1. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice

[Fate] Layer Zero / Terminus (Archive)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by fallacies, Nov 14, 2017.

Loading...
  1. Threadmarks: Index
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    [​IMG]

    It's January 2004, and the curtain is soon to rise upon the War for the Fuyuki Grail.
    In a disused mansion somewhere in the municipality of Miyama, an extraneous element comes to awareness.

    The clocks have unto Zero begun their count. What will you do?

    //

    Layer Zero / Terminus
    a Fate Quest
    by fallacies

    00:01 - Step in Now
    00:02 - Blue After Blue
    00:03 - Route 246
    00:04 - Stranger in the 25th Hour
    00:05 - Shall We Dance?
    00:06 - Different Town, But the Same Moon
    00:07 - ???
    00:08 - ???
    00:09 - ???
    00:10 - ???​

    //

    Information
    • This is the story-only archive thread for a quest currently being posted to the Spacebattles Roleplaying & Quests forum.
    • For informational purposes, player choices will be preserved per story-post, but any voting must be conducted within the appropriate thread.
    • Discussion is welcome.
    Corrections to the story text are appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
    Akuma-Heika and Biigoh like this.
  2. Threadmarks: 00:01 // Step in Now
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures.
    In one of them I am your enemy.

      -- Jorge Luis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths (1941)

    00:01 - 24 Jan 2004
    Step in Now

    //

    You awaken to the chiming of clocks -- not of one, but of many.

    Uncomfortably sore, you push yourself upright from the hard surface of the floor, squinting as you attempt to make out your surroundings. Your glasses are conspicuously missing, but somehow your vision is clear.

    "What?" you ask. "What the hell is this?"

    You sit within the forward foyer of an unfamiliar mansion -- though, as if the building were at some point converted into a functional clock tower, massive gearshafts span from wall to wall, filling the three stories of the atrium with a complex grid of interlocking motion. Directly overhead, from the summit of the space, an unobstructed skylight illuminates the circle of engraved marble beneath you.

    Upon inspection, the perfectly-cut grooves that mark the pristine, white stone appear to form a magic circle of some sort. Along the edge of the stone, there's an inscription in English:

    Let Justice be done, though the Heavens may fall.
    May the Heavens exist, even that my place be Hell.

    The inscription aside, the shape of the circle seems vaguely familiar to you -- and assuming that you haven't been arbitrarily kidnapped by cultists, it could very well have originated from a game that you've played, or some manga or anime.

    At the thought that you might've been kidnapped, you force yourself to your feet -- and immediately find that your balance is off. Perhaps you've been drugged? Or maybe it's the unfamiliar cut of your present attire -- a white winter coat that you've never purchased, worn over a sweater-and-miniskirt ensemble and a pair of black thigh stockings.

    Examining yourself, you catch your reflection from the corner of your eye -- meeting your gaze from within the glass pane of one of the countless pendulum clocks that adorn the walls.

    "What the fuck," you mutter -- exploring the contours of your face with a leather-gloved hand as you exit the circle, approaching the wall across the checkered marble floor.

    In perfect synchronicity, every clock upon the wall is ticking backwards -- but at present, this doesn't concern you in the least. What does is your appearance within the glass.

    The messy hair and the face in your reflection are unmistakeably yours -- in a resting state, incessantly dour, as if the entirety of your life consisted of first-world problems. The last that you recall, however, you didn't have the coloration of an albino; and rather than the scrawny, featureless frame that had at one point elicited suspicions of an eating disorder, you now possess the streamlined curves of a swimsuit model.

    Under different circumstances, you might have been pleasantly surprised.

    "We can rule out a kidnapping, I suppose," you say -- though, this isn't wholly accurate.

    There does exist the possibility that your abductors chose to provide extensive cosmetic surgery prior to your awakening; but if they were willing to invest so much in you, it's unlikely they'd have left you unattended, absent of obvious restraint -- even assuming that you're trapped within the mansion.

    Could the magic circle be taken at face value, then?

    "I swear, if this is some shitty isekai summoning thing, I'm gonna scream ..."

    There were details that lent to that theory, of course. The Art Nouveau aesthetic of the building interior could easily figure into a steampunk fantasy or a science fiction setting -- though, you hope that you haven't been dropped into Bioshock.

    Rather than preoccupy yourself with hypothesis, the practical course would be to obtain a factual comprehension of your circumstances -- and most straightforwardly, attempting an escape would either move your captors to respond; or establish the legitimacy of your confinement. A quick check of the double-doors at the entrance gives that they are indeed locked -- but a lever tumbler key has been left within its hole; and with two clockwise rotations, some mechanism disengages the bolts that extend into the floor and doorframe.

    With a bit of effort, the heavy wooden doors push open -- and you have the distinct sensation of crossing over a threshold as you step out into the overgrown yard. The distinction of the 'crossing' isn't a shift of temperature or pressure -- though the air outside does happen to be chillier than expected. Rather, it's akin to the subtle unease of leaving behind the safety of your home -- as if the mansion provided you with any sense of security.

    To some relief, you note that the mansion's situated in a modern seaside suburb -- on a hilltop in what appears to be a well-to-do neighborhood. A steel-wrought tied-arch bridge is visible maybe two and a half miles away, crossing a river into a neighboring city.

    The buildings along the street adjacent aren't distinct enough in architecture that you can ballpark your precise location -- but as you were last conscious sometime in mid-November, the cold of the weather either suggests that you haven't been relocated to the southern hemisphere; or that you've been asleep for a very long time.

    "Nothing to keep me from escaping," you mutter.

    If you've been the victim of a crime, it's a very strange one.

    You entertain the notion that your predicament is the work of a supernatural existence -- that you've been spirited away by a faerie from out of Celtic folklore; or maybe by an R.O.B. -- however unlikely that is outside of excessively cliche Japanese web-novels and self-insert fanfics.

    You clearly aren't within a medieval fantasy setting, though; and if you've been dropped into a fictional universe, it's at the least a reasonable facsimile of the real world. Near-future science fiction is a definite possibility; and you can't yet rule out urban fantasy settings like The Dresden Files or The Gamer.

    That said, though you've never been to Chicago before, the body of water in the distance doesn't quite fit with your impression of Lake Michigan. The North Atlantic off the coast of New England is more approximate -- but the town you're in looks far too decent to fit the descriptions of Brockton Bay.

    "Status," you say, half in humor.

    [​IMG]

    "Shit," you mutter. "Shit, shit, shit."

    The 'Status Screen' isn't a Head-Up Display. It doesn't occupy a portion of your field of view, and it doesn't manifest like a holographic screen. It projects directly into your consciousness, absent of interference with your sense of vision. In terms of presentation, its abstract ergonomics are admirable -- and if not for the information laid out, you'd even appreciate it.

    You're a Nasuverse character -- an Einzbern homunculus; or, at the least, an artificial being that operates on Nasu mechanics, regardless of whether or not your memories disagree.

    Presuming that you're legitimately in Nasu, and not hopping along on some sort of a jumpchain, the 'von Einzbern' designation doesn't bode well.

    Character Inserts generally operate on a law of minimal narrative resistance -- and if you're an Einzbern homunculus in a seaside town during winter, the town you're in is probably Fuyuki, and the year is likely 1994 or 2004. Sometime within the next two weeks, your death is essentially guaranteed.

    "Fuck," you shout -- kicking impotently at the wildgrass. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!"

    This isn't a kidnapping. This is much, much worse.

    There's no escape -- because, even if you happen to survive your immediate ordeal, there's literally an entire world of sociopathic mad scientists waiting to get their mits on an Einzbern homunculus. Hightailing it out of the city is a possibility, but it probably won't do you any good. Your only recourse is ...

    ... the corrupted Grail?

    Brows furrowed, you remove the leather glove that conceals your left hand. Much as you anticipate, a crimson bruise marks the skin beneath -- restricted just to the back of the palm, unlike the Command Seals held by Ilya in the canon.

    By process of induction, the 'magic circle' in the mansion foyer is presumably a thaumaturgical array specifically purposed to the summoning of a Servant.

    "This is a terrible idea," you mutter, wiping your hands across your face.

    Maybe you aren't the Lesser Grail. Maybe there's an Ilya or Irisviel around to save you from that particular fate. If you get lucky with your Servant summoning, you could even win the War -- but making a wish on the corrupted Grail is a fool's errand.

    Is your purpose here to purify the wretched thing? Is this the function that you're to serve?

    "Stop it," you say -- taking a deep breath, and willing your pulse to slow. "Calm the fuck down, because it isn't helping."

    There has to be something else; something you can use ...

    You aren't a Servant, and your Alignment isn't explicitly indicated. It doesn't appear that you have any Noble Phantasms to call upon; but you do possess a number of 'Attributes' -- largely inaccessible, but apparently equivalent to a Servant's Class and Personal Skills. As to your physical features -- mentally converting the units, you note that though your height is entirely unchanged, you're now slightly heavier than you recall. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, given your new figure -- but it's unlikely to be of direct benefit to your survival.

    The majority of the Attributes listed in your Status can't be viewed at present -- blocked out by a distortion resembling the Photoshop filter that censored Lancelot's sheet in Fate / Zero. The Japanese names for some of them are visible, though -- but because your comprehension of Japanese is extremely rudimentary, this doesn't help you very much. (Why do your abilities even have names in Japanese, anyhow?) Likewise, focusing on the distorted text doesn't reveal unlocking conditions; and the Status Screen in general is disappointingly noninteractive.

    "Gabriella isn't too far from my actual name, at least," you mutter. "That's one thing they got right ..."

    The bits of the sheet that aren't obscured don't seem particularly promising, either.

    You're aware that along the metric for the Servant parameters, a Rank of E is something akin to ten times the human norm; and assuming that this same metric is applicable to you, a D in Endurance is at first glance astoundingly decent -- especially in conjunction with your D-Rank Gamer's Body knockoff.

    However, though aside from Luck, Endurance is your only standard parameter that could potentially cross into the domain of Servant-level performance, it affords you in truth merely a probability of survival in a random encounter -- and no means to fight off a Servant, if it comes to a direct engagement.

    You've been a Nasu fan for years, and you've written a number of fics -- but outside of Lancer memes, you've never been able to determine the precise function of the Luck parameter. Even at a Rank of EX, though, Francis Drake managed to get herself killed -- and so, your own ranking could perhaps be written off as useless?

    The QLT and QNT in the second parameters column are similarly a mystery -- but presuming that they refer to Circuit Quality and Quantity, a Quality of F and Quantity of EX would effectively yield a whole lot of nothing.

    "A Rank of A in Alchemy's gotta be worth something, though ..."

    Alchemy is never deeply explored within the canon -- but by the explanation on your sheet, it would essentially be the skillset of Emiya Shirou absent the capacity to Trace.

    Certainly, Tracing is of central necessity to Shirou's performance in the canon -- but you aren't Emiya Shirou; and there's nothing to be gained in precisely mimicking his character build. So long as you maintain your distance from active combat, Structural Analysis, Reinforcement, and Alteration should be sufficient to keep you alive.

    Given, however, that at the moment, you haven't the conscious ability to perform any of those three skills, you'll likely need to experiment -- and the sooner the better.

    Pulling on your glove, you turn, glaring into the relative darkness of the mansion.

    Really, things would be a lot simpler if Zelretch or whoever's responsible would just come out and explain their intentions. The silent Fal'cie business from Final Fantasy XIII wasn't endearing at all.

    "Let's get to it, then," you say. "But first things first ..."

    //

    Your journey begins in the dead of night. All is not as it seems.
    What is your course?


    [ ] Immediately summon a Servant.
      [ ] Utilize the name of the Hashashin as a catalyst.
    [ ] Take further stock of your environs, and scout out the city.
      [ ] Prioritize the acquirement of a catalyst.
      [ ] Announce your participation in the War to Kotomine.
    [ ] Establish a basic grasp of your abilities; experiment with Alchemy.
    [ ] Write-In.​

    Note that sub-choices are optional, and may be selected in multiple unless explicitly stated to be mutually exclusive.

