TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 6 [Reupload]

Chapter 6

Path of many years

Winding from farm to forest

This is her story

“The maiden’s name was Shizuka. From that night on, she was a constant sight by Hayaoh’s side. Those who knew of him saw a great change come over the great warrior… gone were his days of fury and bloodlust, gone was the merciless aura that trailed him like clouds. His heart of stone had cracked in two.

“Theirs was more than a simple courtship turned romance turned love. ‘Love’ was hardly a sufficient word, for the two complemented and completed each other. As Shizuka filled the emptiness inside Hayaoh’s heart with compassion, so Hayaoh brought out the warrior’s spirit in Shizuka, teaching her the sacred virtues of the samurai. She tempered his anger, and he brought out her courage. He showed her how to fight, she showed him how to make peace. It was a perfect union, with each half enhancing the other to become greater than the whole. In time, the legend of Hayaoh became the legends of Hayaoh and Shizuka… the world watched in awe.

“Yet this was not the end of their troubles. When they fought, as all who are in love must fight, their passion shook the earth and rattled the sky, bringing forth rains of bitter tears. Only when they reconciled would the sun shine again.

“And as the years passed, one grew to resent this passion, this bond between them. He was a samurai as cold and hard as Hayao’s heart of stone had once been. His name was Gen, and for many hours, Gen would sit and think his dark thoughts: that Hayaoh had come to disgrace the warrior’s code, becoming a pale shadow of what he was before. It was his mate’s fault, he thought. Something must be done, he thought…”

 

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

 

She is born on a farm in mid-autumn, in a small brick house within the Jiburi Grasslands. The house is bordered by rows of green blessed with vegetables and fruits in a dozen varieties, and flowers in countless colors.

It is a humble life, a simple life. The farm makes money, but not very much. She learns to tend the fields at a young age. Her parents teach her the Edicts of the Heavens and how to read and write, for they do not have the money to send her to formal school or hire a tutor. She reads whenever she can, whatever she can. Sometimes she hopes for a younger brother or sister to play with, but one never comes.

Years pass. Her life is quiet and sometimes lonely, but pleasant.

As she grows, her parents tell her again and again the importance of the Edicts, the sacred directives given by Lady Terra, the Goddess of Life herself. She comes to know them all by heart. The Edicts are good, the Edicts are absolute. How could anything from the Goddess be anything but?

She spends many days gazing out of her bedroom window, imagining the wider world beyond the seemingly endless fields of green. She suspects she will never see that world, that the farm will keep her here for the rest of her life, as it has kept her parents and grandparents before her. Sometimes she sorrows to think this, but the sorrow always passes quickly. It is good work, important work that she and her parents do. They plant the seeds and till the soil, and the Goddess gives them food and flowers. The food feeds the people, the flowers make them happy. Happiness brings enough money to plant more seeds, and the cycle goes on.

Sometimes she thinks that the cycle will continue without end.

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 50 – Maintenance

Week 50 – Maintenance
Once again, thanks a heap, Tumblr. While attempting to archive my Steven Universe commentary on another WordPress blog for when I leave the site for good next week, I accidentally imported my BHSDesk Tumblr to Tasakeru.com… all 10,000 posts of it. Of course, there was no way to stop this once it started. My current WordPress platform doesn’t allow bulk deleting of posts without a plugin (at least, no bulk deleting of posts that actually works), so in order to get my site back in working order I had to make a (mercifully) temporary $300 upgrade. Once that was done, I found the UI for the top recommended bulk delete plugin was so needlessly confusing and convoluted that I ended up wiping out not only all the Tumblr posts, but also nearly every post made on my site before this past April… nine and a half years of work. For a very stressful ~18 hour period, I was ready to give the site up as a lost cause; reuploading the most recent versions of the chapters would have meant fixing hundreds of broken links and putting the site on hold for an indefinite period of time.
Fortunately, after much back-and-forth with tech support, I got the site restored to the way it was before the upgrade. Exactly the way it was, including those 10,000 Tumblr posts. Since I’m understandably sick of trying to deal with techs, I need to go in and delete those posts in batches of about 100 at a time… any more, and the script timeout renders the effort pointless. The process is about half done, and will probably take the rest of the week, but at least the chapters are all safe. Ugh.
Speaking of Tasakeru, I want to give special thanks to Equinox3141 for helping convert the first three books to epub format, making them much more accessible to new readers. I’ll be using these files when I finally publish on Amazon, hopefully early next year. Equinox is also doing a professional-quality audio reading of VDrake’s The Changeling of the Guard over on his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2pd4K3-VbEMAa-tn92mIaA), so please go check him out and subscribe if you can. He do good stuff.
And on the subject of YouTube: I’ve dropped my subscriber count from the progress list down there. For reasons I don’t want to bother to figure out, ever since YT nuked my monetization status in June, I’ve been losing subscribers at a rate of about a dozen per week. Since it’s now been six months and I’ve yet to hear word one about the status of my reapplication, I’m forced to come to the conclusion that even if I do eventually get it restored, by the time that happens I’ll probably be below the minimum subscriber count if this keeps up. YouTube’s monetization policies are utter horseshit anyway, so I think my effort would be better spent focusing on my Twitch channel. I’m planning on doing some special stuff on there in the new year, which will hopefully push me over the required 50 follower mark so I can start making a small profit.
My, this is a cranky Report, isn’t it? Best do something about that.
Shattered Skies Chapter 40 got posted before the shit went down, so that’s good. This chapter is the start of the real meat of Act III, with the first targeted strike against Dead End, the introduction of a monster concept I’ve had in the works for a couple months, and the start of the first Cure Peace vs. Bad End Peace II fight, which is something I’ve been itching to do ever since I brought the latter into the story. You’ll see more of that fight in the next chapter, but I feel like now I can finally show why my version of BEP is found to be roughly equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Our girl Yayoi’s got her work cut out for her, but I think you’ll love what I have in mind for her counterattack.
The goal is to get 41 out late this week or early next, so that 42 and its big reveal will be on schedule for Christmas. I already have a couple pages of 42 written and in my notes, and I’ve got a pretty clear picture of how it’s gonna go, so it should come out pretty fast. Just gotta finish the big fight in 41 first. Wish me luck.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 49 – It All Comes Tumbling Down

