TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 1

BOOK IV: TWILIGHT’S DREAMING

Chapter 1

As dusk is falling

Dreams are dark and filled with dread

Debts must be repaid

“Long, long ago, when the world was wild, there lived a samurai of great renown. Some called him the Shogun reborn, others called him a demon in mortal flesh, but all lands knew his name: Hayaoh! His eyes were steel, his heart a stone, his sword an eternal razor edge that cut through the wicked as easily as air. Few approached Hayaoh and lived to tell the tale, for he was known to be as merciless in wrath as he was in resting. Like the wind, he seldom stayed in one place for long, wandering the hills and valleys in search of his next battle and his next worthy opponent…”

[Excerpt from The Legend of Hayaoh, a collection of squirrel folklore, circa Year 500]

At twilight, she wanders through a darkened forest, naked and afraid. When the hour slips between day and night, the ancient woods are cast in an eerie glow of dying orange light that chills her to the bone, for reasons she cannot understand. Nothing is familiar; even her body feels like that of a stranger. This hair, this fur, this tail, all wrong… she feels a powerful urge to tear at herself, at the flesh that slowly suffocates her like a living, breathing prison.

I should not be here. The thought trails behind her as part of her shadow, whispering to her the same words every time: I should not be here. No matter how she tries to shut it out, the thought oozes into her ears and sinks into her skull all the same.

Faces loom ahead out of semi-darkness. Awash with belief, she runs for her friends, calling out their names, desperate to escape the whispers and the night she knows is coming, closer and closer with each passing second, inexorable, unstoppable. They are her everything, they can shield her from the dark before it falls.

The first is a huge but gentle presence, forever on hand with wisdom and understanding, safe and comforting as the fires of a hearth. He smells of iron and embers, of ink, paper, and leather bindings.

The second is a bright light and a mischievous smile, sharp and daring, often teasing but always well-meaning, a source of laughter even in troubled times, always an adventure waiting to happen.

And the third… the third is dark and mysterious, but she feels for him as she does for no one else. He is her rock. A noble heart for one so troubled, one who faces pain and overcomes it in ways she knows she never can.

She calls their names, but there is no sound from her lips. No matter how she tries to shout for them, they cannot hear. In desperation, she throws out her hand. The flower she wears behind her ear twitches… Thorned vines creep down her neck and shoulder and snake around her arm, coiling tight. The thorns break her skin and draw blood… and the vines sail out through space and plunge themselves into the hearts of her three beloved friends.

Her blood turns to ice. She screams, but there is no sound.

Their chests burst in crimson fountains. Their eyes grow wide with shock and betrayal as they frost over like clouded glass. She can only watch them wither as the life drains from them, bit by bit. It seems to take years before they fall the forest floor… when they do, they strike the loam with impacts that sound like distant thunder.

It’s my fault. In the ringing silence that follows, she knows with absolute certainty that that thought comes not from the shadow… it is her own.

It’s my fault. I hurt them, just like I hurt everyone. They’re dead. They’re dead. They’re dead. They’re dead, because of me…

I should not be here.

The thorns dig deeper into her flesh, and as she howls soundlessly in the twilight, they spread their poisoned roots through her every vein, growing, growing, unstoppable. Her nerves burn like the sun as a thousand thorns erupt from inside her flesh, tearing her apart—

Hanami sat bolt upright in her bed, every inch of her fur standing upright and her heart pounding a drumbeat in her breast. The last, fatal scream of her nightmare was still upon her lips. Heaving for breath in the darkness of her bedroom, she clutched herself tight, expecting to feel the prickling, burning sensation of the thorns erupting at any moment. Another dream. Another horrible dream. This was the fourth time in a week. And yet again, the thought chased her from the realm of sleep and lingered in the back of her mind:

I should not be here.

 


 

“Takky,” said Faun Muranaka in a hushed tone that was quite unusual for her, “this is insane.”

“It’s a debt,” said Zero Takaishi. One did not need to look at the buck’s bloodshot eyes to see the great weariness that clung to him like clouds. It was all there in his words, low and leaden with sorrow. “Debts need to be repaid.”

