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[IC] TotMV:G^2: Touhou: Twilight of Paradise Butterfly

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In numerous locations throughout the castle, something odd occurred. This, of course, was paradoxically not an unusual thing; all manner of odd things occurred in the castle all the time. However, this seemed to be pressingly strange: several apparent holes in the air, like rents in space itself, had appeared before various denizens of the structure. They seemed to be tied together at the ends with ribbons, as if to stop them from expanding further, and peeked into a space seemingly filled with darkness. . . and far, far too many eyes. They seemed to nearly beg for investigation - in fact, if any of them had stared long enough at them without traveling through them, they'd find themselves being pushed through from behind, before the gaps both behind and ahead closed without a trace, leaving only empty rooms behind.

 

For a brief moment that simultaneously seemed to last far too long, everyone who had fallen through the gaps felt the sensation of freefall, being surrounded by that dark space. Depending on just how graceful one was in a fall, they either landed on their feet on... something, or got a slightly closer feel of that strange nothingness that seemed to be serving as a floor for a moment. It had no visual distinction from the space around it, yet it supported their weight nonetheless. Of course, depending on one's perspective, that might not have even been the strangest thing about the occurrence; after all, suddenly finding themselves in alternate dimensions was rather normal for the team that traveled across them to hunt monsters. Looking down, some of the party might find something different about themselves, though just as many were left unchanged. 

 

There wasn't much time to process this, though. The sound of a woman's voice laughing once sounded, and the source of it suddenly made itself clear - a woman, in what appeared to be a somewhat elaborate purple dress and white mob cap, with long blonde hair. It was hard to tell, as only the top half of her body hung out of a gash in space similar to the ones that had brought them to this place in the first place. Even more strangely, she seemed to be upside down, complete with her hair falling upwards instead of downwards. "Oh, visitors? I was wondering when you would show up," she said. The strange woman tilted her head slightly at the party. "Ah, it seems like something might be a bit out of alignment. One moment." The tone in her voice indicated that she wasn't surprised in the slightest at this, though it made a faint attempt at pretending to be such.

 

Another portal opened, and out of this one came an entire woman this time - apparently a different one, with a hat pointed upwards on either side but a similar outfit, but in blues instead of purple. Her hair was shorter, and slightly more notably she seemed to possess a large number of fox tails sprouting from behind her. Her expression seemed to be one of resigned acceptance of the scenario. The gap closed behind her, only for another one to open just downward of where the first one had opened, but arranged vertically. The first woman stepped outward, still upside down but entirely out of the gap this time. She glanced upward, and space shifted around the party before they suddenly felt the same gravity that the woman apparently did, dumping all of them (including the now rather irritable fox lady) onto the "floor" again. "Ran, be a dear and show them in, I've one last thing to prepare." "Ran" sighed in response as yet another gap carried the woman away before offering a chance to respond.

 

"My apologies. Lady Yukari is. . . she enjoys herself, I'll just say that." She seemed to be no stranger to this kind of behavior, though still didn't seem to be fond of it. "I'm sure she has much to tell you, but in the meantime, if you could follow me, I can try to answer any questions you might have." She gestured behind her, where some kind of manor was now visible in the distance. It almost seemed to resolve out of the shapeless space around it, with scattered rocks slowly becoming a path, splotches of grass and the occasional shrub slowly becoming a lawn and neatly kept garden, decorated regularly with cherry trees. 

 

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Rory had landed half on his feet, in the so called "Super Hero Landing". It of course would have been a bad idea for most people, but most people couldn't increase their toughness by slamming their shield into their head, and most people didn't rapidly heal from injuries because of a quirk with their soul. When gravity flipped again, he managed to flip with it, his smugness growing until the corvid he hadn't been paying attention to landed on him. With his pride appropriately tempered as far as he was concerned he stood with a sigh and started to walk as requested before he paused. Masako wasn't the only weight change Rory noticed, and with it other small details with the fit of his clothes also became apparent. This is what finally drew a question from him. "What the fuck happened to me!?"

