Oh Pretty Woman Sheet Music Roy Orbison ♪ SHEETMUSIC ...
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«Oh, Pretty Woman» or «Pretty Woman» is a song recorded by Roy Orbison, written by Orbison and Bill Dees. It was released as a single in August 1964 on Monument Records and spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 from September 26, 1964, the second single by Orbison to top the US charts. It was also Orbison’s third single to top the UK Singles Chart (for a total of three ... (Music Downloads Not Rated by the ESRB) Build your Rock Band library by purchasing this song game track: 'Oh, Pretty Woman'--Roy Orbison. PLEASE NOTE: Rock Band game disc is required to play song game tracks. Many Rock Band song game tracks are available as both a multipack and as a single game track. I love the song. From the moment that the rhythm started, I could hear the heels clicking on the pavement, click, click, the pretty woman walking down the street, in a yellow skirt and red shoes. We wrote Oh Pretty Woman on a Friday, the next Friday we recorded it, and the next Friday it was out. It was the fastest thing I ever saw. 'Oh, Pretty Woman', released in 1964, was a worldwide success for Roy Orbison. In the US, the song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Recorded on the Monument Records label in Nashville, Tennessee, it was written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees. Oh woah, pretty woman. More on Genius. About “Oh, Pretty Woman” Roy Orbison’s 1964 mega hit, reaching no. 1 both in the US and the UK. He was the only American artist to reach no. 1 in the ... Oh, oh, pretty woman Submit Corrections. Thanks to Megan, Tom for correcting these lyrics. Writer(s): Roy Orbison, Bill Dees. Bill Dees, this song's co-writer, recalled how quick Roy Orbison wrote it while his wife, who inspired the song, was out of the house, 'He sang it while I was banging my hand down on the table and by the time she ...
"Hmm, it’s that time of the year again, huh. Sometimes time went by without you knowing it...” As she passed him by, Helena heard Kido mumbling to himself. Before that, he was looking at the calendar, which showed that August had begun. If something is coming up, he hasn’t told her, and she‘d usually hold back and wait. But this time, she could not resist asking away, having been getting comfortable at doing so. “What is it, Kido-san?” His gaze lingered on the calendar for a little while longer before Kido finally answered. “Oh, nothing much; I just remembered, it’s almost time for Obon...” “Ah, I see. It’s August after all,” Helena nodded; having done her share of cultural learning, she was well aware of what Obon is. She knew why Kido looked wistful when he talked about it. She knew, without a doubt, it must be from the regret of not being able to come home and tend to his family grave. The war that raged years before had made it impossible. “Now that the war is over...you can go home, Kido-san,” Kido heard Helena speaking. As he looked at her, now standing by his side, he saw the understanding smile on her face. “Of course. I don’t want to let my parents down now. Besides, my aunt will need help, cleaning graves and all. And one more thing, we are going; no way will I go by myself. It’s about time, after all.” “Oh,” Helena hummed her response. “Time for what, exactly?” She asked after a pause. She can already guess the answer, but she wanted to ask and hear it from Kido himself. “Time to introduce you to my family, of course. My aunt must be getting antsy after I told her I got married in my last letter. I bet she didn’t see that one coming; I didn’t tell her to whom, though. I wanted to surprise her,” Kido replied with a sly grin, which soon turned into a hearty laugh. He was very pleased, Helena noted, as he mentioned the marriage. For the most part, Helena managed to remain composed. Even then, she knew she was blushing, and her heart was racing when she heard that very word, despite being aware they were not married in the traditional sense. But she didn’t mind it now; she wouldn’t mind it in the future either. After all, they’re happy. (-) A little over a week later and after a rather uneventful journey, they had arrived at Shimoda Port. As she got off the ship, the only one making a landing at that time, Helena realized she hadn’t been at sea for quite some time. Walking the pier, she could hear the cries of seagulls. They were circling the skies above, looking for food amidst the sweltering heat. That sight and a glimpse at the distant waters brought her back to the time when she was a full-fledged KANSEN. It was a time when the seas were nothing but battlefields, where she and her comrades risked life and limb—when they were seen as nothing but weapons. While that thought began to slip into her mind, Helena felt Kido tapping on her shoulder, intending to pass her a hat to protect her head from the almost murderous heat. When he did, Helena saw the glint from the ring on his finger, and her own as the sunlight fell on them. Looking at them, she remembered how easy it was now, to let go of such painful memories—the excess baggage she did not need for the rest of her life’s journey. Beaming, she reached for his hand before he had the chance to back away, wrapping her fingers around it and holding it tight. The action took Kido by surprise. Yet—as if he understood the meaning behind it—he stayed silent and smiled back. As they were about to leave the port area, Helena took one last glance at the sea. It was calm. Her heart was light as a feather. (-) The town was quiet, in particular when compared to the hustle and bustle of the Imperial Capital, and the streets were nearly devoid of people and automobiles. Helena believed that if she wanted to, she could count the number of people they had passed by on their way. The chilling silence did not last long. When they had traveled further into town, they were welcomed by a chorus of screeching noise; the sound of the cicadas, hiding among the trees and the blooming hydrangeas and littering the streets with the husks they shed. Cicadas weren’t quite as musically inclined as crickets, and the sound they were making was not as pleasant. Yet Helena held some kind of appreciation for it. After all, no other sound meshes quite as well with sunlight streaming through the trees that formed a dappled shade on the ground. It was the kind of scenery the natives must have found pleasant as well since they had a specific word for it. ‘Komorebi’ When she first learned of the word, she felt that somehow, there was a sense of longing hidden within it. In that way, she thought it was the appropriate backdrop for someone returning to their hometown after a long yearning—like the man beside her. She wondered if he thought of the same thing. “You can’t listen to this kind of natural noise anymore in Tokyo, huh. What a shame. When I was growing up here, I could hear them just about every day...nowadays, just once a year...” Kido spoke, recalling a part of his childhood. They ended up stopping to listen to the distinct sound as it intensified. “Of course not, with all the activities in it,” Helena said amidst the noise, and Kido laughed. “Well, just like the old saying goes, ‘fires and fights are the flowers of Edo.’’ People of Tokyo are not ones to take things easy,” he replied, remembering they would have to leave soon. Not without regret, but he reminded himself he would have plenty of opportunities to listen to them again later. And besides, the noise is starting to overwhelm his auditory senses. Not that he would hate it. The noise, in reality, was a mating call. It was essential for the cicadas’ continuous existence, after all. Helena responded with a laugh as well, albeit softer. “I’m glad they didn’t rub off on you, Kido-san,” she stated, “though sometimes I do feel you’re...how should I put this...too easygoing.” “What, you want me to change? Like, into some all-work, go-home-once-a-week guy getting his first wrinkles by age forty? Sure, we can arrange that,” Kido challenged in jest, putting on a straight, stone-like face for good measure. The entirety of his pretense crumbled as soon as the sound of giggling resonated like music in his ears. Somehow, he could hear it well amidst all the noise. “If you do, I will not be happy about it,” Helena said between giggles, which she covered with the sleeve of her garment. Her laughter stopped soon after, yet when she uncovered her mouth, a content smile remained along with a slight tint of pink on her cheeks. “...You don’t want that, do you...?” Instead of replying right away—she didn’t appear to mind anyway—Kido looked back at the KANSEN. He reminded himself that the happy girl with the melodious laugh before him was the brooding person he first met years ago, about to cry alone in an isolated corner, reeling under the pressure of conflict. But those days were long past, he assured himself. She has remained strong ever since. There were, of course, occasional moments of vulnerability; even the strongest was not invincible. She got over them rather quickly, nonetheless. She has always been stronger than she thought she was. It was all thanks to her friends, he remembered her saying. ”And especially you,” a voice inside his head helpfully added; it reminded him she did say that, singling him out. As the thought crossed his mind, he looked away, for some reason feeling embarrassed about the whole thing. “Of course I won’t let you be unhappy,” Kido finally said, drawing a breath to recollect his thoughts and looking back at Helena, ”not after what you went through,” he added under his breath. Despite the hat shading her face, the rosy hue on the KANSEN’s cheeks was vivid enough to be seen, now no longer faint. “I know,” she whispered her answer. “I know.” (-) “So I haven’t asked you this, but are you nervous? Meeting my aunt and all,” Kido spoke as they entered the neighborhood, which in many ways was livelier than the streets they walked before. Hearing this, Helena turned her attention from the surroundings back at him. “A little, but I trust what you’ve said about her, Kido-san.” “Ah, yeah; she’s, well, a bit awkward and odd but actually very nice...” Kido let out a somewhat off-sounding laugh and waved at several women, some elderly, some young, congregating together as they kept watch over a group of bug-hunting children. They waved back at him and even smiled at Helena. And though she was surprised, Helena did not hesitate to reciprocate. A few paces later, they were standing in front of a modest but well-tended house. Kido heaved a relieved sigh as he looked around the lawn. The Oshima cherry trees; the beds of hydrangeas; even the grass—they were as he remembered them when he first left for Tokyo. “Didn’t change at all; she’s conservative like that, yeah,” he said, turning to face the door and drew a deep breath. “Oba-chan!” He bellowed as loud as he could, almost causing the unsuspecting Helena, in the middle of admiring some of the flowers, to jump. She had a mind to chide him about it but held back as they heard a clattering of steps coming from within along with the sound of something being knocked over, landing with a thud instead of breaking apart. Before long, the front door slid open, revealing an astounded-looking woman. Her surprise did not last long; upon seeing Kido, she immediately sprang forward, drawing him into a tight embrace before he had the chance to say anything. Even then, Kido offered no resistance and returned the gesture. “You’re finally home, Tomoya,” the woman finally spoke, addressing him by his given name. Helena noted that this was the first time she heard someone call him that. Even she, in part out of respect but also out of habit, would call him by his surname like everyone else. “Yeah. It’s been a while, huh?” Helena found the scene both heartwarming and somewhat amusing, in particular as the woman, despite letting Kido go, began to fuss over him, completely unaware of her presence. She used the opportunity to rehearse how she will introduce herself. “And this is...?” Helena’s train of thoughts went to a sudden halt when she noticed the woman staring at her, one hand slowly moving over her mouth. But as she did, she quickly removed it, revealing a shaky smile underneath. Helena had expected Kido’s aunt to be someone older, but now after she looked