare feet. It's like she's mocking him for his frail human body with just her clothing alone.

 Sweat underneath his winter clothing begins to form. "If you spare my life and let me keep my kills, I can do so much more." The woman hums, tilting her blade and pressing up against his neck instead of the side.

 "There's an animal you want to eat, but it doesn't live around here. I can hunt it. There was someone who disrespected you and got away. I can track them. " The young hunter notices that the blade is no longer pressing against his skin but is hovering near it. He stops and looks up at her red eyes, a mix of curiosity and amusement on her face.

 He could feel his face heating up. "And if you want to, I can also warm your bed!" Katansei says with as much seriousness as he can muster in his voice.

 Her eyes widen. "Pardon me?" She asks

 He slowly raises his hands in the air and stands up, letting his hama yumi fall from his lap, his confidence surging as she lets her giant butcher knife rest on her shoulder. "No matter how shameful it is, if it means I live and eat another day, I'll do anything. " He says

 Both human and yokai were similar in height, but Katansei knew he was still at her mercy. She walks around, inspecting him head to toe as he stays still. Looking down at his kill, he could feel his empty stomach growling. A sudden cackle burst from behind him, making him jump in surprise.

 "Keeheehee! So you're serious, huh, boy? " Katansei turns around to see the woman planting her knife on the ground, leaning on it. "Is your village in famine or something? I can't imagine anyone saying that with a straight face! " Her laughter echoes through the forest.

 The young hunter scratches his chin. "In a way, let's just say me and my mom aren't the most popular folks." He says

 The yamanba begins calming down, wiping a tear from her eye. "Tell yah what, boy, that laugh put me in a good mood, so I'm giving you two options." She says as the wind blows her long white hair,

 "You can leave here without any more scratches, but I'll be keeping those." She points at the two dead animals.

 "What about option two?" He asks

 She grins, "The second option is a deal. If you give me all your hair that passes along your neck, you'll get to keep your kills and still leave here in one piece. "

 Katansei couldn't help but ask, "And what exactly do you need my hair for?"

 The yokai dismissively waves her hand, "I never leave my terf, so I'm going to need some way to call yah to do me a favor." She says

 "Only one favor, yeah?" Narrowing his eyes in anticipation

 She nods, "One favor."

 Any human would know that giving a yokai anything that belongs to their body is a terrible idea, but the hunger in Katansei is making him desperate enough to consider it, and he knows for damn sure that his mom is hungry too. He looks up the sky and sees the sun starting to set.

'By the time I find something to hunt, it could already be dark before I return to the village...'

[] Leave Empty Handed

[] Accept any favors this woman wants
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[x] Accept any favors this woman wants

Surely the nice youkai lady won't make us do anything untoward
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[x] Accept any favors this woman wants
Yamabiko get a bad rap.
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[X] Accept any favors this woman wants
I dont like this option, but it's rock and a hard place and It feels disrespectful not to keep what we slew.
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[x] Accept any favors this woman wants
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[x] Leave Empty Headed

[x] Accept any favors this woman wants
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[x] Accept any favors this woman wants

Wealth beyond measure, awarded to the brave and the foolhardy alike.

Digging this so far.
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Calling votes! The deal is made.
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As Katansei reaches for his bundle of hair, bitter thoughts flood his mind. How would mom feel about this? She would be in distress, but perhaps there is a way where she doesn't need to worry about his safety. What about the villagers? What about those idiots? There's no doubt in Katansei's mind that those paranoid hicks will see this as proof that he's conspiring with the yokai. No matter how much effort he puts in, they will never trust him thanks to circumstances beyond his control. They talk big about being united as one, but gods help you if you are different in some way! His elders see him as a younger, but worse version of his father. Girls who are uglier than sin accuse him whenever they feel that they're being watched. Getting into confrontations with other boys who would lose in a fistfight against a fairy because they want the bragging rights of beating him. The children he can excuse as his mom admits that his face resembles an oni when he's angry. Hypocrites the most of them. Even wearing that stupid cloth around his eyes, they don't have the decency to trust-

He hears the yamanba clearing her throat out loud, bringing him back to his current situation. With his face now flushing red, Katansei pulls the hairband off; his straight hair falling past his neck and stopping near his tail bone, long enough that he could use it as a cheaper version of a scarf if he needed to. He turns around while pulling out a knife from his belt holster, holding the blade end so the yamanba can grab the handle. The woman hums at the sight of his hair, walking up to him, and runs her fingers through it, surprised at how it feels like she's touching silk; the polar opposite of her unkempt, fluffy white hair.

"Color me impress, were yah a noble in your last life?" She asks nonchalantly.

The young hunter shrugs, "Does it matter who I was before?" He says extending further behind him so she could grab his knife.

She looks at the blade for a second. "Oh, to cut yah hair, right?" She says, as she grabs the knife from his hand but then tosses it aside, "No worries, I got my own!"

Before Katansei could react, the yokai grabs a fistful of his hair and yanks it back, jerking his head down. He tries to run forward, but her overwhelming yokai strength made it impossible for him to escape. He hears the sound of her giant butcher knife cutting through the air at a high pitch. He closes his eyes shut and screams, his life flashing by him before the grip on his hair disappears. His body twitches on the ground as he continues screaming until his throat wears out and he goes into heavy breathing... A moment of silence breaks into a burst of hysterical laughter coming from the yamanba that confuses the boy, wondering why he can still hear. Katansei opens his eyes and flips around. He clasps his throat, unsure if his head is still attached to the rest of his body. He looks down to see nothing is missing, but he couldn't help but pat around his body to make sure it's real.

"I-I wished I saw how yah face looked, boy! That ought to be the greatest yell I've ever heard in a long tim-Keeheehee!" She begins cackling again, unable to calm herself down.

Katansei stares with a slack jaw, knitting his eyebrows as he catches his breath, still clutching his throat, afraid that if he lets go, his head would fall off. He could see in her left hand that she isn't holding her knife with, a lock of his hair. The yokai keeps laughing as he slowly stands up, brushing snow off himself in absolute silence. She grabs her stomach and keels over, trying to calm herself down. The young hunter couldn't deny the idea of picking up his bow and shooting her didn't cross his mind, but he knew it would be ineffective at best and fatal at worst. Katansei inhales through his nose before exhaling with his mouth to calm himself.

"A warning would have been nice, lady." He says with no hint of emotion.

Her laughter finally dies down and she begins to speak. "How could I call myself a yokai and pass up such a golden oppertunity~?"

"...When will I have to return the favor?"

"Don't know," She shrugs "it be funny if it's at the worst time."

He scoffs at her blatant antagonizing, "I want to make something clear about it." He says, the polite tone he uses for the elders gone, switching to a colder, more business-like tone. "I know I said I'm willing to do anything, but if you ask me something that harms my village as a whole, I'm going to reject it. " He says it with finality.

"As a whole, huh?" A smirk paints her face. "Interesting, but like I said, who knows what'll be? All you need to worry about right now is when. " She says, as her feet leave the ground, "Before I go, the name is Nemuno Sakata. What's yours, boy? "

He looks up at the floating woman. "Douro Katansei, I'll be waiting eagerly." He says

With a sharp exhale through the nose and a wicked smile, Nemuno flies deeper into the dark forest and disappears from his sight. Katansei didn't stand around for long; he picks up his knife and ruined hoodie and his hama yumi from the ground. Sheathing the knife back, he stuffs the hoodie inside the collar of his coat so it covers the small wound on his neck. He holds the leg of the fox with the same hand that holds the bow and his other hand holds the finch, plucking at the strings to ward off any yokai from coming near him.

'Gods, how'll I tell mom what happened here?' He thinks, looking up in the sky at the sun setting, 'Better let her know I'm coming back home.'

The orange sky above Katansei turns into a dull grey. Leaves on the trees fades into a haze and the blowing wind deafens by silence. The only thing the young hunter can see with clarity is his mother in the distance. He can see her breaking her back at home, sewing a ripped bag he used to keep his kills in. Her fingers are cut from what he assumes was her needle. He can hear her praying under her breath and her heartbeat going faster than Katansei is comfortable with. She looks up from her work and smiles in relief; she could feel the familiar presence of her son watching her. He smiles as he hears her heartbeat going at a calmer rate before closing his eyes. The world around him turns back to normal and Katansei starts his walk back home.

Thanks to his hama yumi, the walk back home isn't difficult. What his true concern is whether he should tell his mom what happened while he was hunting. He knows that if he tells her about his encounter with Nemuno, she'll be in a constant state of worry when the yokai asks for the favor.

'I could say I was ambushed by a wild animal. She doesn't need to know it was actually from a yokai, right?' He thinks to himself, 'Yeah, I can go to the clinic at Eintei for a check-up. They'll find nothing wrong with my body and I can tell her the good news. Just a small health scare and nothing more... '

'Hell, I can even say I encountered a yokai and got away; I just don't have to mention the deal I made. '

While he tells himself that it is a good idea, he knows deep down how flawed it is. He knows that if his mom finds out in any way, she'll not only be scared for his life, but she'll also be ashamed of herself for failing to help him in such a dangerous situation. Katansei clicks his tongue in frustration.

'I just don't want to be a burden to her.'

[] Tell her the truth.

[] Lie
- Write in a lie for her to believe
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[x] Tell her the truth.

Come on; don't lie to your old mum. Even if it's about your pretty, new youkai mum.
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[x] Lie

Superstitious and cowardly folk won't take our magical contract with a youkai in stride
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[x] Lie
- "A nice youkai lady saved me and asked for a favor at a later time."

Technically Nemuno saved us so it's not even really a lie, right?
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Wait uh I meant "A nice lady saved me from a youkai" sorry
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[timer=2022/04/13 22:00]

I'm going to wait until the end of the day, just in case there's people who haven't decided what to vote yet.
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[x] Tell her the truth.

honesty is (usually) the best policy. This was a tough choice though.
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File 165023329837.jpg - (706.36KB, 4250x2834, SnowyVillage.jpg)
Pacing back and forward, Katansei rehearses the lines in his head before entering the village. Feeling somewhat confident with his story, the young hunter puts the dead finch on the ground and digs out of his pocket an old black cloth with small holes littered over it. The white symbols that decorate it were made by the previous shrine maiden. Over time, the magic within it has weakened. Soon he'll need to get a new one or else his 'fellow' humans will get nervous. Katansei wraps the blindfold around his eyes before picking up the finch and heading home, using his hama yumi as his walking stick.

Darkness was all he could see. An image he has seen far more than his village. The voice of the other humans passing by him, a familiar hushed tone, wondering who he was stalking while he was in the forest. He paid them no mind, though, as he was more concerned about people confronting him about it or his missing hair. If he could have it his way, no one would be close enough to touch him. Perhaps because of the winter season, Katansei's mind wonders in bleak thoughts. Could he call this place his home? Making himself go blind for the sake of peace. He relied so long on his other senses that he would feel lost in the village if he took off the blindfold. The only time he could see was inside his home or outside, where no one could see him. He couldn't call this place home. To Katansei, home was a place where he felt at ease.

The smell of lavender interrupts his thoughts, pushing his bitterness to the back of his mind. Lavender was his father's favorite scent, and Katansei's as it brought back cherished memories. His mother left the burning incense out, making it easier for him to find his way home. Katansei glides his finger across the door frame and grabs the edge to slide it open. He walks into his house and shuts the door. It isn't much, as there were only three rooms. One room to cook and eat in, and the other two were bedrooms for him and his mother.

He takes off his blindfold and smiles, "Mom, I'm home!" He calls out.

His mother, Shiage Douro, walks out of her room in her flower petal hatan. "Oh, Kata! I'm so glad you're okay!" She hugs him as tightly as she can with a gleeful smile. "I was worried when you didn't come back."

Katansei hugs her back, resting his chin on the top of her greying hair, and smiles, "Yeah, it took longer than I expected; sorry for scaring you like that."

"As long as you're okay, everything is fine." She says, rubbing his back.

His smile falters. "About that mom..." He lets go of her, and as she lets go too, he steps back and looks over his shoulder to show his ruined hair.

Shiage's wrinkled eyes widened to the size of a dish, "W-What happened, Kata!? Are you hurt anywhere?" She asks.

He pulls out the hoodie around his collar to show a small red mark on his neck. "I accidentally stepped into a yamanba's territory and was caught." He hears a gasp from his mom.

She narrows her eyes to get a closer look at the wound, and to her relief, it's a small wound that should take a day or two to disappear. "I see... I'm grateful that you're alright, Kata, but how did you escape?" She asks

"Some lady appeared and saved me. I couldn't tell what she looked like though because of her cloak." He says, with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Shiage gently rubs her son's face with her thumb. "That's a shame to hear. I would have loved to make her something comfortable for the winter." She says, "Did you get her name at least?"

"Everything happened so fast that I didn't even think of asking her." He says

"Oh well, at least you're okay." She says

Katansei nods, "Yeah. Before I forget, though," He shows off his two kills, "Look what I got while hunting!"

His mother smiles from ear to ear, "This is wonderful!" She says, "It's so big too. No wonder it took you so long to get it." She comments, seeing that the dead fox from the tip of its mouth to its tail is long enough to reach her shoulder.

"I had to tire him out before I could get a sure shot. Speaking of shots, I got this before the arrow hit the fox." He shows the dead finch in his hand.

"Amazing, Kata! The mountain gods must have been in a generous mood today." She says it wholeheartedly.

Katansei forces a smile on his face. "Indeed, will we have fox stew for dinner?" He asks

Shiage stares at him for a moment before answering, "Absolutely, but before we skin them, I forgot that we ran out of spices. You can stay and rest, Kata. I'll be back soon." She says, reaching for the front door.

"If it's okay, mom, I want to walk with you for a bit." He admits, "I have too much energy to stay inside."

His mother nods with empathy and waits for Katansei to put his kills in the storage box. As they both go out, Katansei puts on his blindfold again and holds his mother's arm with his other hand, holding his hama yumi. They walk at a casual pace, going back and forth with plans for the future, ignoring the leering eyes around them.

"I didn't want to tell you this, mom, but killing that finch made me angry," Katansei admits he tried to explain more, but he couldn't find the word.

"Say what you're feeling." She grabs his hand to comfort him.

He shrugs. "It felt unfair, I guess. I was only planning to kill the fox. It sounds silly, but it was frustrating to see that happen." He says

Shiage looks up to him. "It may sound silly to you, but it's what makes you, you, Kata."

"Is that a bad thing?" He asks

"Do you remember when I was ill? We had to go to Eintei so I could recover." She recalls

He nods, "Yeah, I think it was the first time I went there with you."

"I remember your reaction." She says, "You were so angry, demanding to know who made me sick." A slight chuckle escapes her lips. "Screaming how I didn't deserve it and how you tried to use your power to track down who did it."

"I'll never forget those people who helped us. I have got to find a way to show them my thanks, but they probably don't remember us." He comments

Shiage shakes her head. "That's beside the point. What happened then and now showed me that you despise misfortune with a passion." She says it with certainty.

Katansei frowns, "That still doesn't answer my question."

"It'll depend on the misfortune, but I hope you keep yourself calm when it does happen."

They made it to the small shop across the street. Fortunately for them, the sellers didn't mind having Katansei's mom enter, but he knew it would be easier for everyone if he stayed outside.

"Will you be fine by yourself, Kata?" His mother asks.

He nods, "I will."

As Katansei stands by with his back against the wall, he listens carefully to any noises near him. With the blindfold on, the villagers tend to ignore him, but there's always an exception. Like now, he can feel someone staring him down. Katansei pretends he didn't notice whoever was watching him and continues listening for footsteps that were closer to him than the entrance of the shop. He can hear people whispering to themselves, causing him to sigh, predicting what the new rumors will be about.

"Excuse me, young man." A woman's voice calls out. Her tone sounded steady, but he couldn't help but feel that there was anticipation behind it.

He turns his head in the direction of the voice but didn't respond in case she was talking to someone else. Her voice has an elegance to it. Maybe she's of royalty.

The woman's footsteps came closer to him. "My apology. I should have been specific there." Her voice is closer now, assuring Katansei that she's referring to him.

"Apology accepted mam, it's not often someone comes to talk to me in a friendly matter." He smiles, "Is there something you need?"

After a moment of silence, it seems that the woman was caught off guard. "Ah yes," she pauses, "If it's alright, could you take that blindfold off?"

Katansei's eyebrows raise, his mouth slightly open, but no voice comes out. Is this woman an outsider? Maybe, but shouldn't she be asking where in the world she is? What about a yokai? That can't be right either. Why would she go out of her way to speak to him? Is this some sort of prank or a scheme to get him kicked out of the village? What if...

"It seems I asked more than I thought. Please forgive me for being insensitive." She says, and he can hear the embarrassment in her voice.

It's now or never for Katansei to respond.

[] Accept the request.

[] Decline the request.
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[x] Accept the request.

>Maybe she's of royalty
Akyuu maybe?
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[X] Accept the request.
Either it moves the story along or... does nothing.
Kinda funny that he was gonna beat someone up for making his mom sick though.
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[X] Accept the request.

why not?
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End of votes! Let's see who that woman is!
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The thought that someone is willing to give him a chance compels Katansei to speak, "No!" He says, perhaps with too much energy, "Sorry, I mean it's fine. Just give me a moment."

He loosens the knot and pulls his blindfold down. The moment their eyes interlock, it elicits a strange feeling inside of Katansei. This silent tidal wave of emotions wailed in his head just from looking at the woman's vacant red eyes. While he tries to calm himself down, the woman continues observing him with a stoic expression. It churns in his head. This specific feeling that has waited for years is now clawing its way to the front of his mind, rushing to inform him of something crucial.

A one-note memory resurfaces. It was his first time hunting with his father, he taught him how to track a fox. Examining the track the animal left behind, Katansei looked over to his father for help. Confused, he saw his father with a look of calm fury on his face. The older man acted as a hunter in his actions, but not in spirit. He was more of a man seeking something else. The steady breathing, eyes unblinking, and his body too tense over something as small as a fox that they were only killing for food. Then it clicks in his mind that his own body's behavior is the same as his father's from that memory.

He still couldn't place a name on this emotion, and he's not sure why it's happening now. He spots moving gray blurs around the woman, and notices that he's using his ability on her. He unconsciously studies every small action she's taking, such as her body shifting under her black dress and tabard depicting a 9-tail fox. How her left-hand twitches more than her right by a fraction of a second. Looking at her face, he can feel her stoic demeanor hiding something, waiting to show itself when the time is right. Katansei knew she wasn't human because he couldn't hear a beating heart, but he wouldn't dare call her a yokai yet. Gensokyo doesn't only house yokai and humans, but other types of creatures too. He couldn't risk making any conclusion so soon; it would be a recipe for disaster. What he can conclude, though, is that the woman is aware of his sudden change of behavior after removing the blindfold and turning off his power, so he doesn't look like a weirdo leering at her. He notices the people giving him looks, but he elects to ignore them as he is still admiring the novelty of having a friendly conversation.

Seeing that he calmed down, the woman spoke "You remind me of someone a long time ago."

A tinge of disappointment touches his heart. "Ah, maybe you met with a distant ancestor of mine." he shrugs.

"Perhaps." She gives a short bow, "My name is Junko."

The young hunter did not respond, however, as he was waiting for her last name. Junko tilts her head slightly, confused as to why Katansei wasn't greeting himself. An awkward silence looms over them, both sides waiting for the other to speak.

"Did I say something to offend you, young man?" She asks

Katansei wasn't sure how to ask for her last name, so he decides to follow her beat. "No, I was just confused." He bows back, "My name is Douro. It's nice to meet you, Junko."

She smiles "Likewise Douro," The woman gaze at his hama yumi, "Are you a hunter by any chance?"

His eyes brighten, someone to talk to at last, "Yes! I go out by myself to get food for me and my mom."

For a brief moment, Katansei thought he saw something change in Junko's vacant eyes. "You live with your mother?" She says, looking back at the boy, "And your father?"

For a second, Junko saw the sadness in his eyes as he looks away. "...He left Gensokyo," She sees him staring at his bow, "I haven't heard from him since."

"The separation of loved ones is never painless, even if they are still alive." He looks back at her, a look of surprise on his face. "You have my condolences, Douro."

Katansei's throat hitches, and to his embarrassment, he can feel his eyes watering. The young man tries to get the words out, but only a shaky breath leaves his mouth. He tries again and fails again this time, he lets out a shallow chuckle. He quickly rubs the water away with his thumb, attempting to regain composure. Despite the vacant look in her eyes, he believes he can see that look of understanding in her.

"Sorry." He sniffs, "That... that means a lot to me."

Junko shakes her head. "No need to feel guilty, Douro. I'll wait until you're ready to continue." She says

He smiles as his eyes stop watering. "I-I'm fine now. I was just taken by surprise. That's all." He clears his throat.

She smiles back. "I would like to apologize as I derailed the conversation after hearing about your family." She bows

"No offense taken, Junko, promise." He waves his hand. "What was it you wanted to ask?"

She straightens back up. "I was curious about how you feel when you use that bow of yours." She says, anticipation fluttering in her voice as if she is close to finding something out.

The unknown feeling from before rumbles in his mind again, low enough to alarm Katansei instead of freezing him in place. He would love nothing more to answer her, but he knew that Junko was trying to find something else. While he does see her in a positive light, she is still not a human at the end of the day, and he doesn't know her true intentions. Or maybe that's just an excuse so he can ask questions and learn more about her.

[] Change the subject to focus on her

[] Answer the question and then ask your own
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[X] Change the subject to focus on her
Seems significantly more in character given his reaction, probably best to play it cautious.
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>An oath of vengeance was taken; eternal wrath and lunacy for the one who swore in, and eternal torment for the Hunter and all those connected to it, regardless of logic.
And now Junko appears? I’m getting a creeping feeling of danger.
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Voting Closed! If you any critics, I would like to hear them.
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"I'll be blunt with you, Junko." Katansei says, "Why are you interested in my thoughts?"

Her expression remains neutral. "Simple curiosity, you look so similar to that person. I wanted to see how far you two match." She replies,

"You two must have been pretty close if you're going out of your way to talk to me." He smiles.

A spark of hellfire emits life within her once-vacant eyes. Emotions are its fuel, and memories are the bucket that carries it. It did not matter what those emotions were nor the significance they had in her life. They were all used to keep the karmic ember alive. It did not last for even a mere second; the happy memories were precious and few to come by; not worth using it. The sad memories evaporated long ago, and her surroundings have produced little to none so far. Her wrath was not the same as when she was born and decides against wasting it. With so little fuel to get by, the flames went as fast as they came, leaving only emptiness in the aftermath.

"Could you define "close" to me?" She asks, "I want to be sure I understand what you're asking."

Katansei grimaced, kicking himself for making such an assumption without asking what their relationship was like. "Uh, close as in..." He hesitates, trying to pick the right words: "How often you've seen each other?" A nervous smile spreads across his face.

She smiles his question now clear to her. "Ah," the young hunter exhales a sigh of relief, "I've only talked to him once if memory serves."

He cringes inside. 'You done it now, Kata. All you had to do was act semi-competent, but you couldn't even get that right!' His thoughts begin a downward spiral: 'You can offer sex to a yokai of all things, but not even the mountain gods could help you survive a normal conversation.' He couldn't look at Junko's face anymore, so he looks behind her, only to see the judgmental stares from some of his fellow villagers. 'Great, now everyone is going to get on my case about this. They probably think I gave my hair to Junko as a scheme to get back at them. Well, maybe if you guys were nice to me, you wouldn't have to worry about it!'

Before Katansei realizes it, Junko closes the distance between them, forcing him to look at her instead. He didn't take note of it before, but now that she's much closer, it's clear that Junko is a head taller than him. She stares down at him with her red eyes. His sudden silence concerns her.

"Do I make you nervous, Douro?" She asks

He scratches his chin. "A little," his eyes widen "I mean, I'm not worried about you! I'm more nervous about..." Katansei stops as Junko puts her hands on his shoulder.

She begins rubbing his shoulders up and down, all with a serious look on her face. Katansei's frazzled-out mind recovers to a stable, but utterly confused state from the action. It's an odd sight for everyone involved, as they both lock eyes with each other while she continues rubbing him.

