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Thread: [Quest] Seventh Heaven

  1. #21
    Designated Reptile Draconic's Avatar
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    Sad but true.
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    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

  2. #22
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

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    Evil of Humanity Half-Blood Master's Avatar
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    1, 1, 2Welcome to the fold
    +1
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, July 20th 2019
    We gave HBM, of all people, access to a morals loosening field
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, December 25th 2019
    Senta deserves the right to a life where she gets to choose if she's actually a Nazi
    True Rider
    A wise and beautiful woman who exudes an aura of grace. She is a sly, cunning, manipulative person who always gets what she wants, whether through trickery or ruthlessness. Her own fighting abilities are low, but she should not be trifled with. What does she ride? Men, of course!

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    祖 Ancestor Dragolord09's Avatar
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    Last edited by Dragolord09; July 4th, 2019 at 10:22 PM.

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    Designated Reptile Draconic's Avatar
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    Didn't realize we had so many smokers in the audience...
    Likes attention, shiny objects, and... a ball of yarn?
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    I joined two years too late...
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Bird of Hermes View Post
    1, 1, 2

    Welcome to the fold
    +1. I want to know which brand is Menodora's favorite.

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    The Great and Powerful Wizard's Avatar
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    And that's voting closed. Update coming soon.

  8. #28
    The Great and Powerful Wizard's Avatar
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    Exposition (Part 2)

    Menodora Strauss
    Location: Unknown
    Date: Unknown

    Time: Unknown
    Health: Satisfactory
    Hunger: Hungry
    Sleep: Well-Rested
    Mental Health: Stable (Annoyed)

    ?
    “Of course. I will gladly be your Hero of the Beyond. It would be an honor.” With my second-best smile and a semester of theater’s worth of acting, I somehow managed to convince these bozos that I was going along with their plan.

    Seriously, were these guys stupid? Anyone with ears could hear how much I was lying, yet these morons were looking at me like I had just made their entire lives. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room besides me. Even Tall and Bald was wiping his eyes, smiling a little. Sniffling, he bowed to me, the cronies following his lead.

    “I thank you, Great Hero, on behalf of the nation of Wa, for what your words. It is impossible for me to truly describe the gratitude I feel. You have lifted a burden from the shoulders of thousands and so selflessly placed it upon yourself after our own selfish act. Truly, you are a paragon of kindness and heroics. For all the time you remains here, I, Lord Shimura of Muimi, and those who reside within the temple shall be your humble servants. If there is any need you require be fulfilled, no matter how insignificant, we shall do our utmost to satisfy it.”

    Wow. Overdramatic much?

    Still, this was probably better than them tying me up and carrying me to some ancient temple to use my blood as a catalyst for a demonic ritual. Now that I think about it, what are the odds that these guys are magus? Well, not all of them. None of the lackeys had that kind of aura, but Baldy definitely gave off a certain vibe that reminded me of some of Dad’s friends, and this room was giving me a similar kind of buzz. The rest might just be thralls under his command.

    However, vibes are hardly evidence of anything, so I’ll hold off on this little witch trial until I something solid. Doesn’t matter in the end. None of these guys would stand a chance against Elle on a warpath. Now, what to do with a cult at my beck and call? Well, ordering them to let me go probably won’t work. They seem crazy and a bit stupid, but no one on Earth is that dumb. Maybe-

    RrrrrrrrrrHm? What the hell was that? Was there a tiger in here?

    “Ah, yes, of course.” Baldy smiled. It was almost smug but lacked the arrogance for full-blown smuggery. Still annoying. He turned to his gaggle of goons. “Is the dining hall prepared for Milady?”

    Oh. It was my stomach.

    That was embarrassing.

    But then again, when was the last time I ate? How long have I been asleep in this bed? Hours? Days? Weeks? Still don’t remember what happened after that damn truck hit me.

    One of the goons, a young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, stepped forward, nodding. “Yes, Lord Shimura. Lord Touka already feasts there.”“Excellent! It will be the perfect time for Lord Touka and Lady…..”

    Baldy trailed off before turning to me. His expression was mostly stoic, but there was a hint of embarrassment in his eyes.“Excuse me, my Lady, but it would seem that in my haste to assure your assistance in our salvation, I have forgotten my manners. I have introduced myself and spoken without even asking you for your name. I apologize.”

    Oh yeah, he never did ask. What kind of cult makes someone their ‘hero’ and doesn’t even ask their name? Shoddy work around here. It was almost embarrassing to be held hostage by them.

    “You can just call me Menodora.” Nobody else called me ‘Menodora’ so these cultists might as well do it.

    “Menodora. Truly, the name of a hero.” Laying it on a bit thick, pal. “Samui, please escort Lady Menodora to the dining hall to meet with her partner. I will need to inform the rest of the council of her awakening.” He turned and bowed to me one more time before heading for the door, his entourage behind him.

    I’m going to assume the blonde lady, the same one who spoke earlier, was Samui since she was the only one left in the room. And she was just standing there. Looking at me. I slowly slid from under the covers and off the bed, watching her. Only her eyes moved to follow me, the rest of her body dead still. Alright then.

    Getting completely off the bed, I was glad to see that I saw still wearing my original clothes. I would have been more glad if said clothes weren’t the ridiculous school uniform Elle made me wear.‘You’ll look super cute! It’ll make your big sister super happy if you do this for her!’

    I hate her sometimes.

    I did a quick look over my body to make sure nobody did anything while I was sleeping. Everything looked normal, except for one thing.

    Where did this mark on my left hand come from? Did they draw this on me? It looked like some kind of blood sigil but all I felt when I touched it was my own skin. Damn it, this had better not be a tattoo. Can Elle remove this? Probably, after gushing about how cool it is and how she wants one too so we can be ‘twinsies’. Eugh. I almost don’t want to be rescued.

    Anyway, focusing on the cult and the situation at hand, Blondie here was supposed to lead me to a dining hall to chow down and meet some guy named Touka. I’m not sure how much I trust these people not to have drugged the food and drink they serve. They might think I’m playing along but I wouldn’t put it past them, especially if they are led by a magus. They liked underhanded shit like that. I could end up poisoned or enslaved or worse.

    On the other hand, I was hungry and I didn’t have anything else to do right now. Maybe those drugs will help with the headache I feel coming on. Wonder if they have any cigs around here?

    “Lady Menodora?”

    Oh right, she’s still here. Well, in for a penny.

    “Yeah, sorry, I was just thinking. Let’s go to the dining hall. I, uh, require nourishment.”

    She bowed.

    “As you command, My Lady.”
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7

    The cult business was booming. It had to be for these weirdos to afford a compound as big as this. Blondie had been leading me around hallways for a good ten minutes and there were more rooms than I could count. Though, they must’ve spent all the money on the building itself and that one room because there were no decorations anywhere. The occasional potted plant or empty shelf, but otherwise, the place was as spartan as it could get, even a little rundown with weathered paint and a moist something growing at the edge of the floorboards.

    What the place was lacking in style and decoration, it made up for in weird encounters. Every turns or so, we would run into some rando walking through the hall. They would look at Blondie first then me then back to Blondie. She’d give them a little nod and the theatrics started. Crying, bowing, kneeling, praying, shaking; the whole shebang. Stuff like this makes me glad I never went to church. The whole time while I was being praised/assaulted, Blondie had this smug look on her face like she was proud to be leading me around.

