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Even if it was Kaori's praise, being praised always felt like it was the most correct action to Tomoko. At least, when it was directed at her.

While her club member's squabbles and interactions were amusing, they indeed had a job to do.

"You're coming too," the Intermediary commented without even glancing towards Akari as she approached the door.

As the door opened, the shape of the girl Tomoko had arrived with in the first place shimmered into view, holding her umbrella over the petite blonde girl, the single eye upon it glancing at the others, the tongue waving back and forth.

"Let's go!"




The trip there was a wet one, though as they reached the scene of the crime the rain appeared to be dying down. Tomoko, with her hands-free umbrella, had of course remained completely dry during the whole walk.

Why she had elected to walk there rather then any other method of transport was perhaps mysterious, or perhaps simply because she felt like it. Regardless of the case, by this point in the day there were few people in this area of town.

The most recent disappearance had happened at night, and no-one was certain where it had actually occurred. Therefore, Tomoko had decided to travel to the site of the second-to-last disappearance. Not only was it a shorter walk, but it was also one of the most baffling: It had happened right behind the child's parent's backs.

Makishima Taro's disappearance was among the strangest of them, for certain.

The site of the disappearance was a playground. It seemed as if Tomoko had deliberately targeted both a fairly late point in the day, and a day where there would be very few people in the area, to begin her investigation.

"And now... let's get started!"

The talisman she drew and tossed into the air was one-hundred-percent necessary, one of many invocation spells she had prepared prior to her arrival.

The pose she struck, drawing the five-pointed star of Abe no Seimei in the air with her cane around it, was almost invariably not. As the shimmering sign faded, the talisman began to glow...

Tomoko straightened.

For a few moments, nothing in particular seemed to happen... And then...

Lurching out of the shadows, was the gaunt, grey-faced figure of a girl in her teens. She appeared like a dry corpse, her kimono in tatters with the colors faded away, eyes rolled back, hands grasping at the air, fingers curled like claws. Her mouth hung open, a death rattle escaping her throat, dried blood caked over one empty eye socket, a ragged gash across her throat.

When she spoke, her voice was like a whisper.

"Who... dares to-"

The ghost stopped for a moment.

When she spoke again, her voice was completely different.

"Oh, it's you, ojou-sama!"

Almost immediately, her eyes seemed to reappear in the sockets. Her hair neatened considerably, skin fading to a pale, but much less grey flesh tone. Her wounds sealed, her cheeks filled out... in moments, aside from a certain ethereal nature...

The girl who stood before them wasn't threatening at all.

"And some other people! What are all of you here for?" she questioned, tilting her head. "Fufu, if you're here to play karuta again, I won't lose this time!"

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Hina couldn't help but smile when Homura chuckled at her joke. She had thought it was a good one, albeit obvious, but it was always nice to get recognition, even from a Human. After being scared by Shina (but not that much because she knew it was the Tanuki and only cowered and whimpered a little bit) and insulted by Shu (to which she replied that his mom was, in fact, the dullard) the group was off to the playground. Hina would have to take extra special care not to just play on the swings and instead get to work on this important case.

Solidifying her resolve in the pouring rain (how she hated the rain. The gleam of the knife in the pale moonlight. Screams drowned in the oncoming torrent of-), they eventually arrived at the playground, Hina profoundly unwettened due to her ability to incorporealize. The little Zashiki clapped as Tomko performed her far-too-elaborate summoning, whistling and cheering, saying "that's my chuuni boss for you~"

A ghost did, indeed, appear. It was, indeed, very scary. The gushing slit in her throat reminded Hina of some not-so-fun times in her past, but she shook her head. No time for the past. She was on a fun adventure with people that probably cared about her.

Probably.

The ghost took a slightly more pleasing form, and Hina approached her with notepad in hand. Hina would start out good cop, but she could do bad cop too if the situation called for it.