Faun’s gloved knuckles rapped gently against his skull. “You get us caught by the tin cans while you’re half-asleep, see if they care about your debt. We should come back when you’re not dead on your feet.”

“No.” Zero shook his head. “We’ve come this far. It’ll be one less thing to worry about.”

They crouched together behind an immaculately trimmed hydrangea shrub in the eastern courtyard of Aedis Centralis, the holiest temple of the Silver Order. Located at the heart of Unify, Aedis Centralis was a sprawling, majestic structure, resplendent with white marble and alabaster columns, spotless walls free of the accumulated grime of the rest of the central city, and clean-scrubbed ebony floors polished to an almost mirror-like sheen.

At least, that was how it was supposed to be. Three weeks after the Soulsnatcher’s terrible rampage through their most sacred grounds, the Order sistren and brethren still struggled to restore Aedis Centralis to its former pristine glory. It was an expensive and laborious process; scores of those beautiful ebony floorboards had to be torn up and replaced, for they were soiled by the blood of the three dozen that the Soulsnatcher murdered on that night. The Order’s edict for their temples demanded that any surface touched by unjustly spilled blood was forever desecrated and must be disposed of with fire. Squirrel temples had similar edicts, but the sight of piles and piles of floorboards stacked up to be burned on the way inside struck Zero as an awful waste.

A waste. That was what the last three weeks had been for him in most part. Though he searched day and night throughout all of Tasakeru for any sign of Naole, there was not so much as a brick-red hair. His little sister was nowhere to be found. If she was even still alive, she was out there somewhere… cold and alone in a hostile forest that even he, a resident of nine years, could barely survive sometimes. Hopelessness crept up on Zero like some insidious disease; it was only his unflagging determination (or stubbornness) that kept him going.

The trip to Unify to repay his debt was a diversion as much as anything. It was a way to keep himself going, to relieve himself of at least one burden. Faun insisted on coming along, telling him repeatedly that his constant worry and lack of sleep would lead to his getting caught without her help.

At last, after twenty minutes, the Order knights assigned to patrol the grounds left their routes to change shifts. Seizing the opportunity, Zero and Faun dashed across the lawn and pressed themselves against the temple’s eastern wall as if trying to melt into it. They were blocked from view for the most part by rows of flowering hedges, but both knew that it was best to never underestimate an Order knight.

“I think it’s this side,” muttered Zero to Faun. “From what I remember, Naole usually worked here, in the East Wing infirmary.”

Faun blew air through her lips, causing her auburn bangs to flutter with the draft. “You really think Little Lady Sunshine would be convalescing with the rest of the mortals? Takky, you are crazy. She’s probably got a private wing of her own, and a silver-gilded chamber pot or something.”

Zero blanched. “I really needed that image, Faun, thank you. Honestly, she’s not nearly as haughty and stuffed-up as you think she is. She gave me the dagger of her own free will, when she had no reason to. Against Lady Lily’s wishes, even.”

“I still don’t like her. People that rich make my fur stand up.”

“You don’t have to talk to her if you don’t want to,” said Zero. “All I need you to do is stand guard.”

“Fine, fine.” The vixen waved a hand. “Just get it over with so we can go back home and you can get some sleep.”

From inside there came a war cry, muffled by the thick marble walls but still sharp. It was shortly followed by another, and another, in a regular sequence with precise timing.

“That’s her,” said Zero, inching along the wall. “Keep watch, and swish your tail if you see anything.”

“Will do.”

Moving carefully, Zero stood to his full height and peered into the infirmary’s window. He could not help but grin and shake his head at what he saw inside.

Truly, only Lady Nadeshiko Argenteus, Vice-Mistress and Field Commander of the Silver Order, would practice her swordplay in her infirmary room instead of getting the rest prescribed by her healers. A savage bite wound to the shoulder? To her, that was an annoyance at best. The healers would not allow the young skunk to wear her full armor while she practiced, of course, but Gods help anyone who tried to take her greatsword away from her. Zero watched her run through her form with some admiration, thrusting and weaving the massive silver-edged slab like a weapon a quarter of its size. Her piercing green eyes were set, her breathing even, her striped tail with its single wide white bar held high like a banner. It amused Zero to see that even when under the healers’ care, Nadeshiko took pains to not let a single platinum blonde hair escape from her braid. If it were not for the infirmary gown that Zero was quite sure she was being forced to wear, one might think she had never been injured at all.

