Topic: Radiant Decay  (Read 5020 times)

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Radiant Decay
« on: March 05, 2012, 04:19:36 am »
If you've been following the Weekly Writing Challenge, you may remember when the challenge was a post-apocalyptic story. My entry ended up being heavily based on the video game NieR. I have decided to write a full-length version of that story. So yes, this story will be heavily based on NieR, but knowledge of that game is in no way needed. And for those who are familiar with NieR, well, don't think you know what all the twists are, because although this is to a significant extent based on NieR, there'll be a lot that has nothing to do with NieR (including, as you'll soon see, the very first scene).
Anyways, here we go:
Chapter 1
Broken Lives
She stood at the gates of hell.
Not the true hell, of course; even back when it was a place you could travel to, Higan had no gates, only the river that served the purpose more effectively than any gate could. And not the former hell, either; that, she was already in. No, this was a personal hell, created specifically for the person stuck inside.
She raised her hand to the ‘keypad’ and punched in the code. A simple code, one she’d only seen once before, a long time ago, but very easy to remember. After all, there was little harm anyone could do inside; it was there for the safety of those still outside.
The specially made ‘door’ slid open, the flames within illuminating the deserted corridor. But light was all that escaped; the flames, and the heat, and everything else was safely contained within. Even when the door was open, a magic field kept it contained.
She held her hand up and reached through the field, quickly pulling it back. Burnt. As expected. This is not going to be pleasant. Flame was usually harmless to her, but the solar fires contained within here were different, outside of her control. And the other effects, of course, she also could do nothing about. Not that she needed to; very shortly after emerging, her body would be as though nothing had happened.
She stepped up to the opening and paused. Okay, last chance to walk away. If I do this, there’s no turning back. Do I really want to do this for her? She shook her head. No, don’t think that way. What I’ve done to her is far worse than what she did to me.
She focused. The solar flames may have been outside her ability to influence, but she could still sense them, and as such, could tell where something was within it. And there was only one thing in there.
She paused again, readying herself, and then moved. The cloak she’d been wearing was incinerated as she passed through the field, and Fujiwara no Mokou leapt into the flames.
It was a straight shot, and Mokou finished quickly. She went in, grabbed what she was after, and came out, placing the body she’d retrieved on the floor. She examined her anti-fire charms. Hers were far more effective than any others could be, as she was able to infuse them with the essence of fire upon making them. But even hers had been overcome by the solar furnace. They did their job, though; my clothes are still intact. And she had other charms to replace them. Her body had been very badly burned, but it wouldn’t be a problem; she was already healing. The body she’d retrieves was much worse, but that one, too was healing.
Mokou picked up the basic outfit she’d placed by the door. She dressed the naked body as soon as its full shape had regenerated. No way I’d carry her naked. Not happening. She then grabbed one of the two swords she’d placed there, both in their sheaths. This one belonged to the unconscious woman before her, and Mokou strapped it on her. The other was Mokou’s, and she put that on herself. Right, time to go.
Mokou pressed the button to close the door, then took off, the body of Kaguya Houraisan slung over her shoulder.
Mokou flew through the halls, taking a route she knew well. As she neared the end, she saw two youkai coming towards her. They were hell crows, and these ones were able to take humanoid forms, which they were currently in.
One of them pointed at Mokou. “Hey, isn’t that-”
“She’s got the captive,” the other cried out. “Mokou, stop now!”
“No.” Mokou drew her sword, swinging it in a wide arc as she flew by the pair. She caught the first across the chest, but the other dodged and grabbed Mokou by the leg. Mokou took hold of the crow’s arm, pulled herself in, and impaled her through the chest. She withdrew her blade and impaled the other, then quickly wiped the blade off on the crow’s clothes before returning the blade to its sheath. And she did it all without dropping Kaguya.
There was no more opposition as Mokou proceeded on, and before long, she was out. She moved into the passage, leaving the Palace of the Earth Spirits behind her. Below was the entrance to the reactor, which was not her destination. She flew the other way, up towards the surface. The passage, which opened by the Youkai Mountain, had been made by the god Suwako at Kanako’s behest, in order to allow the kappa easy access. These days, the passage was rarely used, and Mokou encountered no others as she flew up through it.
 The world is dying. Once thriving populations now lie decimated by plague and disease. And as if that wasn't enough, monsters now roam the land, threatening our very lives. The end has never felt so close.
But that’s of no consequence to me. The woman I love is sick, and all I want to do is help her.
My name is Nue Houjuu. A long time ago, I was a terror throughout the land. But then Gensokyo was separated from the rest of the world, and the human populations had powerful defenders. Not that this stopped me. And I went after youkai, too, which there was no shortage of. But that ended fifteen hundred years ago.
I had targeted a Buddhist monk and her companions, intending to have some fun with them. My timing, however, was bad. It turns out that this particular monk was also a youkai exterminator. Except that she never killed youkai. She instead relocated them. See, she’s only a former human; she had secretly become a youkai, and had secretly been aiding other youkai. And the humans, when they found out, were not amused. But the reason the monk, Byakuren Hijiri, had become a youkai was in search of a way to avoid death, and the means of immortality she found made her into a youkai. She couldn’t be killed, but the humans wanted to be rid of her. So they sealed her away within the realm of Makai. They promised not to harm her companions if she cooperated, which she did, but the humans were tricking her. Byakuren was sealed in Makai, and her companions, as well as their flying ship, were sealed separately. They were locked underground. And I, simply because I’d been there, was sent underground as well.
I am no longer the terror I was back then; a thousand years of being sealed away can change you. I still like having my fun, though, so when we were eventually unsealed, I decided to do just that. They were broken out of the underground unintentionally, as we would later discover, by a youkai who had suddenly gained significant power. Locked away with us had been objects needed to free Byakuren, and in the geyser that freed the ship, they were scattered. I attached Seeds of Non-Identification to these objects, changing how people saw them. This attracted all sorts of company, but in the end, they were able to release Byakuren.
Byakuren, upon returning to Gensokyo, converted the ship into a temple. She aided anyone who needed her aid, human or youkai. And relationships between humans and youkai were not nearly as strained as they had been a thousand years ago, so she could aid both openly. They even aided me. A couple of the ones who’d been drawn in by my trick managed to track me down, and they decided to beat the shit out of me. One of Byakuren’s companions found me afterwards, and the temple took me in. They even knew that I was the one who had caused them trouble, yet they still took me in.
I stayed at the temple for a while after that. It was the first time I’d ever felt guilty for something I’d done, and I felt it because they’d aided me despite knowing that I had interfered with them. So I stuck around. I was never as devoted as them, but I did my part.
This arrangement lasted for a few years. It lasted until the event that changed everything.
Until the Radiance.

“I need some medicinal herbs,” Heida no Ari said. “Could you go get them for me? Three, please.”
“Sure,” Nue said.
“Thank you. Here.”
Nue took the money Ari held out. “Um, I think this is more that the herbs cost.”
“The rest is your payment.”
“Woah,” Nue said, “I’m just running an errand for you. There’s no way that’s worth this much.”
“Just take it. It’s the least I can do for you.”
“…Fine,” Nue said. “Byakuren won’t like the thought of you giving us this much, though.”
“I’d just give you the money freely if she wouldn’t start going on about how I shouldn’t trouble myself so much for your sake. I’m being accommodating enough by giving you these dumb errands. Take the money.”
“All right, if you’re sure.”
“I’m sure.”
“Okay then.” Nue opened the door. “Thanks, Ari,” she said as she exited Ari’s home.
The Radiance happened five hundred years ago. And nobody knows what it actually was; the name comes from the bright light that accompanied it. The actual event was, as far as anyone could determine, brief, but the effects were lasting.

When the Radiance happened, these… things appeared. Creatures with generally humanoid forms, but… weird. Shadowy. And fluxuating, almost as though they only half-exist. But that is only appearance; these creatures are, in fact, completely solid.

The creatures were violent. When they appeared, attacks began immediately. The death toll was significant. And that’s in addition to the many deaths that remain unexplained. People who seemingly just… died. Those numbers, though, are minor compared to the damage done by the creatures.

Nobody knows where the creatures came from. They just appeared, and in significant numbers. And they were indiscriminately violent. A lot was destroyed in that initial event, the Temple of Myouren included.

The creatures attacked in force, and it was all we could do to get as many people out as we did. And we didn’t all make it. Ichirin Kumoi was found dead the next day. Shou’s gone, too; there was no sign of her at all. We never found Kyouko’s body, either. Murasa is gone, as well; the temple was also her ship, her anchor in this world. With it gone, she passed on to the netherworld. Before, she could have simply returned to us from there, but that’s not possible now. Only Byakuren, Nazrin, and I made it through alive. Mamizou, too, though she was more my guest than actually one of us.

The temple was completely destroyed; only ruins remain. Many homes and other places were also destroyed. Fields were ravaged, crops lost. And the crops continue to die; every year, more land ceases to be fertile. It’s bad enough now; in another generation or two, there may not be much left. Not even the sky escaped unscarred.

All these problems are bad enough; with the creatures, it’s even worse. They’re still violent, still numerous, and still shadowy-looking. Nobody knows what they are, but we do have a name for them.

We call them Shades.

There was a commotion in the market. Nue spotted a familiar face near the edge of the crowd and went over to her. “Mamizou, what’s going on?”
The tanuki, Mamizou, turned to face Nue. “Ah, Nue. Good timing. I was about to go look for you.”
“What is it?”
“Shades,” Mamizou said. “A small group has been spotted near the village.”
“It’s true!” one of the villagers said. “I saw them myself! They’re just outside the north entrance!”
“I’d handle them if I could,” Mamizou said, “but, well, you know.”
Nue did indeed know. Mamizou was extremely skilled when it came to danmaku, but Shades didn’t play by the spellcard rules, and danmaku wasn’t very helpful in a real fight. Mamizou was quite powerful, yes, but she was much more specialized than Nue. When it came to deceptions and illusions, she was unmatched, but she was lacking in actualy combat ability, both physical and magical, though she was still above the average youkai in both. “I can handle it,” Nue said. “Just let me buy some herbs first; Ari asked me to get some for her. Can I ask you to deliver them?”
“No problem,” Mamizou said.
Mokou flew through the bamboo forest in which she’d once made her home. She’d been gone for quite some time, but circumstances had led to her returning about a month ago. She landed in the small clearing she’d been using, and gently placed Kaguya on the ground, taking a seat beside her.
Mokou sighed. I just jumped into a damn star made by the woman I loved to rescue the one responsible for the deaths of not only people important to me, but also people important to her. The world has most certainly gone crazy.
After a rest, Mokou got to her feet. Right. I should probably go find some food. We may not need it, but after five hundred years, she’ll most certainly want it. And I want some, too. I guess crazy rescues can really help you work up an appetite.
“Greetings, Nue,” Byakuren said as Nue entered. After the temple’s destruction, the two of them and Nazrin had relocated to a house in the human village; the family that had previously lived there had all been killed in the initial Shade attack. It was more than large enough for the three of them, and when Nazrin had relocated to a nearby house whose residents had suffered the same fate, Nue and Byakuren had been left with even more extra space. They made use of it, though, taking in and caring for people much as they had in the temple, although it of course couldn’t hold nearly as many.
“Hey,” Nue said. “How’re you feeling?”
“Normal. You worry too much, Nue. I’m fine. There’s nothing stopping me from lending my aid where it is needed. What of yourself? It sounded like there was a bit of a commotion down by the market.”
“Some Shades were spotted near the village,” Nue said. “I heard about it while running an errand for Ari. Just a trio, a small group that looked like it had wandered close, but you know how nervous those things make people. So I took care of them.”
“It is unusual for them to come near the village, though.”
 After putting her things away, Nue took a seat next to Byakuren. “True, but I really think it was just coincidence that they ended up close to here.”
"Maybe,” Byakuren said. “I heard about some unusual Shade activity myself, though.”
“Apparently, Shades were seen heading in the direction of the temple ruins.”
“Really? Why would they do that? There’s nothing there.”
“We have looked the site over quite thoroughly,” Byakuren agreed. “The mausoleum below it, however, is a different story.”
“Miko’s bunch went through it,” Nue said. “They didn’t find anything.”
“True, but then, that structure is more intact than the temple, and there was more within it to begin with. And it was more complex, too. I would think it’s much more likely for them to have missed something than it is for us. Or maybe whatever the Shades are there for is something that would seem to have no interest to them or us.”
“Shades can show up in unusual areas. And they generally don’t like the light very much, either. I’m surprised they haven’t been going there before now.”
“That is another factor,” Byakuren said. “Why haven’t they been?”
“Maybe we just haven’t noticed.”
“Agreed,” Nue said. “I still don’t think they’re necessarily up to something, though. I don’t know that they have enough of a mind to be ‘up to’ anything. Still, I guess it’s worth taking a look. I’ll head over there tomorrow.”
“I can handle myself, Byakuren. You know that.”
“I suppose I do. And the Shades you found today gave you no problems, I’m sure.”
“As I said, it was just a random trio. Nothing to worry about. Certainly didn’t stop me from getting work done.”
“You found some work today, then.”
“Yeah. Nothing big, though. Just minor random things, such as Ari having me run an errand for her, get her some herbs from the market.”
“I hope you didn’t ask for payment for something so minor.”
Nue chuckled. “Ari paid me. I tried to tell her otherwise, but she was insistent.”
“She could easily have gone shopping on her own. Why did she have you do it?”
“Actually, it’s your fault.” Nue laughed again. “Ari said she’d just give to us if you’d let her.”
Byakuren sighed. “We’ve been over this, Nue. The people have it hard enough already. They shouldn’t have to add to their hardships for our sake.”
The discussion was indeed familiar ground. “Yeah, I know, but we need some things. We got by fine on charity, but if you’re turning even that down, where’s that leave us? We do need at least some money. Since you won’t accept any, I have to.”
“And when you do things people would pay for anyways, it’s different. I can accept that, though I don’t like it. But I’m never going to ask for payment for my services. People shouldn’t be left to suffer just because they don’t have enough money.”
“I know. And I don’t charge for everything. You know that. I’m only charging at all because it’s necessary.”
“Yeah,” Byakuren said, “I know.”
Over the time since being freed, my relationship with Byakuren changed. The more time we spent together, the more I became aware of my feelings for her.

It took me a long time to get up the courage to tell her that I loved her. It wasn’t until many years after the Radiance that I made that confession. I’d never been so worried in my life. I thought for sure she wouldn’t return my feelings, not when I was a troublemaker. Even if I had been making less trouble as time went on. But I guess I’d changed even more than I realized. Byakuren and I have become very close since then, which makes the current situation very hard on me.
There is a disease. The first case of it was several years ago. It’s fairly rare, which is good, as all known cases have been fatal. Because of the writing-like black marks it leaves on the skin, it has become known as the Black Scrawl.

And Byakuren has it.

Nobody knows how much time she has left. She’s already lived with it for much longer than anyone else, and without much of the physical deterioration that it causes. Without much of the pain, too. I think it’s because of her nature, because of the change she underwent to avoid death. But it’s affecting her despite the immortality she attained, and I fear it’s only a matter of time before it claims even her.

I’m doing everything I can to find a cure, to find some way to save her. If the very, very slow rate of progression is any indication, there’s still time, maybe a few years instead of the few months is usually takes. But even that feels like far too little time. She’s going to die if I can’t find anything, and I don’t want to lose her.

When Kaguya awoke, it was night.
Kaguya slowly rose to a seated position and looked around. She was in a small clearing within a forest. The bamboo forest? No, I know it too well, and I don’t recognize… well, I suppose change is to be expected. Something’s strange, though.
Kaguya looked around. Sure enough, there was an odd look to her surroundings. She looked up to the star-filled night sky. The stars look off, too, but I can’t tell how. Maybe… She quickly located the moon. What the- is the moon… orange? No, not just the moon. The stars, too. Come to think of it, that’s what looks odd all around, isn’t it? There’s an orange tint. But why? What could cause something like that?
Kaguya spotted someone entering the clearing, someone she knew well. “Mokou.”
“Naturally,” Mokou said with a chuckle. “Of course you woke up while I was gone.”
“Wait… are you the one who-”
“Got you out of there? Yes. I did. The reason is complicated, so don’t ask.”
“There are more important concerns, anyways,” Kaguya said. “For instance: what’s with the orange tint?”
“That’s just the way things are now. Don’t ask me why. I’m a little behind on surface events.”
“Yes, that’s right, you moved in with that hell crow.” A conversation with the woman who’s declared me her immortal enemy. Somewhat awkward. “Um, how are… uh…”
“Don’t try to force small talk,” Mokou said. “There are important things to go over anyways. Starting with the date. Kaguya, it’s been five hundred years.”
“Four hundred seventy-nine years, eighty-six days, thirteen hours, six minutes, and… twenty-five seconds.”
“I am the Maiden of Eternity,” Kaguya said. “Of course I know how long it’s been.”
“Right.” Mokou sighed. “Kaguya, um…”
“Don’t worry about it. I got your father killed, and then before she threw me in there, I… well, let me put it this way: I’m willing to call us even.”
Mokou was silent. Guess I surprised her with that one.
“Really, Mokou,” Kaguya said after a few minutes of silence, “it’s okay to speak.”
“I prefer to remain silent when I don’t know what to say.”
Yes, she certainly was not expecting that. “At a loss for words, are you?”
“I just… okay, um, Kaguya? How the hell can you just dismiss something like that?”
“Several reasons,” Kaguya said. “First, the more philosophical one: I’ve learned to be forgiving. Having someone who won’t forgive me at all has taught me that lesson quite nicely. People do things they shouldn’t have. That was true of me when I issued my challenge, and as soon as I realized what was happening, I withdrew it. It’s true here, too. And you clearly have decided that what happened was wrong, as you are the one who rescued me.”
“Right,” Mokou said, “whatever.”
“The second reason-and by far the most important one-is that you aren’t the one who threw me in there. All you did was stand by while it happened. A wrong, yes, but not nearly as major a wrong.” Mokou said nothing, but Kaguya could tell she didn’t agree. “And the third reason is that the situation wasn’t nearly as bad as you think it was.”
“Oh, it’s nothing complicated. It’s just a matter of awareness. I was in there for almost five hundred years, but I was only aware for about a month.”
It took a few seconds for Mokou to reply. “Uh, what?”
Kaguya laughed. “I was only aware for about a month. Twenty-nine days, thirteen hours, fifty-four minutes, and three seconds, to be precise.”
“Um… how exactly does that work?”
“It’s simple,” Kaguya said. “I merely locked my mind in eternity. In that way, the time passed without me needing to consciously experience it.”
“Oh,” Mokou said. “Um, clever. That never occurred to u-um, why did it take a month? Why didn’t you do that right away?”
“I had to think of it first, and being in a sun kind of makes that hard, even when you’re as used to pain as I am. Then I had to figure out a way to have the effect wear off, or else I’d remain in such a state for eternity. You have no idea how tricky it is to make a non-eternal eternity.”
“Um, right.”
“I did, of course, figure it out. I used the chamber I was in as the anchor for the effect. This didn’t put the entire chamber in the effect-I made it so that it happened only to me-but it did ensure that the effect would end as soon as I was no longer within the chamber. It ended when you pulled me out. After that, it was just ordinary unconsciousness. Until now, of course.”
Right,” Mokou said. “Um-”
A noise cut Mokou of, and she immediately took a ready position, sword in hand. Kaguya got to her feet. “What? What is it?”
And there we go. A few notes:
1: This story does not share continuity with Orphan or any of my other stories. There will likely be familiar elements, which may include certain character backstories, some character pairings, the ways Gensokyo works, that sort of thing. But that's all; there's no continuity.
2: Some characters may seem out-of-character when they first appear, but remember that it's been five hundred years. People change over that much time. And yes, I do plan to go into some of what happened in those five hundred years to cause such changes.
3: To those who've played NieR: No spoilers, please.
4: I'd really like more feedback than I got with Orphan, so please don't hesitate to say whatever you think. Hell, even a 'that was good' is better than nothing. Also, tell me what you think about the music I link as BGM; I put a lot of thought into choosing some of those tracks.
5: I know this chapter's fairly short, but future chapters should be longer.
6: is giving me issues right now, but as soon as this stops, this story will also be posted there.
7: As with Orphan, updates may be infrequent, but they will come.
Right, that's all I can think of right now. Enjoy the story.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2012, 07:07:17 pm »
Glanced through your recent fics a time ago but they were too looooong. So I read this one when it started.

Very nice storytelling.
Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2012, 05:23:08 am »
I like it so far.

I am wondering what happened to the strongest Hell Crow.
I have...a terrible need...shall I say the word?...of religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 02:21:54 am »
Chapter 2
The Lost Mausoleum
Kaguya got to her feet. "What the hell are Shades?"
"They are," Mokou said.
The creatures that emerged from the surrounding forest were like nothing Kaguya had ever seen. Their forms were humanoid, but… well, not just inhuman, but… Kaguya had no idea how to describe it. It was almost like they didn't fully exist. Their forms were shadowy, and seemed to… to shift, or something. Even their coloration was inconsistent, always a combination of black and yellow but ever-changing. And the weapons they wielded were the same way. "What the hell?"
"Nobody really knows," Mokou said. "They just came out of nowhere one day. The day you attacked, actually."
"From your reaction, I assume they're hostile."
"They are."
"Are they all that small?" The Shades she and Mokou were facing stood at about half her height.
"No," Mokou said. "These are just one variety. Fairy-types, they're known as."
"They don't look much like fairies."
"They're small, weak, annoying, and there's a lot of 'em. What else would you call them?"
"Good point." A pause. "Um, are they going to attack?"
"I'm surprised they haven't yet."
"Do you think they're waiting, or something?"
"They've never done that before, but it does kind of look-" Mokou cut off as more Shades emerged, larger ones. "Okay, it definitely looks like they were waiting for backup."
"These ones are larger," Kaguya noted.
Mokou nodded. "Human-types; they're pretty average in every respect. This is a large group, too, larger than any I've seen. And I think they're ready to attack. Try not to die."
Kaguya took a ready stance. "You're worried about dying? Someone who's immortal? Is there something about these creatures I should know?"
"I don't know what would happen if they killed one of us," Mokou said. "They've never managed to take me down. But they've injured me, and although the wounds do heal, there's something different about wounds they inflict. Don't ask me what. All I know is they feel weird and take a little longer to heal. And hurt differently while healing. I don't know what would happen if the things killed me, and I'm not eager to find out."
"Right. Any combat tips?"
"They're resistant to magic," Mokou said. "Not immune; it just doesn't hurt them quite as much as it should, especially pure shots. You can't think in danmaku terms against these things. Distance also affects it. The best way to fight is with a combination of physical weapons and stronger magic at close range."
"Do they use magic?"
"Kind of. Almost all just random shots, and most can barely fire off any at all. Magician-types can fire off a hell of a lot, but I don't see any of those. The shots can be deflected or destroyed with weapons. Getting hit hurts more than you'd think, though."
"Can they fly?"
"Only certain types."
"Then should we run?"
Mokou pointed up. "Tengu-types are above us. They fly, they're fast, and they can put out some sort of field that slows aerial movement. They're less resistant to magic, which is good, because going airborne and trying to close in doesn't really work very well. They won't deploy the field if you're only a few feet off the ground, though, or if you're only airborne for a couple seconds, so you can use it for combat moves. Expect them to stay in the air and not attack us; they only attack if you try to fly, and they tend to flee if they're the only ones left, so we don't really need to worry about them."
"Right. Um, do you think these things are waiting for something? Is that why they haven't attacked yet?"
"It hasn't happened before," Mokou said, "but then again, neither has Shades just standing around like this instead of attacking."
"So something's different what the hell is that thing?"
The creature that emerged looked like a human-type Shade, except several times larger. "I've never seen one that size," Mokou said. "Looks like it's what they were waiting for, though, because here they come!"
The Shades charged. Kaguya was ready to meet their charge, but Mokou held her back. As the Shades closed a wall of fire blazed into existence in their path. They charged right through it, but not unscathed. Many were burned, and others were burning. "Softening them up." Mokou dissipated the flames. "They'll die quickly now. Go!"
The two immortals attacked. Kaguya thrust her sword through one's chest, and as it fell to the ground, she swung the sword through another one's neck. But although the Shade recoiled in pain, its head remained attached. "Huh?"
"Don't ask me," Mokou said, grabbing one Shade and throwing it into another. "They don't suffer injuries for some reason. Damage them enough and they die, but until the point of death, it doesn't affect them in any way." Mokou impaled a Shade until it fell to the ground.
Kaguya formed a magic field around herself. Reaching her would require passing through it, enduring the pain and damage it caused. But to Kaguya's surprise, the Shades did exactly that. Taken off guard, Kaguya was unable to react in time. They would have struck her if not for Mokou igniting them with her flames. "Really, Kaguya? You're letting them almost get you like that? You're a better fighter than this."
Kaguya threw a Shade to the ground and stomped on its head. "You've been my only enemy for hundreds of years. I may be a little rusty when it comes to fighting anyone else. Also, how the hell was I supposed to know they'd charge right through that? Are they suicidal or something?"
A group of fairy-typed leapt onto Mokou, only to be flung off by an explosion of flame. "I believe I mentioned that they attack mindlessly."
"Then why's the big one just standing there? Why isn't it attacking?"
"I've never seen one of those before. How the hell should I know?"
Kaguya leapt over a Shade and impaled it from behind. "How the hell should I know what you know?"
Mokou cut through a Shade vertically. "Shut up and fight!"
Kaguya sent a barrage of lasers through a group of human-types, keeping them staggered as she ran in and cut through them. "You shut up and fight!"
Mokou slammed a Shade into the ground and bashed its head against a rock. "You're the one asking questions! Right, almost done."
"Just a few left, but the big one's coming in!"
"I'll handle the big one," Mokou said. The only weapons the larger Shade had were its fists, and as Mokou ran at it, it took a swing. Mokou ducked under the strike, cutting at the arm as it passed over her. She leapt over it, spinning around and carrying a slash into its back all the way down its leg to the ground. It tried to kick her, but she ducked around its foot and cut it through the ankle.
The Shade turned around and reached for Mokou. Mokou jumped on top of its hand and ran up its arm, thrusting her sword through its head. It tried to grab her, but she pushed away and jumped back to the ground. The Shade faced Mokou and swept its arm close to the ground, sending out a crescent-shaped blast that caught Mokou off-guard. Gah! The damn thing uses magic?
Mokou circled around the Shade, waiting for another blast, and before long, the Shade fired one off. Mokou immediately charged the creature, leaping over the blast and thrusting her sword into its eye-or, rather, into whatever the odd-looking thing was that was where the eye should be.
Mokou rebounded off the ground. She stuck her sword into the Shade's arm and swung around, cutting all the way around the arm. Then she kicked off and slashed down the length of the other arm before rebounding off it. She landed on the Shade's head and thrust her sword straight down. The Shade staggered, paused, and then fell to the ground, dead. And like all dead Shades, its form faded away, leaving no sign of the creature that had been there just a few seconds ago.
Kaguya came up beside Mokou. "Pretty good. I finished off the other ones. And you were right about the tengu ones; they're gone. Why do the bodies vanish like that?"
"One more thing nobody knows."
"Right," Kaguya said. "Okay, there's the orange tint, these Shades, and I'm assuming there's a few things I haven't seen yet. Maybe you should tell me just what all happened over the last five hundred years."
"I'll tell you what I know. It began five hundred years ago, on the day you attacked us. I was underground and didn't witness it, but the beginning of all this was an event known as the Radiance. Many things changed in that instant, such as the sky, and it's also when the Shades first appeared.
"Nobody knows what the Radiance actually was, or what caused it; only its effects are known. Those include the sky and the Shades, and also…"

Many people died when the Shades appeared, but no deaths had more impact than those of Reimu Hakurei and Yukari Yakumo.
Gensokyo is a land separate from the outside world, a place for that which the outside world no longer believes exists. It is kept separate by the Hakurei Border, named for the family line that created it and has maintained it since its creation a couple thousand years ago. If the border were to fall, it would mean Gensokyo's end.
The border is tied to the Hakurei Shrine. Not the physical structure, of course; that has been destroyed multiple times. No, the border is tied to the shrine's spiritual properties. But that alone is insufficient to maintain it. It must also be tied to the power that created it, the power of the Hakurei maidens. Without that connection to a living Hakurei maiden, the border would collapse. And in the initial Shade attacks, Reimu was killed and the shrine destroyed.
By the date of the Radiance, Reimu did, in fact, have a daughter. And that daughter was not killed. The witch Marisa Kirisame did not arrive in time to save Reimu, but she was able to rescue Reimu's daughter, Renia. Renia was not yet a shrine maiden and did not have the connection to the border, but she would as soon as the ritual was performed. There was, however, a problem: Renia was an infant, not even six months old. Someone so young could not withstand the spiritual effects of the ritual; had it been performed, it would have killed her.
At the time, of course, I had no idea what was happening; Byakuren and the rest of us were far too busy at the temple. We, along with most others, learned of these events later on from Ran Yakumo, Yukari Yakumo's former shikigami.
Yukari's power over boundaries should have enabled her to sustain the border long enough for Renia to become old enough to withstand the ritual, but she found herself unable to stabilize the border. The Shades' attack had somehow damaged it. Somehow-likely because of some property of whatever the hell the Shades are-when they destroyed the physical shrine, they also affected it spiritually, and whatever effect they had on it carried over to the border.
Given that nobody knows exactly how the border ended up damaged, I should probably stop trying to explain it and get to the effects. The border had become corrupted, and as a result, it was resistant to Yukari's abilities. Which was a problem, as the border was beginning to collapse and Yukari's intervention was needed. But Yukari kept trying. She gave it everything she had, and eventually, she succeeded in stabilizing the border, as well as purging it of the corruption from the Shade attack. But what she did had two major side-effects. One of these, of course, was her death. She had given everything she had to stabilize the border, given too much, and though she succeeded in saving the border, doing so cost her her life. That was one side-effect. As for the other, well...
Saving the border had required Yukari to completely seal it. I don't know what exactly she did, but it had the effect of strengthening the border and making it absolute. Before, it had separated Gensokyo from the outside worlf, but after, it cut Gensokyo off from other worlds, as well. It is no longer possible to travel to or from the Netherworld, or Makai, or Higan (although it's assumed that people still end up there when they die). Gensokyo is cut off from all other worlds. The underground is still accessible, of course, as it is part of Gensokyo, and the same goes for heaven. But any place that is not part of Gensokyo, any place that was merely connected to Gensokyo, can no longer be reached. Gensokyo had been saved, but only at the cost of isolation.
When she was old enough, Renia underwent the ritual to become the Hakurei maiden. Yukari's actions saved the border, but according to Ran, it was still most likely not completely stable without a connection to a Hakurei maiden. Any collapse would take far, far longer, leaving a significant margin in case of similar situations, but eventually, even if it took hundreds of years, the border would collapse without a Hakurei maiden to sustain it. Renia inherited her mother's task, and she passed that task down to her daughters. Thus, the Hakurei line and its duty still remain.

"So basically," Kaguya said, "you don't know what this 'Radiance' was, and you don't know what caused it. It spawned the Shades, which you don't know the nature of. The land is basically dying, and you don't know why. Shade activity has been on the rise recently, and you don't know why. There's this 'Black Scrawl' thing that nobody knows anything about. Is that everything, or is there anything else you don't know?"
"Look, nobody knows what the hell happened, okay?"
"Yeah, okay, fine. Different topic, then. Why'd you get me out?"
"Excuse me?"
"It's been five hundred years since I was thrown into that room, but you only now got me out. Why? What prompted you to do so?"
"Nothing I'm interested in telling you about," Mokou said. "It's kind of personal."
"Was it the hell raven? Did she decide I'd been punished enough?"
"No," Mokou said. "Quite the opposite. She's more pissed off at you than ever. She's been talking about killing your people in retaliation for what you did. And that's in addition to leaving you in a star."
"Killing my-wait, what?"
"She wants to break out of Gensokyo, go to the moon, and do to you what you did to her. And I don't think she's worrying about minimizing casualties."
"Look, I don't know what happened, okay? About a month ago, she just lost it, I don't know why. I think she'd almost forgotten about you, but now she's suddenly obsessed. I don't know what the hell happened, but it drove her over the edge. She's starting to remind me of the damned Shades, okay?"
"The Shades?"
"She's suddenly gone hostile towards an entire people. That's one step closer to the Shades."
"Wait, so you think they did something to her, and you think this because she's been acting a little bit closer to how they behave? You think that her hating my people proves that she's turning into one of them? Well, let me tell you something: I did plenty to cause her to hate me, and I'm Lunarian royalty, a representative of my people. I can easily see her hatred turning to all of us. If she hates my people, it's my fault. Shades have nothing to do with it."
"There was a Shade attack," Mokou said. "On the day her attitude changed, Shades attacked the underground. Before the attack, she was normal, and after it, she was the way she is now. I don't know what happened to her during that attack, but whatever it was is the reason she changed."
"Oh. Um..."
"Forget it, Kaguya."
The pair was silent for a while. Eventually, Kaguya spoke. "Well, you got me out. What's next?"
"I assume your first thought is to return to Eientei."
"Yes. Um, is everyone else still there?"
"That," Mokou said, "is a good question. Eientei has… changed. One more thing nobody knows the cause of. Or the nature of the change. What I can tell you is that apparently nobody's been able to truly get inside. They can enter, yes, but no matter what, they always end up coming out, regardless of which passages they take. The place is… warped, I guess."
"Then I have to go there. I have to see what's happening. But… I don't recognize this part of the forest. Which way is Eientei?"
"It's been five hundred years, Kaguya. Of course you don't recognize the forest. You've missed five hundred years of growth."
"Good point. So, which way?"
"None right now," Mokou said. "We'll go tomorrow, not while it's dark. There's an abandoned hut just over that way. Not good for much more than a roof over your head these days, but it's usable. I've been using it, as it turns out that my old home isn't there anymore. Not surprising, given how long I've lived underground, but it did mean I had to find somewhere else. So I'm using this abandoned hut. It's my home now, and I'm heading back there for the night. I've got some food prepared, and it's a place to sleep. I'll take you to Eientei tomorrow; if you want to go now, you're on your own."
Kaguya took a moment to think. "Well, I guess you know the current world better than I do. If you think it's best to wait until morning, I will."
"Shades are more active at night. It's better to wait until day."
"Very well, then. We'll go tomorrow."