closer, the woman was surprisingly younger than she thought—not even forty, she guessed. She looked meek and weary, but not to the extent it would make her older than she really was. “This is my wife I mentioned in my letter,” Kido, who had moved behind Helena unnoticed, spoke for her before she had the chance to do so. As he did, he put a hand on her shoulder and gave it a light pat. “Her name is Helena. Helena, this is my aunt, Nagai Sumire.” “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Nagai-san,” Helena added, having collected herself. She followed it with the saikeirei, a very deep bowing and a display of the highest degree of respect. While Kido thought the gesture was a little excessive, he noticed his aunt seemed to be, at least, a little touched. “...Oh...I see...ah, likewise,” the woman awkwardly bowed back before straightening herself up. “So...you are...He...Rena?” As she did the same and now seeing the woman eye to eye, Helena flashed a small smile. Pretty much everyone she came to know in Sakura Empire, it seems, would always have difficulty pronouncing her name the first time. After a while, most managed, though. For those who didn’t, she’d usually tell them the same thing. “Just Rena is fine, Nagai-san.” (-) As the three entered the house, a batch of cucumbers and eggplants along with a large number of chopsticks sprawled on the dining table caught Kido’s attention, and his face brightened noticeably. “Ah, are those...” “Yes, they are for Shouryou-uma. I put them there for you,” Sumire replied with an amused smile, before turning to Helena. “I’m sorry about, you know, my lack of manners earlier," she said, shifting her look between the direction of what Helena presumed was the kitchen and the KANSEN. "Um, well, I’ll show the rooms for you two later. I was in the middle of preparing for tomorrow right now.” “Let me help you then,” Helena promptly offered, only for Sumire to refuse. “Thank you, but you are a guest, Rena-san, so that won’t be necessary. Ah...please, excuse me.” Without further word, she soon disappeared from sight, nimbly slipping through the doors. Helena, noticing Kido beckoning to her from his seat, joined him on the table, sitting opposite of him. He was sticking pieces of chopsticks into a cucumber to form two pairs of legs and setting it down when he was done. When he’s satisfied, he turned to look at the KANSEN. “...So, that’s my aunt. What do you think about her...?” Helena gave out a soft sigh. It might be intentional, it might be not, but the woman’s manner of speaking was peculiar. She will not deny the woman was polite, but underneath it all, there was something else. “Leave me alone.” That was really what the woman was desperate to say. “...A little...guarded,” Helena replied cautiously after a while. “I know,” Kido nodded. “She’s always like that.” “It’s also because I’m a KANSEN, isn’t it?” “I can’t say...But I’m not surprised if that was the case. Does that...trouble you...?” As she absently took an eggplant and began sticking pieces of chopsticks on its underside as Kido did earlier, Helena shook her head. “...That I’m a KANSEN is not something I can change,” she answered while examining her handiwork, before placing it down beside the cucumber. A cucumber horse, she recalled—a vehicle for the ancestors’ spirits, allowing them a speedy entry to the world of the living. Hers is an eggplant cow, for them to return to the realm of the dead in leisure. “...You don’t have to anyway,” Kido concluded, staring at both the horse and the cow. Quite the curious pairing, when stripped of the underlying meaning. Allowing himself a short laugh at the thought, Kido then took another piece of cucumber. He handed it to the KANSEN before taking another. “...Still, I hope I could get her to warm up to me,” Helena said as she made short work of the vegetable, and set it down just as Kido did. “Once she realizes how earnest you are, she will.” (-) When Helena woke up the next day, she was greeted by an eager, smiling face. As the clock nearby showed, it was only thirty past six, yet Kido was already fully dressed, wearing a light-colored kimono and a plain hakama. Family traditions, as he explained the day before when, she saw him looking over a row of nearly identical garments. “Good morning,” he bade the KANSEN a brief yet enthusiastic greeting while running a hand over her jumbled hair up to her ever-persistent cowlick, liking the feeling of it. The act prompted a startled yelp from her, though she did nothing to stop him otherwise. As it was more of a display of affection than something practical, the action unsurprisingly failed to set the straying locks straight, though it did not bother any of them one bit. “Some bed head you have here.” “...Yes, but it’s nothing new,” Helena responded and did some stretches before getting up from the futon. She woke up feeling more refreshed than usual, most likely because they went to bed earlier last night. After a quick search of her bag, she found a comb and went to untangle her hair. “Oba-chan went ahead of us, so as soon as you are ready, we will catch up with her. Take your time to get ready, I’ll wait for you outside,” Kido told Helena. After she acknowledged the remark with a nod, he went out of the room. The room they occupied had only sparse furnishings and apparently belonged to Kido’s late parents. Sumire had insisted that they use it, reasoning it was the only one spacious enough for two to sleep in comfort. As she was done with her hair—save for the cowlick, which immediately sprung up again—she went to change into a hemp kimono. And after she was satisfied with her appearance, Helena wasted no time in heading outside. As she walked out of the door, she found Kido waiting for her with an old-looking bicycle—most likely manufactured before the war—by his side, a cloth bag hanging by the handle. Apart from random patches of rust on its jet-black coating, it appears to be in good condition. “Good thing we kept this thing around, so we don’t have to walk all the way to the cemetery. And besides, riding in the morning feels great, you know that?” Helena laughed. “I wouldn’t know. I can’t ride a bicycle,” she admitted. “Even if you can, there’s only one bicycle here. You can come along for the ride in the back of this big ol’ boy.” “Are...you sure...?” Helena cast an incredulous look at the contraption. It seemed big enough for two, yet that wasn’t enough to ease her concern. With human-powered vehicles, keeping balance with an added weight of another adult was difficult, or so she heard. “I had plenty of practice,” Kido replied, aware of the concern. “Even back then, I’d carry oba-chan from place to place. And you know what? I’m sure she weighs more than you do.” Helena frowned at the jest—as good-natured as it was, she found it rather rude—but her expression soon softened. “That wasn’t very nice.” “I know. But it did convince you, did it not?” “I’ve to admit it did." (-) As Helena found out later when they were cruising through the streets—now significantly busier compared to yesterday—Kido wasn’t bragging. He maintained his balance with little trouble, even with her sitting sideways in the back, clinging onto his waist as tightly as she could like he told her to. The caress of the morning breeze dispelled the remaining traces of reservations she had; and, basking in the comfort of the moment, she silently wished that the peaceful feeling would not go away too soon. Much to her regret, the ride to the temple cemetery was shorter than Helena had expected. Still, she left it unsaid as she followed Kido through the stone pathway, past the many graves left and right, until they reached the one where his parents’ ashes were laid to rest. There, Sumire was already waiting for them; by her feet was a pail filled with water, a clean rag hanging over its rim, and a ladle placed inside. She also carried a basket full of offerings. She offered the pair a hasty smile, and turning to Kido, she asked, “You don’t forget to bring it, don’t you?” “Definitely not, they are all here,” he replied, showing the woman the cloth bag. Sumire nodded in approval as she hoisted the pail up. “Well then, I will clean the graves, and then we could proceed with the offerings...” Before Sumire can even begin to move, a hand—rough and calloused, not unlike hers—gently caught her by the wrist. When she turned to the owner, she found Helena smiling at her. “Please let me do it,” Helena said to the woman, who, at that moment, is already looking at her nephew, her mouth opening and closing—yet no words came out. Seeing the look Kido gave her in response, Sumire knew right away trying to refuse would be a losing battle. Though her reluctance did not go away entirely, she ended up giving Helena the pail, watching her moving away towards the grave; as she passed by Kido, both gave each other a silent nod. “This is another one of your ideas, wasn’t it, Tomoya?” Kido heard his aunt speaking as he went to her side. At a distance, Helena was meticulously pouring water over the tombstone, little by little. “Ah, no, it wasn’t my idea. It was hers,” he answered, glancing at Helena kneeling before the tomb to scrub the stone, leaving no corner untouched as she did. Even after she was done, she went to clean it all over again. “But why would she do that...?” “Well...” There was a significant pause as Kido turned to look at Helena once again, seeing her collecting fallen leaves scattered among the tomb. The sun’s been shining earlier than he’d expected that day, and the air has gotten progressively hotter. But the KANSEN was unperturbed, too focused on her self-imposed task. “...She’s a good person, that’s why she wants to help. She doesn’t want you to do all the work.” Looking back at Sumire, Kido saw her growing restless, as though she was struggling to find something to say while he waited patiently for her answer; though when she at last said something, he was disappointed. “...Is that...why you...keep her...?” “That’s a cruel question. She doesn’t belong to anyone; she’s her own person,” Kido refrained from raising his voice; though the thought did cross his mind briefly, he certainly did not want to yell at his only relative. After all, she seemed to realize her mistake and was quick to apologize. “No, that’s not what I meant to say, Tomoya. Forgive me...It’s just...” “I understand what you are thinking. She’s not like us, I know that. But...” Holding the woman’s free hand, Kido looked at her straight in the eyes, even though he knew such an act would be considered impolite. “But it doesn’t matter to me.” “I just want to make sure you’re happy, and...” “I am happy. She makes me happy.” Kido did not expect it, but Sumire did not speak any further after that. She did, for a moment, look at him intently, as if trying to determine the extent of the remark. Still holding the woman’s hand, Kido looked at Helena for the third time; she seemed to have noticed, for she waved lightly at him. He took that as the sign she was done with her work. “Ah, Helena’s finished with cleaning...it’s about time to give offerings, oba-chan,” Kido told Sumire, removing his hand from hers. She didn’t move and lowered her head instead. “You go, I’ll wait until you’re done,” she said. “...And why is that?” “Aren’t you angry at me? For all the things I’ve said?” Sighing, Kido took the woman’s hand once more, forcing her to look up. “Drop it. I’m not. And besides, even if I were, I won’t be mad for long. You are family. Now let’s go, before they get restless.” She made no further resistance as Kido pulled her along. (-) Helena watched as Kido placed a sakaki branch before the tombstone, before pouring sake into a cup near it. Sumire was behind him, waiting. “Drink up, oyaji,” he said with a chuckle. Afterward, he took a can of Sakuma Drops from the cloth bag and put it down as well. “And here’s your favorite candy, kaa-san.” Just as Helena wished there was something else she could do other than standing there awkwardly, Kido beckoned for her to come closer. “So...well, how I start...”he began, “Oh yeah, I have, at last, found someone. I know it wasn’t fair of me, because the two of you had long passed, and we can’t talk it over—perhaps you might not approve of my choice, if you do had the chance to meet her. I’m sorry about that. I know I’ve never been a very good son.” Briefly looking at Kido, Helena thought he was unusually solemn; and whether he realized it or not, she felt the hand holding hers tightens up. “But then again...I’ve never forgotten the most important thing you two taught me...’ when you finally found what you’ve been looking for in your life, hold on to it.’ And I have found what I’m looking for, and she’s here, standing before you. Her name is Helena. And, though it’s impudent of me to ask—and I’m really, really sorry for that—will you...accept her?” A rare gust of wind caused the leaves on the nearby trees to rustle. Kido smiled at the occurrence and murmured a hushed thank you. Remembering that people of Sakura Empire are often fond of reading into things, Helena thought that maybe he earned his parent’s blessings after all. “Perhaps...you want to say something to them too?” Helena wasn’t prepared for that at all, but cannot bring herself to say no. So she faced the tomb and bowed, keeping her head down afterward as a gesture of respect—and also because she wanted to try and hide the fact she’s blushing heavily. “Ah...um, so, I’m Helena,” she said, feeling rather foolish but she wasn’t about to back away now. “And...Truthfully, I don’t know what to say...but somehow, I feel I want to thank you both. So...thank you, for this person who cares for me, in ways nobody else ever did—even though I might not deserve it...” Deeply, she inhaled and exhaled, already feeling somewhat lighter; but she wasn’t done yet. “...And...Rest assured...Though I cannot do much, I will put my best efforts to take care of him too, from here on and thereafter. I promise.” There was another gust of wind, and Helena noticed Kido had let go of her hand. She glanced upward, seeing him wiping his eyes, his lips forming a broad smile. “Thank you,” she whispered. (-) The day after the grave visit, they were left with nothing to do until the sun sets—when the festivities will start. Thus, they ended up taking a trip to visit various places. While Helena was content with merely tagging along, a number of them did manage to catch her attention. After all, the town had a noteworthy history with the Union and was one of its first footholds in the East. From the arrival of Commodore Perry’s black ships to the signing of the treaty that ended centuries of isolation and opened the Empire to the world, the marks to these momentous events were scattered here and there. “So notice anything different about how oba-chan acts around you?” Kido asked as he and Helena traveled around the town after a stop at Ryosen-Ji. “Hmm, I guess so? On our way to the temple gate, she did smile at me and it’s different...like, there’s more warmth to it, I think,” Helena replied as she recalled what happened yesterday. Furthermore, earlier that day Sumire looked more comfortable with her when they talked, even if only for a brief exchange of morning greetings. She no longer refuses her offer to help with the housework as well. “In any case, it’s a start. She’s far from stubborn,” Kido said, making a slight turn to avoid something Helena couldn’t see, before noticing something that made him pull over. “Um, what is it...?” Helena inquired, while she observed the area. It was close to the seaside, and there were various inns and hot springs. “Ah...this is where oba-chan works. Want to come and see her for a bit...? If she’s not busy, that is...” Kido replied though he was somewhat doubtful that his aunt would be anything but busy, judging from how the place was teeming with people. If he had to guess, it was probably because of the celebrations taking place later on. He could see the scaffold for the Bon dance already standing in place, while several heavyset adults hoisted instruments to be put up there, Helena shook her head. “If she’s busy, I probably could help.” (-) When they stepped inside one of the inns—one of the smaller ones, though not the smallest—Helena found out that Kido was familiar with the place, because as soon as they entered and removed their footwear he went straight behind the counter into the kitchen without so much a second thought or fear of repercussions. Out of politeness, she decided to wait there in the front, though she soon regretted the decision when she saw that all eyes were upon her; while she understands why it still makes her uneasy. Surprisingly, they stopped staring rather quickly and resumed what they were doing as if nothing had happened. Now a little more relaxed, she took a look around the main hall that seemed to double as a communal dining area. A few smaller tables and chairs were arranged neatly around one long table, and in front of the counter, there were several stools. All of them were occupied, which was not unexpected considering the hours. There’s a certain laid-back air about the place, despite the loud conversations the patrons were having and the racket caused by the never-ending stream of people trampling on the wooden floor as they come and go. But as far as she can tell, there were no signs of the proprietor. While Helena mulled about it, Kido’s head popped out from the kitchen door, telling her to come over. (-) She had never seen a kitchen so hectic before. On one side there’s a middle-aged man—the proprietor, as Kido revealed to her—who somehow was able to divide his attention between various dishes on the stove and ingredients on the table, while at the same time grumbling about his workers being absent at the most important times. On the other side is Sumire, who is just as busy but was silent throughout. “Okay, old man, Helena here agreed to help you two,” Kido said, gaining the attention of the man. He turned to look at the KANSEN, without pausing what he’s doing—slicing daikon—and his face summarily lit up. “Ah...a KANSEN? Haven’t seen one in ages. You want to help? While I usually would not want to trouble anyone, it seems today I’d have to. Kappogi is over there in the drawers,” he told her, now already looking back at the vegetable, just in time to stop himself from overcutting them. “As for what you can do, go ask Sumire-chan about it. Tomoya, go make yourself useful and man that counter, will you?” “Yeah, old man, I got it. See you guys,” Kido shrugged and left before anyone could put forth a response. Though she was a little bewildered the man accepted her help right away, Helena hastily put on the kappogi and the tenugui she found on the aforementioned drawer before going over to Sumire. The woman passed her a remorseful look. “Ah, sorry that you have to do this, even though you already helped with the house,” she apologized. “Ah, it’s not a problem. I love to help.” “You...you really are kind. Anyway, I assume you are familiar with western dishes? Somehow more people than usual want them today.” Helena glanced at the heap of ingredients that have not been touched, all of them very familiar to her. She nodded. “Yes, please leave it to me.” (-) The need for urgency died down with the passage of time, and things gradually became more at ease. A few hours certainly had passed, though there were no clocks there for confirmation. “Alright, we’re done at last,” The man declared as he set his knife down and turned around. “And especially thanks to you, young lady. Your help is invaluable.” “Um, ah, really? I didn’t do much, though...” Helena, who’s still quite unused to being praised by strangers, blushed slightly. The man’s grin became even wider when he saw that, and then he laughed with a booming voice. “Wahaha, don’t be so modest. Anyway, as Kido said before, I’m the owner of this place; just call me Gen. Ah, why don’t you two soak in the hot spring and refresh yourselves before the festival? Sumire-chan, show her the way, can you...?” “...Hot spring?” “Well yes. I’m sure you’ll find them enjoyable, especially because you have never been to one before. I can tell,” he replied. Perhaps it was because he’s the owner, but Helena noted there was a strong pride in how he spoke of it. “Oh, that’s a good idea. I’m sure she’ll like it,” Sumire chimed in. “Well...if you say so...thank you for your kindness, Gen-san.” Having said that, Helena allowed Sumire to lead the way. The bath occupied almost the entirety of the topmost floor. A strange peaceful feeling seeping through the wood and stone left Helena in a slight daze as she proceeded to soak herself in the hot water, a small towel resting on top of her head. A little while later Sumire joined her after she was done washing herself—sitting rather close, which she did not expect. “So, how is it?” she asked, though it took a moment for Helena to gather herself and answer. “...It feels great. I can feel my exhaustion going away...” “Yes, that’s what hot springs are for,” the older woman smiled. The smile vanished the moment she laid her eyes on the scar just below the KANSEN’s neck; and though she couldn’t see them, she was certain that one scar wasn’t the only one. “Is something wrong, Nagai-san? Helena questioned, having seen the change in her expression. “...You’ve gone through so much, haven’t you...?” It wasn’t really a question. In one continuous, dainty way, Helena traced the scar with her fingers, correctly suspecting she was referring to it. She hasn’t talked much about the matter, because only a few people knew, and even fewer wanted to bring it up. Still, it’s not like she’s been trying to hide it. “We were KANSENs. Weapons to wage battles—and some were worse than the others.” As she said this, there was a vacant look on her countenance. Thinking she somehow has opened an old wound, Sumire was about to apologize for it; the words were stuck on her throat the moment she saw the KANSEN smiling as she continued speaking. “Well, at least that’s what I used to think. During the war, there was this one battle—when it had ended, I was left alone, badly wounded; the others already left as they were ordered to, for fear of a Siren’s counterattack. At that time, I truly believed I would die.” At this point, she stopped to cast a meaningful look at the other woman. “...But Kido-san, he went against orders and returned to look for me even though it may land him in trouble. So when I finally came to, on the ship under his command, he was the first person I saw. While he did not say anything, he did look overjoyed... ...And at that very moment, I fully understood what he’s been telling me many times before—that I’m more than just a KANSEN; more than just a weapon. I’m a person.” Sumire observed the KANSEN running her fingers across the scar once again with an air of fond reminiscing. Despite the story she had just shared, the movement was just as light and unburdened as before. Now she had to admit that, in many ways, her nephew has been right all along. (-) “Dear, why not join the dance...? You can only do this once a year.” “But, oba-san, I’ve never danced before...” “Oh, it’s easy, you can follow my movements; and frankly, with this many people, no one will notice if you made a mistake anyway...They’d end up doing their own thing, most of the time.” Kido overheard the conversation and blinked. That was new, he thought. He was curious about what led them to change the way they address one another, but he was content to keep the question to himself for now. They were less like strangers and more like family now, and that’s what matters most. Not too far away, he could see old man Gen overseeing the musicians getting ready at the scaffold; the crowd, which includes foreigners, had begun to gather around the structure and the dance could start any moment now. He scanned the area, hoping to find some familiar faces, though he couldn’t find any; even before the war, people had been leaving for greener pastures. “Kido-san, is something wrong...?” From behind him, Helena called out. “Nothing. Just been thinking...you should really join the dance,” Kido remarked as he looked back at the two women. Sumire already stopped trying to convince Helena to join the dance, though she didn’t seem to be upset over the KANSEN’s reluctance. “...Kido-san, you think so...?” “Yeah; as she said, you only get to do it once a year. Hey, I promise I won’t laugh.” “Um, still...” Sumire’s stifled laugh cut the exchange short; when they both turned to look at her, she had such an amused look as though something funny had occurred. He cannot really remember when the last time his aunt had that kind of expression. “...But Tomoya, every year