That impression lasted until one high swing pulled a muscle in her bad shoulder the wrong way. Nadeshiko’s face twisted, and the greatsword fell from her grasp and clanged against the floor as she clutched the bandages on her shoulder. Something that was close to an obscenity formed on her lips, but with the effort of a lifetime of noble upbringing, she suppressed it.

As good a moment to interrupt as ever, Zero supposed. He knocked on the window pane.

Nadeshiko’s ears perked. Pain or no pain, she scooped up the greatsword and rushed to the window, holding it in a defensive stance. “Who’s there? Show yourself, coward!”

Zero tilted the pane inward. “Easy, Milady. It’s me, Takaishi.”

“Ta…” In a moment of genuine surprise, Nadeshiko’s bearing slipped. “Takaishi…? What in the Goddess’s name possessed you to come here? Need I remind you that you are forbidden from setting foot in—”

“I’m well aware.” Carefully, Zero slid the silver dagger through the window. “I’m returning this.”

It took a moment for Nadeshiko to register what she was seeing. It was her family’s blessed silver dagger, the one she gave to Takaishi three weeks ago as she lay wounded. The weapon bore a few scarce spots of blood that had not been there before, but someone had made an impressive effort to clean it. “You… you came all this way to…” She took the dagger and held it to her breast as if cradling a child. “Then… you did it?”

Zero nodded grimly. “Stalker’s dead. The dagger helped. Thank you.”

Conflicting feelings swam inside Nadeshiko. In truth, she never expected to see Takaishi or the dagger again… giving it to him was an uncharacteristic act of optimism on her part. Yet here he was, victorious, having braved arrest once again to return her family’s heirloom. A small part of her was touched. “I…” Her face grew warm, and her ears swiveled back. “I thank you, Takaishi, and I commend you for slaying that beast.”

“It was my pleasure.” Zero’s voice turned cold and hard as the marble wall he leaned on.

Nadeshiko inched closer to the window. Now she saw the redness in the squirrel’s eyes, and she knew that all was not well. “Your sibling, Sister Naole. Did you—”

Zero cringed as if struck. “No. I’m still looking for her. Stalker wouldn’t tell me where she was, what he did with her… or if she’s even still alive. I’ve searched everywhere, but…” His sentence trailed off.

She understood. Three weeks lost in Tasakeru with little food and little fresh water. The odds were not in Sister Naole’s favor. To her astonishment, Nadeshiko found herself hurting for Takaishi. Family was sacred to her kind, and he had been arrested dozens of times trying to care for his sister in her infirmity. She should know; many of those times she had arrested him and thrown him in prison herself. After checking to ensure no one was watching, Nadeshiko crouched down lower to the window and whispered, “I apologize, Takaishi. I truly hope you find her.”

“Not to put a damper on things,” said another voice, “but can you two hurry?”

All of Nadeshiko’s sympathy evaporated like morning dew, and her tail fur stood up until it resembled a bottlebrush. “You—” she sputtered. “You brought that guttersnipe with you?!”

“And good morning to you too, Milady,” said Faun, with a hard point on that last word. “Come on, Takky, finish up.”

Zero glanced to his right. “Do you see the knights coming back?”

“No,” said Faun. “We’re downwind, and I’ve got a sensitive nose.”

“Why you—” Nadeshiko sounded like a tea kettle as she hissed through gritted teeth, searching for an insult strong enough. “You harridan! How dare you say such foul things within my own home!”

“I’ll mock you wherever I please, thanks,” said Faun, flashing a savage grin. “Easy, Ginko. You’ll burst a blood vessel.”

Nadeshiko bristled and drew herself to her full height. “My name is Lady Nadeshiko Argenteus, daughter of the Argenteus House and—”

“And rightful bearer of the divine branch up your divine hind.” Faun made a show of yawning. “Takky, really, we should go.”

