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"To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven."
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Here we are, back again for the continuation for Don’t Call Me a Glutton — or as I like to call it, Dacmag!

I sort of gave this away a while back, but I figure I ought to just go ahead and make it 100% clear: The reason I’m starting a new thread — and why it’s ’Thread 1.5’ instead of ‘Thread 2’ — is because the story is undergoing something of a partial restart. Now, what I mean is that, everything from >>29430 to >>29492 is still valid plot-wise, but the succeeding story threads are not. Like I explained all that time ago, however, the Utsuwa arc will happen. The main thing is that I really needed to establish a number of things about the setting better before jumping into something that heavy. Besides, I’ll admit that my plans drastically changed more than a few times, and that made it ridiculously difficult to follow through with anything.

Anyhow, the story will proceed from here. Please enjoy and thank you for your patience.
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koyomi can't actually cook
Everything remained blurred as I stepped out of the door, dawn still ages away. I rubbed my eyes and shoved my hand in my pocket. Crumbs spilled out and dusted the walkway. Grumbling, I rifled through the other pocket, found my key, locked up, and trudged down the stairs. The air out on the street seeped into my bones, prodding me awake with needles of cold. In between cloudy breaths, I opined not owning any other clothing than my uniform, sleeveless issue for the summer. Now I was aware enough to know I felt like death, figuratively speaking.

Actual death would have been enviable compared to my present state. A solid three hours’ sleep animated me, no thanks to some humans — only bloody humans fouled the air with such a stench — and their copulatory acts sounding through thin walls. My internal alarm clock, once accurate to the second, was thus defeated. Hours remained before I had to be at the station, and here I strolled along wide awake.

Naturally, the first thing my body did was alert me to my stomach’s complaints: gnawing hunger. My highest priority upon leaving my rented room was to alleviate those pangs; to not do so was to be menaced all day by bodily screaming. Seeing the sparse groups of figures trudging along the streets, all headed in the same relative direction, gave me hope that I wouldn’t have trouble in that department. These chilly morning hours felt like when many late shifts finished, and sniffing the air confirmed my hunch what most of the shambling figures sought.

Crowning a nearby street, a construction site rose up as a frozen monument of Amaden’s previous development fever, perpetually held in the past by regulatory hold-ups, or so I heard. These days, the site was merely a landmark and not of interest to me. What did catch my attention, and that of every early-morning-crawler in Amaden, was the corrugated steel contraption nestled amongst more inviting buildings not far from the construction zone. The former canteen for the construction workers, ran a circulating rumour. Even before the venture was held up, they had evidently benefited by feeding the public during odd hours, leading into an eventual division of their interests from their parent’s.

The only certain facts were that the building itself was an industrial brand of hideous inside and out, and that it was a clean, efficient place to get easy food in big portions. Rich and filling, the fare was made to stick to the ribs of retiring graveyard-shifters and carry them to bed. Seconds and even thirds were readily provided, and that was reason enough for me to call it breakfast. True, the food wasn’t always identifiable, but that hardly deterred my tastes. The smells that hit my nose as I found my way in told me that this morning’s offerings would be satisfying, no matter what shape, colour, or texture they took.

Waiting in the queue proved an uneasy trial with my stomach’s impatience, but I bore my full tray away victoriously some minutes later. That sense of relief was short-lived thanks to the masses that packed the benches. No obvious gaps showed. I was forced down to the next row, where a frantic search did turn up something. Two heavy-set crow tengu in grime-smeared coveralls flanked what had to be the smallest available space. I grimaced but understood there were no better options. Thanking Tenma for my (admittedly) rawboned frame, I slotted in between the crows, mindful of their protruding wings.

Spoon in hand, I was just about to dig into tonight’s creamy mystery stew when a voice disturbed the wall of low chatter that forbid real conversation. “Hey, the day-shift girl!” It sounded like it might rush on but interrupted itself in a confused burble. “What was her name again? What’s your name, new girl? Slipped my mind. Hard to keep names straight right now. Things have been so bus—”

“Iwabori.” I shovelled in a massive bite of stew. Flog me as to what the flavour was beyond salt and satisfaction, enjoyable for its warmth and filling power alone. My fogged glasses didn’t even bother me for the moment.

The intruding voice groaned. “I knew it! On the tip of my brain. Can’t believe I’m so dumb sometimes.”

The thwap of someone smacking their forehead sounded across the table, jostled silverware and grunts of disapproval following. As I’d half expected, I stared back at the dim, almost vacant grin of a wolf tengu, clad in full Patrol uniform when I looked up. My eyes were instantly drawn to the pin on his collar. Fifth District, Southwest Division, Entryway Sub-station. Of course, such a fool would be in the exact same cohort.

My unknown ‘co-worker’ nudged a patrolwoman next to him who was keeping her head low as she ate. “You must know Iwabori, right? Day-shift, y’know. Only a newbie, too. Can you imagine? Poor girl, all alone with just paperwork.”

The disturbed patrolwoman lifted her head slowly, threw a glance at her neighbour that said she was only just suffering his continued existence, and pivoted to look at me. What greeted me was typical: curled lip, the tip of a fang showing, eyes narrowed, brow crinkled. All patrolwomen in this division — save the odd one or two — inevitably showed me the same face. The reason why, I didn’t know, nor did I care. These people were my ‘co-workers’, and at any rate I would only recognise them as such in the barest of senses. As long as their shifts never coincided with mine, they could hate me for any reason they liked.

I gave back the most rigid of smiles before promptly forgetting the patrolwoman’s existence. Her neighbour’s own smile lost a great deal of its irritating gleam, his ears sinking a little.

“Excuse her. She’s…” He gave a hollow laugh, making some meaningless gesture. “She doesn’t do mornings real well. That’s it. That’s what I meant. You know how that is, right?”

I answered by way of continuing to eat, concerned only with sating my stomach’s cries, which had yet to cease. Bother the fool’s meanings.

“Anyway, you’re one of those Academy grads, right? I heard some of the girls talking and…”

“Yes?” I gripped my spoon tighter.

“Well, it’s not really about that. I was just wondering.” His ear twitched. A stray thought flickered across his otherwise vacant face. “Oh, and something was in the late deliveries. Thought you might be interested. I mean, since you’re from the Academy and all.”

Before I could make it clear that I wasn’t interested, the chatty officer jostled his neighbours by rifling through his pockets, oblivious to the near-murderous glares they threw him. Varied flotsam and jetsam found its way onto the table as he fished. Among the articles were things that we were expressly forbidden from taking, like discount vouchers for local drinking spots; these were reserved, by agreement with the vendors and the Trade Association, for distribution to the public. The pilferer simpered when he noticed how I was regarding him.

What finally emerged from his hunting was a folded leaflet — something we were generally also forbidden to take without permission. He smoothed it out on the table and urged me with a nod to have a look.

My eyes fell to the seal at the top. “Yes, that is the Academy seal. And?”

“Okay, maybe nothing special for you. Check that guest of honour, though!”

Tempted to not even dignify the request, I allowed another couple of bites of stew to warm me before even looking at the crinkled paper. Slowly, tearing pieces from my bread roll and gnawing them as I passed my eyes over it, I took in what few words registered in my half-awake brain. My eyes stopped immediately at the middle of the page.