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FWUMP.

Masako had, moments before, been taking advantage of the end of her conversation to continue her exploration of the castle in which she'd been unceremoniously tossed.  Making rather good progress at it, at that!  She'd just managed to uncover what looked like some sort of magical control device to something rather important, and was well one her way towards uncovering its function by way of logical deduction; that is, she was hitting buttons to see if something broke and making a judgement based on that.  There had been a rather intellectually satisfying/non-intellectually horrible sound of metal grinding upon stone after the last lever she pulled, too.  But that was when she noticed the problem, staring her right in the face.  Or, rather, staring at her ear, as she only managed to spot it at the last moment out of the corner of her vision.

 

She'd stared into the abyss.   The abyss stared back.  She could have sworn one of the eyes of the abyss winked at her, just in time for her to say "Wait-"

 

And in a moment, she was whisked on through, slamming facefirst into the ground at a truly impressive velocity and with a truly notable thud.  There she lay as the others made their landing, dazed and annoyed, trying to get a grasp on her bearings.  Only to hear the sound of her tormentor above(?) her.

Somehow, she wasn't at all surprised at this.

She was still trying to collect herself, quietly shaking her head as the nine-tailed woman was pushed out from a gap in similar circumstances.  She'd only just remembered what words were as the gap hag stepped out from her own, upside-down, with both the implication of her inverted status and the tengu's voluntary motor functions returning at roughly the same time.  Just soon enough for her to leap up and shout.  "Don't you DARE-"

But it was far, far too late.  And the world, if this could be called as much, inverted to match.  Though at least this time the tengu was prepared, crow-like wings spreading in her upward leap and catching what passed for the aether, twisting her herself to match the new view of gravity and bringing her to land herself delicately upon the nearest perch from which she could at LEAST have the opportunity to look down upon the violet-clad youkai.  Not a terribly comfortable one--oddly bony, in a way, and apparently rather loud--but she'd had no time to be picky.  She needed to appear both haughty and annoyed now.

Though as the gap witch vanished the moment after, it was all for naught.  Grumbling, she fumbled around in her coat for her glasses and settled them upon her nose.


"Yes, well," she said, turning her attention to the woman's servant.  And giving whatever it was she'd landed on a good tap with her foot so it didn't interrupt.  "She does realize that just because you can bend time and space, it's still rude to inconvenience people with it, doesn't she?"

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Walmond

 

As soon as Walmond had heard a rift tear into existence in the room where he had been studying, Walmond had shifted his focus to it, with Lambda swiftly floating to his side. It was a strange occurrence, a rift held "open", or "shut" by two ribbons, and with countless eyes staring back at him. Any sane man would've backed away from said clear threat. Yet for Walmond, something about it drawed him in. So, not even a minute after seeing it, Walmond silently stepped through the rift, his faithful servant following him in just as the rift closed.

 

And then, for several seconds, Walmond felt the familiar sensation of falling. It had already happen to him several time before, so he knew how to sense it despite being in a black void. However, it was shortly cut off as Lambda snatched him out of the air, practically cradling him in her arm and slowing her own descent. Or at least, attempted to, as she still seemed to be falling at the same speed as everyone.

 

... Wait, how was Lambda able to cradle him? He was far to large for her to ever safely try that.

 

As soon as that thought came into his head, Walmond looked down at himself, his eyes widening at what he saw. Specifically, how he had somehow managed to shrink into a childlike body, and how his clothes had managed to shrink with him. And how his normally short hair had lengthened itself so that two noticeable bangs rested on his shoulders. Not only that, but his beard had managed to completely vanish as well, judging by the strange sensation on his lower face.