"Hey~ I'm Hina, our group's lovable mascot character, and I wanted to ask you a few questions about a recent disappearance in the area. This playground, specifically. I'm all business, you know, so I'm definitely not tempted to play on those slides right now," Hina said, as stone-faced as she could make herself (which wasn't much), "so tell me... did you see anything unusual around the time the Makishima kid vanished? If you give me any good information..."

Hina leaned in and whispered into the ghost's ear, "I can give you a tip on beating Tomoko. Or alternately, if you want to do it without my help... I'll draw your OC. Don't worry about being cringe, I don't judge. All OCs are someone's baby, and I respect that."
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Rune_Alchemist
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Shimizu Kaori
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Alas, their time in the clubroom had come to an end...and so did her time with the Mujina. As much as she'd like to keep the small shapeshifting spirit with her, it would likely be nothing more than a distraction during their investigation. As such, Kaori would instead opt to leave her in the clubroom. Grabbing her own umbrella, Kaori would follow the rest out of the clubroom, and out into the rainy day that had been given to them.

A playground was their destination, hm?

"My my, an excellent display as always Tomo-chan." Kaori would agree with Hina, lightly clapping as Tomoko made her totally necessary and accurate summoning. And what a cute ghost that was summoned too! She had to wonder what such a cute ghost was doing here, but she couldn't really complain that the end result was meeting another cute ghost. "And what a cute little ghost, Ehehe. I'm Kaori, just a little spider employed by Tomoko-chan. As Hina has said, we're looking into a child that disappeared around here." The spider would give a brief description of Makishima Taro as well as the general time of day that the disappearance had occurred. "It would be of great help if you could assist us."

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Homura had an umbrella, so at least getting there wasn't a problem for her. Tomoko did her thing, with a usual flair that was endearing, if unnecessary. And they had their ghost. There was something funny about her dropping the horror act once she knew who it was, but hey, everyone's got appearances to keep up.

Hina had already stared with the important questions, so there wasn't much reason to just chime in with "what she said." Instead, Homura started looking around the area. This definitely wasn't the usual place for a disappearance. Far too open, although they had already assumed a supernatural cause.

She turned her attention to the others. "What do you think? Know anything that likes to hang out in places like this?"
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Shina pulled her small Oni up out of the chair. "Come on, grab whatever you need." The Tanuki reached out towards the wall and an umbrella poofed into existence in her hand. Likely enough, she probably hid it so no one stole it. "You can walk under the umbrella with me, Akari-chan~" She'd wait for Akari to grab whatever she needed and urged her out so they didn't fall behind. Soon enough they reached the playground and the rain was dying. Shina just smiled as Tomoko summoned the spirit of the ghost. "Ohhh, she's a cute ghost. The ones I know tend to look a bit more spooky. Good people but if you didn't know better they'd scare your socks off."

She then turned to Homura who had asked them all a question. "What do I think? I think cute girls tend to hang around after a certain type of spider is done with them, but I don't think that's what you mean." She looked over toward the resident spider. "But... Other than that, I'm sure there are a small number of Youkai that frequent the city much as some of us present do but a playground? Hmm. Is there anything that would want to try bothering children at a playground in the middle of the day?" She shrugged. "I'm not too familiar with any of the really recent Urban Legends. Hanako-tan, Kuchisake-Onna... Any of those ones I know." Shina shrugged. She looked out to the playground and smiled as the rain was just about gone.

She poofed into smoke and her appearance changed again. Now, she looked like a younger child version of herself about Akari's size. "Hey, hey. Akari-tan~ Wanna play at playground?" She teased the girl, always enjoying teasing the girl.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Raineh Daze
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"Oh, that's right..." Akari mumbled, thinking about it. She could hit a ghost. It was kind of a useless ability to have unless there were ghosts around, as far as she knew what to do with it, so it was the sort of thing that so easily slipped her mind... especially when she could only do it because of a scary story!

As much as she didn't want to go outside--for a whole variety of reasons today, from the fact they were going out to a playground to get a ghost to show up to the part where it was wet to the threat of being a potential abductee if something went horribly wrong--there was little resistance on the oni's part. She didn't even have to grab her own umbrella, she just made sure to bring another drink along. It wouldn't be the first time she'd had to prove her (fake) age to some concerned citizen or the police, and maybe it'd put off... whatever was doing this.