Week 49 – It All Comes Tumbling Down

This has been a goddamn frustrating day. I had a figure order I was waiting for for three weeks finally arrive today, and the second I took the box out of the packaging I could tell something was wrong. The box itself was damaged, dirty, and unsealed. The figure’s arms had multiple visible spots, which were either significant paint flaws, degraded plastic, dirt, or (so help me) mold. More paint flaws were clearly visible on one hand and the lower torso. And worst of all, the eyes on one of the faceplates were at eight o’clock and noon positions, making what should have been an intimidating scowl look ridiculous. Any one of these things would have been suspect; considering all of them, I have little doubt that the seller sent me a Chinese bootleg, despite their insistence when I opened a prior case that they only deal in genuine items. Needless to say, I sent it right back and requested a full refund. I was going to try to start a photo project with it if it checked out, but like hell am I letting something that’s possibly growing mold near my other figures. So that’s on hold for now.
And, as I’m sure you’ve probably heard by now, Tumblr decided to alienate ~80% of its userbase in favor of the almighty dollar, and announced that they’re banning all “adult content” from their site. The working title for this edition was “Go Fuck Yourself, Tumblr”, but as my mother still reads this blog, I decided against it. Not that “Go Fuck Yourself, Tumblr” doesn’t articulate my feelings on the matter, but. It doesn’t matter that this will accomplish precisely nothing, that the algorithm they’re using to determine what is and isn’t “adult” is irreparably broken, that thousands of creators’ livelihoods are now at risk without an audience… as usual, hysterical self-righteous puritanism (and of course, those advertising dollars) win out over any number of angry users.
What really stinks about this is the transparent attempt to spin it as taking a moral stand. This was never about getting rid of CP; a spokesman for Tumblr straight up admitted it. This was a cowardly stunt by Tumblr’s parent company Verizon to try to pacify its investors long enough to sell the works. This was desperate groveling to get the mobile app relisted on the App Store because all that money. Well, congratulations, Tumblr, you’ve just saved a dead site.
We’re already seeing the results, two weeks before the deadline. Perfectly innocent posts of same-sex couples holding hands or kissing are being tagged en masse as “sensitive” or “explicit” material, as are any posts complaining about the situation, posts about progressive causes and non-violent political protests, and quite a few entire fandom tags (such as “precure”, “mlp”, etc) have been blacklisted, rendering them invisible to the site’s search engine or to Google. Basically whatever the executives don’t agree with is being flagged or outright purged, and they expect us to believe this is in the interest of “a happier, more positive Tumblr”. Horse shit. This was an excuse to slash and burn all those nasty non-white, non-straight, non-cisgender, non-conservative, anti-corporate heathens that had been fouling up their site. Verizon’s made no secret of where they lie; frankly, I’m astonished that this didn’t happen long before now. And instead of actually taking steps to fix the problem, such as building a moderation system that actually works, stemming the pornbot epidemic, or heaven forbid, going after the hate blogs, trolls, and neo-Nazis infesting the site, they do this. I hope they’re proud of themselves, the hypocritical bastards.
Hell yes, I’m pissed off. Tumblr was the first social media site where I felt I belonged. It was where I shed some of my ignorance about people outside my experience, and its users helped me to realize things about myself that I never knew. I met friends through there, I found great artists, writers, and creatives. I discovered fandoms that I never would have otherwise. I even managed to carve out my own little niche.
Well, all that’s over. My BHSDesk blog will stay up, at least until I finish backing it up and transferring elsewhere, but aside from sharing info about the purge, I’m done posting there. You can now find me on Pillowfort.io at http://www.pillowfort.io/bhsdesk once PF is back up, and I’m starting the process of transferring my Steven Universe Commentary and other posts to WordPress. Links will come later when everything’s in working order.
Expect a new Shattered Skies chapter later this week, and a new LP starting on Friday. For now, I’m gonna watch some happy stuff to try to get my mind off all this fuckery.
– BHS

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BHS Belated Blogress Report: 2018, Week 48 – I Know It’s Late, Dammit

Week 48 – I Know It’s Late, Dammit

I should have done this last night, but it completely slipped my mind. I guess doing the Thankful List special edition threw off my timing.
Well, anyway. Since most of the major happenings of the past week were covered there, I don’t have all that much to talk about. I’m in crunch mode as far as writing goes, trying to get out Chapter 40 of Shattered Skies and Chapter 6 of Twilight’s Dreaming by the end of the week so I can hit my self-imposed deadline of posting Chapter 42 of the former on or near Christmas.
As it happens, as I was writing this, I had a major breakthrough on Chapter 6. I ended up writing seven pages just tonight, and the only things that are left are the flavor text and the chapter haiku. You’d think this is some kind of record… but then, this chapter has a very unusual structure. Thinking of doing it this way was what prompted my breakthrough. Hey, whatever works. If all goes well, I’ll put the finishing touches on it and post it tomorrow. I’m still waiting on VDrake‘s take, but I think I’ve stumbled on something kind of brilliant.
Anyway, that’s about it. Go welcome my good friend Neko to DA, she joined this week under the name rinsweeb. Shower her with affection and llamas, because I demand it. And tell her to CALM DOWN, NEKO, because she always needs to hear it. :P

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 47 – Placeholder

Week 47 – Placeholder

This was going to be a standard Report up until a few hours ago, when I started feeling bad. “Bad” has rapidly downgraded to “awful”, so I’m putting the updated list of projects up now and doing my usual Report discussion and content with the annual Thankful List (to be posted on DA, link forthcoming) on Thursday, by which I’ll be feeling better, hopefully. Sorry.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 46 – A Little Bit of Light

