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Thread: Astronomika - Shooting Down Falling Stars (OOC)

  1. #181
    Overly devoted enthusiasm... fufufu~ Ayakashi's Avatar
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    Nyohoho ( O w O)
    Now to see what kind of tragedy awaits.

  2. #182
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Aya has been reactivated. Run for your lives.

  3. #183
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    "..."

    Knock on the door?

    "Nobody's home."

    Knock knock

    "I'm not opening it. Go away."

    Knock knock knock

    "Grr... don't just keep knocking! What kind of awful human are you!? When someone says go away, it means go away!"

    Knock knock knock knock

    "...alright, that's it. This better be important, or I'm dragging you into hell."

    The door opens...



    .......................

    So? What is it? What do you want? Can't you see I'm busy? Go bug someone else. Or at least make it quick. Being dead is a whole lot of work and I don't have any time to waste talking to a bunch of alive idiots.

    Huh? What do you mean, you're asking me for advice? I lost! Spear through chest! Big dramatic speech all for nothing! Pick someone else! Surely there's a dead person more qualified-!

    O-oh, I see... well, I guess if you put it like that, I'm the only one, huh? The rest wouldn't even answer, so that makes me the best of the bunch by default...

    Alright, fine, fine, I see your point. Okay, I'll help you all out, just this once, and only because you're so awful you probably wouldn't make it anywhere without my help. But after this, I'm done, and you'll all leave me alone. I've got a game of hide and seek in the woods in five minutes and you are not ruining it for me.

    Let's see here...

    Vier Wolff
    Apologize to her, you idiot. Cry a bit, maybe? I hardly know you and it's obvious to me that you're barely holding it together.

    I know, I know, you're an awful human, so you can't be honest with yourself, let alone the person you care about. You've even internalized that stupid super soldier mumbo jumbo about turning yourself into a tool or something. Layers upon layers of lies lead to loss of identity, blah blah blah. I've heard it all before and that sob story isn't working on me. An awful human is only an awful human if they give up.

    So say sorry while you still have the chance. Even if it's more terrifying than ending a life. In this world, feelings matter more than anything else. That's why, if you follow your heart, it'll never steer you wrong.


    Lucille Faraday
    Huh? Advice? You don't really need advice from me. You're doing just fine.

    Maybe you could loosen up though. Rules were made to be broken. Just look at Mr. Currumpaw. After taking that stuffy leash off, he started feeling better immediately!

    ...well, okay, maybe not immediately... but it'll be better in the long run.

    Mercedes opened up to you, so you should open up to her. Tell her about what scares you, and what you care about! Even if you can't be honest about your past, at least try to be honest about you! She'll definitely appreciate it.

    I mean, to someone like Mercedes West, friends like Lucille Faraday probably don't appear often, y'know?


    John Dove
    You... who were you again?

    Kidding! Kidding! I saw you admiring the ride. Pretty slick, huh? At first I thought it was silly but it kinda grew on me...

    Anyway, I've got a feeling you know what you're doing, too. But everyone around you is ready to blow, so the situation's awful. Normally I'd say you should swallow that hesitation, wade in and start lecturing, but you're a bit too... mellow for that.

    My advice, just find someone you care about and just be there for them. Even a shitty human can do that much. They'll be there for you no matter what happens. Even if you can't see their colour, that doesn't mean it isn't there.


    Anna Vandameel
    Eh? Well you're the most put together of the bunch, aren't you!

    It's kinda annoying. Hmph, maybe I don't wanna give any advice to someone that's so clearly got it all figured out.

    ...

    ...those two. They shouldn't be left alone. The hotel and the school are silent, and the town might be as well... I don't really worry about humans, but if I did, I'd worry about them. You don't know anyone at the school well, so even if you speak logic you won't be able to solve their problems. That's the limitation of a human.

    But you know those two, so go to them. In times like this, friends should stick together. I learned that one the hard way.


    Elise Pelltier
    ...

    Yeah, I still got nothing. You really don't show anything, do you? Or is it just that there's nothing to show?

    Well, that's humans in general. So in a sense, by being so closed off you're the most human of the bunch. Just keep being pleasant and uninteresting, I guess. Follow the tidal wave like a side character and fix up anyone that gets stabbed. Or, if you're feeling like opening up...

    Well, I don't need to tell you what to do, right? Try not to get possessed again. Or is it already too late?


    Elaine Winters
    Wow. Where do I even start here.

    Well, you're alive and I'm dead, so I guess you're better at surviving. But flaring up that hot blood of yours is only gonna inflame the situation further, especially after you basically admitted to being in a life or death fight where another student died. Anger and suspicion feed off of each other like a forest fire. You ought to be dousing it, not fueling it. Look at John and Anna's examples. Well, more John than Anna, but you get my point. They're voices of reason, but they're not loud enough to get anyone to listen.

    Sorry your friends aren't here. And that Subaru may or may not try to rip your face off. But hold it together, alright? You might be the only one that can.


    Hisa Momoi
    "Hey, you two finally made up! It took you long enough!"

    I wanted to tell you that, when I saw you and Pyry standing together. But I didn't get the chance, so I'm saying it now.

    Hisa, I'll tell you what I told Vier: Don't be afraid of opening up. You have friends here, y'know? Humans are awful, but... the ones here are a little less awful than the rest. Just don't start forcing your feelings onto others. You don't need everyone to accept you; your true friends will stick by your side no matter what when it truly matters.

    So... sorry. I wanted to, but... I couldn't be there to nag you when it really mattered.


    Vivienne Bianchi
    I'm sorry, Vivi.

    I did something awful to you.

    Please don't hate me.

    And don't give up. If you keep moving forward, I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for.


    ...well, that's it. Don't expect any more advice from me. It's goodbye for real. From here on out, you awful humans are on your own.

    But, y'know, you're the awful humans that managed to make me late for my game of hide and seek. Take that badge of honour with you as you walk into the future.

    And, no matter how bad it looks, or what the writing on the wall says...

    Don't die.

  4. #184
    Glorious Grammar Master Race Frantic Author's Avatar
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    :^)

    A Gift of Knowledge and Merriment

    Gifts.

    Such simple things - so innocuous in nature and in use. To give a gift is to leave part of yourself with another, to let go of that which was once yours and allow someone else to steal it from you. To 'leave your heart', as it was, in someone else's hands. It is a task that is most insidious, wouldn't you agree? It's like a required theft of yourself, in a way. I leave part of who I was, part of my being, with someone who I can scarcely begin to understand or even comprehend.

    I stand in front of a bookshop, peering through the dusty glass as my breath leaves the air clouded with moisture, the glass flecked with the air that moves from me as I stare at it. My body is cold - so cold it feels like death itself covers me like a cloak. A shiver bursts through my skin without me wanting it to, and my lips twitch into a facsimile of a smile. It feels as if my memory is like this glass; fogged, worn out, and far too weary to comprehend. I don't know how I got here. I don't know where I'm going.

    But I need to acquire something for a person I barely know. Who is Prushka, this small girl who I am procuring a gift for? Who am I, to pretend that I understand her on such a level that I could know her innermost desires? What a joke. To me, such events are unnecessary; I have never received a gift before, nor have I ever given one. Everything I have, I earned. Everything I have left behind, was taken away from me.

    My hopes.

    My dreams.

    My fears.

    Such things are not allowed for one such as me; a monster who strives to be human, a demon walking in the skin of liveliness, a girl with no friends. I can see my reflection staring back at me in the mirror - wide violet eyes set above a thin, pointed nose and a pale heart-shaped face, with full lips that twist upwards in the pretense of what could, in some circles, be called 'a smile'. My happiness, as it is, is nothing more than an illusion. A false promise from a world that despises me.

    I don't want to inflict that on someone else. I place my hand on the glass, feeling the cold seep into my hand as I bite my lip, staring at my reflection. The wind whips through my clothes like a knife, but it fills me with a sense of belonging. I missed these kind of winds, this kind of place, those kind of desires. I don't want others to feel like I do.

    That's why I have to get Prushka a gift that would make her happy. Even if it leaves part of my heart with her, I can't allow anyone else to be as empty and despairing as I am. Such a thing... wouldn't it be too cruel to bear? It's bitterness, like a chocolate that was taken out of the oven too soon, that grips my being like a vice. But I have to do my best, even if it isn't good enough. I move away from the window, hearing the ding of the bell above the door as I enter the bookstore, and the wave of heat is so startling I stop moving for a moment.

    The store is wide and empty, a man behind the counter flicking through the pages of something old and worn, his eyes glinting behind his spectacles as he smiles softly at me. There are books as far as the eye can see - stacked like stairs leading upwards, teetering high on tables, elegantly balancing on chairs. A pang of nostalgia hits me, as I look around this place - it's so, very, very much like the library at my old school. It's like home in a way; I was never one to make many - or any - friends, and so I was raised in a world of other's stories. Where most small children had playmates, I had Aristotle and Plato. Seeing them here again...