Zero rather thought they should. Faun and Nadeshiko had developed a profound mutual loathing of each other from the moment they first met, and if they stayed in each other’s vicinity any longer, things were likely to turn violent. “Right,” he said. “Milady, thanks again for the dagger, and I apologize for Faun. If I do find Naole… I’ll send her back to you as soon as I can.”

With considerable effort, Nadeshiko pushed aside her detest of the vixen to finish things properly. “S-she will be welcomed back with open arms, Takaishi. Good luck.”

There were no further words. Two shadows, one black and one orange, raced across the grounds, up the boundary wall, and out of sight. A great urge rose within Nadeshiko to call the knights to arms, if only to find and punish Muranaka for her rudeness… but then, she considered, they would catch Takaishi too. Just this once, she felt she owed him a clean escape. Debts had to be repaid.

END OF CHATPER 1

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 17 – That Twitchy Feeling

Week 17 – That Twitchy Feeling

Last week, I streamed the first part of “BHS Plays Tales of Symphonia” on my YouTube channel. It was a special, double-length episode to make up for canceling the DDLC playthrough. The day after the stream, the video was hit with two copyright flags by YouTube’s wonderful automated system, meaning that it can no longer be monetized. The first flag I could understand; it took issue with the J-Pop song in the game’s opening movie. The second flag, though, was the one that really drove me up the wall. The system chose to flag 33 seconds of random footage from the start of the game for “visual content”, for no reason I can comprehend. Apparently everything else was fine save for the opening movie, but it was my last straw. The content ID system is bad enough when it’s flagging things correctly, but making arbitrary restrictions based on random parts of 15-year-old games… well, it’s so stupid and unfair that I resolved then and there to do all future live streaming on Twitch. Therefore, http://twitch.tv/bhsdesk will be the new home of “BHS Plays Tales of Symphonia” and other LPs. The archives for these streams will still go up on YouTube afterward, so don’t worry about missing anything. I’ve also decided to put my streams of Overwatch and Fortnite on a regular schedule so as to attract more viewers, so “Overwatch OverWednesday” will be every Wednesday night at 7 PM EST, and “Fortnite Friday” will be on Fridays at 7 PM EST. Sunday Streams will still be on Sundays at the same time.

Anyway. My big accomplishment last week was finally finishing Chapter 34 of Shattered Skies. As I’ve mentioned to several of you, I’ve had the scene with Homura’s light-speed pebble sniper shot in mind for over a month now. It went over so well that I’m almost disappointed that barely anyone has mentioned what happened to the other characters over the course of the chapter… I mean, yeah, I knew the pebble was golden, but guys… you’re overlooking some very important setups for future chapters, just so you know. XD Anyway, there’s two more chapters I have planned as denouement for the “rescue arc”, and then the next phase of the story can begin. It’s kind of a relief to be nearly done with this arc after a year and change, to be honest. Not that I didn’t have a blast writing and planning it all out, of course, but there’s so much more to come… including the Big Things happening in said next two chapters that will change the status quo going forward. :D

I may have to hold off on getting the next Silent InvenTOYry off the ground due to a shipping delay, so it looks like I may not get Episode 07 out this month after all. I may decide to shift gears for the remainder of the month and get out the first chapter of Twilight’s Dreaming instead. We’ll see what happens.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 16: All Hail Hugtto

Week 16: All Hail Hugtto

So hey, I finally got the second part of Viluy’s Database finished! Hooray, hooray, me! And I made significant progress on the next chapter of Shattered Skies as well. The week coming up is going to be crazy, but I’m making an effort to get Chapter 34 finished and posted within the next few days.

How about those last two Hugtto episodes, eh? As I said on Tumblr, barring any disastrous derailments in the show’s second half (as happened with poor Happiness Charge), I think we may have another strong contender for Best Precure Series alongside Heartcatch and Go! Princess. I mean, the show consistently impresses me in nearly every respect; it’s already got my favorite pink Cure since Blossom in Hana/Cure Yell, which is a hell of an achievement in and of itself.