She might have overreacted to the ghost's appearance. Just a little. The smouldering, phantasmal arm held threateningly in case the horrifying corpse came anywhere near her was a bit more aggressive than was needed when the spirit stopped being spooky, and she sheepishly let it fizzle out, with nothing to particularly offer in terms of 'what might be behind this'.

The oni looked at the bottle in her hand, then her clothing, when Shina suggested... playing around. "My clothes would get wet. And I'd probably break something..."

Or they'd get caught, that was another one. A kimono was hardly playground attire.
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"No karuta today, I'm afraid," Tomoko added, smiling as she did.

"Mumumumuuuu..." the ghost seemed to fume for a few moments, hands clenched into fists at her sides, "And I was sure I was going to win this time!"

Tomoko simply kept smiling.

She'd never lost a single game.

The ghost was distracted for a moment when Hina came close, and offered her tips on how to beat Tomoko... or an OC? The ghost had no idea what an OC was, but she definitely wouldn't reject getting a drawing of one.

"Wow, I was going to help anyway, but that sounds amazing, let's do it!" she said, cheerfully, in response to the zashiki-warashi's offers.

"Your frightening form was good enough to scare both an oni," commented the blonde girl, "So at least you can count that as a win."

"Heeeeh?! Really?! An oni!? Wow!" the ghost exclaimed, clearly excited at the fact that she'd managed to frighten a yokai. Tomoko declined to mention the fact that Akari was irrationally scared of ghosts to begin with. There was no need to spoil the ghost's mood, at least not at the moment. After all, they wanted to ask her some questions, and making her upset wouldn't have helped in that goal at all. "Fufufu, I'm really impressive, aren't I?"

At the compliment from Kaori, the ghost's aura of smugness seemed to grow in power. But with it came some concern.

"Disappearances...?" asked the kimono-clad phantom, a frown coming across her lips. "Does she mean disappearances, ojou-sama? Like, the kind you might deal with?!"

"That's right," Tomoko said, unable to help but be mildly amused at the fact the ghost felt the need to clarify this to herself and choosing to elaborate on her club members' words, "Seven children have vanished in the surrounding area this month alone, and one of them was last Friday in this very park. Since you haunt this playground, we were wondering if you might know anything. Did you see anything strange last Friday afternoon?"

The ghost looked thoughtful for a few moments. Perhaps some people would think it odd to ask a ghost if she saw anything strange, but what Tomoko was looking for was anything that the ghost felt did not match up to ordinary events. After all, if she haunted this location and saw the usual routine day in and day out, something that did not match that would naturally stand out. Even if she hadn't directly seen the disappearance...

"Well, a few kids noticed me, so I was playing hide and seek with them!" declared the ghost, clearly considering this to be a happy memory, "But when I got done with that... I remember there was a woman I'd never seen around before."

"A woman that you'd never seen before?" Tomoko asked. At first glance, there was nothing particularly unusual about that. Surely new people showed up to the playground all the time, bringing their children with them. But the fact that it had specifically stood out to the ghost...

"That's right! She didn't have any children with her or anything," continued the girl phantom, "And I remember thinking that was strange because adults don't normally show up to the playground on their own, at least not the good kind of adults. So I decided I was going to keep an eye on her, and spook her if she tried anything with the kids! But then I noticed that no-one else seemed to see her... so I think she must have been a ghost like me."

A phantom woman who appeared the same day as Makishima Taro disappeared, at the same time? Tomoko had long since concluded coincidences were a rarity, and this didn't sound like one.

"Then what happened?" she asked.

"Well, I was going to keep an eye on her... but then the kids wanted to play hide and seek again, and I couldn't say no! But after that, I think I remember hearing some of the parents calling for their child... Who had the same name as the one Spider-san described!"

