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Thread: Astronomika - Shooting Down Falling Stars (IC)

  1. #4641
    Overly devoted enthusiasm... fufufu~ Ayakashi's Avatar
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    Vivienne Bianchi
    Location: Owl's Nest Hotel - Corridor
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    ******


    What exactly have you achieved today? Successfully making it look like you attacked one of your few 'friends'? Make yourself a potential liability via association for Alex? Yes, no one saw you technically, but your scent was in that room with Rachel, and if that Kincaid ever sees you again, you'll be as good as ratted out. Such an awful game of cat and mouse. And should you even be here now? What if your presence here leads to... something unfortunate happening to Alex? Yes, originally all you wanted to do was protect her from her death, hoping that should she live, this obsessive truth-seeking woman could somehow elucidate a mystery that spans far above the limits of Road's End itself... but the options present to you now...

    Get in the room, leave evidence that you indeed have been here; leave now, and have the staff say that they saw you sleeping over in Alex's room. A lose or lose situation, no matter how yo look at it -- no matter your actions, all you've accomplished is to hinder yourself and others at the same time. It's either that, or run after ghosts! A very productive use of your limited time!

    Why are you even trying to protect, Vivianne Bianchi? Aren't you supposed to be an assassin? Killing is what they do, no? Have you even tried looking into the target you have to take out? Their description makes it look like they'd be someone who could be behind all of this, does it not?
    Instead of trying to keep people alive, all you have to do is kill the person that's threatening those you hold dear. That is indeed the way you've done it so far before coming here... and it is the way you should operate from now on. It's much easier. Death doesn't even have a meaning here, does it? Why not just try your hand at killing everyone and getting killed yourself... until you find the winning solution! The true culprit! To hell with chasing after dreams and hopes. All that it has brought to you so far are repeated failures and disappointment. Yes, cut all of these things off and be free from all these chains and inhibitions. Your time is about up anyways, and terrible things are about to happen. If you are going to go out, go out with a--


    ******




    "No."

    A clenched fist rams into the mirror, breaking the whole image it projects into millions of smaller facets. The sneering, red-eyed figure has been replaced with a thousand, fragmented images of Vivienne Bianchi, fitting of her soul's status... yet, what is this that is boiling in the girl's blue eyes? Why is her lip tucked in, as if she's biting on it? A long forgotten expression which has not reared its head in a long time, not even during her last 'death', crawls upon the emotionless face, molding it into something much more alive. A distant rising sun in the girl's mind casts an orange hue upon her cold, sky blue eyes, tainting them the color of a blood-red dawn.

    The change is only momentary though, as Vivienne stares at her own fragmented existence in the mirror, trying to restore the 'normal', self. She takes a few deep breaths, not moving, eyes fixated on that damned reflection which has been playing games with her ever since the beginning of 'this week'. She does not know herself exactly what she is hoping to achieve in this stare down, but somehow, it is working. Her facial muscles are relaxing, and that seething desire to smash something into bits again is receding, leaving behind it the familiar, agonizing emptiness.

    Yet she does not realize that as she walks away from the mirror, her lips are not reset into a neutral, emotionless shape. No... they are rather...



    Curved into a deranged smile.

    Vivienne Bianchi
    Location: Owl's Nest Hotel - Room 305
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    Thankfully, she Vivienne seems to be her good old self when she has arrived back at room 305.

    "... Why are you sneaking out here?"
    "It would appear that... people are coded to respond to questions about 'Girl in Blue'. Rachel showed me a portrait that Mr. Halloway keeps deep inside the residence... of a girl with heterochromia. Blue Eye... and a Red eye. I asked her if maybe this could be... The Girl in Blue... and...."

    She recounts to Alex what happened to Rachel, including her choice to make an escape rather than be confronted as the potential person responsible for Rachel's predicament. Of course, Vivienne had made sure that Rachel was fine first, but still...However, this current arrangement wasn't too pleasant for Vivienne. There was no telling when someone would just randomly see her -- staff had probably caught a glimpse of her and Rachel being the last two together after all, no? Eventually, all fingers would point towards Vivienne, so it was only a matter of time before Owl's Nest would become an area she shouldn't linger in at all. With the time she did have left however, Vivienne wanted to have a proper talk with Alex. They needed one.

    "I know this may be a bit troublesome but can I... come in? Might not be very wise if I stay out in the corridor here... and someone sees me. I will leave in a bit since I think that... I should not overstay my welcome in the hotel, but I was asking if you would be interested in going somewhere today. Anywhere other than staying at the hotel. And I have some things I'd like to discuss."
    Last edited by Ayakashi; June 23rd, 2022 at 01:36 PM.

  2. #4642
    Glorious Grammar Master Race Frantic Author's Avatar
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    Alexstrasza Lockhart
    Location: Mitchell Residence - Outside
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Hm, hm," I said thoughtfully, nodding along as I tapped the side of my cheek as Ramia spoke. Her words rung true; perhaps Potemkin was a bit of a poor source of information on such things as this. She was not overall the most trustworthy of individuals - Potemkin Always Lies, after all. That's simply the nature of her existence, right? Like how I speak truth with a dash of deceit, Potemkin deals in deceit with a dash of truth. "I... I see. Thank you, Ramia, I had forgotten that Potemkin is a filthy liar, unfit to do anything but scrounge through the trash and grime of society with the relish befitting such an unsavory personage."

    Kufufu! Do you not see, Potemkin?! In spite of your... your... your rudeness, in regards to our appearance, are we not quite desirable? Are we not standing at the pinnacle of femininity, in such a way that few may stand where we stood!? Aren't we actually... rather good-looking?!

    Actually, don't answer that. Pretend I never even said it, dearest Potemkin; such vain thoughts are things that we should avoid, my esteemed alter ego, who is so skinny that she could be compared to a washboard.

    Anna's familiar opened the door, and Ramia entered, I followed behind her at a slightly slower pace, making sure to attempt to not make too much noise.

    The room was made of mechanical objects I had vague recollection of the usage for, and I frowned as I peered at one. A most interesting contraption, sitting on four wheels (much like Prushka's demonic ride, although I would give it a 100% rating on entertainment), with a massive exterior made of... Armor? I suppose it was a smaller version of the enormous contraption that had carried us to Pinefall, albeit in a smaller form. Such a method of transit appeared common for those on this proper side of the world, and such a fixture was becoming more and more the norm in the mirrored one as well, albeit simply 'new wave'. These were... cars? Yes! Cars. A device for transport. And a gearhead meant that the owner was...!!

    Kakaka. Potemkin, dearest, the truest parts of me are also a part of you. We are deducing, are we not? Discovering secrets - although none altogether too relevant to that which we desire to do. Let us venture a thought, nay - a conjecture!

    "This vehicle..." I said, looking at it with interest as I nodded, "...probably belongs to that person Anna is speaking with--!!"
    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.


  3. #4643
    Konkon Kitsune~ Kuroyuki's Avatar
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    Vier
    Location: Ghostwood National Forest (?)
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    Quote Originally Posted by Zieg
    "......... I know. I'm as much you as I'm her, after all."
    Even as Zieg hugged me back, the logical part of my brain noticed the differences between the memory and the real one. For one, Zieg didn’t hug as hard as she could and it was her self awareness as just a memory. An awareness that I was only seeking reassurance in a memory. It was just merely an attempt from my subconscious to try and stabilize itself.

    And the mental acknowledgment that I have been repressing my emotions for far too long. 3 years, 10 months, 10 days, 2 hours, and 37 minutes. Because while Zieg and I did succeed in defecting on that day, I failed to become free. I neutralized all enemy combatants and led them away from Zieg who was knocked on conscious. Even though the end result was me Once I found a shelter, I started waiting for the moment when Zieg would come through the doors to worry over my wounded state. But as time went on, I went from recuperating to healed. I traded my temporary shelter for a more permanent one. I started making supply caches and safehouses. I started actively searching for Zieg. With each phase change, I had to repress my emotions more and more. A return to what I left in the first place, but at least it was something I knew. If I didn’t fall into that routine, I would’ve fallen into despair because what if I was wrong. What if I got Zieg killed? What if my best intentions got Zieg captured and then re-indoctrinated? What if she’s being tortured right now? What if…

    Zieg's Speech
    But, Vier... we can't be afraid to lose. No human can. A human who can't allow themselves to lose, who's too afraid of it to even try, is no human at all. If we always take the safest path, we'll never even set a foot out of our home yard. So we stumble. So what? We can always pick ourselves up from the ground again. Just because there's a chance that someone might betray us doesn't mean everyone will. We can't shut ourselves off from the world every time we get hurt. I know it's tough. And I know it can be painful. But sometimes we have to be brave. Because we can't do everything alone, no one can.

    ... When we don't know what to do, it's others that can guide us. And when others don't know what to do, we can guide them. That's just how this life goes. I'm not telling you to be a saint and forgive everyone who ever hurt you, or to try to please everyone. That's not right either. But we have to be able to take a chance on people... because otherwise, how can we expect them to take a chance on us? It'll be tough but... we've been through worse, haven't we? We've failed before, haven't we? And we're still here. We're still alive and kicking. And sometimes we can even smile. And that will always stay true. So, find those who you want to put your trust into, and believe - I'm sure that trust will be returned.

    Just remember, Vier. Trust is different from 'knowledge'. If we only bank on cold, hard truths, to the point of tearing through someone's mind to know if they're trustworthy or not... how can we expect them to trust us? We couldn't trust them, so expecting the same would be the height of arrogance. That's not how humans operate. Each and every day a human takes a chance on other - and sometimes their risk is rewarded, sometimes it's not. But without that risk, there can be no true bond. Just remember that, alright?

    ... And if we find those who would stand by us, if we give them the chance, perhaps they can help us where we've failed. You've gone a long way, but haven't reached me. So, perhaps it's also time to take a step back and look at what you know. Remember, Vier? That first clue you were ever given? 'Hidden from herself, hidden from the world, she hides under the star. Search for the golden glimmer of the star and you may still find her. However, her memories faded and jaded, she is merely a shell of what she used to be. To bring her back, you will need the one who hurt you before... the man who bides his time and waits here. Only him and his sister can break her free from the prison of her mind.' And if you can't think of anything on your own... perhaps you can find someone to help you? Someone, or some people, who'll guide you on your way to wherever I am. And who you can guide and help you in return, with the strengths and skills you possess and they lack."




    I hate that Zieg isn’t wrong even as a memory. She was right that I couldn’t always play it safely. There was never a way to guarantee any outcome. Even if a machine whose sole code was to always report the status of 0, there were ways to make output a 1. Break the machine, repurpose the machine, or even witness an error occur. You simply had to accept that there was risk no matter what you did. You just had to mitigate, accept, and plan around it. I stepped back from the memory of Zieg before speaking. Just because I think she’s not wrong, doesn’t mean I think she’s fully right either. Even if she was made with my thoughts.

    “I’m not afraid of losing. It’s just that… I have to be perfect. I can’t afford to make mistakes. We know that a single mistake means someone will die. It was likely to be you or me. If it wasn’t you or me, then it was our informants, other agents, NATO, or even innocents. We don’t have the luxury of making mistakes. Trusting other people based off my gut? I can’t. I just can’t. Everytime, I assumed I could trust someone. I was wrong. I keep getting it wrong. I can’t just accept a risk every time with the knowledge that I am going to be wrong.”

    Last night. I trusted people. I let my gut decide I could trust people. It ran the gamut of people I thought I knew really well and other people I didn’t know particularly well.