On somewhat of a whim, I decided to check out this “Fortnite” thing that’s tearing things up in streaming circles. You can see the results on my YouTube channel, if you’re so inclined. I’m not anything approaching good at it yet, but I did manage to place eleventh out of 100 in Solo mode on Saturday morning, so that’s something.

Sorry for another short entry, but I’m running low on energy after a long day. I think I may call it an early night, in fact.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 15 – Madness Season Begins

Week 15: Madness Season Begins

First things first, I’d like subscribers to my YouTube channel to watch the video below, please:

Now that I’ve said what needed to be said, we can get down to standard business.

The “Madness Season” of the title refers to the fact that I’ll be keeping up with Cardcaptor Sakura: The Clear Card Arc, Darling in the FRANXX, Hugtto Precure, Boku no Hero Academia Season 3, Attack on Titan Season 4, Cutie Honey Universe, probably Magical Girl Boy / Magical Girl Ore (which seems solid so far), and Netflix’s A.I.C.O. -Incarnation- over the next twelve weeks or so… and that’s not counting any outliers I may pick up along the way, and the new Steven Universe episodes dropping this month. This is the most jam-packed season in recent memory, and most of those on that list are must-watches. Oof.

If my updates seem to drop to a slower crawl than usual, that’s the reason.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 14 – How’d Ya Like That Apple?

Week 14: How’d Ya Like That Apple?

I’m happy to report that Apple Fools Day was a rousing success. There were no technical hiccups with the stream or the recording software and everyone had a blast. For those of you who missed it, the full recording of the stream is up on http://picarto.tv/bhsdesk and will remain there indefinitely, and once I find a viable hosting platform for it, the file will go up for free download. Please note: the video file on Picarto has about twenty minutes of a standby screen ahead of the actual beginning of the stream. (I was running a Weird Al playlist while I performed my final sound checks. When you hit “Dare to be Stupid”, that marks the point where you should stop fast-forwarding.)

So now that that event is behind me, I find myself back on my regular projects. Working on writing in the lead-up to the stream was a lost cause, due to nervous excitement. With some time to cool down, hopefully I can concentrate on stuff. I think the next step should probably be finishing Viluy’s Database Part II, as that’s been on hold for the longest (er, if you don’t count the Book II Appendix, of course. Bad BHS. Bad.) The new Silent InvenTOYry needs some more new equipment before I can start filming, so that can wait. Book IV of Tasakeru is tremendously important to the series as a whole and I’ll be making significant changes to it, so I think I may take my time to plan it out a bit more. That leaves Shattered Skies Chapter 34, which is another major event… that one also needs to be handled carefully as there are a ton of characters to juggle. Perhaps I should make an outline.

The upcoming anime season is absolutely packed with stuff I want to see, including the new seasons of Boku no Hero Academia and Attack on Titan, Cutey Honey Universe, the second cours of Cardcaptor Sakura: The Clear Card Arc, and Darling in the FRANXX, and of course more of Hugtto Precure. All that plus any other new surprises that may pop up. There’s two magical girl series airing this season, one a parody (Magical Girl Boy/Ore) and one a Madoka-clone (Magical Girl Site). Unless I hear enough good things to change my mind, I think I’ll be passing on both of those; of the two, Magical Girl Boy would probably be my preference, because Site looks to me like yet another series that apes Madoka’s darkness and ignores its heart. Sigh. At least the Hugtto Cures and Honey will be there so I can get my fix.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 13 – Apple and Discord

Week 13 – Apple and Discord

For once, the Tech Gods have been merciful. On Thursday, I entered BHS Crisis Freakout Mode™ when my desktop’s operating system went bananas. With my usual tech support (VDrake) temporarily unavailable, I had no choice but to bring my PC in to a local repair shop. Hours later, I was told my that hard drive was failing and I needed a new one.That would have put a serious crimp in my plans for the next week or so, particularly my Apple Fools Day stream… so it was a stroke of good luck that when I called the repair place today, they told me they were able to fix the old drive without problems. I’m back on my desktop with all of my files and settings intact, and all is normal, knock on wood.