Obon came and went, yet you never joined any yourself,” she exclaimed. Kido swallowed hard though he managed to keep himself from turning red—there was nothing to be embarrassed about. “...Well, yeah, that’s true; I’m not, ah, too keen on dancing, I guess?” “Oh, really now...?” Helena appeared beside him without him realizing it, looking just as amused as she eyed him—this time he did turn red. “Well then, how about this? I’ll join this dance if you dance too, Kido-san.” Kido thought about it for a while. The musicians were already in place, at the ready. He did not need to think for very long. “Aaah, seriously, this conversation is pointless; alright, let’s go to the dance together, the three of us. Seems like its starting already.” “Yes, it does seem so.” They picked up pace as the beats of the Taiko began to fill the air and the dancers started to move in circles to the tune of a jaunty folk song. (-) The shore was quiet, and paper lanterns people have left afloat dotted the tranquil waters. Carried by the flow, they drifted away slowly, guiding the ancestors’ spirits back to the sky. “Ah, so, Kido-san, why are we here...?” Helena asked the question she had wanted to ask since Kido made that seemingly unplanned stop on their way back. “Oh, well, this particular beach is kind of nostalgic to me. And besides, on clear nights such as this, the sky is usually lovely. I thought you have to see it before we return. Anyway, though, if you are tired just tell me, and we can go back now.” Helena smiled kindly. “No, I already told you it’s okay.” In the cloudless sky, there was nothing but the moon and countless stars; some were bright while the others were faint. Helena stared at them in wonder. “I’m curious if there’s going to be a shooting star,” she wondered aloud; doesn’t sound too implausible, considering the scenery. Kido chuckled at that. “Shooting star...? Don’t tell me you have a wish?” “Well, what if I am?” “If you want something, you could just ask me.” “Even if it’s something impossible?” “...You’re a sensible person, so I don’t think it’d be actually impossible.” Helena closed her eyes and undid her hair, letting it free to flow along with the breeze. “There’s a light...that won’t go away even when I close my eyes like this,” she spoke softly, and Kido realized he had been staring. She had never looked so beautiful before. “Just like you, Kido-san, I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.” When she turned to look at him with eyes misting over, the composure which Kido managed to regain in such a short time swiftly crumbled; before Helena knew it, she found herself being embraced. “Sorry for such an abrupt act,” Kido uttered into the KANSEN’s ear. “I’m just so happy. For you.” “Don’t be sorry,” she said as she too circled her arms around his waist; a sweet, pleasant feeling washed over her as she did. “I’m happy for you too.” As they grew silent, only the hum of gentle waves breaking on the shore remained.
2020.09.26 06:37 topherproforsho28 [M4F] US/Anywhere - Anyone up for some quarantine romance? (Relationship)
So quarantine and this pandemic as a whole is chipping away at me, and aside from work and some small family get-togethers, I don't really see or interact with too many people. Most of all, I miss just texting and calling with someone special, and doing all those sweet and cute things you do when you're in a relationship. Well, that's what I'm looking for tonight! I'd love to start chatting with someone, get to know each other, and hopefully see it blossom into something deeper later on. But before all that, let me introduce you to myself: https://imgur.com/a/IRHSJ8p I love to cook, run, workout, and just overall like to stay healthy and maintain my body. Quarantine has made that a little difficult as of late, but I'm steadily getting back into cardio and meal-prepping to curb the ol' appetite! I enjoy expressing myself creatively with stuff like painting, videography, and learning German (would love to travel there again!), and hope someday to make my very own movie (but I'll settle for a Netflix Original ;) ) I'm a bit of a homebody, so naturally I'm drawn to movies, shows, and music. I just finished Breaking Bad and Bojack Horseman for the umpteenth time and looking for my next addiction, and while I'm a big 90s country and EDM fan (I know, total opposites) I've been putting Juice WRLD and Lil Nas X on repeat. Video games are my bread and butter, oh my gosh haha. I'm going through Last of Us 2 again, but I'll occasionally swap through Overwatch, Uncharted, Bloodborne, Fallout, Dark Souls, Infamous, Ocarina of Time, and I desperately need a Switch to play the Mario 3D All-Stars collection! I'm left-leaning politically so I guess take that into consideration, lol. Above all else, I'm pretty much a shy introvert with extroverted tendencies of becoming weird and eccentric when I get to know someone. I'm hard-working, ambitious, respectful, funny (or at least I think so), caring, and affectionate and doting for someone I really like. And I guess the woman I would be looking for would be around my age (like early to late 20s), and since this is something I'd like to see become romantic, a picture of yourself would be greatly appreciated as well! But location really doesn't matter, since I'm getting a bit of cabin fever abiding with the quarantine for all these months, haha. A strong person who is equally affectionate and loves to chat and see how the other person's day is going; funny, charismatic, supportive, and just be two people who want to grow and improve with each other! Anyways, I think that's it! I got off work early today so I'll be around for the night before attending a wedding tomorrow (maybe that's why I'm in the cheesy romantic mood?) So stop by, let's share some drinks, tell me about yourself, and let's see where this goes!
2020.09.26 05:32 MeemeekayI hate when a coworker is making you feel uncomfortable but you feel guilty doing anything about it because they are nice.
There’s a new older man at my job, (late 40s) who started flirting with me the first day I worked with him. He then had asked if I was single, and I told him I was and I’m not interested in dating right now, and he understood. He was pretty sweet and polite about it, so I wasn’t bothered by it. But since then, he now talks to me every chance he gets. Every time I walk by him he will say something or he will even come to me to say something about whatever I’m doing. He has made multiple pet names for me, which is all a form of my name (and will add “cakes” to the end of my name, ick). Tells me of how he has a crush on me, jokes about us dating, tries to find ways to touch me, tells me about my figure, and the other day he loudly brought up my jeans twice in front of other people, mentioning that they are tight (and it had nothing to do with the conversation at all). It’s got to the point where other people are noticing and asking what is going on. Today, he called me over once my manager walked away and asked me to help him lift his face mask back over his mouth and nose because his gloves are dirty. I politely told him I did not want to touch his face, and he laughed and said “oh is it because of the corona?” And I said no, I just don’t want to be touching your face, and he made a joke of “oh what if i was this short like a kid?” And he gestured, and I said something like I would help you if you were a child but I don’t want to do that to a adult. And he sorta just laughed and said oh ok sorry have a good day. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid walking near his area. Even if I’m further away, if I’m in his eyesight he will try to get my attention by waving or yelling or coming up to me. And I try not to engage much when we are talking, I barely look at him and don’t give him much to keep the conversation going, he doesn’t seem to notice my body language at all. I’m not sure what to do, because he seems to be harmless and just lonely, it makes me feel bad because he hasn’t done anything really bad. But I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. I wish I could just do my work in peace. Being the only woman on the shop floor can be sucky.
2020.09.26 04:56 Strange_BusinessI Hate Politics and Those Who Play Them
Got a fortune cookie tonight that read 'no man (woman) ever became great by imitation'. I'm sure an actor (actress) would beg the differ, but I see their point. I've met folks that intentionally sought me out for inspiration into something they were involved in, or they were told. They weren't interested in me though. Shame. When I try to tell people I'm independent, I really don't think they grasp the concept, so let me demonstrate: someone posted on Facebook tonight they were voting for Trump cause they like freedom and shit. What freedom? You haven't been even your normal free all year. Just look at California, they've gone beyond the realms of being a police state and have evolved into a militant state. That's not freedom. And yeah, I get it, virus and shit. I suppose... ...but that's a discussion for another day. Then you got Biden, Creepy Ole Man a little too touchy feely and can't even form a sentence to save his life. Pretty much all politicians have been lifers and wouldn't know how to live your life to save their lives. Their ability to relate is non existent. You got better odds getting a celebrity to relate than a politician, if they're not too busy selling their souls and marketing the politicians schemes. I'm sorry, neither options are overly good. I've been known to be a fuck up, but when left to my own devices, if I could, I'd just ride, admire historic landmarks, get stone and have good tunes. Leave me be and I'll show you peace. Instead, we have done everything we can to make life an online affair only by scaring you into your homes with viruses and riots. They even tried to use this as a ploy to vote for their party. If you vote for me, I can end it. Oh, cool. If you can, it's only because you started it to begin with. I hope one day you cause so much chaos, you can no longer control it cause I'm a firm believer chaos can't be controlled. It wouldn't be called chaos if that was so. And social justice warriors, this isn't for you. You're doing nothing new and literally have no control. Just cause you're thrown a bone every once and a while, doesn't mean you're making a difference and I'm certainly done joining the charade. All your entertainment has moved to online now. And it's cool seeing someone that's been around since the 60's and is part of some of your favorite music shredding it for you with no cost or treating concerts like a drive in movie (whole can of worms I hate about that idea). You just can't beat the real thing and watching the sweat pour from their face in front of you. Best 70 bucks I could ever spend. I wish people from all sides, walks of life, colors and creeds would stop fighting each other long enough to see we're all being conned. Oh, you thought cause you had millions of dollars, you were controlling something? Bud, I don't need to be in your shoes to know you got as much freedom as me. I truly hope one day we remember what that word means: freedom. We use to be what others inspired to. That's why they flocked here, but now, there's nothing that makes us unique. I want your uniqueness. Asian? Australian? Canadian? British? Indian? Cool. I want what makes you you. Quit imitating me and inspire me. I can't be the only motherfucker with his own identity. But these are things I wish. But I called it since day one on at least one thing: this new shit was gonna get stretched to election. Even saw an article that the virus is mutating now. Ah, another exciting chapter on top of yet more police killed a black man shit. The narrative's so fucking old by now you think someone would scratch their head and ask what's the deal? But instead, all I hear is cries and loud words that no one is listening to. Just a lot of meaningless fighting for nothing while you get conned everyday. But you want me to keep fighting you? To live on this online imaginary world of even more horseshit? I can't no more. I need something real. And none of you motherfuckers are it. You're as imaginary as God and if that's the case, I might as well placed my faith in the longest held tradition over you fucking clowns. Good riddance and good night.