    Ah...

    It's like coming home after a very, very long time.

    I smile politely at the store owner, navigating through the many stacks of books deftly. My own room at my old school was in a similar state of disarray, as I loved books more then I loved people, and books loved me more then people did. I picked one up, peering at the cover, before placing gently back with a soft smile on my face.

    Pliny the Elder. A person so close to my heart that simply seeing his name was like I was seven years old again, innocent and deprived of purpose in a house where everyone despised me. Of course, I despised everyone there as well, so it is not as if I am being idealistic about such manners. I know all too well that the amount of people who can deal with my personality, with who I am, number so small that I could count them on both hands with fingers left over. But in spite of it, I want to get along with my classmates.

    ...Don't I?

    A feeling like knives rake themselves over my skin, but I can't for the life of me recall why. After all, my classmates are not the sort of people to be murderers, thieves, or otherwise cruel. They are not like those at my previous school, or at my previous home. The people here... they're kind, aren't they?

    That's why I have to get Prushka a book that she will truly enjoy!

    Moving delicately past the non-fiction (although, these grimoires and tales are listed as fictional) I see out of the corner of my eye, a shelf that makes my heart ache. I stop in front of it, breathing lightly as I lift my finger to run it down the spine.

    The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales. Hardcover. With a worn-down cover as I pull it lose, the characters lovingly painted onto the front fading with age, I smile. It's something sad, and forlorn, because this is one of the very few books that was ever read to me out loud. I remember faint touches of a warm hand, whispers of love and praise, all of which were ripped away from me before I was old enough to understand what such things were. It's a book that's older then I am, but I grip my hands around it tightly as I look at the cover. It's a thing of simpler times, of more loving times, of a time when I was young and naive. An innocent in the ways of death and despair. When blood didn't drown my dreams in red, when violence was not the first answer to any question that could enter my brain.

    I miss those days.

    I am sure that Prushka misses them as well.

    Not that she is as violent as myself, or that she is as drenched in sin as myself, but I would like to think that everyone misses those halcyon days of innocence, when all of us were young and dreaming of the future. Such dreams are beyond me now, but... I hope that she still can dream of them.

    I take the book to the counter. I ask for the price. I do not pale at the answer, but instead haggle over it - the argument getting louder and more vibrant as it goes onwards. I am not poor, but I do not have the same level of funds that I once did at my own school. It is a desire within a desire for a young girl to experience an exciting tale under the covers of the night. It is one of the soul ideals I am allowed in this world that is blackened by the pitch of hatred.

    Paying and leaving is simple, the book carefully wrapped and tied with twine. I hold it close to me as I walk back, feeling something painful in my soul as I acknowledge I must give it away. This is what giving gifts is about though - the act of leaving part of yourself to someone else.

    It's okay, Zaza.

    You'll be fine, Zaza.

    Don't give up, Zaza.

    It's a constant refrain going through my head as I stand, knees shaking in front of Prushka's door, hesitating as I reach out one hand to knock. I don't want to give up this small part of me. This tiny piece of my soul that I'm holding close to myself, but I must.

    My hand knocks.

    I place the book on the floor.

    I place a note on top of it.

    I leave.

    This feeling in my chest... it's painful but... I don't think I mind it all that much. I think...

    I think I did something good, right? I did something that isn't cruel, or vile, or sinister, right? That's all that matters, in the end. I just want to be happy. To be kind. To be just. To be noble. Even if it hurts, even if its a bit embarrassing, that's all I'm looking for in the end.

    I do hope Prushka enjoys those stories. If it's even half as much as I did as a child, that's... that's more then enough for me.


    To The Small Blonde Girl

    Enclosed is a series of tales, for those who do not have enough of their own.

    While life may seem all too long or all too short, the serenity of reading such things, under the dark of night, under the covers of a bed, with a shaky light, is a memory that I hold most dear to me.

    I do hope that you can hold such things dear to you as well.

    AL


    in the end we will make thoughtcrime impossible, for there shall be no words to express it

    #THELEGENDNEVERDIES

    [01:05.15] <@Spinach> I can flash gang signs faster than Sasuke can perform ninjutsu and I rap like Medea's High Speed Divine Words.


  5. #185
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    In a world where tragedy had not struck...
    “Lucille Faraday?”

    The small girl stared blankly at the piece of paper that had she’d drawn from the hat in class an hour ago, her brows drawn down and tightly together. She knew what a ‘Secret Santa’ was, obviously; it was a shoddy construction of capitalism designed to promote consumption and spending. But it was also a way of showing intimacy and understanding between people, strengthening group dynamics in a fun and interesting way. As far as human inventions went, it wasn’t the worst event in the world. Prushka would even consider herself skilled at the art.

    However…

    “I guess… she’s gotta be a girl. That narrows it down, sorta.”

    The One Known Only As Prushka had no idea who ‘Lucille Faraday’ was.

    “...stupid group activity. That only works if there is a group. As if a bunch of strangers would care about each other that much. In the first place, do the teachers think I’ll fall for it? This is just a stunt to convince the students that their so-called society isn’t that bad after all. Well I never signed up for that.”

    She crumpled the paper into a tiny ball, lobbed it into the wastebasket in the corner of her room, and flopped onto her bed, staring at the dull ceiling.

    “...”

    She didn’t care. Not one bit. The students here weren’t her group. They were just a bunch of people, and people, on the whole, tended to be dull and terrible and not worth remembering. The very fact that Prushka didn’t recognize the name she’d been given meant that whoever ‘Lucille Faraday’ was, she couldn’t have fallen far from the tree.

    “...”

    With a sigh, Prushka flipped over, crawled out of bed, fished the paper out of the bin, and gently unfolded it.

    “...it’ll suck not getting anything,” she grumbled. “Even some random thing is better, right?”

    Yes, she decided. She’d get something generic and lazy that anyone could enjoy. No need to try too hard, right? After all, with presents, it wasn’t the gift itself that mattered, but the feelings in it.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Lucille Faraday… hah! You seriously need to get that tiny head of yours checked, squirt! How could you not know Lucille after two months in the same school? She’s not even the background type; girl took on the Mercedes West head-on in badminton on day zero. Whole school was talking about some nobody challenging the queen bee. Now they’re practically joined at the hip. That aside... she’s nice enough, I guess. Gives off a bit of a prep school vibe, but she’s not really stuck-up or anything. Gets along with good girls and bad boys alike. I don’t really talk to her much. Maybe Hisa would know?”

    That had been Pyry’s answer to Prushka’s question. Her follow-up, “Who’s Mercedes West?”, had been met with more laughter, to the point where the small girl had gotten fed up and slammed the door shut in the older boy’s face before storming off. Now she paced about her room once more, thinking.

    “Alright, so she’s probably… the social butterfly type.” Prushka closed her eyes and started to build a mental image of Lucille Faraday. “Tall, gorgeous… but sporty. Always ready to sit at the top of the food chain like a tyrannical monarch, but approachable enough to be relatable to the common folk. The sort of person that lets people pray to her for help, but then turns around and uses their secrets to get ahead. If she’s friends with Mercedes West, she must be cunning… and cut-throat.”

    Prushka hated the girl already. But a promise was a promise, and a Secret Santa was a great big ‘promise’ between people, only as strong as its weakest link. She would not be that link.

    Now, what to get Lucille? More than that, what to get Lucille that would be useful and acquirable in Road’s End, and wouldn’t get tossed out or forgotten immediately?

    “...got it.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


    “Phew…”

    Prushka had worked harder than she should’ve. Asking Rachel for the best place in town to get that, then waiting in the snow for the store to open and buying that with her own money even though she’d normally never bother with such a dull human invention, and finally, pouring so much of her Odic energy into that that it’d nearly started to glow… she’d definitely tried a bit too hard.

    But, the result was…

    “She won’t know what hit her.”

    Resting on Prushka’s desk was a small hand-carved wooden box. Within the box were a series of implements: brushes, a mirror, sponges, and all the tools a young lady needed to apply makeup. Which was also included. Not the fancy stuff, but rather, daily foundation and skin tone that a socially conscious girl would put on every morning to greet the world with her best face. Even a few subtle scents and a stick of lipstick in an earthy colour. All sourced locally and made in Road’s End, for that rustic charm.

    Vivi had said something to the effect of “Satisfactory… for most of the population. But… no, it should be fine, Prushie. She’ll love it… probably.”

    But of course, a present was worthless without any feelings in it. Prushka had no special feelings for a stranger, so she’d improvised.

    I’m the best.’

    That was the feeling contained within the foundation. A swell of self-confidence that would bless whoever put it on with unlimited self-esteem and the gall to stand toe to toe with anyone in the battlefield of words that was society. Surely, if Lucille was the sort of outgoing social butterfly that Prushka had imagined, she would find it useful. After all, self-doubt was the number one enemy of teenage girls everywhere.

