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[א] I never did read the paper today...
Flipping the little switch on the portable radio, it falls into silence. Jönsson's rant was a little surprising, but not one I objected to, really. I'm of more or less the same mind on the topic. I understand that in the pre-Flip Outside, there were so many tricky little issues and people you had to keep happy and toes you had to avoid stepping on when dealing with politics and government.
Maybe it was a product of living in a relatively uncomplicated place like Gensokyo for so long, but I don't see the need to be held back from doing what certainly seems to be the right thing. It's not like Ivanov was the Hakurei or anything, and personally went around beating the stuffing out of anyone who looked remotely suspicious.
Admittedly, Kirisame herself was like that, back in the day. But when the Flip happened, she showed an amazing change of character. That woman rose to the challenge of taking charge of over half a million bewildered, displaced refugees, and bringing about order, organization, and sanity. Gone was the lazy, destructive, thieving smartass. In its place was a determined, strong, and resourceful smartass.
....There are some things that not even global catastrophe can change.
Jönsson's mention of the hubbub that would be coming tomorrow reminds me that I hadn't gotten a chance to read the paper all day, meaning it's probably still sitting in its tube outside my door. Today had been rushed at the start, weird a little bit after that, then deviated from my normal routine when I went shopping, so I hadn't even thought to get it later on, either.
Getting up, I wander over to my door, unlock the deadbolt, and then open it up. The slightly warm night air in the hallway is a change from the cooler air of my apartment. I swear the temperature's always a little off, and seemingly never in the right direction. But that's what either bundling up or stripping down are for.
I take the paper out of its tube, and then go downstairs to grab my mail from the boxes in the lobby while I'm at it. Opening up the one marked 212, I remove its contents and then quickly filter through them: a couple of bills I've already paid, a newsletter from Humanity First! (I'm on their mailing list because I like to keep abreast of what the idiots are up to and what new rhetoric they're getting taught to spout; it makes shooting them down a lot easier), and a letter for the Algerian guy in 215.
Not much that's interesting, unfortunately. I'm told companies used to just wildly send out advertisements in the mail, but that's much more heavily regulated now, so as to conserve on paper.
After putting 215's letter in his box, I fly up the open central stairwell and land in front of my apartment, nudging open the door I'd left mostly shut. I shut it behind me once inside, and re-lock the deadbolt, then hustle back to my dinner. It's only been a few minutes, so it hasn't really had the chance to grow cold at all, yet.
Dumping the already-paid bills into my recycling can and stuffing the newsletter into my bag to read with Renko at lunch tomorrow (The ravings of paranoid people and their badly formed arguments are higher comedy than almost anything in the comics section), I take the paper with me to the table and set it down. After serving myself, and then fishing a beer out of the oven, I unfold the paper and look over the headlines.
(Choose three for close inspection; the four remaining will be briefly skimmed over.)
[ ] Natural gas vehicle sales on the rise
[ ] Aureus & Knowledge open new Sixbridges public library
[ ] 10th annual Festival Week "promises to be grand"
[ ] Houraisan gives speech as Yagokoro School of Medicine begins year six
[ ] Youkai scuffle in Chinatown, two wounded
[ ] Restoration of unearthed mainframe making progress
[ ] String of burglaries foiled, "Nightbug" takes credit
[x] Restoration of unearthed mainframe making progress
[x] String of burglaries foiled, "Nightbug" takes credit
[x] Aureus & Knowledge open new Sixbridges public library
Background, current events, education and culture, yes please.
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[ൠ] String of burglaries foiled, "Nightbug" takes credit
The first and most noticeable one is right across the front. Not exactly WAR DECLARED-level billing, but certainly enough to catch your eye (which is what their aim was in the first place): 'String of burglaries foiled, "Nightbug" takes credit'.
I recall having met Wriggle a few times, back when this was all still Gensokyo. She struck me as all right, if a little odd; she dressed elaborately (for a youkai) and actively tried to ingratiate herself to humans. Before Rinnosuke, I thought of her actions as weird and unusual. Now, looking back on it, it seems oddly progressive. And now...
The photo accompanying the article shows a couple of haggard, bruised men tied up, a sheet of paper pinned to the shirt of one of them. She'd taken her desire to be accepted by humans to what seemed like a pretty absurd level: vigilante/superhero. Using her command of insects, as well as her own natural youkai abilities and strengths, she stopped crime and fought criminals.
Public reactions were mixed: the younger generations apparently held her in high regard, getting a hell of a kick out of the idea that there could truly be such a thing as a superhero. Older people were more divided, and had concerns regarding how far she could be trusted, and making her accountable for her actions. So far she hadn't endangered the public, but some felt it was only a matter of time.
Himekaidou was a small fan of hers, saying that while she didn't know her personally, The Nightbug was great for selling papers and catching thieves. Therefore, she couldn't be all bad.
No Jameson dynamic there, sadly.
I hadn't had much contact with Wriggle after the Flip. Very few people had, as a matter of fact: even if everyone knew who she really was, she took the "secret base" part quite seriously. Nobody was sure where she lived. Most people speculated she disguised herself as a transient during the day, had someone else do the shopping, or was somehow able to maintain a normal-seeming identity. That last seemed a little difficult, however; one would need more than a pair of glasses to slip on when one also had antennae coming out of one's head.
As I eat the last of my salad, I consider that the only reason the Troubleshooters hadn't come after her yet was probably because she was making life easier for the police, and generally contributing to society without pushing the envelope too far. Maybe they do know where she lives, and just aren't making a move on her. My eyes skip down the page, and then stop again.
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[獅] Youkai scuffle in Chinatown, two wounded
The photo accompanying this headline is smaller than the one showing off the captured burglars, but it still gives me a momentary shock. I recognize the place shown in it quite easily. I'd walked to and from there every day for several years, after all.
It's my old apartment.
I have a sneaking suspicion of what exactly had transpired... And as I scan down the column of newsprint, sure enough, there it is: ...the youkai, identified as a komainu, began to walk up and down the apartment complex, shouting and throwing things at the walls of other apartments at approximately 8 pm yesterday...
Old Man Jaki had finally gone and done it. The surly prick was old, irritable as hell, and often drunk. It was hard to tell when he was and when he wasn't, really. Either way, he was still a pain in everyone's ass. The only reason he hadn't been evicted was that he paid his rent on time every month, and fixed all his own damage. That didn't make him any more likable, or any less of a pain, but one would be hard-pressed to find someone with either of those qualities in those apartments, let alone both.
Reading further down, I find out that it had all started because he had at last been fired from work. He was a construction laborer, and certainly built for the job: he weighed upwards of a hundred kilos, and despite the drinking, very little of that was fat. He bragged that they called him "Beef Jaki" down at the job site, but I think he made that up.
When the police had arrived, they were surprised to find out that the civil disturbance they'd been called to the scene of was being caused by a youkai. Nobody had bothered to mention that, it seemed. I chalked it up to poor English skills on the part of the caller, which was a common enough occurrence in Chinatown.
The officers had tried to deal with him the best they could, but Jaki had been able to hold his own, and put both officers out of commission in fairly short order. He then started getting more violent, demanding to know who had called the police on him, and started smashing windows.
It was shortly after this that agents Black and Ruukoto of the Troubleshooter Bureau arrived on the scene and subdued the belligerent komainu in fairly short order. A few more details were provided after that, but mentioning that the Troubleshooters had shown up was enough to reassure all but the most paranoid citizen.
They'd been formed less than a year after the Flip by Kirisame and Margatroid themselves, with a specialist named Asakura who was charged with leading the group. A mix of youkai and youkai hunters, their original aim was to contain aggressive youkai, and to protect the nervous populace from attacks by same— after all, not everyone had weathered the Flip well. Their other goal was to provide a force that represented safety and strength (and more importantly, stability) in the face of real, genuine monsters that none of these humans had ever seen before. It was a risky move, considering the inclusion of youkai among their numbers, but it had been an absolute necessity.
Asakura knew what she was doing, though, and the gamble paid off in spades. The public were more than happy to accept them, and it paved the way for integration of youkai into general society. It wasn't about making a distinction between "good youkai" and "bad youkai," but about showing that youkai weren't evil by nature. More importantly, it showed everyone that we were capable of becoming upstanding members of the community if they worked for (or with) it, rather than against it.
Not everyone was happy with youkai being treated as people, though: Alice paid for it with her life for it two years later, when the founder of Humanity First! blew up her car, and then took her head off with a rifle as she stumbled out of the flames. He was captured afterward, and HF themselves publicly —and possibly very sincerely, I'll admit; Renko said it was an uncharacteristically harsh denouncement— condemned his actions. I had no doubt that there were others who felt as strongly as he, though.
The article went on to say that Jaki would likely be taken to the youkai prison out on the South Rim, near the edge of Haven's boundaries. Putting a violent, alcoholic human through rehab was difficult enough. I didn't want to think about how they would manage a youkai in the same state. Nevertheless, I'm sure that they'll succeed, eventually. Asakura had gone from leading the Troubleshooters to becoming the head of the city's Department of Youkai Relations, under whose auspices the Troubleshooters continue to operate. They handle anything and everything youkai-related, and even have their own R&D facility.
