Chiyuri didn't consider herself a master of body language, but years of being together had given her some insights into Yumemi. Just as Yumemi had come to be able to tell Chiyuri apart from her Gensoukyo counterpart just by speech patterns and body language, they'd learned how to figure out exactly which one of them she was speaking to. In most situations anyway. The main reason Yuri had accepted a nickname was because she wanted a credit card of her own. It was rather annoying passing the one card back and forth between the two. Especially if they wanted to go to different places at the same time.
At first she'd figured that connection was what made talking to this other Yumemi so weird. It was unnerving to see someone who looked exactly like your lover who didn't love you. Who, in fact, didn't really even know you. The woman didn't react to Chiyuri's little gestures, didn't even screw up the same way her Yumemi did. That alone would have probably set Chiyuri on edge.
But Chiyuri had slowly started to notice this Yumemi's actions were more than simple unfamiliarity. The mantled woman's eyes seemed to widen whenever they ran into each other, just as Yumemi's eyes opened when she saw an answer to a particularly vexing problem. Then almost immediately they'd narrow again before the woman finally managed to put her smile back on. And if they sat in the same room Chiyuri would occasionally notice the other woman give her a long look, like Chiyuri was a unsolved variable in a field of equations.
This had made conversation over the past day difficult. Fortunately once they'd run out of small talk the other Yumemi had usually only sat around for a couple of minutes before running off back to her lab. So Chiyuri had taken the time to look over the rec room. All the devices looked different from the ones she was used to, but after a bit of poking around she managed to open up a 3D display field and get into a database of movies.
She'd picked one at random and had been greeted by girls in frilly uniforms shooting each other with brightly colored magical blasts. At first she'd assumed that Yumemis everywhere shared a fascination with the magical girl genre, but when the narration kicked in it slowly became evident this was actually a documentary.
So Chiyuri'd filled her time looking over story after story of this alternate world. The first had been the most impressive, a five hour documentary about a failed coup d'etat. But the history of magic section she'd found afterwards was also intriguing. It blew everything her counterpart had told her about Gensoukyo's magic out of the water. She wanted to start taking notes, but the details unfortunately were beyond her reach. It was like trying to figure out how to code based on a history of programming languages. Still when she got in contact with Yuri...
"Hmph. You should skip this episode. They completely dismiss the most intriguing part of the field just because they hate to admit they've mastered human cloning and memory transfer."
Chiyuri automatically pressed pause and looked back to find the other Yumemi standing behind the couch. "So they had cloning and thought transfer? Functional immortality?"
The woman folded her arms and frowned. "Well it wasn't quite that good. There were some bugs still being worked out. But they were doing better than any magician I know of, despite the ban on research." Yumemi sighed. "The government is a little more totalitarian than they show in their broadcasts. Simple weapons like lasers are banned, while mages run around free. Great if you're a mage like myself, but somewhat inimical to my research. And the progress of their society."
"So magic is still decided by genetics in that universe?" Chiyuri asked.
"There's some signs that it's far more complex than that, given the creation of artificial mages, but that's one of the banned subjects so..." Yumemi grimaced and shrugged. "I kept as much of the research as I could to work on it later, but genetics really isn't my forte."
"I... see." Chiyuri slumped, her dreams of magical girl fame crushed. Still the enormity of the find allowed her to recover quickly. "So what is your research anyway?"
"Ah!" The woman started, then smiled weakly. "My research was on technomagic, specifically. The blending of science and technology."
"Was?" Chiyuri blinked then looked back at the video screen. "Huh, looks like you hit the jackpot there."
"Ha!" Yumemi's sharp laugh caused Chiyuri to rock back in her seat. The woman fixed her with a harsh glare. "Do you know much about Gensoukyo? How it was formed? Where it exists?"
"Uh... Not really," Chiyuri admitted.
"It's a prison," Yumemi snarled. "Oh it's an open one yes. Youkai can wander in and out nearly at will. But we're limited to simple boogieman figures. Mere shadows in the darkness, robbed of our true power. Even magician youkai such as myself are drained of our greater abilities."
"Without the barrier between us and the outside world our power would slowly crumble away, along with our lives." The other Yumemi stabbed a finger at Chiyuri. "That is the undeniable truth of Gensoukyo. Our very existence is in the hands of a world that is becoming more and more scientific and rational. Perhaps the human race will never be free of fear and wonder, but one day the lingering nightmares of the past will be paved over and replaced with new fears and wonders. Eventually the little bubble that is the Hakurei Barrier will pop, and unless both sides have changed, either humans or youkai are going to be driven into a dark age."