Week 46 – A Little Bit of Light

I woke up on Wednesday morning, and for the first time in more than two years, I didn’t feel complete dread for the future. It’s a funny thing… the world isn’t really all that much different than it was last week. We made a little bit of progress, we had a lot of good news and a lot of bad news too… but more good than bad. It’s like I have a different perspective now that I couldn’t see before. There’s a little bit of light ahead… not much, but it’s enough.
I’m realizing just how smart it was to cut the news out of my life. I used to feel guilty if I didn’t at least stay informed as to what was going on in the world… but as I mentioned last week, following the headlines just made me angry all the time and pushed me into a breakdown. So from now on, I intend to stay informed, but in a broader, more general sense. No more rage-bingeing on politics for me, I’mma take care of myself.
Anyway, other stuff happened: a new chapter of Shattered Skies that I just dropped today, for one. I’m now aiming to get to Chapter 42 and its big reveal by Christmas, so I have a goal to shoot for. Chapter 39 was mostly setup, I grant you, but it begins to set the stage not just for the first real clash between Dead End and the Morning Lights, but for the readers finding out who Fantine really is. I’m also really proud of both the big speech she gives in this chapter on the nature of the Seeds and the conversation between Homura and Hotaru. The latter is something I had written and in my notes for at least two years… I see so many parallels between them that I couldn’t help but plan for them to interact like this. Hotaru’s lines about sadness and about not hating yourself come right from me… how appropriate that this is the week I post them.
In other news, a silly post I made on Tumblr and shared with both the Precure Discord server and the Precure subreddit gained surprising popularity… it was a mock “ranking” of all the Precure leaders, the central joke being that I was claiming not to be biased while including a cheap shot at Cure Miracle in almost every single entry. I got numerous requests to do the rest of the Cures, and so the “Precure Ranking” project was born, nay, unleashed upon the world. Despite the burst of fandom drama that accompanied the first post, I’ve had tons of fun doing the subsequent ones, and there’s at least three more coming. Enjoy, and remember, do not take it seriously.
 
Doctor Who aired another masterpiece last night, “Demons of the Punjab”. It concerned a subject I had absolutely no knowledge of, that being the Partition of India in 1947 that gave rise to the nation of Pakistan, but that didn’t matter. The story was small-scale, it was personal, it was phenomenally well-acted, and it made its point magnificently. I’m not ashamed at all to say that I wept at the ending, and as I said in my summary on Tumblr, that’s one of the highest compliments a writer can give or get. This episode is one of the reasons I love Doctor Who, one of the ones that make me proud to call myself a fan.
And then there’s SSSS.Gridman, which I also loved but I cannot talk about because ARRRRGH. Just… see it for yourself.
Anyway. Gonna try to do some Tasakeru and Uravity Falls with this week, or maybe work on the long-stalled Appendix and Viluy’s Database. We’ll see.
RIP Stan Lee, Marvel legend. One of the greatest storytellers of our age. His work will outlive us all.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 45 – Staying Angry

Week 45 – Staying Angry

It may come as a surprise to some of you, seeing as I make a name for myself putting characters I love through the wringer, but in real life, I actually hate conflict. I’ve gotten myself into numerous very bad situations over the years because when conflict is happening or seems imminent, I almost always back down in an effort to resolve it as quickly as possible. I get incredibly uncomfortable if I’m in the same room with people having a heated argument, for example. Anger and frustration, even righteous anger and frustration, exhaust me like little else does.
So when I say that in certain circumstances, it’s critical to stay angry, I want you, the reader, to fully understand how significant it is. This is one of those times. No matter what happens tomorrow, we need to stay angry until the greedy, xenophobic fascists who have hijacked this country are brought to justice one and all.
That said, staying angry takes a hell of a toll. I’ve been on a self-imposed exile from the news for the past week-plus, because the constant outrages of the headlines were pushing me toward a breakdown. Raise hell, by all means, but if it starts to adversely affect your health, physical or mental… step back. You can’t fight if you destroy yourself to do it.
Self-destruction is something I’m intimately familiar with. I said last week that Chapter 5 of Twilight’s Dreaming came from a really personal place, and reading it should make it obvious what I meant by that. All my characters are little pieces of me, and I’m telling you here and now that I’ve been both Hanami and Zero in this chapter. Depression is terrifying in a way that people who don’t suffer from it just can’t understand… when you’re on the brink and staring into the abyss, it warps your very perception of reality. I’m attempting to channel that fear into my work, and I hope I’m succeeding, but… well.
Anyway. I’m making progress on both Shattered Skies Chapter 39 and Uravity Falls Chapter 3. Tomorrow, after I get hope from voting, I’m going to cut myself off from reality for the day, and pour all my energy into getting stuff done. I can try getting angry again the day after that, but for my own sake, I need one more day of respite.
– BHS

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TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 5

Chapter 5

A green tea meeting

Revelations and reveals

The tears of autumn

 

“When at last the bathing maiden saw Hayaoh on the shore, she did not move. When her eyes met his, he saw in her surprise, confusion, indecision… but not fear. Not a trace of fear.

“For what seemed hours, Hayaoh and the maiden in the lake gazed at one another. Neither moved, neither spoke. The moment between them hung suspended in time, growing more fragile and more priceless with every passing second, and neither could bear to be the first to break it.

“What Hayaoh did next would have horrified any who knew of him. The mighty, merciless samurai, known by all and feared by many, threw himself before her, head upon the ground. It was an old gesture, one of absolute supplication to another. Young students prostrated themselves when begging to learn from those who would be their masters. Unfaithful lovers prostrated before their mates to plead forgiveness. For a samurai such as Hayaoh, a warrior with no equal, the bow of supplication would have been seen as disgraceful to himself…

“The maiden only smiled. Slowly she waded to the shore, and spoke her first words to him: ‘O warrior, bow not your head so low, for you have done no wrong to me or mine.’

‘Milady,’ said Hayaoh, who did not move. ‘Please, absolve me of my shame! I dare not look upon such loveliness! I am not worthy of your company… A spirit you must be, from firmament or realms beyond this vicious mortal world, for I have never seen such radiance.’

‘A touch upon his chin, warm and feather-light, lifting his eyes to her face. ‘O warrior,’ she said, soft laughter in her voice, ‘I come not from beyond. I am as much of flesh and blood as you. Turn not away, for sacred is this night. Our meeting is a sign from Gods above…’”

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

 

This was it, Hanami knew. It was more than the directions that Faun gave her, more than the familiar tang of oiled steel and old leather than hung in the air about the little cabin. There was a feeling in her heart, a warmth apart from that of the plum wine in her belly… A safe warmth, a blessed warmth. She knew, with no doubt at all, that this was where Zero lived.