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Hina removed a sketchbook from the backpack she carried around as a pretend student, and deftly flipped it to a blank page with fingers as fast as lightning. She pressed a fingertip to the edge of her pencil to check its sharpness, nodded to herself, and sidled up next to the ghost. It was just a sketch, so no need to do an outline or anything. She just needed some basic information.

"Alright, so what are we looking at here? Half Angel half Demons are popular. A Vampire, maybe? I also draw kemono if you're into that. Are they from a certain property like Fate or One Piece? Just tell me whatever you're comfortable with and I'll start drawing, the more info the better."

She leaned in closer to the ghost girl and added conspiratorially into her ear, "speaking of the not good kind of adult, don't get too close to that Spider. She's already thinking about lewding you up. Fair warning."

As she awaited the ghost's input, Hina looked back to Homura.

"Well, if we consider that it's an urban legend, and we assume it's that woman our friendly ghost saw, along with its penchant for taking children, it's no wonder it would come by here. We can use these pieces of information to build a profile. But your question does have me wondering: why here and now? Either way..."

Hina scrunched her face up in mock anguish, puffing her cheeks and pouting.

"It's probably not a funny Nurikabe! And if it's some sort of phantom, it's not a crappy Human," she complained, stomping her little feet in the world's least threatening tantrum, "I swear it's gonna be one of those some day!"
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Rune_Alchemist
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Shimizu Kaori
Playground



Hmm...a spectral woman who conveniently showed up when a child went missing. Like Tomoko, she was far too old and had seen too many youkai activities to merely believe this was any sort of a coincidence. As she'd contemplate the ghosts words, Kaori quietly walked over to Hina and the ghost, wearing her usual friendly smile. Since she left the Mujina back at the clubroom, might as well mess with both of them.

"Ehe, There, there Hina-chan." The spider would attempt to pull the ghost into a hug. "You'll get your human baddie or Nurikabe soon, I believe in you." She'd turn to the ghost in front of them with her usual smile. "Hey, hey, adorable ghost-chan. I'll play Karuta with you! I'll even teach you a fun knew version of it we can play~" Said version perhaps involved losing articles of clothing, but details details.

Despite her jovial and friendly tone, Kaori was in fact, taking this seriously. Seemingly no connection with the kids themselves. The specter attacking at random times. No trace of the kids left behind. The nabbing happening in an instant...not even she could do that! Hmph, maybe she'd ask for tips from this youkai...wait, no. Tomoko would lock her in that horrible room again if she did that. If it was something like an Onryo then it'd be a simple matter of working back from the first disappearance to figure out what and where this particular youkai came from, but ultimately from evidence so far there wasn't anything connecting all the children together...

"Hmm, perhaps it followed one of the children out here from somewhere else and has been doing the most abhorrent act of nabbing children it likes since then? How terrible. I don't suppose we saw where this phantom woman went, hm? Did she say anything or do anything else that we could use to identify her perhaps? Clothing? Appearance?" She was grasping at straws here a bit, but they still didn't have quite a complete picture of what this thing even looked like. If they could get even a partial description it'd help immensely in narrowing down the culprits.
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"Hmm..." Homura pondered the ghost's testimony. Strange, possibly spectral woman. Disappearances. There were some options there, at least for narrowing it down. "What did this phantom woman look like? She wasn't super tall and wearing a big hat and white dress, was she?" That'd rule out at least one spooky thing she read about on the internet.

"Really, anything identifying will help. Unusual hair or eyes, clothing, whatever you can remember about her." Even if it turned out this phantom wasn't the culprit herself, she was a person of interest and possibly another witness. Something had to have spirited the child away.

Though speaking of, if children were being taken, they had to be taken somewhere. That meant there would be some sort of lair to track down once they've got the target in mind. Especially if there was any chance for rescue. Hopefully it wouldn't involve some sort of spirit barrier or other little alcove carved out of the spirit world.