"Junko?" He asks, trying to comprehend why she's doing it.

"I'm trying to ease you." She says, although the uncertainty in her voice made him wonder if she knew what she was doing, "Look, it's working! Your body feels less tense. You're calmer now, yes?"

"I guess?" He says, unsure of himself. "You can let go now."

Junko smiles, satisfied with his response, and steps back to a more comfortable distance. "I must admit, Douro, you're a strange boy." She says

'You are the last person I want to hear that from!'

"There are not many people who would be comfortable with a stranger being so close to them." Her tone reminds him of whenever his mom was homeschooling. "You'll need to be more careful."

As much as he wants to deny it, Katansei knew that any normal person would have told her to back off or run screaming for the hills. Him on the other hand? A few kind words from a stranger were enough to make him tear up. He couldn't begin to imagine what would happen if a friend, or even less likely, a lover, showed him physical affection.

He lets out a depressing sigh, "You're right." Katansei scratches the back of his neck. "I really should have, but you did something that no one in this village has ever done for me besides my mom and dad. As far as I know."

She tilts her head, "Oh? What would that be?"

"You gave me a chance." He answers, his face flushing red, "So I wanted to give you one too."

"Giving me a chance?" She smiles, "I can't say for sure I understand your situation, but I do appreciate it either way." She gives a small bow.

Suddenly, a little girl shouts down the street, "Junko! Junko! I've been looking everywhere for you!" Looking over, the two see an odd-looking blonde fairy speeding toward them.

Her 'dress', if Katansei could even call it one, is decorated to the brim with red and white stripes. The other half of the 'dress' is blue with white stars scattered across it. He couldn't help but wonder how his mom would react to seeing this.

Junko greets her, "Hello Clownpiece, did something happen?" The fairy stops just in time to avoid crashing into the older woman.

Clownpiece adjusts her jester hat, the bells on it jingling, "What happened!? You're late for dinner! Me and Boss have been waiting for YEARS now!" She shouts as if they are still far from her.

Junko raises an eyebrow. "Dinner? I thought Hecatia was visiting Eintei today."

The fairy's jaw drops. "Today?! No, no, no! That's tomorrow!" She grabs Junko's hand and tries to drag her "Come on! I'm dying here, Boss said we're not eating until your there!"

Katansei cocks his head at the scene before him. "I thought fairies didn't need to eat."

The little girl lets go of the women's hand, flies up to him, and grabs his head, "You can't let common sense get in the way of what you want, man! The only way you can live your life is if you liberate yourself from your sanity! Are you picking up what I'm putting down?" She asks, hitting their foreheads together as he stares into her pink eyes.

"That's enough, Clownpiece." Junko grabs the fairy's neck and says, "I'm sorry for her behavior, Douro. She has a habit of doing this." She bows and tilts her hand down to make Clownpiece bow as well.

"Sorry about that, Sir!" She raises her hand to her forehead and salutes.

Katansei rubs the sore spot. "Yeah, no problem, just try not to headbutt me again, okay?"

"No promises!" Junko tightens her grip on Clownpiece. "Erh, I mean, Yes sir, sorry sir!"

The older woman straightens up. "It seems I'll have to be going now. It was nice talking to you, Douro." She gives a small smile.

Katansei bows in appreciation. "It was nice talking to you, Junko." He says, "And you too, Clownpiece, I guess."

The fairy waves with enthusiasm, "Bye, sir! If you're looking for freedom; come see me at the red and white shrine!"

"See you then." Junko turns around and walks away, still holding Clownpiece around her neck.

As Junko leaves, Shiage comes out of the store with a bag of spices, "Is everything okay, Kata? I heard a girl shouting and..." She stops as she looks up at her boy, "K-Kata! You took off your blindfold!" She whispers in concern.

The young hunter forgets and rushes to pull his blindfold back up. "Ach! Sorry about that, mom. I was talking to this lady who wanted me to take it off." He explains

Her eyes were wide enough that Katansei thought they would pop out: "Who was it!? Was it an outsider?" She grabs her son's arm and begins walking back home. While her son couldn't see them, Shiage could see the dirty looks being thrown their way.

"She's not human, that's for sure." He responds as he feels her arm interlocking with his tighten "She was nice though. I think you would like her."

Shiage hums to herself, but then an idea strikes her: "What if she's the one who saved you?" She asks

His eyebrow furrowed. "Saved me?"

"Yeah! The hooded figure who saved you from the yamanba!" She lowers her tone.

'Oh, mountain gods, please give me strength. The day hasn't even ended, and I already forgot about my lie.' He thinks to himself, "W-Who knows? Maybe she did, maybe she didn't."

"It has to be! She must have wanted to check if you were okay." She gasps, "Did you get her name? What did she look like?"

Katansei begins sweating under the collar. "Her name is Junko, and she looks like royalty, but come on, mom, we can't just assume it was her." He says.

She frowns. "Well, what about her voice, Kata? Did they sound the same at least?"

"I don't know, mom," Frustration seeps through his voice, "and I would appreciate it if we dropped it because I would like to forget that happened." He says, his grip on his hama yumi tightening.

Shiage winces from the tone of his voice. "Oh, I'm sorry, Katansei. I mistook you being calm as being well." She says, rubbing his hand. "I didn't mean to trouble you."

Katansei sighs, self-consciousness weighs heavily on him, knowing this wouldn't have happened if he had told the truth. Too bad the truth is worse than his lie. "It's alright, mom. I was scared when it happened. I guess I wanted to look tough for you."

His mom chuckles, "That reminds me of what your father told me when we first went out." Katansei perks his head. "He told me, "Woman, look tough against predators! Not your loved ones!" She mimics his rough voice.

A pang of guilt drives his stomach. "Yeah, I'll try to be more honest." He gives a weak smile that Shiage takes note of it.

"By the way, mom," He says, trying to lighten the mood. "I'm going to need to replace this blindfold soon since it's starting to show its age." He turns his head to give his mom a better view of it.

Shiage frowns at the sight. "So you'll be going to the Hakurei Shrine then? Are you sure you want to go back outside after that encounter with the wild yokai?" She asks

Katansei nods, "I'll be fine, mom. What happened there was a mistake on my part. It won't happen again."

"If that's the case... before you come back, could you get the doctor to check that cut on your neck, Kata? I'm concerned if it can get infected." Shiage requests

"Of course, I can do that too." He says, leaning his head over to her

"Thank you, sweetie." She says, resting her head against his.

The young hunter thinks to himself, 'I didn't get much out of Junko, but the same thing could be said about me too.' He ponders on what
Clownpiece said as well. 'She said 'Boss' was going to Eintei tomorrow. I could possibly see her while I have my check-up for that little wound I have thanks to Nemuno. Also, that fairy said she would be at the red and white shrine. Does she mean the Hakurei Shrine?'

'Walking to either place from the village will take a while, and if I include the distance between the Hakurei Shrine and Eintei... I think it will be safe to say I won't see both the 'Boss' and Clownpiece on the same day.'

[] Go to the shrine first

[] Go to Eintei first
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[X] Go to the shrine first
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[X] Go to the shrine first

been gone for a while and now a capcha a long ass one at that?
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Voting is closed! Off to the shrine and don't forget to donate!

>>28872 Welcome back. Hope you enjoy mine and other writer's story!
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Shame, I really wanted to see more junko, it’s rare for her or clownpiece to be featured, and interesting to see them have lives outside of moon vengeance. Guess I should have voted sooner.
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The full moon looms over the cloudless sky, casting an eerie pale light below. Its light was too dim to be helpful, but only enough for the shadows to play with a person's mind. The child does not care as he continues chasing his father through the dense forest, giggling without concern about the dark world. They were supposed to hunt some vermin, but the son decided it could wait and badgered his father into playing. He complies, as he always does. Chasing his dad was difficult as his body felt sluggish, and the steps he took never made much of a difference. He couldn't remember how long he had been playing chase with his father nor when he stopped having fun. Was it weeks? Months? Years? Or maybe an eternity for all he knows. What made it worse was the orange fox that was always in the corner of his eyes. It never did anything to him, but the child knows it can outrun him with minimal effort. But since it didn't attack him, he didn't care and continued chasing his dad.

Then he sees a figure in the distance, the back of a large man in familiar hunting gear. It's his father! At long last, he could see his father again! The son shouts at him, trying to get his attention, but he does not respond. Worse, his heavy body becomes worse as he trips over an uprooted part of a tree. The fox stops behind him and watches as the boy crawls towards his father. He calls out to his dad, asking him if they can go back home now. His father still didn't respond, and as the boy slowly gets near, he wonders if he did anything wrong to anger him. That idea sends a surge of energy through his body, obliterating whatever slowed him down. He jumps up to his feet and sprints. The son screams his throat out for his dad, desperately hoping it will be enough to get his attention. Then he sees a reaction; his father's head shifts, and he begins turning around. At last! They can finally be together again after so long!

The boy stops smiling when he sees his father's face. A look of remorse in his bloodshot eyes and shedding tears. His cheeks contain no fat, making him look more like a skeleton than a man. The father kneels to his son's height and opens his arms wide for an embrace. While confused, the boy ran forward, still wanting to be with his dad and still hoping for a peaceful life. He jumps into his dad's arms and closes his eyes in anticipation of his large, burly arms wrapping around him. It never came.

He hits the ground in shock and rolls his body over, confused about how he missed, but to his horror, he didn't. His father has a large hole through his stomach down to his waist, and his body is becoming translucent. Sparkling lights from the edges of the gaping hole floated to the moon. As if it's taking his father away from him. The boy could do nothing but stare as his father wept goodbye, asking his son for forgiveness. His body eventually disappears into stardust. Confused and scared, the boy calls for his father in a hushed tone, but it goes unheard due to the earsplitting cackles coming from the fox.

The sun rises and greets Katansei with its radiant light and is greeted back with an annoyed mumbling as he tries to wake up. The young hunter instinctively feels over the new hair that his mother cut before bed. A simple cut since the previous one from Nemuno was uneven.

"What an awful dream..." He wipes a smidgen of tears from his eyes.

Knowing that he's visiting the shrine to speak to the maiden, he puts on formal clothing and a decent chunk of his allowance for donation purposes. While he does not know what kind of god the Hakurei God is, nor is he sure they have done anything for the village, he figures it's better to be safe than sorry. He grabs his hama yumi and his quiver but finds that there are fewer arrows than he recalls. Katansei shrugs it off as misremembering the exact amount and straps the quiver to his back. He inspects his bow to make sure that nothing is out of order. Now satisfied, he exits his room and checks on his mom while being careful with how much weight he puts on his feet to avoid the creaking wood. He taps on the door but hears no response and assumes she's still asleep. Katansei knew that his mother's sleep schedule was more akin to an owl than a morning bird due to her occupation and to who she sells. Marrying an infamous man and being the mother of Katansei tanked her relationship with her fellow villagers forcing her to sell her self-made clothing at night for yokai since they either did not know or care.

Katansei didn't know how to feel about the idea that if it weren't for the yokai, beings whose sole purpose is to be feared by humans, he and his mother would be homeless. He shelves the thought to the back of his mind and leaves, still careful to avoid disturbing Shiage from waking up.

Morning in the village is the most troubling time for Katansei. The people were wide awake and alert, unlike the late peaceful afternoon when everyone was preparing to head back home to sleep. Merchants were out hollering their wares, trying to outshout each other to bring in potential customers, making it hard for Katansei to listen to passersby. The smell of food cooking in the air tempts his nose to follow, making his stomach grumble since he skipped breakfast. All this brimming energy of a village in peace, but he could not be a participant in the environment or else risk ruining it for everyone.

"Hey, Douro!" Of course, even with his blindfold on, he ruins it anyway. "What happened to your hair?"

Katansei recognizes the voice. Not someone he knows, but a child who's been getting cocky over the fact that the young hunter can't see while in the village. It's been going on for weeks now, and he wouldn't mind finding a way to scare the boy from bothering him again.

He ignores the younger boy's sneering tone, "I got ambushed by a wild yokai and got lucky." He continues walking.

"Maybe if you weren't stalking one of the girls, it wouldn't happen!" Katansei grits his teeth, not wanting to start a fight first thing in the morning.

He stops and turns to where he heard the voice coming from. "I was not! Listen, kid, I've had enough of your antics, pester me anymore and you'll regret it." He warns, raising his voice to make sure everyone nearby hears him.

"Real scary! Too bad I'm over here, you blind pervert!" The younger boy's voice is now coming from his left.

Now seeing that the boy was just taking advantage of his blindness, the young hunter drops the conversation and continues walking in the direction outside of the village. The jeering boy still follows him, but after a solid minute of next to no responses, he gives up and goes away. The sound of merchants shouting shrinks away and the smell of food cooking lessens and is replaced by the morning dew of the forest, a signal to the young hunter that it's safe to take off his blindfold.

'Hopefully, the other villagers will tell the brat's parents that their son is being stupid.' Katansei thinks to himself.

Inside the forest again, this time not for food but as passing through made it a different experience for him. He didn't focus on anything particular as he wanted to admire the scenery. Although he still plucks the string of his hama yumi to ward off any mischievous or dangerous yokai from getting near. The forest has some similarities to the village, such as putting Katansei in a cautious state, but differs as there was a feeling of freedom being here thanks to not needing to wear a blindfold. As he treks through the messy road leading to the shrine, perhaps of his spirituality, he could feel something off.

A familiar voice echoes in his head. "You noticed too, eh, Kata?" The being's voice sounds like an old man's. "It seems the Hakurei God is frustrated with the lack of followers. By the way, had enough with your long hair?"

Katansei nods, "Yeah, I don't know what it is, but it's an unpleasant feeling." He says, "It's been a while since we talked, Shinno, and let's ignore the hair for now, please."

Shinno Jin has been with Katansei for as long as he can remember; he is an imaginary friend who has stood by his side no matter the situation. It was after his father left Gensokyo; that time with the older gentleman lessens, but not completely gone. He didn't question it, as he recalled many kids talking about their imaginary friends and having full conversations with them, so he assumed he was in the same boat too. As of now, it's almost been a week since Katansei talked with Shinno.

"Sorry about that. Although I do have good news." The old man says, "I have a feeling that it'll be much easier for us to chat now."

The younger man's eyes widen. "Seriously!? That's awesome, but why?" He asks

"As I said, it's just a feeling." He repeats. "Anyway, why are we heading there, Kata?"

He points to his old blindfold. "I'm changing these since they're about to break." He stops at the base of the hill.

Katansei looks up at the large fleet of stairs up the hill and takes a deep breath. He takes his first step, and as he goes higher up the stairs, he notices that his worries begin to lessen. Each step taken is a step further away from his reality. Katansei wonders if his father had these same feelings when he was forced to leave Gensokyo. Then it dawned on him that climbing these steps made him feel that he was leaving and going somewhere different. He knew he should feel anxious about such a revelation, but like his other negative emotions, it left his body faster than it could fester inside of him. His original objective of coming to the shrine is unchanged, but it was close to being replaced by a child-like sense of freedom.

"Is this what the fairies and the children at the village feel?" He asks himself

"I've never been a child, so I can't say for sure." Shinno comments

Reaching the top of the staircase and stepping through the red torri gate, Katansei sees the Hakurei Shrine in all its grandeur. It... isn't much. The shrine itself is fine nothing wrong with it, but any sign of luxury is non-existent. He finds it strange that this shrine, which is vital to Gensokyo, his world, and rumored as an infested hot spot for yokai, is a rather quaint little place. On top of the shrine, he sees her, Reimu Hakurei, the Shrine Maiden of Paradise, shoveling snow off the roof of her house. Katansei stares in amazement at the sight. A person whose duty is to protect humans is just living her life as she sees fit instead of having the leash of duty pulling her to do what she must.

Here, doing what everyone else was doing back in the village. It's as if the expectations of others weigh nothing on her.

'No, she's not even bothering to carry them!' Katansei's heart skips a beat; his face flushes red. 'She is free from it all like she can float away, and no one would be able to chain her down...'

He hears Shinno sighing, "Whew boy, I knew the day would come, but it still didn't make it easier for me." The young man remains silent. "Focus, Kata! Remember why you are here before the girl catches you staring!"

This disrupts Katansei's stupor. "Wha?! Wait hold on, how should I introduce myself?" He whispers, "Should I make a donation first, or would that look strange? Maybe saying 'hi' would be better, but what if greeting her first is a sign of disrespect?"

"Don't whisper you, idiot, you're going to look suspicious!" Shinno reprimands, "Look, Kata, I'll support any decision you make, but I don't think it's a good idea to try to start a relationship with this one."

"Why not?" Katansei asks in his head, trying to look casual as he walks to the temizuya, a fountain with a built-in dragon statue where the water comes out.

"The number of bad rumors about this girl dwarfs how much you have." He says as Katansei grabs the ladle resting on the side of the fountain. "If those dirty hicks back home catch wind of this, it's going to be all the harder for you and your mother."

The young man rinses his left hand with the wooden ladle. "Who says they'll find out though." He switches hands and rinses his right hand.

"Are you ignoring that tengu and her accursed Bunbunmaru Newspaper? She's interviewed and written about the shrine maiden on multiple occasions!" The old man points out.

Katansei rolls his eyes as he switches hands again. "Oh please, she could write an article demonizing me, and there's a good chance it would improve my relationship with the villagers." He pours water on his left and swallows it to rinse his mouth.

"Hakurei Maiden in a secret relationship! Is it a boy or girl!?" Shinno exclaims as Katansei's face becomes red as a tomato, spitting the water from the side with more force out of reflex.

"That's stupid!" Katansei whispers, checking at the corner of his eye to see if the shrine maiden heard him, fortunately, she seems focused on her shoveling.

"It's too big to ignore! People will be asking questions, and you know it." He reasons, "I'm telling you, Kata, it is you, me, and your mother against the world. You can't afford any risks."

The young man knew that his imaginary friend was trying to help him out in his way, and he did have a legitimate reason to be concerned about it. However, maybe it's his youthfulness, but Katansei wanted to risk it. Even if nothing comes out, that's still one more person who's by his side, and this person, in particular, would know what it's like being falsely accused. The thought of having a friend of a similar age who understood him is too much to ignore. Just friends, of course.

[] Take Shinno's advice
[] Respectfully decline Shinno's advice

Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2022/05/16 (Mon) 06:00

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>>28874 Don't worry you'll have more opportunities to see them. I'll also be extending when voting end since school will be starting shortly!
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[X] Respectfully decline Shinno's advice

Gotta network, man. Also, Shinno's gonna get little trust until we have him for more than one update.
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[x] Respectfully decline Shinno's advice

Sorry mate, but socializing with people is likely in our character's best interest.
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[x] Take Shinno's advice
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The young man looks back at his turbulent past reluctantly. There was a time he had friends, and he remembers it vividly. Katansei seldom played or talked to the other kids his age, but what was different was that they were fine with having him nearby. Whenever they asked him to join a game, he would wholeheartedly accept it, and if they didn't, he would watch them in contentment. Observing them, taking notes of the small, tics their bodies made that they were unaware of. It was something he missed seeing happy people living their lives without worrying about him. It took him years to finally understand why people were scared of him, but even now he yearns to be with anyone who would at least be neutral towards his presence. Human or not...

Katansei straightens his posture and his eyes brimming with determination. "Sorry, Shinno, but I've got to do it! I can't miss such a golden opportunity!" His mind is dead set on his objective as he marches toward the Hakurei Shrine.

"Oi, Kata," Shinno says, his cold yet dangerous tone stopping the young man in his tracks. A voice he would use on Katansei if he was misbehaving. "I know you're smarter than that; what are you planning to do with what's in your hand?"

Peering down; his once determined eyes and confident smile morph into shame and embarrassment as he realizes he forgot that he was still holding the ladle. He turns around without a word and puts it back in the fountain. Shuffling his way back to the shrine, Katansei could see that Reimu had finished shoveling the roof and was staring at him with a curious expression on her face.

An anxious feeling bubbles in his chest, wondering if he's making the right decision. In the grand scheme, it's a small, almost insignificant action, but he couldn't make himself believe that. The irrational side is in control. The whole world could tell him how silly it is, but it's him; who has the last word, for good or for worse.

"Oh, mountain gods... please show me a sign that she didn't see the whole thing!" Katansei quietly prays as he quickens his pace.

Shinno chortle "Careful now, boy, you may anger the Haukrei God for doing that."

Stopping in front of the altar, Katansei pulls out his small bag and pulls out, what he hopes is, a good amount of yen. He deposits it inside the box with a soft echo as the coins land at the bottom. The young hunter grabs the cord attached to the bell and pulls it down gently, ringing the large bell to greet the Hakurei God. Then he bows twice and claps another two times as a form of respect.

He holds his hands together and prays, 'Please forgive me for my insolence, Haukrei God, and if it's not too much to ask, bestow my mother the boon of good health.' He bows one last time.

"Ask him if he can fix your head!" Katansei rolls his eyes at the old man's jeering.

A moment of silence before the sound of something landing on the ground and a young lady's voice speaking up behind him. "Thanks for the donation. It's not often someone from the village comes here in winter." She says cheerfully.

Katansei turns around to see the shrine maiden smiling with her shovel resting on her shoulder. Up close, he could see that even her red and white Kimono was minimal having four or five pieces instead of the usual seven to eight the girls back in the village would have.

The young man gives a deep bow to her, his heart racing "It's no issue, and I was only greeting the god here." He straightens up and smiles back as best he could "My name is Douru Katansei, it is an honor to meet to finally meet you, Ms. Haukrei!"

Reimu was taken aback by his enthusiastic greeting before waving him off, "No need to be so formal, just Reimu is fine." She says, with a tinted red face.

He begins rapidly blinking 'First name bases already!? This is too soon, Shinno what should I do!?' He calls out to his friend, but he did not respond 'Oh come on man! Okay, just say her first name, it's simple really...'

Katansei clears his throat "Re..." The volume of his voice went so low that only dogs and cats could hear it.

His face burns bright red as he tries again and fails again. Even back when he was a kid, he never called anyone by their first name, much less a girl! Of all people too, the young lady who made his heart skip a beat, he couldn't help but remember those romance novels mom would read now and then.

Reimu tilts her head confused about his sudden shyness "You alright, Katansei?" The young man turns his head aside too embarrassed to look at her.

"How!? You've only just met, how is this happening so soon?!" Shinno's bewilder voice echoes in the young man's skull.

Katansei scratches his cheek, still staring off in the distance. "I'm okay, it's just that I'm not used to saying someone's first name so soon." He says, deliberately ignoring his imaginary friend to spite him.

The young woman squints her eyes, but soon goes wide in realization "Oh, oh! No, it's nothing like that, uh, there's a lot of hassle in life you know? Why worry about how we talk to each other and all that junk!" She tries to look nonchalant, but her red face betrays her.

"Ah, so she has no social cue then..." He hears Shinno mumble

Katansei lets out a sigh of relief with a hint of disappointment "Yeah, I guess I can see that! As a hunter, I'm more concerned about finding food or worse, encountering a yokai." He looks back at her with a nervous smile.

"See? I knew you would get it." She begins to calm herself and gives a cheeky smile. "By the way, how would you write your name?"

The young man gives a curious look "It's spelled like 可鍛性; why do you ask?"

"Well, I had a feeling you would have a malleable view, am I right, Katansei?" Reimu says looking proud of herself for making that pun.

The old man groans while the younger one snickers. "Yeah, I would be as good as dead if it wasn't!" Katansei says as his face returns to a cooler temperature.

Satisfy by his response, Reimu jabs a thumb at her shrine "I'm going to head inside to eat some porridge, and you're welcome to join if you want," She offers.

The mention of food made Katansei's stomach grumble "I would like that since I skipped breakfast to get here early."

"Cool," She stabs the end of her shovel into a lump of snow "It's the least I can do for a polite guest."

The inside of the shrine is surprisingly warmer than he would expect, like a one-off cold breezy day in the middle of summer. The simplicity of the outside matches the inside as Katansei looks around, it was like his home if slightly bigger. After taking their shoes off at the doorstep, Reimu points at the table with the heated blanket. On it was a basket full of tangerine.