The ruined Temple of Myouren was a familiar sight, although it had been some time since Nue had last been there. As planned, she'd left for the ruins in the morning. Byakuren was not with her; she'd remained in the village, providing aid to those in need as she always did. This investigation was Nue's task. But despite Byakuren's absence, Nue was not alone at the temple, as she saw upon her arrival. Another was standing among the ruins.
The oni Yuugi Hoshiguma turned to face Nue as she landed. "Nue. Wasn't expecting to see you here."
"And I wasn't expecting to see you," Nue said. "What are you doing here, Yuugi?"
"Shades seem to be gathering here. I came to kill 'em. You?"
"I'm looking into why Shades would be gathering here. Byakuren and I think it may have something to do with the mausoleum."
"The mausoleum?"
Nue nodded. "If nothing else, one would expect such a location to appeal to the Shades, given their apparent dislike of sunlight. But until now, there hasn't been any sign of them moving in this direction."
"I came through here a couple weeks ago," Yuugi said. "Thought the same thing, that the place would have a bunch of Shades, but it didn't. It's only over the past couple days that I've heard people saying Shades were heading this way. And I've already checked what's left of the temple. No Shades up here, so if they have been coming here, then they've got to be down below. I was about ready to head down when you showed up. You're heading down, too, right? Let's go in together."
"I had the same thought," Nue said. "Let's go."

Yuugi hates the Shades. Nobody is exactly fond of the shades, of course, but Yuugi's hate is on an entirely different level. An understandable one, though.
A month ago, there was a Shade attack underground. Hardly the first time Shades had shown up down there, of course, and whenever they did, the oni took 'em out without a problem. But this time was different.
The underground is the former site of hell, called the Hell of Blazing Fires. And although hell relocated long ago, the blazing fires remain. For a long time, the only way to reach them was through the Palace of Earth Spirits, but when the reactor project began, a new way in was made, and it was that path by which the Shades got in.
The Palace of Earth Spirits sits on a hill far above the city, set against the edge of the underground. The massive cavern that houses the fires is within this hill. When Hell was underground, the fires were spread throughout the entire area, with only the hill rising above them. When hell was moved, the fires were contained within the location now knows as the Former Hell of Blazing Fires, a place where none but the kasha and the hell ravens could survive. Any of the fires that remained outside simply died out. This was thousands of years ago, and the fires were contained within from then on. Until the Shade attack.
As with everything else about the Shades, how they did it is a mystery; breaching the containment, set up by the Yamaxanadu herself, was supposed to be impossible. But when the Shades attacked, it was breached, and the fires poured out. Once again, the fires flooded the underground, only the hill and the palace remaining above them.
The oni had almost no warning, and most perished in the flood of flames. Some, however, did manage to make it out, including Yuugi, one of the four Devas. Another Deva, Suika, had been living above-ground since before the Radiance, so she, of course, also survived. Neither of the other Devas did, though, and most of the oni died with them. The surviving oni fled to the surface. They've taken up residence in a small, formerly uninhabited area of the Forest of Magic.
Until Suika first came to the surface, the oni were spoken of mainly in myths and legends. Because of this, the region of the forest they inhabit has come to be known as the Forest of Myth. It is Yuugi's home, too, but she spends little time there. She hunts the Shades, now, in vengeance for the deaths of her people. She's been to the human village a couple times, eager to hear of any Shade sightings. It's not really a surprise, then, that with Shades apparently heading towards the temple and/or the mausoleum, she would head there as well.

The path to the mausoleum lay beneath the graveyard behind the temple. Nue led Yuugi to the cemetery, through the passage beneath it, and into the mausoleum.
Yuugi took a look around the massive entry hall. "Pretty impressive," she said. "You've been here before, right?"
"Just a couple times," Nue said. "I know the basic layout of the place, but I wouldn't say I'm very familiar with it. Miko's group used this place, not us."
"Doesn't really look like a mausoleum."
"Yeah, don't ask me why they call it that. The full name is 'Dream Palace Great Mausoleum'."
"Well, the 'palace' part is certainly a more accurate description, but, well, I'm not really sure I can say it looks too much like one of those, either. Kind of, but not quite. Almost like a cross between a palace and a mansion. Guess it doesn't matter, though. Let's go kill some Shades."

"You said Eientei's been warped," Kaguya said. "Any dangers in the area?"
"Not that I know of," Mokou said. "Well, except for any Shades that wander close. Those damn things are everywhere."
"You think we'll run into another group?"
"How the hell should I know? There's no telling when or where those things will show up."
"So you basically know nothing about what to expect."
"Shut it," Mokou said. "Come on, let's just go."

Yuugi slammed a Shade into the wall, then took hold of the creature's arm and tore it off. Then Nue finished it off with a trident through the chest area. "You seem to enjoy doing that," she remarked as the Shade fell to the ground.
"It's satisfying," Yuugi said. "Plus, it gets good reactions from people who think Shades can't be injured, just damaged and killed. Guess they don't realize you can rip limbs off them. Course, most people don't have enough strength to do it. That's basically just an oni thing."
"You can blow limbs off if you channel magic in. Pretty much requires a magic-imbued weapon that's pierced into it. Most people just don't bother to try it; there are more efficient ways to take the things out."
"Not as satisfying, though," Yuugi said. "Right, that makes a grand total of three Shades so far, all human-types. So much for the damn things gathering here."
"Can't you feel it? There's something here. I can't tell what, but there's something. I think it's fairly small, but it's there."
"You know oni don't have the same level of magical sensitivity as other youkai. If it's a small thing, I'll sense it once we're close. You'll have to lead the way. Is it on this floor, or are we going further up?"
"We're on the top floor," Nue said, "so no, we're not going higher. And yes, it's here. It seems to be in… this direction."
Nue set off down the hall, Yuugi following behind her. Before long, they entered a small room, empty and, except for another door on the opposite wall, completely featureless. "Right," Yuugi said, "the hell's the point of this?"
Through the door was another room just like the first one. Except that this one wasn't empty. It was full of large cube blocks, many right next to each other. "Okay," Yuugi said, "forget the last room. What's the point of this one?"
Nue examined the arrangement of blocks. "This is deliberate," she said. "The bloks were arranged like this deliberately."
"Looks pretty random to me. And look, there's a couple blocking the next door."
"And the doors seem to be opening towards us, which means they can't be opened with blocks in the way. That's one of the things that jumped out at me. In addition, those two blocks are blue-ish, and the others are brown."
Nue walked over to one of the blue block and pulled it. "Damn, these things are heavy. No way a human could move one, at least not alone." After mobbing it two block-lengths back, she pulled the other one back. But it could only be pulled one block-length before one of the brown blocks was in the way. But there was now a clear space to the side, which Nue pushed it into. "There we go."
"It's a puzzle," Nue said. "You have to move the blocks the right way in order to move on." She pushed one of the brown blocks, but it didn't move even slightly. "Thought so. Only the blue ones are movable."
"…Why the hell would someone make something like this?"
"No clue," Nue said. "Come on."
The next room held another block puzzle. This time, five blue blocks were arranged in a T shape, with the head of the T against the door slightly off-center, leaving only half the leftmost block of the head actually in front of the door. Brown blocks were positioned a half-length away from either end of the head, and others a half-block away from the stem blocks. More brown blocks completed the enclosure, preventing the blue ones from being simply pulled away.
Nue examined the arrangement briefly, then went to work. "Okay, bottom one to the left… next one to the right and in beside the bottom one… middle stem block pulled out and moved left… right stem block a half-length over and back to beside the center stem block… left stem block a half-length to the left… aaaaaaaaaand done."
Another block puzzle awaited them in the next room. "This one looks trickier," Nue said. "Give me a minute."
"To hell with this," Yuugi said. She jumped onto one of the blocks in front of the door and tore the door out of the wall. "There," she said, tossing the door aside.
"…That works, too," Nue said. "Right, let's go."
They moved on, Yuugi simply removing the doors in order to bypass the block puzzles. Before long, they came to another empty room. This time, the next door was on the right wall. "Okay," Yuugi said, "I'm feeling something now."
"It'll be in the next room, I think. Come on."
The room they entered was longer and wider, and kind of had the look of a hallway, although far wider than most. There were two notable features immediately visible. One was the altar-like structure at the other end, flanked by two worn-colored, lance-holding, armored stone statues. But it was the other that demanded immediate attention. "Well," Yuugi said, "I think we've found the Shades."
"All fairy-types," Nue said. "Huh. Right, let's-whoa!"
One of the Shades let loose a brief barrage of magic. Despite being caught by surprise, Nue and Yuugi had no difficulties dodging it, thanks to their experience in danmaku fights.
"That's the kind of burst you don't see from any Shades but magician-types," Nue said. "Are there magician/fairy combo Shades now?"
"Fight now, think later."
"Probably a good idea. Let's go."

The magic used by Shades is different from any other magic known. It's actually most like danmaku. Like danmaku, Shade magic consist of multiple shots. Danmaku shots tend to be varied in form, but Shade shots are always reddish spheres. In addition, danmaku is meant to be non-lethal, but Shade shots actually are harmful, and in fact much more damaging than one might expect. They can, however, be blocked with weapons, as well as destroyed with weapon strikes or magic of one's own. And, interestingly enough, when destroyed, the magic that formed the shots remains for a brief moment before dissipating, during which time you can use it for your own magic.
Most Shades don't use magic at all. They can normally only manage a few scattered shots, which is fairly worthless. Some varieties can do better, though. Magician-types, of course, are the most obvious example, and they do fire more than any other types, but tengu-types and others can fire off decent numbers, as well. The 'patterns', though, are quite rudimentary and barely qualify as patterns. And that's when the shots aren't just in a scattered burst. The most you'll see from a Shade is a vertical wall, or periodic waves, or maybe a spiral pattern.
As with everything else about the Shades, nobody knows why their magic is the way it is. It's just one more strange thing about them.

Yuugi finished off the last Shade with a punch to the face. "Right, then. Nue, you're the one who wants to know why they're here. Think it has something to do with that altar?
Before Nue could answer, the two stone statues stepped away from the wall and readied their weapons. "That's new," Nue remarked.
The statues charged, one at Nue and the other at Yuugi. Nue leapt to the side and hit it with a beam as it ran by. Yuugi,on the other hand, met her statue's charge head-on, avoiding its lance and delivering a punch to its torso, sending it flying into the wall. "What the hell?"
Nue's statue stopped its charge and turned to face Nue again. This time, Nue leapt over it as it charged. "What?"
Yuugi's statue was getting up. "I don't think they're made of stone. That did not feel like stone when I punched it."
Nue landed and fired another beam. "Then what did it feel like?"
"It felt like a Shade."
"Are you saying these things are Shades?"
"No idea, but I'd bet they take damage like 'em. We can think once they're dealt with."
Yuugi's statue charged. Yuugi met its charge again, but this time the statue jumped over her, thrusting its lance downwards. Yuugi sidestepped and grabbed the lance, which the statue still held, and swung it, slamming the statue into the ground. Yuugi tried to swing it overhead and slam it down again, but this time the statue let go of the lance during the upwards arc, slamming down on top of Yuugi.
Nue sidestepped a strike from her statue and thrust at it with her trident. Yuugi, it seemed, was right; the trident didn't impact as though it had hit stone; it instead pierced into the statue, and when Nue swung it to the side, it moved as though it was passing through the strange combination of substance and nothing that was a Shade's physical form.
The statue spun around, swinging its lance at Nue like a sword. Nue leaps over the strike onto the statue's head and thrust her trident into it. She pulled her trident out, then found that the statue was no longer beneath her; Yuugi had thrown hers into it, and both impacted the wall.
Both statues got to their feet, but then the one Yuugi had been fighting knelt down, and a barrier formed around it. "A new trick," Yuugi said. "Seems like a dumb one, too. Looks like it has to stay in that position to use the barrier. Which makes this two against one."
The other statue took hold of the barrier, lifted it-the first statue still inside-and threw it. Nue and Yuugi dove to the sides, and the thrown statue hit the wall. But upon hitting the wall, it bounced off. Nue leapt over it as it came at her. "Shit!"
"Guess it's not so dumb a trick."
"Yeah, watch out. The damn thing's bouncing all over the room."
"I'll take care of that," Yuugi said. "You deal with the other one."
"Be careful."
"Like hell." Yuugi watched the protected statue as it bounced around the room. As soon as it was on a path that would bring it close to her, she got in its path held her hands out. It hit her, and she pushed against it as hard as she could. It pushed her back at first, but she soon halted it.
Nue charged the non-barriered statue. She fired beams from the tips of her trident, hitting the statue's weapon, but the statue kept hold of it. Nue cut off the beams and threw her trident into the statue's face. It swung at her as she approached, but she leapt over the strike, pulling her trident out of its face. She landed on its head and was about to thrust her trident in, but then she saw what Yuugi was doing and got the hell out of the way.
Yuugi picked up the barriered statue and threw it at the active one, sending both into the wall. The barriered one bounced back at Yuugi, who stopped it again. The other statue was motionless for a moment, and then it fell to pieces.
As it couldn't move on its own with the barrier active, the remaining statue dropped the barrier and thrust its lance at Yuugi. Yuugi dodged the strike and kicked its hand, knocking the lance out of its grasp. She picked the lance up and threw it, sending it right through the statue's left eye. The statue staggered forward, then fell to the ground.
"Well," Yuugi said, "that was fun. Any idea what the hell was up with those things?"
"Not a clue," Nue said, "but it looked like they were protecting the altar. There may be a clue there."
The pair approached the altar, quickly seeing that yes, there was something there. Nue picked it up and examined it. The object was a stone tablet. The back side of the tablet was completely smooth, but the front had indentations in it. There were eight in total, forming a hexagonal pattern, and one of them had a smooth black object fitted in it. The indentations were all of different shapes; each one, obviously, corresponded to a specific object. "One of eight," Nue said. "I'd assume there are seven more of these black things somewhere."
"I don't really want to search this whole place for seven small whatevers," Yuugi said. "What about that inscription at the bottom? I can't read it; can you?"
"It's not a script I've seen before. We should ask Ari. And Miko, since this place used to be hers."
"I'll pass. I'm not interested in these odd mysteries. Do let me know if you ever have more Shades that need killing, though."
"That," Nue said, "I'll be sure to do."

"This is most unusual," Aki said. "In all my lives, I have never seen something quite like this."
Nue was in Ari's house; she'd gone there immediately upon her return to the village to show the Child of Miare the tablet. And Byakuren had come, as well. "I have seen many such objects during my life," Byakuren said. "What makes this one unusual?"
"The inscription. Or inscriptions, as I should say. This may look like one inscription, but it is actually two."
"How can you tell?" Nue asked.
"They are written in different scripts. And I only know one of the scripts, so I can only tell you part of what's written here."
"And what does that part say?"
"It says, 'The eight pieces face the shade's black mark. Seek with them the agent of change.'"
"Cryptic," Byakuren remarked.
"'Black mark'," Nue said. "Do you think it means the Black Scrawl?"
"You think so?" Ari asked.
"She's hoping so," Byakuren replied. "Nue jumps at anything that might involve the Black Scrawl."
"That's certainly true enough. But, Nue, even if that is what it's referring to, it still gives nothing to go on."
"It said all eight pieces," Nue said. "Right now, there's only one of them in there. Step one would be to find the other seven."
"With no clues as to their location," Byakuren said, "such a search would likely be futile. And that's assuming it's ever referring to the Black Scrawl at all."
"Obviously," Nue said. "Before I decide on anything, I'm taking the tablet to Seafront. Miko or one of her people may know something."
"I find it unlikely that any of them knows of this object."
"They may recognize the second script, though," Ari said. "I cannot read it myself, but it does have similarities to the scripts of various temples and such. Given where it was found, it's not unreasonable at all to think that one or more of Miko's group know it."
"A good point. And I doubt I could stop Nue from going, anyways."
"You've got that right," Nue said. "If there's even a chance this can help save you, I'm not passing it up."
"I understand," Byakuren said. "Hmm… you know, it really has been too long since I last spoke with Miko. I think I shall accompany you to Seafront, Nue."

"Woah," Kaguya said.
"I did tell you Eientei was warped," Mokou said.
"Yeah, but I wasn't expecting… is it on its side and upside-down simultaneously?"
"I don't know what the hell's up with the place."
"How do we get in?"
"The entrance is where it's always been, even if it's not."
"Just go in from where the entrance is supposed to be," Mokou said. "Even if you don't see anything there, it'll work. Or it did when I tried it, at least."
"You have Eientei memorized to the extent that you can find the exact location of the entrance without being able to see it in any reliable way?"
"Even after five hundred years underground, I still know it better than you ever have. Although we're on equal footing once we get inside."
"You're coming in with me?"
"I want to know what happened to everyone here, too. I haven't been able to make any sort of progress, but you may pick up on something I've missed."
"I see."
"Come on, let's get this over with."

Nue and Byakuren left right away. Ari was going to look into the object and its inscriptions, but with her perfect memory, she didn't need it in order to do so. "Unfortunately, remembering everything doesn't mean I'm aware of its significance," she'd said. "There are no direct references in anything I've seen to such an object, which means indirect references, connections I was not able to see before. Exact textual representations may be important. I'll need to cross-reference multiple volumes, compare with additional material, look for possible word games, consider-"
Nue and Byakuren had left soon after, heading south towards the ocean town of Seafront. On their way out, they made a slight detour to see Keine. "Ah, Byakurem," she said upon seeing the pair. "And Nue, too. What can I do for you?"
"We have business in Seafront," Nue said. "We wanted to let you know where we were heading. You know, in case someone's trying to find us.
Keine nodded. She was quite used to being treated as the village problem-solver; people often came to her asking for any number of things. Nue came to her often for information on possible jobs. "Got it," Keine said.
"Will you be all right with us both gone?" Byakuren asked. "By which I mean will the villagers be all right? With both myself and Nue gone, there may be concern, given the increased Shade activity we've been seeing recently."
"We've got fighting ability here," Keine said. "My own presence-as I've told you many times before-should be enough to comfort them, and I believe Yuugi Hoshiguma is in the village as well. At a bar, no doubt, but she is here."
"Yeah, I saw her at the temple earlier," Nue remarked.
"In addition, Tenshi should be here soon. In fact, she really should have arrived already. I have to wonder what's keeping-"
Keine was cut off by an object impacted the ground hard nearby. The dust kicked up quickly cleared, revealing the form of Tenshi Hinanai stepping off of one of her keystones. "Hi."
Keine sighed. "How many times have I told you not to do that?"
"Not enough."
"Aparently. Stones falling from the sky doesn't really help the people's nerves, you know."
"Yeah, yeah." Tenshi and Keine embraced. "Sorry I'm late."
The pair separated after a moment. "What kept you?" Keine asked.
"The recent upswing in Shade activity has heaven's leadership up in arms; it took me longer than expected to get away. They're still trying to get me to take part, to 'assume a role befitting the eldest child of the Hinanai.' The fact that I don't want anything to do with the celestial bureaucracy doesn't seem to register with them at all."
"The fact that you're the reason heaven has lost so little to the Shades may also be a factor."
"Hey, it's not my fault none of them could fight worth a damn until the Shades showed up and gave everyone a reason to learn. Me and Iku were the only good fighters up there, and she had other duties, so it's not my fault I ended up as the fighting teacher, either. And I only did it 'cause it was fun, anyways. Doesn't stop the leadership from seeing it as me 'finally becoming worthy of the name 'Hinanai', though."
"Right," Nue said, "we'll leave you two to talk about heaven. Come on, Byakuren, let's get going."

Yes, Keine/Tenshi. That pairing just appeals to me for some reason, I'm not really sure why.
So Nue had her first adventure, based on NieR's first dungeon area, the Lost Shrine. And she had some help, too. Yuugi's going to have a fairly large role, so we'll be seeing her again. I think a lot of us've wanted to take her approach to block puzzles at one point or another.
For those of you who aren't familiar with NieR, I should mention that the way I described the Shade's magic is actually how enemy magic works in the game. Yes. They put danmaku in a hack-and-slash. Don't ask me why. All I know is that somehow, it works.
Well, that's all for this chapter. The next one will include Eientei, Seafront, and the first appearance of another character with a large role, so you can look forward to that.
And, of course, any feedback is appreciated. The more you tell me, the better I can make this story.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2012, 02:33:36 am by GuyYouMetOnline »


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2012, 04:14:38 am »
Chapter 3
Daughter of the Lost Ruin
"Things look remarkably normal," Kaguya said, gazing around Eientei's entrance hall. "A couple more hallways that I remember, but that's about it. Well, that, and there are usually people here."
At that moment, a… thing, somewhat resembling a rabbit youkai, wandered out of one of the hallways, seemingly unaware of anyone else's presence as it sang to itself
"Restless souls will put on their dancing shoes
Mindless ghouls with lot of limbs to lose
Illusionists, contortionists,
Tightrope walkers tightening the noose."
The creature, despite walking in a straight line, somehow ended up reentering the corridor it had emerged from. "That was… bizarre," Kaguya remarked.
"That was nothing," Mokou said. "Just wait until you're in three different rooms at the same time. While standing on the floor and ceiling simultaneously. Things get really strange in here."
"Right," Kaguya said, "let's just start exploring." She picked a hallway and started towards it, only to suddenly run into a wall. "Ow! Since when the hell is there a wall here? And why the hell can't I see it?"
"There isn't one," Mokou said. She walked right through the spot where Kaguya had hit a wall without difficulty. "It was just a random momentary shift. They happen."
"About the only thing I can guarantee is that if you keep moving in one direction, you'll eventually get outside. Aside from that, nothing is certain, although I can say that it's very unlikely we'll get separated. Possible, but very unlikely."
"…Okay. Um, is any direction better than the others?"
"Nope. There's no guarantee you'll even be in the hallway you walk into."
"…Right. Let's just get moving."

Miko was never very hard to find, but seeing her immediately upon entering the town was not what Nue and Byakuren had expected.
Miko saw the pair and approached. "Byakuren, Nue. It's been a while, so I hate to do this right away, but there may be a situation. I was about to make an attempt of my own to resolve it, but I think you two-especially you, Byakuren-may be a much better choice."
"We came here to ask you about something," Byakuren said. "We will gladly aid you in return."
"Right," Nue said. She produced the tablet and handed it to Miko. "While we're helping you, you can look into this. I found it in your old mausoleum; I went in there earlier to investigate a possible Shade presence, and found a bunch of Shades in a room with that object, which was guarded by a pair of animate stone statues."
"I… I don't know of anything like that," Miko said. "Are you sure?"
"Well, I'll see what I can do. If nothing else, some of this writing looks familiar. I think it's a script the Mononobe clan favored. I can't read it, but Futo probably can. I'll have her take a look at it."
"Thanks. Now, tell us about this 'situation'."
"Of course," Miko said. "There's an unknown youkai nearby. Head east along the beach and you'll find her. Nobody's seen her before today, and nobody knows who she is. Nobody's been able to get anything out of her, either. She has a tendency to ramble on about, well, things; nobody's been able to make much sense of it. People have tried to talk to her, but that quickly stopped. She attacks people seemingly at random. I sent Seiga to check it out, and the woman attacked her on sight. I was going to go investigate myself, but I think you may be the better choice. Especially since you have a companion with you. This woman seems to be quite powerful; having an ally will be good if she attacks."
"I see," Byakuren said. "We shall go speak with her, then."
"Thank you. Hopefully, I'll have some information for you when you return."

Seafront is, as the name suggests, an oceanfront town. And yes, there is an ocean in Gensokyo. Gensokyo is much larger than most people seem to think. Understandably, though; the size of the area that was originally separated to become Gensokyo was far smaller than Gensokyo's actual size. Don't ask me how that works, because I have no idea.
Seafront, naturally, is a fishing town. It began as just an outpost, but as fishers saw continued success, more came. As often happens in such situations, the town sprang up around them. It's a fairly busy place, although it goes without saying that if the fishing stopped, the town would be done for. Not that there's much chance of that happening. In fact, fishing is one activity that actually hasn't become more dangerous, as no Shades have yet been encountered at sea.
Miko's group set up in Seafront, just as Byakuren and I set up in the 'Human Village'. Unlike us, they suffered only one loss. Siega, Yoshika, Futo, and Miko are all still alive (well, except for Yoshika, since she's a jiang-shi). They do much the same sort of work as we do, although they are much more willing to accept payment than Byakuren. All in all, life in Seafront is about as good as it could be with Gensokyo as it is.

"That has to be her," Nue said.
The lone woman was standing on the beach, staring out at the ocean. She was fairly tall, and quite lean and muscular, in a way reminding Nue of an oni. She was wearing a simple yet elegant dress, violet in color. As Nue and Byakuren drew closer, they could see that it was covered by objects that appeared similar to scales.
At first, it looked like she was wearing something underneath the dress, as it could be seen on her legs and arms. And she was wearing something, but it wasn't ordinary clothing. It looked almost as though she had wrapped seaweed or something around her arms and legs, and there were streams of something similar-looking within her long, marine-blue hair.
"More people," the woman said, not bothering to even glance at the pair. "You… no, this is wrong. You shouldn't be here."
"I see," Byakuren said. "And why is that? Is there something dangerous about this location?"
The woman spun to face her, showing eyes that looked vaguely reptilian. "No. It is not this location."
She's… distressed, it looks like, Nue thought. Big time. And she looks about one step away from flipping out. We may have to fight her just to calm her down. "Then what do you mean?"
"You shouldn't be here at all. Your kind should no longer exist in this world. But you do! Others like you do! This is not as things should be!"
"Please," Byakuren said, "stay calm. We want to help you."
"Then vanish!"
The woman charged. Byakuren stood her ground, then sidestepped at the last second. She grabbed the woman's arm, spun her around, and took hold of her. "Please, we don't need to fight! What is it? What's upsetting you?"'
The woman broke free of Byakuren's grasp and kicked her in the chest, sending her sailing backwards. Nue leapt into the air, pointed her trident, and fired a beam at the woman. The woman, however, simply raised her arm, forming an energy barrier to block the attack.
Despite the distance Byakuren had been knocked back, it took her very little time to get back to the fight. She came in from behind the woman and knocked her off her feet. "We haven't even introduced ourselves! Why do you think us enemies?"
"You are aberrations, not enemies."
Nue landed opposite Byakuren. "Right. Um, just who the hell are you, anyways?"
A geyser erupted from underneath the woman, knocking the pair back. It soon vanished, leaving the woman, now upright, hovering about a foot off the ground. "I am she who lays waste to the fallen world of man. I am Levia!"
Byakuren charged again, meeting her in the air, but this time, Levia blocked her strike. The pair exchanged blows briefly, until Byakuren caught Levia's fist in her hand. "Impressive skill," Levia said. "Yours surpasses mine."
"Your skill is impressive, too," Byakuren said. "As is your strength; it matches mine."
Levia resumed her strike, breaking through Byakuren's grasp and connecting with her face. "It exceeds yours." She grabbed Byakuren by the arm and flung her into the ground.
Nue formed several UFO familiars, all green ones. They all fired beams at Levia, and Nue added her own. Levia raised another barrier, only to take a strong blast from behind. The illusion of Nue faded, revealing another UFO, as the real Nue closed in. She moved to strike with her trident, only to find her arm ensnared by a whip.
"You employ trickery, deception," Levia said.
"Yeah," Nue said, "but unlike some who fight that way, I've got power to put behind it."
"Not enough to match mine."
"Maybe so, but that's where the trickery comes in. Interesting choice of weapon, by the way. First time in Gensokyo I've seen someone wielding a whip."
"What better means to deliver the serpent's strike?"
Serpent? Is that what she is? Some sort of serpent youkai? Sea serpent? Sea something, definitely. "You do have a point."
At that moment, Byakuren ran in and tore Nue free from the whip. "Please, Levia, stop this! Whatever the issue is, we can settle it peacefully!"
"No!" Levia lashed with her whip, wrapping it around Byakuren. "Peace should have vanished! Peace should have been no more by the time I awoke!" She slammed Byakuren into the ground. "Why are you still here? Why do you still exist in this world? People like you should be gone!"
Byakuren grabbed the whip and yanked, pulling Levia to her. She grabbed Levia and flung her over her shoulder and into the ground, taking the opportunity to unwrap herself. "Why do you say this? What do you mean?"
"I mean that we do not belong in the world together! I awaken once the righteous are no more!" Levia leapt up and attempted to grab Byakuren, but Byakuren sidestepped, grabbed Levia's arm, and threw her down again. But this time, Levia quickly pushed off the ground and landed a double kick, knocking Byakuren back.
Nue sent in red UFOs, which circled around and above Levia, leaving stationary shots behind them. They were harmless to Nue herself, of course, and so Nue simply passed through them, grabbing Levia and carrying her into as many of the shots as she could. It didn't take too long for Levia to break free, though. She tried to grab Nue, but Nue evaded, and the two landed facing each other. "You're pretty tough," Nue said.
"My power is without match in the world of man."
"Yeah? Well, as you've probably figured out by now, this isn't exactly the world of man. This is Gensokyo. There are a lot of powerful people here, and you're facing two of them. Don't think you can win just because you're powerful, too."
"Then we shall just have to see what the outcome is."
Levia struck, but Nue ducked to the side, smacking Levia on the head with the side of her trident. Levia seemed unfazed by the blow, however, and moved to retaliate. But then Byakuren was there, pushing Nue out of the way and deflecting Levia's strike. "Please, stop fighting. Whatever the problem is, violence will not solve it!"
"Silence! You know nothing of that about which you speak!" Levia leapt back, towards the water. She raised her arm, and a massive wave rose up behind her. The wave split into two as she brought her arm down, and when she thrust her hand forward, they formed into dense columns of water that shot forward, one each targeting Nue and Byakuren.
Nue and Byakuren waited until the columns were close, then took to the air, allowing the water to pass harmlessly beneath them. "Stop that talk, Byakuren," Nue said softly. "She's only upset when talking about that. She's much calmer when we're just commenting on the battle. Worry about what's going on once we've won."
"I suppose you're right," Byakuren said. "Very well, then. Let's get it over with."

Mokou walked out of Eientei, finding Kaguya waiting for her. "Took you long enough," Kaguya said. "Didn't take your own advice for leaving?"
"I did," Mokou said, "but there's no guarantee you'll get out immediately. I would assume that it simply took longer for me than it did for you. Even by Gensokyo's standards, whatever this place has turned into makes absolutely no sense."
"You've got that right. So, um, what now?"
"Excuse me?"
"You got me out," Kaguya said, "and you brought me here. What now? Are you planning on sticking around, or are you going to leave me to fend for myself?"
"I'm not leaving you alone just yet," Mokou said. "I didn't get you out of there just to leave you in the middle of nowhere. But don't think I plan on 'sticking around'. Once we've found somewhere for you to go, that's that."
"Then why do it at all? I understand why you and the hell raven had a falling out, but why rescue me? Just to spite her?"
"No," Mokou said. "Because putting you in there was wrong." Far more wrong than what you did to me. "I know very well how much you hate me right now, but even so, I'm not abandoning you in the middle of a changed land." I've done enough to you already.
Kaguya sighed. "I knew you still felt that way. Mokou, I already told you; it wasn't you who threw me in there."
"Don't try to tell me I'm not guilty."
"No more guilty than I am."
"What I did to you was far worse than anything you've done to me."
"Really, Mokou? You think standing by while I was thrown into a star is worse than-"
Mokou held up her hand. "Wait. Do you sense that?"
"I sense… certainly something. What is it?"
"It's her." Mokou took off, flying quickly away.
So much for not leaving me in a changed world, Kaguya thought. Right, then. She took off after Mokou.