    Weirdly enough, Blondie didn’t saying anything to me and only looked back occasionally to make sure I was still behind her. I didn’t mind too much. Anybody else probably would’ve been bugging her with questions like ‘where am I’ or ‘who are you people.’ Fortunately, I didn’t have that kind of problem. Curiosity killed the cat, so I’d be nice and docile until Elle got here.The path of least resistance tended to be the easiest.

    After another five minutes of walking, Blondie finally stopped and turned to a door, opening it. No idea how she knew this was the door we wanted since it looked the same as every other damn door in this place, but I guess that’s why she was the one leading.The room, unlike the rest of the building, was nice. The walls were a deep mahogany red with columns lining the walls reaching up to the vaulted ceiling, exposing all the rafters and struts. Forest green trimming and lanterns on the columns gave it a strange earthy sort of vibe.

    Earthy sort of vibe? When did I become an interior decorator?

    Most of the room was taken up by a dining table the same color as the walls. Every inch of it was covered in food. Bowls of salads, fruits, bread rolls, and garlic knots; fully roasted chickens and pigs; piles of noodles; mountains of rice; pieces and cakes on tiny trays near the corners; several pieces of meat wrapped around a single bone. There’s more, but the point is that there’s a fuckton of food on this table, and at the far end of it was a boy shoveling handfuls of it into his mouth like no tomorrow.

    “Lady Minnow, may I present to you, Lord Touka of Kaku Academy. He is your partner, a fellow Hero of the Beyond.”

    “Mm! Ym! Nish ta meesh chu!” He spoke but then remembered that talking with your mouth full was fucking disgusting and swallowed it all. Wiping his mouth, he smiled brightly as if nothing had happened. To be honest, without his cheeks puffed full of food, he was actually kind of cute.
    Touka


    Can’t say I was expecting some pretty boy Japanese student to be the other person they were talking about, but it did make a sort of sense. They probably thought I was a student too with the uniform and clearly race isn’t an issue around here. He looked nice. Had those bright eyes you normally only see on kids; the kind that are optimistic and curious about everything, and not the kind you usually see on a high schooler.

    “Nice to meet you, Onee-san, I’ve been dying to meet you! I was really worried when I showed up and everyone told me that you had passed out! I was worried that I would have to go and save everyone by myself and that doesn’t really sound like my style; plus I was really concerned you might die or something. Like super concerned. I wasn’t sure I could eat for a while I was so worried but then I got really hungry and ate anyway, so I guess I wasn’t that worried but I didn’t need to be because you’re up now and I can talk to you and that’s great and now we can go on an adventure together!”

    I didn’t understand a damn word of that.

    Through all that word vomit, the kid, Touka, had gotten up and walked all the way down to the table, waving his hands animatedly and smiling the whole time, stopping right in front of me. He was a lot taller up close. That’s one strike against him.

    “Um, hi. Nice to meet you.” I kept my tone even while I shook his hand calmly. He shook it like a goddamn maraca. He had a strong grip and surprisingly rough hands. Pretty boy did hard work. Who would’ve guessed?

    Blondie coughed. “I will be taking my leave now. I will not be far, simply waiting outside the door. Should you require further services or more food, simply call for me and I shall be at service.” With that, she bowed and left the room. Just like that.

    “A bit stiff, huh?” The kid was aback at his seat munching on a piece of cake. I pull out a chair on my side, the opposite of his, and sit down, looking over the buffet of food in front of me. A bit of hesitation ran through me. I said I didn’t care before, but actually having the food in front of me gave me second thoughts. There was still a good chance this food was drugged or filled with some kind of toxin to make me believe in their BS. But the kid was pigging out when I walked in and he seemed okay if a little bit hyper, and my stomach was growling again.“It’s not poisoned if that’s what you’re thinking.”

    “Huh?” Did I say that out loud?

    “The food," he repeated,"it isn’t poisoned or drugged or anything. A bit under flavored, but I wouldn’t call it toxic. Oh! You should definitely try some of pork dumplings.” He smacked his lips. “They could use a little salt, but they’re juicy as can be!"

    I must've been giving the kid a weird look because he started laughing.

    “Sorry! I caught you a little off guard there, didn’t I? I was just really excited about getting to meet you. You’ve been asleep for the past three days and the elders were worried you might’ve been in a coma. I’m glad to see you up and about.”

    Three days?!! How the hell was I out that long and no one had found me yet? That was.....concerning. It did explain why my stomach was growling so hard. No wonder my stomach was growling. I picked up one of those dumplings and took a bite. The kid had a point about flavor, this stuff as as bland as grey paint, but not bad enough to make me stop eating. The first dumpling was only half done by the time I picked up the second.

    As I finished off the first, I noticed the kid watching me. He’d stopped eating and was just leaning on the table, watching me eat with what could best be described as a 'serial killer smile' on his face. He caught my look and only smiled wider. So yeah, that was creepy as fuck, but I didn't stop eating. Not a very smart idea but I was hungry damn it. I tore through a few more dumpling and a bowl of plain white rice before I finally met the kid head on with my patented Menodora Glare. He flinched.

    “Oop! Sorry, again. I don’t mean to be a nuisance. I just want to make sure you eat. We’re going to need a lot of strength if we’re really going to help these folks out. Heroes move on their stomachs, right? Or was that armies?”

    Oh great, the kid's been indoctrinated. He seemed like the type who'd fall for the bullshit these wackjobs were spouting; happy-go-lucky and naive enough to fall face first into believing he was some special hero. Newsflash: you are special, kid! Ugh. I'm gonna have to deprogram him or something before I get out of here.

    “Ok, Kid-”

    “Touka.”

    Ignoring him. “You do realize what this place is right?”

    “Uh, yeah, it’s a temple. Pretty big one too.” Oh, it’s a temple alright. A temple of fucking crazy.

    “No, listen, kid-”

    “Touka.”

    “Touka. This might be a temple, but it’s not one for a religion, not a real one anyway. These people are in a cult. A weird one that’s kidnapping young people and telling them they’ll be heroes and stuff. Trying to play into a lack of self-esteem and other issues most kids your age have, building them up so they can use them. I don’t know why, but we don’t want to find out. So don’t let your guard down. We’ll be out of here soon, but you can’t let them get in your head.”

    The kid was dumbfounded, eyes wide in surprise and disbelief. "Wow, I can’t believe…” His head fell into his hands as he started shaking.

    “Yeah.”

    Poor kid. Odds are, he probably didn't have much going on in his normal life. No friends. Maybe a hobby or two but nothing solid. No plans for the future. Getting kidnapped by a cult and made into their Messiah was probably the most interesting thing to ever happen to him. Probably would be for the rest of his life. It sucked to have to bring back down to Earth like that, but he needed to face reality. He's a background character at best. Most people are. Hopefully, this would teach him to not be so gullible. Just gullible enough to believe me.

    “I can’t believe…how off you are!" Excuse me? "Holy crap, Onee-chan, is that really all you got out of this? Were you not listening when they explained what was going on? Or did they not explain at all? I figured you'd at least pick up on things, but you're not as smart as I thought, huh?"

    Fucking excuse me?!! This kid! This kid was laughing at me! He was over there laughing up a goddamn storm, wiping his eyes from laughing so damn hard! And did he just call me stupid?!!