So! After a few days of uncertainty, I can thankfully say that the APPLE FOOLS DAY live stream will proceed as planned, this Sunday at 7 PM EST on http://picarto.tv/bhsdesk ! The promo video is below:


This is the special reward I promised all my followers and subscribers for helping me push my YouTube channel over 1000 subs in time. The event will be a live MSTing of a singularly bizarre, spectacularly insane work of fiction, one of my all time favorites. It’s running on Picarto and not YouTube due to said work still being under copyright by a major company, and thus liable to get yanked from YT despite Fair Use laws… but with Picarto, I should be safe. Please note: despite what it says in the promo video (which was prepared well in advance), you will NOT need a Picarto account to comment on the stream. Those who want to sign up are welcome to, of course, but it’s not required. If you want an alternative way to get in on the action, you can sign up for my brand new Discord server, Blazing Harbl Server: https://discord.gg/MYajJMM A Discord chat window will be overlayed on the stream, so if you’d rather comment there, feel free. And if for some reason you can’t make it on time, don’t fret! I’ll be making the entire stream available for free download as soon as I can find a reliable hosting site for the video file.

Now, for reasons explained above, I wasn’t able to get much work done on other stuff this past week… but once Apple Fools Day is all taken care of, I’ll have much more time to devote to other pursuits. Thanks for your patience.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 12 – Bonus Content

Week 12 – Bonus Content

Because I am a crazy person, last week I decided on a whim to do another full episode of Silent InvenTOYry for next month. I immediately set to work ordering and organizing props and essential stuff for said episode, a few of which arrived this morning. For those of you asking why I’d do this (aside from be being, as stated, a crazy person)… well, I’m making some substantial tech upgrades to benefit both SI and my YouTube streaming, so I figured I need another big episode to help pay for those. Besides, otherwise there wouldn’t be another full episode until late July, so this one can serve as a buffer until then. That’s also why I decided to go ahead and post the introduction to Tasakeru‘s Second Volume as my update for this month. It’s short, I know, and I apologize for that, but I hope my Patrons will still consider it substantial.

Speaking of Patrons, huge thanks to Rich, who became Patron #4 this past week! Every little bit helps, and your contribution will ensure that the content keeps coming.

I don’t really have that much else to add this week, other than this:

That’s right, APPLE FOOLS DAY is now less than two weeks away. This is your reminder that to participate in the chat on the night of the event, you must sign up for a FREE Picarto account. Due to potential legal issues, this stream will NOT be on YouTube, it will air ONLY on picarto.tv/bhsdesk at the designated time.

But what is APPLE FOOLS DAY, you ask? Well, many details will be forthcoming along with a teaser trailer next week, but I’ll let slip a bit more: the event will be a live MSTing of sorts, a MSTing of something so baffling and bizarre that it should come as no surprise that everyone involved in making it, and I mean everyone, was out of their minds on heavy drugs… something so absurd that April 1st is really the only appropriate day to celebrate its incomparable insanity.

Keep watching…

– BHS

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Second Volume: Night and Day – Introduction

SECOND VOLUME: NIGHT AND DAY

 

INTRODUCTION

Somewhere far away, on another Earth, devoid of humankind…

There was once an island country without a name, alone in the vast ocean, isolated by storms and deadly currents. Its inhabitants knew nothing of any land or people outside of their own, so to them, their island was simply “the world”.

In the place of humankind, the animals grew and changed, becoming like man… and yet not like man. Faint echoes of human cultures and ideas unknowingly bled across reality from our Earth to theirs, shaping the growth of the island’s civilization.

There were eight of them, eight intelligent species that called themselves “sentients”… eight species sharing a world that became too small for their differing ways of life.

It was a world of ancient gods, of long-remembered wars and the heroes that fought them. It was a world of magic and science, logic and emotion, faith and proof clashing against one another.

It was a world where the only way to enforce order and stability was to keep the many different cultures separate… and to exile any people deemed too dangerous to coexist with the rest of sentientkind.

Unknown to the world, the very exiles they shunned and feared had a part in saving civilization itself. They should have quietly faded from history… but their story refused to be forgotten. They live on as legends, whispers in the wind.