Levia ensnared Nue in her whip, slamming her into the ground. Byakuren pulled Nue free and threw her at Levia. Levia caught Nue, only for Byakuren to grab her from behind, break her grip on Nue, and throw her into the ground.
Levia slowly got to her feet. "Your speed is as impressive as the rest of your physical performance."
"I specialize in self-enhancement," Byakuren said.
"I see. And your companion, though her style differs, is just as capable. I would not have thought that a mere two could do so well against me. Are people of such power common here?"
"There are strong people, weaker people, and everything in between. Not many are on the level of Nue and I, though there are some. You are finished with this fight, then?"
"I should never have attacked at all," Levia said.
"Yes, you should have," Nue said. "Sometimes, a good fight is exactly what you need."
"An interesting philosophy. And not one without merit, now that I consider it. The emotions that sparked my attack are still present, of course, but I have them under control. I think you are correct; the battle was helpful."
"Yeah. That sort of thing's pretty common here. We even have a system set up so we can fight without much risk of injury, and such battles are frequent. Or they used to be, at least; danmaku battles kind of became less frequent once the Shades appeared."
"We can explain," Byakuren said, "but first, let us formally introduce ourselves. I am Byakuren Hijiri, and my companion is Nue Houjuu."
"I am Levia. And you can be honest; you desire to ask about me over providing such an explanation."
"Do not concern yourself; I wish to discuss these matters, as well. It may be that doing so will be helpful to me."
"That's often true," Byakuren said. "All right, then. Where would you like to start?"
"I do not know what you desire to be told."
"Start with yourself," Nue said. "What exactly are you?"
"I am the one who lays waste to the world of man once the righteous have been taken."
"Taken," Byakuren said. "Taken where?"
"When the end comes, the righteous are to be granted eternity in paradise. When the end is to begin, they are taken by YHWH."
"Right," Nue said. "Who's Yah- Yeh- Y-"
"Most have difficulties with that word," Levia said. "It is commonly changed to 'Yahweh'."
"Yeah, it's a hard one. I'm not even sure that was technically a word. Were there even any vowel sounds in there?"
"No. That is one reason so many have trouble with it; it is unlike any word they have ever spoken. But we digress. You asked who YHWH is. The truth is that YHWH is not. He does not exist."
"I know of the realm I am in. I came into being in Gensokyo, and have slept here for a long time. I am aware of this world's nature. I have faded into the realm of legends, but YHWH has not."
"Please, tell us of this 'Yahweh'," Byakuren said, "and of these events you speak of."
"Very well. A full explanation would take a very long time, so I shall simply summarize the relevant information. First, YHWH. YHWH is God. Not a god as they actually exist. YHWH exists only in myth, and in that myth, he is the creator of all of existence. One of YHWH's direct servants, called 'angels', led a rebellion against him and was cast into Hell. This angel, Lucifer, more commonly known as 'Satan', is the source of evil. This evil infected the first humans, and the stain of sin was passed down from them and remains in all.
"YHWH decided to bring salvation to mankind. He manifested in the form of a son of himself, and that son died to redeem mankind."
"I think I've heard of that, actually," Nue said. "'Jesus', right?"
"Yes. The name of the son is Jesus Christ."
"Hold on," Byakuren said. "Nue, that name Sanae liked to call me, 'Youchrist', was that…?"
Nue nodded. "She was comparing you to Christ, yes. Apparently, there are similarities between the two of you. She told me about Jesus when I asked her what that name actually meant."
"I see." Byakuren turned back to Levia. "My apologies for that interruption, Levia. Please, continue."
"Worry not about it," Levia said. "I shall continue. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, mankind's sins are forgiven, but to find forgiveness, people must choose to seek it. They must truly regret their sins and truly desire to change their ways; only then are those sins forgiven. The wicked must become virtuous and regret their former wickedness before salvation is possible. As such, some will be saved, but others are beyond redemption."
"Nobody is beyond redemption," Byakuren said. "Everyone can change. Everyone can redeem themselves."
"But not everyone will. You recognize that, I hope."
"I do," Byakuren said. "It is sad, but true."
"Once everyone who will find redemption has done so, YHWH will take them into his realm, and it is this that begins the world's end. Satan will once more attempt to seize control, and YHWH will loose his judgment upon the world. I am a destroyer, unleashed to lay waste to the world of man. I sleep until the day of judgment, when the destruction of the apocalypse awakens me to fulfill my purpose."
This isn't normal, Nue thought as she listened to Levia. She was extremely upset, but now she's completely calm. I know damn well how much a good fight can help, but it's not this much. There isn't even a trace of her previous mood. And she was bouncing between calm and upset quick during the fight, too, wasn't she?
"An interesting story," Byakuren said to Levia.
"But false," Levia said. "YHWH does not exist. His angels don't exist. Satan does not exist. The day of judgment will never come."
"You exist," Byakuren said. "How can you be so sure that your god does not? We do have gods here, after all. Yours could easily be among them."
"No. YHWH is not a god as they actually exist. This may be the land of magic and fantasy, but it has its own rules. A being such as YHWH simply cannot exist."
"How is it that you exist, then? Or do you know what brought you into being?"
"I am aware of my own nature," Levia said. "I am aware of much. I was asleep, but not completely unaware. I am aware of many things, including the nature of Gensokyo. And how I came to be here. Although much of the scriptures of YHWH's faithful is still thought to be true, the portion describing the end of the world is not. As one predicted date after another passed, as more and more doomsayers were proven wrong, belief in the foretold end waned. The 'Book of Revelations' is now thought of as not literal prophecy, but metaphorical prophecy. The events simply represent an end, and aren't actually the literal events that will occur.
"As I became considered by more and more to be nothing more than a legend, I came to exist here in Gensokyo, the home of such things. But I was asleep, asleep until the day of judgment."
"Which would never come," Nue said.
"Indeed. I should have simply slept forever."
"Then why didn't you?"
"Because the end has come. Just not the right one."
"You mean the Radiance?"
"I am not familiar with what that is."
"Something that happened about five hundred years ago," Byakuren said. "It seems to be why Gensokyo is in its current state. But if the Radiance was the reason for your awakening, why didn't it awaken you when it happened?"
"Because it wasn't enough. Death, despair, panic, desperation, everything that comes from the end is necessary to trigger my awakening, and your 'Radiance' did not produce enough to wake me. Not at first. But it has been responsible for much more in the time since, and because this is from the same cause, it added to what was already there. It built up over time, until it reached a point sufficient to wake me."
"I see."
"It should not have happened," Levia said. "The end is not supposed to be drawn out like this, a world dying slowly but surely."
"We all wish it hadn't happened," Byakuren said. "None of us wanted it."
"You don't understand. There has been no judgment, no taking of the righteous from the world. I am to lay waste to the wicked ones left behind, but there was no leaving behind. The world should be breaking, coming undone as it is used as a battlefield in the battle between Satan and YHWH. I am an agent of that destruction. But this… it's all wrong. I have awakened in the midst of the wrong end, and because of this, my purpose is lost. This is not my world to ravage, but what am I, if not a destroyer? It's what I am, what I exist to do."
"Then find a new purpose," Byakuren said. "Give your life a meaning all its owaaaaah!"
Byakuren grabbed her arm as Nue ran to her. "Byakuren, are you okay? What is it?"
"Pain," Byakuren said. "Just pain."
"Not just pain," Levia said. "Something within you caused you pain. I could feel it as it did so. You have been tainted."
"The Black Scrawl," Nue said. "Damn it. The pain's starting."
"Far later than it should have," Byakuren said. "At this rate, assuming it can claim me, it will still be a few years from now."
"It won't take you," Nue said. "I won't let it."
"You may not be able to stop it."
"I'm going to," Nue said. "I even have a lead right now, remember?"
"A possible lead. We still don't know all of what it says."
"Then we should get back to Miko and see if she's had any luck."
Byakuren took a step forward. "Yes, let's." She paused. "It seems the pain has faded for now." She turned to Levia. "Levia, what will you do?"
"I don't know," Levia said. "You told me to find some new purpose, but how do I do that? And what will it be?"
"Only you can answer that," Byakuren said. "You'll know it when you find it."
"So I must find it on my own? With no idea where to begin?"
"I never said that."
"Just invite her along, already," Nue said. She turned to Levia. "She's going to ask if you want to come with us. She's big on the whole 'helping people' thing. And no, she won't expect anything in return."
"I do not know what I want," Levia said, "but for the moment, I have nowhere else to go. I shall accept your offer for the time being something is approaching."
"What are you talking about?" Nue asked.
"Exactly what I said. Something is coming."
"I don't sense anything. 'Ren, your sense is better than mine. Anything?"
"I don't sense any- never mind. Yes, I can sense it now. I don't think it's heading for us, or for Seafront, but its course will bring it closer to here."
"It is one of power," Levia said. "Great power. And in addition, I sense the touch of the divine."
Levia began walking off. "Hey," Nue said, "where are you going?"
"It calls to me."
"We should investigate," Byakuren said. "Can you sense it yet?"
"Yeah," Nue said, "I can. But are you okay?"
"I am. You know as well as I do that the pain will at first come only in bursts. It has passed for now. And we need to go. I recognize this… unique presence. I do not know why she is here, but… I feel we need to find out. Levia, we're coming with you."
"Very well," Levia said. She took to the air, the other two right behind her.

Mokou caught up to her where the woods gave way to the ocean. "Utsuho!"
The hell raven halted her flight, turning to face the immortal. "Mokou." She aimed the Third Leg at Mokou. "Give me one good reason not to incinerate you."
"Go ahead, if you think it'll help," Mokou said. "It's not like it matters. I'm immortal."
"Yes. As is Kaguya. Which is why we locked her away. But she escaped yesterday, and you were seen helping her. Why?"
"Does it matter? Face it, Utsuho; you've lost it. I don't think you're in a frame of mind to even care at all."
"Whatever. What do you want?"
"Utsuho, you know what I want."
"You want me to let Kaguya get away with what she did."
"Kaguya's been trapped in a star for the past five hundred years. What we did to her was far worse than what she did to us."
"You think five hundred years is enough to make up for what she did?"
"Five hundred years within a star? Absolutely."
"How can you say that? She killed Satori!"
"And long ago, she was responsible for my father's death, as well. That does not give us the right to subject her to eternal torture."
"Like you can talk! You've been after her for far longer than five hundred years!"
"And my pursuit of her never passed beyond killing. I've killed her countless times, but I've never subjected her to unending torture. And you'll also note that I only attacked her, not her family or Eirin or anyone she cares about. But you do want to do that."
"It's what she did!"
"And you would kill innocent bystanders because of this? She's the one who acted. Leave anyone else alone."
"She didn't!"
"Are you her, or are you you?"
"If you do what she did," Mokou said, "you'll be just as bad as her."
"Stop telling me I shouldn't get revenge! You wanted revenge, too!"
"Yes. For my father's death. But did I touch her father? Did the thought even cross my mind? No. The only one who should suffer for a wrong is the one who committed it."
"She was suffering! Until YOU let her out!"
"She's paid enough." More than enough.
"No she hasn't! Satori doesn't get to come back! Why should she?"
"Because we did worse that she did. I've killed her countless times, but that's it. That's where I drew the line. But together with you, I crossed it, and because of that, we've done the greater wrong."
"Just shut up!" Utsuho fired a beam, which Mokou dodged. "I'm not stopping! Or are you going to try and stop me?"
I don't want to, but it's the only choice you've left. Mokou drew her sword.

By the time Kaguya caught up, the battle was underway, and Mokou was losing. Badly. At the moment, she was missing an arm, and Utsuho had her by the neck, her control rod pointed at Mokou's head. And then Mokou didn't have a head, and Utsuho let her body fall to the ground.
Mokou would recover, of course, but Kaguya knew it would take a few minutes. My turn, then.
Kaguya moved in quickly, drawing her sword and striking. Utsuho noticed her approach just in time, raising the Third Leg in defense. But Kaguya was able to divert her strike somewhat, catching Utsuho on her arm, just below the control rod.
"You," Utsuho said. "Good. I can put you back where you belong."
"Not happening," Kaguya said.
"Oh? Are you going to fight me, too? That won't work. You should've just gone into hiding. You can't win against me."
"Mokou told me what you're trying to do," Kaguya said. "I can't allow that."
"You deserve it. After what you did, you deserve it!"
Kaguya decided not to mention the fact that killing Satori had been completely accidental. "You have every right to hate me, but you will leave my family and my people out of it."
"Or what? Are you going to stop me?"
Kaguya pulled her sword free, delivering a kick to Utsuho's face as she put some distance between the two of them. "I am."
"And you actually think you can?"
"Let us see if your confidence is warrented. These Impossible Requests that have defeated so many in the past, how many can you fulfill? Fire Rat's Robe!"
Spellcards were rarely used outside of danmaku battles; danmaku patterns were much harder to form on command, so in such battles, the spellcard's lack of flexibility was more than made up for by providing quick access to complex patterns. Such patterns were fairly easy to form outside of danmaku, however, so spellcards were unnecessary. As were complex patterns; danmaku tended to be slower, and thus complexity was needed to overwhelm opponents. Non-danmaku combat wasn't like that, but many spellcard patterns could be easily adapted to be effective in non-danmaku battle. Calling out attack names wasn't truly necessary, but many did so anyways.
Flaming shots fired towards Utsuho in a three-dimensional spread. In addition, lasers were being fired at Utsuho's current position. The danmaku version required quick reflexes to avoid taking hits; the non-danmaku version was almost impossible to escape from unscathed. The spread shots were, however, fairly weak, and although there were a lot of them, even the number of hits Utsuho took did next to nothing. The lasers were stronger, but avoiding them was easy when ignoring the spread shots.
Utsuho formed nuclear energy into a boomerang and threw it at Kaguya. The moon princess maintained her own attack while dodging to the side, then shot up, anticipating and avoiding its return flight. But Utsuho wasn't done. She formed nuclear energy into a giant blade around the Third Leg and charged. "High-Tension Blade!"
Kaguya cut her own attack and dropped down underneath Utsuho. "You're a strong one. Buddha's Stone Bowl!"
Multiple familiars spread out around Utsuho's position. Many fired beams, restricting her movement, while others fired ordinary shots. Utsuho ignored the shots and took aim at Kaguya. "My turn. Giga Flare!"
The beam Utsuho fired put even the famed Master Spark to shame. Kaguya moved quickly and managed to receive only a glancing blow, but with a move like that, even a glancing blow was a powerful hit. And Utsuho didn't let Kaguya recover. Spreading her arms, she enveloped herself in nuclear energy. "Yatagarasu Dive!"
She dove, striking the dazed Kaguya head-on and sending her flying into the ground, dead. Then Mokou slammed into Utsuho from behind, sending her into the ground. Utsuho pushed of the ground, spun around, and fired one of her 'stars'.
Unlike the nuclear furnace Kaguya had been in, Utsuho's battle moves didn't actually involve fire, not even nuclear flames. It was all nuclear energy (although radioactivity was also absent) and no fire, and as a result, Mokou's charms were not affected, nor did they activate-such charms ignored and were ignored by anything but what they were meant for. So they did not burn up when Mokou dove into the star. She passed through it quickly, throwing blades of flame at Utsuho as she emerged.
Utsuho met Mokou's charge head-on. As the two were about to collide, she dashed to the side, leaving spheres on nuclear energy in her wake. Mokou took hits as she spun around, attacking with her sword. Utsuho deflected the strike with her Third Leg, then fired from it a sphere of energy. Mokou dashed backwards to avoid it, but it burst into multiple spheres, some of which did connect. Then Utsuho grabbed her and drove her into the ground.
Kaguya ran in from the side, her sword sheathed. Utsuho made to grab her, but she ducked to the side and struck. Utsuho struck back, but it soon became apparent that Kaguya was quite skilled in the martial arts. So Utsuho hit her with a star at point-blank range. As Mokou had done, Kaguya simply dashed through it, quickly resuming her attack. As before, she was out-performing Utsuho, but she became momentarily distracted when she noticed that Utsuho was glowing, and that was all the hell raven needed. She slammed Kaguya down next to the recovering Mokou and held them both in place, her glow intensifying.
When Mokou regained consciousness, she knew immediately what was happening. "Oh, shit."
"Abyss Nova!"

They arrived in time to witness the battle's final stages. "That's the hell raven," Nue said.
Byakuren nodded. "Utsuho Reiuji."
"You know her," Levia said.
"We have met a few times, but it would be more accurate to say that I know of her."
"Tell me."
"She's a hell raven, a resident of the underground, location of the former Hell of Blazing Fires. As part of a plan to gather faith, the sky god Kanako infused her with the corpse of the Yatagarasu, giving her the dead sun god's power. Without the limitation of faith, as she is not a god herself. Kanako hoped to gain faith by useing Utsuho as a source of 'electricity', something used in the outside world."
"I am aware of what that is."
"I see. Well, Kanako hoped that providing it to Gensokyo would earn her faith. As it turns out, though, only the kappa were really all that interested. Perhaps they would have eventually progressed to a state that would draw interest from others, if not for the Radiance."
"She bears the stench of hatred," Levia said. "Of anger. Of... jealousy."
"Jealousy?" Nue said. "What the hell's she jealous of?"
"It would be unlike her to be jealous," Byakuren said.
"All I am sure of is that she is," Levia said. "I notice that there are two people fighting her."
"Yes," Byakuren said. "Another oddity, as one of them is Fujiwara no Mokou, with whom she has been in a relationship. The other I do not recognize."
Nue looked more carefully. "Wait, that's Kaguya!"
"Kaguya? The lunar princess?"
"Yeah. You never got a chance to meet her, did you?"
"Not before the residents of Eientei vanished during the Radiance. She and Mokou had a rivalry, correct?"
Nue nodded. "A major one. They kill each other all the time, or at least they did before Kaguya disappeared with everyone else from Eientei."
"It looks like they're both fighting Utsuho."
"Yeah. I'd expect Mokou and Utsuho to be the team, not Mokou and Kaguya."
"The one of flame bears the stench of hatred," Levia said, "but it is fading. Other scents are present, but confused. She is questioning herself, her path in life. The one of the night carries the scent of regret. But also... you are sure that their relationship is hostile?"
"It sure used to be," Nue said. "Why? Wait, you don't think Utsuho's jealous of-"
"It is a possibility. She is not fully rational, however, so her current beliefs may not entirely reflect reality. She wants to-"
Levia cut herself off when the blast happened. It was localized, centered around Utsuho, and when it ended, she was the only one left standing. "Looks like the fight's done," Nue said.
Levia stepped forward. "She bears the stench of the wicked."
"What do you mean?" Byakuren asked.
Nue, on the other hand, had it figured out. "'Destroyer of the wicked'," she said. "You're going to fight her."
"Dark desires have taken her. She is among the wicked." Levia took to the air.
"Wait!" Byakuren called out, but it was too late. "Great. Nue, come on. We have to go after her."
"No way," Nue said. "I'm not getting between those two."
"You would rather let them fight?"
"I know you can't be killed from that kind of thing, but for me, it'd be asking for death. And I'm pretty sure we're not stopping this anyways."
Byakuren paused for a moment. "Probably true." She sighed. "Very well. Better we remain able to calm whoever wins."
"Yeah," Nue said. "While we're keeping an eye on the fight, let's go find Kaguya and Mokou. See if we can find out what's going on with Utsuho. And with the two of them."

Utsuho was about to take to the air when Levia landed. "Who are you?"
"Fallen one," Levia said, "your time has come."
"'Fallen'? What do you mean by that?"
"You have given in to impulses of hatred and destruction."
"You are consumed with the desire for revenge."
"Oh. Why didn't you just say that? Of course I want revenge. Kaguya killed Satori."
"You are the only one here with malicious intent. I know not the circumstances surrounding this event, but I do know that neither of your opponents are killers."
"Kaguya is. A lot of people died because of her, not just Satori. Mokou's father was one of them, too."
"This 'Kaguya' is not a killer. I know not what she once was, but if she was a killer, that is behind her. Perhaps this is from where I smell the scent of regret. What she used to be is in the past."
"What, so I should just forgive her?"
"I did not say that. Whether or not you forgive her is up to you, and matters little. But the right of judgment belongs to none but God."
"Oh. That's okay, then. I ate a god, so that's not a problem."
Levia was silent for a moment. "...I suppose I should try to stop referring to one who does not exist."
"Huh? I exist!"
"You are not the one to whom I am referring."
"Oh." She paused. "You talk strange."
Levia facepalmed, then shook her head. "Right. Let us get back on topic. Your desire for vengeance consumes you."
"Of course. Kaguya killed someone important to me, so I'm going to kill people important to her. Isn't that normal?"
"Oh." Her tone turned serious. "Are you going to try to stop me?"
"Your dark desires have consumed you. You have fallen into wickedness. And I exist to destroy the wicked." She brandished her whip. "Your time is at an end! The destroyer, Levia, has come for you!"

Byakuren helped Mokou into a sitting position. "Are you all right?"
"Kind of a dumb question to ask an immortal. You're... Byakuren, I think. And... Nue, right? What are you doing here?"
"It's a long story," Nue said. "Short version: we found someone near Seafront and followed her here. After you and Kaguya lost to Ustuho, she decided that she was going to confront Utsuho."
Mokou sighed. "As if this wasn't already complicated enough."
"What's going on here, anyways? I thought you and Utsuho were, um, friendly with each other. And Kaguya hasn't been seen since the Radiance."
Kaguya sat up. "I was underground. Utsuho stuck me inside a small sun and locked the door."
Byakuren immediately ran over to her. "What? Why did she do that?"
"Kaguya killed Satori," Mokou said. "Accidentally, of course; I'm the one she was really after."
"I'm not sure what actually happened," Kaguya said. "Satori confronted me, and immediately knew my intent, so she opposed me. We were going to have a danmaku battle, but then... I don't really know what it was. We were about to start, things became strange, and then my sword was in her chest."
"Utsuho was devastated," Mokou said. "Devastated, and even more pissed off than I was when my father died. And I wasn't exactly pleased, either."
"They took me down hard."
"We did. But Utsuho wasn't okay with simply adding her own vendetta beside mine. So she made use of the 'containment room', a large room in the mansion that was converted after Utsuho's episode upon gaining her powers, intended as a place to contain her if she lost control again. The chamber is completely isolated and contained, both physically and magically. Nothing that happens in there can affect anything outside it. So Utsuho filled it with a miniature sun, and we... kind of... threw Kaguya in."
"Utsuho threw me in," Kaguya said. "All you did was watch."
Byakuren was silent, clearly having difficulty keeping her emotions under control. Nue, however, spoke up. "Back up a bit, Kaguya. You say you don't know what happened when you..."
"When I killed Satori. That's right. Mokou told me that something called the Radiance happened on the day I attacked. You're wondering if it might be involved, aren't you?" Nue nodded. "Well, it's possible, I suppose. It might help if I knew more about the Radiance, but Mokou doesn't seem to know very much."
"Nobody does," Nue said. "All we do know is that it's caused a lot of problems."
Byakuren spoke. "What of the others from Eientei?"
"We just came from there," Kaguya said. "I saw a bizarre creature enter the hall it came out of without turning around, ran into a wall that didn't exist, got spun around in a straight line, walked through myself, and generally encountered a lot of strangeness, but I didn't see any sign of Eirin or any of the other residents."
"I see."
Nue cuhckled. "'Ren, you're about to burst. Go... somewhere; I'll talk to these two."
"Yes, that may be wise. I'll keep watch on the battle." She walked off.
"Byakuren's pretty good at keeping her emotions under control," Nue said, "but I think she was about to reach her limit. That whole 'kept Kaguya in a sun for five hundred years' thing kind of, well..."
"Understandable," Mokou said. "You don't seem that upset by it, though."
"Well, I've been responsible for more than a little trouble myself over the years. Never stuck with one person for quite that long, though. I preferred to move from person to person." Her tone was one of regret. "Of course, once you've truly broken someone's spirit, there's little more you can do to them."
"You two seemed to be getting along just fine, though."
"Well, I've changed. Been a long time since I actually terrorized anyone, although I'd never deny that I do still have something of a mischevious side. I still have my fun; it's just not actually harmful to people now. I've come to realize that the things I did beck then were wrong." She paused. "Man, even after so long, it still feels cheesey as hell to say that."
"But it's true," Kaguya said.
Nue nodded. "It is. But let's get back on topic. Byakuren walked away because she probably wouldn't be able to stay calm if she didn't. I can stay calm, however, and as I happen to know what she'd say, I will say it for her."
"Yeah?" Mokou said. "And what's that?"
"First: Mokou, did you participate in the actual physical action for throwing Kaguya into the star."
"Was it your idea?"
"...No, but..."
"Utsuho asked you about it?"
"She... she said she was going to do it. I just stood there and nodded. I..."
"But it wasn't your idea, and you didn't perform any of the actions."
"I can see where you're going with this," Mokou said, "and you're wrong. Yes, Utsuho's also responsible for it, but don't you dare try to tell me I'm not."
"Of course you are," Nue said. "You could have stopped her, but you didn't. But do not equate what you did with what she did. You comitted a wrong; Utsuho comitted a far greater wrong."
"And that's what Byakuren would say?"
"If she was calm and in control, yes. Especially since you quite clearly regret what you did. Oh, and are you the one who released Kaguya?"
"She is," Kaguya said.
"Now, call me crazy, but that makes me think you realize that what you did was wrong."
"Of course I do," Mokou said, "but it took five hundred years for me to realize that! Are you saying it's okay to be that oblivious for that long to suffering you caused?"
"It took me far longer," Nue said. "And I ruined far more lives than you. And hell, for all you know, Kaguya was actually better off than had she stayed at Eientei."
Mokou laughed. "Like hell."
"You're probably right, but given that the fate of Eientei's residents is completely unknown, can you say with complete certainty that Kaguya's was worse?"
"Well... no, not complete certainty. But I'm pretty damn sure it was."
"Probably true. I was merely pointing out a possibility. But what I'm really trying to say is, well... you know what,I'll just say it in Byakuren's words. She said this to me once, and I think it applies just as much to you. Cheesey as hell, though."
"Just say it."
"Very well. What she said is: 'It's not who you were that's truly important; it's who you are. It's not what you did that truly matters, but what you do now. Never forget the things you did, but do not let them define you. Learn from your past mistakes, but do not let them bind you. You cannot change who you were then, or what you did; there's no way to alter what has already happened. Change can begin only at the present. Do not let the past bind you; do what you now choose to do. Be who you now wish to be.'"
"You're right," Kaguya said. "That was cheesey. She does have a point, though, Mokou."
Mokou laughed. "Yeah? So, what, I'm just supposed to say 'oh, okay, I'm a changed person', and it's all okay? 'Cause that's bullshit."
"Of course it is," Nue said. "Change does not come easily. You have to want it, and you have to work for it. And I think you're probably going through that process already. But no, that will not make everything fine. What you've done will stay with you. Just don't attach yourself to it. As Byakuren said, 'Change yourself not out of regret for the past, for if you do, it will continue to bind you. It will stay with you no matter what you do, but do not let it decide you actions. Do not be controlled by it. Change not because of what you did; change because you desire it.' Also, we should dodge."
Nue pulled the immortal pair back just in time, as Levia slammed Utsuho into the ground right where they'd been.

Levia leapt away, narrowly avoiding a blast from Utsuho as the hell raven shot into the air, energy gathering around the control rod. As Utsuho launched the sun, Levia encased herself in a dense sphere of water and plunged straight into it.
The sun stopped moving. Utsuho tilted her head in confusion. "Unyu? Why would she do that?" Then she felt something interfering with it, destabilizing it. Something from within. "Hey! That's not fair!"
Utsuho dove into the sun.

For a moment, nothing happened. But as Byakuren watched, the miniature sun started to... steam? Then it started... it's as though it's... unstable? No. In conflict? What is going on in there? Now it looks distorted, definitely unstable. Is Levia actually trying to overpower it?
It soon became clear that yes, she was. The sun blew apart, a spectacle of fire and water, and the two combatants fell to the ground, landing clumsily. Byakuren raced over to Levia, and was soon joined by Nue.
"She is... formidable," the exhausted Levia said. "Had she not been... worn from battle already, she... would have bested me."
"You were worn, too," Byakuren said.
"I know my own power. Hers is greater. At full strength, she... would have bested me... regardless of my own state. I doubt... her power can be matched."
"She's been beated before," Nue said.
"By means other than raw power, I would think."
"True," Byakuren said. "Two people opposed her, both were much more skilled than her, and they both had outside help, too."
"Tales of the 'Red-White' and 'Black-White' can wait," Nue said. "We still have Utsuho to-" Utsuho shot into the air and flew away, "-deal with. Byakuren, should we follow her?"
Mokou came up beside them, Kaguya behind her. "The main route underground is in exactly that direction. She's going back down. Probably to recover." She turned to Levia. "How the hell did you pull that off?"
"She was weakened from battle," Levia said. "Had she not been, she would have bested me."
"Still, you matched your power against hers and fought her to a draw. That's impressive."
"I do not know who you are," Kaguya said, "but thank you for your assistance."
Mokou spun to face her. "Shut it. That was my fight. She didn't know that, no, but you sure as hell did. Stay out of it next time."
"Your relationship is not my business," Kaguya said, "but she intends harms towards my people. It's my fight, too."
Byakuren, her immediate feelings at the reveal of Mokou and Utsuho's actions having calmed to a controlable level, stepped towards them. "I would like to speak to both of you regarding this situation, but... well, we are all worn and tired. There is a town called Seafront nearby; I suggest we head there for now. We can speak once we have all recovered."
"I do not object," Levia said.
"Yeah," Mokou said, "I could use a rest."
The others agreed as well, and the group of five set off towards Seafront.

Well, that chapter took a while. Mainly because I'm not that good with fight scenes, which this chapter has a lot of.
Anyways, I've got a few things to say about this chapter, and yes, most of them involve Levia, my first Touhou OC to actually have a significant role (the few OCs in Orphan having been minor characters). First, yes, I did indeed take her from the concept of the biblical beast, although I went with the pop-culture sea serpent version of the creature. I realize my interpretation is nowhere close to being biblically accurate, but she's not supposed to be (besides, it's not like mythological inaccuracy in uncommon in Touhou). I had the idea for her character, and found that I really liked the concept of someone for whom the the world had undergone the wrong apocalypse. So she's in the story. Although her conversation with Utsuho turned out... differently than intended. Levia's not one to show feelings such as exasperation, but Utsuho's... Utsuho-ness got even her to facepalm.
Oh, yeah, other stuff happened in the chapter, too. We found out a lot more about what happened with Mokou, Utsuho, and Kaguya, for one. There was a sneak peak at Eientei, too; yes, it will indeed be visited again. Oh, and Miko made an appearance. I've seen a lot of portrayals of the Myouren crew and Miko's people as hostile towards each other, but I've never agreed with that depiction. I don't see Byakuren being hostile towards anyone for differing beliefs, and I never got the impression that Miko had anything against Buddhism. Yes, she secretly studied the ways of Taoism, but I really don't see that making her and Byakuren enemies. So I don't have them as enemies.
Also, if anyone can identify the song the rabbit creature was singing at the start of the chapter, they get a prize.
ALso also, do give your thoughts on the music I choose for various scenes; it can take a lot of effort sometimes to find a track I think fits, so I'd like to know what you think about my selections. Of course, feedback of any kind is always strongly encouraged.

Forsaken by all

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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2012, 04:27:00 pm »
This story gets more and more interesting.
I like how it's based on NieR without being too reliant on its plot (if I can judge that this early). I loved the game when I played it.

Levia gives me a slightly schizophrenic feel at the beginning, but thinking how she woke up from her sleep without the purpose she'd been waiting for who-knows-how-long excuses that in my eyes. I think it's a character with potential.

The battle music works with me, both in timing and feel.

Satori's accidental death almost reeks of some more complicated story, looking forward to it.
The impression of Okuu's mental state is a fascinating mix between broken down and... well, Okuu.

Your Eientei gives me a headache already, so I fear and expect a even more complicated situation when they visit it again.

I was curious about the song of that rabbit, so I looked up the lyrics. I won't write it down, because I didn't recognize it on my own. Listened to it and, if it gives away even the slightest bit about Eientei's state, please excuse me because I have to sit down on the ground, hug my own knees and swing back and forth.

About your fighting scenes:
I read Orphan as well, and already noticed that the later ones were better comprehensible. That continues here. It definitely a improved, I could keep up without trouble.
The way they fight also suits each of the Youkai. Nue really fits my image of a tricky fighter, while Byakuren is a straightforward person and also behaves that way in battle.

Lastly, I want to thank you for the Byakuren X Nue pairing. Two of my favorites, but I never had that idea. In all seriousness, that is great.

Personally, I can't find much negative things that aren't extremely dependent on my taste, so I won't bother with that.

I'm looking forward to how this will continue, don't let me down.

The only difference between good and bad is, that good feels more comfortable for all, while bad focuses on the individual's desires. Thus, good is widely spread badness. Every good person is also a bad person, but not vice-versa. Do you still want to be a good person?


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2012, 05:15:43 pm »
Levia's... emotional inconsitency was deliberate. Nue even makes note of it.

I also think my fight scenes have generally improved, but I still feel like I'm not very good at the, so hopefully I can improve further.

You're absolutely right about Satori's death; there is, naturally, far more to that than has yet been revealed.

And yes, I've come to like the Byakuren/Nue pairing, though don't ask me why (I can say it's been in my head longer than the Keine/Tenshi pairing introduced in chapter 2, though).

Also, even if it's just a matter of personal taste, please don't hesitate to tell me what you don't like about the story.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2012, 03:32:43 am »
Chapter 4
What Should Not Be
They were about halfway back to Seafront when Levia came to a stop and landed. Nue did the same, with the others quickly following suit. "What is it?" Nue asked.
"Something is near," Levia said. "Something… wrong. How did they get so close without me sensing them?"
"Shades, I would assume," Byakuren said. "If so, I'm surprised you can sense them at all. Nobody else can."
"They… these… what is…"
"They cry out in twisted agony. For everything, for nothing, for things that are and things that aren't."
"I see them," Nue said, pointing. "Looks like a small group."
"Twisted thoughts, twisted lives. Thought without mind, thought without thought. Form without form. Mind without mind. Physical and mental in a state of absent presence. The mindless mind. Within, without. Mind with no mind, sense with no sense, form with no form, thought with no thought. Everything that is not. Nothing that is."
"I think their presence is bothering her," Kaguya noted.
"No shit," Mokou said. "Let's take them out before she gets any-"
"AAAAAAAAHHH!" Levia charged forward, directly into the group of Shades. She tackled one, picked it up, and slammed it into the ground. She grabbed one, flew into the air, and drove it into the ground. Another swung at her with its weapon, but she ducked under its blade, punched it a few times, then tore its head off. She threw one to the ground, then wrapped her whip around another and slammed it down on the first one over and over. Then she grabbed the last one and thrust her hand into its middle. A few seconds later, it exploded in a burst of water.
"-or that," Mokou said. "That works too."

The group made it to Seafront with no further incident, and Miko was there to greet them. "Well, well, well. There seem to be a few more of you."
"Yes," Byakuren said. "It was… eventful." She turned to face the others. "For those of you who haven't met her, allow me to introduce Toyosatomimi no Miko. Miko, this is Kaguya Houraisan and Fujiwara no Mokou."
"Nice to meet you, Mokou. Kaguya, I believe we have met, although it was a long time ago."
"Yes," Kaguya said. "I remember that. Wasn't long after you awoke. I remembered hearing about you in the outside world, and got curious as to what you were really like."
"Indeed. And who is this?"
"My name," Levia said, "is Levia."
"She's the one you told us about," Nue said.
"She seems to be an… unusual individual," Miko said.
"That's for sure."
"Miko," Byakuren said, "all of us were recently involved in battle, and I'm afraid we are all worn. Could you accommodate us?"
"Certainly. Nue, you know where to go. You take everyone there, and if anyone asks, tell them I okayed it. Futo's probably done with the tablet, too."
"I think I remember her," Kaguya said. "Isn't she the one who talks funny?"
Miko chuckled. "She used to. She's modernized her speech. Anyways, Byakuren, could you stay here for a minute? I'd like to speak to you alone."
"You intend to talk about me," Levia said. "You may speak freely, Miko. It does not bother me."
Miko was caught off-guard for a second, but quickly regained her composure. "Be that as it may, I'd rather speak with her alone."
"Very well. Nue, you are the one who knows where we are going. Please lead us there."