    //

    Inventory
    • Attire: Default
    • Skeleton Key
    • Unknown Pocket Contents
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  3. Biigoh

    Biigoh Tanuki will be Tanuki Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    15,366
    Likes Received:
    34,870
    [X] Immediately summon a Servant.
     
  4. Unilateral

    Unilateral Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2017
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    30
    [X] Take further stock of your environs, and scout out the city.
    [X] Prioritize the acquirement of a catalyst, preferably one related to a Japanese hero.

    I have some servants I'm thinking of, but I'd prefer we vote on that later, once we have a better understanding of the situation and surroundings. We should definitely summon a Japanese servant, though. We'll have the home field advantage if we do, due to the stat, skill, and NP rank bonus from our servant being well-known locally. Plus, their catalysts will be easier to find in Japan.

    PSA: Fuyuki city is canonically located in Kumamoto Prefecture, but is based off of the real-life city of Kobe, which is not. The more local and/or well-known the hero, the bigger the rank bonus.
     
  5. Threadmarks: 00:02 // Blue After Blue
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    00:02 - 24 Jan 2004 - 14:20
    Blue After Blue

    //

    The German passport and driver's license, and the International Driving Permit that you find in your inner coat pocket were all within the past year issued to one Gabriella von Einzbern; and laminated with the same unflattering photograph of your face, staring impatiently into the camera with a frown.

    Your age, apparently, is twenty-four -- consistent to your recollections; but your supposed date of birth has been pushed back to 1980; and your permanent residence has been relocated to a town you've never heard of, somewhere in the Landkreis of Ostallgäu in Bavaria, Germany.

    According to the two latter documents, you have license to operate motor vehicles of the categories A and B -- which cover smaller motorcycles and scooters; and standard four-to-eight passenger automobiles respectively. Being that the coverage matches your permit back home, and the rental services in Fuyuki do in fact offer motor-scooters, you've elected to rent out a silver Vespa PX-200-E. Payment was handled by the use of one of the two cards in the otherwise empty wallet that accompanied your photo-ID -- an American Express Centurion Card, in slate black.

    You've heard rumors regarding the Black Cards before -- of the absence of an effective credit limit; and the twenty-four hour availability of a dedicated concierge. Your income bracket being what it was, it was until today unimaginable that you'd ever hold one in your own hands -- and so, you've resolved for the time being (however long that happens to be) only to use it for small transactions.

    Quite simply, it's too good to be true -- and the fact that your purchases have in the past few hours gone through without a hitch comes with implications.

    You haven't simply generated into this world.

    Either you've taken possession of the homunculus known as Gabriella von Einzbern; or the party responsible has sufficiently mucked about the machinery of society so as to legitimize the fiction of your history. What was it that Robert Ludlum called it? A Legend? Like a femme fatale from some Cold War spy thriller, you've come to inhabit a name, a face, and a past; a Legend fabricated on your behalf.

    Whatever the case, the Einzberns are presumably aware of your existence, and paying for your lunch. Best not to overspend, lest killer maids are dispatched to chastise you on your spending habits.

    Kotomine Kirei doesn't strike you as the tech-savvy sort -- but it also wouldn't be out-of-character for him to be on a lookout for large purchases made within the city of Fuyuki. Drawing his attention may not be wise.

    "If you're done with that, Miss, I can take it for you," says a waitress, indicating the empty dish before you.

    "Thank you," you reply, nodding.

    This is the other thing that you've noticed: The waitress was definitely speaking to you in Japanese -- but her words register within your consciousness as English, as if dubbed over in real-time.

    Or rather, 'dubbing' isn't a very accurate description of the phenomenon, as your ears do in fact pick up on her enunciation word-for-word, phrase-for-phrase. It's merely that your mind is auto-converting the sounds to your comprehension; and when you respond, the waitress is likewise made to gloss over the absence of sync between the English that you're speaking and the lip movements that would logically correspond to the Japanese she's apparently hearing.

    "Would you like to order anything else?" she asks.

    "I would, yes," you reply. "Could I have a look at the English menu, please?"

    "The English menu?" she asks. "But your Japanese is ..."

    Her smile is professional, but it doesn't mask her confusion; there's been a shift change since you were seated, and she isn't the waitress that took your order an hour earlier.

    "I'm still learning," you elaborate, nodding to the bilingual kanji dictionary and the notebook of your jottings on the table. "I can speak the language just fine, but I can't read it."

    Like a Translation Charm from a crappy Harry Potter fanfic, this Attribute of yours isn't at all applicable to the written word. A newly uncensored section of your Status Screen confirms this -- though the text itself was rendered visible only after the restriction came to light.

    From this, it appears that your presently concealed Attributes might already be functional; though, revealing their names and descriptions would likely require a bit of experimentation on your part -- presuming that they haven't been assigned to a predetermined event-unlock.

    "Ah, I see," says the waitress -- though she quite evidently doesn't. "I'll return with your menu in a bit, then."

    Left alone to nurse your mug of chocolate, you turn your attention to your notes.

      じゅそき(jyuso-ki)= 呪詛機? = curse device?
      願望機 = がんぼうき(ganbou-ki)= wish device?

    Working this out hasn't revealed the English name of the Attribute -- though, you suspect that the kanji on the bottom is simply a reference to the Einzbern specialization in Wishcraft.

    It's beyond you as to how you'd even go about making use of the associated ability, though; and the bit about Curses is likewise a mystery. You do recall reading that Angra Mainyu was capable of contaminating the Grail owing the inherent relationship between wishes and curses -- but this might be some misremembered factoid that you've unconsciously pulled from Madoka Magica.

    If you aren't careful, Urobuchi Gen is literally going to get you killed.

      ちくしょうどう(chikushoudou)= 畜生道? = animal path? path of the beasts?
      ターミナス(taaminasu)= terminus
      常世 = とこよ(tokoyo)= eternal world
      触官 = しょうっかん(shoukkan)= apparently, abbrev. for 触覚器官, or "tactile organ"

    The second Attribute is more difficult.

    Outside the context of Naruto, the Animal Path is apparently something from Buddhist cosmology. Your dictionary only gives that it's one of the six paths of reincarnation, wherein those souls weighted down by karma might be reborn as animals. Tokoyo, which you remember being referenced in Touhou, is by contrast the Eternal World of Shinto mythology -- either the undying lands that lie beyond mortality, or the world of the dead. Its opposite is Utsushiyo -- the manifest, imperfect world inhabited by mortals.

    Does the use of "Animal Path" as the pronunciation for "Tokoyo" imply that they're one and the same? From a folkloric standpoint, it doesn't make a terrible amount of sense -- but you suppose that it could be a reference to the Reverse of the World, or to Gaia. Wasn't the Reverse of the World supposed to be under the dominion of Gaia anyhow?

    Terminus is merely Terminus. This is straightforward enough -- but it's being used as the pronunciation for "Tactile Organ"; and you seem to recall that both faeries and homunculi were at some referred to by Nasu as "terminals of the World." Does that imply that you're some sort of agent or Counter Guardian of Gaia? That's a bit hard to believe, unless you're now an authorized user of the Excalibur or something.

      呪層界 = じゅそうかい(jyusou-kai)= curse layer/stratum world/boundary?
      (probably cursed boundary layer?)
      そうせい(sousei)= 創世? 創生? = genesis? creation of life?
      えど(edo)= 江戸? 穢土? = Edo? impure earth?
      浄土 = じょうど(joudo)= pure land? pure earth?

    "Jyusou-Kai" is the only term here that entirely corresponds with its stated pronunciation. It's also a made-up word -- and you're about halfway certain that it's the kanji associated with Matou Sakura's "Cursed Boundary Layer." At her disposal, the Boundary was a fairly overpowered ability -- and so, you actually have no complaint regarding its appearance on your sheet. It might bear some relationship with the Einzbern wishcraft-cursecraft thing, though -- and as with that, you haven't a clue as to how it would work.

    The other part of the name appears to indicate the specific variant of the Cursed Boundary Layer that you'll manifest. Sousei -- used here as the pronunciation for Tokoyo; perhaps punning off their shared second kanji -- translates to either Genesis or the creation of life. Edo probably doesn't refer to the city of Tokyo -- as "Pure Earth" and "Impure Earth" are by virtue of forming a matched set the more likely interpretation. Whereas the former refers to the paradise reached upon the casting off of desire, the latter is the mortal realm, mired by earthly attachments.

    Taken as a whole, the name of the Attribute is "the Pure Earth of Tokoyo" -- but pronounced "the Impure Earth of Genesis." Orochimaru's zombie apocalypse jutsu was "Edo Tensei," you recall -- "Impure World Reincarnation"; or, more accurately, "the Reincarnation of the Impure Earth." Being in a Naruto crossover would suck terribly for you -- but if not that, the juxtaposition of unrelated mythological references otherwise forms a nonsense of utterly ambiguous meaning.

    Maybe a name is just a name? Hopefully?

    'Status,' you think.

    [​IMG]

    To your disappointment, it doesn't appear that anything's changed. Aren't isekai insertion protagonists supposed to gain points toward ability mastery merely by applying Observe to their skill menu?

    "Miss?" asks the waitress. "Sorry about the wait. I had to go looking for the menu."

    "Ah, thanks," you say -- dismissing your sheet with a thought.

    Taking the menu, you thumb to the desserts page. The restaurant has a wide selection of crepes -- but as you already had two of those earlier, you slide your finger down across the cake offerings, and stop upon a photograph of a particularly rich-looking Black Forest.

    "I'll have this," you say -- because your Gamer's Body knockoff restores you to a physical default, and there's no way you aren't abusing it to hell and back.

    "You sure?" asks the waitress. "It's a pretty large portion."

    "I can handle it," you reply, smiling easily. "I'm in a chocolatey sort of mood."

    A bit skeptically, she jots down your order and leaves you to you work. Her impression of you must already be terrible, even if you've only sparsely interacted with her. The dessert here is delicious, though -- and so, even if the floor staff thinks that you're insane, you'll probably be back.

    'Kinda wasting time, though,' you think, leaning back in your chair and looking up to the ceiling. 'It's fairly obvious by now that reading a dictionary isn't gonna get me anywhere with the Attributes.'

    This is true -- but given that you're full and rested and no longer panicking, your extended brunch hasn't entirely been a waste of time. You deserve a bit of relaxation after the morning that you've had; and in the six odd hours since your 'arrival,' you've made a bit of headway into establishing your circumstances.

    Closing your notebook, because you've had quite enough of kanji for the moment, you fish from your newly-purchased handbag a map that you obtained from the Fuyuki City Tourism Bureau -- unfolding and flattening the creases across the table.

    [​IMG]
    1. Buke Quarter - Emiya Residence
    2. Foreign Quarter - Tohsaka Residence
    3. Foreign Quarter - Matou Residence
    4. Homurahara Private Academy
    5. Miyama Crossing
    6. Miyama Downtown - Mount Miyama Shopping District
    7. Ryuudou Temple
    8. Mount Enzou
    9. Mion River - Fuyuki Bridge
    10. Mion River - Oceanside Park
    11. Shinto Financial District - Fuyuki Station-Front Park
    12. Shinto Financial District - Fuyuki Center Building
    13. Fuyuki Central Park
    14. Fuyuki Church - Foreigner's Cemetary
    15. Fuyuki Church - Chapel & Rectory
    16. Industrial Park - Dockyard
    17. Industrial Park - Factory District
    18. Miyama Suburb - Einzbern Forest
    19. Miyama Suburb - Abandoned Village
    20. Miyama Suburb - Einzbern Castle
    21. Shinto Municipality Limits - "Haunted Mansion"
    22. Foreign Quarter - "Clockwork Mansion"
    You're presently in the city of Kobe -- or rather, in the urban area that occupies Kobe's general location within the real world, southeast of Himeji, and west from the metropolitan area of Osaka. It took a bit of legwork, and some riding about on your Vespa, but you've established the overall lay of the land.