Then, I was back on the street. My feet carried me in a direction only known to them.
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Like mists clearing on a mountain morning, the world gradually reshaped itself through my senses, consciousness condensing and revealing the whole picture in splotches. First among the facts that struck me was the curtain of darkness that permeated the room I stood in — in the station, I recalled. As a youkai, darkness was no obstacle, but I was jarred at first; why was the station so dark? A ticking clock on the wall helped a second fact permeate my brain: This was still early morning, pre-dawn. The station not being dark would have been more unnatural for the hour.

What jolted me to full awareness, however, was a face peering back at me through the gloom, illuminated by a beam of light leaking in from outside. This was my senior, Hinawa. For reasons too asinine to get into here, she slept on the floor in the station from time to time. As her shift was technically finished and the others had seen fit to leave, this was in the middle of her usual bedtime. In other words, I had startled my senior officer awake after she had only just managed a short rest.

Taken in that light, Hinawa’s half-open eyes being hidden under her rumpled brow was hardly any surprise. The bloodshot look of hard sleep was clear enough even through the dimness of the station. What would have been a fastidious braid was a shaggy canopy of brown thrown about her head, the tips of her ears the only parts visible in the tangle. Her accusing gaze made it clear how she felt about being seen in such a state.

My crimes were illuminated to me in the red beams of her sleep-deprived eyes. I had not only kicked up a racket coming in the front door. Lost to some newfound force, I further added to the noise in a furious rant that had exploded from my lips in a tumble of syllables, many of them hardly comprehensible, to my recollection.

My face was left hot, my breath short and a shaken feeling all over my body. To say that I had ‘lost it’ was being charitable. In my fit of earnestness, I had gone beyond sloppy into an outright show of carelessness as an officer, losing all decorum expected of my station. My cheeks only felt hotter as the shame of it seeped into my core. By instinct, I made a deep bow to Hinawa.

“I’m so sorry.” The first words were muffled in my own collar. Holding the bow, I dared to look forward. “I probably woke you up, didn’t I?”

The immediate answer was low grumble, almost a growl from the back of Hinawa’s throat. “Yeah, you probably did,” she retorted after some consideration. Crackling disturbed the silence between words as she flexed her neck and shoulders. She sat upright in her makeshift bedroll. “But what can I do about it now?”

Seeing her about to rise, I made a gesture bidding her to lie back down. “Please, no, don’t get up!”

“I’m getting up.”

Hinawa hurled off the blankets in one effortless swipe of her arm. Whether it was out of seeing her only half-dressed or simply out of panic, I made an immediate about-face, the door just a few steps in front of me. One foot was already poised to go. I didn’t move, though. Dread may have spurred me to leave, but where would I go? Work was my proper place — even this early.

I turned back to around to face Hinawa, who was now sitting at the low table, regarding me with an expression that didn’t radiate patience. Her ears flattened down the hair that covered them. An orange sheen that pierced the darkness played across her eyes.

Taking up a few strands of her hair and twisting them around another bunch, she began the labour that would end in a large, neat braid, still watching me as she wove the strands. The only pause in her work came when she nodded for me to take a seat.

I made no move for a few moments. The look in Hinawa’s eyes was far from hospitable. Frankly, sitting down across from her was the last thing I wanted to do. And yet, my wishes weren’t what mattered in this case, because Hinawa was my senior. My tail sunk deferentially. I planted my rump into a floor cushion without a sound.

Watching Hinawa fix her hair, I was at a loss for what to do or say at that moment. Her attention had strayed as I found my seat, lost in the task at hand. I sat in silence for lack of any practicable ideas; the notion of plunging into the cold depths of the river teased my mind’s eye.

She soon put the finishing twists on her braid, a thick cord of hair that reminded me of some well-toasted pastry, and adorned her fringe with a flower hair clip. Her most pressing business done, she returned to me. “Well, you’re calm enough now. Tell me about all that again. Whatever it was you were talking about. You weren’t clear the first time, after all.”

“Do I have to?” I murmured.

The look I received in return did nothing to alleviate my sudden desire for forced conversion from tengu to kappa. My tail, blocked from merely curling between my legs, tried to form itself into a belt. An Academy-trained impulse to put in some diplomatic word, delivered with a simper, tugged at one corner of my mouth. Surely, that was better than cowering.

Instinct trumped diplomacy, my inner wolf decided. My hands sprang up to hold Hinawa’s chilly anger at bay. “It’s not important now! Just— A moment. I had a moment. One of those things, you know?”

“I don’t know, so start explaining.” The last words came through clenched teeth, ejected from somewhere in her throat — a snarl. No matter how much of a wolf I considered myself, Hinawa could easily outdo me. Just seeing her lip curl and expose the tip of an already prominent fang was enough to know that.

Tensing my hand, something crinkled. The awkward moment at the canteen flashed back as I noticed I was holding the very flyer that had been shoved in my face. My cheeks inflamed. Like some common thief, I had snatched the paper from that patrolman’s fingers and dashed off without so much as an explanation. One scrap of paper had both sparked and fuelled the conflagration.

“It’s this.” I opened my trembling fingers, allowing the leaflet to float to rest on the table.

Hinawa’s gaze lingered on me long enough that I flinched, at which point she broke off to pull the paper closer. Faint words tickled my ears as she mouthed the text to herself under her breath.

Eyeing the announcement, the large Academy logo at the top took away any doubt as to where the event was being held. And if there was ever any lingering doubt, the lineup of faces dispelled all of it, wrinkles and scars distributed among them in equal measure, even a mix of both for some old guard who were particularly long-lived. Bushy eyebrows, beards, and eyeglasses made for the average symposium speaker’s most noticeable characteristics; their subject matter often failed to gain any sort of notice, either from their ineptitude as speakers or from how inane it was to begin with. ‘Policy, policy, and more policy’ was the Academy board’s own policy, and this brand of speaker tended to follow that line, often in a droning monologue. Such a gallery of faces would have driven me off — were it not for the guest of honour.

Right where the viewer’s eyes were bound to linger, a picture of none other than the Hon. Inubashiri Momiji nudged text and other images aside. At least, the massive text underneath proclaimed that it was her. What I saw was a white-haired wolf tengu whose Guard uniform, an affair that looked to be more costume than clothing, made an ill fit for her heavy-set figure. The stiff, fang-baring grin and unseasonal maple leaf held in one hand only drew attention to how staged it all looked. If this was indeed the Hon. Inubashiri, the image failed to flatter her in any way, despite whatever wrong-headed effort was made.

The Hon. Inubashiri Momiji: Five-year veteran of the Civil Department. Having started at the very bottom, she climbed the ranks of the Guard early in her nearly fifteen-year career. Three unprecedented years saw her as a young captain, and three more saw her joining the lower ranks of Guard command as one of the youngest ever promotions. After advancing into the highest positions of leadership, she went further to ascend into the Civil Department’s ranks, where she currently serves. Tonight, as guest of honour, she’ll be giving a rare insight into her life and career, from childhood to training, to rank-and-file, commanding officer, and high-level policy maker, and finally to accomplished bureaucrat.