2020.09.26 04:31 MasterSlutTraining43 [M4F] - The Search For A Suggestible Girl
I once saw a documentary I think it was about mirror neurons or something to do with how the brain works. And there was a woman featured in the documentary who was married with children but who also did not leave her home because if she did her family feared that she might not come back because she was so highly suggestible. Her family literally feared that someone would suggest that they come with her and coax her with nothing more than words. Now I know that it’s a serious condition for anyone who wants control over their own life but ever since I’ve found myself thinking about what a gift it would be to have a girl like this for myself. I wouldn’t mind if she were married or in a relationship. The important thing is that she would know that she needed to message me about all of her decisions that she was faced with so that I could help her decide. At first we would take it slow. I would want to understand her mind as it is with little influence. The only thing I would require at first is for her to just make sure whatever she was doing was okay with me. And I would approve all of it, understand her day-to-day life down to her routine, her clothes, her friends and family. And trained properly before she would do anything she’d just send me a text and ask me if wearing her usual clothes and doing her usual routine was okay. I would approve it all. But ever so carefully I would start to suggest that she wear more lacy and silky panties and suddenly that is what she wears around the house or wherever she goes out. Further suggestions would follow - tops that show more cleavage, no bra days, skirts only, then shorter skirts only. Suddenly she would be wearing outfits that make other women around her blush and men turn their heads and they wouldn’t understand what changed. In subtle ways her actions and behaviors would change in a way that made her always guard her almost constant contact with me from everyone else. I’d teach her how to tell others that she’ll think about it and then come to see what was best, I’d teach her what to say to everyone when given decisions and I’m not immediately available. Now I know this works both ways. There would be counter-suggestions by others around her. Suggestions that that top isn’t appropriate for this situation or do you really need to be going shopping in that mini skirt? And that’s when I’d get the text about whether changing her clothes to something else would be okay. I’d counter carefully, “That’s a great idea, but let’s keep this top on anyway, you look good in it, right?” “Right,” she’d text back before telling her friend or whoever that she’s going to keep it on and that she looks good in it. The decision would seem organic and those around her wouldn’t push so hard. Then I’d suggest that I come over. Maybe if she’s in a relationship she’d say maybe that’s not a good idea because she knows she doesn’t make the best decisions when alone with another man. Of course I’d tell her I understood and that I only wanted to get together to talk and when is she home alone? Of course she’d give me the time. I’d suggest she wear my favorite outfit on that day and she would agree it’d be a good idea because of how much I liked it. And on that special day there she’d be in front of me, dressed how I told her to dress, acting how I told her to act, knowing that we’re just here to talk. But then I suggest that she sucks my cock. That’s not a good idea, she’d say, she’s already in a committed relationship. I know, I’d say, but haven’t you been such a good girl for me? She’d acknowledge that she had and that she liked having someone who made all the decisions for her. Then it only makes sense that she sucks my cock now. After all, I’d grab her gently by the shoulders and aim her to the mirror, look at how good you look right now, wouldn’t you look so pretty sucking my cock? And then she’d be on her knees sucking my cock. After she swallows my cum and I stroke her hair with my cock still in her mouth I say it’s probably not a good idea anyone finds out about this. She’d agree, probably not. No one else knows I’m here, right? She’d say right. And also, no one else would understand our relationship, would they? No, they wouldn’t, she’d say. So I’d ask her what does she think it’s best to do about the fact that she just sucked all the cum from my cock. It’s probably best to not tell anyone, she’d say. Good girl, I’d praise her. And why are you a good girl? I’d ask.... She’d think about it and then say because it’s best to not let anyone know I suck your cock. That’s right, I’d praise again, after all you’d never do that, you’re in a committed relationship. She’d agree, that’s why she’d never suck anyone’s cock. This would go on, of course. Her spreading her legs in her little skirt and silk red panties as my cock pumped her tight needy pussy. As I stretch her wet hole I tell her how lucky she is that she was able to find me because no one else needs to know how needy her pussy his for my cock. She’d agree and beg me to fuck her harder just like she has learned that’s how she likes it. She would know that it’s better to transform into a slut secretly just for me because she knew no one else would understand. She’d know this so well that when I suggested she started talking to her partner about having children that she also thought it was a good idea to stop taking her birth control not long before she was at her most fertile. And it just seemed like a good idea that I used her pussy extra good as she could feel her body in her most fertile stages and so secretly, of course, I helped her by pumping all the cum I could in there. And when she found out she was pregnant she’d naturally text me on what should she do. Well it’s probably your husband’s baby isn’t it? Yeah, probably, she’d agree. I’d remind her that he had sex with her after I was done with her, didn’t he? Yeah, he did. Well then tell go tell him how excited you are that you’re about to have his baby, I’d say. Oh yeah, she’d respond. He should know if he got you pregnant, right? I’d ask. Right, she’d respond, brb I’ve got to go tell him how excited I am that he’s going to be a father. Good Girl.
2020.09.26 03:28 helpcreepylandladyMy grandpa's parrot keeps shouting weird stuff at me
I guess I should give you all some context on this before I get started. My grandpa loves animals and he’s had some pretty strange ones in his time. He’s had dogs and cats, but he prefers exotic animals like snakes and birds of paradise. Apparently he once had a pet spider monkey, but that was before I was born. He lives on a farm now and, as a kid, I used to love going to visit him. I’d get to feed the chickens, play with his two dogs, and ride on the little russet-coloured pony he had called Sir Jimmy. It was a pretty idyllic upbringing. I remember loathing the sound of my parents’ car coming up the driveway, because I knew that it was time to go home and I’d have to wait another month or so before I was able to come back.
I never asked too much about what happened to my grandmother but, from what I have gathered over the years, she left not long after my mother was born and they haven’t heard from her since. My mom once hinted that there was a history of mental illness on that side of the family and that it was possibly her mother’s post-natal depression drove her to abandon them, or worse. My grandpa never remarried and I don’t think he dated another woman after my grandmother left him. I never bring it up with him, because I don’t want to open any old wounds.
Since I went to college, I’ve not been able to visit him as often as I used to, but I told him that I’d stay with him for the whole summer once I graduated. The pandemic has made everything a lot more complicated and I nearly decided to abandon the idea, because I didn’t want to put my grandpa at risk. In the end, my parents convinced me to go, because I can drive and it meant that I could safely get groceries for him. They worry about him living on his own, since he’s over an hours’ drive away from my parents’ house and he’s fiercely independent, so he doesn’t ask for help even when he needs it. The pandemic did mean I had to delay my trip, however, so I didn’t arrived here until the start of September.
When I first walked through the door, it felt like nothing much had changed, although the house was in a bit of a state. Everything was covered in a fine layer of dust and there were dishes piled up in the sink, some still with moulded food clinging to them. The smell in the kitchen was pretty unbearable if I’m honest. My grandpa seemed well enough though and he was wearing clean clothes, so I tried not to worry myself too much. He had dropped a bit of weight, but he was in good spirits and totally cognisant. I told myself that I’d have plenty of time to get the house in order anyway. For the first week or so, I got stuck in with cleaning around the house and stocking up the kitchen. I was so engrossed in getting everything up to scratch that I didn’t really pay too much attention to my grandpa’s parrot, which is the only pet he has left now that he’s too old to tend to the farm animals anymore. My parents were the ones who bought him the parrot, since he’d always talked about getting one and they thought being able to “talk” with it might help to keep him mentally stimulated. He had his heart set on a scarlet macaw because of their plumage but, in the end, my parents bought him an African grey parrot, since they’re the most competent “talkers.” Staying true to his sense of humour, my grandpa named the parrot Bob, because of his habit of bobbing his head up and down when he was excited.
It was about a week in to my trip that Bob spoke up. I was in the kitchen sorting out some of the canned foods, when I called out to my grandpa in the living room and asked what he wanted for dinner.
“Shut up. Just shut up,” I heard him call from the other room, his voice hoarse as though he had been shouting for some time. I was in shock, so I asked him again in a softer tone, only to be told to “shut my damn mouth.” I decided to go check on him and, as I was walking through the hallway, I noticed Bob fidgeting in his cage.
“Shut up,” he snapped at me, in my grandpa’s voice. It was a really surreal moment and, out of sheer nervousness, I started laughing. This apparently set the parrot off, because it embarked on a barrage of insults that I won’t repeat here. All the while, I just couldn’t stop laughing and, by the time my grandpa found me, I was practically crying with laughter.
“Oh Bob,” my grandpa said, wiggling his finger in the cage to try and calm the bird down, “that’s no way to speak to our guest.” My grandpa flashed me an apologetic smile and followed me into the kitchen to help sort out dinner.
The whole incident seemed harmless enough, until about a week ago.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever stayed in the countryside, but the nights out there are about as dark as they come. Sometimes, when I’d sleep over at my grandpa’s farm, I felt like the sheer weight of that darkness was physically pressing down on me. It wasn’t necessarily an unpleasant feeling, but there’s something unnerving about that almost impenetrable type of blackness. It was into that blackness that I awoke to the sound of a woman screaming.
“No,” I heard from down the stairs, “please stop.” It sounded as though her cries for help were mingled with weeping. I was paralysed with fear, but summed up the courage to grab my dressing gown, turn my phone’s flashlight on, and rush down the stairs. I had no idea what I’d encounter on the way down. When I got to the base of the stairs, I could still hear the sound of the woman whimpering, and I followed the sound down the hallway.
It was the damn parrot!
I put my hand on my hip and wagged my finger at it. “Bob,” I said, “you scared the sh** out of me. Please don’t do that again.” He only responded by bouncing up and down so, feeling relieved yet exhausted, I turned around to go back to bed. As I was about to start up the stairs, however, something stopped me dead in my tracks.