    “Zieg, I trusted people. I didn’t verify things like I should’ve in that scenario. I didn’t question my gut and things went badly. Real badly. I trusted a man I didn’t know to watch my first… acquaintance here. He left her by herself where she got quietly knocked out and then impersonated. When I saw that imposter later, I let them off easily because they were the first person I knew… Thought I knew. I didn’t notice the inconsistencies in her words. I didn’t notice she was replaced at all. I accused other people of being the impostor when she was standing right next to me this whole time. It took another acquaintance to actually solve things. If it wasn’t for her, someone other than the enemy would’ve died.”

    All because I was incapable of knowing someone outside of my power. If I didn’t use it to raise the probability of a favorable response, I was incapable of socializing. There’s already one known instance of this. Once I stopped reading Gabi Bahkauv’s mind due to my agreement with his mother, I was incapable of talking to him. Every new person, a new variable. A new potential threat. It took a special someone to ignore that. And even then I wouldn’t be able to trust nor stop doubting them until I look at least once. Even though I can’t read Zieg’s mind, our relationship started out very differently. I was her subordinate. She was the leader. Nothing more. Nothing less at first.

    "...Or maybe if I was a better friend. But I don't know how to do that. I can't do that without violating the sanctity of their mind."

    Yesterday was easily solvable if I just stayed logical or I was just a better friend. If I was fully logical, I could've noticed the imposter's inconsistency. I could've possibly avoided the possibility of me requiring memory or mind reading by just listening intently to their stories dispassionately. If I did have to use my ESP, then I could always invade subtly at first to ascertain initial suspicions before condemning someone. If I was better at being someone's friend, then I would've noticed the imposter next to me. Especially since I considered us friends... A real friend would've noticed... I didn't.

    “Zieg… Even if you have optimism and high expectations for me, I don’t. All I see is that Specialist #45 is a horrible person. They could never be a good friend. Even if they can try and try again. The closer they get to a person. The more they’ll hurt that person and place them in danger. I nearly killed the real you. I killed Aleen King once and I almost did it again. If I, Specialist #45, will hurt the people closest to her by proximity. I need to stay away for their own good or in the shadows.”

    So even if I want to try, I won't accept the risk of hurting them further.

  4. #4644
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "If it was for that, then you wouldn't even have fit into this room, let alone my pocket."

    I answered, my eyes still resting on the coin.

    I wasn't even really sure what my goal was. Most of what I wanted was to spare the snake, and this was the only way I could think of back then...But that was about it.

    Of course...it would be gone by the end of tomorrow, wouldn't it?

    "It's the rain. It will stop once the storm is gone," I followed the snake's gaze outside the window, "Though, it rains quite often. And you'll get to experience much more of nature soon enough, since I like exploring."

    My attention back on the doll and the desk it was sitting on, I pulled out a small notebook, and started scribbling absentmindedly just so that I was doing something. This sudden...moment of peace, the emptyness in a sense, just felt unusual after all that happened. My body just needed to do something, anything at all, or so it felt.

    "If this world is all so new to you, then what do you remember of the place where you were? Before tomorrow happened, that is. Were you alone there? Or was that doctor always there as well?"

  5. #4645
    Click the moon for extra scenes Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Prushka's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "U-um..."

    Looking a bit lost, Alpa gazed at the downed Prushka, then glanced towards the door (through which no more yelps came) and then back at the girl on the floor... and tilted her head quizzically.

    "W-well, how may I help then?" She asked, genuinely worried. "I'm... I'm afraid I cannot lift you up physically. I can, of course, give you some verbal motivation, b-but I do not know how effective I would be as a 'cheer leader', or however they were called. B-but I can certainly try!"

    Nodding to herself, the shy girl readjusted herself on the bed. Then, after hesitating for a moment, she lifted up her over-sized sleeves and directed them up, then to the sides, back up, and once more to the sides. Up and sides, up and sides, with awkward and not exactly rhytmic movements - yet, she was certainly doing her best. As she did this weird routine, a bunch of off-key slogans like "P-R-U-um-H-S-K-A? Y-you can do it, Prushka!" and "Go-go-go, you can stand, go-go-go!" came flying out of Alpa's mouth, but they lacked any confidence or strength usually associated with cheer squads.

    Indeed, only half a minute into the whole thing, Alpa's words had turned into embarrassed mutters, and the girl curled up like she just wanted to dig a hole and disappear into it.

    "Uu... I-I'm sorry, I'm not very good at this..."

    Her apology, on the other hand, felt very genuine.

    "Though, um, that being said..."

    While still curled up, Alpa lifted her gaze to meet Prushka's and a careful smile blossomed on her face.

    "... You two certainly s-seem very close! I-it almost makes me jealous," Alpa giggled. "I sorta wish I had a partner like that too..."

    ... Her feelings seemed genuine as well, but was she making some assumptions here?




    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    The invisible snake blinked.

    [I wasn't alone. There was no alone to be. To be alone, you have to be an individual first.]

    Althought a bit confusing in its terms, the snake did have a point. To recognize that you were all alone, you had to first recognize yourself as "someone". And considering where the creature had come from, that might have been... no, that definitely wouldn't have been normal. It was thanks to Hisa's and Prushka's powers that things had turned out this way, but before that...?

    [The 'doctor' was there too. You always carry your fears, your traumas with you. That's how it was for those two as well. Whenever something scars you like that, it'll always be with you. Along with all the other things that make you, well, you,] the nameless snake continued. [But in the first place, it's wrong to ask what was there and what wasn't. It wasn't like this place. This place of defined existences. Here, there is... rain, you say? It's a thing, it makes a sound. There's you. You move within this rectangular room, interact with this object where I am, and look out into the 'rain' and listen to the 'sound' it produces. All are different existences.]

    Hisa could practically see the reptilian eyes gaze at her from within the coin, both curious and unknown. In a sense, it was a gaze very fitting for the creature whose shape it had taken, but at the same time... there was definite intelligence there, unlike a normal snake. That was, perhaps, what made it so strange. It was so alike the real thing, yet undoubtedly different, due to its origins.

    As confusing existence as its words.

    [Were I came from, that wasn't true. We just were. I suppose you would call them... concepts? Emotions? Feelings? Thoughts? All of them, and none of them. There was no existing, we just were - and certainly had no self to recognize we did,] the snake said. [Not until you two spelled it all out in your own terms, and anchored such a strange way to display the whole thing into reality. It's what, in a sense, gave birth to me as well.]

    For some reason, the snake gave a hissing laughter. Was it amused? Could it even be?

    Or was it testing if it did find this funny?

    [I may have been made by those who created the two young men. As a concept that is,] it added. [But as a being with a consciousness to recognize myself... you were definitely the one who made me.]

    The invisible face of the snake seemed to tilt its head at Hisa.

    [Does that make you my... mother?] It asked, in all serious.

    Forked tongue slithered in air.

    [Hissss~]

    It sounded genuinely curious.




    Agent Skye
    Location: Sheriff's Department
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    The sheriff frowned at the question. Not because Liana had asked it, but because the answer was quite strange in itself.

    "He was... just standing there by the road side," Michael finally said. "Earlier today, I got a little inspired after meeting someone and decided to go take care of some personal business. But on my way there, after the storm hit, I just... found him. Like he had been waiting for me and my car, on the road to the gas station. Standing in the rain like it was the most normal thing to do. I stepped out of the car, said that I had been tasked to take him into custody, and do you know what he responded with?"

    A silence reigned after the sheriff's question, silence only broken by Deputy Cliff as she came back from the side room, carrying a cup of coffee for everyone standing in the lobby. Quietly she handed one cup for Michael, one for Scottie and one for Liana ("Here you go, Skye"), and then stood there along with the rest of them, waiting and quiet. The sheriff took a careful sip of his coffee, enjoyed the warming taste, before finally returning back to the topic.

    A slightly sarcastic smile spread to his face.

    "'I know. I was waiting for you. It's time'."

    That quote, coming straight from the man who had found Rosencrantz, send an odd chill up and down the room. Johanna shivered a little, glancing towards the distant room where they were apparently holding the shoe salesman in question. Scottie, on the other hand, frowned into his coffee, gazing into its murky depths with a look of a man whose head was full of spinning gears, thoughts and deductions flying about and trying to make sense of such a mysterious answer.

    Finally, the FBI agent lifted his gaze to meet Michael's.

    "Well then, sheriff, it sounds like we should not keep him in anticipation. If he's been waiting for us, chances are he already knows why were are here," Scottie replied. "Johanna, I would much appreciate if you would transcribe everything that goes down during our talk. I trust that we have a recorder on hand, but you never know when electric devices might give up the ghost. Michael, if you would, can you get me the case file that I left on your desk? The one in the blue cardboard folder?"

    The sheriff nodded and was about to leave, but suddenly Scottie reached out with his hand and caught him by the shoulder. A serious look spread on the agent's face as he stared directly into the sheriff's eyes, the two of them almost having a wordless conversation made with mere stares.

    "And Michael?" Scottie added. "No matter what happens in that room, keep an open mind. I know it might not be easy, considering what you've been through... but if we're to solve this web of lies the town is tangled up in, we need all the help we can get."

    A momentary pained look - a distant look - appeared on the sheriff's face... but eventually he nodded.

    "... I know."

    Having said that, the two men separated and headed into different directions. One towards his office, one towards the room they had reserved for this little "interrogation". Scottie, as he was stepped into the hallway leading there, stopped to look at Liana over his shoulder.

    "Miss Skye, with me, if you would."

    Thus, with coffee cups in hands, the two of them started down the corridor, towards the last door on the right. There awaited what must have been some sort of conference room or a meeting room. Indeed, it was the only room along the corridor with the lights still on, meaning it was easy for them to stop. And as the two walked in silence, a certain sort of anticipation - or perhaps dread - was building up in the air. Whatever they were walking towards waas not right. There was something off about it. You could feel it in the air. Like it was a turning point, or the trigger, for something big. Something that might either shed finally some light into the darkness... or cover everything in a blanket of shadows.

    "Be sharp," Scottie quietly said to Liana as they stopped before the door.

    And then he opened it.

    But instead of a waiting man, confident and mysterious, what they saw was...

    An almost empty conference room.

    A single chair at the far wall where someone sat. A pale figure, looking almost like an adolescent youth with the features of an old geezer. Young, yet old - a paradoxical man who would have turned heads wherever he went.

    But he wasn't waiting, no.

    He was convulsing.

    His hands were gripping the armrests of his chair, his body was shaking like it was going through a seizure, his head had snapped back and his eyes had rolled to the back of his head - and his mouth was wide open.

    A terrible droning, groaning sound echoed from it, like a drainage pipe slowly clearing up.

    "... Michael! Get in here, quick!" Scottie yelled out as he rushed forward.

  6. #4646
    Click the moon for extra scenes Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Colt Davin
    Location: Forest Ranger Cabin
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "W-what?"

    For a moment, the strange beast-girl's wariness seemed to evaporate completely. Instead, she stared at Colt with her eyes wide open, having both forgotten her hostility, her pain and her apprehension to the situation she was in. Indeed, she didn't even glance at the scope that had been thrown at the feet of her bed. Instead, her eyes were locked onto Colt, though she clearly no longer heard him. Instead, she simply stared... and stared... and stared...

    ... Untill.

    "O-oh... oh gods... Ru is... R-Ru is..." She half-whispered, half-stammered, the corners of her eyes watering. "Ru is alright...!"