"Have a seat. I'll get the bowls," She says before entering another part of the house.

Katansei did as told and sat on the pillow near the table, putting aside his quiver and hama yumi feeling safe since he was inside a holy place. Putting the blanket over his legs, his body became lax as he stares outside at calming scenery. He recalls that Clownpiece should be here in the shrine, but the loud fairy seems to be nowhere at the moment.

'That's a shame. I wanted to ask her about Junko...'He thinks to himself

"Come again?" Shinno asks sounding utterly confused

'There this fairy named Clownpiece I wanted to ask her about this lady I met back at the village.' The young man answers 'By the way, don't think I didn't notice when you were leaving me hanging back there, old man!'

A moment of pensive silence before his imaginary friend scoffs "What did you want me to do? Talk to her myself?"

'No, but some advice would have been nice.' Katansei talks back.

"I could think of plenty of advice on how to treat your wife, but if you're looking for how to get one, I suggest speaking to your mother for that," Shinno says.

The young hunter scrunches his face, 'Not for marriage, idiot, but now that you mention it, mom would probably help me more for this situation.'

"Speaking of situations," The old man changed his tone to a more serious one "This 'Junko', why are you looking into her?"

'She's a bit awkward, but overall she seems like a nice woman' Katansei scratches his chin 'Although I know for sure she's not a human...'

The old man sighs exasperated "I understand being attracted by a woman with power, Kata, but are you sure you want to dance with that flame?"

Katansei rolls his eyes 'I'm not a dog in heat, you love-sick geezer, there's something about her that I can't shake off.' He recalls that unease feeling when he first saw her

"She makes you uncomfortable? Apologies, my friend." Shinno says, with shame in his voice, "I have a feeling you want to find out why, eh?"

The young hunter gives an affirmative hum, 'Yes, I'm not sure why, but I need to.' A fire was set ablaze in his body with the truth as the means to extinguish it.

"If that is the case, I would suggest asking the Hakurei girl about danmaku and listening wholeheartedly to what she has to say." The old man lectures.

Doubt peeks through his thoughts 'I've read about danmaku in the newspaper, but do you think any yokai would accept my challenge instead of telling me off or worse?' Katansei asks

"Remember, Kata, they are not humans and therefore, they have a different mindset." Shinno lightens his tone "Besides, it never hurts to have more countermeasures against them."

'Alright, I'll ask her about it then, in the meantime...' He racks his brain for conversation starters 'What should I talk to Reimu about while we're eating?'

Pick two options to talk to Reimu about.

[] Ask Reimu about herself; you're curious what's the daily life of a shrine maiden

[] Ask about Clownpiece; you're still wondering who Junko is and want to find out more.

[] Ask about your blindfold; you did come here to get a new one.

[] Ask Reimu if she wants to know something; she seems to be someone who doesn't leave home often.

Art by AsakuraShinji
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[X] Ask Reimu about herself; you're curious what's the daily life of a shrine maiden
Time to befriend the shrine maiden
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[X] Ask Reimu about herself; you're curious what's the daily life of a shrine maiden

[X] Ask Reimu if she wants to know something; she seems to be someone who doesn't leave home often.

You’re good at portraying these characters.
I’m hooked.
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[x] Ask about your blindfold; you did come here to get a new one.

[x] Ask Reimu if she wants to know something; she seems to be someone who doesn't leave home often.
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[x] Ask about your blindfold; you did come here to get a new one.

[] Ask about Clownpiece; you're still wondering who Junko is and want to find out more.

While we don't really know why we wear a blindfold(or at least, I don't) that should be one of our priorities, I am rather stuck between pleasantries and being direct with the information we want, but do believe it's worth looking at who Junko is.
either way, im interested on the story you weave.
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[X] Ask about Clownpiece; you're still wondering who Junko is and want to find out more.
[X] Ask about your blindfold; you did come here to get a new one.
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Voting is now closed!

Blindfold won by 3 votes and while the other options are tied, I'll be deciding what the second choice will be.
Stay tuned to find out what it is!

Thank you! I'm truly appreciate that you enjoy my story!
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Clown and Maiden
With the two seated and their hot bowl of porridge in front of them, they give thanks to the gods and begin wolfing down on their late breakfast. Katansei gives a pleasing hum as the warm, creamy texture makes contact with his tongue. The nice chewy part of the dish where he first thought was the wheat turns out to be dried-up berries found in the wild. He may have also liked it because Reimu made it, but he would never say that out loud.

"It's a shame our sense of flavor is dull," Shinno laments, "I can only imagine how it would taste."

Katansei shrugs, feeling it would be as hard as imagining a color he has never seen before; "I wouldn't mind having more of this." He says wholeheartedly, as it did feel nice in his mouth and stomach.

Reimu, with her mouth full, gives a confident smile before ingesting the food. "What can I say? After living by myself for this long, I'm pretty skilled at cooking." She says before taking another bite.

The young hunter tilts his head, "Really? Has no adult ever come by to check on you?" He asks, a little concerned and curious about her parents.

She shrugs, "Besides a pesky old yokai? Not really?" The shrine maiden begins eating again.

Katansei molls over the thought, 'I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to live without mom or dad. Reimu is strong, but I never expected it to be like this.'

Then an idea pops up, "You know," he stops for a moment, letting Reimu finish chewing first. "My mom always says that eating with another person makes the dish better."

"Yeah, I think I heard that from somewhere, but what makes you bring it up?" Reimu asks, wiping off a smidge near her lip.

"Well, if you're not in the mood to cook or you want to eat with someone." He points outside in the direction of the village. "You can visit me and my mom's home. She would love to have you as a guest."

Her eyes widen, taken aback by his offer. "Hey now, you don't need to bend over backward for me, and besides," She gives a bemused smile and says, "Hanging out at the village could get you some weird looks from your friends."

The young hunter suppresses the urge to roll his eyes. "I do see your point, Hakurei, however." He sets his spoon aside, "I don't have any friends in the village, and like you, I am not a stranger to bad rumors."

"Tch! Little brat, I see how it is." Shinno says in a bitter voice.

She stares at him, a wry look in her eyes. "Is that so? Still, aren't you being a bit too polite? We've just met." She wonders what kind of rumors were being spread about him.

Katansei scratches his chin for a moment and then shakes his head. "No, people who do good should be rewarded, and people who do bad should be punished." He looks at her directly in the eyes and says, "And you, Reimu Hakurei? You're without a doubt the former."

Reimu remains silent, only letting out a thoughtful hum, "Well, if you put it like that..." She reaches over the table and grabs a tangerine. "I wouldn't mind having some free food."

A hearty chuckle escapes the young hunter's lips. "Who wouldn't? Not me, that's for sure!" He says as he raises his empty bowl.

The shrine maiden grins. "You got me there," She says as she peels the skin off the tangerine. "Although I'm wondering, Katansei, my guts tell me that you're alright, but what's up with you having rumors?"

Anxiety spikes in Katansei's heart. "Ah, to be honest, I almost forgot due to how peaceful this place is." He reluctantly digs through his pockets and pulls out his old blindfold.

The young hunter lays it on the table for Reimu to look over. It's an old cloth with numerous holes tatter across. On the sole black blindfold is a single white kanji '盲', but even that is not safe from the ravage of time.

"I have to wear this blindfold whenever I'm in the village, you see, or else people get... restless." He says part of him is grateful for it while the other part couldn't stand looking at it for long.

Reimu leans over the table to examine it. "How come? You got some sort-of evil eye or something?" She asks, a hint of concern in her voice.

He shakes his head. "Not something uncontrollable, no," Katansei pauses, trying to think how to spin his power in a way that doesn't paint him in a bad light. "Ugh, I can't even say it. If it's alright, Hakurei, could you put your hand under the table and hold a number?" He asks

Seeing that it wasn't that big of a request, Reimu did as asked. As she did this, she suddenly felt a set of eyes peering at her by someone or something, but she knew for sure that it was only her and Katansei.

"You're holding three fingers." She looks back at the young man and notices how he's staring down at the table.

Reimu slowly moves her hand around as she notices how Katansei's head is tracking where it is despite the table blocking the view. The way his head moves reminds her of a cat. She closes her hand and then holds her thumb and pinkie out.

"Two fingers, and it's your thumb and pinkie." He says this without looking at her.

A gut feeling kicks Reimu's stomach, and without a word, she moves her hand behind her back. Katansei's eyes squint as he looks directly at her as if unsure what to say.

His eyebrows furrow and he squints his eyes as if it would help him see her fingers. He lets out a sigh and leans back, the eerie look in his eyes returning to normal.

"Maybe it's because of how my mom and dad raised me, but looking through a person or their clothing makes my view go fuzzy." He explains, the tone of his voice sounding grateful.

Reimu nods, now understanding the situation more "Yeah I can see who would want you to get a new one." She shows the hand behind her, revealing four fingers."Is that all your power can do, though?"

He holds up three fingers. "Sight, sound, and smell. As long as whoever I'm tracking is still in Gensokyo, they can't hide from me." Katansei scratches his head, "To be honest, I was surprised when you moved your hand behind you. Why did you do that?" He asks

The shrine maiden leans back and shrugs, "Eh, just wondering how your power works exactly." She says this before eating a slice of her

His eyes widen in shock, and without thinking, he opens his mouth, "You mean, you weren't worried if I could see through your clothes!?" The young hunter slaps his hands over his mouth, instantly regretting what he said.

As he says this, Reimu's jaw drops, her face matching the same red as his, and Katansei can even see the slice of tangerine in her mouth "W-What?! Oi, Katansei! Why are you making things weird again!" She yells out, covering her mouth when she remembers the citrus fruit she was currently eating.

He shakes his head, "No, I'm not! That's what everyone always thinks first whenever they learn about my ability!" He clenches his fist, with the tangerine getting squeezed by him without realizing it.

"Once they know, they see me as some sick stalker or someone who's looking for dirt to hold over them!" Juice begins to flow out of his hand. "It's why I wear that blindfold. To prove to them that I'm innocent."

Reimu looks away for a moment, recalling the satori species that were forced underground by the people's fear of their minds being read. The only silver lining she could find is that Katansei's power didn't let him read minds, which without a doubt, forced the villagers to kick him out. She sighs, still blushing a deep red, but begins to calm down in the tense silence.

"The reason why that never crosses my head is..." She goes silent, unsure of what to say.

Katansei looks outside, scared that he ruined his chance, and stands up, "I'm sorry, I could leave if you want. It would be understandable and don't worry about the blindfold, I'll look for som-" He stops abruptly when Reimu raises her hand.

"Let me finish, Katansei," She says, gesturing him to sit back down, which he does. "We've only met today, but from the short time we talked and how you acted, I find it... hard to see you like that type of person." She says, figuring that if he did that, he would have had a more overt reaction.

"Do you believe me then?" He asks a small hope clinging to his words.

The shrine maiden nods. "We all have the power to harm people, even those who have none." She says, shrugging, "It just depends on the person what they do with it."

He was stunned silent, unsure what to say, Katansei scooches back, shifting his body, and now sits with both his knees below him. The young hunter gives a deep bow with his hands touching the floor and his head resting on them.

"Thank you for putting your faith in me, Ms. Hakurei!" He says, in a shaken tone, with all his might to not shed a tear, "I will do everything in my power to never betray the trust you've placed in me!"

The shrine maiden gives a soft smile. "You can start by calling me Reimu." She says before grabbing his blindfold for closer examination, "Hmm, it won't take much effort to make a new one, but are you sure you want to do this, Katansei."

He straightens his back. "I appreciate your concern..." he pauses while his face reddens. "Reimu, but I do need this if I want to continue living in the village."

A doubtful hum escapes her lips before nodding. "Alright then," a look of epiphany flashes in her eyes. "I've got a good idea for the blindfold, but it will take a while. Do you have anything else to ask before I start?"

Katansei isn't sure what she's planning but he had no reason to be concerned. "Now that you mention it, yesterday at the village, a weird fairy named 'Clownpiece' talked about being here."

Reimu's expression goes sour, "She didn't start a conflict did sh-"

Suddenly, a hand holding an unlit torch punches through the straw floor. The young hunter screams in shock causing even Reimu to flinch and drop the blindfold. Another hand pops out, and the figure pulls herself up, revealing herself to be Clownpiece, roaring as if she was sealed under the shrine for centuries.

The fairy stares Katansei down. "So you've finally come, huh?" She smirks, trying to look cool.

"My floor panel!" Reimu shouts, distraught at the damaged site, "Why did you do that!?"

Clownpiece looks around and notices the blindfold. "That thing..." She jumps out, creating a larger hole and grabbing the cloth.

She dangles it over her face, staring down knives at it. "This thing..." The two humans couldn't help but stare as the fairy pulls it over her eyes.

With a nod, Clownpiece ties the blindfold onto her unlit torch: "This is a symbol of oppression! I'll burn it on the stakes and then everyone will be free!" She points the wick at Katansei, "But you, you were asking for a new one. A fresh, brand new set of chains! "

Katansei reaches for his bow, "I guess I can see your point, but what exactly are you trying to pull here?" He asks as Reimu pulls out needles from under the sleeve of her kimono.

The fairies giggle. "What am I pulling!? I know why you are looking for me!" She runs to the front door, spreading her arms apart as the sun shines on her. "Why else would you call for me? A cry for freedom, a cry for justice! "

She pivots her feet, still having her arms wide out, and says, "I'm here to pull you out of the clutches of your oppressive village and into the bosom of freedom!"

"And if I say, 'no thank you,'?" He asks, strapping his quiver to his back.

A look of shock spreads on her face, never foreseeing that she would have to fight a person she was trying to free. "Uh... Sorry stranger, but you don't have a choice in it!" Clownpiece raises her free hand, and a flame erupts before petering out to three well intricate cards. "I challenge you to a danmaku! If I win, you will never wear a blindfold again." She wore a confident grin, but it couldn't reach her eyes.

Reimu stomps forward, flaring her nose. "You've got some guts to pick a fight after breaking my house. Katansei, stand back while I deal with this idiot!" She says this as three cards appear in her hand in a flash of light.

Katansei looks between the two in front of him, wondering what to do. He looks at the fairy and notices that her smile is far more natural than the moment she challenged him.

"You know what, Kata? I think you should take her on." Shinno speaks up in a scheming tone, "Look how she brightens up when the shrine maiden takes the stage, it's pretty clear she doesn't want to fight us."

'I know, but what if I lose? Following through with the deal will get me kicked out of the village for sure,' Katansei could feel his desires pulling him in two opposite directions, 'and if I lose; but don't follow the deal, who would want to challenge me if my reputation is a sore loser?'

"If you lose, but if you win, you can tell her to never bother you about the blindfold!" If he had a face, Katansei imagines Shinno would be smiling like a gambler. "Besides, with your power and my guidance, this stupid brat will never dodge a shot!"

[] Let Reimu handle Clownpiece. The risk is too big for your liking.

[] Accept Clownpiece's challenge yourself. Go big or go home.

Art by piyokichi
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Well. This is a gamble

I cant really say if this is worth it.

From what the wiki says Clownpiece is a stage 5 boss, which gives her considerable power.

On the other hand, can Kantasei even take her on? Shinno seems pretty damn confident that we will win this. there's something we still dont know about this old man that we should definitly watch out for

>"If you lose, but if you win, you can tell her to never bother you about the blindfold!" If he had a face, Katansei imagines Shinno would be smiling like a gambler. "Besides, with your power and my guidance, this stupid brat will never dodge a shot!"

This definitly weirds me out a bit. isnt he just a imaginary friend? Some other ability Kantasei has?

Well, regardless of what may happen, i do think that its worth a shot trying to challenge her. Although if we lose... well, we'll see

[x] Accept Clownpiece's challenge yourself. Go big or go home.
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[[X] Accept Clownpiece's challenge yourself. Go big or go home.
If he wins we get to know how strong he is exactly, if he loses then we get to see how he's going to deal with it, which is interesting in on itself. Also Clownpiece is making Murica proud with her "liberation" of the oppressed
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[X] Accept Clownpiece's challenge yourself. Go big or go home.
I just want to know what this "guidance" is. Besides, if its a bad thing, Reimu is right there. And if he loses, eyepatches aren't blindfolds, and neither are masks.
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Voting is closed! A battle of beauty and grace will be starting, so take your bets on who will win!
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Clownpiece by kan10na2
Before the two could declare a battle, Katansei intervenes, "Wait a moment, Reimu." He stands up, firmly gripping his hama yumi.

The Shrine Maiden turns her head at him while the fairy clicks her teeth. "You got something in mind?" Reimu asks, a curious look on her face.

He nods."Yeah," Katansei points at the fairy. "Clownpiece, you want to fight me? Then I accept your challenge!" He exclaims, his body tingling with anticipation for a fight.

From her expression, he could tell that Reimu was impressed, but the little girl did not like this. "Hey, I'm trying to help you here!" She points at the older girl, who's raising an eyebrow. "But her? She's only making a new blindfold! You're supposed to fight people holding you down, not lifting you up!" She stomps the floor.

"Excuse me?" Offended by her slander, Reimu speaks up: "First off, you don't know what I'm planning to make, and second." She lets her needles slide back into her sleeve "You challenged him, and you know what? I think you're acting like a tyrannical ruler!"

Clownpiece's face glows hot red in anger. "I think you're acting like a tyrannical ruler!" She mimics the line with a low, growly voice.

A small chuckle peeps out of Katansei's mouth as Reimu rolls her eyes, "I don't sound like that." The fairy blows a raspberry in response, "So, Katansei, I'm guessing this will be your first danmaku?"

He scratches his neck. "Yeah, I was kind of hoping you'd lend me a hand with that." A nervous chuckle leaves his mouth.

Reimu closes her eyes and hums, "In that case, here, use my spellcards." She holds them up, which Katansei grabs and looks over.

As he stares deeply into the cards, small details change the longer he looks. The shimmering light emitting from the amulets goes dull, beams of light flat out disappear and are replaced by arrows, and perhaps the most glaring is the intricate patterns that decorate the card become simplistic.

'Are these cards changing so they have a better synergy with me, or is it because I'm not the original owner, so they're weakening?' Katansei concludes that danmaku won't be as simple as he first thought. 'I still need to ask Reimu about how this works, and just how far this rabbit hole goes.'

The Shrine Maiden stands in between them. She straightens back and her eyes still close, "State why you two are dueling." Her tone is neutral, reminding the young hunter of a middle man when two people are making a deal.

"I'm fighting so I can free a slave from his shackles!" Clownpiece exclaims, with her arms crossed, "So if I win, you can't wear blindfolds anymore."

"Now is your chance, Kata. Let's make sure she doesn't get in our way." Shinno says, his pitch lower, as if he's getting ready to throw down.

Katansei nods "I'm fighting because I want to learn more about danmaku, and the only person who has the last word on how I live my life is me." He stares at his opponent. "If I win, you cannot bring the subject of my blindfold up again."

"Stop lying, you weirdo!" Clownpiece harrumphs, "You think I would believe that it was your choice to go blind in your own home?"

"I don't wear the blindfold at home. Only when I'm heading out and in the village." He counters.

She scoffs, "You live in the village! That is your home!"

"No, it isn't!" He states this with more anger than he was expecting. "It's a place that I go through before returning home!"

"That's enough from the both of you," Reimu cooly interjects, silencing them both. "Clownpiece, since you are the challenger, pick one card as your bomb and declare its name."

She furrows her eyebrows. "Why should I? I don't remember ever declaring a name whenever we played." Her comment leaves Katansei in confusion, wondering if the rules aren't as concrete as he assumed.

"This is a proper duel, and as such, the rules will be followed." The Shrine Maiden smiles, "You can skip that part if you want, but if you do," She opens one eye and says, "I'll skip to the part where I exterminate you~" Katansei didn't want to know why his face suddenly felt hot.

Clownpiece grumbles as two of her cards burn to nothing, leaving only one spellcard that she holds high above her to make sure both of them are looking, "If you didn't have your eyes closed, you would've known my bomb was 'Fake Apollo'." She jeers.

Reimu turns towards Katansei, raising an eyebrow as she sees his flushed red face.

He clears his throat, trying to focus on the duel, "Ugh, I have three cards, so I'm guessing I'm allowed to use them..." Fortunately, they had names at the bottom of each card
"Borrowed: 'Evil Sealing Circle',
Borrowed: 'Duplex Barrier' and
Borrowed: 'Fantasy Seal -Blink-'".

"Nice call."The Shrine Maiden gives a thumbs up, "With that settled, Clownpiece, if you get hit more than three times, you lose; Katansei, if your last spellcard stops for either losing focus; or running out of time, you lose."

The young man nods while the fairy begins slapping her cheeks to hype herself up. "The duel will start when the both of you are outside." Reimu finishes

Clownpiece closest to the front flies out with a warcry as he follows suit.

"Hey, Katansei." He stops and turns to face Reimu, who seems unsure of want she wants to say, "I want to let you know, that... it doesn't matter if you win or lose."

He could feel his heart beating faster, "Are my chances low? Is it because I'm only using spellcards that don't belong to me?" He asks, regrets prodding at the back of his mind.

She nods "While Clownpiece is hesitant to duel you, she still has more experience playing it than you do." Reimu states without hesitation. "But that's not why I'm telling you this."

"Oh? What is it then?" He asks, hoping she has an idea that'll help him win.

"The reason why it doesn't matter is that there's more than one way for you to cover your eyes, not just with a blindfold." She explains, nodding to herself, before continuing, "Nothing bad will happen if you lose. It'll only be an unsatisfying moment before you continue with life."

His eyes widen, now remembering what Clownpiece said "Oh! I'm embarrassed to say this, but that thought never crossed my mind." He says.

Reimu jabs a finger at his chest, "That's because you're focusing too much in one place, but that's beside the point." She points at her spellcards that he's holding, "Danmaku is a contest of beauty, or a sport, or even a game to some."

Hearing her say this, the gears inside Katansei's brain begin to turn, "So what you're telling me is to take it easy?"

She grins, "Bingo! I put a lot of time and effort into making this, so what I hope will happen, is that everyone's first danmaku is something they'll never forget like it was for me." For a split second, the tone of her voice sounds earnest "Let's get going now, I have a feeling Clownpiece will start shooting if she gets impatient." Reimu heads out with a spring in her step.

"She has a point, but if you ask me, playing a game is only fun if I win. Anyone else who claims otherwise is just a loser licking their wounds." Shinno comments making Katansei smile from his brutal honesty "Clownpiece is just a fairy, just overwhelm her with your arrows, and this duel is as good as ours."

[] Follow Reimu's advice.

[] Follow Shinno's advice.

Art by Kan10na2
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> Clownpiece is just a fairy
Okey no.
[X] Follow Reimu's advice.
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[x] Follow Reimu's advice.
Shinno is full of shit, fairies are only not not a threat if you have the strength to make them not a threat.
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Votes are called! I'm planning for the danmaku to have a different tempo compared to the rest of the story, so I hope you can give your thoughts on it.
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Clownpiece by nehituji21
"I want to win as much as you, Shinno," Katansei answers, breaking the silence. "But Reimu said that this is a contest of beauty. If we go by that logic, physical strength won't be of much use."

    Shinno gives a thoughtful hum. "Beauty, huh? If only we had a spellcard that depicts me, we would win for sure..." He lets out a dejected sigh.

    The young hunter snorts, "Are you sure? I'm sure we'll get disqualified if we try that. " He stretches his body in preparation.

    "It is not my fault that the savages cannot withstand the sight of a superior being!" The old man proudly declares, "On a more serious note, what is your plan on winning this?"

    "We experiment; see what works and what doesn't." After finishing his warm-up, he steps outside, where Reimu and his opponent are waiting. "And once we find something that works, take full advantage of it!"

    Bullet hell will break loose.

    In the Land of Impossibility, a world where common sense cannot exist, a hill stands tall and proud. On top of this hill is the Shrine Of Paradise and its breath-taking Shrine Maiden. She watches in hidden anticipation as both combatants stare each other down. The tension could melt the snow away. Little Liberty floats above with her torch held high in blazing hot-pink glory. Her hellfire beacons all wayward souls. 