Chiyuri blinked as Yumemi spun and waved her hands at the frozen documentary. "And technomagic is the solution. For all that universe's faults they've embraced mysticism and technology and fused them into an incredible whole. They have a science of magic that doesn't limit itself to certainties! A whole range of undiscovered powers and abilities that breed wonder and terror perfect for even the strangest of youkai. A level of knowledge that could raise humanity to a utopia! And I have it all."
The woman turned and slammed her hands into a desk. "But no one wants it! Oh they'll happily ask me for weapons." She held up a gem as she turned back towards Chiyuri, and with a flash it transformed to a staff. "Everyone wants a weapon to defeat 'insert group here,' but no one wants to learn the science needed to build it. The humans aren't interested in industrialization, the youkai have no interest in creating things they can steal or buy, and the kappa just won't talk to me!"
Chiyuri sat there in silence for a bit. It seemed that changing the world was a difficult proposition no matter where you started. "Isn't there anyone out there who'd be interested in starting up shop? We had someone obsessed with science drop by the first time we visited. I mean its not like there's an organized group stopping you is there?"
The other Yumemi sighed, then banished the staff in her hand back to jewel form. "It's a mindset. People here believe in craftsmanship. There are some interested in science, but they hoard their knowledge like magicians. Technology can't thrive like that. But a couple of determined individuals can't change that mindset. Especially the mindset of youkai. Not without bloodshed at least." Yumemi turned away. "And after all that I sacrificed..."
Chiyuri stood to go give the woman a hug, but then froze. No matter how similar they seemed, this woman wasn't her Yumemi, and the woman's rigid form screamed 'Go away.' She forced herself to turn back to the holodisplay. "Well, maybe when the systems are repaired we can compare notes. Look into industrialization practices." She knew the words were probably empty, but they were the best she could offer.
She unpaused the tape and let the documentary continue. After a few moments, she heard the doors open and close as the other Yumemi left.
Momiji stared across the battlefield with a practiced eye. The organized formations of the two armies had long ago collapsed into a mess, and reinforcements from both sides haphazardly filled the gaps. Her opponent, while less skilled, was no slouch and had removed several of her units from play, but in the process the enemy had left a key point undefended. The only reason Momiji hadn't struck immediately was because she was worried there was a trap. But it seemed her foe really had just made a mistake. Her course certain, she selected the unit to take advantage of it.
With a practiced move she chose the silver general piece from her pile of captures and placed it on the board with a click. "Done."
Nitori blinked at the move, then leaned forward over the board. "AHHH!" Momiji fought back a smile at the kappa's reaction. It wouldn't be fitting to gloat too much. After all she was only assured two captures from the move. Still with both of Nitori's Gold Generals, she'd likely have the game wrapped up by tomorrow.
"Well there goes my plan." Nitori sighed deeply and peered down at the board, trying to figure out how to escape from Momiji's trap while taking the least amount of damage. The little kappa had already figured out which pieces were lost causes, but the way Nitori moved to escape would determine the strength of the board afterwards, and set up the next round of maneuvering.
Momiji stood and moved to look out over Gensoukyo while Nitori pondered the next play. Shogi was pleasantly relaxing, in that each move took great deliberation. When they were in normal maneuvering of course she could chat with her opponent, but when a big play had gone through, she could take some time just to think to herself. About the game, or about other things.
Today she found her thoughts drifting towards the mountain peak above. The sudden religious upheaval had caused Sanae to spend a lot of time running around for those gods of hers. And then things had calmed down again and Gensoukyo kept on moving. Humans and gods were truly strange beings. It had barely been two years.
Then again Crow Tengu could work themselves into a tizzy over minor things as well. Perhaps the difference was youkai just forgot about the matter faster.
"Aha!" Momiji turned to see Nitori reaching for a piece. "I..." The kappa's face returned to a frown. "Damn." Nitori looked up at her accusingly. "Why are all you wolf tengu so good at this?"
"Tradition," Momiji replied with a smirk. Though that was the honest truth. Being good at Shogi was almost as important at being good with swordwork. Admittedly some people focused more on kemari or go, but every wolf tengu learned the basics of the game.
Nitori's reply was cut through by a piercing howl. Momiji whirled around. One of her comrades was sounding the alarm. "Sorry!" She yelled as she jumped out of the game room. Her eyes narrowed as she called upon her power to find the source of the incident.
