Magical Juggernaut Heather Crunch versus Magical Ascetic Valentina Tenko III: It Takes Two to Tenko

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Once more, the Soul Temperer leads me outside the Officio. Rather than transporting me to the Valley of Eight Million Gods (sans ME, HAHA!), she leads me back to the waterfall cave, where I TRIUMPHED over those nefarious Nakajimas after they interrupted my meditation! I sidestep the waterfall at the last second, though. While she has been VERY helpful today, I am NOT getting drenched and wringing my clothes out in front of the Soul Temperer! I do NOT need her LURIDLY LEWD GAZE LEERING at my body -again-!

SPEAKING OF, she has her sword unsheathed and is using it as a torch to illuminate our passage. And she somehow appears to be completely dry as well. “So, Truth-Seeker,” she begins, as we follow the stream deeper into the cave, “what did you learn about love?”

“I have acquired no fewer than SIX different interpretations!” I declare with no small amount of pride. “FIRST! Love is SUPPOSEDLY like a potluck dinner, where everybody IS SUPPOSED TO pitch in, and where SOME may take more than their fair share from others, but is APPARENTLY worth the effort.”


“TWO!” I continue, not feeling even the most INSIGNIFICANT IOTA OF EMBARASSMENT about the current topic, “It is something one must INVEST in. THREE! It is a treasure GREATER IN VALUE than ANY OTHER treasures. FOUR! You have to feed it like a FIRE for it to comfort you with LIGHT and WARMTH.” Not that I need any warmth besides the BLAZING FLAMES OF MY WINNING SPIRIT! “FIVE! ‘Love may even bloom on the battlefield’-“

“Yesss!” the Soul Temperer abruptly hisses, punching at the air as though triumphant. Her sudden excitement briefly crashes my train of thought. BUT THE CRUNCH BRAIN IS SOON BACK ON TRACK!

“And the sixth is that it’s like fast food: unhealthy, but it tastes good, so you’ll keep wanting more,” I finish, folding my arms over my chest.

The Soul Temperer nods her head in satisfaction. “Much like the spider, you have opened all eight of your eyes,” she cryptically tells me. Does this have something to do with Berry? “So, Seeker of Enlightenment,” she continues, “What do you see with your eyes full of love?”

“About what I just said?” I ask.

“Indeed,” she replies, suddenly coming to a stop. The Soul Temperer looks at me from over her shoulder, and asks, “What did you learn from them?”

I clear my throat and keep my voice calm and steady, speaking with NO embarrassment when I tell her, “The testimonies I gathered demonstrate that a lot of -other people- seem perfectly content with it.”

“And so?”

...I hope it’s too dark for her to see how red my face is right now. “It is POSSIBLY not as heinous as I had originally envisioned,” I admit begrudgingly.

A slight smile forming on her lips, the Soul Temperer speaks once more. “So will you allow yourself to pursue what your heart desires?”

“NOT WITH SOMEONE LIKE NAKAJIMAAAA!” I shout, my denial echoing through the caves. “I simply CANNOT allow it to happen!“ I stamp my foot as a FIRM SHOWING of how much I DISLIKE this DISCUSSION!

And yet her smile only –grows-! “If she is undesirable,” the Soul Temperer states, “perhaps you should hunt a new crocodile in the river of desire.”

I stare at her for few seconds, trying to process what she said. “What?” I ask her. Is this about Winters now?

“I said you should put your eggs in another basket.”

I shake my head at her. “Once again, I cannot grasp what it is that you are saying.”

The Soul Temperer sighs. “What I mean is,” she explains, speaking slowly and carefully, “have you tried falling in love with somebody else who is not a scoundrel?”

“I WOULD if I COULD!” I growl! I am EXCEEDINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE with this line of questioning! ”Can we discuss this –later-? I want to get to today’s TRAINING already!”