    Then, unable to control herself, no matter if the person who she viewed as an enemy was with her in the same room, the girl... began to cry. It wasn't soft sobbing, nor was it silent tears. No, it was ugly and it was genuine, the cry of an older sister who had been worrying her heart sick for her little brother for who even knows how long. It was the cry of a sibling who finally got the confirmation that her family member was still alive, still safe, and that her worst nightmares and imagined hadn't come true.

    Thus, burying her face into her hands, the beast-girl sobbed uncontrollably, howling out in relief.

    Not caring who saw or who heard her.

    --- Like days and weeks of distress had finally evaporated from her shoulders.

    .........

    ......

    ...

    Eventually, the tears subsided and the sobs muffled into hiccups and sniffles.

    The girl took off her round glasses once more, wiping her eyes and cursing something in her native tongue under her breath, probably related to showing such weakness in front of Colt. Once she had wiped the mess off her face, the girl put on her glasses once more... and her eyes fell upon the item sitting at the foot of her bed.

    However, she didn't touch it.

    Instead, she hugged her knees, like she was protecting herself, and over them, she glared at Colt once more - this time with far redder eyes.

    "... How do you know that he's alright?" The girl finally whispered. "And why... why are you just handing out the
    Ào Dīng
    Profound Nail
    to me like that, thief?"




    Vivienne Bianchi
    Location: Owl's Nest Hotel - Room 305
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    Alex Terrot chewed on the nail of her thumb, both annoyance and stress visible and clear on her face. She had seemed curious and confused when the girl had started her story, but the further she went, the more clear it became that this tale served not only to sate the reporter's curiosity, but to foul her mood. And it was not hard to wonder why. Not only was the "Girl In Blue" involved in all of this, and that apparently the people of this town were under some sort of compulsion bordering to brainwash...

    ... But Vivienne had also made a contact with a Kincaid.

    The group of people that Alex Terrot loathed.

    "... Merde! I can't believe you would just..." Alex hissed, chewing on her own finger as much as her nail. "That bastard was right there, you should have just...!"

    She didn't finish her sentence, however.

    Perhaps even Alex realized that attacking someone who hadn't done anything bad to you was not a good thing in the least. Or perhaps she was merely acknowledging the fact that doing so in broad daylight was just stupid. Whichever the reason, at least the reporter did seem to calm down a bit, and didn't bite Vivienne's head off about it, verbally or literally. However, that same obsessive fire, like a dark flame eating her up inside, continued to burn bright in her fatigued eyes.

    Yes, it was clear.

    Alex Terrot, despite sleeping longer than Vivienne, had barely rested. The force driving her didn't allow her to.

    Probably, for the most of her sleep, she had been going over the things she had learned in her subsconsciousness.

    "... Bah. It doesn't matter. Not right now," Alex finally continued, before opening the door fully and letting Vivienne in. "Rather, we need to leave. Now. If you've been seen, we've been compromised. Not just you. They'll connect me to you soon enough, and that's when things get tricky. I can only hope I can get my contact to come clean up after me, we don't have to time to deal with... this."

    She made a vague gesture towards the walls of her room as she kept packing a small bag with essential supplies.

    "We'll sneak out of a side door or something. And then we'll head to..." Alex paused for a moment, thinking. "... School is one possibility. As much as I want to avoid it. If we don't have any other place to group up at, that's our last option."

    Finally, she tossed in her journal - the one book full of all the information she had gathered up so far.

    Then, she shot a sharp glare towards Vivienne.

    "Do you have any actual friends? Ones with a place where we could hole up for the night, at least," she asked, perhaps with a bit of hostility in her voice thanks to the stress eating away at her again. "Or some other place that might be useful. Though..."

    Pausing for a moment, she held out her hand as if to stop the quiet girl.

    Then, with the look of a person trying to push a migraine away from her mind, she continued.

    "... Any place that has a name with norse connotations or allegories is right out of the question. Those are the places we should definitely avoid."

  7. #4647
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    Colt Davin
    Location: Forest Ranger Cabin
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    Her reaction was not what Colt had been expecting. With all the spite she’d so eagerly shown the boy, the apprehension that people of Turnside origins had towards trusting anything and everything, Colt was prepared for little more than distrust.

    Instead he sat silently while the girl cried, feeling like he should perhaps leave her be. But just as well, she might take even that as an insult.

    So he sat and waited.

    Until she had cried it out, and turned her attention back to him.

    "... How do you know that he's alright? And why... why are you just handing out the
    Ào Dīng
    Profound Nail
    to me like that, thief?"

    “’Cause I had breakfast with him yesterday morning.” Colt answered the first question matter-of-factly. “He was alright then, and since he’s with Pyry he’s almost definitely still alright.”

    Having answered the first question the boy looked past the girl’s knees, at her red eyes, still wet with tears.

    And sighed.

    “Y’know my name now, you don’t gotta call me ‘thief’ anymore.” He crossed his arms and straightened his back. “In case you didn’t hear it, Colt. Davin. Not thief. I don’t steal.”

    To some degree, the unique kind of pride Colt had as a young man was damaged by the accusation. That damage to his pride found itself into his tone. Less than angry, but more than passive, he spoke with a finality about his character.

    “I gave it to you because it ain’t mine.” Colt moved onto the girl’s second question. “I found it and I got some use out of it, but if the rightful owner is in front of me I’ve got no reason to keep it.”

    It was the plain and simple truth.

    “If you’ve got more questions I can answer those too. If not, I’d like to ask you a few of my own. Can I start with a name?”


  8. #4648
    The Time-Governing Twelve Covenants Airen's Avatar
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    Agent Skye
    Location: Sheriff's Department
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    One... Two... Three...

    The internal countdown starts immediately, an ingrained instinct for the young woman that had been functioning more as a nurse than anything else over the past couple of days. It's a countdown that's accompanied by two movements, the casual resting of a half-empty cup of coffee atop the interrogation room table, and a rush towards the convulsing man that brings to mind the same desperate speed with which she had rushed the wounded form of Jack Pinkerton earlier that day.

    Keep the count going for me Ciel, once we hit 300 seconds this becomes a medical emergency. Got it?

    It's relatively simple knowledge.

    Tonic-clonic seizures often behave in such a way. Muscles of the body stiffen and compress, air is forced past the vocal chords causing a groaning or crying sound and consciousness is more often than not lost, the shaking and jerking that people normally associate with seizures typically follows that loss of consciousness.

    Five minutes.

    If it lasts longer than five minutes, it is considered Status Epilepticus and that is consequently considered to be a medical emergency. These are the places that her mind goes first, towards the mundane explanations, those oh so precarious medical-conditions that can afflict even members of the Turnside Community. Are there other possible explanations? Certainly. The sheriff's story of the man's words hint that he has some awareness of the looping phenomena they were stuck in, he knew when the police would find him and didn't struggle with that outcome; considering her own presence, this could be some other, outside party's way of ensuring that the man does not speak about what he knows, some sort of poison or curse?

    Or perhaps...

    Considering his name...

    "..."

    Ultimately it doesn't matter, further examination is needed in either case.

    "Don't restrain him."

    Her voice is clear and concise, one far more suited to her role as a Eureka Agent than the troubled young woman she had allowed herself to be for so long today. In some ways it's a welcome return of a stronger part of the self, one that isn't consumed with personal issues or worries, simply in accomplishing whatever task she had assigned herself to complete.

    "Physically restraining him would be risky for everyone involved, he might hit you and you might break his bones on accident. Help me brace his chair so he can't knock it over, then we can move him and the chair away from the wall so he can't bash his head against it." The words continue to come out of her of their own accord, that same 'bossy' self that had appeared when she had found Jack in his bunker, that didn't really care who anyone around her was, because she had a patient to take care of, "No way to tell how long this has been going on, but I've got a count going in my head. 300 seconds on and we'll need to call an ambulance or take him to a hospital ourselves, the danger point for continuous seizures used to be defined closer to 30 minutes, but there's no reason to take risks with a person's life."

    "Five is about as much as I'm willing to risk."

    Readying herself to move the chair away from the wall when Scottie himself is ready, the young woman's eyes stay locked onto the strange man in the chair.

    Young but old.

    A bizarre person.

    "Mr. Rosencrantz."

    Again the clear voice, slow but clear, so as to better attempt and pierce the haze that the man's consciousness was no doubt under - if he was even still conscious at all.

    "Can you hear me? Can you respond?"
    Last edited by Airen; June 29th, 2022 at 03:43 PM.
    Exodus (Complete)

    Even if the author is silenced, the performance is stilled and the actors leave the stage, the story will never truly end.

    Regardless of the form it takes, as long as there are memories of it's existence, the story will continue on.

    In a small ward in the heart of a once devastated town, life carries on as it always has...

    Because of you.

    Please, remember it warmly.

    We'll continue to walk down this path for eternity.




    Mugen No Sekai

    "The Illusion Incomplete Memories Produce Are,

    Fleeting, Disappearing into the Future,

    Until the Ruins of Yesterday Overflow,

    For That Which Falls Only to Rise is Simply a--"

  9. #4649
    S U P R E M E Mormarth's Avatar
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    Elaine Winters
    Location: The Lighthouse
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    "Absolutely not."

    It was a firm denial.

    "So long as you're willing to keep trying to get to a better place, you'll get there. Even if it's hard, even if it hurts, even if you have to go chasing down a million different useless leads that give you nothing but pain and suffering. So long as you're willing to stand up, and keep moving, you'll get there."

    I shrugged.

    "So it's always better to keep trying for something better, then just letting things die out."

    Who was I telling this to, him or me?

    Didn't really matter in the end.

    "There's always a way out, just gotta be willing to talk to people and figure it out together. Even if it seems impossible."

    I sighed, frowning, "It takes some courage, I'd say, to keep on living for that. So you're alright in my book, geezer."

    The silence hung thick for a few moments.

    Better try to lighten the mood.

    "So! Owls, huh. Hm. Spirits and grudges and higher states of being..."

    I hummed thoughtfully, "Well, there were those raggedy owl costumes we saw when we got off the bus, maybe they can tell us where these dang place is. If we need to go there, in any case."

    A wry grin, "Maybe this whole business is a path to perfection in and of itself, eh? That or some fucked-up purgatory."

    I wiggled my fingers, "Woooo~ You all died on the buuu~sss, you have to let goooo~"

    Folding my arms, I nodded to myself.

    "That'd be incredibly lame, though."
    Last edited by Mormarth; June 29th, 2022 at 04:31 PM.

  10. #4650
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Prushka's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    The floor warmly accepts me. This is the glory of carpet. It does not discriminate at all. It is soft and welcoming. Even though it smells like feet.

    More soft and welcoming, however, is this bundle of fluff sitting on my bed curled up in a ball.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alpa Bagha
    "... You two certainly s-seem very close! I-it almost makes me jealous. I sorta wish I had a partner like that too..."
    I raise my head and meet her gaze.



    "Alpaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Forget that caaaaaaaat. I don't need hiiiiiiiim. I have youuuuuuuuuuuuu."

    This fluffy sheep before me is so adorable. She's trying so hard I want to cheer her on forever! Who needs mangy old tomcats that have nothing to give but attitude!? Especially when such a pure angel exists in this very room!

    "That was the best cheering I've ever heaaaaaaaaard."

    Well, it's the only cheer leading, but it still counts.

    "I feel energized alreaaaaaaady!"