"Forgive me if I'm completely wrong with this one," Homura started a suggestion to Shuichiro. "But I don't suppose you'd be able to sniff out any trails left by spirits in the area? Might be a way to track down this mystery woman."
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Shina gave a small pout when Akari brushed off her playing idea. "Kids these days, I swear." She said before walking off to the playground. Well, if they were gonna spend all this time talking to that ghost, perhaps she'd walk around a bit and investigate. It wouldn't even look weird since she looked like a child after all. There probably wasn't anything about. Hell, maybe, she'd find the culprit. No one was going to pay attention to her when they were talking to that ghost girl anyhow and the last victim did disappear from behind his parent's backs. The Tanuki walked over to the point furthest from where everyone else was. Maybe she'd find something. Maybe not. She just started humming to herself as she played on some of the equipment. It also helped relieve some of her boredom anyhow.
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🎐 Nishiyama Shuichiro🎐


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Making his way to the playground with the others, the young fox was greeted by a frightening ghoul. The facade quickly dissipated, however, as the ghost realized that the prez was the one addressing her. The ghastly ghoul revealed itself to be a cute young girl.

"You seem like the type who enjoys making mischief, I approve!" Shu said as he cheerfully greeted the ghost girl.

After the girl gave her accounts of the missing children, Shu listened to the other members brainstorm for a moment. Homura then asked if he'd be able to track this mystery woman.

"Dunno, might be hard given all this rain~" He said jokingly, knowing that normal rain wouldn't interfere with tracking spirits.

Shu extended his index finger, pointing it upward. A violet ball forms from the point and emits a deep glow.

"If Ms. Mystery Lady left any trail, this needo number should be able to pick it up no sweat. Just say the word, Prez, and I'll point ya in the right direction!"
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"Ummmm..." at the drawing offers, the ghost looked thoughtful for a few moments, "A samurai! A cute ghost girl samurai!"

Given her manner of dress, it was quite possible the ghost was alive when the samurai class still existed. Or, perhaps, she just thought it was a cool idea.

Tomoko considered the information that the ghost had provided thus far. A female apparition that no-one else seemed to see... and yet she didn't anticipate that the perpetrator was a ghost. A wandering ghost was unlikely to possess the power to cause children to simply vanish, something like that would demand far more power then the average disembodied soul without a concrete location to anchor itself would be capable of mustering. Even a ghost like the one they were speaking to now, fully capable of interacting with children, would not have the capability to simply cause those children to vanish.

Kaori, however, had hit upon a line of questioning that Tomoko had wanted to pursue almost from the outset.

"Her height? How she dressed?" the ghost asked, cocking her head as she made no effort to escape from the jororgumo's grip, "Well, if it's for karuta..."

And Homura's elaboration was the exact direction Tomoko would have taken herself.

She was certain now, but she wanted confirmation.

"Oh... how did you know?! That's exactly what she was wearing! ... Is that bad or good?" the ghost immediately seemed uncertain. "She was also really tall, the tallest person I've ever seen!"

"You've confirmed my suspicions, good work!" declared Tomoko brightly, flashing a thumbs up towards the ghost, who seemed surprised for the moment that what she's said was enough to confirm anything.

"I know we were already suspecting we might be dealing with something like this," she said, as she turned to her club members, "But now our suspicions are confirmed. We're not dealing with an ancient mountain hag, a displaced kappa, or anything like that. We're dealing with something quite a bit more urban, but without a penchant for facemasks and giant pairs of shears!"

The blonde girl tapped the tip of her walking stick against the ground.

"Our perpetrator is Hasshaku-sama!"

She paused for a moment, for dramatic effect.

"Oh! I've heard children talk about that, what is it?" asked the ghost. It was only natural she didn't know, having died before the internet existed in its current form.

"She's a ghost, or a yokai depending on who you ask," Tomoko explained, "Who focuses largely on children. She takes them away, in most tellings, which is something I'm counting on. But the important thing to know is this: Hasshaku-sama is entirely fictional."

The ghost stared blankly.

"Eeeh? Then how is she the culprit...?"

Tomoko brushed the question off.

