Part 23: She Walks Ever Onward

Now can we stop smelling rotten flesh please. I am not doing hot.



man i am so cool. I'm so rad

You are!

...You're kidding.

"Mimiko Morishima", who had died in 2020. Youka knelt down at this grave.

Someone you knew?

Mimi... she was...


...You can't really be dead, can't you, Mimi? Come on. Here, do I have to say it three times?

"Mi, mi, Mimiko! Mi, mi, Mimiko! Mi, mi, Mimiko! You know it's me cause it comes in threes!"

Tell me it's a joke. Please. It's not fair. You can't be dead—you'd... you'd only just gotten to have a life that treated you well, it...

Or maybe tell me—

Sorry to interrupt. You'd be able to confirm looking at the dates.

"Takatoshi Morishima — 1964 - 2020".
"Mimiko Morishima — 1965 - 2020".


Right... right! Right, she'd—she told me once her mother—her mother had the same name as her, and so had her grandmother, because—

Because it came in threes?

Right! Right! So that means Mimi—she's not dead! I know she hadn't left, I'd seen her just a few days before the attack—

Oh, thank God... thank God...

Youka was on the verge of tears. I came up and I patted her on the shoulder.

If she's not on the grave, she's not dead. I'm sure we'll find her.

How pleasant. I suggest we celebrate.

Great idea!

This fight goes pretty clean, since Koron and Youka manage to paste it in two rounds. Richter hits himself a little, but hey.

Should I keep an eye out?


For Morishima-san. Your friend. Should I ask the SDF to keep a lookout for any rescuees they might find?

Oh! Good thinking!

Satsuki saw some treasure on a path we hadn't taken before and began breathing heavily in the background of this conversation.

Let's see... I think Mimi would be... 29 now? I'm 44, right?

Yes, you are.

Right, right. And we met when she was 15, but her birthday's earlier in the year than mine, so... yeah, she'd be 29 now. Mimiko Morishima... the third, I guess. She's—well, pretty fair skin, and her hair is fairly light—not blonde or anything, she's still a brunette, but it's light.

Shut up.

She's... about Chisa's height, but rounder around—when I met her she was all skin and bones but she takes on weight easy and she's looking pretty healthy these days. Pear, she's got a pear build—uh, hazel eyes. She's into skirts and thigh-socks, but she has an issue with the texture of a lot of more fashionable clothes so she wears simple shirts. She keeps a little blue ribbon around her neck. She's allergic to shellfish—they make her break out in hives—and she refuses to eat potatoes on the basis of being traumatized when she saw an overgrown potato in the cabinet at her house when she was four and being terrified of its eyes.

Relatable. Potatoes are eldritch.

She was in college for quite a while, studying for a PhD in...

Youka snapped her fingers a few times.

I know what she talks to me about but I don't remember the term. Muh, muh... 'Maxwell's Demon'?

Oh! She's an infophysics student.

Yeah, yeah, that's the one! Loves talking about it. It's all Greek to me, of course, I don't get a word of it. You two would probably get along, Richter.

That's lovely to hear. I'll pass this along to—

Richter, could I have your attention for a moment?

Yes, Chisa?

Is this user-safe? This doesn't look legal.

Who cares? It looks a lot more effective than your old one.

I hope I don't get fired for using this, but I can't deny your logic!

Bleeding is an end-of-turn DOT debuff like Poison, but also works with Satsuki's Vampire skill. The Bloodgear's also a solid upgrade for ol' Ricky, so that's cool.

Then, as we continued—




Wraith: HII, HII, HII— HI_____!!!

The bizarre, ghost-like thing finally managed to work out what it had meant to say, presumably—a name. To be clear—we heard this name. However, I...

...well, to be clear here, I was specifically requested to not say this name aloud if I ever mentioned this segment.

Why are you yelling at me?!

Piss off!

The massive mantis actually managed to slip past Youka's counter—she hadn't been ready for a blow that direct.

Tch, damn it—Look out!

Then, with its momentum, it leapt forward to attack Richter, attempting to suck the life out of him.


I did not appreciate that!

Let's see how you like this!

Richter hacked into it.

It, um... well, it didn't like it.


Please just make it stop moving

So yeah, Deathscissors can be NASTY in preemptives.


What's her problem?


Y'know, the ghost.

How do you know it's a 'she'? I can't quite tell.

gotta have better ears, cap, i've worked with voice distortion software before

Anyway, so what I'm asking is why she keeps yelling at us.