    The Tohsaka and Matou homes were the easiest for you to find -- and not entirely because their architecture is distinct. Your base of operations -- tentatively, "the Clockwork Mansion" -- is within the Foreign Quarter of the municipality of Miyama. The Tohsaka property is about seven minutes away by foot; and the Matou Residence is two streets away from that. Wary of bounded fields and potential observation, though, you've opted to approach neither for the time being.

    Mount Miyama is the shopping district closest to the Clockwork Mansion, and offers the majority of the goods and services that you'll require to get by in the subsequent two weeks. In case you require emergency access to a priest, the Koushuuensaikan Taizan is situated here as well -- though, the outward appearance of the place is sufficiently shady that you've elected to put off braving their mapo tofu for a better day.

    Initially, you had trouble locating the Emiya Residence -- but on finding that the Fujimura Group takes as the seat of their turf the largest and most distinct property in the historic Buke neighborhood, you're able to quickly isolate your quarry. Shirou's home, it turns out, is a refurbished Edo-period compound directly down the street from an intersection that leads toward the Homurahara Academy. Ergo, by the relative placement of their houses, Matou Sakura travels roughly two and a half miles every morning just to eat breakfast with Shirou -- and then about the same distance to get to school.

    She's a lot more athletic than you, in other words. Five miles isn't 'walking distance' for a normal teenager.

    Homurahara Private Academy is eastward and uphill from Mount Miyama -- again, not particularly difficult to find, as it's the largest of the three high schools within the municipality. Ryuudouji occupies the entirety of the mountainside southeast from the campus -- but as Caster might've already set up shop, you haven't bothered to investigate the temple grounds.

    A quick check of the English-language edition of Asahi Shinbun gives that Atoram Galliasta -- "Son of the Tiger," and heir to the Galliasta petroleum empire -- died about five days ago to a fire that broke out in his Fuyuki City penthouse, just south of downtown Miyama. Subsequently, the police discovered evidence on scene of his possible involvement in a human trafficking ring -- linking him to an ongoing investigation.

    You doubt that you'd be able to recover Medea's catalyst from within the mess -- assuming that she even made the mistake of leaving it behind. Still, it's good in this case that the Church and the Association haven't been entirely immaculate in their cover-up. Galliasta saw fit to make use of children as an energy source -- and even if it wasn't out of any sense of justice, the Masquerade had posthumously permitted him to burn.

    As with Ryuudouji, you've temporarily stayed your distance from the expanse of undeveloped forest just outside the southeastern city limits. Your standing with Illyasviel is uncertain at present -- and so, you judge that any confrontation with her can wait until you've properly gotten your bearings.

    Excluding the possibility of a random encounter with Gilgamesh, Kotomine and his church are a known quantity; and so, the final Master on your list of participants is Bazett.

    "Your Black Forest Challenger, miss," says the waitress, interrupting your train of thought. "Er, I'll just set it down across the table from you?"

    The portion of the cake is indeed a bit larger than you expected. Rather, it's about half the volume of a twenty-four inch cake, shaped as a single slice.

    "Ah -- no," you reply, quickly folding the map and stowing beside your handbag in the basket at the foot of your seat. "You can just put it in front of me. I was done with the map, anyhow."

    The waitress does as instructed -- and putting her slight frown out of your attention, you glue your eyes to the creamy layers of fudge between the breading.

    You're going to enjoy this, even if you go without dinner tonight.

    'Probably gonna be a busy evening, anyhow,' you think, cutting into the cake with a knife. 'Will I even have time to eat?'

    Drawing from your coat pocket a prepaid cellphone -- a mova P505iS -- you click into your album, browsing through the photos until you reach an image of a mansion. The front facade and the general layout are at a glance identical to that of the Clockwork Mansion -- but you located this building across the river in Shinto, on a Church-owned property not far from Kotomine's chapel.

    In Capsule Servants, it was dubbed as "the Haunted Mansion" -- but you know of it as one of the twin mansions of the 3rd War Edelfelt sisters, mentioned in Hollow Ataraxia. Bazett is likely to be here.

    The current date is 24 January 2004 -- one day after Lancer's canonical summoning. You vaguely recall that Kotomine betrayed Bazett immediately following the ritual -- but either she was able to escape; or the priest didn't care enough to ensure her demise. Subsequently, upon coming across her body, Angra Mainyu placed her in a stasis -- but the location and time-frame involved aren't clear to you. Given her injuries, it would make sense that Bazett couldn't have gotten far from the church -- and certainly, she wouldn't have been able to return to the rebuilt Fuyuki Hyatt, where she'd been staying.

    As Kotomine theoretically manages the property on which the Haunted Mansion stands, you can't be certain that he doesn't have Bazett under observation -- assuming that your guess regarding her location is correct. Even if Kotomine doesn't care enough to track her -- even if he isn't actually aware of her whereabouts -- Angra Mainyu could already be present. Unlike the majority of the other key locations in the city, it's uncertain that there's active bounded field on site -- but venturing within is most definitely a risk.

    The locations of many of the canonical catalysts of the 5th War are known to you -- but as with Bazett, they're potentially secured behind layers upon layers of defense. If you're going to be obtaining a Servant for yourself, it might be easier to look outside of Fuyuki -- and you do possess certain resources that would facilitate the effort, if need be.

    Alternatively, so long as you choose to enter the War as a participant, you'll eventually need to engage with the other factions -- and it's never too early to attempt diplomacy. If you're lucky, doing so as soon as possible could land you with both an alliance and a catalyst.

    'Is there a way to have my cake and eat it too?' you wonder -- savoring the taste of the chocolate within your mouth as you stare into the screen of your phone.

    //

    The sword, the shield, or the stave?

      [ ] Attempt diplomacy, potentially to the end of securing a catalyst (choose only one):
        [ ] Approach Tohsaka Rin.
        [ ] Approach Emiya Shirou.
        [ ] Approach Matou Sakura.
        [ ] Approach Matou Shinji.
        [ ] Approach Matou Zouken.
        [ ] Approach Illyasviel von Einzbern.
        [ ] Approach Medea of Colchis.
        [ ] Approach Kotomine Kirei.
      [ ] Venture into the Haunted Mansion.
      [ ] Risking police attention, infiltrate the ruins of Galliasta's atelier.
      [ ] Return to the Clockwork Mansion, and maybe explore it in more depth.
        [ ] Establish a basic grasp of your abilities; experiment with Alchemy.
        [ ] Summon a Servant. (Mutually exclusive with experimentation into Alchemy.)
          [ ] Utilize the name of the Hashashin as a catalyst.
      [ ] Acquire a catalyst by other means. (Please specify.)
      [ ] Write-In.
    • Excepting a write-in, please choose only one of the primary choices.
    • If you intend to select a write-in scenario, please be sure to keep the contents sufficiently distinct from the established choices; and non-dependent on the established choices.
    • Note that roughly 32 hours remain until the summoning of Sasaki Kojirou.
    • The protagonist is presently at a cafe-restaurant situated in front of the Fuyuki Station-Front Park, not far from the Copenhagen Bar & Microbrewery. Until 1994, their signature Black Forest Challenger was offered entirely free of charge if consumed within 10 minutes.
    //

    Inventory
    • Attire: Default
    • Clockwork Key
    • Mobile Phone
    • Handbag
    • Wallet
    • Bilingual Kanji Dictionary
    • Notebook & Stationery
    • Fuyuki City Map
    • Passport
    • Driver's License
    • International Driving Permit
    • Motor-Scooter
    • Debit Card
    • Black Card
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
    ZurigaSungama, D-san, wellis and 2 others like this.
  6. Unilateral

    Unilateral Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2017
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    30
    Wait, how far can we travel from the Grail before it picks another master? Can we travel to another country to grab a catalyst and summon, before either returning, or waiting for our opponents to come to us?
     
  7. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2016
    Messages:
    2,081
    Likes Received:
    2,166
    While it has wishes in it, I do not remember Angra Mainyu being part of PMMM....

    Animal Path is also part of Taoist Cosmonology as well. It means about the same in both though (I believe Taoism generally ascribes to Five Realms [Paths] while Buddhism usually stick to the Six used in Naruto)

    Things are getting interesting.
     
  8. fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    Well, there's a summoning cutoff at Feb 2nd, which is more binding than geographical restrictions.
    Canonically, Berserker and Saber were summoned in Germany, which is literally on the other side of the planet -- but that might be because Einzbern Castle is hooked up to the Grail.
    So, the answer is tentatively "yes" -- you can go to other countries.

    Anyhow, voting takes place on SB, and the final tally for the current choice is in about 3 hours or so.
    Was referring to the wishes and curses thing.
     
    Akuma-Heika likes this.
  9. Threadmarks: 00:03 // Route 246
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    00:03 - 24 Jan 2004 - 16:00
    Route 246

    //

    You've gone off on a limb -- on the off-chance that either the R.O.B. responsible for your predicament has a soft spot for lateral thinking; or that the world itself is a kindly, forgiving place -- amenable to the validation of your arbitrary head-canon.

    With no justification beyond the proximity of Fuyuki to the city of Himeji, you've set out on a quest to seek audience with Osakabe-Hime -- the true mistress of the Hakuro-jou.

    Osakabe-Hime is a greater youkai -- possibly a nine-tailed kitsune that once took occupancy within the castle; possibly a form taken on by Osakabe Myoujin, patron divinity to the mountain of Himeyama, upon which the castle was built; possibly a monstrous incarnation of the castle itself.

    Last you checked in the real world, the princess wasn't notable enough outside of Japan to have an English-language Wikipedia article -- but because of Grand Order, you've made due with other reference material.

    Her existence was in Nasu initially teased in the Fate Extra series; an online buddy to Tamamo-no-Mae and Kiyohime -- as nonsensical as the notion is that legendary figures maybe centuries-deceased could have access to the internet. As far as you're aware, Tamamo is either sealed within the Sesshouseki; merged again unto Amaterasu; or recorded to the Throne of Heroes -- and so, at the least, any internet service that she uses to stay in touch with her friends must be 'a Mystery that transcends the boundaries of the World.'

    Or something like that.

    Whatever the case, the princess of Himeji recently made her on-screen debut in the Halloween 2017 Event for Grand Order JP -- rendered within the storyline as a hikkikomori fujoshi NEET who leaves her room maybe twice a year to peddle her (presumably shota-yaoi) doujinshi at a certain fan-convention in Tokyo.

    Though you haven't played the Japanese version of the game yourself, the event summaries that you've read give that Osakabe masterminded the creation of a Singularity so as to furnish herself with unlimited time to hikkikomori -- motivated by a fear that upon death, she would ascend to the Throne of Heroes, and thereby be forced to ceaselessly battle.

    Ergo, she's still alive in 2017 -- at least within the primary timeline of Grand Order, presuming that Reddit's to be believed. Whether or not this would retroactively apply to Fate / Stay Night is hard to say -- but even if it does, there's no saying that a person entirely unknowledgeable of the supernatural would be able to locate her.

    This gambit of yours could very well turn out to be a waste of time -- but you're holding out in hopes that your EX-Rank Luck isn't entirely for show.

    Unlike Matou Shinji, you're a legitimately special existence now -- maybe. Isn't it the case that Aberrations inevitably seek out Aberrations? The rule applies in Nisio Isin's -Monogatari setting, at least -- but you half-remember something along the same lines being stated in Tsukihime or Kara no Kyoukai.

    It'd be really nice if you could look it up ...

    //

    Neither the JR-West nor the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen run through the municipality of Miyama. Though travelling along the coast from Osaka would be of significantly greater time-efficiency for passengers, the rail lines make a detour inland to avoid the vast expanses of the Einzbern property and the general lay of Mount Enzou -- crossing the Mion River a bit north of Fuyuki, and then running parallel the waterway to Fuyuki Station in Shinto.

    Apparently, the local railways suffered extensive damage in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1994 -- a year earlier than you recall, and officially the cause of the concurrent Fire of Fuyuki; but even afterwards, the process of reconstruction didn't entail an incidental relocation of the tracks. Kotomine and the Founding Families likely have a hand in it, if not the Church.

