Akaiji rushed upstairs to discover what had happened to Hui and Shun, but was surprised by a haggard looking shun barging out the door before him, still carrying half his clothes in hand.
"Honorable lady alchemist... I must admit you are more fearsome in the ways of combat than I suspected... A fine skill of deception I must say..." His voice almost sounded impressed, but more confused, and even more just Akaiji-esk. He wasn't... nervous, was he?... "Is your carapace damaged?"
"I must inquire as to the safety of the others, but..."
"My knowledge of these... vertebrates is limited... and..."
"I must inquire as to the safety of the others. Please regard me the thoughts on this matter at a more convenient setting, my honorable female alchemist."
He moved to return his towering sword to the scabbard, but found himself pausing mid-motion and examining the gore that incrusted the blade. Even the blood on it's own felt... most troubling... For now, he just propped it up against the wall and left it be. Other things were more concerning.
The crab examined the survivors closely, starting with the man who he had pummeled into unconsciousness moments before. Did the monsters bother to have those under their control them eat and maintain themselves? How long had it been, indeed?...
He passed around some blankets and made sure at least a few of them drank something. The strange expression spoke of him understanding their human terror, but only as one might from reading an instruction manual on it. What crab version of it he may or may not have felt was left up to the imagination.
"...That... was a most fantastic kick..."
Hui forced a smile at the Samurai. "I'm fine," she lied.
Hui made her way downstairs at a jittery awkward pace although upon seeing how hurt Ganzorig was she immediately sprang into action, retrieving from her bag several potions, obviously healing ones at that, and gently helping Ganzorig drink them, kneeling besides the Barbarian and resting his head on her lap and stroking his hair. Not that he could really see her face, or vice verca. Huibits are Huibits.
That was certainly a thing!
Though still deeply disturbed, Myfanwy was certainly relieved when Ganzorig used the last of his strength to take down the despicable creature. In the wake of such terror, it was hard to pull herself together. In fact, following the rush of adrenaline, she'd almost felt a bit weak at the knees. Rather than following Akaiji to the second floor, she took a moment to collect herself.
It was only after he'd returned, along with Hui, that she snapped out of it and began assisting with checking on the people of the inn. Hui seemed to have things under control with Ganzorig...and besides, she had never been the delicate type, nor very good with healing (at least, anything requiring beyond downing or distributing a bit of health serum seemed beyond her capabilities.) Still, she helped where she could, filling cups with ale and helping pass them about where necessary (who's to say if she didn't take a sip or two while passing them along.)
Hui spent most of the time comforting the victims of the abominations and tending to the party's wounds.
They didn't know much, the innkeeper and the guests. They had been dominated by the abominations and kept around to keep up the illusion of normalcy for the past week or so - it was hard to keep track of time. They didn't get too many visitors, what with the ghosts, and originally there were more. But when the guests ran low, the Golden Way lasses turned on their thralls for food, instead. The Telepaths would eat the brains, while the other girls would eat the rest.
Yu volunteered to escort the survivors back to town, helped along by a handful of potions, explosives, and other useful bit from Hui's bag of alchemical goodies. She was still pretty shaken up, herself.
"M-maybe we should go check out the shrine?" Hui offered, meekly.
"I agree," Megæra said. "We need to get to the bottom of this now."
Akaiji seemed to gather for himself that he was just becoming a source of fear and bad memories for the survivors, so for the few days that followed, he tended to simply stay out of the way.
This did, however, result in him appearing almost instantly at the window, with a loud thump, the minute Hui suggested moving on.
"I think that would be filled with just prudence." He seemed... motivated. "Worry not. We will get to the bottom of this, and save others the further agony. Justly."
"I would also like to find out what's going on. Those...things are intolerable. Something must be done." As much as she feared facing anything more like the people/creatures they just fought, she also didn't like the idea of them existing anywhere near her. If there were more lurking about, it was best to put an end to such abominations in her eyes.