"Levia seems… unusually perceptive," Miko said once she and Byakuren were alone.
Byakuren nodded. "Nue and I had a similar impression."
"What's her story?"
"It is unusual," Byakuren said. "She claims to have been born from the mythology of an outside world religion centered around a figure named 'Jesus Christ'."
"Yes," Miko said, "I remember that religion. 'Christianity', they called it. It was centered in a land called Rome, if I remember correctly. I recall hearing about it from foreign visitors, although it never really came to Japan, at least not during my time. I don't really know all that much of it."
"Well, Levia says her origin is in Christianity's myth of the end. According to her, the righteous are taken by 'Yahweh', and those who remain must suffer through the world's end. She says that her role was that of a destroyer, released during the end to lay waste."
"Should I assume people no longer believe that this will happen?"
Byakuren nodded. "She said that as more and more predicted dates for the end came and went, more and more people stopped believing in that particular myth. The religion itself remains, but Levia was relegated to the realm of legend."
"So she ended up in Gensokyo."
"Not quite. The way she says it, she never existed in the outside world at all. She says the entire religion is based on false beliefs. She did not exist before she was in Gensokyo, and as she tells it, she knew all of this. She also says that no matter what people in the outside world believe, Yahweh will not come into existence here, because even in Gensokyo, the existence of such a being simply cannot happen. Which, of course, means there's no possibility of the 'day of judgment' occurring. Since the end for which she was to awaken would, then, never come, she expected to sleep eternally."
"But she's awake now."
"She is, and this seems to be because of the Radiance. She says that even the death and destruction of the initial event could not have awoken her, but it's been responsible for a lot since then, and she says that because it's from the same cause, it added to the strength of that call until it did wake her."
"Does she…"
"No," Byakuren said. "She knows this is not a world in the state she exists to end. When we found her, she was… confused. She said that the righteous should be gone from the world, but that this wasn't the case. She lashed out at us in confusion."
"Is that why she attacked people seemingly at random?"
"Not all of it, I think. Some of those she attacked were probably ones that, at least to her, qualify as 'wicked'."
"How could she identify them as such so quickly? When I sent Seiga to talk to her, she was attacked on sight. Actually, she seemed to know that it was her I wanted to talk to you about. Do you think that might stem from the same ability?"
"Yes, that is likely. She demonstrated such capability multiple times. She seems to have some level of empathic ability."
"Something similar to my own ability, you think?"
"Not quite," Byakuren said. "You can sense people's desires. I haven't seen enough of Levia's ability to be certain, but it seems to be more about general emotions. Anger and jealousy were both mentioned. She seems to have a tendency to speak of them as though they were scents."
"She did seem to have some ability to sense desires, since she knew it was her I wanted to talk to you about."
"True. The fact is that I know very little about her abilities. Given time, I should be able to form a more accurate assessment of them."
"True enough. I take it your intent is to keep her with you, then?"
"She has no direction to her life, no purpose. She is lost. I offered to help her find her way, and she accepted."
"That's a yes, then."
"It is." Byakuren paused for a moment. "Miko, I seek a greater understanding of her. What can you tell me of her desires?"
"She wants a return to the world she expected," Miko said, "so that she may fulfill her original purpose."
"Not surprising, although I think she realizes that this is not really a possibility."
"You're right, I think, as she also wants to find some meaning in her existence, a new purpose. And…"
"What is it?"
"She has a desire to eliminate… something."
"That would fit with the role of destroyer."
"No," Miko said, "that's not it. This is much more… focused. It's something specific that she desires to eliminate, to wipe out, to completely eradicate. It is an incredibly strong desire, strong enough that it's obscuring what she wants to eliminate."
"I know what she wants to eliminate," Byakuren said, realizing what Miko was talking about. "And she is not the only one who wishes those creatures destroyed."
That was enough for Miko to figure it out. "Shades."
Byakuren nodded. "We ran into some on our way back, a small group. Levia reacted… strongly. She said… things. It was hard to understand, and seemed a little like she was simply rambling, but I can't shake the feeling that it was more than that. I think it was her empathic abilities. She sensed… something, and… well, after her apparent rambling, she screamed, charged them, and tore them apart."
"Obviously, then, it was something she didn't like."
"More than that, it looked like. Any other desires?"
"Only basic things. Sustenance and the like. Speaking of which, you could probably use some yourself. Shall we join the others?"
"Yes," Byakuren said, "let's."

Mokou and Kaguya were silent as they followed behind Nue. Which didn't bother Nue; Levia was the one she wanted to talk to, anyways. "Levia."
"What happened back there? You know, with the Shades?"
"I suppose that was maybe a bit… surprising," Levia said. "I did not expect it, either."
"Something about them set you off. Any idea what?"
"I'm not really sure. It was something I sensed, I know that much."
Yes, she did demonstrate empathic capabilities. "What, though?"
"I am not sure. Something about them is just… wrong. They shouldn't exist, I know that much. They are aberrations, things that should not be."
"They're unusual, that's for sure. But… well, let's be open here. You clearly have some form of empathic ability."
"That is correct," Levia said. "And yes, it's what I sensed through that ability that… disturbed me. I do not think that I can describe it, however. Not to one without a similar sense, and maybe not even then. I'm not quite sure what it was myself."
"Whatever it was, you didn't seem to like it."
"They are aberrations, creatures that should not exist. They… ordinarily, I can tell what things do and do not have minds, but with the Shades, I cannot. There aren't ordinary minds, aren't emotions, but neither is there the absence of those things. There's something in there, but as to what it is, I cannot say. I have felt nothing like it. All I know is that it's wrong. Everything about them is wrong. They are a non-existence that must be ended."
Kaguya finally spoke. "Maybe you should talk about something else. I think this topic is upsetting Levia."
"I am in control," Levia said.
"Still," Nue said, "Kaguya may be right. I do have one more question, though: do you think you'll fly into a rage again the next time you encounter Shades?"
"Unlikely. I now know what to expect. It will not surprise me, and I should be able to retain control of myself. And any difficulties I do have next time can be corrected for so that they do not occur again."
"Works for me," Nue said.

"You really found this in the mausoleum?" Futo asked.
"Yes," Nue said, "and there were a lot of fairy-type Shades in the room, too. And a pair of animated statues. And there were block puzzles in other rooms."
"Someone's been in there, then, because we certainly didn't set any of that up. Or put the tablet in there."
"Could you read the tablet?"
Futo nodded. "Yes, both inscriptions. I'm kind of surprised Byakuren couldn't read the second one; the script it's written in is one that was favored by Buddhist temples. It is similar to the one my family preferred, though, enough that learning it was fairly simple."
"We know the first one already. What does the second one say?"
"The inscription reads, 'The eight pieces are held by the bodyless forms, those of the black disease.'"
There was a brief silence. "Repeat that," Nue said, and Futo did so.
"Does that mean something to you?" Kaguya asked.
"It does," Nue said. "The first inscription reads, 'The eight pieces face the shade's black mark. Seek with them the agent of change.' And the second one says 'black disease'. There's only one thing that could refer to."
"It certainly could refer to the Black Scrawl," Futo said.
"Of course it does. And it says where to look for the pieces, too."
"'Bodyless forms'?"
"There's only one thing that could mean."
"I don't agree," Futo said. "It could be referring to spirits, or souls, or-"
"No," Levia said. "Nue is right; it is referring to Shades."
"How can you be sure?"
"It couldn't mean anything else," Nue said. "The Shades and the Black Scrawl are connected. All I have to do is kill every Shade I come across until I find the ones with the remaining seven pieces."
Futo sighed. "You're grasping at straws, Nue."
"No, she is correct," Levia said. "It means Shades."
"How can you be sure?"
"Their taint is upon it. I can sense it. It is weak, but it is there."
"Are you sure? I don't sense anything odd. And what do you mean by the Shade's 'taint'?"
"She can sense them," Nue said. "Only when they're already fairly close, but still better than anyone else can do."
"Saw the evidence myself."
Futo looked back to Levia. "And you get that same sense from this tablet?"
"I do," Levia said. "It is faint, but it is there. The object is related in some manner to the Shades; that much is certain."
"Huh. Well, here you go, then." Futo handed the tablet to Nue.
"Thanks," Nue said. "I mean it. This is the first real lead I've had in a while."
"Seems like a long shot, though."
"I don't care. I'm following this lead."
"I thought as much. And I do most certainly hope it bears fruit; the Black Scrawl is one of many things the world could do without."
"Yeah," Nue said, "no kidding."
"On our end, I'm sure we'll be looking into whatever's going on at the mausoleum. If we find anything, I'm sure we can let you know."

Tenshi impaled a Shade through the chest, using it as a club against another. "Two!" She kicked one to the ground, jumped on top of it, and plunged her sword through its head. "Three!" She performed a spinning backwards leap, landing in the middle of four Shades and taking them out with a spinning slice. "Four in one!"
A Shade came at her from the side. She grabbed its sword. "Yeah, no." She flipped the Shade over her and into the ground. One charged her from the front, and another from behind. Tenshi leapt to the side, grabbed their weapons, and impaled the two Shades on each other's' blades. "Well, that's not very nice. You should kiss and make up." She slammed their heads together.
Another Shade attacked. Tenshi ducked around it and grabbed it from behind. "Let's not be interrupting, now." She leapt into the air and threw it into the ground. She rose higher into the air, then came crashing down on a keystone, crushing a trio of shades. "You should really learn to look up." Three more approached, and she sent a keystone through each one's head.
Only four Shades were left, and they approached Tenshi as a group. Tenshi plunged her sword into the ground, and the ground split open beneath them. The four Shades plummeted into the crack, and were then crushed as Tenshi closed it. "Watch your step, too," she said, pulling her sword out of the ground.
Tenshi looked around, then sheathed her sword. "And that takes care of that."
Mamizou landed next to Tenshi. "Ah, you're finished."
"Yeah," Tenshi said. "How's Keine doing?"
"She and I got everyone together in the school and surrounding buildings quickly, as per the plan."
"That's good. And Yuugi?"
"I'd assume she's done by now. She only had two left when I saw her. And I probably don't have to tell you how much she was enjoying it."
"Good thing she was here. Otherwise, you'd've had to get your hands dirty."
"I don't think so," Mamizou said. "Keine would have left the humans to me and taken care of the Shades herself. I wouldn't be able to do as well against them."
"I've fought you before," Tenshi said, "remember? Don't tell me you couldn't handle Shades."
"My ability with danmaku does not mean I can do that well in a real battle, at least not against Shades. My specialty is illusions, remember? Deception, misdirection, that manner of thing. Even an army of humans or youkai I could wipe out single-handedly, and without even having to personally kill so much as a single one, but Shades, unfortunately, don't exactly seem to have minds to fool."
"True. I think you could probably take a small group of Shades, though. They're not really all that tough."
"Oh, I've fought Shades before. And you're right; I can perform decently against them. Don't know if I could've handled a group the size of the ones you and Yuugi just fought off, though. And even if I could, Keine could still do a better job of it. Especially since you started giving her lessons."
"She never did like fighting," Tenshi said. "She only did it when she truly needed to. Of course, when the Shades appeared, that need started showing up a lot more often. It's only natural she'd want to improve her own abilities to compensate, isn't it?"
"True enough."
"Yeah," Tenshi said. "Anyways, if both groups have been taken care of, let's go give everyone the all-clear."
Mamizou nodded. "After you."

It was later in the afternoon when the group was ready to depart from Seafront. "Right," Nue said. "Mokou, Kaguya, where are you two going now?"
"I have business to take care of," Mokou said, "and I feel certain Kaguya's going to insist on coming along."
"As I told you," Kaguya said, "it's my fight, too."
"You're going to pursue Utsuho, I take it," Byakuren said.
Mokou nodded. "Yes. Well, I don't know about actually pursuing her immediately. I don't know where she is right now; she's been sighted all over Gensokyo during the past month, so I have no idea where to find her."
"Also, we lost rather badly," Kaguya said. "We shouldn't just charge in again without a plan."
"Oh? And just what would you suggest we do, then?"
"Head for the mountain," Nue said. "Kanako's still there, and she's the one who gave Utsuho her power. She might be able to help."
"It's getting a bit late in the day, though," Mokou said. "I think I'll stay here for the night. Kaguya, you can do whatever the hell you want."
"You have the right idea," Kaguya said. "I'll be imposing on Miko for the night as well, I think."
"You could come to the human village with us," Byakuren said. "It's close enough that we'll get there by nightfall, and we could certainly accommodate the two of you for a night."
"I'll pass," Mokou said. "It's been a while since I've seen the ocean."
"Same here," Kaguya said.
"Very well," Byakuren said. "Levia, Nue, let us go."

"Two groups attacking simultaneously," Keine said. "That's something new."
"Hey," Yuugi said, "we beat 'em, right? The more, the better, as far as I'm concerned."
"I have to agree with Keine," Tenshi said. "Yeah, we kicked the hell out of 'em, but this attack implies a level of coordination we didn't think they were capable of. And it's also the first actual, true attack on the village in a long time. It's a change in behavior, and that's worrying. It's rarely good when the enemy acts in a new way. Tends to mean something's up."
The three of them were in the schoolhouse. The attack was over, and the people had returned to their everyday business. But the attack had indeed been unusual, so they were discussing it.
"I'm not sure we can call them 'enemies'," Keine said. "I don't think the term really applies to beings that don't think."
Tenshi sighed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know, Keine. Can we leave the issue of semantics aside, please?"
"Sorry." She looked over to Yuugi. "Correcting people is something of a habit for me. It comes with being a teacher."
"Whatever," Yuugi said. "I don't care 'bout that stuff, anyways."
"Continuing," Tenshi said, "I'm not sure we can say that Shades don't think, not after they displayed even basic strategy."
"Could just be a coincidence," Yuugi said.
"Possible," Tenshi said. "I doubt it, though."
"Yeah, gotta agree with you there."
"What I want to know," Keine said, "is why we're seeing this sudden change. If they could think all this time, why are we only seeing it now? And if they couldn't, why can they do so now?"
"Sorry to interrupt, but this is important."
All three of them turned to face the newcomer. "Mira," Keine said. "I didn't realize you were here."
Mira Hakurei took a seat. "I didn't know I'd be coming, but like I said, this is important."
"Let me guess," Tenshi said. "Shades attacked the shrine, too."
"No," Mira said. "This is about the border."
The room was silent. Eventually, Keine spoke. "What is it, Mira?"
"Something's happening to the border," the Hakurei maiden explained. "At first, it was so minor that I thought I was imagining it, but I no longer doubt that the change is actually happening. I'm not completely sure what the nature of the change is, but what I think is that the border is weakening."
Another silence, once again broken by Keine. "Is it in danger of collapse?"
"No," Mira said. "The change is happening very slowly, which is part of the reason it took me so long to confirm that it's happening. And even if it was going faster, I don't think the border's weakening to the point of collapse. It would help if I knew how the border had felt before, but I think it's beginning to revert to its state before the Shades appeared."
"Are you sure?"
"No. As I said, I don't know how it felt back then. Kind of before my time. That's just my guess."
"Ran Yakumo would probably know."
"Yeah," Tenshi said. "Too bad nobody's seen her since shortly after Yukari's death. Stuck around long enough to explain what'd happened, but then she-and her shikigami-vanished. Nobody has any idea where the two of them went off to."
"It has to be somewhere in Gensokyo," Keine said. "They vanished after the border was strengthened and Gensokyo was isolated."
"Still a big area to search," Mira said, "and I can't leave the shrine for that long."
"Let's put Nazrin on it," Tenshi said. "I don't know if her ability works on people, but she's good at finding stuff even without it, isn't she?"
"That works. Where is she?"
"No clue."
"Byakuren should know," Keine said. "We can ask her when she returns."
"And when's that?" Mira asked.
"To be honest, I'm surprised she's not back yet. She and Nue must have gotten mixed up in something."
"So no clue, then. Great." Mira stood, walking over to the door. "I'll be in the market. Might as well get my shopping done while I'm here. If she gets back, let me know." She opened the door and walked straight into Byakuren. "Gah!"
"Mira," Byakuren said. "I didn't realize you'd be here. And the reverse is also true, apparently."
Mira ignored the collision completely. "Byakuren, excellent timing. I need to find Ran Yakumo. Keine recommended having Nazrin search, but none of them know where she is."
Nue stepped up beside Byakuren. "We ran into her on our way in," she said. "We asked her to set up accommodations for a guest while we came here, so she should be at our place. Give us a minute, and we'll take you-"
Mira brushed past the two of them. "Not waiting. I know where you live; I can get there on my own." And with that, she headed off through the village, not even sparing a glance for the woman standing next to them.

Mira Hakurei is an… interesting individual.
The current Hakurei maiden, Mira is actually not the first of her line to have that name. The first Mira had the role of Hakurei maiden fifteen hundred years ago; in fact, it was her who sealed Byakuren in Makai.
I only met the first Mira once, when she performed the sealing. And even though she never spoke to me, I remember her just as clearly as I remember the rest of that particular event.
Shou was not present that day-something she never forgave herself for-and Kyouko joined the temple after Byakuren's unsealing, so it was just Byakuren, Ichirin, Nazrin, and Murasa who were there when the humans came. And myself, of course, but that was merely bad timing on my part. The others were ready to fight, as was I (but just for my own protection, whereas the others would have been fighting for Byakuren), but Byakuren ordered her followers to stand down. They did so, and I followed suit, still ready to fight but willing to wait and see what Byakuren was doing.
Two of the humans stepped forward from the mob. The man was just another villager-the mob's leader, I assumed-but the other was a woman who, despite never having seen her before, I recognized on sight. Her clothing made her identity obvious-she was Mira Hakurei, the Hakurei maiden. And even from that first sight of her, it was quite clear that she did not want to be there.
The man spoke first. "I imagine you know why we're here."
"I do," Byakuren said. "Do you?"
"Let me guess: you're looking to launch into some speech about how we're doing this for all the wrong reasons. But we're not. You have been protecting the youkai you claimed to kill."
"Let me ask you this: when have I ever claimed that I kill youkai?"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? You're a youkai hunter; of course you kill-" He stopped mid-sentence.
"That's right," Byakuren said. "I have never once claimed to be a youkai killer." She faced the mob. "I have taken jobs from many of you. Have I ever agreed to kill a youkai?" She paused briefly. "That's right. I have not. In fact, am I not quick to decry requests to kill? Have I not corrected every use of the word? 'I remove youkai; I do not kill them.' How many of you have heard me say that?"
"What the hell did you expect us to think?" the man asked. "You knew damn well we'd assume you were using 'remove' as a euphemism."
"I said what I meant. I even corrected people I thought believed that I was using 'remove' euphemistically."
"Cut the crap. You show up and act like a youkai hunter, and now you're trying to tell us you never hid your true intentions?"
It was Mira who replied. "She never lied. You all simply drew your own conclusions, despite her words. That's not her fault."
"Like hell it's not! She knew we'd assume 'remove' was a euphemism! She knew what we'd think! She's been tricking us this whole time!"
"And why," Byakuren asked, "would I want to do that?"
"To get us to trust you. We know you're one of them. We know you're a youkai."
I, not yet knowing that Byakuren had once been human, thought at first that she'd merely been passing herself off as one. The others, of course, knew exactly what was meant.
"Please explain," Byakuren said. "What does that have to do with this?"
"Oh, shut up. You're a youkai. That's all that needs to be said. Or are you going to try and tell us that youkai aren't enemies of humans?"
"I'm not going to try to tell you that. I'm going to tell you that. Youkai are not the enemies of humans."
"Yeah, real convincing. The whole attacking-people thing kind of ruins that argument."
"There are humans who kill youkai," Byakuren said. "You even thought me to be one of them. But youkai do not believe that all humans want to kill them."
"Of course not. They know it's self-defense."
"Well, then, what about the humans who kill other humans? Humans are not murderers; certain individual humans are. You do not assume everyone is a murderer just because someone is, do you?"
"Of course not."
"Then why do you make that assumption of youkai?"
"We're not making assumptions. I, for one, have never seen a youkai unless it's attacking someone."
"You've seen me."
"You're trying a strategy. You're trying to make us feel safe around you, make us think you're on our side, so that we don't suspect you. But you're not fooling us any longer."
"If that were true, I'd have struck long before now. But I have no desire or intent to do so."
"You can't be trusted. We know that, and you can't fool us any longer."
"So you're here to… 'deal with me'?"
"Yeah, no shit."
"Then do it," Byakuren said. "Kill me."
"Don't think we're here unprepared," the man said. "We know your secret. We know you took power from Makai. We know you can't be killed."
That was the first I'd heard of that, but Byakuren's followers seemed to know exactly what the man was talking about. As, of course, did Byakuren. "And yet you're here. If you know that you cannot kill me, then what do you intend to do?"
"We can't kill you," the man said, "but we can ensure you do no harm. Your minions will be killed, of course, but you we will simply seal away."
I prepared to fight, but the others were still watching Byakuren. "I cannot accept their deaths," she said. "They have not even done the wrong you say I have. And even were that not the case, I do not want anyone here to come to any harm. And I include all of you in that statement, as well. So I say this: if you promise to do nothing beyond sealing me, I will not resist."
The man was silent for a moment. "Very well," he said, and there was a general murmur of agreement. "We will not-"
What happeden next was, to put it mildly, unexpected: Mira Hakurei punched the man in the face. "You shut the fuck up, Rio." She spun to face the mob. "All of you just shut the fuck up!"
It'd been clear that Mira didn't really like what was happening, but even knowing that, the… intensity of her reaction was quite a surprise. "I have had it with this!" she exclaimed to the crowd. "You know damn well you intend to kill every youkai here! And you have the nerve to call her a liar! You're just a bunch of fucking hypocrites!"
"Damn it, woman," the man named Rio said as he got to his feet, "you know we're right. You're a youkai exterminator yourself. You know they're evil."
Mira spun to face Rio. "You only got one thing right, and that's that I'm a youkai exterminator. And because I am, I know very well that Byakuren's in the right here. And so would you, if you actually gave a shit about that."
"What the hell are you talking about? You know she's full of shit!"
"Oh, fuck you. Do you know just how many innocent youkai I've hunted? How many innocent youkai I've killed?"
"No such thing."
"Not every youkai has caused problems. Not every youkai has killed."
"Not every youkai has caused problems or killed yet. They will eventually."
"Wrong. Most youkai are innocent of such things, and I've killed many of them. Far too many. I couldn't keep doing it. That, Rio, is why I no longer claim to kill youkai. I will kill the ones that truly are guilty, but for the ones that aren't, I do the same thing as Byakuren. I relocate them. Like her, I have constantly decried jobs telling me to kill youkai. I have made no secret of the fact that most of the time I simply remove them. In fact, I've used the same words she has: 'I do not kill youkai; I remove them'. But you're not taking up arms against me, now, are you? And do you know why you aren't?" She faced the mob again. "Do any of you know?"
There was no response. "Of course you know," Mira said. "You just don't want to say it. So I'll say it for you: the reason you're attacking Byakuren but not me is because I am a human, whereas she is a youkai."
"Well, obviously," Rio said. "You say that like it doesn't mean anything."
Mira punched him in the gut and shoved him to the ground. "Because it fucking doesn't!" She faced the mob again. "What the fuck is wrong with you people? Do you really think that she's evil just because she's not human? Just because she's a youkai?" Silence. "Well, what about the fact that she used to be human? Are you saying that becoming a youkai made her evil?"
Another piece of information I hadn't known. I was quickly learning that Byakuren was a most unusual individual.
"Of course that didn't turn her evil," Rio said, getting to his feet again. "Only an evil human would want to be a youkai in the first-"
Mira kicked him back down. "Shut the fuck up before I rip out your fucking tongue!" She faced the group again. "You are attempting to imprison an innocent woman and kill other innocent women. That is something I cannot condone. The only evil here is that perpetrated by you. And yet…"
Mira indicated Byakuren. "Byakuren has consented to the sealing," she said, "so I will perform it. But if any of you take any action-any action, even the most insignificant-against any other youkai here, then I'll be introducing you to a youkai who does deserve your hatred, and I will do absolutely nothing but watch as it fucking eats you alive! Any questions?" Silence. "Good." She pointed at a few people. "You, you, you, and you, you're the most magically skilled of the group. You four stay here. Everyone else will leave now." She picked Rio off the ground and shoved him at the mob. "That means you, too, Rio. All of you will leave, and you will not come back." A pause. "That means right fucking now!"
That was enough to drive the mob off. "I'm sorry," Mira said, turning to face Byakuren. "I do not want to do this, but…"
"I understand," Byakuren said. "Do it; I will not hold it against you." She looked over at her followers. "Please, do not interfere."
None of the others were happy about this, of course, but they all nodded anyways. Then Byakuren looked at me. "And you, I do not know you, but please, just let things be. Don't try to help me; you'll only make things worse."
I nodded, too, but unlike the others, Byakuren's situation didn't concern me; that day was the first time I'd ever even seen her. I did prefer not having to kill my way out of that situation, though. Oh, sure, I was still quite willing to kill at that point in time, but I've never exactly been fond of massacres, and a massacre is exactly what it would have been. So I was glad to see there wouldn't be a fight. In fact, I probably could have just left at that point, but I was curious to see what sort of seal Mira planned to form that required four others to assist. Had I known what was about to happen, I'd have chosen differently.
"Thank you," Byakuren said. "Mira, you may begin whenever you are ready."
"All right." She paused. "Damn it, why does it have to be like this?"
"It is not your fault. It's not something any one person can change. But it will change. It may be hundreds of years until it changes, but eventually, it will change."
"I hope so. And I will do all that I can to hurry it along. I don't want any of my descendants to have to do something like this. And I hope I never have to do it again."
"Yes, you do seem to… feel strongly about this."
Mira laughed, although it sounded forced. "Yeah, um, sorry about that."
"No apology is necessary. I may not be fond of the… forceful language you used, but it is not my place to condemn one for using such language. And it is the thoughts behind the words that truly matter, anyways. I do not approve of your threat, either, of course. Even if it was just a bluff."
"I don't bluff," Mira said.
"Well, I do not approve, but your actions are your choice, so I will say no more. Are you ready to perform my sealing?"
"I suppose so." Mira paused. "Damn, how can you be so calm about this?"
"I am quite upset, actually, but showing this would serve no purpose. One must-"
Behind Mira's back, two of the four selected villagers-a man and a woman-had been working on preparations for Byakuren's sealing, as had the other two. But this pair, it turned out, had been readying something else, as well, and they chose that moment to leap into action.
Murasa and I were the first targets. I reacted faster, and almost managed a successful evasion, but the man managed to, just barely, hit one of my wings with his charm. The next thing I knew, I was underground with Murasa, whose ship was also there with us. Ichirin and Nazrin appeared a moment later.
We did not witness the rest of that incident, of course, but Byakuren later filled us in. She saw us get sent underground, as did Mira. And apparently, Mira was not amused. "Ali! Kino! What the hell did you just do?"
"What had to be done," Kino said. "Don't worry; they haven't been harmed. They have simply been sent to the sealed underground-along with that ghost's ship, I would assume, since it and she are bound. No harm has come to them. We didn't violate the agreement."
"Do not try that bullshit with me," Mira said. "You have just made the worst mistake of your lives. Now get in position so we can perform the sealing before I get even more pissed off and just fucking kill you right here! Neke, Nara, you too." Then she faced Byakuren. "Um…"
"Continue," Byakuren said. "What the two of them did is on them, not you. And I'm assuming that you have a consequence in mind, but let me just say that it's better to be forgiving."
"Yeah, no."
"Well, it is your decision. Still, I would encourage mercy. Anyways, please, do what you are here to do."
The four and Mira took positions around Byakuren. The four channeled magical energy, but it was Mira who did all the actual work.
Mira stepped back when she was finished, when only the final touch remained. "Neke, Nara," she said, "you two can leave." They did, and Mira faced the other two. "You two, on the other hand, are staying with me." She magically restrained them. "You just wait right there. Once I finish this up, I'll be introducing you to somebody who will love having guests for dinner." Then she finished the seal, sending Byakuren to Makai and trapping her there.
I liked Mira. I may have only met her the one time, but she made something of an impression. I would have liked to get to know her, actually, but unfortunately, she died long before the underground was unsealed. The current Mira does remind me of her, though, although I don't think this one has fed anybody to youkai. But she is, like her namesake, completely unwilling to take any shit from anyone. And that's a trait I admire.

"So," Keine said as Byakuren, Nue, and Levia entered the schoolhouse, "you seem to have picked up a new companion."
Levia stepped forward. "I am Levia. Hmm… I was told that Keine would likely wonder if I might turn out to be a threat to the village. You are her, I assume."
"I… I am."
"Yeah, sorry about that," Nue said. "Levia here is… unusual."
"I like unusual," Tenshi said, getting to her feet. "I'm Tenshi. Keine you've already identified, and the oni is Yuugi."
Levia stared at Yuugi for a moment. "Interesting. It seems we share a certain desire."
"You harbor hatred," Levia said. "You desire to kill as many Shades as you possibly can. I, too, know that they must be eliminated."
"Well," Yuugi said, "you've got that much right."
Keine stood. "Well, Levia, as long as you don't cause problems, you're welcome in the village. Are you staying with Byakuren?"
"She is providing a place, yes."
"That's Byakuren for you," Tenshi said. "So what happened? If Byakuren got involved, I'd assume you were in some sort of trouble. What was it? Illness? Home got destroyed? Needed help with a Shade attack?"
"I awoke without a world to bring to its end."
"Well," Tenshi said. "Have to say, that's not the answer I was expecting."
"It's a long story," Nue said. "'Ren, why don't you fill them in? I'll take Levia back to the house."
"No objections," Byakuren said.
"Right. Come on, Levia. I'll show you around the village, and by the time we're done, it'll be evening. 'Ren, what say we meet up at Lorelei's?" Byakuren nodded. "Great. Come on, Levia."

Mokou sat on the dock, watching the sun set. Even in the month since leaving the underground, she hadn't seen one. She'd kept to the forest, but even had she not, she likely would have avoided such a thing. Avoided something that would so strongly remind her of Utsuho.
Mokou didn't even have to look to know Kaguya was coming up behind her. "What do you want?"
"Just to talk." Kaguya took a seat beside Mokou.
Mokou stood. "Not interested."
"Just avoiding it, then? You should know that's not going to help."
"…Fine." She sat back down. "You're wasting time, though. I already know what you're going to say."
"You're just going to say that I'm not responsible because I'm not the one who threw you in."
"Or the one who made the sun. Or the one who came up with the idea. You didn't do it; you only allowed it. Still bad, but not on the same level."
"And then there's the part about me making up for it by getting you out."
"That does mean a fair amount. And there's also the fact that I am kind of responsible for getting your father killed."
"Doesn't change anything."
"Look, Mokou. Yes, you did something wrong. But I'm not completely innocent, either. But when you rather forcefully pointed out how many people my 'impossible requests' were killing, did I just sit around pitying myself?"
"You ended the challenge. And shut up. It may have been your fault, but most of those people were stupid."
"You mean they got themselves killed, even if they did it because of my challenge. And that's exactly right. They got killed doing stupid things. But the point is that issuing that challenge was a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, does things they regret."
"Your 'victims' brought it on themselves. Even… my father."
"I don't think you've ever acknowledged that before."
"Well, it's true."
"Just as it's true that Utsuho, not you, trapped me within that sun."
"Gah, stop saying that! Stop saying it wasn't my fault!"
"…Fine." Kaguya stood up. "But, Mokou?"
Mokou sighed. "What?"
Kaguya kicked her off the dock and into the water. "Snap the hell out of it. If you feel so bad about what you did, then work to make up for it. But don't just sit around moping. That doesn't help anyone."
Mokou rose out of the water and landed on the dock. "What the hell would you know?"
"Well," Kaguya said as she walked away, "I did have my family and entire society tell me to leave and never come back. I haven't always had a happy life, you know. Maybe you should think about that."