Give me your sanity, your common sense, your shackled mass yearning to burn free.

     The Blind Hunter sees a child who does not know how his world works. What she calls his chains, he calls his charm. A tool that drives back the fools, the fearful, and the uncaring. It is because of his charm that he can return to a place he calls home. Despite this, he's entrance by the lit beacon she waves, perhaps the fairy is on to something... He shakes his head in disbelief. 

She's an eternal child. All of this is a game to her. The only thing she knows is being free. Being free...

    Within his head lies another being, far too small to see. A Know-Nothing Gambler, who whispers in The Blind Hunter's ears. Words of confidence and guidance for his shots to hit true. Only The Blind Hunter is aware of him. Not even The Shrine Maiden knows of this entity's existence.

    The Shrine Maiden raises her gohei high over her, as a spark of pink flame appears in Little Liberty's free hand and The Blind Hunter trains an arrow at her head. She swings the wooden wand, starting the match, without saying anything.

    Hellfire spews out from Little Liberty's free hand, melting the snow nearby. With a flick of her hand, the pink flames fly attempting to engulf everything in their grasp. The Blind Hunter leaps up as the inferno splashes the snowy ground, reducing it to a puddle. His feet did not return to the ground, nor did his bow stay silent. Now, he is a bird of prey who's found his target.

    Little Liberty swings her arm, moving the wave of the inferno to incinerate the oncoming arrows aiming for her throat. Hellfire dances around Little Liberty preventing any more projectiles from interrupting their tango. The Blind Hunter's dance with the pink flame did not go as smoothly. His clothes are set ablaze, burning his skin underneath them. The fire sticking to his skin did not burn deeper, thus letting the duel continue. Driven into the corner, he calls for his friend's help. The Known-Nothing Gambler whispers numbers to the Blind Hunter, and without hesitation, he fires an arrow far above the blazing battlefield.

    As he shoots, a wave of hot-pink fire slams against his face. Pink... pink... pink! Sanity in meltdown! The hellfire pulls and bites at the surface, attempting to leave its mark on him. Unable to withstand the onslaught anymore, his spellcard by itself activates. A brilliant light gushes out snuffing the hellfire to smoke and embers. The Blind Hunter, by gut reaction, shouts out.

    Borrowed: 'Evil Sealing Circle'

    His burning pain cleanses, his mind focusing on the spellcard. The moment he lost concentration; he knew it would end earlier than the full duration.  Without his input, the bowstring lets out a calm plucking noise. Each pluck releases a wave of bullets, pushing any evil away from its master. Arrows of light flew, splitting into smaller selves, cornering Little Liberty from all directions. Her hellfire attempts to devour the arrows, but they continue, determining to punish the unjust.

    The flames latch onto The Blind Hunter, stretching his skin and mind even though they couldn't eat the arrows. If he focused on only winning, he would continue his feeble attempt to dodge her bullets. What he is doing is learning how to win. Without hesitation, he uses his power to focus only on Little Liberty, the eyes of an eagle training on her.

    She contorts her body to dodge the entrapping bullets. A tense feeling weights in her stomach as she looks into his eyes. His smiling body bathes in the pink hellfire, but he continues staring at her with his cold-attentive eyes.  Little Liberty focuses her shots on his face for the sole desire of having him look away. A mistake she pays dearly when she didn't notice the wind whistling her name. The iron-tip arrow he shot before his spellcard lands square on her head. She explodes in a puff of white before his spellcard ends.

    Three more hits for him; two more spellcards for her.

    Little Liberty reappears, rubbing the spot where the arrow landed. Looking at the hot-pink hellfire that decorates the sky, The Blind Hunter lets out a giddy chuckle. After seeing the spellcard in action, he plays with the string on his hama yumi. Bullets from the musical sound shoot out in barrages, forcing her to flow with the tempo.  Feeling pushed again, Little Liberty whips out her bomb. Calling it out wipes the bullets away and gives her room to breathe.

    Fake Apollo!

    Three mini-moons spin out of the card at a high velocity. The first moon is a direct hit, crumbling to pieces as it veers The Blind Hunter off his intending path. The second and third moon collide with each other with him in between. His body creaks under the intense pressure when it should have popped him. Little Liberty did not relent as her bomb ends. Her burning torch lights up in a blaze of glory! Holding it with both hands, Little Liberty swings it down, firing a star storm of red, white, and blue. Unable to stand the barrage of pain, he calls out his second spellcard. 

    Borrowed: 'Duplex Barrier'

    Despite the 'duplex' in its name, only one cube barrier appears, trapping both insides. The Blind Hunter, jolly of this, fires a volley of magical arrows all around him. Little Liberty grazes by the skin of her teeth. The bullets did not end once they hit the surface of the barrier. Swallowing the arrows and spitting them back inside at a higher velocity. Little Liberty dodges them again, but the arrows will not stop until they hit their intruder. The Blind Hunter chortles as he continues spinning, his bullets fazing through him.

    The barrier became a kill box, litter with speeding bullets and arrows. Overconfident from her previous grazes, Little Liberty is hit by a stray bullet from her blind spot. As she explodes in a puff of white again, the projectiles inside the barrier disappear with her. The Blind Hunter screams, unable to contain his excitement anymore!

    Two more hits for him and his spellcard is still going strong

     She activates another bomb, stopping his spellcard from getting momentum. The Blind Hunter uses his power to ignore the painful impact of the mini-moons. As he focuses on his opponents, he can feel the giant bullets pushing his body. The two other moons crash and after the third, he makes the mistake to turn off his power to see what's going on. From the star-spangling bullets and three moons, the pain is too much for him to focus on. The barrier shatters to pieces with the last of his bullets vanishing with it.

    One more spellcard left...

    Know-Nothing Gambler whispers words of encouragement and numbers into The Blind Hunter's mind. He describes in great detail Little Liberty's flight pattern and when the perfect time to shoot. The Blind Hunter grins before playing a high-energy tune for his target to dance to. Little Liberty did not dance to the rhythm but became one with it. She grazes the musical bullets without any effort while firing back her triple-color bullets. Right, where he wants her to be. The Blind Hunter crows as he pulls the string far back. Light travels down his arm and into the bow, then an arrow of light emerges. Letting go, the magic bolt goes flies piercing Little Liberty's chest. Along with the puff of smoke came a loud 'pichuun'!

One hit, one spellcard. The final moment to determine the victor.

To see her blazing inferno, fuels all.

Life, joy, and the pursuit of lunacy.

A hero of liberty, who dreams stars.

Strife and sweating bullets, to her, playtime.

She fights for his right to be free from all.

Her torch-lit, pink hellfire melts the shackle.

Despite her might, the slave rejects her key.

He watches, unfettered from freedom's call.

Lil Liberty spreads the flame through the sky.

Still a slave, but now ordered to shoot down.

Hellfire now dead, like tyrants who claim just.

The clown falls, gripping the key, still faithful.

He stares down at her with glee in his eyes.

She glares up at him with fire in her eyes.


What will The Blind Hunter do?

[] Extend a hand

[] Walk away

Art by nehituji21
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[x] Extend a hand
I like how the spell card battles are written here. It’s easy to read while still being entertaining.
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[X] Extend a hand
I don't quite get the poetry bit, but I like the update. The borrowed duplex especially was a fun idea I think.
I like the nickname for Clownpiece, "Little Liberty" but it feels like you've used it too much?
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Voting is closed! Good to see sportsmanship, but let's see if Clownpiece will do the same.
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The fairy looks at his hand, confusion on her face. Katansei extends further, nudging her to hold it. "Come on! That was a fun game we played! Hope we can do it again!" He says with a manic grin.

After a moment of calm, Clownpiece grins back and grabs his hand. "Let's play now!" She screams in joy.

Her strength is nowhere near that of a small child. Katansei struggles to pull his hand away from her grip. He feels the force of someone his size pulling on him.

"Whoa! You're stronger than you look, kid!" He casually quips. "What's your secret?"

She grabs him with her other hand and yanks him to the ground. "Never underestimate a fairy!" They roll across the snow, leaving a trail in their scuffle.

Sitting on his stomach, Clownpiece wails her fist down on him. Each hit came with the weight of a young adult behind it. Katansei laughs as he grabs her arms, struggling to hold her back. The little girl titters, her hands inching closer to his face. Hellfire erupts from her sweaty palms. The flame tickles the surface of his skin as his laughter deteriorates into manic cackles from the sight and sensation. Neither of them notices the person or her shadow looming over them. Reimu swings her gohai at Clownpiece, slugging her in the head. Her jester hat flies off as she rockets toward a tree and slams against it. A large lump of snow falls and buries her body.

The Shrine Maiden sighs, "You okay, Katansei?" She grabs his arm.

The young man giggles, "That was so much fun, Reimu! Let's play another round!" His legs waver under his weight.

She smiles at the positive reaction. "Are you sure about that? Seems to me you're tired out." She holds her arms out to catch him if he falls.

"Y-yeah, of course, I am!" He takes her hand to support his stance. "Let me just catch my breath."

With help from Reimu, Katansei manages to sit on the porch. He clutches his stomach as he breaks into a laughing fit.

"I was flying, Reimu! Flying! Shooting magical arrows and sound!" He falls back, staring upward. "You know the strangest part!? It all felt so natural!"

The Shrine Maiden sits with him, staring at the snow-filled scenery. "That's danmaku for you. You don't need brute force, just something pretty to look at."

"Oh, so that's why Clownpiece was manhandling me!" The young hunter claps his hand, "Does that mean we can get in a fist fight with an oni!?"

She flicks his forehead, "Picking a fight with an oni." Another flick. "Insanity is not an excuse for being dumb!" Reimu lets loose a rapid-fire of flicks!

Katansei rolls away from Reimu, "Ow! Ow! Sorry! It sounded cooler in my head!" He rubs his temple. "Still... The fact that you made a way for anyone to get on even footing with a yokai." He rolls back towards her and points. "You're amazing, Reimu!"

Her eyes gleam, "Pretty generous with your words, but how about some more donations instead?" She says, with a smirk.

"Sure!" Katansei digs through his pockets and tosses a small bag to her.

Reimu fumbles the pouch, "H-Hold on! Throw it into the donation box! This looks like you're giving me protection money!" She tosses it back.

Katansei throws his pouch at her again. "I'm donating it to you! So, this is completely fine. I'm sure your God will be fine if their kindest and bestest shrine maiden they ever had is getting rewarded!" He gives a toothy grin.

The young lady fidgets in her seat. "I don't know where to begin with what you said!" Seeing that his mind isn't back yet. Reimu drops the bag to her side. "You know what? Forget it: let's just leave it here until you calm down, yeah?"

A hatless Clownpiece flies towards the two; a red mark visible on the side of her head. Despite losing, she wears a big smile on her face. One of her front teeth is missing, but she didn't seem to mind.

"So... what do you think!?" She asks, anticipation in her voice. "You liked it, didn't you? Not caring what anyone wants and just letting loose!"

The image of her chaotic hellfire begins to extinguish, his sanity returning after being driven away by it. His silly grin fades out to his more stoic state, and his rapid breathing steadies. Katansei pulls himself up to look at the fairy. A look of uncertainty in his eyes.

"I... can't imagine myself forgetting this duel." He admits scratching his chin. "I'm not sure how, but maybe I can make my spellcards instead of burrowing, and then we can have an even better duel." A small, nervous smile spreads on his face.

She shakes her head at a rapid speed. "No, no, no, I mean just being yourself! Not tangled up by what some rando is whining about." Clownpiece flies closer, holding out her torch. "You got to do boring adult stuff, but wouldn't it be cool if you could burn all that out of your head?"

"Or you could live in the forest like a friend of mine," Reimu speaks up. "No need to do anything drastic. Just saying."

Katansei looks at her with confusion. "How is living in the Forest of Magic less drastic? Are they even human?" He asks, though, in his head, he can see the appeal of it.

"She's human." The shrine maiden shrugs, "From what she told me, it isn't that bad..." She says, twirling one of her bangs.

The young man looks back at the spent torch. He could see the charred remains of his old blindfold. Emotions swirl in his head, unsure if they're good or bad. She wants him to have it. Not for using it since it's the same torch from their duel. It's to remind him of what it felt being free. Katansei takes a deep breath. Is this something he could take? What about his mother? What if she needs him for something and he isn't there to help? He lets go of his breath and.

[] ...I'll think about it (He takes the torch).

[] I'm sorry, but no (He rejects the torch).

Art by ちゃまじ(chamaji
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[X] ...I'll think about it (He takes the torch).

Character development, let's go! Nice update, by the way.
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[X] ...I'll think about it (He takes the torch).

Great update. Can’t wait for more.
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[] ...I'll think about it (He takes the torch
Man, this story's good!
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Votes are closed! And so, the torch is passed,

I'm happy to hear how you guys are enjoying the story!
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The short, sweet memories of his inhibitions incinerated creep into his mind. No one to hold him back, judge him, or make him worry. He felt like he could march back to the village without his blindfold, and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it. Perhaps there's a way he could experience it again without the need for the torch.

"I'll think about it." Katansei grabs the torch from the ecstatic Clownpiece's hand. "You know, talking to you, I remember there's something I wanted to ask you about."

"Oh? What is it?" The fairy plops down on Reimu's lap, who's groaning at the lack of space.

The young hunter pauses, unpreparedness rearing its ugly head. Caught up in finding out more about Junko, he didn't think what to ask. What's more, if Clownpiece does answer his questions, what's stopping her from telling Junko about this? Would she see this as a sign of aggression and retaliate? It begins to dawn on him that he'd focused too much on the small picture. Again. The two girls stare at the boy in deep thought.

"Oi Katansei," Her flat tone pulls him out of his jumble thoughts. "You're not thinking of weird stuff again, are you?."

He waves her question off, "I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm trying to think of a question to ask." He says, looking away to see the serene white carpet blanketing the shrine.

"Say it then! No thinking allowed!" The fairy pipes up, hitting Reimu's chin with the top of her head.

"Get off of me!" The fairy lets out a 'wee!' as she's pushed into the snow with a soft thump. "The brat does have a point though. Just ask it, and if it's weird, you'll learn from it." She says, rubbing the sore spot.

Katansei hums, mauling her suggestion over. He looks down at the fairy, who's busy making a snow angel. "Clownpiece," She stops but doesn't lift her face off the ground. " ...Could you tell me what kind of person Junko is? " He asks, fiddling with the hems of his winter coat.

The shrine maiden quirks her eyebrows, "You know her?"

He shrugs, "We had a short conversation, but it was nice. You've met her too, Reimu?" He asks, smiling. What luck that he would find another person who may know more about Junko?

She points down at Clownpiece, sitting up with her chin resting on her fist, "It's because of her and her friend that this runt lives under my floorboard."

The fairy hums out loud, catching both humans' attention. "Junko is super cool!" She jumps up from the snow. "It's cuz of her that I'm the strongest fairy in Gensokyo! I'm sure you already figured that out." She says, with her chest puffing out.

"You're the only fairy I met who didn't run away from a fight." Katansei comments.

The little girl nods, "Yup! Let's see, oh! She likes overthrowing oppressors just like me!" She begins, her hands starting to fidget. "And, and, she's smart too! One time, I played a prank on her by hiding her hat. The day didn't pass, and she already knew where it was!"

Reimu jabs her thumb at the shrine behind her, "She always hides anything she takes to her room under."

Clownpiece's face flushes red. "You don't know that; shut up."

The two begin hurling insults at each other, derailing the conversation. "Is there anything else you could say about Junko?" Katansei interjects, putting his arms in between them.

She backs off from the frustrated shrine maiden. "Junko's calm ninety-nine percent of the time, but once she's in the one percent, even I can't keep up with her!" The fairy gives a toothy grin.

A confused smile spreads on the young man's face from her description. An image of Junko brimming with child-like glee pops in his head. Her once vacant eyes, brimming with life, is that what's hidden under her stoicism? What kind of person is she like when she's excited? More important is if he should be a concern.

"It's pretty rare, but that's what makes you so interesting," Clownpiece says, pointing at Katansei.

This disrupts his thought process, "I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what you mean by that." He says, wondering how he's involved.

She flies closer to him, causing him to lean back. "I don't know what you guys were talking about, but Junko was super excited to see you again." She says, smiling.

Reimu leans forward, "Why is she?" She asks in an even tone.

Conflicted feelings blend in his head. One part of him wants to smile at seeing Junko again. The other side leaves Katansei in an urgent state. When she left the first time, he couldn't help but feel; that he had missed an opportunity. Now that he's sure she'll be back, he wants to prepare. The reason why he doesn't know, all that matters is that he doesn't miss it again.

The fairy shrugs, "Don't know, but I hope I can be there when you see each other!" She presses a finger up her lower lip. "Besides her being close to the Boss? Yeah, that's all I know about her."

The young hunter digests the information he can find in the girl's description of Junko. He looks over to Reimu, a troubled expression on her face. She stands up and meets his eyes.

"Katansei, I want to tell you something in private." She tells him before heading inside the shrine. "I'll know if your eavesdropping, Clownpiece."

She smirks, "Oh yeah? What're you going to do about it."

The shrine maiden turns her head to her and gives a sweet smile. "Ex~ter~mi~nate~"

Not wanting the two to antagonize each other any further, the young man follows her inside the shrine. The room is colder now that the hell fairy is outside. Reimu faces the direction of the main entrance while Katansei stands to the side to avoid blocking her view.

"I have a bad feeling about this," She states. "What did you guys talk about exactly?"

While he is pleased that he found another person who knows about Junko, "As far as can recall, it was an innocent conversation with some awkward moments." He doesn't like the shrine maiden's reaction. "We talked about family for the most part."

She crosses her arm under her sleeves and sighs, "So she just walked up to you, and that's how it started?"

"Yeah, she told me how she reminded him of someone she knew." Katansei begins to pace back and forth, "That's right! She wanted to see how similar I was to him!"

"Someone she used to know... She seems calm at the moment. Or is this an 'in the eye of hurricane' situation?" Reimu looks up at the ceiling and groans. "Ugh, there's not much to get from this!"

The young hunter nods, "I think it'll be best if we find more people who know about Junko, like Clownpiece's boss." He stops moving. "Speaking of the fairy, she mentioned yesterday that 'Boss' was planning to have dinner at Eintei."

"Hecatia is the one she's mentioning; you'll know who she is when you see her. Trust me." Reimu says, "But Katansei, are you sure you want to get further involved in this?" She asks.

"I don't have much of a choice since Junko will most likely come looking for me." He shrugs, "Besides, we both know how something is always happening in Gensokyo. There's a good chance something else requires your attention."

Reimu gives a knowing tire look, "Lucky me." She walks towards the door leading to her room. "I'm going to go work on your new blindfold. If you're planning to go, make sure to tell me. There's something I have to give to you." She snaps her finger, "Oh yeah, don't forget about your coin pouch."

Katansei lets out a small gasp. "Oh gods, I forgot about that! Thank you for reminding me, Reimu!"

She smirks, "What can I say? I am the kindest and bestest shrine maiden around." With that, she goes inside, not waiting to see his reaction.

The young man blushes hot red as his sane mind recalls his unfiltered antics. 'She could have kept the yens to herself that would have been better than remembering this...'

He takes a deep breath and releases it. It'll take a while for Reimu to finish his request, so now it's time to decide what to do. It wouldn't be evening if he goes to Eintei now, but he still needs to have a check-up on his neck. Plus, it would give him time to catch up with some of the folks he met as a child. A devious thought crawls in his head. The danmaku with Clownpiece left him with a grumbling stomach. Why not head back to the village and grab something to bite? He chuckles, imagining what kind of expression those skittish hicks would have.

[] Head back to the village: It's a bit risky, but the fight has left you with a desire for some dangos.

[] Head to Eintei: You still need your neck checked out. It would also be nice to see familiar faces you haven't seen in a while.

Source of image: https://www.pixiv.net/en/artworks/26485686
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[X] Head to Eintei: You still need your neck checked out. It would also be nice to see familiar faces you haven't seen in a while
Leaving an Injury unchecked is always a bad Idea. Also meet the Entei crew would be helpful in the future.
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[x] Head to Eintei: You still need your neck checked out. It would also be nice to see familiar faces you haven't seen in a while.

Been waiting for this update and I love it.
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[X] Head to Eintei: You still need your neck checked out. It would also be nice to see familiar faces you haven't seen in a while.

Straight into the SMT chaos route.
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Voting is closed! Time to check that wound.

Although the next update will take a while. Since we're having a little contest on this site, I'll be focusing on writing my entry as I would like to see how I do under a deadline. Sorry for any inconvenience!
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'Time to have this wound checked at.' Katansei taps the door the shrine maiden had entered with his knuckle. "Reimu, I'm heading off to Eintei; I'll be back around the afternoon."

The sound of shuffling is heard from inside as the door slides open, "Here, take these." She gives him a few blank spellcards. "When you think of something beautiful, put those feelings into these."

He couldn't help but smile while looking them over, "You had been nothing but kind to me. I am grateful for it from the bottom of my heart, Hakurei Reimu." The young hunter bows.

"Hey, you know where the donation box is," She turns her face away from the door, waving him off "Try not to die on the way there, Katansei."

'What an odd way of saying Stay safe...' He nods "I won't; you take care too."

The Shrine Maiden looks at him before nodding and then closes the door without a word. He steps outside and picks up his coin purse off the porch. Without a word, the young hunter drops some coins in the donation box before leaving. Overall, he believes that this was an astounding success! Not only is he getting a new blindfold, but now he has gotten a means to fight yokai with no risk of injuries needed. Katansei couldn't wait to tell his mom!

"Aw, man..." He hears the Star-Spangled Fairy behind him.

"What's the matter?" He asks, turning around to see her holding her jester hat.

She holds it up for him to see two fingers wiggling through a hole on the top of it. "That arrow you hit me with did this; the boss isn't going to like that..." Her shoulders slump in dejection.

Katansei bends down to Clownpiece's height to get a closer look at the hat, "If you want, I could ask my mom to fix it; the damage doesn't seem that bad." He offers

The fairy beams, "You're serious? Neat!" She shoves her hat toward him. "It'll be like nothing ever happened!"

"Indeed, if mom's not too busy, she'll have it done by the time night falls." He stands up and walks over to pick up his hama yumi. "See you then, Clownpiece, and thank you for the duel; it was fun." He waves.

Her grin grows wider as she waves back with her whole arm. "Buh-bye, Kata! Shoot anything that looks funny!"

The young man snorts, taking his first steps down the steep staircase. Like before, the doubts and worries fade away. His view of the snowy forest expands, as does his view of the unknown ahead.

In the opening of a burnt woodland; lay a dead god. Underneath him was a child. The mother weeps as she is alone evermore. She called out to her son, but only the harsh, searing winds answered. Twigs and leaves crunching nearby, the noise comes closer before stopping near her. She couldn't look away from her son. The lonely hunter, who shot and killed nine gods, came to pay his respect to his final target. To his horror, he realized that there was a tenth, a manufactured accident birthed by vengeance. Kneeling next to the mother, he told her everything he knew. She goes quiet, turning her head slightly to see this stranger. Their eyes met with the man's riddled with shame, while hers were first recognition, then pure fury. The mother burned away, leaving only a fox in her wake.

"I will accept any punishment you deem necessary for me." Those were the final words of the lonely hunter before the fox ended him.

The snow beneath him crunches as he treks through the dense trees on the road. Katansei plucks the string of his bow to keep any monster at bay. He frowns, wondering why his imaginary friend hasn't talked since the duel with Clownpiece. Was he also affected by the hellfire?

"Shinno," he calls out, but there is no response. "Is everything alright, Shinno?"

A sudden, odd noise rings inside his head. It didn't sound like an animal or something natural, feeling otherworldly. Then Katansei realizes what it could be. 'The Yamanba, she must be the one causing this; is she calling for me?' After the third time, it stops as if it never happened.

Then, an old man's groaning rumbles in his mind, 'Kata...? Did we win?' He mumbles.

The young man grins, "We did, Shinno! Our first danmaku, and we won!" He says aloud.