...This one didn't make a peep.


Was it worth it, Satsuki?

you have no idea how worth it it was.

Okay, then, let's—

...I think she's waiting for us.

With another mantis, too.

Do ghosts not have anything better to do?

Youka leapt over to cover the distance in a single bound and punch the ghost through. It was the same one—we could hear it from the squeak she made as she went poof.

So anyway, what were you saying?

I was saying we should head onwards now.

Oh. "Ruri Styles, live on Channel 5 news!"

'Ruri Styles'?

It's a stage name, I think.

There's another one. Are you all ready?

Well, ready as we ca—

Persistent Wraith: HI_____!! HI_____!!

Oh look. She brought us flowers.

Leave us alone.

counter stance lol

Engaging garbage collection!

Great timing!

Hoooooooooo thank you Miss Fudoji

Aww, I thought the pose was cool.

You too, Koron!

Why, it's easy to capitalize on such primitive instincts.

I really cannot stress enough how awesome—er, in the literal sense, creating awe—it is to see Youka lean forward with a double punch into the soles of the dragon's feet as it kicked, and see the dragon come off worse for wear.

...which is probably why this dragon stopped attacking Youka.


That's confirmation bias.

No, really, why is it always him?

here ya go pal

Thank you.

Fie on you and your ilk!

We should probably explore over here just in case there's loot.'am, were you watching that the whole time?

Damn shame, that.

...I supposed Youka didn't know that one.


What's up, Jeanne?

Unit 4 are asking you back.

Good timing. That gate we just cleared is a shortcut to earlier in the area.

oh sweet

So it's done?

Yes, we've managed to renovate the Industrial Area. It took quite a few materials, but they didn't complain.


I love new stuff!

I know you do! I do too!

GOD your brain is so huge Reimi. GOAT.

Excuse you? I'm not a goat! I'm a lot prettier, and younger, for that matter!

right, cuz you're not a kid, you're forever seventeen

How old are you, anyhow?

Didn't you just hear Satsuki, ma'am?

yeah, she's forever seventeen


Aside from being a bit more expensive, the Basic Gear here goes on everyone and is numerically better than the ones with class restrictions. I buy five. Reimi is now also selling Chaos Guards, Gloom Guards, and Death Guards.

W-who is the harpoon for?

Huh? You, man. You're the throwing weapons guy, right?

Keima, I'm not practiced in throwing harpoons. They're not disc-shaped. I'm very sorry.

Plus we found that thing for him out in the battlefield.

What?! All this effort wasted?! C'mon!

Whoa now, none of us said it was wasted. Give me that new claw, Keima.


I told Keima the harpoon was a waste. We'll just turn it into a trident and see about giving it to the Work Team.

reasonable as usual

Thanks for the materials.

thanks as usual, my man

My man Waji is now selling Medicine 3s, Nano Fixes, and Somanels.


Do you think the dragons just really like that old ghost story?

Which one would that be?

The 'Yotsuya Kaidan'. It's what gave Youka her nickname. You're not familiar?

I only moved to Japan some two years ago, Chisa.

Right, well—

It's a cracking story, yes, but this is very delicate work please let me focus.

Right, so we will.


We returned to where we left in order to continue.

alright let's focus here

Yeah, baby!

...well, the results here were predictable.


Please explain to me why I'm holding a knife I don't know how to use knives

Yes, you do, honey. You remember the guns?


I wasn't part of this conversation because I was getting dangerously close to attacking someone again.

You thought you didn't know how to use the guns, but you did that. You can do this, too. Just breathe.



Great job! See? Now calm down, I've got this.

Swing your sword over there, Chisa. You'll kill it a lot easier.

Youka made a solid point to my addled brain, so I swung my blade down upon the dragonfly like a drunkard wielding a baseball bat. It wasn't particularly effective.


Are you two doing alright?

...Oogh. Yes, I am.

That's odd. It's the same frequencies for everyone, and yet it's triggering different responses.

I concur. Youka's addled state when hit makes sense, but Koron—

People are different. No two people are going to react to the same stimulus in the same manner. I would imagine Youka is simply sturdy enough to have a debilitation of the mind simply addle her. As for myself, it stifled my sense of reason while stimulating my optical cortex.

Hmm... It seemed like Satsuki had some sort of amnesia at first, but it seems like she recognized you this time, Youka. Satsuki, do you have any idea?