'Lorelei's' was a popular establishment, as was evident as soon as Byakuren, Nue, and Levia entered. They were immediately greeted by one of the staff. "Welcome! Oh, Miss Byakuren! And Nue, too! And… someone new! Excellent! Byakuren, Nue, I already know for you." She turned towards Levia. "Herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore?"
"Carnivore," Levia said. "Meat only."
"Cooked or raw?"
"Raw. Living or just killed."
"Sure thing. This way, please."
In contrast to the rest of the restaurant, the section the three of them were led to was only about half-filled. It was smaller, too, and off to the side and out of sight of most of the other tables, although it did still have a good view of the raised platform in the center of the building. The trio was quickly seated, and the waitress handed them each a menu, Levia getting a different one than the other two.
Restaurants, as well as food stands or other such things, were a new concept for Levia, but Nue had explained how they worked. Still, Levia did have some questions, especially concerning this particular establishment, which was fairly unusual in that it accommodated almost every type of diet.
Levia looked around. "Everyone in this section appears to either share my variety of diet or is with someone who does," she noted.
"Some people, mainly among humans, are uncomfortable with witnessing the feeding habits of some youkai," Nue explained. "This place wants to accommodate everyone, though, so they just put anyone who prefers raw meat in here so nobody else has to see it."
"They may do as they please. It is no concern of mine. Now… you make a selection from the menu, correct?"
Nue nodded. "Pick what you want. They gave you the carnivore menu, so there's nothing but meat on it."
Levia looked her menu over. "This is not to my liking. I consume plain meat."
"Back of the menu," Nue said. The fact that a youkai who'd been asleep ever since her existence began somehow knew to read wasn't even worth noting.
Levia examined the menu. "Yes, this is preferable. Do they bring the animal alive?"
"No. That's about the one thing they don't do. Even in this section, people killing their own food would freak out far too many other customers. They will kill it and then immediately bring it out, though."
"That is sufficient."
The three made their choices, and a waitress soon came by and took their order. Levia's came quickly, as there was no cooking to be done, and she immediately tore into it, paying no attention to cleanliness or other manners of etiquette. Not that this was unusual among those with her manner of diet. And in addition, eating something that had just been killed was inherently messier. All of which had been taken into account when the establishment was built.
The tables in the raw-meat section all sat on easily-washed mats. After a meal, the staff would replace the mats with clean ones, bringing the used ones back for washing. The tables themselves were of a unique design, made with the consumption of fresh kills in mind. Where one would normally expect to see placemats and plates, there were instead trough-like bowls. The order was set in the bowl for eating with whatever implements or lack thereof the diner preferred. Each bowl had a drain for blood, carrying it into the back where it was gathered for disposal. And to accommodate mixed parties, those in which not everyone needed raw meat, a wooden flap could be slid out over each bowl, allowing for the placement of more standard dishes.
The staff at Lorelei's always greeted customers by name whenever they knew the names, there was no dress code other than 'be wearing clothes', and nobody spoke formally. The staff was very friendly to patrons, and it was common to see workers stop and chat with people. And then, of course, there were the constant calls in the background.
"Fry a turd in the garden!"
"Drown the kids and a cup of mud!"
"Hemorrhage a charcoal!"
"Crying mother walking!"
"Mother-child reunion, and cremate it!"
"They seem to be speaking nonsense," Levia observed.
"It's part of the atmosphere," Nue said. "They took the idea from the outside world, where slang terms were common in certain establishments. Don't know if that's still done on the outside, since nothing's come through the border from anywhere for five centuries, but Mystia decided to use it."
"…I see."
All of a sudden, the background noise faded to nothing. "Well, this is a pleasant surprise," Byakuren said.
"What is happening?" Levia asked.
Nue indicated the raised platform. "Mystia's about to put on a performance. See those three on the stage, there?"
"I see them. They do not live, do they? They feel similar to the dead. I believe they are ghosts of some variety."
"Poltergeists," Nue said. "Those are the Prismrivers. They play music. And the bird youkai stepping up onto the stage is Mystia Lorelei."
"Lorelei. This place bears that name. Is it hers?"
"It is. She originally had a food stand in the forest nearby, where she specialized in lamprey eel. It was only recently-about four years ago-that she opened this place. She decided that she wanted a place where everyone could come for a meal, regardless of what they are or what they eat. She still has the stand, and most of the time, she still runs it herself, but sometimes she makes appearances here. She does some of the cooking-that's always been one of her passions-but she also puts on performances, singing being her other passion. By the way, if you have to speak during the show, whisper."
The Prismrivers had no need for 'amplifiers' or other equipment that had apparently been common in the outside world. Somehow, their music just sounded the way they wanted it to, even if that should require more or different instruments than they had, and it could be heard clearly by the entire audience. Similarly, Mystia had no use for a microphone; her voice was strong enough and carried well enough that she simply didn't need one. How she could sing multiple vocal parts simultaneously, nobody knew, but in Gensokyo, one learned quickly that it was pointless to ask 'how'.
There was no preamble; as soon as the performers were ready, the show began. The Prismrivers played, and Mystia sang:
I can't feel my senses
I just feel the cold
All colors
Seem to fade away
I can't reach my soul

I would stop running
If I knew there was a chance
It tears me apart
To sacrifice it all
But I'm forced to let go
Tell me I'm frozen
But what can I do?
Can't tell the reasons
I did it for you
When lies turn into truth
I sacrificed for you
You say that I'm frozen
But what can I do?
"Interesting," Levia said, keeping her voice down to a whisper. "Many such people would smell of pride, but there is no such scent among any of those four."
"The Prismrivers are poltergeist musicians," Nue said, also in a whisper. Playing their music is their purpose. And since these are poltergeists, that's meant literally. As for Mystia, she just loves to sing. Always has, as far as I know."
"That was my conclusion, as well."
"There's no need to think about anything like that," Byakuren said, keeping her voice down as well. "Just enjoy the performance."

"I will confess that the entire concept of a 'restaurant' makes little sense to me," Levia said as the three of them exited the building. "I understand getting food from someone, or even having a meal specially prepared by another, but turning it into some form of… entertainment, or what else you would call it? That, I cannot understand."
"Sometimes," Byakuren said, "people just want to spend time together. Places like Lorelei's are quite good for such things. The atmosphere helps, too, I would have to say."
"As do the performances," Nue said.
"True. They are quite skilled performers. But I think that truly appeals to people is that Lorelei's is a place where they can come to relax, to briefly forget their worries. And in today's world, such a thing is more important than ever."

Well, it looks like Levia is none too fond of Shades.
Some of you may question my portrayal of Tenshi, but remember, five hundred years have passed. In that time, she's gained an increased respect for proper strategic and tactical thinking, although she does still enjoy the fighting part just as much.
We also had our introduction to Mira Hakurei, both the current Hakurei maiden and the ancestor for whom she was named. Anyone who read Orphan probably recognized the scene where the original Mira sealed Byakuren. I tried writing a different version, but nothing I came up with was as good, so I just reused the one from Orphan, although I did rewrite it to be from Nue's perspective instead of Byakuren's, and also made some minor phrasing changes and the like.
The restaurant scene came about as a result of me wondering what such an establishment might be like in Gensokyo. Not one that catered just to humans, but one that was open to all. The variety of youkai in Gensokyo would necessitate a very wide variety of dishes. And then I wondered what people might think of eating next to someone who was devouring a just-killed animal, and it went from there. The slang terms (many of which are real-life slang terms) were just for fun. I had it be Mystia's place simply because I wanted to have her sing. And no, I don't know how she can perform multiple parts or the Prismrivers can play more instruments than they have or play ones they don't have. It's Gensokyo; just go with it. By the way, the song Mystia sang is called Frozen, by Within Temptation. The reason I chose Within Temptation is because I think their lead vocalist has a good voice for Mystia.
Anyways, that's all for now. As always, any feedback is encouraged and appreciated.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 02:24:37 am by GuyYouMetOnline »


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2012, 06:43:33 pm »
Kudos to you for writing such an amazing story, I've enjoyed it so far, especially during the Dungeon Roam in the Dream Palace and the Restaurant Trip.

Well, onto the commenting, I am not a good writer, but what strikes me as weird is that most of the part when Mokou fought, she's relying on her 'sword' and ability to take hits rather than her power over fire, since you've mentioned that this story is a reference to a game called NieR, could the sword be the favored weapon of the protagonist in said game? If so, excuse me for not being able to relate to some references as I haven't touched the game before.

And yes, all the stuff above is nitpicking, sorry for being such a prick, but being the amateur I am, I cannot find anything but objective stuff to comment about. > < 

But honestly, I believe that you have done great so far, the writing is smooth, the story is engaging and I can see work put into characterization for various characters. Of course I enjoyed the small jokes too, I believe that I will definitely be following this story.

On a side note, I do like this portrayal of Tenshi and Kaguya, or perhaps that because their only portrayals to me are either being raped by Iku or sticking to the computer all day long. >_>

>Link to my Steam Account: Add me!


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2012, 03:27:01 am »
In NieR, swords are your only weapon choice for the first half of the game, but after a certain major plot event, you gain access to spears and two-handed swords. The swordfighting focus wasn't intended as any sort of paralell to that, though; it's just how that battle played out. Much of the fighting so far has been mostly physical, although that's not going to be the case for much longer. It's just how I thought the fights so far flowed best. There will be quite a few fights (including a big one in the next chapter) where magic and other abilities see more use.

Also, don't worry about being 'nitpicky'. And feel free to comment on subjective stuff, too; the more you say, the better.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2012, 04:13:47 am »

Chapter 5
Outside Influence

"Actually," Yuugi said, "I have come across something like that. Didn't know what it was, but it certainly didn't look natural. There are eight of them, right?"
"Yes," Nue said. "Eight pieces. This one's already in the tablet, and if you really do have another, then that's number two."

"I have it," Yuugi said. "It's back at home, but I have it. Kept it as a prize; it was a fairly nasty group of Shades that dropped it."

"I see."

It was the morning after returning from Seafront, and Nue was already eager to get started hunting Shades. Yuugi, of course, had been eager to join her, as had Levia. At the moment, Nue and Yuugi were heading into the village center to find Mamizou, the best person in the village to go to for news, gossip, rumors, and the like.

Mamizou could usually be found in a small tavern in the village center, where she often sang. She wasn't nearly as good as Mystia, but she wasn't at all bad. She liked it because of how much one can overhear in a tavern.

Mamizou was there when Nue and Yuugi entered, and she quickly made her way over to the pair. "Hey, Nue."

"Hey, Mam'."

"How many times have I told you not to call me that?"


"With a margin of error of plus/minus anything, since you made that number up on the spot."

"Seventy-three percent of all statistics are made up on the spot."

"Sixty-one percent," Mamizou said. She turned to Yuugi. "And hello to you as well."

"Hi," Yuugi said. "Nue says you're the best person to ask about Shade activity."

"Ah, yes. Going Shade hunting, aren't you, Nue? Heard about that from Tenshi. Not surprised Yuugi's decided to join you. And what about that woman you found yesterday, Levia? I understand she has a fairly strong dislike of Shades, too."

"She is fairly likely to come, but we need a destination first."

Mamizou thought for a minute. "I think I have one for you, but I can't say it'll be pleasant. It seems there's been significant Shade activity near the Aerie."

"I'll go wherever Shades are," Nue said.

"Me, too," Yuugi said, "but you're right, Mamizou; it's not a pleasant destination."

"Have you been there?" Nue asked.

"Yeah, once, about a couple weeks ago. I don't think they were very happy to see me. 'Course, tengu've never been too happy to see an oni."

"Trust me," Mamizou said, "it has nothing to do with you being an oni. They treat everyone like that."

"Whatever. Long as there's Shades to kill, I don't care. We've got our destination, Nue. Let's get moving. The sooner we get there, the sooner Shades start dying."

The old tengu village, or what's left of it, was abandoned long ago. It took a lot of damage in the initial Shade attack, and the berserk kappa machines didn't do it any favors, either. The tengu remained there for quite some time, but the village never managed to recover. Some moved to other towns and villages, but most wanted a new tengu village. So they built one, one they decided to call 'The Aerie'.

The Aerie is not your ordinary village. The tengu chose a location most would have stayed far away from. The village was built on the walls of a narrow-and very deep-canyon at the base of the mountain. Basically, it's all built against cliff walls.

The only 'buildings' in the village are the small, cylindrical houses. Wooden walkways, ladders, and rope bridges connect them to each other, and to the few circular wooden platforms between the cliffsides. These platforms rest atop long, long poles that go all the way down to the ground.

All this makes the village extremely difficult to navigate on foot. Not that this bothers the tengu, since they can all fly. Most youkai can, although some can't. And, of course, there are also many humans who can't. You might think that, since the tengu don't need them, all these bridges and ladders were made with visitors in mind, but only if you've never been there. Or heard accounts of what the place is like. Namely, accommodating visitors is the last thing the people there would do.

"The Aerie," Byakuren said. "Such a sad place. If only they would be more open."

"It's their choice," Nue said. "As much of a shithole as the place is, it's their choice to have it be that way."

"I hardly think 'shithole' is appropriate, but you're right that they live as they choose to, even if it is the wrong choice. They would be much better off were they only more open to others."

"Well, they're not, and I don't need them to be. As long as someone can point me to the Shades, I'm happy."

"Are you sure about this, Nue? I don't want you risking yourself like this."

"I'm doing it," Nue said. "I'm not letting this thing take you."

"I… I don't want it to take me, either, but… I'm not sure you can stop it."

"It's hurting again, isn't it?"

"It is," Byakuren said. "Not as sharply as yesterday, but it's holding for longer. It should fade again soon."

"That's not how it usually happens. The pain's supposed to come slowly. But yesterday, it came on suddenly, and now you have it again. Way outside the norm."

"Yes," Byakuren said. "I… Nue, there's no way to know how much time I have left."

"As much as you want. I'm not letting this thing take you."

"Nue, you know this is a long shot."

"It's a far better lead than any other I've found. And if it leads to nothing, then I'll find another to follow."

"If only it were that simple. I don't want to die, Nue, but… it may not be possible to prevent it. What are you going to do if that's how it is?"

"It won't be. I'm not stopping until I find a way."

"And if you can't? Nue, what are you going to do if I do die?"

Nue was silent for a while. "I… I don't know Byakuren. I just… I don't know."

When Mokou made her way out of Seafront, she found Kaguya waiting for her. "Trying to leave without me?"

"Yes," Mokou said.

"Oh? And what happened to not abandoning me?"

"I'm not. I brought you here. You'll be fine here. So now I'm leaving you here."

"Sorry, but no. Hell, even if you had left without me, I'd have come on my own. I do know where you're going, you know."

"Then go on your own. But not with me."

"Geez," Kaguya said, "with that attitude, you'd think you were upset over something I did."

"You've done plenty."

"True, but that's not what this is about. This is about what you did. Mokou, at some point, you're going to have to forgive yourself."

"What makes you think you know anything about that?"

"Getting thousands of people killed with my 'Impossible Requests'."

"Shut up," Mokou said.

"Okay. Better hurry, or I'll get there first!" Kaguya shot into the air, heading towards the mountain.

Mokou watched her fly away. Damn it, she thought as she took to the air herself.

Nue landed a short ways up the mountain, Yuugi and Levia touching down beside her. "Next direction," Levia said.

"Right through that cave," Nue said, pointing at the cave in question. "Just a short way through there, and we're at the Aerie."

Before they could head for the cave, the area in front of them suddenly filled with a purple mist. The mist soon cleared, leaving the figure of a woman in its place. "Unfortunate souls come to visit the mountain, lay your misfortunes bare before me."

Yuugi stepped forward. "Who the hell are you?"

"I am Hina Kagiyama, god of curses and misfortune, and you are within my lands."

"She's not important," Nue said. "Just another of the gods that live here. Hasn't had this kind of attitude before, though."

"Nue Houjuu," Hina said. "I haven't seen you since before the Radiance."

"Shows how much attention you pay to 'your' lands, doesn't it? I have been here a few times since then. Not frequently, but it's happened."

"You and others never showed me the respect and reverence due a god, but that time has long since passed."

"Okay," Nue said, "let's just keep this simple, okay? We're heading for the Aerie to kill Shades."

"You can't ignore me any longer," Hina said, "can't simply push me aside. I used to be weak, but misfortune now rules Gensokyo, and my power has reached entirely new levels."

Nue sighed. "Good for you. Congratulations and all that. Now, please allow us to pass. I'd rather not waste time here."

"Still you try to push me aside," Hina said. "Still you try to keep your distance from me. Do you know how much time I spent in isolation? How long I was alone? But no longer is that the case. People come to me now, offering faith in exchange for my blessing. They are desperate for a respite from the misfortune of their lives. And I can provide them with such a thing. No longer am I a neglected deity, a lost god wandering the mountain alone."

"She doesn't seem quite sane," Nue remarked.

"I think we just hit a sore spot," Yuugi said. "You're trying to move quickly, but she was reminded of this solitary past of hers. I've only just met her, but it looks to me like she fears being left alone again, and fear can make people act irrationally. Yeah, she could've given a better introduction, but she's probably used to playing that role for its impression on the locals."

"I will not be left alone again," Hina said. "I will not accept solitude again. You can't cast me aside now. My power is far greater than you know. No longer can you or anyone el-"

Levia dashed forward without warning, grabbing Hina before the goddess could react and slamming her into the ground. Then she picked Hina up and ran her into and through several trees. She then wrapped her whip around Hina, and the other end of her whip around her own arm. She punched Hina in the gut, and Hina went flying back. Until Levia pulled back, yanking Hina back to her. She hit Hina again, and again pulled her back. She continued in this manner, repeatedly sending Hina flying but then pulling her back for another hit. Over and over and over. Eventually, Levia released Hina from the whip, grabbed her by the leg, and spun her around through several more trees before slamming her into the ground, still holding the leg. She swung Hina over her head and slammed her into the ground again. She repeated this several more times, then she, still holding Hina by the leg, leapt into the air. She spun Hina around and flung her into the ground.

Levia landed in front of the completely stunned and dazed Hina. "You overestimate yourself."

Nue and Yuugi were speechless. Yuugi recovered first. "Holy shit, Levia."

Levia turned to face her. "Was that… excessive?"

"Yeah, but who cares? That was the best thing I've seen in a thousand years!"

"Yes, it was excessive," Nue said.

"She is a god," Levia said. "That will not kill her. Had I meant to kill her, I would have had to approach the battle in a significantly different manner."

Yuugi laughed. "'Battle'? That wasn't a battle. That was the greatest beatdown I've ever seen!"

Nue walked over to Hina. "Are you all right?"

All Hina could manage was a barely-audible moan. Nue turned to Levia. "Do try not to be immediately hostile to anything but Shades."

"You were correct," Levia said. "She is not entirely sane. When you expressed a desire to move on with our purpose here, you touched in her a constant fear, one that, I can tell, she has harbored for a significant period of time. Combat was going to occur; had you continued to express a desire to continue with our business here, she would have attacked before allowing us to continue. I simply struck first."

"I don't know if the situation was beyond salvaging."

"You do not know others' emotions as I do. Had you made such an attempt, Hina, rationality already giving way to her constant fear, would have seen this as an attempt to divert her from such concerns and brush her aside as was done to her in the past."

"That's not rational."

"As I said, you were correct to say that she is not entirely sane. Your desire to move on quickly immediately marked you as a threat to her somewhat fragile state."

"I still think you should've waited a bit."

"Who cares?" Yuugi said. "That was awesome."

"Whatever. You do realize this presents us with a problem, right? I don't think just leaving her here is exactly the best idea."

"Then we bring her with us," Yuugi said. With one hand, she picked up Hina, carrying the goddess over her shoulder as the group moved on.

Kaguya landed in a clearing near the top of the mountain. Almost at the top, where the shrine is. I think. I'll ask Mokou. She should be here in three… two… one…

Mokou landed in front of Kaguya. "What are you doing? This isn't where Kanako's shrine is."

"I've never been there. Kanako visited me once, but I've never been to the shrine."

Mokou sighed. "You're useless. Just keep going up. The shrine's at the top."

"Okay," Kaguya said. "Let's-"

"You are here to visit the shrine?"

The pair spun around to see a woman approaching them. "I can lead you there," she said, "but first, I would have your names."

"Mokou," Mokou said, "and the pain in the ass is Kaguya."

"Ah, the immortals of the forest. I've heard of you, though it's been some time since either of you was last seen. I am Shizuha Aki, goddess of autumn."

"'Shizuha'," Mokou said. "I've heard that name before. You're that harvest goddess' sister, right?"

"I am. She spoke of you a few times. Said she saw you often at harvest festivals and other such occasions. At least, she used to. You left shortly before the Radiance, did you not?"

"Yeah. I've been living underground for the past five hundred years. But, well, things have changed recently."

"Things have been changing rather steadily over the past five hundred years. For the worse, unfortunately, and it has taken its toll on me and my sister. But I don't want to burden you with my problems. You're bound for the Moriya Shrine, correct? That is my destination as well. I'll take you there."

"Thanks," Kaguya said. "Let's-"

Something moved by overhead, and all three of them looked up. "Shades," Shizuha said. "Tengu-types."

"Then we're in for a sight," Mokou said. "Tengu-types don't act alone."

"I think these ones are," Shizuha said. "There were a few scattered groups around without other Shades yesterday, too. They're why I'm bound for the shrine; I intend to confer with Kanako and Suwako on this."

"I didn't see any on the way here," Kaguya said.

"Well, be that as it may, they are clearly here now."

"And all these trees'll make seeing and targeting them difficult," Mokou said. "I guess we're walking. Irritating." She sighed. "Well, let's get going. Lead the way, Shizuha."

"I do not understand why we are walking through this cave," Levia said. "Could we not fly into the village directly? For what reason must we land elsewhere and pass through here?"

"If any outsider flies into-or within-the village," Nue said, "the tengu will attack them immediately. They interpret it as an act of aggression. They insist that everyone enter through here. Not that they're happy to see you even then."

"Maybe you should go in on your own," Yuugi said. "You won't need help just to ask questions, and you can change what you look like, can't you? Just go in as a tengu, and they won't be so hostile, right?"

"They're hostile to anyone who doesn't live there, other tengu included, and I've barely even seen anyone here. No way I could pull off an impersonation. No, we'll have to put up with their attitude."

As the group neared the exit, they came to an opening in the side of this cave. This opening led outside the cave, to a fairly decent-sized clearing surrounded by the rock of the mountain. A small shelter stood at the far end of the clearing, against the rock wall. The structure had only three walls; the side facing into the clearing had no wall and was completely open.

Yuugi turned into the clearing, Nue and Levia following behind her. "This is a good place to set Hina down," she said. "I'll wait here with her; we shouldn't carry her around any more than we have to, and it'll probably make things harder on you if an oni goes in with you."

"I was thinking the same thing," Nue said. "We'll be back once we have a lead on where to find the Shades."

Yuugi set Hina down on the small bed in the shelter, then took a seat on the chair that was its only other furnishing. "We'll be here. Do try and make it quick, though. I'm eager to get Shade hunting."

"I'll make it quick. I don't want to be here any longer than I have to, anyways. Come on, Levia."

"Why is that structure there?" Levia asked as she followed Nue back into the cave.

"Only the people of the Aerie know," Nue said, "and as one might expect, they aren't telling."

"Are the people here truly so hostile to others?"

"You're about to see for yourself."

"The Shades seem to be causing trouble everywhere," Kaguya said as she and Mokou followed Shizuha up the mountain."

"Indeed," Shizuha said, "although we have that situation more under control than does anywhere else in Gensokyo, I think. Kanako and Suwako have made a point of eliminating every shade they're able to locate, and they're quite effective at it. They can't actually sense the Shades, of course, not even on this mountain, their domain, which their senses extend throughout. But they have other ways of knowing what's happening on the mountain, and they've proven able to locate the Shades very effectively. And their reliable elimination of these Shades has garnered them a great deal of faith. Which, of course, enables them to do even more."

"I imagine they had more to start with, too," Mokou said. "Adversity always drives people to the gods."

"True," Shizuha said. "Most of the mountain's gods have seen at least some increase in faith since the Radiance, although it hasn't sustained for all of us. Hina Kagiyama, goddess of curses and misfortune, is one of the two who've benefited most."

"Who's the other?" Kaguya asked.

"The god who has benefited the most," Shizuha said, "is actually me."

"You? Aren't you some autumn goddess?"

"She is the goddess of turning leaves," Mokou said. "She's seen as a symbol of death, and in a dying world, it's hardly surprising that her faith has increased."

"I represent change," Shizuha said. "Death is not an end, but a change. It is the transition from one state to another. The leaves change, the seasons change, lives change, everything changes. Change is the one constant. Death is simply a great change; the transition from life to death is the greatest change one goes through."

"Either way," Mokou said, "it's due to the state of the world that you've been getting more faith."

"Yes," Shizuha said. "Significantly more. I have not tested myself against Kanako or Suwako-we ill need to fight among ourselves with the world in this state-but I may well have surpassed them." Her voice quieted. "But it's not enough."

"What do you mean?" Kaguya asked.


"You said 'it's not enough'."

"Oh. Um…"

"What's it not enough for?"

"…My sister, Minoriko."

"The harvest goddess," Mokou said. "Of course."

"I don't get it," Kaguya said. "What's going on?"

"I told you that there is less and less fertile land."

"Yes, I think I recall you mentioning that. Is that affecting your sister, Shizuha?"

"When it began," Shizuha said, "the people had faith that she could stop it, and her power grew. But she failed to halt the spread of infertility. She hasn't even been able to say anything about its cause. She says she's never felt anything like it."

"And her failure has hurt her faith."

Shizuha nodded. "Before the Radiance, I was weak, too weak to exist on my own. Nobody gave faith to a god such as I. I would have long since faded had Minoriko not shared her faith with me. Now, our positions are revered. I am the one with faith and power, far more than my sister or I ever dreamed of having, and she is the weak one. As she failed again and again to halt the spread of infertility, people's faith in her faded. Even now, she is nowhere close to as weak as I used to be, but she is far less than she was before the Radiance. Or would be, if not for me. As she once shared her faith, now I share mine. And I have far more of it to share. Thanks to me, she now is actually far stronger than she was before the Radiance, but even when I gave her all of my faith save that which I needed to exist, she could do nothing to halt the spread of infertility, not even when Kanako and Suwako added theirs. It cannot be halted. It will continue to spread until naught remains untainted, and then only you two and the fairies will be able to survive."

It was Kaguya who broke the resulting silence. "That was grim."

"My apologies," Shizuha said. "I didn't mean to burden you with such issues."

"Why not? You can't get help if you keep your problems to yourself."

Shizuha gave a derisive snort. "Nobody can help."

"I can."

"Un-huh. And just how would you be able to help?"

"Okay, so it wouldn't actually be me, but Eirin can solve your problem. There isn't any problem she can't solve. I'll put her on it right away." She paused. "Well, as soon as I find her."

"I won't hold my breath," Shizuha said.

"Oh, would it kill you to show a little optimism?"

"Optimism has no place in a dying world. The sooner you realize this, the less it will hurt."

"Optimism always has a place," Kaguya said. "There's never a time where things can't improve."

"This is a gloomy place," Levia said.

"Yeah," Nue said.

"It feels… dead. I know there are people here-I can sense them-but even simply from looking around, it is easy to forget this. There is not even a single person in sight. Never before has there been a place so lifeless."

"Be glad everyone's in their homes. Makes our job easier. Nobody to get in our way. We'll only have to deal with hostility from one person."

"Who would that be?"

"The village chief. If anyone here has seen Shades, the chief will've heard about it."

"Do you know where we can find the chief?"

"Up there," Nue said, pointing above to the right, "but we'll have to navigate through the village. We don't want the tengu treating us as aggressors."

Levia took another look around. "The homes appear more like storage units than places to live."

"Yeah. We call them 'huts', but only because we can't think of anything that really does fit."

"I hope you know where we are headed. The layout of this place is confusing."

"I've been to the chief's hut before. Follow me."

Nue led the way. She and Levia crossed the first platform and its bridges, then climbed a ladder up to the top level. They crossed a platformless bridge back to the other side, then made a short ladder climb up to the highest area in the village, a small section with two huts. They passed by the first hut and stopped at the second. "This is it," Nue said. "Across, up, across, up, second hut. Fairly easy to remember, fortunately. The hut is close to the entrance-to allow the chief to easily see when someone's entering-and that helps a lot."

"It still seems needlessly complex. Why can they not simply have a ladder up from the entrance?"

"Only they know," Nue said, "and as you might guess, they aren't telling."

"I see. This is our destination, is it not? Let us ask what we are here to ask; I wish to remain in this place no longer than I absolutely must."

"Agreed," Nue said. She approached the hut and knocked on the door. There was no response, so she knocked again. And then a third time. "Hey! People at the door here!"

That finally got Nue a response. "Leave."

"Yeah, hello to you, too."

"You aren't welcome here, outsiders."

"We heard that there's been unusual Shade activity in the area."

"Good for you. Now get out."

"We're here looking for them. Can you tell us anything?"


Nue sighed. "Look, all we want to know is where the Shades are. Tell us what you know, and we'll leave."

"I don't know anything about any damn Shades. Now get the hell out."

"We desire only information," Levia said. "Your refusal to provide it only prolongs our presence here, as we will depart as soon as we have obtained it."

"I don't know, okay? Yeah, people've been seeing Shades, but people are always seeing Shades. They're kind of all over the place."

"We're looking for unusual activity," Nue said. "Has there been anything beyond normal sightings?"

"No. Are you done yet?"

Nue sighed. "Let's go, Levia," she said. "I don't think we're going to get anything useful out of this asshole."

"Agreed," Levia said.

"Has he been telling the truth, at least?"

"I…" Levia paused. "That is… unusual. I do not know, Nue. Something is wrong here. I cannot tell. How was I not aware of this until now?"

"I wouldn't know."

"The question was rhetori- wait. I do sense… something. I don't know what it is, but it seems to be interfering with my sense. I cannot sense anything but it, and it is like nothing I have felt before, though it does remind me somewhat of Shades."

"Right," Nue said, "then come on. Let's get back to Yuugi, and fast. Over the side!"

Nue leapt off of the walkway in front of the chief's hut, landing below by the village entrance. Levia came down a couple seconds later. "I thought such things were seen as signs of aggression."

"Only going up," Nue said. "They don't seem to object to jumping down. Now come on, let's move."

The shrine was empty. "They are not here at the moment," Shizuha said. "Hunting down some of these Shades, most like."

"Right," Mokou said. "Guess I'm waiting, then. You can leave any time, Kaguya."

Kaguya sat down on a rock. "Not happening."

"Right. Mind sticking around as well, Shizuha? I'd appreciate the company of someone decent."

"I do intend to wait here," Shizuha said.

"Aw, what's the matter, Mokou?" Kaguya said. "You don't want to spend some quality time alone together?"

"Shut up," Mokou said.

Nue and Levia returned to the clearing to see Yuugi slam two Shades into each other, then slam them into the ground, destroying them. "Oh, hey," she said, looking up as the pair approached. "I found some Shades. Or they found me. Whatever. Anyways, I took 'em out."

Nue looked over at Levia. "You didn't sense them?"

"I can sense nothing but the unknown something. It is overpowering, drowning out everything else. And I believe it is approaching." A thudding sound became audible. "Also, it would seem to be quite large."

It was only a moment later that the creature appeared, climbing down the rock wall. The large creature did bear some resemblance to the Shades, appearing to share their composition and black/yellow coloration, though it did not share their shadowy, half-extant, shifting appearance; they were all completely solid, but unlike Shades, this creature actually looked it.

The creature planted its forelegs on the ground, supporting its perch on the wall. It gripped the wall with its left hind leg, the only other one it had. Its body stretched back beyond that third leg, curving up and back out over it as a large tail, which ended in what looked to be a crudely-formed hand. Its head narrowed to a point, its mouth lined with sharp teeth. Its eyes appeared to be little more than glowing circles near the point. Some sort of bulbous sack, looking as though it was composed of several smaller sacks, hung from the creature's neck.

Yuugi moved quickly, dashing forward and grabbing Hina from the shelter. She lept back, placed Hina in the cave, then came forward to rejoin Nue and Levia.

"What the hell is that thing?" Nue said.

"What I have been sensing," Levia said. "It may be related to the Shades, but I cannot say so for certain."

"Well, I guess we should ask questions later. Right now, we fight."

"There are tengu-types in the air," Yuugi said. "They showed up with the other Shades."

"Then we stay on the ground. Let's do this."

"First strike!" Yuugi charged forward. The creature raised its left foreleg and slammed it down, creating a shockwave on the ground. Yuugi leapt over the shockwave and punched the creature's face into the ground. It pushed itself up with both legs, slamming back into the ground and creating a much larger shockwave. Yuugi pushed off of the creature, flipped over the wave, and landed next to Nue and Levia as they came down from their leaps over it.

The creature opened its mouth, spewing out a large, chaotic spread of shots. Nue and Yuugi expertly weaved through the shots, whereas Levia simply cleared out the ones heading in her direction with her whip. The creature spewed out another spread. "Get in there and cream it," Nue said. "I'll cover you."

Nue formed three rainbow UFOs and sent them towards the creature. The UFOs sprayed shots in front of them as they moved forward. They were weak shots, but even weak shots could cancel out the shots of Shades, and this creatures magic behaved no differently.

The UFOs took positions around the creature's mouth in a triangular formation, aiming their sprays just in front of the mouth, which almost immediately cleared out each spread it fired. It tried to swipe the UFOs away, but Nue, still in control of their movements, was able to get them out of the way easily. And the UFOs made it easy for Yuugi and Levia to move in on either side of its head. They punched it simultaneously, then Levia slammed its head into the ground.

The beast struck with its hand-shaped tail. Both leapt aside, then Yuugi leapt on top of the tail and began hitting it. The creature swung it upwards in response. Yuugi leapt off, only to get hit intothe wall when the creature swung its tail to the side. She pushed herself off, dropping to the ground beside Nue. "Got a nice hook for something without hands," she said. "Maybe we should call you that."

"Whatever," Nue said. "I'm more concerned with winning."

Levia was still right up in the creature's face. It slammed it's tail down in an attempt to strike her, but she sidestepped, and when the tail struck the ground, she grabbed it and swung, spinning the creature Yuugi had dubbed 'Hook' around once before releasing, sending it into the wall it had been clinging to.

The creature backed up to the top of the wall. Its tail bent down behind it, as though it was reaching for something. Then it swung its tail back over, throwing several spherical… things into the area. "Right," Yuugi said, "now what?"

"They look Shade-like," Nue said. She pierced the nearest one with her trident, and it disappeared. "Vanish when killed the same way, too."

Levia whipped one, and it vanished. "They are easily killed."

The remaining spheres opened fire, each one sending a stream of standard Shade-style shots in a random direction. The objects turned while firing, directing their fire towards Nue, Yuugi, and Levia, although which of the spheres targeted which of them seemed to be random. As they fired, Hook threw in another set of the things. Nue dismissed the rainbow UFOs and formed several green ones, which immediately opened fire, aiming their beams at the spherical creatures. As was normal against Shades, the attack was less effective than physical strikes or close-range magic, but the spheres were weak enough that they still died quickly. And the beams tore through their straight streams of shots even better than the rainbow ones did against spreads. "I've got these," Nue said. "Hit that thing."