A flash of light drew her attention, and she quickly focused her senses there. It seemed like four wolf tengu had already responded. They were matched against a swarm of constructs made of metal, led by a woman in a blue bodysuit with blond hair. The forest was thin in the area, but both sides were making use of the tree cover.
Since she was in off duty, and thus in reserve, Momiji took some time to review the battle. The constructs came in small ranged types and large melee types. Their movements were predictable but to her surprise they seemed to shield against the wolf tengu's magic attacks. The woman on the other hand was a whirlwind of electric blades. That was the main threat.
With something resembling a plan of action ready she began moving to enter the fray herself. She took the slow route, weaving through the trees to keep covered. Her observations showed that the attackers weaponry had little limit on range. Dodging trees was safer than dodging lasers. Still the delay meant her fellows would probably finish the matter before she arrived.
Sure enough as she jumped out over the waterfall she heard the sounds of battle's end. A few low explosions and then the calls of people seeking aid for wounds. The fact that the intruders had managed to injure some of her comrades was worrisome, but the defenses had held.
With the threat over she simply few over the remaining forest. As she cleared the treeline she saw there were ten of her comrades there now, surrounded by what looked like piles of metal debris. To her shock four wolf tengu were on the ground. Three were gritting their teeth while first aid was administered. One lay still, the day watch's captain shaking her head as she stood guard beside the body.
As Momiji looked on the dead tengu's face she felt her blood slow to a crawl. She knew the face before her. Kaikou Ogami. Her fiance.
She found herself kneeling on the ground next to the still form. His face seemed so composed, just like always. Only the burns on his chest told the truth. The captain put a hand on her shoulder.. "He was the guard for this sector. He tried to engage the enemy leader alone to slow them but... I'm sorry Momiji."
It had been an arrangement between the families. All wolf tengu marriages was. They'd known there was no romance to be found between the two of them. But their eccentricities had matched and that was enough in Momiji's mind. They'd long ago come to a rather amicable agreement on romance, and to be honest she enjoyed Kaikou's company somewhat.
Momiji lifted her head back and howled to the sky. The cry of a warrior whose comrade was slain. One by one the other wolf tengu added their voices to her's, their howls combining to show their loss.
She closed her eyes as the echoes died down. Her heart hadn't changed. She hadn't loved Kaikou. She wasn't even sure she could call him a close friend. But they'd understood each other, and worked with each other.
She opened her eyes and looked down at his still face. "And I swear, I will get vengeance for you."
Yumemi paused as the mournful sound of a wolf howl swept over the clearing. She'd heard the sound in movies and films before, but here in the shadowed forest the sound seemed to have a different edge. Marisa looked up from where she was diagraming Yumemi's setup with a frown. "Huh, sounds different from the local wolves. That's strange."
Yumemi looked around cautiously. "Local wolves? You have some in this forest?"
"Yeah. They can occasionally be an annoyance, but they mostly know to stay away from people like me." Marisa fiddled with her hat as she did her own inspection of the surrounding forest. "That's why that was so weird. Normally when the mountain packs get loud the ones around here speak up too. For some reason the wolves kept their mouths shut." Marisa frowned and thought for a bit, then smiled and shrugged. "Oh well. If it's a problem I'll blast it."
"That's a solution." Yumemi turned back to the array of generators she'd set up. She didn't know Marisa that well, but she had full confidence the little witch could blow stuff up. For that matter she was hardly helpless herself now that her personal defense systems were powered again.
On that note she finished smoothing the wires between the five ship generators. Yesterday she'd spent most of her time shifting the heavy generators around and rewiring the trio of working devices to keep working while she calibrated the ones she was going to add. It was a long, exhausting process without the proper tools, and Marisa had eventually dragged her back to the witches house to eat and rest up. But her efforts were paying off. She'd almost finished calibrating the added generators to boost her search power.
"Hey," Yumemi looked over her shoulder to see Marisa staring at her work again. "Why'd you go for a pentagram setup? You said this isn't magic so..."
"The same reason I used shields of David and crosses in my pseudo spell imagery," Yumemi replied. "My studies, limited as they may be, show that using certain rituals and designs increase the amount of magical power a person can use in a single instance. While it was all conjecture when we first met, I've confirmed it with experiments since then. In addition my battles here show that symbolism increases the effect of technical devices on magical creatures."
"Hm..." Marisa scratched the back of her head. "Well I suppose you can go with that if you plan to stay a dabbler. You can get a lot of energy outta rituals. If you've got someone with the right power involved of course."