This seemingly snaps the Soul Temperer out of whatever possessed her, as she recalls why we are here. “Very well then.” The Soul Temperer turns around and marches on, leading us through the cavern where I fought with the Nakajimas the other day. It’s remarkably barren, showing no signs of the struggle that took place. “It is interesting that you mentioned trust earlier, Seeker of Enlightenment,” she explains, taking us through a tunnel and into a different, larger chamber. “Today’s trials are focused on cementing and reinforcing the ability to trust other people, such as myself.”

“I don’t know if I –should- be trusting you like that,” I reply, my voice full of SKEPTICISM and UNEASE.

“Your words wound me, Seeker of Enlightenment!” the Soul Temperer exclaims theatrically. “I only want what is best for your development.” She uses the flame from her blade to light a row of torches along the wall, and reveals… an empty room.

“I don’t see how GROPING me is ‘best for my development,’” I mutter. This seems to give her pause, and she lets her shoulders slump.

“…it isn’t,” she admits with a sad sigh, sheathing her weapon. “Though the oak tree has grown mighty from a small sapling, it cannot escape its roots.” The Soul Temperer turns around to face me, though her eyes are downcast as though she cannot bear to look at me. “Nor can it deny how it yearns for the light of the sun.” Clasping her hands together, she seemingly forces herself to look me in the eyes, an earnest, hopeful smile on her face. ”But please believe me when I say that I sincerely wish to help you grow into an even more resplendent soul.”

…Maybe it’s just the lighting, but getting a good look at her now, she kind of looks…

“VERY WELL!” I shout, pushing such thoughts from my mind as I grant her my pardon. “For your aid earlier, I shall extend to you the benefit of the doubt!“

The Soul Temperer’s expression brightens immediately. “You are as forgiving as you are radiant, Seeker of Enlightenment!” she exclaims, clasping my hands. “I shall not disappoint you!” And with that rejoicing and sudden invasion of space, she quickly releases me and draws her blade once more. She then stabs it into the ground.

I’m a little disoriented, but I’m –reasonably sure- the ground is actually shaking. The light from the torches flickers and dances as sections of the floor sink down. What it leaves behind is a long, winding platform of stone SURROUNDED by deep pitfalls!

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” she informs me as the SUDDEN SHIFTING of the earth ceases, prompting her to sheathe her weapon once more. “And your first step is to navigate myself to the end of this course unharmed.” The Soul Temperer removes a strip of black cloth from her inventory and covers her eyes with it, tying it at the back to use as a blindfold. “Please take good care of me,” she adds.

It takes me a moment to figure out what’s going on. This all happened rather quickly, and I’m still reeling from… things.

BUT NOTHING CAN STOP THE CRUNCH TRAIN! “HERE WE GO!” I shout, my voice booming through the cave! FIRMLY GRASPING the Soul Temperer’s shoulders, I PROPEL her forward onto the small walkway!

…Well, THAT particular trust building exercise was an outright DISASTER.

Not MY attempt at the navigation of the maze, mind. I ACED that in SPITE of its twists and turns! No, it was HER run where things went WRONG! I should have suspected as much when she REFUSED to take off the blindfold! I SCREAMED at her to stop, or to at LEAST put me down instead of carrying me like a newlywed, but SHE DID NOT LISTEN!

And her breasts kept smacking me in the face, too! I didn’t even realize she –had- breasts!

AND SO, after much apologizing from the Soul Temperer, we return to her room once more. There, she has us sit at the table again. “For this next exercise,” she says, “I shall tell you two truths about myself, and one falsehood.” She gives a small smile. “You must guess which one is false.”

In spite of what happened earlier, I’m inclined to give her another chance. My mood from before has improved yet again. Maybe it’s because of this room. I rather like sitting in this room; seeing weapons on the walls pleases my sense of aesthetics.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the Soul Temperer herself.

“VERY WELL!” I concede. “Let us begin!”

Humming a little to herself before she speaks, the Soul Temperer starts us off: “I meditate for at least half an hour every day. I like girls like you who show great spirit. I eat my meat well-done.”

