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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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 38 – Wet Dry Spell

Week 38 – Wet Dry Spell
I don’t do well with storms. I was five years old when Hurricane Hugo hit my neighborhood in North Carolina, twelve when Fran put a branch through my parents’ bedroom ceiling, and fifteen when we had to evacuate our house for three days because of Floyd… which was also the same week that I had walking pneumonia with a 112-degree fever. So I think that given my past trauma, I was completely justified in having constant anxiety attacks in the days leading up to Florence. Fortunately, my family and I dodged a bullet… lots of rain, but no damage, and only a tiny leak in the basement. My deepest sympathies go out to those who were less lucky than we are; believe me, I know how much it sucks.
So no, there’s no real progress to report this week, sorry. My recent problems concentrating have been made even worse by my nerves and by my workspace being disrupted for hurricane-proofing. This dry spell sucks just as much for me as it does for you, if not moreso. If it goes on too much longer, I may need to take drastic measures to get myself back on track. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru  Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 4: 1.75 pages done
  • Tasakeru Patreon: 5 Patrons
  • YouTube Sub Count: 3,281 subscribers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 38: 0.75 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • My Hero Academia Uraraka One-Shot: 0.5 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 08: COMPLETE!

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 37 – Seven Years of Stars

Week 37 – Seven Years of Stars
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years today since I posted the first chapter of Stars Above. I was on an overnight petsitting job, borrowing my clients’ laptop to make the final adjustments to what would become a three-year project… I knew I had something with a ton of potential, but at the start I had an attitude of “let’s just post and see what happens”. It wasn’t until several weeks later when the third chapter was underway that my friend and co-author Forzare sent me the email that would change everything, suggesting that since the Madoka Magica anime drew so heavily from the story of Faust, we should base the framework of our story on Dante’s Inferno, with our intelligent Demons representing each of the nine Circles of Hell. That was what truly lit the spark for me and gave me a plan for how things would go… of course, things ended up changing along the way due to a certain shapeshifter completely eclipsing my intended final villain in terms of sheer awfulness, but in the end that change was for the better. Thanks to all of you who stuck with it all the way. I’m still quite proud of my baby, my first serious fanfic.
Speaking of fanfic, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a Shattered Skies review I found in my inbox this morning, a multi-paragraph monster from someone on FF.net who had never commented on the story before. I bring it up because it’s a perfect example of my favorite kind of review. Not only did they go in-depth (and how!), but they got it. They got exactly what I’ve been going for with this story for nearly four years now. It’s a feeling of superb giddiness when a reader has such a complete understanding of your work’s themes, a kind of pure joy that’s difficult to describe. And even better, they mentioned how they’ve come to love and care for even the characters from series they’re not familiar with… No matter how many times it happens, seeing someone say “I’ve never seen X before, but your story got me watching it!” warms my heart. Thank you, palad1n, for making my week… hell, my month.
 
– BHS
  • TasakeruBook IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 4: 1.75 pages done
  • TasakeruPatreon: 5 Patrons
  • YouTube Sub Count: 3,293 subscribers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 38: 0.25 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • My Hero Academia Uraraka One-Shot: In progress
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 08: COMPLETE!

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 36 – Record Setting

Week 36 – Record Setting

And here I thought this was going to be a slow news week. News dropped on Saturday that AHHHHH HOLY CRAP NEW MADOKA ANIME GET HYPE GET HYPE GET-
*whack*
Ahem. Beg your pardon. So yes, the Madoka franchise is returning to TV in 2019 with an adaptation of the Magia Record mobile game! Speaking as a huge and unrepentant Madoka dork, hell friggin’ yes. It’s way past time for the series to get another major installment, and if this helps bring PMMM back into the spotlight and get the elusive fourth movie made, I’m 1000% for it. When it comes out, I’ll be doing an in-depth liveblog on my Tumblr, count on it.
I finished Episode 08 of Silent InvenTOYry on time, and had it posted to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first airing of Power Rangers. Not a bad hustle, if I say so myself. The episode is below… as usual, please watch multiple times and do the like/upvote/comment/subscribe thing… and remember, $2 Patreon pledges will get their names in future episodes. Here’s your embed:
The next episode should be a Semi-Short, which is tentatively slated for sometime in December, with another full episode on track for January.
Sadly, I think the push to get the episode finished and out sort of fried my creative circuits. I’ve been largely unable to focus for the past week. I hated to miss my end-of-the-month Patreon deadline, particularly since my longtime Onions friend evilneko just became my fifth Patron… but it was either miss the deadline or force it and put up something I wasn’t satisfied with, so I chose the former. I’ll do my best to get back on track this week, but burnout can be a tenacious thing.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru  Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 4: 0.5 pages done
  • Tasakeru Patreon: 5 Patrons
  • YouTube Sub Count: 3,297 subscribers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 38: In progress
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 08: COMPLETE!

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 35 – A Ranger at Heart

Week 35 – A Ranger at Heart
Tomorrow’s my birthday. Tomorrow also happens to be the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, a series that started me on the road to becoming the Japanese culture nut that I am today. The show premiered on my ninth birthday, and I was there watching, utterly enthralled from the first moment I saw the Dinozords combining. I was there watching the night of the prime-time special where they introduced Lord Zedd, the villain that terrified an entire generation of children (before the stupid parents groups forced the writers to make him less scary, that is). I was there when Tommy made his return as the White Ranger. When Jason, Trini, and Zack left, my enthusiasm for the series started to diminish a bit, then it came back when Zeo premiered, went away again for Turbo, and came back for In Space. In the years since, I’ve always been at least semi-aware of what was going on in the franchise, no matter what else I was into at the time, In 2009, as it looked like PR was ending for good, I fell in love with Super Sentai through Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, to a probably unhealthy degree. My interest will come and go, but PR and Sentai are always close to my heart. Part of me is still the little kid watching the robots fight rubber-suited monsters and loving every minute of it… part of me is still the kid who used to fantasize about joining the cast someday and taking command of Titanus, my favorite Zord, as the Grey Ranger. (I still take a weird sort of pride in the fact that for about 20 years, I could claim grey as my Ranger color… When they finally debuted an official Grey Ranger, it was in another dinosaur series, of all things!)
Yes, it was goofy. Yes, the dubbing was horrible, the acting was sub-par, the switch between Japanese and American footage was even noticeable to a nine-year-old, and the whole thing was first and foremost a vehicle to sell toys. Who cares? PR and Sentai were never supposed to be great art, but for me and an entire generation of kids, they were something extraordinary. Hell yes, I would still take a role on the show in a heartbeat if I were able… even if I couldn’t be the Grey Titanus Ranger, I’d still have that little piece of immortality.
So anyway. My new Silent InvenTOYry episode is going up at midnight EST, and it’s a special Power Rangers-themed episode. I put a ton of effort into this one, so I hope you’ll all love it.
The new episode has been my number-one priority for the past week, so everything else is on temporary hold. Things will get back to normal soon.
– BHS
  • Tasakeru  Book IV: Twilight’s Dreaming, Chapter 4: In progress
  • Tasakeru Patreon: 4 Patrons
  • YouTube Sub Count: 3,310 subscribers
  • Book II Appendix: 2 pages done
  • Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chapter 37: COMPLETE!
  • Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database Chapter 3: 3 pages done
  • Silent InvenTOYry Episode 08: Going up TONIGHT at 12:00 AM EST

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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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