"What do you mean stay a dabbler?" Yumemi stood up to face Marisa. "Are you saying there's some secret that professional magicians have that the average person doesn't?"
"Sleight of hand," Marisa said, pulling an ace out of nowhere. Yumemi just looked down at the witch. "Fine, fine," Marisa sighed. "The real difference between a magician and a dabbler is insane drive."
"Huh?" Yumemi blinked. "You mean you can train your magical prowess then?"
"Yeah. But not exactly what I meant." Marisa hesitated for a bit. "Look, how badly do you want to find this wondrous power source of yours?"
"How badly?" Yumemi pondered the question. "I can't really give a measurement there. It's my life's work. My prize thesis."
"Tell me then, what would you give up for it?" Yumemi leaned back as Marisa's golden eyes seemed to almost glow. "Would you abandon your family and friends for it? Lock yourself away for decades? Kill for it?" Marisa stepped forward, and Yumemi found herself stepping back. "Break your holy vows and the trust of those who have only you to rely on for it? Literally set your soul on fire for it?"
Yumemi shook off the strange feeling. "Those choices are insane. Perhaps the one about leaving home or spending a few decades researching the matter, but there's got to be come moderation here."
"They are insane," Marisa leaned back and smiled. "Magicians are insane. Every single one of those examples was something a magician I know has done. That's the basis of all magic. Wanting what you can't have badly enough to go mad and break reality to get it."
Yumemi stood there just looking at the smiling magician for a minute. "What."
Marisa waved her hands. "No no, I'm serious. Magic is breaking the rules of reality, right? You said so yourself yesterday."
"That's true," Yumemi replied.
Marisa nodded. "Which means technically you can do anything with magic. Because if there were any rules about magic, you could break those rules with magic. Right?"
"That..." Yumemi's mouth scrunched up as she tried to parse that. "I'm sure there's something wrong with that statement, but I'll figure it out later. For now proceed."
"Right," Marisa held up a finger. "Now, casting existing spells is pretty easy, if you've got the innate power. Just follow the spell and it happens. But how were the spells created in the first place? How did magical bloodlines start up?" Marisa put her hands on her hips and smiled proudly. "That's where real magicians come in. We're the ones who create spells and unlock magical power. And we do it by being crazy enough to fight the rules of the universe and think we can win, then getting together the willpower, energy, and focus to actually pull it off. That's how you can tell a magician's creations and bloodlines apart. They're usually unique."
Yumemi frowned. "But then how do spells work? If each spell is a unique creation, how are they passed along?"
Marisa shrugged. "They work because they worked before. Just common sense, right? You only need to have enough magic."
"I see?" Yumemi tapped her chin. "Is this common magical theory?"
Marisa crossed her arms. "Well, Patchy'd probably yell at me 'cuz of my wording, then go on one of her rants. And Alice'd give me her usual glare. But what can I say? I always liked Mima's explanation best."
"Good." Yumemi nodded happily. "If it doesn't make sense to anyone else then I still have a chance to get magic on my own." She turned away from Marisa's sulking and moved to finish hooking up the wires. The idea of murdering someone for scientific progress was a sad joke. There was always a better way.
With a click, the final wire fell into place and the engines began humming along. "Excellent," Yumemi said.
"So this is more likely to help you find your friends?" Marisa said.
"Yes. With five generators up the field should go all the way out to Mongolia, barrier or no." Yumemi moved towards the master unit. "Anyone carrying one of the zero point energy transferal systems will show up on system."
"That's pretty coo-ugh," Marisa suddenly staggered, "wha- what the heck is this? I feel sick..."
Yumemi spun to the control panel. "That's strange, the system shouldn't be putting out any energy to non automated systems. Let me shut it down and go through diagnostic-"
The reflection of a blade in the blue casing of the generator was all the warning she got. Scythe like pincers cut through the air as she flung herself to the side. Yumemi rolled, then leaped into the air as the insectoid robot that had appeared skittered after her.
"Ha!" Marisa pointed her hand and a shining laser flew across the field, only to dissipate harmlessly ten feet from the creature. "What?!"
Yumemi flung up a shield as the creature leaped for her. The mechanical thing hit it hard, sending her tumbling backwards. When she recovered her balance, she found that the creature had also suffered from the impact, landing poorly on the ground. She flung up her other hand and pointed out several targeting lasers at and around the creature. As the drone righted itself, crosses of energy exploded into the air, shattering its blade arms and right legs.
