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The Gensokyo Survival Guide, or the Life and Times of Oscar Diggs (updates weekly)


Yumetou

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Greetings, fellow traveler and valued customer! If you are reading this, you have been unwittingly transported to another world. A realm of mystery and magic, alien to the life you knew. Fortunately, you need not face your new life alone. I, Oscar Diggs IVth (esq.) have compiled my experiences in the world of Gensokyo into the Gensokyo Survival Guide in your very hands. Within its pages you can find a step-by-step guide for how to not only survive, but prosper in this land.

So you’ve just been thrown through the barrier from our world into theirs. Chances are, you are now on a road sprinkled with strange flowers. You’re all alone, and there are skeletons in the underbrush. It’s important now to remember the first rule of living as an Outsider in Gensokyo.

Don’t. Panic.

 

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The sound of a scream cut through the leaves of the foliage overhead. Birds, startled by the unexpected noise, took to flight. Their cries protesting the roar of fear and surprise that echoed from below. Not that he could be blamed for screaming. It had, after all, been a very peaceful evening the night before. A long week of magic and showmanship, finally broken by the promise of sleep. A few pills to help him sleep, a glass of water, and a warm bed were his last memories. Yet as his eyes fluttered open, the space where a pillow was meant to be had been replaced by a ribcage.

With newfound terror, the young man scrambled backwards. His bare hands and dress shoes grasping at the loam. Bright green eyes wide in terror stared at the skeletal remains in the grass. The red petals of blossoming flowers peered through the gaps in the ribs, giving it an ephemeral quality. It might have been peaceful, were it not for the…skeletons.

 

“What the—where am…what in the…”

 

Questions rose in the man’s mind, each passing by faster than he could articulate to no one in particular. Things such as ‘Where am I’, ‘How did I get here’ and ‘am I in Hell’ passed through his mind like the breeze through the glade. He knew there would be no answer, only the sound of the wind and the distant mocking laughter of crows. Gingerly, he eased himself up to his feet. The familiar fanning of his stage magician cape at least giving him a sense of comfort. The rest of his costume was just as he remembered before he lay down in bed. Even if his dress shirt could stand an ironing. His hands rose, running through his thick curly hair. Only then did he realize his hat was missing. Eyes flitted to either side, before falling on the top hat where it rested, beside the same skeleton he had awakened beside.

 

…Well, it wasn’t like it was going to go get itself…

 

Slowly he advanced upon the corpse. Half-expecting the skeletal figure to turn and wave him off. The thick grass shifted under his feet. The strange red blossoms a strange contrast to the gnawed bones that hindered them. But all the young man could see were those black pits, leering back at him silent and judging. Had those belonged to another person in the same situation as he? Was this to be his fate in this unnatural place? The skull shifted, his body freezing, as a centipede crawled free from the black pit. Too many legs scrambling over the bleached white skull…

Palpable relief pulsed through him as the young man felt the felt beneath his fingers. Snatching the top hat away, as though the skeleton would snap at him. He could even allow himself a small laugh of triumph as his old friend returned to its perch over his orange locks. It was only then he glanced around him.
He was standing on a path of disturbed soil, which terminated at a copse of trees. Dark branches extended overhead, like bolts of black lightning across the blue sky. Vibrant green grass was broken by splotches of blood-red spider lilies. Now and again, the grass and blossoms were broken by a glimpse of white. First only one, then another. A skull here, bones wrapped in faded rags there. The number grew with every glimpse of white, until the number was beyond count.

 

The sound of a fresh scream cut through the leaves of the foliage overhead again. Echoing against a mountain which reached for the sky. No birds took flight or animals stirred at the sound. Silence fell upon Muenzuka like an oppressive shroud, as his lungs gave way.

 

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What next, dear reader?

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From afar, the distant Kami of Gensokyo watch their new arrival with passive interest. Though human arrivals are not uncommon, the amusements of Kami are few in the Land the Gods Loved. Your hands cannot control the movements of fate, though its strings can be pulled in your favor. Which will you pull, to help or hinder our hero, in his quest to master Gensokyo?

 

Welcome to my first piece of fan fiction work in over fifteen years. I've had little chance to practice my writing over the past ten years, and felt that muscle was in need of scratching. But it seemed dull to introduce a character you should all just care about. So instead I have made it a CYOA, or Choose Your Own Adventure. After each entry, you will have the chance to influence the events of the story, and what I write next. At the bottom of each post will be a legend with indications showing what might happen next. Just click the Like button at the bottom of the post and choose the one which most interests you.


:SekiThink: means he uses his wits and intelligence to solve a situation. Whether that is fooling a hungry Yokai with his parlor tricks, or deciphering a code.
:KoishiXD: means attempting to solve a problem through diplomacy or bartering. Cajoling the merchant with a joke, or greeting the genocidal shrine maiden with a friendly wave. By far Oscar's best skill.
:TenshiCry: means Oscar uses his occult knowledge, spells or stage performance to solve a problem. While good for impressing humans, fairies or low level Yokai, he will be stomped in a Danmaku fight.
:YoumuStare: means attempting to solve a problem through intrigue, stealth or subterfuge. Our hero creeps up to a window and peers inside, or slips a message into the pocket of a friend.
🏆 means facing a problem using strength, violence or intimidation. Threatening the hungry Yokai with a curse, or climbing the surface of a rock wall.
⬆️ means good luck. Oscar's miserable life is suddenly met with an unexpected boon. A monster pursuing him upsets a group of faeries, or the night guard sneezes loudly, letting him sneak by unseen.
⬇️ means a complication. A challenge facing Oscar suddenly has a spike in difficulty, be that from a monster appearing, or something happening in the environment to make his life more difficult.
💙 means taking a break. Relax to recuperate, restore your magic or dress an injury.


These choices may have specific consequences, or be left ambiguous to intrigue you. There may also be a random check after the choice, showing the likelihood of a specific outcome. For instance, after the 'Someone overheard his scream' option, there is a chance he will be found by different characters. He might be found by Rinnosuke, Nazrin, Komachi or Chen. The chance of each character will be listed after the option in parenthesis.
If there is a tie between two options, then we will have both at the same time. But beware. The winning option will have a cooldown after each post, where it is not available for the next post. No worries though, it will be back the week after!

 

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With that explanation out of the way, what happens next?

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:SekiThink:= While looking for supplies, our hero tries to examine the bodies. Maybe something about them can tell him what happened or why they are here.
:KoishiXD:= Looking through the fallen's bags, our hero collects any money he can find. Bills may be burned or buy transportation, and coins could be used to distract or even as a weapon.
:TenshiCry:= While scouring through the bodies here, our hero finds a grimoire! This strange book won't help now, but maybe it will come in handy later. And there's no harm in reading through it.
:YoumuStare:= Anything could be watching from the trees. Maybe by pulling up a bush, our hero can use it to avoid being spotted by predators.
🏆= It would be easier to find a way out of here from a vantage point. Maybe climbing a tree will help our hero find a way back home.
⬆️= Someone wandering Muenzuka overheard his scream, and comes to investigate the sound.
(Rinnosuke: 2/6 chance, Nazrin 2/6, Komachi 1/6, Chen 1/6)
⬇️= Something heard our hero, and recognizes the sound as very tasty...
💙= Lie back and take a rest. This is surely just a dream, maybe sleeping will end it...

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Its perfectly natural to be afraid in a situation like this. Why shouldn't you be? But it won't help you in the long run, and can get you into danger. The best thing to do is use your wits. Move carefully, and quietly. Grab anything you can use, and try to slip away. Before someone, or something notices you...

 

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As the frightened face of Oscar stole over the bodies around him, he let out a low breath of air. He had to be calm. There was no way he had just awakened at some site of a serial killer’s dumping ground, all while being completely unharmed. There had to be a sensible, logical explanation to things. Maybe this was a disturbed open-air graveyard, or even just a prank.

With a newfound sense of confidence he prayed wasn’t just adrenaline, he cautiously stepped into the long grass. The blood red spider-lilies bobbing with his footfall. From beneath his foot, the sound of dried bone breaking sent a rush through him like cold water. Hopefully, that was not what he thought it was. The cape behind him shifted faintly in the breeze as he eased forward. Unsure what exactly he was looking for. These didn’t look like plastic, nor like any kind of prop…

 

His gloves found a bone, probably from an arm, and raised it to his eyes. Blood turned to ice as he studdied it. A fresh gust of air rushed from the hills around him, making his cape billow in the wind. But he took no notice of the wind, nor felt any relief.

Upon the bones were markings. Not those of any pen or tool, but distinctive teeth marks. Finding bones with bites from wild animals were not completely irrational, even if they were chilling. But the weren’t the marks of hungry dogs, or of any scavenger he knew of. In fact, they looked identical to the marks he would leave in a juicy apple. With fear reborn, he dropped the gnawed bone. Paranoia swirled in Oscar’s mind as he glanced from side to side. He could still see nothing, but he was certain he was being watched…

 

The best thing to do then was to hide.

 

His foot hit something with a thud. A moment’s glance confirmed the object was a bookbag. Quickly, he ducked down to sweep it on to one arm, before his eyes caught sight of something ahead of him. A large fallen branch, thick with dark leaves, nearly dark as sin. Even in his performer’s outfit, he would almost be undetectable behind that…Quietly, he slung his new bag over a shoulder before taking the branch. It was heavy enough to need two arms and a groan to lift. But the curve of the branch nicely obscured him as he stole forward. A slow, easy pace. The better not to draw attention to himself, Oscar hoped. 

For the next half hour, he scuttled along the side of the road. His shawl of leaves keeping him save from any prying eyes. The darkening sky around him hopefully meaning he would move unobstructed. Or so he thought. As he passed over yet another pile of old bones upon the grass, wishing the moon would light his way, the stage magician's ears thought they could hear something. Being a man often hired for children's parties, he would recognize the sound of a young girl's giggle anywhere. Fresh alarm filled his mind at the sound. This place was surely dangerous. He would have to help her. He would--

His thoughts were cut off as a small hand pulled at his cape. So unexpected was he at any touch which was not withered bones or ragweed the young man leaped into the air with a shout he hoped was more manly than what he heard. The branch crunched on the ground as he turned. A young lady in a black and white outfit smiled up at him. Looking absolutely thrilled as she swayed from side to side, her blond hair and ribbon bobbing with the motion. The premature dark sky around them was heavy with an unknown weight, one all the more unnerving at the unphased child grinning up at him.