    “Hm… is it good, though?” Prushka wondered. Maybe she needed to test it out herself before giving it to someone else.

    She scooped up the box, stuffed it in her backpack, and ran out into the hallway, knocking on a nearby door.

    “Hey, Vivi. Could you help me try something on…?”

  6. #186
    S U P R E M E Mormarth's Avatar
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    To Days Gone By
    Elaine Winters sighed as she strolled down the street, occasionally shaking the veritable mane of blonde hair that had once more sprouted out like a particularly invasive plant, brushing it back out of her eyes.

    She'd wear a hairband if they didn't make her look about 14.

    Maybe a headband?

    Snow crunched softly under her feet, a steady stream of precipitation falling gently down, coating the innocuously quiet town in a muffling blanket of white.

    She’d never really done something like this before, Secret Santa was a bit of a give-away when the giver was one of two people, and one of them would give a lame joke.

    Dad was always asleep because he’d spent the whole night trying to make things nice wherever they were. Little garlands, a wreath from whatever he had lying around, that disgusting-ass Santa hat he refused to get rid of.

    The Cactus Christmas was particularly inspired, she thought.

    But just taking a wild gamble based on what someone knew about someone else and picking the most appropriate gift was…

    Hm.

    It was both familiar and worrying. Her particularly exuberant friend was, Elaine felt, probably one who would appreciate most things, if they were genuine and heartfelt.

    At least, that was the impression she got.

    But, she had something particular in mind, something important, but she hadn’t found just the right one.

    Perfectionism?

    Probably.

    But what was the point of giving a gift if it wasn’t the best you could give?

    A half-measure like a gift card or something seemed a bit gauche.

    So here she was, strolling around the threadbare shopping district, looking around for what suited her, covered in a shabby-looking patchwork coat that was warm enough for her and studiously ignoring her growling stomach.

    A gift, she felt, was a reminder and a statement, it should be a firm pillar between you and that person on how you feel about each other. It could also just be something they really want, but that was usually something expensive and…

    Well.

    She didn’t have very much experience with such things.

    But between her and her steadily recovering friend, Elaine felt that pure price tag was the wrong direction.

    Still, she had something in mind, though nothing quite fit the bill just yet.

    Crunch, Crrunch, Crunch.

    Elaine Winters grumbled faintly beneath a frankensteinian scarf she’d dug out of some box somewhere, keen eyes peering into storefronts as she passed by, ignoring the plaintive whines just beyond hearing.

    She supposed that this whole ‘secret’ thing helped maintain the illusion, the one that had first filled her dreams with wonder and joy, and then later with paranoia and deep suspicion.

    A jolly old fat man jumping down chimneys was all well and good until you become aware of truths that you cannot be ‘un-aware’ of.

    Still, something deep down inside wondered if he did exist, at least at some point in time, to some people in the world.

    Was he adrift on the far side of the world, forced to watch as a corporate-sponsored doppelganger leads children along like Hamelin’s predator? A true defender of the joy of giving, now lost to the world?

    She’d certainly heard theories on the subject.

    It’s why she was always more of a Pepsi girl, especially after that whole New Coke nonsense.

    Not even once.

    Clump, clump, clump.

    On and on, until she passed by a certain shop, something about the exterior drawing her eye, and leading her curiously into the cozy interior, some innate intuition driving her on and commanding attention.

    Then she clapped eyes upon them, a bit worn, but well cared for, roughly the right size, and the perfect construction (sturdy, but lightweight enough to not slow you down) for a brisk girl like her.

    She debated taking the, ahem, lurid magazine hanging in the corner as an accompaniment, but that would take a guess at her identity from ‘plainly obvious’ to ‘may as well just tell you’.

    Oh well.

    Maybe later.

    She was fairly certain most of those fine gentlemen had been doctored, anyway.

    Then it was a simple business of payment, haggling et all, before she set off back through the snow, purchase in hand.

    Elaine Winters, part-time Santa, away!





    ...

    Outside of a room, there is a box, it is not particularly fancy, or well adorned, it is wrapped by someone who doesn’t quite know how to wrap boxes properly, and has a rather over-abundance of tape. A bow is slapped on haphazardly, as if the wrapper forgot and threw it on at the last minute. It leans ponderously to one side.

    Within the wrapping, and within the box, is a sleek pair of white running shoes, with some lightning-shaped pattern along the insides, half-worn away by time and use, but having undergone some amount of ad-hoc repair on the sides and soles. They appear a bit shabby, but well cared for, a reliable pair.

  7. #187
    Progressive Shattering Kuroyuki's Avatar
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    A Very Astronomika Christmas
    Pinefall High School. A school whose goal was to reform those who abandoned or were abandoned by society. Thirty-one students who were enrolled in its initial year. Despite its difficulties, the inaugural class did surprisingly well considering that… A good portion of the class was involved in the Turnside. For those of you unaware of what the Turnside is, the Turnside is where the Supernatural meets the darker side of Humanity.

    So it should go without saying that it’s a bit surprising that they managed to make it through the first week without murdering each other. Let alone the few months that occurred without incident to get to December. Even more surprising was the fact that the entire class was cordial enough to start up a Secret Santa event.

    How everyone approached it was different depending on the person. Some took it lightly and just bought the first thing that seemed nice. Others took personal time out of their weekend to go visit one of the bigger cities like Seattle to find more fitting gifts. Some got part time jobs to get the money required for their gifts while others were affluent enough to buy anything without batting an eye.

    In the case of one Vier Wolff, she was working hard at her part time job the entire month in order to save enough money for gifts. At this point, it was a well known fact that Vier had come to Road’s End with all of her belongings. So it was surprising when one day, Vier just disappeared as soon as she finished her weekday part time work. Her room cleared empty of all of her possessions. Not a note left to indicate where she went or mention anything to her friends. It was almost as if Vier never attended Pinefall High in the first place.

    Naturally, as it was the week leading into Christmas, Pinefall High was on their Winter Vacation so there was no class to ensure all of the students were still around. At first, it was “Where did she go?” but as time went on… Some people started wondering if Vier was even real or just outright forgot about her. In fact, it almost seemed like a repeat of the first week’s vanishing student rumor except there wasn’t a replacement for Vier.

    Then it was finally time for the Christmas Party for everyone to exchange gifts to their chosen member. Well everyone except for the one person unlucky enough to receive Vier as their Santa. That unlucky person was Inacio Ilusiao. A famous musician to the world at large and friend (?) to Vier. Whereas everyone received a present, he was left only giving. The door suddenly opening to reveal...


    Santa-san


    “Sorry I’m a little late. Took a little bit to get back and place this thing on.”

    Vier Wolff in a Christmas-themed Santa outfit after missing for a little over a week. On her back was a small sack filled presumably with her gift to Inacio.

    “Now to deliver my gifts to everyone, let’s start with the person who doesn’t have a present yet,” Vier starts to rummage through her sack before handing Inacio a small package. “Here’s your present from Santa, Inacio~”

    Vier waited patiently for Inacio to open the gift and inside was a collection of miscellaneous music tapes for a walkman. The most prominent one being a signed cassette copy of Dookie from Green Day. After hearing his reaction, Vier gave a big smile before pulling out a small piece of paper. This time playing with the paper a bit and fidgeting a little bit.

    “And this is one from Me… Let me know about your decision later okay?”

    Vier quickly leaving before Inacio could read what was on the small business-like card. Once she was gone did he finally get a chance to read what was on it.


    Vier's Personal Gift to Inacio

    Backside?



    Maybe… Vier thought of Inacio beyond just a friend?


    Bonus
    Returning back here after being away a week felt weird. While I knew to expect some things from my absence like people thinking I didn’t exist or something related to the Turnside occurred again like the beginning of the year. I didn’t expect to find myself missing this place as well. After a few months of being around everyone, I started feeling like I had a place I could call "home". Well… I still had worries about the town having significant Turnside history and involvement, but it had something that Germany and Sweden didn’t have.

    A reason to go back.

    When I first arrived at Road’s End, I just wanted to go in and go back out. Thoroughly erasing my presence once I finished my business here. Business as usual. If I had to give a reason why I started changing… A very ordinary girl jumped in front of someone from the Turnside without hesitation. She knew she wouldn’t last a second yet she did it anyways just because she considered me to be her friend. She only knew me for a few days at that point.

    That’s right. I, Vier Wolff, had gotten soft and sentimental due to the dummy pigging out on food in front of me. That’s right Aleen King the dummy spaz extraordinaire fulfilled this weapon’s hopeless dream of being human and living a normal life. I guess that one person was right… Even if one day, I were to disappear from everyone’s memories. They can always look back at the time fondly.

    “Hey Aleen. I know I wasn’t your Secret Santa, but I still got you something.”