[Ѧ] Aureus & Knowledge open new Sixbridges public library
I reach over to take another bite of the trout, and only become aware that I am doing it after the second time the fork clinks on the plate without spearing another bite of fish. I look up, and realize that I'd finished off my plate without even being aware of having eaten any of it, so totally absorbed was I in the paper. This is an absolutely unforgivable crime against dinner.
After wrapping up the rest of the trout and putting it away —partly as self-appointed penance, and partly so that I didn't take more and then miss out on that as well while I finished reading the paper— I return to my seat, and refill my small bowl with salad. That, at least, I didn't feel as unhappy about for missing.
Not that I dislike it. I just don't have the opportunity for grilled trout every night, and want to be able to savor it when I do. Salad, though, has a common part of my evening meal for a while, now.
Turning back to the paper, I read a few more pages in, not seeing much of immediate interest until page three. There it mentions that Ellen and Lady Knowledge had at last opened Haven's seventh public library in Sixbridges, one of the residential districts.
Grabbing for a notepad, I write out a quick reminder to visit it during the upcoming weekend; I'd need a full day to devote to it, at least. Not that I needed the note, but the best way to ensure that I would always remember something was be to write a note in case I forgot— an annoying but proven habit I had picked up from Rinnosuke.
Things like this, though, I was pretty sure would stay in my mind anyway. Whenever I entered a library or a bookstore for the first time, I became the proverbial kid in a candy store.
That also sold toys.
The library had been opened yesterday morning. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the famous couple went in and worked alongside the regular staff for the rest of the day. Aureus was at the checkout desk, and Aureus (née Knowledge; the press still used her maiden name in headlines because that was the name almost everyone else knew her by, even though it had been two years already) took questions at Information.
It does my heart good to see progress being made like this. The University provides a reputable, post-compulsory-education place of learning, but public libraries were indispensable in maintaining a literate, educated, and interested populace. Himekaidou's Kakashi Spirit News, no longer overshadowed by her rival's publication, flourished into a respectable newspaper, also helped in this respect, assisted by other (admittedly smaller) papers.
With nobody getting in or out of Haven, the importance of education is greater than ever. These two women realized that right away, and have been putting their all into helping this city grow intellectually. The public libraries are but one of several projects they've undertaken, and I have the deepest respect for them. The only greater people than them, in my mind, would be Rinnosuke and Marisa.
I don't know if I'll ever be someone's personal hero. "Assistant lecturer and chemistry teacher" is not exactly the cloth legends are cut out of. ...On the other hand, my top four are a junkyard owner, a witch who committed intellectual and physical burglary for fun (but never really profit), a librarian, and an absent-minded alchemist, respectively.
When I look at it like that, I guess I'm not doing bad at all. As long as I can instill in people the drive to succeed, or even simply to be decent, hardworking people, then I can be proud of my life.
...Really, though, I don't feel a burning need to be anyone's idol. I just want to inspire them to do good things, to contribute, and to leave this world a better place than they found it.
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[Σ] Restoration of unearthed mainframe making progress
Taking note of the address of the library, I make an additional note to find out which bus route runs out to Sixbridges. I've been all over the city, but I only started using the bus to commute these last few years, meaning I'm not intimately familiar with all the routes and their destinations. Most of my city-exploring was done on foot, back then.
Flipping over to the next page, a short mention of the University catches my eye. It was about that huge computer... thing they'd dug up last month in one of the farm districts. It had been quietly excavated, and brought back to the University at night under close supervision. Only once it was secured did Asakura issue a press release.
Apparently it was some kind of enormous, heavily armored computer that had been buried three or four meters underground. The farmer had only discovered it when he'd been taking out a stump that seemed especially difficult— apparently the roots had been tangled up with the rusted remains of a wing attached to this device. He called up a friend who was attending the University, and they sent someone out to have a look at it. They, in turn, called in the DYR after doing some basic subterranean imaging. Technically, while the thing wasn't a youkai, it certainly fell under the category of "incredibly weird stuff." So, into the DYR's lap it fell.
Once they'd gotten it to the school, a joint DYR/University team was formed to start investigating it. It wasn't anything any Gensokyo resident recognized, and there was nothing about it in pre-Flip news reports from the Outside. It was round, huge, black, and had little marking of some sort stamped on its armor.
They also found what looked like connection ports.
It turned out that the monstrosity was actually an extremely powerful computer, although nobody was quite certain why it had been armored so heavily. Despite this discovery, further investigation had slowed while a method of interaction with the mainframe —named "Sigma," since the red marking on its armor closely resembled the Greek letter— could be developed.
Most of the DYR's staff had since been recalled from the team, leaving only a liaison there, and the project was headed by an excitable young student in her third year who was attempting a dual major in mechanical engineering and computer science. The junior, Rika Na, was actually already known to people in the city, thanks to her name making for a good human interest piece in the Herald, KSN's primary rival.
(It went like this: "Na" was not her actual family name— Rika actually had no surname. She had only put down "N/A" when applying for city identification so that she could get into the University, because the automated form wouldn't allow the field to remain empty when it was submitted. The system that processed applications then parsed it as "Na," and registered her in the city database that way. She took it in stride, though: "I never needed one before, but having it isn't a huge pain or anything. Nobody bugs me about it, though I get asked to tell the story a lot. Personally, I don't care too much. It could have called me Carpathia M. Jujubean for all I cared, as long as it let me get into school.")
Rika had taken this project almost full-time, spending most of the rest of her time either sleeping, eating, or in class. I'd never met her, but according to the article, her results were starting to bear fruit. A system and an interface had been assembled that allowed for limited communication with the core inside.
It was severely restricted, the article noted, due to the vast differences between the two systems. However, that there was any successful progress being made at all, in the face of all that, meant it qualified as a major breakthrough. Rika herself commented, "This isn't a movie; we're not even remotely close to being able to upload viruses with laughing skulls. You'd be surprised at how easy people think we can do things that we really can't. It's like that quote about geniuses sweating. Ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, or something like that."
I get up and stretch out my arms and wings, letting out a yawn. As I wash off the dishes, I glance at the microwave's green LED clock. Normally, I read a bit before bed at this time, but I think this qualified for tonight. Why not shoot for getting up a half-hour earlier, anyway? Somehow, I actually remembered to remember this time— maybe if I'd scribbled a note to myself before now, I'd have started doing this sooner. I do so once I've set the dishes in the drain board and dried off my hands.
Once the remains of the salad have been covered and put away in the fridge, an idea occurs to me. I spend another fifteen or twenty minutes going over the paper in full, skimming, but not too lightly. I search for anything resembling give the rest of the paper a quick skimming, searching for anything related to memory blackouts or dementia-like symptoms in people far too young to have Alzheimer's.
I didn't find a single damn thing related to my search, although I noted a few others with passing interest.
One was a report on the growing popularity of Kawashiro Motors' natural-gas vehicles. Most vehicles in Haven are electric or natural gas, by necessity: there's very little gasoline available to the city, aside from when some comes in through the Miracle Mines. The only ones who adjusted easily to this were ultra-green types, who had already adopted such things, and (as she'd told me a few weeks ago) Renko, to whom this was no change at all— full-sized electric personal vehicles were apparently incredibly common the version of Earth she was from.
Another article mentioned the plans for the upcoming Festival Week, and some of the attractions scheduled to be held. It promised that the tenth annual Festival Week— the seven-day stretch at the end of October encompassing the anniversary of The Flip (the 28th), Halloween (the 31st), and the founding of Haven (November 3rd) —would be a truly grand occasion, celebrating ten years of perseverance and success in the face of the bizarre catastrophe that had affected all of our lives. It began somber, livened up a little, partway through, and ended in essentially city-wide partying and revelry. It wasn't quite on the scale of Carnevale or Mardi Gras, but people were certainly trying.
Finally, there was a small piece on the commencement speech at Yagokoro, given by Administrator Houraisan. Even with the numerous creatures of legend walking around Haven in broad daylight, most scientists were skeptical of the moon princess' claims of her lunar origin. However, her eagerness to help the city thrive and succeed by sharing the highly advanced technology she had access to were seen as greater-than-adequate compensation for "humoring her." There was an excerpt of her speech talking about how when she and a handful of earth rabbits were the only ones from Eientei to have arrived in Haven after the Flip, she immediately threw herself into the city's restoration and recovery in her grief. Cut off from her mentor, her staff, her friends, and even her (literally) eternal nemesis, she focused all her being into doing something useful with what she had... And founding a medical school was something that she believed she could truly be proud of, something that honored her mentor.
It was a sentiment I could agree with.
I fold up the paper, disappointed by the lack of success in my search, but having at least sated my need for evening reading. I shut off the lights in the kitchen, and make my way to my bedroom. Stripping down, I climb in between the silk sheets —one of the indulgences I'd sprung for with my first paycheck after taking my new post(s)— and lie down on my side. I feel the fabric settle over what feels like every centimeter of my body in ways that still seem foreign, and yet, not at all unwelcome. I don't know if I should enjoy sleeping in the buff, but it's the only I've ever been able to sleep.