"What we need to do now is figure out how we're going to lure her out!"

Using her stick, she pointed it towards Shuichiro.

"If you can find a trail, that should help too, but I'm sure we're going to need some bait either way."

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Akari, too, stared. Entirely fictional? If something was entirely fictional, it couldn't take people away. If something entirely fictional was now taking things away, then it obviously wasn't entirely fictional. It didn't particularly matter if it was something being a copycat of this supposedly fictional person or what was going on, the oni just... didn't think it was possible to have a definition of fiction that extended to going around taking children.

Although, she didn't really want to argue with Tomoko about what was fictional and whether random bits of net lore counted as fiction anyway, so the small girl just frowned. "Bait? Like... sake? Sake is good bait..."

Especially for oni, but it also worked reasonably well on a lot of other things. Who could resist a free drink?
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Before Hina could start drawing, Kaori drew her into a hug and immediately alarm bells went off. Hina groaned and kicked her little feet ineffectually, whining and flopping against the spider like a suffocating tuna. As the ghost explained what she wanted drawn, Hina slowly realized that Kaori couldn't really do anything to her in front of Tomoko if she didn't want to be punished, and calmed down somewhat. She shot Kaori a glare and puffed up her cheeks, giving the spider a saucy 'HMPH' before shaking her head and looking down at her sketch pad. Even trapped in Kaori's arms, she could draw. Hina was a true professional in the end.

If Hina assumed that the ghost enjoyed karuta as much in life as she did now, she was probably from the mid 1500s at the earliest. This meant that the samurai armor she might be familiar with would be of a full plate style that had been adapted from European armor at that time, which was a better defense against arquebusiers than the previous lamellar style. This was just as well, because drawing the individual scales would be a hassle. In order to save even more time, she would give the ghost samurai a ghost tail instead of legs. This would also signal that this samurai was, indeed, a ghost, because it would be hard to make that clear otherwise. Why was a ghost wearing armor at all? Because it's cool, alright? It's a ghost samurai.

The details were largely left up to Hina, but given the description, she assumed it was something of a self-insert. Hina would sketch a girl much like this ghost in a semi-realistic style, because the ghost didn't seem to be up on modern trends. A manga-like style might just confuse her. Creating such a quality sketch was possible with the time she saved in other areas. Given that the symbol of a samurai is their sword, she opted to make it special and cover it in cool ghost flames. To finish it off, she created a stylized flower mon to represent the family this samurai belonged to. Hina based it off of a hibiscus, like the flowers on the girl's kimono, and zonked back to reality when Tomoko announced the culprit.

"Ah... I thought it might be her. Hachishaku-sama, right? She's really evolved from the old 2chan thread and become her own thing nowadays, huh? Originally she'd just possess and kill you, but due to memetic mutation..."

Hina trailed off as she handed the sketch to the ghost and winked.

"Don't spend it all in one place~"

She turned back to the rest of the club members.

"So... Foxboy locates her, then we set up the bait to get her to appear," Hina said thoughtfully, "hmmm... but who could we use that would be relatively safe, and might be able to get out of trouble if things get dicey?"

Hina casually went incorporeal to escape Kaori's clutches and paced around a little.

"Someone who looks like a little kid, but is experienced enough to take care of themselves. Hmmm..."

Then, she locked eyes with Tomoko, the light of mutual understanding flashing in her pupils, and approached the boss.

"No need to say anything. I get it... I definitely get it... I'll help you pick out a cute randoseru so you can serve as bait! I even have an elementary school uniform in my treasure room you can use! I know it fits me, so it will probably fit you."
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"Hasshaku-sama?" Shina asked, looking toward Tomoko. Well, the Tanuki had never heard about it. "Tall?" So, this tall Youkai or ghost would kidnap children to... Do something. If it was a youkai she assumed that it would just eat them. "Entirely fictional?" How interesting. She reached into her clothing in her current diminutive form and pulled out her smartphone. She clicked on her device for a few seconds before looking up Hasshaku-sama. "Tall woman... Po... Alright..." The tanuki gave a small sigh before poofing back into her normal form. "So, we're going to get someone for bait.." She looked between Akari and Hina.