    Taking the west-bound Banshu-Ako Special Rapid from Fuyuki, you manage to reach Himeji Station in roughly fifty minutes, waiting time inclusive; and from the station, the castle is a twenty-five minute stroll. Boarding a shuttle bus, however, you save yourself ten minutes of travel and the physical effort of walking a mile in a pair of high-heeled boots.

    When you get back to Fuyuki, you should probably invest in more comfortable footwear.

    [​IMG]
    Outside of the summer, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is open to visitors until five PM; but as the latest admission is an hour before closing, you only barely arrive in time for the final Japanese-language tour of the day -- unfortunately, behind a gaggle of female students from some posh private academy.

    Per the doors of the Clockwork Mansion, there is as you enter the grounds the distinct sensation of crossing a threshold.

    "... and if you look through the windows to the south," says the preppy tour guide, leading your group through a corridor about halfway up the central keep, "you can just about glimpse the Kami-Yamazatoguruwa -- the supposed setting of the kaidan of Sarayashiki ..."

    You don't typically do the touristy thing with visits to historical sites and such.

    The one time that you previously visited Japan -- back in the real world, in the company of your college friends -- you ended up dividing an entire week between anime and manga shops in Akihabara, Nakano, and Ikebukuro; doing the filthy gaijin otaku thing, and essentially visiting nowhere else of note.

    Even if you happen to love Japanese media, you don't believe yourself to be a Japanophile in the classical sense of the word. That, to your thinking, is a designation to be distinguished from 'weeaboo' -- reserved for those who would beyond an academic engagement in a knowledge of the Japanese culture legitimately enjoy immersing themselves within it, out of a desire for some sort of abstract spiritual authenticity.

    Self-admittedly, you're probably a philistine -- but you deem a devotion to culture at the level of psycho-spiritual engagement to cross into the realm of the aggressively hipster.

    It isn't a surprise, therefore, that you would find it difficult to follow the guide's animated monologue through the muted chatter of the students. However, certain factors are of distinct contribution to your distraction:

    "... said that in spite of her vows to her bethrothed, the ropes that suspended her over the well were of ..."

    For the n-th time since the beginning of the tour, you feel a finger-poke to the small of your back.

    "Hey."

    The whisper is theatrically loud -- though, the others in the tour group don't appear to take notice.

    "Yes?" you softly reply, turning yet again to glance over your shoulder.

    The speaker -- a bookish, bespectacled student -- isn't physically unattractive if considered strictly by her figure and looks; but as her standing posture is a constant slouch, her overall bearing is offputtingly awkward. Given her interaction with you so far, you wonder if she has any friends.

    "You said that your name was Einzbern, right?" she asks. "Where are you from? Britain or something?"

    "Germany," you lie -- because there's no sense in breaking cover.

    "But you speak Japanese like a native!"

    "I've been told that, yes."

    The dryness of your response kills the conversation -- if only briefly.

    "Say," she says. "What does 'Come, Sweet Death' mean in German?"

    "'Come, Sweet Death?'" you ask, confused. "Isn't the meaning pretty much self-evident?"

    At your response, the expression on her face becomes unreadable -- and because she doesn't press you further, you turn away, following the crowd of students around a corner. It registers only a moment later that her verbalization was actually 'Komm, süsser Tod'; and -- absent of any obvious break within continuity of your awareness -- you find that your tour group is abruptly nowhere in sight.

    In the red of the twilight, the only other occupant of the antique corridor is a tall, pornishly voluptuous woman in a maid's uniform -- purely in black and white, and cut of a design more appropriate to a Victorian household than a cafe in modern Japan. You're unable to make eye contact, as her gaze is concealed behind her long black hair -- but the lower half of her face is of such a bloodless coloration that it resembles pallor mortis.

    Actually, you aren't certain that she isn't deceased.

    "I'm ... I'm not here to cause any trouble," you say, steadying your voice; but lacking any real conviction in the face of the obviously supernatural, you back away -- only to find your arms and torso immobilized.

    It's suspension rather than paralysis, as there's a bit of give when you struggle; and your clothes are pinched against your body by the constriction of a dozen barely-visible threads. You're unable, however, to determine the precise moment of your binding; and as panic begins to set in, the maid approaches at a lurching gait -- smiling terribly.

    [​IMG]

    She falls to pieces -- not at once, but in bits over time.

    The fabrics of her clothing are the first to go -- oxidizing and withering away to reveal her naked anatomy beneath; which even as it lumbers toward you fragments and breaks apart. The apparently consistent pallor of her flesh is in truth a mosaic -- a conglomeration pieced together of countless caterpillars. At a bit over three meters away, the remainder of her roughly humanoid frame collapses entirely -- and the caterpillars that cover the floor cannibalize the woman's hair.

    It isn't actually hair, you realize. It's some sort of colored silk -- presumably of the same variety that binds your body; and possibly comprised the woman's uniform.

    In real life, the sequence of collapse only vaguely resembles UFOtable's rendering of Zouken's fragmentation. Anime necessarily conforms to taste and aesthetics -- and nature isn't obligated to comply. The caterpillars writhe; and there's far more of them than the volume of the maid's body would appear to suggest. Organically, the swarm advances upon you as a living tide; and from amidst, pale arms reassemble, grasping at your legs as the woman's head grows forth from the floor.

    Involuntarily shrieking, you deliver a kick -- launching the disembodied head against a wall, where it splatters into its component caterpillars. Below you, the head takes shape once more -- and this time, when you stomp the heel of your boot against the side of the women's face, it doesn't budge.

    "What did I tell you about harassing the guests, Kiku-chi?" somebody asks from behind you. "I only said to restrain her."

    "Apologies, Mistress," replies a voice from below your boot -- remarkably girlish and sweet. "The lady guest carries herself with such an air of dominance that I couldn't resist. Her kicks are so deliciously forceful!"

    "How about you let her go already?"

    "A thousand apologies, Mistress!"

    The caterpillars retreat; and as the maid's body rapidly reforms before you -- once again fully clothed -- your bindings fall away and vanish. On a scale of one to Zouken, the creepy, perverse smile that she presently directs at you is worth two-point-five Zoukens at the least.

    You pointedly ignore her -- willing the pounding of your heart to slow as you catch your breath; and turning your face to glimpse the first speaker, who passes at your side. Walking before you, the bespectacled student from the tour slides open and enters the door to your right -- peeking out again a moment later.

    "Well?" she asks. "Are you coming in?"

    Schooling yourself, you enter at her invitation -- and mildly double-take at the interior.

    [​IMG]
    "No need to take off your shoes," says the girl, seating herself across from you at the kotatsu in the center of the room. "I haven't had Kiku-chi vacuum in about a month."

    It's cleaner than you expect, and doesn't smell of mildew -- but it's still a hovel; an exemplary of the 'o-taku' of the otaku, wherein compulsive hoarding and sloth come together to birth an ever-expanding 'nest.' Owing to a certain experience that you don't care to recall, you haven't permitted your personal spaces to descend into such chaos since middle school.

    "C'mon," prompts the girl, fastening a pink cowl over her clothes. "Sit."

    The maid slides the door shut behind you, and you seat yourself yokozuwari, outside of the kotatsu -- mindful not to dirty your stockings on the crumbs scattered about the wooden floor.

    It somehow makes sense that the floor is of wood rather than the tatami of a traditional Japanese bedroom; as the room is -- as far as you can tell -- an alternate to the sixth floor to the castle's primary keep -- a bunrei or a secondary site to the Osakabe Shinto Shrine in the city proper. Ergo, the hard wooden floor beneath you is for ease of use during religious ceremonies.

    As the Osakabe Shrine of Himeji City is dedicated to Osakabe Daishin -- and as Osakabe-Hime might be an incarnation of the same divinity -- there's a good chance that this mess of a bedroom is in reality situated directly 'behind' the seat of the princess' power, posters of half-naked anime bishounen notwithstanding.

    You don't know if this space that you're in qualifies as a Reality Marble or an Otherworld, but it amounts to roughly the same thing. If negotiations turn hostile, you're utterly screwed.

    "Obviously, you know who I am, or you wouldn't be here," says the girl. "Doesn't seem like you're very surprised about my room -- which is weird, because you didn't recognize my face earlier." She folds her hands before her chin, taking the signature pose of Ikari Gendo. "In other words, even though you're not a member of KASEI-SNS, and you've never personally seen any of the selfies that I've posted there, you know what I'm like -- because you were sent here by Tamamo-chi or Kiyo-hi. How am I doing so far?"

    Your failure to recognize her owes more to the difference between 2D and 3D than anything else. Though the girl before you does indeed bear a distinct resemblance to Osakabe-Hime's character design from Grand Order, her appearance doesn't substantially set her apart from a typical Japanese teenager.

    Not that you intend to inform her of this.

    "They weren't the ones who told me about you," you say. "The information that I have comes from elsewhere."

    For a moment, she fixes you with a look, studying you intently. It doesn't last for long.

    "Except, if you were an agent dispatched by Tamamo-chi to mess with me, that's exactly what you would claim," she says, slumping forward, and pressing her forehead to the surface of the kotatsu. "But let's just say for now that I believe you -- because I've wasted far too many calories today, and I can't think of a better explanation."

    She shifts her body, setting her chin is against the table.

    "Say," she says. "How'd you do that thing?"

    Thing?

    "You're gonna have to be more precise than that," you say.

    "You know," she says. "The thing. Like, during the tour, you just shrugged it off every time I tried to knock you out. How'd you do that?"

    Her memory of the tour must vastly differ from your own -- or, perhaps, knocking you out was what she was attempting to do with all of those incredibly annoying finger-pokes? Animations from Grand Order aren't exactly a reliable source of lore -- but you do recall that one of her attacks involves poking an opponent from behind.

    Maybe you have an Attribute that provides you with an automatic defense?

    "I honestly have no idea what you're talking about," you say.

    From behind her kotatsu, Osakabe-Hime stares at you as if you're mentally deficient.

    [​IMG]
    "... all that effort that I spent shifting the castle around you, because the usual methods wouldn't work," she says, "and in the end, you weren't even aware? Seriously?" She furrows her brow. "Just for that, you owe me like five pages of inking. Also, the answer is no."

    Answer?

    "I didn't even ask you anything just now," you say.

    "You didn't, but you were going to," she replies. "You said it yourself that you're an Einzbern from Germany -- which means that you arrived here from Fuyuki. If you're here to see me, there's only one thing you would want."

    Dramatically pulling off her glasses, she holds it out before her, splaying the fingers of her opposing hand before her chest.

    "O great and powerful princess!" she pontificates. "Lend this poor homunculus your sword, that she might obtain victory for her House in the War for the Holy Grail!" She dons her glasses again, and resumes speaking in her normal tone of voice: "In which case, I refuse; because, even if I were perfectly willing to leave my room, the spiritual grounds of Fuyuki are like -- ugh."

    She wrinkles her face in disgust.

    "There isn't a First Owner there," she mutters beneath her breath, "but you'd think that the Second Owner would do something about that mess ..."

    These words don't appear to be directed at you in particular -- but you wonder if she has the moral high ground to be speaking about somebody else's mess.

    "Anyways," she says, smirking smugly as she returns her attention to you, "you're an Einzbern -- and so the next words outta your mouth are gonna be, 'How do you know about the Grail War?'"

    "... how do you know about the Grail War?" you ask, humoring her.

    "Given how obnoxiously loud you people are, how wouldn't I know?" she replies. "And as a concerned and conscientious neighbor, it's only appropriate that I would spy on you for your own good! I mean, if not for spying, why would I even need Shikigami?"

    You're fairly certain you're supposed to tsukkomi that a conscientious neighbor wouldn't engage in such atrocious behavior -- but at present, you aren't in the mood to participate in a comedy routine.

    "Actually," you say, "that isn't what I was gonna ask."

    Making a show of drawing forth your credit card from the inner pocket of your overcoat, you set it down on the surface of the kotatsu. Osakabe-Hime widens her eyes in recognition.

