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Thread: Astronomika - Shooting Down Falling Stars (IC)

  1. #3741
    Overly devoted enthusiasm... fufufu~ Ayakashi's Avatar
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    She had managed to return to Pinefall High with some time to spare before the start of class. Seeing that the mysterious man Alex had been expecting ended up not showing up, Vivienne had opted to return to school to make use of the new information she had gathered, as well as check up on some of her fellow students that were... 'aware' of the plight they were facing. Alex had opted to continue to comb the library for information, thus it was best to leave her be for now so she could focus on her work. There was a slight possibility that someone would attempt something during Vivienne's absence but... 100% uptime for being a 'bodyguard' wasn't feasible, and definitely not the most efficient use of the time 'left'.

    In light of making good use of her time, Vivienne Bianchi eyed the people who were heading to class. She noticed a smaller than average figure approaching, one that was in fact a fellow student that she sought to catch up with. It had been a while after all, and some information exchange would be most handy. It was also good to see that she was still alive and kicking... in fact, hopefully most of the people she knew still were. Had there been any casualty already? Perhaps she would find out soon.

    "Prushie?"

  2. #3742
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    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High - Campus Grounds
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    The girl stops at Vivienne's words, and turns. Her eyes are barely visible under the umbrella, and she steps closer, raising it to keep Vivienne safe from the rain as well.

    A bit of relief can be seen on her face, which is otherwise a bit pale and haggard. Her mouth rises to a tired smile.

    "Hey, Vivi. You're okay..."

    Perhaps Prushka had expected otherwise.

    She reaches out a hand. An invitation.

    "Wanna... catch up?"

  3. #3743
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    Vivienne Bianchi
    Location: Pinefall High - Campus Grounds
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain


    A silent 'yes' as she nods, and without hesitation Vivienne accepts Prushka's hand. It was quite convenient, and offered little to no chance of eavesdropping. To the outside public, at worst they would appear like two good friends holding hands while watching the rain fall on the Campus grounds. As the water falls and bestows the gift of life upon the grass and trees surrounding them, so does the thoughts and emotions of Prushka channel into Vivienne's blank soul.

    She still wasn't used to it, to a degree, but she could accept it now, especially since Prushka had agreed to not do any of her 'special' tricks again.

  4. #3744
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Location: Pinefall High -- Classroom
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
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    “You must refer to the ‘ten commandments’ of a detective story proposed by Ronald Knox in 1929. Their American counterpart, Van Dine’s twenty ‘commandments’, were proposed a year earlier but remain less known, likely due to the greater popularity of the British authors in the Golden Age of detective fiction.”

    It is a strange new conundrum that struck John Dove upon returning to school. His mind, to say the least, is in turmoil. Everything that was discussed with Winters, Vandemeel, and Ramalsaqr—everything he learned, everything he faced—left him with plenty of things in his mind. So many things to ponder, to examine and reflect upon, about the world and about himself. It makes for a very leaden weight in his mind, but Vandemeel, Winters and Ramalsaqr were thorough enough that it is no longer possible for John to ignore it. Thus, his turmoil. It does not show on his face, of course, but it is not his outward appearance that is the problem.

    It is the sanctuary that is his mind.

    “I’m not really a mystery expert, so I cannot recite either set of ‘rules’ from memory. However, I remember enough of the book, and I think I remember how the author does play with some of them.”

    He knows objectively that it is not a real problem if Momoi or Prushka peek into his mind and see his inner turmoil, but he does not want them to do so nonetheless. Especially because Prushka is the kind of fool who cannot keep her thoughts and feelings to herself, and she has more important things to do than to worry about John Dove and his journey of self-discovery.

    On the other hand, what about the hostile elements aimed at him and his classmates? What if one of them can delve into his thoughts and use them against him or somebody else?

    My cherished savior, you claimed ownership over me, but it is difficult to take that at face value when any Turnsider can sneak inside my mind and have its merry way with it. Can I ask you to take better care of me, your belonging?

    “If I am not wrong, the first rule states that the culprit must be mentioned early into the story. Agatha Christie puts a twist on that by centering the suspicions in the early half of the story on the mysterious ‘U. N. Owen’, who summoned the characters to the island. As it is later revealed, there was never a U. N. Owen in the first place, but for a good part of the book, it seems almost almighty in its control over their fate, through details such as the murders following the lyrics of a rhyme, and the little figurines that disappear as the murders accrue. It further aims to make the readers ponder whether the author broke the rule of ‘no supernatural elements’.”

    Actually, is that not a possibility? Even if She does not outright ‘control’ him, his soul was warped by Her indescribably beautiful eyes. That is a fact. Even if he is now aiming to remake himself from the ground up, the ‘warp’ exists, like a massive fissure that turned once fertile flatland into a barren canyon. If She does own him in some conceptual, metaphysical level, shouldn’t that unnatural bond somehow protect his integrity from any would-be usurpers?

    Yet another thing to think about.

    “However, the real subversion of Knox’s Rules in this story is that there is not a ‘detective’ character in it. Rather, all the characters are potential detectives, potential culprits, and eventually they all become victims. It is a brutal story in which every single character is dead at the end, and it works because Agatha Christie relies in the idea that the people involved in the mystery cannot think logically or rationally about it, and therefore are unlikely to solve it. The readers, by imagining themselves in the scenes, wondering what it would be like if they were trapped in the same situation, are also likely—and maybe even expected—to fall into the same problem.”

    John wishes he could appreciate his education a bit more, but in the current circumstances, he would rather be in his bedroom, meditating on more important things than 1930s literature.

  5. #3745
    Elise Pelltier
    Location: Pinefall High - Classroom
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain


    The book Mr. Redd had handed to John Dove was passed around the classroom. Elise glanced at the cover, recognized the title, and frowned at it before passing it on to the next student.

    A story in which a group of strangers are invited to a remote, secluded location. Each one is accused of having committed a crime, and then subsequently murdered. Why does that story sound so much more familiar now than it did last time?


    Quote Originally Posted by John Dove
    “You must refer to the ‘ten commandments’ of a detective story proposed by Ronald Knox in 1929. Their American counterpart, Van Dine’s twenty ‘commandments’, were proposed a year earlier but remain less known, likely due to the greater popularity of the British authors in the Golden Age of detective fiction.”
    "Knox's Rules are also stated much more concisely than Van Dine's, and his list is shorter, which makes Knox's Rules easier to remember than Van Dine's. Also, Knox's rules are, in general, a lot less strict than Van Dine's are. I think both of those factors might've also helped in making Knox's Rules more popular than Van Dine's, along with Knox's association with the Detection Club. Although both of them are concerned about how to ensure that the mystery presented to the reader is fair and possible to solve, Van Dine's always read more to me like his personal wish list for a mystery novel than general good advice. Van Dine just wants a very cut and dry, straight to the point, very serious, purely intellectual, murder mystery. He doesn't have time for things like sentimentality, romance, side-plots, or long descriptions for establishing the mood or atmosphere."

    Elise considered a certain compelling medical drama sitting on her nightstand that she was certain that S. S. Van Dine would have utterly, utterly loathed.

    "On the other hand, Knox's rules seem like they're written to warn writers away from using 'cheap tricks' to try and deceive their readers, but cheap tricks are only cheap when they're used poorly, or too often. Butlers, for example, were often the culprit in early mystery novels, because they were easily overlooked by both reader and detective, and frequently had easy access to the means necessary to commit the crime, but the butler did it became a cliché because it was done so often that butlers became an obvious suspect. I wouldn't be surprised if Knox's first rule was written as a response to writers trying to imitate the twist in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and failing to do so effectively."

    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is why I don't trust first person narrators anymore.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dove
    “However, the real subversion of Knox’s Rules in this story is that there is not a ‘detective’ character in it. Rather, all the characters are potential detectives, potential culprits, and eventually they all become victims. It is a brutal story in which every single character is dead at the end, and it works because Agatha Christie relies in the idea that the people involved in the mystery cannot think logically or rationally about it, and therefore are unlikely to solve it. The readers, by imagining themselves in the scenes, wondering what it would be like if they were trapped in the same situation, are also likely—and maybe even expected—to fall into the same problem.”
    "Hm, I don't think Knox's Rules actually states that there must be a detective character. He only states that the criminal must be introduced early on. Although Van Dine is explicit that there should be a detective character, and that there should only be one. That said though, it's certainly implied that there should be a detective character, since almost half of Knox's Rules are about how a detective character should operate, and it would seem odd to not have a detective in a detective novel. Knox probably thought that it was so obvious that there should be a detective that it didn't need to be stated. I guess it could be considered something of a zeroth rule?"

    "John's got a point though, the mystery is unfair for the characters in the story, since they're stuck in the middle of their whole mess and can't think about it rationally or logically, and that ends up playing a key role in their downfall. They're not able to solve the mystery as a result, and neither are the police introduced in the epilogue. The readers, far removed from the action but witness to all of it, have a better chance of solving it than anyone in that story does, and so it falls on us to figure out who the true killer was, rather than the characters in story. I guess that, in a way, makes us the true detectives in the story. Which, while not quite true to the Rules or what might be the expectations of the genre, since we normally expect to follow the detective who goes on to solve the mystery over the course of the story, it is very true to the spirit of the mystery game which Knox and Van Dine wanted to promote through their Commandments."

    "Now, the twist at the end of And Then There Was None is big, and I'll admit that I wasn't able to figure it out by the end, but the clues are all there. I think its an entirely fair mystery. While Agatha Christie has a reputation for bending and breaking the rules, I don't think she really does in this case. We're introduced the the culprit early on, there's nothing supernatural going on, the poisons used are entirely mundane. There's one key piece of deception played out by the characters, but it feels entirely legitimate to me, and there are several hints suggesting that it is something you should be questioning."

  6. #3746
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    Vivienne Bianchi
    Location: Pinefall High - Campus Grounds
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain




    Vivienne:

    “You seem tired... Is everything all right? Did you help Ahti again? I went to convince Alex to let me help her… and also to find out who it was that was taking Alex’s role at school. Speaking of that… did you see ‘Alex’ this morning?”


    Prushka:

    The lake that is Prushka seems… polluted compared to last time. A constant flow of stress oozes into the waters from elsewhere, painting all her thoughts and feelings black. Vivienne can ‘recognize’ the strangeness; it’s similar to what had happened to her that night so many days ago, like a malignancy that should not be there. But Prushka ignores the feeling as best she can, and replies:

    “It’s gonna be a bad day.”

    Then she stops in the real world, pinches the bridge of her nose, squeezes her eyes shut for a moment, a movement reflected through their mental link as a slight clearing of the waters. Only slightly, however. Her feelings are tinged with stress and depression still.

    “I went to the listening post, with Ahti,” she recalls. Flashes of riding on the large man’s shoulder, staring at a military base, crawling through ducts… and seeing a man’s corpse frozen in his moment of death. “He’s sleeping in my room right now. I didn’t see Alex. But I did talk to Hwan. He’s trustworthy.”

    There is more. Images that are barely held back, as Prushka waits for Vivienne’s response.

    “Did you do it?” she asks. “Can you help Alex?”

    Obsession. That room. A girl going crazy by herself, with no one to hold her hand.


    Vivienne:

    “What base… was that? Is this… Camp Hero? Where was it?”

    Images of Vivienne… or perhaps, one could say, ‘Adelaide’ rummaging through various clues and details alongside Alex at the Country Club could be seen.

    “I can help Alex, but it was quite hard to convince her… the Alex I thought I knew… and the real Alex… are two different people after all.”

    The scene of ‘Alex Terrot’ revealing herself to be Xeni Techne came to pass. It had just happened on the previous evening, the event quite vivid in Vivienne’s memory. Of course, a real person may have felt all kinds of emotions, ranging from disappointment to anger, frustration at a lie -- but Vivienne had felt nothing, not out of desire, but as both she and Prushka knew… it was due to something beyond her control.

    Had she really though, felt nothing?

    “Heh.”

    A hideous sneer echoes at the back of her head, one that Prushka can clearly hear as it worms its way into Vivienne’s mental world. She had felt such a presence before, something similar but… it was but a suggestion, something akin to a sound in the backdrop -- part of the environment, rather than a living entity that was hounding Vivienne.

    With its presence, Prushka can catch a glimpse of Vivienne staring at ‘that’ person in the mirror. A memory that was also quite recent -- it had happened right before she came here after all, hadn’t it?

    Was Vivienne Bianchi herself finally going insane perhaps, or was this something else that was taking control over her? A broken construct like her after all, can be easily taken over by a malignant will… but being truly empty, Vivienne Bianchi was not. She stared at the distant darkness crawling up behind her in this mental plane, and silently hushed its sinister laugh.

    But what is silent, isn’t gone necessarily, as we all know.

    “Sorry… this is just becoming more of a problem now that we… ‘started over’.”

    She tells Prushka not to worry, it is only natural. After all, Vivienne Bianchi seeks not solace or comfort from this monster, for she knows that if there is something or someone that can confront it, that person can only be herself.

    “You should be careful with Ahti… perhaps that he is trustworthy or some one else but… it could be that he works for the Mc Lampets…”


    Prushka:

    “Camp Hero…?” No reaction. “No, it was, the Devil’s Dishes.” A flash of seeing the picture in the local guidebook. “I snuck in, couldn’t get far… there was… a military employee there. Being preserved as feed bag by a vampire.” The corpse of an Asian man. Watanabe. Zoomed in on his ID card. “Montauk Air Force base. Weird experiments. Time travel and stuff. Long abandoned.”

    The name ‘Xeni Techne’ does ring a bell, however. An brings with it an image. Four girls eating pie together, laughing and insulting each other. “Her-? She’s the double? One of Xylia’s friends… gives good love advice.” Not that it matters. After a moment of heartache, pounding against the stress weighing down Prushka’s thoughts, she moves on from it. “So she’s the wolf in girl’s clothing… or is it all three of them? Xylia and Xandra too? But they don’t seem that bad.”

    She glances at the figure. At the shape taking form, at the girl sneering at Vivienne’s fledgeling disappointment.

    “Vivi… if that girl is bothering you… I can give her a good talking-to. Heart to heart.”

    An indescribable feeling, directed to that strange foreign ‘emotion’ building up in Vivienne’s vacant lake bed. It is swiftly beaten down, however.

    “As for Ahti… I’m not worried. He’s a jerk, but he’s not a crook. Besides, we promised. To get in each other’s way, if it comes down to it.”

    Prushka’s feelings towards Ahti are a mess. Something like sisterly concern towards a misbehaving child, combined with worry and frustration and a determination to keep him from a bloody path.

    “Why would he work with the McLampets, though?”

    Actually, are there even any McLampets alive in town?



    Vivienne:


    How many bases were there around here? Granted this was supposedly a listening post… still… was this Devil’s Dishes just another nickname for Camp Hero? A devil being heroic is an interesting prospect… but at any rate, the presence of military assets nearby as well as an FBI agent showing up at the hotel only kept reinforcing the notion that Road’s End was without doubt a nexus for all the factions of the turnside… since not only the ‘classic’ magical groups were being involved here.

    “Time travel there? This could be related to what is happening with our… loop?”

    It is good information to know.

    “Xeni is not a bad person I think… she was just doing Alex a favour… perhaps try to convince her to… help us too. She says that I do not have love… so she is not interested in me… though I could try to ask her more… part of her ‘facade’ was… genuine… or so Muse tells me.”

    It was a bit of a demeaning insult in some ways -- the girl that sacrificed everything for the mother she loved was accused of being without love… but then, when that sacrifice had happened, she did have it back then. In the present it was simply harder, perhaps impossible to identify wherever that emotion was still here.

    “That… ‘thing’ will not go away even if you talk to it. It is here, because I am here. Think of it as… a shadow that I cast. Do you remember… my masks? You could think that it is one of them too… except that it is where I put… all the leftovers of what I feel… or rather, the leftovers of what happens when… you cannot feel.”

    But this was a discussion about things that weren’t related to Vivienne… or was it?

    “My Mother… it would appear that… she worked with Pinkerton… Feroce… West… Barret … Halloway and the Mc Lampets themselves. They are all linked with the Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane. Apparently… Pinkerton met his muse there… who he thinks isn’t real? That is what Liana told me… there is a statue at the Club… which represents her… it is one-eyed.”

    She shows to Prushka a paper that she had memorized - the infamous one that appeared out of nowhere after the imaginary (?) Doctor Satel confronted her at the club.

    Note Number 2

    I know not if I started writing these to give myself a piece of mind, or just to put my thoughts on paper and in order. However, ever since I started writing these reports to myself, I have managed to get back my bearings a little bit more. This time, I managed to avoid a total nervous breakdown and a mental collapse, which turned out to be my undoing last time.

    Not that it was of any help to me. The results were predictable, as before. Even if the events and roles change, the outcome is still immutable, from the looks of it.

    How maddening. How absolutely maddening.

    For now, I've hid myself among the inhabitants of this place, using a name I haven't in a long time. I suppose my only option is to carefully observe the "neutral" state of things, what happens with no interactions. Map out everything that's possible, the whole town and all of it's 3000 citizen if I have to. Make a whole and complete mental map of things. My curse works separately from the people here, so while they retain no memories, I do - and I can't even begin to guess what it is that has caused this situation. Something like this should be beyond even the Seven, and of those, only the Most Wicked Man in the World would be brazen enough to try something like this. I think I can rule out the possibility of them being involved.

    But what then...?

    Does it have something to do with my own plight? No, that cannot be. My fate is my onus. Unfair as it is, this is something different. I'm just a castaway, after all.

    I just hope I won't go mad in the currents of this infinity loop. If this goes on for too long, well...

    ... Who knows what'll happen to me, in this solitude.

    “This appeared out of nowhere in my hand… after a Doctor Satel talked to me… then vanished as if he never was there… maybe I am going… insane? Should not be possible… I have no emotions… and this clue seems to correlate with others we have gathered…”

    Indeed, the big picture was starting to become clear.

    “As for Ahti… I learned from Alex… that there is a cult of animal-people that are serving as the strong arms of the Mc Lampets… it could be Ahti… or perhaps he is not with them… who knows.”



    Prushka:

    “Convincing Xeni… that means convincing Xylia. I haven’t talked to her at all. She’s not the type to trust easily, but… could go to Avery’s again, maybe. You could come too. But maybe we’re past the point where there’s time for pie.”

    The reaction to Vivienne’s suggestion is a rather pessimistic one, not quite but certainly near devoid of hope.

    There is also no recognition when Vivienne brings up the name ‘Satel’, though names in general are rather awkward to convey across the crude connection formed between them. At the very least, her heart does not stir.