Renko confided in me that her friend Mary was exactly the same way. I did not ask how she knew this, since we were both sloshed at the time. Drunkenness etiquette, and all that.
I start to drift off, then a stray thought reminds me about what I'd meant to do earlier. Pushing myself upright, I set the alarm for a half-hour earlier than normal. It takes only a minute, and then it's done. I click the Alarm Set button a few times, making the red digits flick back and forth between the alarm time and the current time.
"That was much, much easier than it should be... should have been," I murmur sleepily. It took this long, after all. Seems too easy. Shrugging, I lie back down, and let the lights of the city lull me to sleep as a memory of the past floats through my tired mind.
[ ] 1001 Gensokyan Nights
[ ] Havendreams
especially when they get interrupted partway through.
>Well, the meteor shower wasn't as good as I was being led to believe it might be, unfortunately.
Nah, it's cool. I've done meteor shower watching since I was a kid, and I'm aware they're not the "sky full of streaks" the media like to depict them as. I got to see a few, even with all the light pollution the nearby cities put out.
Neato ban-fricking-dito. Not everyone from Eientei managed to be a victim/volunteer of the Flip? Color me interested; to me it indicates that Gensokyo, the world at large, and where ever the hell Renko is from were/are(is) independent entities, and none of them were willing(?) participants of the madness that was "the Flip."
Just because I could and wikipedia was there; crap that occurred October 28:
>1538 – The first university in the New World, the Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino, is established.
>1636 – A vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony establishes the first college in what would become the United States, today known as Harvard University.
>1891 – The Mino-Owari earthquake, the largest earthquake in Japan's history, strikes Gifu Prefecture.
>1893 – Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Pathétique, receives its première performance in St. Petersburg, only nine days before the composer's death.
>1929 – Black Monday, a day in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which also saw major stock market upheaval.
>Alice paid for it with her life for it two years later, when the founder of Humanity First! blew up her car, and then took her head off with a rifle as she stumbled out of the flames.
Ouch, poor Alice.
>>36128 Even at full power, I'd imagine separating a youkai's head from its body would at least incapacitate it long enough for a second team of attackers to seize and restrain the body before burning it and scattering the ashes at a crossroads, or whatever you have to do to actually kill youkai.
Awakening brings with it pain. Much pain. Spots of color, afterimages of stars everywhere. Not metaphorical ones.
I lay on my back, weight of my body on top of my wings, hurting, adding to more hurt. All over, bruised, aching, ow. Junk and things, lying in heaps everywhere, all around, corners of vision. Big and small.
Still in pain.
My first thought: I'm going to kill that witch.
Second thought: No, wait. Miko first, then witch.
Third thought: ...Never did get those books back, did I?
My eyes close. Pain persists. Also shame; rage supporting. Lots of that.
Time passes. Maybe an hour? Possibly half. Aching
Door creaks as it is opened, footsteps walking across porch. Their sound diminishes slightly once theoretical feet are on the ground.
Sound stops after approaching me. Pause.
"I can see you breathing, so I know you're still alive."
"...Come on, I'll fix you up a cup of tea."
One eye is opened. Silver-haired man in blue clothes, crouched low, holding out hand. Slightly silly-looking. Glasses: either educated or wealthy. What is in the pouch, I wonder?
I lift my hand, take his. Up I go, and aches return again. Not as bad as before, but still multitudinous.
Man chuckles a little. Only a little.
He would have been third after miko and witch if it had been longer.
"I'm actually very sorry about all that."
I say nothing as he says something. Dust myself off. Give him a glare.
"No, really. As I understand it, Ms. Hakurei was rather blatantly in the wrong, doing what she did."
He knows? Wait, how does he know?
"You're..." Pause, clear my throat. Dry after lying around, saying nothing. "...You're aware of what she did to me, then?" Ah, that's much better.
Sheepish look, followed by frown. "Yes, I am. She was so completely brazen about it, I can't think it was anything but the truth... She saw you reading, attacked you, and took your books?" Not a question, but it ends in a questioning lilt, curving up at the end.
I snarl. Call into question miko's lineage. Mild suggestion that she copulates with animals. Frequently. Nodded confirmation of his understanding of the situation. He coughs, looks down. Maybe his throat was dry, too? Probably why he wants to make tea.
"Er, ah, right then, I'll take that as a yes." Looks around, down again, then finally at me once more. "Well, uh, please, come in, and I'll brew some tea."
Books are gone, haven't had much to eat. Food is being offered.
"Very well. Lead the way."
Man does so.
Building is entered.
Man busies himself with kettle. I survey.
Have not been here before today, not inside. Occasionally glimpsed while flying over the Forest. Got brief glimpse when called the miko out.
"I think you've been handed the short end of the stick, to say the least."
Bizarre junk everywhere. Much of it clearly of Outside manufacture. Very curious. Some light attempt at sorting, but only broadest categories. Some things slightly recognizable, but many more are things unknown to me.
"I'd like to make it up to you in some way, if I can. I'm aware I wasn't the one responsible for taking the books from you, but I did deal with the person who did, despite knowing their origin."
Store (Can only assume man is shopkeep; counter is visible, stool is nearby, some device showing numbers is present) is not well-lit. Seems more like enormous shack, very untidy. Can only as—BOOKS.
In next room over, shelf upon shelf of books, lining walls. Attempt to suppress moan of desire bordering on sexual partially successful. Comes out like a drugged statement of wonder, possibly confusion.
"See, I'd been missing exactly those three books from..." Man trails off. Must have noticed stillness; looked up. Followed my gaze. "...Did you see something interesting back there?"
Is he mad? Dense? Blind, even?
Mouth is dry again. Voice rasps slightly as I speak, try to keep whimper out of it. "You have books back there, I notice."
A beat. Looks at books. Looks at me.
"Oh, they come in through the Border along with all kinds of other things. That librarian's got a better selection than I do, but th—"
Tremor slips into voice as I interrupt. Giddiness fills heart.
"You wish to offer compensation for your misdeeds, correct?"
Response is immediate.
Turn to face him. Man raises one eyebrow; must see something odd in my expression. Not a surprise.
...Hmm. Eyes are gold. Only now noticed; very unusual.
"Free reign to peruse your entire collection of books. That is my price. I shall not steal or shoplift in any way whatsoever."
Man smiles. Smile is kind, very human. Those eyes, that hair; they are anything but.
My eyes crack open to see my alarm clock making noises that it should not make when it is showing such numbers.
"Fgwuh?" I ask the world in general. I lean over, turn off the alarm, then grab the glass of water I keep by the bed. Taking a swig, I rinse my mouth out, then lean over even further, and spit into the potted plant by the nightstand.
I hate morning cotton-mouth.
That dealt with, I refocus my attention back on the offending device. I get up at seven, not six-thirty. Why are you doing this to me, clock?
[ ] Hold on, I know what this is.
[ ] Some mysteries are meant to stay mysterious.
without having the numbers jump to the beginning of the line, and I'll rectify it immediately. Otherwise, the only thing that seems to stop it is having a (roman) letter between the Arabic and the numbers. Damned right-to-left input languages.
>I get up at seven, not six-thirty. Why are you doing this to me, clock?
Do you suffer from short-term mem-ory loss?
I can't remember... >I start to drift off, then a stray thought reminds me about what I'd meant to do earlier. Pushing myself upright, I set the alarm for a half-hour earlier than normal.
[X] Hold on, I know what this is.
>In next room over, shelf upon shelf of books, lining walls. Attempt to suppress moan of desire bordering on sexual partially successful. First time in his home and she's having a bookgasm in under two minutes? Damn, Rinnosuke's one fast operator.
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[⅙] Hold on, I know what this is.
I glare muzzily at the clock in my hands. Its red LED bars taunt me with their earlitude. Earliosity. Earlishness?
Yes. That was the plan, wasn't it? The plan as it's been for years now? 'Start getting the hell up earlier'?
But I don't wanna!
With a very unfeminine grunt of resigned determination— not as much of an oxymoron as it sounds; it's the feeling you get when you've committed yourself to doing something you really, really don't feel like doing —I sit upright, and throw off the covers as I clamber out of bed. As I do my morning stretch, it occurs to me that it's not quite that I'm tired that's slowing me down, since I actually feel somewhat rested. It's my body's reluctance to break the routine that's since been tied to my internal clock.
Too bad, body. Get used to it, we're long overdue.
After using the toilet, I let the shower warm up while I slip on my bathing cap and wing covers. It's an annoying process, but one I've gotten used to, and can now accomplish in a fairly short time. The pebbled glass shower door starting to fog up means that the hot water is not merely ready, it's back and working again.
A hot shower in the morning is one of the closest things to a vice I have (aside from overpriced beer), despite taking them in the evening, too. I never had anything like this in Gensokyo. It's wonderful, in so very many ways. Oh my, yes.
Once I've finally finished and am all cleaned up, the bathroom is quite thoroughly foggy. Stepping out onto the bath mat, I reach over and twist the timer knob for the fan to the 10-minute mark. I pull off the cap and wing covers, hang them up on their rack, and begin drying off as the whirring blades in the covered fixture above turn, then speed up into a gentle drone.