    You little shit!" My hands slammed on the table. "Don’t you laugh at me! I'm trying to fucking help you! These people are cultists! There's no such thing as a 'Hero of the beyond' or whatever shit they told you! It's fucking made up bullshit!"

    The kid wasn't listening. He just kept laughing, holding his stomach. "Cultists!"

    The temptation to slap the shit out of this kid was rising fast, but he escaped my wrath by standing up. He wiped the tears from his eyes as he came over to my side of the table.

    “Holy cow, Onee-chan,” He muttered, “I didn’t expect you to be so silly or vulgar or close-minded, but I guess appearances can be deceiving. Still, I kinda like that about you. It would've been boring if you were all resolute and ready for anything. This'll be way more fun if you're like this the whole time.”

    What the hell is he talking about? What was this vibe change? The kid felt different now, like he had aged a few years on the walk across the room. His smile was less dopey and more smugly confident. It made my slapping urges roar with desire.

    The kid looked down at me once before walking right past me to the door. Pressing his hand against the wooden face, he looked back at me with a raised eyebrow.“Are you coming?”

    “What? Coming where?”

    “On a walk with me. It's fun teasing you, but we seriously need to get you up to speed, so I think a walk around might help that. I usually learn better first-hand, so I figure that'll work for you too.”

    “Kid, what the hell are you-”

    “My name is-”

    “Yeah, Touka, got that. My name's not Onee-chan, it's Menodora. You stop calling me that, I'll stop calling you kid." He looked to consider it for a moment before shaking his head.

    "Fine, Onee-chan." He snickered. "But seriously, you need to come with me."

    "I'm not going anywhere with you." The kid was brainwashed. He could be trying to take me anywhere. I wanted to save him but if he was in league with the cultists, then he could not be trusted.

    He frowned. "Onee-chan, I'm being serious. I have to show you what's going on. You won't accept the truth until you see, I can see that already, and we can't 'pass GO' until you do. I promise that'll be worth it."

    Pass GO? The truth? This kid is on something. Even if he's being for real, there is no way in hell that they'd let us out of their sight or away from their temple. The second we step foot outside, they'll tackle us to the ground and drag us back here.

    But....a part of me was curious to know what he was talking about. A dumb part of me. A part of me that was ignoring the potential dangers if the kid was brainwashed and taking me somewhere dangerous. A part of me that assured me that any harm done would be fixed and re-attributed to the aggressors by my sister.

    “Well? Are you coming?”
    ٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢٢
    Choice

    1. Hell no. They aren’t going to let us leave, you idiot.
    2. Fine. When they stop us and drag our asses back here, you’ll see.

    Last edited by Wizard; April 21st, 2020 at 01:08 PM.

  9. #29
    祖 Ancestor Dragolord09's Avatar
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    2. Might as well see what he's talking about.

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    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    Hohh, now I'm really curious.
    However, as much as it feels more IC to stay in the hall, we're not getting any answers in doing so.

    2. Fine. When they stop us and drag our asses back here, you’ll see.
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

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    The Great and Powerful Wizard's Avatar
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    Voting closes in 16 hours.

  12. #32
    2. He clearly has something to show us, and it's not like we've got anything better to do in the meantime.

  13. #33
    Designated Reptile Draconic's Avatar
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    1. Because I’m a coward.
    Likes attention, shiny objects, and... a ball of yarn?
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    I joined two years too late...
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

  14. #34
    The Great and Powerful Wizard's Avatar
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    Exposition (Part 3)

    Menodora Strauss
    Location: Unknown
    Date: Unknown
    Time: Unknown

    Status
    Health: Satisfactory
    Hunger: Full
    Sleep: Well-Rested
    Mental Health: Stable
    ?????: ?


    7 7 7 7 7 7 7


    “Fine. When they stop us at the door and drag us back here, you’ll see.”


    I got up and followed the kid to the door. I refused to look at him anymore. His smug aura mocks me.

    “Whatever you say, Onee-chan.”

    He downed the rest of the banana he’d been eating--skin and all--and pushed the door open. The blonde lady, Samui, who was still standing outside like she said, jumped in surprise as we came out of the room.

    “My Lord, my Lady, do you require something?”

    “Oh, don’t mind us, Samui. I’m just taking Menodora here for a walk around the town, show her what’s going on. After nap like that, she could use some fresh air, don’t you think?”

    Blondie showed some emotion for once, biting her lip while her eyes bounced frantically between the two of us, clearly full of indecision. By my guess, she was trying to decide whether to call the guards or-

    “Well, I supposed that would be alright, but I will need to stay with you. I am Lady Menodora’s attendant as well as yours for the time being, so I cannot leave either of you alone.”

    Okay, so she was letting us go for a little walk, but she was coming with us to make sure we didn’t leave the compound. The second he tries to step out of the gates, he’d be tackled and dragged back here. Just watch.

    “Awesome! I don’t really know my way around anyhow, so you can lead us through the city.”

    The city?

    “The city?! Oh no, My Lord, I do not think that is the best idea.” She was fidgeting now, messing with her sleeves. “While normally, I would love to show you the many sights Shuto has to offer, now is not the best time. Perhaps after you and Lady Menodora have-”

    He cut her off. “Samui. Please. I know what Shuto’s like right now, but Menodora hasn’t.” He shot me a pitying glance and leaned in close to whisper in Samui’s ear. He wasn’t good at whispering. “When we were eating, she said she was feeling a bit nervous about being the Hero, so I thought showing her around might help her find her courage.”

    No idea what he’s talking about but it worked. Samui’s eyes widened and she nodded to him. He smirked. I like him less with every passing second.

    The kid took the lead with Blondie hurrying up behind him. I brought up the rear. He walked confidently through the halls, taking turn after turn without hesitation in this maze of a building. I had to speed up to stay in step with him. Stupid long legs, taking big steps.

    I noticed something while we were walking. The hallways were changing. Not in any horror movie kind of way, butt in a “something happened here” kind of way.

    While it was spartan before, the halls started to look more ragged as if a storm had torn through them. The wallpaper was torn in jagged lines with the occasional black burn marks. The floor was covered in scratches and scuffs. A few of the mounted lights were shattered, leaving some corridors in complete darkness. At one point, there was a straight up knife jammed into the wall.

    The kid didn’t seem to care, but Blondie seemed like she was shrinking with every step we took, gazing at the condition of the halls with something in her eyes. Was she sad? Scared? Embarrassed? What the hell happened here?

    Wait, why do I care? These assholes kidnapped me!

    After probably fifteen minutes of hallways, we reached the end. A big black door. It wasn’t as impressive as it sounds. Covered in scratches with a heavy raft coming from under it, it was kind of a shitty door. The kid stepped up and sniffed it (weirdo) before grimacing. Blondie let out a soft sigh as he started pushing it open and the air filled with the smell of ash.

    Heavy wind punched me in the face as we stepped out into a courtyard beneath an overhang, though that might’ve been an understatement to call it just an overhang. It covered the entire courtyard, which wasn’t small itself, held aloft by ten or so black pillars. Besides all that, the first thing I noticed was that everything was burned.