 

"Found you, Mister Man. What are you doing out here, all alone and defenseless?"

 

 

:KoishiXD: = Negotiate with la creatura the strange girl. Maybe she can help you?

:TenshiCry: = Nope, nopenopenope so much nope. Time for a tactical retreat with the help of some flares.

🏆 = Its silly to think she could hurt you! She's a child, and less than half your height. Which means we can totally outrun her, which we should do.

⬆️ = Someone wandering Muenzuka notices their presence.
(Rinnosuke: 2/6 chance, Nazrin 2/6, Komachi 1/6, Chen 1/6)

⬇️ = Oh look, she brought friends! Hello young ladies, can you tell me the way home?

💙 = Play dead. That's totally a reasonable reaction to meeting a small child.

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Out in the wilderness, it is important to remember the laws of nature. Humans are omnivores, we can survive on a variety of foodstuffs. Roots, berries, vegetation, meat. While most animals, including Youkai, have a very specific diet. Remember that as you travel down the Road of Reconsideration, but it’s equally important to remember for every monster which wants to make you its prey, there is always a bigger monster out there they fear…

 

 

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In a moment, Oscar felt a wave of fear wash over him. It made no sense, logically. He had just lost track of the time from behind the branch he was using. Evening had seeped in, and he had been spotted by a local child, who just wanted to help. But as simple and rational as this explanation was, his brain only screamed back in alarm. How had night crept in so quickly? Why did she call him ‘Mister Man’? And why, in a road strewn with bodies, did she seem so calm?

The young lady must have sensed his apprehension. Her arms splayed to either side in a gesture he didn’t recognize. Eyes closing as she gave him a charming smile. In any other circumstance, he would have found it entirely innocuous. But there was something about it…

 

“Were you playing Hide and Seek? I’m good at both! But I hate having to chase people. It makes me so tired, and hungry.” The blond face beamed up at him. The faint light in that space glimmering off a set of serrated teeth. That face moved closer towards him. Was it only his imagination, or was she somehow growing taller? The arms that had been to either side rose, as though to embrace him. “You look scared! Would you like a hug?”

 

Something in those words stirred in his spirit the desperate urge to survive. Even as those white teeth began to open, Oscar pulled his hands back into his sleeve. The familiar pull cord was there, just where it always was when he cast his final spells of the night. With no other option, he pulled at both desperately, screaming his incantation.

 

“ALAKAZAM!”

 

In that space where darkness reigned, there was a sudden surge of light as the flares ignited. With a hiss, they lanced upward, illuminating the look of horror in the strange girl as she hovered before him. The sparks seared at her face like burning claws, before a scream of pain rocked the grove.

 

Oscar had never been a particularly athletic man. He had performed well in Track, but sports didn't suit his disposition. But in that moment, he ran with the speed and skill of an Olympic runner. The echoes of that scream beside him urging him onward. The black of a starless night evaporated around him, leaving the afternoon sky, the green of the trees and the red of those damned spider-lilies. The sudden shift stung at his eyes, and made telling his surroundings difficult, but he ran as hard as he could. Old trees decked with moss zipped by as he fled into the forest, before he eased behind the back of a trunk, well within the treeline. The wind wasn't blowing, but the leaves rustled nearby, bringing with them a strange sense of comfort. He caught his breath, before he peered around the edge of the bark.

Over the blood red blossoms of the field, the figure of the girl hovered in place. Pitiable wails of pain escaping her, hands covering her eyes. Her face was singed with soot and marred by minor burns, making it hard to tell if he had actually hurt her. Tears born from pain dripped down her chin. Her face reared upwards as her hands fell away, exposing her painfully bloodshot and swollen eyes. Pockmarks and burns around her face showing where the sparks had seared into her burned skin. As if the very light itself scarred her.

 

"I might not see you, tasty Mister Man, but I'm going to catch you! Ready or not~"

 

The mix of sing-song in her tone and malice in her voice sent a fresh shudder through him. Her nose extended as she sniffed the air, Her small body carried over the long weeds, following the wind effortlessly as she drifted towards him. Oscar raised a hand to his mouth, the better to muffle his breaths as he watched her levitate towards him. Her body eased to the left, almost languidly...Before she slammed into a tree.

The cry of pain was almost as loud as when his flares had gone off. The monstrous girl eased on to her back, a small hand rising to rub at her scalp. One bleary eye opening to stare at the trunk in front of her. Even so close, it was hard to tell if she could see it. Her hand rubbed at her head, before a knowing smile crossed her face. "Ohhh, you ran into the forest, Mister Meaty Man? You know I love games..."

 

Branches creaked nearby, as the nightmare that followed Oscar creeped among the trees. The magician eased back among the roots of the trees. Shrinking against the roots and loam. If he had to, he had another round of flares. But with her face already burned, he wasn't sure how much it would help.
The trunk he leaned against thudded loudly. Nails biting into the bark on the other side as he shrank down. Oscar's breath stopped in his throat as he listened attentively and eyes flicked from side to side. The head of the girl eased around the trunk, though her head was turned towards the forest. She sniffed again, a drop of mucus splashing among the leaves. Her ears primed and listening. The young lady threw herself forward, gliding beneath the canopy slowly as she passed. But his attention was not on her passage. A faint breeze blew, but not enough to match the rustle of leaves nearby. Around the trunk of a neighboring tree, a pair of sickly pale fingers slipped around its hiding place. The feminine digits pressing against the bark.

 

Oh God, there was another one, wasn't there?

 

Unable to do more than stare, he watched as an identical set of fingers on a lithe hand extended. Holding what looked like a small dried bone. In an instant, the long fingers shattered the bone in her grip. The head of the young woman turned. Those red eyes unusually sinister beneath the dark canopy. All Oscar could do was lean back against the trunk as she hovered towards him, only just passing by as she sniffed again. Her arms extended again to either side as she rounded the other trunk with a delighted smile. As she rounded the trunk, a figure eased away from the trunk. A length of dark hair flecked with twigs and leaves over a deathly pale body.

 

"Found you, Mister Ma--AUGH!"

 

With the lunge of a master predator, the shape which appeared behind the girl lunged a fair and ladylike hand towards her. Thin and wiry fingers gripped the young woman from behind. Ignoring her own hands as they grasped for her wrist. His pursuer's gaze, once so sinister, now gazed upwards in frightened concern. One that did not fade as she let out a sigh of relief.

 

"O-oh, hello Kimiko! You surprised me!"

 

The figure in the dark's eyes drifted towards Oscar knowingly. A glimmer of sinister amber reflecting from her gaze, before she stepped among the trees. The light here was stronger, letting him get a better view of the figure as she approached. Her body was thin, almost gaunt, though the ease with which she held the strange girl in the air showed that was no sign of her weakness. Her face was...beautiful. A glance at it was enough to bring back memories of fairy tale princesses. But there was something amiss in her face. While composed, there was a feral quality to her appearance. Her body was dressed in a robe, made of bay tree and laurel leaves. The gentle sway highlighted the gold in the laurel, dazzling the eyes. Camellia flowers spread throughout the ensemble. The thread which bound this ensemble together might have come from a kimono, once. But no trace of civilized dignity remained save her poise. Even her hair, drawn in the Hime style, was pocked with vegetation. She gazed down at the girl in hand coldly.

 

"Mymy, it has been so long since little Rumia thought to grace Muenzuka. Did you forget this was not your domain, little one? You may have once ruled these lands as its liege, but that time has long past."

 

"I dunno what you're talking about, Kimiko, I just--"

 

"Princess Yamahime Kimiko. 'My Lady' will do just as well."

 

Despite her burns, a look of irritation crossed Rumia's face. For a moment, Oscar had to ponder if this was just because she was being talked down to. Still, from her place in Kimiko's grip, there wasn't much Rumia could do, except struggle at the hand that held her in place. "Okay, 'My Lady', I was hungry, and Dai-chan won't let me steal livestock from the Human Village anymore. I remembered there were Outsiders who appeared around here, and thought we could share a snack! Just you and me."

 

She was lying. A lifetime of entertaining children could tell Oscar as much without more than a glance. Even if the playful flutter of Rumia's eyelashes did their best to sell the deception. Kimiko seemed just as unconvinced. One of her skeletal hands rose, resting on her breast as she feigned a gasp of surprise. "For me, little Rumia? Oh, what kindness, to share half a human stolen from my sisters and I. And so excited were you to meet the princess of the pines, you forgot to ask for her royal permission to hunt in her demesne. Is that right?"

 

"Y-yeah..." Rumia's voice was low as she spoke. Her eyes were beginning to tear again. Whether from the flares or Kimiko's grip, it was hard to tell. Her expression looked more than a little nervous at the figure overhead. "I umm, I'm just so hungry. I haven't eaten in--"

 

"Days? Weeks? Months? Outsiders are not so common as they used to be here, and my sisters and I can hardly leave Muenzuka, like you can. Little thieves like you only make our hungry bellies all the more hollow." An insidious light leapt in her eyes as Kimiko leaned in. Her thin, regal smile looking entirely out of place for their surroundings. "Perhaps it is time to supplement my diet with pests like you."

 

"Wha..." The disbelief in Rumia's voice was palpable, even as it died on her lips. Even Oscar was half-sure Kimiko was joking. But if Rumia shared that hope, it died as she took in the other figure's expression. "That's forbidden Kimiko! Youkai don't eat other Youkai!"

 

"And is it not forbidden to eat humans as well? Or has little Rumia forgotten the rules? Yukari is so protective of her pet humans, I am certain a little snot-nosed churl vanishing wouldn't concern her. Don't worry. Run as he will, his time will come soon. For now, I will crack your skull open like an overripe watermelon and drink the innards.”

 

“Ow-ow! You’re hurting me!”

 

“That’s the point, little morsel. Don’t tell me none of your meals ever squirmed or begged for their lives. You’re a monster just like me. You just hide what you are behind a cute venire. One even you almost believe.” The menacing smile on the taller woman had grown to inhuman proportions now. Her fingers, with an effort which was surely superhuman, pressed down on Rumia's head. Her own hands grappled ineffectually at Kimiko's grip. Hoping to peel back even one digit. Wild eyes flailed for anything that could help her, before they fell on the human's hiding place. With desperate hope in her eye, one of her hands pointed towards him, a note of triumph in her voice.