“He’s going to kill me,” the parrot screamed, with such visceral fear that the hairs on my arms prickled up. I swivelled around to check that it was still the parrot, since the sound felt so human. The light from my phone glanced off of the parrot’s glassy eyes as he turned his head left and right. I wondered if there might be something wrong with him, so I decided I’d wake my grandpa up and see what we should do.
As I climbed the staircase, every creak sent a shockwave up my spine. I hadn’t felt this shook up since I was a kid and I had caught a glimpse my grandpa “putting down” one of the sick pigs. When I reached his bedroom, I turned the doorknob as quietly as possible, so as not to give him a fright. I crept into the room and started walking towards the bed, when it struck me that I couldn’t hear him breathing. My grandpa is a heavy sleeper and he snores almost constantly throughout the night, so this put me on edge. I rushed to the side of the bed thinking the worst, only to find that he wasn’t there. I shone my flashlight around the room, but there was no sign of him.
In a panic, I went on a tear through the top floor of the house, turning on all of the lights and checking all of the rooms. He was nowhere to be found. I went down the stairs again and caught sight of the parrot, who kept taking me in with sideways glances from those reptilian eyes. I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I felt compelled to approach his cage and take a closer look at him. To my surprise, the parrot seemed receptive and almost calmed by my presence. I reached through the cage and he let me stroke his head, which was downy and soft. I don’t know how long I stood there petting him, but I remember feeling at ease. By the time I felt the sharp corner of his beak sinking into the fleshy tip of my finger, I was already in a trance.
In a split second, I was reeling backwards and lurching away from his cage, as he fluffed out his feathers and raised his wings up in an unmistakable display of aggression.
“He’s coming,” the parrot screamed, bobbing up and down with increasing fervour, “he’s coming.”
I heard something wooden slam in the living room and, out of instinct, I trained my flashlight on the source of the sound. All I could see was my grandpa standing upright in the corner of the living room and staring right at me. He was so silent and still that, at first, I thought he might be sleep walking.
“Grandpa?” I called out, my voice trembling. Without a sound, he started walking towards me with his eyes trained on me and his head turned slightly downward, so the rings under his eyes seemed like two dark pools that my flashlight couldn’t penetrate. It wasn’t until he was about two feet away from me that he smiled and his expression softened.
“Oh,” he said, “it’s you.” As though he had just seen someone in the street that he recognised. “Come on, my dear,” he said, patting me on the shoulder, “you should be getting to bed. You’ve been working so hard for your old grandpa.” With that, he ushered me up the stairs and back into my bedroom, even going so far as to stand in the doorway and shut the door.
I wanted desperately to chalk his actions up to the onset of senility, but there was something so menacing and deliberate in the way that he approached me that night, as if he thought I might be someone else. What would he have done if he hadn’t recognised me? I don’t want to think about it too much. I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night and I swear that I could still here him shuffling around downstairs long after he’d “gone to bed.” I couldn’t get the image of him standing in the corner of that room out of my mind.
The next day, I didn’t broach the subject and neither did he, although there was a palpable tension between us. We barely spoke the whole day, and the parrot spent most of the day sleeping. An endless series of questions seared themselves into my brain and tormented me for the next few days. I wasn’t sure whether to get in touch with my parents, forget about the incident altogether, or handle it myself. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the answers I sought could be found in the corner of that room.
The only issue is that my grandpa is almost always in the living room or somewhere nearby, so it was difficult to find a window of opportunity when he wouldn’t be able to see me. Luckily, today, I convinced him to take a short walk outside to “get some fresh air” and I seized the opportunity to finally check what was in the corner of the room. I spent ages agonising over the wallpaper, seeing if there were holes or any indication of anything unusual, knowing in the back of my mind that I had only a precious few moments. I could feel the blood pounding in my head as I searched, but I couldn’t find anything. It was then that I looked down and saw the corner of the carpet, which looked as though it had been shifted ever so slightly. When I pulled up the corner, I discovered a hatch in the wood floor. I don’t remember my grandpa ever mentioning that the house had a cellar, but the hatch had no dust on it and must have been used relatively recently. It took all of my self-control not to bend down and wrench open that door. I’m thankful that I didn’t give in to temptation because, not long after I’d made the discovery, I heard the backdoor slam and my grandpa’s shuffling gait as he walked through the kitchen. He thanked me for the suggestion, since the walk had done him good, and then settled into his leather armchair. I don’t think he suspects me just yet.
What should I do? I’m going to be here at least until Thanksgiving and I don’t want my imagination to get the better of me, but I have an uneasy feeling about everything that’s been going on. Should I call my parents? Or just forget all of this ever happened? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
2020.09.26 02:09 24issiahThe Crazy Ex by: SeducedbyEvil
"Here's to freedom!" Jack shouted as he toasted his friends. The group of guys laughed and hoisted their glasses. "Freedom!" They tilted their heads back and downed a generous portion of their beer. Wade leaned over and slapped Jack on the back once the glasses were settled. "I bet it feels good to be rid of that bitch once and for all, huh?" Jack nodded in agreement and eased back in his chair. "Nothing could feel better, my man. Nothing could feel better." said Jack. Earlier that week, Jack had finally given his crazy girlfriend the boot. With any luck, from here on out, the name Angela would be a distant memory. They'd been together for about six months, and it had started off well. She did everything to make sure he was taken care of, from cooking for him, to keeping the house clean, and fulfilling all his needs in bed. The bedroom was her specialty. Full pouty lips that made you think immediately of fellatio. Cascades of raven hair that always seemed to frame her face just perfectly. And her curves, well, she gave new meaning to the term "dangerous curves". She had perfect DD breasts that seemed to completely defy gravity, an ass that popped out of any outfit she wore and gave her a perfect bubble-butt, and a cunt that would make a grown man fall down in worship. She was a sexual dream, like a porn fantasy come to life. Jack couldn't believe his luck when they'd started dating. She seemed too good to be true. Probably because she was. As the weeks turned to months, he noticed that she had a domineering streak in her. She wanted to know where he was at all times. She demanded he stay home instead of going out with his friends (Without affording him the same courtesy) and she'd maneuvered her way into every aspect of his life. She'd begun breaking into his email and social networking accounts, and deleted any female friends that she felt might be a threat. Once, they'd met an ex-girlfriend of Jack's at the mall, and after giving him the third degree, she had apparently taken her phone number out of Jack's contact list and left several violent and malicious messages on the poor girls answering machine. And they hadn't even been dating long enough to move in together. Jack was able to read the writing on the wall, and he quickly called an end to it. Told her they were moving too fast, said he needed some time to get his head together. Angela didn't seem to buy it though. She received the news in an eerie silence. She just nodded, leaned forward, and said in a quiet whisper "This isn't over." and stormed out of his apartment. He'd been unnerved to say the least, but it was certainly within her character. She always had to be on top. "Hey bro, your beers gonna get warm if you keep staring off into space!" Steve chided him with a grin. Jack realized he had zoned out while going over the postmortem of the relationship. Still, he was just glad he'd gotten out when he did. You know what they say about sticking your dick in crazy. "Next round is on me, guys! I couldn't be in a better mood!" "That's what we like to hear! I could get used to this!" Wade said with a laugh. The group was back together, and it was just like old times again. To freedom! -Later that night- Jack climbed out of his taxi, used it to steady himself, and then made the somewhat perilous walk up the stairs to his apartment. He'd tried not to drink too much tonight but he'd managed to push himself past the point of tipsy. The stairs seemed to shift of their own accord as he stepped on them, and it was slow going. Eventually though, he reached his apartment on the third floor, unlocked the door, and stumbled inside. It was dark, though various LEDs and power indicators around the room cast colors splashes of light. He was a bit pleased with himself for that. Jack had a bad habit of leaving the lights on whenever he left, but apparently he'd remembered on his way out to darken the apartment. He shuffled into the kitchen and opened the fridge. The light inside bathed the small kitchen in a yellowish glow as he hunted for something to graze on. As he searched for food, e couldn't get over the feeling that something was odd. A persistent nagging in the back of his mind. Yet whenever he tried to grasp as what it may be, the fog of alcohol carried it away. Jack shrugged, figured it must not be important, probably some forgotten errand, and pulled out the fixings for a sandwich. He popped the kitchen light on and set to the task of making his midnight snack. As he was constructing his sandwich, he found himself musing about his crazy ex once more. Even though she'd started to show some distinct signs of crazy, he couldn't help thinking about her body. She had an addictive quality to her, that's for sure. When she was on top of him, smothering him with kisses, filling his nose with her intoxicating perfume Her fucking perfume. Jack realized what had been nagging at him immediately. He probably would've noticed it earlier if he'd been sober, but now that he was aware, it was unmistakable. He knew that smell. It was in the air, and he was pretty sure he wasn't imagining it. He wouldn't forget that smell. it made him think of sex every time. He whipped around and surveyed his apartment. The only light currently on was in the kitchen, so most of the apartment was still bathed in shadow. Was she here? He moved into the living room, held his breath, and popped the light on. The last thing he needed was to get jumped by a crazy woman wielding a knife or something. To his relief, the living room was empty. Everything looked fine. "Lighten up, Jackie. You're too drunk for your own good." he said to himself. The words were followed by a sudden pain in the back of his head, and then blackness. Jack groaned as he came to. Groaned wasn't quite the right word for it. It was more of a whimper. It felt like someone had given his head a once over, and his buzz had gone out the window. Maybe tonight wasn't as good as he thought it was. "I was wondering when you were gonna wake up, baby." the voice was unmistakable. Angela's voice was like honey, but there was definitely a malicious tone to those words."I was getting lonely waiting for you. You know how much I hate waiting;" Jack began to regain awareness of his body, and realized that he was in his bed, handcuffed to the frame, and naked as the day he was born. He instinctively tried to cover himself, only to have the handcuffs dig sharply into his wrists. He gave another groan as the pain in his head seemed to amplify. The room was softly lit, filled with the ambient glow of candles all around. Would've looked like a nice romantic evening if not for the nude hostage with a growing welt on his head. "What the fuck? Why are you in my apartment?" Jack was finding it hard to be incredulous when all he could really think about was how annoying the ringing in his ears were. But he managed to do a pretty good job. "Well baby, I just thought we needed to have a talk. You seem very confused right now, and I just wanted to help you. I let myself in with the key I made." She