I actually installed that timer myself, after coming home too many times to hear the fan still whirring away as I opened the front door. The apartment manager doesn't know about it, and if or when I move out of here— unlikely, at the moment —I'll replace the light switch that was there before and take my timer with me.
Dried off to satisfaction, I get dressed, choosing another dark skirt and matching suit for today. I still think it's kind of silly to need a bunch of different outfits rather than just a few comfortable ones, but this is the cost of being in a job where people are looking at you for extended periods of time every day. Gotta look good, and gotta show variety. Probably extends the life of each garment, too.
As the stockings (blue, today) are rolled up my feet, I cast an eye over to where, if I could see through walls, the door and the shoes resting by it would be. Today's not the day to have the boots make their return (or debut, I guess; I've never worn them at the school). But that day is coming soon, I think with a grim smile. Oh yes.
If the fasteners for the garter belt made more of a snap, that would have been a nice bit of cheesy dramatic effect. Oh well. Rather than lament the lack of a special effects budget for my life, I instead pull on my skirt, and resume dressing.
A quick detour to the bathroom to fix up my hair into its usual presentable mess later, I'm out of my bedroom and into the rest of the apartment. I eye the box of Pop-tarts and shudder, wondering if continuing this bet is really worth $20 to me. A few moments of of clear-headed thought upon the idea of keeping up this breakfast diet quite clearly tells me, no, it isn't. Aren't contracts made under the influence null and void, or is it only when under duress?
Either way, to hell with it. I've got some trout that needs eating. It's too bad the author of that diet probably didn't make it over in the Flip. Renko and I could have lured him to a bar and then rolled him. Egging and TPing are out, not just because it's too juvenile, but nobody wants to waste valuable food or supplies. We're not exactly starving anymore, and lots of food is readily available at stores all over, but I don't think that the memory of those first difficult years is going to fade away so easily.
And that's not even getting into what it'd do to our reputation at the University. Kids have it so easy with the hoodlum-ing, I swear.
The trout turns gently in the microwave as I step outside briefly to grab the paper from its tube. Looking over the headlines as I wander back inside, I see that sure enough, a lot of it is devoted to the Neighborhood Oversight measure that Jönsson had been talking about yesterday. Indignant outrage and much harrumphing from various community leaders. It's hard to argue with a bad track record and police reports, though.
When the microwave beeps to signal that it's finished, I remove the fish, and then attack it hungrily the moment I'm back at the table. I make sure to keep my eyes off the paper as I do so, and devote every speck of attention to the delicious fish. And this time, I'm able to tell it tastes delicious.
After breakfast, I start to hurry up to get ready to leave, before catching myself. I relax, with a little laugh. I'm running half an hour early today, so there's no need to hustle. ...Is there?
A glance at the clock— 7:28 —tells me that I'll be able to catch the 7:54 bus with plenty of time to spare, rather than the 8:14 that I normally ride. Then again, if I sprint out of here right now, I just might be able to grab the 7:34. At that hour, I'd have free reign of the campus! For a little bit, at least...
[ ] 7:34 -- Might even be able to get away with flying outside for a while...
[ ] 7:54 -- Hey, still a third of an hour early. They'll be impressed.
[ ] 8:14 -- Bah. The reason for waking up earlier was to extend the time at home before leaving.
Story delayed more by Grief Syndrome and my birthday than Ten Desires; I'm waiting on the English patch for that. Should be in a month or so, if the turnaround time for Fairy Wars and UFO were any indication.
>>36064 Interesting, bordering on creepy.
>>36066 >>an absent-minded alchemist
>>35789 >Also, iirc, this was just supposed to be you kicking back from your usual stories without so much action involved, right? Does this mean things like that dude's blackouts will just be solved very easily and it'll go back to slice-of-life, or will this have an actual plot? 〜
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...I think I'm going to do a perform a very minor retcon, in that any point (before noon) where I specifically gave a time will occur or have occurred an hour earlier.
In other words, Renko sent Parminder to get the papers at 7:30 yesterday, Tokiko got up at 5:30 today, and is about to catch the 6:34 bus. However, she still got off work at six yesterday. I trust this is easy enough to follow?
I am doing this because as they're laid down currently, it just doesn't seem quite realistic in my mind. And quite frankly, that's starting to bug me and play hell with my ability to write the update.
I hope this isn't going to make the world come off its axis for anyone. If this sounds like a monumentally stupid decision, then now's the time to scream about it.
>>36276 Aha, is that how it's done, then? Guess I should have looked that up. It's a bit late to go back and repost the update as I'd said I would, and I'm not sure I'll ever have cause to do that again, but it's good to know about anyway. Thank you!
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[œ] 6:34 -- Might even be able to get away with flying outside for a while...
...Oh, yeah. I can totally do this.
I put the dishes in the sink; I'll wash them when I get home. I grab my bag, do a quick once-over of the contents... got everything for today? Yes? Yes!
Grabbing my things, I make for the door, step out of my indoor slippers and into my heels, and tear out of my apartment, almost literally flying down the hall to the stairwell— which I pass right by, and instead make for the open-air landing. About two or three meters before I would crash into it, I crouch and then spring forward and up, extending my wings out as I pass over the railing.
They flap several times as I glide down through the air, allowing me to land on the sidewalk with a click. I (mentally) thumb my nose at the cat and the stairs both, neither of which were able to hamper or hinder this morning's speedy departure. And it's a good thing, too, because there's the 110, coming over the crest of the hill my apartment sits atop. Hustling down the sidewalk, I make it in time to the bus stop, and climb aboard.
The bus is packed thicker at this hour, and I don't recognize a single face. That isn't really surprising, but it still catches me off guard for a moment. The lady driving the bus —Filipino, by the look of her, but I could be wrong— gives me a quick look up and down when she sees the wings, and then dismisses me as a threat. A youkai dressed like me probably isn't going to be a troublemaker, in her mind.
However, truth be told, that's a horrible way to gauge the potential dangerousness of a youkai. Almost everyone dressed well in Gensokyo, human and youkai alike. You couldn't just walk around in blood-spattered rags chewing on a severed arm; they'd put you down within a fortnight. You had to look respectable.
Humans are really easy to fool, that way. ...Or, they used to be, at least.
I thank the bus driver as I get off the bus at the University, as I customarily do. I give my thanks in Tagalog, however, to which she blinks, and then gives the reply, along with a little laugh. Like I've said, the smallest things can ingratiate you to a person, and this is no different.
As the bus rumbles away, I look upon the campus, which is downright deserted, right now. It's coming up on 7 am, and I've got at least 15 to 30 minutes to myself. I rub my hands in anticipation as I look over the best possible starting points. Three immediately leap out at me.
[ ] The bell tower! It's one of the highest points on the campus with a great view.
[ ] The library's third-floor balcony! Good, wide landing and takeoff area.
[ ] Right here! Stash your bag somewhere and get to it!
[ ] write-in? (If it's good and I can make it fit, I'll allow it.)
Aaaaargh. Too short an update, too long to get around to writing it. But it's written, so now we can get moving again.
I'd like to strongly recommend that people check out "Roll the Dice" in /eientei/. Even if you hate the /eientei/ crew, you can't hate somebody who writes a decent story, has a knack for humorous and descriptive turns of phrase, and draws detailed pictures for every one of his updates. Plus, the protagonist is a grizzled divorcee; a rare thing to see on this site, and one I found interesting. No plucky young lad from the village or high-school-age Outsider, this.
>The bell tower! It's one of the highest points on the campus with a great view.
You're going to stand near a gigantic bell, which presumably can be heard over all the campus, near the turn of the hour?
[x] The library's third-floor balcony! Good, wide landing and takeoff area.
- [x] Catch the steam updraft rising from over the cafeteria. You'll smell like delicious baked goods all day, but it'll give you enough height to land on the Physics building.
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>>36590 In my case, it was taking care of registration and enrollment, and then fixing my bicycle, getting it back into working condition. There's something oddly satisfying about sitting in a garage and repairing/restoring something.
Still, that's no call for not saying something sooner, though. And I seem to recall saying a while back that I'd try to do give a heads-up when there was downtime, too. Feels bad, man.
I know what I want and need to write. Now it's just a matter of actually doing it. Once I get started, I can work pretty quickly.
>>36478 >>36579 Good, somebody took care of him. I was going to do that myself, but this just saves me the trouble.
>>36453 Someone's paying attention. This has been noted and implemented.
[␇] The bell tower! It's one of the highest points on the campus with a great view.
I stretch for a few moments, extending my wings and letting them beat a few times, sending air rustling through the bushes and the grass out here. It kicks up a few small clouds of dust from the road, too, visible in light of the just-slightly-post-dawn hour.
The bag over my shoulder is removed from its perch, and clutched firmly in hand. I don't need it getting in the way, and it'd just be awkward, besides. Rinnosuke had a pouch strapped to his chest, which would make this issue moot, but he didn't do too much flying, and I don't think it'd look right on me. Not in these clothes, anyway. Still might be something to consider, though.