 

“He…He’ll tell! He will—”

 

It was hard to believe such a wailing laugh could emerge from such a dainty form. The shrill cry cut through the quiet woodland air like silver needles. Kimiko's laughter echoed off the distant hills, until it seemed like the trees themselves were mocking the child in her hand. From behind his hiding place, Oscar forced his hands against his ears, praying the sound would finally die. “Tell whom, child? The lazy Shrine Maiden? The repressed Witch? The icy Maid who doesn't even know your name? Your little fairy friends, so they can join you in my stomach?”

 

“Y-Yukari! He’ll tell Yakumo Yuk—“

 

A fresh ripple of laughter escaped the wild maiden. Rippling between the trees like a foul echo of her first laugh. “The Shrine Maiden’s keeper?! And what will she do, little Youkai? Send her lapdogs to scour the forest for one more maneater? They could search for a hundred years and never find me. Or perhaps she will banish me back to the Outside World? Oh, what a punishment that would be, to gorge myself on man flesh until my belly bursts.”

Rumia was small, even if she could not have been light. But Kimiko showed no sign of strain as she lifted the girl to eye level. Her sinister green gaze leering into the blinded, crying girl's face. Lips slowly warping into a horrific grin. “Face it, child. I will eat you first, and then your newfound friend. And the only ones who will ever know what became of you are the worms who will eat the remains.”

 

A trickle of blood ran down from beneath the wild princess's fingers. Tinting pink the tears and snot which ran freely from Rumia's face. Her broken expression reflected in the emerald eyes of Oscar. In that moment, he knew he had to do something. Anything. Anything at all. Rumia may have tried to eat him herself, but he wasn't going to let that thing hurt her a moment more.

The red eyes of Rumia closed over her shuddering face. Even as the jaws of the towering gaunt figure spread wide. Foul breath smelling of frogs and vermin washing over the child's face. Kimiko's tongue extended, a long thin thing like a worm, which lapped at the trickle of blood. The touch made Rumia flinch, but her expression was calm. A voice, strangely calm, slipping from her lips. "Miko...I hope I will see you again..."

 

"That's enough."

 

The echoing cry cut through the afternoon air with a boom. One eye of the maiden in her hand eased open, nervously turning towards him. Surprise slowly spreading on her face. Kimiko on the other hand turned. A pleased smile warping her face. "Ahh, the entree has come to save the main course. I should thank you for sparing me the trouble of hunting you down. For now, be patient and silent, human. Your turn will come in due time."

 

Her fingers flicked towards him, as though to dismiss an unruly child. So imperious was the gesture, that Oscar had to resist the urge to slink back into the shadows. But the pleading eyes of Rumia pushed him on. He couldn't let this happen.

 

"I am Oscar Diggs, the great and powerful..."

 

 

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:SekiThink:= "...And you will learn to fear me, my Lady." Oscar scoffs. Perhaps if the great mage threatens and cajoles her, she will let them go.
:KoishiXD:= "...And I have come to bargain for my apprentice." The magician proclaims, praying his Economics class comes in handy.
:YoumuStare:= "...And I am going to make a Youkai disappear." He proclaims, grasping for the smoke pellets in your back pockets.
🏆= "...And I will destroy you for your arrogance." The unfortunate human proclaims, wadding flash paper in his pocket and preparing to light it....
⬆️= "Rumia!" "Rumia!" A set of voices rise from the road nearby. Kimiko is distracted; grab Rumia and run.
⬇️= The Princess of the Woods has had enough, and decided to make Oscar the appetizer.
💙= "...And I think we are all too upset. Why don't we have some tea?" Maybe sitting down and enjoying a snack will calm both of them...

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If you have to run from a Youkai, remember to mind your surroundings. Youkai are usually faster, and can often fly. Every Youkai however has a weakness. Some are afraid of certain plants, others animals, or metal. Knowing the Youkai of Gensokyo, is the key to your survival in the wilderness.

 

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“Rumia! Rumiiiaaa!”

 

The distant sound of a voice cut through Oscar’s theatrical display. One which he was both glad and resentful for. Showmanship was all about presentation, and if he had any chance of cowing this Kimiko, he needed every ounce of it he could. But the distraction had its own benefits. He could prepare his next move...

 

The imperious beauty’s fair visage a sharp contrast to the wild plants she wore. Her neck cracked as it twisted towards the voice, in a way more akin to an owl than a human. A second voice joined the first. Then a third, and a fourth. Whoever it was, they had not come alone looking for Rumia.

 

The girl still dangled in the horror’s grip. Streams of blood staining her blond hair. A miserable sniff escaped her as she silently sobbed. Oscar’s eyes flitted to the Yamahime. Those alabaster nostrils with their impeccable form sniffed, as though to smell fresh prey.

 

This was it. Now or never.

 

There was no grand plan. Oscar merely listened to his heart. The instant Kimiko was distracted from her meals, he bolted forward. Ignoring the roots around his feet as his fine dress shoes bit into the forest floor. Gathering all the strength in his body, he could only prepare his finest spell as the wild princess turned back to him in shock, before his fist collided with her face.

 

It was hard to tell if it actually hurt her. Her face whipped backwards in shock, seemingly unharmed. Still, it had the desired effect. Those horrendous fingers loosened, releasing her captive. Moments before Oscar Digg’s arms grabbed Rumia, and pulled her tightly against his chest. Then, he ran.

 

A roar of pure rage echoed from between the trees behind him, convincing him he had probably made the worst mistake of his life. With a strangled sob, Rumia pressed her tear-stained face against the front of Oscar’s jacket. Branches scratched at his face and clawed for his hat, but there was no time. Even now, he could hear a sound he had never heard before. It sounded as though the very trees were pursuing him. Oscar had the courage to turn his face only once to see what was behind him. The long, slender form of their captor moved among the trees like a phantom. Arms, fair and feminine but far too long, extended towards them. The pale face in the dark letting out a roar of pure rage. Under the amber eyes that glittered in the dark, her mouth hung open. A ring of white teeth surrounded it, promising both of them a painful and bloody death…

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

“Rumia! Rumiiiaaa!”

 

Daiyousei clasped her hands together as she called her friend’s name. Nearby, Wriggle Nightbug peered into the treeline that bordered Muenzuka. A hollow trunk lay against a skeleton as Cirno called inside. Mystia Lorelei ran a hand against her hat as she hovered nearby.

 

“Are you sure she went this way, Dai-Chan? I know Rumia loves meat, but would she really come all this way for food?”

 

The green-haired fairy took a slow breath. Her self-doubt settling in again There was no real way to say for sure if Rumia had come all the way out here. But with the rest of her friends keeping Rumia from hunting animals or humans near the Village, she would have to go somewhere to find food. And she did have experience with the area…

 

“I don--”

 

“DAI-CHAN!”

 

The strained cry was enough to call the four together. Though none of them had ever heard her in a tone like that before, each of them recognized the voice in an instant. The foliage on the edge of the bath burst open, a figure in black racing towards them, cradling the crying form of their friend. A moment later, a figure as silent as smoke stepped from the edge of the forest. Regarding the group passively as Oscar stumbled towards them. Rumia slipped from his grasp. The girl saying nothing as she wrapped her arms around Daiyousei. Cirno, always impetuous, moved between the group and the monster. Kimiko only gazed at her serenely.

 

“You have something which belongs to me, little fairy. I want him back, now.”

 

Gasping and afraid, Oscar could say nothing. Only pray these strangers were kinder than Rumia had been...

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:SekiThink: = "Kimiko," Daiyousei says, holding back an uncharacteristic surge of anger. "What are these marks on Rumia's head?"

:KoishiXD: = "Wait a second," Cirno says, hovering at the front. "Why does a princess like you want with a man like that? You dating or something?"

:TenshiCry: = "Hmm?" Wriggle murmurs, the sound of buzzing rising around them. "Something that belongs to you? Like fifty pounds of wasps?"

:YoumuStare: = "Human?" Mystia hums, Kimiko's vision growing dim. "I don't see any human. Do you?"

🏆 = Rush the monster! The Lake Fairy Crew will be avenged!

⬇️ = The cries of unwitting fairies and youkai draw the attention of the Yamahime's sisters...

💙 = Oh crap is the creepy forest lady play dead!

Edited by Yumetou
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If you encounter a hostile Youkai in your travels, do not run except as a last resort. They are faster than you and know the terrain of Gensokyo. A better option is to make yourself seem more intimidating. Open your coat, shout loudly, throw rocks, seem like a threat. Gensokyo isn't just a dangerous place for Outsiders, but other Youkai as well. If you seem like too much trouble for a meal, even a maneater will ignore you in search of an easier meal.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

“Huh?” The surprised sound from Cirno likely wasn’t what Kimiko expected. The wild Youkai stood on the fringe of the forest, her clothes ruffled by the wind like a spectre. But her attempts at intimidation were lost on the confused ice fairy. Gears slowly turned in her mind, before settling on the most logical conclusion. “Wait a second. Why does a princess like you want with a man? You dating or something?”

 

The question was so odd the others turned to look at her. Even Rumia’s sobs died as she peered from behind Oscar’s shoulder. In the shadows of the woods, the expression of the Yamahime shifted. Her composed and noble expression warping into one of cruel savagery. “Does a human romance a bowl of ramen, you insolent little--”

 

“Hey, ramen sounds really good right now. Can we get some after we’re done here Mystia?” The last of Kimiko’s noble expression faded as her hands clenched together. She took no notice as her nails punctured her pretty wrist. Blood dripping from her hands, long black teeth exposed as her red lips parted.

 

“How dare you ignore a princess of the wilds, fairy! Surrender the human, and I will let you live!”

 

“Human?” Mystia’s light brown eyes rose. Ignoring Cirno’s excited invention of a shaved-ice-and-fried-tangerine ramen bowl. “I don’t see any human. Do you?”

The night sparrow hummed. Her voice more like song than a spoken word. Even as Kimiko glared at her with hatred, she could feel darkness creeping into her vision. The bright meadow dimmed, each figure vanishing one by one as Mystia sang.

 

“Curse you fairies and petty youkai! I will take what is rightfully mine, and no cheap tricks will--” The only warning Kimiko had was the low sound of ice forming, beneath her threats. Before a block of ice slammed into her distinguished and frightening face. Cheers erupted from the group of girls. Between gritted teeth, Kimiko rose, and began to stumble back into the forest. Her hand brushing over the trunk of a Japanese witch hazel, before she vanished.