Hinawa was no exception to the flyer’s design aims, her gaze standing right on the guest of honour’s picture, shifting only to take in some part of the lines just below. Watching her, I noticed a twitch in her ear. Before I could wonder whether to take that as a positive or a negative, she was casting a look at me over the paper.

“I guess it’s interesting, in a way. That Inubashiri’s been publicity-shy for so long. I could even see myself wanting to listen.” Still holding me in her sight, she let the paper skid onto the table from her hand. An oddly earnest tone had crept into her voice, though there was a rise at the edge that could have been a demand for some answer.

My left ear twitched. Quibbles with Hinawa’s comments nudged me, the most irksome of which was the ‘that Inubashiri’. For someone as accomplished, decorum around titles couldn’t simply be dispensed with. Anything other than reverential address would be flippancy. That carelessness and irreverence, also displayed in how Hinawa seemed to consider the Hon. Inubashiri’s talk merely a point of ‘interest’, felt like a pinprick to my sensibilities.

“Naturally,” I murmured, offering no committal on any point. Discreetly, I poised myself to get up and end the conversation with a hasty exit.

“So, what’s it all mean?” Hinawa demanded as I just started to move.

I held still before sinking back into my seat, holding my ears steady. “I thought I just explained.”

“You showed me a piece of paper.”

The feeling of being cornered settled over me like a leaden blanket. I’d hoped this exchange would be over long before, and yet here was Hinawa, holding me by the scruff of my neck, not ready to let go until she felt like it. Squirm as I might, she’d just clamp her jaws down tighter.

Adjusting my glasses with a hasty movement, I slapped at the paper and yanked it back. My finger jabbed at the middle of the page. “You see here? During day shift time. It’s too far away and I’d never make it besides.” I huffed. “Not like I’d get time off, anyway.”

For the first time in the whole conversation, cracks began showing in Hinawa’s stoic front. A short puff of air blew out from her nose, her tail making a sharp, fluffy wave. Slowly, she shook her head, adjusted her hair clip, and drummed on the table. Her eyes turned up to the ceiling, scrunching in concentration, like she was lining up her next words.

She finally looked at me, lightly slapping the table. “Koyomi, let’s be serious. I’m not putting you through a full interrogation here. So there’s this talk. Great, but is that something to yell your head off about? You don’t do that every day.”

“Well?” I asked cautiously. There was clearly some kind of accusation there. It was hard to mistake that honeyed tone Hinawa took when she wanted to point a finger.

“Well,” she continued, locking eyes with me, “I’m trying to figure out what it is you want. Is this all about Inubashiri? The Academy? Help me out. Tell me what you want from me. Tell me what you’re getting at. What’s all this yelling about, huh? Don’t tell me you’re blowing your top over a lecture. Is that what it is? You’re mad that you can’t go?”

Colour rose to my cheeks. Every question felt like a finger jabbed at me. Try though I might, I couldn’t help letting my ears droop now. The spot she was pressing was too sore, and her aggression made it clear she had a hunch about the answer to her question already.

I reached for the flyer, held it up, and dropped it. No glimmer of understanding illuminated Hinawa’s eyes. Words tumbled in my head, getting lost on their way to my mouth, a sinking feeling robbing me of any clear train of thought.

“You don’t understand. The Academy forced us to listen to those talks. All the time, too. It was the worst. Droning old men, talking about, well, nothing. You can’t imagine how dull it was. And yet, now that I’m graduated…” I picked the flyer back up and jabbed at the Hon. Inubashiri’s picture. “Tell me you wouldn’t be perturbed. It’s simply not fair.”

Hinawa continued to sit impassively, still offering no comment on the thoughts she’d ripped from my jaws. The only change, aside from that she was now rolling her braid in her fingers, was that her eyes had taken on a cold sheen, like the frosty surface of frozen water. Though nothing other feature of her face showed it, what seeped out from those chilly orange dots was a contemptuous disapproval. My dear senior had taken in what I’d said, and she didn’t like what she was hearing.

To be looked at with such impertinence caused an ache in my stomach that was wholly independent of hunger — though I had stupidly abandoned my meal at the canteen. All this hostility for what? Waking Hinawa up? Of all possible crimes to commit, depriving her, Hinawa, the one who bedded down at the station come what may, of a few moments’ rest hardly called for this glare-down. On top of it all, I was trying to be reasonable even in the face of it. What I got for my pains was a stone wall of attitude.

The longer I sat peering back into Hinawa’s eyes, the more the indignity of her treatment of me stung. Hearing the ticking of the clock growing louder in my ears, whatever gate held me in strained.

“And what do you want from me?” came the overflow at the next tick. My palms struck the table hard enough to thud. “So what if I’m angry over it? I have every right! Nobody can tell me I can’t get mad when life’s decided to spit on me, least of all you! This isn’t even about me in the first place, is it? You — you’re the one pressing me over lost sleep! I bet you’d be as mad as me if you’d had everything you wanted but couldn’t have waved in your face! Tell me you wouldn’t be! You never answered me! Go on!”

Finding no reply offered, I raised my hands to smack the table with considerable force. They fell. They never reached. Hinawa was up, holding my wrists mid-transit. All of a sudden, there was no feeling in them. They were caught in a grip of such force that I felt the joints creak with every minute squeeze. I looked up to gape at Hinawa.

No longer was I staring into the chilly face of disdain. There was a glint of fangs — except in her eyes. Her ears disappeared in her hair. Harsh but steady breath made her chest heave. Her lip fought its natural inclination to be pulled back, the conscious display of a half-sheathed knife. This was a hint at what had lurked beneath all along. The very sight made me sit back obediently.

Content to see me quieted, Hinawa released my hands, allowing feeling back into them, and sat down, slipping the flyer back to where she could read it again. I leaned away from the table, unable to not watch her. I held my breath for fear of what further turn she might take if I let it out.

Suddenly, she gently tapped somewhere at the bottom of the paper. The ice had thawed. “Look right here. Did you notice? It says they’re rebroadcasting the whole thing late this evening. You can catch it on the radio. Isn’t that nice? Saves you a trip and everything.”

The comment made me jump in surprise, but I was at least able to breathe. I slowly nodded to acknowledge that Hinawa had spoken. Moment passed before the words finally registered, and then I frowned. We had circled back.

Feeling the need to resist welling up again, I took the nod back by shaking my head. “That’s all well, but I don’t own a radio. And I don’t know anyone I can borrow one from. You’re the only person I know here. You know that.”

Hinawa looked up and flashed the parental smile of one talking to a child, which also seeped into her voice. “Why not buy one, then?”

“I don’t know. Shopping for a radio?” I shook my head again slowly. “I’m hopeless with matters like that. It couldn’t be very easy.”

“It is easy. The Fifth District is packed with shops. There’s a whole row of places that’d have one for you.” Her smile caught at the edges, taking on a fragility, a cord drawn tight.

“And even so,” I went on over her, trying to keep the momentum, “I don’t see the point. I wanted to see the talk. To attend it, you know? Perhaps I can catch the words, but that’s hardly what I wanted. Finding a radio seems more trouble than it’s worth, if you ask me. Especially when it won’t capture the feeling of being there.”