was standing beside the bed, leaning over him. Her enormous breasts were hanging not far from his face as she cooed in his ear."I know you think we've been moving too fast, but I had a very special idea." Jack looked up at her. She was wearing a black lacy bra the pushed her tits together to create some of the most perfect cleavage he'd ever seen. His eyes moved of their own accord and took in her whole body. Fuck, she was perfect. Flat, athletic stomach down to a skimp thongy that sat high on her hips. It was like something out of a porno. She leaned down and kissed him passionately, forcing her tongue into his mouth. He tried to fight her off, but didn't seem to have much strength for it. "See? You may think you wanted me gone, but your body sure remembers me. I know you want this." With this, she placed her hand on his chest and slowly dragged it down his body. She was working towards his cock, but she was moving so achingly slow. He began to feel his penis stir. Jack tried to the best of his efforts to keep himself focused and not give her what she wanted, but his body was betraying him. She finally encircled his cock with her fingers and lazily tugged on it. More blood flowed into it with the increased sensation, and he groaned again. It wasn't a groan of pain this time. "You see, I was thinking, Jackie baby. We've had such a great time together, and I think you're just scared to commit to me. But I know how to cure that. I love you so much, and I'm ready to do what it takes to keep you. So we're gonna have a baby." The words "have a baby" set off all kinds of alerts in his head. This couldn't be happening. This was like some kind of horror story. He immediately tried to jerk away from her touch, but he quickly realized that his feet were tied down to the bed frame as well. He was effectively mobilized. And his damn cock just continued to swell. This was outright insubordination from his own body. "A b-baby? You can't be serious. We've never even lived together!". As he spoke, he realized that he was staring at her tits again. Though his mind was continually screaming to get away, flee, flee the crazy bitch, the animal part of him was having a field day. "You're making a huge mistake! Let me go and we can talk about this!" "Oh no, honey. I've made up my mind. I already know how this goes. I'm gonna give you the night of your life, to show you why you want to stay with me. And trust me, I've done the math. It's the perfect time. I'm gonna make sure it sticks, and you'll be the father of my baby. We're gonna be a beautiful family." She was whispering the words in his ear like it was dirty talk. He looked up at her face now, and she has a maniacal glint in her eye. This bitch was serious. He prayed silently to whoever was listening that he wouldn't keep getting hard. He had to find some way out of this, or he'd be stuck with this lady for life. "Now just lie back and enjoy, sweetie. I know I will." With that, she climbed on the bed, moving down over his pelvis, and began to lick his semi-hard cock with long, languid strokes. It was like an electric jolt shot through his spine, and he quickly hardened to his full 9 1/2 inches. "Oh, there's my big boy!" "P-please, Angie, stop this. You barely know me, and-fffffuuuuuuuuck" his protests were quickly cut off as she enveloped the head of his cock with her full, beautiful lips and swirled her tongue around the head. He was having a very difficult time keeping track of what he was saying as her ministrations sent wave after wave of pleasure through his body. She then removed her lips with a loud POP and started slowly kissing from the base of the shaft up to the head. "I (kiss) love you and (kiss) I love this cock (kiss) and that's all I need to know. You (kiss) don't have a choice in the matter anyway. Besides, this big fat thing seems to be on my side anyway." She stuck her tongue out and licked the head like it was a lollipop before enveloping it once more. Jack tried jerking away from her once more, but his bindings were secure. Before he knew it, his hips were rocking into her mouth of their own accord. The pleasure was undeniable, and his body was giving in completely. Unfortunately for Jack, he hadn't had sex since he'd broken it off with her, and he hadn't found the time to masturbate either. He was working with a 4 day dry spell and his body was desperate for release. "Don't fire off too quick, baby. The fun is just getting started." Angela leaned back and undid her bra, letting loose her giant, flawless breasts. Despite himself, Jack found himself staring at them once more and longing to lick and suck them. Angela then stripped her thong away, so she was as naked as he was. "We were made for each other, I'm sure you realize. My body was made for fucking, it's obvious you adore me. You're just not letting yourself realize how much you love me. but I'm gonna show you." As she spoke, she repositioned herself over Jacks body, bracing herself with one hand on his shoulder while she aimed his cock at her pussy with his other hand. As she did this, her breasts hovered just in front of his face. It took his entire composure not to dive straight into them, but he was determined to find some way to withhold her advances. If he gave up and let her use him, all was lost. Angela then whispered into his ear "Give it to meeeee" as she slowly sunk down onto his cock. She eased him in, inch by inch, and he couldn't help but moan out loud at the sheer pleasure. Her pussy was velvety and slick, and amazingly tight. It felt like she was gripping his cock, and each inch that sunk into her melted his resolved further. Once he was completely sheathed inside of her, she began to suck on his earlobe. It was one of Jack's weak spots, and she knew it. "You're so big, baby. I love this big fat dick. This belongs to me now." Jack tried to find something clever to say, or something spiteful, but all he could really think about was how amazing her pussy felt. She then began to rock her hips, sliding his length in and out of her. It was too much for him, and he began to grunt with each pump. "That's right. I know you worship my pussy. Tell me how much you love it. "F-fuck you bitch. Get off me." Jack managed to blurt out. The sex felt amazing, but the terrible portent of what was coming allowed him to regain some composure. He began to feel that pressure in his stomach of a building orgasm, but he did everything he could to stifle it. "Now now. I don't think you understand your position, sweetie." There it was again. Every time she used those cutesy nicknames, her voice was practically dripping with malice. Why did that make him so hot? In return, she began to pick up, speed, sliding his cock in and out of her cunt faster and faster. The increased sensation robbed him once more of conscious thought and all he could think about was the immense pleasure. Angela pulled back and pulled his head into her tits. Without realizing it, he began to lick her perfect globes and searched for her nipple with his mouth. "See? Your body knows what it wants. Don't hold out on me. I know you want to let loose." The days of pent up semen inside of him was practically boiling, dying to be let free. But Jack was holding on. He was fighting his own body, but he was managing to keep some level of control. They went on like this for about 10 minutes, her body moving like a perfectly designed machine. His cock was throbbing, oozing pre-cum, desperate for release. Jack was doing everything he could to stay in the game, to keep from giving her what she wanted. But he didn't know how much longer he could keep on like this, and she just kept moving faster and faster. He was beginning to think his thighs might be getting bruised. "Are you ready baby? I've been going easy on you, but now it's time you give in." With that, she sank down onto him so his entire cock was buried inside of her, and flexed her pussy. It was like there was a vice around his cock, and the suction was incredible. He clenched his fists and strained against the bed-frame looking for some last shred of strength. :FFFFFUUUUUUCCCCKK" he screamed. The walls broke, and his body was overcome with a mind shattering orgasm. Stream after stream of sticky cum rocketed into her pussy, and she just kept flexing herself around him as though she was milking him. "That's right, let it all out. Give it to me." She still had that maniacal twinkle in her eye, and her expression was one of utter victory.. The orgasm took every bit of strength out of him and he slumped forward into her breasts. He was totally defeated. She'd taken everything from him. "See? That wasn't so bad. I got what I wanted, you got what you wanted, and now we're gonna be together forever." Forever. Fuck. And once more, despite himself, his cock began to re-harden inside of her. A victim of his own body and this succubus of a girlfriend. (NSFW Site) Author's Account: https://www.literotica.com/stories/memberpage.php?uid=1332728&page=submissions
2020.09.26 02:00 RonandstoneJoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 2 Match 2 - Maxwell Tenet VS Ace High!
The results are in for Match 1. The match had proven to be very aerial, both performers very quickly finding ways to fulfill the letter of the ‘try and stay on the ropes’ directive Conqueror Worm had left for them while literally and figuratively flying in the face of its spirit. Alexis Williams needed to very frequently replenish her balloon armor as she bounced around, opportunities to actually get as close to Wrenn Aflight as she’d needed to being very difficult to come by. Though with her Stand acting as it was, perhaps she didn’t mind such a thing. There was something about the quiet resolve of Kingdom of Desire, even as it wore a certain familiar ring, that was making her almost afraid of what this extension of herself, her traumas, her memories of her, might do. In the meantime, this guy who had agreed to be her opponent had been trying to sing, hiding his pain and his vitriol under his own sort of strong face and performing for the crowd. A tornado of dust had begun to engulf the arena, courtesy of his efforts, and the Vegas-veteran knew a dramatic, flaming ring when she saw one. As it was, a swing and a near miss had placed her positionally several meters underneath the performer, her own form having been harmed on occasion by the influx of particulate-based chip damage, sweating from the mounting heat in the room, and unable to see many of the balloons she’d left in the fog of smoke as the performer covered the arena; she could barely see the walls, or the windows, let alone any of those. Alexis needed to put literally everything she had into one final balloon dash. If she could close the distance between herself and Wrenn, she could certainly end this match in close quarters, and if he closed that cyclone of his in on her before she could get out of it, she would be burned badly by the glowing singer. It was a quick-draw, then. “Hmm?” Wrenn seemed to register something, his eyes facing her yet not seeming to be focusing on her at all - had something she’d set up earned the attention of that eye-dust he’d scattered about? Already, the burning dust storm was starting to lower, extremely slowly and not seeming to constrict yet to Alexis’ surprise. Hell, she could even see the balloons she’d left nearby the windows now in one of the points she’d flown towards them, tried to catch Wrenn offguard. Why was he drawing it out when he’d seen what she could do? Why would he waste time on that? This place could catch alight! “Hey!” The boy clinging to his umbrella above her called down. “These people want their finale! You’re on the same stage as me, so make it grand!” That was all Alexis needed to hear, even bringing a smile to her face where she was expecting misery. Willing blast after blast of the amassed balloons, she sent all that she could utterly flying. The tinted windows, which had started off so durable, had not only already begun to crack, but melt under the intense heat, and the balloons close to them blew them open on all sides, filling the previously quieter air with the shocked swears and calls for security of their small audience. “Wrenn, you changed your mind?!” She wanted to cry for a different reason, but knew now wasn’t the time. That move would likely have only startled them, with holes in the glass of that size (a move by design for Alexis), so the pair would need to think fast in order to avoid being put down for this. “You’ve been my LEAST favorite kind of audience!” He called eagerly, the flaming cyclone rising again and quickly funneling through the various windows, its burning intensity turned away from Alexis and towards the occupants of each of the viewing boxes. “If you’re putting people in shows like these, then *you have this coming!”*** The screams of the few watchers intensified. With players’ scores matching at 69 (Nice), you could say the real winner was teamwork… Probably.