Shinno barks out a triumphant cry, his tiredness completely evaporating, 'But of course, we did, boy! With men like us, winning is only natural!'

The density of the oak trees dwindles, leading to an opening. It felt more like a border between the two settings; the mighty oak trees face against the tall, mysterious grass in the winter field. The Bamboo Forest of the Lost is now in sight. Katansei informs his imaginary friend about everything that had happened after the fight, including the strange noises and who's behind them.

'Good grief, Kata, I was wondering what happened to your hair.' Shinno says, displease from the new info to him. 'So what's your plan then? Meet this lady as soon as possible?'

He shakes his head, "Maybe, I still need to get this cut checked out." He says, "And if possible, to catch up with some familiar faces."

'Fair enough. Speaking of familiar faces, who are you looking forward to meeting the most?' Shinno asks

Katansei hums; the question never crossed his mind. "Hmm, tough to say, maybe Granny Tewi or Ms. Mokou."

'Fujiwara no Mokou? As far as I recall, we only met her twice to and back from the bamboo forest.' The older man says. 'I understand the rabbit since you were with her the most during your mother's operation, but why her?'

"Yeah, she barely talked, but she is the first human we met outside the village." Katansei looks across the snowy clearing. "I'm curious how she feels living by herself."

Shinno chuckles, 'Living is a bit debatable for a being like her.'

The young man raises an eyebrow, "How so?" He asks

A moment of silence 'Well, you know, right?' The older man shies away.

"I don't think so. That's why I asked you to clarify."

If he had a face, Shinno would be grimacing. 'I mean, do you remember how her house looked?' The uncertain tone in his voice melts away. 'It looks more like a shack than anything! Just look at it. It's over there.'

Katansei focuses his attention ahead he's eyebrows raise as he realizes it is her house. "Oh hey, speak of the devil, and it shall appear." He steps closer, looking over Mokou's house. "It does have that feeling of being small, but I don't know, Shinno; it doesn't look that bad."

'I have high standards; say, what's that on the door?' Katansei steps closer to the sign '" Gone fishing, be back shortly" Well, that's a shame.'

"Guess we'll have to wait for her." The young man says with reluctance.

'Why not skip the middleman and track down Tewi instead?' Shinno suggests as Katansei mauls over his options.

[] Wait for Mokou

[] Track Tewi
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[X] Track Tewi
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Just wanted to say I'm pleased of how the story is going so far and I would like to hear your thoughts. It could be anything, maybe you see something that could use some improvement, or you find something you do like and want to see more of it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would love to talk and discuss how the story is going with you guys.
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[X] Wait for Mokou

This one will be safer. As for my opinion on the story. I really like it. Especially since it focuses on Junko and that we'll probably see Hecatia in the future. I also like dialogue and characterization. It's very believable.
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[X] Wait for Mokou

I think the story and writing is fine as it is, so no complaints from me in terms of dialogue, discriptions and story telling. I'm personally wondering if we'll get to see the Watatsuki Sister and Sagume in this Story but I'm just happy to read a Story were (relatively) new characters are the focuse. The SMD, the Moryia Shrine etc. are great and all but Gensokyo has way more then just that. (Sidenote Gensokyo would be a great setting for an Advature Story)

Although since we're heading towards Eientei, I do hope you don't characterise Kaguya as a NEET. NEET!Kaguya has got to be one of the worst Fandom Interpretations, up there with bratty Eiki. Eitherway, looking forward to the next update.
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Voting is closed! Time to wait for the fire hermit.

Thank you, I'm glad you're both enjoying it!
When I was reading up about Kaguya, it left me wondering how she got that reputation when she seems to enjoy going out and chatting with other people. Although I did look her up today, so maybe it made more sense back then.

As for the sisters and Sagume, I can't say for sure at the moment.
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Yeah I don't know where the whole NEET thing came either although thanks to Cheating Detective Satori we can be 100% sure that she isn't one, considering her personality that was shown and the fact that it is mentioned that she sneaks out into the Human Village from time to time
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Nodding to himself, Katansei turns away from the sign. "Let's wait for Ms.Fujiwara. For all we know, the luck I could get from tracking Granny Tewi wouldn't be enough to get to Eintei." He says.

'I can see that,' shortly after, Shinno chuckles to himself. 'Could you imagine it though, Kata? Getting more injuries because you were going to see a doctor?'

The young man smiles, "Doctor, Doctor, help me, Good Doctor!" He faux shouts, clutching his neck. "I need this scratch checked out! Ah, please don't mind the missing limbs; just the neck and nothing more~"

His friend lets out a sharp bark, 'What do you mean I have to stay!? I only came here to make sure my neck was fine, dammit!' The two deteriorate into a laughing fit as each tries to make the imaginary situation more ridiculous than the last.

As time passes, Katansei begins to calm down and takes a deep breath while Shinno's still laughing his gut out. He reaches inside his coat and pulls out one of the three spellcards Reimu gave him. Despite being folded for a good part of his walk to Eintei, it looks fine as it was when he first saw it. He looks up to examine the scenery around him.

The innards of the Bamboo forest are viewable, but the young man couldn't help but feel that some of the shoots were no longer in their original positions. The difference is tiny, leaving him to wonder if he's misremembering it and they were always in that position, or the bamboo did move, but just enough for him to doubt himself. Maybe that's why there's such a defined line between them and the Forest of Magic trees. One side thrives on visceral terror from the beasts and debilitating spores to the point even some yokai would rather avoid it. The other side, which is more subtle, makes the unfortunate soul who's lost doubt their eyes and memories. A slow burn, its terror of never finding a way back home weighing more on the mind until it cracks. The madness of losing yourself or how you perceive yourself. Pure lunacy.

A faint glow emits from the blank spellcard grabbing his attention away from nature. Staring at it, he recalls Reimu's short instruction and pours his thoughts into the canvas. Shinno's laughter dies down as the light shines, softly humming. The once-empty canvas now shows the scenery of dense bamboo. It's only a still image, but like its true counterpart, there's a feeling of change.

'Well, what do you know, our first spellcard! What do you think of it, Kata?' Pride swells in his friend's voice.

The boy rolls his tongue against his cheek, "I can't say for sure it's not quite what I had pictured in mind." He hums. "I have more memories about Forest of Magic than I do with this place, so I thought my first spellcard would have something to do with it."

Katansei scratches it, "How am I supposed to tell how it looks when I do use... Oh!" Miniatures green bullets shoot up from the card and slowly move around in large groups with small gaps that someone could squeeze between if they're calm.

Simple, but it can get the job done if whoever is dueling isn't careful. 'Do you think it would be possible to make a spellcard that impossible to dodge?' Shinno asks off-handly.

"Reimu said that danmaku is a contest of beauty," He points out, "I'd imagine I would be too busy wondering if I could have dodged it rather than admiring its form."

'Hmm, if it's beauty, then I guess that would be the equivalent of someone shoving their artwork to your face.' His friend says.

A twig snaps nearby them.

Katansei drops his spellcard, grabs an arrow, and draws it toward the direction of the noise. The person lazily raises her hands, sporting a plain expression on her face. She looks like Fujiwara no Mokou, with her singed white shirt and blood-red hakama that a man would wear decorated with fire charms. It seems she was in a fight from the tears in her clothes but lacking injuries.

"You need to go to Eintei?" She asks, "I can help you reach there."

The young hunter did not relax, "Where's your fishing equipment?"

Her mild expression turns to slight irritation, "That? Well, I got in a fight with a royal pain in the ass, and it got caught in the action." She rolls her neck, the sound of her bones cracking. "So did the fishes too..."

His eyes focus on her, and the world around them fades to black. Katansei smells the smoke and sweat coming from 'Mokou'; her heart is beating fine, a bit slow for his comfort. She shifts her body to a more relaxed position, twirling her long snow-white hair out of boredom or nervousness. Judging from the casual look of her scarlet eyes' it's the former. Nothing about her behavior hints that this is an ambush from a disguised yokai.

Katansei lets go of his breath as color returns to the world, "My apologies, Ms. Fujiwara, it has only been yesterday since a yamanba attacked me." He places his arrow back in his quiver and bows deeply.

The woman waves it off, "Eh, you're being a bit hard on yourself there, kid. Loosen up." She says, walking up to him.

As he straightens up, he realizes how the much years have passed. He had to look up to see Mokou's face. Now, he's the one that needs to look down. It feels odd, but in a good way; perhaps now he can return the favor for what this hermit did for his family.

Mokou rubs her chin, squinting her eyes at him, "This isn't the first time you've been here, right?" She asks

Katansei smiles, "No, I was here with my parents once; if it weren't for you, my mom wouldn't have survived." He says.

The woman begins to snap her finger in quick successions, "A family of three with the mother gravely ill?" He nods, and she snaps one last time. "Ah, you're Douro Katansei, aren't you?"

His eyes widen; she even remembers his name? "Y-Yes, I'm surprised you remembered my name!"

A small smile spreads on her face, "What can I say; my memories are like a book." She jabs a thumb toward the bamboo. "And you? You remember the general rule of thumb when inside?"

"Do as you say or starve to death; that's all I can recall." It was a moment he couldn't forget.

A sunny day; with no clouds in the sky. His father, who he once thought was immovable, rattled to the core. His mother took everything with grace. Unresponsive and burning to the touch. Then there was him, a scared and confused child demanding Mokou that they go faster. Desperation took its toll on the young boy; he ran ahead, trying in vain to rush through the bamboo forest. He heard his father yelling for him and hand with a vice grip on his wrist. The hermit lifted him off his feet and told him that rule of thumb. He calmed down at some point, but she didn't let go until they got to Eintei.

"Good! Your brain grew as well." She taps his forehead with her knuckle, "Let me change my clothes, and then we'll go." Mokou grabs the sign hanging from the door and enters her abode.

The young hunter bends over and picks up his spellcard, 'Hey, Katansei. I need you to be honest with me for a moment; it's about Junko.' Shinno speaks up.

'What is it, Shinno?' He asks in his thought.

'I think it's safe to say that she is bad news regardless if you remind her of someone she likes or doesn't like.' His friend explains. 'One of the more unfortunate aspects when it comes to non-humans.'

'That's reasonable, but I already had this talk with Reimu; we can't avoid it.' Katansei folds the spellcard and puts it back in his coat.

'And have you asked her for help?' The older man questions.

'No, this is my situation, and I don't want to drag anyone else into it.' The young man crosses his arms, leaning against the wall of Mokou's house, the sound of the wood creaks.

'There, right there; we need to nip that attitude before it grows.' Shinno says, 'She is the Hakurei shrine maiden. It is her born duty to protect the people of Gensokyo.'

'And she does, but as I said, I don't want to drag anyone in this.'

'Even if it's their job!?'

'Yes! She's a busy person Shinno!'

'I don't care if she's busy, Kata; we need to focus on ourselves!' The old man's voice becomes more gravel, 'We need connections; I know it seems strange since I was hesitant about the idea of befriending the girl, but that was before Junko became involved.'

'Father was an outsider; when he came here, he adapted and managed to have a wife and a child.' Katansei moves off the wall and begins to pace around 'Mom goes out at night to sell the clothing she made to the yokai. She has adapted. That is what the Douro family does; we adapt and overcome!'

'And look how well your idiotic father "adapted" in the village!' As he hears this, the young man stops abruptly.

His teeth grind, and his grip on his hama yumi tightens, "What did you just say?" Fury leaks through his whispering.

The old man remains silent, "Let's talk about it, Shinno since you decided to bring that up. He left because those hicks couldn't do what we can, something your senile mind has conveniently forgotten!" Katansei's voice remains low, walking away from Mokou's house. "I get your looking out for me, but I will not tolerate that utter disrespect you've spat me with!"

He hears his friend let out a tired sigh '...You're right, it was uncalled for, and I'm sorry.' Shinno relents. 'We've seen how your mother and father adapted, but I wanted to point out that Shiage's way, as you pointed out, involved regular customers, making deals to get more threads, tools, and much more.'

Katansei didn't say anything, 'Without those connections, the situation back at home would be terrible. I understand you're reason against this, but you need to rely on more than just me.'

"I made it this far because of you and my family." The young man states.

'Yes, and I think it's time we expand from there.' Shinno follows up. 'It doesn't have to be now, and heck, why not we tell your mom about this situation?'

"I can't see how that would help."

'If she were to find out some other way, perhaps Junko was snooping around wanting to learn more about you, or some yokai caught wind about this and couldn't mind their own business.' Shinno says, 'This'll leave a nasty mark on how much she trusts you.'

"Than what? Have her in a constant state of worrying if she'll lose another person she loves? Mom has done so much for me; how could I call myself her son if I put her through that?" Katansei looks up at the cloudless blue sky.

A chuckle echoes in his head, 'You think she doesn't do that whenever you go hunting in the yokai-infested forest?' His friend asks

"W-Well, I don't want to add any more reasons for her to worry!" The young man grimaces.

'If you say so, can you at least tell me if you'll consider my suggestion?' Shinno asks, waiting with bated breath.

Katansei takes a deep breath and then exhales.

[] "I'll think about it."
- [] Inform mom about Junko

[] "I'm sorry, Shinno, but I can't."

Art by ikrauni67
I hope you guys liked this update and I look forward to seeing the choices you make and your reasons behind it! Or thoughts about the story.
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[X] "I'll think about it."
- [X] Inform mom about Junko
As Shinno said, she's already worried about him. Not telling her would make it worse and if she finds out she will be even more worried about the other possible dangerous things he might hiding from her.
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Voting is closed! Man, looking back from previous updates, it's only been recent that I've been holding votes open for a week. Still, it feels nice looking back and see the progress I made with this story.
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Man there are many hints about Katansei and Reimu
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The young man lets out a sigh. 'Alright, Shinno, I'll tell her... Just give me some time to prepare myself.'

'By all means, I know it's not easy for you.' His friend says as the door to Mokou's house creaks open with the owner leaving in fresh winter clothing.

She's wearing a different hakama judging how the fire charms were in other spots now. Her coat is a snow-white jacket made of leather with a diamond pattern. The unorthodox design makes it clear that it's from the outside world. He wonders if mom would approve of an odd combination like this.

"That's quite a jacket, Ms. Fujiwara; the people from outside sure have some... creative tailors."

'Is that what they call it now?.' Shinno mumbles.

The hermit grins before turning around and showing off a red phoenix with its wings spread out to the shoulders, "You're telling me! I can't believe someone would throw this baby away!" She exclaims.

He shrugs, "Maybe the original owner forgot they had it."

"If they forgot that this coat existed, they don't deserve it!" She closes the door to prevent the cold air from getting in. "Anyway, ready to get going?" Katansei nods, and the two enter the Bamboo Forest of the Lost.

Distant noises echo throughout the maze, with the wind brushing against the twigs and the unseen denizens. Bamboos were all the eye could see, with the only possible guide being the ancient hermit in the modern jacket. Despite the bright day and having a simple check-up, Katansei plucks his bow string while holding an arrow. His neck leans forward as his eyes turn shifty. Ten years have passed, but nothing seems to have changed. A little boy who needs his hand held to avoid sinking.

Mokou looks over her shoulder to see his tense state. "You're doing a great job of keeping an eye out, kid, but you look like you're going to lose it any minute now." She stops and turns around to face him.

He stops with a grimace expression, "Sorry... I thought I would be fine, but I'm starting to feel as useless as I was when mom was sick." The young hunter says, resisting the urge to look away from her and into the surrounding.

Mokou stands in front of him, "Straighten up." He did as told, "That's too rigid; you need to relax, but not to the point of looking smug." She takes a deep breath, and Katansei mimics it.

Then he exhales, repeating it a few more times, "Better?" He nods. "Good to hear." She says before turning forward to continue down the dirt path.

The young man follows suit, "Ms. Fujiwara, what is it like living outside the village?" He asks, curious and wanting to keep his mind calm.

She shrugs, "I love it." The hermit stops at the sight of a pile of rocks and makes a sharp left away from the dirt road. "Way better than living in a city or even a village!"

"How come?"

"I'm immortal," She then motions to her masculine clothing. "I would never hear the end of how I should dress!"

"Oh yeah, you're a woman." He says casually.

'Kata...' His imaginary friend speaks up in disbelief.

The hermit looks up at him with an amusing expression. "Do you talk like that to the girls in the village?"

The young man's eyes bulge out, "What!? No!" He waves it off, "I-I mean, with how long your hair is, everyone will know you're a woman!" He says, mentally kicking himself.

A grin grows on her face. "So if I cut my hair short, they'll think I'm a man?"

He stutters, trying to think what to say without digging deeper into his grave. Hearing Mokou giggle at his attempts didn't help either.

She bumps her shoulder against his arm, "I'm just messing with you, Katansei. No offense taken." She waves it off, cooly.

"Oh." The young man clears his throat "S-So it's the; freedom then?"

The hermit nods, "Basically, yeah. I also like living by myself too."

"...Really?" He asks, disbelief in his tone.

"Yup." She continues walking.

Katansei mauls over what Mokou said. Being alone interests him, but he couldn't recall when he felt content when his fellow villagers avoided him. He remembers fond memories of being in a group as a child before his ability got him in trouble. With a shrug, the young man chalks it up as him just being fickle, and plucks his bow string away.

Silence fell on them as gently as the snow. The sun is now at its highest peak, and the bamboo's shadow covers the two and their path. As the two walk deeper into the forest as it becomes denser and less distinct. The sun's light struggles to shine through the thicket. It all looks the same, tall and shifty, with nothing to tell if they've been in this spot before. The young hunter plays a little melody from his bowstring while trying to mimic Mokou's more relaxing walk. It won't be long before they reach Eintei.

Suddenly, everything goes white and then back to normal. No noises came from the flash, nor did it seem to disturb the wildlife. If someone were to blink at the right time, they would not have noticed it. The young hunter isn't sure what to make of it and looks to his guide. Only to find out that she's looking over at him too. Neither said anything, but they both knew what they saw was real. They hear the noise of bushes rustling and twigs snapping.

Mokou takes a stance, fire growing in her clenching fist. "Stand with your back against mine, Katansei."

He turns around with their backs almost touching. He stresses the bow string further back as if firing an arrow and releasing it. The sharp noise bounces between the bamboo causing it to echo far and wide. Katansei would then repeat the process. Mokou raises her fists, ready to burn anything that twitches. The young hunter catches something shaking in the corner of his eye. A bipedal figure behind the bamboo, he couldn't make out who or what of it. It's holding a metallic object with a barrel aiming at him. He has never seen it before but assumes it's dangerous. Fortunately for him, the creature doesn't seem aware of it getting spotted. The echoes made by his hama yumi cause it to involuntary recoil, unable to aim. At this rate, it may panic if he intensifies each pull. He looks back to his guide, but Mokou's attention is on his blind spot. Whatever this creature is, it doesn't seem alone.

'Kata, Whatever you do, don't hesitate.' Shinno speaks in a calm tone.

[] Shoot an arrow at it
[] Rapidly pluck at the string to make it panic

Art by CetrioloCetos
It's nice that I can continue writing again. Classes were pretty busy!
I hope you're enjoying the story so far!
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THP was acting weird for a moment, so I couldn't mark the post as updated.
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{}Rapidly pluck at the string to make it panic.
Don't want to act overeager while still adjusting to life without the blindfold.
Great work on the story thus far.
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[X] Rapidly pluck at the string to make it panic
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[X] Rapidly pluck at the string to make it panic

This shall be the start of the guitar player arc.
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Voting is closed, thank you for voting!
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With a sharp inhale through his nose, the young hunter pulls the string in shorter and louder intervals. The legend of the hama yumi still holds as the spotted being lets out a shrill scream. Mokou snaps in the direction and flings a fireball at it. Jumping out of the cover and bursting in flames, a rabbit yokai in a full black suit of armor with slick red streaks runs deep into the bamboo forest, its large, protected ears flopping around.

"W-We've been ambushed! Run away!" He yells.

"Coward! Desertion is a capital punishment!" A high-pitch voice barks out.

The hermit flicks in the direction the new voice came from and throws another fireball. A person in a slimmer version of the armor, without rabbit ears, runs out. She retreats in the same direction as the rabbit yokai, firing several shots behind her. Not a single one misses. Mokou hisses in pain as her face becomes a pincushion for all the darts. It did not stop her from flailing her arms around and setting fire everywhere. Katansei pulls the arrow he's been holding back while she acts as his meat shield from the darts. The sound of a bowstring lets loose, but it wasn't from his. An arrow containing a clear fluid hits his forearm as he yelps from the sting. He pivots his waist and fires in a blind panic at the other bowman.

The third hidden ambusher came from the direction Mokou was looking before the shootout. He shoots down Katansei's rushed shot and fires back with another arrow he was already holding. Whether on purpose or accidentally, the hermit wobbles in front of the young hunter and gets hit in the back instead.

She grabs his coat to stay standing, "K-Kaaata, ar-row! Kill me!" She presses her face against his chest and tries to rub against him to remove the darts, moaning in pain as it wedges deeper.

His eyes bug out, "How will that help us, Mokou!?" He sees the silent ambusher pulling another arrow from his quiver as he struggles to reach for his own.

She lifts her neck, "Stop wh-hining! It'll be great for you and me-e!" The hermit slurs out before trying again with vigor to get rid of the darts.

A single pluck of a string deafens any noises around him as Katansei feels a prick on his leg. He tries to lean with his other leg, but as Mokou pushes forward to keep a firm stand causes them to fall. The arrow shaft sticking to his right arm breaks from the impact, but the vial remains latching on him.

"Shinno! I need your help!" He calls out to his friend, but there's no response. "Shinno!?"

"Please trust me when I say this, young man." A rather soothing voice comes from the ambusher. "Besides the eternal sinner, no one is your ally."

'You're in for a surprise then.' The old man mutters, 'Kill her, Kata, do it!'

"Why!? Nothing good could come from it!"

'Yes, there will! Do it!'

With the stress of the situation and the fluid working its way into his brain, the young hunter reaches for his quiver. The man rushes forward to stop him but fails to make it. Katansei looks away as he plunges an arrow into Mokou's neck; her body goes limp on top of him. He looks up at bamboo trees looming over him, blocking the view of the clear sky. Everything goes silent. The ambusher stands over them, his round light blue visor staring at him. He crouches down and grabs the broken arrow that broke off the young man's arm.

"...My apologies for putting you through that." He says before pulling the arrow out of the young man's leg. "It was supposed to go smoother than this." He pinches the vial on his arm and tugs it off.

A hand launches up and grabs his chest plate. "Back off!" A sudden burst of flames hits the soldier square in the chest, launching him back. The vial slips out of his finger from the blast.

The blood splatter on his winter coat, the darts on her face, and the arrow in her back were all reduced to ashes. Her neck wound seals shut, and her eyes are no longer in a drunken haze. She looks over at the teary-eyed boy and gives him a wink and a thumbs up.

"Hears a nice deal: if you give up and tell us why you attacked, I won't burn yah to a crisp." She clenches her fist as flame spews out. "And if you don't. Well, I'm sure your two friends will be more reasonable."

Patting away the fire, the man picks up the rest of the arrows on the ground. "Again, I am sorry for putting you through that." He taps the side of his helmet; his visor begins to glow blue. "Next time will be better, I assure you."

A noise erupts as it gets brighter. "As for you, Shinno, there will be consequences."

Mokou flings a fireball at him before everything flashes a harsh blue and a high pitch sound that only grows louder. Katansei rubs his eyes open and rapidly blinks to ease the stinging feeling. His ears rang from the unknown source.

He could barely hear the hermit and his old friend screaming, "Gah! What the hell!?" She crouches down, roughly rubbing her eyes.

The young hunter looks around the blazing scene and tries to stand up as Shinno curses up a storm in the back of his mind, "Ms. Fujiwara... what happened here?" he asks, wondering why his right arm and leg feel sluggish.

She blinks the stinging sensation away before turning around, "Huh? Wait, did I cause this fire?" She holds her glowing hand up, and the fire swirls into it. "Yeah, those were mine, but why don't I remember using them?"

He notices something amiss, "Where did my arrow... I was holding it a second ago." The young hunter takes his quiver off his back and counts, "It happened again. I'm missing a few more arrows."