    What does stir it are the mentions of Pinkerton, and Muse, and the one-eyed statue. Something like realization appears, small sparks of light amid the murky feelings that make up Prushka’s mental state.

    “His Muse… a one-eyed Muse… so that’s how it is. Vivi, we’ve got our guy. The one-eyed man Angelica told us to accost. You said Lia told you?” The girl’s proud form flashes in her mind. “We need to talk to her. If she’s been in the Club, then…” A violent feeling. “She can get us to this ‘Pinkerton’. Before Dot awakens.”

    “As for your note… I found one at the Devil’s Dishes. Number Five.”

    Prushka shifts, in the physical world. She bids Vivienne to hold the umbrella for a moment, then reaches over to her backpack and shuffles around in it, finally pulling out something. A piece of paper onto which are typed letters. She holds it in front of Vivienne to read:

    Number 5

    I've made an observation among my many repeats.

    Well, I've made several, but this one piqued my interest most recently. I happened upon it completely by accident after going through some of the personal belongings of the faculty. Not an easy task, of course - it took me several repeats to find out where they even hid them, much less find a way to access them. Ironically enough, I was searching in the wrong place. Instead of the faculty themselves, I should have asked around from the students. One'd be surprised about the things they accidentally find out, without even realizing it. Only once you have an... elevated point of view are you able to connect the dots.

    In any event, I stumbled upon this observation while going through that little box hidden in the nurse's office. The code was easy enough too. I just fished out some information from those connected with the nurse, found out about her past, and, well, guessing the date she wants to lock out the most was easy enough from there.

    But what I found out there was... troubling.

    Confusing.

    Is that really what's behind this?

    This DDS... can that be the answer?

    Am I going mad? Or is the whole world mad?

    What am I talking about, I went insane a long time ago, when I got trapped here - separated from everything I know. Solitary on a level not even the gods do not know of. All these faceless people, all these automatons repeating the same moves, moving the same pieces, over and over again - without fail. Only by moving the pieces myself in unexpected ways am I able to elicit a response, and yet... even that has become predictable.

    That's why this observation is so important.

    I need to find more about Gottlieb Pharmaceutical and this...

    --- Patient Zero.


    “You’re not the one going insane, Vivi. The way this reads, whoever wrote this doesn’t even see the people here as human… it reminds me too much of how she acted.”

    Images flashing before her eyes, connected with anxiety and longing and guilt. A girl with pale hair, Elizaveta Vyraj, raving, eyes mad, about how she was looking for a single real person in a dollhouse world, before running away with tears in her eyes.

    “This person must have been looping long before we got here - and I think Elizaveta was, too.”

    She’s been rummaging around in the kitchen drawers for… silverware? To fight a vampire or werewolf, maybe?

    “I’m going to try and get that safe open during school hours. The plan is… well, it probably won’t work.” An image of the nurse’s stern expression appears, her arms folded, no cracks in her stance. The dour mood Prushka is in seeps into everything she says. All her information is tinged in depression, a reflection of the abnormal emotion seeping into her mind.

    “I’ll… ask Ahti about the McLampets after school. But I don’t think he’s involved with them. He doesn’t know anything about the town. I’m pretty sure he’s from Finland, like Pyry.” Too much like Pyry. Far too much.

    “...Vivi.” This time it’s Prushka’s turn to pry. “Did Xeni tell you, if there are any other impostors at the school? Any wolves in girl’s clothing? It got to one of the students last night. Someone they thought was a friend.”

    A sequence of events. A story of images, told with dread. Green dots on a computer screen, overlaid on a map of Pinefall. One green dot goes into the outbuilding. Then a red dot, as two other green dots pass by, returning from the gates.

    The outbuilding looms over Prushka. She steps in.

    The smell of blood, making her nauseous. But only seven drops of blood on the floor of an empty room. With it comes... pain and regret. The freshest feelings yet. She bends down, touches the fresh drops, ‘smells’, and… that same ‘smell’ is transferred to Vivienne. Through a sense she does not have. Feelings that are not her own rush in, and she experiences it the same way Prushka did that night.

    Sensation of anxiety. Of worry. Of slight curiosity and trepidation.

    Like someone waiting on someone else, slightly looking forward to the meeting. Such a mundane thing to feel. There was nothing out of the ordinary.

    But then...

    --- Momentary surprise.

    Not even pain.

    Just as if that someone had went:

    ".................... Oh."

    And then there was nothing.

    Just a void of emotions.

    Recalling those feelings only makes the short girl’s mood drop further into the mud.

    Prushka stops, halfway to the class. In the middle of the rain. She glances up next to Vivienne, her face twisted, eyebrows furrowed.

    “It was Gabi,” she whispers.



    Vivienne:

    So he was already gone. Had that happened the previous week, or was this because of the ‘change’ that had occurred, with everyone acting out of their own volition to try and steer the future they had experienced as far from reality as possible… instead of Caesarina, it had been Gabi.

    Still, the rush of emotions inside her was unexpected, she was not ready. Her face contorted, and a voice that was not hers tried to speak, but as quickly as they came, the emotions that Prushka had sent to Vivienne disappeared -- it was a sudden, brief end after all.

    A blessing of sorts perhaps, to ‘go to sleep’ in such a way.

    Since it was to show her own findings, Vivienne could excuse this ‘invasion’ of Prushie’s. She felt her face a bit, taking a few moments to settle in and return to her usual machine-like personality. Well, it has often been considered machine-like, but her way of speaking resembled more a quiet person’s, her voice hushed and with distinct more drawn out pauses between her sentences -- while still brief, she did not fire staggered but continuous sentences like the likes of Xeni.

    “Gabi… I remember… we were together at the firecamp... “

    Various snapshots from that evening when they had fun at the beach. Dressing up as ghosts with Subaru, Caesarina, Alexstraza and Alex (Xeni). The campfire and lighthouse moments, with Gabi, Aleen and Ramia having joined the group…

    “That is… unfortunate… should we tell the others? It might cause… panic.”

    Having everyone lose their mind early would not be desirable indeed.

    “But if Ahti is not related… then that is good… make sure to keep an eye on him however… even I am somehow related to all of this… because of my Mother… yet I didn’t know… I think… people might start asking me questions if this Doctor Satel and his notes have been found by more people...”

    Indeed, what awaited Vivienne this day? There was a rather high probability that someone accosted her and asked what she knew considering her Mother’s involvement… if all of the information that had found its way to her so far was accurate…

    … and if it was accurate… did her Mother knowingly encourage her to come here for a reason? Was she… no… Vivienne Bianchi is a logical husk that has nothing to do with the ‘old’ Vivienne. With the one that sacrificed everything for the Mother she loved, thus there was no time to think or act like what the past would have.

    Still.

    It was a theory.

    A possibility.

    Something she couldn’t discount.

    But on the matter of trust and pretending to be what you are not:

    “Xeni did not tell me much… only that she is used to being an empty person -- she described herself as a doll, something you dress and play with… she was rather sad at the idea… somewhat like me… but still somewhat different… she can still feel… I saw sadness in her eyes, I heard it in her voice even though she spoke monotone… would be a bit jealous… if I could be…

    She seemed tired though… perhaps that she is pretending to be many people… I should ask Alex what relation they have… she described her and Xeni as ‘partners in crime’... threatened to call the police on me when we sat down… if I did anything to Xeni that is.”


    On that note, Vivienne takes her time to read the note that Prushka had showed her --- how many of these were there, and had others gotten the other numbers? 1, 3 and 4? It was quite possible, perhaps that she should ask around.

    “Gottlieb Pharmaceutical… DDS… and Patient Zero… key words we should remember...” she tells Prushka as she is done reading the note. “The Girl in Blue and Patient Zero… are the same person. Alex has come to that conclusion… and Xeni herself told me that. Xeni’s impression is that… the Girl in Blue was dear to Howard McLampet, James Halloway and someone else from Spokane’s Air Technical Service Command… probably Mr. Pinkerton.”

    The pool of clues grows, but the more answers they find, the more questions appear. However, Prushka had a plan to go find out more and uncover the secrets that members of the faculty kept -- what part did they play in all of this even?

    “Be careful… not sure if we can… trust the faculty members fully…also Alex found out that twenty years ago… where the school is… a massacre happened. I will ask her more about that… we did not have much time to talk… came back to see how everyone was doing…”


    Prushka:

    The paper is swiftly folded up and put back where it came from.

    “I’ve only ever trusted one adult in my life. And he’s nowhere near Road’s End. As far as I’m concerned, the faculty are either in the dark like we are - or they’re part of the problem. Right now it’s looking more like the second one.”

    Old, stale bitterness gives the words bite.

    “If Xeni feels sad, then… I’ll assume she hasn’t killed anyone. There must be another.”

    Dull ache. Weariness. Tired. Of more and more bad news piling onto bad news. The emotional tumour around Prushka’s arm throbs. The waters slowly swirl. She brings her hand to her head, grumbling, before taking back the umbrella.

    “The class twenty years ago… so that’s where it comes in.” She hadn’t paid as much attention to the McLampets and the old story of Road’s End as the others, so the information hits her with a dull thud. It is too much, too quickly, to incorporate into her mental list of clues. “I can sniff out any old evidence, if you find it. Add Mr. Holloway to the list of people to interrogate, then. Still need to drop by the hotel anyway, see if there’s a link to Snow there...”

    Flashes of a letter. Folded, unfolded, read many times. A youthful face, turned blurry from years apart. An ever-fainter memory of better times, that is swiftly pushed aside.

    “That ‘animal cult’ is more likely to be those two whose fur you found. Hisa should know more; I don’t think I’ve met the one that broke into my room yet. As for your mother… seems we both have family we’re looking for. Family that have answers.”

    What else is there? Prushka thinks to herself for a moment, thoughts swirling randomly.

    “Elise asked me for help,” she adds, filling in what gaps remain. “Something about Lucille being haunted by a ghost… and a man in a coma in the hospital who might have answers. I’ll probably be accompanying her this evening. But Lucille’s too busy torpedoing her relationship with Mercedes right now.”

    The mental grumble turns into a sigh. Prushka doesn’t expect things to go well on that front either.

    “Then there’s Subaru, she’s been brought into the fold, and Colt… he knows. Remembers. And has information on Elizaveta. If you have the chance, ask him. He skipped class yesterday so I don’t expect to see him there today either. He was talking with Hisa earlier, so maybe she knows… we haven’t really spoken yet. Haven’t had the chance.”

    Prushka’s bitter mood spits out thoughts of the same flavour.

    “She probably has better things to do than waste time talking to me.”


    Vivienne:

    Vivienne took note of the names and the info Prushka relayed once more, acknowledging that she should eventually link up with Lucille, Elise, Colt and Hisa. However… there was something that Vivienne wanted to address. It had nothing to do with knowledge, rather it was… Prushka herself.

    “I know it is strange coming from me but… you should cheer up…”

    Most strange indeed. How do the blind guide the seeing?

    “It is normal and okay to feel down knowing that all this is happening… but… if we do not keep going… then we won’t be able to put a stop to the machinations of whatever… or whoever is behind all this. It could be something tied to the Mc Lampets… the Disembodied Man… or someone else entirely… but we have to stop them… and we won’t be able to stop them if you feel sad and depressed… Prushie. Even if Gabi is gone… at least he did not suffer… there is solace in that...”

    She pauses, not certain on what else to say. It was only logical to soldier on through pain and sadness, for if one let emotions drag them down, then it would only hamper them -- for the girl that sought to make herself whole again and feel once more, it was most ironic that she was the one that benefited the most from being devoid of emotions at moments like this. Indeed… if Vivienne Bianchi did return to who she once was… could she even handle the deluge of emotions that would flood back in her? Accepting what she had become?

    Such an overflow could break her to pieces in a different way. It could be some strange form of emotional suicide… in a different manner. Of course, that was the worst outcome -- there was also the possibility that Vivienne, after being ‘repaired’, would be a new entity: a combination of the old and the present. Of course, this was all a hypothesis, but since there was the hope that Muse had given her about the lighthouse holding the answer to finding her emotions… Vivienne held on to that hope.

    Speaking of which… on an unrelated note:

    “... have you learnt anything about the Lighthouse? Other than… it has a Ghost of the Sailor with which Rachel talks to? That the Lighthouse is… a beacon that traps ghosts here?”


    Prushka:

    “Vivi, if people could just cheer themselves up with the snap of a finger, the world would be a much nicer place.”

    There’s a hint of mirth to the response, followed by a weak smile and a dry chuckle as they approach the entrance to the school proper. And the sense that Prushka has indeed done just what she said on many other occasions.

    “Um, thanks for worrying. But this… don’t think of it as a bad mood, or as me giving up. I gathered all the bad feelings from the past two weeks and… well, you know. It’s like that time.” That time Prushka had offered ill-fitting ‘hope’ as a remedy that did more harm than good. This time she has taken her own medicine and found it exceedingly bitter. “Stress brings about physical symptoms. Headache, stomachache, lethargy... it should be enough to get me a ticket to the nurse’s office. Better than trying to bluff a trained combat medic. After that, I can clear away this mud. Unless it goes wrong. Which it probably will - ugh.”

    Prushka catches herself as her thoughts spiral down again. “Sorry. I’m an idiot. How you’re feeling in the moment changes everything about you, how you think, behave, interpet things…”

    So in her current state Prushka will have to put up with being miserable for a while.

    “But don’t worry. When you get your feelings back, it won’t be this bad. You’ll be able to handle it. And I’ll be there to help. Well, if you want it. Probably won’t.”

    Miserable people tend to be pessimists as well.

    “Didn’t hear about the lighthouse being a special beacon like that. But it makes sense. Ghosts usually linger either through their own power, or bind to a place or object. If there’s a place that easily binds them, it could explain the stories. Silly of me not to have figured it out sooner.”

    And pessimists tend to be… a bit annoying to talk to.


    Vivienne:

    “Mmm… just thought someone should say it… not everyone can be supporting… if you can call my logical thinking… supportive…?”

    She wasn’t very sure herself how effective she was being, but supposedly in psychology… it was better for things to flow around rather than be bottlenecked and ferment inside one’s mind. Such sort of developments would mostly lead to nothing good.

    “You should go to class then I think… there are… things I have to check before returning to Owl’s Nest… and… be careful at the Nurse’s”


    Prushka:

    “You be careful too, Vivi. You’re the most supportive one here. I wish I could help you half as much as you’ve helped me.”

    Prushka’s hand squeezes hers.

    “We might not see each other again until tomorrow. So… good luck. And…”

    She hesitates. Worrying whether it’s right to tell someone this.

    “If you’re going back to the Owl’s Nest… could you ask about a guest called Snow? Or Sneg? I’m not sure what he goes by now, but when I last saw him…” A face flashes by. A young boy with pale hair and a sullen expression. “He’s my brother. We haven’t seen each other in years. He’s in Road’s End somewhere. Muse did a divination, and I think it’s pointing to Rachel.”


    Vivienne:

    “I am sure that you can find someone equally supportive as me… after all I am… probably the worst person to come to for emotional support.”

    People who weren’t emotionally stinted would be a good place to look for in the first place! But then a lot of the people in this school weren’t ‘normal’... so perhaps that was a bit much to expect from them. Still, there had to be someone better suited for this, though of course, ‘you make do with what you have’ is also a fairly good approach to such matters.

    “I will ask around then… am surprised you did not ask her when we were there… ‘last time’”


    Prushka:

    “You think you’d be the worst, but… an ‘emotional’ person like me hasn’t been of much use either.”

    A bit of embarrassment rises up from the murk, followed by guilt.

    “I should’ve asked last week, but… I didn’t realize at that point. I was still thinking the ghost would have the answer, not the one who talked to it. Then we got distracted by Alex, and, well, you know how that ended. I was going to ask in the morning, before... ”

    She hadn’t tried hard enough. Hadn’t cared enough. Hadn’t been a good enough sister-.

    Prushka shakes her head. The memory returns. Of that mad obsession written upon the walls of the room in that hotel.

    “Alex. The one you talked to. The real one. Do you think you’ll be able to help her?”


    Vivienne:

    “I do not know about that. She has accepted my help but… she is someone that appears to be welcoming of death. ‘I died already many years ago’, she told me. In a sense she is similar to me, except that I am trying to resurrect the dead. Or maybe… the partially dead?”

    She will be able to guard Alex, and perhaps provide some better guidance so that she doesn’t end up missing like last time. Perhaps ward off the insanity too.

    “I will try my best to help her find clues and answers. Wherever I am qualified to guard people I… do not know. Usually I put people to sleep. Eternal Sleep.”

    Vivienne pauses for a moment, thinking about what she just said. It dawns on her that she should elaborate on the ‘already died’ matter.

    “I am not sure if she means she is a ghost.... Which I don’t think she is, or simply that the ‘old’ her is gone… just like me. The leader of that part-human part-beast cult… I think that they have something to do with Alex’s past… he… broke her is what I think happened… will have to ask more.”


    Prushka :

    “Beast cults on top of everything else… this town isn’t big enough for all these mysteries.”

    Tired and exasperated, Prushka starts shaking off the umbrella; they’ve reached the school building.

    “For someone who thinks she’s dead and broken, that person sure is doing her best to live and move forward. I think it’ll be fine if you just stay by her side, Vivi. No need to put anyone to sleep. Sometimes just being there is enough.”


    Vivienne:

    “What I meant was that if you guard someone, there are times when an Assassin will come. She suspects a few already… supposedly Elaine Winters is one? A werewolf? Her connection to all this wasn’t elaborated though… but Alex is suspicious of her… a good thing I didn’t tell her first that… I am an assassin too…”

    This was the first time she outright spelled out what she was to someone over here. However, in exchange, she would like to know too the true identity of the person she was talking to… but did Prushka have much to hide, like Vivienne? She could be different, someone who only came here to look for their long-lost brother. A more noble, romantic goal one could say.

    “What are you Prushka, if you are anything? Perhaps we can talk about this another time. Class will start soon, no?”


    Prushka:

    “A-an assassin!? I thought you were an actress!”

    The casual use of the term catches the girl off guard. Then following revelation that Elaine Winters, someone she’d barely thought about, was a werewolf, is the one-two punch that sends Prushka reeling. And nearly tripping over her own umbrella. At the end, before letting go, all Prushka can respond with is…

    “I. Um. I’m just a defective Esper. The stupid scientists back at the Institute sent me here because they wanted me to give humans another shot. Y’know, what the Oceandrop Program was supposed to be about. I didn’t realize my brother would be here until I got this letter from Boss, and then… too much to explain. After class! We can talk more after class, okay!?”


    Vivienne:

    “I was an actress, yes.”