    The stones of the courtyard, the pillars holding the overhang, the door we had opened, even some statues of those lion things by the door were caked with black ash. Along with the ash were the scattered remains of furnishings. That might explain where all the stuff inside the temple--because this was definitely a temple--had gone.

    There were a few people outside trying to clean up the mess with brooms and failing. One of them, a man noticed us and raced over, broom in hand. He quickly bowed before speaking.

    “Samui! What is going on? Why are the Heroes out here?” He looked panicked, eyes flicking between me and the kid.

    “Greetings, Sou. Lord Touka and Lady Menodora wished to go for a walk into the city.”

    “The city?!”

    His eyes really bugged out at that. Yep. No doubt, in a couple seconds, this guy would be calling some guards to drag us back into the temple and lock us in rooms.

    “Have you run this past Lord Shimura or any of the other Elders?” Samui flinched. “If they find out that you took the Heroes of the Beyond out into the city at a time like this, they would have you punished! If some harm were to come to them while under your watch, you would be to blame for put everything we have worked for in danger! Do you understa-”

    “Shou, Shou, Shou, Shou!” The kid stepped in. Literally, he stepped in between Blondie and Shou. Damn, he wasn’t just taller than me, he was taller than both of them too. He had to be at least over six feet tall. Anyway, he put his hand on Shou’s shoulder in that friendly sort of way and smiled at him.

    “Listen, there’s no need to be all fussy and yelly with Samui. She’s just doing her job as our attendant. We were planning on going out for a walk anyway. Having her with us will make sure that we don’t get lost and stay safe.”

    “But Lord Touka, you should still get permission from the Elder before you-”

    “Ah, I’m sure the Elders will be fine with it. This is important business. Trust me.” Despite how untrustworthy the phrase ‘trust me’ sounds, Shou visibly relaxed, loosening his grip on his broom.

    “It would still be for the best if you didn’t leave the temple grounds.”

    “Maybe.” And that was the last word of their conversation. Anything past that fell on deaf ears as the kid gently pushed Shou to the side and walked away towards the exit. Samui stalled for a moment before following him, leaving me and Shou standing there.

    I looked him. He looked at me. I left.

    “Wait!”

    Ignored. If he wasn’t going to stop us from leaving, then I wasn’t going to stay stopped. He was going to rat on us no matter what, so might as well get a head start into this ‘city’ to try and lose him. Maybe that was the kid’s plan?

    We stepped out from under the overhang and my first move was to look at the sky. It was filled with fast moving dark clouds, the way it looked before a storm started. Well, that was just great. Raining during an escape, while cinematic, wasn’t the best condition.

    Around us was just plants. Trees, grass, well-trimmed bushes. It was a yard. A yard that extended up the side of a massive hill. Seriously, I had never seen a hill this steep before. Might as well call it a mini-mountain the way it rose up. In front of us was a set of stone steps guarded by a red gate. Torii gate, I think they’re called. The steps went all the way to the top of the hill to another gate.

    There had to be at least a thousand steps. Maybe a million or a little less than that. It was a lot of steps.

    “Guess we’re going up!” I was afraid he’d say that.



    Ten Minutes Later

    Fucking! Hell! Why! Are there! So many! God! Damn! Stairs!!!?

    I fell onto the ground, heaving and panting, sweat pouring from my forehead. Damn it! I knew I wasn’t in the best shape of my life, but this was ridiculous! There were just too many damn stairs to get up this hill! Fuck, my lungs are burning! I can’t breath!

    “Lady Menodora!”

    “C’mon, Onee-chan! I know you’re tiny, but there’s more than enough air to go around!”

    I’m going to kill him. Whoever the hell runs this shitshow of cult might have complaints, but that shitty kid is mine now.

    “Drown him. That’s what I’ll do. See him talk then.”

    Blondie cringed at my murderous rambling, but still leaned over to help me up. The way she was leaning down towards my legs told me she was going to pick me, so I slapped her arm and pushed her off.

    “I’m not a baby, I can walk. I just needed a little rest.” Her face didn’t change but the way her eyes scrunched up told me she was hurt. That might’ve been a bit mean, but being treated like a child because of my height was one of my biggest pet peeves. Short adults are adults too!

    I grumbled an apology to her and kept walking, glaring at the back of the smug boy. There was one last flight of stairs, and there were no signs of the city they were talking about. I should at least be able to see the tops of buildings from here. But looking back at the temple from here, seeing the massive structure that no one could’ve hidden, there was a doubt sitting heavy in my stomach right next to a growing fear.

    What if this wasn’t a lie?

    No. that’s ridiculous. This is just a trick. That temple is probably just some old building these weirdos renovated for their cult and this ‘city’ was going to be a bunch of shacks for them to squat in. All of this was fake garbage made up by lunatics trying to make their lives more than what they are.

    “Well, ain’t that a view!”

    My attention snapped back to the kid. He was standing at the top of the hill beneath the torii gate. Winds brushed back his hair as he gazed down at something. I sped up a bit.

    “What the hell are you...talking...about…..”

    There was a city. They weren’t lying.

    But it wasn’t what I imagined. This wasn’t the kind of city I was used to with steel towers and concrete facades nor was it the ramshackle village of huts I assumed. It was a strange mixture of the two that reminded me of the Providência favela in Rio.

    Hundreds of tiny buildings, packed into spaces they clearly weren’t meant to go, pushing into the streets and one another, like people on a crowded subway. There were some larger buildings here and there, squat towers and smaller temple-looking buildings, but those seemed to have the most buildings clustered around and even on them as if they had grown out of the walls. None of them looked like good quality, as if a strong wind could blow them all down. And in the distance, beyond all the buildings, was something that was just...impossible.

    The Wall


    Nothing like that existed anywhere in Japan. Hell, nothing like that existed in the world. The closest comparison she could make were the Walls of Jerusalem, but even those were only a few dozen feet at most. This thing was massive, at least a hundred yards high! Nothing like this should’ve been possible. But there it was.

    Someone would’ve noticed this place by now. The wall alone could be seen from space. Maybe it was concealed by magic? A mage could do something like this, right? This was some crazy magus cult that had built a whole city, hid it with magic, and were going to use it for some kind of ritual that they need me and the kid for.

    “Wow. You are a stubborn one, Onee-chan.” He chuckled and started making his way down the hill into the city. Samui followed him. It took a moment for my feet to carry me down behind them.

    Coming down the hill was a lot easier than going up with a relaxed slope. The stone steps lead down to a dirt path passing beneath another gate surrounded by the remains of what might’ve been a fence at one time that marked the changed between grass and cobbled road. As soon as we stepped beyond the gate, eyes were on us.

    Their looks crawled over my skin, digging into my flesh with a glint that I couldn’t decipher. There were so many of them and more seem to come as we made our way down the narrow road, stopping and staring.

    Blondie stuck close to me, almost pressing her body against mine, her head swiveling from side to side. She looked as uneasy as I felt. But the kid walked fine. Hands in his pocket, humming some tune, and even smiling at the people. None of them smiled back, just standing their with dead eyes watching our little parade. Some of them started to follow us.

    The atmosphere reminded me of some of the less fortunate places I'd been before. The ones that were in the middle or aftermath of a drought or famine, where people had gone from living to surviving. The food in my stomach was a stone in my stomach looking at all these people. They were so thin. Their clothes were ragged. The entire city reeked of unwashed bodies. The atomsphere was suffocating in its helplessness. I felt like I was going to throw up.