I kick off the ground, spread my wings wide, and settle into a low, slow glide above the path I normally walk. After heading north, then west, towards the center, it goes over a little hill that dips down to the central hub of the campus. I'm not actually flying properly just yet, this is just a very gentle warm up to get myself ready. And it's also to use up the time until...
I approach my destination without any particular hurry. Up ahead, the bell tower chimes out the hour as while sitting there, tall, white-painted, and dotted with intermittently-flashing aircraft warning-lights. While we don't have an actual bell, there are some powerful speakers up there. There's a great deal of piping and conveyor belts running through the concrete tower, which would have been a pretty obvious sign that it was a loading or unloading silo meant for receiving materials from (or dispensing them to) railroad cars. The signage inside would have let us know that, even if we couldn't have guessed.
Certainly no majestic brickwork sentinel, this, but it's what we have, and it serves our purposes quite nicely.
Once the "bell" has finished sounding, I hop (if a three meter upward leap can be called a "hop") over the fence and the locked gate, and punch the "Top" button on the little service elevator. There was no sense in flying straight to it when I got here; it'd have gone off right about when I arrived. I enjoy being able to hear things going on around me, after all. It wouldn't have been permanent damage, since I'm a youkai, but it's not like a mere half-hour's rest would see me right again. Lots of small, internal stuff takes time to fix, even for us.
The elevator car jerks to a stop, and I pull the folding gate aside, stepping out onto the broad ring of metal grating that makes up the top "floor" of the tower. A breeze brushes over my cheeks, stirring my hair, slightly. I'm glad I carry a brush in my bag; I'll need to fix my hair again after I get back.
I take a few seconds to give the University a good looking-over. The tower stands about is placed a little east from the center of the campus, but it still affords a great view of the place. Aesthetically speaking, it's not very pretty— large factory complexes very rarely are. But it still has a sort of industrial charm to it. It feels solid, and it feels reliable. The brick and concrete theme so prevalent mixes with the pipes and ducts more common to the liberal-arts buildings in the northeast. The smaller, more conventional ones scattered throughout that usually serve as various administrative offices (and probably did in the factory days, as well) seem more reserved, but add to the overall feeling of productivity.
As I prepare to fly, I breathe in deeply, taking in all of this: The sight of the early morning sunlight illuminating the eastern face of the buildings and casting slightly darker shadows in the places light hasn't yet fully shone, the light wind rustling by, the otherwise-quiet of the campus underneath the occasional distant sounds of traffic on the Starway and closer residential streets...
Life persists, and the world endures. The view, no, the simple experience of this morning serves to remind me of that fact. I find a smile creeping onto my lips as I step toward the edge of the circular walkway, place my bag upright on top of one of the speaker housings, and hop on top of the railing.
...While holding onto a sturdy piece of wiring conduit, of course. Sure, I'm a youkai, and a bird type at that, but that doesn't mean I'm exactly possessed of preternatural balance and poise. That'd be the gate guard's department, or Ibaraki's... wherever they are. Plus, I'm wearing these damned heels. They really don't lend themselves to standing on railings at all.
I look down.
The view is enough to make the minor feelings of irritation blow away like so much dust in the wind. It makes me giddy and excited, and I remember that I need to make as much of this time I've secured for myself as I can.
I spring forward, away from the, and up, slightly, into the air. Reflexively, I fold myself in tighter, turning it into an energetic sort of swimmer's dive as I plunge down, down, down...
[The 54five FOUR choices below are mutually exclusive. However, earlier suggestions/write-ins are still pending.]
[ ] Sightseeing tour of the campus! ...Not all of it, but most of it!
[ ] Stick to the central area, here. Maybe a time trial?
[ ] A leisurely gliding flight is fine, too. Flying slowly is preferred here.
[ ] All the way down. This can (probably) be combined with another vote. )
Thank god, it's done at last. I hate it when I'm reluctant to write an update, since it's bad for everyone: you, me, and the story itself. I don't really ever see it coming ahead of time, either, which makes it worse.
This isn't to say the bell tower, or even flying itself were bad choices, or that you should avoid doing these kinds of things in the future. I don't think I've fully isolated just what "these kinds of things" are, yet.
>>36606 ...Are you "Needhelp" who showed up on IRC a little over a week ago, or do we have more than one person on this site who can't punctuate, loves run-on sentences, and can't seem to grasp from the way others write that we don't like that sort of thing? I pray it's just the former. The alternative would be upsetting.
[X] Sightseeing tour of the campus! ...Not all of it, but most of it!
I'd rather not show up for the first class all windblown and sweaty.
>>36720 >(also the fourth vote is really... glitchy? It's hard to say exactly how, dunno if its just me)
I'd say it's intentionally that way, being a suicide vote. Though it should have been put on the fifth line and given some extra spacing afterwards. Those characters like to bleed into subsequent lines.
>Ibaraki's... wherever they are
So Tokiko knows her by her 'maiden name'?
[X] A leisurely gliding flight is fine, too. Flying slowly is preferred here.
Ibises (and most water birds) are not really built for speed, and I don't see any reason to stress ourselves out trying for it.
[ʘ] Sightseeing tour of the campus! ...Not all of it, but most of it!
-[λ] Catch the steam updraft rising from over the cafeteria. You'll smell like delicious baked goods all day, but it'll give you enough height to land on the Physics building.
-[φ] Land on the Physics building. Closer to work means more time in the air.
The air whips around my face, my eyes, rushing by my ears, blowing my hair around and messing it up, just like I knew it would, and I don't care at all—
...Nancy Drew! That was her name! Knew I'd come up with it sooner or later.
—Aaaand wings out, pull up just before I hit the ground, laughing madly as I ascend, making a neat parabola out of my flight path. ...No, that's not right. More of a cosine.
I'd sigh about not being able to let go of teacher-mode even during my free-time, but I don't think I'll ever be able to pry myself out of that, and more importantly, who cares flying soaring wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Teaching may be my greatest joy as a civilian, but flight stirs up happiness and a sense of rightness from inside my soul itself. I am still a youkai, and still a bird, and every second of the experience resonates wonderfully within me.
I wheel in a few lazy circles around the tower as I ascend, trying to decide what to do with this time I've secured for myself. I already know the campus well enough, but seeing an aerial view first-hand —besides the map on the pamphlets in the visitor's office— is a rare treat, indeed. Roof after roof isn't quite as fun, though, so I'll fly a little lower as I go, I think.
Breaking off towards the direction of the rising sun, I fly out of the central hub for the physical sciences, passing between a pair of short, squat, buildings— The Student Affairs and Health offices. The former is on the small side, but well-decorated, while the latter is longer and larger, over all, but retains its no-nonsense appearance. I'm not sure it was a good idea to put the two next to each other, to be honest.
Beyond them, however, are large, sturdy, sizable buildings with the traditional sawtooth-shaped roofs of factory buildings. I slow my flight down a bit, and circle the ugly concrete buildings a few times. Without the wind quite so loud in my ears, I am now able to hear the faint sounds of machinery running.
The shops had had the least amount of overhauling and remodeling done to them, because they were more or less the perfect sort of facility to house the mechanical technology and engineering programs. All the industrial equipment already set up and prepared essentially decided the matter from the start. There were only three buildings, but they had a large footprint, accounting for much of the eastern side of the campus.
Circling the shops once, I angle south, passing over an enormous, fenced-off section attached to one building. Officially called the Yard by the administration, affectionately known as the Junkyard by the faculty, and referred to amongst students who thought there weren't any teachers around as the Shit-heap, this area was home to piles of scrap parts, discarded equipment, and wrecked vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
It was where people in the know were allowed to donate (read: get rid of) bulky, broken things, but in truth, everyone benefited: Haven was hardly bursting to the brim with raw materials, and students in this wing, regardless of their programs, were accomplished restorers and refitters by the time they graduated. One man's junk had never more truly been another's treasure.
Rinnosuke had in fact been considering something like this. Between him and that Kawashiro woman he was dating, I'm certain they could have pulled it off. Even today, her firm did was up to something similar, albeit in a more specialized field. I really wish I could have seen what they could have made together, though...
Well. Can't live in the past, right?
Nobody's out in the 'Yard at the moment, so I flap my wings a few times to gain a bit more altitude, and curve off to the west, as I'm approaching the southeast corner, and the gardens beyond. Despite skipping them on this trip, I actually enjoy them. They've got a Japanese garden there, or at least the best equivalent they can manage.
Down on the south end are the nicer, cleaner, more polished-looking buildings. The two that lie dead south are for the higher sciences, and as you start creeping to the southwest, the pretty, glassy buildings are used for exactly the same purpose they were built for: administration and public relations. Gotta put up a nice, clean, cutting-edge look for visitors, no matter what your line of business is.
...Oops. I spot a few early birds (oh, such wit) chatting to themselves on the paths through the big, green lawns to the three shell-shaped buildings out "front." I slowly start banking north, away from them. Just as well, too; there's not much to speak of going on over here. The architecture's nice, and the lawns are well-manicured, but quite frankly, it's boring out this way.