    "I was gonna ask if you wanted me to share my credit card information with you," you say.

    "That's -- that's an American Express Black Card," she says, reverently. "Can I ... Can I hold it?"

    "Be my guest."

    As if she were handling a priceless relic, she delicately lifts the card above her face -- dreamily smiling as she tilts it about in the light to examine it from all angles.

    "You'd allow me to use this, no strings attached?" she asks.

    "The physical card would stay with me," you answer. "But, yes. In exchange for our friendship, you'd have unrestricted access to my credit card information for online purchases. Not for anything illegal, though."

    Visibly reluctant to let go of the card, she sets it on the table and slides it back to you.

    "What do you mean by 'friendship,' exactly?" she asks, frowning slightly. "Like, 'friendship' friendship? Or the kind of 'friendship' they talk about in yakuza movies? Because you kinda have a yakuza princess thing going on right now ..."

    You sigh.

    "I'm not gonna ask you to leave Himeji, or force you to do anything that you aren't absolutely comfortable with," you say. "But, I was ... well -- created with deficiencies. I have arbitrary gaps in my knowledge, and I would appreciate it immensely if I had someone on-call to help me with that. Preferably, it'd be somebody uninvested in the Grail War -- and so, I ended up coming here."

    "You can't ask your family for help?"

    "I was planning on getting in touch with them soon -- but I thought it would be nice to have my own contacts."

    Osakabe-Hime slowly nods -- apparently comprehending your intent.

    "In other words," she says, hesitantly, "you're legitimately here to exchange contact information with me? Like, as if we were actual IRL friends?"

    Actual friendship isn't anywhere near as instrumental; and for a moment you feel sorry for taking advantage of Osakabe-Hime's loneliness -- but there's no rule that a relationship of mutual exploitation can't evolve into something authentic. You'll make it up to her eventually, if circumstances permit.

    "That's about the size of it, yes," you say.

    Again, Osakabe-Hime nods -- more to herself than to you.

    "In that case, I'll help you out," she says. "But! Just to put it up front, I'm gonna reserve the right not to answer every last question of yours. I'm hardly omniscient, and Occidental magecraft isn't my expertise."

    "Fair enough," you reply, nodding.

    With a big smile, the princess softly hums (the first OP to Full Metal Alchemist 2003, slightly off-key?) as she leans over to pick through the pile of manga beside the kotatsu -- pulling from beneath the magazines a pearl-pink cellphone, and flipping it open.

    "Let's exchange numbers, first," she says. "Then, if you wanna ask me something right off the bat, go ahead?"

    //

    "You do not live here," said the fox.
    "What is it that you are looking for?"


      [ ] "Do you happen to know anything about Alchemy?"
      [ ] "I'm planning to summon a Servant, but I need a catalyst ..."
      [ ] "... what exactly is up with your maid, anyhow?"
      [ ] "What was that 'thing' that you mentioned earlier?"
      [ ] Write-In.
    • For now, please choose only two of the above.
    • There will be opportunities to ask further questions in the future.
    • Please note that votes will be tallied per combination, rather than by the popularity of specific questions.
    //

    Party Members
    • Gabriella von Einzbern
    • Osakabe-Hime *NEW*
    • Okiku *NEW*
     
  10. D-san

    D-san Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2016
    Messages:
    471
    Likes Received:
    208
    [X] "Do you happen to know anything about Alchemy?"
    [X] "... what exactly is up with your maid, anyhow?"
     
  11. MadGreenSon

    MadGreenSon Verified Devil Tiger

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2014
    Messages:
    3,412
    Likes Received:
    21,353
    Looney Tune powers, activate! Heh, "I don't notice it and it doesn't hurt me" classic stuff.:p
     
  12. Biigoh

    Biigoh Tanuki will be Tanuki Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    15,366
    Likes Received:
    34,870
    [X] "I'm planning to summon a Servant, but I need a catalyst ..."
    [X] "What was that 'thing' that you mentioned earlier?"
     
  13. Threadmarks: 00:04 // Stranger in the 25th Hour
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    00:04 - Sat, 24 Jan 2004 - 21:30
    Stranger in the 25th Hour

    //

    Being an intercity train on a weekend evening, the JR-West eight sixteen to Fuyuki should've been relatively commuter-free -- or so you anticipated.

    In practice, the expectations that you've carried from the States -- from the real world -- somewhat underrepresent the volume of the overtime demanded in Japan of the typical corporate wage-slave. At this hour, the carriage that you've boarded isn't so packed that every last row is occupied -- but of the looks cast in your direction, there's hardly any scarcity.

    It isn't yourself that's garnered such scrutiny, you're aware; your presence aboard the train to Himeji earlier in the day elicited no such response -- even if as an albino of Caucasian descent, your outward appearance sets you miles apart from the local populace. Rather, gazes both of judgment and poorly concealed lust are drawn to the woman opposite of you; whose uniform is despite its modest, conservative cut far too tight to conceal the pneumatic swells and plunges of her body-line. The fact that she's of all things wearing a maid uniform really doesn't help.

    In you, Okiku's figure evokes nothing akin to envy. Where the woman herself preens at the attention she's recieving, the very fact of her company -- of her proximity to you; and of your obvious association -- makes you want to shrivel up and die.

    It's of small thanks that before departing the castle, she at least bothered to comb or rearrange her hair. With half of her face now exposed, she looks less like a horror movie reject, and more like an adult film actress in cosplay.

    'Wouldn't be a problem if the JR-West offerred Women-Only Carriages all-day, every day,' you think. ''Rush-hour only, only on weekdays' is completely pointless ...'

    Sighing, you turn your eyes to the stickers pasted in replicate along the windows -- advising in bilingual that one should be mindful to remain silent so as not to disturb other passengers; and to power off mobile devices when the train is in transit.

    It hadn't occurred to you before boarding that scootering all the way from Shinto to Miyama with a passenger and luggage might be a little difficult; but as Uber won't be in existence for a half a decade yet, you aren't entirely confident that you'd be able to hail a cab at this time of the night. The immediate solution at hand would be to call the Black Card concierge service -- but with the JR-West advisory in place, it might be a little rude of you to do so ...

    Or not.

    'There isn't really any way for them to enforce the rule,' you think -- pulling out your PHS, and confirming that you do indeed have reception. 'At most, I'll be stared at by the other passengers a bit -- and it isn't like they aren't already staring ...'

    They'd overhear your conversation as perfect Japanese, though -- and so, rather than as a gaijin being rude out of ignorance, you'd likely be seen as a mixed-heritage kikokushijo knowingly flaunting the rules.

    No matter. It's doubtful that you'll meet any of these people ever again.

    At first opportunity, immediately following the purchase of your phone, you set the interface language to English; and you took the time during lunch to program the number for the concierge service to speed-dial. On the Panasonic P505iS, instant dialing is a matter of tabbing in one of the eight directions on the analogue pad -- and so, with a keystroke, you're on the line.

    It takes only a single tone for the other end to pick up.

    "Salutations, Ms. Gabriella," says a young woman, speaking in a vaguely mechanical monotone. "My name is Iustitia, and I will henceforth be serving your American Express Centurion account as its dedicated concierge. It is good to be speaking with you at last. How might I be of service this evening?"

    The language that she's speaking appears to be ... German?

    To your knowledge, the concierge service associated with a given AmEx Black Card is accessible on-call twenty-four hours a day via a card-specific international number -- but from this, it would reasonably follow that a card-holder is in fact serviced by a shift-rotation of staff members rather than a specific individual. It's a bit curious that this 'Iustitia' would introduce herself in the manner that she did -- as if, regardless of when you happen to call, you'd only ever end up speaking with her.

    It's a bit curious that she managed to pick up within a single ringtone.

    Assuming that American Express wishes to maintain the fiction of a solitary operator per account, it could viably employ a host of individuals with similar-sounding voices, or simply mandate the use of a voice modulator. A more disturbing possibility occurs to you, however.

    "Say, Iustitia," you say. "You don't happen to be a von Einzbern, do you?"

    There's a moment of silence.

    "I assure you, Ms. Gabriella," says Iustitia, "that as far as I'm aware, I'm of no direct relation to you."

    "I see."

    It's a strangely specific statement -- and yet she fails to confirm or deny any potential relationship with the Einzberns. You try not to imagine the terrible, dreary life of a homunculus OL, infiltrating and toiling away to rise through the corporate ranks of American Express -- specifically for the purpose of someday servicing your account.

    As a name, Iustitia isn't terribly distant from Justeaze, if you squint.

    Pushing this silliness from your mind, however, you continue, "I'm current aboard the eight sixteen express from Himeji to Fuyuki, and I'm due to arrive at around nine twenty-three. If it's possible, I'd like to request a taxi pickup."

    "Ticket issued," Iustitia replies. "Your driver shall await your arrival before the main entrance of the station. Is there anything else that you require?"

    In thought, you tap your forefinger against the plastic of the armrest several times.

    "Actually, yes," you say, after a moment. "The silver Vespa that I rented today-"

    "Registration number 'Fuyuki L Wa 34-76?'"

    Honestly, without checking the paperwork you've recieved from the rental service, you wouldn't have the faintest clue -- and the fact that American Express would have the information on hand is simultaneously reassuring and disturbing.

    Probably more the latter than the former, as it implies round-the-clock monitoring and analysis.

    "That's correct," you say. "Earlier in the day, I parked the scooter in the multi-storey garage attached to the Fuyuki Train Station. As I won't be riding it back to Miyama, I'd like for the parking fee to be paid, and for the vehicle to be relocated to the driveway of-"

    "The Municipality of Miyama, Ijin-doori, Section Four, Number Two?"

    You make a conscious effort not to twitch.

    "Yes, thank you," you reply. "The latch of the gate is a bit rusted, but you can open it just by reaching inside and pulling up. That'll be all for now, I think."

    "Ticket issued, and I bid that you enjoy your evening," says Iustitia. "May that you continue to act as the hand that preserves the balance."

    The line disconnects. Holding the phone before you, you stare at it for a moment before flipping it shut.

    The hand that preserves the balance? What was that all about?

    "No need for you to hire a vehicle on my behalf, Mistress Gabriella," Okiku interrupts -- speaking up for the first time since you boarded the train. "The Princess indicated that you require me in the capacity of a servant -- and as a licensed domestic laborer, an aptitude for swift, discrete, and unassisted self-transport is amongst my qualifications."

    She states this as a matter of fact -- with the proud, slightly smug expression of a child informing her mother that she's scored an A+ on a midterm. You don't quite have the heart to tell her of Osakabe-Hime's miscommunication on the subject of Servants.

    Also, you don't relish the prospect of Matou Zouken taking note of a suspicious swarm of insects nesting in his neighborhood. Unlike Taylor Hebert, he's presumably unable to assert control over arthropods within a range; but centuries of experience across an assortment of specializations more than make up for the incapacity.

    "Let me take care of the transportation," you say, leaning into your seat. "Your job for the moment is to try and act like a normal human being at all times -- barring an explicit order of mine to the contrary, or a clear emergency." You eye the seemingly innocuous paper bag on her lap, and frown in disdain. "And, like, keep an eye on that ... that thing. I don't want it anywhere near the lobby unless I actually decide to use it."

    "I listen and obey, my Mistress," she says, clutching the bag against her abdomen, and nodding her head with creepy eagerness.

    Her words and response are precisely the sort of thing that an eavesdropper would be inclined to misinterpret; but rather than repeat the mistake of verbally rebuking her -- which, earlier in the evening, resulted in a very public incident in the middle of a crowded street -- you sigh again in resignation and stare out the window. In retrospect, it did seem a little strange that Osakabe-Hime would so readily volunteer Okiku's services -- given that the woman serves as the primary enabler of her lifestyle.

    The princess had also been looking to dispose of the contents of the paper bag -- a pristine, entirely untouched self-improvement manual, gifted to her a month ago as a Christmas present; which, by virtue of its sender's identity, theoretically qualifies as a summoning catalyst. Possibly.