    I started to rummage a bit into my present sack. Well actually two things. One of them was something I thought would help keep Aleen safe. A transponder that I bought from an old contact of mine. It cost an arm and a leg, but at the very least he keeps his word once the money settles into his bank account. The other was a Canon camera that a shop recommended to me. Its sole purpose was to photograph her memories. The happy ones. The sad ones. Friends. Family. Something that’ll allow her to look back fondly to.

    If it was the me from the beginning of the school year, I know I would’ve given Aleen the transponder out of (well-founded) paranoia and never would have thought about gifting her the camera. Now? I didn’t even hesitate before making my choice.

    “I wasn’t entirely sure what to get you… Well I guess I could’ve paid for everything at Avery’s… But I thought you might like this a bit more...”

    Despite spending an entire day in Seattle thinking about this, I still couldn’t help but get butterflies in my stomach as I pulled out the wrapped camera. My developing humanity backfiring on me for once as anxiety and insecurity started rising. My logic told me how I could handle this easily and without flaws if I just abandoned my humanity again. Even with that knowledge, I chose to be a flawed, unsure human being in front of her best friend.

    “Merry Christmas Aleen.”

  8. #188
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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  9. #189
    Overly devoted enthusiasm... fufufu~ Ayakashi's Avatar
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    Vivienne's Santa Times


    Vivienne Bianchi had ended up as the Santa for her fellow Hollywood actress, Mercedes West. It was a bit of a sudden and out of nowhere occurrence, and the fact that it was Mercedes West out of all the students made this all the more awkward. The two had never really met before, even though they both shared the same background and passion. This had not changed since their arrival at road's end -- different circles of friends, and perhaps because of Vivienne's peculiar condition had lead to this non-convergence of their paths maintaining itself.

    But this would be a nice opportunity to make introductions, right? There had to be a beginning to everything, and what better way to start a relationship than with a gift for one to another?

    Finding the perfect gift however for Mercedes proved to be quite difficult. Judging from her personality, a gift could send a very wrong message to her. Vivienne knew that Mercedest West had quite a... high-quality taste when it came to everything in life. Top of the line clothing brand was all that she wore, her perfume most likely would cost an entire month of salary from the usual worker, and well... her taste in food most likely matched her appetite for a bourgeois lifestyle.

    Most material gifts would be of no use for Mercedes... but the gift that Vivienne had prepared was not the usual item -- it was not something bought with money, nor was it an easily made gift that anyone could craft with enough practice. Vivienne had gotten the idea for this after talking with Prushka, Pyry, Ubon and Hisa. She had explained to them her dilemma concerning the present she was to give to Mer,cedes and they had all given her an answer that was along the line of: "the best gift is one that contains your feelings and identity within it." Of course, some of them had some... flavorful comments on how Mercedes West, being the character that she was, didn't deserve that much devotion from Vivienne but, for a fellow actress, and as someone that perhaps understood her deep inside, Vivienne felt like it was worth a try.

    And thus Vivienne had managed to get Mercedes' attention by showing her one of her typical drawings, asking Merc to come to the dining room. She brought her fellow actress to the table where she had set it all down, her present, and the 'extra' that Hisa and Prushka had helped her prepare. Well, Hisa had baked most of it, but Prushka had helped Vivienne to decorate it. Other than the 'extra' though, the gift that Vivienne herself had prepared though was...

    ... a venetian mask. Made out of smooth, white porcelain. Gilded attentively with genuine gold... and decorated with three beautiful feathers from birds of paradise. The feathers each spell one color; white, blue and red, the very same as the star spangled banner's. She had spent many nights working on this piece of art, polishing it day by day but... the hard work had paid off. A very unusual, unexpected present, but one that held the essence of the theatrical, while being both high class and holding the essence of the United States within it... surely Mercedes West would like that, right?

    But perhaps, the greatest gift that Mercedes West had, was the fact that she could imagine a smiling Vivienne Bianchi wishing her a Merry Christmas. A gift that could be shared with all those around the table:



    "Merry Christmas!"

    Was Christmas that magical enough for her to be able to finally show emotions, or did the entire journey leading up to this bestowal of her gift magical enough to bring back part of what had been lost?

    Baking a cake with friends is quite the soothing therapy after all...
    Last edited by Ayakashi; December 24th, 2019 at 07:56 PM.

  10. #190
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    Spoiler:
    “Could be tougher…” The young man let out a long, slow exhale. His breath coming out in a hot, foggy cloud over the cold air. The sight reminded him just how cold he was, and he folded his arms over his chest in a sort of self-hug, shivering a bit. He glanced around the parking lot, then towards his bike. Once the wind hit… he didn’t want to think about it. But nobody could find a decent gift at Pinefall. Not unless he wanted to give the girl chocolate.

    Somehow, Colt figured the nurse wouldn’t part with it so easily, not if it was for a gift.

    He unfolded his arms and read the name on the slip of paper that he had pulled.

    Vier Wolf

    “Could be easier.” He folded the slip up and tucked it into his pocket, his hands retreated from the warmth of his jeans with a set of keys which he twirled around his index finger. Then he fished out a pair of gloves from his jacket pocket and began to whistle. “Really coming back to bite me, never taking the chance to hit on ‘er. Ain’t got a clue what she likes, but I know she’s German, so…”

    Keys slid into the ignition, and soon enough an engine roared to life, rubber squealed as the Junkbeast escaped to head into town.


    *~*~*~*~*


    "Willkommen, herzlich willkom-, ah, you again,” a woman’s voice called out over patriotic German music that Colt found himself now far more familiar with than he ever thought he could be, “here for more work, Colt Davin?

    Letting the door shut behind him, Colt stepped into the much warmer, much more comfortable world of Das Thulework. He assumed the brick walls held in the heat of the otherworldly ‘forge’ down below as it rose to the upper floor, and the young boy let out an elated sigh at the very welcomed warmth.

    “Heaven’s no, it’s almost Christmas! Who in their right mind would be looking for work right now?” Colt raised his voice, speaking over the music. The young man took a slow step toward the wooden table that Frauke was seated at, intentionally dragging his feet. The song would end soon, and he’d rather converse at a reasonable volume level once he got to the business he was visiting for. So pretending to browse, he glanced at the walls as he idly made his way to her, shooting the shit all the way. “It’s the time of year you’re supposed to hole up by the fireplace, pour a glass of nog, decorate the tree, rush out for last minute Christmas shopping, and visit with family you ain’t seen since LAST Christmas. But hey, speaking of Christmas shopping…”

    He chuckled at that, and the woman gave him a look he could only describe as dubious at best. For the last month he had alternated between visiting to work, and to try and convince her to let him browse her wares. Her Kind as she called them. So the fact that he said he wasn’t here for work today…

    Solche Ausdauer… again and again I tell you, no means no. Nein heißt, nein. Try again after your next birthday.” Where there used to be an apologetic tone, now Frauke could only repeat such words with annoyance. Far too many times did she have to remind him of the law, and far too many times did he try to slide around it, one way or another. “If that is all, then I suggest you get back home and have your… nog.”

    “No no no, Frauke, you got it all wrong.” Finally, the music died, and Colt made his move. Sliding toward her as though the floor was oiled up just for his convenience, the young man leaned down, planting an elbow on the table. “I’m doing Christmas shopping. I wouldn’t… well, not to say your uh, kinder, aren’t worth buying as Christmas gifts,” the German woman’s eyes narrowed at that, and Colt sped up his speech before she could say something in retort, “no I’d love a gift like that, but they’re not the kind of gift I would give a girl I don’t know very well.”

    “And why not?”

    “Well, uh,” Colt tilted his head for a second, a bit blindsided by the question. He had never really thought why he wouldn’t get her a gift like that. Who wouldn’t appreciate such a fine piece of craftsmanship as a gift? “… because, you wouldn’t sell me one…?”

    The woman stared at him for a moment. A smile on her face.

    Richtig. I am so very glad you have come to understand. Now, if you understood already, but still wish to do your Weihnachten ‘shopping’ here anyway…”

    “Thing is, I already know what I wanna get her.”

    “Oh, and it is something I can sell to you?” Dubious eyes looked the boy up and down, asking in neither English nor German, ‘just what are you after?’

    “Question isn’t if you can, it’s if you will.” Colt nodded toward something on a shelf at the wall, something he suspected might be… off limits. From the get-go he’d call this a long shot, but near or far, a man should always shoot his shot. “She’s an exchange student. From Germany. I don’t really talk to her much or anything, if it wasn’t for Secret Santa I wouldn’t get her anything at all, but here I am. I just thought, maybe she gets homesick sometimes, and I’ve seen that thing on the wall, heard you let it play before, too.”

    “…” The eyes beneath that grey hair with the scarlet streak looked the boy over, trying to determine how serious he was with the request. “That is not something I have listed for sale, however, I know how, ah how do I say it kindly… unglücklich you are with die Frauen. So in the spirit of the time of year…”

    Colt leaned in closer, cutting her off and getting to the point that he had been waiting to reach.