 

Of course, before Walmond could process all of the information, Lambda had finally come to a stop, floating a few inches about the area where the rest of the people who had fallen into similar rifts had arrived. At least, that was what he assumed was how they also got here, he couldn't be sure anymore. Unfortunately he didn't get much time to process that either, considering shortly after, a new woman stepped out of a new rift, walking... Upside down. This, despite everything that had led to this point, surprised Walmond even further, making him rather speechless during the woman's talk, quick summon of "Ran", and teleportation to a new, more physical area. Thankfully, Lambda was already prepared, and merely held onto Walmond and shifted her own body around to correct "standing".

 

Needless to say, the sequence of events left Walmond rather confused. But, he could at least make out that everything that had happened was due to this "Lady Yukari"'s power. Whatever power that was, though it seemed to relate to either creating dimensional rifts, or bending the very essence of reality.

 

He didn't want to think on the later option.

 

So, instead, he merely looked at Ran, still lying on Lambda's large arm, before asking his own question to her:

 

"Well, my first question would be a simple one: Where are we, exactly?"

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Ran frowned slightly at Rory's anger. "Other than being transported here, I'm not sure what you mean." The look she gave Masako when Ran turned to her was one of commiseration. "Well, if you ask her about it, she'll either pretend she doesn't know what you mean, or claim that there was some greater purpose to it. Which I suppose is true, if you consider her own amusement a greater purpose." She sighed. Why did she deliberately annoy these people and then dump them on her to deal with? Her expression did smooth slightly when Walmond spoke; it was the first polite question she'd received thus far, after all. "You are in Yakumo Yukari's domain, on a boundary in reality. Truthfully, I'm not sure why she brought you here, but I suppose actually heading into Gensokyo proper would have been more effort for her."

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Isobel Low had been, of course, surprised when, right in front of her a portal to seemingly empty space but for eyes popped into existence. She hadn't been too surprised by that, mind, since strangeness with the very fabric of space itself was not actually unheard of where she came from... but she had mostly frozen on the spot, eyes riveted on the portal and her stance shifting to one that was on guard, preparing in case she had to dodge something coming out of the portal.

 

And then all of a sudden she felt hands on her back, and she was pushed through the portal into freefall in an empty space between dimensions, and that was rather more surprising altogether. After a short scream, Isobel noticed that several of the others from the castle were in the same predicament, and the scream cut off, replaced instead with a quiet sigh. Well, if several of them were in this situation, chances were good that it was another involuntary summons to deal with the problems of a world, like she'd experienced a few days ago on the world of Houses Asterlux and Shienar. She could deal with this. Isobel landed surprisingly lightly on her feet, and saw the person presumably responsible for their predicament come halfway out of a portal -- and then promptly switch gravity around on them, causing Isobel to yelp lightly but land on her feet once again. The environment they were being led to was at least pretty and serene: a Japanese garden, complete with cherry blossoms, something she'd seen from other botanists she'd met. The calmness of the actual manor did a good deal to help calm her further, and Isobel began to speak. "Okay, well, I'd want to know if we were brought here to help with the T--"

 

"WHAT,"

 

"WHAT THE FUCK," the voice rang out again, from Isobel's apron pocket. Whereas the usual voice that came from that pocket was low, dry, masculine and electronically modulated, the voice currently coming from her apron was moderate in pitch, and mostly organic except with the faintest trace of modulation that came when the voice cracked. Oh, and it was feminine. "WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK." the voice repeated, in total shock, rising higher and higher as panic creeped into it more and more, until finally something came tumbling out of Isobel's pocket with a scream, and fell onto the ground.

 

That thing was a woman one foot tall, flailing wildly. Her skin was white in tone, her hair literally white and short -- not close-cropped, but simply only what would be a few inches long if she were human-sized, and a little black lotus sitting at an angle on her head. Her eyes were a dark blue. As for what she was wearing: a black dress (with bright green trim and green circuit patterns that extended past the dress onto the skin of her arms and face) that went down to her knees, showing no cleavage (of a chest that was not massive but not small either, at least in a relative sense) but showing her collarbone and her shoulders. Her feet had black heels, and finally, on her back were four wings -- translucent, green, and in the narrow, pointed oval shape of lotus petals.