    A very important play on words, indeed

    Giving a light pat on Prushka’s back, Vivienne directs the little girl towards the entrance, like a parent ushering their kid to school.

    “If you want to talk I should be at Owl’s Nest today… ‘should’ being the word… don’t know where Alex might make us investigate.”

  7. #3747
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High - Classroom
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    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
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    Minutes later...

    The book makes its rounds around the classroom. Eventually it reaches a certain girl's desk. She stares at it blankly for a moment, clearly unfamiliar with the title. The girl eventually flips it over, reads the back, cracks it open, looking at the first and last pages, blinking slowly as she does so. Finally she closes it and passes it along with a shaking hand.

    That hand, once vacated, is raised, waiting to be called on.

    Spoiler:
    "Knox wrote the Decalogue. And Van Dyne had his Commandments." The answer is relatively lifeless. "I never read any Christie. Did go through a few Nancy Drew books, though... even if there are rules to the game, can you really call it fair-play if no one figures it out and it still comes off as a cheap gotcha in the end?" Unlike John and Elise, who launch into lots of detail, it seems Prushka isn't too fond of detective fiction. Or maybe she's just not in the right mood to look for the fun in it.


    Once the question and answer period is over, however, her hand stays up.

    "...Mr. Lewis."

    Prushka's voice lacks its characteristic abrasive tone.

    It's taken some time, but now the symptoms have begun to appear: the beginnings of a headache, a stomach twisted into knots, tense muscles, and a bit of pallor to her expression. Even more obvious is the worry, clear as day on her face. It began when she first stepped into class and swept across the room, and continues even now. If anything... her frown is getting deeper by the second.

    Stress weighs on body and mind in equal measure.

    "Could I be excused? I don't feel well."

  8. #3748
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Location: Pinefall High - Classroom
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    Lewis Redd blinked in momentary surprise as Prushka, instead continuing with her somewhat negative assessment of detective fiction, instead asked to leave the classroom because of her clearly poor health. However, it only took the shaggy-looking man a few moments to recover, before he replied with a nod and gesturing the girl to head towards the corridor.

    "Of course, go ahead. Though, do go see Ms. Leuzinger before you head back to dorms," he answered. "You certainly don't look good, and always better safe than sorry, right?"

    With that, Prushka excused herself from the class and staggered out of the room, closing the door weakly behind her. The teacher gave one last worried look after the small student, before shaking his head and muttering something about "maybe there's a flu going on" before returning his eyes to the rest of the class. While yet another one of them was gone, the lessons would continue - especially since two quite involved had come from the directions of John Dove and Elise-Marie Pelltier. Indeed, judging by the slight grin on Mr. Redd's face, he was quite satisfied with what the two had brought up.

    "Exactly. S.S. Van Dine's 20 Rules, and Knox's Decalogue. Both a framework to which a detective mystery should fit in order to be considered 'fair'... at least according to those who created them, and those who believe in them. As you mentioned, Miss Pelltier, Van Dine's is - however - certainly more meticulous. Or perhaps, it shows the authorial bias more clearly. To him, a fairplay whodunnit was nothing but an intellectual game - almost like a chess problem. There should be nothing to take away from the core of the mystery itself. Meanwhile Knox's rules were, if not more lenient, at least gave a chance for a proper story to be set around the mystery. This is also one possible reason, along with the British roots of the Decalogue, why it was far more popular," Mr. Redd continued his explanation. "As for the rules themselves, they were as follows..."

    Showing some enthusiasm as a teacher for once, Mr. Redd turned around and walked over to the blackboard, and picked up a piece of chalk. Then he began to write there, listing the ten rules that the class had been talking about so far.

    And those rules, in order, were...

    1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
    2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
    3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
    4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
    5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
    6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
    7. The detective himself must not commit the crime.
    8. The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
    9. The "sidekick" of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
    10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

    Then, with a little smirk, he added something above the first rule.

    0. Without a detective, there is no story.

    "Now then, first of all... well, since it always comes up, I guess I should explain Rule #5. The dreaded 'Chinaman'," Lewis Redd started with an amused voice. "Unlike it can look, it's actually not an example of good ol' bigotry. No, in this case, the aim was quite the opposite. Pick any high-danger, high-action, dime-a-dozen thriller novel from that age, and you can be pretty certain there was going to be some Yellow Peril Fu Manchu knock-off gallivanting about. In other words, an obvious villain. In a sense, you could almost like it to the 'the butler didn't do it' rule. According to Knox, no racist, stereotypical villain with no depth should have a place in a proper fairplay whodunnit. They, like the other tricks here, cheapen the actual mystery."

    With that, the teacher turned around. He walked back to his desk and sat on his chair, leaning his elbows to the table and watching his students with a curious, inquisitve expression - as if trying to see what sort of thoughts went through everyone's heads as they read through the list of rules.

    "Now then, continuing on... I'm afraid that I can only give half the points for you, Mr. Dove. In this case, I think Ms. Pelltier is closer to the actual truth. Like times themselves, detective fiction also changes. New tricks become old and old rules may not apply anymore. Take, for example, this case of 'no detective' in And Then There Were None. Sure enough, we have no singular protagonist who is there to solve the murder case, but..." he held a pause and lifted his index finger. "As Ms. Pelltier said, there is a case to be made that a detective exists. That is, that the detective is us - the reader. Think of it like... hmm... like the three walls of a theater, and the invisible fourth one through which the audience watches. It might be unconventional, but at the very heart of it, this does satisfy the Zero-eth rule."

    The teacher then made a gesture back towards the blackboard.

    "And that's not the only rule where this applies. Over the years, writers have stretched these rules further and further, while still trying to stay within the realm of what they truly meant. Say... take Rule #2, for example. Sure enough, magic or supernatural powers may be a boring and absolutely cheapest trick to explain a murder. However... what really differentiates it from Rule #4? A method that we can't expect is cheap in both cases, but if we're duly prepared for the possibility of something, and have been explained how such a method would work... does it really differentiate from something that is more 'mundane'?" Lewis Redd asked. "If an orangutan is an acceptable culprit as long as we've been given enough clues, why would not, say, a spell that makes lightning strike a person who sits in the blue chair in a red room at the count of midnight? As long as we properly understand the functions and limitations of something, whether it be technology or magic, and as long as it is not overly complex and complicated... can we truly say that it is 'unbefitting' of a fairplay whodunnit? After all, fairplay in this case means that the reader has an equal chance of solving the murder when compared to the detective."

    With that, he clapped his hands together once, and offered the class a mysterious smile.

    "As you can see, in these ways we can still stay 'loyal' to the rules while going against the way they would be read by the most anal peopel - like, say, S.S. Van Dine. Indeed, if everyone always stuck to the rules-as-written, then there would be no creativity, no evolution, no reaching new heights. As far as I personally am concerned, we should always think of the rules-as-intended, instead," the teacher spoke. "If we do not keep the mystery genre fresh and exciting, and encourage the readers to think outside the box and challenge themselves, I'd say that's when we've failed the genre as a whole. What we must not do is be cheap in our twists, be obvious in our red herrings and be unfair in our mysteries. But as long as we duly prepare our readers, well... the sky's the limit, isn't it? Whether it's a body double that's a doppelgänger, an obvious villain that is obvious for a purpose, an accident that wasn't an accident, or..."

    The man gave out a lazy wink to the class.

    "... An unknown entity reading the mystery we've mired ourselves in as a story, going through the details of that text on paper or on screen, puzzling and talking with other entities who are reading the same story and thus acting as a detective to the whole thing," he laughed. "... Or, that's my take on it anyway. What do you lot think?"

    It certainly looked like detective fiction got Mr. Redd far more talkative than usual.

  9. #3749
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    That is a technicality, teacher. Of course the reader is always expected to aim to solve the case; that is the entire point of the genre. That does not make the reader a character in the story.

    John is more attentive towards Prushka’s departure. He suspects she is up to something, but he also knows that girl is a mediocre actress and a terrible liar. If she says she is feeling bad, then it means she is really feeling bad, and taking advantage of that to leave the classroom for whatever purpose.

    Something urges him to go and help her, and then that dire whisper in the back of his mind scolds him and tells him to stop getting in other people’s way. He can only trust she knows what she is doing and wish her well, all the while wondering how many more burdens Prushka and everybody else will have to bear to make it out of this crisis. The fact he knows Prushka does not trust him enough to let him bear even a little bit of her burdens stings a little—much to his surprise.

    The “crime” they have forgotten, according to the Disembodied Man…when it comes to light, will they be ready to face it together, whatever it is? No, even before that, all the issues his classmates brought with themselves to this remote place; is he ready to face them properly, and bear with them by their side? Does he have what it takes to be a friend to these people?

    It is somewhat fortunate that John cannot find it in himself to feel bad about not caring for this class. He just has way too much in his mind. Too many questions, the most powerful of them the very one Anna Vandemeel so insistently bore into his mind.

    What is driving the current John Dove? What is it that pushes him forward, encouraging him to do things and fail at things, now that he has lost Her as his beacon and inspiration? For what reason does he care about ending this time loop or whatever? In a few words, why does he care?

    He has acknowledged that the world matters, that other people matter, and that even John Dove himself matters in some diminutive way. However, he still does not—cannot—understand why. He is broken because he cannot yet see the obvious answer to the obvious question. This is the decisive step no amount of empathy from Prushka or Ubon, prodding by Vandemeel, or encouragement by Winters or Ramalsaqr can push him to take. Being aware of it is already major progress, an incredible breakthrough he denied himself for ten whole years. However, now even John Dove himself can decide when to take the next, decisive step. Just like growing up, he will take it when he has no other choice but to do so.

    And nobody knows whether that step will lead to something grim or wonderful.
    Last edited by Daneel Rush; March 9th, 2021 at 05:48 PM.

  10. #3750
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    "So, uh..." A pair of curious eyes stared at the boy. "What dost thou planneth we doeth in the forest, Colt?"

    Indeed, it was a good question. While some of Pinefall's First Class had started preparing for today's lessons, Colt had asked Tris to accompany him for an excursion into the Ghostwood National Forest - the untamed wilderness that surrounded the town of Road's End on all sides. Without planning too much or heading towards any specific direction, the two had simply taken an easy route into the woods themselves, and for the past ten minutes or so had been walking under the canopy of pines.

    Tris, as per her usual style, had put on her large cloak and taken most of her equipment with her - like she had been expecting to go to a battle. However so far the most fearsome beast the two had seen had been a particularly irate hare that had some sort of beef with the local squirrel population.

    In other words, there wasn't much need for the massive sword Tris carried.

    "I-I meaneth, 'tis nice that thou invitedeth me to this trip, but I art still not sure of the reason," Tris continued, her expression a big question mark. "Art there something we ought to doeth here? Some sort of secret we art trying to find?"

    “There are two reasons.” Colt held up his index and middle finger together. “Two very good reasons.”

    So far the forest had proved itself far from inhospitable. The canopy shaded the forest floor, making for a pleasant, cool trek through nature. Not what he had been expecting, but not an unwanted surprise either.

    “The first is that this is where she disappeared.” Colt curled down his middle finger, leaving only his index finger up. “I want to see it for myself.”

    He glanced about at the sea of trees. Though their excursion so far was shallow, he could easily see that this was just the tip of the iceberg of an untamed wilderness. Fitting for a national forest. Coming from a state that was home to the country’s most famous national park and many other stretches of unchecked forestry, Colt had an inherent appreciation for such places.

    He silently thanked the heavens that the local lumber mill, which had operated in this forest, was out of business.

    “The second is that I skipped class twice in a row, and now I’m foolishly evading the consequences by skipping again, which only makes it all worse in the long run.” He brought down his single index finger and sighed. “Y’know, I had a good reason to skip the other day… not so much yesterday. At least, by the school’s standards of a good reason.”

    The boy sighed.

    “It’s not a good idea to ditch but… with this repetition stuff… it feels a bit pointless to attend. Even if it’s not right to skip.” He put his hand down and heaved another sigh. “And then with all this crazy stuff going on all of the sudden…”

    He straightened up and took a deep breath. The cold, pure air of Cascadia’s wilderness filled his lungs.

    “I kinda just wanted any excuse to go out for a bit and get some fresh air.” He sheepishly glanced away from the girl. “… And I asked you to come ‘cause I enjoy your company.”

    "O-oh! I... I see'eth!" With a bit of a flushed face, Tris fidgeted with her fingers and avoided Colt's gaze. Instead, she hurried her steps a little bit on the overgrown trail, only to nearly trip over one upturned root nearby. After stumbling forward and flailing her arms while making a whole lot of noise, the girl managed to regain her balance. Embarrassed, she let out a sheepish giggle and turned back to look at the boy, waiting for him to catch up.

    In all honesty, considering one of the people involved here was carrying a massive sword - one far too big for her lithe frame, or so said the laws of physics, this was awfully normal outing in the grand scheme of things.

    Well, as normal as an outing could be when the aim was to find the spot where one's nigh-forgotten older sister had died.

    Thus the minutes passed by as the duo aimlessly wandered among the trails. After all, it was not like either of them had any proper idea where exactly the tragic events had gone down. Colt had chosen the area based on the vague (almost non-existent) directions he had gotten from Frauke Wiolant, but still... where were they supposed to go? What path were they meant to take? The group had been after the so-called Devil's Dishes, but where those were was anyone's question.

    So, time passed. The occasional chatting and conversation eventually grew less and less frequent. The sounds of the forest took over, and soon enough, the two could hear nothing but the chirping of birds and the distant chitter of animals around them.

    It was a surprisingly mundane hike. There were so many factors piled up to make it stretch outside of what could be considered normal, the circumstances that brought Colt and Tris together, the reasoning behind his decision to go out, the equipment she was carrying. Yet despite that it all felt like a small piece of the kind of everyday life he indulged himself in before coming to Pinefall.

    It was truly uneventful. So lacking in noteworthy happenings that Colt spent most of his time thinking more about the girl walking beside him than anything else.

    In a lot of ways she was his type. After all, he wasn’t quite shy about his preference for girls with…

    Things.

    Going for them.

    Maybe it was gratitude for saving him. Or just the appreciation for such faultlessly trusting company in the strange happenstances he found himself in. Maybe it was just the ditzy, awkward, silly, clumsy, shy, dense, honest way that she was.

    Colt just felt himself more at ease being with her. At ease enough that he lost his sense of time.

    How long had it been? Half an hour? An hour? ... Maybe two? Once again, Colt found himself in an area where the faint trail split into two directions and had to make a decision where he would head.

    Though, before he could do that... the sudden sound of a branch snapping under someone's foot caught his attention.
    It came from right behind them. Even Tris, as oblivious as she was, spun around and grabbed the handle of her sword, eyes scanning the perimeter of the forest to see what had made that sudden, and surprisingly loud, sound. It didn't take long for her to spot the culprit, and neither did Colt... though while Tris looked simply confused, to Colt, this sight was... quite a bit more surprising. Something felt cold at the back of his mind.

    "..........."

    The person who had emerged from the woods, either after taking a short-cut or after tailing them, said nothing at first.

    But then... she simply frowned.

    "If you're looking for that place... you need to take a right."

    And with that, Cathie Walker pushed past both dumbfounded Tris and Colt, starting down the path that she had advised Colt to take. Her eyes were surprisingly cold and there was a frown on her face that wasn't going anywhere. Even her body language felt... angry, for some reason.

    ... What was the girl even doing here?
    At ease, until Cathie Walker drew his and Tris’ attention with the snap of a branch beneath her feet. Something felt wrong in the way she frowned at him. The last time around she was certainly willful and fierce spirited, though she was far from the perfect image of friendly, she’d never come off so cold. So accusatorily angry.

    It was like she was someone else.

    Or like she was mad at him, specifically. He still remembered her glare at Avery’s yesterday. After Cathie pressed past Colt and Tris the boy turned to the knightess.

    “… Can’t hurt to follow her.” He said to the blonde, glancing at Cathie’s back that was headed off in the direction she had suggested the two go. “Though something seems off.”

    He scratched the top of his head.

    “You don’t have to be on guard or anything but… I get the feeling she’s mad at me. Specifically me. I’m not too sure why, either…”

    He tossed his hair about, then shrugged, clearly not coming to any conclusion in his thoughts.

    “Not gonna find out without just asking, I guess. Come on,” his legs set off after Cathie, waving for Tris to follow. “Let’s find out what that place is.”

    "Y-yeah, I'll follow thy lead..."

    Tris, still looking unsure, let go of the handle of her weapon. Considering Cathie had not commented at it one bit was... well, it was frankly weird, but at the same time, this whole situation was weird. Why was the girl here? Why did he seem to be mad at Colt? Where was she now leading them? How... how long had she been following them? Considering that she had presented herself at such an opportune moment...

    ... She hadn't been following them all the way from school, right?

    ".........."

    Well, whatever the truth was, the girl with the blazing-colored hair didn't answer. Instead she just kept marching on, her steps keeping up a good pace. Not once did she take a look back to see if Colt and Tris followed her - she simply assumed that they did. And thus deeper and deeper they went, towards the heart of the Ghostwood where nothing should have lied in wait.

    But for some reason it was starting to feel like they were actually approaching something dangerous. Even the animals had mostly disappeared from the vicinity now that they had taken the path leading to right. The only one Colt could see was a distant owl, blearily opening its eyes as it stared at him from within a dark and hollow tree.

    A lonely, distant hoot echoed in the forest, and though it was day, thanks to the rain and to the overcast sky, it might as well been night.

    "... You're here to see where Remington Hartley died, right?"

    Suddenly, Cathie's voice cut the silence, after they had been walking for about twenty minutes. The girl stopped on her tracks and scanned the forest... before finally pointing her finger off the trail, towards a small brook that meandered through the ancient woodland.

    "... We follow the stream. No more trails from here on out," Cathie said coldly, pushing into the undergrowth. "But no complaints."

    20 minutes of silent walking. The forest felt desolate. The signs of wildlife from before grew scarce, eventually disappearing entirely. The deeper they went, the darker it got. Colt hadn’t realized it but the chirps of the songbirds had disappeared. The skittering and calling and buzzing of bugs in the brush faded. There was only the hoot of a single owl.

    One which stared at him from a distant, dark, hollow tree.

    That’s not a coincidence, is it?

    As he began to think such thoughts, Cathie broke the long silence.

    "... You're here to see where Remington Hartley died, right?" The girl pointed toward a tiny brook. "... We follow the stream. No more trails from here on out. But no complaints." “

    Alright.”

    Colt followed the direction of her finger, trying to peer past the timeless forestry which obscured where the brook might lead.