The cord drew even tighter until it threatened to snap. “Even so, we don’t have to do this. Hearing it over the air’s still better than nothing. You don’t really have an excuse now, Koyomi.”

I sighed. Much as I hated stooping to that level, this called for a counter that would fall like a slap to the face.

Wordlessly, I dug in my pocket. In amongst the biscuit crumbs, tissue packets, business cards, and other daily detritus, something much more valuable lurked: my bi-weekly pay envelope. As I didn’t feel secure keeping it in my nearly barren apartment — I hoped to Tenma Hinawa never saw it or I’d be in for real meddling — left to the mercy of the flat’s maintenance staff, the whole sum stayed hidden in the depths of my hakama pocket. Incidentally, it also tended to represent the entirety of my assets living in Amaden.

Throwing the envelope open, two shabby ten-thousand-yen banknotes rustled and spilled out onto the table for Hinawa to see. Altogether, it made enough for me to live off of for a few more days. If I was careful. “Do you see now? I can’t—”

“And how did that happen?” The question was a quiet one, but whatever tension had existed had vanished. In fact, some playful note thrummed in it.

Watching Hinawa’s face closer, I froze: her smile had grown placid. It was the sort of quiet smile that came with a soft laugh. Not that she actually laughed, but I felt it all the same. Just seeing it made my cheeks colour again.

What that moment recalled was the face of my strategy and policy instructor at Academy. I was obliged to play shogi with the grizzled old wolf on numerous occasions, locked in games I could never win but once in a while. One pattern I learned intimately through these sessions was the understated smile she would give. Inevitably, this meant that I’d been led into making a series of plays that severely disadvantaged me, often losing me the game. The instant the greyed wolf’s mouth drew into that damning loose line, shame would course through my being at my idiocy.

Now that I detected that old nemesis of my training days in Hinawa’s look, the old shame circulated its way through me, making my jaw tremble and my wrists flimsy. I sat hunched in front of the table, sunk below the rim. I was in the middle of a conversation and the last thing I wanted was to have my face seen. Any worse and I may as well have been kowtowing in defeat. I was the clumsy junior who needed her senior’s guidance, as Hinawa was aware.

“Restaurants,” I croaked at last.

“Restaurants?” Hinawa mirrored, her smile accenting the inflection.

“The… restaurants. I exhausted my… pay… at them. A number of them.”

As the words stumbled out, I was aware of what a fool I’d made of myself. Of all subjects, I’d resorted to bringing up money in my attempts to derail Hinawa. Perhaps her views on the matter were different, but I could only think of the topic with a degree of disgust for its vulgarity. And here I’d gone and stuck my foot right in it.

That’s why my face glowed white-hot. Stricken by the shame of defeat, I fell silent.

“Now that we’re done with this foolishness, are you ready to listen to something?” Hinawa asked, sighing through her nose. I could practically hear her shaking her head.

No more will to argue the point, I nodded without looking up.

The sounds of Hinawa getting up, drifting to the filing cabinets, opening their drawers, and rustling about their contents dominated the room for the next several minutes. With the haphazard system used at the station, the fact that she had to hunt for anything was hardly a surprise.

Hinawa’s find came slapping onto the table right in front of me moments after she found it. A cursory glance told me it was a map of the district, one of the ones we distributed, in fact. “Open it up for me.”

With some trepidation, I did as I was told. Before I could ask, Hinawa drew a path with her finger, running from the south riverbank to the north, running further up all the way past the dotted-line boundaries of Amaden. I turned to offer a quizzical glance at Hinawa, who was now crouching next to me.

“If you go that way, there’s a market of a sort. A ‘bazaar’, I think they call it. It’s—” She coughed. “—in valley kappa territory, strictly speaking. But it’s not too bad.”

I looked at the map again. Hinawa indicated a circle of land somewhere outside the bounds of the outpost. Wherever it was, it was further out than I’d ever been in or around Amaden. The fact of the matter was that I’d barely seen half of the Fifth District, much less any other district or territory. Going into disputed territory like that was the furthest thing from my mind most days.

When I looked back at Hinawa, her tail was pivoting side to side in a soft wag. She’d probably caught the worry in my expression. “Oh, you could do it fine. You just go north, catch the ferry, and keep going north. Nothing hard about it. The hardest part would be the haggling, but you could manage.” She gestured to my dwindling bank, which still lay out on the table. “Not like you have much choice. This is about your cheapest bet for a working radio.”

“How cheap?” I asked, finding my voice at last.

There was a slight laugh from Hinawa as she dug out her own wallet. A new ten-thousand-yen note graced the table, next to the shabbier pair.

“Cheap enough that should do and still leave you with change.”

I stared at the banknote and then at the announcement. Then, I stared at the note again.
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Day-shift work hardly made for much activity most days. Traffic to our station was seldom when so few people had business in the daylight hours in Amaden. On the occasion that someone did come knocking, a pamphlet, a leaflet, a coupon book, or a scribbled map tended to suffice for their queries. The rest of the time, I was left to keep watch and engross myself in marking candidates for a future binge in my culinary guide. This indolence tended to grow dull after a short while, of course, and tedium obliged me to make work for myself.

New tasks commonly lingered in the night-shift inbox for me. There were always half-finished incident reports and ones that needed checking before going anywhere near a higher-up’s desk. Making proper reports for lost-and-found items that had turned up late into the evening occupied part of the time. Properly committing the batched reports to the station’s illogical filing system ate up more.

Without so much experience filing applications for postings in the Guard, the paperwork might have overwhelmed me. The similarities made it little more than tedious mechanical work, the sort that drowned out intruding thoughts in the motions.

Evening fell, leaving me back in the dimness I started work in. I stretched, let my tail swing to relieve the pinpricks, and stood up. As I did, my eyes fell to my untouched culinary guide, lying dog-eared in its resting place. The tourist map supplied by Hinawa lay on top of it, forgotten in the day’s work until then. Suddenly conscious of the hour, I hurriedly made my log entry and endorsed it with my seal; as a reward for my unfailing honesty, that sufficed to validate my timekeeping after the first few weeks.

Going from the accumulated heat of the day in the station to the cool air of the summer evening never failed to draw a shiver from me. I grumbled to myself as I shut the door, unmoved by my newly-arrived relief’s greetings.

I stopped to briefly appreciate the smell of frying foods coming from nearby food stalls, then promptly retreated down an alleyway to avoid them. The memory of Hinawa’s pitying smile came back to me. I’d really been lax in terms of spending. No matter how many places I’d marked off, I couldn’t just go blowing two or three weeks’ worth of pay hopping restaurants.

That bit of resolution decided, I paid more attention to my surroundings and noted where I was in the district based off the map I’d studied. Signage indicated somewhere west of the main north-south road. My ramblings had taken me through these paths enough for me to have a good idea how to make my way outward. Following the twists, turns, and opportune gaps between buildings, I sought the furthest exit I could recall towards the main thoroughfare, hoping to dodge the early evening foot traffic, light though it was. Not to mention avoiding any temptation from the eateries I recognised — if I saw any I didn’t recognise, I’d just file them away for later reference.