    “How much?”

    *~*~*~*~*


    Colt let out the longest, deepest breath of his life. Never had he ever spent so much on a gift for a girl who’d never so much as given him the time of day. If she was even the slightest bit less his type, just 1% off hitting that sweet spot he called ‘pure gold,’ he wouldn’t have done it. The wallet in his back pocket would be oh so much heavier right now, and his heart so much lighter.

    “What’s done is done.” He looked over at the wrapping on his desk, then glanced at the soon to be wrapped gift. Sneaking it into the dorm was easier than he expected, almost everyone else was out doing their own last minute run for a gift. In fact, it might be fine to give it one last test run. He had listened to it before leaving Das Thulework, but, “man, on second thought, this is such a lame gift…”

    With a crank, it came to life. A much more enjoyable, soothing piece than the rendition that a visitor might hear blasted at Das Thulework filled his room, and with a defeated, but still determined smile, he reached for the wrapping paper.

    As the boy finished taking measurements for the box the song came to an end. In seconds it was wrapped neatly in red and green, with a white ribbon tied at the top. A small, handwritten tag hung from the ribbon with the words merry Christmas in blue ink.

    “Somehow… this is harder than asking them out on a date.” Colt gulped as he picked the package up. With a turn of the doorknob he was out of his room, and every step he took toward the upper floor felt heavier than the last. By the time he reached the second floor and found Vier Wolf’s room, it was as though cement had been stuffed into his socks in place of his feet. “Okay…”

    He took a deep breath and knocked.


  11. #191
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    A Tale of Two Liars (feat. Elise Pelltier)
    Warning: Characterization and “canonicity” may or may not have been ignored for the sake of gags storytelling.

    Also, many thanks to Thalraxal. I'm sorry.



    *** ***


    Pinefall High Dormitory – Room 106 (John Dove’s Room)



    Secret Santa.

    A purposeless event that defies any logical explanation in John Dove’s mind. As expected, only the hollow people of the grayscale world would come up with something like forcing people to give gifts to strangers as some form of social exercise. Nevertheless, John Dove does not judge, and fulfills the tasks assigned to him without complaint.

    Resting on his bed, the boy glances up at the tiny strip of paper with the name of his “target”.

    “Something Minato Coastrise would like…” he muses, submerging himself in his thoughts to develop a suitable idea for this project he did not ask for. He could be out there looking for the truth, or convincing Sakura to cook him an extra portion of Christmas dinner. Both seem about equally appealing ideas.

    Instead, he spends the good part of fifteen minutes pondering the logistics of wrapping the Coastrise sisters in ribbon tape and calling it a day. What the actual fuck, John Dove.

    “No, I guess it is not really feasible. In that case…”

    The next five minutes are spent developing a three-stage plan. The first step is by far the hardest; the one upon which the whole plan rests.

    “Might as well get on with it, then…” His voice is almost a sigh as he rises from his bed to face the colorless world beyond yet again.



    *** ***


    “Um, John, I don’t know if there is a good way to say this: you look like a creep right now—uwah!”



    Elise Marie Pelltier finds herself grabbed by the collar of her sweater and pulled down to kneel alongside John.

    “Be quiet. You’ll make them notice me.”

    “So you go and make me an accomplice to your crimes right away…”

    John Dove is spying on the Coastrises. The three seemingly idle the afternoon away at the dorm’s common area, keeping their distance from the rest of the First Class as ever. On the other hand, it is good he finds them alone. It makes things easier for him this time.

    “So? Why are you acting like a creep this time?”

    What does she mean by “this time”? Seriously.

    “I am Minato Coastrise’s Secret Santa.”

    “That…in no way makes your current actions any less creepy.”

    John displays wisdom by ignoring the girl’s words (?). His attention is centered on his targets. As he watches them, his mind creates the perfect vision of his completed plan.

    “Yeong-Hui is ‘a cute girl’, isn’t she.”

    “…alright, I’m calling the police.”

    John rolls his eyes.

    “If you have time to make jokes, then make yourself helpful. I need to separate Minato from his sisters for a minute or two.”

    There is something like a crooked grin on the girl’s face.

    “You really don’t know how to talk to a girl, John,” she retorts, but there is no real bite in her words.

    “I know you really like ice cream.”

    “Oh, much better!”

    “Can you handle Aleen King as well?”

    “What does Aleen have to do with—ooh, now I get it!” Elise has the smug face of the one who has figured out the culprit before it’s revealed in-story. “You know, for one who always looks so disinterested, you’re putting a lot of effort into this.”

    “I have no idea what you are talking about. This is about the bare minimum anybody would devote to such a pointless activity.”

    “Right, right,” utters back the girl who might be having a little fun.



    *** ***


    John Dove stands alone in the teacher’s lounge, holding the telephone handset. Really, sometimes it seems the earth swallows the teachers the moment classes end. Well, the better for him.

    He calls somebody he has not spoken to in a while.

    “Uncle—”

    A “ker-chak” kind of sound, followed by the hollow beeping of a call ended.

    John Dove rolls his eyes and calls again. He knows the other side will pick it up. They cannot not do so.

    “I told you not to call, you fucking—“

    “Yes, yes, whatever. Uncle, I need you to send me something.”

    “…eh? Don’t fuck with me; I dunno what you’re up to now, but—”

    “Look, I got you Pyry Leijonamieli’s autograph. I’m fairly sure that means you owe me. Will you please stop wasting our time and listen?”



    *** ***




    As ever, the sea is good to John Dove. Merely standing on the beach, basking on the cool breeze, makes him feel closer to himself and to the truth he glimpsed beneath the argent moon. It is only for a moment, but John Dove, right here, in this place, knows peace.

    Most unfortunately, he is not alone.

    “We will not achieve anything if you stay like that, Yeong-Hui.”



    The small girl does answer, choosing instead to make herself even smaller while using her sister as a barrier. John does not mind that, instead regarding the one partaking of one of her usual Tetra Pak juices. Today’s reads “strawberry milk and anchovies”.

    Why even.

    “And why are you here?”



    “To make sure everything is clean and proper! Also, ice cream!”

    John slowly, very slowly, tilts his head to one side.

    “I mean, for all I know you’re using the whole Secret Santa thing as an excuse to sexually harass them.”

    Zhou Coastrise nods as if she is sure this whole plan was John’s means to get them alone with him. Faced with the perception the women share, John Dove is obligated to ask.

    “Am I really that untrustworthy?”

    “Yup!”

    “Mm-hmm.”

    “Um.”

    These are the kinds of things that make someone like John Dove give up on humanity. His eyes devoid of expression shift from Elise Marie to Zhou to Yeong-Hui, who promptly disappears behind her sister.

    “…whatever, let us get this done and over with,” he concludes while reaching for his backpack. He takes out Aleen King’s camera.

    “Yeong-Hui, take off your clothes.”

    “Stop proving my point, you doofus!”

    “Ow.”

    It is the kind of scene that demands a paper fan. This is the American Northwest, however, so Elise Pelltier’s fists will have to do.



    *** ***




    “Here.”

    Minato Coastrise looks like he really does not want to look up and away from his breakfast, but the shadow over him does not leave and his patience has a limit.

    “What do you—”

    In front of him, looking down at him from across the dining table, stands John Dove, hand outstretched to present him with…something giftwrapped. A rectangular object around the size of a notebook. Minato is sharp enough to notice his sisters looking away and pretending they are not paying attention. Anybody would deem their behavior suspicious.

    “In fulfillment of the instructions imparted upon us, I am handing you a Christmas present. May you enjoy a merry Christmas and a pleasant rest of the holidays.”

    John leaves with that. His actions attract some attention, but considering everybody is expected to hand over a gift that day, it is perhaps his show of initiative that spares him from mockery or some other unsightly reaction.

    John had an early breakfast, so he leaves the others to their meals and settles down in the common area. He bothers not with the TV—John Dove cares not for Christmas-time TV—, merely easing his body on the comfortable couch and closing his eyes to bask in the cool weather seeping through the windows.

    Minato Coastrise’s opinion and feelings on his gift are none of his business. In John Dove’s opinion, Minato is better off enjoying the holidays with his family; he certainly does not need anything from John Dove, and there is nothing else John Dove can do for him. If the purpose of this “Secret Santa” exercise was to encourage bonding among the students, it has failed in John Dove’s case. Regardless, with his obligation fulfilled, John is again at peace to follow his own needs and desires.

    However, the search for the truth can wait a few minutes. Let the young man enjoy a minute of peace—

    “You did a good thing back there, John.”

    John opens a single eye to engage the person looking down at his resting form while standing behind the couch.



    Faced with the end of his solitude, John Dove replies the only way he possibly could.

    “…why are you still following me?”

    “Ice cream.”

    John Dove is honestly flabbergasted.

    “It is breakfast time, Elise Marie.”

    “Pay up already.”