It was not a particularly well-built cabin, nor was it pleasing to the eye. In fact, most would call it downright ugly. Resting against an ancient oak that served as its back wall, built out of a few dozen old logs cemented together with mud, it was apparent that the whole structure tilted slightly to one side; she noticed that even through her wine-fueled haze. Many of the logs bore deep nicks and divots, the kind that might be made by one chopping them with an old sword without much idea of what they were doing. It had clearly stood here for a while, judging by the thin carpet of moss growing up the walls. The roof was clay mud, clumsily thatched with threadbare straw. A few paces from the front door, there lay a pile of stones in an odd arrangement that she could not identify. It stood about a meter and a half tall, a little like an altar… a closer look confirmed that the stone on the top bore hundreds of scratches on its surface. About two meters away from that, there was something pinned to another tree by a heavy iron nail… now that she recognized. It was a straw doll in a roughly sentient shape, with many stray strands leaking out of its head and chest. A training dummy, and a well-used one. For some reason, she found it charming.

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 44 – Close to Home

Week 44 – Close to Home
Not much to talk about this week, sorry. I’m pushing myself to get Chapter 5 of Twilight’s Dreaming done by the end of the month. This is a difficult chapter to write, because it’s supposed to be intensely emotional… and it involves drawing on experiences and aspects of myself that aren’t pleasant in the least. I wonder if that’s part of the reason I’ve been putting it off. God knows I don’t need any additional reasons to feel depressed these days. That’s part of the reason I decided to avoid as much of the news as I can until at least Election Day. It’s not that I don’t care, far from it… it’s just self-preservation at this point.
Anyway, those of you who watch my streams should know that I’ve made some significant changes and upgrades to my setup. Among other changes, you’ll now earn eternal loyalty points for every ten minutes you watch, which can be redeemed for all kinds of neat stuff. I’m hoping this will drive engagement to my channel, because I’d really like to upgrade to a better webcam by the end of the year. The one I have is ten years old, which is damn near ancient as far as these things go. I’ll be alternating between playing The Messenger and My Hero One’s Justice for the foreseeable future until I finish one of them.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 43 – Star☆Twinkle!

Week 43 – Star☆Twinkle!
The title and logo of the next Precure series has apparently leaked, as usually happens around this time of year. Assuming it’s accurate, 2019’s team will be StarTwinkle Precure. I admit, I was a little worried that Hugtto was shaping up to be the franchise’s grand finale, what with the All-Stars returning. The past two episodes in particular went the extra mile and brought back characters I was sure would never be seen or referenced again, making for a sort of mini-All-Stars separate from the new movie. In the event that Hugtto was the last, I was prepared to say that they’re going out on a hell of a high note, but I’m glad I’m wrong. Of course, it’ll be sad to see the Hugtto Cures go when the time comes, but… so it goes.
So, the title seems to suggest a space theme for next year. I’m making a prediction that the Cures’ names will be based on constellations (as with last year’s Super Sentai, Kyuranger) but I think it would be great if Toei surprised us all and themed them around astronomy and science instead. We’ll see. The speculation will of course run rampant for the next few weeks until the first official art hits the net, but until then the guessing game will be fun.
Next, I want to plug a new anime that I don’t think is getting enough attention. Release the Spyce is a new original series from Lay-Duce, concerning an organization of ninja/spy girls called “Tsukikage” that has been operating in secret since Japan’s Warring States era, and their battles against a sinister crime syndicate. Your standard Ordinary High School Girl Protagonist gets scouted by the team to become their newest member, and it turns out that of course they’re all her classmates… including the one girl she has a not-so-secret crush on, who starts mentoring her in the art. The Tsukikage fight crime using a combination of ninja weapons and techniques, high-tech gadgets, modern weaponry, and “Spyce”, a substance that essentially overclocks their brains and bodies for a limited time when they eat it.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this premise is ridiculous. I described it to VDrake as “the most anime thing ever”, and I meant it. Release the Spyce probably won’t be a masterpiece by any stretch of the word, but it’s got adorable characters, neat action scenes, a surprisingly dark underlying story arc, a kickass opening theme… and most importantly, it’s fun. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and after three incredibly solid episodes, I’m eager to see where it goes. If ninja-spy-high school action with heavy yuri subtext sounds like your bag, check it out.
On the personal front: work continues on all my usual stuff, but I’m also trying to get back in the streaming business on a regular basis. I’ve been playing The Messenger over on my Twitch channel (http://twitch.tv/bhsdesk, followers needed), but at the end of the week I’ll be getting hold of My Hero Academia: One’s Justice, the first proper console game for the HeroAca franchise. Starting then, I’ll be alternating between Messenger and One’s Justice, and I may even have a special event or two for the latter. Come check me out if you get the chance, please!
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 42 – They’re Scrapped Ideas for a Reason