 

“Yeah, that’s right! Run from the might of Team 9!”

 

The sounds of mockery and celebration echoed off of the trees around them. Oscar himself, unsure what had just happened or why, rolled over on to his back. Letting Rumia climb out from under him. As he turned, he could see four faces staring down at him. Hopefully, they weren’t as hungry as the last person he met...

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:SekiThink: = "Uhh...Hi there. Is this girl a friend of yours?"

:TenshiCry: = The green one in the blue dress seems to be their leader. Maybe a magic trick will endear them to you?

🏆 = Team 9 decides to hear all about what happens on the move. Muenzuka is dangerous, we can be friends over ramen back in the village.

⬆️ = While Daiyousei takes care of Rumia, the group decides to stop for lunch. There isn't much for Oscar, but he's welcome to join!

⬇️ = Being scared by a wild monster really builds up an appetite. Rumia hungey.

💙 = Our hero faints from the shock and exertion, leaving his fate in the hands of Team 9.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The most important thing to remember, when you meet new people, is to remember to give them proper respect. Youkai are used to being feared and respected by humans. It is their sustenance, as much as air is to humans. It is more than a mark of disrespect, you are suffocating them.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

The four pairs of eyes gazed down at him from above. Silent and unnerving. Not that Oscar could blame them. Though he had the much stranger day by far, a human bounding out of a forest in a cape and top hat holding a girl would make anyone’s day. The silence pervaded around them. Rumia’s silent sniffs the only sound to break it. It may have been Oscar’s imagination, but he was sure the one in the weird hat was sizing him up. The figure with antenna beside her giving a look of disdain. The other two looked down with more honest curiosity and sympathy, even if it was clearly focused on the girl in his arms.

 

“Uhh, hi there. Is this girl a friend of--”

 

“DAAAIII!”

 

The childish nickname escaped Rumia’s lips like a wail as she embraced the ponytailed girl. Daiyousei embraced the crying Youkai readily. A hand caressing the top of her bleeding head over Rumia’s sobs. Like a magic spell, the expressions of the others shifted at once. The first two by his feet seemed to relax. While the last by his head puffed her chest out triumphantly.

 

“Its okay Rumia, and Human! You’re both safe, now that Cirno is here!” A diminutive hand pushed into his face, making Oscar blink as she smiled up at him. “Thanks for saving Rumia from Princess Creepy. I’m Cirno! These are my friends, Daiyousei, Mystia and Wriggle! You’ve already met Rumia.”

 

Wriggle? What kind of mother named their...son? Daughter? Wriggle? The question weighed heavily on his mind, though it lost out to getting out of here. “Yeah...you could put it like that. I’m Oscar, Oscar Diggs.”

 

The face of his rescuer scrunched up. Ignoring as Daiyousei wrapped Rumia’s head in a handkerchief. “Your name is weird. Even for a human. I’ll just call you Osu! Its much cuter too. So! You rescued a member of Team 9, the greatest group of Fairies and Youkai in all of Gensokyo! If you need anything, you just need to ask.”

 

“Yeahyeah,” Oscar breezed by. Not that he tried to be rude, but it was afternoon now, and he was still surrounded by bones and hadn’t seen a human since the night before. Not to mention he didn’t want to risk explaining he had only met Rumia, because she was trying to eat him. “Hey, can you show me the way out of this place? Its kind of creepy here.”

 

“Sure!” The small hand of the blue-haired...fairy? Was made no less energetic by its smallness. Cirno smiled cheerfully, though it seemed to slip as her eyes roamed over the forests. “We were just about to go back to the Youkai Trail for some ramen! The Human Village is just past that! C’mon, you don’t want to stick around here after dark, even if you’re strong like me! Wild Youkai are annoying when they’re hungry.”

 

The small figure took to the air, moving with little effort as she started back down the path. The other two, Mystia and Wriggle, soon followed after. While Daiyousei and Rumia remained on the ground, the better to secure Rumia's makeshift bandage. Silence pressed on the group again, aside from Cirno and Mystia's excited arguments over ramen up ahead. Left alone, now would be a good time to befriend one of the strangers and ask one of the many questions on his mind. But whom?

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:KoishiXD: = Cirno seems to be the boss of this group. She might seem a little dumb, but she's cheery and seems friendly, if only because you saved her friend.

⬆️ = Mystia seems frustrated with Crino's constant 'ramen recipes', but she stood up for you. Maybe thanking her will give you a chance to learn more about the world.

⬇️ = Wriggle hasn't said much, but she seems like more of a loner than the rest. I'm sure she has something interesting to said. Just don't laugh at her name...

🏆 = Daiyousei seems the most level-headed and motherly of the group. Maybe you can leverage saving Rumia to learn some things.

:TenshiCry: = Sure, Rumia tried to eat you, but you did rescue her. Maybe you can even cheer her up.

 

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Though most Youkai, Ghosts and Fairies fly, Gensokyo has many dirt roads and paths. Where do they even come from?

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

The road was quiet, save for the sounds of Oscar’s footfalls or the smaller pads of Rumia and Daiyousei. It may have been the oppressive atmosphere, but it seemed as if no one wanted to talk. Well, almost no one, but even Cirno’s excited boasts seemed to be more subdued than when they drove away Kimiko. The only other voice was Daiyousei’s, low and quiet, as she whispered comfortingly to Rumia. With little else to do, he could only crook his ear in the hopes of overhearing them.
A loud buzz pulled him back to reality. In the way that humans do when jerked from their thoughts to immediate danger, his hands flailed in the air. Praying it wasn’t a hornet or one of its vicious kin. The girl beside him rolled his eyes.

 

“Calm down, Outsider, it’s just a Syrph…Syr-Syr—it’s just a hoverfly.” Wriggle’s wings buzzed with sudden ferocity, reflecting her exasperated glare, before the buzz stopped. The small, stripped insect drifted around her new companion. Taking a seat on an outstretched finger. The other hand rose, brushing along his back as though it were a valued pet. “I don’t know why you humans are so cruel to insects. It just wanted to know if your flower was real.”

 

The exchange was simple, but was equally surreal. Oscar was used to hearing people coo over animals, especially the rabbit which was presently fast asleep in his top hat. But he had never heard someone speak of such sympathy for an insect. Something so small and delicate, it was likely to be dead within a week. But that didn’t seem to matter to Wriggle as she brushed its back.

 

“S-sorry,” He eventually managed. Not sure how he would recover from the exchange. “I uh, I thought it was a wasp.”

 

“So you couldn’t take five seconds to check, suuure.” The phrase didn’t seem angry, perhaps a little bitter. But more than anything else, exasperated and very tired. “Everyone’s always so mean to insects. Humans are the worst, but it’s not like anyone else cares. Other Youkai, Ghosts, Fairies. Even Cirno only leaves them alone because we’re friends.”

 

“…You really care about insects, don’t you?”

“Yeah. I AM a Firefly Youkai. I bet you think that makes me weak, don’t you?”

“…Uhh, Wriggle, right? To be completely honest…I don’t know what a Youkai is. I’m not sure I even know strictly what a Fairy or Ghost is here, either.”

 

The quiet resumed. Weighing around the two like a heavy cloud. The antennae on top of Wriggle’s head moved slowly from side to side. Before she let out a sigh. “You really are helpless aren’t you? Even for a human.”

 

“Right, so are you going to tell me?”

 

The return of the silence from before was welcome this time. Wriggle Nightbug turned to him, opening her mouth as though to speak. But nothing emerged. Her head turned in thought, before with a frustrated huff she instead called ahead. “Dai-chan?”

 

The figure ahead of them had her arm around Rumia. While scarcely taller than the children Oscar used to entertain, when she turned her face towards them, it had all the motherly kindness of a saint. One hand caressing the back of Rumia’s head as she sobbed. “Yes Wriggle? I hope you aren’t being mean to our new friend?”

 

“Can you tell Osu what a Youkai is?”

"...But you are a Youkai."

"No, like, what-what a Youkai is."

“Did you forget again Wriggle?”

“S-shut up Daiyousei!”

 

“Hehe, you should be nicer Wriggle.” Daiyousei smiled, with all the charm of an angel. “Youkai are beings who exist because of humans. The first Youkai were born when humans believed there was danger and feared the world around them, but they can exist because of other emotions. Humans long ago looked at fireflies, and they felt wonder for them. Because of that, Wriggle was born.”

The words were subtle. Enough that Oscar only grasped their intent when Wriggle looked away, crossing her arms. Daiyousei didn’t revel in her lesson, or even draw attention to it. Only smiled understandingly. Beside her, Rumia looked back at Oscar and her friends curiously. Her crying had stopped, though her face was caked with dried tears.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

What next?


:SekiThink: = “So that would make you a fairy, right? How are they different?”
:KoishiXD: = “The others really respect you, Daiyousei. You must have been friends for a long time.”
:TenshiCry: = “Your friends seem so normal. Why was Kimiko so strange?”
:YoumuStare: = “Humans and Youkai are dependent on one another then?”

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Knowing your way in the wilderness can be tricky, but you can use the position of the sun to work out where you are. Rising in the east, setting in the west. Its position in regard to Youkai Mountain can allow even a novice explorer to know his exact location.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

“I…see…” Oscar managed, feeling a little better as he did. Her explanation only made so much sense to him, and he was still confused on what this all meant. But now the world all made sense at least.

This was all just a dream. A nightmare about the kids he entertained. That was why Rumia tried to eat him, how Cirno could create and throw a twenty-pound block of ice, how everyone besides him could fly. He just had to wait for the sleeping pills to run their course, and he’d wake up back in his bed, safe and sound.

The thought was less comforting than he thought it would be. Best to distract himself with small-talk. May as well make the best of the situation. “So that would make you a fairy, right? How are they different?”

Beside him, Wriggle gave a small scoff, clearly irritated with the simple question. Daiyousei’s kindly face drifted to Wriggle in reprimand. The kindness was still there, but behind a pointed glare. Wriggle said nothing, her antennae drooping. Before Dai’s familiar expression returned.

“Fairies are kind of like Youkai. Some even call us Youkai, but we’re very different. We come from the power of nature. We’re physically weaker than humans, but we’re born with magic, and are sustained by nature. I’m a Flower Fairy, while Cirno is an Ice Fairy. So long as there are cold mornings or spring blossoms, we will be reborn.”