    In an instant the strength returns to my body and I stand triumphantly as Sailor Moon plays in the background.

    "Wahahaahaha! Wahaha... aaaaah... aah... aaaaaaaaaaaaachoo!"

    The sneeze is caught by my ever more damp sleeve.

    "...alright, that's it. Sorry about this!"

    Thump!

    My wet top and skirt sail into the laundry hamper, leaving my mostly dry and mostly naked self standing in the room. The next instant-.

    Pomf!

    I land on the bed next to Alpa and-.

    Fwish!

    Draw a cozy blanket around my shoulders until I'm nearly as fluffy and protected as she is.

    "Brrr! That's better!"

    I'll just jump in the shower after Ahti's done. Yes, Ahti. My 'partner'.

    ...what does 'partner' even mean in this context?

    I sink deeper into the blanket.

    "...Ahti's, um. It's complicated. I'm not really... sure what's going on with us anymore. Everything's been moving so fast... and it's all stuff I've never done before, so I dunno what to do, and I'm not sure what he thinks of me..."

    Thinking about it is gonna give me a headache, so I just won't. Instead...

    "But don't give up hope, Alpa! You can totally find someone! I mean, you're so loveable and helpful and cute! I bet all the guys in class would fall for you if they ever saw you. And some of the girls too! If you want, I'll help you!"
    Last edited by Bloble; June 29th, 2022 at 08:48 PM.

  11. #4651
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "I...I don't think that's how it works."

    The sudden implication made my hand jump, causing the pencil in it to leave behind a thick black like running right across the page I was drawing on. The word 'mother' is usually so deeply etched into the human mind along with its meaning that it's so closely tied to, it's hard not to immediately think of that when it comes up in such context. And thinking of myself as a mother felt so...wrong, on so many levels. A fact that likely would not change for another decade or two.

    "Ehm..."

    Of course, after the initial reaction as I got time to properly comprehend things, it became evident that it was not entirely what the snake meant.

    "Well, you are free to call me whatever you'd like in the end, but don't give it too much though."

    I didn't have a better idea either. To begin with, there wasn't really a need for any special title.

    "Still, that makes me wonder...You could technically be anything at all, couldn't you? If you were all and yet none back there, then you could be everything, or nothing, or anything inbetween here."

    Well, with some limitations perhaps, but the human mind and dreams are said to hold infine possibilities.

    "It wouldn't matter while you are in there, because as you said, you don't really have an awareness, nor is it exactly necessary to have one to begin with. But, if something, like our power forces that place, and that mass to take shape, then...What exactly dictates what you are from there? Is there a law in the end, that tells you what you are when the time comes, or is it decided by the observer that opened the door to your reality? In that case, if the observer was to decide what and how they wanted to see, would they see just that?"

    In a sense, it reminded me of my dolls. And yet that was still quite different. Their presence in my heart and mind when I split them off was quite evident, and hardly something that I just made up. Nor did I define what they were - they were simply just something that took shape as an individual once it was separated from the whole.

    "Of course, if that was the case...and if the two worlds can be pulled so close to each other, like how it happened earlier, then what limits the potential of a being that can consciously manipulate that world? After all, those emotions, thoughts and concepts have complete control over us. They define what we are. What kind of cycle would that be, then?"

  12. #4652
    Click the moon for extra scenes Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Vier
    Location: Ghostwood National Forest (?)
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "... Vier. That's a paradox, y'know."

    Smiling sadly, the memory of Zieg kept her eyes locked to that of her friend's... her origin's.

    "You have to be perfect, yet you are a horrible person and can't succeed? You don't know how to be a better friend, yet you can't let anyone close? All that you say... is full of contradictions. But that's what being a human means. Yes. Human. Not a soldier. Not an agent. Not a specialist. Not even a weapon. Just... a human. It's how only a human can talk. And that's what we all are, underneath," Zieg spoke, her voice calm and steady - like this thought had been brewing for a long time. "Vier... you're only 17 years old. A 17 years old human. There's a looooot in this life that you've yet to experience, and loooooot of things that you don't know how to do yet. But, that's the thing, isn't it? To learn?"

    As if finding something sweetly amusing, Zieg chuckled and spread her hands, towards the peaceful forest around them. At some point, the astronaut and their companion had disappeared. Now it was only truly the two of them. Two parts of the same person, viewed through a different lens. A memory of someone else, gazing back into Vier Wolff, delivering words that had been born from somewhere within herself as well.

    "... Ironic, right? That's what Mr. Oceandrop called it too. High school. A place to learn. A place to make mistakes, a place to fail, all in safety of a world just for us. It's not exactly the same of course... but it's not wrong either. This isn't a mission, Vier. It's alright, even if you fail. You're allowed to fail. Just like a regular human being... one that you are," Zieg continued. "... And don't get me wrong. I realize the situation. I know serious this is. But... no matter how you refuse to look the fact in the eye, you've noticed it, haven't you? The way we were trained... it's not working here. Humans are illogical to the extreme. Our logic can't succeed in the face of something like that. And more importantly... it shouldn't. Even if we risk failure. Sure, you trusted the wrong person, and made a mistake. Sure, you trusted your gut at a wrong time, and it almost cost you. But do you know what else you did?"

    The eyes of the grey-haired young woman narrowed meaningfully.

    "--- You also trusted someone else. And they had your back. Thanks to them, even though you stumbled, there was someone to catch you... and more importantly, nobody got hurt. If you hadn't someone to watch your back like that... then it would have truly all fallen apart. Do you think you would have done better by ripping through their minds? The discord, the distrust, would have grown even larger. You would have come to blows with people who were innocent. Maybe even fought them physically. And in that chaos, you would have hurt those who didn't deserve it, while the one who you were after would have gotten away," the memory spoke, firmly, accepting no 'but' to interject her. "And as for your claim of not being a good friend... do you remember? Why Aleen withdrew from you in the first place? Why you couldn't be a good friend to her? Because you couldn't trust her. Because you had to make sure. Because you had to act perfect. And she sensed it. She sensed that you didn't trust her."

    Slowly, but determinedly, Zieg's hand rose forward... and her finger ended up pointing straight at Vier.

    "The reason you weren't a good friend was because you were so focused on being one, you forgot what being a friend even means," Zieg stated, without mercy. "You're so afraid of failure, you always set yourself up for defeat. Because at least you know failure. If you don't even have a hope of succeeding, if you sabotage yourself by default, you can be at ease - because your way of thinking wasn't wrong. And as long as it's not wrong, you can continue to act like you do. Alone, separate... and in pain. Because what you are afraid of is the happiness you don't think you deserve."

    The hand fell against her body.

    A sad smile spread to her face once more.

    And the memory closed her eyes.

    "... Or perhaps you are afraid that it'll happen again?" She asked with a soft voice. "Once, you trusted someone. Truly trusted someone. You didn't need to read her mind. You couldn't even do that. Yet you trusted her more than anything. Me. Zieg. Your partner. Back then, you were a good friend. But... when you were separated, the pain was great - so great, that you never want to feel it again. So you can't allow yourself to succeed. Because it's easier to live alone and in constant pain, than to suddenly and without warning have your heart torn in two."

    She spread her hands wide and cast her gaze down at Vier, the shape and silhouette of the friend she once had drawn against the night-time forest by the blaze of the campfire. Its soft glow made her seem vague, ethereal, almost like she wasn't there... yet those eyes were definitely present, for their stare was boring a hole through Vier, whether she wanted it or not. They wouldn't let go.

    "I'm the great big shadow hanging over every friendship you could ever make, every person you could ever hope to trust. Like a ghost or a grudge, dragging you down whenever even the tiniest glimmer of hope appears within your heart," she stated, her voice loud and clear. "As long as I exist, you can justify yourself with your excuses. That you're a bad person. That you have to be perfect. That you weren't logical enough. That you didn't trust enough. That you'll protect others by staying away. That you'll hurt others by getting close. You can hold those paradoxes to your chest, just so you don't ever have to hurt again. Even though you hurt those who want to be close to you by staying away. Even though you can't bring yourself to lose that natural trust you have to your fellow man. Even though you're neither horrible nor perfect."

    And slowly, Zieg put her hand behind her back, and pulled something out.

    "Even though you're not Specialist #45..."

    It glimmered in the firelight.

    "... But just a 17 years old girl."

    --- And thus did the memory of Zieg point a familiar combat knife, carved with familiar words, towards Vier.

    "Of course... if you want to, you can keep on your path. You can deny me. You can deny everything I've said. You can shut your eyes and your ears, and keep clinging to that soft, sweet pain of yours, to numb the heartache that you might feel in the future," Zieg spoke, now with a voice that was both louder, and oddly enough, almost happy. "We both know down that path lies only darkness. No, not even darkness... just failure. It's the sweet temptation of expecting nothing but failures, and drowning in them. An end that'll kill who you are, so you'll never have to relive that day again. To become machine they always wanted the two of us to be."

    A familiar, teasing grin spread to her face.

    "--- So if you want, you can cut me down and prove them right. Here, once and for all, you can show the world that they were right, and we were wrong."

    Her other, free hand rose and she tutted her finger at Vier.

    "But just so you know... I won't be going down without a fight~"

    And then her face grew utterly serious.

    "Because I'm not Zieg. I'm her memory. And more than that, I'm you. I'm the part of you that's screaming for help, one way or another,"
    Vier
    Zieg
    stated, calmly. "So bring it, if you wish to put this part yourself out of its misery. But we both know..."

    Her eyes flashed in the glow of the campfire, as did her combat knife.

    "--------------
    You
    I
    won't go down so easily."




    Colt Davin
    Location: Forest Ranger Cabin
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "...................... Fu."
    After what felt like a whole minute of sullen stares, a sulking voice finally blurted out that short answer.

    "... My name is Fu," she repeated, as if already expecting Colt to forget it. "Kangxi radical... ugh, nevermind. You wouldn't even understand."

    Despite the fact that the young beast girl had gone through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, now that she had gotten her bearings back, it seemed that she had returned back to her usual distaste for Colt. Though at the very least it had receded from actual hostility to something more akin to dirty glares and thinly-veiled distaste. Still, at the very least she was willing to have a conversation. Though how well it was going was still up for debate.

    "... And no matter what you say, Colt Davin, you are a thief. We lost this..." She picked up the scope and held it so Colt could see it. "... A long time ago. And then you turned up with it in your possession. It was quite clear what had happened. And because we lost it, because you took it, our family, our brotherhood...! Such humiliation and dishonor, all because this thing was taken from us...!"

    She grit her teeth together and snarled, looking like she was about to pounce at any second... though luckily, cooler heads prevailed. Or perhaps she simply became aware that she was in no shape to be fighting anyone, even if the opponent was a simple human like the boy before her.

    "So a thief is a thief, no matter your name. I don't know how you managed to steal this from the brotherhood, but you should know, Colt Davin, that the tong have a very long memory. Especially when they have been tasked with creating something of this caliber. Losing this brought dishonour not only to us, but to our whole organization - to the point we were cast aside from our deal," Fu hissed, eyes burning with righteous anger. "We made something that could emulate a deity, and then it was stolen by a mere civilian whelp! Hah! And what use have you even gotten out of it?"

    She raised her eyebrow skeptically.

    "You've carried around a machine reaching for the heavens, yet I bet all you've done with it is peek into the girls' showers, haven't you?"

    Now she was starting to sound smug...




    Agent Skye
    Location: Sheriff's Department
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Yes."