"It is above us," Levia said. "Our lack of access to proper flight will make physical combat difficult, and you are better at a distance."

"She's also the best at thinning herds," Yuugi said as another set was thrown in. "'Sides," she added, grabbing one of the spheres and throwing it into Hook's face, "it's not like we don't have options. This thing is being thoughtful enough to provide us with weapons; it'd be rude not to use them.

Levia ensnared one with her whip and flung it into Hook's face. "I suppose they will suffice."

Nue turned one of her UFOs on Hook. "If you two are using a few of them, then I can spare a beam for the big one."

Hook threw in another wave. Yuugi and Levia tossed a few back, and Nue handled the rest. This continued for another two waves, until Hook dropped down to its previous position. As Nue took out the remaining spheres, Levia ran in and slammed its head into the ground again. Then Yuugi charged in, ran up onto it's back, jumped up and grabbed it by the tail, then spun it around and slammed it back into the wall.

Hook retreated up the wall and scurried off in a different direction. "It's heading into the village," Nue said, dismissing her UFOs. "After it!"

"It's been a while," Kaguya said. "Are those two usually gone for this long?"

"No," Shizuha said. "In fact, it's unusual for both to be gone at the same time. Not unheard of, though. It's happened before. Quite abnormal, however."

"Do you think they're busy dealing with Shades?"

"I would assume so, and given the abnormal activity we've been seeing recently, it's not unreasonable to think that this might be busying them both. I would assume that they are indeed both dealing with…" Shizuha trailed off, and was silent for a few seconds.

"Um, Shizuha?" Kaguya said.


"Excuse me?"

"I sense death. From the tengu village, the Aerie."

"From a village? Are they under attack?"

Shizuha flew off without bothering to answer. "Right," Kaguya said. "Come on, Mokou."

"Come on where?"

"To go help."

"Go on your own," Mokou said. "I'm not here to help everyone who might possibly need it. I'm here on my own business, to figure out what to do about Utsuho, and that takes priority. Shizuha can take care of whatever problem the tengu have. The tengu I remember from before moving underground wouldn't need help, anyways. But if you want to go be a hero, knock yourself out."

Kaguya said nothing.

The trio emerged from the cave and quickly looked around. Hook was easy to spot; it was on a platform one level up. "I say screw the rules," Yuugi said. "Let's just fly up to the damn thing."

"Look up," Nue said. "There're still tengu-types in the air. We'll have to navigate this place on foot. Come on."

Nue led the way across. The trio climbed down a level, then ran over to the next ladder and took it up two levels. "The layout of this place makes little sense," Levia remarked.

"Indeed," Nue said. "Okay, let's go."

They ran across a bridge to Hook's platform, very close to the other side. As they arrived on the platform, Hook grabbed one of the huts with its tail. It shook the hut, and several of the spherical objects flew out of it, landing on the platform. "More of these," Nue said, "and that hut couldn't hold this many of them. Is it using that hut to make them or something?"

"Nue," Yuugi said, "blow up that tank! Levia and I will handle these!"

Yuugi kicked one of the spheres off the platform, then grabbed one and threw it into another. Levia wrapped one with her whip and swung it around, knocking several others flying. One of these happened to fly at Yuugi, who met it with a kick, sending it into another.

Nue took aim and fired a beam from her trident, landing a direct hit on the hut. It didn't penetrate, though, so Nue kept it up until the hut exploded. "Wasn't expecting the blast."

Yuugi took out the last of the spheres. "Who cares? Let's hit the thing. Levia, throw me at the tail! I need help to get at it without getting hit by the tengu-types!"

Levia took hold of Yuugi and threw her. Yuugi grabbed the tail by one of the fingers as she hurtled by, spun Hook over her head, and slamming it into the cliff wall. She spun around and hit the wall feet-first, kicking off of it and landing back on the platform.

Hook recovered quickly. It scurried along the wall at a surprisingly high speed before stopping. It was straddling what appeared to be a three-level scaffolding construction, complete with scattered piles of wood. It stretched sideways for a distance, before turning into a vertical stack that reached up to a higher level, ending by a bridge leading across with another platform in the middle. "Looks like they're expanding the village," Nue remarked. "Okay, here's the plan. Yuugi, into the scaffolding. Drive it up to that platform. Levia, you and I are going to circle around, get up there, wait for it, and hit it hard."

"Got it," Yuugi said. She ran across the bridge, into the scaffolding, and found that several more of the spherical objects were scattered throughout all three levels. "Guess there are still some of these left." Yuugi ran straight ahead, punching the one in front of her back into the next before either could train their fire on her. She ignored the ones on the levels above her and simply ran across, shoving aside the pile of wood in front of her. Another sphere lay beyond, and its fire was already directed at Yuugi. Yuugi just ran through the fire, grabbed the sphere, and threw it into Hook's face. Hook backed up a bit, revealing more spheres. "Okay, then," Yuugi said, "we'll just do it again."

Nue and Levia took their positions on the platform. "It is fortunate that you are here," Levia said. "I do not believe that I could effectively navigate this place on my own."

"I don't actually know the layout of the entire place," Nue said, "but I saw the ladder leading up to this level. It was quite simple, really, especially for this place."

The pair waited, and they didn't have to wait long. Yuugi drove Hook back across the scaffolding, then pursued it upwards until it leapt from the wall, landing on the platform. And when it landed, Nue and Levia struck immediately. Nue dove underneath the creature's head and struck at the sack-like thing hanging from its neck with her trident, while Levia simply punched it in the face. Then Yuugi ran in and punched it in the face herself.

Hook leapt back to the edge of the platform. It raised its head and spat several of the spheres onto the platform. "Oh, come on," Yuugi said, "more of these things?"

Nue formed more green UFOs. "I'll take care of them. You two just beat the shit out of that thing."

"I like that plan." Yuugi charged, Levia beside her. Hook lunged forward, and they broke their charge to dodge. Nue, who still had her UFOs out, didn't react as quickly, and though she did evade the charge, Hook proceeded to swat her, the blow breaking her focus, causing her UFOs to unform, and sending her flying off the platform..

Nue quickly stopped her fall. Plummeting to the ground below wasn't too much of a worry for someone who could fly, but in this case, the tengu-types would make things irritating. She wouldn't be able to hit land before they'd hit her with the slowdown field, so she'd have to take them out before she could effectively move around in the air and get to somewhere she could land. And they were annoyingly hard to hit. She'd have an easier time than most, thanks to her UFOs, but she'd still be out of the main fight for a while, and- wait, why the hell haven't I been slowed yet? She took a look above herself. Where the hell'd they go?

Nue quickly returned to the platform and landed. "Don't rely on this," she said, "but the tengu-types seem to be gone at the moment."

Hook slammed its leg onto the platform, forming a shockwave which the trio leapt over. "They don't just leave in the middle of a battle like that," Yuugi said. "Someone else must've drawn them off. You think Hina woke up?"

Levia tossed the last remaining sphere into Hook's head. "It is not likely. I would think she will be unconscious for a while longer."

"Then who-"

Something slammed into Hook from above, hitting it into the platform hard enough to knock pieces off of the platform. It leapt down onto the platform in front of the trio, dispersing its barrier of leaves to reveal the figure of a woman. Hook spewed out a spread of shots, only for the woman to call up a storm of leaves and rip through it. Hook took a swing at her, which she leapt over, following up by slamming Hook's head into the platform again.

Yuugi didn't waste a moment. "Levia, with me!"

Yuugi and Levia leapt into the air and grabbed the creature's tail. "Flip it and slam it," Yuugi said. "Hey! You two might want to move!"

As Nue and the newcomer flew away, Yuugi and Levia spun Hook over their heads and, with all of their strength, threw it into the platform with enough force to send Hook through the platform, destroying it and leaving Hook impaled on the pole that had supported it.

"So," Keine said, "how long are you planning to stay?"

"As I said yesterday," Tenshi replied, "I intend to stay for as long as I can. Things are getting crazy up there, and it's getting harder and harder to get away, even though they don't really need me for anything. Everyone insists on involving me in everything. You'd think they'd realize I never contribute anything, but they don't. People keep trying to push me into an actual leadership position, which I have no desire to take. I'm not interested in participating in running the place."

"Yes, that wouldn't suit you at all. What's going on up there, anyways?"

Keine had just finished the day's lessons at the schoolhouse, and Tenshi had been there waiting for her. They were walking through the village to Keine's home.

"The increased Shade activity has everyone panicked," Tenshi said. "I've told you how close things were when the Shades first appeared, and even though we have a lot more capable fighters now than just myself and Iku, people are still worried that we'll be hit with something we can't handle. Ironically enough, the fact that the Shades haven't appeared in anywhere close to threatening numbers since then probably adds to this; if there had been a real threat, people would've seen just how much better prepared we are now."

"That would likely help," Keine said. "We're in far more danger than you are up in heaven, but the result of that is that we've faced that danger more, and proven that we can handle it. Most of the villagers are more worried about themselves or their families, especially those who go out into the fields, beyond the relative safety the village offers."

"And they're humans, too," Tenshi said. "That alone puts them in greater danger. They may be more used to danger, but they're weaker than us Celestials or other youkai."

"A truth," Keine said. "We've been fortunate to have Byakuren and Nue. Mamizou, too; she may not be very effective against Shades, but she can certainly take charge of the people if needed, freeing me up to fight. We do have fighters here, of course, but they simply can't perform as well as myself, Byakuren, or Nue. Even Mamizou can outdo most of them."

"But you've managed."

"We've managed. I'm worried about what's happening to Byakuren, though. Losing her alone would be bad enough, but if it leaves just myself and Nue as capable fighters, the village suddenly becomes a lot more vulnerable."

"She's immortal, though, isn't she?"

Keine nodded. "Due to the essence of fairies, according to her. But this is something different, something unlike any other cause of death Gensokyo's ever seen. I don't know what will happen. Um, have any Celestials fallen to the Black Scrawl?"

"Just one," Tenshi said. "We've had a total of two cases. One was a few years ago, and she did, of course, die. The other began last week. One of our leaders. He's not dead yet, but we all know he's going to be. That's one of the reasons heaven's in an uproar. But we'll survive. We already have a successor ready."

"That's good," Keine said. She paused for a moment, then sighed. "This has gone on for too long, to desensitize me to such things so much."

"It's bad, all right," Tenshi said. "Most Celestials don't realize how good we have it. We're relatively safe up there. Until our first Scrawl victim, we hadn't lost anyone since that first attack. And she's our only loss since then, at least until the current victim dies. You've had it much worse."

"We have," Keine said. "But we've managed. We manage."

"That you do."

Yuugi and Levia joined the other two on the nearest intact platform, watching as the creature thrashed for a time before falling motionless. And then, just like Shades, it vanished.

"I had not the knowledge that others were here," the newcomer said. "Perhaps my presence here was not necessary."

"Indeed," Levia said. "It seems quite clear that our efforts would have been more than sufficient on their own."

"Still, it was better for me to come, as I knew not that you would be here. I would much rather come where not needed than fail to come where I am needed. Anyways, allow me to introduce myself. I am Shizuha Aki. I remember you, Yuugi the Strong, from before the oni relocated to the underground, but your companions I have not met."

"Yeah, I think I remember you, too," Yuugi said. "The harvest goddess' sister, right?" Shizuha nodded. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Anyways, this is Nue Houjuu, and this is Levia."

"Greetings," Shizuha said.

"Nice to meet you," Nue said. "Um, I kind of need to go look for something."

"Oh? What would you be searching for?"

"A small, black object," Nue said. "If it's here, I'd assume that… thing would have had it, so it'll have fallen way down there to the bottom after that thing died." Nue produced the tablet. "They're connected to this. There are a total of eight spaces, though as you can see, not all eight are empty."

"Yes," Shizuha said. "It would seem that you already have two of these objects."

Nue nodded. "One was in this when we found it, and Yuugi has another at… her… home… that we never went to go get." She looked at the tablet, and there were indeed two of the black objects within it. "Huh. That's interesting."

"I would postulate that it was drawn to the tablet upon the creature's death," Shizuha said. "I can sense a sort of… attraction between them. It is weak enough that I would not be surprised if it could not take effect while the object was still in that creature's possession, but once the creature died, the object could most certainly be drawn to the tablet on its own."

"Even though the tablet was in the nether?"

"Such objects are still physically present. A nether-state would not affect something like this."

"I require an explanation," Levia said. "What is this 'nether' you speak of?"

"I don't know if anyone actually understands it," Nue said. "I guess Mira'd be the most likely to, but I don't know for sure. Don't need to understand how it works to use it, though. It's some sort of combination of physical being and physical non-being, combined with a magical connection to the one who placed it in the nether."

"It's what happens to your whip when you're not using it," Yuugi said. "It goes into the nether."

"I see," Levia said.

"Very few objects can be placed in the nether," Nue said. "They have to be magical in nature. Obviously, your whip qualifies, and my own weapon was imbued with magic upon its creation, so it also qualifies. Most of the stronger youkai have magically-imbued weapons; even if we don't forge them ourselves, we do tend to infuse them with our own power during their forging, simply so they work better for us. And those who don't usually have someone else do it for them, so the weapons at least have enhanced durability and can be stored in the nether. Anyways, only magic or heavily magic-imbued items can be stored in the nether, and most items aren't magic enough to be stored that way. It's great for stuff you can use it for, though. This tablet and the objects are magic enough that it works with them."

"I see," Levia said again.

"Well," Shizuha said, "it would seem that the situation here is under control. What business brings you to the mountain, exactly? Was it to find that object?"

"Yes," Nue said.

"Then will you now be departing?"

"Actually, I've been thinking of going by Nitori's shop."

"Nitori?" Yuugi said. "That kappa engineer?"

Nue nodded. "She's less engineer and more blacksmith these days. I thought we should maybe get you a weapon."

"I appreciate the thought," Yuugi said," but that's not my style." She thought for a moment. "Unless maybe she makes me a set of gauntlets. Maybe some greaves, too."

"That's what I was thinking."

"In that case, yes, let's go pay her a visit."

"Do you know the way?" Shizuha asked.

"I've been there before," Nue said. "Thanks for the offer, but it's unnecessary."

"Very well, then," Shizuha said. "Perhaps we will meet again at some point, but until then, farewell."

Shizuha left, and Nue turned to her two companions. "Right. Let's go retrieve Hina and get out of here."

Guess which scene was inspired by The Avengers. Go on, guess.

Right, so this chapter had the battle with Hook. In NieR, you actually fight it twice (once in the clearing and again later on in the village), but I combined the two into a single fight; I don't really have any reason to have Nue and co. fight it twice.

I guess I don't really have too much to say about this chapter. So let me just say 'thank you' to everyone who's given feedback so far. It's all appreciated, and please continue giving it. And to those who haven't yet done so, I encourage you to start.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2012, 05:06:22 am »
Chapter 6
Relics of the Old World

"This is the place," Nue said.
'The place' looked like the beginnings of some sort of construction. Fences were up, and various materials were scattered around. Only two structures stood. One was a house, a fairly small one. An additional room, with a separate door, was attached. The other structure was much smaller, and the door was unusual. It was clearly made of metal, was recessed a ways into the wall, and seemed to be split down the middle. There was no handle or other obvious means of opening it, though there was a small panel next to it with a button and a small slot.
"Doesn't look like much," Yuugi said.
"It isn't much. Nitori and her sister don't really think they need anything more."
"I didn't know she had a sister."
"Yeah, Mitori. Nobody really seems to know all that much about her. Apparently, Mitori was living on her own underground somewhere until a few years ago."
"Really? There was a kappa down there?"
"Apparently, although she supposedly lived somewhere off by herself, far away from everyone else who was down there."
"I see."
Nue approached the attached room. "This time of day, she's likely in the workshop." She knocked on the door. When there was no response, she knocked again, harder, but there was still no response. "Hey! Nitori!"
A startled cry and a thump were heard from inside. A few seconds later, a very dirty Nitori opened the door. "Oh! Customers!"
"We are," Nue said. "We were in the area, so I thought we might see about acquiring a little something for Yuugi, here."
"You're in the right place," Nitori said. "Please, come in."

The tengu village wasn't the only one to be destroyed; the kappa lost their village, too. In fact, the kappa village was hit much harder. Like the tengu, the kappa initially tried to rebuild, but eventually decided that they would instead relocate. But they moved much farther, off the mountain completely. All the way to the desert, oddly enough. They built their new village around a large oasis. The kappa moved there, but not all of them. Like the tengu, some went elsewhere. One kappa, however, remained near the old village. That kappa, of course, was Nitori.
Before the Radiance, the kappa were constructing some sort of facility within the mountain, widely believed to be related to the underground center where the hell raven Utsuho had powered and run a so-called 'nuclear reactor'. It was a fairly expansive facility, whatever it was meant to be, and they did manage to finish the actual structure. Whatever it was originally meant for, though, that purpose was lost when the machines took over.
The kappa had designed and built what they called a 'security system'. Apparently, they wanted the place to be very secure, and they built machines for that purpose. This security system was put into place during the initial construction of the structure, so it was completed well before the actual facility was ready for use. The machines were to protect and secure the facility while the kappa used it for… well, for whatever purpose it was intended. But then the Radiance happened.
When the Radiance happened, construction of the facility was halted. The plan was eventually cancelled as everyone recovered from the event and adjusted to life in the changed world, and the facility was abandoned. Nobody went to it at all for a couple hundred years.
It was practicality that finally led the kappa back there; they were in need of materials, and had decided to scavenge what they could from their abandoned facility. But when they went inside, they found that the machines had taken over. They were acting on their own; 'outside their programming', the kappa called it. Essentially, they were doing things they were never meant to do. Like mining the mountain for materials and making more of themselves. Or appearing to think.
The machines attacked the kappa, driving them out. Then they launched a counter-attack on the kappa village. The kappa fought back and drove the machines off, only to find themselves facing a Shade attack immediately afterwards, this being the attack that destroyed the village.
In need of materials to rebuild the village, the kappa attacked the facility. They destroyed most of the rouge machines, and as much of their 'self-replication' equipment as they could find. Then they pulled out, taking as much material with them as they could.
Not all of the machines' equipment was destroyed. The machines replaced their losses, but did nothing else. And when kappa teams went in again to scavenge more material, they found that the machines were acting far less intelligently than before. They concluded that in their attack, they'd taken out the 'hub'-the brain of their security system, basically. They said that whatever caused their robots to act against their programming was located in that hub. Destroying it reduced everything connected, including the robots, to a more basic level of functionality.
The kappa, as I previously mentioned, eventually abandoned their ruined village, but people still occasionally entered the facility, which had become known as the 'Junk Heap', to scavenge for metals and other materials. Nitori, who stayed behind, relocated her home to just outside the Junk Heap, and is the one who enters it the most frequently, gathering the materials found within.

"So, Yuugi" Nitori said, "you want something that can add a little something extra to your hits."
"Yeah," Yuugi said, setting the still-unconscious Hina down. "We were thinking a set of gauntlets."
"No problem," Nitori said. "I'll need the right materials, though. Not just anything will hold up to use by an oni."
"My trident's held up just fine for thousands of years," Nue said, "and I don't think it's made of anything special. It hasn't even needed any repair. Sure, I'm no oni, but still, that's pretty good. Won't infusing it with magic during forging be enough?"
"In most cases, yes," Nitori said. "Magic infusion is enough with most weapons-swords, spears, axes, maces, whatever-even if it's an oni using the weapon. But gauntlets are different. You're not holding them like you do with most weapons; they fit over your hands and feet. They can't be completely rigid like swords or other such weapons. They're more than just variously-shaped hunks of metal; they have to be flexible. You don't want hand motion to be restricted. Far harder to make than a shaped hunk of metal like a sword, and far harder to make hold up to the same force. So I'll need something harder to start with."
"Do you have anything like that?"
"Depends. Don't know what Mitori brought up today. Let me check." Nitori opened the door between the workshop and the house. "Hey, Mitori!" She paused. "Mitori!" Another pause. "Mitori?" One more pause. "Huh. That's odd."
"You said 'brought up'," Nue said. "Has she been in the Junk Heap?"
"All the time. She does most of the work getting materials. She's not as good at working with them, but she's far better in combat than I am. She gets the stuff, I work with it. Normally, she's back up well before now. Hold on for a moment." Nitori ran into the house for a minute, then returned. "Yeah, she's not here. That's a little worrying."
"How dangerous is the Junk Heap?"
"Not too bad. Robots are predictable. Once you know their patterns, it's easy to beat them. The only real danger they pose is in numbers. There are a lot of them, and new ones are made to replace any that are destroyed. Never more than replacements, though; since we took out the A.I. core, they aren't able to act beyond their base programming. Base programming that's a hell of a lot different than what we gave them, but it's pretty easy to figure out what it contains just through observing their actions."
"Right," Nue said. Whatever 'programming' is. "So, basically, you're saying that they don't really think. I think that's what you're saying, at least."
Nitori nodded. "That's right. So, yeah, they're fairly easy to deal with, but they do have the advantage of numbers, and since they replace losses, we can't just clean the place out. Unless we exhaust their materials, but they seem to keep getting more. Nobody's been able to figure out where they're getting the materials. They don't leave the Junk Heap, and there are no signs that they're mining this mountain. And this mountain doesn't have all the stuff they use, anyways. But yeah, you have to fight a lot of them if you go in, and I'm not so good at that. I can do alright, but Mitori is much better at combat. She'll be deeper in than I can get."
"I see. So, it's been Mitori's job to go in there."
"And she's not back yet."
"That's right."
"And she should be."
"And you can't go in far enough to look for her."
"You're going to ask us to go look for her, aren't you?"
"Um… yes," Nitori said. "I'd go myself, but I can never get very far."
"Are there any Shades in there?" Yuugi asked.
"Shades? Uh, no. Why?"
"Because I've made it my business to kill them."
"Oh. Well, no, none in there that I know of. But…"
"Well, some of the robots, especially the turrets, can shoot out Shade-style magic shots. I don't know how. Magic of any kind, even just danmaku, should be impossible for robots to use, but these use it."
"Interesting," Yuugi said. "Perhaps the Radiance had something to do with whatever's going on with your 'robots', then."
"It's possible. We abandoned the place when the Radiance happened, so yes, even though we didn't know about anything for another two centuries, it could most certainly have started then."
Yuugi looked over at Nue. "Think it's worth checking out?"
"Do you?" Nue said.
"Well… no, not really. I hunt Shades, and even if they use the same 'magic', the robots probably aren't Shades."
"They aren't," Nitori said. "They're robots. Metal and all that. Most of the material Mitori brings out is from robots she destroyed."
"So I can't say that I'm all that interested in the Junk Heap. But what about you?"
"Well," Nue said, "if the pieces I'm after are held only by Shades, there wouldn't be one in there, unless… Nitori, were there ever Shades in there at any point?"
"Not that I know of," Nitori said, "but the kappa don't exactly run the place anymore. And we didn't pay attention to it at all for those first two hundred years. Shades could have easily gone in at some point."
"Still probably not a likely spot to find one of the pieces, although I'd look there if we exhausted all the more likely places. But it's not just about Shades, Yuugi."
"You thinkin' rescue mission?" Yuugi said.
"Or a missing person search, at the very least. And hunting shades isn't all I do. Besides, I don't know that I want to just ignore this, And if I did just walk away, Byakuren would never shut up about it. So I think I'm going to go in. That said, though," she turned back to Nitori, "I don't work for free."
"Oh, I understand," Nitori said. "Most people I wouldn't expect to do it at all, but you've got a reputation for doing all kinds of jobs, so I thought I'd ask you about it. How's this: you come out of there with my sister, and I don't charge you for the gauntlets."
Nue thought for a moment. "Fair. You'll still need the materials, though, right?"
"Well, if I see some while I'm in there, no reason not to grab it. What do you need?"
"Mythril would be the best," Nitori said.
"'Mythril'? I don't think I've heard of that."
"It was Sanae Kochiya who first identified it, back before the Radiance," Nitori said, "and she was the one who named it. Apparently, it's common in fantasy stories from the outside world-or was when Sanae came to Gensokyo, at least."
"I suppose it makes sense that it would turn up in Gensokyo, then," Nue said.
"Yeah. Pretty rare, but very useful. Strong, lightweight, basically the ideal material. Don't know if there's any in there, though. We used some in the construction of the main hub of the security system-and nothing else, because it's rare enough that that's all of it we had-but that's what became the A.I. core, and that was taken out. We couldn't find the mythril, though, so it may still be in there somewhere, but none of it has ever been found, so don't count on coming across it."
"We'll likely have to settle for something else, then," Nue said.
"Yeah. Look for what we call 'memory alloy'. Only some of the tougher robots have any, though, so you'll have to go in a ways. Although you'll probably go in deep enough while looking for Mitori. You'll know the robots if you see any; they're the large, humanoid ones."
"Got it," Nue said. She turned to her companions. "Are you two coming in with me?"
"Sure," Yuugi said. "Never beaten up machines before. Should be interesting."
"I shall accompany you as well," Levia said."
"All right, then." Nue turned back to Nitori. "Can you look after Hina while we're in there?"
"Sure," Nitori said.
"Thanks. Anything else we should know?"
Nitori handed Nue a card and a small stack of papers. "You'll need that card to use the elevators. That small thing outside is one of them. You'll need to use them to get between floors. And this is a map of the facility, separated by floor. The last couple pages may not be completely accurate, though; nobody's been all the way in since our initial attack on the place, so there may be some changes. Unlikely, but possible."
"We'll keep that in mind. All right, then. Yuugi, Levia, let's head in."

"Ah, visitors. It looks like I've kept you waiting. I apologize for this."
Mokou and Kaguya stood and faced the shrine, from which a woman was emerging. I guess it makes sense she can just appear in her shrine whenever she wants, Mokou thought. "It's not a problem."
"You are the forest immortals, yes? Mokou and Kaguya, I believe."
"Indeed," Kaguya said. "Greetings, Kanako."
"It's been some time since either of you was last seen," Kanako said. "What brings you to me?"
"I'm sure you remember the hell raven Utsuho," Mokou said. "After all, you're the one responsible for her obtaining her power."
"That's right. There've been sightings of her above-ground recently, I've heard. I've been meaning to look into it, but lately, the Shades have been keeping both myself and Suwako busy."
"My understanding is that Shade activity has been on the rise for the past month," Kaguya said.
"Yes, that's right."
"They attacked the underground about a month ago," Mokou said. "The oni city was destroyed, and most of the oni died."
"Yes. At least some made it out, though, and they seem to be doing all right."
"Doesn't make what happened to them any better."
"No," Kanako said, "it doesn't."
"Utsuho started behaving oddly right after that attack," Mokou said. "She's gone somewhat crazy."
"Like before? When she first gained her power?"
"No," Mokou said. "Different."
"And it's my fault," Kaguya said, "at least to some extent."
"Please," Kanako said, "elaborate."

Mitori Kawashiro has an… interesting ability. She has the ability to 'forbid' things, to prevent them from happening.
This ability has its limits, of course. The first one is fairly obvious, and that is that she has to know about what she's forbidding. She has to be aware of the possibility she is forbidding. If, for example, she wanted to forbid herself sustaining a leg injury, she would have to know that sustaining such an injury was a possibility.
Another limitation is scale. The larger an event's scale, the harder it is for her to forbid it. Anything that would affect more than a fairly small number of people or a fairly small area is simply too hard for her to forbid.
In addition to those limitations, Mitori's ability only takes effect once per use. If, for instance, she were to forbid herself sustaining a leg injury, this would take effect the next time she would have sustained one, preventing it, but would then expire, and Mitori would have to forbit it again to continue having protection. So, yes, she could forbid herself taking a hit, but she would need to reapply the effect after every time she otherwise would have been hit. Which can be tricky in the middle of battle, and can wear her out over a longer fight.
The other significant limitation is that she has to maintain the effect. She can't simply apply it and forget about it; each forbidden event requires effort to maintain. A very small amount, usually, but it is still there.
Don't mistake these limitations as meaning that Mitori's ability isn't potent, because it is, very much so. It's one of the most useful abilities I know of, despite its limits. But even the most potent of abilities has limits, as I have seen proven time and again, perhaps most notably by Yukari's death. No matter what the ability, nobody is without limits, and anyone-expect immortals-can die.

Nue inserted the card into the slot on the elevator panel. It didn't go in all the way, but the button lit up anyways. "Well, maybe it's built that way. Makes it easy to pull it back out, I guess." She hit the button, and a faint noise could be heard. It briefly got louder, after which there was a 'ding' sound and the two halves of the door slid away from each other, revealing a small chamber. "Guess we go in."
When all three of them were inside, the door closed. "Now what?" Yuugi asked.
Nue indicated a panel beside the door. The panel had two buttons on it, one labeled 'S' and the other '1'. The button labeled 'S' was lit. "Let's press the lit one," she said. But when she did so, all that happened was that the door opened. "That didn't work. Let's try the other one." She pressed the '1' button, and the doors closed. Then they felt the chamber start to descend. "Yeah, I think that worked."
Before long, there was another 'ding', and then the door opened, revealing a corridor. "I think this is it," Nue said as the three of them exited the elevator. "Welcome to the Junk Heap, I guess." She took out the map and examined it. "An odd layout. Looks like this floor has just one path for a while, but it's got a lot of turns. And several rooms along the way."
"Right," Yuugi said. "Let's go."
The trio moved through the corridor into the first room. Waiting the room were five… machines. "These must be some of the robots," Yuugi said.
The machines came to about two-thirds of Nue's height. They were blocky-looking things. They had no legs or wheels, instead rolling on treads, which only added to the blocky look. There was a rectangular object, presumably meant as an arm, on either side of the main body, each of which ended in not a hand, but a pair of metal prongs. Each robot had two yellow lights on top of it.
"Odd-looking things," Nue said. "Let's see what they can do."
"Me first," Yuugi said. She charged the robots, delivering a punch to one that sent it into the wall. She brought her fist down on top of a second robot, caving its body in. A third robot aimed the prongs on its arms at Yuugi and closed in. Yuugi moved to attack, but when she got to just a couple feet away, electricity shot out from the prongs, zapping her and knocking her back into the caved-in robot, which was now fiercely smoking and shorting out. Then it exploded, throwing Yuugi forward and into the third robot's electricity again, which once more knocked her back.
Nue fired a beam from her trident and swept it across the room, blasting away the remaining three robots, all of which exploded a couple seconds later. "They seem to go down easily," she said. "You okay, Yuugi?"
Yuugi was already on her feet. "You kidding me? That was nothing. I'm tougher than that."
"That is certainly accurate," Levia said. "Even so, however, perhaps it would be best if you held back and allowed Nue and I to deal with the robots, as she and I can strike from beyond their apparent range."
"Yeah, not happening. I just won't run at the ones with lightning coming out of their arms."
"And back off once you've hit them," Nue said. "It looks like they explode when destroyed."
"I can handle that. Come on, let's go."
The trio entered the next corridor and made their way into the next room. There were a few more robots in it, which Nue quickly blasted. Then four panels on the ground, one in each corner of the room, slid open, and four cylindrical objects rose from the floor, a tube extending from each. The four objects began firing magic shots from the tubes while rotating back and forth, sweeping their shots across the room.
As Nue formed rainbow UFOs to counter the shots, Levia leapt on top of the nearest of the objects. She punched a hole in the top of it, then thrust her hand in and swept through the interior with blasts of water. The object visibly and violently shorted out, sinking back into the floor amidst shorts and explosions as Levia jumped to the ground, and the panel slid shut. Levia fired streams of water at the remaining three objects, aiming for the tubes. This didn't work quite as well; the shorts were less violent, and the objects continued firing, though at a slower pace.
Yuugi ran up to the nearest of the three objects and ripped its tube off. This didn't stop its fire but did hinder its aim, as the shots began firing out wildly without the tube to direct them. Ripping out the tube also left a hole in the object, which Levia fired another stream of water into. That one worked much better; the turret shorted out, and amidst explosions, sunk back into the floor. Yuugi and Levia repeated the process with the remaining two objects, taking them out.
"Well," Nue said as she dismissed her UFOs, "I guess those were probably the 'turrets' Nitori mentioned."
"They shot magic a lot, yeah," Yuugi said. "Still pretty easy to take out, though."
"They did not seem capable of directing their aim vertically," Levia said. "This could well be used to our advantage to enable a safe approach to any others we encounter."
"Or I could just clear the shots out like I did this time," Nue said. "Or next time I can just blast the turrets themselves."
"Yeah, but that's no fun for me," Yuugi said. "'Sides, I think the turrets are a little sturdier than those other robot things."
"Maybe, but I don't think they'll give us any trouble."
"Right," Yuugi said. She indicated the room's exits. "Well, let's move on. Which way?"
Nue took a few steps towards the two side-by-side paths onwards, then stopped, taking out the map. She looked at the map, then looked up at the paths, then back at the map, then at the paths, then at the map, then at the paths, then at the map again. "Well, great."
Yuugi came up beside her and took a look at the map over Nue's shoulder. "What's up?"
Nue pointed at a room on the map. "We're here. The elevator was here, meaning we entered the room from this direction, through this path. Which means we should exit this way. But the map shows only one other path."
"And this room has two."
"Yeah. Nitori said the map might not be accurate further in, but she seemed to think it was accurate near the entrance."
"Huh. You sure you're looking at the right page?"
"This is the first page," Nue said, "and we're on the first floor."
"So why's there a two on the page?"
Yuugi pointed at the number on the lower-right corner of the page. "The page has a '2' on it."
"I didn't notice that," Nue said. She flipped to the next page. "And this page has a '1' in the same place. And an elevator labeled 'entrance'. And if we trace the path from it, the second room has two paths forward. I think this is the correct page. But why was the second page first?" She flipped to the next page.
"That one's labeled 'B1'," Yuugi said.
"These aren't page numbers, then," Nue said. "They're floor numbers. Second floor, first floor, then I'd guess first basement floor, then second basement floor, and so on."
"An odd numbering scheme," Levia said. "The switch to 'basement' labels seems completely arbitrary. If the other floors were above the ground, it would make sense, but this entire facility is within the mountain."
"They probably just called the first floor they built the first," Yuugi said, "and went from there, building only one floor above it but multiple below it."
"The right path here has an elevator," Nue said, looking at the correct map page this time. "It says the elevator goes up to the second floor. There's another elevator further on, down the left path, that goes further down. Not sure why they couldn't have one elevator reach multiple floors, though."
"Who knows?" Yuugi said. "Let's not worry about the mysteries of kappa architectural design, and just keep moving."
"Right," Nue said. "Let's take the right path first. The second floor only has the one elevator, so it'll be a dead end. We'll search it first before heading further down. It sounded like Nitori didn't think Mitori'd be up here, but we should search the entire place anyways. I don't want to end up missing her because we weren't thorough enough early on."
"Works for me," Yuugi said. "Let's go."