"Hmmm~ You know, I think a randoseru would look really cute on you, Miss Zashiki-Warashi~" Before the Zashiki-Warashi could notice, Shina was right behind her and wrapped her arms around the girl's shoulder. "If we dress you up in that elementary school uniform and randoseru and gauge the spider's reaction, I'm sure we'll know if you're like to be kidnapped~." She then released her and wandered over to the spider and patted her on the shoulder. "Look at that, Miss Spider, we can make good use of your deranged preferences in women... Or, perhaps I could say, lack-thereof." The tanuki giggled a small bit, enjoying being able to make fun of everyone a small bit.

Shina then wandered over to Homura rather quickly, "So, Homu-tan, don't you agree with me on that? Hina could completely be bait, right? What do you think~?" The Tanuki was lightly nudging the human girl in the side a small bit. "Too bad you and me are too big to be bait~" Shina teased, handily ignoring the fact that she could transform to look like a school girl.
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Shimizu Kaori
Playground



"Hasshaku-sama...?" A name Kaori wasn't familiar with. Ugh, all these new modern youkai and spirits popping up making her feel like an old woman. What kind of Youkai was into specifically kidnapping little children anyways? Seemed rather like a nonsensical concept. At least the respectable members of the Jorogumo society had other motives...herself notwithstanding.

"Hmm? A randoseru? On Little Hina-chan?" She'd narrow her eyes at Shina. "You're backhanded compliments aside, I'm not sure I'd be a good judge. Hina-chan already looks perfectly cute and kidnappable~" She'd giggle as though she was proud of that fact, looking over to the ghost in question with a smile. "Hmm...but you do make an excellent suggestion." Immediately, Kaori walked over to Tomoko hands clasped together in front of her with an excitable grin.

"Tomo-chan, tomo-chan~! Let me take Hina-chan home~" She'd ask. "Ehehe, I can dress her up exactly like we need too! And I promise not to lay a fuzzy little leg on her. Please my ever so cute, adorable, smart club president and lovely Tomo-chan~ grant your little spider this request~?"
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She was actually right? But that was just some internet horror story anyway, not a real spirit or the like. Well, there's no reason to discount eyewitness accounts, and no doubt something that unusual wouldn't be mistaken.

Homura still looked rather surprised that her hunch was even on the right track. "Huh, I honestly thought it was a long shot. But if Hasshaku-sama is completely fictional, does this mean we're actually dealing with something else? Something that takes its form from rumors or the like?"

The discussion did quickly go toward someone to serve as bait. Shina had the right of it, at least where Homura herself was concerned. "Yeah, given the current victims, I'm a bit out of the age range to be a good target. I suppose I could play big sister in case we want someone around to step in. Though given how some of these disappearances happened, I'd have to react fast."

She didn't have any strong opinions on whom should be bait, however. "All I can say is whoever's our bait, it's a dangerous, but very important job. I'd do it myself if I could, but since I can't, I won't try to volunteer someone, either."
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Immediately brushing aside any of Hina's assertions, Tomoko took a deep breath. Needless to say, asserting that their preptrator was entirely fictional was something that needed at least a little explanation.

"But... fictional things can't do that," the ghost tilted her head, perplexed, holding the drawing lightly in both hands, "Couldn't it be something else...? Maybe it was a living person."

"You're right, Chiba-san," she began, addressing the ghost "There's plenty of other possibilities to consider. Indeed, it's not as if a fictional spirit could be the most likely perpetrator, right? There must be plenty of other potential culprits to consider first."

A smile crossed the girl's lips as she took a deep breath.

This was it.

"Or are there?" she asked, rhetorically, "Certainly, it's possible there's others who might want to kidnap a child. But there's a few things that struck me as odd about this case. The park was packed the day Taro-kun disappeared, wasn't it?"

The ghost nodded swiftly.