    A strong voice, full of purpose, answered Liana's question.

    "There is no need to count. I am not in danger."

    It was as if the moment itself had come to a halt within the conference room. Scottie stared at the man in the chair, eyes wide but face full of concentration. Meanwhile both Sheriff Kennedy and Deputy Cliff had practically frozen mid-step, having just rushed through the door. The former was carrying the blue folder Ferguson had mentioned earlier, while the latter was clutching a first aid kid - for whatever good it would have done here. Instead, however, they had been met with a bizarre scene straight out of some horror novel or perhaps a nightmare...

    The very same scene that was now staring Liana right in the face.

    "------------"

    Letting out a groan that echoed like it had come through a broken radio, Rosencrantz's body froze up and began to slowly angle itself forward. It wasn't the normal way a man would have adjusted their position, no. The center of gravity was all wrong, it was like he had been floating - except he wasn't. Bending forward, like an accordion, the man who was old-yet-young, young-yet-old, exhaled that strange, rattling breath of his akin to a dark cloud inhabiting him, and his whole body visible relaxed. Relaxed and grew confident. It didn't shiver or shake like one would have expected of someone in his sickly complexion. Instead, he sat like a powerful figure, straightening his back and with a clear look in his eyes - clear as the Star Lakes of Road's End, and just as full of the midnight splendor beyond the clouds.

    "... Who are you?" Ferguson asked, perhaps a question on everyone's lips.

    It was hard to believe this was the same man from just seconds ago.

    "I am gentle Rosencrantz," the man said, a hint of confident smile rising to his lips. "That is all that is left for me at this point. And it is all I shall be."

    The FBI Agent narrowed his eyes.

    "Then, what are you?"

    The mysterious man known as Rosencrantz smiled deeper, with more meaning.

    "There are many names. A doppelgänger. A gothic double. A vardøger. Each term as right and as meaningless as the next," he replied, amused. "But the one which you seek... is a sibling. A cognate, in a way."

    This caused Ferguson to look surprised, even if for a moment. Both Johanna and Michael also exchanged glances, almost like they had similar reaction upon hearing this. The FBI agent then extended his finger, and slowly pointed it at the man - or rather, his physical presence.

    "So, you are exactly as you appear, then?" He asked. "This is your actual, physical body?"

    As amused as before, Rosencrantz put a hand against his chest and sighed - sounding both a little sad but also a little glad.

    "In a manner of speaking."

    Almost like this had finally confirmed something, Scottie finally sat down on the table and leaned closer. Both the sheriff and the deputy also took chairs, and each pair of eyes was now firmly locked onto the young-yet-old, old-yet-young man who sat under the only light in the room. Rosencrantz let his gentle gaze pass through all those present, even Liana - and when he did, the girl could feel something odd within her. It was almost like Ciel had shivered for some reason. There was something in this person... a danger that had once been there. Like the coals and cold embers of a once raging fire - fire that she too had once been burnt by. It was like an aching burn scar which flared up the moment she met that gaze.

    "You appeared in my dreams," Scottie finally continued, breaking the momentary spell. "You know something, don't you? About the deaths in this town. About the corpse at the beach. About the woman who does not exist. About the 'Guildenstern' you mentioned."

    Slowly, Rosencrantz nodded.

    "I know many things. You only need to ask."

    And thus, he leaned back in his chair, waiting.

    "... But I cannot promise I hold the answers you seek."




    Elaine Winters
    Location: The Lighthouse
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    Joshua snorted. However, there was now some genuine amusement in his voice, brought forth by the words of Elaine from before. While he didn't show it, and while he still wore that ornery face of a man far older than his "physical" appearance let on, the look in his eyes had certainly softened a little bit. No longer did he look at the blonde girl like she had been a troublesome kid. No, now she was a troublesome kid that he couldn't help but to like and look after.

    Like a proper old uncle or something.

    "Feh. To think that I'd need cheering up from some flesh-and-blood youn'un..." Joshua muttered to himself and chuckled.

    Then he turned his two-colored eyes towards the rest of the group.

    "Still, lame or not, don't discount ideas just because you don't personally like them," he continued. "The dead are like the living. It's far easier to accept the comfortable lie than face the harsh truth. And what's harder than to admit that it's all over, and that you're dead?"

    There was a pregnant pause after those words, during which Subaru swallowed audibly and Ubon looked nervously at her own body, touching it almost as if to make sure she wasn't a ghost too. Only Sakura didn't seem to panic slightly - only cock an eyebrow at the spirit.

    "... Well, not that you are dead. If you were, I'd know, at least," Joshua then added. "But don't take that to mean you're properly living either. All of you... I can feel fated death hanging over your shoulders. Your souls have been marked to death, like you were meant for it. Like it was your ultimate goal. Make no mistake, for reasons I can't fathom, all of you were meant to die... so fight it."

    His eyes narrowed, full of determination.

    "Oppose such ridiculous fate with all you have. You're all living, you all have a future. So don't let it slip through your fingers, no matter what," he continued. "If it's necessary, find the owl costumes - the man who prepared them must have known about to the connection. Or find the owls themselves, and the family that guarded the caves in times of old - the Outis."

    Sakura, upon hearing that, frowned a little and repeated the name, like she had heard it somewhere before... but couldn't remember where.

    Meanwhile, Joshua grunted and suddenly leaned forward. He looked at his own hand, concentrated look on his face, and for a moment, it looked more... there. Like it had gained actual semblance of existence - enough that the spirit could grab one of the nearby blacklights. He gripped his fingers around it, lifted it up, and looked at the group once more.

    "And while I don't know if they'll help you..."

    With a sudden move, he swung the beam of light to the side, towards the walls of the lighthouse reaching for the sky.

    "--- Take the words of whoever broke the Amber Eye with you. They might help you."

    There.

    Up, high up on the wall, read something.

    Something that only the blacklight could reveal.

    Big, bold letters.

    Ones that spelled out...

    --- SANS THOU WRETCHED FIRE




    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Prushka's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "E-eh!?"

    Blushing bright pink on her cheeks, Alpa hurried shook her head and waved her hands dismissively.

    "T-t-t-that's alright, I-I don't need them to 'fall' for me, boys or girls!" She protested. "I-I'm fine with how things currently are, and just enjoying the fact t-t-that I've made some actual friends for once! Like that person said, I shouldn't rush into things! N-n-not to mention they also said that our class is um, well, uh... sorta intense. E-everyone's really upfront with their emotions. I-I don't know if I could take that if it was all focused on me - especially if it was everybody! E-everybody would be far too much!"

    Letting out a quiet "Hauu~!" Alpa pulled her hood over her head to hide from the embarrassment. Indeed, it looked like her mind had went straight into imagining the logical conclusion of Prushka's words - that is, having most of the class head over heels for her. And for someone who found even regular interactions with one person intimidating, it must have been an absolutely impossible hurdle.

    Meanwhile, in the shower, the sounds of yowling and hissing had finally ceased.

    "S-so, um, while I appreciate the offer, I-I'm quite fine with how things are now..." Alpa finally muttered into her hood, shooting an embarrassed sideways glance at Prushka.

    Still, while it took a moment or two for the girl to finally calm down, she finally did. And with the rain beating on the windows and the steam of the bathroom quietly sizzling, it was the perfect moment to actually catch one's breath.

    "But, what I meant before was... well, uh, it might not be my place to say it but..." Alpa suddenly started again, looking straight at Prushka. "It doesn't, um, seem that complicated? If anything, it seems exceedingly simple."

    She motioned with her sleeve towards Prushka, and then towards the bathroom door.

    "Looking at you both, and the way you look at each other... it, um, seems clear that you both care for each other a lot and enjoy each other's company, n-no? Does it have to be more complicated than that? At least, what my mother used to say was that..." She paused for a moment, searching for the words. "If two people want to be together, they simply should? Putting labels on things and overthinking it will just make a mess of it."

    She nodded, mostly to herself.

    "I-I think she meant that if you start to overcomplicate things, you'll miss out on the simple joy of the other being there? Or, umm..."

    The girl blushed again.

    "... Something like that?"




    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    [It's symbolism, mother.]

    ... So the snake was really gonna stick with that, huh?

    [Symbolism is what determines the shape and appearance, the being, of concepts that hold none to begin with. That is how the human mind works. They assign a symbol for a concept and through it, can translate such vague things into more concrete ones. A human can draw a circle and many squiqqly lines, and everyone will know that the symbol represents the sun. A human can draw the letter K and most know that you mean the sound you can produce with your vocal chords and mouth. It works the same way with us, with me... I believe,] the creature continued. [When you translate a mental world, a world of nothing but concepts into a physical world, each concept therein must be given a physical existence. Ergo, they will represented through a symbol. In my case, the most fitting "symbol" was what you saw. I was a chain binding them, a venom coursing through their veins and eating them, a slithering assassin sent by others. Thus, a snake. Not only that, but their predicament was well-analoguous to Finno-Ugric mythology, meaning that my "symbol" gained more strength and presence from there, and the tale of the Lost Sun & Moon.]

    In other words, it all tied back to the unconsciousness of humanity, in a way? Some symbols were universal, after all. Snakes were often seen as signs of treachery, or danger. And thinking back, didn't that explain the memory of Dr. Utujoutsi's trauma as well? What better symbol for it than the doctor himself? The darkness he used was the darkness that the real person had clouded their minds with, the sea was the representation of the ocean that had surrounded their stronghold, and the mountain was that stronghold itself... all well within the lines of this symbol-theory. After all, human is extremely visual creature - they always crave for some simplified way of expressing nuanced ideas and concepts. Hence numbers, hence alphabets, hence... everything, really.

    [The human pattern recognition is truly amazing, mother,] the snaked commented, sounding genuinely impressed. [Hissss~]

    Of course, that still left the other questions open. While symbolism like this was more in the realm of mages and especially mystics, if one could manipulate the symbols through which things were represented, it represented a true chicken and the egg situation. If our emotions and feelings determine the symbols we assign to the things we cannot visualize otherwise, can we change what we visualize in the first place? If we feel that "Monday" is "Red", can we make ourselves think that it's "Green" instead?

    [If I had to guess, I would say that what determines is the sum total of all who assign such symbols. They are not universal, however. It's the sphere of influence that has taught us. Our culture. For some cultures, the number 4 is an ominous number - for others, it's a lucky number. So when you create a world like that, I would imagine that it is determined by whose world it is... as well as yourself. A mixture of the two, two collections of universal symbols brought together, viewed through two cultural lenses,] the snake spoke again. [Does that make sense? It barely does to me, I admit. However, I think that manipulating the symbols you give to things you cannot visualize or interact with otherwise would be extremely hard. It would be consciously changing your own mind - not just by definition, but by actively adjusting your likes and dislikes, what you love and what you hate, what soothes you and what aggravates you. In other words, you would be using the mind that causes you to act a certain way to change that same mind... so wouldn't that be paradoxical?]

    The invisible serpent blinked, most likely due to confusion. It did speak a lot, but at the same time, it seemed just as confused about the truth of this matter as everyone else was. Indeed, it was quite likely that there was no definite answer. That's why it was a paradox in the first place.

    [... But make no mistake. Something was manipulating the symbolism back there. Hissss~]

    ... What?

    [You've felt it too, haven't you, mother?] The snake asked, it's invisible gaze turning to Hisa. [Something is quietly yet firmly asserting dominance over the symbolisms of this town. It's like there's a will that dictates what things should look like, and without them even noticing, the people living here confirm to that will. Even myself...]