"I may be the one who gave Utsuho her power," Kanako said as she led Mokou and Kaguya into the shrine, "but it's not something I've ever had any sort of control over. It was the Yatagarasu's power she gained; I merely presented the dead god's body for her consumption."
Mokou and Kaguya found seats. "I know," Mokou said, "but you know more about it than anyone else."
"I don't know that I would say that. You, Mokou, have spent the last five hundred years with her. You probably know more about it than I do."
"About what she can do with it, yes, but when it comes to how it works? She's tried to explain it to me, but I simply couldn't understand it. I'm not sure what 'nuclear physics' is, but I know it's confusing as hell."
"When you get that advanced into a topic, you'll find very few people who understand it," Kanako said. "I don't understand it, myself. I can at least enlighten you as to the nature of her power, though. It is, after all, divine in origin."
"Then please," Kaguya said, "enlighten us."
"A god's strength comes from faith," Kanako said. "The more faith we have, the stronger we are. Too little faith, and life fades from us."
"You die."
"Yes. Many gods met such ends in the outside world."
"They didn't move to Gensokyo like you did?"
"It's no easy thing for a god to relocate to a separate realm. We are connected to our lands. I moved my shrine to Gensokyo with me not just because I wanted to. Had I not brought it with me, I would have faded quickly."
"I see. Surely other gods could have done the same, though."
"Suwako and I barely managed it working together. By the time most gods realized they could not gather enough faith to sustain themselves in the outside world, they didn't have the power to bring their lands through the barrier. And many others chose not to leave their followers, even when those followers were too few in number to provide enough faith."
"There are other gods here," Mokou said. "Are they ones who resided in Gensokyo before its separation?"
"Yes," Kanako said. "Gensokyo was chosen to be the land of magic because it already bore an unusually large concentration of magic and related beings. It was already a land of youkai and magic. There were always a number of gods who dwelled here."
"That makes sense."
"Many gods met their deaths from a lack of faith. The Yatagarasu, the god Utsuho consumed, met its end in a different, though related, manner. The Yatagarasu is the only god who has ever committed suicide."
There was silence for a while. Eventually, Mokou spoke. "Suicide. A god killed itself?"
"Yatagarasu did not desire to live having abandoned its followers; it, like many gods, considered such a thing to be far worse than death. I, on the other hand, see it the other way around, that it is they who abandoned us. Humans chose to move away from magic, away from the supernatural. I see no reason to show loyalty to such people."
"I think you're letting your personal views slip in to your explanation," Kaguya said.
"Perhaps I did, but it was important to state Yatagarasu's feelings on the matter, as they are why it committed suicide. Abandoning its followers, in its mind, was far worse than dying, so it would not relocate to Gensokyo. But it knew our kind could not survive in the outside world, knew before the rest of us did. Knew before Gensokyo's separation, a time at which the rest of us thought that gods still had a place in the world of humans.
"The Yatagarasu did not want to abandon its followers, but neither did it want to end its days as a fading god. It didn't want to 'harm its legacy' by having its followers see its decay. So it chose to end its own life. Normally, this is impossible for a god, but as I said, we cannot be separate from our lands."
"It came to Gensokyo when the separation was done," Mokou said, "didn't it? It knew that if it was in a separate realm, it would die."
"Yes," Kanako said. "It chose the old Hell of Blazing Fires as its place of death, and it laid there until I fed it to Utsuho."
"A history lesson, then," Mokou said. "I thought you were going to talk about Utsuho's power."
"Utsuho's power is the Yatagarasu's power," Kanako said. "Even in death, a god's power remains. By consuming its corpse, Utsuho also consumed its power, and so gained it for herself. But she is not a god. She has a god's power, but she is not limited by faith. A god's power is greater than any other, but we are limited by faith. If not for that, our only limits would be ourselves and our power, just as it is for all others. But the power of a god, unrestricted by faith, is far greater than any other in Gensokyo. Utsuho's limits are far, far beyond yours."
"I can't die," Mokou said. "Unless she can keep going forever, I'll win eventually."
"She can't keep going forever without rest, no," Kanako said, "but neither can you. Even though you are immortal, you have your limits. You can push yourself only so far before you can go no further. Eventually, you will wear yourself out and be unable to continue fighting. Is that not how many of your battles with Kaguya end?"
"It is," Kaguya said. "We would indeed often keep going until one of us couldn't go on any longer. Of course, we do get closer to that point each time we're killed, so whoever died more usually wore out first. We can't die, but killing us will wear us out faster."
"Utsuho, too, can be worn out," Kanako said, "but as I said, she has the power of a god without the limits of faith. Even the strongest in Gensokyo would wear out completely well before she would."
"Don't underestimate us," Kaguya said. "Sure, maybe our power isn't on the same level of hers, but Mokou and I are the most skilled fighters in Gensokyo. Our bodies and powers have been trained far beyond what anyone else in Gensokyo has done. Thirteen hundred years of constant battle has that effect. Both of us have progressed far beyond our initial limits. Those battles we'd have that only ended when one of us was completely worn out? Those often lasted the entire day. It's not exactly easy to wear us out."
"True," Kanako said. "You do have that going for you. And yet you said that Utsuho defeated you quite easily in your battle yesterday. Can you tell me why that is?"
"I didn't witness that battle," Kanako said, "so let me ask you this: did you fight to the best of your abilities?"
After a moment of silence, Mokou spoke. "I didn't. I took the same approach I do for most fights: charge in and take the enemy down. Even if I were against someone of equal power, I could fight like that because of my immortality The only opponent I've ever truly had to fight well against is Kaguya. Immortality doesn't give you an advantage when your opponent is also immortal."
"I didn't fight very skillfully, either," Kaguya said.
"Change that next time," Kanako said. "If the two of you fight as well as you can, you may have a chance."

The second floor had nothing of note, just a few robots. It took little time to sweep the floor, after which Nue, Yuugi, and Levia returned to the first floor and continued on. Eventually, they came to a room with three ways onward. "Which way?" Yuugi asked.
"The right path leads to the elevator down," Nue said, looking at the map. "The other two just lead to rooms. We'll check the left one first, then the center one, then head down to the next floor."
They went left, finding nothing but robots in the room. One of the robots was different, though. Its 'arms' were different, and the lights on it were red instead of yellow. While the yellow robots advanced towards the trio as usual, the red one stayed back, and instead of the electricity that the yellows used, it began firing magic shots.
Nue fired a beam from her trident, sweeping it across the room to take out all the robots. "Huh. I guess they do have more than the turrets and the yellow-light things."
"They're still weak," Yuugi said.
"It's supposed to get more dangerous further in, remember? We may run into tougher ones on the lower floors."
The trio left the room and checked the one remaining room on the floor, finding nothing but another group of robots. So they proceeded to the elevator and took it down to the first basement level. "What's this floor look like?" Yuugi said.
Nue flipped over to the 'B1F' map. "Fairly twisty," she said, "but there aren't a lot of side paths. It's mostly a single path all the way to the elevator down."
"Makes searching easier. Let's get moving."

"They've been gone a while, haven't they?" Tenshi said. She and Keine had arrived at Keine's home, and were sitting on the porch.
"Yes," Keine said. "I wasn't expecting them to be gone for so long. They must have found something."
"They can handle it," Tenshi said.
"Most likely, yes."
"They're looking for Shades, right? To get the rest of those black things?"
Keine nodded. "Nue believes they hold the key to curing the Black Scrawl."
"Let's hope she's right. Gensokyo has enough problems; we hardly need some crazy disease to deal with on top of all that."
"Agreed." Keine paused for a moment. "I suppose some good came of all this, though. Relations between humans and youkai are better than they've ever been."
"A common enemy'll do that," Tenshi said. "It takes a lot to settle millennia-old conflicts, but a mutual threat can do just that."
"Things would be peaceful now if the Shades would just go away."
"Yeah, but at least there was some good in all this. You should know that better than anyone."
"True," Keine said. "I was so used to hiding what I am that I didn't realize how hard it was. A non-hostile relationship between humans and youkai is a benefit to everyone, but I'm one of those who have benefited more personally. In more ways than one."
"I guess you would have been kicked out for having a relationship with a youkai back then, huh?"
"Indeed I would have," Keine said. "I'm very glad that this is no longer the case."
"So am I," Tenshi said.

[]When this room's two turrets were destroyed and sank back into the floor, they each left a small, spherical object behind. "What the hell are these things?" Yuugi said.
"I do not know," Levia said.
"They don't seem to move." Yuugi picked one up, and it began beeping. "Makes noise, though." She paused. "This is about to explode on me, isn't it?" She tossed it aside, and it did indeed explode. "Right. Why the hell did those two turrets leave bombs behind?"
"And why only these two? Although I suppose this place hasn't made any sense so far, so why should it start now?"
"True," Yuugi said. "Another thing to add to the 'doesn't make sense' list: why is the path forward blocked by a wooden fence?"
Nue walked up to the fence, which completely obstructed the corridor. "No idea. Doesn't seem like something that could keep much out."
"It might stop some humans."
"True, but they could probably use those bombs to get rid of it."
"If the fence is intact," Levia said, "then it seems unlikely that Mitori came through here."
Yuugi pointed back to where she'd picked up the bomb, where another was visible. "The bomb came back. Why can't a fence?"
"We shouldn't make assumptions," Nue said. She looked at the map. "We're on B2F now, and through here is the elevator down to B3F, which looks pretty… simple?"
"There's no elevator further down on B3F," Nue said. "It doesn't have an elevator. But there's a B4F on the map." She turned to that page. "Let's see, it says its elevator is connected to… 1F?" She turned back to the 1F page. "None of the 1F elevators are marked as going to B4F. And I don't remember any of them having more than two options, either."
"Then how do we get to B4F?"
"We can go back and ask Nitori. But since we're already here, let's check B3F. It's just a room, then a big chamber, then another room, so it shouldn't take long."
"Right," Yuugi said. "I'll get the door." She walked up to the fence, tore it away, and tossed it aside. She and the others walked through, but when they glanced back, the fence was in place again. "Huh. I guess it really does come back."
"Then we'll remove it again on our way out," Nue said. "Let's go." She led the group into the elevator, and hit the button to go down once all three of them were aboard. The door soon opened, and they stepped out into B3F.
"The path forward here is also obstructed," Levia said, indicating the big metal door across the room from them. "Although someone appears to have found a way through already."
"Yeah." Yuugi approached the door, examining the hole torn in the bottom. "Too small for any of us."
"Mitori's fairly small," Nue said. "She could probably fit through there."
Yuugi tested the door's strength. "Seems too strong for a kappa to rip a hole in. Don't know what it's made of, but it'd be tough even for me to do this."
"I wonder if it's the 'memory alloy' Nitori mentioned. We haven't seen any humanoid robots, so let's grab some of this on the way out."
"I'll rip it off, then."
"Not if it'll take a while," Nue said, "not yet. I think I can get us through more quickly, and Mitori's probably past here. We'll get it on the way out. For now, I may be able to get us through more quickly." She walked up to the door and examined the hole more closely. "Mitori probably reacted in time to forbid this door from blocking her passage, with this as the result."
"How are you gonna get us through?"
"Like this," Nue said, and as she said it, she began to change. Her form became that of a large snake, which easily slipped through the hole. A few moments later, the door slid up, revealing Nue back in her normal form. "A door can always be opened; that's kind of the point of a door. I didn't see a way to open it on that side, which meant there had to be one on this side." She indicated a button on the wall. "And I was right."
"Ah," Yuugi said. She looked up, where the torn portion of the door had caused it to get stuck. "Doesn't look like it opened all the way, though."
"That is hardly significant," Levia said.
"True enough."
"Let's go, then." Nue led the way into the next room. The trio found themselves on a metal walkway above a large drop. In the middle of the circular room was a large, cylindrical object of some kind, which the walkway extended to the top of. There was another walkway on the other side, leading to another door. "That's… interesting."
"Okay," Yuugi said, "I've gotta say it: what the hell is this?"
"What purpose does a chamber such as this serve?" Levia said.
"I don't know," Nue said. "We can ask Nitori. Or Mitori, if we find her. I don't see her in here, though. Let's check the last room."
The group proceeded forward, but as soon as they stepped onto the circular 'platform' that was the top of the cylinder, a loud noise sounded. "That can't be good," Yuugi said.
As the noise continued, the door they'd passed through slammed back down. Then the walkways were drawn back from the platform. "Not sure what purpose that's supposed to serve," Nue said.
The loud noise ceased, and then an odd-sounding voice came from seemingly nowhere. "Warning! Warning! Intruders in core chamber! Deploying Geppetto defense system!"
"I think that means we're about to be attacked," Yuugi said.
"I hear its approach," Levia said.
"Get ready," Nue said.
The enemy soon appeared, rising up from below and hovering just past the edge of the platform.
"It's… a giant robot head," Yuugi said. "With hands just floating beside it. I'm gonna go with 'what the hell?'."
"It is an enemy," Levia said. "We fight."
Nue fired beams from the tips of her trident. The beams struck 'Geppetto' dead center, but didn't seem to do much. One of the hands made a fist and flew at her. She leapt over it, then had to make a quick dodge to the side as the second hand came from above and tried to smash her. As it hit the platform, Yuugi leapt onto it and began pounding it. Levia, meanwhile, slammed herself into the face, to no apparent effect.
The hand Yuugi was on rose into the air. Yuugi tried to slam it back into the ground, but couldn't move it at all. She leapt down to the platform, Levia landing beside her. "Whatever force moves it," Levia said, "seems unaffected by any force we can exert."
"So we can't hit or throw them into things," Yuugi said. "Not going to stop us."
The hands returned to their positions on either side of the face. They extended their index fingers and fired beams from them. They swept the beams across the platform, but the trio simply leapt over them to evade. After a few sweeps, the beams became more targeted. Rather than simply sweep across the platform, one targeted Nue and the other Levia. Both took to the air and easily evaded the attack.
Both fists flew at Nue, who dropped underneath them and down to the platform. The fists halted and retargeted, quickly speeding at Nue again. Nue dodged to the side, and both slammed into the platform. Levia came slamming down onto one of them, and as she pounded it, Yuugi ran in and started punching it.
The fists rose back into the air, and Levia jumped down to the platform. "This 'Geppetto' machine is sturdy."
"No shit," Yuugi said. "What the hell is this thing made of? Whatever it is is far tougher than that door."
"We'll take some once we beat it," Nue said. "Maybe that missing mythril is part of it or something. But let's worry about the fight first."
The hands again returned to their positions beside the face and repeated the beam attack. The sweeping beams were again easily evaded, and the lasers then targeted Nue and Yuugi. Nue formed two green UFOs. One flew into the path of each beam, and they met the attack with their own beams.
The beam attack ceased, and the hands moved in again. This time, they both came slamming down from above, one targeting Yuugi and the other Levia. Both evaded and attacked the hands. Nue formed a few more green UFOs, all of which fired beams at the same spot on the hand Yuugi was attacking, and Nue fired another from her trident.
When the hands returned to the face again, they once more fired the sweeping beams. "Kind of predictable, isn't it?" Yuugi said. She flew over to the left hand, the one she'd previously been hitting, landed on it, and resumed hitting it. "Nue! Levia!"
Nue set two UFOs to counter the targeted beams, and focused the remainder on the hand. Levia sent a column of water slamming into the same spot Nue's beams were hitting. Yuugi, meanwhile, just kept pounding on it.
The left hand began acting much as the smaller robots had before exploding. "Off of there, Yuugi!" Nue said.
Yuugi leapt onto the platform, and just as she landed, the hand exploded. Then the right hand exploded. "Wait, why did that one explode?"
"No idea," Nue said. "Okay, the hands may be down, but this thing probably has more than just laser-firing hands to attack with."
The head lowered itself below the level of the platform, and as it did, hatches opened in the platform, dispensing quite a few of the basic robots. "It's calling for backup," Yuugi said. "Like these things are gonna help against us."
"I've got them," Nue said. She sweapt her own beam and those of her UFOs across the platform, clearing out the weak robots in a matter of seconds.
More robots emerged, and along with them came a total of eight turrets. Nue unformed her green UFOs and replaced them with rainbow ones, which began firing dense sprays of shots, effectively clearing out everything the turrets were firing. While they did so, Nue herself took out the robots. Yuugi and Levia, meanwhile, were quite literally tearing the turrets apart.
Clearing out the reinforcements didn't take long. The robots were soon destroyed, as were the turrets, which, like the previous ones, left bombs behind.
Geppetto rose up again. "Main target's back," Yuugi said. "Let's take it out."
The head opened its mouth, revealing a cannon that immediately fired a large laser. Nue countered it with a beam of her own, but doing so was much harder. "This is a stronger attack than what the hands could do. I'll handle the beam; you two beat the shit out of this thing!"
Yuugi and Levia both slammed into the head at full speed and started hitting it, but to little apparent effect. "Damn, this is some tough stuff," Yuugi said. "It's gotta be the mythril. I don't think I'm getting through it anytime soon."
"Then we alter our approach," Levia said. She flew up and focused her attack on the left eye. As she did, the laser stopped, and the mouth immediately closed.
Levia hit the eye a few times, but then an explosion sent her flying backwards. Multiple missiles were being fired from both eyes. Levia and Nue immediately took evasive action, but Yuugi just waited. A few of the missiles did indeed target her, and she aited until the last second to dodge to the side, causing them to impact Geppetto. They didn't seem to do much damage, though. "Damn, I thought that would work."
"Hitting the eye also had little effect," Levia said.
"Then we strike inside the mouth when it opens," Nue said.
"The laser began firing immediately. It will act as a counter to our attacks, and also prevent us from attacking physically."
"Then we overwhelm the beam."
Yuugi dropped down to the platform. "I just had an idea. Nue, get down here and counter its beam. I'll handle the rest."
Geppetto opened its mouth, again firing the beam almost immediately. As before, Nue countered it. Yuugi, instead of striking the face directly, picked up one of the bombs and threw it at the open mouth from an angle. As soon as the bomb hit the mouth, it came into contact with the laser, which did what the impact might well have done anyways: it cause the bomb to explode.
The face actually wobbled for a moment before resuming its steady position. "That did something," Nue said. "Nice one."
"I don't know why these bombs are here, but there's no reason not to use 'em."
Geppetto fired missiles again, which the trio were able to evade without much difficulty. Then it opened its mouth again and fired the laser. Nue countered the beam again while Yuugi grabbed another bomb and repeated her previous attack. And once again, it worked. "I think we've got a plan here."
The cycle of avoiding the missiles and bombing the mouth repeated a few more times, until the head finally stopped moving. Parts of it exploded, the pieces falling all over the platform, and it fell down the shaft and out of sight.
"That was interesting," Nue said. "Right, let's go check the last room. Then we'll gather up all these pieces from that thing and get out of here."
The bridge was still retracted, but that wasn't an issue for people who could fly. The door didn't open when Nue pushed the button, but Yuugi and Levia simply pushed it up into the ceiling, and the three of them entered the room beyond. A room that did indeed have another occupant, sitting on the floor on the other side of the room. "Mitori," Nue said.
Mitori got to her feet. "Nue. And… two people I haven't seen before. You look to be an oni, but you…" She looked carefully at Levia. "Some sort of serpent youkai, I would guess. Certainly aquatic."
"You are correct," Levia said. "I am Levia, and the oni is Yuugi."
"I see. Well, I'd ask what you're doing here, but given how long I've been gone, I'm pretty sure you're here because Nitori sent you to look for me."
"Pretty much," Nue said. "We're looking for material for some gauntlets for Yuugi while we're in here, though."
"Then you may be in luck. I heard you fighting that Geppetto thing, and judging by the debris on the platform, I'd guess you beat it."
"We did," Yuugi said.
"That thing had mythril plating. I don't think there's anything better than mythril."
"Nitori thought so, too," Nue said. "She didn't think we'd find any, though. Said that some was used for the 'hub of the security system', but that nobody could find it."
"It was used for Geppetto, it would seem."
"What happened?" Yuugi said. "Why were you in here?"
"That thing attacked me when I got down here. I tried to fight it, but it was winning. Fortunately, I'd thought to forbid the doors from closing when I entered the chamber."
"The one we used had an opening in it," Nue said, "but the door was closed."
"Really? This room's door stayed open. Guess I didn't notice the other door mostly close. I was a little occupied by Geppetto's attack. I could tell I was losing the fight, so I fled through the nearest door, which led into here. I closed the door behind me, and fortunately, Geppetto didn't try to get in. I'd hoped to find myself in the elevator room, but unfortunately, I chose the wrong door. Since Geppetto wasn't trying to attack me while I was in here, I decided to rest before making a run back through Geppetto's chamber."
"Well," Yuugi said, "we took that thing out for you."
"Which does make things easier," Mitori said. "With it gone, I think I'm rested enough to make it out. Especially since I'll be with the three of you."
"Then let's get moving," Nue said. "We'll gather up the debris from Geppetto, then let's get out of here."

Yes, I linked to the same track three times. I've never been sure if I should do that after coming back after a scene change, and this time, I decided to go ahead and do it. Should I do it that way, or should I just link to each track once and only once?
Anyways, I finally got chapter 6 done, and we learned a few things about Utsuho. And Yatagarasu. I haven't seen anything about how it died, so I gave it a little backstory. Then we learned just why Utsuho is as powerful as she is. That's going to come up again, I'm sure. And we saw a little more of Keine and Tenshi, too.
Also Nue's group fought a giant robot head.
Now, normally this is where I'd say reviews are appreciated, but, well, the last chapter got a total of one review on, and not a single thing at all here. So that was pretty demotivating. It was hard to get myself to work on this chapter after that; that's part of the reason it took so long. Yeah, I can look at the number of views this topic has, but, well, there's a bit of a difference between that and actually seeing people say what they think about the story. So please, take a minute or two to tell me (and anyone else whose stories you read) what you think. It's appreciated.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2012, 05:15:33 am by GuyYouMetOnline »

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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2012, 10:07:43 am »
Fight scenes feel too much like filler. Would work well for a TV show or manga, doesn't work well for text.

Still looking forward to where this goes though!


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2012, 06:08:34 pm »
What do you think I could do to make the fight scenes better? Or is it just that you don't like seeing fight scenes in written works?

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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2012, 07:11:48 pm »
Leaner, meaner, only go into detail if the enemies actually pose a threat to the characters or something they value. As it is, there's not a whole lot doing more than slowing them down right now, which isn't surprising given Yuugi's presence.

Does this fight add to the world-building or add dramatic tension, somehow? If not, summarize and keep moving. If so, go into more detail.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2012, 07:34:17 pm by Belligerent Bridge Beeyatch »


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2012, 12:32:05 am »
The battle with Geppetto was supposed to be a bit tougher for them, but as I was writing the battle, I realized just how few methods of attack the thing actually has, and how easy it would be for Nue and the others to handle them. Of course, that fight gets fairly tedious in NieR, too, so I guess this shouldn't have surprised me. Future battles should be somewhat more interesting.

So yes, I can work on that.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2012, 01:58:31 am »
You have a pretty interesting story here, I'm really enjoying it!

A minor problem I've noticed is that you're sometimes a little to dry in the description of the action ("She did this. Then this happened. Then this..."). You should aim at making the sentences flow together better; using less dots, perhaps.

Ah, also, I don't think Celestials are youkai. They are what humans become when they go to heaven, so I don't think they fit well the "beings that represent humanities fears" category :P

But those are really minor. Keep up the good work, I'm curious to see where this is going!
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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2012, 07:07:55 am »
I've always seen 'youkai' as something of a catch-all term for 'supernatural' beings. Others seem to consider fairies, for example, to not be youkai, but I include them in that term. Gods are also often seen as not being youkai, but again, I do consider them to be youkai, just a specific cariety of youkai. I see celestials the same way. It's just my use of the term, I guess.

So, yes, my interpretation is that when humans become celestials, they are indeed becoming youkai.

As for what you said about action scenes, that's exactly the problem I see in them. The difficulty is that I just can't figure out how to write a fight scene without it becoming that. I've seen other writers do it, of course, but I just can't seem to figure out how to do it myself.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2013, 03:31:40 am »
Chapter 7

Nitori didn't even wait for Nue and the others to return to either the workshop or the house. She came outside as soon as the group exited the elevator, presumably having heard it. "Mitori!"
Mitori stepped forward from the others and allowed her sister to embrace her. "Hi."
Nitori pulled away after a few seconds. "You had me worried, sis. What happened down there?"
"Went the wrong way running from a surprisingly nasty robot."
"Nasty robot? I thought there weren't any really tough ones left!"
"Surprised me, too," Mitori said. "I thought I'd head deep in, see if I could find some of that missing mythril. Wasn't expecting a giant robot head."
"A giant- what? That doesn't make any sense. Why would it be a giant head? Wait, why am I thinking about that?" Nitori embraced her sister again. "I'm glad you're okay."
Mitori waited until Nitori pulled away again. "Well, I don't know why there was a giant robot head, but I did find what I was looking for. The thing was using the mythril as plating. It fell down the shaft when those three," she indicated Nue, Yuugi, and Levia, "destroyed it, but we still got a fair amount of scrap. Should be some usable mythril in there."
"Wait," Nitori said, "you got- you have- bring it into the shop! Now!" She grabbed Yuugi, who held the most scrap, and pulled her along towards the workshop. "Come on come on come on!"
Mitori chuckled. "I thought she'd do that. Well, come on, let's get the rest of the scrap inside."

Mokou engulfed the Shade in fire, then cut through its middle with her sword. Then Kaguya struck, slicing through it vertically. Then Mokou slashed it through the neck, which was the final strike.
"Well, then." Kaguya said as she Shade's body faded. "That one was a lot tougher than the others."
"It happens sometimes," Mokou said. "Every now and then, a Shade shows up that's a lot tougher than the others. Usually, they don't fight any differently; they just take a lot more damage to kill. And no, nobody knows why that happens."
"I've realized how little is known about the Shades," Kaguya said. "I wasn't going to ask about that. I'm just going to ask what I was about to before you saw those Shades and attacked."
"And that is?"
"Why are we here? This area of the bamboo forest doesn't have anything of note. Or it didn't five hundred years ago, at least. But you seemed to know exactly where you were going. So why are we here?"
"You're here because you won't just leave me alone. I'm here to speak to Lady Nightbug."
"'Lady Nightbug'? Wait, you mean Wriggle? That firefly youkai?" Mokou nodded. "Since when is she 'Lady' Nightbug?"
"She's changed over the past five hundred years," Mokou said. "Apparently, her lineage is one of considerable power. She's only come into that power since the Radiance."
"What sort of power?"
"I don't know," Mokou said. "I just know she has a lot of it. That, and that her ability to command insects has… altered. She's more… aware of them, now. And aware of what they're aware of. It's like she sees and hears through all of them at once, or something."
"Ah, I understand. You want her help finding Utsuho."
"Yes. This location is where you come to if you want to speak with her. She's designated it as her official meeting area. Coming here is a signal that you're looking for her. She sees your arrival no matter where she is, and knows that you're looking for her. She'll be here as soon as she can."
"Why'd she let Shades show up here, then?"
"I would assume she's dealing with other Shades. It's getting late enough that she'll be awake and active. She tries to keep the forest clear of Shades, but even she can only be in one place at a time, regardless of how widely she can see and hear. With Shade activity on the rise, she can't clear them all out quite as quickly. It's not surprising that we'd run into a small group or two. Although I am surprised a group as large as the one we fought the other night managed to gather."
"Right," Kaguya said. "So more waiting, then?"
"For me, yes. You can feel free to leave at any time."
"We've been over this, Mokou. This is my fight, too."
"Then go fight it yourself."
"You don't think you can win on your own, do you?"
"Kanako said-"
"You know as well as I do that she assumed we'd be fighting her together. I don't care how well we fight; neither of us can take her alone."
"Then I'll find someone else to help me," Mokou said. "You can just leave. Just go."
"Not happening. Even if I didn't think we needed to do this together, I still need some way to find Utsuho."
Mokou sighed. Why the hell can't she just leave me alone?

"Most of this is other metals," Nitori said. "Good ones, yes, but not as good as mythril. There is some mythril here, but only a very small amount. Enough for your gauntlets, Yuugi, but not enough for anything else."
"We gathered what we could," Nue said. "We would have brought more up if we could have."
"Oh, no, don't worry about that! The other stuff is good, too. I can get plenty of materials from all this. Yuugi, come here. I need a mold of your hands for the gauntlets. Need to make sure I get all the sizes right."
As Yuugi went over to Nitori, who immediately went to work, the door between the workshop and the house opened, and Hina came through. "You're back," she said.
"Oh, yeah," Nitori said, not bothering to look up from her work, "Hina's awake."
"Um, hi," Nue said. "Sorry about the whole beating-the-shit-out-of-you thing."
"I suppose I, too, have something to apologize for," Hina said, "so I apologize for being… unnecessarily aggressive. I hardly think it was necessary to react quite that strongly, though."
"I was told as much," Levia said. "Nue said I was overly quick to attack."
"You were. I have recovered, though. And don't worry; I won't seek vengeance or anything like that. It was a disproportionate response, but not an unprovoked one. That said, however, do try to be less aggressive should we meet again, or you may find your fortunes worsening."
"Was that intended as a threat?"
"Okay," Nue said, "let's try not to have another fight."
"If she doesn't attack me," Hina said, "there will not be one. I will be leaving now." She walked over to the door. "Should we meet again, do try to show me the respect due a god." She exited the workshop.
"I think I missed something," Mitori said.
"She got in our way earlier," Yuugi said, "and Levia beat the shit out of her."
"Prematurely," Nue said.
"And awesomely."
"Okay, got it," Nitori said. "Mold's ready. I'll get started right away."
"How long will it take?" Yuugi said.
"Should be done in two days. If you want to infuse them yourself, stop by at some point tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll see you the next day."
"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Yuugi said. "Nue, Levia, you two heading back to the village?"
"Yeah," Nue said. "We got the object from that thing in the Aerie," she produced the tablet, "and your gauntlets are being-what the hell?"
Nue showed Yuugi the tablet. "There's a third piece in here."
"Huh. We haven't fought any Shades since the Aerie, though, so where'd it come from?"
"Somewhere in the Junk Heap would seem likely, but there weren't any Shades in there."
"Maybe there were some and the robots killed them. Anything like that happen, Nitori?"
"Might have," Nitori said. "A lot could've happened here between our abandoning the place and our eventual return. There could have been Shades at some point."
"That's probably it, then," Yuugi said. "I guess it's a good thing we went in there, then."
"I would have gone in eventually anyways," Nue said, "once I'd run out of more likely places. So we wouldn't have missed it entirely. Still, it is good that we found it." She returned the tablet to the nether. "Anyways, no, I don't think we have any more business here, so yes, let's return to the village."
"Thanks for finding my sister," Nitori said. "See you tomorrow, Yuugi."
"Yep," Yuugi said. She exited the workshop, Nue and Levia just behind her.

"An unusual sight, the two of you together."
Mokou and Kaguya both got to their feet. "I'd like to get rid of her," Mokou said, "but she insists on following me."
"Yes, I gathered as much."
Kaguya recognized the figure that emerged from the trees. "Wriggle. Or 'Lady Nightbug', as Mokou seems to call you now."
"Yes," Wriggle said.
Wriggle was certainly still recognizable, but there were changes. Wriggle no longer wore the outfit she used to prefer; she now wore a simple yet elegant black dress. Physically, she was… Less weak-looking, Kaguya thought, I guess I'd say. And far less likely to be called a boy. "We were little more than passing acquaintances, only having met at all thanks to my fondness for your friend Mystia's cooking, but even so, it's pretty clear you've changed."
"Indeed," Wriggle said. "I have come into my lineage as Queen of the Night."
"What sort of lineage?"
"The first of my line was Nisus," Wriggle said. "Her power and being have passed through her line, and have now become mine."
"I told you she'd changed," Mokou said.
"Indeed I have," Wriggle said. "I apologize for being unable to greet you sooner; as you thought, Mokou, I was dealing with Shades elsewhere in the forest. They've become far more numerous lately."
"I think everyone's noticed that, yeah. They're becoming increasingly problematic. Kanako's been having the same problem as you: too many of them in too many places at once."
"It is a problem. But that's not why you're here. You came to seek my help in locating Utsuho."
"Yes," Mokou said. "I need to find her."
"She is beyond my sight," Wriggle said. "She has returned underground, beyond my domain. My kind do not journey down that far."
"A smaller area to search, though," Kaguya said.
"I'm not going to confront her down there," Mokou said, "not when she'd have the other hell ravens as backup. They may not be all that tough, but I don't think I'll be able to afford any distractions. I'll be waiting until she's up here again."
"Wise, I think," Wriggle said, "but even so, what makes you think you can win? I witnessed your previous battle with her-my eyes are everywhere-and you did very badly."
"That's because I didn't fight skillfully," Mokou said. "If I do fight at my best, things will be different."
"You can't win alone, Mokou," Kaguya said, "no matter how well you fight."
"Kanako seemed to think otherwise."
"You know as well as I do that she meant both of us fighting together. She saw us come to her as a pair, and assumed we'd be fighting as a pair."
"I would agree," Wriggle said. "You'll need assistance to win against Utsuho."
"Not from Kaguya, I won't," Mokou said.
"Then I suppose that is your choice. I will notify you when she returns aboveground. You should work on your battle strategy until then, because you'll need more than yourself to win against her."