I shoot straight north from the Administrative corner, over a few small maintenance storage buildings (which also look boring, but the kind of intentional boring designed to make people not really pay too much attention to them), and arrive in the northwest quadrant, which is home to everyone's favorite things, no matter who you are or what kind of student you might be.
The first is the big, big building, our recreation center. It used to be a supply-storage warehouse, but it got converted into a gym. And then they added on a pool. And then they thought a soccer field was long overdue. And why not a few indoor basketball courts, to top it off?
...They got a little carried away, I think. A few students are pushing for an American Football field, too, but it's not looking so good for them, as the school has finally decided to draw the line on how much space will be devoted to it. It's already creeping pretty close to the library, after all.
The library is one of the few buildings on campus built post-Flip (from scratch, that is). The smooth, flowing lines of its construction are unexpectedly elegant, and even moreso, given what it was built in the middle of. ...It's one of my favorite places here, and every time I see it, I thank every god I knew that the architect who proposed the Googie plan for it never got the high bid. I can't stand that look.
Somehow, I acquired a dislike of the Sixties without having ever really experienced them firsthand. Renko tells me this is natural.
I circle my beloved bastion of books and braininess before begrudgingly bidding 'bye. My tour is almost done, and the sun is inching ever higher in the sky. I make a hairpin left, which is not something that's easy to do while flying (or driving, really) if you've built up any speed at all... And that's why I'm able to make it okay— the library is a naturally relaxing place for me.
A low-altitude flight through a grove of maples lining the asphalt path lets me indulge myself in a bit of a game, even if it is pretty easy. Dodging falling leaves is no trick if you're even slightly used to danmaku, since they move so slowly, and only along a z-axis. ...Well, unless you're dealing with an angry Shizuha, in which case that's a different story entirely. Since it's still their season, however, the Akis are much too busy to make with the danmaku (Nice ladies, though).
After I'm finished screwing around and laughing like a child (and have picked the leaves out of my hair), I follow the path up to a solid, sturdy-looking building that's already got a few lights on inside: the cafeteria. That's what everyone calls it, anyway; in reality, it's a cafeteria, a restaurant, and a culinary school all in one. It used to be home to the Ceramics division, too, until a few particularly desperate students tried using the ovens there instead of the kiln to fire their final projects the night before they were due, because their own rooms were locked.
The mess discovered in the morning cost the school about $10,000. It was not a good day.
I soar up over the roof and even before I get near the vents, I can feel the thermals. An involuntary grin crossed my lips as I ride them up and up, gaining height for free. I get up juuuust far enough to... there!
I break off, and without flapping my wings once, manage to glide across campus, flying back to the center in a long, smooth descent. Leaning off to the side, I buzz the bell tower in order to snatch up my bag from where I'd placed it, just for this reason. After that, I do need to flap my wings a few times, but not very much: I come to a careful, gentle landing atop the roof of the Physics building and carefully, carefully walk along the tiles to the access hatch. It's a skylight that swings up and open, and the only reason I have a key for it is because I covered for Bao Yu for a few afternoons during a break. Her son was sick, and I was around, not having much to do that week, but still needing to be at school for the little that I did. She was a little suspicious, but just chuckled after I told her why I wanted it.
She's a good woman.
Locking the skylight behind me, I dust myself off, and head for the ladies' room to make myself look somewhat presentable again. Flight is hell on makeup and preparation, but I'm more than happy to pay the price. After getting back into shape, smoothing all the ruffled bits, and generally making myself look like I didn't fly into work today, I leave the bathroom, and go out to the little railing at the top of The Cup.
Time to start the day.
[ ] Stop by the front office, first.
[ ] Go looking for Renko, she's probably around.
I am not dead, and neither is this story. But holy hell, am I busy. I only managed to write this because I had a day off when I couldn't get into the labs, either, and felt sufficiently guilty about letting this go for so long that I decided to dedicate today to finishing the update. Next break will probably be around Thanksgiving or so, much as I'd rather it were sooner. I miss being able to write freely so damned much. ;_;
>>36743 >Maiden name
Damn, I think you're right. She's only ever said Ibara, hasn't she? Thanks for catching that.
>>36730 It was only after the fifth or sixth time I saw this vote --and its attached picture-- that I realized you were bouncing the reference back at me. Well done.
>Well, we are on the Internet...
That's really no excuse.
...And when it's time to start the day, that generally means it's time to go find my esteemed colleague. A cursory check below reveals that she's not among the few students here and there in The Cup— my vision's pretty good, but even if I didn't have it, she's easy to pick out of a crowd; I'm pretty certain that the number of people at the University who wear a hat and a skirt is fairly slim— so I mosey on over to her office.
Again, the nameplate hasn't been thrown out into the hall, but yesterday taught me that this alone doesn't mean anything. I jiggle the knob, but it's still locked. Looking up and down the hall to make sure it's empty, I lean up against the door, pressing an ear to it, and listen for a good while, but don't hear a thing from inside.
With a frown, I walk off, and then come floating back about ten seconds later, silently returning to the door, and resume listening. If Parminder was bluffing yesterday (somehow), and for some insane reason decided to have a second try, then he'd have frozen still when I tried the door. Once more, I listen at the door.
...And again: nothing.
With a mental shrug, I head down to the elevator. She's around somewhere; I saw her car in the parking lot while flying overhead. Like her, it's not easy to miss. Unlike her, it's a hideous shade of neon green. She claims that it was cheaper because of that, which I have no problem believing.
I poke my head into 106, but don't immediately see her. "Renko?" I call out. It goes unanswered, however, so I make a quick circuit of the room. There's still no sign of her, though. ...This is getting a little odd, now, but it's not entirely unusual.
An idea strikes me, making me feel a bit silly for not considering it before now. Pulling out my phone, I slide the unlock off, and hit her speed dial code (star-star-three). I listen to it dialing as I head out of the room and back into the hallway, hoping to improve reception. To my partial relief, I get a busy signal. That's good, then. I'll see her whenever she gets around here, then.
I go by the office just in case, where I find the mailman talking with Bao Yu. She lights up when she sees me, and points in my direction. "Well, as a matter of fact, there she is right now," she tells him.
He turns around, surprised, but pleased. Oh, not the usual guy. "Ah, good. Got a package for you, prof," he says, handing me a clipboard. I look at the sender next to the circled signature line. Wait, why...
Oooh, right. I had Mason send this book here so that I'd actually be able to pick the damn thing up. The boxes he uses are just big enough that they wouldn't fit in the apartment's package drop box, and they don't like leaving them in front of the door unattended.
I scribble out my signature:
...and hand it back to him. He gives it a skeptical look, and I reach into my purse to pull out my ID, already anticipating the next question.
" 'H B J'? That doesn't seem to match the recipient's na— Oh." His official line cuts off as he sees the ID card showing him that yes, the lady with the wings and the silver hair before him is indeed one Tokiko Morichika. "Um, I see. Jeez, I'm really sorry about that. Out of curiosity, why...?" He wiggles the clipboard.
"A private joke. They'll accept it, don't worry," I tell him. Only ever had two people get it, but I'm okay with that. He looks at it a bit longer, and then shrugs, and then hands me the package from Mason's. I give him a nod of thanks, and he begins gathering up the empty mail crates.
Leaning to one side of him, I wave my hand briefly to get Bao Yu's attention. "I don't suppose you've seen Renko yet?" She shakes her head, and opens her mouth to say as much, when the mailman looks back at me.
"Uhh... lady about so high, brown hair, has a hat on?" he says, lifting a hand approximately to Renko-height. He takes my surprised look for an affirmative answer. "Huh, wondered if that was her. Seen her on the news before, y'know?" He jerks his thumb towards the rear of the building, adding "Out back, by the loading dock. Was on her phone; sounded kind intense. Barely even noticed me when I pulled up."
...I've found her, but this isn't helping make the situation any less odd.
[ ] Maybe something's the matter?
[ ] Renko's a big girl, she can handle it herself.
"That makes this easier, then. Thanks," I tell the mailman. He tips the brim of his cap, and I give a little wave to Bao Yu, then head out of the office, heading through the halls towards the back of the building. My pace isn't very hurried, but I'm not exactly strolling lazily along , either. I slip the package from Mason's into my bag as I go. It's small enough that it fits, thankfully.
A minute or so later, I push open the service entrance door in the back of the building. The mailman's truck is there, sitting silently, and off to my right...
"What about the admissions desk in the south wing? ...I know, but could you just check anyway?"
Renko is pacing back and forth on the concrete loading dock, looking somewhat agitated. Her nails clackity-clack on the metal railing by the edge with at least seven coats of paint on it. ...Whenever she comes to a stop, anyway. She gives me a short nod when she sees me, but the person on the other end of the phone starts speaking again. She listens intently for a moment, and then sighs.
"All right. Yeah, I underst— Would you? That'd really help. All right. Thanks, Sacchin. See you later." Snapping her phone shut, she stuffs it back into her vest pocket, and starts heading back inside without even really looking at me.
...What the hell is going on?
"Renko?" I ask, hurrying after her. "What... what's wrong? Is something the matter?"