    It'd be very difficult to live with yourself if the path that you carve in the coming War opens with a book subtitled to English as Finding Myself: How the Quest for the Perfect Husband Completed Me as a Woman.

    Unsurprisingly, Osakabe-Hime is a very bad friend.

    'Still,' you think, 'it's good that I took the opportunity to seek her out. Even if the circumstances aren't so forgiving from here on out, I've at least gotten a bit of a handle on my Attributes.'

    Speaking with the princess has supplied you with a lead -- and its implications are of relevance to one or more of the items on your sheet.

    You, Gabriella von Einzbern, possess a highly irregular resilience against Curses.

    //

    "So," the princess concludes, "it's basically a game menu that you access with a mental command -- like in some webnovel VR-MMO?"

    This wouldn't be entirely accurate, but it's close enough that you don't bother to correct her.

    You weren't aware that the concept of the VR-MMO existed in Japanese media as far back as 2004 -- but, having concluded with its fourth and final installation early last year, the first phase of the .hack game series sits in its entirety upon the shelf besides the princess' television. More surprisingly, the webnovel of Sword Art Online is at present a bit more than two years of age -- and the princess knows something of it, if only in passing. Already, it's considered an exemplary of a larger genre of MMO-inspired power fantasies.

    You've deigned not to subject her to a detailed plot summary.

    "As far I know," you say, "the Masters of the War are granted the ability to call up displays like this for each of the Servants that they happen across -- but the appearance of their 'menus' automatically conforms to their tastes and expectations. Probably, it only looks to me like a game menu because of the personality I've been given."

    "But, you aren't a Servant," the princess observes. "And I'm supposing that the Masters don't typically get status screens for themselves?"

    "Yeah," you say. "If there's particular a reason that I was designed like this, I'm not aware of it."

    She nods, paging through the notebook that I've set out before her.

    "And these would be ..."

    "The names of three of the currently unexplained abilities that I possess, in Japanese," you say. "One of the others grants me the capacity to verbally communicate in any language -- but I need to learn to read and write the old fashioned way. Therefore, I'm at the moment functionally illiterate in every language other than English -- and I'm entirely lost as to the logic behind assigning me with ability names that I can't even read ..."

    Osakabe-Hime is contemplative.

    "Figured it'd be something like that," she says.

    "Sorry?"

    "Your language comprehension thing, I mean." She props her chin up with an arm. "Take it with a grain of salt, because I'm really not an expert, but -- well, you know how Japan is referred to as 'the Land of the Eight Million Gods?'"

    "Yeah?"

    "Most of those aren't actually 'gods' in the sense that they recieve any worship. They're closer to Faeries or Elementals -- like from a Final Fantasy or something. They're sentient, yes; but they're nothing more or less than the phenomenon that they represent -- or rather, they are their functions. If nature's a closed system, then the Faeries are at one and the same time the stuff that the system's made of; and the endpoint nodes that it uses to interact with everything else. Terminals, basically."

    So far, the explanation is consistent with your understanding of the faeries -- and so you nod.

    "Right," she says. "So, homunculi. In Shinto, specific objects and locations are sometimes referred to as 'yorishiro' or 'go-shintai,' because they come to be inhabited by the various gods. On a very, very basic level, that's what homunculi are."

    The terms parse to your mind as 'habitation host' and 'divine corpus,' respectively -- but at the forefront of your consciousness, you somehow 'hear' the Japanese as spoken. Previously, this only occurred with proper nouns -- and so, it might be the case that your autotranslation arbitrarily exempts specialized terms; or maybe, words absent of cross-language equivalents that also happen to fall beyond a certain placement on a Zipf distribution?

    "So," you say, "you're telling me that I'm some kind of ... goddess?"

    "In Shinto, definitely," replies the princess, smirking. "But don't get ahead of yourself, 'cause I've got like a dozen shrines dedicated to me."

    [​IMG]

    She takes a sip of her bottled tea, and more soberly continues, "But, no -- you probably wouldn't be considered a goddess outside the context of Shinto. More like, you're a spirit built around a specific function and purpose, forcibly written into meatspace. You might be a Terminal to something -- because it does seem like you're connected to whatever -- but I'm not really getting the sense that you're a Faerie or an Elemental."

    You aren't a Nature Terminal, then; you aren't a Terminal to Gaia.

    By corollary, whatever it is that 'Chikushou-dou' and 'Tokoyo' are, they probably aren't semantically equivalent to Gaia -- or at least Gaia as a whole. As 'the Path of the Beasts' and 'the Eternal World' don't particularly sound as if they'd be associated with the Human Order, you can only presume that they're somehow related to the Reverse of the World?

    "Alright," you say. "So, what does that have to do with the language thing?"

    "In general, spiritual beings created as Terminals don't need to speak, because communication is intrinsic to their existence," she replies. "Therefore, you're not actually speaking to me right now."

    You stare at her, raising a brow.

    "Pretty sure I am."

    "You aren't," insists the princess, shaking her her head. "The words that I'm hearing from you are superficially Japanese -- but that's my conscious mind applying a shape to them for ease of comprehension. Faerie speech is pretty much purely information; and whatever it sounds like after the fact is just the World filling in the blanks as a formality."

    This -- this is probably going to take you a bit to digest.

    Assuming the explanation is valid, if you were to right this moment create a digital voice recording, sound technicians of different first languages would entirely disagree on the shape of the associated graphical representation. It'd be a Schrodinger's audio-graph, essentially ...

    Furrowing your brow, you lower your gaze to the surface of the kotatsu and exhale. You'll try to wrap your head around this when you're back in Fuyuki. For now, there are other questions of higher priority.

    "Anyhow," you say, "any thoughts on those ability names?"

    Osakabe-Hime tilts her head, looking again to your notes.

    "Well," she replies, "the second is just 'the Terminus of Tokoyo.' The Aozora Bunko Ruby-texy thing is really very Chuunibyou, but I'm not really sure what 'the Path of the Beasts' would have to do with anything. 'Tokoyo' is one of the names associated the region of the Reverse that the islands of Japan sit upon; while 'the Path of the Beasts' refers to the Buddhist idea that souls tainted with the baser attachments end up reincarnating as animals. Doesn't feel like there's any meaningful connection there, because 'reincarnation' doesn't actually follow the Buddhist conception of it."

    Which is to say, you've been saddled with an Attribute so nonsensical in name that an actual supernatural entity can't make heads or tails of it.

    "I'm guessing that 'the Pure Earth of Tokoyo' is more of the same?" you ask.

    The princess nods, penning a doodle into the margins of your notes.

    "Though," she says, drawing away, "'Cursed Boundary Layer' probably refers to the same variety of bounded field that comprises the Hakuro-jou."

    "Elaborate?"

    "Let's take care of the simpler stuff first," she replies. "The name of the first ability is 'Wish Engine' -- or, more relevant to your family's business in Fuyuki, 'Wishcraft Engine.' The Ruby-text pronunciation is 'Curse Engine' or 'Cursecraft Engine.'"

    "What's the relationship?"

    Your question seems to surprise the princess.

    "You don't know what Wishcraft is?" she asks, stopping her pen. "Ah, right. Incomplete memories. How much do you know about Curses, then?"

    "Just assume that I'm totally ignorant?"

    "Right, then," she says. "You know how, like, little kids get told to make a wish when blowing out the candles of their birthday cakes?"

    "Yeah?" you ask -- not quite seeing point of the example.

    "So, say that a particular kid makes a wish for a brand new Game Boy Advance SP -- and his mom actually has a decent track record of getting him the stuff he wants."

    "Right?"

    "Do you think the kid actually believes that his wish is gonna come true?"

    "Yes?" you answer -- because you've personally known people who believed in Santa until they were fourteen.

    "Not true," says the princess. "Not really. Even little babies that don't know how to speak yet instinctively comprehend that Mommy isn't absolutely guaranteed to make their every wish come true. It's why they cry."

    You're fairly certain that infant psychology doesn't work like that -- but humoring her, you slowly nod, and gesture for her to continue.

    "Basically," she says, "humans are built in such a way that they're inherently receptive to interfacing with the house-rules of the Human Order. Consequently, reality as defined by the Human Order applies to them -- and this is an entirely unconscious thing that isn't in fact acquired. Without being told, they already know that Mommy might never arrive if they keep their silence."

    "So, you're saying that not even babies can go up against the Reality Principle, because humans are just built that way," you summarize. "What about people in the middle of a psychotic break?"

    "On some level," says the princess, "they recognize and abide by the rules -- even if it isn't on a conscious basis." She pauses. "But, there are exceptions -- and when the rules don't apply, and you wish for something hard enough ..."

    Setting down her pen, Osakabe-Hime opens her hand above the surface of the kotatsu, palm up.

    For a moment, there's an utter stillness in the room -- and then a swirl of violet sparks, dancing in the air above her palm. You look on as a shape appears amidst the swirl -- expanding with staggered multiplication to a square sheet of black paper; and then rapidly folding into a floating origami crane.

    It's the second time that you've witnessed the undeniably supernatural -- and you're still unable to believe your eyes.

    "I'm a creature of the World of Man," the princess explains, "and so to some extent, I'm bound within the strictures of the Human Order. Because I'm not legitimately a human in any way that matters, though, observation of the Reality Principle is a more like a suggestion than a law. Ergo, if I assert my force of will with enough intensity, I can reject reality and substitute my own!"

    Osakabe-Hime watches Mythbusters, apparently? Though, this seems more like the self-justification of a hikkikomori than a proper, serious explanation ...

    "This is different from magecraft, then?" you ask.

    "From Occidental magecraft, at least," she says. "There's no mana involved, and no Thaumaturgical Circuits. I'm not calling on any Foundations, or any external power." The crane twirls around, and refolds into an elephant. "This is a Curse -- and it's all just me, asserting myself over the texture of the World."

    Curses don't require mana? But what about Gandr?

    "Like I said, humans can occasionally push past the threshold as well," the princess continues. "I've heard that certain Catholic saints placed such conviction in their self-presumed blessings that probability literally distorted in their presence -- making their belief as fact; but at the expense of their sense of reality. Knowledge of the mechanics of phenomenon implementation is by definition entirely unnecessary, because reality itself is overwritten by desire."

    "So," you say, "Cursecraft is what, precisely? Systematically regimenting your force of will to reject the Reality Principle on demand?"

    "Tamamo-chi would say that it involves physical conditioning as well -- but that's about the size of it, yes. Conviction that it works is a huge part of making it work."

    Superficially similar to the witchcraft of Pratchett's Discworld, then -- with a functional headology and all. In fact, wasn't Tamamo-no-Mae's Cursecraft officially translated as 'Witchcraft' in the English localization?

    Outside the practice of the -craft, though, you suppose that Curses in general might be closer to the Spiral powers from Gurren Lagann -- kicking reality to the curb, because it happens to be convenient ...

    "As for Wishcraft ..." says the princess, trailing off and raising her hand to the ceiling.

    The origami crane from before materializes above her hand; but at a gesture of her wrist, it begins to swell -- growing to more than a meter across.

    "Still no need for Circuits or a Foundation," she says -- breathing lightly as if in physical exertion, "but for me at least, this is a lot less efficient. Doesn't really require as much 'push' in the way of force of will -- but so long as the outcome is still taking shape, I have to maintain concentration to isolate from the rest of my mind the desire that forms the basis. Holding it apart, I fill it up with mana -- because mana makes it real."

    It's more difficult, and incurs a mana cost. The Cursecraft version is likely to produce a 'real' outcome as well -- and so, 'making it real' with mana can't be the primary value of the technique.

    "Not sure I see the benefit," you say. "If there's so many drawbacks, why even bother?"

    Dismissing the display with a sigh, Osakabe-Hime pushes herself upright.

    "People bother with it because it doesn't involve pushing past the Reality Principle," she says. "Other than the fact that any ongoing effect ceases the moment you stop feeding it mana, it still behaves largely like a Curse -- but because it doesn't operate by exceeding the boundaries of the human existence, it acts entirely within the strictures of the Human Order. Mana is pretty much the only requirement."