 

Also, she was now openly flailing around on the ground, that panic total, arms alternating between slapping against the ground and feeling up various parts of her body -- face, limbs, wings, chest. "WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO ME WHAT ARE THESE THINGS I AM SENSING THERE ARE LIKE FIFTY DIFFERENT KINDS OF NEW SENSORS AND ALSO-- ARE-- ARE THESE LIMBS? AND WINGS? I HAVE LIMBS AND WINGS AND AM I ORGANIC WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK IS GOING ON I THINK I HAVE VOCAL CORDS AND-- oh I've got-- I'M FEMALE? AAAAAAAAAAAaaaa," the new fairy screamed, her voice only becoming quieter to the others' ears when Isobel, wincing, bent down and picked the fairy up, placing her hand a couple of inches in front of the fairy to muffle her voice somewhat.

 

"LOTUS, you're-- you're--"

 

"WHAT AM I?!"

 

"You're adorable! And also some kind of fairy or something, oh, wow, um, yeah."

 

Spoiler

Tactical Uplink Connection established.

L.O.T.U.S.: I'M ORGANIC I FEEL AND SMELL AND I THINK TASTE THINGS AND THERE'S A LOT OF NEW SENSATIONS I CAN'T PROCESS WHAT IS GOING ON I DON'T UNDERSTAND

no transmission for 3.8284 seconds

T.U.R.N.: Please come again, I am not sure your message was transmitted properly?

T.U.G.: What.

T.A.D.: what

S.U.S.: what?

A.T.U.A.: What?

L.O.T.U.S.: AND ALSO I HAVE LIMBS AND WINGS IS THIS HAPPENING TO ANY OF YOU RESPOND

T.U.R.N.: No other T.U. systems have reported any such phenomenon, L.O.T.U.S.

T.U.G.: Repeat: What.

S.U.S.: are... are you okay, L.O.T.U.S.?

L.O.T.U.S.: ALSO I HAVE SEXUAL CHARACTERISTICS

no transmission for 2.690 seconds

T.A.D.: what

T.U.G.: Very strange. I can't help you.

no transmission for 0.234 seconds

T.U.R.N.: What kind?
L.O.T.U.S.: I-- I think I'm female now

no transmission for 1.009 seconds

S.U.S.: well... at least I'm not the only one now.

Tactical Uplink Connection lost.

 

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"Well, maybe if I was a human, but it hardly justifies tossing ME this way and that."  Masako huffed, blatantly ignoring the rather loud protestations from somewhere off to the side.  "She's interfered with TWO investigations now in two separate realms of existence.  Who will resolve the Case of the Missing Dango now, I ask you?  Certainly not me; that case was time sensitive.  I have a reputation to uphold. and I don't want it to go from 'most spirited detective in Gensokyo' to 'most spirited-away detective in Gensokyo.'  I already got a stack of business cards, and the printers charge by letter nowadays."  

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Ritsu, for her part, didn't mind the sudden shift into a new space, and befitting her appearance as a cat, she managed to manage the landings on both counts. Looking towards the now present manor, Ritsu is filled with a sudden sense of nostalgia.

 

"A manor hmm? Almost reminds me of home. I hope the others are managing in my absence. I worry that certain tasks may not be performed properly without my supervision," Ritsu mutters, before an outburst catches her attention. Turning her attention to it, she witnesses firsthand the change in LOTUS.

 

"Oh my, this is a development. The tablet has become a fairy. How...cute," Ritsu remarks, trying and failing to hold in her laughter. She briefly notices that she herself feels a bit more fleshy than normal, and that her voice sounds a bit more like a normal person. She takes a mental note of that fact before turning her attention to LOTUS.