I snort. “OBVIOUSLY it’s the last one!” I declare. What kind of Eversor takes their meat well done?

“Correct, Truth-Seeker!” she says, beaming at me. “Now you tell me two truths and one lie about yourself.”

Oh, is that how this works? HMM… After a moment of musing, I present my statement to her: “I’ve never fought using an axe or a pole-arm. My favorite songs are STIRRING and HEROIC! And, uh… I, too, like my meat well done.“

“It is the last one that is untrue,” she answers with certainty.


“Now I’ll go again,” the Soul Temperer says, resting her elbows on the table. “I enjoy light reading and ballroom dancing. Black is my favorite color. I am extremely proficient at making dishes from fruit.”

I have to THINK about this one. She -seems- like she’d enjoy doing the first, and does appear to have some affinity for fruit. “Is it the second one?” I query.

“Right again, Seeker of Wisdom,” she praises me, which makes me smile. It almost –feels- like I am closer to understanding her. “It’s your turn again.”

“I have fled from battles with witches before,” I begin. “I have no fewer than TWENTY different subscriptions to magazines and journals on armaments, armor, and warfare. And I have an authentic M1 Garand automatic rifle.”

“I have to say that it’s the first one,” the Soul Temperer astutely answers.

“CORRECT! I have NEVER run from a battle against a witch!” I boast, puffing up with pride!

“How brave!” she cheers, resting her chin on her hands. “Now then, I’ve never gone on a real date before, though I wouldn’t mind trying one. I spent a long time wandering alone in exile. And I don’t put out on the first date.”

That’s more personal than I expected her to tell me. And it’s more difficult than the previous questions. I have no doubt that the last one is true – no offense intended – but for that to be true, then the first would have to be false, right? Then again, I was always stood up, so I don’t personally know. “The first one is false,” I tell her.

The Soul Temperer frowns. “Incorrect, Seeker of Enlightenment,” she explains. “It was the last one.”

Oh. Well. Okay then.

“My turn,” I say, BREAKING the sudden, awkward silence that set in. “I enjoy playing with robot action figures, watching sentai shows and reading about the history of war in my spare time. I am –naturally- bilingual. I have met with people from the First.”

“The first one?” she queries, uncertain.

“NAY! It is, in fact, the last one!” I shout in response.

“Truly? It is their loss,” the Soul Temperer responds. I acknowledge the TRUTHFULLNESS of such a statement by vigorously nodding.

“Let’s see,” she continues, leaning forward slightly. “I once replaced someone’s food with acrylic paints. I once spent a day in jail after being caught speeding on the way to an operation. My preferences include both domination –and- submission.”

“…I am hoping it is the last one,” I bluntly tell her, hoping she notices my discomfort.

“Also incorrect,” she replies, though she doesn’t look especially displeased. “I did pull such a stunt in the past, and I am very flexible, if you find that appealing in a partner.”

Okay, I’m getting seriously creeped out right now. “Uh, I never held the position of squad leader for very long. I always called my sword the Eversword. And I like having my personal boundaries RESPECTED.”

“It feels like the first one is the least worthy of you,” she says, failing to move back and give me room.

“And yet it’s INCORRECT,” I yell, sliding back a little. “I only named my weapon recently after a fit of inspiration.” And you’re NOT giving me my space at ALL, Soul Temperer!

“My turn,” she… purrs, her face coming closer and closer, and my face flushes redder and redder. “I have had hundreds of carnal conquests. I am afraid of getting what I want. And I really, -really- like you, Truth-Seeker.”

“FIRST!” I shout, as though putting EMPHASIS on it would FORCE it to be the ACTUAL TRUTH!