"In the morning, I saw that I was missing more than what I used yesterday."

The hermit massages her prickly face, "Maybe a yokai that can mess with memories is behind this?" She walks over and lends a hand to him.

"What would be the point of stealing them?" He grunts as he falls back down, putting too much weight on his right leg, "H-Hey, how are you holding up? My body is feeling weird for some reason."

"Eh, besides my neck feeling stiff, I'm fine. Let's get out of here; Eintei is not far." Mokou grabs his left hand. "Up you go, come on."

"...Thanks." He stands up, cleaning himself from the snow on him. "Ms. Fujiwara, what should we do about this?"

"About what?"

"Look at these footprints in the snow, bipedal and with some heavy boots. Should we keep going through this route?"

"No. Wiping our memories and leaving a trail this easy to see? That screams an ambush."

"Is there another path we can take then?"

She nudges her head in the direction from where they came. Before they go, Katansei spots an object glinting in the snow. With a bit of effort, he bends down and picks it up. A tiny container with a droplet of clear fluid inside.

"Hey, Katansei! Hurry up!" The young flinches and speed walk away, putting the foreign object in his coat's pocket

The two backtrack through the burnt and wet area and take a less disturbed path. Despite appearing casual, Mokou's hands remain shut, smoke seeping out. Katansei stares forward, no longer fiddling with his string to focus on the noise around them. The once-comforting silence is now ruined and keeps them on edge.

"Shinno, do you remember anything that happened before that blue flash?" The young hunter asks his friend.

'Besides you and Mokou standing back-to-back, no, not a thing.' He grumbles. 'Can you use your power to track who attacked us?'

"I don't remember seeing nor hearing them, and the smoke from the burnt bamboos covered up anything else."

'So now we got to wait for them to attack again? Ridiculous!'

"I was thinking of what you said," The hermit speaks up,

"Hmm? What is it?"

"I was thinking if this isn't the first time someone got near you without you remembering, maybe it would best to stay in Eintei until they get bored?"

"But what if they decide to attack anyway?" The idea of bringing trouble didn't sit well for him.

She waves it off, however. "It would be better than stepping into their trap, and besides, they can take care of themselves."

The young hunter frowns, "...I guess, but for how long?"

"Give it about an hour or two." She shrugs, "I'll stay, of course, to guide you out."

"I hope Nemuno is patient, or this might get complicated." He thinks to himself.

Ten years have passed, and Katansei finally returns to Eintei. The place that he has no doubt he will never fully repay the debt for what they did for his family. A festive chanting echoes in the distance. Down the paved road, the pristine white clinic with a red cross on the roof is near. The Eintei Mansion that houses Mistress Kaguya is at the end of the path. Walking inside the clinic: there's a distinct lack of odor, making him self-conscious of his own from fighting Clownpiece to walking all the way here.

And yet, he grins. "This place hasn't changed a bit." The chair layout of the room, the same coat of paint on the wall, and even the medical posters were the same.

"Tell me about it," Mokou walks past him and rings the bell on the desk. "Hey, Eirin! Are you here?"

A familiar young-looking woman in a black buttoned suit and a long pink skirt appears at the desk. "Oh, hi Mokou, is everything alright?"

He remembers this yokai. The droopy; rabbit ears, long purple passing her waist, and bright red eyes. To his embarrassment, he couldn't remember her name as she didn't talk much whenever he did see her. The times she did speak were when she was responding to Doctor Yagokoro's orders.

"It happened again."

Her cheery smile falters, "Ah, Master went to the mansion to look for Mistress Kaguya." She says as she scratches her cheek.

The hermit smirks, leaning in to whisper, "I could come back with her urn." The yokai makes a queasy expression at the remark.

"We'll wait for her to return."

"If you say so." She turns to the young hunter, "Welp, I'll be heading to the manor. Hope everything will be fine for you, Katansei." She pats his shoulder as she leaves.

"Thank you, Mokou, and see you soon." He waves goodbye before looking back at the rabbit yokai. "Hello, I got into an accident, so I came here for a check-up."

She gives a polite but more artificial smile before passing him a clipboard and a pen, "Please sign your family name here," He does as he's told and gives it back to her.

She walks behind the counter and opens the door to the side. "Right this way, Mister Douro." He couldn't help but smile, it feels good being an adult!

The young hunter enters and follows the yokai through the hall. "Could you tell me what happened?" She asks.

"Yesterday, I had a run-in with a yamanba who slid her large knife along my neck." He answers as he loosens his scarf.

"That sounds terrible! Ah, before I forget, my name is Inaba Reisen, and I'll be your nurse for this check." The young(?) nurse says, looking over her shoulder.

"I'm in your care, Ms. Inaba." He gives a brief bow. "And I assure you that the wound is superficial; it's just that I don't know where that knife has been before."

She hums, "If you're concerned about something harmful entering your body, I could take a blood sample and have it looked at."

Katansei's survival instincts kick in as the idea of giving a yokai a droplet of blood is a drop too many. Giving away your hair is concerning, but the life source for his body? Another side of him, for them saving his mom. No, not just his mom, his whole family. He is willing to put his trust in Reisen and Eintei.

[] "I'm a bit nervous, but sure."

[] "Doesn't that sound a little extreme?"

Art by motako0103
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[X] "I'm a bit nervous, but sure."

These rabbits(?) had a neuralyzer and pumped something into our heroes using darts. I think doing a blood test might reveal something interesting.

>"As for you, Shinno, there will be consequences."
I knew there was something off about the imaginary friend; I mean, yeah, it's an imaginary friend, and that's weird enough, but honestly, it isn't that weird compared to the other stuff in this setting. Still, I did not suspect he would have ties to what I am guessing is a moon rabbit men-in-black type of squad or that anyone else would talk to him directly beside our protagonist.

Also, is it supposed to be Eientei or Eintei?
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I just found out now I've been spelling it wrong since April last year. It is supposed to be spelled Eientei.

Thank you for mentioning this.
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[X] "I'm a bit nervous, but sure."
Seems like a simple examination. I don't think there's anything nefarious going on here and relaying on professional help would be the better option.
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There is a slight reason to be suspicious of Reisen: Katansei's missing memories. The canonical character with the power most suitable for causing that would be Miyoi, but she has not been anywhere near this story, yet. The second most suitable power would be Reisen's insanity, and the attack did involve rabbits. Though, the attackers did seem more like Moon rabbits than Eientei rabbits, and if Reisen had been there she would have had to run to get back to Eientei before Katansei and Mokou, so those factors make her less suspicious. But still, it's something to keep note of.
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Katansei slowly nods, "I'm a bit nervous, but sure."

A surprised look splashes on her face before changing to a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, it'll be a short process, and you won't even notice." She says as she opens the door and ushers him in.

The rooms where the patients go to were still the same. A large bed with rails on the side, a small desk, and a chair on wheels at the side. Cabinets above it brimming with medicines and an ornate window with the bamboo forest in view. A bitter yet sweet feeling surfaces from his chest.

Seeing his mother on a sunny morning hooked up to machines never seen in the village. Father was looking more rundown every time he re-read the same letter. He remembers that night when his mom was finally awake, being in bed hugging her with his dad. At that moment, his whole world was in that room; the only witnesses were his family and the gleaming moon.

Without being told, he sits on the bed and places his hama yumi on the side. The nurse opens the drawer in the desk. She places down a bottle of alcohol, cotton swabs, plastic gloves, a needle in a plastic package, and a blue tourniquet. Reisen pauses for a moment and looks over at him.

"Do you know if you have any allergies, Mr. Dooru?" She asks.

He shakes his head, "I know my mother's side of the family was sickly. I can't say for sure about my father's, but I have never seen him get sick or had an allergic reaction."

The nurse puts on the plastic gloves and grabs the compressing bandage, "I see, and is your mother in need of any medicine? Arm out, please." She asks.

He extends it out, rolling his sleeve up, "Thankfully, no, after the surgery she had here, she's been in good health."

A soft hum seeps from her lips, "Ah, I was wondering why you were so trusting; I can't think of many humans who would let a yokai take their blood without any force." Reisen grazes his arm to see if his skin will react to the plastic.

A question pops into the young hunter's head. "What about you, Ms. Inaba?" She looks up from his arm, her red eyes displaying confusion from his vague question. "It's not often that a yokai carries a duty to help humans."

Her bunny ears twitch up, understanding what he meant. "In return for letting me live here in Eientei, Master Yagokoro gave me this duty." The nurse finds the spot she wants to draw from and wraps the tourniquet slightly above it. "Although, just because it wasn't a choice I made, doesn't mean I regret it."

"Does it hurt when I tie it like this?" She asks as he gives a curt shake of his head. "Okay then, please make a fist for me."

He does what he's told. "It makes sense, I guess. We can't say no when a superior gives us an order, after all." Reisen gives him a blank expression before turning around.

She walks over to grab the cotton ball and bottle of alcohol. "I'm not sure if I agree to that." She does not attempt to explain further, leaving him to wonder.

'Ms. Inaba is a yokai. Which means she has a different view of duty and honor than mine. So long as Doctor Yagokoro gives her orders that she doesn't see as dangerous or a hassle, she'll most likely obey. What do you think, Shinno?' He asks the old man.

'You can't go wrong from keeping a yokai at arms distant, and if I could add on to something, I would suggest being wary of Reisen's master.' Shinno points out, 'With Junko's friend coming for dinner: I would guess they're in good relations.'

'So what you're saying is I'll need to be careful, or else she'll be suspicious and tell Junko?'


The nurse spoke, "Excuse me, um, Mr. Dooru?" He feels a cool liquid across his arm.

Focusing back outside from his head, the young hunter noticed that Reisen had already coated the cotton ball with alcohol. "I was wondering if you could tell me about that surgery your mother had." She asks, rubbing the contents across his arm. "It's just that I've been through a few surgeries, so I don't quite recall all of them."

Katansei waves it off with his other hand. "No, no, you don't have to apologize. I don't mean this disrespectfully, but you were a little hard to remember too." A small chuckle escapes his lips.

Her face relaxes as she closes the bottle and discards the used cotton, "That's good to hear; I was worried that I was walking into a sensitive subject." She places the bottle back on the desk.

"It was about ten years ago." The young hunter nods, "We came in the morning, but she had to stay for months hooked to a couple of machines to breath." He says, his tone trying to stay even.

Reisen's bunny ears shoot up, "Oh, that one!" As fast as they stood straight up, her ears drooped further down. "That... that was nerve-wracking one, to say the least." She says, scratching her cheek.

He nods in solidarity, "Absolutely! I've never seen my dad so worried in my life before!"

"I don't mean to sound rude, Mr. Dooru, but your father is scary when he's worried." She walks back to him with two vials with shut caps, the needle in the plastic bag, a few more cotton balls, and a bandage. "Talking to him felt like tip-toeing through a minefield."

A heavy feeling churns in his gut, "O-Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Ms. Inaba. Hopefully, he didn't cause too much trouble for you?" He asks.

Ripping the bag open, the nurse pulls out the sharp tool. "I wouldn't say that. He was rather polite whenever we talked. Ah, hold still for a second..." She grabs his extended arm and inserts the needle into his vein.

The sensation of his skin getting pierced barely registers in the young hunter's mind. Reisen smiles as she sees blood in the catheter and attaches the vial underneath the needle. Before he realizes it, the tube fills up with his red life source. The two were silent during the procedure as she replaced the now full vial with a new one, sucking his blood like a vampire. The rabbit nurse unties the tourniquet and places another cotton ball before placing a bandage over it after removing the needle.

"There, All done now!" She takes off the gloves and throws them in the disposal. "It'll take a bit for the scans to complete. Do you have any questions you want to ask?"

[] Stay and talk to Reisen
[] Go out and explore Eientei
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Art by yunickckck3

I forgot to add that part. It's also been more than a year since The Fox and The Hunter has been made and I got to say, I enjoyed making this and can't wait to continue.

Thank you all for taking your time to read my story.
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[X] Stay and talk to Reisen
The Fox and The Hunter and The Rabbit
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[X] Go out and explore Eientei
I'm going with this one, though mostly in the hope of meeting Kaguya otherwise I would've stayed with Raisen.
It has also been pretty fun to read them. Great Job man. Have you ever considered crossposting it on other websites such as Ao3, FF.net or the Spacebattle Forum?
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[X] Stay and talk to Reisen

It is really tempting to see who we'd meet by exploring, but Reisen is right here.
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I never actually consider posting this story anywhere else but here. After chatting with other users on discord though, I'll
be posting on Spacebattle in the next update.

I'm happy to hear you're enjoying the story and thank you for bringing this idea to me!
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As long as they're nice to Katansei, he will reach out. "If it's okay, Ms. Inaba, could I... we have a nice chat?" He says, unsure if he came off weird.

Her eyebrow quirks; she didn't seem to have expected his request, "I guess it's a slow day today." She stands up with his blood vial, motioning him to come along.

The young hunter unfurls his sleeve and grabs his hama yumi, following the nurse with a spring in his steps. Today has been an eventful day so far. He has had a total of three conversations! As they walk down the corridor, Katansei softly hums to himself.

'Aren't you being a little too friendly with her?' Shinno asks, 'I understand you want to branch out, but this is...'

He shrugs, "She helped save mom, so I'm happy to obligate."

'She's still a yokai.' Shinno says, 'I just find this strange, that's all.'

The young hunter stops humming, "Anyone would have done the same." He shifts his jaw, "I'm not being strange."

'You willingly gave a yokai your blood.' Irritation seeps through the old man's voice, 'and now you want to be friends; how far are you going to go?'

"As far as a normal person would."

'Do you hear yourself speak?' Shinno says, 'No normal person would do all this!'

"Well, maybe they're the strange ones, not me!" He frowns, "Who wouldn't want to make friends with people who've saved their mother?"

"Is everything alright, Mr. Dooru?" Reisen asks, looking back as she walks.

"H-Huh?" Katansei nods, "Yes, I'm fine; you don't have to worry."

She raises an eyebrow, "Are you sure? You were humming a second ago, but now you have this serious expression." She says.

"It's nothing concerning," He says, trying to sound reassuring. "I was just disagreeing with a friend of mine."

'Kata!' Shinno shouts

Reisen stops, now looking baffled, "Wha-" Her bunny ears twitch and realization sparks in her eyes. "...Oh! You're speaking to them telepathically!"

He tilts his head with a thoughtful expression. "I never stopped and thought about it before, but yeah, I guess we are." He says, "I would like to clarify, though, that I don't have that ability."

"I see; pardon me for interrupting." She says, with a quick bow on her head.

"It's fine, really, he usually tells me whatever comes to his mind." He says, rubbing his neck.

"Really? He barges in without telling you that he wants to talk?" Her eyebrows furrow, "He sounds rather brutish."

Katansei couldn't help himself grinning, "H-He means well, I assure y-you." He titters at the strange position he's in.

"If you say so," She begins walking again.

'...That was needlessly stressful, Kata,' Shinno says, 'Why did you tell her about me!?'

He rolls his eyes, "It wasn't that bad." To this day, Katansei still doesn't know why his old friend gets so shy when being mentioned.

'Just... just be careful around other beings besides humans, okay?' Shinno says.

The young hunter silently sighs, "You should have said that in the beginning."

Reisen points to the door at the side, "That's the staff room, and I'll be in the next room to have these scanned." She holds up the two blood vials before walking further down the hallway.

Inside the room were a set of chairs around the rectangular table. Setting his hama yumi on the table, Katansei walks around, waiting for Reisen.

"Alright, I can do this. We'll talk for a few minutes, then I'll get my results from the scanner, and all will be well!" He claps his cheek to psyche himself. "If she asks me any questions, I'll answer right away! No hesitation!"

His friend's approving hum heightens his confidence, 'If you got to do it, might as well look confident.' The young hunter nods firmly.

After pacing in the room, he takes the seat facing the entrance. He sees a silhouette through the door window, takes a deep breath, and releases it. Reisen enters the room and gives a curt nod to him. Her bunny ears were stiff and straight as she takes her seat. The young hunter attempts to look relaxed, but his rigid posture makes it seem like he's on guard for anything. These two were clearly out of their comfort zone, but that didn't stop them from trying.

The rabbit yokai tries to lean forward, "Ack!" A sharp tug on her hair pulls her head back. "Ugh, you got to be resting back on these chairs; they have a nasty habit of snagging your hair."

"I guess encountering the yamanba had a hidden benefit for me." Katansei chuckles, caressing his short hair.

A pregnant silence passes as the two try to find a way to start the conversation. The buzzing sound from the fluorescent light bulb didn't help either. Shinno coughs, perhaps trying to push his friend to talk or out of discomfort.

"So," Reisen says, "How's your dad?"

As he promised, the young hunter didn't hesitate to answer, "Dead. Excited for the new year?!" His smile freezes, and his pupil shrinks.

"Oh, absolutely!" She says, smiling back at the sweating boy. "Next year will..." Her voice dies down.

Her mind registers the first part he said and what she said. Her bunny ears go limp, devoid of life. The buzzing lightbulb returns with a vengeance as it oppresses the atmosphere. Their determination drowns in the crashing waves of panic. The young hunter unconsciously shifts his shoulder while the rabbit yokai straightens against her chair for support.

"I'm sorry?" She asks.

"The year of the rabbit!" He says, "I guess the other rabbits are excited too, huh!?"

"Y-Yeah, they're kinda rowdy about it," Reisen's voice creaks, "But, uh, what was that first part about?"

He grabs the hama yumi and caresses it, "He was an outsider; you know how dangerous it can be." He tries again to change the subject, "How's Doctor Yagokoro, by the way?"

"You, uh, have my..." She stops herself, thinking what to say.

When she does, she tries to speak but stops at the first word. He could see droplets of sweat on the side of her hide as she stutters. She stops to adjust her tie, loosening it down before tightening it back. Reisen takes a deep breath while her eyes still look shaken.

"She's still kicking!" She clasps her mouth with her hands as her pupils shrank to the size of polka dots.

"T-That's great to hear!" He stutters, his hands sweat from how tight he held his hama yumi. "Great weather we're having, huh!?"

"Right!?" She takes her hands off her mouth and runs it over her head. "Perfect conditions for danmaku!"

"I played it once, but it was great!" He forces a grin in an attempt to look less tense. "I would love to take a shot at you."

His grin stays the same as his eyes show disbelief at what he said.

"D-Don't worry!" Reisen snaps her fingers and points at him to look cool. "That's how everyone feels after meeting me...?" Her eyes wander off in confusion, her fingers slowly curling back.

"Wow, that's, uh," His voice trails off, trying to find the right word to solve all his problems. "Do you want to danmaku now?"

"Yes! Absolutely!" Reisen jumps off her chair, excitement building in her voice, knowing she can leave this room. "Let's do it now!"

Katansei stands up, his shaky smile smoothens out, lost confidence returning. A chair scraping on the floor tears his attention away. Without realizing it, Reisen's long purple hair got caught on the chair again and is now dragging it along. Her eyes are dead-set towards the door, and with her yokai-enhanced strength, she didn't seem aware of it.

"M-Ms. Inaba! Your hair!" He calls out.

She stops, "Wha!?" She swiftly turns around.

The chair lifts off the ground with grace. Before the two can stop it, the flying seat collides against the faucet sink with a metal bending crunch. Water gushes out of the gutted sink, and the chair shatters from the force of the impact. Its remains are scattered across the floor. All the two could do was stare in stunned silence at the destruction. Katansei is the first to recover, as he rushes to her in a blind panic, shaking her shoulder.

"On a second thought, Ms. Inaba!" He exclaims as tears begin to form in the yokai's eyes. "Why not we take a nice walk outside!?"

"M-Master is going to k-kill me!" She cries, combing her hair with her hands.

"Maybe the cool air will calm you!" He stammers, "It's going to be great; I know it!"

She nods, brushing the forming tears away with her sleeve, "Yeah... yeah... That sounds nice right about now." The two speed out of the staff room.

His heart beat faster as they ran through the hall. The disaster of their attempt to socialize and the absurdity of what happened with the chair left them bewildered. Her simple question about his father and his simple (to him) answer is the root of that mess. Katansei threw that troubling thought behind his mind. His sole objective is to walk with Reisen, who's running further ahead. A piece of the chair is still stuck to her hair...

Despite the abysmal attempt at socializing, the young hunter couldn't help but feel a sense of camaraderie with the nurse. The most logical thing to do was apologize and try to fix the sink, but they ran from the mess they made instead. The bar of having a semi-decent conversation was on the ground. Through their combined effort, however, they've found a way to dig below it and straight into hell.

A thought pops into his head. "At least it wasn't entirely my fault this time, right?" He thinks to himself.

"I want to say something to her, but I don't know what it is or how to say it." A feeling of hopelessness grips his mind. "Oh, What's the point? I'll fumble it again like I did with everyone else."

'How about you ask yourself "why" before anything else.' The old man growls. 'I'm more impressed that you still want to talk after that disaster!'

"Why?" The young man repeats to himself

Reisen turns around on the corner, reaching the waiting room before Katansei. By the time he makes the turn, the yokai is already in front of the door. She isn't opening it to the young man's confusion. Her bunny ears were stiff straight along with her whole body. She appears to have heard something outside the building.

Slowing down, he calls out to her, "Ms. Inaba?" He notices that his body is sweating more than it should.

"I didn't run that much, did I?"

"Hot outside...?" Reisen mumbles. "What happened?"

Looking over her shoulder, he could see her hand on the door. He reaches out and touches the wood frame. Why is it so warm?

"What's going on?" She opens the door.

A summer gust bursts through the gap between the door. The two gasp in shock as the hot winds draw tears out of their eyes. Reisen immediately closes the door shut. Sweat clings onto them despite the short time it was open.

"Did someone steal the winter!?" Katansei yells as he unties his heavy coat.

"If that's the case, they stole spring too!" Reisen throws off her black jacket, "I need to report to Master Yagokoro!" She opens the door and runs out.

"Hey, wait! I'm still taking this off!" Katansei calls out, but that didn't stop her.

'First that Nemuno, next Junko, then an ambush, and now this!?' Shinno says, 'There's too many things happening!'

"I know, Shinno, I know!" The young hunter finally takes off his winter coat. "Let me just get my bearing..."

Katansei closes his eyes and breathes. The world around him darkens, the sound from the lightbulbs deafens, and the feeling on his skin disappears. He breathes out as he focuses on hearing, keeping his shut to avoid seeing his target in a vulnerable state.

Who will he track?

[] Check on someone outside the bamboo forest; is it worse out there?
-Who will you track?
[] Check on Mokou; being alone in this situation is too dangerous!

Art by TapirSono
School is busy!
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[X] Check on Mokou; being alone in this situation is too dangerous!
Could use the firepower for sure.
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[X] Check on Mokou; being alone in this situation is too dangerous!
Could use the firepower for sure
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[x] Check on Mokou; being alone in this situation is too dangerous!

OP birb
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Happy new year Thp!

Sorry for the announced hiatus, but school got pretty busy. The first draft is now done though so hopefully I can post this chapter soon!
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Happy New Year!

Lokito are now preparing, please wait warmly.
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His head stares up through the ceiling, seeing the hermit holding her jacket. The angle made it awkward to get a full view, but it seems she's listening to someone else. He probably caught her while she was talking to someone else. Katansei puts his hand out and walks forward to avoid collision with the door frame. His view didn't suddenly shake, so he assumes he managed to get outside without a hitch.

"How do you think it got here, Eirin?" He hears her mumble. "Hold up, I think someone is watching us..."

Katansei didn't linger as he knew where Dr. Yagokoro was, and Reisen was going in the opposite direction. Switching his target, he sees the rabbit Yokai's back facing him as she flies. Her long ears twitch as she turns around, pointing her index finger at him. Her eyes lock with his before looking elsewhere for the 'mysterious' stalker, her finger pointing elsewhere.

"Ms. Inaba!" He shouts, or at least assumes since he can't hear himself.

The confused look on her face is his only indicator that he did speak. He switches back to Mokou and points at her, or at least he thinks he is pointing at her, before using his power on Reisen again. She looks up as her confusion slowly shifts to outright flabbergasted. Her jaw drops, and her eyes go wide.