    I hate this place. Elle, please save me.

    “Samui?” The blonde attendant snapped her attention to the kid. “Why don’t you tell us a bit about this place? We need to know more about it if we’re going to save it.”

    “I was under the impression you were already aware of the situation, Lord Touka.”

    “I am, but Menodora-onee-chan isn’t. She might’ve agreed to be the Hero but who can be a hero if they don’t know what they’re fighting for, ya know?”

    He was looking at me when said that. Needling chills ran up and down my spine when he smiled.

    “Well, I guess that would be true. Lady Menodora, do you wish to hear the history of this country?”

    I nodded numbly. Whether I wanted to hear it or not, I needed something to distract me. Something to my mind off of the eyes crawling over me, burrowing into my body, picking me apart, and-

    I need a distraction.

    “Very well, I shall try to be brief.” And so she began.

    “To be frank, the Kingdom of Wa has never been anything of note. We have always been a minor country surrounded by greater empires, oftentimes dragged into their conflicts against our will. The wall around the city you see now was constructed not by the will of the people of Wa, but by those who conquered us and sought to hold their newly won property against other claimants. It did not always work and Shuto as well as the rest of Wa came to destruction many, many times...but we have endured.”

    Her voice tightened. “Wa has risen again and again despite our insignificance. And for a time, we held strong against outside forces and maintained our own internal peace, never needing to move beyond our bounds, but...the Calamity came.”

    An audible shudder ran through the city as if that one word were the epicenter of an earthquake. The attendant flinched inwardly and I could feel more doing the same behind us. Yet they didn't stop following. A glance over my shoulder showed me that more people had joined in. A group of children in rags clustered together and held hands as they waddled behind. An old man with a cane drug him along near the kid, who offered an arm. A woman, eyes surrounded in dark bags, walked with her child nestled closely in her arms, staring into my back. She met my eyes and I turned away before I lost myself to anxiety.


    “Fire rained down from the sky and swept fire over the world, bringing centuries old empires to extinction. Yet, Wa survived. We were not left unharmed, but the way of our people is cooperation, and within our small kingdom, we were able to revive from the near-death experience as none of the greaters could. We were the last kingdom to remain and many from outside sought refuge here from the chaos that was taking over outside our border. When they came to us for help, for sanctuary, with nowhere else to go, we..!”

    She was choking on the words, trying to force them out with tears in her eyes. The kid stopped on the spot in front of us, watching her with a mix of concern (?) and pity (?). It was hard to get a read on him, not that I was good at reading anyone. After a minute, she finally managed to get it out in a harsh screech.

    “We rejected them!" She sagged a little but continued walking. "We feared that allowing them in would bring an end to our own peace, so we turned them away, by message or massacre. It is...it is not a time we are proud of, least of all now. That was the
    Selfishness
    Sin
    we committed that earned us the punishment we now suffer through.”


    “Now we are trapped in this city with destruction drawing closer every day. There was little hope we would survive it. Food grew scarcer everyday, sickness spread among the compact population, and fear wormed its way into the hearts of many. Fear turned to panic, and panic en masse became a frenzy. Riots ensued and the city began to burn. A sacrilegious few turned their fury on the Temple, aiming to destroy it and kill the Lords and Ladies who sought shelter amongst the clergy. It seemed, for a time, that the Kingdom of Wa was doomed to destroy itself. A proper punishment for those who had selfishly turned away others. That was until...we received a message of salvation from the gods.”

    She looked down at me, voice brimming with jubilation and reverence that made me uncomfortable.

    “‘Summon your champion and face the Trial of the Seven.’ The message was heard by every citizen of Wa and the frenzy ceased. In that moment, hope had been reborn and fear was reforged into determination." There were some sounds of ascent from the pack. "That is why we summoned you and Lord Touka. To save us. To baptize our people and rid of our sins. To be our Heroes."

    Her story ended with some weak cheers from the pack, though I didn't try to see who. I was too busy trying to find some reason why this was all some trick.

    Nothing she said made any sense. Great kingdoms? Calamities? Punishment from Gods? Deities aside, none of this sounded the slightest bit real. I'd never heard of a Kingdom of Wa in my life and there had definitely not been some world-sweeping calamity recently. Even I would have noticed that. This had to be the result of a mass hypnosis by a magus. Probably tricking them into believing something for some ritual? Maybe he wanted to use them as batteries or slaves. I don't know, but that's the only thing that makes sense! Anything else is...

    “Nice, nice Samui! Great job! You're a pretty good storyteller, ya know.” The kid spoke up, pulling me out of my thoughts. That was when I realized we had stopped walking. We had stopped right in front of the gate to the wall.

    I looked back over the crowd of--Jesus, there had to be hundreds of people behind us now! Where did they all come from? Even in the buildings around us, there were people hanging out of shabby windows and peaking through hole-ridden doors and leaning around corners.

    Dozens upon dozens of eyes were watching me, looking me over with different intentions. People came shuffling out of their shacks and leaving behind their business to join the growing pack, squeezing in where they could. Men, women, children; all of them stood there with gaunt faces and ragged clothes looking like a horde from a zombie movie, just barely more alive.

    Fuck. Fuck.

    I ignored them and looked back at the temple hill, focusing on the other issue. At least a few miles between here and there, yet it only felt like we'd been walking for a couple minutes, ten tops. How had we gotten from there to here so quickly? That should've taken hours and there was no way my lazy ass could've walked that far without feeling a little tired. What is happening?

    “Samui, tell them to open the gate.” The kid said. Blondie jumped a little, clearly surprised.

    “What? Lord Touka, no one is allowed to open the gates! If we do-”

    He waved her off. “It’s fine, Samui. Trust me. Just tell them it’s an order from the Hero of the Beyond, alright?”

    She hesitated for a moment, glancing over her shoulder at me. Did she expect me to say something? I didn't. She frowned slight, but did as she'd been told, walking off towards a small structure built into the wall. I watched her leave while the weight of a thousand and one pairs of eyes on me grew stronger. One guess who the ‘one’ was.

    “It’s honestly amazing, ya know.”

    “What is?” I didn't bother looking at him, keeping an eye on the gate ahead. Big wooden thing, very stereotypical gate without any kind of flourish or craftsmanship. It looked new with none of the wood showing any major wear and tear from time.

    “How stubborn you are. Not a bad thing, ya know, definitely makes you way more interesting!” His smile shone twice as bright as before falling away. I shivered. Without a smile, he looked like a porcelain mask, decorated with bright colors but lacking in human emotion. "But this is getting a little annoying now. Someone with your background should’ve caught on by now.”

    “My background? What the hell do you know about me?”

    “More than you’d think, less than I’d hoped.” He said with annoyance. As if I'm the annoying one here!

    “Will you please say something that actually makes some se-”

    The strangled roar of metal scraping against metal cut me off. The gate was opening. Whatever mechanisms used to do so were drowning out any other noise with the cacophony, tearing into eardrums. As the wooden doors began to peel away from one another, violent bursts of wind broke through the gap and knocked me back flat on my ass. Pressed against the ground, I could feel people running away before I saw them, looking up at the crowd of hundreds fleeing in panic in every direction.