It FAILS TO WORK! “That is not correct. The second one is the lie.” She smiles a most SHAMEFUL smile before she gets RIGHT IN MY FACE, her hair brushing against my nose and hot breath tickling my cheek. “I might add that, through those hundreds of experiences, I have learned very much in the way of-”

I SCRAMBLE back away from her, my heart racing and my entire body on FIRE! “I WANT TO KEEP DOING THIS, THIS EXERCISE IS MAKING ME –EXTREMELY- UNCOMFORTABLE, AND I -DON’T- WANT TO KEEP DOING THIS!” I SCREAM at the possessed woman in an attempt to return her to her senses. I grab at my soul gem in warning that if she does NOT back off, I will FORCE her to stop this!

Her face falls flat as realization dawns. “…Oh,” she murmurs quietly. Finally, FINALLY she shows some sign of SHAME and REGRET for trying to RAVISH me!

I pick myself up and dust myself off. “I think that’s enough for today,” I state, wiping the sweat off my brow.

The Soul Temperer pouts and protests, “But I was going to tie your arm to mine for-“

“NO!” I exclaim, putting my foot down! “I won’t have any more of this until you get a hold of yourself!”

Moving away from the table, the Soul Temperer walks toward me and removes her hat. Clutching it to her chest, she prostrates herself on the ground. “A thousand pardons, Truth-Seeker,” she says. “Perhaps I was not ready to seek bonding activities from a book on marriage.”

I give the last sentence as much thought as I normally give to her parables. “Why did you think that would work?” I inquire in exasperation.

“It should have,” she insists, still prone on the ground. “And it would have, if I had the restraint of a squirrel preparing for winter.” She looks up at me, eyes shining with tears. “I was too eager.”

…I have to resist the urge to pat her on the head and tell her everything is okay. Instead, I tell her: “Very well, I magnanimously extend my forgiveness to you. We can train again some other time.”

This brings a smile back to her face. “Yes. Yes, we can try again,” she says, almost like she’s talking to herself. “I can be patient, now that there are no obstacles in my path.”

…After that cryptic response, I bid her farewell.

The first thing I do upon my departure is go into town. I have several ERRANDS to run, after all. And what better opportunity is there to do so than before actually running? This quaint little town had better be ready for the CRUNCH TRAIN’S ARRIVAL!

I head out to buy some new clothes and shoes. After I finish with that, I go off to the dry cleaners to drop off the maid uniform. And THEN I do my running. Even if I am in civilian form, I KNOW, with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, that I can EFFORTLESSLY do it! Hell, I could do TWICE that much! I must PUSH myself EVEN FURTHER THAN THAT!

Fired up, I break into a sprint!

I realize that I must give the Soul Temperer credit; I DO feel more invigorated than I was this morning. For all her undesirable behavior today, she has still somehow managed to lift my spirits. Perhaps I was too harsh towards her.

…Okay, only a little bit too harsh. I had to draw the line SOMEWHERE, and that SOMEWHERE is between her face and mine.

And so, eventually, the day draws to a close, and night falls.


And BECAUSE I am doing so well, I manage to both finish my runs AND extol my virtues to the LESSER stars in the night sky!

Yes, I have been EXCEPTIONALLY PRODUCTIVE today, to make up for how LETHARGIC I was before! I even worked up a good sweat, too. NOT the unwanted sweat of discomfort, but the GLORIOUS sweat of EFFORT and HARD WORK! THE SWEAT OF CHAMPIONS!

THIS is how I return to my housing. NOT moping around because of loneliness! NOT dragging myself along because I’d been violated! No, I return CONFIDENT and VICTORIOUS! I have SEIZED THE DAY and then SUPLEXED IT INTO SUBMISSION!

I turn the key and throw open the door – going through the wall is sorely tempting, though – and finally, FINALLY have time to myself here without having to worry about DESPAIR or VOICES or what have you!

You’re not doing that well at all, said voice grumbles inside my mind. I IGNORE IIIIIIIT!

Now, I should make dinner. A GRAND dinner- no, a FEAST! A FEAST for the return of my INDOMITABLE SPIRIT! And I, Heather Crunch, shall assemble such a feast BY MY OWN TWO HANDS, as I can’t rely on someone else to do it like-

“H-heyyy, you’re back!”