    Ergo, psychological distortion isn't a risk.

    Wishcraft would in contrast to Curses exchange the likelihood of insanity for vast mana expenditures -- and possibly, time invested toward mental conditioning. It would follow from this that the version of Gandr utilized by Tohsaka Rin might in fact be a Wishcraft technique -- a focused desire for the general ill of a target, massively overcharged with mana ...

    "Curses violate the 'strictures,' then -- because they go past the limits of the human mind?"

    "Mm ... suppose I should clarify," says the princess. "Curses break the limits that humans are supposed to abide by, but ultimately adhere to the physics imposed by the Human Order. Wishcraft, comparatively, violates neither human limitations nor the laws of physics."

    This is a little difficult to buy, given Angra Mainyu's abilities as of Hollow Ataraxia; and the overall events of Heaven's Feel. Perhaps she means that the Human Order doesn't explicitly reject Curses?

    It doesn't seem like Osakabe-Hime is intentionally misleading you -- but she stated herself that you should take her explanations with a grain of salt. Accepting her words without external verification isn't wise -- especially given that one of your primary Attributes is apparently functionality as a 'Cursecraft' or 'Wishcraft Engine.'

    Nasu is a Bloodborne fan -- and exploration into the use of Curses would likely afflict you with a variety of Insight that you really don't need.

    "Now that you've gotten all of this background out of the way," you say, "what were you saying about setting up a 'Cursed Boundary Layer,' earlier?"

    With her bottle of tea to her lips, the princess stares at you in askance -- and realization dawns.

    "Ah, yeah," she says, setting down her drink. "Forgot to get back to that. I was saying, the entirety of the Hakuro-jou -- all of the buildings, walls, courtyards, and so forth -- make up a large-scale bounded field directly tied to my existence; but nothing of the sort that a perfectly sane human would be able to construct."

    "It's comprised of Curses, I'm guessing?"

    The princess nods.

    "Manipulating the space within the grounds is about as difficult as moving my hand -- and so, you could say that the castle itself is an extension of me, like a Territory from out of Yuyu Hakusho. Outside of literally violating the laws of physics, I can basically do anything I want." She swirls the tea within her bottle, frowning. "But earlier, when you arrived, I wasn't able to affect you at all. That's the 'thing' that I was asking you about. Detecting you as an anomaly was about the only thing I could do."

    You'd like to quip that at-will spatial manipulation without huge energy expenditures is probably a violation of physics -- but Osakabe-Hime seems honestly bothered by all of this; and so you refrain.

    "I tried poking you with Curses to knock you out, but that didn't work," she admits, propping her elbows upon the edge of the kotatsu and staring into the tabletop. "I mean -- don't take this the wrong way, but you're kinda like a boulder?"

    "Uh ... thanks?"

    Noticing your half-lidded stare, she slightly wilts.

    "Sorry. Bad analogy," she says. "I meant like, y'know, something with a lot of density and inertia -- like a black hole, almost. Throw things in, and it doesn't move, because it's already way too massive. It just sort of soaks up all the kinetic energy."

    A black hole isn't really a polite comparison either, but you decide not to hold it against her. Other than her maid, you're probably the first person she's spoken with face-to-face in ages. Random impropriety isn't unexpected, given the circumstances.

    Still, this explains the repeated poking that she subjected you to.

    "I have the ability to cancel out Curses, you're saying?"

    "You don't 'cancel' them out, exactly. If you had an ability like that, we wouldn't be able to speak like this -- because the weight of your existence alone would probably tear my room to shreds." The princess grimaces, apparently considering the hypothetical fallout. "I'd say that it's more like the castle flows across you, without interacting. I ended up having to shift the grounds around your body just to bring you here, because targetting you in specific failed to work entirely."

    To your perspective, it felt as if she'd merely teleported you -- and so the distinction she's making with regard to the underlying process isn't very meaningful. In a roundabout way, she was still able to move you in the end.

    "I take it that resistance against Curses isn't common, then?"

    "Resistance?" the princess asks. "Resistance isn't uncommon -- because the fundamental action of Mystery is to seek the rejection of any processes bound within the Human Order. Curses can put up a good fight, and might even win in the end -- but ultimately, it's a fight." She makes a gesture with her hand. "This? This wasn't a fight, Gabi-chi."

    She shakes her head, meeting your gaze.

    "This was me lobbing snowballs at a glacier."

    //

    As of nine twenty-seven, the plaza before the main entrance of the station is largely deserted. Parked in the pick-up zone, there's a black stretch limousine. A middle-aged Japanese gentleman in a uniform suit stands beside the passenger door to the rear, holding a cap to the breast of his waistcoat.

    [​IMG]

    "Ms. von Einzbern, I presume?" he asks.

    Somewhat taken aback by Iustitia's choice of transportation, you nod.

    "That would be me, yes."

    "My name is Kitagawa Kouji," he replies, bowing, "and for the remainder of your stay in Japan, I shall be acting your personal chauffeur. Please feel free to make use of my services as necessary."

    "Thank you," you say, somewhat at a loss for words.

    Kitagawa nods.

    "Now, if I may," he says, "what is your destination this evening?"

    //

      [ ] The Clockwork Mansion.
        [ ] Summon a Servant.
          [ ] Catalyst: Self.
          [ ] Catalyst: The name of the Hashashin.
          [ ] Catalyst: The book within the paper bag.
        [ ] Attempt to obtain a grasp of Alchemy.
      [ ] The Haunted Mansion.
      [ ] Atelier Galliasta.
      [ ] Einzbern Forest.
      [ ] Write-In.
    • A bit more than twenty-four hours remain until the summoning of Sasaki Kojirou.
    • Of the 2nd-tier and 3rd-tier choices, select only one of each as applicable.
    //

    [​IMG]
    Party Members
    • Gabriella von Einzbern
    • Okiku
    Support Members
    • Osakabe-Hime
    • Iustitia v.E. *NEW*
    • Kitagawa Kouji *NEW*
    Inventory
    • Attire: Default
    • Catalyst: Tamamo-no-Mae *NEW*
    • Clockwork Key
    • Mobile Phone
    • Handbag
    • Wallet
    • Bilingual Kanji Dictionary
    • Notebook & Stationery
    • Fuyuki City Map
    • Passport
    • Driver's License
    • International Driving Permit
    • Motor-Scooter
    • Limosine *NEW*
    • Debit Card
    • Black Card
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
    Akuma-Heika, wellis and Biigoh like this.
  14. Biigoh

    Biigoh Tanuki will be Tanuki Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    15,366
    Likes Received:
    34,870
    As fun as Tamamao is... I'm almost afraid to find out what sort of servant we'd get with the 3 slots? Archer/Saber/Assassin.... unless Archer and Saber have already been summoned?

    [X] The Clockwork Mansion.
    -[X] Summon a Servant.
    --[X] Catalyst: Self.
     
  15. daimahou

    daimahou Gentleman Tentacle(s)

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2014
    Messages:
    3,974
    Likes Received:
    18,221
    ummm, why are people voting here? This thread is not even in Questing and Roleplay!! (which is weird, let me tell you)



    (P.S.: Down with the second person narrative!
    :p )
     
  16. Threadmarks: 00:05 // Shall We Dance?
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    67
    00:05 - Sun, 25 Jan 2004 - 02:00
    Shall We Dance?

    //

    This would be the part where you -- the beautiful, intelligent isekai heroine -- manage to unlock your god-granted magical talent; permitting the introduction of Norfolk crop rotations to the local populace, and thereby the salvation of humanity from the evils of the Demon Lord Shabranigdo.

    Except, this isn't that sort of isekai -- and you probably aren't a royal-road heroine protagonist. Even accounting for your new figure, your looks are at best mediocre; and any mental prowess given testimony in your academic performance hasn't to date translated as a capacity to navigate the drudgery of adulthood free of impediment.

    Agricultural reform is, relevantly, a subject about as alien to you as the bureaucracy of Bronze Age China.

    You have, however, been granted a certain magical talent by the unspecified mechanism of your insertion -- or, at least, a 'thaumaturgical' talent, per the local parlance. The past hours have been expended to the confirmation of such; and though you've only just now begun to grasp the practical element, the claim upon your sheet that Alchemy would be entirely intuitive to you has validly borne out.

    Osakabe-Hime was familiar enough with Alchemy to supply a rudimentary description for you to work from: That, via the careful manipulation of mana, the shaping of matter, energy, and spiritual structures could be rendered in accordance to the laws of the Human Order.

    As the primary offering of her personal circle at Comiket 65 was apparently an R18 Alphonse x Roy doujinshi (could a suit of armor actually do that?), you'd jokingly intimated that her explanation had clearly been ripped from Fullmetal Alchemist. A bit too quickly, she denied the allegation.

    The Oriental variant of the discipline, she'd explained -- the Chinese Lian-Dan Shu; or 'the Art of the Smelting Vermilion' -- had in China and Japan only vanished amidst the proliferation of the fraudulent practices of the late nineteenth century; and though she'd never bothered with it herself, she had 'friends' who definitely had.

    It would've been a bit mean to press her on the identities of these so-called 'friends,' and so you left it alone.

    Being that under the laws of the Human Order, there were only so many ways that transmutation could viably occur; and the intentional command of mana was to any approach a likely prerequisite -- you've devoted the hours since your return to meditation upon the 'feeling out' of your mana reservoir; not upon the stone floor of the foyer, but in the comfort of the heated drawing room on the second floor.

    'You should feel it as a warmth that circulates within your flesh,' you were told. 'It pulses with your heart, but seperate from your bloodflow.'

    Thus, it wasn't strictly on account of the mild chill that you sought out a warmer location; as against a background heat that approached body temperature, it'd be easier to distinguish the supposed 'warmth' of your mana supply -- in theory.

    Years ago, you learned to meditate at the free yoga classes offered at your university -- not because you'd ever bought into New Age stuff like the chakras or the restorative energies of the universe; but because, especially during exams week, you found it relaxing. There was always a bit of kooky stuff in the instructors' explanations, though; and seeking out your inner 'mana reservoir' on Osakabe-Hime's instructions felt like more of the same -- going out of your way to isolate an arbitrary somatosensory artefact, and baselessly applying a meaning to it.

    Was the sensation she described plausibly extant?

    Yes.

    Would such a sensation prove the existence of a hypothetical bioenergy?

    Probably not.

    Probably, a more realistic explanation would involve body heat being trapped within the insulation of the subcutaneous fats; and any apparent 'circulation' could be written off as sensory illusion, maybe owing to the proximity of any relevant nerves to the arterial blood vessels.

    This was what you believed, four hours ago -- because, in spite of the events of the past twenty-four, conscious, perfunctory acknowledgement of the supernatural was, to you, functionally unequivalent to an acceptance that the world about you operates per the rules of an urban high-fantasy; that your accumulated experiences of reality are at present no longer applicable.

    An hour ago, empirical evidence forced you to concede that, yes, this might be the case.

    'Once you've isolated the heat, extrude it from the surface of your body, and will it to form as a sphere,' Osakabe-Hime had instructed. 'You should be able to sense anything that passes within its boundaries.'

    Unlike the princess' origami, the 'sphere' that manifested from your palm wasn't itself visible or tangible; but moving your hand to draw the 'space' that it occupied along the back of your couch produced within your consciousness a highly accurate impression of the texture of the fabric -- visually confirmed after the fact, as a matter of verification that your imagination hadn't been co-opted by magical thinking.

    'Impression' is, as a word, perhaps a little inadequate.

    What it was that the sphere 'impressed' upon you was a tactile grasp of structure -- from the macroscopic strands of the textile to its molecular components.

    Akin to a sense of vision, a 'grasp' of a particular region really only stays with you so long as you're interacting with it; and subsequently, upon shifting the field, awareness of any structure that exits your attention quickly deteriorates to just the salient details -- much as shifting your gaze removes you of the capacity to count the number of bricks that comprise a wall no longer in sight.