    Someone grabbed around the waist, and before I could protest, pressed me into their chest, cradling me from the winds. The familiar scent of lavender and strands of blonde hair told me it was the attendant, Samui. I had to restrain my natural indignation and held tightly to her for the time being, just barely able to see over her shoulder.

    The kid was the only one remaining in the area besides us, standing in front of the gate without a problem. The wind messed his hair and flared his jacket, but he was otherwise unbothered by it. His ice blue eyes rested solely on me, meeting me in the middle with his gaze.

    “Menodora.”

    A tingle ran over my body. Even over the wind the gears, I could hear Touka as clearly as if he were standing right next to me. Yet, staring into his eyes, I could swear his lips weren't moving.

    You need to wake up. All this time, you’ve been pretending to be awake, but you still haven’t opened your eyes. Even after we showed you the truth, you still deny it in your heart and lie to yourself about what you see. But this isn’t a dream, Menodora.”

    The gate opened wider and the wind grew stronger, forcing the blonde woman to crouch low against the ground, practically laying on top of me. I had to wriggle around in her arms and poke under her arm to maintain my eye contact with Touka, who continued standing there.

    These people aren’t some cult trying to trick you.”

    “They aren’t magus trying to pull off some grand ritual.”

    “These are people in need. People who have nowhere to go. They have given all that they can to try and save themselves. They may have done something awful, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to die in fear and hopelessness.”

    “That is why we were brought here. To save them. To face the trial they can’t. To stand in their stead.”

    Gate opened wider still, silhouetting Touka against a wall of grey sky and blackened earth. There was nothing beyond the gate but wasteland. The little vegetation I could see were dead trees sticking out like fingers reaching towards the sky, met only by bleak grey clouds. Clouds that reached even beyond the horizon, swirling with repressed anger. As if they were waiting for something to unleash their fury.

    Menodora, pay attention.

    Stop talking.

    “No. Menodora, you have to understand what is happening now. You were summoned here-”

    No. That's a lie.

    “-to this world to be the hero these people need-”

    No. I'm not a hero. This is a lie! This is fake!

    “-and save them from destruction!”

    No. No. No! That’s impossible! This is all fake! All of this is fake! They’re all crazy! They kidnapped me!

    “Menodora, you know no one kidnapped you. You remember it, don’t you?

    No! Stop that! Shut up! Shut up!

    “You remember dying.”

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7
    Status Update
    Mental Health: Stable Distressed
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7
    No.

    No!

    Nonono!!

    No! I don’t remember! I couldn’t have died because I was here! They kidnapped me! Elle was coming to save me! I can’t be dead! I didn’t die! I-

    Why do I feel so heavy? My body went limp in blondie's arms, unable to move from all the weight. She screamed and started shaking me, calling my name. She was so close but she sounded even further than Touka.

    “You died, Menodora. You died and were summoned here.”

    “I know you didn’t ask for this, and I’m sorry. No one would ask for this to happen, but it is. You were chosen to be their hero. And if you don’t save them...you’ll just die again.”

    The image of the horizon flashed in my mind as I stared up into the stormy sky. The stormy sky waiting with impatience to unleash fury upon these people. On this city. This was a storm unlike anything else. When it fell, no trace would remain that these people have even lived here. I knew it. Somehow, I knew.

    This was the punishment.

    “And it’s getting closer.”

    The wind was getting weaker now. Some feeling began to return to my limbs, enough for me to move my head and see the gate closing behind Touka, now strolling towards me and Samui. The attendant breathed out a prayer of relief as I started moving again, picking me up off the ground, cradling me against herself.

    “Every day, that storm closes around this city, cutting them off from the rest of their world, if there’s even a world beyond it. Nothing that goes will come back. Anything it touches is ripped to shreds. In 79 days, the storm will reach the walls and destroy this city and everyone in it, including you and me.”

    Despite internal protest, I let her hold me as Touka came to stop right in front of us. His eyes, now the color of a calm river, watched me curl into the attendent's body, shivering. He was pitying me and I barely had the strength to be upset by it.

    “I’m sorry, Menodora, but…..as of today, you’re a hero, whether you like it or not. The only other choice…”

    “..is death.”
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7

    Status Update
    Location Discovered: Shuto, Capital City of the Kingdom of Wa
    Date Discovered: 79 days before the destruction of Shuto
    Mental Health: DistressedPanicked
    ​Panic Attack Imminent.

    7 7 7 7 7 7 7

    Choose

    1. Pass out. My head! Everything feels so heavy! I need to lay down….
    2. Stay quiet. Calm down. Just stay calm. Just stay. Calm…...I need a smoke.
    3. Run away. This can’t be happening! He’s lying! This is a trick! A magus trick! They can do something like this, right? Right?!!
    4. [Write-in]



    - - - Updated - - -

    Special Thanks to King Prussia for being a fantastic beta!
    Last edited by Wizard; March 3rd, 2020 at 03:37 AM.

  15. #35
    夜属 Nightkin Faux's Avatar
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    2, Let's try to keep it together
    False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

  16. #36
    2. I don't feel that it's time yet for Mennie to break down. Let's see how much she can take.

  17. #37
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    Though, I'm getting the impression that it'll do little in hiding her distress.
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  18. #38
    祖 Ancestor Dragolord09's Avatar
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    2, Keep it together, must try to relax.

  19. #39
    The Great and Powerful Wizard's Avatar
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    Bed, Bath, and Beyond

    Menodora Strauss
    Location: Shuto, Kingdom of Wa
    Date: 79 days until the Destruction of Shuto
    Time: 6:20pm

    Status
    Health: Satisfactory
    Hunger: Full
    Sleep:Well-Rested
    Mental Health: Panicked
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7


    Death. Death. Death.

    I’m gonna die.

    The panic was coming like the thunder of a train, growing stronger and louder as it came closer. Everything was shaking. Everything felt so tight. I’m gonna explode. I’m gonna be crushed. I’m panicking. I’m having a panic attack. It had been a long while since the last one, but if not now, when, I guess. Hehe.

    I’m gonna die. Again.

    Oh, yeah. That’s right.

    I was already dead. Ha.

    I’m dead.

    “Lady Menodora?”

    Who was talking? Oh right, Blondie, Samui, she was holding me again, looking at me with that bland face of her’s. Everything except her eyes, almost hidden behind those loose bangs. They were sad eyes, looking at me with so much worry it almost sent me from panic to annoyed. She reminded me of my mom.

    She should worry about herself. She was going to die too. Everyone was.

    “Onee-chan…”


    Touka. Why did he have to say those things? Why did he have to make all of this real? The lie was better. The lie was safer. This reality is too scary. I was supposed to save everyone? What could I do about this? Gods and storms and calamities and summonings. All of that was meant for special people, protagonists. I was just an extra. A silhouette in the background.

    Oh, God, I can feel it. The panic. I’m gonna scream. I want to scream.

    No.

    No. I have to stay calm.

    Breath in. Breath out. Push it all down. Put the panic in a box. Lock the box. Put it in a room. Lock the room, throw away the key. Walk away and keep walking. Don’t look back. Don’t think about it. Don’t let it set in. Breath in. Breath out.

    Okay. I’m calm now. I’m calm.

    Boy, what I wouldn’t give for a smoke right now? I wonder if Wa has cigarettes. They’d better.