    There is a bit of a staring contest after that, the inexpressive boy testing the mettle of an unflinching young woman. Inevitably, however, John relents and rises to his feet. A deal is a deal, after all.

    “Might as well check whether Miss Popplewell is even open for business today. Give her the proper Christmas greetings while at it.”

    “Oh, so you care enough about Miss Popplewell to give her ‘proper Christmas greetings’, huh.”

    “It is called manners. I am sure you are acquainted with the concept. More importantly, isn’t it about time you tell me your secret?” John posits as he steps into the perpetually overcast outdoors. Well, it is all always grey to him, no matter the weather.

    “My secret?” repeats the girl, her face and voice the perfect picture of innocence.

    “Yes,” insists John, uncaring of the girl’s bold deflection. “I mean, at least one of our classmates claims to be a magician or magus or whatever; Miss Iburi is some sort of theistic figure in her homeland; Sakura is making a commendable effort to pretend she is not some sort of combat maid, and do not even get me started on Ubon and Pyry. So…”

    John wears the tiniest smile. Perhaps the gesture is the closest to an admission that he feels comfortable around Elise Marie Pelltier.

    “What is your deal? Are you a magician girl too?”

    “Of course not,” retorts the girl in an almost sputtering voice.

    “Fallen angel.”

    “Are you going to list random things until I admit anything just to make you stop?”

    “A singing idol with the blood of a dragon.”

    “Now you’re just being silly.”

    “Possessed by a demon.”

    Elise turns her head very slowly, to meet the boy who is mirroring her. Just as slowly, she raises an eyebrow. The boy’s smile becomes imperceptibly broader.

    “John Dove, is this your idea of a joke?”

    The boy is by now looking at the dusty road ahead, as if he has already dismissed the topic of conversation he himself proposed.

    “…perhaps.”

    The single-word answer makes Elise roll her eyes.

    “Ah, so we’re back to ‘quiet and mysterious’, huh.”

    “I beg your pardon?” asks the boy who would never describe himself as “quiet and mysterious”. After that, John can only ignore the girl’s curt laughter for which he can find no explanation.

    The two youngsters’ trip to the store is long in this town cradled in silence. The morning of Christmas Day is as grey as every other morning.

    John Dove does not particularly mind.

    For Minato Coastrise
    “By the way, John.”

    “Hmm?”

    “Why only the little sister? I thought you planned to take a picture of the two of them.”

    “Ah, that. Well, yes, that was indeed the original plan, but then I took a good look at Zhou Coastrise. I mean, she looks like that.”

    “Mm-hmm.”

    “But then she behaves like that.”

    “Huh.”

    “So I realized any picture I take of her will come out either utterly drab or like a gravure photo, and neither option would be appropriate.”

    “That’s…surprisingly thoughtful of you.”

    “What do you mean ‘surprisingly’? I am always thoughtful.”

    Thus ends this short and weird tale of two liars, now on the hunt for ice cream.

    “By the way, Elise Marie.”

    “Hmm?”

    “Is this a date?”

    “…keep following that trail of thought, and I might just become possessed by a demon, John Dove.”

    “Duly noted.”

  12. #192
    Progressive Shattering Kuroyuki's Avatar
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    Vier Responding to Colt's Secret Santa
    I was running a little late to the Christmas party... If I didn't care how I appeared to everyone, I would've just outright went over there after my thirty-six hour return walk from Seattle. But I went to the trouble of acquiring a Christmas Outfit and everything, so at this point I might as well go all in. So that means properly bathing... I was feeling anxious about this entire thing. The last time I properly celebrated Christmas was... before I entered school. I mean my best friend used to try and celebrate it as best as she could. But there was only so much she could do due to lack of resources and permission.

    The more time I spent by myself, the more I started to doubt how good my presents were... I mean I know Inacio liked music but would he like the music I got him. Also the camera I got for Aleen what if it was a step down compared to her current one. I thought I was going to have to deal with these thoughts until I got to the Christmas Party proper, but then I heard a knock at my door. I wonder who could it be... I decided to wrap a simple towel around me before deciding to answer the door. A majority of my body behind the door frame with only my head peaking out.

    On the other side was Colt Davin. One of the few guys who attended Pinefall High and also if rumors were to be true... The most visibly perverted one. Which was fine in my book provided he didn't get physical with someone against their wishes. The only thing negative going for him from me was the fact that Aleen placed him in her top three list. Maybe I should've properly dressed myself before answering...

    "Hey Colt... Do you mind waiting a little bit? I just got out of the shower and all... I promise I'll be right back as soon as I'm done changing"

    Colt looked like a deer in headlights at my current looks. He was doing his best to not look, but every so often… He would stare at various parts. Eventually, he managed to respond with a cute stutter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Colt Davin
    S-Sure! Take your time!
    After a little bit, I finally got dressed up in my Santa outfit that I acquired in Seattle. That should be good. After ensuring that my clothes were properly stowed away from prying eyes. I finally reopened the door.

    “So Colt what brings you here?”

    I thought changing out of my towel would make things easier for him, but judging by how he was still looking like a deer in headlights… I would say that he was still as conflicted as he was earlier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Colt Davin
    “I-I thought I would deliver it to you.”
    Speaking of which, he did indeed have a present in his hands. I guess I didn’t notice it earlier when I answered the door quickly. Does this mean he’s my Secret Santa? I took the gift from him and just went ahead and told him to go ahead and enter my room while I open it. Inside the present was a music box. At this point, I was just curious on what music it had inside…

    Truth be told, I would’ve liked something more modern. But this wasn’t… Bad. It reminded me that I actually did miss Germany. Even after everything, I still can’t find it in me to even dislike Germany. I wouldn’t actually mind living in Germany if they allowed me to.

    “Thanks Colt. I promise to treasure this music box.”

    I wiped a stray tear before eventually pushing Colt out of my room to his complaint.

    “Now get going to the Christmas Party! I still have some preparations to do so I’ll see you there later.”

    Before slamming the door shut, I thought that maybe… Aleen was onto something about Colt as well. Maybe… We’ll have to see about that as the year goes on. That second coupon printed coupon should see some usage by someone after all.

  13. #193
    men are men; the best sometimes forget Katie's Avatar
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    The Search for the Perfect Gift
    It was a fact that Lucille Faraday loved the Christmas season. There were a myriad of reasons for it, but you could boil it down to the fact that Lucille simply liked buying things for other people. Nothing was as satisfactory as getting people a gift they truly liked. And with most things she valued, Lucille took gift-giving far too seriously.

    Thus, her being assigned John Dove was, in a way, both a blessing and a curse.

    After a day’s worth of observation, Lucille came to an unfortunate conclusion. Just like her, John Dove would not mind what he got, but that was no good. Gifts weren’t just about the mere act of giving—they had to be meaningful! So what if they didn’t know each other very well? She’d find something that’d appeal to his seemingly nonexistent preferences, and she’d move heaven and earth to do it!

    -----

    “No, Lady Lucille, I will not,” Sakura says, the sharp sound of a knife hitting a cutting board punctuating her refusal.

    Lucille responds with a huff, before acting as if she never heard that response at all. Sakura rolls her eyes, already ready for the familiar song and dance. Why did the young mistress only act this way around her? She supposed she deserved it—a long time ago, a certain teenager had described her job as “the most boring babysitting job known to man,” and she currently regretted ever tempting fate.

    “No, Lucille, I won’t,” Sakura repeats herself, and Lucille’s brief smile turns into a frown as quickly as it came. “Just stop.”

    “How is this any different from what you’re doing right now?” Lucille asks, torn between incredulousness and frustration. This was of the utmost importance! Surely Sakura knew that!

    “Keeping an eye on the other students for suspicious supernatural activity is entirely different from stalking John Dove just so you know what to give him for a Christmas present.” Sakura spreads her latest condiment concoction on a piece of bread, calmly as ever, but she wishes her ward would drop the subject entirely. “One is noble and for the greater good and the other requires me to do various unethical things for something very minor.”

    Lucille almost interjects about how either way Sakura needed to do unethical things, so she definitely could do this minor favor on top, and that it is for the greater good, but the subsequent glare and sudden plate in front of her makes her shut her mouth.

    “Besides, it’s Secret Santa,” Sakura says as she begins to clean up after herself, ignoring the incessant grumbling from Lucille. “No talking while you eat—Nobody expects you to get John the perfect gift. It’s kind of the point with random assignment and all, so don’t get yourself too worked up over it.”

    “But I want to get John the perfect gift,” Lucille whines, ignoring Sakura’s wise words of advice, before she immediately goes back to devouring the sandwich, unwilling to draw any more of Sakura’s ire.

    “Why can’t you be this enthusiastic about my present?”

    “I am! You’re just the one who asks for a pay raise every year!”

    “And I pray Santa-san delivers every year,” Sakura wishes, feigning such an earnest sense of innocence Lucille almost forgets her maid is twenty-four and far too old for Santa Claus. “But really, milady, don’t think too hard about it. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.”