The machine gamely tried to stand again, but Marisa pulled something out of her hat and tossed it at the creature. The potion bottle sailed merrily through the air, then exploded with a deafening crash as it struck the robot. When the smoke cleared, only a few pieces of scrap remained.
"What the hell was that?" Yumemi asked. She didn't think anyone on the planet could build something like the machine that had attacked her.
"You mean you don't know?" Marisa said. The witch sniffed the air a bit and her frown deepened. "Damn. That thing dispelled mana in an area. A damned anti-magic field. No wonder I felt so sick. And what's with all the wiring crap? You sure it's not from your place?"
"If it has an anti magic field, it's definitively not from my world." Yumemi floated down to poke at the wreckage, but she knew there wasn't really anything to learn from the junk left over. "I think something else is going on here."
"Something else yeah, but it's not unrelated." Marisa adjusted her hat. "That thing went past me to try to assassinate you. That's not normal. Anyone from here'd try to stab me first."
"That's..." Yumemi didn't have an answer to that. She turned back to her generators. "Maybe it was drawn to the relay?"
"Maybe." Marisa didn't seem convinced.
Yumemi walked back to the console. "Well, if I can pinpoint the Chiyuris, I can turn it back down to three. We can work from there." She rapidly typed in the search commands for the system.
After a tense minute the system beeped. Yumemi felt her stomach fall away again. "Nothing."
"Not even yourself?" Marisa asked quietly.
Yumemi froze and turned back to the output. Marisa was right. Yumemi's devices were all working at max capacity. The system should be showing her, even if the Chiyuris weren't on the continent. There was only one conclusion.
Yumemi's eyes narrowed. "Someone is deliberately scrambling my search."
Marisa pointed to the small crater. "Someone who wants you dead."
"We'll see about that," Yumemi replied as she clenched her fists. "I'm going to find Chiyuri and Yuri. And if someone gets in my way, they'll learn that imitation magic isn't as weak as it might sound."
As she stared at the massive cliff face before her, Yuri greatly appreciated the fact that she could fly.
"How much further is it?" she asked Yamame as the two started floating upwards. "Not that I don't love cave systems, but I'd kinda like to eat something other than raw fish."
"It shouldn't be too long now. Just another day and a half or so I'm thinkin'" Yamame replied. "And ya shouldn't be complaining about the meals. Fish ain't exactly easy to find down here in the depths."
"Another day and a half?" Yuri groaned. Finding Yamame had been a stroke of luck. The tsuchigumo not only knew the way out, but also where to find food and water, things that were in short supply. The spider girl also had a number of nests that she used along the way, meaning Yuri had slept in a silk hammock instead of on the frozen ground.
Admittedly she'd kept one eye open until she was certain her host had fallen asleep, but that was just common sense when dealing with youkai. Or for that matter, human strangers as well.
"I take it dinner's going to be fish again?" Yuri sighed as they reached the top the chasm. Before the duo, another series of indistinguishable tunnels spread out.
Yamame headed towards the leftmost one. "Wha? Nah, we're closer to the surface, so I'm thinkin' mushrooms for dinner. Too bad we ain't near a tunnel that leads to the ancient city, otherwise we could get some meat there."
"You know, that reminds me, what were you doing so deep in the tunnels anyway? This seems awfully far out of your way," Yuri asked.
"Hrm..." Yamame turned and gave her an appraising eye. "Well, ya ain't the type to care, so I guess I can let the secret slip. There's a river that leads into the Styx down there that the kassha don't know 'bout yet. Ya can fish up some bodies there. Bit wet, but it makes the insides easier to eat."
"Oh." Yuri fished around for another topic that didn't involve eating humans. "So are there lots of tsuchigumo down here?"
Yamame shook her head. "Nah. Most of us set up near the surface, where things fall in. We've gotta couple of villages here and there around the Ancient City, but that's for families. A gal like me's gotta have some space to set up her webs ya know? Betcha there are about as many of us as there are kappa."
Yuri raised an eyebrow at that. Kappa were one of the more prolific races, even if you only counted the river kappa. "As many as there are kappa? How do you fit in a bunch of scattered villages?
"Ya can put a heckova lot more people on the inside of a mountain then the outside can't ya?" Yamame laughed. "It's a pain finding food and all, but we tsuchigumo have had centuries of practice learning how to live underground. And the underground here is near as good as our old home. Plenty of mushrooms and edible things, even if you hunt solo like a lotta us do."
Yuri wracked her brain for what little she knew of the tsuchigumo as they flew onwards. "You say it's a little hard to find food, but haven't you youkai always lived underground?"