She looks back over her shoulder at me, as if surprised to see me. Then she shakes her head. "Well... Don't worry about it yet. Maybe it's nothing."
"Are you sure? You don't look so good right now," I say, not quite willing to let the subject drop just yet.
"We'll see about that later, really. I'll know more by this afternoon, and tell you then, okay?"
I frown at her as I try to keep up. I don't want to just let this get worse, but... it's not as if she's telling me to never ask again. Fine, then. If she doesn't hold to that, then I'll do it for her.
If I had any doubts about whether Renko thought there was a problem, that day's lecture removed them all. She was irritable, almost snappish, and the pace of her instruction was almost back to what it had been before I started helping her out. More than once I had to smoothly interject and go over something again before she moved on— that was the sort of thing I often did anyway, but we usually planned my parts ahead of time, or at least scheduled them. This was more like reining her in.
Once the lectures are finished, I step over to her. I open my mouth to speak, but before I can get a single word out, she cuts me off. "...Remember how maybe it was nothing?"
She doesn't look at me as she speaks, and I follow her eyes over to where the TAs are talking amongst themselves. "Of course," I say. "It would have been hard to forget."
Renko gives a soft snort. "Right. Well, I think it's become 'definitely something.' You see who's missing, today?"
I already know the answer before I look, and experience a sinking feeling in my stomach. I hadn't seen Parminder either, but it hadn't alarmed me right away. Clearly she knows something I don't, though. "I do... What was the phone call about?"
Finally, she turns back to me. "Remember I gave him a number to call? That was for a friend of mine at Yagokoro. The call this morning was her saying that he hadn't been in yesterday, either. Didn't check in anywhere, didn't call. And she said she'd let me know the second he did. Well, I haven't heard a word from her, since, and he hasn't shown up today."
The sense of unease this whole situation made me feel yesterday returns now, more definite than before.
"What do you want to do about it?" I ask her. Not, 'Do you think we should do something?' One of her students is in trouble, weird trouble. I can already see that she's going to do something. She wouldn't be her, otherwise.
"I'm heading out to his apartment right now to check up on him. You wanna come with me?"
1) Sorry this wasn't then-tomorrow.
2) This isn't as unnecessary or why-are-you-even-bothering a choice as it might seem.
To make up for the lateness, I'll let you in on something. I remember that during The Game, many of you wondered just why it was that Sakuya infuriated the protagonist so much. What could the maid have done that the thought of her filled the protagonist with such ire? Well, I suppose I can now share with you all what exactly happened: Probably.
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[is something benign, we shouldn't get ourselves into a tizzy beforehand.
As Renko takes the exit onto an off-ramp, I wonder if I shouldn't do something about the transportation issue. A car would be one hell of an investment, plus a drain on my finances, but... Hmm. Maybe a moped would be the way to go? They're pretty popular in Haven. Motorcycles always seemed like a bit much, but a moped seems like a nice middle ground.
"Renko...?" I ask, half-suspiciously. "How exactly is it that you know where Parminder lives?"
I guess I was hoping for a blush or a roll of the eyes or something, as long as it lightened the mood. Instead, she just shoots me a strange look as we pull up to a stoplight, turn signal dink-ta, dink-ta, dink-ta-ing. "Didn't I tell you about this?"
After I shake my head, she leans forward slightly on the steering wheel, about to rest against it for a bit. The lights in the opposite direction change to amber almost as soon as she does, causing her to sit up straight again and glare at them for a moment. "Mahal went through some pretty serious depression a few months back, remember? Girlfriend dumped him, and all?"
"Well, yes, I remember that. But what's that got to... Oh! Oh, oh, oh, right. Right. Sorry." Renko nod-shrugs a little, and focuses back on driving again, heading for a downtown residential area riddled with apartment buildings.
It was an ugly breakup, and the kid had apparently taken it pretty hard. He had apparently said enough to his friends that they became seriously worried he might take his own life. So, for a few weeks, friends and faculty— Renko —had stopped by his house every day or two to chat, hang out, or have dinner with him. This was not only to keep his spirits up, but also to make sure he wasn't planning anything.
He'd stayed good and depressed for around a week and a half, despite everyone's best efforts. Then one day, he'd shown up in class again, good as new. Depression doesn't just stop all of a sudden, or at least, not very often. It wasn't an act, either; you could tell he was doing a lot better.
Although written off at the time after being unable to figure out what was behind this dramatic recovery— even he wasn't sure what had caused it —the suddenness of it was odd. I think this is where my weird, "not right" feeling was coming from. These 'missing spaces' aren't making it any better, either.
I don't like this at all.
We pull into an underground parking garage (with signing in Romanian), and get out. The slamming of the doors as we shut them seems louder than it should, for some reason, although the pwip-pip! as the alarm engages and the doors lock offsets it a little. I hate being nervous.
Riding up the elevator in silence to the third floor, we are deposited into a long, quiet hallway painted in cream white with a blue carpet running the length of it. Windows let in the early afternoon light, which light up the floor in squares. "Number three-ten," is all Renko says.
It doesn't take us long to get there. Music plays from inside; reggae, if I'm not mistaken. I sort of wish I was.
When we do, our eyes meet. Do you want to take the lead, here? is the question that lies between us.
Apparently the fishing pole thing went over most people's heads (Or at least, some of them).
For those who did get it, I refer you to http://danbooru.donmai.us/pool/show/3663 , or if you want to jump right in, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gWyqAjQ7Ug . Anything resembling The Game is, believe it or not, entirely coincidental (although I now realize somebody linked this while The Game was going on); I discovered this series only recently. It switches from text bubble overlays to Youtube's integrated Closed Captions around number 3 or 4, so make sure to turn them on when that happens. And yes, the art improves over the course of the series, but that's really a pretty minor thing in the face of everything else.
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[♭] Why not?
I lift the back of my hand to the door, and rap twice with my knuckles. Nothing happens for a moment, but then the volume of the music drops, silencing Bob Marley. Footsteps approach the door, and pause— probably looking through the peephole; we smile and look non-threatening —then there's a scrabbling as the chain lock is undone, and the door opens.
Out steps a very unkempt-looking Parminder Mahal, looking at us very strangely. His hair, normally fairly well-kept, is kind of wild, as if he'd just rolled out of bed. He's also got on shorts and a t-shirt; not his usual choice of attire at school.
After giving him a once-over, I look back up at him. "...Is everything all right, Mr. Mahal?"
He really must have just woken up, because that confused expression doesn't budge for a few more seconds. Then it seems to dawn on him that something has been said, and he blinks, then peers closer at us.
"I... Yes? I believe so. Why..."
"May we come in for a moment?" asks Renko, smoothly interjecting. He looks back inside his apartment, then at us, stammers, for a moment, and then steps back, letting us in. "Yes, certainly. I'm sorry." Wow, does she train all her TAs this well?
We step inside, idly looking around. The place is a typical college student pad, or as typical as they get, post-Flip. A couch and a beat-up coffee table have been wedged into the tiny living room, and a few day-old bowls and plates lie around here and there. Today's copy of the Gazette and the Spirit News are spread out on the couch. At least the place doesn't smell bad; the only thing that stands out is the faint scent of incense. Something sweet, I think..."
Renko stands next to me with her hands in her jacket pockets, while Parminder tries to not look nervously at us.
"I don't wish to seem rude, Mr. Mahal," I begin, cringing a little bit at my tone of voice; too aloof and businesslike, "but we couldn't help noticing that you were not in class today."
Renko remains standing while I take a seat on the couch, and cross my legs. It's a surprisingly soft piece of furniture, and I allow myself to lean back on it a bit. Normally my wings make doing so difficult at best, and unpleasant at worst. "While of course, we don't exactly demand perfect attendance from you," I continue, "seeing as how you're an adult, and fully capable of making your own decisions, Dr. Usami and I find it slightly unusual in light of yesterday's incident."
There's a pause as I let him process that, and then in a gentler tone, I ask again: "...Which is why I asked you a few minutes ago if everything was all right."
Parminder looks back and forth between us again, and the look of confusion only deepens.
And that was the beginning of the end.
"...Yes, I... I feel fine, certainly," he replies. "And I have not had any of those... incidents, I believe," he adds, almost whispering 'incidents'. "But why did yo—"
"Parminder." Renko's voice stops him cold, and he looks over at her. She shifts her weight onto one leg, and looks straight at her student. "Did you call the number I gave you?"
"Yes, but I only encountered the voice mail. It was Saturday, after all."
Now both of us stare at him for a few moments, before glancing at each other. That bad feeling I had before comes back with reinforcements. But just to be sure... "And you didn't come to class today, because...?"
He actually cracks a worried smile, at that. "Well... it is Sunday, of course. There are no Physics classes today."
I pull out my phone at the same time Renko holds out her watch. "...Today is Thursday," I tell him after a moment.
Blinking again, he steps forward, but sure as day, there's "Thurs. Oct 17" on my phone's display, and "THU" on Renko's watch. The color drains from his face, and he stumbles back.