And so the group was off once again.
As the group got closer to the shrine things got worse. Much worse.
The ghosts were more plentiful, more deranged, and more agressive. Most were completely incoherent and barely recognizable as having once been the spirits of men, but the sant few that retained enough of their former identities to speak were wailing and screaming incessently about how 'the way is blocked] whatever that meant.
The flora, too, was worse off. Everything was dead, and several of the trees sported great cracks and fissures that seemed to either billow a thick, black, smoke or weep with some thick, black, viscous fluid. The stench was horrific.
Hui seemed very unnerved by it all and was utterly quiet, and apparently so off put by everything that she wasn't even staring at Meg's ass anymore or pretending to trip so she could look at it on eye level.
Everything felt... off. Sick, somehow. The Monks; Shun, Megaera, and presumably Yu off wherever she was seemed to be feeling it more acutely, as was Hui, but even Ganzorig, barbarian though he was, Akaiji, Crabfolk though he was, and the foreigner Myfanwy could feel it. Something utterly wrong had happened, or was still happening, and now the forest was sick.
the shrine was, as Hui had said earlier, a rather small temple or large shrine. It was built into the side of a small hill and consisted of a single large chamber.
Outside, there were dead foxes everywhere, prompting Hui to start crying. The little animals had clearly not been killed by animals, as their bodies lacked any scratches or bite marks - only twisted necks. "One moment." Hui said between soft sobs.
The group hadn't entered the shrine, but they could see within. There were two large braziers, still burning, and what should have been the central shrine to the forest's kami between them. Instead there was only a small black monolith, surrounded by a ring of fox corpses, dead leaves and branches, and other detritus. It hurt to look at the small black rectangle, but somehow it was a slight effort to look away.
Beyond that, there were fissures, like on the trees, weeping black ooze or billowing black smock. Also, off to one side was something that, while stranger looking than the small monolith, didn't seem so hatefully wrong or Other. It was a black obelisk, about six and a half feet tall and pointed, and carved with a number of arcane looking runes and fitted with several crystals. Even from a distance it seemed to radiate a magical energy that made one's hair stand and their body tingle.
Hui was too busy silently digging a little mass grave for the foxes to say or do anything else. She seemed to be making a deliberate effort not to look at the shrine for the moment.
The sense of sickness was stronger here. Almost overwhelming. But there was more. There was the monolith, too.
The monolith. It felt like it was looking at them. Through them. Into them. It radiated a sense of horrible wrongness. Of something utterly alien and other.
Ḯ͇͂ͬẗ saw them.
EDIT: To clarify, Hui's burying the foxes from outside. She has not gone inside the shrine yet or near the monolith.
Akaiji actually stayed outside and helped Hui bury the foxes at first. It was probably more believable that the crab-thing had been schooled semi-religiously rather than saying he was trying to appease her, through.
He remained indefinitely silent. Even his footsteps seemed softer and more sullen, as if a terrible grief had swept over him.
The crab-thing made his way into the shrine like this, and simply observed the objects therein for several utterly desolate moments.
"I do not think my sword can shatter these." His voice didn't need emotion for the implications to be obvious. He didn't want to know what they were. He just knew what the objects were doing. And he wanted them to be broken and scattered, as soon as possible. "Have we any other options... honored humans?..."
As Akaiji entered the shrine he felt two different sensations.
The first seemed to be emanating from the runed obelisk. A tingling sensation that reminded him unmistakably of something magical - of something arcane. He'd felt it countless times around various potent magical artifacts which had belonged to his late, beloved, master. It was definitely some sort of powerful magical device.
The second, far more horrific sensation, emanated from the small monolith. Akaiji wanted to run, to hide under a shell and never, ever, come out. It was so hideously wrong. So utterly wrong that it made his every fiber, his very soul, scream and shriek and cry in terror. And It was watching him. He knew it. He could feel It.