"You're back," Keine said as Nue, Yuugi, and Levia landed in front of her home.
"Yeah," Nue said, "we're back."
"Mamizou told me you were bound for the Aerie, but you were gone for far longer than I would have expected."
"We took a side trip to the Junk Heap," Nue said. "Proved fruitful, too; there was a piece there as well as one in the Aerie. And Nitori's working on a set of gauntlets for Yuugi."
"I see. So that's three pieces, right?"
"Four," Yuugi said. "I have one back at home."
"Halfway there, then," Tenshi said. "Any idea where you're heading next?"
"Not yet," Nue said. "We'll ask Aki and Mamizou in the morning if they have any clues. If nothing else, we'll just follow reports of Shade activity."
"That works, too."
"Are you heading home, then, Nue?" Keine asked. "I think you should."
"Yeah," Nue said. "I'm heading there next. And Levia, since she's staying with us."
"I've got a room at the tavern," Yuugi said.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?"
"No need for you to head back there just yet, is there?" Tenshi said. "Nue's got someone to get home to; you're staying by yourself."
"Oh, I'm not heading back to the room," Yuugi said. "Come on, Levia, you can come with me. Give Nue and Byakuren some quality alone time."
"Where exactly will we be going?" Levia said.
Yuugi ignored her. "Nue, should I meet you at your place again tomorrow?"
"No," Nue said, "and if I'd known you'd be coming, I would have told you not to. I'll want to talk to Mamizou again, so I'll be heading for the tavern tomorrow morning, anyways."
"That works," Yuugi said. "Come on, Levia."
"Where will we be going?" Levia said.
"Yuugi's an oni," Nue said. "She's taking you drinking with her, of course."
"I see. I… I am not sure this is an activity I should participate in."
"Oh, come on," Yuugi said, "relax a little. Or is there something else you'd rather do for fun?"
"I was to exist only to bring the world to an end. Recreation is something I was never to partake in."
"Well, then, that's all the more reason to lighten you up. Come on!" Yuugi took Levia by the arm and led her away.
"…Right," Tenshi said.
"Well," Nue said, "I guess I'll be going, too."
"Let me know where you're going tomorrow before you leave, would you?" Keine said.
"Certainly." Nue turned to leave. "See you tomorrow, then."

"You're not staying with me tonight, Kaguya," Mokou said. She had returned home after meeting with Wriggle, and Kaguya, of course, had followed her.
"I don't really have anywhere else to go," Kaguya said. "Eientei's not exactly livable right now."
"Then go back to Seafront. Or go to the human village; I'm sure Byakuren will have a place for you."
"And require them to make last-minute accommodations? I'd rather not."
"But you're fine with making me accommodate you."
"I'll just sleep out here. You don't have to do anything."
Mokou sighed. "Fine. But just for tonight. Tomorrow, arrange to stay somewhere else."
"Do you have any plans for tomorrow, Mokou? We're stuck waiting until Utsuho shows herself, so what are you going to do tomorrow?"
"I don't know," Mokou said, "and even if I did, I sure as hell wouldn't tell you. You'd just latch onto me like you've been doing."
"Actually, I have my own plans for tomorrow."
"Oh, really? And what would those be?"
"I'm going back into Eientei," Kaguya said. "Eirin has to be in there somewhere, and I mean to find her."
"Oh," Mokou said. "Are you thinking of what you told Shizuha earlier?"
"I would search for Eirin anyways. But yes, I have no doubt that she can find a way to cure Gensokyo's land."
Mokou thought for a moment. Well, it's better than doing nothing. And she'd never had a problem with any of the others in Eientei, just with Kaguya. Eirin in particular had been extremely helpful to all of Gensokyo, and her return would be greatly beneficial to everyone. Mokou doubted they'd find her, but it was better than doing nothing. "I'll search, too."
"Oh? I thought you wanted nothing to do with me."
"We won't be together. I'll be taking a different path than you."
"Well, I suppose that'll improve our chances," Kaguya said. "But don't pretend you're not working with me."
"I won't be working with you. We'll simply be doing the same thing. Don't expect me to actually help you."
"Right," Kaguya said. "Mokou, just a piece of advice: whatever has you so conflicted towards me, stop trying to hide from it. Face it and deal with it."
"I don't need your advice."
"I gave it to you anyways." And I hope you'll take it. For your sake, and also for mine.

"Hello, Nue," Byakuren said as Nue entered. "How did things go today?"
"Very well, actually," Nue said. "We found one of the objects in the Aerie, and then took a trip to the Junk Heap."
"Ah, that's why you were gone for so long. What business brought you there?"
"I thought I'd see about having Nitori make a set of gauntlets for Yuugi. Of course, we ended up on a rescue mission, as Mitori was stuck inside the Junk Heap."
"It was good of you to help her, then. Although knowing you, I doubt you did it for free."
"Nitori's making the gauntlets without charge."
"I see," Byakuren said. "That was fairly generous of you, then."
Nue sat down next to Byakuren. "I couldn't just leave Mitori in there. If nothing else, you'd never have forgiven me."
"Well, I'm glad you helped, anyways. Where's Levia?"
"Yuugi took her to get drunk," Nue said. "Yuugi said she wanted to give us some time alone. Although I'm sure she also wanted a drinking partner."
"How have you been today, Byakuren?"
"The pain's been there most of the day, but it's mostly subsided for now."
"Small favors, I guess," Nue said. "Hopefully, you won't have to deal with it at all for too much longer."
"Hopefully," Byakuren said, "but please don't push yourself too hard."
"You know I'm not listening to you on that one."
"I know," Byakuren said, "but I'm still going to say it. I don't want you to get hurt on my account, Nue."
"And I don't want you to die. I'm going to do everything I can to prevent that."
"Which I'm grateful for, but even so, I can't help but worry about you."
"Between myself, Yuugi, and Levia, I think we have things under control."
"Just be careful, all right?"
"All right."
"And take some time to relax every now and then."
"That," Nue said, "is something I intend to do right now."

Levia set down her now-empty glass. "This… liquid is strange."
"Come on," Yuugi said, "surely you've had some sort of alcohol before."
"I was asleep until a few days ago."
"Oh, yeah. Forgot about that."
"What is the appeal of this 'alcohol' supposed to be? I understand that is has an appeal, but I am unsure as to what this appeal is."
"It varies," Yuugi said. "Some people like getting drunk, while others like the taste of various alcoholic drinks."
"There are many varieties, then."
"Very many. Some have more alcohol than others, and a lot of them have other stuff in them. Not that I really care about the details. I know what I like, and that's good enough for me."
"It is a pleasure, then. An indulgence."
"Yes," Yuugi said. "You have a problem with that?"
"Why would I? There is nothing inherently sinful about seeking pleasures of the flesh. Many believe such things need be shunned, but they are wrong. Sin occurs only when such pleasures are sought at the expense of the self or of others."
"Is that something from the religion you came from?"
"Even the followers of that religion often take stances against such things," Levia said. "They, too, believe such things to be wrong. They simply happen to be incorrect."
"So you won't be calling me evil or anything. Good to know." Yuugi emptied her glass, then signaled for another.
"There is nothing to hold against you," Levia said. "Although why anyone would want to hinder their senses is beyond me."
"You don't have to understand it," Yuugi said.
"Fortunate, as it is one of a great many things I do not understand. I was never meant to understand the ways of people. My purpose was to bring them to their end. At least, it was supposed to be. But now I find myself without a world to hasten to its end."
"Yeah," Yuugi said, "you are a bit of an odd case, aren't you?"
"I fight the Shades now, but I know this is only a delay. Sooner or later, I will have to face the fact that there is no purpose to my existence."
Yuugi was silent for a moment. "You know, Levia, for most of my life, I didn't have any kind of purpose. But then the Shades destroyed our home, and now I do have a purpose: I kill Shades. I find them wherever they are, and I kill them. That is my purpose now. And you know what? I was happier without a purpose."
"Most of your kind died," Levia said. "Anyone would rather that not have happened."
"It's not just that, though," Yuugi said. "I never felt like I needed a purpose. And now I know I was right to feel that way. I want this to be over, Levia. I want it all to end so that I can go back to not having any sort of purpose. You don't need a purpose in order to live your life."
"I… I do not believe I know how to live without a purpose."
"Well, that's not a problem," Yuugi said. "I can show you."

"I don't know how the other Celestials can stand eating the same things all the time," Tenshi said.
Tenshi and Keine were inside now, and Keine was preparing dinner. "Most Celestials became that way through 'enlightened living', right? That includes a denial of physical pleasures, which food could partially be considered as. For them, eating is purely for sustenance; they take no pleasure in it. If you take out the pleasure aspect, it makes sense that they'd have repetitive diets. You, however, never denied yourself such things. Normally, you would never have become a Celestial."
"Well, yeah, my 'ascension' was atypical. Doesn't keep them from thinking I should be exactly like the rest of them, though. Well, except Iku, maybe. Not that she's been very happy with me, either, but she does seem to understand better than the rest that I'm just not like them."
"There's a general tendency among people to assume that others are like them," Keine said, "and that's in places that can have vastly different people. In a society like the Celestials have, where everyone there is similar to begin with, it's easy to see how this tendency could be amplified."
"Doesn't mean I have to like it."
"Oh, of course," Keine said. "I'm not trying to excuse their attitude. I don't like that attitude, either, but I do understand where it comes from. If you put some effort into understanding them, too, you might get along better with them."
"Not likely. I'm too different from them. No matter how much I 'understand' them, I'll always be the odd one out, someone who, by their standards, shouldn't be there. There's a reason I've always preferred spending time in Gensokyo, you know. Well, multiple reasons. Heaven is pretty boring, after all."
"A lot of people these days would want boring," Keine said. "At least boring isn't dangerous."
"Yeah, I guess. Never been my thing, though."
"There's nothing wrong with that. Unless you cause trouble again, of course."
"Oh, come on," Tenshi said, "that was over five hundred years ago. I haven't caused any trouble since then."
"Only because the Shades have been around to keep things interesting enough for you."
"Yeah, maybe."
"Well, at least what you're doing now is helpful. Even if there doesn't seem to be any end to the Shades."
"Everything can end," Tenshi said. "The Shades are no exception. We'll find a way to get rid of them. Hell, Nue may be well on her way to doing just that."
"Or eliminating the Black Scrawl, at least, hopefully. Even just that would be welcome."
"Yeah, I guess it'd be better than nothing. But even I'd rather find a way to get rid of that Shades. Yeah, they keep things from getting too boring, but that's not worth the harm they cause. If there's a chance Nue can get rid of the things, I'm going to support her. And if she ever needs help, I'll be glad to give it to her."
"Just try not to get yourself killed," Keine said. "I don't want to lose you."
"Oh, you won't lose me," Tenshi said. "I'll be here for you."
"I appreciate that, Tenshi."
Tenshi came right up beside Keine. "Hey, no problem. I care about you, too, you know. A lot."
"And I care about you," Keine said.

"Sorry," Mamizou said. "Haven't heard anything new."
As planned, Nue went to the tavern promptly the next morning. Levia had never returned from her night with Yuugi, so Nue assumed she was still with the oni. She'd make sure to get them before leaving.
"Nothing at all?" Nue said.
"Damn. Guess I'll have to hope Ari has something. Right, then. You know which room Yuugi's in?"
"First one at the top of the stairs, I think. Her and that Levia woman." Mamizou led Nue up to the room. "This one."
Nue was about to knock when the door was pulled open, revealing Yuugi on the other side. "Thought it was you. Morning, Nue."
"Hi. Is Levia in there?"
"Yeah," Yuugi said. "Not hung over, don't worry. She went fairly easy. Me, too, at least for an oni. Can't be hung over when we've got Shades to kill."
"If we have Shades to kill. Mamizou doesn't have any leads for us. Ari may have something, but I don't know."
"Well, then just let me rouse Levia," Yuugi said, "and we'll go see her."

Kaguya let herself drop the few inches to the floor-sleeping in midair was far more comfortable than sleeping on wood-and got to her feet. A quick look around the house confirmed what she'd expected; Mokou had already left. She really needs to start being honest with herself about me. Right. Well, she's probably at Eientei, and even if she's not, that's where I'm going.
Kaguya found some food fairly easily. Looks like she still likes chicken. Hmm… well, I guess she makes her own fire, doesn't she? Well, I can use a little fire, myself. Not that I need to cook this or anything. No need for an immortal to worry about disease. Kaguya immediately tore into the raw meat. Tastes better like this, anyways.
After finishing her meal, Kaguya cleaned up quickly, then stepped outside. Time to head for Eientei, then. She took off towards her old home.

"You know," Yuugi said as she, Nue, and Levia exited the tavern and began making their way to Ari's house, "if Ari doesn't have any information for us, maybe we should head for Facade."
"Facade?" Nue said. "Why?"
"I was there a couple weeks ago, looking for Shades to kill. Turns out their ruler had just died. From the Black Scrawl."
"Another victim of it," Nue said. "But how does this help us?"
"Their queen was ill. I shouldn't have to tell you that they put every resource they had into finding a cure."
"But they failed."
Yuugi nodded. "True, but if the objects really are the key to curing the Black Scrawl, then their research might have turned up clues to the location of one or more of them."
"I guess it's worth a try. Probably a good idea to check the area for Shades, anyways. I think that's a good idea."
"What is Facade?" Levia said.
"It's where the kappa live," Nue said. "Their old village was destroyed, and like the tengu, they eventually decided to build a new one. Unlike the tengu, though, they moved a long distance from their old village. The tengu still live on the mountain, but the kappa now live in the middle of the desert."
"Yeah," Yuugi said. "They found a nice, big oasis, and built their new village around it. And they're good at drawing out groundwater, too. It's a fine place for them, I think. They looked like they were doing well two weeks ago, at least. Well, aside from having lost their queen."
"I may not do so well," Levia said. "I am of the water; a desert is no place for me."
"The kappa do fine."
"I am not a kappa."
"Well, I guess," Yuugi said.
"Would you not be able to survive?" Nue said.
"I would survive," Levia said, "but I could not function in such a place for long. If the kappa city is built around an oasis, I would be fine there, but unless they were nearby, I would be unable to accompany you in your search for Shades. After more than an hour or two in the desert, I would be too weak."
"That's not good," Yuugi said. "Are you staying here, then?"
"I can accompany you to the city. I will go at least that far with you. And if the Shades are decently close to it, I will be able to accompany you into battle. If not, though, I may have to remain in the city."
"If you've gotta, then you've gotta."

Just upside-down right now, it would seem.
Kaguya approached Eientei. Should be easy to find the entrance if it's just upside-down. Just find where the door looks like it is, drop to the ground, and walk in.
Kaguya did exactly that, and found herself in the main hall. Although as previously, it was different than it should be. Fewer halls this time instead of too many. Okay, right or left... right. She made her way over to the right corridor, only to find herself in front of the left one. Right. Whatever. She entered the corridor.

Ari had several books open in front of her when the group entered, and was quickly paging through one. She looked up only briefly as they entered before returning to the book. "Nue, Yuugi. And Levia, I assume. One second; this may be... damn, nothing here." She moved to the next book. "This one next. Chlorination..."
"'Chlorination'?" Nue said.
"Found things in various books. Some things that simply now take on new significance, others that are passages, sections, or even entire books that weren't there before, that I do not remember. I have taken contributions from others, but these are not those. These managed to show up without me knowing at all. Not the first time one of my lives has found previously unknown material, and in fact fairly normal. The one in whose care I place the Chronicle during my absense from life-Keine now, various others before she was born-often adds to it. This new material was no doubt added by Keine-during the period after my life as Akyu, I believe-but I doubt she knew some of the contents of what was added. I don't know who added it, or why, but I have found papers." She indicated a small pile off to the side of her desk. "Those papers. They make frequent reference to something called 'White Chlorination Syndrome'. Sounds like the name of a disease, so I've been checking records of illnesses. Nothing so far, unfortunately."
"You're supposed to be looking into the shades and the Black Scrawl. Is this related?"
"There are several factors pointing to this."
"The time matches up, at least," Nue said, "if these are indeed from shortly after Akyu's death."
"True, but not really much of a factor in that conclusion. It is from the contents of the papers that I drew that conclusion. References are made towards black marks on the skin."
"The Black Scrawl."
"Possibly. They're mentioned in conjunction with something called a 'Gestalt'. I have not yet found anything about what a Gestalt is, but one paper does mention it in conjunction with White Chlorination Syndrome. In addition, there are mentions of mindlessly aggressive creatures."
"Perhaps, although they are not called by that name. They are instead referred to as 'Legion'. I believe they are related to the Shades, though. The name difference may simply be because of the fact that if these papers are, as I believe, from shortly before the Radiance, then the term 'Shades' was not in use yet. And the name 'Legion' didn't come into use because these papers, quite clearly, were intended to remain secret. Why they turned up in my records, I do not know."
"You are on the trail of information related to the origin of the Shades," Levia said.
"What about those black objects?" Nue said. "Have you found anything related to them?"
"No, unfortunately. You're hunting Shades for them, though, right? Mamizou may be able to point you towards recent Shade activity."
"We already talked to her," Yuugi said. "She had nothing. We're probably gonna head to Facade. That's far enough away that Mam probably wouldn't know much about it, 'specially since it's not really super-common for any kappa to leave the place. Doubt she's heard much from there. And their queen recently died from the Scrawl, so they were researching it pretty heavily."
"A good plan, then. I, meanwhile, will continue my research. I'll let you know if I find anything."

Kaguya had been walking forward, so she wasn't really sure how she'd managed to back into Mokou. More weirdness, I guess. She turned to face the other immortal. "Hi, Mokou."
Mokou sighed. "Of course I run into you this quickly."
"Well, I did tell you I was coming here."
"And I left first and went in first. I thought we'd stay seperate. Damn place has a sick sense of humor," Mokou muttered.
"I somehow went backwards by going forwards," Kaguya said. "Anything like that happening to you?"
"No, but everything was upside-down for a bit. And sideways. And randomly rotating. And the other stuff this place tends to do." Mokou walked over to a nearby door and opened it. "There is one good thing about it, though. Since everything keeps changing, you can't follow me very well." She passed through the door, closing it behind herself.
Kaguya went over to the door and opened it, but there was no opening behind it, only a wall. Well, we'll cover more ground like this anyways. She continued down the hall, actually going forward this time. Let's see if there's anything over this way.

"So you're off to Facade, then?" Byakuren said.
"Not just yet," Nue said. "Yuugi's headed to Nitori's to do the infusion for her new gauntlets. The current plan is to head out once she's back, but given how far away Facade is, that may put us back here pretty late. Late enough that we'd be tempted to spend the night in Facade."
"Feel free to do so."
"I'm not sure I want to leave you alone for too long," Nue said.
"I will hardly be alone. You know as well as I do that almost anyone in the village will be willing to aid me if I need it."
"Yeah, but I still don't like leaving you. Hell, I'd stay in the village all the time if I could, but that won't help save you from the Black Scrawl."
"I don't like it when you leave, either," Byakuren said, "but I know why you're doing this. And even now, you're not only thinking about me. If you were, you wouldn't have gone looking for Mitori. Yes, you found one of the objects there, but you didn't think you would."
"I couldn't just leave her. As I said before, you'd never have forgiven me."
"I don't think that was the only reason you did it."
"Probably not. Spending time with you has had its effect on me, after all."
"Anyways, you don't need to worry about spending the night elsewhere. All I ask is that if you do find Shades there, please be careful. As I said last night, I don't want you getting hurt for my sake."
"I know," Nue said. "I'll be as careful as I can."

Okay, Kaguya thought, once again I find myself thinking: this is weird.
Kaguya was in what would have been a featureless corridor, except that the walls were... strange. Kaguya wasn't at all sure how to describe the way they looked. And they were sort of pulsing. Not all at once; the pulses seemed to travel down the corridor at fairly frequent intervals.
Also, Kaguya wasn't actually on the visible floor; she was standing on some surface she couldn't see, about a foot above the visible floor.
Kaguya walked forward for a time, and then without warning, she walked straight into a wall that hadn't been there before. She took a step back and looked around. The corridor behind her was normal, nothing like the strange, pulsing one she'd been walking through. The corridor simply turned a corner, and Kaguya had walked into the wall where it turned off to the side. Also, she was walking on the floor again.
Right, Kaguya thought. Moving on. She turned the corner and continued down the corridor.

Nue and Byakuren stood and turned as someone flung the door open. "Mamizou," Nue said. "What's going on?"
"Shades are approaching the village!"
"Which way are they coming from?"
"I'm going," Nue said. "Byakuren, stay in the village. Be ready in case more come. You up for it?"
"I am," Byakuren said.
"Then let's get moving."

Nitori looked up from her work as Yuugi entered the workshop. "Hey, Yuugi. Here for the infusion?"
"Yep," Yuugi said. "You ready for it?"
"Yeah. There's actually a pretty wide range of the forging process infusion can be done during. The more important parts are timing, duration, and that work on the weapon continues throughout said duration."
"Just tell me what to do."
"Come over here." Yuugi did so. "Have you formed familiars before?"
"Yeah," Yuugi said. "Not my preferred style, but I've used 'em. Just for danmaku, though."
"The process for forming them is the same," Nitori said. "What matters is that you've done it before. Familiars are formed by sending energy from yourself into a single point. You'll be doing the same thing here. Not to the same extent, though. With familiars, the energy is forced into a coherent form, usually a simple spherical shape. Forcing the form requires additional energy, but without that form, the energy would simply dissipate as soon as you released your focus. Here, this is not a concern, as the energy is going into an object, which already has a form. The level of energy used for a familiar would, in fact, harm the weapon. The amount of energy used in the infusion is important, as is the timing."
"Just tell me what I need to do."
Nitori showed her the in-progress gauntlets. "We'll be alternating between the two gauntlets. When I tell you to start, gather your power, your energy, and send it into the gauntlet I'm currently working on as you would send it into a single point to form a familiar. When I tell you to stop, stop. We will repeat this several times with each gauntlet. I'll let you know when we're done. Are you ready to begin?"
"Whenever you are," Yuugi said.
"Then let's begin."

Levia was already engaged with the Shades. "Have care," she said as Nue landed beside her. "These ones are a new type."
There were several known varieties of Shades. Fairy-types and human-types were the most common, while tengu-types, the shot-happy magician-types, and the large and strong oni-types were less common. But as Nue looked over this group of Shades, she saw that Levia was right. There were human-types among them, but there was also a new kind. They looked much like human-types, although more lithe. The most striking difference was something completely new. It looked like some piece of clothing, although it was clearly part of the Shades and not something being worn. It had the appearance of being wrapped around the arms, looping around behind the head, but it seemed to come apart from either arm freely-although never from both at once, Nue noted.
One of the new Shades swung its… thing at Nue like a blade. She caught it in her trident and gave the Shade a laser to the face. It's a weapon, then. It's what this type is armed with. And like all Shade 'weapons', it seemed to be a part of the Shade, rather than a weapon it was wielding.
The human-types were as simple as always, but the new types were proving more difficult. "These ones are more agile," Levia said.
Nue formed several green UFOs and coordinated their attacks on one Shade such that there was only one way it could evade. Which, of course, brought it right into the path of Nue's thrown trident. "Not going to matter. They're still fairly easy."
"Most are. My current opponent is proving to be a different matter."
"Unusually tough Shades do show up occasionally. You deal with it; I'll handle the others."
Tenshi crashed down on a keystone, crushing several shades. "Starting without me?"
"I guess that means fewer others to handle," Nue said, running her trident through one. "Careful, Tenshi! These are a new type!"
Tenshi cut through one with her sword. "Not a problem!"
Only five were left. Nue repeated her earlier trick, using lasers to force one to dodge into her trident. This one didn't die, though, so Nue licked it into the ground and impaled it through the head.
Levia lashed at her opponent with her whip, but the Shade struck it to the side with its weapon. Levia charged and punched, but the Shade leapt over her. Nue ran in to impale it, but it ducked under the attack and kicked her.
"Damn," Nue said stepping back. "Usually even the tough ones don't fight this well." She struck but the Shade knocked her trident to the side with its weapon. Levia came in with another punch, only for the Shade to leap over it to the side while lashing out with its own weapon.
Tenshi sent keystones into all three of the Shades facing her, all human-types, knocking them to the ground. Then she thrust her sword into the ground, quickly opening up a fissure underneath them. As they fell in, she slammed it closed, then spun to see the one remaining shade perform a leaping evade of a punch from Levia. And then it lashed out with... That's-
Nue fired a beam at the Shade as it landed, but it reacted quickly enough to evade, leaping backwards as it fired a few shots of its own. Levia simply sweapt the shots away with her whip. "This one has skill."
"Yeah," Nue said. "First Shade I've seen that seems to actually know how to fight. I don't think it'll last too long against both of us, though. Let's-"
"Step aside."
Nue and Levia turned to look as Tenshi pushed them to the side. "Tenshi, what are you-" Nue started to say, but then quieted herself.
Tenshi stopped a few feet away from the Shade, her sword drawn. "She desires to fight it alone," Levia said. "Her emotions are… complex. But strong."
"Yeah," Nue said. "Did you see the look on her face? I don't know why, but this just became personal for her."
"So we allow her to fight alone?"
"I'll intervene if she's about to be killed," Nue said, "but aside from that, yes, I intend to let her fight alone."

Tenshi faced the Shade, sword at the ready. Focus. Think clearly. Don't let feelings get in the way. Control them. Use them. Lashing out in fury only gets one killed.
The Shade made the first move, lashing out with its weapon. Tenshi met the strike with her sword, allowing the Shade's weapon to wrap around it. She yanked her sword back, pulling the Shade towards her, and gave it a kick to the face. She pulled her sword free and threw it into the Shade's torso, then called it back to her.
The Shade leapt back a ways and began firing rotating streams of shots. Tenshi cut her way through them, approaching the Shade. Nue, meanwhile, formed two green UFOs, positioning them such that their beams formed a barrier to protect herself and Levia from the shots without interfering with the battle.
Tenshi's progress slowed as she drew closer to the Shade, having a denser volume of shots to deal with. So she sent a keystone forward, which plowed through the shots and impacted the Shade, knocking it down. The shots stopped, Tenshi rushed in and attempted a stab through the chest, but the Shade was too quick. It rolled to the side and leapt to its feet. It grabbed Tenshi by the arm and swung her overhead, attempting to slam her into the ground. Tenshi impaled it through the head as she passed over it and drove it to the ground as well, landing on top of it.
The Shade grabbed Tenshi with both hands and threw her away as it did a backwards roll, landing on its feet and spinning around to face Tenshi. Tenshi hit the ground, rolled, and sprung to her fet, quickly charging at the Shade again.

Keine landed next to Nue and Levia. "Villagers are safe in the schoolhouse," she said. "What's going on here?"
"Only one left," Nue said, "but it's a tough one, and on top of that, it's the only Shade I've seen that fights with any level of skill. Also, there was a new type of Shade. The tough one is one of them, but the others were regular Shades, just a new type. They weren't tough or skilled like this one."
"Why's Tenshi fighting it alone?"
"Because she desires to," Levia said. "I know not why-her emotions are mixed, complicated-but Tenshi considers her battle with this Shade to be personal."
"We'll step in if Tenshi loses," Nue said, "prevent the Shade from killing her, but aside from that, I think we should let her have this one."
"…Fine," Keine said.

Tenshi again allowed the Shade's weapon to wrap around her sword, and as she'd done before, she pulled the Shade to her, kicking it while pulling her blade free and stabbing the Shade in the face. May fight skillfully, but at least it doesn't seem to learn.
The Shade fired several shots as it charged. Tenshi countered the shots with some of her own, and the Shade she impaled on her blade. She swung her sword overhead, slamming the Shade into the ground behind her. The Shade lashed out with its weapon, wrapping it around Tenshi's leg as it hit the ground and pulling Tenshi off her feet. Tenshi didn't hit the ground, instead reacting quickly enough to remain suspended in the air, in a horizontal position. She pulled her sword free of the Shade and spun around in a kick with the wrapped leg, spinning the Shade around and slamming it into the ground again.
The Shade didn't loosen its grip at all. It fired several shots into Tenshi at point-blank range, knocking Tenshi back, itself getting pulled along with her. Tenshi reacted by pulling her leg in, yanking the Shade closer. She took hold of it and shot up into the air. The Shade quickly released its hold on Tenshi's leg, but was unable to escape her grip as she rose higher. Eventually, she spun around vertically several times and hurled the Shade into the ground, following up by crashing down on top of it on a large keystone. The keystone disappeared just in time to allow Tenshi to see the Shade's body fade. "Die, you piece of shit."

"Stop and switch," Nitori said.
Yuugi did so. "How much longer?"
"You're about halfway there. Getting bored?"
"Not really. I've never done this before, after all. No, it's not exactly the most exciting thing ever, but it's not too bad. 'Sides, I thought about taking up smithing myself once, several hundred years ago. Back before the underground was unsealed. Decided against it, but I still think it's interesting to watch one at work."
"Glad someone appreciates the craft," Nitori said, "instead of just the result. Okay, start."
"Got it."

"Well," Nue said, "that was interesting."
Tenshi just stood there for a minute, then walked over to the three of them. "Are you all right?" Keine asked.
Tenshi went over to her. "Keine."
"Tenshi. Are you all right?"
"Do I look all right?"
"Not unscathed, but nothing serious for a Celestial. Physically, you're fine. But you don't look 'fine' at all. What's going on, Tenshi?"
Tenshi was silent for a moment. "Keine, I have to go."
"I have to go back to heaven."
"You have to… why?"
"That Shade," Tenshi said. "We've had ones like fairies, of humans, of tengu, of oni, of magicians. But this one was different. A new type."
"What type? What was it?"
"It bore characteristics of my kind," Tenshi said. "That Shade was like a Celestial."

I again find myself having to apologize for taking so long with a chapter, but I have a good excuse this time: I was without my computer for most of a month. Got it back now, obviously. I found time on other computers to get online, but I wasn't really able to do much writing.
Anyways, as is so often the case, stuff happened in this chapter. A lot of it more relaxed. Nue and Byakuren, um, spent time together, as did Keine and Tenshi. And it looks like something may be starting to develop between Yuugi and Levia, too. And then, of course, there's Mokou and Kaguya.
Those of you who read Orphan, my previous fic, probably recognized my depiction of Wriggle. No, that's not meant to imply a connection between the two stories, because there is none. Much like Byakuren's sealing scene, I simply liked that version of Wriggle enough that I decided to use it again.
It looks like Are, meanwhile, has found some new clues. Too bad they just raised more questions.
Also, now there are celestial-type Shades. That can't be a good sign.
Anyways, next up is Facade. Should be fun.
And, of course, feedback is encouraged and appreciated.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2013, 10:00:16 pm »
Really? Nobody has anything to say?

I really don't like repeating myself so much, but if nobody comments on the story, it really hurts my motivation to continue it. So please at least say something.


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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2013, 11:21:16 pm »
argh when was this one update how did i miss it
Oh. I forgot to click on "notify"  :colonveeplusalpha:

Anyway, good update. Tenshi's fight with the shade flowed quite better than your previous fight scenes, and I'm always glad to read more about people exploring Escher Eientei, it's awesome. The scenes between Byakuren and Nue were quite sweet too; the pair kinda grew on me because of this fic. Can't say the same for Tenshi/Keine, but then again I'm a hardcore Mokou/Keine shipper so :V

One thing that I think you should be more careful about is repeating info and situations; for instance, I began to skip the sections were Mokou and Kaguya speak since more than twice they repeat the very same fight ("I'm gonna fight Utusho alone" "No you won"t" "Kanako said-" "She meant the two of us").

Regardless, I'm still quite interested on where the story will go, and since I really liked the way you built the Tengu village, I'm curious on how the Kappa village will turn out. Keep up the good work!

Ah, is that fic "Orphan" about Wriggle here in the forums?
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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2013, 01:14:32 am »
It's not about Wriggle. She gets a plotline, yeah, but the 'main' character is Orphan, who calls herself that because she has no memory of who she is (if you're interested in reading the story, then I won't spoil her identity). Other plotlines include Wriggle's, a Cirno/Rumia one (that heavily overlaps with Wriggles, simply because they're in the same group for most of the story), and one centered on Alice. The story is indeed up on this site, as well as on

Don't give me credit for the Aerie; that came straight from NieR. All I did with it was decide that it'd be the new tengu village, much like I decided to have Facade, anther city from NieR, be where the kappa live now.

In regards to fight scenes, I am trying to improve those. THe fight with Gepetto, as I said, is quite tedious in NieR, and that ended up coming over into Nue/Yuugi/Levia's fight with it. I didn't think it was that good, either (in contrast, I was much more satisfied with the Hook fight). In addition, Tenshi's fight had far more plot relevance than the Gepetto battle, so that probably helped, too.

Anyways, glad you're liking it, and thanks for the feedback. Anyone else have anything (even if it's the same things) to say?
« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 01:17:07 am by GuyYouMetOnline »

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Re: Radiant Decay
« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2013, 03:02:53 pm »
Okay, you're asking for something to say, you get it:

Your Eientei gives me a headache.

I think that the fight between Tenshi and the celestial shade is quite good.

Your Nue/Byakuren pairing is just great.

I especially like the similarities to NieR. And how you still manage to make your story individual. I'll just silently wonder how similar you plan on getting.

All in all: Can't wait for the next chapter. Though, since I can't help it, I'll just wait anyway.
The only difference between good and bad is, that good feels more comfortable for all, while bad focuses on the individual's desires. Thus, good is widely spread badness. Every good person is also a bad person, but not vice-versa. Do you still want to be a good person?

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