"We lived belowground but this ain't the same," Yamame protested. "Back before that stupid human empire set up we could spend the days up about ground, then go home when the sun set. Nowadays we're stuck down here all the time." Yamame frowned. "Though I suppose that ain't the humans' fault any more now. It's those dang surface youkai who're being jerks." Her smile quickly returned. "Though all of 'em ain't bad, so we can get out a little these days. Oni are still more fun though."
"Oni? There are still oni around?" Yuri looked down at Yamame to see if the spider youkai was bluffing. "You mean the place all the oni disappeared to was just down here? Their far off land was just under Gensoukyo?"
"Hey now, it ain't an easy walk," Yamame said. "Besides, don't all you upworld folks know that already? Suika's been up there for a little while now."
Yuri shook her head. "I've been away, so I'm not really caught up on current events. You probably know more about what's happening in Gensoukyo then I do."
The scraping of metal against stone caused both of them to whirl towards a side cave. "What the heck is that?" Yamame asked.
"How would I know?" Yuri replied before whispering her wards into existence. She saw Yamame setting up whatever the tsuchimugo's defenses were as well. She decided she'd follow the youkai's lead.
The low scrape turned into loud clacking. Yuri's eyes widened as she realized what made that noise, merely seconds before the quadrupedal robot rounded the corner to face them. It was a dangerous looking machine, with a single glowing red orb for an eye and two pincers at the end of flexible arms. It paused and examined them with a menacing air before moving forward again.
Yamame'd apparently had enough. The spider youkai tossed a web of bullets at the creature, and Yuri decided to follow up with her own lasers. Yuri swore as a shield appeared around the creature. She ducked left while Yamame dashed right.
The robot turned towards her.
Yuri desperately fired off some danmaku at the creature, but its shield deflected the bullets. The robots arms shot out and an painful icy clamp slammed down on her arm. Screaming, Yuri tried to pull herself away and get room, but the metal claw was attached tight. She kicked at the creature but the shield bounced it away.
She cried out again as a spider's massive leg sent them both flying to the wall. The shield flared, then died as the robot's chassis hit the stone. Yuri dropped to the floor stunned as the robot let go of her to face the new threat. Yamame's earth spider form roared in challenge and slammed into the robot again. The impact sent the red eye's laser astray and opened up a rend in the machine's side.
Yuri saw a blue glow inside the rend and forced herself to concentrate. One thing the games of her new home had taught her was destroy things that glow. She summoned up some lasers and followed the advice.
This time the effects were more pronounced. There was a sharp bang, a cloud of greasy smoke, and then the bot collapsed, its legs giving out. Yuri sighed in relief, then collapsed against the wall.
Yamame smashed the wreck again again just to be sure, then reverted back to humanoid form. "What... what the heck was that? Some kappa invention? They trying to wipe us out or something?"
Yuri took a few breaths to steady herself before saying, "If so it's doing a bad job. It went for me, and it wasn't trying to kill from the start."
"What do ya mean by that?" Yamame asked. "Seemed pretty dang dangerous to me!"
Yuri pointed to the wall. A deep gash was melted into the volcanic rock. "Wouldn't it have been more dangerous if it'd started off with that attack?"
Yamame's expression grew even darker. "This ain't good at all."
Yuri looked at the wreckage. She didn't know much about kappa industry, but that mecha looked too much like the machines Yumemi's world used. Not the specifics, but the intricacy of the parts and design screamed optimization over craftsmanship. She felt an even greater need to get back to where Yumemi and Chiyuri were likely to be.
She turned back to Yamame. "If we get to the surface my friends might be able to help. They know a lot about machines. Especially ones like these. If it's something someone in Gensoukyo thought up, they might be able to develop countermeasures. And if it's something from outside, they might be able to track down the culprits."
"Hrm..." Yamame squeezed her eyes shut, then sighed. "Alright. Looks like we'll have to take the shortcut."
"There's a shortcut? Why weren't we taking that?" Yuri protested.
Yamame frowned at her. "Because it goes right through one of our villages. And humans ain't allowed unless it's an emergency."
The tsuchigumo kicked the scrap pile. "But I reckon this here is an emergency. Just promise not to tell anyone about the place and ya'll be up to the surface tomorrow around noonish."
"You have my word," Yuri replied.
"Then lets get hustlin'! I'm gonna have ta do a lotta explaining when I get to the village, so we wanna get there fast so the diners'll still be open." Yamame rose into the air and started down another tunnel, and Yuri quickly took off to follow.