Week 42 – They’re Scrapped Ideas for a Reason
Shattered Skies turned four yesterday. For something that started partly as a self-imposed challenge, I think it’s turned out remarkably coherent, don’t you? I hope you all enjoyed the pic I made to celebrate, linked below:
I experimented a bit with the lighting effects this time around, and I really like how it turned out.
So, as additional bonus content for the fourth anniversary of my passion project, I thought I’d share a few concepts from the story that got changed or left on the cutting room floor. For some of them, it should be obvious why I edited or scrapped them… for others, maybe not so much.
Please be advised, these will be *SPOILERS* for those of you who aren’t yet caught up with the recent chapters.
In chronological order:
  • Joker was going to appear in person in all five Vertices during the Invasion arc. I scaled this back because I thought doing so would dilute his presence and potentially make people tired of him too early.
  • The merged Moebius-Pharaoh 90 entity was going to essentially turn Carnaaji into a planet-sized fortress for Dead End, as a staging ground to attack the TSAB. I couldn’t figure out how to make it work, and I felt the heroes needed to foil at least one of Joker’s many plots during the Invasion chapters… so I had the Arc-en-Ciel successfully destroy Moebius 90, but not Unison!Will.
  • The Princess Precure weren’t going to be in the story at all. When I started it in 2014, I fully intended to have Happiness Charge be the cutoff point, and both Cure Fortune and Cure Princess were going to make it to the Lighthouse. This was partly because I was convinced that Go! Princess would be an off year. By the time I actually got to writing the Precureverse Invasion chapters, though,GoPrin had become one of my all-time favorite Precure series, and I decided I had to include the team. Because of that, poor Hime got left behind…
  • I also considered sparing one of the Fresh Cures, which at various times was going to be Peach, Pine, or Passion. Then I considered that Passion reverting back into Eas had a ton of potential, and, well…
  • Artemis was going to die in the Sailorverse Invasion arc, when the Senshi were trapped inside the merged Labyrinth. He was going to be hit by one of the Familiars of Gisela, the motorcycle Witch, and die in Sailor Venus’s arms. That was going to be the reason she snapped and attacked Joker with the Holy Sword. I scrapped this one because there were way too many important things happening in those chapters. The death of such an important member of the Sailor Moon supporting cast just couldn’t be given proper weight with everything else I had to work in. This was a last-minute decision; I was in the process of writing the scene in Gisela’s part of the Labyrinth when I changed my mind.
  • It took forever to decide which Senshi would make it to the Lighthouse. Usagi was always a given, as were Chibi-Usa and Hotaru, but at one time or another nearly all the others were being considered as casualties. The final decision came down to which characters I thought would make for the most interesting interactions going forward. The ones captured and converted by Dead End were largely chosen because having them on the side of the Lights would given them too much of an advantage… Ami in particular, being a super-genius doctor and all.
  • On a related note, either Mami or Kyoko was going to escape from Vertex Five along with Madoka and Homura… until I realized that the only way to keep Homura’s actions secret was to be sure she and Madoka escaped alone.
  • Chapter 21 was going to be merged into what became Chapter 22, then it was going to be scrapped altogether, then I changed my mind. The real-life stuff happening that week convinced me that it absolutely had to be a standalone chapter. It’s loosely based on a conversation between myself and :devVDrake: that happened the night before I posted it. He didn’t slap me, but he did give me a much-needed talking-to very similar to the one Erika gave Tsubomi.
  • Yayoi and Yui’s relationship was written in almost entirely out of spite. I know how horrible that sounds, but bear with me: a friend of mine was writing his own Smile/GoPrin crossover in which Yayoi and Yui got together, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly they fit together, or that I hadn’t thought of it first. That story was then rewritten to remove Yayoi entirely, in favor of giving Yui Precure powers… I was so enraged at the loss of my YaYui adorableness that I vowed to write it into my story instead. Make of that what you will.
  • The name “Operation Batman” was VDrake’s idea. He suggested it as a joke. As with quite a lot of the ideas that we toss back and forth, I thought it was good/bad enough to use for real.
  • I always planned to have a nightmare fuel orifice invasion scene with Jamanen (a shoutout to a notorious scene from Batman Beyond), but it wasn’t always going to end with someone being Jellaxified. My original plan was to have Jamanen attempt to possess the unfortunate victim from inside… and said victim would regain control long enough to beg Cure Black to “punch me in the stomach… as hard as you can!” That would, ahem, cause Jamanen to be expelled from her victim in a spectacularly disgusting fashion. I went back and forth on that one before deciding that it would raise the stakes much higher to have one of the rescue team be assimilated successfully.
  • Part of the Jamais Ville sequence were written with the help of Forzare, my Stars Above co-author. They’ve always had a flair for surreal horror.
  • Chibi-Usa was going to have a scene in Jamais Ville where she turned a corner and temporarily ended up back in Tokyo in Vertex One, right in front of the jewelry store. She would then see a little of what had happened since the Senshi all left Earth. As with the earlier example in the Labyrinth, I thought there was too much going on already to do that scene justice, so I cut it. I actually have about two pages of that scene written, so I might reuse it in some form.
  • When the post-GoPrin Precure continuities are attacked by “the entity”, the original plan was to have it appear at the precise moment in each series where the main character first encounters the supernatural, thus ending their stories before they began. Up to the point where I was halfway through writing Ichika’s scene in the KKPCALM-verse, my intention was to insert “the entity” into the Hugtto-verse at the moment in the first episode when Hana’s about to get hit by the baseball and time freezes as she hears Hugtan’s voice crying out. I was going to move its entry to later in the episode, in the scene where Hana stands on her balcony and talks about her future… but I relented because I honestly couldn’t bear to wipe Hana from existence right after her inspiring “You can be anything! You can do anything!” speech. I may be cruel and sadistic to the characters I love, but even I’m not totally heartless… much as my reputation may suggest the contrary.
  • Speaking of relenting: Yuko/Cure Honey was going to die right after she woke up in Chapter 37. The damage the Merry-Go-Round inflicted on her was going to be fatal, as part of the original plan to make Chapter 37 as bleak as I could. After talking it over with VDrake, I realized that Yuko dying would take away from the gravitas of losing Alph a few scenes later… and I was already concerned about the chapter being too dark, which led to me moving up the birth of the Umino’s baby. So I had Yuko survive, albeit badly injured and without her Cure powers.
  • And finally, there were many, many names I considered for the Lightouse faction before I chose “the Morning Lights”. I mentioned to a few people that I had a devil of a time thinking of something that was as effective and elegant as “Dead End”. The list of rejected names is below, copied directly from my 70-plus(!!!) pages of notes. The last one on the list was almost finalized, to the point where I had an updated version of the cover with that name finished and ready to upload… but ultimately I decided that I needed something more hopeful and less fatalistic. So here’s what almost was…

    Children of the Stars

    Children of Cosmos

    Children of the Lighthouse

    Alpha Dogs

    Alpha Wolves

    Toudai-gun (Japanese for “Lighthouse army”)

    Toudai-dan (“Lighthouse brigade”)

    Toudaimori (“Lighthouse keeper[s]”)

    [Dai]Goten-gun (“[Great] five star army”)

    [Dai]Goten-dan (“[Great] five star brigade”)

    Lumos

    Army of Solace

    Stellar Solace

    Hearts of the Stars

    Solace of the Stars

    Daybreak

    Signal [Beam]

    The Crossroads

    TsuKiMiTaKa (“Look at the moon,” from Tsukino, Kinomoto, Misumi, Takamachi, and Kaname)

    Last Lights

Whew! I don’t know how much of thatif any of itwas of interest to you guys, but you got a peek inside my thought process, at least.
Now then. This week saw the publication of Chapter 2 of Uravity Falls, which turned out quite nicely, I think. My next item of business is to get Chapter 5 of Twilight’s Dreaming done… I’m also trying to get back into streaming with The Messenger, in preparation for the launch of My Hero One’s Justice on the 26th. Busy busy busy.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 41 – Downs and Ups