My little jaunt took me back into the road, at an intersection I didn’t readily know. Looking back to the south, I caught the sign of a dessert place I remembered and smartly started heading in the opposite direction. That was with the flow of traffic anyway. I clutched the ten-thousand yen note in my pocket as I went along with the mass of bodies, fighting my nose while smells drifted in on all sides. With my lack of stature, I was lost beneath a living sea, unable to catch sight of these sources of temptation, something to be thankful for in this instance. The traffic was kind enough to move at a brisk trot for some distance down the road, until the pace came to a sudden crawl. Not eager to be caught in a stagnant and stifling crowd, I pushed out of the first gap I could find, hoping to spot the reason for the hold-up.

Inward shudders passed over me when I noticed possibly a hundred tengu or more, and various others, crowded around something, an uncomfortable number holding out phones, all pointed in the same direction. Nothing spelled trouble in Amaden like a crowd wanting to capture some happening in images.

“I keep telling you I don’t have it!” hollered a girl’s voice not far off.

“Oh yeah? Guess you don’t remember last month, then!” answered another female voice, this one lifeless despite its loudness. Its owner’s (probable) face loomed in the front of my mind.

“W-What about last month?”

Unable to avoid it any longer, I homed in on the voices and spotted what I’d feared: long, flowing pink hair, attached to most unpleasant creature I’d had the misfortune of meeting. The mask-toting girl named Kokoro stood over — towered over, if one short person standing over a slightly shorter person can be called towering — a defiant looking kappa. They were standing amongst abandoned tables set up as makeshift street shops, against several seldom-enforced codes.

Kokoro pushed her face closer to the kappa. “Last month when you tried selling it! Don’t play stupid with me, you slimy turtle!”

Several indignant cries sailed from the surrounding crowd at the slur, but neither adversary seemed to pay them much attention. Colour rose to the girl’s face. With her scrawny arms, she gave Kokoro a backward shove that, while not managing much, did at least push her away.

“I don’t have to tell you anything, shithead!”

“River-squatter!” returned Kokoro, shoving back towards the kappa.



A severe flash of anger lit up the girl’s eyes and she seethed. Words failed to escape her mouth momentarily as she searched for a rejoinder. “You… ugly pink bitch-face!”

That was the signal for one to spring at the other. The natural result was the pair falling to the ground in a heap, each parrying the other’s attempts at finding a handhold in hair or clothing. Their diminutive sizes rendered the struggle a pathetic sight, though they were doubtless intent on throttling each other — just after they figured out how to untangle themselves.

People in the crowd began to mutter among themselves, and phones vanished back into pockets one after the other. Dissatisfied faces peeled away from the mass. Previously enthralled spectators aimed away to more interesting pursuits. The street hawkers furthest from the spectacle resumed their business. Busy people suddenly remembered their errands. Soon, all but a small core of idlers remained, most looking confused as to their general state of existence. And, naturally, at least one group of middle-aged kibitzers loudly voicing their thoughts to anyone in earshot.

A perm-headed crow tengu, the sort to colour her hair a gaudy purple and wear loud-patterned stretch pants, looked my way, and then three more pairs of eyes were aimed at me. “Well, well, big surprise. Patrol doing nothing. We suffer others’ stupidity and they still get paid. This is what Amaden’s come to, I tell you.”

I grumbled. It was an all too common occurrence. Nobody respected the Patrol. Never mind that it took people being willing to comply with rules, not to mention ones that often contradicted or didn’t make much sense. No matter how much we shouted at anyone, our presence meant nothing if those rules went unobserved. This being Amaden, where laws, in the strictest sense, were non-existent and rules tenuous at best, natural limits arose to how effective any of us in the Patrol could be individually.

Still, it was hardly my place to complain. Grumble though I might, as a patrolwoman, my title carried with it an obligation to the public. Trivialities like being off-duty were no excuse to letting public order slacken under watch. If anything, moments like these were prime for proving my mettle. Shrugging off duty over inconveniences would only disqualify any ambition for re-joining the ranks of the Guard.

Puffing myself up and displaying my armband prominently, I marched towards the fumbling combatants, waving my arms broadly at the last few spectators. “Move along! Move along! This is Patrol business now!”

Those last remaining stragglers found their cue in my shouted directions and scattered to the winds — albeit in a plod. Left alone with Kokoro and her unfortunate target, both of them still struggling heedless on the ground, I stepped close, stooped at an angle to catch the light on my pin, and gave a polite cough.

“Officer Iwabori, Patrol.” Seeing the two stopped in their tussle for the moment, I pulled them upright and stood them side-by-side. “Mind explaining why you’re creating a disturbance in a busy street? You created quite an inconvenience for people.”

Kokoro narrowed her eyes. “Aren’t you that wolf who couldn’t help me find my—”

“I’m the officer here, so I ask the questions, Miss…” In the pause, I realised I’d look more professional with my notebook out and produced it. “I never did catch your surname.”

“Harano,” Kokoro spat after a second’s thought. “Though you could skip all this junk and call me Kokoro. Y’know, like when we looked for my mask?”

Her last remark was followed by a deliberate look at the kappa girl, who shrugged up her shoulders, appearing ready to have another go at her tormentor in spite of the lost look in her eyes. I lay a hand on their shoulders to prevent any such foolishness. The two huffed and regarded me with matching expressions of annoyance, which I answered with a stern patrolwoman’s glare. Only the kappa showed much effect from it, shrinking away as far as my grip would let her.

“Right,” I said to Kokoro, “so this is all about your mask, is it? I’ll not disappoint you further, then. This girl doesn’t have it.”

Kokoro’s jaw fell open and she stammered for a moment. Shaking her head, she gave a poisonous laugh. “Oh, and I guess you found it.”

“As a matter of fact, I did. No need to thank me.”

Were I not playing my part as patrolwoman, I would have basked in the feeling brought on by Kokoro’s utter lack of an expression in the wake of my pronouncement. However, I retained my occupational awareness and turned my attention to the kappa. Her nerve from moments earlier had vanished. Upon noticing me looking at her again, she practically twisted on herself, as if she’d have retreated into her shell if she had one. Then, seeing that she couldn’t move away with me arresting her, her eyes widened, pure panic blaring from the two murky green pools.

That was about the time I noticed the vines woven in careful patterns through the girl’s sandy blonde hair and the blue-green poncho she wore draped over her narrow shoulders. Fear pricked me at the realisation that she was a valley kappa. These sorts required handling with tact. Their representation in the Trade Association, though fewer in proportion to their mountain cousins, managed to be the most vocal of all the interest groups. Allegations of mistreatment at the hands of tengu were practically the standard. That this girl I was detaining hadn’t already started calling for help was nothing short of miraculous.

Recovering myself, I recognised this as a good time to tap into those diplomatic skills honed at Academy. I let go of the girl’s shoulder and searched my memory for the gesture I was thinking of; the last time I’d employed it was well before I’d even thought of Amaden. When recollection struck, I took a quick look around to make sure no one was watching too closely. This was, strictly speaking, something of a secret.

I brought my hands up parallel to the ground, one palm up and the other down over the other, cleared my throat, and made a quick movement like I was flicking dust off the upward palm. The girl didn’t seem to notice at first, so I repeated the gesture, making the brushing motion twice this time.