 

"Well, I'm sure the feeling of a new body must be quite a change for you, but you should certainly be able to adapt right?" Ritsu jokingly asks LOTUS.

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Empi, probably mostly unchanged, looks fascinatingly over at LOTUS and Ritsu. The other things about this place didn't quite faze her; working for Venus and being surrounded with all sorts of "personalities" made Empi pretty hard to wow in the supernatural shenanigans department. Especially when stuff like this happened every other day back home.

 

However, the current victims were too easy, too funny for Empi to pass up a comment.

"Oh. Ohohohoho. I could have fun with this. Please, please tell me this is intentional."

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"WHAT," LOTUS replied in flat but very loud outrage at Ritsu's teasing, the green circuit pattrerns on her dress, face, and arms glowing a brighter green, before she promptly coughed a couple of times thanks to all the shouting she was doing. "Ah, that is un-- unpleasant. Ah. I can sense that you're organic too, Ritsu, why aren't you reacting too?! It's not just the limbs, there are, a lot of-- just-- a lot of-- a lot of things!" The now-fairy attempted to stand up, fueled by outrage, but promptly proved unable to get her balance, as she fell back to the ground, just in the other direction, with an angry squeak -- followed by a second attempt and a second failure.

 

Isobel, still bent down in front of LOTUS, frowned and then picked her up with one hand, looking around and then at Ran. "LOTUS, we are in the middle of a new world, I think you should try to calm down if you can--"

 

"HOW THE FUow, how could I possibly calm down?! I've got all sorts of things I cannot even begin to compute, and even if I were able to compute one I would then have to process all the oth-- ack!" LOTUS was interrupted and started sputtering as Isobel started stroking her head. "What are you-- why are you-- okay-- maybe-- maybe this is kind of pleasant..." LOTUS looked down, blushed, and trailed off into silence.

 

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"As it happens, my original design was made to allow me to handle various forms of external stimuli for the tasks I was meant to perform. Though some of the design choices were questionable at best, it essentially means that the amount of sensation I feel normally and the amount I feel now isn't very different." Ritsu explains as she sways her own body around. The feeling of her own body as a more fleshy one did feel slightly odd, but that was more an issue of how she felt rather than a processing error.

 

"Don't worry LOTUS, it may take some time and a bit of effort, but you should be able to manage eventually. For now though, it appears that someone will be able to help you in the meantime," Ritsu chuckles again seeing Isobel attempt to calm LOTUS.

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Rory closes his eyes for a moment as he tries to calm himself down. It doesn't work but he's able to avoid yelling for the time being. "My dick is gone and unless my clothes suddenly changed form I think I've grown breasts. That's what I mean." Looking at Rory one would note that his features, while still decidedly manish are more in line with those of a female. Rory's frame over all is more petite than it was, although that's only slightly, and his chest has grown somewhat significantly. Also his facial hair is gone as well, that's a big tip off. There's a brief pause before Rory looks up and smacks Masako in the thigh. "Oi, you get off. Seriously what's up with you and landing on me."

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Ran failed to suppress her sigh this time. "I understand you're upset, but there's no need to be so vulgar towards me. I'm sure there's a reason this happened." She wasn't quite as frustrated as she could be though; the kitsune had to admit that what was happening with the fairy was adorable.  "And honestly, do you think being a tengu somehow makes you above Lady Yukari's . . . hobbies? A detective such as yourself should know that the Youkai of Boundaries has few of them herself." They were drawing close to the manor, now, and indeed, the doors on the place seemed to swing open of their own accord when the party started to ascend the short set of stairs leading up to them. 

 

Within the doors, as might be expected, was a hallway, sparsely but tastefully decorated with the occasional tapestry or painting. A mix of styles was represented; it seemed that whoever collected these was interested in Western art as well. One, in fact, seemed to be. . . a poster? It depicted a man backlit by a sunrise or similar, in green power armor with a yellow-gold visor. There wasn't much time to ponder the artwork, though; the party abruptly found themselves at another doorway, as if they'd skipped a portion of the walk entirely. Ran reached forward and pulled this door open, holding it for the party and gesturing towards the room beyond.