Week 41 – Downs and Ups
It’s a hell of a thing to go from feelings of impending doom to rabid fanboy excitement within 24 hours. Saturday was… not great, for obvious reasons, but by Sunday, I was determined to put real world shit aside and focus on the highlight of the week: Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as the Thirteenth Doctor. There were some technical setbacks which prevented me from live streaming my reactions, unfortunately… but I was able to do a live blog over on my Tumblr for the big event. Whatever else happens, wherever the show goes from here, I’m proud that I was able to share that moment with so many fans… lots and lots and lots of fans. One of the headlines in my feed today was that the premiere’s ratings were the highest the show has had in ten years, and it was watched by over eight million people from around the world, including the attendees who watched it with Jodie herself at NYCC. As far as new beginnings go, you can’t ask for much better than that. I’m totally psyched for what comes next, especially episode 3…
So, I cranked out the first chapter of Shattered Skies Act III a couple days ago. This chapter was a brief interlude, showing things from Sayaka’s perspective in Dead End. It featured the first extended look at Kanna Kise/Bad End Peace II, who’s the closest thing this story has to an Original Character. Kanna actually predates Shattered Skies by about two years… she was spawned from my mind pretty much fully formed almost immediately after I saw the first leaked images of Bad End Peace from what was then an upcoming episode of Smile Precure. Though the episode wasn’t set to air for another month-plus, I instantly started making headcanons for what BEP and the others might be like.
Of course, as with so many other aspects of Smile, the Bad End Cures turned out to be a massive waste of potential, with the five of them combined having at most 20 minutes of screen time. I was ready to forgive the show’s other flaws if they gave us a knock-down, drag-out fight between the Cures and their evil counterparts over the course of the last few episodes, ending with a showdown with Joker, but… well. Let’s just say that much of Joker’s disgust with Pierrot in the fic is me venting about how the franchise’s most deliciously vile villain got shoved out of the way to make room for what was pretty much the definition of a Generic Doomsday Monster.
But anyway, back to Kanna… of course, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like horrifically wasted potential stop me from doing the concept my way. My Bad End Peace, later to be named “Kanna” to distinguish her from Yayoi (“Yayoi” and “Kanna” both come from the old Japanese calendar. “Kanna” is also the name of the Ainu goddess of lightning… which I did not know when I picked out her name, but which I chalk up to being divinely inspired) was a hyperactive, psychotic little hellion who dubbed herself The Most Perverted Sentient Being in the Multiverse™ (she earned that title by having sex with persons of all genders, animals, plants, furniture, abstract concepts, and Tuesday), dropped anime references by the truckload, and smashed the poor fourth wall to itty-bitty pieces. I still don’t know what dark and twisted corner of my brain was responsible for her, but she’s one of those rare instances where a character takes their own reins and dictates their own words and actions with almost no input from me, the writer who is allegedly in charge. I learned early on that Kanna absolutely refused to be filtered, so I just let her run wild… and the result was some of the most offensive, most demented, and (arguably) most hilarious material I’ve ever written.
Naturally, when I decided to import a version of Kanna into Shattered Skies, I knew that I’d have to tone her down a bit. This Kanna has a far more horrifying backstory, after all… she’s an innocent victim whose mind was thoroughly broken by Joker, rather than a creation of his that went rogue. As you can see from the chapter, however, she wouldn’t let me tone her down that much… I think I’ve found a decent balance for her that fluctuates between funny and disturbing, but we’ll see how well she holds up.
And speaking of Shattered Skies, I still need to come up with something for the 4th anniversary this week. Maybe another photo shoot, I dunno.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 40 – Hello, Thirteen

Week 40 – Hello, Thirteen
Happy October, everyone. I never really do all that much for Halloween, but I love this time of year anyway. This year in particular, there’s some big events coming, foremost of which is Doctor Who’s return on Sunday, with Jodie Whittaker’s first full episode as the Thirteenth Doctor. As you might remember, last year I spent around four months catching up with six years of the show so that I could watch the Christmas special featuring Twelve’s departure and Thirteen’s first appearance as it aired. That episode ended up being one of my all-time favorites, and Thirteen made a hell of a good first impression in just her first minute-plus of screentime. I’ve been looking forward to the start of her tenure for months now, and I know she’s going to be spectacular… or rather, brilliant. :D
Sunday is also the premiere of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind, which… well, Part 5 is pretty much the only portion of JJBA that I haven’t been spoiled on, so I’m looking forward to going in with a blank slate. About all I know is that this part’s Jojo is both Dio’s son and a Joestar, it takes place entirely in Italy and deals heavily with the local Mafia, and the main villain’s Stand has powers that damn near nobody can explain, to the point that “But what does *SPOILER STAND NAME* do?!” is a meme in the fandom.
As far as my projects go… I’m trying to get the next chapter of Shattered Skies up as soon as possible. I had planned on having another Non-Canonical Lunatic Crack Chapter up for the fic’s fourth(!!!) anniversary on the 14th, but barring a big flash of inspiration, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I don’t want to do the same thing I did last year, and I’m not sure I have enough funny material to devote to the idea I have knocking around. I may have to shelve the NCLCC concept until next year, but I’ll come up with something to mark the occasion, new chapter or not.
– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 39 – Make My Story

Week 39 – Make My Story
The first chapter of Uravity Falls, the cute, fluffy little story I wrote mostly for fun, got a tremendous response when I posted it last week. I woke up the next morning to forty messages in my inbox, all of them notifications from the various hosting sites regarding the story. To be honest, that’s the kind of response I wish I could get more often, but hey, I’ll enjoy it when I can get it. Completing the first chapter of UF officially snapped me out of my slump, as I was able to get out Chapter 4 of Twilight’s Dreaming only a few days later. I still plan on at least trying to publish Chapter 5 by the end of the month, to make up for missing August.
Back to UF for a moment: this story and the BNHA video game releasing at the end of next month are going to be my way of getting my fix for the series after the season finale next week. This season has officially cemented BNHA as one of my favorite series ever; I’ll be sad to see it end for now, but Season 4 being a virtual guarantee for next spring takes the sting out of it a bit. And of course, next season features JOJO PART 5, so it’s not like I’ll be lacking insanely awesome action shows to watch.
Planet With also ended this week, and oh my god what a trip it was. Rather than attempt to explain the show’s insane charms again, I’d like to direct all my readers to this Mother’s Basement video from a couple weeks ago. Geoff summed it up quite nicely as “Gurren Lagann meets Earthbound” in the title, but he also gave the series a thorough analysis that contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the show. The man knows his stuff. Here’s the link: [link]
That’s all from me for this week, keep reading for more stuff.
– BHS

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TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 4

Chapter 4

Bonding among friends

Sweet and sour umeshu

As a parting gift

 

“There before him stood a vision from a dream, rising bare from the waters of the moonlit lake, her hair silver as the stars, her eyes dark as ink but warm as sunlight, a doe of such extraordinary beauty that Hayaoh feared his heart might stop at the sight of her. Around them, the forest grew quiet and still.