I would imagine it's attempting to activate the fight or flight response. After all, this Imperial seems to enjoy toying with people and frightening them—either causing someone to charge blindly into that colossal hulk over there, or to run away into some other beast within here, would be an effective method of killing.

Then the reason you all have such varied responses—

Would be because we're all extremely bizarre people, yes.

...That's part of my fight or flight response?

Don't worry about it too much!

I'm bad at not worrying about things!

Then kill this guy to take your mind off it.


I can't really explain this—there must be some condition in the Destroyer Dragon's AI that causes it to use Muscle Eye on Turn 2 if something happens, because it doesn't usually. Maybe it's because I damaged it too much.

Switching out Richter makes Destroyers definitely a touch more threatening, but this party's overall higher damage means he went down faster.

This place is enormous.

That it is. The interference certainly isn't helping that, either.

Yeah, the work keeps piling up...

Everyone, may I have your attention?

...A poison swamp?

i guess you could say we're...

SWAMPED over here.


Oh! Hahahahahahaha! That's a good one, Satsuki!

Yeah, I'll have to keep that one in mind.

Jeanne was giggling too.

Anyway, I've set up a marker for the fourth probe to your southeast! Good luck!

I will say one thing for these things. They're drowning out the smell. Now I just smell goop.

Is that preferable?


Damage floors, baby! If we run on these, it makes us go ouch. This game has the basic human decency to not have these pop up very often.

Yo, I've got some people who haven't played 7th Dragon DS or aren't reading Araxxor's LP—you know in that game the Bloom was all damage tiles that you had to manually cut down in order to keep the dragons less powerful? All of it! It's fucked up!

See? It's preferable! I can pick out the smell of loot easier!

Good job.


You can't just compliment me like that! I'm coming off of a vulnerable mental state! My shields aren't up yet!

You'd be reacting that way whenever I complimented you.

oh yeah that's true it's kind of a central part of our dynamic

So it is.

Really Persistent Wraith: HI_____!! HI_____!! MURDERER!! MURDERER!!

Oh look, she learned a new word.

Really Persistent Wraith: MURDERER!! YOU MURDERER!! MURDERER!!

Nobody by that name here, chief!

...there isn't, right? Y'all know a "Hi_____"?

I mean, it's not a particularly uncommon name, so most likely at least one, but none of them are present.

You know, I watched a TV show once. In its interpretation of the afterlife, ghosts within the grounds of this manor were constantly falling through their own memories—experiencing their own life and unlife as a series of vignettes in non-chronological order without end, as their memories and desires fell away. Eventually, they'd simply start mindlessly repeating whatever they'd done, or felt, on the day they died.

Maybe she's the same way. After all, these aren't 'real' ghosts, so to speak—and she's not a zombie, either. Perhaps she's just repeating what she felt at the time of her death—the sentiments within her last moments. Maybe this monster is just an imprint of those feelings onto a form given life by this dragon.

...That's quite sad, if so. To die feeling such unbridled rage...

Well, that's just a theory. We can't really know what someone is thinking at the time of death. We don't even know whose words those were.

...I am actually starting to feel a bit better, ahaha. Thanks, Youka.

You really need to stop worrying about it so much. Some people are just keyed for fighting, Chisa.

I like being polite, though. And generally kind!

Nothing stopping you!

I hold the knife here, right?!

That building over there, right, Jeanne?

Yes, exactly.

One moment? I do believe this would be a good place for...

Aha, perfect.

Thanks, Richter. That'll help a lot, I think.

Someone's got to place them down, yes?

Wraiths can start showing up in twos now, which makes them a bit more threatening considering they might have more time to set up Sway React.

I'm getting a bit tired of these.

Ow ow ow ow

The damage procs every few step, not every step, thankfully.

still worth it tho

It happens. Come along, then. Let's get you to the Clinic.

To get treated, right?

You think I'm going to make a sick woman work?


Um—y-you didn't hear that!


Come on! Do I look like a zombie to you?

Celeb Starlet: Get out! Don't you dare come closer! I know who you are—you're that ghost! My parents told me there was a ghost and she's real! No, no, stay awaaay! This is like, so freaking unbelievable!

...this was a difficult one. After this, we headed back the way we came.

These wraiths, thankfully, didn't yell at us. They mostly just mumbled to themselves.

Dejected Student: Further right, a touch left, and behind. Carefully, carefully.

He knocked his own head, causing his neck to split slightly.

Dejected Student: Oh, I got it! Look! I got it! I got the head! Heee...eeey... damnit!

I really don't like this place!