"It happened. It happened again," he mumbles to himself, hands pressed to his face. His eyes dart up, and now, instead of confusion, they reveal panic. "This is not— I... it is doing things to me. I called her, I swear to you, and I got her voice mail—"
"There is no voice mail there, that was a hotline number." Renko is cool and collected, somehow. "Someone would have answered immediately if you had called. Tomo?"
"You might want to call the school and let them know that you'll need someone to cover your Chem classes today."
She looks down at me for a moment before glancing back at Parminder, who is slowly turning into a wreck. "We're bringing him to Yagokoro."
After reassuring him that the two of us have things in control, she convinces him to come along with us. It didn't really require much work, as he's in no shape to deny that something isn't right. After pulling on some sweats, he's ready to go.
Mahal locks the door of his apartment behind him, and follows us back down the hall as we return to the elevators. I pull out my phone to start dialing the numbers, but as we pass by the windows, I have to shield the screen from the light pouring in, since it shines onto the display at just the right angle to make it unreadable.
Behind me, Renko probes Parminder for more information. "What do you remember about the first of these missing moments?"
"It was Tuesday, as I had... s-said." He stumbles in his speech for a moment before continuing. "I had stayed after to help students in the lab, and was bring...ing their p-aperwork to your office..."
He pauses again, and takes a deep breath. The words are coming out haltingly now, as if being forced. "An...d ...I think I h-heard you an-d P-prof-fesssor Mori-ch-chika talk..ing... ng. Nggh."
My hands stop before pressing the last two digits of the number for the office's extension.
At Renko's shout, my head whips around in time to see the pale tan of Parminder's open palm reaching for my head.
Behind it, the light brown of his arm, stretched out.
Behind them, an absolutely empty expression, and red, red eyes.
Then I am flying to the side so fast that the sense of acceleration ends a moment after it first registers, followed by pain exploding along the left side of my skull as my head hits the window hard enough to crack it.
Some metallic sound echoes in the hall, accompanied by the sound of sprinting footsteps. I stumble away from the window, clutching the side of my head. In this dazed state, I watch dumbly as Renko darts in at Parminder, who—
No. It's not Parminder anymore. I know nothing else, I know nothing about why this is happening, but I know this is an absolute fact.
He twists back with a grunt as she swings something that glints in the light at him. He takes a swing at her, but she skips back out of his reach, feet moving with surety and grace.
What in hell is happening?
The thing that isn't Parminder smiles, then looks back at me, and I realize that it wants me dead. Maybe because I'm a youkai? It just wanted Renko out of the way so that it could
grab me by the wings as I try to run but I can't get scramble away fast enough
throw me at the cracked window which breaks and then shatters
(the air is so cold, and I feel weightless for a split second as I soar through the frame)
(behind me I see Renko leap at him and her arm swings and there is a splash of blood and a guttural shriek of pain)
send me down to the ground
and kill me.
The crack as my back hits the sidewalk, the loss of sensation, and the dull pain that all occur before the sudden end to everything, even thought, tells me that it succeeded.
>>38739 You havent won, even you must answer the call.
One day, someday soon...
I cant possibly thank you enough (then I cant really see what that says at the end)
I'm guessing that smell in the guys apartment has something to do with it? Also, isnt Rinnosuke... gone? So the last thing he remembered was waaaaaaaay back when? Doesnt that mean he's been controlled all this time?
Finally I was worried about how crushingly boring this story was turning out to be ever since the dynamic-and-exciting reporting job lost out to a slow, steady, and incredibly overdone teaching position...but perhaps that will change now. Perhaps.
>>38755 No, no, I'm not saying that. World building is fine, and this has been some damn good world building, but...nothings really happened until now. Two threads of world building and not much else does not inspire confidence.
I saw that. Doesn't help.
[x] The desert at night
Sorry if I'm coming off as angry. Nothing to do with you, just to much on my mind lately.
>>38755 I'd rather have you do it as it's not done enough in stories these days. It's better to read the world of a story as something that exists on its own and not something solely for the sake of the story.
>>38768 Naw, It's just people who didnt read when you said 'this is a break from super serious stories like the game'. That or I'm extremely fucking wasted right now (prolly that) and imagining you saying things in the first thread that you never did.
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>>39717 Sorry, dude. Dudes, even. School has been demanding pretty much all of my time; it's a fairly intensive program (Electronics, woo). To quote one professor, "We're making you drink from a firehose."
Due to this, the times of day when I would be most able to write Metropolitan (pretty much any time before mid-afternoon) are being claimed by studying and/or classwork. I just don't have any drive to write this during the evening. Weak-ass reason, I know, but it's the truth.
In about three weeks or so, the majority of this quarter's work will be over, for good or for bad, and I'll hopefully be able to get in a few updates before the iron grip of education seizes me once more.
However, hope is not lost.
Once Symposium (http://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/Symposium_of_Post-mysticism) is out --and translated; that's key-- watch (the) /underground/ for a while. Don't worry, I won't drop Metropolitan. This will be something that I think I can really get into updating often, and thus tide you all over until Metro updates. Pic related.
That would mean I was asleep, or that I had fallen unconscious. No, I'm fairly sure that I died.
I lie face-down on a road, somewhere. It's nowhere in Haven; I know that immediately upon lifting my head— the land around me is too flat, too wide, far too wide. I would be able to see the city from here if it were.
Painfully, painfully empty.
And yet, I can feel, somehow, that it is real. Not "real," in the sense that it exists, but "real," in the sense of being a firm and unshakable truth.
That's the first real thought that runs through my mind.
This is death, then? I hadn't actually expected this. I had somehow avoided death for all these years, but.
This isn't what usually happens, is it?
I pick myself up, surprised for a moment that I can even do so. That fall broke my back, I'm sure of it. That's the least it did.
...Wait, fall? Did something happen?
I try to remember what I was thinking a moment ago, but it eludes my grasp, slipping out of my mind like a fish escaping the net, no longer among the day's catch.
Standing up all the way, now, I wipe the dust and grit off of my face, and have my first proper look at the new surroundings.
Behind me, the road stretches, looking somehow more worn —not in disrepair, not neglected or overgrown... just worn— than the road ahead. On either side of the road is a dim and indistinct scrubland that stretches out flat and wide, with no geography to break it up. Curiously enough, power lines line the road.
There is no wind, and no sound. Not even the sound of my own breath.
...That's because I'm not breathing, I realize. I attempt to take a breath, but it feels strangely impossible, like the muscle control to perform that action just isn't something programmed into the body. For some reason, I find this to be the most disturbing part so far.
Even beyond that, it is clear that something is not right.
I had heard stories, tales of the others' experiences, and had a fairly good idea of what awaited you upon death. It depended upon the person and their faith, but for a Gensokyan, one usually reincarnated in a few hours, (assuming one was a youkai), or ended up on the banks of the Sanzu. I don't recall a highway being part of the experience.
For a moment, I think that I really shouldn't have bothered waking up this morning. It might have saved me some trouble, in the short run.
Did something happen today? I'm pretty sure that's the case, or else I wouldn't be dead right now. But then, what was it that happened..."I clutch my head as I try to remember, but once more, that tantalizingly familiar bit of knowledge slips away.
I'm startled for a moment by the sound of my own voice, the first one heard in this place: the expletive, uttered in a moment of frustration, strikes my ears as surprisingly loud in the silence around me. If I can speak, though, shouldn't I also need to breathe, or..."
Ugh. Everything grows more and more confusing the more I try to figure anything out.
...Everything but this road. It's plain. It's simple. About as simple as things get, literally.
I put all these thoughts out of my head, and focus on the strange highway at my feet.
I promise nothing about scheduling. I found myself with time to write, and did so. No idea how common this will become: I hope it will be more often, but suspect that it won't be. As always, I am sorry about things being like this.
At the very least, I'll sit and quietly rage about Symposium being pushed back again. And also about the wave of retards that have somehow gained a measure of control on the wiki (apparently a lot of the editors are from fucking Shrinemaiden. How in god's name did that happen?). To see an example, go look at Tewi's page, starting from "Abilities"... or, for a real strong dose, "Power". You'll either be laughing your ass off or facepalming.
Also, go read Tasogare Otome X Amnesia if you haven't already. It's 60% mystery, 35% romance, 5% horror, and it avoids several of the annoying tropes and cliches inherent to Japanese romance manga that make you wonder how the characters could be so dumb and/or needlessly hesitant. Make sure to read the two chapters of the one-shot/chapter zero first, since it sets up everything. Also Yuuko is hot.
>>40106 Wait a second. You've got something planned, but want new canon information before you start writing it? How does that work? How can you have a plan if you don't know what you're working with?
I also just realized that I was paying to much attention to that filename and not enough to that the story will be in /underground/...which means it probably won't be about who and what I was hoping for. Damn it all.
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So, that new story I mentioned in >>40106? It's up. It's actually been up for a while. I didn't think to, y'know, say anything about it here until recently, which in retrospect seems very foolish and somewhat thoughtless.
(No, Metropolitan isn't canceled. I just want something that I can write quickly. Details are in the other thread)
>>43717 I wanted to find out how the plans I'd already made would be affected by what Symposium would say (They did change a bit). In addition, the many of the characters I was interested in would be covered in that, and wanted to see what new information there would be.