    The snake hissed, this time in distaste.

    [... The serpents in the original tale of the Lost Sun & Moon were not snakes. They were dragons. Serpents of Louhi. Yet the appearance I took was that of a coiled serpent...]

    The red eyes of the serpent narrowed.

    [--- It brings to mind the cultural myths of Scandinavia, not the Finno-Ugric ones that are clearly separate from it.]

    While the creature spoke, something out in the rain caught Hisa's eyes. As she peered into the darkness and the storm, she was sure she saw the headlights of a familiar European sports car come up the hill and then turn towards the parking lot. From the looks of it, the other half of her group had arrived back, and since they were yet to contact her, they were hopefully fine, too.

    [But the question then remains. What could subtly alter even our own symbolism to give me such a form, when it was born of you, that child, and the two young men?]

  13. #4653
    The Time-Governing Twelve Covenants Airen's Avatar
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    Agent Skye
    Location: Sheriff's Department
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    Ciel?

    A questioning thought.

    A concerned thought, from the young woman to what constituted as her closest family. It was an odd sensation, a sharp sort of instinctual pain, the memory of a burning flame or chilling cold snapping at nerve endings, the sort of sensation that would have one jerk back, shudder, get away from something that has once hurt you.

    Did you remember something? Is there something you want to ask?

    Of course Ciel is her first priority, as the woman often is; even now at her most serious, sitting in a chair and staring at the form of a man that was both far too old and far too young, a cup of coffee paused on contemplative lips, Liana still makes time to ascertain the condition of her sister.


    I'm here with you. No need to be nervous.

    Let me know if I can help you.

    Is she too protective?

    Difficult to say, at least in this particular relationship.

    After all, considering recent revelations and their shared origin... There are only a few things that would make Ciel shiver like that, only one sort of event that would leave a scar upon a soul that was most often unshakeable, who hadn't even shivered in the face of the falsely manifested Dot, instead advising simple caution, yes...

    This Rosencrantz must have been there, a simple deduction, things are often exactly as they appear to be, but...

    "Very well, if all that is necessary is to ask, then I'll start asking."

    She says calmly, setting her coffee cup down on the table.

    The others seem to be entranced by the scenario... No, to be honest, she had been entranced by it a bit herself at the start, at all the bizarre events lining up around a shoe salesman of all things, but...

    "This Guildenstern you're looking for, is he the same sort of being as you?"

    It might look odd to the members of the police, hearing her talk about such things right along with the other two, but considering the scenario...

    It should be able to be explained away easily enough if necessary, not that the breaking of the masquerade meant much with the approaching localized apocalypse.

    "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are names that famously go together, he would be your partner correct?" One leg moving to cross over the other, the young woman keeps an unblinking gaze on the man before her, almost as if primed for any movement that could be construed as aggressive towards her. "And you say that all that is left of you right now is Rosencrantz... So what was there before? What part of yourself did you lose?"

    Clear eyes gaze back at gentle ones.

    "And were you there," The eyes narrow slightly, "At the school, twenty-one years ago? During the tragedy?"

    She won't run from it.

    If something could be sparked in either herself or Ciel from this meeting, it could be useful information in it's own right.
    Exodus (Complete)

    Even if the author is silenced, the performance is stilled and the actors leave the stage, the story will never truly end.

    Regardless of the form it takes, as long as there are memories of it's existence, the story will continue on.

    In a small ward in the heart of a once devastated town, life carries on as it always has...

    Because of you.

    Please, remember it warmly.

    We'll continue to walk down this path for eternity.




    Mugen No Sekai

    "The Illusion Incomplete Memories Produce Are,

    Fleeting, Disappearing into the Future,

    Until the Ruins of Yesterday Overflow,

    For That Which Falls Only to Rise is Simply a--"

  14. #4654
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "It's paradoxical if you simply view it from a human's perspective, while removing anything supernatural from the picture. However, the moment you add it to the mix...It would stop sounding so unreasonable. Even in its simplest form it could be something akin to self-hypnosis, but you could also take my power. Though, I could probably even create my own symbolism if I really wanted. it mostly just depends on how large the box is that the world takes into account before declaring the predominant meanings."

    Well, no, technically, there were limitations to how many people I could control too, but...

    "Still."

    All that theorizing about symbolism or its application wasn't even particularly important anyways.

    "I haven't felt anything. I don't really know what this place was supposed to be like, nor do I really know what it is like now. It's not like I have seen what all the symbolism that seemed to come up actually represented, not in a single case, to really be able to tell if something is different."

    Certainly, by now I've heard about the myths of the natives and the supposed nordic mythology that is claiming its place, but...Even if I knew what exactly they originally represented, it's not like we've encountered anything more than a few names here.

    "Still, it also means that the difference wouldn't matter anyways. All of us perceived you as a serpent, despite knowing what you were actually supposed to be. So even if we knew the difference, we wouldn't actually know it. And even while actually knowing it - you are still a serpent now."

  15. #4655
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Prushka's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Your mom said some smart stuff."

    The sound of the shower is quieting down. Ahti must be nearly finished in there. This small peace, two girls sitting bundled up side by side, will certainly be broken soon

    "I think human nature makes things complicated, though. Like, I'm supposed to be an Esper that ignores all that dumb stuff and goes right for the feelings with a single touch, and even I can't escape it. Wondering how he really feels but too scared to ask for fear of messing it up, that kinda thing."

    Haaaaaaah...

    "Should've just reached out and talked heart-to-heart with Memoire instead of messing around with words... but I kinda want him to say it out loud. Y'know?"

    Well, why would Alpa know? We're in the same boat here! Maybe it's a girl thing, to want the guy to make the first move? Or maybe I'm making excuses for myself here. Either way...

    "Ahti, once you're done come here and lie down! I'll patch you up properly!"

    The loud call reaches even past the bathroom door.

    I turn to look at Alpa again.

    "Hey, um... thanks for tonight. Really. It must've been strange and confusing and scary. There's an explanation for it. What happened with us, and all the other weird stuff going on around here. Like how I knew to find you. If you wanna hear it, I can fill you in."

    Rocking back and forth, the blanket feels like a poor protection from the rain of Road's End.

    "That person you were talking about isn't wrong. We're a melodramatic bunch, aren't we? But I like it that way. You'll definitely make friends, I bet. Even Xylia wouldn't be able to keep up her tough act for long!"

    I glance her way.

    "Who was that person, anyway?"

  16. #4656
    Elise Marie Pelltier
    Location: Big Boy's Gas Station - Bar
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    Elise nodded along Travis rambled through a lot of a medical jargon.

    "You know, I think I've watched enough Star Trek that I think I understood most of that."

    She glanced down at her reflection in her drink. The demon had fallen silent for for the moment. It seemed to be lost in thought for the moment. Possibly mulling over the implications of DDS for itself.

    All this DDS stuff is a lot of take in. Even more so for the demon, I'd imagine. Assume they are right, and the supernatural is just a delusion, and you strip all that away, there's still a me leftover afterwards. Do the same for LBJ and what's left of it? It's a thought construct in my brain. A violent and intrusive thought with its own ego. It wouldn't be a demon born of Hell, it'd just be some part of my own psyche that I dreamed up one day to help me cope with reality somehow.

    I guess the most unsettling part of this for both of us is that we know we fit their profile all too well. We know we're not the same as we were before. I definitely tried to cut myself off and felt alienated from those around me when I tried to hide in a library to solve my demon problem on my own. Heck, LBJ has even accused me of rationalizing away the inconsistencies of our reality when it came to my own memories of what I believed had happened that night...

    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Gagnon
    "--- Or, whether it's paying back debts, even if we can't remember them. Listen Chipmunk, I... I think I owe you. I can't remember it, but what I've heard, what I've been seeing, how others have acted... it's starting to look like there's been another time. Another way this week would have gone. Maybe one, maybe another. And maybe that would explain why I feel like need to 'pay you back' as it were. Because even though I don't remember, I have this feeling that you stuck with me when you really didn't have to. Even though I was being who I needed to be - and who's definitely not a fun guy to be around. So, uh... I dunno. Just forget I said anything. It's stupid."
    Elise blinked in surprise.

    I shouldn't be surprised that anyone paying attention would've noticed something weird among our class. LBJ certainly did, although it has the advantage of having front row seats in my brain. I just never expected anyone to remember pieces of last week. How would that even be possible? I imagined it was all or nothing, a full reset. Either you remembered everything that happened, or you remembered nothing at all.

    "No, no. It's-it's not stupid. Some of us do remember another way this week could have gone. I don't know if we're trapped in some sort of repeating time loop, sliding through parallel worlds, or some sort of downward spiral that's leading us something, but it's safe to say that it's a weird situation even by Turnside standards."

    It's really a bit of a comfort knowing that not everything we do is forgotten when the clock goes back though.

    "Last week, I, uh, asked for your help sneaking into the boarded up section of the dormitories-"

    Elise spared a nervous glance back towards the bar as if the mention of one of the tasks of her old job as the groundskeeper of Pinefall would summon Billie back.

    "-and you agreed to help on the condition that I help you track down your Moose. To quote: "You scratch my ass and I'll scratch yours". Your words, not mine. So we went out in the rain on Friday night to try and track her down, but we didn't have any luck. We did a stake out at the End's Store and Post, but she never showed up there. We did find a garbage can full of old flyers decrying Pinefall and the Oceandrop Program that look like they used to be posted all over town though. I offered to keep an eye open for your Moose in case I came across anything. Haven't heard anything yet though, I'm afraid."

    "You, uh, you never got the chance to hold up on your end of the deal though. Disaster struck on Sunday, tomorrow morning really, and everything just sort of fell apart… There was a murder, rising tensions between our classmates, and everyone kind of just scattered to the four winds after that. I don't think any of us survived. Hisa and I ended up getting lured out into the woods, and walked right into some weird, sadistic trap and where we got ambushed by something in a garish quilt-like cloak covered in coloured patches," explained Elise, "I-I can't say I know for sure what happened to you. Vivienne said she ran into you and Hwan in the woods somewhere, where you were all ambushed by some sort of hired gun or something."

    Elise cast a quick glance over to the other table, and wondered what they were talking about as she struggled to succinctly summarize the later part of the previous week. She craned her ear in an effort to pick up any stray bits of their conversation that might drift their way, but the other table seemed to be just as secretive as theirs was.

    "I don't know what happened after that. I-I assumed that you'd have forgotten about that week completely, since everything seemed to have been reset to how it was when we woke up on Wednesday morning, but evidently not everything was completely reset. Bit of a relief, really. I'm still iffy on why any of us can remember anything at all, although I've got some theories, but I'm really not sure how you'd still feel something like that..."

    Could it be that all of our souls are just swirling from Wednesday to Sunday, and only those of us tethered to Muse retain our full memories, while others might just retain bits and pieces? Then again, from what Muse and Philoclea have said, I suppose all of our lost memories are just rattling around the collective unconscious somewhere. It certainly sounded like that's how Little Nemo would've been able to find mine. I suppose it's possible that any one of us could connect with our lost memories in our dreams if we were lucky enough?

    "Have any odd dreams this week?" asked Elise.

    Two memories of her own came to the forefront of her mind. One from that night as she and Travis had left their vantage point near End's Store and Post and traveled to Avery's Diner, and a later discussion on a different week and day with Samuel Lowgate at that same diner.