“Suri-suri,” I intoned.

There was a stifled laugh from Kokoro, who had apparently come back from her shock. I shushed her without turning around.

The kappa stood staring. Seeing no reaction, a prickle of unease that I’d got the gesture wrong crept along my tail. Or maybe it was the words. I would have trusted my memory, but there were admittedly blind spots here and there. Fretting, I said nothing and made no sudden movements.

Some sudden internal connection made, the girl’s eyes lit up with recognition. Raising her hand and scooping at the air, she fixed me with a beaming grin, cheeks aglow in joy.


Relieved that I’d been understood, I let out the breath I’d been holding. “So…”

“I was scared at first, but I can’t be scared if you’ve shared cress! Still, a tengu. That’s sure rare. You must have been someone’s really good friend!” The kappa seized my hands and held them with a newfound fondness. “I’m Rie, by the way. Nice to meet you!”

“Erm, Koyomi. Pleasure’s mutual.”

There was a tug on my sleeve. “What’s that about cress?” muttered Kokoro.

“Valley kappa thing. Difficult to explain,” I whispered back. Turning back to Rie, I tried to match her friendly look, though my face tired of it right away. “So, Rie, just for curiosity’s sake, would you mind telling me what happened with you and…” I looked over at Kokoro. “Just for curiosity’s sake, you understand.”

Rie’s perkiness faded being reminded of Kokoro’s existence. She shrank back a little like she was on-guard in case Kokoro decided to spring for her.

“Say, you’re not her friend or anything, are you?” Her eyes darted between me and Kokoro, narrowing to lines.

I cast another look at Kokoro and promptly waved the notion away emphatically. “Oh, great Tenma, no!”

Rie considered my answer for hardly a second, shrugged her shoulders, and reverted to a cheerful expression. “Well, okay, I’ll trust you!” She paused and then looked around on the ground, finding an overloaded rucksack. Despite her tiny frame, the load only drew a tiny grunt from her as she hefted it. “Can we talk about it while walking, though? I’ve gotta run this load of junk back to the settlement.”

Hearing the settlement mentioned, I recalled how far away that was and suddenly remembered my errand, forgotten amid the little fracas. “While we’re on the subject, I know you’re probably busy, but you know that area and I don’t. I need to go that way anyway, so would you mind showing me to the bazaar?”

Rie looked unsure of whether to answer. Noting her eyes on my armband, I covered it as if trying to hide it.

“Ah! I probably should have mentioned: I’m not on duty. In fact, I got off work not long ago and need to buy something. And I figured…”

She blinked and then nodded, face returning to the broad smile. “Oh, okay.”


What I had managed to get out of the young kappa — and she was evidently young, or else quite sheltered when it came to the nature of a great many of Amaden’s neighbourhoods — was not only an account of the incident with Kokoro, but also a full chronicle of that day’s junk haul, an informal mental map of places in the Fifth District with green curtains, her rather convoluted family tree, and her petty criminal record. The last was, in her terms, all about the times people ‘unreasonably’ got angry at her for violating established legal norms, mostly harmless ones, but I had to disagree; preventing entrance to a ramen stand with an overstuffed back of junk and vending it from that spot was certainly reason enough to earn a good scolding.

At first, I responded to her lines of thought and tried to offer corrections where possible. This only managed to steer her off onto tangents so far removed from the topic at hand that I quickly abandoned offering anything other than the occasional polite assent. Unperturbed, Rie happily pushed the conversation along by herself.

“Anyway, I don’t really see what the big deal is. There’s nothing special about a place where you sell stuff. It’s just walls!” Rie concluded her long-winded, expert analysis of zoning laws.

My ears twitched. So many things I could say, but I didn’t want to prompt any further rapid diversions from a single train of thought. “Indeed,” I forced myself to say, adding an inflection of finality.

After almost fifteen minutes of unceasing chatter later, Rie’s well-exercised mouth stayed in a slack resting position, her head tilting curiously. It was the look of one who expects an equal exchange of prattle. I’d been victim to such types before, and my tried and true strategy was to courteously ignore the sign. True to my method, I simply nodded before looking ahead at the road.

A displeased tutting sound to one side reminded me of Kokoro’s continued presence. She hung to one side of path, opposite Rie, trying to look like she wasn’t walking with us. Given her tendency to cut into Rie’s story at odd intervals, I doubted any casual observer bought the act.

Part of me suspected that her reason for following had less to do with her mask and more to do with trying to rebut whatever Rie said about their exchange. When Rie plead ignorance to why she’d been ‘attacked’, Kokoro was quick to assert that she had it ‘on well-paid authority’ that Rie had been attempting to sell the lost mask a month ago. Naturally, I had to step in to keep their resulting squabble from degenerating into further pathetic displays of fighting prowess. Still, only a true imbecile or a human would have been fooled by Rie’s childish denials. I had no doubt that she had indeed tried to hock the mask for a quick profit. It was too consistent with valley kappa ways to have been untrue, anyhow.

“That’s all fascinating, but where are we going?” asked Kokoro. I noticed her unstopping her ears. My own ears twitched again, and I felt a tinge of jealousy at being able to so easily shut out noise.

“Never mind where you’re headed, Rie and I are going across the river. I have business over there anyway,” I answered.

Kokoro gave an indignant toss of the head, making her long hair flutter for an instant. “Maybe I do too.”

“I doubt it.”

“And if I come anyway?”

“If you’re thinking about having another go at Rie, give up. She has nothing more to do with that. Your mask is safe.” I paused and screwed up my face. “And another thing, if you’re so hell-bent on that mask, why didn’t you come back? A whole month, I waited. I’ve had half a mind to throw the damned thing in with the rubbish. It’d serve you right.”

Kokoro’s sole answer was a chagrined blush and a muttered series of words that ended in ‘job’. Peevishly, she turned to avoid regarding either me or Rie and kept walking along our chosen course.

“Are you sure you’re not really friends?” Rie asked with renewed suspicion.

“I assure you, if I had more than one friend, she wouldn’t be among them,” I answered despite myself. It was only when I heard the drawn breath and saw the open eyes that I realised the mistake I’d made.

“I totally get you! I’ve only got one friend, too, and she’s not even a valley kappa. All the others treat me like a kid. But she’s as nice as can be. I’d heard the mountain guys were stuck up. Not her! Nosiree! She listens real good and doesn’t give me any crap about my stories. Although, there was this one time…”

Helplessly, I walked and listened to Rie’s continual monologue about the virtues of her best friend in the whole world. My thoughts drifted back to that black-haired kappa, Kuriko, and how wonderful it would be if it were her I was following. I couldn’t see her scribbling endlessly in her sketchbook as we walked along. Just a simple conversation required full attention to her writing, so she would probably be silent the whole way. Imagining such blissful silence sustained me for the rest of the long, long walk to the river.

We were hardly alone when the three of us had come to the bank at last. The early evening crowds had also started coalescing around the ferries. Though likely efficient under any other circumstances, the ferrymen were far from renowned for their ability to handle congestion. Aiding in efforts to keep the appearance of order, several low-level Trade Association officials, bureaucrats who were nearly always seen scurrying around with clipboards in hand, were in their element, giving shrill cries at people edging out of line and scowling at those who were slow or reluctant to pay the fare.