“Hayaoh could scarcely think. Some part of him knew that he must have interrupted the lady as she bathed. It was only polite to avert his gaze, apologize to her, and be on his way. And yet… try as he might, the words would not come. The mighty samurai who had shown no fear in battle after battle, war after war, was struck dumb by the thought that at any moment, she might flee and he would never see her again. Surely that would be a fate crueler than any death…”

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

 

Slowly, slowly. Faun fought to keep her breathing even as she positioned two chipped vials over a dented tin funnel, the narrow end poised over two empty halves of a bombshell, resting on a workbench hewn from an oak stump. An embroidered handkerchief, pickpocketed from a raccoon noble years before, was tied securely over her muzzle and snout. Faun didn’t often exercise caution like this when it came to making her bombs; she was no bookhead like Rowan, but generally she knew how various substances reacted to combinations of flint, gunpowder, and spellstones. When she didn’t know how they would react… well, half the fun was in experimenting. The risk made the end result worthwhile.

This mixture, however, was a bold new frontier in the development of her signature weapons. Bold and potentially painful, if she misjudged the balance of the ingredients. Get this wrong, and it would likely mean imposing on Hanami for a week or two while her own home aired out. If at all possible, that was to be avoided. The poor girl had enough to worry about, especially in the last few weeks. She couldn’t—

Faun scowled to herself and bit her tongue. No distractions. This mixture had to be perfect. Little by little, she tipped the two vials over. No distractions. No distractions…

Tap, tap, tap.

“Oh, pinch me!” Her ears flattened. Of course. Of course. She corked both vials and laid them down—carefully—beside the funnel, ripped off the handkerchief, and stormed to her front door. Whoever it was had best thank their lucky Godsdamned stars that she wasn’t currently looking for test subjects for the new bombs, she thought. Throwing the door open, she prepared to give the visitor a piece of her mind.

“S-sorry, is this a bad time? I’m sorry…” said Hanami, shrinking back from her friend’s fearsome expression.

Faun’s mood shifted like someone had flipped a switch. “Flowers, what a surprise! No, it’s not a bad time at all!” she said, beaming from ear to pointed ear. She visited Hanami far more often than Hanami visited her, so this was a rare pleasure indeed. “Come in, come in! Sorry about the mess.”

“A-are you sure I’m not intruding? I could come back later—”

“Pffft, don’t be stupid,” said Faun, putting an arm around her and pulling her through the threshold. “I wasn’t doing anything, just mixing stuff for a new bomb. Watch your step.”

It was sound advice. Somehow, impossibly, the vixen’s den seemed even more disorganized than the last time Hanami had seen it. The empty bottles littering the floor appeared to be multiplying at an exponential rate. Crumpled papers and various wrappings crinkled underfoot as Faun swatted portions of the morass aside to clear a space for her friend to sit. The pumice boulder was still there, but Faun now had it mounted to a display pedestal for Gods only knew what reason. A few of the ceiling-mounted nets holding stashes of her hoard looked ready to collapse from the weight of the mingled treasures and trash that Faun stuffed into them.

Hanami’s mouth fell open as she caught sight of a familiar watercolor painting emblazoned on a canvas scroll, stretched out between a meter-tall mound of dull, ordinary pebbles and what appeared to be part of an iron sewer grating. “F… Faun, is that Lord Aspen’s Night Elegy?! How—”

“What, that thing?” She barely gave it a second glance. “I guess so. I snagged it from a fence, this raccoon lady out in the far east shore. I know, it clashes with the rest, doesn’t it. Sit down, sit down!” From somewhere in the hoard she produced a battered straw mat and spread it out over the largest patch of clear floor she could find. “There you go! So,” she said, sinking to eye level, “what’s the occasion? Are you—”

Faun stopped as she took a closer look. Hanami had made an impressive attempt to hide it, but her cheek fur was still damp from a recent washing. Most folk would not give her appearance a second thought. Faun was not most folk… she noticed the swelling and lingering redness of her friend’s eyes, the fine creases gathering beneath her eyelids. “Flowers?” she said, her voice low. “What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing!” Hanami waved with one hand and scrubbed at her face again with the other. “The u-usual trouble sleeping…”

“Hanami,” she said, wrinkling her snout. Insomnia she expected, especially after the ordeal with the Soulsnatcher, but this smacked of a deeper problem. “If there’s anything you need to talk about, you know you can open up, right? I’ll listen, I swear.”

“I know. Th-that’s why I… I actually wondered i-if you’d like to drink together.”

Whatever Faun was expecting, that was not it. She goggled, wondering if she was hearing correctly. “Beg pardon?”

“Would you like to drink together?” said Hanami with a bashful smile. “With me? I… I can’t have anything really strong, but—” Squeak. The rest of her sentence was cut off as Faun threw her arms around her, drawing her in close and hugging her tight.

“Flowers,” said Faun, radiantly happy, her concern melted away by joy. “I honestly thought you’d never ask.” Her tail swished back and forth like a high-speed metronome. “Of course, of course I’ll drink with you! Anytime, anywhere! Gods, Flowers, but let me know sooner, I gotta get ready! I think I have at least one unopened bottle of umeshu around here…”

 


 

“— and that’s why foxes never core the pumpkin. Get what I’m saying?”

“Mmm-hmm,” said Hanami, taking another ginger sip from her cup of umeshu, the bottle still two-thirds full. The plum wine’s taste was a pleasant, citrusy mix of sweet and sour, cold on her tongue but warm in her belly, and it tasted nothing like the few drinks she had indulged herself in before. Its effects were soothing, a calm, balmy haze settling over her brain and making the world seem softer, less urgent. Something like this could change her mind about drinking… she only regretted not trying it sooner.