"There were a lot of people. It wasn't like there were too many for the kids to have fun, but it would have been hard for anyone to move around without being seen," she replied.

"That's right. We have a kidnapping done in broad daylight, in the middle of a crowded playground, with no witnesses, no signs of a struggle, and not even a cry for help," Tomoko continued, "Taro-kun disappeared without a trace in an instant. Certainly, there's other yokai who exhibit a disturbing interest in children, but there's a reason they're often used as stories to keep children from wandering off alone."

Kappa would attack those who approached water, but there was no water here. And a yamaoba coming down into such a crowded place, in broad daylight...

"They're not known for attacking crowds for a reason. The most likely perpetrator aside from that is a human, which I will admit might seem more likely. However..."

There was no reason to pause like this other than for dramatic effect.

"Would a human kidnapper really be able to make Taro-kun disappear so quickly? Would a human kidnapper then be able to do the same to the other children? Taro-kun isn't the only one who disappeared in broad daylight in a public place. But all of that's simply guesswork. It's not impossible for a human kidnapper, just highly unlikely," she added, "It's Chiba-san's testimony about the tall woman that confirmed my suspicions."

"But... how can a fictional spirit hurt anyone? If she's fictional, she's not real, right?" asked the ghost.

"Just because something is fictional doesn't mean it's not real," Tomoko answered, still smiling as she explained, "We can trace Hasshaku-sama's origins back to a thread on a certain internet discussion board. It was just a ghost story, with no basis in reality. That ghost story has spread, over and over, between more and more people. The idea that 'Hasshaku-sama is a tall woman who causes children to disappear' has been spread far beyond the original readers."

Tomoko paused for a moment.

"It's not even a particularly frightening story, I never got the appeal, so I can't fathom why anyone would start taking it so seriously! It's a little silly, isn't it?" she commented. "But regardless, Hasshaku-sama spread. It spread to the point where there were plenty of people who didn't even know where it originated. Where some people began to believe it could be true. Human belief sustains gods, and human belief can sustain monsters as well."

The blonde girl gestured idly with her walking stick.

"If, as I believe, Hasshaku-sama is our culprit, she's a monster of human belief. A yokai born from the fact that people believed she could exist. She'd hardly be the first. Kuchisake-onna, Aka Manto, Teke-teke, just to name a few. Mythological yokai are born from nature, or magic. But those from urban legends are formed from belief."

Her walking stick tapped against the ground.

"Regardless, we need to set a trap, don't we?" she asked, her smile turning into something of a smirk, "And Hina-chan has kindly volunteered herself for just that purpose! I think I'll let Shimizu-san handle the costuming, I'm sure she'll do a fine job if she's left alone with Hina-chan."

One could almost swear Tomoko's eyes took on a light all their own as she gave an almost aggressively pleasant smile to the zasshiki-warashi.

She clapped her hands together.

"Nishiyama-san, if you can help narrow down her location that would be excellent. Ibaraki-san, you might have to swallow your nerves a little, that arm of yours is about to come quite in handy."

Of course, she didn't mean either of the small oni's physical arms.

@Raineh Daze@Vega7285@Pyromania99@AzureKnight@Rune_Alchemist@Octo
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"Aha!" Upon hearing from Tomoko-chan that she could indeed, carry off the Zasshiki-Warashi and keep-ahem-dress her up, the spiders mouth turned into a wide, excitable grin. She'd reward Tomoko by giving her a brief, if extremely tight and cuddly hug before pouncing right on the ghost in question, grabbing Hina by the waist and pulling her off the ground. "Ehehe, don't you worry little Hina-chan, I'll take veeeeerry good care of you~!" The spider giggled, holding the ghost tight against her body. In order to make sure she could not escape, the ghost would have the misfortune to find the spider had tied a thread of silk around her arms as she was lifted into a princess carry.

"Byyye tomo-chaaan~!" She'd shout, waving bye to the group as she'd proceed to run away at high speed. "Stop by my place later and I'll show you all how cute Hina iiiiis~!"
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