"T-two!?" She exclaims, "How did I miss that!?"

"Doctor Yagokoro is up there with Mokou!" He says, wondering what she saw.

She looks back at him in wonder before changing direction and flying up. Katansei turns off his ability and sighs in relief. With Reisen staying outside, he feels safer knowing he could shout to get her attention. He looks up, and for a brief moment, contempt rattles his brain. The sun floats in the sky to the detriment of everyone else. Its light is blinding, but not to the point of burning a person's eye. That is not the sun the people of Gensokyo live with. What's worse, he can see the real one still rising from the east.

Two suns in the sky. Perhaps Amaterasu gave birth to a new god or a sun god from outside who wishes to wrestle for dominance? The young hunter did not care about its origins; this sun would cause an incident if left alone.

"Another runt making a mess for everyone else to deal with." The young hunter thinks to himself. "I'll pray for its fall from grace."

'Where did it come from though?' Shinno asks. 'Surely, the presence of a god would have been noticeable, right?

Katansei shifted his jaw in annoyance; his bitterness hindered him from assessing the situation.

"You're right, that is strange. Maybe it's not a divine being after all?" He scratches his chin.

He muses suddenly stops as he sees a moving figure in the corner of his eye. An instance was all it took for the stranger to close the distance between them. He could see the top of their head and nothing else. Pure jet black hair that seems well cared for from how silky it looks. Before he could tilt his head down, a hand blocks his view. His mind is still trying to comprehend what has happened and how this stranger got so close this quickly.

"Pardon my brazen behavior, young man, but I can't afford you seeing me in such a state!" The woman whispers in his ear. "For you see... I am naked."

"Why?" It's the only thing he could think of as he offered his coat behind his back.

He feels it tug off his arm, and her hand moves away, but Katansei continues looking up to give her privacy.

"An excellent question; it was a beautiful morning, so I went for a walk and..." She stops, "Now that I can see your face, you seem familiar."

"Are you decent?" He asks.

He could hear her putting on his coat, "Not yet, but I must say, you're a spitting image of a man I once met." She says.

Katansei smiles at her comment, "My mother often told me how I look like my father when he was younger." He says.

"Your father? Are you jesting? Be a dear and turn your head, would you?" She could see his eyebrow furrowing. "You may look."

The young hunter does as asked to see a woman he once met. Seeing the collar of his coat below her neck, he turns his head to greet her with an even bigger smile.

"It's an honor to see you again, Princess Houraisan." He bows.

Recognition flashes in her eyes, "My goodness! Is that you, Katansei!?" She exclaims. "Why, you do look like your father! And look how tall you've grown!"

He rises back up to allow her to compare heights with each other. Like Mokou, Kaguya hasn't changed since his last visit.

"It's a shame we couldn't have this reunion at a peaceful time." He says.

The princess' smile turns to a frown, "Did something happen?" She asks.

Katansei points to the second sun, "Doctor Yagokoro, Ms. Inaba, and Ms. Fujiwara are investigating it." He says.

Kaguya sneers, "What a sore sight; it's almost as ugly as that fire hobo." She says.

"...Ms. Fujiwara?" He asks.

"Correct, but unlike her, this is a problem I would like gone!" She says, "This clash of hot and cold will cast Gensokyo in a dizzy."

"Hopefully, this will resolved before it gets worse." He says. "Just one strange thing after another."

Kaguya gives a thoughtful look, "Hmm, speaking of oddities, I did find a strange sight as I came back here." She points to the forest. "A man-made camp with technology not from here!"

"W-Wait, shouldn't you tell the others you're back first?" He asks.

She shrugs, "Eh, they'll be fine without me, and who knows." She gives a confident smile. "With Eirin aware of it, this sun will be gone before then!"

Her layback attitude at the sight of a second sun lifts an unseen weight from his shoulders. Perhaps things aren't as bad as they seem. Kaguya stares at the young man with a pensive look.

"By the way, Katansei," she says, "I would like to invite you to come and be my assistant in this exploration!"

"Are you sure you want to return there, Princess Houraisan?" He asks, "Me and Mokou were caught in an ambush while we were coming to Eientei."

"And from what I can see, you two got out just fine." She counters, "Besides, I am far more capable of keeping the both of us safe than that hobo could muster. This I know!"

The young hunter muses, "Please give me a moment, Princess Houraisan; I would like to think about this." He asks.

"Of course, but don't daddle for too long!" She says as Katansei bows before turning away.

"Technology not from this world..." He thinks to himself, "What do you think, Shinno?"

'Anything called "strange" in that forest is noteworthy.' He says, 'It could be related to this Sun, but have you noticed something weird, Katansei?'

"What do you mean?" He asks.

'Look around; I'm sure you'll notice.'

Ignoring that he could now see spots of green in the snowfield, the young hunter didn't see anything else besides that. He frowns from this observation; He can't see anything but the land and nature's noise.
The festive chanting echoes from the numerous bunny yokai he heard when he got here is gone. Eientei feels empty despite how many workers should be swarming around. Where are they?

'Regardless of what you decide. You better tell the others where you're going!'

"I will!"

[] Investigate with Kaguya
[] Stay and investigate Eientei

Art bu egguv
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[X] Investigate with Kaguya

I'm sure it will be fine.
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[x] Investigate with Kaguya
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[x] Stay and investigate Eientei
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[X] Investigate with Kaguya
It's Kaguya Time~~~!!!!!
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Voting is closed! The search for the camp begins! What kind of technology will they find there?
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"As long as Tewi is leading the other yokai bunnies, they should be all right," Katansei tells himself.

Shinno speaks, 'With Eirin here too, there's no doubt about it.'

The young hunter nods to himself and turns around to the restless Kaguya. "I accept your invitation, Princess Houraisan." He says.

She smiles, "Excellent to hear! Let's make way!" She says.

"Before we do," He says, "Let's tell the others we're heading out. I don't want them to think I disappear."

Her smile falters; the idea that people would wonder where he went didn't cross her mind. "Ah, you make a good point there. I'll be back posthaste, so be on the lookout assistant!" She says before flying up to the others.

Alone, Shinno decides to voice an opinion. 'For a woman who's naked under your coat, she didn't seem concerned with you looking up.' He says.

The old man's comment causes something to stir in Katansei. "She does have my coat, doesn't she?" He whispers.

His imaginary friend lets out a hearty chuckle, 'I wouldn't get too excited; she'll have someone clean it up before giving it back to you.' This didn't deter the young hunter, however.

"That's not important, I would still have a chance." A smile creeps on his face.

'Eh? A chance at what exactly?' Shinno says, now wondering what his friend's private thoughts are.

"Clownpiece's hat is in there." He begins pacing. "If Princess Houraisan finds it, she would ask how I got it!"

'That fairy's hat? Why is that import- I see now.' Shinno says in a somber tone.

His friend didn't pick up on it, "Yeah, it's an assumption, but I think Clownpiece is the only one with that kind of hat"

'And since Junko has visited here before, there's a chance that Kaguya has encountered that fairy.' Shinno says.

"Right; if I play my cards right, I could lead the conversation into Junko!" His smile slowly grows into an excited grin. "It'll look like I'm only curious and nothing more!"

'This plan hinges on your skill in socializing,' He points out, 'and if Kaguya would ask the question, but even if she doesn't, I don't see how this would raise any suspicion either.'

"Exactly, we have nothing to lose and something to gain!"

'But,' Katansei tries to calm himself to hear his friend out, 'Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I don't like how excited you are, Kata.'

"How?" The young hunter asks, "Sure, I'm a little excited, but how's that an issue?"

'That's the issue.' Shinno says, 'You're excited.'

"Why... why wouldn't I be? There's an opportunity for me to learn more about Junko." He says.

'I don't recall seeing you excited while in potential danger.' The old man says, 'A part of me believes it's because of her; you're being like this.'

"I already told you it has nothing to do with being in love with her, Shinno." He says, his voice sounding irritated.

'And I believe you on that.' His friend says, 'What it feels like to me is that this is starting to feel like a... game of sorts.'

'I mean, look at you! You were walking back and forth like when you were getting ready to talk to Reisen.' Shinno continues, 'Tell me, Katansei, what is Junko to you?'

The young hunter wanted to say he was paranoid and had nothing to worry about. At the same time, however, he remembers when Clownpiece said that Junko was excited to see him again. Perhaps a part of him feels the same. When was the last time someone said they wanted to see him again? He couldn't remember. Katansei knew little about himself and couldn't answer his imaginary friend's question.

"I, I don't know, Shinno. I wish I could say, but I can't." He says.

'I see,' It felt strange to hear his voice as serious as this, 'All I ask you, Katansei, is to remain stoic and focus on your objective.'

"Of course."

With that, the two remain silent until a voice from behind calls out. "My apologies, dear assistant! Eirin wished to explain her ideas of who could be behind this second sun to me."

Katansei turns around with a small smile, "It's fine, Princess Houraisan; are you ready to depart?"

She smiles back, "Yes, onward and into the unknown!" She explains, pointing towards the bamboo trees.

He nods.

Kaguya stops him, "Before we do, please hold still." She raises her hands high into the air.

A white aura envelops them before disappearing. Katansei looked over his body but didn't see or feel anything different.

"We'll be walking, so this will help." She says before turning towards the forest.

"Thank you." He says, assuming she cast a stamina spell of sorts.

Walking through the forest a third time now and remembering Mokou's advice, the young hunter didn't feel so nervous. In addition to Kaguya's eagerness as they traverse, he couldn't help but enjoy this little adventure. However, the numerous sitings of bright green grass in melting snow put a hamper on it. The princess floats ahead of him; she twirls to observe her surroundings.

"Tell me, Katansei, it's been years since we last met; how has your life been so far?" She asks.

His father is gone. The only friend he has is in his head. Relations with the other villagers are either non-existent or negative. A yokai is out there with a good chunk of his hair. There's a second sun hovering in the sky. Junko.

"Could be better." He says.

He still has his mother. Shinno is a good and close friend of his. There's nothing wrong with his body as far as he knows. It's too recent to say, but he assumes he's on good terms with Reimu. He's revisiting the people who saved his mother years ago. Junko.

"Could be much worse."

Kaguya hums as she curls into a ball, tucking her knees in and laying her face on it. "Have you done anything you never thought you would do before?"

Katansei looks at the floating princess with a curious look. "I didn't expect you to take an interest in what I've been doing." He says, "Today, I tried out danmaku for the first time.

"Of course, I would be!" She smiles, "I haven't met a person who didn't pique my interest before."

"Back to you, though," She raises her head, grinning, "Tell me more about your first danmaku! Who was it with? How did it start? Did you win or lose?"

His eyes glint and he looks directly at her, "My first opponent was a fairy named Clownpiece," He says, gauging her reaction.

Kaguya's mouth opens slightly, and she seems to recognize that name.

"I won, but the credit goes to Reim- Ms. Hakurei." The young hunter finishes.

To his confusion, Kaguya clasps her hands together, making the long sleeves of his coat cover a good portion of her face. The only thing he could see was the devious look in her eyes. She uncurls her legs and floats towards the young hunter while still hiding her mouth.

"My ears did not trick me just now; you said her first name, didn't you~?" She says, "Why not tell me more about your relationship with Reimu, hmm?"

"What?" Frustration seeps into his voice, chastising himself for the slip-up. "We met just today, there's nothing-"

A gasp leaves the princess' breath, almost in an exaggerated manner. "You only met today, and you're already on a first-name basis!?" She reveals a smug smile as she holds her hands behind her back. "Katansei, you sly dog you! I didn't know you were such a ladies man~!"

'This wasn't where the conversation was supposed to go!' His face is a mix of annoyance and embarrassment. "I assure you, I'm not. She calls everyone by their first name."

"How odd." Her smug grew, "I've met her on occasions and she refers to everyone by their last!"

"...Really?" He says, "That..."

He imagines Reimu calling Kaguya 'Princess Houraisan' or Mokou 'Ms. Fujiwara'. He then remembers he's speaking to Kaguya.

"Sounds like a total lie."

Her smirk turns to a pout, "Boo, I say, boo!" She jeers, "How was I supposed to know she left such a strong impression on you?"

"I still remember when you said you came from the moon!" He says, "Father wouldn't stop teasing me for believing that!"

"Yes, yes," She says, the smug look on her face returning. "Isn't a child's willingness to believe anything wonderful?"

'You weren't the brightest child back then.' Shinno pipes up in an attempt to get under Katansei's skin.

"Quite down, old man." His friend's snickering echoes in his head.

The young hunter clears his throat to regain his composure. Try as he might, he couldn't find a way to mention Junko without looking strange. As long as Kaguya is aware that he knows of Clownpiece, another opportunity could present itself through her curiosity. For now, he decides to wrap up this subject of the freedom fairy.

"We fought over different opinions, not much else." He says

"What were you fighting over?" She asks.

Despite the insatiable urge to talk to others, mentioning his blindfold left him squeamish. She doesn't need to know, and Katansei is content with that.

"I won't say." He states. "I know we just started our search, Princess Houraisan, but shouldn't we focus on looking for this camp?"

That seems to sadden the floating princess, "Tis no need to close thyself, to us Katansei, alas we were but curious." She says as her accent slips out. "Had we known, we would not have pushed in such an ungraceful manner."

"...There may have been a better way to convey my feelings, but I am only a hunter." He says, "At times, a fairy's perception can be as sharp as my aim."

"A hunter you may be, you must remind yourself that you are a human first!" She lightly chops the top of his head, "If that is all you see yourself as you'll no doubt be boring!"

"And what if that's all I'm good at?" He blurts out.

She gives him a concerned look, "If that's all you good at?" Kaguya repeats. "Is... everything all right, dear?"

He shifts his jaw, "Yes, I'm fine; thank you for your concern, Princess Houraisan." He says, "I meant in a what-if scenario."

'...I think you're a good man,' His old friend comments. 'And a good son too.'

"I'm fine, Shinno."

"Ah, a hypothetical question." She says, but her tone shows that she's still worried. "Well, I have been proposed to by people like that."

"How would you judge them?" He asks.

"They would make the blandest of men look charismatic." She makes an unpleasant face. "A man; how did he pronounce his name? Feng Meng? Peng Meng? Fengmeng! Yes, he shot me with a musket.

Now Katansei was looking at her in concern. "Oh. At least he missed."

"He didn't."

"Oh." He says, looking away. "Congratulations on your recovery."

"Thank you!" She smiles, "I laughed when he missed his previous shot."

"Really? I never missed before, but I can't imagine shooting someone over it."

"That's the life of someone who's only good at one thing." She looks at him intrigued, "By the way, it sounds like a matter of fact when you speak of your aim."

He smiles, "I never failed a hunt before, nor did I ever miss a shot." The young hunter scratches his chin, "Clownpiece has destroyed a few of my arrows mid-flight, but I don't think it counts."

"It does." She states smiling.

"You're just saying that to tease me." He says.

"How does it feel, Katansei?" She twirls away from him laughing, "Your first and many more misses from a fairy of all things!"

Katansei rolls his eyes in response, "At least I'm handling your heckling better than the other guy."

They continue to talk, but they move on to their current surroundings. Kaguya, at times, would slow down to take note of anything that caught her eye. It felt less like looking for the camp and more like exploring the entire Bamboo forest. The second sun has been causing issues. Sudden temperature changes have left many wildlife on edge. Katansei nocks an arrow in his hama yumi as he hears the sound of apes letting out shaky whoopings. Birds were extra territorial; sparrows tried to swoop down to scare the explorers off. Foxes were on the aggression; the young hunter had to resist the temptation of shooting them as the foxes fought each other.

Animals weren't the only ones affected. They came across a bug yokai at her wit's end. She's been trying to keep the other insects in order, but something about the second sun is causing them to wander off. Along the road, Katansei could see multiple death spirals forming, but the bug yokai was able to help some of the ants. A werewolf flew aimlessly above them; Kaguya counted how many times they had seen the yokai. Whenever they tried to get her attention, she would only mutter about finding a way out before leaving sight. They found a few more; they weren't taking it well either. There were moments where he had to pluck his hama yumi to scare off the more bestial ones.

"We haven't reached noon yet," Katansei notes. "At this rate, an incident is guarentee."

"Indeed, but there is a silver lining," She points ahead. "The camp."

The young hunter stares in shock. He could see in the distance an odd site. Not a single speck of snow in sight, nor a blade of grass either. It's as if life is avoiding the square area, or maybe the square outline on the ground keeps all life out. Further into the square, Katansei could see metal boxes with black mirrors on some of them. He did recognize the tents; in total, there were three.

"Wow, already!? We just started our search!" He smiles, pleased of how short it took to find it.

"My ability is to thank for that." Kaguya says, "Looking for this place in the Bamboo Forest of The Lost would have lasted many, many years."

"You mean that spell you cast before we went?" The young hunter tilts his head, "What did it do?"

"I made the traverse of the forest into an instant!" She declares with a puff chest.

"Hm, does that still mean we searched for this place for years?" He asks, looking at his hands. "The process of us walking for that long still happened, but you just squeezed it into a single moment."

"That's correct; if I was only capable of manipulating instances, you would have been an old man," She says, "So I made us at that moment we left Eientei last an eternity!"

"I see." Katansei states, "But does that mean we've gone all over the place because we were lost?"

"A crass deduction, my dear assistant." She says, pretending to look hurt, "An exploration is about the journey! Not the end!"

"I won't judge you less for getting us lost, Princess Houraisan."


As they cross the line, Katansei remembers the tales of Higan. Looking up, he could see no clouds inside the square; any clouds that were near move around as if a wall is blocking the way. The wind doesn't hold a hint of any of the four seasons. Even time felt off; the sky was beige, making it difficult to tell if it was day or night.

"Feels like old home," Kaguya comments with a hint of melancholy.

Searching through the camp, none of the residents seem present. Footprints left on the dirt ground were all the same pattern but different sizes. The most concerning sight is the tipped-over chair near a table. Small lines ran across the dirt as if scraped it with their fingers; someone must have fallen over while they were running away. An ear muff on the table lets out a continuous beep which Kaguya turns off by turning the knob on another device.

"Do you think we alerted them?" He asks.

"There were times when I made time resumed normally." She says. "If they have any computers, they could keep track of the timeline.

Katansei scratches his chin, "And react before you cast the spell again." He says.

"Ah! Look at this Katansei!" She didn't seem interested in where the camper went.

"What is it?" He asks.

He chases after her to the contraption. The metal box appears to have a door on the side.

The princess motions him to stand over, "See this? Go ahead and pick one!" She says.

He looks at the glowing motion picture on the glass. Kaguya presses her finger and slides it across, causing the picture to move. A new image shows an odd-looking bow; the design philosophy is something he hasn't seen before. It has wheels on its ends with three strings instead of one. There were more features on it, but he couldn't tell what they did until he could get his hand on it. It's also short and compact.

"This bow looks so strange; I'm a little intimidated by it." The young man mumbles, "It may take time to get used to, but it could be for the best."

Another swipe displayed a gun that Katansei felt like he had seen before. It reminds him of a musket; the rich would use those for sports or to shoot Kaguya like that one guy. He wondered why something like that didn't become popular for hunting until he heard it. Loud and distinct, the last thing any hunter would want when a yokai could be near. Last were the bullets for the gun, but they looked more like darts than the iron balls used in muskets. Perhaps this gun is more for stealth, unlike regular firearms.

"Do you think it fires more bullets than a regular musket?" He asks Kaguya.

She nods, "Absolutely!"

"Silent and fires more; That's pretty good."

He looks for more and found another bow; this one's design is closer to the common ones with some differences. It is clear that the technological gap is vast; perhaps this bow is easier to maintain than his hama yumi? The material certainly doesn't look like any wood he'd seen. Is the string more advanced?

"Maybe a simple upgrade is best since we're not in a safe situation to test any new stuff."

The last is an armor vest; it's not much, but protection is still protection.

"This armor might be better than expected if they're willing to wear it in a world of magic and demons..." He speaks to himself. "Maybe that'll be better for the long term?"

"Got an idea what you want to pick?" Kaguya asks

[] The multi-string bow
[] The silent musket
[] The simpler bow
[] The armor vest
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Hm, upgrades of foreign make.

I'm hesitant to vote for changing weapons, we're experienced with the bow we have now.
Not to mention any sentiment we might attach to it.
Would our "string-plucking" even work on these?

The bows are out because we wouldn't be able to maintain them.
These weird materials sure don't look like something we could replace if necessary.
(Putting aside the fact that considering the origin of these guys, wear and maintenance might be lessened or entirely obsoleted. But Katansei wouldn't know that.)

The multi-string bow is also out because of the sheer absurdity of it.
Perhaps we could get used to it eventually, but pulling multiple strings would require incredible or even superhuman strength.
(It's a compound bow, probably; so that'd not actually the case. But again, would Katansei know that?)

Are we even trained in muskets?
It'd be a novel experience for sure, but a massive departure from bows.
If it is silent as expected, the biggest problem would be ammunition.
Assuming it comes with some in the first place, we'd have no way to replenish it later.
(This thing kind of reminds me of a needle rifle from warhammer 40k.)

That leaves the armor.
We're only human, protection is practical if it actually works against some of the dangers in this land of monsters.
My only hangups would be about whether it would restrict mobility or impede stealth.
We're a hunter, having armor clunk around scaring off our prey or what have you would be the opposite of what we want.
It's only a vest, though, so it shouldn't pose a problem.

[X] The armor vest

I really wanted to pick the "multi-string bow", but I just can't justify it (as Katansei) when there's an actually practical option.
The more simple bow is the biggest competition to the vest, to be fair.
I'm not fully set on my choice; so if anon can bring a good (counter)argument for an option, feel free to share.
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[X] The armor vest
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[x] The silent musket
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>"I still remember when you said you came from the moon!" He says, "Father wouldn't stop teasing me for believing that!"

>"Yes, yes," She says, the smug look on her face returning. "Isn't a child's willingness to believe anything wonderful?"

>'You weren't the brightest child back then.' Shinno pipes up in an attempt to get under Katansei's skin.
This was pretty funny. If only you know "Mister Assistant" if only you knew.

As for the vote
[X] The multi-string bow
Sounds like a power up waiting to happen.
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>Would our "string-plucking" even work on these?

The string-plucking is unique to the hama yumi itself due to the legend and the human belief behind it.
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Yeah, that basically settles it for me.
I figured that's where it came from, so thank you for the confirmation.
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[X] The multi-string bow
The choice is obvious.
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[X] The armor vest

The string thing with the yumi is half the reason we're still alive.
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Voting is closed! Vest is being made, please wait warmly.
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"Princess Houraisan, can we make that vest?" He asks. "I would love to try those weapons, but the armor is too tempting."

"A safe choice," She hums in agreement, "Let's see how long it will take."

She taps the glass a few times before an outline of a hand appears.

Kaguya frowns at the sight, "What a shame; this will only accept the hand of certain individuals."

Out of curiosity and wanting the vest, Katansei removes his glove. He places his hand over the image. A few seconds passed before a 'ding' came out of the machine. Sparks and gears moving can be heard inside. It appears the vest was now under construction. Pride swells in Katansei's chest at his accomplishment.

Shinno snorts. 'Seems like you still have some of Tewi's luck!'

Kaguya clasps her hands together in a prayer. "A moment of silence for someone will lose their job over this mishap." She says.

The young man puts his glove back on and glances at Kaguya with a raised eyebrow. In his eyes, he has taken more from the animals he preyed on; whoever created this device is fortunate. He shrugs before clasping his hands, wishing a quick recovery for the lucky soul.

"All right, that's enough of that," The princess says, "Obey me, machine, and finish the production now!"

A white aura glows around the device as Kaguya slams her hand on it. The number on the screen turns to zero in an instant. A loud ding rings from it; the small door on the side opens. Katansei peeks inside to see the vest coming out on a mechanical platform. He grabs it and gives a bow to the device.

"Thank you for creating this vest machine." He says.

The pitch-black vest felt smooth on the surface, but pressing his finger deeper reveals a firm interior underneath it. Putting it on, it's tight on the chest, but over time, he'll get used to it. What the young hunter is grateful for is how it stretches. None of his movement felt impeded by it.