I gave a start when I realised how many Guards were amongst the people in line. They had to be a good third of the passengers going across. My heart sunk. This was not where I wanted to be still dressed in my Patrol uniform. Should any Guards notice me, I was sure remarks would be forthcoming. There were always remarks. Often, snickering and whispering followed. Because we in the Patrol were known for being their run-off, so to speak, their looking down on us was an inevitability, or perhaps an immutable law. Privately, I could accept that this was for good reason.

Trying to keep myself inconspicuous, I leaned down to make conversation with Rie. “Quite a number of fellows from the Guard here. Must be something going on, you think?”

“Huh, you’re right. First time I’ve seen this many. I wonder what they’re doing,” replied a plain-faced blonde kappa, dressed in typical blue-green mountain style, who answered in Rie’s voice.

I blinked, took off my glasses, saw that everything was an indistinct blur, put my glasses back on, and stared at the kappa who’d answered. She tilted her head quizzically. Those were certainly the same eyes that resembled a murky, scummed-over pond. Shaking my head, I pulled myself back to the present moment.

“Incognito?” I half-jested.

Rie furrowed her brow. “Do what now?”

I sighed through my nose. Definitely the same Rie. “That is, a disguise? You certainly managed to look, erm, different.”

“Oh! Yeah. Gotta do it.” She patted the overfull rucksack next to her. Various metallic jingling sounds came out when she disturbed it. “They’ll totally hassle me ‘cause I’m a valley kappa. Then they’ll start asking where I got my junk. Uncle told me all about it. They’re real buttheads about that stuff. He had to swim the river one time!”

I tried not to feel a twinge of indignation at someone potentially endangering or obstructing boat traffic while making an unsanctioned crossing at the river. “Indeed.”

Feeling another story coming from Rie, I looked around for anything else to pay attention to, finding only more Guards whose notice I wanted to avoid. I was about to give up and weather the onslaught when someone from behind jostled me.

“Excuse me,” I said sharply.

“Yeah, excuse you,” monotoned a voice.

Somehow, I’d failed to notice Kokoro standing behind me this whole time. Nothing about her had changed either. My eye had either simply passed her over — something I had difficulty imagining due to her overall loud presence — or she had been doing her best to blend in.

Checking my sense of surprise, I adjusted my glasses and regarded Kokoro with a cross stare. “I wouldn’t suppose you have any reason to fear the Guard, would you?”

“I don’t have to be afraid of anybody. Least of all, you.”

I scoffed. “And yet you still ended up asking me for help.”

“Some help you were.”

“And yet,” I said, my voice rising higher, “I still got the mask back. A month ago, I might remind you.”

There was a flicker of anger in the dull pink depths of her eyes, but she didn’t say anything right away. I was right and acknowledging that fact was the last thing she wanted. She stood muttering to herself like the sore loser she was. With another perturbed toss of her hair, she looked away.

“Thanks for the reminder, but I’ve had reasons. Good reasons.”

“I suppose you wouldn’t like to talk about them.”


“Ah, well. I suppose I’ll keep holding your mask, and that’ll be the end of that topic.” I gave her a cool business smile, but it was to the back of her head. Feeling the effect spoiled, I straightened back up before anyone could see me. “And I didn’t submit it officially. It’s at my place,” I added generously.

“I thought it all went into evidence or something,” Kokoro remarked with thinly-concealed interest.

I bit my lip, cursing myself for letting off that last bit. Of course, someone like Kokoro would see something amiss. “There were—” My turn to avoid looking at Kokoro. “—circumstances.”

I could feel her gaze as she watched me from the corner of her eye. She was going to try and corner me on this. I could feel it. Then she’d know what nobody else was supposed to. A million regrets flashed back to me in the moment, reminding me that I should never have compromised myself, even to carry out my duty in principle. Bad things came of it always.

“Uh huh,” Kokoro remarked. Then, she said nothing further.

I was stunned until I looked and saw that one of the Trade Association officials, a severe-looking human, was standing right next to Rie, tersely questioning her. Rie pointed to me and then to Kokoro, and the human looked at us, lingering on Kokoro an instant longer before jotting something on her clipboard.

Rie caught my eye and winked, passing several bills to the official in return for three tickets. “For your help.”

I glanced at Kokoro and back at Rie with a question in my eyes. She shrugged and smiled, apparently having lost all her animosity in the space of ten or twenty minutes.

Having acquired tickets, the rest of the time passed in conspicuous silence, the three of us standing in the slow-moving line, bearing the faint chill of the summer evening. I had thoughts about trying to get something warm in whatever bargain I ended up making. Even a scarf would have done me well. There really were all kinds of things I needed to iron out as regarded my living expenses.

Perhaps it was those sorts of guilty thoughts that made me eager to jump in the ferry when it was our turn. The bureaucrat at the head re-confirmed that we were a party of three, and then a shirtless human — these ferrymen were bloody well all humans, likely by some arrangement — grunted out something and waved us aboard his vessel. I couldn’t be certain, but I felt like packing the ferry as full as they were was contradicted some regulation. It was against all reason, at the very least. Sitting was out of the question at that capacity. I mourned for my already troubled feet.

Those worries were quick to leave my mind, however, seeing a couple of the Guards that I’d spotted earlier looking right in my direction. The sneers were clear in their eyes. They exchanged unheard remarks, and they were quickly lost in laughter as they continued their discourse. I tried to hurl an icy glare at them, but their thermal shield of laughter made them impervious. Lost as to what else to do, I turned again to Rie.

“So, how often do you, erm, take this ferry?”

Before Rie could answer, there was a cry from the ferrymen signalling the time for departure. The business was accomplished with a few kicks and nudges, helped along by the poles they wielded. Soon enough, we were adrift.

Rie’s attention went to the nearest side of the ferry. She stared out in amazement at the expanse of the river, the nearly-set sun still managing to cast a glow over a distant forest line. It was hard to really appreciate it from the bank, but the river was indeed a wide one. Not only that, but one could easily see down into the valleys leading down from Amaden, off into lands that most tengu rarely cared to think about. It had been a while since I’d caught a sight like it.

Gradually, I tired of looking at the river and tried to restart the conversation with Rie. The thought that I was stuck on a boat with at least two current Guards, whom I spotted in the immediate vicinity, had started to creep into my mind, agitating me.

“Somehow, I took it that you do this a lot. Taking the ferry, I mean.”

“Hm?” replied Rie, breaking away from her admiration of the river. “Oh, yeah. Three or four times a week. Uncle sends me off for stuff.”

[ ] “That many times? You must know a lot about the ferry, then.”
[ ] “You know, I’m rather fond of cress. Is there anyone in your family who does it well?”
[ ] “What sort of business are you on, anyway? Anything the TA would give you trouble over?”
[ ] “I suppose it’s the valley settlement you live in, then? I’ve never seen it and can’t help being a little curious.”
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[x] “You know, I’m rather fond of cress. Is there anyone in your family who does it well?”

Part of me wants to know more about the TA and the valley kappa settlement, but I figure Koyomi's in a state where even boiled greens sounds tempting.