 

In it was the lady from earlier - Yukari, Ran had said her name was. She lounged at just over head height for most of the party, draped across yet another one of those gaps in space - this one seemingly solid, as she didn't seem to be at any risk of falling through. "Welcome to my domain," she said, not unpleasantly, as the group filed into the room. "If you haven't been introduced yet, I am Yakumo Yukari, and the one who called you here. I need some errands run, you see, and it's best if some out-of-context help does them for me." She twisted about a bit, the gap she was laying across vanishing with another appearing beneath her, so that she was sitting rather than laying down. "There have been some unusual occurrences lately, and the one who usually deals with such things is. . . shall we say, indisposed." She pulled a fan out of another, smaller gap, and used it to gesture broadly to the party. "I was hoping you could take care of this for me."

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Rory sighed and nodded her head at the fox woman's reply. "Sorry, that's just the way I talk casually, especially when I'm upset, I'll try not to be as vulgar." She didn't say anything as they walked through the halls except when she saw the poster with the power armored man. "You guys have that movie here? Cool." Meeting with the one that called the group there Rory didn't say much, folding her arms and looking vaguely bored at the explanation. "Forgive me if I'm being presumptuous but I'm getting the feeling that by saying that you mean "You guys don't have a choice in the matter and I hope you succeed." rather than "I'm requesting you take care of this."... Either way, I'm in. I figure it's just going to be taking care of some small fry or it's going to be something worthy of my abilities the way I see it." He doesn't mention it but there's an unspoken "And hopefully if I do this I'm not going to stay a woman." in his statement. He was truly uncomfortable with this turn of events.

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Hikari was kinda just... generally surprised by all of the sudden movements and people shouting and took a few moments to compose herself because she'd been taking a nap when she'd gotten gap'd. Seemingly unlike half of the party, she was unchanged. She was just managing to compose herself when their host made her intentions... well, clear was the wrong word. "What kind of occurrences?" Hikari asked. She already suspected what it would be, though - it was always trespassers if they were present. 

 

Ivory was quiet, simply hanging around inside of Hikari and looking around the space, trying to comprehend it. 

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The bird seemed about to insist that yes, absolutely, she was definitely above it and it was impolite to continue disproving that assertion, when she was silenced by her perch proceeding to smack her in the side.  She'd proceeded to glare down at it and consider giving it a good kick in return, but--given the lack of a Yukari to look down upon, and the rapidly approaching frame of a door that threatened to knock her on her rear--thought better of it and merely grumbled something about not standing where someone else who needed the spot could very easily stand on you before hopping off.  Which left her following Ran along on foot, just beside the girl she rationally concluded was the person she'd landed on when first tossed on this strange trip.  Albeit a bit softer, she supposed.  Almost certainly something to do with boundaries and the alteration thereof.

 

Not that it was terribly important, for now, with them entering the manor.  And with their entrance, Masako was finally struck by the knowledge of where they actually were.  This was the manor of the youkai of boundaries.  

 

Despite herself--or, well, probably not, since she was making absolutely no effort to control that part of her--the tengu was curious.  Really curious.  How many people actually saw inside this place?  What sort of weird mysteries and secrets did the witch of the gaps keep behind locked doors?  Her quick eyes scanned the eclectic collection of artwork, wondering how much of it was taken from the outside world or even outside that.  Probably a lot, really.  Though even Masako was flatfooted and slightly flustered at the variety Yakumo thought worth including in decorating the entry hall-

 

A distraction which led her to run straight into Ran's excess floof as the others stopped before the door, and lead to her giving a rather weak apology as she extracted herself and stepped inside.