    Status Update
    Mental Health: Panicked Panicked (Suppressed)
    Notice: The Suppressed state of Panicked only staves off the Panic Attack. Additional stress will undo the state and lead to an immediate Panic Attack.
    Sleep: Well-Rested
    Weary
    “Samui, what is the meaning of this?!”

    Baldy was here now with a whole retinue of guards backing him up, pushing the returning crowd out of the way. He was pissed, looking from me to Samui. Guess having your...Hero curled up in your arms on the edge of a panic attack was a bad look. Every step towards us sent a flinch through Samui, who clung to me tighter. He was a big guy. She was right to be afraid.

    I thought about saying something to help her, tell him it wasn’t her fault, but couldn’t find the energy right now. Sorry.

    “Lord Shimura, I-”

    “How could you allow this to happen? Taking the Heroes from the Temple without permission? Opening the gate? Look at the state Lady Menodora is in! How could you have you allowed this to happen? Do you understand the danger that you have put us all in?”

    “Probably.” The kid, Touka, decided to jump in now, literally, appearing between Samui and the Baldy. “After all, she was the one hesitant to bring us out here and I’m the one who told her to get the gate opened. Ya know, me, one of the Heroes of the Beyond who she is under orders to listen to no matter what.”

    That shut Baldy up real quick. He stared at the confident kid before nodding slightly and turning to the guards, though still spoke to us.

    “We will be returning to the Temple immediately. The sun is beginning to set, so we had best go before it turns dark. Samui, I expect that you will inform entirely of what occurred when we return, am I correct?”

    She nodded furiously before realizing he couldn’t see her. “Yes, sir!”

    With that, we started heading back down the long road to the temple. Samui had to let me go, but...I held her hand the whole way back. I’m ashamed to admit to that, but it made me feel more comfortable. She had warm, soft hands, the kind of hands that weren’t meant to be held, so no one could blame me for holding them, right? And it wasn’t nearly as bad as getting carried. Besides, it wasn’t for a long time. Just back to the temple. Somewhere safe away from the storm.

    Death.

    Far away.


    7 7 7 7 7 7 7

    One Hour Later


    Turns out they do not carry Lucky Strike brand cigarettes at any of the convenience stores in Shuto. Probably because there are no convenience stores in Shuto. No wonder this place is getting destroyed.

    What they did have was one of those old Japanese smoking pipes, a kiseru. When I asked for something to smoke, they gave me an old red one and a box of finely shredded tobacco. Since my favorite lighter was back at the hotel (don’t think about it!), I had to settle for some matches to light it.

    The result? Kind of shitty. There was barely any flavor to it and not a hint of nicotine, meaning my headache was only going to get worse. Wonderful. Still, it was better than nothing, so here I am, sitting on this stupidly comfy bed, puffing on a stick of bamboo filled with tobacco, doing my best not to have a breakdown.

    Death.

    “Ah!” A spasm ran through my body, curling me in on myself, making me drop the kiseru onto the floor. It went as fast as it came as I pushed down the thoughts threatening to break me completely. Still, I felt completely drained.

    Guess my best isn’t good enough.

    What kind of sick joke is this? Why me? Why would the gods or whoever told these idiots to summon me pick me of all people? Why not Elle? Why not Aton? They could’ve been heroes. They were born for this kind of stuff. They should be here.

    And then what? They’d be dead. Nice going, Me, wishing your brother and sister were dead. Though, knowing those two, they’d be fine some way to miraculously come back to life after saving an entire civilization from massive death storms.

    And I’ll just die again. And all those people will die too, thinking I’m going to save them. Idiots. You grabbed the wrong one.

    “Lady Menodora, are you alright?”

    Oh. There was Samui, coming through the door and interrupting up my inner turmoil. How nice of her. I sat up on the bed to look at her. She had a towel in her hand.

    “I’m fine.”

    “Oh good. Well, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing a bath for you. If you will follow me to the bathhouse.” She moved out of the way for me to get through the door. I didn’t get up.

    There was a bathhouse?
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7
    At The Bathhouse


    There was a bathhouse; a nice one at that. Instead of using wood like most of the temple, it had smooth black bricks for the flooring. Everything else was wood through from the walls to the benches around the massive tub. With steaming clear water, it was big enough to at least fit ten people comfortably, but it was completely empty except for me.

    I have to admit: bathhouses usually make me uncomfortable. Being naked with a bunch of strangers in a pool of dirty hot water wasn’t my idea of a good time, and the very thought of it would usually make me want to vomit, but that wasn’t the case right now. Right now, I need to relax and the hot water soaking into my skin was doing just the trick right now. Now, if only I was alone.

    “Is the bath good, my Lady? I added scented oils to help you relax.” Her voice was oddly sweet as she sat behind me on a bench, combing through my hair with an uncomfortable amount of care. Not that she was doing anything wrong, but this was just a little weird.

    “Uh, yeah, they smell nice.Thanks.” As awkward as I was being, the oils did really smell nice and were helping relax. The scent of flowers--even a little watered down--reminded me of home. So relaxing and distressing in equal amounts coming to a null state of relaxation.

    “I am glad, Lady Menodora.”

    “Ah, um, you don’t...you don’t don’t have to keep calling me ‘Lady Menodora’. Honestly, it’s a bit annoying. I’m not a Lady of anything.”

    “I would beg to differ. You are a Hero of the Beyond.” She almost sounded offended. “But if it is as you desire, then what would you have me call you, my Lady?”

    I shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter to me. Most people just call me…”


    Choice A

    1. Mennie
    2. Minnow
    3. Dora
    4. [Write-in]

    “Very well then. I shall do my best to remember. Would you like me to inform the rest of the temple to refer to you as such?”

    “That would be nice, yeah.”

    “Then I shall try my best.” She said resolutely. “However, I cannot guarantee that they will all follow such a request. While it would be something close to sacrilegious to ignore the wishes of one of the Heroes, proper etiquette demands that someone of your status be referred to formally.”

    Of my status, huh? ‘One of the Heroes?’ Did these people really hold me that high in regard that they might not even call me by my name after I asked them too? They must have a lot of faith in me. Too much faith.

    “Hey, uh, Samui?”

    She slowed her combing. “Yes?”

    “Do you...do you really think I can do it? That I can do whatever it is the gods wanted to save everyone and be a hero?”

    “...”

    Her silence was damning. My heart was sinking into my stomach. Of course she didn’t. Only an idiot would have faith in someone like me to save them. She was putting up a brave front, braver one than me, and still being kind to me even when they were doomed to die because of me. If I wasn’t born wrong, then maybe I could have-

    “I do believe.”

    Huh?

    Samui’s eyes shined brightly, making the candles on wall seem dim in comparison. “I believe that you can save us. How could I not?” She laid the comb down on the bench, pulling her legs over to sit properly, her toes dipping into the water. She continued.

    “When you were summoned into the world, I stood there and watched as the ritual took place. They said that they gods had granted them the knowledge and ability to access other worlds and call forth a hero who could save us. When the ritual ended and the light that shone from the summoning circle faded, there you were.”

    Is that what happened?

    “I will admit, to my shame, there was a moment of disappointment.You appeared to be nothing but a little girl in strange garb. ‘Could this really be the Hero to save us?,’ I thought. But that was foolish.”

    No, that was smart.