Also, yay it's back!
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[x] “You know, I’m rather fond of cress. Is there anyone in your family who does it well?”

I don't know what a "cress" is, but it sounds like food
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Pretty sure it's that thing you do to cheeks.

[X] “I suppose it’s the valley settlement you live in, then? I’ve never seen it and can’t help being a little curious.”
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[x] “You know, I’m rather fond of cress. Is there anyone in your family who does it well?”

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Just popping in to say that votes will be closing tomorrow. Maybe I'll take the opportunity to talk about how I develop updates from the start or something while I'm at it.

Marked as update in order to use the timer.

Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/12/20(Thu)01:00

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After missing breakfast, it's unsurprising that Koyomi would be feeling a little peckish. No wonder her conversation with Rie is about to turn towards...

[x] “You know, I’m rather fond of cress. Is there anyone in your family who does it well?”

Thanks again for your patience and votes.

And, now, to more mundane business.

Wednesday Report

As you can imagine, what with just closing the votes, there's not too much to say regarding the update progress, but I have been doing some preliminary work, so it's not like nothing's happen. Accordingly, I think now's as good an opportunity to talk about where I start off when it comes to updates.

It all begins with writing out where I'm starting from and where I hope to end up. Considering it's hard to know where to go when you don't have an end-point, it's more important to have that, but having a solid reminder of where things left off is often helpful for keeping continuity. That's usually decided already, or it's decided quickly after I start. Once I've got that down, it's a matter of breaking down the events between those two points into "milestones".

Something that I think is important to explain here is that, at this particular point, everything is subject to change. Admittedly, that's why the last update took so long; however, I'd argue that the delays cropped up because I changed my mind on some important points very late into the process rather than early on. Sometimes, I might have to go through this process a couple of times before I get things sounding good.

Anyway, once the endpoints and the stepping stones are set up as scaffolding, my next step is to type up a blow-for-blow outline for the update. This is really where things can shift, because it's where I finally get a good sense of how important details fit together. A starting outline can go through at least four or five revisions before I'm sure about it. Once it's done, though, it'll be the basis for the first draft, and I'm not likely to deviate very far until I start in on the second.

All-in-all, an exceedingly process, I know, but it's mine all the same, and I like to think it works despite past fumbles. Let me know if there's anything that I should clarify or whatever. Otherwise, next week, same Koyomi time, same Koyomi channel.
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Wednesday Report

Bare-bones reporting this week. The holiday threw me off balance a bit, and I found maintaining momentum difficult. On the upside, I did get an okay head-start on one part of the draft. (I don't typically write things in exact chronological order when dealing with the rough drafts.) I'm still trying to get back into the groove of regular life, so we'll see what the rest of this week and the weekend bring.
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sick wulf
Wednesday Report

In a rather rough turn of events, some nastiness or another has overtaken me and laid me out. I think it goes without saying that progress has been hampered by this development; more than one day was spent trying to keep my conscious hours into the low single digits. That said, I am making efforts to scratch out what I can now that I'm regaining strength. I just hope a certain underground architect isn't still harbouring a grudge. Pray for me.

Pic related. Pretty much exactly how I appear right now.
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Wednesday Report

Progress happened! Though I'll admit it's not enough to jump for joy, it's still progress. Namely, I've hammered out a good third of the latter half. Not too shoddy considering I fought off a potential second round of the crud while writing it. Now that I am truly on the mend, I expect to get back into the swing of things this week.

On a semi-related note, I've been listening to the audiobook version of Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe at work, and it gives me all sorts of thoughts about this story. If you've any taste for history, particularly the sort of history that devolves into absurdism, I highly recommend it -- though you may find your (no doubt misplaced) faith in humanity shaken if you examine matters too closely. I think I can appreciate the tengu perspective more and more.
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Wednesday Report

Progress did happen... sort of. I'll admit that I might be slightly rusty after that bout of sickness and the lull of recovery. In my defence, however, I did scribble in a bit here and there. The trouble comes in the lack of frequency lately. That isn't helped by recent important IRL business -- and that's not even getting into taxes -- that draws a lot of my attention and energy, plus lifestyle changes and sleep issues. Believe me when I say I try my damnedest to make time for writing; like all well-intentioned moves, of course, it doesn't always work out.

While it may sound like glum news, I can say that I've got something approaching half of a draft completed. Everything is just a matter of putting in elbow grease. Pray that the winds of IRL don't batter me too hard in these coming weeks, and I'll do my best to apply that effort. Until then, keep waiting warmly.
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Wednesday Report

Not to jinx myself or start making optimistic projections, but I think this draft is coming along nicely, and getting onto the second shouldn't be too much of a bugbear. Granted, that will depend on the sort of feedback I get from my editor.

Also, bursts of cold do not help when it comes to activity. I just want to huddle by the space heater and never leave right now. Somebody come exorcise Letty for me. Thanks in advance.
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Wednesday Report

Great Tenma, this cold is pissing me off to unimaginable degrees. It's enough to make one want to hold an ice faerie in front of a space heater as an act of symbolic revenge.

Demented impulses spawned by annoyance with the weather aside, somehow, I have strained out a fresh but coarse rough draft. That means my editor will have a taste, tell me it's too bland, and maybe give me an idea or two how to refine it. Abandoning the food analogy, I hope I can get that done within the next day or two and get to work on the second draft. This draft took longer than I really wanted, so I'm eager to take off running if I can.

We'll just have to see, won't we? Until then, I'll just be over here by the heater, not moving very much.
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Wednesday Report

Gonna make this one short and sweet because things -- IRL and not -- are getting busy around here.

My editor and I had some words. Then, as it happened, we had more words. And then we had a few more words. A lot of talking happened, is what I'm getting at. The takeaway of it all was that there were more than a few things I could improve on -- this being a first draft and everything -- and I believe we've nailed down the biggest issues.

Accordingly, I started on the second draft. That's pretty much it.

More seriously, though, I'm glad that we finally got the talking over with, and I'm seriously eager to start getting back to work. I mean, as life permits. The bastard.

I feel like I shot my wad with the last couple of reports, but have another pretty picture anyway.
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Waiting warmly~
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Wednesday Report

Alright, I'm coming at this in the simplest way possible: Radio silence until this draft is done.

I just can't keep coming up with different ways to say "I'm not dead and am slowly writing". That's terribly boring and I doubt many anons see it anyway at this point. Perhaps I might, if I plan it ahead of time, throw out some infrequent just-for-funs, but I really need to keep my head in the game here.

If there's anything that any of you paying attention would like to see -- besides "more updates" because, yes, I know that -- then feel free to give suggestions. Otherwise, keep waiting warmly, I guess.

P.S. If you, for whatever reason, want to talk to me and are not there already, then get on the THP Discord. Don't know where that is? Helpful places to look are either the (at present) most recent news post on the front page or the Chat tab. I go by this name. Tripcode and all.
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Consider this my declaration of story bankruptcy. No work will be going into any of things I have posted for the foreseeable future. You can call that 'dead' if you want to. Present matters mean more to me than what happens in future, to be totally honest.

I won't explain any further. Please respect that.

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Good luck with your "Present matters". I hope they go as well as possible.
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Gotta admit, I'm waiting just a tiny bit less warmly now.
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