These are those legends, the tales of the Outcasts of TASAKERU

 


 

Zero was a ronin… The son of an old samurai family, raised by his father to continue the tradition. Upon coming of age at thirteen years old, Zero was enrolled in the Gakuen, the training school of the Samurai Daigundan. Tragedy struck when Zero and his squad of trainee footsoldiers were ambushed by Demon Fangs, members of a fanatical and murderous Death God cult. Nine of Zero’s squad were butchered, and all the rest were gravely injured… but Zero alone emerged without a scratch. Unable to bear the guilt, he stole the family sword and ran away. Branded a coward, a deserter, and a ronin, Zero was exiled to Tasakeru. Nine years after, his only remaining ties to his family were his sword and his beloved little sister, Naole…

    During Stalker the Soulsnatcher’s attack on Aedis Centralis, the most sacred ground of the mighty Silver Order, Naole was abducted by the mad brute, who intended to use her blood in a perverse ceremony. Zero pursued Stalker back to Tasakeru and fought him in a brutal duel, in which he eventually emerged the victor. However, even fatally wounded, Stalker would not divulge Naole’s location, or if she was even still alive. Disgusted, Zero made to leave him where he lay, condemning Stalker to a slow and agonizing death… but after a moment of consideration, he instead beheaded the wolf with his sword. Victorious but empty, Zero began his search for his sister anew, slowly losing hope of ever seeing her again…

 

    Faun was a thief… A former street urchin who once stole only to survive, and then stole for pleasure once she discovered her natural talent for it. Possessed of great beauty, quick wits, and a silver tongue, Faun presented herself as a wild, fun-loving thrill-seeker… but her flippant and freewheeling nature hid a deeper inner pain…

Faun was willing to betray and steal from Hanami, her closest friend, for a chance at unimaginable riches; the consequences of her greed led to the rise of a mysterious magical stone tower in Tasakeru, its exterior overgrown with black roses. Though she feigned indifference, the experience hurt her more than she could recognize. Mere weeks later, an encounter with the brute who would become Stalker shook Faun to her core and caused her mask to slip further… When the monster returned to Tasakeru and attempted to assault Hanami in her own home, Faun was driven to a berserk rage and went after Stalker by herself. The Soulsnatcher’s attack awakened feelings within her that she could neither explain nor articulate…

 

Rowan was a scholar, with the body of a warrior and the soul of a poet. Born of the only species with an ironclad code that forbid wielding weapons or causing harm to other sentients, Rowan chose to break both laws, and was exiled as a result… but many suspected that he did not walk this path without regrets. Within his mighty breast beat a heart in conflict, for how would he reconcile the ideal of his people’s pacifism with the need to protect them from danger…?

 

Naole was an acolyte… An apprentice Healer for the Silver Order, and Zero’s younger sister. Fierce and proud, Naole was determined to make a life for herself and find independence, despite the difficulties presented by her chronic anemia. Her thin blood was a cause of great concern to Zero, who often ran afoul of the law to look after her, but Naole refused to be pitied…

After being abducted by Stalker and taken to the Black Rose Tower, she awakened in time to see the first phase of his demented plan: using blood samples stolen from every sentient species, Stalker intended to create an army, a new breed of monsters like himself that would avenge the death of his “Mother”. Contrary to his expectations, the ritual produced a single mute hybrid, intelligent and sentient but lacking any predatory instinct or knowledge of the outside world. Together with this hybrid, dubbed “Legion”, she escaped into Tasakeru’s uncharted wilderness. There they would have likely died, had it not been for an encounter with a seer named Aria, who claimed the two would be of great importance to her future…

 

Drake was a recluse… a resident of Tasakeru for longer than anyone could remember. All that he desired was to be left alone with his regrets, but an old shadow rose within him on the night that he met the brute who would become Stalker, the Soulsnatcher. His attempt to make amends for his mistakes led to a fleeting glimpse of a time long past. Some old memories, once unearthed, refuse to stay buried…

 