    “Because I realized immediately that despite your appearance, you had to be the hero we were waiting for. Why else would you have arrived? The ritual was meant to call forth the one who would bring about our salvation and there you were. To deny that you were indeed the Hero would be foolish. So yes, I believe you will save us.” She smiled. “I know you can.”

    Stop. Stop it. Don’t sound so sure. Don’t be so hopeful. Stop thinking so much of me. It’ll only make it worse. I’m no one. A silhouette barely able to qualify as human, much less as a hero. I just want to sink into the water and drown. I wish I never asked her that. It made me feel like garbage.

    But…

    It also felt good.

    I looked up at Samui and...huh. Somehow, through all of today with her right by my side, even looking directly at her, I feel like I’m seeing Samui for the first time. Why had I called her bland before?

    Samui

    Her smile was beautiful.

    This lady believed in me. She thought that I could save her. She was stupid for thinking that, but I couldn’t help but smile just a bit. It would hurt when I disappointed her, but I’ll take this strange, warm little feeling for now and hold it tight until it burns me.

    “My Lady? Did I say something funny?”

    “No, just felt like smiling a little, and didn’t I just say not to call me that?”

    “Oop!”

    Yeah. Just for a little while.
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7
    In Menodora’s Room


    “What are you doing in here?”

    I return from my nice relaxing bath to my room to find the least relaxing person in this entire temple sprawled out across my bed, munching on an apple like an asshole. From the stems on the floor, it seems it used to be a bunch of apples. Wait, did he eat the seeds too? Aren’t those poisonous?

    “Hm? Hey, Onee-chan, you’re-Oh! What are you wearing?!”

    “Um, nothing?” Apparently, Samui had given my clothes off to someone else to get washed while I was bathing. She said I’ll have them back by morning, so she gave me a white robe like hers for the night. It was a bit baggy since it was meant for someone bigger, but that made it a bit more comfortable to walk around with no underwear. Didn’t stop my face from burning the whole walk back.

    Guessing by the band of red across his cheeks and working its way up his ears, Touka was feeling the same way. Hm. I loosened the belt a little to let the robe sag a bit and his head snapped to the side, looking at anything else. Hehe~

    “Wh-what are you doing? You can’t go walking around like that, it isn’t decent!”

    “What do you mean? This is my room. I can wear whatever I want. Even nothing~” He almost choked on that.

    God, this was embarrassing. Good thing he couldn’t see my face right now or he’d call my bluff. For now, I had all the power. Hm. How’s it feel now that the shoe’s on the other foot, you smug shit?

    “Well, if you’re going to do that, then I should just go back to my room !” He bolted upright and stiffly ran towards the door.

    “Why did you even come in here then!?” He slowed down a bit and managed to look at me with intense eye contact. A few seconds passed in this little staring contest.

    “I forgot.”

    “.....you forgot why you broke into my room?”

    “I didn’t break in. The door was unlocked.”

    “So because the door was unlocked, you came in and ate fruit on my bed?”

    “I was waiting for you and got hungry.”

    “Waiting here to tell me something?”

    “Yep.”

    “Which was?”

    “I don’t know. You sort of freaked the question out of my head.”

    “....”

    “...I’m going to go now. Good night!”

    And he left. What a moron. I shut the door behind him and slunk over to my bed, tightening up the robe. In creepy, magical fashion, the lights in the room dimmed as I clambered into the bed and laid down. There was probably an actual reason behind that but I didn’t care enough to actually find out. I was too tired.

    Today was beyond exhausting. Even my soul feels tired. My eyes are starting to close already. Was today Monday? Today definitely felt like a Monday.

    I rolled the covers over me like a human burrito facing away from the door. I barely managed to worm my hands out to keep from laying on them. Hm. I forgot this symbol was on my hand.
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7
    Strange Symbol

    7 7 7 7 7 7 7

    Wonder what it’s for. Probably part of that summoning ritual thing Samui was talking about. Guess it didn’t wash off.

    Better not be permanent.

    Else I’m going to kick…

    Someone’s….

    Asssss….



    7 7 7 7 7 7 7
    (BGM)

    Everything was black.
    The sky. Black.
    The ground. Black.
    The horizon. Black.
    My body. Black. With white outlines.

    That was the only way to tell it was my body.
    The white outlines that moved when I moved.
    They looked like my body but my body was black.
    I was like a drawing left unfilled with the colors inverted.
    Creepy.

    Is this a dream?
    Probably.
    But if I know its a dream, can’t I change it?


    No.
    Still here.

    Then what’s going on?
    My dreams are never like this.
    Or maybe they are and I just don’t remember them.
    But this feel familiar.
    Why?

    Something flashed.
    Up in the sky.
    Out of the sea of darkness, there was something new.
    A single dot.
    A point of light.
    A star.

    It twinkled and blinked at me.
    A distant sun and the only light in this dream world.
    It was beautiful.
    Thank you, little one.
    Not a compliment I often receive.
    Most look away in fear.
    What?
    Who said that?
    That would be me.
    The one you called beautiful not seconds ago.
    The distant star as you said.
    The star?
    You?
    You’re the star?
    And you’re talking to me?
    How is that possible?
    The how is irrelevant.
    How is always irrelevant in dreams.
    They are dreams after all.
    Oh, right.
    This is a dream.
    This isn’t real.
    I never said that.
    Simply because something is a dream.
    Does not mean it is fake.
    Just illogical.
    What?
    That doesn’t make sense.
    I believe it does.
    Well, you’re wrong.
    Cause it doesn’t.
    Dreams are dreams.
    They aren’t actually happening.
    That’s why they’re called dreams.
    My my.
    What a dull view that is.
    Do you see all dreams in such a bleak manner?
    Unattainable and unrealistic?
    How pessimistic.
    I was talking about the dreams you have when you sleep.
    And only those?
    Yeah?
    You do not sound so sure.
    Of course, I’m-
    Wait, am I arguing with myself right now?
    Does this make me crazy?
    Some would say arguing with oneself is a part of maturing.
    So please continue arguing.
    You have much to do.
    Is that a short joke?!
    No.
    Well, it could be.
    But I feel that we have had enough bantering for the time being.
    Now is the time for proper conversation.
    Tell me, Menodora Strauss.
    Do you remember?
    Remember what?
    Our previous conversation.
    It is very likely that you do not.
    You were a mildly dazed.
    Car accidents do that.
    Or so I here.
    Car accidents?
    You know about-
    Wait…
    V?
    Ah, so you do remember!
    That certainly makes all of this much easier.
    You’re…
    That wasn’t a dream?
    I think it has been established that this is a dream.
    As well, we have established that its status as a dream has no bearing on its reality.
    Yes, this is a dream.
    But I am real.
    Who are you?
    V.
    What is your name?
    V.
    Your real name!
    From a certain point of view, there is no such thing as a ‘real name’.
    Names are simply titles given to us that we accept as identifiers for ourselves.
    As long as I identify by the title of ‘V’, my ‘real’ name is V.

    Ah.
    Perhaps another question would serve you better?
    7 7 7 7 7 7 7

    Choice B

    1. What is this place?
    2. Why are you in my dreams?
    3. What were you talking about before?
    4. [Write-in]

    Last edited by Wizard; March 3rd, 2020 at 03:47 AM.

  20. #40
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