“That’s…actually pretty charming,” Oscar mused, making a mental note to remember this lore for his next story time or puppet show at a children’s party. “So, why haven’t I ever seen a Fairy or Youkai before?”

“They say Fairies and Youkai are much more secretive in the Outside World.” Daiyousei replied with a shrug. “I've never met someone who knows about the Outside World, but Youkai only exist because of human faith and emotions. If the wrong kinds of human emotions are made, maybe less Youkai exist? Maybe if there’s less nature, there are less fairies? I’m not sure.”

 

Outside World? Was that what they called Earth? That would explain why they kept calling him ‘Outsider’. Still, her answer—while lacking context—clearly made sense… “I can see why the others respect you, Daiyousei. You must have been friends for a very long time.”

“Oh, stop,” The green-haired girl giggled. Even as her cheeks flushed, her eyes twinkled with a modest kind of pride. At her side, Rumia’s small arms wrapped around Daiyousei’s waist in an embrace.

“Dai-chan’s great…”

It was the first time Rumia had spoken since he’d met the rest of the group. The first time he heard her when she wasn’t hunting him down or screaming in pain. The sound was so different, it took Oscar a moment to realize it was Rumia who said it. The taller girl’s hand patted along her shoulder, as though in thanks.

“Cirno and I met over the Misty Lake, about twenty years ago. We were very different people. I’ve always been thoughtful and cheery, even for a Flower Fairy, but I struggle standing up for myself. Cirno can be a showoff, a little dense and very brave, but deep down she has a kind heart. I think we have that in common, but…our differences also fit together, I think. It’s like I’m her brain, and she’s my courage. We met Rumia. She had been on her own for so long, Cirno decided she needed a friend. Then we met Mystia, and then Wriggle.”

“So…where does the ‘Team 9’ thing come from?”

“It’s an inside joke.” Wriggle replied. Letting out a huff which seemed more good-natured than he was used to. Made all the weirder by the presence of a small smile. “Cirno likes to change the name of our group every few months. I think she wants it to fit us all. They were the ‘Lake Fairy Crew’ before I joined. Then she called us the ‘Bakette’, 'CDMRW' ‘Five-under-Five’ and then—”

 

Wriggle’s pleasant expression froze while she gazed ahead. Shifting his eyes, Oscar could see the others had stopped too. The road’s fringes were still lined with red flowers, but the spider lilies were less common now than before. Ahead, bathed in the light of the late afternoon, there was a small figure, dressed in a bright yellow raincoat despite the clear sky. Her hands pawed over one of the skeletons now sprinkled sporadically along the road. She ducked low, seemingly not noticing the group as she eased the body to the side to rifle through its bag.

“Oh great…” Cirno murmured, the first to break the silence. Her face shifting into a forced smile. Not afraid, just very uncomfortable. “It’s Agappa.”

 

The reactions of the others were no less tense. Mystia's hands rose to massage her face. Wriggle started to rub the back of her neck. Daiyousei closed her eyes, and took a long deep breath. Rumia simply hiccupped. Wriggle was the first to turn to Oscar. Rumia followed. Within seconds, the rest of the group was silently staring back at him. Each of them silently pleading for the Outsider to defuse an awkward meeting for them...

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:TenshiCry: = …Maybe a magic trick will make a good first impression?

:YoumuStare: = …Maybe you can sneak past her while she is distracted?

🏆 = ...Maybe take a deep breath, and just run as fast as you can.

💙 = ...Maybe you should lie down and get some sleep. They can’t wait longer than you can nap!

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Mikari Baba
‘Winnowing Basket Borrowing Hag’


Youkai of greed and misfortune, they are said to resemble old women missing one eye, though Agappa-chan is pretty cute. They are stingy and shameless, wandering from house to house to beg for food and other items. Yet they prefer to eat scraps and use broken tools. If you refuse, they will creep into your home to steal things from you. They dwell in abandoned homes or sheds around villages and farms. Mikari Baba are often seen scouring fields after a harvest for the last grains of rice.

Mikari Baba usually appear once every eight days, and seldom seen otherwise. They have very poor eyesight, and struggle to see things more than half an inch from their face. They are also said to have a fear of things with many holes, mistaking them for many eyes watching them.

They are often seen in the company of Hitotsume Kozo, a one-eyed Youkai resembling a youth with a shaven head. These miscreants record the misdeeds of any they encounter, bringing these lists to the goddess of Hell and the Yamas. If a person’s misdeeds outweigh their good deeds, the Mikari Baba are sent to bring bad luck to the wicked.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

Oscar's first instinct was to back out. His day had been full of excitement and unpleasant surprises enough. But as the five girls stared up at him, he felt his willpower begin to crumble. The silent, innocent gazes doing more than anything they could say. With a sigh, he started down the road, the five figures shuffling around him before watching from behind. Silently exchanging thumbs-up and high-fives at narrowly avoiding the walking disaster that was Agappa-chan. Only Daiyousei sat out the celebration, watching him as he strolled towards her. The worried gaze returned to Rumia as the youkai took her hand with her first smile of the evening.

 

"Why are you frowning? Osu will be fine. He saved me. Agappa's not as scary as Kimiko, right?"

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

Poor Oscar was scared out of his wits. In the course of an afternoon, he had met two Youkai outside Wriggle and the other one. The first had pretended to be friendly to get close, before coming so close he could see down her throat. The other had chased him through the forest while he held the first. Half the youkai he had met wanted to eat him. Dealing with Kimiko or even Wriggle had been a relief next to Rumia's charming exterior. Their honest natures at least a small relief. Now he was going to meet a youkai even Rumia hesitated to speak to. Just what kind of terror did this girl hide?

 

Dress shoes weren't the best thing for creeping along a dirt path, but somehow he managed it. Oscar remembered an old story about how stepping sideways was quieter, so he did his best. The girl, whether she noticed him or not, seemed preoccupied with checking the body's pockets. The only sounds to be heard was the pounding of Oscar's heart and the sound of rummaging fingers. It was only when the strange girl was in arm's reach that he realized he had no idea what he was going to say to her. With nothing better in mind, all he could do was slowly manage the first thing that came to mind...

 

"Uh...hey..."

 

The face of the youkai turned towards him. At first glance, Oscar had no idea why the others were so worried. She had a cute face, sure, but compared to Rumia or Cirno, she was practically plain. The dark hair had long bangs combed to either side, and a messy ponytail in the back. A cute nose with an unassuming expression gazed back at him from a pair of bloodshot brown eyes. The rest of her body concealed beneath her yellow raincoat and boots. She assessed him for a moment, only the word 'Ningen' escaping her, before going back to her looting.

 

"Want to see a magic trick?"

 

The head turned back towards him. He couldn't be sure if her stare was sullen, curious or indifferent. But it seemed the closest thing to concurrence he was going to get from her. After a moment of thought, he reached to the rose blossom in his buttonhole. Waving it to and fro in the way he was used to. It was normal for his typical clients to touch it, gaze in awe or even scrutinize him for the trick. The even gaze she gave him was much more unnerving. Trying not to let it distract him, he held out the rose. Letting his glove surround the flower, before pressing down hard. A moment later, the corner of a silk handkerchief appeared from beneath his thumb. At that, Agappa blinked. Before a hand rose to one of her eyes. At first, he thought she was just rubbing them in a way he was used to. Before he realized her finger had slid inside the socket. With a sound that made him feel as if he would be sick, she produced the eye between three fingers, holding it out towards the kerchief. If that were not enough, the orb swiveled on the ends of her fingers to scrutinize the trick more closely.

 

It took him a moment to fight back the urge to vomit. His own eyes went back to the kerchief, before giving the corner a pull, producing it before her. Waving it to and fro again for her to observe. Thankfully, she did not remove the other eye. With a careless toss of the fabric, Oscar blew upon it. In an instant, the kerchief caught flame. Fire engulfing it, before leaving him standing before her. Rose back in its button hole. Despite his disgust, he managed a half-hearted smile.

 

"Ta-daaa..."

 

The words were not helped by his jazz hands, no matter how they swayed. The girl called Agappa merely stared at him. Both from the eye in her head, and the one in her hand. Scarcely had Oscar time to think of his next move, before her voice cut through his thoughts. "That was a waste."

 

"A what?"

"You wasted a good handkerchief.  You could have used it for something more valuable."

"Well...I thought it would impress you."

"Oh."

Silence returned to the roadside. Though thankfully he didn't need to spend so long figuring out what to say next. "I'm Agappa Harume. My friends call me Agappa-chan."

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:SekiThink: = Examine the fallen body. Maybe asking her what she was looking for could endear her to you?

:KoishiXD: = "...You have friends--I mean can I be your friend?"

:YoumuStare: = Signal the girls to sneak around while you keep this one-eyed terror distracted.

🏆 = "I'll set fire to the rest of your things if you don't let us pass."

:TenshiCry: = "Okay no I know this icon's on cooldown but I have to ask what is up with your eye?"

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

OoC: Sorry for the delay folks! I've recently packed and moved across country, and my job decided to keep me busier than usual my last two weeks. I'm hoping to take a job which will give me more regular hours in a few weeks. I don't know how my new job will pan out, but for now I should have less trouble posting regularly.

Edited by Yumetou
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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Hitotsume Kozo

One-Eyed Priest Boy’

 

Found throughout Gensokyo but most commonly in dark and forbidden places, these little menaces are reviled throughout the land. Judgmental, mischievous and child-like, these monsters are harmless compared to other races in Gensokyo. Their true power comes from the ability to see the sins of any they see, which they then relay to the Yamas and Hecate for judgment. Hitotsume Kozo are said to resemble miniature monks with bald heads and one eye, though they can be either gender. They are devote Buddhists, and can be pleased with the correct mantra.

They are often seen in the company of the Mikari-Baba, who like them is said to have one eye. Both are spirits of misfortune, with the Hototsume Kozo directing the Mikari Baba onto a chosen target. When alone or without a Youkai to protect them, they enjoy startling Humans and Youkai alike with wild pranks. Particularly the wicked, people doing evil, or just those who annoy them.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

“O-oh really? Its uhh, nice to meet you.”