    "By the way… that night, when we were out looking for your Moose, you mentioned that the Oceandrop Program used to go by a different name, and riddled me on it. You said it was something that started with M and came from a small book. I guessed Miskatonic, but you never confirmed if I was right or wrong on that."

    Quote Originally Posted by Augusta Tremolo
    "Oh, speaking of stupid things! I think I know who you're talking about, Elise. Y'know, a guy in red, scowls all the time, almost throttled John Dove and got his ass handed to him by that cyan-haired girl."

    "A weirdo for sure."
    "He what!?" exclaimed Elise.

    She glanced around nervously, and hoped her voice hadn't been too loud before she continued in a quieter tone.

    "That-that's probably him," groaned Elise as she rubbed her temples, "Why did he try to throttle John?"

    If Devon knew me, and I knew Devon, I feel like I should feel something more about this. Especially if he knew me well enough before to feel so awkward and apprehensive about meeting me now, thought Elise, I'm certainly upset that John nearly got hurt by him, especially since he might've been almost hurt on my account, and I can't help but feel a little bit of pride for Ubon for trouncing him, especially if it was on John's behalf, but… I feel like I should feel something about Devon? Disappointment, anger, or shame at his behaviour, maybe? Should I feel something about Augie calling him a weirdo?

    Elise glanced down at her drink and frowned to herself.

    Something more than nothing anyway.

  17. #4657
    for me, there is (you) Katie's Avatar
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    Lucille Faraday
    Location: Pinefall High Main Building
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    “If Souma fought here… was it really much of a fight?” Lucille voices her thoughts to ease the tension slowly building in her mind. It could only be called a horrifyingly clean beatdown. The thought of that simply sets her on edge.

    Could anyone here react to a threat that moved that quickly?

    Shaking her head, Lucille turned to read the journal excerpt alongside the others.

    “Thirty-four…?” No, that wasn’t right, was it? The math is wrong, unless…“Twenty-nine students, the three siblings… Who are the two unaccounted for?”

    Judging from the note, they were already in the school. Perhaps in the abandoned parts of the dormitory? There was Xeni recently, but perhaps the two mentioned had already left earlier on in this week, and were merely here for when it started. Or, at least, when this journal was written.

    “When I spoke to Mr. Lewis, he was unaware of the Coastrises being at the hotel. If the person who wrote this is a member of the faculty, then they are hiding things from their colleagues. Otherwise, this was written by somebody else.”
    She nods attentively, before musing on the other statements John has said. She scans the room for any errant books, but Lucille has the feeling Souma probably had the offending material on him, and then tore a part of it off to leave a sign. If it was Souma, anyway.

    “I don’t mind looking at the principal’s office,” Lucille says. “If nothing else… perhaps Mr. Oceandrop has left clues behind about the true nature of things.”

  18. #4658
    Click the moon for extra scenes Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Agent Skye
    Location: Sheriff's Department
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Oh yes."

    The strange man smiled with only his eyes.

    "I was there, twenty-one years ago. I was right there, at the heart of it... when the tragedy of Pinefall happened. When the massacre went down," Rosencrantz spoke out, clear as the night sky. "After all, the reason for it all was that person... and wherever that person was, I were. My partner, my sibling, my other... or, perhaps, my alter ego."

    Outside, somewhere close by, lightning coursed through the sky tore it apart, a thunderous clap echoing through the forests and the town. It's illuminating flash bore through the windows, and for a moment, everyone could see the face of the man before them properly. A face of a man who should have been young, yet had been drained of his age, his strength, his power. Without the wrinkles and without the years pressing down on him, he might have been youthful, effeminate, practically androgynous.

    Just about anyone.

    Practically everyone.

    A boy or a girl, merely face in the crowd that no one would have noticed.

    --- An interchangeable character than any actor could play.

    "I am gentle Rosencrantz. And they are gentle Guildenstern, eager for fun. They wear a smile... everybody run."

    The boom and the echoes of the light finally faded away, leaving behind shadows and pale faces of the law enforcement - like something electrified still lingered within the room. Yet the smile on the strange man's face did not fade away. Smile as ephemeral and metaphysical as his whole existence, like something you could only see at the edge of your vision, where your brain connected the dots.

    "Do you understand the brood parasite? It lays its eggs, its young, into the nests of other creatures, and manipulates the host into caring for them - feeding them, guarding them. The host will raise its enemy, its hunter, as its own - without ever being the wiser, even when its own young are devoured," Rosencrantz continued with a quiet, yet strong, voice. "That is the method we modeled ourselves after - and that is our truth. Guildenstern requires a nest for themselves, a hunting ground. They feed on the fears... and the sorrows of those they hunt. The evils that men do - for they are like children to them."

    For a moment, a hint of some sort of demented, inhuman amusement seemed to seep into the voice of Rosencrantz as he gazed at himself, putting a hand against his chest once more. Like what he was reminiscing was a different life, something he had put behind him a long time ago... but which still made shiver with the memories.

    "... I am their echo. Their other. An alter ego," Rosencrantz continued, for a moment looking almost confused at his own body. "Like the same spirit, inhabiting two bodies. Yet, when they chose another, what was left behind... was me."

    He pushed a finger against his wrinkles and dragged down, making them sag even more.

    "Every year, I grow older. Every year, they take my time, and remain the same. Two sides of the same coin. One against the cold metal floor, other corroding in the air. A balancing act, to keep hunting longer - one that I have no say in," he finally added. "We are each other's familiar and cognate - the opposing ends of an hourglass."

    And those sharp eyes focused on Liana.

    "A candle that burns on one end only, gathering wax on the other."




    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    [Hmm, true. A snake is a snake is a snake, even after shedding its skin.]

    The nameless creature mused so after hearing Hisa's words.

    [But that is not all that I meant, mother. True, we may not ever know what the original intent was, before the symbolism of this town was shifted, but... hisss~] The snake's invisible eyes seemed to look at the girl from within the coin with curiosity. [Does it not bother you? The idea of something or someone who can shift the common sense of an entire town like that? In a way, it could be seen as akin to someone messing with the rules this town operates by. Whether a serpent or a dragon, that's one thing... but if done to everyone and affecting every little thing of every little mundane life this town has... is it not alarming?]

    The forked tongue slithered in the air, unseen by all.

    [And does a power like that truly not resonate within your memory?] The snake added. [Apologies if I was mistaken, mother.]

    No...

    When the snake put it like that, there was immediately one thing that sprung to mind. Memories of the previous night, of the hidden reports, journal entries, and photographs of a young woman with blue hair, red eyes... and inhuman smile. A creature that had taken the guise of a girl younger than Hisa, yet was clearly something much more troublesome and much more worrisome.

    But if power like that still affected the town, then...

    ... Was it mere lingering after-effects?

    Or was the source still active?

    Meaning, was Subject Zero still at...?

    [Incidentally, and completely of unrelated note, mother.]

    The hissing sound of a snake tore Hisa from her thoughts.

    [I believe the creature that has been sitting on your bed has become confused by your seemingly one-sided conversation,] the nameless snake commented. [... That being considered, am I being a bother to you? I can silence myself, if that would be better.]

    A hint of self-realization from the snake? That certainly was a step in the right direction. Though, now that it had mentioned it...

    "... Fooo~?"

    Gradient certainly looked a bit confused.




    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Prushka's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Who?"

    Alpa blinked in momentary surprise and confusion, and then chuckled.

    "Oh, well, you know~"

    Saying that vague thing, she accompanied her response with an equally vague gesture of her oversized sleeves and a slightly sheepish smile. However, though she had taken that aside with good humour, soon enough her expression grew a little bit more serious - though at the same time, she blushed ever so slightly once more. Come to think of it, Alpa was really adept at blushing, wasn't she?

    "... B-but, you don't have to thank me. I was able help one of the first friends I've ever made. That... that has been fun, even if it was scary a-and confusing. I may not know a lot of w-what's going on, but you gave me a chance even though... e-even though I was the creepy girl hiding in the attic, spying on everyone," Alpa continued, her words morphing into a quiet muttering. "So, um, again, y-you don't have to waste your thanks on me. If anything, it should be me who's thanking you. And more importantly, despite it all, I-I've managed to have some fun too, so... so..."

    Looking determined, Alpa hit her meagre chest with her hand.

    "I-I'd be happy to learn what's really going on, so I can help you guys more!"
    At that exact moment, the door of the bathroom opened up.

    "You should take her up on her offer, Imp. The brat really knows a mean spell or two."


    Ahti, saying that with a hint of a grin, walked in, having finally finished showering up. And no-longer looking like he was in the middle of some self-torturing session. The boy had wrapped a towel around his waist and currently he was in the middle of battle with his hair, a comb in his hand. It was a losing battle, naturally, but at the very least he was making an effort. He had even removed his eyepatch, and now firmly kept his right eye closed, so as to not bother others.

    "Alright, here I am," the boy said, walking up to the bed. "Get to patch--- Uh, I mean... If you'd help out, I'd appreciate it. A lot."

    For some reason, Ahti swallowed his usual attitude and instead chose friendlier words - a rarity for him, if anything. Indeed, maybe it was the after-effect of his reunion with his brother, maybe he was trying to be considerate considering all that Prushka had done for him... or perhaps this was a sign that his violent instincts had started to calm down. In other words, a step in the right direction.

    "Though..."

    Sniff, sniff.

    Ahti sniffed the air.

    "... You should go take a shower yourself first, Imp," the boy continued, wrinkling his nose but sporting a teasing grin. "You smell like a wet puppy. Some scrubbing would do you some good too."

    He paused for a moment, before taking a good look at the blanket-clad form of Prushka.

    "Plus you're gonna catch a cold at that rate. So go on, we'll wait for you to finish."

    Another considerate decision? Would the wonders ever cease!

    Though speaking of which, Alpa was - for some reason - looking determined again. Her hands were clenched into tiny fists as her gaze jumped between Prushka and Ahti, again and again, until she finally seemed to come to some sorta conclusion.

    "This is the perfect chance, isn't it? To help out more, and untangle whatever complexity is here!" Alpa muttered to herself, before her eyes snapped to the boy. "U-um! Ahti!"

    The boy blinked in surprise. He hadn't expected that.

    ... Uh oh.

    "Please tell us honestly!"

    Wait...

    "How do you feel about P---"

    Danger, Prushka Robinson! Danger, danger!




    Elise Marie Pelltier
    Location: Big Boy's Gas Station - Bar
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Oh, I think it was a misunderstanding, really?"
    Auggie chuckled a little bit and shrugged her shoulders as if to say "What'cha gonna do?" - like the whole incident couldn't have been helped.

    "He came in to the room we were in, and I think he expected to see just Zaza - and when it was John who answered the door, he had a knee-jerk reaction?" The green-haired girl explained. "Really seemed like a man who's been living on the edge for quite a while, never allowing himself a moment of peace. But, then, like I said, that Ubon girl got really angry and they had a momentary tussle. I mean, you were there too, Travis. Got anything to add?"

    Augusta turned to look at the spiky-haired boy... but to her, and perhaps Elise's, surprise, the boy didn't look like he was paying too much attention. Instead he had folded his arms, and his eyes were firmly locked in the wooden surface of the table. Thoughts, stormy thoughts, seemed to be brewing inside his head as he took in the information that the brunette had given him. Confirmation for the questions, theories that had been swirling in his head for this whole week, confusing him and making him question his own decisions and the emotions he was feeling...

    ... No wonder he had such a troubled look on his face.