Same! I know where we are, somehow!

Was it the smell of loot?

you know me so well

This is a pretty large swamp. We should be careful.

We should finish mapping out the area first—make sure. I want to make sure.

You good, champ?

The goo is bad for keeping it cleaned. There are minor fumes.


We just need to keep going. Right, Youka?


Then, she looked over at the massive dragon sitting at the edge of the platform.

Another of you, huh?

...this fight goes messily.

I should've worn some accessories for Stop. But I won!

The moon hung heavy above us, glowing with the same eerie purple light that filled the sky around it.

Oh come the fuck on!

You're back at the beginning? Could it be more inaudible sound deceiving our senses?

How many gimmicks can this stupid dragon throw at us?!

Doesn't matter how many. We'll just go back and set up the last probe, then break it to pieces.

"Satoru Motomura — 1976 - 2020".

...Come on, then.

It doesn't matter how many of you get thrown at me! I'll break you down one by one!

This battle concluded with Youka lifting up the Destroyer Dragon bodily, then slamming it onto the ground.


Satsuki dashed in to stab it and finish it off. The two of them high-fived on top of it.

Yeah, go team!

Go team!

Amidst the rows and rows of graves, I had finally lost the ability to discern names. Exhaustion had set in, and sensory overload, at that—when Youka cocked her head to the side to read a gravestone, then clicked her tongue and shook her head, I could not do anything but walk forward amidst the swamp.

She muttered more names under her breath—more and more fell by the wayside, and yet she continued to walk forward.

...but when Satsuki, of all people, looked at a grave instead of a chest, that made me notice it.

"Himiko Akiyama — 1970 - 2020". It was nestled away in a corner, almost as an afterthought.


What is it?

That's Auntie's name.

The aunt you lived with when you were a minor, you mean?

Yeah. She didn't live in Yotsuya. Why is her grave here?

I would imagine that she may not have lived in Yotsuya, but she must have died in Yotsuya. Perhaps she entered the dragon's sphere of influence then.

I'm so sorry for your loss, Satsuki.

...It's... kinda funny. I don't really... feel anything.

Well... that is—

I mean, I hadn't seen her for years, and then she suddenly turns up dead here. She wasn't part of my life ever since I moved out. But I should be sad, right? I should be sad, or crying?

Is there something wrong with me?

There's nothing wrong with you. Everyone tackles grief in their own...

I suddenly remembered a comment Satsuki had made... however long ago. A few odd, off-the-cuff comments about her living situation. I connected that with what Richter had just said, and...


There's nothing wrong with you, Satsuki. There's nothing wrong with you at all.

And then I thought. How would I feel if I suddenly saw my own parents' graves here? Would I cry? Would I kneel down and sob and grieve? Or would I just register it, and then move onward? I, who couldn't even bring herself to remember my own parents' faces for more than a second without beginning to panic?

—No. There was nothing wrong with Satsuki. Nothing at all. Or, if there was something wrong with her, it was just as wrong with me.

...I recognize this. It's a Kamiyama Metalworks knuckle.

Er, I'm not familiar?

You wouldn't be. Kamiyama worked underground, literally and figuratively. A lot of people in the Yotsuya pit fight scene wielded Kamiyama's stuff. The man himself was nervous, stammering, and never seemed like the kind of guy who'd make a good weaponsmith—he told me once his biggest dream was to quit.

I can work with this. If I see him again, I'll slip him the pay.

May I be a little informal for a moment?

when have i ever been formal


big mood

Oh, you're back on!

So, hm, my analysis is complete, and a lot of this isn't cross-checked, but do you remember that big noise a while back? I think the key to Yotsuya is inaudible noise!

We were all silent for a moment.

That, um, was me, but... er, anyway, data is 100% received!

That bad, huh?

Yes, but... I should be able to find you all a path through.

It's pretty cleverly hidden in there, but it won't be able to stop a good smashing. From here on out—

The mission is shifting to killing it, right?

Sounds about right. Took the words right out of my mouth. Unit 13, Jeanne, I'm counting on you!

Roger that!

For now, head to the bridge we couldn't pass earlier. That should be our entrance in.

Can do.

Then, as we walked through the swamps...

...two more wraiths appeared. And the one on the left... spoke. This voice wasn't distorted in the slightest. It was perfectly clear.

"Mom, wait... don't go..."

...Co... Cocona?

And even the eyes of the Destroyer Dragons couldn't petrify Youka more than those words.

Next time, we finish up Chapter 3.

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