    Lucille sighs, before letting out a defeated sounding “Fine,” which seems to relieve Sakura very much. The heiress is quite aware that this is a fight that cannot be won, so she surrenders the battle to win the war. Sakura was only one means to an end—Lucille had plenty more.

    Nevertheless, just like every year, Lucille makes a mental note to call her father for Sakura’s sake.

    And just like every year, she had a gift prepared for when it inevitably didn’t work.

    -----

    (The next day, Lucille goes to Hwan Bin and asks to cash in one of her favors. He laughs his ass off once he hears the reason, and Lucille forks over another fifteen dollars to get him to stop. He eagerly accepts, and for a moment, Lucille’s pride stops being damaged, but moments later he makes a remark about how she’s going over the dollar limit already. Face red, she yells at him to stop making fun of her.

    He laughs harder.)

    -----

    “He likes the ocean, Lady,” Hwan Bin tells her, borer out of his mind.

    “That’s it?” It sounds so simple. Way, way too simple.

    “Yes, that’s fucking it,” Hwan responds, in an annoyed huff. It sounded like the ordeal “Unless you’re down to give him some special pics of Thunder Thighs and Addie, but who wouldn’t want that shit?”

    It takes Lucille a moment to figure out who Hwan is talking about, and she raises an eyebrow in the most incredulous, prudish way possible.

    “Gross! You didn’t need to tell me that,” she says, trying to purge herself of utterly impure thoughts. A second passes. Her face turns redder. She’s still stuck on it. “Definitely didn’t need to tell me that!”

    “Just making my point I didn’t half-ass my job, missy,” Hwan says with a snicker.

    Lucille sighs and thanks him, tossing in a pack of lollipops she bought at End’s Store and Post for just an occasion. He appraises it like a hyena would carrion, before shrugging and tossing one in his mouth. Still, something about his expression softens, so before he leaves—

    “Better hurry up, you don’t have much time left,” he states, but there’s a lot less bite in those words than normal.

    “Yeah, I know…”

    -----

    It’s too late to commission anything, Lucille realizes, so she makes her way to End’s Store and Post and asks Miss Popplewell if she can rummage through the back for something useful. She agrees, and this is how Lucille wastes an entire day sifting through all sorts of knickknacks and doodads to no success. Nothing is quite right, and it is this inane perfectionism and sunk-cost fallacy that prevents Lucille from settling for anything less.

    In the end, Lucille leaves, dejected and at a loss. She might as well be where she started.

    A familiar pair of footsteps reach her ears, followed by a quick tap on the shoulder, and Lucille turns around, already prepared for the lecture.

    “Should have listened to me,” Sakura says, eyeing the worn Lucille in a mix of exasperation and concern. Her hands hold a Christmas themed bag that Lucille naturally locks eyes on. “Having a hard time?”

    “Yes,” Lucille replies, too tired to put up a fight. Sakura gives her a once over, lets out a large sigh, and hands Lucille the bag.

    “That’s supposed to be your gift. I thought you’d really like it,” the maid explains, “But you can probably use it to make a gift for John. Just follow the instructions I wrote, alright?”

    Lucille blinks, briefly checking the contents of the bag, scanning the note inside, before nodding as if her life depended on it.

    “You’re such a life saver,” Lucille says, breathless, and Sakura cannot help but feel extraordinarily smug this time around.

    “It’s my job, after all,” she says, reaching up on her toes to give the taller girl an affectionate pat on the head. “I hope to see that pay raise soon?”

    All Lucille can really do is nod once more in response, before suddenly, she bolts.

    Sakura watches as Lucille runs off—towards the nearest pay phone, she realizes—and laughs.

    -----

    John’s gift is in silver wrapping paper with a crimson bow, signed “From: Santa” on the tag in such neat handwriting it’s almost painfully easy to tell who it came from. On the outside, at least, it looks like the ideal Christmas present.

    Inside is a custom snowglobe, made from a mason jar, foam, paint, and plenty of glitter. A small sailboat is adrift at calm seas, surrounded by flecks of silver and blue. It’s amateurish in the way all homemade products are, and there was a moment where Lucille thought it would never work as a gift. Still, she gave her creation a shake—and as she watched fragments of blue and silver drift gently down to the calm, painted ocean, she felt a profound sense of peace.

    This, she thought, was worth giving.
    [Feb/Wed/04|07:00:04] <Lianru> it's ok with each stalker call I feel like we get a little closer
    [Feb/Wed/04|07:00:06] <Lianru> never give up

    asians before testing week

  14. #194
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Mellon's Avatar
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    “...”

    Anna Vandemeel hated giving frivolous presents.

    To begin with, she had always believed that the only gifts worth giving are ones you made with your own two hands. To give something meant to give away something of yourself. Whether that be time, something that you valued, or anything else, it was something that you would never, ever, get back. This was why when Anna made gifts to others, she wanted for them to have meaning. Both in regards to what they were receiving and what she was giving up.

    Anyone could just buy something. For her, a gift of worth required sacrifice.

    And Travis Gagnon was most assuredly not a person she would be willing to make that sacrifice for. An obnoxious loudmouth of a punk who she’d barely spoken to once or twice. To even call them “acquaintances” at this point would be vastly overstating the relationship between the two of them. She knew his name and that was pretty much it. And besides, Anna didn’t think the two of them would get along anyway. One or two smartass lines from the blue-haired boy would doubtless be enough for her temper to snap.

    In reality, Anna wasn’t sure if there were any people in this dead town for whom she’d be willing to pay that price. Not even for Gabi, Caleb or Ramia. She didn't know any of them. Not truly. Perhaps more importantly, she trusted none of them. How could she? True friendship took years, not days, to build. A friendship forged in a couple of weeks of casual chats? For her, the very concept was a joke. Besides, the frame of this place was wrong. These sweet and placid yet utterly meaningless interactions they were having would never allow her to grow close to anyone here. It was not a world that she felt comfortable in, so she shut it out along with anyone in it.

    Indeed. Anna would finish what she started and then leave this place, and all those in it, behind her.

    But if that was the case, then why…

    A sigh escaped her lips, as her eyes fell on the object in her hand.

    “...a whim, huh? Tch… out of all the bad habits to pick up...”

    Spoiler:

    A moment later the pendant in her hands was hanging from the door handle in front of her. The number 111 hung above it, emblazoned on the door.

    “This is as far as I’m willing to go. As its just a passing fancy, I’ll leave whether or not you’ll get it also up to chance.” A small snort filled the empty hallway. “Seems fitting at least.”

    “While everyone should forge their own luck… well, all of us could use a bit of help from time to time.”

    “Especially in this place. Merry Christmas.

    The silent, empty, hallway provided no response but the mysterious glint of burnished silver. And that… that suited Anna Vandemeel just fine.

    Last edited by Mellon; December 25th, 2019 at 03:08 PM.

  15. #195
    Sketches in the Snow
    I'm standing in the End's Store and Post with a gun in my hand. Looking over the counter, I see Ms. Popplewell lying on the floor. Cold and still.

    I know what comes next. I've seen this bit a dozen times already. Maybe more. Honestly, I've lost count at this point. All that matters now is that I've seen the ending, and I know what I have to do.

    “What a senseless waste of human life,” I said sadly.

    I said it sadly, but I wasn't feeling sad. It's hard to feel sad in a moment like this.

    I laughed. We laughed. We both laughed together, and I couldn't help but think back to what led us all here to this moment.

    All I wanted to do was get a Christmas present for Sakura.

    -----------------------------------

    It all started back in my dorm room back at Pinefall. Well, actually, it started a bit earlier than that when we all drew names for a Secret Santa. This moment though? This is where I was set upon that inevitable course. I was sitting at my desk, my fingers steepled as I considered the scrap of paper with a name on it.

    Sakura Tsukioka, it read.

    I wasn't sure if it was a blessing or a curse. There was simultaneously so many options, and hardly any at all. I stared at my bookshelf, and briefly consider gifting one of my books away. I quickly discarded that idea. Oh, Sakura had long ago, all the way back on the bus that brought us here, let it slip that she quite liked Timothy Zahn, but she quickly tried to cover that up with some big literature author. She still hasn't come clean to me about that day. I'm not sure she ever will. I'm just left here wondering if she's got the whole Thrawn Trilogy and if she'll let me borrow it. There’s a few books on my shelf that I considered passing on, but no. I’d be happy to lend her any of those books, and giving her a book I'd just lend her otherwise would've just been lazy. Besides, I was fairly certain that she wouldn’t appreciate me calling attention to her secret love of science fiction.

    I considered trying to bake something for her. While my cooking skills aren’t, shall we say, top notch, I know how to work a spoon and an oven. No, the challenge there wasn’t the act of baking, it was making use of the kitchen to prepare a surprise for the girl who sees it as her domain, and rules it as such.