 

The magician leaned forward with a smile he hoped didn’t look too forced. The eyes of the youkai, one still in her hand, focused on him. He was glad to be wearing his cape, for the flowing shape made his frame all the larger…

 

A gloved hand eased behind him, waving to the group watching nearby. It took him a couple tries before they noticed, and a couple more before Cirno seemed to understand. Turning, she held a finger up with a ‘Shhh’. Before creeping along the path. Mystia, who was nearest, turned to Wriggle, repeating the gesture, before following after Cirno with a slow creep. When Rumia turned with a smile to Daiyousei, she only found the other fairy glaring down at her.

 

The understanding nod Rumia gave instead earned her a pat on the head.

 

Oscar meanwhile, desperate to keep the conversation with the weirdo holding her *actual eye* in her hand glanced down at the body beside her. It was an old thing, wrapped in rags and more bone than flesh. “So ahh, what are you doing?”

 

“Scavenging.”

 

“What for?”

 

What people don’t want.”

 

The phrase was singularly unhelpful. Though Agappa-chan turned to a bag at her side. One hand diving into the knockoff Chanel handbag before she raised her open palm. Between her fingers was a couple paperclips, a Bic pen, lighter and a few bullets. Though what their size was, he had no idea. Her other hand slipped into the bag a moment later, pulling out a black book, marked with elaborate designs. Her next few words were tinged with almost a note of pride.

 

“Humans don’t want these anymore. I’ll make them useful.”

 

Cirno glanced over at the weird man they picked up. The broad cape thankfully blocking them from view. Wary blue eyes glanced back to observe the others sneaking behind her. Well, Mystia and Wriggle sneaking. Daiyousei and Rumia looked pretty casual. The team’s fearless leader turned to Oscar Diggs, giving him an unseen salute.

 

“Thank you Osu! Your sacrifice won’t be forgott--”

 

“Freezing frogs. 1507 counts.”

 

The two words were delivered as calmly as possible. But from the scream which ripped from Cirno’s throat, one would have guessed she saw the end approaching. Or a mighty frog god looking for revenge. With a surge of adrenaline, the fairy leaped into the arms of Mystia, barely able to hold her up. The group and Oscar crowded around, staring from behind her. Even Agappa glanced over with passive interest.

 

Seated on a tree branch nearby was a girl. Though hunched over, she looked like the diminutive Cirno would tower over her. Even Rumia was probably taller by a couple hairs. Most of her frame was hidden behind a scroll she held in her hands, leaving only one eye glaring at them visible, and a half-shaven head of silky black hair.

 

“Interrupting an agent of the Yamas. Punishment: fifty hiccups at your next meal.” She said. Rapidly scribbling down the entry onto the scroll. The fear of the group hovering over everyone before the blue baka managed a glare back at the figure. “H-hey, one thou...one thou...that number’s too small! I’ve frozen way more frogs than--”

 

“Oh, a wise guy eh? Well it says here freezing frogs. 1507 counts. Your punishment’s 30 leg cramps at 3 AM. Don't make me make it 31 leg cramps.”

 

“Ha! Then I just won’t sleep!”

 

“...I don’t think that’s possible Cirno...”

 

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

What next?

 

:KoishiXD: = Daiyousei seems pretty put together for the group. Maybe she should help?

:TenshiCry: = What is up with these eyes I mean--Uhhh...want to see me make a fairy disappear?

:YoumuStare: = ...Well this seems a good opportunity to leave. Thank you Cirno. Your sacrifice won't be forgotten.

🏆 = Push the annoying girl off the branch. Teach that nerd to read curses at you.

 

Edited by Yumetou
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A greater threat than Youkai in Gensokyo is something all races know. Starvation. On Pages 14 - 42, you will find a collection of fruits, vegetables, roots and mushrooms which are safe to eat. Be particularly careful when picking mushrooms or what look like berries. Poisonous look-alikes are very common, and often can kill you. If you are unsure, its best to go hungry for a night.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

Oscar had little idea what a Youkai was. Or a fairy. He had no idea how they could look so different from one another, or if that had any special meaning or not. But he didn’t need to be a lore-master to know that Cirno and the one-eyed brat arguing would get them nowhere. With a sudden rush of energy, he leaped forward. Cape billowing after him, one hand coming to his hat even as its resident napper peered a head free. He had arrived just in time.

 

“You see this right here fairy? Its going into your permanent record. You ain’t like a human and get yer slate wiped clean when you croak.”

 

“Well, your face is ugly. And stupid.”

 

“Insulting an agent of the Yamas. Two counts. That’s bad luck for a whole week. Keep pushing me, girly. Let’s see if we can make it to a month.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Cirno glared back. Her mouth opened. Despite her small size, she seemed to have no trouble opening it to comedic proportions. A rush of air flooded inside, just as he came in arm’s reach. “BAKAB--”

 

Thankfully, in that instant, the magician’s hand clamped over her mouth. Pulling the flailing fairy against him. All as he tried to give the figure seated on the tree branch his most charming smile. “Ahh, h-hello, we haven’t met. I’m--”

 

The girl’s only visible eye didn’t shift from him as she pulled at the length of the scroll. Woven reeds spilling onto the ground. She seemed to find her place after a moment, eye dipping down. “Oscar Diggs, Earth Man. Most recent offense, Attempted--”

 

“Yesyes that’s ah, not important,” The young man said, resting his arm on the scroll. Still clutching the flailing Cirno against him. Before his other hand gently pushed Daiyousei forward. “She ah, she’s our spokesman.”

 

The surprise in Daiyousei’s face was self-evident. Though the relief in the three Youkai’s expressions were all readily apparent. Daiyousei recovered quickly from her surprise. Smiled graciously, and offering a little curtsy. One the figure seemed to consider returning. “Yes, hello. We’re Team 9, and this is our friend Osu-san. We’d like to pass on our way to the Human Village.”

 

“Osu? Sounds like a cheap hair tonic.” The diminutive girl in her robes sniffed. Pulling at her scroll again, the cloth and reeds crinkling until she reached Daiyousei’s name. The girl’s brown eye squinted. A small hand reaching into her hair to sweep it from her face, revealing a second eye, this one tinted blood red. Attached to the scroll was a paperclip, with a card on it. The two eyes stared at the square for a moment. Before giving a shrug.

 

“You’re free to go. Have a happy day.”

 

The sudden shift in tone was enough to make him hold his breath in shock. Daiyousei thanked her, and the group began to move on.

 

“Oh, and Agappa? Go with them. I wanna make sure loudmouth gets hers.”

 

The girl in the raincoat silently saluted. Following after the group of six. And Oscar could sweat he heard Cirno scream into his chest.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:SekiThink: = “So, that scroll was magic, right?”

:TenshiCry: = “Hey Cirno, why are you so scared of Agappa?”

:YoumuStare: = I have to know what’s on that card. ‘Accidentally’ trip and see if you can steal it.

🏆 = “Hey. Do you girls want a shoulder ride?”

Edited by Yumetou
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Ice Fairies

Like all Fairies, Ice Fairies are spirits of nature. Embodying the cold and winter, Ice Fairies tend to be solitary creatures. Their isolated nature leads to them having strange mannerisms and interests, often out of boredom. These hobbies tend to be banal compared to other fairies, such as tracing frost designs on windows or leaving designs in the snow. They are active in autumn and winter, but hibernate or migrate to colder areas by summer. Ice Fairies internalize heat around them to freeze their surroundings, and a warm environment naturally repels them.

If an Ice Fairy is a nuisance to you and your property, you can repel one by sprinkling salt around your home, maintaining a hot temperature or by placing word puzzles and equations around your property. Like all Fairies, they will stop to try and solve them, losing interest in what they were doing. Alternatively, Ice Fairies tend to be lonely, and may be cajoled through treats and simple gifts. They may struggle to befriend others, but an Ice Fairy as an ally will always stand by you.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

The group continued on their way down the lonesome road, the Youkai and fairies hurrying ahead of Oscar while they walked. The sound of Agappa’s footfalls somewhere behind him. It didn’t take a genius to realize they were trying to keep him between their unwanted companion. Only Cirno was brave, or foolish, enough to stay near him. Floating beside him with her arms crossed and eyes closed. Oscar knew that look. Plenty of kids and a couple ex-girlfriends had tried the same thing. Cirno wanted an apology, but wanted him to initiate it.

Which wasn’t going to happen. She tried to leave him behind! A change in conversation would work.

 

“Hey Cirno--”

“Not talking to you.”

“Why are you scared of Agappa?”

 

The question swept through the group like a cold wind. Even Daiyousei seemed to tense at the words. Cirno’s head nervously turned, as if to make sure Agappa wasn’t standing too close. “O-Osu, I know you are new here, but be careful. She can make bad things happen like--”

The branch across the road was something neither noticed until it struck Cirno across the back of the head. Sending her spinning in place, until her head careened into the ground. Standing up, she rubbed her head. Pointing triumphantly to where she fell. “See Osu? She knew we were talking about us, so she made that branch knock me down!”

 

Oscar might have expected Agappa to be offended, but from her place at the back of the group she seemed to watch bemusedly. As Cirno glared over his shoulder, she simply raised one hand with a blank expression. Waving mutely.

 

“Grr, she’s so mean!” Cirno muttered to herself. The other members of Team 9 were slowing now, both to check on Cirno, and perhaps hoping Oscar would shelter them from the Youkai.

 

“But...why do you dislike her so much? I mean, she’s just standing there.”

 

“Its all a guise, Osu!” Cirno whispered, insistently. The others only nervously nodding. “Last week, we stole a pie from the Hakurei Shrine…”

Even the mention of it seemed to make her salivate. Both hands rising as though to grasp the phantom pie. A low groan escaped the others at the thought too. All except Rumia, who looked downcast. “A delicious peach pie...but the Yamas don’t like stealing from shrines, so they sent Agappa after us.”

 

“...And...I mean you’re all okay. She can’t be that ba--”

 

“She put an oil heater in my house! When I came back, it was melted! And she drank my last cherry ramune!”

“She swapped the sugar and salt in my izakaya…” Mystia continued. Tears sprouting in her eyes, before burying her face in her hands. “The customers were so mad!”

“She stuck fly paper on me while I was sleeping in a bush!” Wriggle protested, antennae and wings trembling with rage. “It took me all day to pull it off, and tore out my hair!”

“I’m hungry…” Rumia murmured pensively.