A loud alarm alerts the two, and a warning symbol appears on the screen.

"Out of material." Kaguya reads, "Shame, I wanted to shoot stuff with that gun."

"It did look cool..." The young man comments. "Another time."

The two continue exploring the camp and come across a device Katansei did recognize. It's connected to another larger machine; a Bunbunmaru article he saw one time was about Kappa technologies. It didn't look anywhere as advanced as this, but a gut feeling told him that it was a generator powering up the device.

"This is a computer, right?" He steps to the side of the table, "It's a lot bulkier than the one dad had."

Kaguya touches it; a white aura covers the computer before disappearing. Since they were moving instantaneously, anything they tried on the machine would have taken forever for it to respond.

"...Why would he have one?" The princess turns around intrigued.

Katansei grabs the mouse on the side and clicks around. "He was an outsider; it's one of the few things he had on him before he arrived here."

"The thought that he was born outside of Gensokyo never crossed my mind." She says, "He adapted well then."

"Yeah, I know it's lying somewhere in the house." He presses some of the buttons on the keyboard. "I wonder if it's okay for me to look inside it."

"Why not ask him?" She asks.

"He was an outsider, Princess Houraisan." He huffs as he presses enter, "What are we searching on this computer anyway?"

The young hunter looks over to see her with a stoic expression; she doesn't seem thrown off like Reisen was. A small wishful thought that he improved his social skills did cross his mind. It didn't take root, however. She is the same woman who commands numerous yokai bunnies; his awkwardness is nothing to someone like her. Her unfazed attitude by the appearance of a second sun drove the point further.

"It wasn't password protected?" She asks, "First, the handprint error, and now this?"

He shrugs, "I wasn't paying attention to the screen."

"Whoever's running this operation seems amateurish; check that folder for me, dear." She reads the text file Katansei clicked on. "Encrypted; looks like our luck ran out for security protection.

"I guess we carry this back to Eintei?" He stretches his body in preparation for taking it.

Kaguya smirks, chuckling as she touches the computer again. "Why not push it back?" She places another hand on it.

"That doesn't... Oh! I see it now!" He says as the white aura envelops the device. "On a count to three."

"Three! Two! One!" The two shove the computer off the table.

But it didn't hit the ground, not yet. To an outsider, it would look like the computer is floating, but in reality, it's falling. Kaguya put it in a state of falling for an eternity. Katansei tried pushing it down, but it remained 'hovering.' The princess floats up and sits on top of it like a throne.

She points to the direction they entered from the camp, "Mush, my assistant! We're claiming this technology for the Eientei estate!"

He unplugs the computer and pushes it forward. The screen is still on, leaving him to assume it'll take forever to turn off.

"Are you sitting on it, or are you falling too?" He asks as he pushes it forward.

"I think you and Eirin are going to get along wonderfully." She says.

"You don't know, do you?"

"Perhaps too well."

Passing by the machine that was beeping earlier, Katansei stops. He walks toward it and turns the dial the opposite way, the long drawl beep returns.

"Please wait a moment, Princess Hourasian," He says.

The young hunter walks back to the fabricator, swiping on the screen a few times before going to the generator. Kaguya, without a word, floats behind him.

"Tell me, Katansei, what troubles you?" She asks

"Princess Hourasian, do you need to touch an object to manipulate its time?" he asks.

"Nay, it's possible in distance, but through a ritual." She explains.

He pressed his ear against the generator, but it made no noise. "I wasn't paying attention, but that fabricator; you use your ability twice on it? One for it takes to make it finish the vest and before that to have it respond when we swipe our fingers across the screen?"

She nods, "I did, but that seems to bother you."

"Yeah, that one over there, the one we first found in the camp. Did you touch it?"

"The radio? Now that I think about it." She turns around to where it is. "I turned it off because of the noise- Agh!"

Kaguya claps her hands, and time resumes normal for them. The generator hums a low, deep noise, and walking back to the radio, the noise it makes doesn't change. Somehow, the radio was going as fast as they were despite Kaguya never manipulating the time for it.

The princess clicks her teeth, "I got too caught up with old memories! How could I have missed such a glaring discrepancy!?"

'So whoever is camping here was moving in an instant like us.' Shinno notes.

"Does that mean they were running this whole time?" Katansei grabs an arrow from his quiver. "Did they continue, or are they watching us!? Are they still moving in an instant!?"

"Calm thy heart, assistant." Kaguya takes a breath, rubbing her temple. "If they were still going that fast, we would have been captured by now. Seeing that we're not tied up, it's safe to assume they're moving normally."

"...What should we do then?" He asks.

"Let us check on the others," Kaguya floats back to the computer and sits(?) on it. "These soldiers were moving as fast as us, we need to make sure they're alright."

"I can do that now." He says, pointing at his eyes.

She smirks, "Be sure you don't find them at an indecent moment."

"If I do, I'm blaming you for tempting fate."

The world goes dark as Katansei breathes in. He sees a frazzled Reisen carrying what seems like a box, but he can't see it. Her bunny ears stood straight in attention, and her body tensed before relaxing. She opens her mouth, but stops; her eyes look up at something or someone before nodding.

"Is that you again, Mr. Dooru?" She asks, facing his direction. "I'm here with Master Yagokoro, she wishes to talk to you."

"Ms. Inaba is fine." He says the lack of reaction from her ears tells him that he's too far away.

Another blink and his eyes meet an expecting Yagokoro Eirin. Like everyone he met returning here, she hasn't changed a bit since they last met. She still wears the checkered dress, but it is under a pristine white lab coat. Her hands are interconnected, but her fingers are pressing into each other causing her knuckles to whiten. As he expected, her face isn't revealing a hint of emotions.

"Hello, young Dooru; fine weather we're having today." She says, a tiny smile spread on her lips. "I am well, and so is Mokou, but Tewi's gone missing." Her face returns to stoic. "If you can find her, check on me; if not, check on Reisen." She gestures to the pitch-black void to her left.

"Doctor Yagokoro is also fine so far; it doesn't seem like they got attacked." He turns off his ability to find Kaguya pinching his cheek, "Wha- How long were you doing that!?"

"After you mention Reisen, It still amazes me that you can't feel a thing when you use that ability of yours. " She answers, "What about Tewi?"

Katansei closes his eyes and sighs, once again, the world goes dark. Before he could open them, a rant of indignation hit his ears. The wailing screech brought him back to days when he would chase her everywhere during Mother's stay in Eientei. He heard stories of how she bestowed good fortune to those who saw her. Thanks to his ability, he figured he could get large amounts of luck. Perhaps out of luck, she found out about his power and didn't grant him any fortune unless it was legitimate. Tracking down Tewi was one of the fondest memories he had in such a dark moment.

"Whhooo do yah think you are!? I am!" Tewi slurs, "Juuust you waaait, you dirty moonies! After my nap, you're done!"

Her ankle had indents of a hand wrapped around it; someone was dragging her across the ground. Multiple punctures riddled her pink dress. Tewi was slipping in and out, her eyelids drooping and drool spilling out of her mouth. There wasn't any scent of alcohol on her. Despite this, her pupil dilates, registering that someone is watching her. She limps her head around before looking back in his direction. The rabbit yokai struggles to raise her hand, but after a few attempts, she points at him.

Her arm limps with the rest of her body, "Lucky you..." She mutters, before losing conscience.

Katansei stares at her for a moment and then switches to Eirin to relay the message.

"Excellent; it took you longer than estimated, but I know you're with Lady Hourasian." She bows, "Please accept my apology for her behavior." Just as the young hunter is going to leave, Eirin speaks up. "One more thing." The doctor straightens up, "Return her to Eientei as soon as possible, we need to make sure that she's safe."

The young man frowns, turning off his ability, "Tewi got captured by some 'dirty moonies'? I think she got drugged; she was slurring her words before passing out." He says, "Doctor Yagokoro also wants you to return as soon as possible."

"Fie! This would have been avoidable if I had spotted the discrepancy sooner." She says, kicking the computer with the back of her heel. "They must have taken advantage of my power!"

"Princess Hourasian, I know I relayed Dr. Yagokoro's request for your return, but we can't leave Tewi, can we?" He asks. "We can head directly to her with my ability."

Kaguya lets out a heavy sigh, "Considering who our enemy is, I believe it would be best if we head back." She says. "Besides, we know there are three of them, and we need to take advantage of our larger number."

The young hunter's shoulder slumps; he looks back in the direction where he last saw Tewi. Ideas of how to convince Kaguya to help save Tewi form, but they fell short. One look at the princess's face tells him it would be a fruitless effort.

'If I can pipe in, why not we follow those footprints?' Shinno suggests, 'We didn't find any other footprints like those running off in the same direction.'

Katansei checks where the footprints are leading and where he last saw Tewi. Comparing where both the two, it appears they are heading away from each other. The footprint is going in the same direction where he saw Reisen and Eirin. Did the person here panic and run off without thinking?

"Princess Hourasian! I saw Doctor Yagokoro and Ms. Inaba over there." He points ahead of the radio, "Those footprints are also heading in the same direction!" His breath quickens, and a grin spreads on his face. "We can hunt down that person and still have the number advantage!"

Kaguya brings her hands over her mouth; her eyes are pensive. "If we catch this straggler, it would be a great boon in deciphering the encryption, but..." She leans forward to eye-level with Katansei, "We know where two of them are; the third one, however, still eludes us."

"Do you think number three is with the straggler?" He asks.

She shrugs, "Perhaps, they could be with the person dragging Tewi away. They could even be with neither of them; I did resume time normally for us at short notice." Kaguya straightens her posture, her eyes still locked to his. "It'll come down to luck if we find this straggler alone too. Are you sure you want to take this chance?"

The young hunter ponders on his next action.

[] Return to Eientei
[] Hunt the straggler
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Well, Tewi ostensibly gave us a shot of "Luck" just now, so "taking a chance" by hunting the straggler as the princess put it might result in a favourable gamble.


Both Eirin and Kaguya requested or suggested we return Kaguya to Eientei and I'm frankly rather apprehensive to disregard the tactical acumen of the genius we're also indebted to.

Not only that, but I'd also rather "use" this luck boost on saving Tewi than hunting somebody that might help us with the computer.

Also, let's be real: even though Eirin's specialty is medicine and associated fields, I doubt anybody could cook up security measures that could keep her out.

But that might be a situation already accounted for by these insurgents and the computer just explodes when Eirin tries to access it or something, iunno.

Anyway, Tewi > Computer

[X] Return to Eientei
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[X] Return to Eientei
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[X] Return to Eientei
We should follow Eirin's request and bring the princess back to her Castler. Plus this seems to be the safer option.
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[X] Return to Eientei
Eirin asked us to bring Kaguya so we should follow her request
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Voting is closed, returning to Eientei posthaste!
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With Kaguya's and Eirin's request to return in mind, Katansei backs off from hunting the straggler. "I hope Tewi will be alright."

He walks up to the radio and picks up the headphones, holding them close to his nose. The sweat is feint, but present, the young hunter sniffs the other side. Kaguya's face scrunches as she watches him sniff it.

"S-She'll be fine, I'm sure of it." She stammers, "Also, could you warn me next before doing... that?"

"Sorry, I wanted to get their scent." He drops the headphones and focuses.

The world goes dark as he begins to track his target. No one to see nor to hear. Smell wasn't his forte due to how simple sight and sound were to him. Sight is sight; what he sees is what he gets. Sound is more complicated since a body can make multiple noises. A heart beats, breaths taken, stomach gurgling. If the body created a dozen noises, it would be a fraction of what the odor creates. What they eat, where they live, how physically active were they and so much more influence how a person smells. Katansei couldn't see nor hear the person but could see the cloud plume in the general area of the straggler.

A wave of deja vu washes over him. This person smells familiar but, at the same time, a total stranger. Has he met this person before? Then it clicked, that moment when he and Mokou suddenly found themself surrounded in scorch marks and melted snow with no recollection of it happening.

"Are these the same people who attacked us?" He wonders as the world returns to normal. "I'll tell everyone about when we're back."

"Did you see anything?" Kaguya asks, noticing his return from his trance state.

"Only smell, but it doesn't matter." He places his hand on the computer. "He can't hide from me anymore."

The princess lets out a thoughtful hum, "Have you considered becoming a yokai hunter or a detective, Katansei?" She asks, "Imagine the people lining up in front of your house!"

"Would I?" He asks, "I can't track magic with my ability, so a part of me doubts it."

Kaguya pauses, processing what he said, "You can't see magic when you focus? What about when you checked on Reisen?"

"Yokai, I can do that, but general magic is a no-go." He explains, "When I used my ability on Clownpiece, her spellcards were not visible to me."

"A queer limitation you have there, dear assistant, but Gensokyo is no stranger to such arbitrary rules." She says, "I'm sure Eirin would be curious if you told her this."

Katansei pushes the computer to where he last saw said Doctor. After crossing the line between the camp and the bamboo forest, the lukewarm winds brush against them half-heartedly. Now and then, he would track Eirin to avoid getting lost. Traversing the bamboo forest required no luck for him, but staying out of danger is another story.

The young hunter ponders, "From the technologies in that camp and what Tewi called her kidnappers." He says, grabbing Kaguya's attention. "I think it's safe to say the Lunarians are behind this."

"I share the same thought, but why they're here I can't fathom." Kaguya crosses her arms and leans back, "I don't recall seeing you or your family in my yearly Lunar Capital Exhibit, Katansei; how much do you know about them?"

"Only from their section in the Gensokyo Chronicles, including yours and Dr. Yagokoro's." He answers, "I also did a little research on moon-related entities, such as Tsukoyomi, moon rabbits, the Hourasian Kaguya from the bamboo cutter tale, and other tales."

"That's me!" Kaguya smiles.

"I'm not falling for that again." He says with a flat expression. "The more I think about it, do you think this some kind of splinter group from the Lunarians?"

"It would explain the outdated technology we found in the camp." She taps the computer with the back of her heel. "Fortunate for everyone, they don't seem too violent."

Kaguya lays her stomach on the computer, letting her arms and legs dangle in the air. The two remained silent as they continued down the direction where Reisen and Eirin were. Katansei realizes that the footprints heading in the same direction as Eientei are gone now. The straggler must have taken a random turn at some point. The young man slows down as he looks back frowning. He huffs through his nose before resuming his previous pace. In the distance, he sees the paved road that leads to Eientei.

Kaguya groans, rubbing her hands down her face. "I forgot all about the tea party that was today." She exclaims. "Mark my words, Katansei; these hooligans will pay!" She raises a shaking fist into the air.

"And for kidnapping Tewi and messing with the weather." He says, looking up at the clear blue sky. "Watch out!"

Katansei grabs Kaguya by the collar of his burrowed coat and pulls her down as she yelps in shock. He lands on top of her, and a rain of needle darts hits his back and breaks upon impact with his new vest. His legs were protected by the computer blocking the way. Magic glows from the princess' hand before she touches the ground. A dome made of snow rises above them as make-shift cover. The sound of gunfire finally stops.

"Of all the luck in the world!" A furious woman calls out. "You looked up now?!"

"Did you get hit, Princess Hourasian?" He ignores the attacker's whale.

"I'm unharmed thanks to you, dear Katansei; can you say the same?" He nods. "Good."

A thump hits the top of the dome, and bits of snow land on them. "And it was because of you! An impure loser!" An arm pierces through the thick wall.

The young hunter rolls off onto the ground to avoid getting grabbed; her finger grazes with the collar of his shirt. Kaguya slaps the back of the lunarian's arm with her glowing hand. Her arm emits a white glow as it slows down to a crawl. The princess clasps her hands together; the dome turns inside-out, swallowing the attacker whole.

'Kata, you need to leave now!' Shinno urges him, 'You found the missing one, but we have nothing that can harm her!'

Before he could respond, the white aura surrounding the arm shatters like glass as the lunarian's hand clenches. "Futile!" Her muffled voice seeps out of the snow. "Instantaneous or eternal, it's all futile, you tainted swine!"

She burst out of the snow dome without her rifle, floating above the two. The Lunarian's slick black armor clashes with the old, tattered cape tied around her neck. A well-placed shot would be enough to cut through the fabric. Snow falls out of the gun as she smacks it, but pulling the trigger results in nothing.

"Thief!" The princess points and yells, "You stole that from the exhibit!"

"You lie as you breathe," The Lunarian tosses the weapon down. "One too many!"

Katansei nocks an arrow into his bow, "How about you tell us why you're here?" He demands.

Her cackles distort through her helmet, "What's that arrow going to do? Scratch the paint off my armor?" She spreads her arms apart; the blue visor of her helmet stares dagger at the young hunter. "What else you're going to throw at me? A snowball or what about that computer that you stol-Gah!?"

With a flick of her wrist, Kaguya smashes the snow dome into her, careening the Lunarian into a thick bamboo shoot. "It wouldn't break if I whack it over her head, but" Kaguya comments as she picks up the discarded rifle. "I advise you to take the computer and retreat." She says, holding the gun out to him.

"What, why!? I can't leave you here!" He says, easing the pull on his arrow. "There has to be something I can do to help."

"You'll have to figure that out soon, I'm afraid." She chucks the gun near the computer before flying up into the air.

The zealous soldier comes out of the snow pile at high speed. "You're first, eternal traitor!" She cries out.

'She's distracted, let's leave!' His old friend pleads. 'The Lunarians are stronger than the Yokai in almost everything!'

"Wasn't it only in technology?" Katansei questions. "Hourasian needs help now, then. But is there anything I can do!?"

'Don't stand around and dawdle, do something!'

"I'm thinking!"

[] Get out of there.
[] Stay and help.
[] Write-In

I couldn't find the sources for the two previous images, sorry about that.

If you guys have any questions before you want to vote, feel free to ask!

Art by me!
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[X] Stay and help.

After all, we are knight in shining armor vest!
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[X] Get out of there.
They're both insisting we get out of here for a reason. There's just not much we're equipped for.
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[X] Get out of there.
We're only human.
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[X] Stay and help
What sort of hero allows himself to be saved by the Princess?! Plus he did promise to bring Kaguya back to Eirin unharmed.
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[x] Get out of there.
It be too much to deal with a flying Lunarian.
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Voting closed! It's time for a quick getaway, but will you get out of this unscathed?
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The enemy is too powerful, and help is not far from them. Katansei thought of this as he dashed for the floating computer. He grabs the discarded gun and pushes as hard as he can. As a hunter and a human, running from danger came naturally. It didn't need to be a yokai for him to bolt; the wild animals were enough for that. A yokai like Nemuno can be reasoned; a boar in the mating season cannot.

Negative thoughts burrow into the back of his head, telling him how weak he is for running away. A person who helped him is now in danger, and here he is, looking after himself. Maybe he could have shot the strap to ground the lunarian, but what if she caught the arrow before it could pierce it?

"Help! I got to get help!" He thinks, "Please forgive me for being useless right now, Princess Hourasian!"

'Remember, Kata, she told you to run.' Shinno says, 'Focus on the main objective and get this computer to Eirin.'

Kaguya decorates the sky with colorful bullets and lasers, positioning herself above her opponent. The Lunarian barrels up and towards her, narrowly dodging the onslaught as it scrapes against her armor. Being forced to look up, however, allows Katansei to stay out of her sight. Fortunately for the young man, Kaguya's projectiles would fizzle away before hitting the ground.

Well-trained and equipped to counter Kaguya's time manipulation, the odds don't look good in Katansei's eyes. It will be a short fight; either the princess manages to land a hit and destroy the floating cloak, or the enemy manages to close the distance to grab her.

"You're right... Just focus on what's in front of me. Nothing else matters!" He bites down on his lower lip as the world goes dark. "But if anything happens to her, I'll forgive myself as long as I live!"

He has moved while tracking before, but not while running away. The young hunter gives a quick prayer for luck to avoid hitting a tree or tripping. He sees Eirin sitting on something, and from her hand's position, he assumes the doctor was writing before he looked for her.

She looks back at him, calm and collected as ever. "You're tracking me earlier than expected. Did something happen?" She asks.

"Please, please figure it out, Doctor!" Katansei pleads as he turns his ability on and off.

She squints her eyes before nodding to herself. "I was worried about this. I asked Mokou to stay close in your general direction. Hold out as long as you can; I'm heading there now."

The young hunter switches target to see the fire hermit in the air, still wearing the gaudy outsider jacket despite the increase in temperature. She turns her head in his direction; her hardened eyes soften as she sees him.

"Ms. Fujiawara! Over here!" He shouts.

"You okay, Katansei?" She yells back. "Where's Kaguya!?"

He passes through the last of the bamboos and steps onto the cobblestone road. The young hunter is safe, but the same isn't for Kaguya.

A game of cat and mouse ensues. Kaguya flew while up-right, the sleeve end of her burrowed coat flap through the air. The Invader flew like an arrow, her head tilted up and her arms firm on her side, her stolen clock barely clinging onto her.

"Enlighten this vile traitor, O hero!" Kaguya bellows. "Cry out your name to me! Your reckless transgressions will land you imprisonment for life and erase any evidence of your existence! Or worse, you live here for the rest of your life."

The Lunarian cackles, "My true name will never be forgotten, and nor would I care if it were the case! If you must curse out a name, Houritsu is a fine substitute."

Houritsu, the Lunarian, launches at her with sudden speed and grabs her right wrist, almost yanking her hand off. Kaguya yelps in shock from the immense shift in velocity; the sight of Eientei dwindles into the distance. Any attempts to break out of bone creaking grab were fruitless. The princess spots the tail end of the coat fluttering near. With her free hand, she reaches for it.

'Just a touch! That's all I need to destroy it!'

As she pushes against the air rushing past them, the tip of her fingers almost touches the cloak. Kaguya pinches down on it, but with a simple tug, Houritsu pulls it out of her reach. She was watching the princess as they flew the whole time.

"Care to try again, traitor~?" She sings.

"This attitude of yours is why you're friendless, why no one invites you to parties, and why you return home to an empty bed!"

"I require none of those! Because I work under the greatest, most beautiful, smartest, strongest, charming..." Kaguya proceeds to tune out Houritsu gushing about her boss.

She clenches her hand, and a white aura envelope it. Time accelerates at a focus point, reducing said limb to ashes, allowing her to escape the grab. The momentum of being pulled down spins her through the air as Houritsu crashes down with a fistful of dust. Regaining her balance, the princess glides her remaining hand over the coat. Time begins to slow down for the article of clothing. It's a nice coat, so it would be tragic if it got ruined during the fight.

"I was not finished!" She shakes the dust off her hand.

Houritsu looks at Kaguya's stump arm before they lock eyes with each other. No noise peeped from the two, but the animals' panicking shouts echoed throughout the forest. A wordless agreement; once her hand finishes recovering; the real fight begins. During the moment of stillness, Numerous questions run through Kaguya's head.

'Did her fury blind her, or does she consider losing the computer an acceptable loss if she captures me? If they're here to take us back, why haven't they done it until now?'

The bone juts out, covering the soft meat with its hardened exterior.

'I can't see Eientei anymore, but I'm confident that Eirin foresaw a situation like this; no doubt she'll arrive like a knight in shining armor! I could get her attention if I fired at everything around me, but this thief may run away when help arrives. Should I try to take her on myself then?'

Veins crawl over the bones, then muscle begins to grow. The exposed nerves were excruciating, but in her long life, it was a grain of sand. She had endured worse not just from Mokou's hands, but at the hands of her captors back on the moon. Looking at Houritsu, memories of her old home trickle back, but as the ash remains of her missing hand, it blows away with the wind.

Houritsu's body scrunches down, preparing another lunge at the princess. Kaguya smiles as light gathers around her, ready to smite her back to the ground. The time is nigh.

What'll be Kaguya's next move?

[] Fire away and shoot everywhere!
[] Focus fire!

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[X] Fire away and shoot everywhere!

More Dakkanmaku!
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[X] Fire away and shoot everywhere!

Eirin! Eirin!
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[X] Fire away and shoot everywhere!
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[X] Fire away and shoot everywhere!

They can't predict us if not even we know what we're doing!
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