    “I never thought I’d get anywhere if I stayed on the beaten path.” He returned his eyes to Cathie. “But… how did you know what I’m here for? It's not a coincidence that we ran into you here, is it?”

    And he asked her the question that was so obviously on his mind.

    Hearing that question, Cathie stopped once again. Her gaze returned to Colt, and for a moment, there was something else but that same coldness to it. What it was was hard to say, but still... perhaps there was other reason for her being here than just being angry at the boy?

    "You know... does that matter?" Cathie asked, tossing her hair in an annoyed manner. "I'm here and I'm helping you find where you're going, so that should be enough. Or are you seriously asking for even more?"

    She clicked her tongue and turned away.

    "You really are a bothersome guy..."

    With that curt response, Cathie continued to walk, brushing past the bushes and the trees and heading deeper and deeper into the forest. What she left in her wake was an unpleasant air that wasn't really good for questions. Indeed, she had the aura of someone who would bite Colt's head off if he pushed his luck too far right now.

    Tris, on the other hand, kept stealing glances towards the girl walking in front of them, and then back at Colt. Eventually she couldn't hold her curiosity in check, and leaned closer to the boy.

    "Umm... Colt?" The blonde whispered. "H-has thou done something to, um... offend this... Fair? Fair lady?" She blinked at him questioningly.

    “Guess I pushed my luck…”

    Answers don’t come cheap or often or even in the shape of answers in Road’s End. It was a long shot to even hope to get a straight response, so Colt wasn’t surprised to get put down without any room for a retort.

    “I dunno, Tris.” Colt answered plainly and honestly. He looked at the girl, showing her a puzzled expression. “When we saw her at Avery’s the other day, that was my first time ‘meeting’ her. But in the last week… that is, the one where I ended up dying, well…”

    He thought back to what had happened back then.

    “Ah, well, when I think about it she didn’t care for me right from the outset last time. Maybe this is normal, but…” He glanced over at where Cathie had headed off toward. “This seems different. It’s just not the same. Maybe I have done something.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time he’d inadvertently earned a lady’s ire.

    “But I guess I don’t have room to complain. She’s showing us the way.” With that Colt followed after Cathie, glancing back to Tris for a short moment. “Sorry that you’re getting dragged into this. You can tell me if it’s a bother.”

    "No, of course not! After all, t'was mine promise to protect thee if--- Ack!"

    In the middle of her reassuring proclamation, Tris suddenly grabbed her head and her face twisted in sudden pain. It was like migraine had suddenly hit her with the full brunt of its power. The blonde warrior staggered forward a few steps, before having to use a nearby tree for a support. Cathie, upon realizing that one of them was lagging behind, frowned as she turned around once more.

    "What is it now?" She asked, glaring at Tris. "Did you actually kick a hornet's nest or something?"

    To Colt, who was closer, it became clear that that certainly wasn't the case. Tris's face was smeared with bullets of sweat, and she was breathing heavily. At the same time she kept holding her head, as if trying to make sure it wouldn't just fall apart out of nowhere. Even so, the blonde girl managed to squeeze out a sheepish smile.

    "N-no, t'was nothing. I art just experiencing a bit of a... headache. I-I dost not knoweth why but..." She winced in pain. "This place... it hath the most peculiar aura..."

    “Peculiar aura…?” Colt looked around, frozen halfway into reaching to offer a hand to help Tris stand without the support of a tree. His voice got quiet. “Is… is there something here?”

    For a moment, the girl with the fiery hair just glared at Colt's companion with her arms folded... but eventually she clicked her tongue in annoyance and marched over to Tris. Before either of them could stop her, Cathie grabbed Tris by the face and put her hand onto the blonde girl's forehead. After keeping it there for a while, the frown on her face softened a little bit, and she let out a quiet sigh.

    "... She's just running a fever," Cathie spoke, throwing Colt a glare of his own. "You. If you're gonna go running around with someone like her instead... if you're gonna go running around with her, the least you can do is to make sure she's not sick before you go dragging her into the woods."

    With that, she let go of Tris and turned around on her heels again.

    "Well, we're close anyways. Give her a shoulder and let's go."

    And thus she began walking again.

    No words of protest came out of Colt’s mouth. He stared back at the redhead, regret painting his skin pale, stretching his eyes wide. But just as well, he locked in on the words Cathie said. The way she doubled back, rescinded and amended herself.

    Colt rushed to the blonde’s side, placing a hand on her shoulder. He looked again at the girl, this time from even closer.

    What happened? Had she been ill since morning? He thought back, trying to remember if anything was out of place.

    “Tris,” without allowing any chance for refusal Colt took hold of her, reaching an arm around her. “We can turn back. You’re not well enough for this, and we’re lord knows how far from town right now. If something happens…”

    His voice trailed off.

    "N-no, it's alright. I'm... I-I art not sick. I think. It's just that..."

    Tris, finally managing to stand properly (though she was still leaning her weight on Colt), wiped the sweat off her forehead and offered the boy a slightly embarrassed smile. Only... that smile was still tinted with the look of someone who was experiencing pain of some sort.

    "... M-my head's just hurting a bit. It's like there's something moving around... at the very least in mine memories," the girl continued. "M-mayhaps some long-forgotten battle techniques art just trying to crawleth their way back up, n-no?"

    Cathie, who had been walking ahead, snorted quietly.

    "Yeah... maybe."

    That was the only thing the girl said before pushing further into the woods, heading towards what looked to be some sort of clearing up ahead. A place where, for some reason, no trees were growing - or that's what was visible from where they were currently.

    Tris, on the other hand, patted Colt on the back and tried her best to smile encouragingly.

    "It art nothing, I tell you! L-Let us just venture forth!" She proclaimed. "I'll be fine! A-after all, I art thine guardian, Colt - I shan't be defeated by mere migraine!"

    ... For some reason, up ahead, Cathie angrily stomped onto a fallen branch, breaking it.

    “I don’t think that’s what’s happening.” Contrasting Cathie’s detached, nearly derisive response, Colt immediately disagreed with the blonde’s effort to play off what was afflicting her. “This doesn’t seem nearly that benevolent.”

    His worried eyes, town between what lay ahead and the girl leaning into him, faced forward as the knightess patted his back, encouraging him to go onward.

    As Tris’ proclaimed her duties as Colt’s ‘guardian’ he heard a stomp up ahead. The snapping of a branch, violently broken underneath Cathie’s feet. Colt gulped. There was no special insight to see that this whole situation was strange. And there was no amount of density that would blind him to the oddity in Cathie’s behavior.

    ‘Instead’

    The idea that someone other than one of his classmates… That they might also remember the last week. He hadn’t considered it. But why not? Gradient remembered. Why had he assumed that only his peers at Pinefall had the same potential as he did?

    And why was he beginning to suspect that Cathie, like himself, like his classmates, like Gradient, remembered the events of a certain week that never came to pass in this world.

    Colt shook his head. Even if it was the only way to rationalize her annoyance with him, it still felt equally irrational.

    Yet more important than those questions eating away at him was the girl leaning into him.

    “… Alright.” His heart sank as he gave in to her encouragement, her front of bravado. The feeling that he was doing something terrible grabbed at him like a black, frozen hook trying to drag his heart into a dark pit. “If it gets any worse, tell me. We’re leaving right then and there. I’ll carry you out myself, you hear me?”

    He said those words far more firmly than the state of his spirit should allow.

    "Mm. I will."

    With that, and a nod from Tris, the journey continued once more. Slowly but surely, the trio made their way through the thickets and further into the forest, heading straight towards the clearing that Colt had seen in the distance. The sounds of the nature around them were now completely gone, and the only thing making any sound was the rain around them and their own footfalls against the soft undergrowth. Even the small brook running near them had gone completely still.

    And then, after five minutes or more... they finally reached it.

    The clearing.

    The place where Cathie stopped, putting her hands on her hips and nodding for Colt and Tris to look ahead.

    "... This is it," the girl said. "The place where Remington Hartley died seven years ago."

    Whatever Colt had expected... it wasn't quite this, most likely. After all, on the first glance, the place didn't look all that special. Just a clearing amidst woods, where, in the center, stood a lonely stump of a tree half-overgrown with moss. Everywhere around it the earth rose a little, making the clearing almost like the bottom of a bowl. The cavalcade of pines and douglas firs formed something to a perimeter around the clearing, marking it like a bald spot in someone's head.

    But then... Colt noticed something.

    There, near the very center of the clearing... the grass was odd.

    Wrong.

    Black.

    Dead.

    And so were the other tiny plants. The larger plants, the bushes and the ferns, hadn't even began to grow here. There was nothing here... just dead remains of weeds that usually were the strongest of all possible greenery. Looking at this scenery, it was hard not to think that somebody had burned this clearing just recently to remove all the signs of living forest... but that wasn't it. Even Colt realized that wasn't it. After all, with an even further look...

    "Been like this ever since that day."

    ... It was almost as if someone had flooded the clearing in acid.

    “This is it…”

    Colt repeated Cathie’s words. It wouldn’t be correct to say he had any expectations. Finding the exact spot, the last place his only known blood relative stood and died at, wasn’t what he expected to do.

    Nor did he expect it to be something so familiar.

    Hadn’t he seen this place before? Hadn’t he seated himself at that stump, indulged and shared in wine and cherry pie with that one in his dreams. That…

    “Puer aeternus…”

    The thought escaped from his lips. That place in his dreams was supposedly formed from his subconscious, but wasn’t this the same place right in front of him? Not a piece of his mind, but a real, physical place? One that he had never seen before, not in his waking moments.

    Or at least, not that he remembered. He stared at the dead spot in the center of the clearing.

    "Been like this ever since that day."

    “Why?” Colt asked the question that was at the forefront of his mind the entire time. His eyes which were transfixed with the stump, and the dead spot around it, the scar of a travesty seven years ago, toward the girl that had guided him. “You said it doesn’t matter, but I want to know because it does matter. Why’d you lead me here? Why did you know what I’m here for?”

    He exhaled. The next question couldn’t be put any more delicately.

    “And why are you doing all this for me even though you seem pissed off at me?”

    Cathie stared at Colt for a long, silent while. Stared and studied, taking in the expression of confusion on his face. Then, slowly, the angry expression on her face began to evaporate, and with it, went the cold confidence that had been in place during this whole time. What was revealed from below was... quite frankly, just a normal teenage girl. Unsure, doubting, and not really sure she was doing the right thing here.

    But nevertheless, she pressed on.

    "I'm... I'm not pissed off at you. I know you can't help it. It's... not your fault. I should've known better, but still... I wanted to help, y'know?" Cathie said, making a vague gesture in the air. "You're not at fault for what you are, but... uh, sorry. You probably have no idea what I'm talking about right?"

    For just a moment, a giggle and a grin broke through her face, reminding Colt of the Cathie from the previous week - the snarky girl who had still been amused at his antics.

    "Well, that's the stuff that's not important," she said, before turning back towards the black spot on the ground. "This... this is. Yeah."

    She drew a deep breath, as if preparing to launch into a speech, and then - just as expected - began to talk.

    "I don't know why it looks like this, but I know it's because of what happened seven years ago. I mean... C'mon, Colt. I might have been a kid back then, but I still lived here, y'know? I remember, it was big news all over the town. The sheriff and the others arranged a rescue party and all. Of course they found nothing but Samuel Lowgate, but still. My mom was in that search party, and so I heard from her where this place was," she explained. "And as for why I know you were searching for this spot, well... I-I did think you were looking for something the other day. You seemed kinda bummed out too since you found nothing."

    A momentary flush appeared on Cathie's cheeks.

    "So when that Greek kid told me you needed to see this place, I wanted to help out..."

    The anxiety eating at Colt’s heart began to melt away as the anger emanating from Cathie dispersed.

    “I’m not at fault for what I am?”

    He pondered the statement. There were a lot of ways to take something like that. But in that moment, there was only one correct way to take it.

    “Ah…”

    Yes. He was off alone in the woods with a busty beauty. He was, undoubtedly, enjoying his time alone with a pretty girl. Even in these grave days, this murky repeat of last week, he’d found plenty of excuses to spend time with the fairer sex.

    Skirtchaser.

    He didn’t say that word, but he certainly thought it. Was that what this was all about…

    Colt looked out at the forest, then back to Cathie. It was a lot to take in.

    “But really… Xylia?” That was a bigger blow to his expectations than he was ready for. “I guess… I guess that makes sense. Maybe… yeah, I could see her doing that.”

    She said it herself.

    ‘I wanted to be friends with ya,’ ‘I didn’t know how to,’ ‘everything I do turns to shit.’

    “She could use some lessons in being direct.” The irony of that statement wasn’t lost on him, as Colt broke out into a grin. “Same could be said for me, so here goes…”

    He glanced at Tris, who had been unusually quiet. Perhaps it was out of consideration for what was going on, but Colt was more worried that it was due to her sudden malaise. The boy wanted to ask her if she was okay, interrogate her until she confessed that she was unwell and wanted to leave.

    But he’d let himself get distracted enough, tried chasing two rabbits and lost both more than once. He’d learned at least one lesson, however small.

    “Cathie,” Colt looked back to the girl he’d met the last time he’d lived through this same Friday. “You can go all out and call me crazy if I’m wrong, I don’t mind, I’m even a bit used to being called crazy. Mostly by myself. But this isn’t the first time we’ve spoken, is it? And yesterday wasn’t the first time we’d met.”

    Upon hearing that question, Cathie blinked owlishly, clearly taken by surprise by the words coming out of the boy's mouth. That sudden moment of shock was, however, soon replaced by an impish grin - a teasing look that the boy had seen on her face only a few times before. Clearly finding something funny, Cathie put her hands behind her back and rocked her body from side to side, letting out an exaggerated hum.

    "Hmm, I wonder~? You do have a bit of a mundane face, so even if I had seen you before, I dunno if I'd remember~!" She said with a giggle, stepping closer to Colt. "If it was someone more handsome than you then maybe, but gosh, I dunno! Gotta say, hayseed, even if that was true, there's just no proper way to tell~!"

    Then, descending into a fit of giggles, the girl slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly way, before breaking into the biggest grin so far. Clearly, something about that question, something about Colt's "crazy theory" had caused her mood to skyrocket.

    "Oh come on, I'm just yanking your chain!" The girl laughed, folding her arms and looking at Colt with a refreshed expression. "Though I gotta say, I'm surprised! I didn't this was possible. Or rather, maybe down the line, and once in a blue moon, but like this? She really knows her stuff, that---"

    Whatever she was about to say.

    Whatever she was about to explain.

    Whatever she was about to reveal.

    --- It was all suddenly swallowed by a piercing scream.

    "aaaAAAAAAaaaaAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHhhhhHHHH!!"

    It was an inhuman bellow. A shout as loud as a human being can possibly muster.

    And it all... came from Tris.

    The blonde girl, her eyes wide and bloodshot and her face smeared with sweat, collapsed to her knees and squeezed her head as if she was afraid that it was going to explode. Veins were throbbing in her head and she kept squirming, shivering, shaking like a woman gone mad. This wasn't merely pain... this was something far more.

    Something far more dangerous.

    The look in Tris's crazed eyes...

    ... Was utter terror.

    “Tris?”

    He spoke out her name in disbelief.

    "N-no... nnnn-nnooooo... don't... no... not again.... n---ghkkk!" Tris stammered, slamming her head against the forest floor over and over again. "D-don't, don't, don't, don't, don't.. nnn-no, I can't... I can't... not... don't... don't you daaaAAARRREEeee..."

    Colt dropped to his knees and tried to take hold of her. To prevent her from hurting herself, to calm her down, but he was swiftly reminded how far out of his league the knight’s strength was.

    With one last big swing, her forehead collided with an upturned root, drawing blood. And then...

    “Tris! Tris stop! There’s no-“

    "DON'T KILL HER, NEVADAAAAAAAAA!!!!"

    ... She screamed out something incomprehensible.

    He couldn’t understand.

    He knew that name. It was the name of the one that had gone missing in the woods, seven years ago. The one Remington Hartley, Remington Davin, Remington, his sister, had taken a devilish weapon to try and rescue. The name of someone that had never been found.

    But that didn’t matter. Not to Colt. “Tris, stop! We’ll leave! We can leave! I don’t know what’s wrong, but let’s leave! Something about this place is wrong, I know, I feel it too. It’s doing something to you, isn’t it?” He pleaded as he took hold of her. “Just… just stop hurting yourself, please.”

    "....!"

    With a swift move, another person was on the move as well. Cathie, seeing what was happening and how the knightess's ridiculous strength was making it impossible for Colt alone to control her knelt besides the blonde girl. She gave her one look, then another to Colt, and upon realizing that the boy was going just as wild and trying to defuse the situation by pleading with the suddenly maddened girl...

    Thwack!

    Slapped him hard across the face.

    "Get a hold of yourself, Colt!" Cathie roared. "She... I don't think she can hear you! Come on! One of us might not be able to do it, but if we both tackle her and drag her outta here, even she can't stop it! Take the upper half, I'll take her legs!"

    With that, Cathie dove for Tris's legs and somehow managed to wrangle them into the grip of her arms. Of course, she got an accidental kick to her jaw as a reward for that, but that didn't faze her too much. She simply spat to the ground and tightened her grip, before urging Colt to do his part with the head that was still trying to bang itself against the ground as if to stop the splitting headache that was assaulting Tris.

    “… Right. Right!”

    It was a logical plan. Logical enough that Colt agreed. But the part of his brain that had been exposed to the illogical feared that their combined strength wouldn’t be enough.

    Tristellia’s strength was not normal.

    But that would never be a good excuse not to try. Not being strong enough isn’t an excuse to give up. Not being brave enough isn’t an excuse to run away. Not being smart enough isn’t an excuse to give up on understanding.

    Colt tried to take hold of Tris, to stop the blonde from slamming her head into the ground anymore. She struggled and fought, tossing and ramming her head into the ground even as he put his everything into controlling her.

    “Tris!” Even as he struggled with her he pleaded. “We’re getting you out of-“

    Just as he tried to take hold of her, Tris’ head slammed him in the face. He felt a gruesome snap that reverberated in his ears and through his skull. The center of his face, above his mouth and beneath his eyes, went numb and cold. But his lips felt something warm and wet.

    He grimaced, grit his teeth. His eyes hardened and the soft, frightened expression of a boy trying to plead with something he didn’t understand disappeared. Rubbing the blood off his lips, Colt lunged back at the girl, trying to force her still. With nothing but the strength of his will he threw himself at her again.

    (-2 PP)

    "T-there's a doctor! Near the base of the hillside road where Owl's Nest is! We're close there, so...!" Cathie paused to avoid yet another kick. "If she doesn't calm down, let's drag her there! That woman's a freak, but she's good at what she does!"