 

The four turned, gazing back expectantly at Daiyousei. The green-haired fairy glanced from Cirno, to each of her other friends in turn, slowly realizing they were expecting her to speak. “Well...I wasn’t there, but I did find two brown rabbits in my flower patch that afternoon.”

“SEE! See Osu! She’s a monster!”

“I like rabbits…”

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:SekiThink: = "I keep on hearing about these 'Yamas', what are they, and how do they know you're misbehaving?"

:KoishiXD: = “Well, maybe we can talk this over. Ask Agappa about all this, and lets get the situation resolved. Who knows, she may go easy on you if you're friends.”

:YoumuStare: = "Sooo...she only does what her bosses tell her to, right? How were you even caught?"

🏆 = "I'm convinced. On the count of three, I pick you all up and run, got it?"

Edited by Yumetou
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Road of Reconsideration

This path winds from the human lands into Muenzuka. Lined by the familiar red Spider Lilies, the Road is said to be used by humans seeking an end to their own lives. Because of this, any number of Ghosts and Youkai are found here. Its bad reputation seldom deters treasure hunters, Youkai and Human alike, who scavenge the edge of the forest for relics from neighboring realms. Earth relics are most common, though treasures from Makai have been found here as well. It is said the road terminates at the Sanzu, where the Shinigami ferry lost souls for judgment.

 

If you value your life, dread this road.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

“I keep on hearing about these ‘Yamas’...what are they? How do they even know you’re misbehaving?” The question seemed even more unwelcome than his previous one. The hairs on the back of each girl’s head seemed to rise. Even Daiyousei was suddenly evasive. No one wanted to speak. No one wanted to make eye contact. Oscar was just thinking of rephrasing the question, when Agappa suddenly spoke at his elbow. The low even voice making the others speed just a little faster.

 

“Yama. Judges, ten. They decide what happens to you after you die. Boring clouds, unhappy hole, sad trees or retry. Lady Eiki Shinki decides for everyone in Gensokyo.”

 

With her curt proclamation done, Agappa grew quiet again. The collection of Youkai and Fairies ahead of him walking briskly and silently. Around them, Oscar could see the terrain was shifting. He had not seen a spider lily in an hour, and the trees lining the road were thinning. Giving way to rough, rolling hills. Nearby was another forest, its leaves unusually rich and dark, and with few blossoms in its boughs. On the horizon was the mountain, a lake at its base reflecting the twilight skies. Cirno put her hands on her hips, smiling blithely as she pointed. Squinting, he could see a circle of trees, surrounding a set of wooden structures. The first sign of civilization he had seen that day made his heart catch in his throat. “See that Osu? The Human Village is just there! They won’t let us in because we aren’t humans, but we go in when we feel like it.”

 

“How?”

 

“Ancient Fairy secret.” The blue haired brat said, with a cheeky smile. Daiyousei turned with a gentle smile of her own.

 

“Come on. If we hurry, you’ll be inside before midnight.”

 

“But...we have to go through that forest, right?”

 

“Its nothing to worry about,” Cirno said confidently. A diminutive hand rising to rest on Mystia’s shoulder. “You have the best trail guide in all of Gensokyo.”

 

Oscar felt Cirno’s judgment, even on something so simple, was questionable. But the warmth in her voice showed her sincerity. At her side, the winged Youkai returned the fairy’s smile with one of her own. “Just you follow me, Osu! There’s nothing a human should be afraid of at night in the Magic Forest, which isn’t a Youkai like me!”

 

Her words were somehow less reassuring than he’d hoped. And only grew all the more concerning as Mystia laid out the paths through the forest ahead…

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:KoishiXD: = Lorelei leads the group along the Youkai Trail, singing a calming song as she goes. (Long, Friendly)

:TenshiCry: = If we take the Magician’s Trail, we can reach Marisa’s and ask to spend the night! (Longer, Risky, but we can rest for the night)

:YoumuStare: = If we follow the Radio Tower Trail, we can get one over on the Fairies of Ligh--I mean get some fairies to help us! (Short, Unfriendly)

🏆 = Force march along the Village Trail as fast as possible. Osu can rest at the Village! (Short, Unpredictable)

💙 = A human, go that far in a couple hours? Very funny. Let’s make a camp where Mystia makes her BBQs! (Long, Safe)

Edited by Yumetou
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The Magic Forest

 

It has no name, because it does not need one. There are other groups of trees, but beyond Muenzuka, there is only one real forest. The Magic Forest’s inhabitants are mostly fairies, with a number of Youkai and minor Kami. During the day, the forest is relatively harmless. Most fairies being easily repelled or distracted.

By night, the forest grows more dangerous as the Youkai awake. The Youkai of the forest, while not especially strong, have a close bond with one another, and readily come to one another’s aid. The forest also has a number of flora, making it dangerous at all hours. Hallucinogenic mushrooms, carnivorous trees and blood-sucking vines among the many hazards of this place.

If you become lost in the forest, there is a chance you can get the attention of some of its human inhabitants. The witch Kirisame Marisa and occultist Alice Margatroid shelter lost wanderers, while Narumi Yatadera and Rinnosuke Morichika will guide lost souls. Be careful that by calling for help however, you do not attract the attention of its more dangerous inhabitants…

Or, you can purchase our Lorelei of the Night branded music boxes, available at every Otherworldly Ventures outlet for 1 Bu. Tired of going out at night and being attacked by Youkai? Ease your life, with Lorelei of the Night.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

Oscar’s feet hurt. The pain pulsed in his shoes as he trudged along. Envying the others who were carelessly floating ahead of him. Only Agappa walked by foot. Her sandals with their broken thong making a peculiar sound behind him. Fortunately, he did not have long to focus on his feet. From in front of him, the most beautiful sound he had heard echoed from between the trees. A song more akin to a celestial instrument than human song. It took him a moment to realize it was coming from Mystia. Weaving her way between the darkened trunks effortlessly. Though the evening sky had dimmed and darkness set in, she didn’t seem to have her eyes open.

 

From the dark, sinister gazes seemed to rise among the trees as Mystia’s song passed. Glowering down at him before disappearing. Every color was represented, from red to blue to brown. Now and then, a face would materialize from the dark, making him jump. Before it would smile and wave to the group of girls. Each time Mystia would wave back, greeting it by name. The others of Team 9 echoing her greeting enthusiastically. But usually, the eyes would simply vanish into the undergrowth.

 

As they walked along the dirt path, the others eased ahead, eager to see another familiar face. Agappa on the other hand hung back. Not wanting another awkward meeting with a judgmental group. The only one who remained close to him was Rumia. Her head still wrapped in Daiyousei’s kerchief, stained with blood. Her face and arms flecked with soot and burns from his rockets. Even her eyes seemed swollen. Her head was turned down, ignoring the greetings from elsewhere.

 

Don’t talk to her. She tried to eat you. She chased you after trying to eat you. She’s only your friend because her other friends like her…

 

“Hey Rumia.” The words startled her, though she didn’t jolt at them. Her head raised slowly. Not looking back at him. “...You ah, had a rough day. How are you feeling?”

 

“Hungry…”

 

The sorrow in her voice might have moved him. If he wasn’t half sure he was on the menu. But there was something else in her voice. Something more than hunger pangs. Behind him, he was sure he could hear Agappa muttering to herself. What it was, he couldn't tell over the song.

 

“Don’t your injuries hurt?”

 

“They’ll heal at night.”

 

The despondency in her voice only grew. Either they really hurt, or she was really playing up the act. Still, was she really dangerous with her friends nearby?

 

“Do you want me to carry you?”

 

“Go away.”

 

Her body darkened and faded. A shadowy ball enveloping her a moment before she veered off into the forest. Vanishing among the trees, despite the odd bump into a trunk. The song ahead slowed. Four trusting faces looking back with concern. Cirno spoke first.

 

"Osu, where's Rumia?"

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

What now?

 

:SekiThink: = You have a little time. She can’t see, and is probably in pain. Trick her into coming back to the path.

:TenshiCry: = This seems like the perfect occasion for a long-range flare--erm, firebolt. That'll scare her back.

:YoumuStare: = Sneak after her. She'll never see you coming.

🏆 = Chase after her!

💙 = She’ll go to a familiar place to rest and be alone. The BBQ pit! We can make camp there.

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Surviving in the Gensokyo wilderness is normally just a matter of triangulating your position using Youkai Mountain. But the Magic Forest makes such things difficult. The trees are thick, and the sky grows dark unusually quickly when night approaches.

 

If night falls while in the Magic Forest, you should avoid anything which looks strange. While dangerous Youkai or Ghosts are rare, there are a number of carnivorous plants or hallucinogenic mushrooms which might be a threat to you. If in doubt, pull a leaf from a safe distance. This will normally prompt any plant to attack, and its texture gives away its true nature.

If it does not react, climb the tree and spend the night in its branches. Even here, you may not be safe. Some vines drink human blood, while other trees are inhabited by groups of Fairies, who sleep at night. While their haphazard structures are usually recognizable, they can be annoying at best and dangerous at worst when offended.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

The argument that followed was as brief as it was hard to follow. Team 9’s exchanges were hard to follow at the best of times. But worn down as he was, their words were more difficult than ever before. Agappa silently standing behind him hardly helped his concentration. In the end, Wriggle and the fairies split up to find Rumia. While Mystia would lead Oscar to a safe place to rest.

 

“R-really, its not far…” Mystia managed over one shoulder. The tremor in her voice was audible. Though why, Oscar could only guess. Was it over her worries for Rumia? Concern for him and his feelings? Or was it the silent figure in her raincoat following behind? His answer came as Mystia spun in place, looking back at Agappa. “Are you sure you’d rather not go with Cirno? She’s...done a lot more things worth punishing than me. Aha...ha...”

 

The nervous awkward laughter died as Agappa stared mutely back. Jaw slightly slack as she gazed at Mystia. Enough was present in her gaze to tell Oscar she knew something.

The Night Sparrow’s nerves fortunately seemed to fade as her eyes went to him. The two were hardly more than acquaintances. But something in him seemed to spark her sympathy. If only just a little.

 

“Don’t be mad at Rumia, Osu. She’s just hungry. When we get to the Barbecue Pit, you can rest.”

 

“The…” The magician blinked. The gears of his mind beginning to turn after so long focused on the pain in his feet. “The what now?”

 

“Oh! The Barbecue Pit. I cook for other Youkai there sometimes. Barbecue is a Human thing. I don’t fully understand it, but it makes tasty food!”