    I got up from my desk. I paced around my room. I wondered how she felt about gritty crime dramas before I eventually settled at my usual spot by the window, and stared out at the snow-covered campus outside. It seemed so peaceful and quiet out there.

    That was when I noticed that there was a reflection of me in the window, but it wasn’t me. It was me with a stupid, smug expression on my face like I'd just won a shit eating contest. It says it's got an idea, and I'm just dumb enough to hear it out.

    “A cookbook,” is what my reflection said.

    I considered the idea, but I discarded it. If we're looking at new books, we're entirely at the mercy of what Ms. Popplewell has in stock, and her selection is really best described as eclectic and random.

    It says I've got it all wrong. We shouldn't buy a new cookbook, we should make one for Sakura.

    Now, I was dubious at this moment. It felt like a remarkably heartfelt idea, considering its source, so there had to be a catch. So I asked. It said there wasn't. It just wanted to show how appreciative she was of all the good food Sakura had fed us over the last few months, and it wanted to help me get her that perfect gift.

    I didn't know it then, but it was already too late. There was no catch. Only bait, and I'd already taken it. The course was set, and I swam on blindly towards my doom.

    “We both know that I hardly know which end is the right end of a spatula,” I said, dismissive of my own limited cooking abilities, “How am I supposed to write a cookbook?”

    “Oh, don't worry, Girl, this is where my assistance will be most critical. I have prepared several exotic recipes that can easily be made with locally sourced ingredients.”

    “Locally sourced...?” I asked as I felt a growing sense of dread.

    “Just imagine how excited she'll be to serve us a nice, steaming bowl of Ubon!”

    I groaned.

    “Pyry Pie.”

    I protested.

    “Nubata Soba.”

    I cried.

    “Aleen à la King.”

    Each name.

    “Seared Wolff.”

    Each dish.

    “Gabi Bahklauva.”

    Felt like a knife to the gut.

    “Anna Vandemeal.”

    With each one worse.

    “Cesarina Salad.”

    And worse.

    “Pickled Lockhart.”

    Than the last.

    “Grilled Dove.”

    I sank to the floor. Laughing with a laughter that wasn't my own. I didn't know what horrified me more: that it had actually bothered to learn the names of my classmates for the sole purpose of turning them into a series of cannibalistic recipe puns, or that I thought some of them were actually kind of clever.

    With that though, its presence was gone and I was left alone with myself once more. It's idea was, of course, awful, and I was not one step closer to finding an idea for what to get for Sakura. Still, I couldn’t help but feel terrible that the horrid thing that lived in my brain had managed to come up with a more personal idea than I had, even if it was awful.

    “No!” I declared as I rose back to my feet. I would not allow my Christmas spirit to be crushed and devoured by the hateful thing that loitered in my head! I was going to get a gift for Sakura, and, gosh darnit, it was going to be nice! I might not be able to craft something beautiful, heartfelt, and loaded full of sentimentality, but I could do the next best thing: get something useful! Something simple and utilitarian, but not like socks. Socks are just sad.

    The cookbook idea might have been awful and more than a little disturbing, but it was on the right track. Food. While Sakura seemed to possess endless sandwich making supplies, that surely must not actually be the case. What is the heart of the sandwich if not cheese? Fortunately, there was a place in town where one could find cheese. Really, it was the only place in town where one could find anything for sale.

    -----------------------------------

    I walked into the End's Store and Post. Sue Popplewell was there, standing behind the counter, and she asked if there was anything I needed. I explained my situation to her: that the student body at Pinefall had chosen to partake in a ritual in when each individual was randomly assigned another individual for whom they were expected to provide a suitable gift for, and that I had been assigned an individual whom I was quite familiar with, and wished to purchase materials with which they pry their craft.

    Sue gave me a confused look and asked, “Eh?”

    “I want to buy some cheese for my friend for Christmas,” I stated plainly.

    “Certainly! What can I get for you?” asked Ms. Popplewell.

    “What about some Monterey Jack?”

    “Sorry, we’re fresh out.”

    “What about some Havarti then?”

    “Ah, I never get it at the end of the week. Always fresh first thing on Monday.”

    I quietly cursed to myself. I knew I shouldn’t have waited this long.

    “What about Swiss?”

    “Ah! It’s been on order for two weeks, I was expecting some this morning.”

    “Gouda?”

    “Sorry.”

    “Oka?”

    “No.”

    “Saint-Paulin?”

    "No."

    “Munster?

    “Sorry.”

    “Colby?”

    “Not today.”

    “Brie?”

    “No.”

    “Double-Cream Brie?”

    “No, no.”

    “Triple-Cream Brie?”

    “No, no, no.”

    “What about Camenbert?”

    “Well! I do have some Camenbert, yes we do!”

    “You do? Great!”

    “It’s a bit runny though.”

    “Oh, that’s fine. I like it a bit runny.”

    “Well… it’s actually very runny.”

    “Not a problem! Bring me the Camenbert!”

    “I think it might be quite a bit runnier than you’ll like,” warned Ms. Popplewell.

    “No, no. It’s fine. A nice over ripened Camenbert? That sounds wonderful.”

    “Okay then…” said Ms Popplewell as she disappeared behind the counter.

    I waited impatiently, but she returned a moment later.

    “Ohhh, sorry,” apologized Ms. Popplewell, “The racoon got it. It’s always getting in here...”

    I sighed, I really shouldn't have expected anything else there.

    “Edam?” I asked.

    “No.”

    “Mozzarella?”

    “No.”

    “Do you, in fact, have any cheese at all?”

    “Yes!” replied Ms. Popplewell with a beaming smile.

    “Alright, I'm going to ask you that question once more and if you say no, I am going to shoot you through the chest. Now: do you have any cheese at all?”

    “No,” admitted Ms. Popplewell.

    With that, I aimed a finger gun at Ms. Popplewell.

    “Bang,” I said as I pulled the metaphorical trigger and carried out my threat.

    She gasped, clutching her chest as she slowly sank behind the counter, making terrible dying noises in the process. The gasping and wheezing took a good minute before she stopped suddenly. I look over the counter, and Ms. Popplewell is lying cold and still on the floor, her eyes closed and tongue out.

    “What a senseless waste of human life,” I said sadly as I pulled on my toque and finished our reenactment of the sketch.

    Ms. Popplewell started to laugh, and I followed suit. As she pulled herself back up to the counter, I can’t help but take a moment to reminisce about how my search for a gift for Sakura led to this absurd moment.

    “You know, now that I think about it, there’s probably some in the fridge,” said Ms. Popplewell as she leaned on the counter, “I might have some more in the back, just let me check.”

    All in all, I was able to acquire a fine assortment of cheeses, chiefly British considering the venue, some fancy mustard, a jar of pickles, a pair of candy canes, and some chocolate. I also tossed in a box bandages for good measure. I’m sure she has plenty, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that they might not be enough.

    Ms. Popplewell suggested delivering it in a Christmas stocking, which I thought was brilliant. Naturally, she had some Christmas stockings in stock, and I picked out one that was a suitable size for all the odds and ends I’d collected.

    -----------------------------------

    I returned to my dorm room, where I hastily wrapped the items and loaded them into the stocking. To my surprise, there was an orange in the stocking, which I didn’t remember buying. I wasn’t sure if Ms. Popplewell had slipped it in there, or if Christmas stockings just spontaneously generated oranges. I shrugged and tossed it back in. Stocking full of assorted, hopefully helpful, odds and ends in hand, I set out to deliver it to its intended recipient!

  16. #196
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    For those that it concerns: The new Astronomika character will be chosen in one week's time. Those who have not yet their character sheets, now is the time. Those who have sent their character sheets, now is the time to remind your senile GM.

  17. #197
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Applications have been judged.

    Applicants were weighed.

    And none were found wanting.

    The quality of sheets all around was amazing, honestly. Everybody had done an amazing job.

    But, unfortunately, there can be only one winner for a single player slot.

    And thus, without futher ado...


    You new Astro Player is...


  18. #198
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Alright, that's a cut. Good job, everyone. Make sure you don't forget anything and clean everything before leaving the studio.

    (Seriously, GG.)

  19. #199
    The Time-Governing Twelve Covenants Airen's Avatar
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    Liana Skye




    “Try to think of a way to get it done, not a reason why you can’t... It’s a bit of a reckless philosophy, but it’s better than just giving up, right?”

    "Eh? It's not that easy...? Why not? Well, if you ever need help, just let me know~ I won't be around forever, but feel free to rely on me while I am, okay?"
    Spoiler:
    Death is nothing but a disease.
    But it is one that often comes from all sides.
    An end like that is coming, and yet here you are.

    Tell me.

    Could you kill someone you love for the sake of everyone else?


    What a cynical worldview, Messiah.
    Real heroes would find a different answer.


    Right, right.
    The power to break through a sad reality—
    I wonder—

    Will they be able to show it to me?



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