Hanami was a mage… A quiet, timid soul, her background and even her last name were a mystery when she stumbled upon the Outcasts of Tasakeru after leaving behind everything she had ever known. Hanami carried the Mage Flower, an enchanted blossom able to instantly grow almost any type of plant life. Magic was strictly forbidden by her kind, which was presumably the reason for her exile, but Hanami withdrew from any discussion of her past. In fact, she only revealed her abilities to the other Outcasts in order to save her life and theirs…

Once free to use her powers as she wished, Hanami proved to be an exceptional talent, and an essential means of survival for all who lived in Tasakeru. And yet, the events that culminated in the Soulsnatcher’s attempted assault planted seeds of doubt within her, and made her mistrustful of her powers… and of herself…

 

And none of the Outcasts had any inkling that the great cycle would soon begin, and bring with it still greater changes…

 

Night and Day, the second volume of Tasakeru, now begins.

 

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 11 – Now What?

Week 11 – Now What?

That question up there is rhetorical, of course. Even with so many major projects finished, I still have more than enough to do to keep me occupied. Still, after so much activity over the past few weeks, I have this persistent feeling of irrational guilt, like I should be doing more. At every opportunity, I’m telling this feeling to kindly f**k off, but it’s a sneaky bastard, prone to popping up when I least expect it.

I decided, somewhat on a whim, to write a new introduction to Tasakeru’s 2nd Volume. It’s always been the plan to split the series up into eight Volumes of three-book story arcs, so I feel that the start of the 2nd is a good place for a brief recap. I haven’t started on Book IV proper yet, but ideas are swirling around as to how best to approach the rewrite. It needs to have the proper gravitas, you know.

The newest thing on my project list is my LP of Doki Doki Literature Club, which will be streaming every Sunday at 7 EST (except the Sunday of April 1st, for Apple Fools Day, natch.) Those of you who tuned in may have had a mild shock, as I was actually appearing and speaking on camera for it. Part of this is practice for the Apple Fools Day stream, in which I’ll be doing the same thing. To be brutally honest, I’m not too fond of my speaking voice, especially when it’s being recorded… but I’m working on it. You can catch the first part of the stream below. Please pardon my bonehead mistake… for the first ten minutes or so I didn’t realize my mic was turned off.

So, I hear that the Star Vs fandom is apparently involved in shipping drama instead of focusing on events of the humongous wham episode that just aired on Saturday. Sigh. I wish I could say I was surprised… but fandom is fandom, and who gets shipped with who is, as ever, SRS BUSNESS. I’ll just be over here, making my snarky little jokes and trying to stay out of trouble.

– BHS

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BHS Belated Blogress Report: 2018, Week 10 – The Week of Productivity

Week 10 – The Week of Productivity

Yes, I’m aware of the irony of that title, considering that this Blogress Report is a day late.

But yeah, somehow I got a ton of stuff done this past week, so maybe a late Blogress Report isn’t such a big deal. Soulsnatcher is finally finished, for one thing! That’s three books down, and twenty-one to go. There’s a new Shattered Skies chapter out too, with some big developments. I also set a new record completion time for Silent InvenTOYry, with 90% of Semi-Short Episode 3 filmed, edited, and posted within 10 hours. The link is below, natch.

And this weekend I also finished my playthrough of Sailor Moon: Another Story 2, which means that now it’s time to choose the next game in my streaming queue. Again, details below:

http://poll.fm/5x9hs

Now that my schedule is more or less clear for the month (the Tasakeru Book II Appendix and Viluy’s Database aside), I’m going to relish the rare opportunity to relax a bit. Make no mistake, I’ll still be producing content, including my streams, the Precure Library project, and my newly-launched weekly Star Vs. the Forces of Evil commentary on Tumblr, but I’m planning on easing back on the throttle. Perhaps now that there aren’t so many big projects on my plate at once, I can take some time to enjoy the little ones. Sounds like a plan, eh?

– BHS

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Tasakeru, tasakeru.com, and all related contents, text, and media are the Intellectual Property (IP) of BHS and BHS Productions, registered in 2009, and may not be modified, reproduced, or changed in any way, shape, or form without the author's express permission. For more information on usage rights, see the From the Author page.

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