 

Fresh enthusiasm crept into her voice now that they were talking about something she knew. And not the creeping raincoat behind them. Oscar’s body followed after her with sudden animation. Jostling his hat, and earning a sidelong glare from a head that peeked its way from inside. “Mystia, could you barbecue something now?”

 

“I...suppose? There’s not a lot of meat, but--” Oscar couldn’t be sure if it was the intent in his gaze, or her saying the word ‘meat’ which caught her attention. But even in the dark, her brown eyes widened with realization. “Y-you’re right! Hurry Osu!”

 

With a sudden surge of energy, the Sparrow silently wound her way through the trees. Vanishing into the dark trees that surrounded them. At first Oscar tried to keep pace, the rapid footfalls of Agappa close behind. But it did not take long for him to lose all sight of Mystia.

 

He was now hopelessly lost.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

What now?

 

:SekiThink: = You had a passing interest in astronomy. Maybe using that, you can orient yourself and find the village?

:KoishiXD: = "Hey Agappa...do you have any idea how to get out of here?"

:TenshiCry: = Fire a flare. You have enough for one last show of 'magic'.

:YoumuStare: = Try to follow after Mystia, singing her song (poorly) to keep Youkai from attacking.

🏆 = Climb a tree. We'll be safe there until morning. Or at least until Mystia comes back.

Edited by Yumetou
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If you have cause to be in the Forest of Magic, never fear! Our handy Trail Guides are a small but elite group of Youkai and Kami who know the forest well. For a small fee, they will carefully escort you through the forest. For those seeking a less safe but more economic option, Otherworldly Ventures Inc has marked numerous trails in the Forest with ribbons of various colors. While these are used during daylight hours by residents of the Village, be warry. While few Youkai in this era are man-eaters, more than a few will happily mislead you by rearranging these ribbons. Either in hopes of extorting something from you, or simply as a practical joke.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

His return to loneliness was unwelcome, to put it mildly. Oscar still didn’t know Team 9 well, but they had been nothing but nice to him. Excluding Wriggle’s temper or Rumia’s hunger. They had been better friends to him than any he had back on Earth. For awhile, he had even felt welcome in their company. Now, as quickly as he found them, he was alone again.

 

The sounds around him were familiar, but unwelcome. The chirp of crickets, the calls of owls, and the low cry of other nocturnal animals. Each unseen in the forest, illuminated by only the stars and the odd firefly. And each a reminder of how lost he really was.

 

Well. He wasn’t completely alone at least.

 

“Uh, Agappa,”

 

He managed, one hand rising to his hat. Cirno’s warning was still fresh in his mind about her. But it wasn’t like Agappa would want to be lost out here either. At his voice, her hood turned visibly in the dark. Swiveling slowly, even as her eyes blinked quickly. After a couple of scans, her eyes settled on a knothole on the tree next to him. Her expression did not change.

 

“Yes, Ningen?”

 

“Again with the Ningen...So, you know the way out of this place, right?”

 

The question earned him another few blinks. Her head swiveled, the yellow hood standing out well in the dark. After circling in place, her hands reached back for her eyes and--

 

“Actually, nevermind.” The last thing he wanted was to hear her taking her eyes out again. Agappa’s hands thankfully lowered, even as she turned to a shrub on his right. “Do you really have to do that?”

 

“Eyes don’t see false things well.”

 

“False things?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What are false things?”

 

“Lies.”

 

“What do you see well then?”

 

“True things.”

 

The conversation didn’t seem to be progressing in a positive direction. Oscar simply nodded politely. Something her brown eyes seemed to miss as she continued staring at the shrub beside him. With a sigh, the young magician turned back to weighing his options, when he looked down at his sleeves. His ‘magic’ rockets were still in place along his arm. And while he had spent one volley while scaring Rumia, he still had a second volley. That wouldn’t be necessary for help, a single flare would do. All he had to do was light it.

That came with risks of course. Who knew what lurked in the forest waiting to eat him, or worse? But its not like he was at any less a risk just standing here.

 

It took a few moments to fiddle with the ignition. The flares were meant to fire at once, not one at a time. But after some work, he managed to undo the wires to the rest of the contraption. Raising one hand, he pressed the trigger. A single red rocket surged into the night. Letting out a low scream as it flew to the sky and burst. The thunderous clap surely catching the attention of anyone in a mile.

 

As the light burst, he thought he could see something looming in the background of the forest. Shadows melded to form a body and face, which leaned back among the trees as though to hide from sight. Oscar peered into the trees as the light faded, unsure what he had seen. If only he had another look…

 

The crunch of the undergrowth to his right brought him spinning around. Knowing Team 9 all preferred flying, he expected to see a wild animal, or maybe another hostile Youkai. Instead, his green eyes took in a pale, anxious face beneath a bowl-like hat. Nervously scuttling backwards, putting a tree between he and her. Before peering around it. She resembled Agappa, if only just a little. Though the hesitation in her face showed much more emotion than Agappa’s calm stoicism.

 

“Ah...g-good evening Agappa. I see you found your Outsider.”

 

“Naruko.”

 

“Its Narumi, actually…”

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

:SekiThink: = "The fairies were petrified of Agappa, but you seem like you're friends."

:KoishiXD: = "Its a pleasure to meet you, young lady. I am Oscar Diggs IVth, Magician Extraordinaire. Now, about a way out of this forest..."

:TenshiCry: = Agappa probably won't be the best pointman in this conversation. Maybe endear Narumi with a magic trick.

:YoumuStare: = "...You were looking for me Agappa?"

🏆 = Run back along the way you came. Maybe you can take one of the other pathes.

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When you find a suitable place for a homestead, the Magic Forest will be your main source of lumber. All trees are not equal however; while maple and plum trees are common, cedar and cypress trees make for better shelter.

It is safe to harvest younger trees, especially near the Human Village. But be wary. There are many signs to be aware of. Trees considered sacred are often marked with Shimenawa, and are to be avoided. Predatory trees can usually be identified during the day by their discolored leaves, the presence of drag-marks on the ground, or skeletons nearby. Some trees are home to sleeping Youkai or Fairies. While some mark these trees as their homes, others look completely innocuous. Any angry inhabitant of a given tree should be avoided, or may be dealt with using a number of items you can purchase from the Otherworldly Ventures Inc Catalog, in the Extermination section.

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

 

Knowing Agappa, she was in no hurry to introduce the two. And probably would not do the best job if she tried. It was best then to do it himself.

With a flamboyant wave of his arms, the man’s cloak flared behind him. The red of the liner glittering off the light of the moon. With all the elegance his exhausted form could muster, he rolled his top hat from his head along his sleeve. Catching it in a white gloved hand as he bowed. Extending the hat towards her, even as a fluffy head emerged in protest.

 

“Its a pleasure to meet you, young lady. I am Oscar Diggs the IVth. Magician Extraordinaire. Now, about a way out of this forest, could--”

 

All the while during this display, Narumi simply watched in a bemused kind of shock. Even if the rabbit that emerged from the hat earned him a smile. But it was at the word ‘magician’ that a change swept over her. Narumi’s eyes widened in the dark, and she seemed to grow breathless.

 

“You’re a magician too?!”

 

The ‘too’ startled Oscar. Before he had a chance to collect himself, the girl lunged forward. Despite her petite size, he felt like he had been struck in the belly with a rock. A stark contrast to the small arms wrapped around his sides.

 

“Oh this is wonderful! I’ve never met another Magician aside from Marisa and Alice before. They’ll be glad to meet you too!”

 

Marisa. Alice. So there were other Magicians here? And they had normal-sounding names. Oscar was no expert in Asian names, but he doubted ‘Agappa’ or ‘Cirno’ were common back on Earth. Not to mention he met a boy...girl...named Wriggle that day. Perhaps this meant he was one step closer to normality.

 

“O-oh, you do magic too then?”

 

“I’m alive because of magic” Narumi rejoined. Petting the head of Oscar’s rabbit as it emerged. The aged thing’s white furry face seemed to grow less peeved, before finally surrendering to her gentle caresses. Eyes closing as he returned to sleep. “You must have some skill, if you can make a rabbit appear like that. Does he have a name?”

 

She phrased things weirdly. That much was clear. But without Team 9 and Cirno’s optimism, Oscar felt it was a good idea to stay in this woman’s good graces. Best not confront her on things he didn’t need to. “His name’s Houdini.”

 

“That’s an odd name for an Earth Rabbit. But he seems to have taken to it well.”

 

Don’t poke. Don’t pester. Don’t pry. Just get out of this damn forest before something decides to eat you. For the third time today.

 

“Yeah, uh, he’s a bit tired. I was trying to find my way to the Human Village with my friends. But we got separated.”

 

“I can show you the way.” Her voice kept some of its composure, but it seemed breathless now. Her hands folded onto one another. Slowly breathing in as her calm returned. “Please. Follow me.”

 

Turning, Narumi stood perfectly straight as she strolled into the trees. Oscar looked around for a moment. Before easing his hat onto his head and following. The sound of broken sandals behind him signaling Agappa following. For a time, the three were silent. The late night pressing in around them on all sides. Only the sound of nocturnal creatures kept them company. Once or twice, Oscar thought he could smell something cooking upon the wind, but it soon faded.

They had been walking for some time, at least twenty minutes, when he could make out a shape through the trees. A squat wall of clay and wood, scarcely taller than he was. Even at this late hour, lights shone from lanterns along the perimeter. Narumi turned to him with a smile. Offering a bow as she did.

 

“This is the Human Village, sir Oscar Diggs the IVth. I hope you visit the Forest of Magic again after you have a chance to rest. I would love to share a friendly Danmaku with you.”

 

Narumi had been one of the friendliest sights Oscar had seen that day. But her farewell left him completely baffled. The obvious questions would have to wait for now though, as he was faced with a new challenge. As Narumi vanished back into the woods behind him, Oscar turned. And pondered the walls in front of him…

 

 

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

How do we get inside?

 

:SekiThink: = Let's find a gate. The gatekeeper's probably asleep, but maybe we can wake them with some 'magic'.

:TenshiCry: = "Hey Agappa, let me show you what an Indian Rope Trick is."

:YoumuStare: = Pick up Agappa and throw her over the walls. She can unlock them from the other side.

🏆 = Climb a tree and see if you can cross a branch onto the wall.

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