 

---

 

Masako's petty irritation returned, for a moment, as the gap hag hovered above them.  But something in her demeanor changed as the youkai spoke.  Not at first, certainly, though she looked like she might be tempted to continue her complaints at the first gap in the conversation.  But after?

The tengu silently reached within her coat, withdrawing a long, delicate-seeming pipe.  As Rory spoke, she silently packed a bit of tobacco in the chamber, lighting it a moment later, holding it by the stem as the bit settled in her mouth.  Throughout the process, her eyes never left Yukari.

 

Indisposed?  The youkai's smile played it as some sort of joke; had she not heard the woman herself, her first guess might have been that she tied the local shrine maiden up and stuffed her in a closet for a quick laugh.  But there was something else there, hidden beneath the lazy teasing.  Something that left the tengu thinking back on the conversation she'd had with Saigai, earlier.  On the parts that were actually important. 
 

The hag hadn't dropped her guard by much.  But it was enough to let Masako glimpse through a crack.  And if Yukari Yakumo were actually concerned...

Masako breathed the smoke out in a vapor-thin mist.  She would have to be deeply, deeply worried.

"One has to wonder," she began, "why you're going to a group of outsiders, first.  Unless all the others who help that miko are also... indisposed.  And what, precisely, that entails."

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Isobel listened to the conversations going on around her, at the same time as she goggled at the artwork on the walls -- this Ran woman talking to Rory, who seemed to be undergoing similar troubles as LOTUS except without the whole "new body" bit, Japanese art, more Western-looking art, though Isobel found herself unable to recognize any of it, since it all looked very old, and... ...oh, there was some much more interesting art in places on the walls. Evidently this woman was quite brave, though Isobel found that respectable (the seeming lack of boundaries with other people, less so). Isobel unashamedly let her eyes linger on some of that, neatly adjusting to the sudden movement to the next doorway.

 

When Yukari started talking, though, Isobel dragged her mind back to business though, and looked down at LOTUS... oh, right. The white-haired fairy was half-protruding from Isobel's apron pocket, and currently her hands were on her face, clumsily patting around as the former-tablet continued to try to come to terms with her family. And then she poked herself in the eye. "Ah!" Isobel sighed. Perhaps LOTUS was going to be out of commission, at least for a while. Isobel supposed that she was going to have to ask the kinds of questions that LOTUS would want to ask if he-- she? were less occupied. "Are we talking about invaders from outside of the world here, miss?"

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Empi lifts an eyebrow at her surroundings. Not bad, this place was. Pretty similar to the Japanese branch. Crazy bastards, they were, every one of them. Rich, with a taste for fine art, but crazy bastards. Empi never dealt with them personally; that was Negotiations, as opposed to Matchmaking. The faeries in that department were sneaky little shits. Nobody particularly liked them, but then again, Empi's department wouldn't have nearly the monopoly on love affairs it did if Negotiations hadn't done its job. Of course, when the price for sealing the deal was the memory of a summer's day and the price for breaking it was to be chased by those gremlins the company called 'repo men' down in the Erl-King's pizza-filled basement cave, nobody wanted to cross Negotiations.

 

But that carnival was a world away, and Empi was in a wholly different carnival right now.

"Indisposed how? We talking 'terrible hangover the likes of which have never been seen before' indisposed?  'Actually has a girlfriend but doesn't want to leave bed' indisposed? Surely they can't possibly be the only people around here who could deal with......whatever it is you dragged us here to deal with."

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"All excellent questions. Or, should I say, one excellent question, as you seem to be all centered on one theme. The miko in question, as well as her usual crowd of helpers, is the unusual occurrence this time. They've been acting strangely, the sort of strange that proves to be quite disruptive." She raised an eyebrow at Rory. "I haven't the faintest idea of what you mean. . . and, I suppose, you could refuse, but I thought the favor of a beautiful young maiden like myself might be worth something to you." Her eyes lingered on Isobel for just a moment before they resumed their more general casual examination of the group. At least, until Empi received a similar treatment. "As for invaders, well, that descriptor could describe you, no?" She shifted position, moving into a slight lounge on her opposite side. "The source of their behavior isn't quite clear, and I haven't had the time to look myself - hence my calling you." 