    Then, focusing her eyes on Tris, Cathie muttered something else.

    "... But how the heck do you know Nevada, Ms. Girlfriend...?"

    Thus, with the efforts of two people with simply normal teenager strength, Tris was dragged out of the clearing - though she didn't make it easy. The involuntary flailing, kicking and punching, almost like a terrified animal trying to make a get-away, left bruises in the bodies of both Colt and Cathie, but by the time they got the place out of sight, at least out of Tris's sight, the episode seemed to quiet down...

    ... Well, relatively. Tris was clearly still not okay. Her eyes were wide, her breathing was ragged, and she kept mumbling incoherent words.

    Both about Nevada, and about a person this Nevada was about to kill.

    Like a person forced to watch their worst moment, over and over again. On a loop.

    Having gotten through the most violent of Tristellia’s horrific episode and with the clearing out of sight, Colt looked over himself and Cathie. They were both thoroughly bruised. Blood was still coming out of his nose, which he suspected might be broken. He had seen a kick land squarely into Cathie’s jaw and expected her gums might be bleeding as well.

    There was little positive to see out of the three. The only light at the end of the tunnel was that Tris had stopped fighting back like her life depended on it, and was now reduced to ragged breathing, nonsensical rambling and a pair of wide eyes that it hurt Colt to look at.

    After she’d driven off Hawthorne so many nights ago he’d unfairly assumed that she was an invincible being. A knight in shining armor who had a ditzy side. It pained him beyond words to see her nearly broken.

    So where words failed, he did the only thing he could.

    (-2 PP)

    Strength he didn’t realize he had filled Colt as he hoisted the girl up onto his back. He draped her arms over his shoulders and clasped his hands together beneath her bottom to hold her up. He leaned forward, so that her weight leaned into him, and stood up with the girl carried on his back.

    And as he went to take his first step with the girl on his back…

    "Remmie... don't do it...” Spoken without any hint of the knightess-like vocabulary, sounding instead like a frightened young girl. “Don't go..."

    Something cold crawled down his spine, goosebumps rising on his arms and his hairs standing on end. It was too late for those words. Remington had made her choice. She left seven years ago, and there would be no coming back for her.

    “I’m not going anywhere.”

    Colt couldn’t imagine what suffering Tris was reliving within her mind. What had come over her, what was haunting her behind those wide eyes of hers. He only knew the here and now.


  11. #3751
    吸血鬼 Vampire Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Dormitory
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    After a few hours of much needed sleep, I left my room while stretching and yawning, and walked down the empty corridors, while most other people on the campus were still likely sitting in classes. Skipping those to get some sleep certainly ended up being quite refreshing - and then that is not even mentioning the opportunity it opened up, something that I’ve been considering trying for a while now. Even if it was likely not the most appropriate thing...it was necessary. Probably. What was appropriate and what was not was quite subjective anyways.

    Contemplating my options for a while, my curiosity finally made me stop in front of one of the boys’ rooms. Kean, was he? He seemed quite normal, and quite awkward at that, but yet...there was also something mysterious about him, wasn’t there? Not that I could not say that about most others around here. I certainly have not interacted enough with anyone to really be able to judge, but perhaps that gave even more of an incentive to do this. It could help me speed through some of the usual trial and error, and getting a hint about what to expect from people could prove to be a good indicator of whether I can rely on them or need to be wary of them.

    Yeah, it made sense. And having come to that conclusion…

    My eyes turn towards the wall of Kean’s room, and after a few moments of focusing, the texture of the wall slowly changes, becoming more and more transparent...and with it, the room hidden behind it comes into sight as well.

    A room that was, perhaps a bit to my disappointment, mostly normal. The only thing that was somewhat out of ordinary was a state of his bed...something that clearly hinted at the fact that he must have had a pretty disturbed sleep last night. Other than that..

    What sort of gadgets were those even? They certainly didn’t look normal, but not exactly something one would see in some sort of a mage’s possession either…

    Well, it’s not like I could get a closer look, and even if I could, it was unlikely that I could tell their purpose.

    After scanning through the room one last time, my legs bring me forth once more, stopping hesitantly in front of another one of the boys’ rooms. Or so I thought...but what was revealed looked more like a girl’s. A girl who tried desperately to make their room look as sickeningly girly as possible. Almost reminded me of Ubon’s room...if it was not even worse. Certainly, just like that time, it made me question if I was just not girly enough...a thought even more disturbing for the fact that Gabi was in fact still a boy. Feeling something rising in my stomach, I avert my gaze - only abstentmindendly registering the presence of a large telescope sitting in front of the room’s single window. Hardly something that was enough to redeem this room.

    Instead, my attention turns towards another room. Another one that turned out to be mostly normal. Except for…

    “Huh…” I mumbled quietly.

    It was a bit difficult to see from how the room was organized, but it was clear that someone was sleeping in Inacio’s room. Someone who had green hair just like him, but looked...too feminine to be Inacio. Did he have a sister, perhaps? But for what reason exactly was he sheltering his sister here for, in secret?

    For a moment, I considered knocking - but giving it a second thought, I had to come to the conclusion that there wasn’t much of a reason to do so. What was I going to achieve with it? No, perhaps it was just better to ask Inacio about it later.

    With that, I moved on to the common room, and then up the stairs, and there, the next room in sight being…

    Weirdly enough, Alex’s room was occupied by someone who looked like Alex. Of course, Alex was still most likely at the hotel, which would have made this her double. But then, why was her double not in classes? Wasn’t the whole reason for this silly facade to have her be present for them? Or did she already give up even on trying to pretend that she gave a single fuck about the school? Makes me wonder why she was even here…

    With a quiet, exasperated sigh, my eyes turn towards the next room. One that did not reveal anything particularly interesting either...perhaps the biggest disappointment so far. There was something about Liana that just made me have certain expectations, but then...the most dangerous and unpredictable foe was one that did not have to bother with unnecessary and cumbersome equipment, but kept what little was necessary on person. One that took good care of any clues and hints that could give them away. Must have been the case, surely…

    My eyes lingered on the cat sleeping on the bed for a moment - with what was going to come this weekend, I could not help but feel somewhat bad for it. Then, my gaze moved on to the single photo in the room that somehow stood out...a photo that was familiar for some reason, even if I could not really put it anywhere. Maybe it was just the labcoat…

    Sakura’s room followed - one that was neatly organized, looking almost as if it was taken out of some home design magazine. Another one that felt like a desperate attempt, though...I could certainly respect her for keeping her room so clean. An old hag or not, she certainly earned a point for for her priorities. Even if all the daggers and the long sword hidden under the bed were somewhat worrisome…

    There wasn’t much to say about Aleen’s and Vier’s rooms. The next one that was even remotely interesting proved to be Xylia’s...a room starkly different from everything I’ve seen so far. Mercedes’ tip about her building something in her room made sense now, but I would not have imagined that she was so obvious about it. Even while standing in front of the door, the smell of petrol filled my nose, and the room itself had different kinds of bombs scattered all around, some unfinished ones still lying on the table. Along with a handgun, and a whole bunch of military equipment packed into a big backpack in the corner. I couldn’t help but frown at the sight, and hope that I would not have anything to do with a person like this anytime soon. Still, before I looked away, one last detail stood out...a single photo, of Remington, standing on the table in a frame.

    Didn’t Colt mention something about this?

    As my gaze lingers on the photo, I realize the slight pounding I was starting to feel along my temples. It’s been a good few minutes now, and I’m certainly not used to keeping this up for so long...Fortunately, Xylia’s room was already the last one.

    Or…

    As I was about to wrap my little investigation up, my eyes turn towards the opposite side of the corridor, the wall behind which lies Prushka’s room...not one I was particularly interested in, but the deed was already done, and I caught a peek of something out of place. Among the furniture and various stuff that was undoubtedly hers, on her bed, slept a person...and from what they looked like, I immediately remembered the last time Prushka described some ‘dangerous’ ‘catlike’ person she was trying to rescue.

    Instinctively, I raised my hand, and before even giving it a second thought, knocked on the door firmly.

    “I know you’re in there. What are you doing here?”




    "Uuuurgh..."

    For a moment, it almost looked like nothing but a groaning noise was the answer to Hisa's knock and call. However, while still staring at the room with the vision her eyes granted her, she was able to see how, slowly but surely, the mass of man that was sleeping on Prushka's bed stirred. It groggily lifted its head, almost like a cat that had been awoken in the midst of sleeping in a streak of sunlight. Two eyes - no, check that, just one ice-blue eye - fluttered open and the white-maned person lifted his head ever so slightly.

    Though just by one look at his face, he was clearly still half-asleep.

    "Goddammit, Imp... five more minutes..." A rough, deep voice resonated from within the room. "I swear to God I'll punt your ass to the next state..."

    Yeah, definitely half-asleep. Even his threats sounded more like vague suggestions than anything actually dangerous.

    Though, now that he was rising up... had Prushka actually let a half-naked man like him sleep in her bed, just like that? Those abs could rival those of Pyry...

    "I did you a solid last night and kept watch, so least you can do is gimme ten more mins... nah, make that half an hour... I'm tired as all hell after acting as your vehicle of choice, y'know... you're heavy for someone so small..."

    After grunting something extremely (that is, if the one who heard it had been Prushka) the young man slumped against the bed once more, clearly intent on starting to snore soon again.

    "Oh and gimme something to eat when you get back..."

    ... Yeah, while there were some similarities when it came to looks, his rude attitude was nothing like Pyry.




    Imp? Was he mistaking me for Prushka? He had to be drunk, not just half asleep, to not be able to tell the difference between her squeaky annoying voice and mine...

    A stray thought occured to me, that I could quite easily just pretend to be Prushka, I had all the tools to do so, but...what exactly would I get out of it? He was certainly making use of her, and it would have made me look quite idiotic if I suddenly started trying to get information out of him like that... No, it was certainly a bad idea. I just had to properly wake him up, and be on guard, in case he tried something funny...

    "I'm no imp, you cat eared bastard, so wake up," I snarled while keeping my eye on him through the door, "I don't know what you did with the midget, but you certainly got some explaining to do."




    "Gu-huh!?"

    Finally seeming to realize that everything was not as right as thing should have been, the half-naked boy practically leapt out of the bed and his one functioning eye shot right open, scanning the room. At first he must have thought Hisa had appeared in the room, perhaps thanks to her comments about his ears, but soon enough he realized that was not the case. Instead, his stare went over the door... and he paused to think. For a moment he just stared at the door, one leg out of the bed and with a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.

    Then, finally, looking somewhat awkward, he rose from where he had slumbered... and tried his best to tip-toe across the room towards the corner where his clothes had been left - set in a manner that someone as uncouth as him probably would have never done.

    Though speaking of uncouth... that hair of his looked outright criminally fluffy. Like someone had spent a good half of the morning combing through it and making it puff out like the fur of a Samoyed.

    "... Ugh... that is... y-you're just hallucinating. Ain't no one here. Just an empty room, belonging to a nosy midget," the young man suddenly spoke up absolute nonsense. "Hah, and you're talking to an empty room! That's just moronic! A-ain't nothing in this room to talk to, so you best be on your way and do some other stuff girls do. I dunno... powder their noses? Buy far too much shampoo?"

    While still continuing his absolutely ridiculous attempt at subversion, the boy took his clothes, cradled them in his arms along with what looked to be two swords, one short and one long, and then started to sneak towards the window.

    ... He was trying to make a get-away, wasn't he?




    Eyebrows raised and arms crossed in front of my chest, I kept staring at the door, not at all impressed.

    "God, you even brought weapons with you? And she let you in? Clearly, she is just as idiotic as I thought..."

    My words trailed off, as what I thought of Prushka was certainly not of importance right now. Realistically, the swords did not impose much of a threat either, not right now, not against me, but in some other cases, it certainly sounded even more troublesome...Though, more importantly, there was the fact that he was trying to take me for some moron and think that he could just make a run for it.

    "If you even think about jumping out that window, what you'll have to deal with will be a lot worse than just a small fall. The midget will also get her lesson about this, in that case."

    I shifted my position slightly, making sure that I was ready for whatever was going to happen next, whether that was trying to stop him from running away, or preventing him from getting a jump at me.

    "You're the guy she found at the cabin, aren't you? The one she wanted to heal, for whatever reason."




    "......."

    Looking rather annoyed, the white-haired man let out an annoyed grunt and muttered some choice words about Hisa under his breath that didn't sound polite in the least. With a bit of a defeated sigh he threw the clothes and swords back on the ground and folded his arms, leaning himself against the table and gathering his bearings. Now that his initial plan of just booking it had been ruined, he took a moment to assess the situation... and eventually just shot an annoyed glare towards the door.

    "... What are you, some fucking Superman with a Peeping Tom vision? Jesus, a man isn't even allowed his beauty nap..." the young man grumbled and clicked his tongue. "Whatever. Fine. I won't book it, for now, so just... leave the Imp outta this. She ain't got shit to do with me sleeping here, guess she just decided to tolerate my ass since I did her a favor last night."

    Strangely enough, despite his rude and defensive attitude, and clear disregard for any niceties, this guy... he did actually sound like he wanted to make sure Prushka didn't experience the fallout for whatever happened. Guess it was possible that even someone like him could feel a bit of gratitude towards a person who had helped him.

    "But yeah. I'm the guy she and Miss Boobs decided to patch up after I got my ass handed to me by a knight. Meaning you're probably someone she trusts since she's told you that much," the young man continued. "Well, whatever. Long story short, she ain't as stupid as you think. She kept my weapons until we found some common ground. And it's not like she let me in her."

    A hint of a grin appeared on the boy's face - an animalistic expression.

    "... The little idiot ran herself ragged last night. First on our little trip to the woods, then sniffing through that side building at the campus. Had to drag her ass to bed after she conked out," he explained. "And since I kept watch, she let me sleep here now, instead. Simple as that."

    An ice-blue glare was shot through the door. And for some reason... he sniffed the air. Almost like an animal.

    "Got a problem with that, Morning Breath?"




    "I'd imagine that out of the two of us I'm the one who actually knows what a toothbrush is,"I remarked snarkily, "So keep that name for yourself. And I'm certainly no Superman, but at the very least I am the one who provided the syringe that healed you."

    I wasn't sure if I was actually regretting my decision from back then.

    "The midget said that you were dangerous, and I can certainly see why. Your appearance is also starting to confirm another suspicion of mine..."

    Tall, muscular, almost cat-like...Too much like a cat, in fact, along with that giant mane, and the general similarity...

    But Pyry said that he had no brothers or other relatives to worry about. On the other hand, he did mention that he was not the only one to take part in the experiments...

    "You're from Finland, aren't you?"

    I was quite curious about this long story that he cut rather short as well, but that could wait a bit.

    "And if that happens to be the case, I would assume that it is not just a coincidence that there happens to be a student here coming from Finland, who is quite like you in some sense."




    "... No wonder his scent is all over the damn building."

    What the young man said was more of a murmuring growl than anything else, but the sudden flare of hostility - not aimed at Hisa, but at someone else - made it clear as day. That ice-blue eye was no longer looking at the door, but at nowhere in particular... staring at the empty space before the guy and he ground his teeth together silently. It was like the girl's words had flicked a switch of some sort, and now the mood had soured considerably on the other side of the door.

    Or at the very least, she had awakened something in the boy that made the atmosphere feel cold.

    "--- Yeah. Guess I am. What's it to you, anyhow?" He finally replied, looking at the door. "It's not like you've got any reason to... Oh?"

    He sniffed the air again.

    "Oh? Oh ho?"

    And again. Like a dog or rather, a big cat, catching a wind of some new scent.

    "Oh ho ho~?"

    Suddenly, a rather vulgar and a very foreboding grin spread to his face - the expression of someone who had found a weakness in their target and now absolutely refused to let go. The face of a bully that had heard something just far too juicy to pass us. In other words, one of the worst possible expression.

    "So it's like that, huh? Aah, no wonder you smell so bad - he's rubbed his scent all over you. Aah, I see I see... so the two of you are like that! Hah! Hahahahaa!" the young man laughed, sounding almost elated. "It's hanging over you like a big nasty cloud of 'this is mine, don't touch'! Aahahahaha~! Oh shit, this is too good - too good! Hah!"

    Well... somebody was having fun.

    That vulgar, leering expression wasn't going to go away any time soon, was it?

    "Well, guess I'll have to give some thanks then - for the syringe and for some fun. Christ, and here I thought it'd be trouble, but looks like you were just his little mating buddy! Ahahahahaa~!"




    "Mating buddy?"

    A feeling of cold rage reared its head in my heart, if just for a moment, as I clenched my hand into a fist, but it disappeared just as fast.

    "At least I'm not sleeping in some underage midget's bed with my hair braided thinking that I'm cool," I responded in a cold tone, "Though I guess it's fitting for some assassin who carries rusty pieces of junk like that around and needs to be rescued by a kid."

    "Not that I care about how you got your pathetic ass handed to you. You can run around and play horse for kiddies much as you like, but since you are here for Pyry, and clearly not with friendly intentions, I cannot just ignore you."

    I frowned, still staring at the door - even if it was starting to feel somewhat weird. Though, think about it, it was perhaps better that there was a door and a wall between us. For both of us. But especially for him.

    "So you better explain, because if you're after my friend's life, then..."

    I didn't finish the sentence. I wasn't even sure what I wanted to say. Threaten him? Let him know that I wouldn't just let him run around if he had such intentions? There were a few interpretations, but I could only hope that one way or another this could be resolved without unnecessary conflict.




    "Then................ what?"

    Suddenly.

    The atmosphere froze over.

    In that moment, it suddenly became abundantly clear. The young man behind the door, separated from Hisa only by a flimsy piece of wood... he was the same kind of beast - the same sort of monster - that Pyry was. That sudden killing intent that flared up like wildfire, concentrated into the ice-blue eye that was locked onto exactly where the girl was, it was... immense. It was the same sort of massive presence that Pyry could exhibit if he so desired, but this one... it had none of the same bittersweetness to it. This was not the aura of someone who would protect anyone.

    This was the aura of destruction, of a beast - a hunter and an animal of predation.

    A predator.

    "I said I was grateful for you about the syringe... but no make mistake, girl. My gratitude only extends so far. If I'm threatened, I answer in kind. This is a world of a single law - the strong eat the weak. So if you bare your fangs at me, I'll damn well do the same," he growled, coldness of a tundra in his voice. "The only thing you can use truly use to prove your morals, your ideals, your opinions is by your power - otherwise they're crushed under those of others. So if you want to challenge my intents, you better do it with your strength... and not cry when I respond the same. That's how the world works."