    However, as the two girls waited for Travis to return to them mentally, Elise managed to catch a part of the conversation at the other table, even other the loud music. Her eyes snapped towards the trio of the the man in black, Elaine's older brother and the fisherwoman, Suzy Marlin... and for some reason, she saw that the man in black slipped something that looked like a matte-black folder over to Elaine's brother, under the table.

    "... Here. If they refuse to tell us, we'll just take the matter into our own hands," the man in black muttered with a quiet voice. "I'm sick of doing somebody else's dirty work. Hers or theirs. Think you can use this?"

    Elaine's brother glanced at the folder, opened it for just a moment and flipped through papers that were inside... and then nodded and put the thing inside his big coat.

    "Yeah. Definitely. I'll need time to decipher the blueprints, but once I do, it's just a matter of calculating the trajectory..."

    The man in black frowned.

    "Easier said than done," he murmured, before turning towards Suzy. "Any news about... her?"

    She simply shook her head in response, looking a bit sad.

    "... No. She hasn't spoken to me in a while. I'm... getting worried."

    While the young woman looked worried, the two men frowned in a way that was more frustrated than anything else. There was clearly a difference in emotion regarding whoever this "she" was when it came to the three of them... and the two guys didn't seem to like "her" all that much.

    "--- Well, I saw enough of her handiwork. She's definitely on the move," the man in black finally said. "She's definitely getting more desperate about finding that thing before Gottlieb does."

    Gottlieb?

    They had definitely said Gottlieb.

    Though, before Elise could pay any more attention to the conversation...

    "... Well, whatever happened to me, that still means I do owe you," Travis suddenly said with a sigh, before looking straight at the brunette. "That 'Moose' we were searching for... that's my sister, Nora. The only blood relative I have left. And the only clue I have left for locating our mentors, and... parents for a while: Suzume Bianchi and Shouko Hikari. They're all somewhere in this town, I know it. But where, I have no goddamn clue..."

    Scratching his head, Travis seemed quietly groaned about how complicated the situation had gotten, before finally letting out a sigh that almost sounded like he was giving up. Or rather, letting the walls he usually put around himself ease up a little. Perhaps it had been this talk, perhaps it had been the honesty between them so far, or perhaps it was the lingering memories of the week that never was... but Travis, for what it was worth, seemed let himself be at ease in the presence of Elise. At least for now.

    "And yeah, I've had these... weird dreams. I barely remember any of them. But I do remember standing out in the rain with you, getting soaked yet being stubborn," he admitted. "... I also remember getting annoyed that a goody-two-shoes like you stuck around, even though you had clearly better stuff to do. So I refused to call it quits even though it was clear Nora wouldn't show up, just to see how long it would take for you to snap and get angry with me. But you never did."

    A self-derisive smirk spread to Travis' face.

    "Talk about being a little shit, huh?"

    Then, remembering the other question Elise had asked, the boy snapped his fingers quietly.

    "Oh, little book? Starts with an M? Nah, I didn't mean Miskatonic, though it might as well be that," he said, before cocking an eyebrow. "We talked about him just now, didn't we? Sidney Gottlieb. What I meant was that the basic premises of some of the techniques they use here at Pinefall..."

    He snorted.

    "... Were detailed in the MKUltra document."




    John Dove & Lucille Faraday
    Location: Pinefall High Main Building
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "Hmm... didn't see any book that would have matched that."

    Kean said that, and upon hearing it, Hwan agreed with a shake of his head.

    "Yeah, we might as well check some of the other rooms right now. In all honesty, an arrow made with a broken eyepatch, and a crumbled up paper tossed into an empty locker... even if it was made in the middle of a fight, it feels too..." Kean paused, searching for the right word. "... Clumsy for Souma, if that makes sense? If it was him, I'd expect something clever. Something that'd fool even the person who was about to kill him. This... anybody would have noticed this."

    Hwan snorted.

    "Yeah, that Souma was a slippery and sly evil bastard."

    With that, the group headed out of the faculty office and back into the lobby of the main building. Or rather, they turned left and walked straight up to the door leading to the principal's office, which practically hid below the massive staircase leading up to the second floor. At the very least there was no corpse at the foot of those stairs this time... even though Sunday was looming ever so close.

    "Wait... look."

    Kean's hushed voice caught everybody's attention.

    "It's closed but... the door is definitely open. Somebody picked the lock."

    To demonstrate what he meant, Kean put his hand on the handle and slowly pushed the door opened. The creaking wood echoed nastily in the corridor, eventually revealing behind it a room filled with shelves full of books, a sturdy desk, comfy-looking chairs and a rather expensive-looking coffee maker - all things a regular principal's office might have. The group stepped in, Hwan flicking on the lights so they wouldn't have to look around in the darkness.

    ... And almost immediately, everyone's eyes were drawn onto Mr. Oceandrop's desk.

    There lay a ripped off page from a notebook - similar notebook that they used in class. Something had been written there with neat but hurried writing, and to make sure that stray wind wouldn't throw it off, Mr. Oceandrop's owl-shaped paper weight had been placed upon it. After exchanging glances with everyone, the group walked closer to the desk to see what the note was about...

    ... And thus they were met with its surprising contents.
    Hello John. I knew you'd find this.

    Unless you're not John. In which case, I wasn't as smart as I thought. Well, stranger things have happened.

    Hopefully you got curious enough to search the nearby rooms after finding the little paper-clipping I'll leave in the locker. Otherwise I'll look rather foolish.

    But straight to the point.

    I believe I know who did it. Who killed Gabi. And I'm going to confront them about it. I want to meet such a cold individual face-to-face first, before you lot would muck things up. Call it personal interest. First one I've had in years.

    Of course there's a chance that I'll die instead.

    I'll confront them at the faculty office. If I die, you should find my body dumped outside one of the windows. I doubt they have the strength to drag a corpse through this storm without anybody noticing. I'd appreciate if you'd at least get me back inside, if that comes to pass.

    But if I die, I suppose it would be rude of me not to leave anything behind to help out.

    That clipping.

    That's the key.

    I realized when I was talking to that girl, Alexstrasza. The rules of that world. It's like a game kids play at a playground.

    When you immerse yourself, you might not see the forest for the trees. Or overlook something that was always there.

    That's the problem with adhering to rules so blindly.

    Heh. Blindly.

    ... Alright, that's enough of help. I've done my part.

    Let's see if you were right, John, and that I really was a part of all of this.

    And again.

    Do take care of my corpse if I happen to die. Thanks.

    ----- Souma.

  19. #4659
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory - Hisa's Room
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm

    "If I let it bother me, does that really change anything? If something, it would just make the situation drive me even more crazy, but I would be just as helpless against it as I am now."

    With a sigh, I closed the notebook and put it back on the desk along with the pen.

    "That's my problem. A severe lack of information. You can easily compare it to your situation, with how alien this whole place is to you now that you gained a selse of self. All you know is what you can sense, but that's just that, a sensation without knowing what it is called and how it is universally described. Or names that you hear from me, such as how I mentioned the rain, or how I can tell you that this is a notebook. Still, that's just a name without a description, and you can still only tie it to how you sense it. But even if I were to give you a description, and thus sharing all there is to know about a certain object...That's still only something that you have heard from me, rather than a guaranteed objective truth. In other words...All you can do is rely on what I tell you and what I let you see. Even if you decided that I wasn't right, how exactly would you know what's right? Even if you decided not to trust me, what exactly could you put your trust into instead?"

    After taking another glance outside the window, I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs, with my eyes also back on the snake doll.

    "That's more or less what it's like here. You could argue that my starting position is more fortunate, since I knew a lot about the world even when I came here, but...perhaps that's just a hindrance, rather than something of actual help. And considering how I didn't manage to notice anything by myself, despite claiming to be rather observant...Perhaps I really just don't know all that much, or maybe it does not even matter anyways. Aside from that, all I can work with is what I'm presented. I can doubt it, but even if I know for certain that I should doubt it, there isn't anything to cling into. Much like you I'm just at the mercy of some higher being, waiting and seeing whether they intend me to succeed or fail regarding any matter there is."

    No, not something like God. That would have been dumb - there is no such thing as God to begin with. But in a sense, while I, or just humans in general claim to have so much control over our lives, the truth is that it's oven just life that takes us along for a ride wherever it wants, without really giving anyone a chance to oppose.

    "Now, of course, there might be hints about beings that could manipulate things like that. Yet that's not really a guarantee. Nor does it give me any more idea regarding what to do than someone who has no clue about those things in the first place. If it did, I would likely be busy trying to solve it, instead of sitting in my room conversing about how clueless I am."

    As the snake's words rang in my head, my glance shifted towards my bed upon which Gradient was still sitting.

    "Don't worry, I'm not talking to myself. It's...that," I told her as I gestured towards the doll on the desk with my index, "Sorta complicated. Something I extracted earlier from Pyry's mindscape. You might be able to hear it if you touched it, though...a common tongue might be difficult to find in your case."

    Then, for a moment, I focused on the snake again;

    "You're not a bother, at any rate. The situation is, and it's hard to hide that fact when its topic comes up."

  20. #4660
    The Time-Governing Twelve Covenants Airen's Avatar
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    Agent Skye
    Location: Sheriff's Department
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 10.09.1994 (SAT)
    Weather: Storm


    "Disgusting."

    Her voice sounds out calmly.

    "Brood parasite? Don't dress it up, call it what it is, your 'sibling' is a serial killer that targets children," her voice is deceptively calm, a sheet of ice covering the burning flame that has suddenly taken residence inside of her heart, a rage that only many years as a practiced agent keep inside, "They sneak into a place, commit one or two murders under the guise of another person, then use those crimes to goad the rest of the population into killing each other in a fit of paranoia, correct?"

    From the information she's gathered, that seems to be the practice.

    Disgusting.

    "That is the cuckoo people in this town keep speaking of," she stares back at the sharp gaze with eyes lit aflame, emotions leaking through those amethyst orbs even as the rest of her remains purposefully still and deceptively calm, "Not a bird, but a rat, a cowardly snake in the grass, a monster that preys on kids that are just trying to connect themselves to others, putting a knife in their back while wearing the face of someone they trust."

    "Monster that got my sister killed."

    She has to suppress the urge to punch the man in the face, after all, if she starts, she's not sure if she'd stop with just that...

    "And now this 'sibling' is killing you slowly, huh? You get to age for the both of you?"

    She's not sure what sort of monster that is...

    An udug perhaps?

    But either way, she doesn't feel very sorry for the man's circumstances; judging by how he was behaving, that hint of amusement in voice and actions...

    He wasn't particularly sorry about the crimes, if he was, he'd be far most disgusted with himself.

    "Is that why you're looking for them? You want your time back? Flip the hourglass over? Make it your turn?"

    Unblinking.

    "How were you planning on doing that if they can pretend to be anyone? Where did you two even come from?"
    Exodus (Complete)

    Even if the author is silenced, the performance is stilled and the actors leave the stage, the story will never truly end.

    Regardless of the form it takes, as long as there are memories of it's existence, the story will continue on.

    In a small ward in the heart of a once devastated town, life carries on as it always has...

    Because of you.

    Please, remember it warmly.

    We'll continue to walk down this path for eternity.




    Mugen No Sekai

    "The Illusion Incomplete Memories Produce Are,

    Fleeting, Disappearing into the Future,

    Until the Ruins of Yesterday Overflow,

    For That Which Falls Only to Rise is Simply a--"

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