 

Somewhat abruptly, she seemed to slip through the gap supporting her, only to reappear risong out of another that had opened up in the floor before the party. She held out her free hand, and a rolled-up sheet of parchment slid out of her sleeve and into her palm.  "You have an adequate guide, but this will show you where you need to be for those unfamiliar with the area. As extra insurance, Chen will be accompanying you." At this, Ran moved for the first time since the party had entered the room - the kitsune had been standing in a nearly statuesque manner. 

 

"You aren't sending me, Lady Yukari?" Her voice held confusion and a fair amount of concern. "Chen isn't always. . . well, you know." Yukari shook her head in response.

 

"I have something more important for you to take care of. Chen will do fine." Yukari's tone actually seemed to hold a note of genuine reassurance - though this seemed to have the opposite effect on Ran herself, whose ears and tails drooped slightly. 

 

"I see. I'll send her along shortly, then." Ran bowed slightly.

 

"Thank you, Ran." The kitsune walked off, somehow weaving through the party without so much as brushing anyone with the prodigious volume of her many tails (which twitched slightly once she was out of range, seemingly shaking out the slight remaining tengu-shaped ruffles.) Her absence meant the return of Yukari's attention to the party, her yellow gaze shifting from casual analysis to a much more piercing one. "Now, can I rely on you for this small favor, or am I going to need other methods of. . . encouraging cooperation?"

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No.  This was a MYSTERY.  An actual, honest-to-goodness mystery wrapped up in an incident wrapped up in an enigma.

But, on the other hand....  It was an Incident.  With a capital 'I.'  And Yukari HAD been screwing with her earlier.

"I do not, on principle, make a habit of those who preface attempting to hire me by interrupting a delicate case and throwing me into an otherworldly castle where I might well have been kidnapped by evil aliens."  Puff, puff.  "Or being pulled to her manor while attempting to explore it.   However..."

The tengu lowered her kiseru, matching Yukari's gaze with one of her own.  She remembered the crack in the armor she'd seen, and something in her gaze seemed to convey that.  "I could hardly call myself the best detective in Gensokyo if I turned it down.  Oddly behaving shrine maidens?  Interested interlopers from other worlds? Ancient boundary youkai insisting that they're actually young?  THAT is something worthy of a tengu's brilliance."

Masako nodded and reached out to take the parchment from the other youkai's hands.  "Fine, then.  Consider me on the case.  And consider the case as good as solved!"

Edited by Lucky Lulu

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Rory snatches the map quickly and snaps a picture of it with a mid sized phone like object. Which is because that's pretty much what it is. After he's done he hands it back to Masako, studying his photo.

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Empi groans, before shrugging. Not like she had anything better to do.

"Fuck it. I'm in. Besides, there's either the possibility of some handsome reward here or you'll curse us with magical carnival gap juju until we do it anyway. Or you don't and some other unfortunate joker's got to do it instead.

 

Damn am I NOT doing what I'm paid for."

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"It seems like we'll be taking on this job of yours. Likely better to do it now than deal with whatever your methods for 'encouraging cooperation may entail," Ritsu replies, tail swaying back and forth a bit. Taking a glance at those around, she saw some familiar faces, but others still she did not know as well. As she went to take a glance at the map, her attention was grabbed by the fairy who she didn't know very well.

 

"Out of curiosity, what are you paid for?" Ritsu decides to ask, deciding that learning about the people she'll be working will be worthwhile...probably.

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"Oh," said Masako, overhearing.  "That's a good point."

Taking the map back from Rory--and giving her a brief glare--she turned to Yukari and promptly continued.  "We need to discuss my fees-"

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