    The situation hung in precarious balance. For a man who had done nothing but continue grinning in amusement as Hisa had insulted him back, his attitude had underwent a complete change the moment Hisa had unsheathed her true hostility. It was like he was poised to reply danger with danger the moment he felt it in the air - the attitude of someone who must have lived in a world where such a pitiful attitude was necessary to survive.

    He truly was like a wild beast - but there was nothing noble about him, not like there was in Pyry.

    "--- I don't mind busting down that door and driving you through the building to make my point," the young man growled. "At this distance, we both know that the one with the itchier trigger finger wins, right? A game of chance like that ain't bad... ain't bad at all... exhilarating even. Especially with someone so full of anger...!"

    That one moment stretched longer and longer.

    It was like two gunslingers staring at each other in the heat of the sun.

    Rain beat the ground outside and wind howled.

    For one moment, it felt as if the world could explode in an instant around the two of them.

    But then...

    "... But I think I'll pass. I'd rather not fight on empty stomach. Besides, I'm still tired as shit. So, another time."

    With those words, the dangerous air around the young evaporated like it had never existed. Indeed, all that hostility and killing intent it was just... gone. Again, like someone had flicked a switch. With a lazy yawn, the white-haired boy stretched a little bit and headed back towards the bed, jumping on it so that he bounced on his back for a few moments before settling in better.

    It was honestly... absurd.

    How someone's intentions could change around so quickly like that, as if turning a valve.

    If anything, it raised even more questions about the mentality of this person than answered.

    "Besides, it's not like I exactly know what the shit I'm gonna do when I find him. Maybe I do when we'll eventually run into each other naturally. Maybe I don't. But I'll figure it out as I go along," he continued, staring up at the ceiling. "And if the time comes and I feel like killing him, you're welcome to try to stop me. I mean, as I said, that's your right as someone with power. If you're not happy with how things are going, then do something and change them. That's just how this world works - I'm not gonna carry a grudge on that."

    He chuckled a bit.

    "... I mean, the Imp already told me she was gonna stop me if it came down to that - and that's fine by me."

    Even through the door, Hisa could see those sharp, animalistic teeth form into a grin.

    "So yeah - feel free not to ignore me when the time comes. And before that, do keep good care of him," he continued. "From what I hear, that guy's a major idiot, so he'll need someone bitter like you to keep all that hero-crap in check. Show him a bit of reality of how the world works."

    He chuckled to himself as he got more comfortable on the bed.

    “Still, if you want to know why... well, hell if I know. I haven't got anything better to do. Maybe I just want some answers. I don't think it's a grudge - it's not like we ever met before. But..." The man snorted. "... It could be that I just wanted to meet that fabled big brother who up and escaped and left the rest of us behind. Meet him and see what that'd make me feel. Ain't that a reason enough? Wanting to find your lost family. And then maybe punch them in the face, you get me?"

    When put like that it was a reason that felt almost... familiar. Especially with the revelations of these looping weeks.




    A dry, cold laugh left my lips.

    “Don’t think for a moment that I’m afraid of you. I’m not your ordinary human girlie who runs away screaming when a big wild cat roughs up their hair and hisses at them. And while I might not have your ridiculous physical prowess, that should make you think why I’m still standing here. I can assure you, it’s not because I’m some moron, like how you seem to think.”

    My left, open eye was practically boring a hole through the door, and beyond it his forehead as well with an unblinking stare.

    Maybe, in a wholly different situation, I could have been bluffing. Lying just to uphold the image of confidence and resolve. I was far from fearless after all, even if I’ve seen a lot more than the ordinary person, nor was I the hero figure that some strived to be with an unbreakable resolve. Yet, this was certainly not one of those situations, and my words were fueled by actual feelings boiling within my heart.

    “The issue is that, and don’t take it as an offense, you’re far from being the meanest fish in this pond. Should be obvious to you as well, after this knight you mentioned...what’s up with that anyway? Also your eye, it was eaten by some raving madwoman, wasn’t it?”

    It was Prushka exactly who mentioned something along those lines. And now here’s this guy, with one of his eyes missing…

    “Point being is, having to worry about you backstabbing my friend one of these days is the last burden I need on my back right now. Your seemingly barbaric “family” quarrel just because “you’ve nothing better to do” is somewhat of a pitiful excuse when the world is about to go to hell. I mean, if the midget brought you along last night, then I’d imagine you already got a peek into the nastiness of this place.”

    “But if you refuse to see the bigger picture...then by any means, please do come out. I’d prefer to save my energy for the likes of your mysterious knight, but in that case...I won’t shy away from “using my power to prove my opinion”, as per your description.”




    "Mm... nah."

    It was completely shameless denial of the challenge thrown against his face, spoken with a tone of a person who had already lost interest... or rather, the instinctual attitude of an animal who saw no reason to fight now, since it had more pressing matters to attend. Which in this case seemed to be... more sleep. It was honestly rather indignant response after hostilities had been thrown about on both sides, and much-telling of the attitude of the person on the other side of the door.

    "As said, I'm not in the mood. Right now I think I'll just sleep some more, so keep your yakkety-yakking to a minimum. I mean, I've got no interest in your bigger pictures. See, to my ear, those sound like a bunch of excuses to not do what you want," the young man replied shamelessly. "I mean, I said I'd help that Imp, but that's because she's weak. Figured I'd have it in me to at least pretend I can tolerate that weakness - just like I told her."

    For some reason, that last part didn't sound exactly honest... but instead of lying to Hisa, it felt like the bestial man was lying to himself.

    "As for the knight, it is what it is. Some sorta conceptual creature or some shit, I dunno. You'd have to find an egghead who actually knows 'bout that sorta stuff. It's pretty much impervious to physical destruction though, as I found out. So if you wanna tango with that, be my guest," he continued. "And what comes to my eye... nah. That's something I was made with. Haven't let any madwomen touch that peeper. Though speaking of which..."

    He chuckled quietly to himself and lifted his hand up towards the ceiling. With his fingers, he formed a gun - almost like he was aiming at some sort of invisible target.

    "If you're worried I'll backstab your mate, don't. Not in my style. If it's me... if it's us..."

    He mimed cocking the gun and letting out a silent shot.

    "--- It'll be face-to-face. No scheming or sneaking about."




    "Aww, how cute and delusional," I said in a mocking tone, "Thinking that honourable duels to death are a thing.You need to grow up, because you're clearly the one who does not see how the reality of the world works."

    There was a whole lot that I wanted to say, but it was starting to feel absurd. Both because it was a conversation held from two sides of a wall, and because of how stubborn and idiotic this guy appeared to be. It felt to be nothing more than a waste of words and time that I could have spent in a much more productive manner elsewhere. Not to mention that...

    I leaned closer to the door, eyes wide from a certain emotion that rarely reared its head. As I spoke up, my voice was barely more than a whisper, just enough for him to hear.

    "If you try anything funny, I'll torment you in a way that would put the Blood Countess to shame."

    I wasn't going to waste my time on him, let him cause trouble, or hinder our attempt at trying to survive. I tolerated everything to a degree, but if nice words won't work, I certainly won't hesitate to cause him pain. In the end, I liked that, didn't I? I hated most people just as much as I yearned for the company of some others, and while I did not like resorting to such things, it still felt good to let it out sometimes...

    Without saying another word, I turned around and walked away quietly, away from the room that sheltered that wild animal.


  12. #3752
    men are men; the best sometimes forget Katie's Avatar
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    Lucille Faraday
    Location: End's Beach
    Phase: School Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain




    And so did the person who stood there, in the shadows of the cliff that rose high up. On top of the cliff, the white lighthouse continued to stand like some sort of giant of the myths, braving the sea and the terrors it brought... or, as Lucille knew now, watching over the town and capturing the souls of the deceased that weren't allowed a passage in the afterlife.

    However, the person waiting at the beach paid no mind to the lighthouse, or the cliff. Instead, she stood there, black umbrella in hand, and stared out into the sea with an unreadable expression on her face. There were no outward emotions shown, and even her eyes seemed to reflect only the turbulent ocean.

    --- Mercedes West simply silently waited, that was all.

    Whether or not she had realized Lucille had already arrived was unknown... but even if she had, it didn't look like the actress was going to make the first move.

    Instead she waited in silence.



    Does she apologize? Lucille doesn’t really know, but she also knows it would be awfully insincere. She believes in what she is doing. Likewise, Mercedes believes wholeheartedly in her side of the matter. So, which one is right?

    Lucille thinks that it is the role of the shepherd to guide the sheep. It is easier for everyone that way. More importantly, she is a terrible shepherd that can’t stop her sheep from being eaten by wolves. To have others stick by her when they cannot even protect themselves—that is hubris.

    They will be damned if they stay with her. Better for her to be alone, than to bring ruin to everyone else. She is confident she can live with her own misery, but she never wants to be responsible for misery upon others.

    “I’m here,” is all Lucille says when she gets there, because she doesn’t have much to say otherwise. In terms of who has to make a case, she isn’t really sure if she needs to make one at all. It’s up to Mercedes to convince her that she’s wrong, isn’t it?



    "So you are."

    Mercedes's answer is simple, and she doesn't turn to face her friend. Instead, she continues to gaze out to the sea, eyes locked onto the turbulent waves that are beaten by the rain, and the horizon where two grey, dark masses connect to each other in a way that hides just where the ocean ends and where the sky begins.

    "So... where should we, like, start? I mean, I can go ahead and bite your head off if you wanna, like, go that route or whatevah," the starlet began. "Though I figure that's not really productive. You're stubborn, Lucie. Like, so bull-headed that even I'm kinda shocked. Makes me wonder just what you went through. Still, when it comes to, like, how you acted today..."

    Finally, Mercedes's eyes meet Lucille's, as the actress turns to look at the blonde over her shoulder. At the same time, she slowly sets her free hand to her hips.

    "--- I take it's because of what you guys, like, talked about last night? I couldn't really hear it well, but that sounded like an awful lot of scheming," she accused the girl. "And if it's scheming around here, it's gotta be about that... supernatural crap or whatevah, right? Yeah, Hisa filled me in on that. At least a little."

    Her eyes narrowed, and Mercedes seemed to be studying Lucille's body language and expression with clear focus.

    "... So? What the hell happened to me in this 'other week'? It's cause of that that you're acting like a total wuss right now, right?"



    “Why does Hisa do these things…”

    Lucille does not even bother to dampen the complaint, a pure expression of exasperation and annoyance. If Mercedes knows, it possibly makes this conversation easier, but Lucille does not like this one bit. As she has said herself, she does not want to stand on the sidelines. But Lucille and her fellow students can’t even save themselves. How can they save anyone else?

    “I got to see you broken with your entrails splattered out in the pool building. And Aleen turned into a fine red mist.” She is frank, because Mercedes deserves that forthright explanation. There are some things she omits, but this is the heart of the matter. People dying in front of her. “It’s not as if I haven’t seen such terrible sights before. But watching helplessly as it happens…”

    “I can’t stand it. I don’t want to see it.”

    Lucille looks at the sea, the imagery of foamy blue waves doing nothing for her nerves. Thinking about it makes her sick.

    “I don’t want to see you get hurt. It’s better if you run, far, far away.”



    Mercedes, after hearing what Lucille had to say, let out an exasperated, long sigh.

    Then, spinning on her heels, she turned to fully face her friend and for a moment, Lucille saw an absolutely furious expression break through the haughty facade of the starlet. Not just furious... properly, rightfully angry. Like Lucille had just insulted her in a far worse way than she did back at the cafeteria. But, just as quickly, the actress got her face in check and settled into that mask of coldness she had started to wear.

    And then she locked her gaze with Lucille's.

    "Seriously... that's all?" Mercedes asked. "I mean, like... from what I heard, it was an absolute shitshow. Of course you're gonna see me reduced to paste or whatevah. It's not like I got any ooga-booga powers that you lot seem to have. So if I'm caught, like, unawares, I'm gonna end up dying in ten-outta-ten of the cases."

    A sarcastic smirk floated to her lips.

    "Ain't gonna matter how big my brain is if I don't know what's coming."

    With that, Mercedes put her hand in the pocket of her jeans and started rummaging around for something. At the same time she glanced at the rainy skies above, and the disturbing amount of water battering the wet sands of End's Beach. Indeed, they were creating quite the fitting environment for a talk like this... which, considering how just few days ago it had hosted the lively and cheerful Beach Party, was quite bittersweet.

    "You know, I think I get you a little, Lucy. You're, like, that type, right? 'This is my problem so everyone else stay outta it. I'm the only one responsible here, so don't get involved'. Right? But the thing is, Lucy... this isn't just your problem. The more I hear about it, the more I start to realize this is everyone's problem," Mercedes continued. "Want it or not, we're gonna get dragged into this. And if we don't know what to expect, we're as good as, like, dead. So if you push us away, you're just gonna get yourself - and us - killed."


    "... Honestly, that's way worse than just us dying, right? The fact that it's you being selfish that got us killed."

    Suddenly, an odd, humorless laugh echoed from within Mercedes.

    "I, like, know it's gonna end up like that really well. Wanna know why?"

    The laughter stopped.

    "Well... to be honest, if Hisa hadn't told me to watch out for supernatural freaks, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Mercedes started, her eyes now hidden by the shadows cast on her face. "After all..."

    Suddenly.

    Mercedes pulled her hand out of her pocket.

    And what was pointed as Lucille underneath the rainy skies...


    --- Was a handgun.

    "... Ever since this morning, I've been fighting this irresistible urge to, like, kill you, you know?"



    A chill runs through Lucille’s spine.

    Oh, she knew this would happen. She isn’t an idiot. But seeing it happen so brazenly—she has no idea what to say. How to defuse the situation. All she knows right now is that Mercedes is very, very right, and she is wrong. From the very start, she should have realized that it was impossible to free anyone from the machinations of Road’s End. By fate, by His Design, they were all trapped here.

    Should she try to subdue Mercedes? Is that the right answer?

    No, she thinks. She trusts Mercedes, and if she gets shot…

    It wouldn’t be the worst, she supposes.

    “I’d rather you not,” she finally says, as if this was not a serious matter. No, this matter is of the utmost seriousness, but she truthfully could not care about her life, even at this point. “I also think this is a rather unfortunate way to learn I was wrong, but I’m glad we could talk like this.”

    A deep breath.

    “I’m sorry. I just—the only thing I know for certain is myself. I feel a lot safer when things are solely in my hands. But, as we can see, that’s not how the world works. There are plenty of things I can’t do by myself.”

    Lucille wonders how composed she looks. She feels quite calm, despite everything teetering on a knife’s edge.

    “I trust you.”

    The words are confident, because the decision doesn’t matter. If Mercedes shoots or doesn’t shoot—they’re all the same, correct action. Because she deserves to be punished for her sins. Because she deserves to have a chance at redemption.

    Either way, this is no longer her decision. It’s up to Mercedes.



    "... Heh."

    Mercedes's face twisted into a slightly sarcastic grin... though that sarcasm was aimed at herself.

    "Like, I actually had to hold you at gunpoint to hear that... ain't nothing healthy about this friendship, Lucy," she joked, though Lucille could her her voice was strained, like she was having hard time speaking. "Not that I care but... people are gonna, like, talk... ahaha..."

    The fact that this was all said with a gun pointed at Lucille truly made the situation feel bizarre. Even now, the blonde girl could see how the hand of her friend was shaking, shivering, almost like she was trying to will it to aim somewhere else - or lower itself - but her body was simply refusing to listen to her orders. Like a fight between the mind and the body, where both vied for supremacy and where the other wanted to shoot Lucille... while the other wanted not to.

    Was it a curse? Some sort of mental suggestion? Mind control?

    Whatever it was, Mercedes was putting on one hell of a resistance, but slowly and surely, the need to 'shoot' was eating away at her willpower.

    "B-but... I get you, Lucy. Like, I'm like that too. I don't... like when I'm not in control of things. And I... I hate it when I have to rely on others," Mercedes continued. "I'm a selfish bitch like that too. B-but, you know... like... I started to realize something here. Maybe it's that o-other week you guys are talking about, seeping into my mind... or maybe it's because, like, at the end of the day, I'm... I'm just a lonely asshole who gets way too needy or clingy, but..."

    Her trigger-finger shook. It was squeezing. Despite Mercedes fighting back, it was squeezing.

    "I can't just..."

    The starlet shook her head.

    "... I can't just let the first and only friend I've made in my miserable life to take on something like this alone."

    Then, even though tears were streaming down her face, hidden by the rain.

    Mercedes gave Lucille a happy, genuine smile.

    "After all... she's a dummy who can't even keep herself safe. Someone's gotta look out for her. Because if she got hurt or died... that's when I'd be so sad I wouldn't know what to do."

    And with that.

    Mercedes's control of her own body slipped away from her.

    Her finger pulled the trigger.

    And a shot-----------


    ----------- Rang out at the beach.


    And the body of Mercedes West, having turned the gun on herself at the last second...

    ... Crumpled to the sand.



    Lucille screams.

    Her brain does not think—everything automatic, instinctual, her body moves without hesitation. In Mercedes’ pool of blood she scrambles for the gun, moves it off to the side, because there is no point in healing Mercedes if she has to shoot herself again. She can curse the person who caused this later. For now, she needs to deal with the immediate issue, and this time around, she can actually save Mercedes’ life.

    “Lord, bless thee with one of thy seven virtues, the right to give to uplift others, so that they may be saved from damnation…”

    Her hands glow with radiant light, a beacon amidst the gray sea and sky. She prays this will work. She prays that she can not make any more mistakes.

    Nobody is allowed to die for her mistakes. Not any more.

    wise up
    [Virtue: Charity]
    Thaumaturgy
    Rank: B
    Element: Holy

    The Virtue that inclines the human will to cherish God for his own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God. This thaumaturgy is one that forsakes oneself for the betterment and well-being of others and brings help to those in need even if it puts the user themselves at Risk. When used, the user must target someone other than themselves, as one cannot bless themselves in this matter. The target has then 25 HP healed upon them, along with repairing any Minor Injury, and one Moderate Injury, that the target might be suffering from. However, using this thaumaturgy is taxing to the caster and thus, after the fact, they suffer 1 level of Fatigue upon completing the healing.




    On the rain-beaten beach, a holy light glowed softly. It washed away the rain and warmed up the two girls soaked by the oncoming storm. In the halo created by the miracle that Lucille Faraday called forth - a rip in the space-time that was akin to a hole leading to some light-filled dimension - nothing of the rain's deafening sadness was allowed to pass. In this space, in this time, the virtue of charity was demonstrated in a physical form - an act of self-sacrifice for someone else's sake.