    And much as the operation of a clockwork mechanism isn't immediately comprehensible on sight, 'grasp' doesn't yield the corollary of 'understanding.'

    Awakening to the sense is much alike to the removal of a blindfold; a delimitation of awareness -- if, by default, bounded to the interior of your mana reservoir. It isn't therefore difficult to turn your attention inwards -- but no automatic acquisition of medical expertise accompanies an examination of your organs and tissues. You obtain only a sudden appreciation of the sheer complexity of the mammalian organism; and of the vast, vast chasm that separates you from any well-trained medical professional.

    The workings of the Command Seal precursors on your left hand likewise escape you -- though at least, you're able to discern that their incorporation to the immaterial aspect of your being occurs at the level of inherent composition.

    Assuming that it's even possible, it's unlikely that you'll mess around with human transmutation in self-experiment or otherwise.

    There is besides its 'default' mode an alternate 'setting' to your structural grasp, insinuated to your consciousness as of the 'awakening' of your ability -- a persistent sense of the interior and the layout of the mansion, similar to Osakabe-Hime's awareness of the Hakuro-jou.

    Rather than leaving you to your devices, the Einzberns have graciously supplied you with a prefabricated bounded field, it seems; and though, curiously, the building is aside from your presence completely adherent to baseline levels of environmental mana, the simple act of connecting with the domain instills within you an intuition of your capacity to Alchemically imitate the princess' command of her Territory.

    The precise mechanism of the implementation would, of course, differ -- and consequently, a slight revision to the course of your training is necessary.

    In fantasy; in superhero comics; in shounen fighting manga -- in any work of fiction that involves the scientifically impossible empowerment of an otherwise normal human being -- there exists as a rule a 'unicorn'; an excuse pertaining to a mode of empowerment by which an author negotiates suspension of disbelief -- frequently by fiat that in the real world, mechanisms that underlie particular abilities are 'out of reach' or 'non-extant.' You the reader possess no access to McGuffin Space-Whale A or Genetic Defect X; but if you hypothetically did, acquirement of Character E's Reality Marble and Origin would fall entirely within the realm of possibility.

    Suspension of disbelief is so sustained -- but behind that, there lies an assurance that a character's power-set might indeed be possible under certain circumstances. Presumably, the poor grasp of reality that chuunibyou sometime exhibit is so facilitated -- justifying adolescent power-fantasies on the condition of 'if only I could ...'

    Your 'unicorn,' as it happens, isn't the existence of 'Circuits' -- and no such structure can in fact be identified amidst the pathways of your mana circulation. Rather, you possess a distinctly unnatural intuition; a capacity to instinctively externalize your mana, and to assert it to the rendition of Straße / gehen.

    The 'grasp' that you attain of existences engulfed to your reservoir is, to reiterate, tactile -- and more than simply mediating an awareness of material topography, immersion bestows you an agency of transposition. In the manner of a finger or a limb, in other words, the constituents of an immersed structure behave as if subordinated to your motor cortex -- permitting that you 'telekinetically' move them at will.

    And though if absent of a vast computational framework to execute the necessary calculations, molecular-scale telekinesis of the magnitude permitted to you isn't realistically viable, your intuition inexplicably circumvents the issue -- supplying from somewhere outside of your consciousness a library of structural permutations to suit your every purpose; and the capacity to enact them at will.

    Given the functional automation of Unlimited Blade Works, you suppose you shouldn't be surprised.

    Analysis of your own body gives that the coverage of the library does include living organisms -- but even presuming that the thaumaturgical resistance of other humans could somehow be bypassed to permit transmutation, the fact that 'tactile grasp' supplies you with nothing so deep as 'conscious comprehension' doesn't fill you with a terrible lot of confidence that Alchemy can be safely applied to healing.

    So long as you're inside the mansion, however, it grants you with a measure of self-defense.

    Through pursed lips, you exhale -- uncrossing your legs and standing from the couch; incanting, half in humor, "Trace, on."

    Molecules are in the space around you rearranged -- disengaging; rebonding; solidifying. Momentarily, the hollow shells of twenty broadswords take shape -- cast in a uniform design of undifferentiated carbon, and suspended in the air in parallel.

    "Continuous fire," you say; and in rapid sequence, the blades are launched against the wall opposite -- passing harmlessly through the masonry of the gas-lit fireplace; or rather, dissipating again to carbon dioxide at your mental command.

    Your mana doesn't saturate the interior of the Clockwork Mansion, but every inanimate existence within the bounded field is to the purposes of your Alchemy admissible to transmutation. The mechanism of the relevant mana budgeting is, given the scale of the building, a little difficult to discern -- but a transmutation directly mediated by your reservoir would indubitably eat into your personal energy supply.

    Imitation of Unlimited Blade Works outside the mansion is, per your current resources, approximate to suicide by energy depletion -- your EX Rank in 'Quantity' notwithstanding. Before the War properly begins, you should probably look into supplementing your mana stores.

    As of your present status, had Osakabe-Hime or Okiku been the least bit hostile, you'd already be dead, many times over. Maybe you should've invested the time to research Alchemy before setting out for Himeji?

    "Though, it's not as if I have the Mystery to fight 'em off if it came to that," you mutter, pressing a knuckle to your chin. "And this stuff wouldn't be of much use against an actual Servant, anyhow ..."

    Alchemical transmutation is restricted to the allowances of the Human Order.

    You didn't quite catch the meaning of this the first time you read it from your sheet -- but intuition has since supplied an elaboration. For all that Alchemy gives the appearance of ignoring science, the forces and processes implicated fall strictly within the bounds of physics and conservation; and are therefore from the standpoint of the World entirely mundane -- subject to suppression by the action of Mystery.

    It bothers you that the umbrella of the 'entirely mundane' would also include the 'telekinesis' that works the process of transmutation.

    The existence of a 'unicorn' serves to delineate fantasy from reality -- but this division isn't applicable to the expression of your Alchemy. Even if you wouldn't have known what you were doing, the regulation of mana feels like something you could've achieved prior to your arrival in Fuyuki; and though structural grasp and transmutation are actions facilitated to the level of practicality only by the backing of intuition, as intuition is in a large part merely knowing how, there exists an implicit suggestion that Alchemy may have been possible even in the real world.

    Your intuition itself pushes the validity of this conclusion -- and that only makes you suspicious.

    So far, it hasn't been difficult to distinguish the assertions of intuition from your own thinking -- but how true is that, really? Would you notice if it subtly insinuates suggestions to your unconscious? Already, it's doing to pretty good job of eroding your conviction that 'the real world' is in fact free of Nasu mechanics.

    Maybe you shouldn't have been so quick to abandon your skepticism?

    You shake your head, running your hands through your hair.

    "Spinning in place is a waste of time," you say. "I'll deal with this if it becomes an issue."

    Opting to take a break, you exit the drawing room -- walking along the gallery that overlooks the foyer atrium, and descending to the mezzanine, where the kitchens are situated.

    Being that earlier in the day, you prioritized a reconnaissance of the city, you hadn't spent the time to thoroughly explore the mansion; but having now established a connection with its bounded field, a survey of your immediate environs is no longer necessary. The bedroom on the third floor contains a wardrobe filled with clothing, you're aware -- but, more relevant to your current interests, the Einzberns have left the refrigerator fully stocked.

    Though Alchemically-fabricated food is a possibility, you have doubts as to how it would taste. Best to leave that sort of thing to the professionals.

    Retrieving a bar of Meiji chocolate and a bottle of milk (the expiration date is sometime next week) from the stainless steel fridge, you pour yourself a glass and take a seat at one of the stools beside the central island.

    'Okiku sure is taking a long time,' you think, unwrapping the chocolate and taking a bite.

    After you departed the station, you had Kitagawa drop her off at the Haunted Mansion -- leaving her with instructions to investigate the premises without drawing undue attention, and to report back if she finds anything. That was a bit more than four hours ago -- and though you've given her your cellphone number, she hasn't called yet.

    You frown, sipping your milk. Checking up on her would probably be a good idea.

    Pulling your phone from the pocket of your skirt, you flip it open and press down on the speed-dial -- holding it to your ear. It takes about four ringtones for Okiku to pick up.

    "Hello?" you ask.

    "Um, I apologize, Mistress," Okiku replies, "but it's, ah ... it's not really a good time for me to speak right now. I, um, kinda-bypassed-her-bounded-field, and-after-I-tried-to-move-her-she-started-to-bleed-out, and-now-I'm-trying-to-bandage-her-arm-but-her-blood-is-just-going-through-my-silk, and ..."

    What.

    "Stop," you say, interrupting her. "Slow down. Who is this 'she' that you're talking about?"

    "Your friend, with the red hair," says Okiku -- clearly distressed. "She's the one that you wanted me to find, right?"

    She's located Bazett, in other words -- and Angra Mainyu's nowhere to be seen. But what of Kotomine?

    "Does it seem as if anyone else has noticed you?"

    "No, Mistress," Okiku replies. "The only bounded field on the property was tied to your friend's mana, and I haven't noticed any obvious familiars."

    Bazett's condition could very well be critical -- and, tentatively, retrieving her isn't a danger. It would seem that your course is clear.

    "For now, just try to keep calm," you say. "If you can, bring her out to the street. I'll be there as soon as possible."

    "I understand, Mistress."

    Nodding to yourself, you hang up -- pressing up on the cellphone's analogue pad to immediately speed-dial Kitagawa.

    Surprisingly, the man is still awake.

    "Ms. von Einzbern," he says. "Might I be of service?"

    //

    Blood doesn't make you squeamish, but dealing with the dead or dying is probably the aspect of the War that you're least comfortable with, in prospect. Abstractly, you're aware that you'll probably have to kill somebody in the next three weeks -- but that isn't happening tonight.

    Tonight, you'll hopefully save a life.

    Bazett is around twenty-three, according to Hollow Ataraxia -- taller than you, but young enough in appearance to pass for a teenager; and more delicate than her backstory would imply, maybe on account of her coma.

    The stump of her upper arm hasn't been cleanly amputated; and though for now, you've prevented her from bleeding out by transmuting her bandages to plastic, she isn't by any stretch of imagination in a good way. Propped against the back seat of the limousine with Okiku at her side, her face is even in the low light of the street lamps deathly in pallor.

    "Sorry about your seat covers," you say, turning to Kitagawa.

    "Pay it no mind, Ms.," the man replies, keeping his eyes to the road. "I can have them replaced by noon, today. That said, have you decided yet on a destination?"

    Kotomine would presumably have the hospitals under observation; and so an emergency room is out. You imagine that Iustitia could furnish you with discreet medical services on request -- but for the likes of Bazett's injuries, a house-call wouldn't cut it; and a full amputation would likely require facilities beyond the provisions of a private clinic.

    Maybe the Fujimura Group would have something at hand?

    Bazett isn't merely afflicted with a flesh wound, however. Though as you expected, her unconscious thaumaturgical resistance is sufficient to reject both transmutation and a complete assessment of structure, the fact of her spiritual injury is plainly evident.

    Rin would be able to heal her, you think -- but even if the girl canonically resuscitated Shirou, it isn't certain that she would trust an Einzbern. Your status with Illyasviel is likewise still uncertain, and whether or not she would regard you as an ally is up in the air. If time weren't of essence, you'd ask Kitagawa drive you out to Himeji -- but that's an hour away; and though Bazett's condition appears to be stable at present, there's no telling how long it'll keep.

    As far as you recall, Sasaki Kojirou won't be summoned for another twenty hours yet. If you drove up to Ryuudouji right this moment, would Caster accept a parley?

    "A destination ..." you say, trailing off. "Yes, I think I have a destination in mind ..."

    //

    The first dance is called.
    With whom shall you share the floor?


      [ ] Fujimura Raiga.
      [ ] Illyasviel von Einzbern.
      [ ] Tohsaka Rin.
      [ ] Medea of Colchis
      [ ] Write-In.
    • Choose only one.
    • As Gabriella has now obtained a grasp of her Alchemy, sleep is no longer necessary.
     
    Unilateral, flaviusb and D-san like this.
Loading...