By contrast Faun was a professional. Already on her fourth Dead God Firewater and pulling it straight from the bottle, she waved the stuff at Hanami, sloshing a bit of fizzing cadmium-red brew over the lip. It dripped between the vixen’s gloved fingers and spilled to the floor, where it ate a few new marks in the soft pine floorboards. “Not because we’re picky. Because we’re smart,” she said, nodding to herself. “It’s just common… common sense.”

Hanami was not sure which confused her more: Faun’s rant, her lack of knowledge of botany, or literally any of the meaning of such a phrase. She was not sure it had meaning… but the company was even more enjoyable than the drink, so she smiled and nodded. Now she knew why Faun was so popular at the Fools Rush. The conversation over past two hours had been illuminating indeed.

“Like,” Faun continued, “if you wanted to core it, Gods know I’d never stop you. Core the shedding hell out of it if you want, go crazy. Foxes, though? We just don’t. Not worth the trouble, or the mess.”

“Mmm-hmm,” said Hanami again. “Pumpkins are tough like that. I don’t grow them often.”

Faun rolled an eye at her, halfway through another long swallow. “No, no, you don’t get it. The pumpkin’s a… whatsitcalled… mange, can’t think of the name. A thing that’s not really another thing, but it’s supposed to be. Stripes would know, damn his useless hide… He’s the best, a credit to his kind.”

“You mean…” Hanami scrunched up her features, trying to penetrate the haze. “A metaphor?”

“What’s a metaphor?”

She could no more help herself than stop the tide. A giggle slipped from her mouth before she could articulate the answer. “I-it’s for sheep and goats to graze in.”

Silence. Faun stared, the bottle paused halfway to her lips.

“Meadow… for?” said Hanami, trying again.

The vixen howled with laughter, spilling more of her drink. “Hot damn, she tells jokes! No wonder I love you!”

Now it was safe to laugh along with her. “I love you too, Faun. You’re my best friend.”

Faun groped for her shoulder with her free hand, missing by half a meter. “No, Flowers, I mean I love you. I’m nuts about you. Hee, nuts. Because you’re a squirrel.”

“Th-that’s nice of you to say,” said Hanami, her smile faltering a bit. “But I-I don’t really think it’s what you mean.”

“Whaddya mean, what I mean? I always say what I mean, unless I’m lying. It’s one of my good points.”

“I know.” Seeing her trouble, Hanami leaned forward and patted Faun’s shoulder instead. “It’s one of the things I love about you.”

“Aw, mange to that.” A goofy, bittersweet grin spread across her face. “Sh-shouldn’t waste your time on a mess like me, Flowers. We both know who… who your heart’s set on.”

The warmth of the wine spread out from her belly, filling her being. “He’s…” she said, her ears turning back. “He’s better than he thinks he is. Better than I deserve. That’s part of why I’m here… because I need to tell him.”

Faun stared, glassy-eyed. “You’re not serious.”

Hanami’s ears turned back as she turned away from her friend’s gaze.

“Good Gods,” Faun whispered. “You are serious. You’re really gonna—”

“Yes,” said Hanami. “Today. I have to at least try, so he’ll know. Before it’s too late.”

“Pffft!” Faun blew air through her lips. “Listen, Flowers, if some part of him doesn’t already know, he’s denser than lead. Takky’s thick, but he’s not that thick. Still…” A mischievous wink. “Can’t hurt to give him a little push, can it? Can’t hurt.”

“You’re right.” Her hands dithered in her lap. “I think it would be… nice.”

“More than ‘nice,’ kitto. You’re both adorable, you deserve each other.”

“I don’t—” Hanami stopped as a thought meandered through the haze of the wine. Perhaps it would be wiser not to trouble Faun with the rest of that sentence. Let her be happy, drunk and unburdened by any problems. Yes, it was better that way. “Never mind,” she said. “Thank you, Faun. For the drinks, and for the talk.”

Firewater sloshed from the bottle’s lip as Faun raised it in a cheerful, unsteady salute. “Anytime, kitto! Go get ‘im. I’m rooting for you. And be sure to tell me after how it—”

For once, it was Faun who was silenced by unexpected contact as Hanami hugged her tight. After a few seconds of sodden confusion, Faun returned the embrace, her ears swiveling back a few degrees. “Oi,” she said. “What’s all this?”

Hanami’s answer was hushed, barely more than a whisper: “I should not be here.”

It took Faun half a minute to decide what that meant. Extracting herself from the hug, she shoved Hanami toward the door. “Damn straight you shouldn’t! Go to him, kitto! Make your move!”

“I’m going, I’m going!” Hanami broke into another fit of giggles despite herself.

“You know where his house is, right? Little cabin just southeast of Campfire Rock? I’d draw you a map, but… room’s spinning, you know. I’m all turned around. Can’t find my own tail.” To illustrate the point, Faun looked down at herself and turned in a complete, if wobbly circle. “Wait. There it is.”

“Faun…” Concern for her friend briefly overtook Hanami’s thoughts. “Will you be all right? Maybe you should lie down…”

“Dijo, dijo. I’m telling you, this is normal. It’s just starting to kick in. Get out of here, Flowers, I’ll be fine by morning.”

Still Hanami lingered on the doorstep, chewing on her bottom lip. There were still so many things left unsaid, and to leave Faun in this state…

The tiny voice in her mind quieted her doubts. I should not be here. I should go to Zero…

That was that, then. Hanami smiled, bowed, and stepped past the threshold. “Goodbye, Faun. Thank you.”

 


 

Once the door clicked shut, Faun sagged against it, full and warm and satisfied with a job well done. It was unhealthy for people to suppress their feelings for each other like that, she thought. Especially when they were so obviously smitten with each other…

A pang went off in her heart, one she could feel even through the fog of the Firewater coursing through her. It was an odd feeling, a melancholy feeling she could not quite identify. She did not like it, not at all. Better to push it down and forget about it. Fortunately, Firewater was quite handy for forgetting things. Just like that, it was gone.

Sighing, Faun slid down the surface of the door, deliriously happy once more. It was not long before she began to snore.

In her drunken slumber, she failed to hear the repeated chimes from her message scroll half an hour later, which lay open on a battered footstool somewhere in the horde. Magical ink flowed across the scroll’s surface, scrawling the same words over and over:

From Rowan. Urgent. From Rowan. Urgent. From Rowan. Urgent. From Rowan. Urgent.

 

END OF CHAPTER 4

 

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