    In other words, that light was altruism in its purest form. A dear wish to save someone else.

    As the halo above Lucille expanded and as she felt the holy radiation ripple and sizzle in the air, evaporating the water falling down from the skies, the blonde girl also heard another voice.

    A laugh... a weak, but definite, laugh.

    A relieved laugh that came from below her, under her hands that she was using to direct the flow of the healing might.

    "... ha... haha... take that... you screwed-up thought..."

    Mercedes, even though her body was wracked by pain of a bullet having torn its way through her, managed to laugh in spite of it all.

    "That's why you... you don't, like... make such a thing adaptable to the situation..." the starlet weakly mocked the curse she had been afflicted with. "... if you change from 'shoot her' to just... screaming 'shoot, shoot, shoot'... I can take some creative... liberties... or whatevah..."

    Under Lucille's hands bone, muscle-tissue, flesh and veins were already correcting themselves, the damage being rewritten not by accelerating regeneration or by turning back time on a minor scale. It wasn't even something as out-there as removing cause from effect and thus erasing the result. No... this was simply taking the malleable light streaming through the expanding halo and using it to rewrite Mercedes's body, replacing the damaged with whole and new.

    And as it happened... something was removed from said body.

    Two things.

    First of all, the bullet.

    And second... something that looked like a miniscule plant, with roots that had burrowed themselves into the actress's flesh. Only... this thing was made of silver-colored metal, with green veins of pulsating - now dying - energy flickering amidst its mechanical form. It was like a blooming flower that was now withering away, smaller than Lucille's thumb.

    As it fell to the sand, Mercedes took one look at the gadget and slammed her fist down on it, crushing it against the sand.

    "--- There... there we go," Mercedes continued, her voice growing stronger. "That being said... ha... oh wow..."

    The starlet looked up at the blonde, and for a moment, her eyes widened. Then their gaze grew soft, and a smile spread to her lips.

    "... Holy shit might be inappropriate here, Lucy, but still... holy shit. I was half-a-mind about this supernatural stuff but, like..." She snickered a little bit. "Y-you're about to make me a believer here, girl. Maybe I should look into, like, signing up to your little club after this, yeah?"

    She chuckled at her own bad joke, only to wince slightly as the restorative miracle finished up its job.

    And with that, silence started falling to the rainy beach once more. The halo was receding, growing dimmer, and the rip in space was healing up.

    And amidst that silence, Mercedes finally spoke again, staring up at the rainy sky.

    "It was..."

    She hesitated, but only for a moment.

    "......................... It was Kean Loinnir, Lucy."



    “Well, you can always try attending church every Sunday. Start with the little things, you know?”

    Lucille’s tone is joking, but it’s all too evident she sounds exhausted. Her mind is completely fixated on that mechanical plant. If that was the result of Kean’s work, why? Why did he want to kill her?

    Well, she thinks she knows.

    “Did Kean tell you why he did this?” Lucille says, not bothering to hide the contempt in her voice. “Personally, he should have just shot me himself. People who act using proxies like this—they’re disgusting.”

    At least Subaru had the conviction to kill her with her own two hands.



    "Mm, no. In fact, he didn't even really, like, talk to me."

    Mercedes, resting now much more peacefully on the suddenly-dry sand, shook her head.

    "... It's just process of elimination, really. Today, before the cafeteria - when I first felt that thought - I only met with two people," she explained. "Like, I spent most of my morning in the reference library... working on a riddle left to me by my mom or whatevah. Hisa came visit there and I arrived with her to the cafeteria, but, like, it can't be her. Not cause I trust her or anything sappy like that..."

    She flashed a bit of a self-deriding grin.

    "... But cause she like told me that her powers are all 'bout the mind," the actress continued. "Meanwhile Kean came to the library and left pretty soon, but... not before fiddling with something between the shelves where I couldn't, like, see him. So, by that logic, it had to be him. Plus he's been missing from the school ever since."

    With that, the actress raised herself to a sitting position and rubbed the back of her head. Then, calming down her breathing, she started inspecting her own body. Indeed, there was nothing left of the bullet wound or how it had torn through the body of the girl. Only the red coloration of the sand and the remains of the bullet itself told that some sort of tragedy had occurred here at all.

    "--- Hah. Y'know... for some reason I, like, thought that you couldn't heal people," Mercedes said with a joking tone. "Weird, huh? Well, now that it matters... still, I was already calculating the fastest route to the hospital in-case I managed to survive. Guess... guess we won't be needing that anymore."

    As she said that, the rip in the world above Lucille finally closed up... and with it, came the rain. It fell upon the two girls harshly, and after letting out a high-pitched squeak, Mercedes hurried to pull her umbrella over the two of them.

    Then, in the somewhat awkward silence that followed... she flashed a momentary grin.

    "... You know, this ain't exactly the school experience I was expecting."



    “It really isn’t.”

    Lucille sighs, because that answer has told her nothing. Not that she can blame Mercedes, but it would have helped to have some confirmation over the matter. Still, she is going to believe in the best of everyone, and that includes Kean’s unfortunate decision making in this scenario. After all, there’s a culprit to blame for when things go wrong.

    “Anyway, that miracle is not something I can do all the time, so refrain from doing anything too rash today,” she lectures. Still her mind is racing with questions and explanations.

    “I don’t know how much Hisa told you… But if you know enough, I’ll be frank. There’s a ghost in that lighthouse that wants me dead, and it’s manipulating people to do the dirty work for it, like Subaru… and presumably Kean.” She explains, in a rather flippant tone considering her own life was at stake. Then again, it’s exactly because it’s her own life at stake that she isn’t very bothered. “Honestly, when you asked to meet me here, I thought you were possessed or something.”

    Oh, and the question for the ages.

    “And how do you have a gun?”



    "Well... a lady's gotta have a way to, like, protect her chastity, no?" Mercedes replied with an impish grin. "Hollywood is a dangerous place, y'know?"

    Only, in just a moment, that grin was replaced by a slightly sad smile.

    "... My mom gave it to me before I left for here. Said that I might need it," she said, before sighing. "Honestly, if there are going to be, like, vengeful ghosts and supernatural choir girls running around, I'm not sure one gun is going to, like, do much of a difference, mom. Still, guess I'm not too mad at her for giving me something to defend myself with now that things are like this..."

    Then, as if realizing what she had said, Mercedes blinked in confusion. She averted her gaze from Lucille and locked that stare to the gun that was laying on the rain-beaten sand, slowly glimmering in the miniscule light streaming through the clouds. A frown appeared on the starlet's face as she looked at the weapon.

    "--- No way, right? No way she predicted I'd get roped into something like this, and handed me a gun just because of that... right?"

    For some reason, Mercedes sounded unsure herself. Almost like she could have believed that her mother could have predicted a bizarre situation like this.

    That, in itself, raised a whole lot of questions about just what sort of person Mercedes's mother was.

    "Still... a ghost in the lighthouse out for, like your blood or whatevah? Jesus... that's kinda bad, Lucy," Mercedes commented, returning to the earlier topic. "Especially if it can, like, possess people or make them do whatever they want or such. Though... why Kean of all people? That's a super random guy to use as a puppet. Hmm... while it's not exactly what I'm, like, used to solving, more information about even a magical mystery might reveal something. Though, Lucy..."

    Mercedes cocked an eyebrow.

    "... Does this have something to do with this whole looping week thing?"



    Lucille isn’t sure if Mercedes’ mother is a genius or paranoid or both, but those are, quite frankly, rather unimportant thoughts. It’s better to deal with the problems at hand. The more pressing issue of avoiding everyone’s inevitable death, starting with her own.

    “Well, last time, the ghost convinced Subaru to do the dirty deed instead—but Subaru is on my side this time. I guess in that case, he convinced Kean in her place? It’s hard to say. You’ve read stuff like A Sound of Thunder, right? It’s like that. One small change can lead to something catastrophic in the future, but since half of us remember and are all trying to avoid what we experienced, everything’s unrecognizable.”

    Truthfully, making any sort of conjecture is quite difficult. With so many things being changed, how can they ever figure out cause and effect? Doing so in the normal world was difficult enough.

    “But as for the ghost himself, not really. He died a few years ago saving my life. It seems death has changed his perspective on that sacrifice.” Lucille really does not want to talk about this topic anymore, and so she responds succinctly, staring at the pouring rain that cleans the blood off her hands. And yet, when she thinks about that moment, her hands feel sticky and wet, making her sick.

    “It’s just that this town is a hotbed for all sorts of unfortunate circumstances.”



    "Like, a hotbed of misfortune..."

    Mercedes fell silent after hearing that, the gears in her head turning swiftly. The rain that was falling around the two girls, now kept at bay by the umbrella, was like the sound of thousands of marching feet - almost like the grey cells in actress's head walking towards a battle that was this mystery, this logic problem, this tragic situation that the people of this school had found themselves in.

    Eventually, the starlet broke out of her musings by starting to stand up - though she had to get a little bit of support from Lucille. While she was dusting her fancy clothes from sand, the actress turned to look at her friend.

    "Hisa said something similar, y'know? Yesterday, she, like, invited me to do some sleuthing at the Owl's Nest hotel. There, we found a hidden room under the library - where some sort of 'attack dog' of the Halloway family had lived. The notes there suggested that he might have been responsible for the deaths of the McLampets in the past... and Hisa mused that it might be connected with some sort of monster hiding in the school," Mercedes explained. "So not only a vengeful ghost who, for some reason, hates you after saving your life, but also a monster in the school... and who knows whatevah else, right?"

    The eyes of the starlet returned to gaze at the sea, and as she spoke, it sounded like she was trying to assemble these pieces in her mind.

    "... Lucy, you know how pin tumbler locks work, right? Each pin is of, like, varying length - a problem of its own. Unless they're all in the right position, the key won't turn and the door won't open," she asked. "So if this repeating week is, like, a door that won't open and let you through to Monday... I wonder."

    Those surprisingly intelligent eyes turned back to Lucille.

    "What if these, like, different things... your ghost, that monster, and whatever else... what if they're the pins?" she asked. "It's just, like, a hunch but... you said it, right? Last time it was Subaru. This time it was Kean. If not for, like, your healing, I might be dead now. So, as long as that ghost is around and not stopped... someone's gonna wind up dead or whatevah. And the way people work, if someone winds up dead, it's gonna spiral right down the drain super fast."

    A hardened look appeared on the starlet's face.

    "... I've seen enough faces and eyes around this school, Lucy. Most of the kids here... we're barely holding it together. One matchstick, and the powder keg blows up. If someone's, like, doing this... if someone's behind every week ending with things going to shit... all they gotta do is do a little nudge here, a little push there. At some point someone will break, and the rest of this house of cards will follow."

    A ghost of a smile, and not a happy one, appeared on her face.

    "If someone's, like, after such a tragic conclusion... Pinefall's First Class is the perfect Petri dish to do it."



    “Yes, I agree. Experiencing that firsthand was just…” Lucille shakes her head. Mercedes is right, of course, but she wasn’t sure if she was on board with the idea that the key to escaping the loot was resolving everything. How perfect did such a resolution have to be? As Mercedes said, it just took one mistake to send things spiraling out of control, so it’d be easy to assume one mistake could easily make things take a one-eighty.

    “But where do we start… We have only a few days left, and in case you were curious about what happened last night, we have no real idea on how to deal with the ghost problem. Not unless we do something absurd like tear down the lighthouse…” To be honest, that isn’t a real suggestion. No, a real suggestion would be wake Samuel, she supposes, and start from there?

    “Have you taken a look at the hospital yet? There’s someone important in this there—Samuel Lowgate—and I think Sakura and Elise were going to try and figure out a way to sneak in and ideally wake him up from his coma. I’d tag along, but…” Well, better to tell Mercedes enough that she can piece it together, or even assist.

    “They bring me for the messy jobs,” she says, smiling at her morbid joke.



    "Messy jobs, huh?"

    A faint grin appeared on Mercedes's face.

    "... Well, lucky for you, I got the brain to handle, like, the difficult things. Looks like we make a good combo after all," the starlet replied, patting Lucille on the shoulder. "Still, hospital? Hmm... can't say I was too interested in it, but now that I hear it... yeah. There's definitely stuff there worth, like, checking out. Especially if your ghost is related to a patient there."

    Then, uncharacteristically, Mercedes fell silent for a moment... she awkwardly shuffled on her feet, searching for the right words while keeping her gaze away from Lucille. It was clear enough to see that the actress was finding it hard to speak what she wanted, which was strange in itself...

    ... But the faint blush on her face told quite enough.

    "T-though, uh... like, if we go there together separate or together or like whatevah, or whatever we do now, just one thing, Lucy. I'll promise to make sure I'll survive so... you gotta promise to do the same," Mercedes quietly murmured. "I wasn't, like, kidding when I said I don't wanna see my first... my first friend ever hurt. Or worse yet, dead. I'm not that much of a bitch. So if I'm gonna do my best, I want you to do the same."

    Having said that, the starlet let out a little huff and threw her hair back, trying to gain back her usual facade of haughty arrogance.

    ... Though even that was darkened over quite quickly.

    "That being said... you're right. There's only few days. I think, like... the best way to start is that you tell me all you know. The more I know, the more I can help you," she said, before glancing towards her friend. "But, just one question before that. Like, if you guys are looping through the same week, do you think..."

    She paused for a moment.

    "... Do you think whatever culprit's behind this is doing the same?"



    “I’ll do my best, Mercy.”

    Lucille can’t say she won’t die—it is an inevitability in her profession—but she will do her best to not get herself killed over something pointless. Her life is for others, and that fact won’t ever change, but she will try to live with a bit more fervor than before. It’s the best she can do for her, for Sakura, for all those counting on her.

    "... Do you think whatever culprit's behind this is doing the same?"
    Lucille tilts her head in thought. It wasn’t really something she thought about, but that was something that made sense, didn’t it? It wasn’t as if this was a particularly common supernatural phenomenon. It was just… who would it be? And where were they hiding?

    “It’s definitely possible… But I can’t image the kind of being that could do this. It’s so… inexplicable? Like, even for the Turnside, this is absurd.”



    "Hm... hah. Funny."

    Though Mercedes let out a laugh, she didn't sound amused. If anything, she sounded confused... and slightly scared. Thus, when the two girls finally started away from the beach, back towards the road that would lead either back to Pinefall or to the town of Road's End, she stuck a little closer to Lucille - as if searching for some sort of comfort or safety.

    "See, that reminds me... like, something that my mom told me a long time ago," she said. "Or rather, something she taught me. Never would have, like, guessed it would become actually useful."

    Then, with dead-serious eyes, she turned back towards Lucille.

    "... She taught me tricks to use to know if someone's a time-traveller."

    The silence that reigned afterwards made even the rain sound distant.

    "--- Well. That's, like, something we can talk later. For now while we walk..." The starlet made a vague gesture towards her friend. "Why don'cha tell me all you know so far?"

  13. #3753
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Location: Pinefall High Dormitory
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain
    [BGM]

    ---- Despite it being, finally, weekend, the atmosphere at Pinefall High's dormitory was... tense.

    Something unpleasant hung in the air, and nobody exactly knew what.

    Except that, in a sense, they all were aware that it was getting closer and closer, and there was a feeling that it might not be avoidable even this time. When this was compounded with the fact that so many of the class were missing today, it had started to affect the morale of the rest of the First Class. Everyone, even those not in the know, seemed to realize that something was going on, and thus the lack of smiling faces even though it was the weekend - the first proper time for everyone to relax - was noticeable.

    And perhaps that was why, ironically enough, the arrival of the Coastrise Siblings had garnered such a little attention.

    At the end of the last class, Miss Sae Min had suddenly entered the classroom to inform people that something had come up. According to her, three students who were supposed to join them at Pinefall had finally arrived, albeit late, and would thus be integrated into the class over the weekend. To most, this did come as a surprise. Some curious and suspicious glances were thrown in the way of the three teenagers who arrived to the classroom, looking rather awkward. However, to others, this introduction was quite different from the last time when they had practically just showed up at the dorms unannounced. With teachers backing them up from the get-go, it was clear that this time the transition was a lot smoother though.

    Thus Zhou, Minato and Yeong-Hui, the three siblings, were officially made part of the First Class, and given their temporary rooms in the dormitory.

    There was also another thing announced during this time. Apparently, thanks to so many students skipping class this week, the detention for all of them would be arranged right after the school, and all those who had skipped class were told to report to the principal's office. Of course, the teachers couldn't simply "hunt down" these students, especially if they were still outside of the school. However, judging from the look that Miss Min gave to the class, those that were at the school had better do as told, or there would be even further trouble - perhaps over the course of the whole weekend.

    Still, the arrival of the three siblings did remind few of those present.

    Sunday was getting ever closer.

    And with it, the supposed end of this looping week.

    --- Time was running out.

    In more ways that one.

    John Dove & Elise-Marie Pelltier: Friendship Rank Raised!


    Known NPC Locations!
    Pinefall High - Campus Grounds
    • Travis Gagnon
    • Subaru Iburi


    Pinefall High - Dormitory
    • Inacio Ilusão
    • Aleen King
    • Caleb Montjoy
    • Ubon Sĕeklêun


    Dormitory - Rooms
    • Hwan Bin
    • Minato Coastrise
    • Yeong-Hui Coastrise
    • Zhou Coastrise
    • Pyry Leijonamieli
    • Souma Nubatama
    • Xylia Pheme
    • Sakura Tsukioka
    • Mercedes West


    Owl's Nest Library
    • Ramia Ramalsaqr
    • Alex Terrot


    End's Mercy Hospital
    • Cesarina Feroce


    ???
    • Gabi Bahkauv
    • Kean Loinnir







    Colt Davin & Liana Skye
    Location: Canseliet Clinic
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    "Alright. She's calmed down now, you can go see her."

    Those words from Doctor Canseliet seemed to let out a wave of relief inside the house. Colt Davin and Cathie Walker had been waiting for what felt like an eternity while the strange doctor worked. And stranger still, her assistant of choice (for today, at least) had been Liana Skye - who seemed to have some sort of near-familial connection to the woman... or at least seemed to think she had. She did keep calling the doctor "Auntie", after all... much to the chagrin of the older woman.

    About half an hour or so ago, Colt and Cathie had rushed through the rain to the door of the good doctor, banging the door in hurry. They had been carrying the still-struggling form of Tris, who had either calmed down considerably or simply exhausted herself. Still, it was clear that whatever was going on still had a grip on the girl, as she kept throwing a lethargic punch and a kick after another.

    The door, to Colt's shock, had been opened up by the black-haired girl who had become his new classmate in this iteration of the week. But while Liana had been staring at the soaked duo with confusion, another person had appeared behind her.

    "Oh~? PTSD? Now this seems delicious..."

    Even Colt had realized that this woman, this Dorothy Canseliet, was most likely not human. The way she spoke, the way her expressions always felt a little off, the way her body language was just a mimicry... it all smelled far too fishy. Not to mention that she just oozed and radiated the feeling of someone who was simply doing a half-assed job at passing for what they appeared. And then, of course, there was the matter of the doctor always keeping her hands hidden by her oversized labcoat-sleeves.

    Still... she was willing to help, and thanks to some wrangling from Liana, Tris had been strapped to the hospital bed in the makeshift clinic at the garage of the otherwise surprisngly normal house.

    Dr. Canseliet had administered some sort of shot to Tris, and followed up with what Colt could only describe as "strange words" that seemed to put the blonde girl in some sort of trance. While her flailing had stopped, Dorothy had proceeded to treat the wounds that Tris had caused herself, while almost absent-mindedly starting treatment on the cuts, bruises and bangs that Cathie and Colt had acquired in the process of dragging the blonde here.

    And now, once that was all over...

    --- They were finally allowed to approach Tris again.

    "She might be a bit out of it still, but talking should do her some good," Dr. Canseliet said with a strange grin. "Just don't go breaking her again. Oh, speaking of which, Liana dear... why don't you brew us some tea and get some hot towels? I think our little heroes would need them..."

    She pointed her sleeves towards Colt and Cathie as she turned around to look at the third girl.

    Meanwhile, Colt got his first glimpse of Tris once more, the first proper one after the events in the forest and... the difference was like night and day.

    Gone was the ever-present cheerful vigor and gusto, that slightly-confused-but-got-the-spirit attitude that the girl had. Instead, she looked frail, pale, almost pallid in a way... and the way she kept gripping that strange crystal she always carried with her was a little concerning.

    But most concerning thing of all was her eyes... those hollow, empty eyes that looked at nothing at all.

    Like the light had been snuffed out of them by the recent events.






    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    The incessant rain continued to drum against the metal roof of the outbuilding like marching feet as Hisa entered the old and dusty outbuilding.

    As the lights didn't work properly, she had to let her eyes get used to the dimness of the place, and while she did, the girl allowed her eyes to sweep and scan the interior of the building. In a way, it was rather simple. A single corridor stretching to the far end of the building, where she could see a staircase leading to the second floor. To the left side of the corridor she saw windows that stared out into the rain. To the right there were evenly paced doors leading to the many storage rooms of the outbuilding. Most likely on the second floor, the interior design was the same - only mirrored and without another staircase since there was no third floor.

    Still, at the very end of this first corridor... that's where it supposedly had went down.

    The place that Prushka had found.

    Somehow, thanks to thinking about what must have happened that night, the outbuilding suddenly seemed like a much darker place.

    Still, the scarred girl started down the corridor, heading towards her destination, when...

    [Hisa, can you hear me?]

    Suddenly, she felt a familiar telepathic voice reaching out to her.

    Pyry, of course.

    [Are you doing alright? Me and Ru just woke up, so I figured I'd do a situation check?]
    The boy asked. [Everything good over... err, wherever you are. Hopefully not in trouble?]

    She could practically hear the boy grin slightly after that last word.






    Anna Vandemeel & Vivienne Bianchi
    Location: Owl's Nest Hotel - Library
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    "Well. You took your sweet time."

    The words that greeted Vivienne as she entered the library were a bit cold, and Alex Terrot didn't raise her eyes from the book she was reading. In a way, the reporter wasn't wrong. While Vivienne had been helping her out at the beginning when it came to research, eventually she had headed back to school to run some errands and talk to people. However, the amount of people she had talked to simply grew and grew, until eventually she realized that she had managed to spend a good deal of time back at Pinefall. By the time she made her way back to the hotel, the school must have ended for the day already.

    Still, Alex seemed to have made some progress. She had some neatly-arranged notes next to her, and her pen was constantly scribbling down in that incomprehensible short-hand of hers.

    "... Still. Better late than never," Alex murmured. "We have a meeting to attend. The guy from before is coming here right now."

    Other than Alex and the apparent mystery guest that was headed this way, however, Vivienne noticed something else in the library. On the other side of it, hidden between the rows of shelves, she saw two other girls - familiar girls - who were engaged in some quiet conversation that didn't really carry all the way to where she and Alex were. Still, it was a bit of a surprising sight.

    That is, to see Anna Vandemeel and Ramia Ramalsaqr discuss something so intently.

    "Hmm... I think those are our best options," Ramia spoke to Anna, tapping the small diagram she had drawn on paper. "I'd usually sign with the idea that the best defense is a strong offense, but honestly... you know him better than I do, I think. Think he's capable of handling something like that? I mean, at the end of the day, he's just a high school boy... even if a bit weird one."

    A dry smirk rose to Ramia's face.

    "... Then again, he spends his days in the shadow of death, so maybe he's gotten desensitized."

  14. #3754
    吸血鬼 Vampire Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    [Quite alright. Just checking some stuff before preparing to head out.]

    Pyry’s voice and inquiry did not entirely come as a surprise. I was sure that he would check in once he was awake, and with the doll that became a much easier thing to do.

    As I formed the thoughts, my eyes turned back towards the door and the rainy field beyond it as I took a momentary pause from my investigation.

    [Good that you’re up though, since I might need a little bit of help while I’m doing this.]

    Hmh...Thinking about it, wasn’t I bothering Pyry just a bit too often with my requests?

    [You think you could look for Mercedes and Lucille for me? In their rooms, or somewhere in the dorms...hopefully they are there. And ask on my part if they could help out for the evening, and maybe talk a bit?]

    Just before I turned back towards the corridor, another thought occured to me.

    [And don’t talk too much to Ru about it. People have been saying that...there is some weird animal cult working for the McLampets. Honestly, I’m not too sure...but Ru is a weretiger in the end. And considering how where I was planning on going has to do with the McLampets, it’s better to be safe.]

    Now then…

    While waiting for Pyry to respond, my eyes scan the building slowly, and soon enough, the layout of it became more or less obvious. A pretty simple one, something that made things a lot simpler, so all that was left is to find the spot Prushka mentioned…

    With the faint bluish glint in my eye, my perception sharpens as I delve deeper into the building, hoping that whatever clues were left there were not cleaned up by the perpetrator yet.


  15. #3755
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    [Better safe than sorry, huh...?]

    Hisa could practically see with her mind's eye how the blonde boy secretively glanced at Ru in his room, myriad questions and thoughts running in his mind. However, he seemed to agree that Hisa had a point. If there was some sort of half-animal cult running about that was connected to McLampets', then Ru's existence became immediately questionable. After all, he fit that bill more than a little.

    But it was clear that Pyry didn't feel good about suspecting a person he thought as his friend.

    [Right. I'll keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and my lips sealed,] the boy continued his mental message. [Still... Mercedes, huh? Oh boy...]

    Judging by that mind-sigh, the boy had hard time when it came to interacting with the starlet.

    [... Yeah. That's alright. I'll see if I can't find the two of them and relay the message. That works well, since I wanted to ask you something too,] he said with a feeling of a wry smile. [I wanted to check something out on the campus, so I guess I'll hit two birds with one stone if I look for those two at the same time. If anything at all comes up, I'll be sure to let you know.]

    There was a pause, and then...

    [Remember to do the same. Anything at all, you hear me? Even if it's just getting spooked by your own shadow!]

    While the thought was tinged with teasing chuckle, it was clear that the boy meant what he said.

    Still, while Hisa had been having the mental conversation, her feet had taken her further into the building. At the same time her eyes scanned the whole room, and while she saw some tiny, tiny areas light up here and there, upon closer inspection they just turned out to be marks left by wild animals and insects. Though interestingly enough, there seemed to be a cat on the prowl around campus, considering how many fearful mice had been wandering around the outbuilding, as if hiding.

    However, while those thoughts were running trough her mind.

    Suddenly, there.

    She spotted it.

    An empty storage room filled with cardboard boxes that had been stacked up against the walls, creating an empty space in the middle.

    There, in that completely innocent-looking room... she saw them.

    Seven dried droplets of blood on the floor.

    Almost invisible right now, just mixing in the stains of this old building.

    But somehow, that mere sight...

    ... Made the room feel far more foreboding.

    --- Like a tiger's maw.

  16. #3756
    吸血鬼 Vampire Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    [If you’d rather not, I can just send my doll in a moment. I was going to make use of them in a bit anyways, and…]

    I tilted my head slightly as I peeked into the last room at the end of the corridor, and spotted the few droplets of blood on the floor. There was both something...simple and underwhelming, but also ominous about it. With the room otherwise quite normal...the blood felt even more out of place.

    [More people can cover more ground. I should honestly start getting them out more often, they spend way too much time locked up within.]

    I glanced around - but everything looked just as normal as before. Even as I tapped lightly on the wall once, nothing unexpected or alarming showed up.

    [Just a moment, at any rate.]

    With a flick of a finger, one of my dolls popped out of my bag, and within moments took the form of a small, very much alive girl - Sakura. Unlike last time though, just like we discussed, she wore some...less flashy clothes than last time, even though the high wooden heels still remained.

    With a happy, if somewhat puzzled expression she tilted her head as she looked at me. But without even having to explain, she already knew what to do.

    After giving her a nod, I stepped into the room, and after glancing around one last time, crouched down next to the stain on the floor. It was here. There was only forward. I reached out with my hand...


  17. #3757
    Lost in the Elizabeths Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    Fingertip touched the blood.

    Odic energy activated, circulating through the odic stem in Hisa Momoi's brain. At the same time, the fragmentary shards of odic energy were dispersed in the air, like particles that bounced light off of each other and creating a shimmering aura around the girl as she crouched down to the ground. The darkened room was illuminated ever-so-slightly, and at the same time, a certain sense of atmospheric shift - like the air itself being momentarily replaced - resonated quietly in the room.

    In that moment, in that instant, the world around Hisa Momoi was replaced

    Instead of the reality around her, she took the reality within her and expanded it. She replaced the laws of reality with her internal ones, ones of fluidity and precise control, and drove that though to the biological trace on the ground through the foremost medium she had.

    Her own body.

    Her own finger.



    Connection: Established.

    Foundation: Established.

    Circuitry: Established.

    Phenomena: Rewind.


    It was akin to diving through a freezing pool of ink-black water.

    Reconstrucing past events based on biological information and traces left behind by the event was like scattering a a thousand-piece puzzle in front of you where all pieces were of pure color white. The only way to even tell where each invidiual piece went was to first trace out the outer edge, use the edge-pieces to shape out the puzzle itself. Then, from there, one had to start building towards the center, little-by-little, like a spiral that formed underneath the fingers that worked and headed faster and faster towards the very center where the last piece would be laid. Then, and only then, would the pieces gain some semblance of picture.

    A reconstructed reality of events that had already transpired.

    Normally, something like this would have taken hours. An involved process that required the full concentration of the user would have required killing one's breathing and focusing their all to the reconstruction process.

    But this was not reconstruction - not in the truest sense.

    This was naught but simple detective work for the brain that commanded it all.

    For what Hisa Momoi used to calculate the place of every individual piece wasn't such a round-about method...

    --- She simply looked at the cuts, nicks and little scrapes of every piece and used those to determine their place.

    In other words.

    She combined the
    appearance
    physical shape
    of each piece with the
    history
    physical shape
    of each piece.

    Instead of working through a round-about chain of logic, she simply took a look at all the evidence left behind by the incident...

    ... And arranged them together perfectly all at once!




    Reconstruction: Complete.

    Initiating...


    PLAY BACK
    RETROCOGNITION







    "............................... Oh."

    There wasn't even time to sound surprised.

    By the time that Gabi Bahkauv realized something was wrong, it was too late.

    The boy could only, with quivering eyes, look at his chest.

    Something had bloomed there.

    Something red.

    Something beatiful.

    Something scary.

    It was... his own blood.

    The flower kept growing bigger and bigger.

    The stem that had pierced through his back dug deeper with absolute precision.

    Seven drops... that's all that fell to the floor.

    Not more, not less.

    But when they did, each individually...

    Drip.

    Drip.

    Drip.

    driP.

    dRIp.

    drip.

    DRIP.



    Weakly, Gabi Bahkauv reached for the blooming flower on his chest.

    He touched the wet spot, realizing that it was already too late for him.

    The way he had been pierced... it was precision bordering on masterful.

    No.

    It was masterful.

    Like some sick and twisted artist's rendition of a murder.

    This whole thing was.

    Why...?

    Why had he fallen for this?

    Why had he believed □□□?

    Why would Anna even want to meet him here?

    From the very start, it had just been...

    ... a joke played on him.

    The last joke.

    Still...

    "----!"

    Before he would die, he wanted to... no, he had to...

    See the face of the one who had...

    Make sure that the person who had...

    Really... was the... one... who had...

    His head.

    It didn't turn right.

    At this point his body and his mind were all but dead.

    But still, even without anything to guide him, his head turned..

    Towards the shadow behind him.

    Towards that sneering entity.

    He turned around to the silhouette in the doorway, framed by moonlight.

    To see the true face of the who had..."

    [Shhhhh.]

    But his head stopped.

    That graceful, lithe, beautiful gloved hand stopped him.

    [Let's not ruin the surprise.]

    Thus spoke the voice he couldn't hear.

    The index finger pressed against his cheek.

    [You have...]

    It caressed him.

    With affection.

    [... A big day ahead of you.]

    He didn't see it.

    Gabi didn't see it.

    But he knew it.

    The shadow behind him... it wore a smile.

    And thus, even in his fading mind, he cried out...

    ... Everybody...

    [_R_U_N_]





    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    And thus did Hisa Momoi find herself back in the empty storage room.

    With nothing but silence around her.

    Even the rain...

    ... Felt distant.

  18. #3758
    地獄待ち Spinach's Avatar
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    Colt Davin
    Location: Canseliet Clinic
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    The pain from his bruises faded, but one look at Tris made everything ache like a fresh wound. The strange doctor, Dr. Canseliet, told him that talking to the girl would do her good, but what should he say?

    "Just don't go breaking her again."

    That's right. It was his fault in the first place. He had taken her there, ignored that terrible feeling in his heart and asked her to carry on with him. It was blindingly obvious that she was in pain, that he should have turned back. Colt could have stopped at any point, turned back and refused to give in to Tris' tough front.

    But instead he chose to fall for her bravado. It was so easy to justify it, after all.

    "Tris is so strong, she's invincible." He'd thought. The loathesome fool.

    What about those lifeless eyes was invincible? Where in those fingers clutching that crystal did he see strength?

    "If anything happens we can just run away." He thought that too. Incorrigible idiot.

    That already accepts that things will go wrong, that the irreversible might happen. He'd pushed her with his gruesome heart already willing to accept the consequences.

    This was all his fault. Colt's dishonesty had pulled together this nightmare. But as much as it hut him, it wasn't about him at all.

    Because the one hurt the most was the girl in front of him.

    "Tris."

    Colt stood at the side of the bed. He locked his eyes onto the girl, not allowing himself to look away from what his actions had wrought.

    Though he found the strength to face the brutal reality before him, to meet it head on and not look away, the boy couldn't find the words he wanted to say.

    Her name hung in the air as he searched inside himself.

    "I'm sorry." Those were the only words he could find, but they weren't close to enough. "I dragged you out there, into all this. This is all my fault."

    The blame was his, so he took it.

    "I don't want to ever see you hurt like this because of me again, so..." His hands balled into fists, hanging straight at his side. "I don't want you to think of yourself as my guardian anymore. You don't owe me a thing. You never did. I'm the one who owes you. And I owe you a lot more than an apology, but right now that's all I can give you."


  19. #3759
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Prushka
    Location: Pinefall High - Dorms
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain


    It was a long stay at the nurse's office. By the time I'm well enough to leave, classes have already ended.

    I walk the halls of the school, mind abuzz with thoughts about what had happened during lunch. Thoughts of DDS. Of Snow. Thoughts about Alpa, Lucille, Inacio, Colt, Elizaveta, Elise, Samuel, Fyrtio. Many thoughts, all crowding around my head for attention. Too many thoughts, too little time.

    But it's fine. Those thoughts won't be dragging me down anymore. I feel better now, without that weight on my soul.

    I trudge up the stairs and past the doors, a sense of purpose guiding my steps. Yes, take things one step at a time.

    Finally, my door. Hisa was here earlier, she'd said. Knowing Ahti, they must have argued a bunch. Can't imagine those two getting along.

    "Geeze... don't make me apologize for you."

    Grumbling, I raise my hand and knock.

    "Hey, it's me," I whisper, knowing his enhanced hearing could pick it up. "Is it okay to come in? Are you, uh, decent?"

    He'd better not be sleeping in the buff. Not in my bed. I'd have to change the sheets.

    I glance around the hall. Don't want anyone else spying in.

    Damnit, Hisa, now you've got me paranoid about X-ray vision. What if a guy has it? Or a girl like Xandra!? I won't be able to shower in peace anymore!
    Last edited by Bloble; March 14th, 2021 at 04:53 PM.

  20. #3760
    吸血鬼 Vampire Cheetose's Avatar
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    Hisa Momoi
    Location: Pinefall High - Outbuilding
    Phase: Evening Phase
    Date: 09.09.1994 (FRI)
    Weather: Rain

    For a few moments even after the flashback ended, I just crouched there, staring at the blood with a blank expression. It was true. He died. He certainly died. The words of those he considered his friends gave him a false sense of security, even though it was just that monster twisting and fabricating those lies. Guildenstern...he is here.

    Realizing the slowly growing pain in my knees from crouching for too long, I stand back up, and slowly turn my gaze away from the bloodstain.

    I wished that it was something else. But this was the worst. Because a murderer like that was nigh impossible to catch, and who knew whose skin he was wearing now, and who he was luring into a dark, empty room like this right now?

    “Let’s go.”

    The barely audible words that left my lips were filled with anger and frustration. I could feel it, the exact feelings boiling in my heart. It was frustrating enough that just as I was about to leave the room…

    ---thud

    “Oww...Damnit.”

    One of the boxes filled with old books fell to the ground from the shelf, its contents now scattered on the floor, few of them lying there half open, in sadness. I punched hard enough that I managed to scrape the skin off of my knuckle, and tiny droplets of blood were slowly surfacing along the damaged skin. Turning my back to the room once more, I started walking away from it, and away from the outbuilding, as I licked the blood off my hand.

    “You know what to do.”

    As we reached the entrance to the dorms, I handed a small plastic bag with a photo over to Sakura, and then we went our separate ways.


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