With a three-vote lead, once again, popularity resolved in a way where the thirtieth point is burned away by a spinning cyclone and balloon blast after blast.
“C’mon, Alexis, don’t choke now! Get us out of here, that guy probably protected himself, and Worm guy definitely has!” Truthfully, Wrenn had meant to finish her off as the show demanded, secure his own safety, but when his eye-dust had noticed the window-damage, seen that past its cracks there were Fox and the other watchers on all sides, and from there little stairways up into the abandoned stations above and from there, up to the city. For now, trying not to flinch from the sights of people in pain, he used his spread-out eye-property dust to look into all four sides he could leave from, trying to quickly assess all information. In one room, Conqueror Worm stood, looking extremely amused at this turn of events and doing little to help those trying to get to safety before hopping up into the ceiling and vanishing. In the second, easily the most burning avenue of escape, a strange fellow in a maroon turban and face coverings stood right by the edge of the destroyed window, not at all minding the flames even as they caught the outfit alike, beginning to lift it up to remove with unsettling fearlessness; the only thing Wrenn saw as flames overtook the area and made its ceiling collapse was this figure grinning widely at him, accentuating a jagged-looking scar along the revealed lower half of their face. The third side, he could see Fox quickly transform a rock sculpture of an annoying-looking dog into a makeshift shield, protecting himself, that golden-suited Tigran Sins guy, and a shocked looking Metra Doria from the initial, less lethal glass blasts as if he’d seen the flames coming, the structure seeming highly heat resistant and similar in makeup to the balloon armor as it hurried away. The fourth was mostly just filled with screaming guys, and the stairs still looked accessible. “Holy hell, are you crazy? Look, uh… Don’t worry about me!” The voice of Metra amplified and pleaded, resonating loudly and clearly in the heads of both fighters, even through the crackling and pain. “I’ll be fine, just… Just escape! I agreed to this because I wanted to ensure you three would survive!” Well, that settled the guilt on that dilemma. Wrenn quickly pointed to the safest bet. “Blast us that way before we burn up and die! You can’t get cold feet in a place like this!” Alexis was taken aback, but KoD knew not to let them die for this. Quickly, audible pops! blasted the replenished flying gymnast up towards the singer, right as his umbrella caught alight and he began to fall. He dropped into Alexis’ grasp, and from there in seconds flat they were up and blasting through the direction Wrenn had pointed out, landing safely in the stairways and very quickly making their ways up. “What… What the hell did you need to go that far for?” Alexis asked, still rattled as the pair caught their breaths. “Sorry for-” Wrenn coughed a lot, then spoke in a less affected tone. “Sorry for doing what you asked, and trusting you in the end! ‘Put our minds together,’ ‘don’t get caught off-guard,’ ‘get out of here…’” He looked away towards the sound of approaching sirens, voice sounding even heavier, as if a massive weight were on his lithe shoulders. “What did you think that would mean?” Alexis’ lip trembled, and she hugged herself, finding her stand’s arms around her doing the same thing after a moment. She couldn’t rebut. This was Wrenn trusting in her, wanting her help in escaping these death games, but to do that..! To leave people in such a state, and that the worst perpetrators clearly survived anyway, and that Metra was still stuck with that guy..! “They’re not going to chase us like this,” he continued, as much trying to convince himself not to break down as he put on his hardest ‘strong face,’ different from that which Alexis had seen before. “So many of those guys probably killed people like us, innocents, too… This is a blow to a whole crime ring.” Not far from the site of the fire, authorities would find remains of a John Doe later identified as local entertainment industry manager Thutmose. Despite the incident earlier that day, authorities deemed it extremely unlikely these events were connected. The final toll of the fires were seven dead, three missing, fifteen in critical condition, all of whom accounted for a majority of the audience of the match. Though many suspected members of Sound’s Garden’s criminal underground were lost to the flames, with many other regulars having tuned in through dark web streaming, operations on the blood sports were able to continue. What a first match to open up the round on! Obviously, results are already in, so there won’t be results announced with M3 going up, but at this point, until the very tail-end of the round the typical posting schedule should be in full swing. Scenario: A scrapyard on the northwestern edge of Los Fortuna’s slums, 7:46 PM Ace High was getting tired of having to move around so much, and for this long. Tailing this “Modern Holiday” man was starting to get on his nerves - despite being a detective, he preferred to deal with these kinds of situations in more direct ways, and passing through desolate streets and heaps of junk didn’t exactly fit his definition of “a good time”, even if his stand helped streamline the process a bit. He’d been following Holiday at the request of Vitus Calamai, a man who SKADE had worked alongside before in an attempt to get in the good graces of ODIN. Furthermore, he’d already done the same to Holiday’s coworker, a woman by the name of Peres Straviat. Unlike before, however, Ace was alone - Kisa had opted to investigate his own leads, leaving the Sharp Lookers behind, and every other member of the team was occupied with their own tasks. It seemed as if Holiday had something in mind that he wanted to do in the slums, as he’d supposedly been wandering around the area quite a bit recently, for some reason that neither Ace nor Vitus were aware of. However, Ace did hear that Holiday had some history with a few shady gangs and groups in the area, and considering the man’s track record, it was clear that an investigation was warranted. As the man moved along, and entered a decrepit scrapyard by the edge of the district, Ace began to notice it - a burning stench that pervaded through the massive scrapyard, and a billowing cloud of smoke rising in the distance. The visibility wasn’t very good - smog filled the air, making it harder to discern what he was actually looking at. Furthermore, his vision was already occupied by the massive mounds of scrap around him, and couldn’t make out much of the area due to needing to remain hidden from Holiday. Holiday’s path seemed to lead him closer and closer to the source of the smoke, and eventually, he seemed to stop and began looking around. He’d almost spotted Ace, who’d just barely dived behind a pile of scrap in time before Holiday spotted him. He could just barely overhear Holiday saying something, though he couldn’t make out exactly what it was. He had to get closer in order to get within earshot of him. Moving forwards and peeking up from underneath the pile of scrap, Ace could see it - Holiday and a brown haired man wearing a red leather jacket, standing on the edge of a large crater, from which the smoke seemed to be emerging. Ace raised his head up further, getting a better look of what exactly was within the crater, and spotting the source of the smoke - multiple fires seemed to be burning from within, and some sort of figure stood from within, facing in the pair’s direction. Was that a stand? Before he could think further about what exactly that was, Ace heard a rustling from behind him. Quickly turning around, he saw it - a stand, rising from the smog behind him, reaching out towards him.“Shit!” Ace quickly began scrambling backwards, up the pile of scrap. “Gangster’s-” Before Ace could finish calling for his Gangster’s Paradise to help him, the mysterious stand firmly grabbed his leg and pulled him back into its reach, and Ace lost consciousness. An alley on the south side of Los Fortuna’s slums, the day prior to Ace’s investigation, 8:32 PM Maxwell “Ten-Ten” Tenet sat on the ground, back against a graffiti-filled wall, breathing heavily while clutching his side. Bruises and cuts peppered his body, small droplets of blood falling onto the dirty floor beneath him. He wasn’t in the best shape. Still, the passed out body of the man by him was clearly far worse off than Max himself was. “...heh. Who'd've thought that mugger would be a stand user as well?” Max idly mused to himself. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, and it probably wasn’t going to be the last. “Well, whatever. Just gotta hope this place calms down eventually...” With a pained grunt, he slowly got up. He was just on his way over to the Elephant Bones, wanting to surprise London with a visit, when he got sidetracked after hearing the faint noises of some sort of altercation happening far away from him. Quickly checking it out, he quickly realized that it was a mugging, and stepped into the scene to stop it without hesitation. Things quickly spiraled out of control when the mugger tried to fight back against Max with his own stand, but the outcome was inevitable from the very beginning - Max came out on top, albeit having sustained a few wounds here and there. Beginning to make his way out of the alley, Max sighed. The slums weren’t very peaceful during the best of times, but recently, these kinds of things seemed to have been happening more and more in there. He knew why as well - with the incarceration of “The Gambler”, things were somewhat of a mess for many of the residents of the slums. He didn’t live there himself, but his boyfriend did, and Max came over and patrolled them often enough that he couldn’t help but notice it. “Sucks, doesn’t it?” Max was taken aback, hearing an unfamiliar voice come from behind him. Turning, he took a look at the person in front of him - a man with a young-looking face, blonde hair, and a wide grin on his face. “It’s just like six years ago, huh? Total chaos. Try as they might, I guess the Temple of Syrinx and the Bakkers aren’t doing a very good job keeping the criminals in check, haha! And just when it seemed like things were improving for the slums!” Despite the man’s dour words, his tone of voice was upbeat and casual. “And who’re you?” Max tilted his head, curious about who exactly the odd man was. “Oh, I guess I forgot to introduce myself, haha! The name’s Modern Holiday, but you can just call me ‘Holiday’!” “Holiday..? Hm..” The name sounded familiar to Max. “What’re you here for, Holiday?” Holiday seemed to pause for a bit, his smile briefly fading away before he took a deep breath and began speaking. “Well, I’m glad you asked! Actually, I’m here because-” “Oh! I remember! London mentioned that one of his coworkers met someone called ‘Holiday’! Her name was Glitch, d’you know her?” Though he was slightly taken aback, Holiday seemed to lighten up at the mention of Glitch. “Oh, Glitch! Yeah, I know her! She’s a fun person, haha! She makes good food!” “Anyways… The reason I’m here because I need your help! Or rather, I suppose I’ve got something in mind that I think you’d want to help me out with, since you seem to be the crime fighting type! Well, you aren’t really going to be fighting ‘crime’, but... well… uh...” Holiday stumbled over his own words, unsure of how to to word what he was going to say. “Hey, just tell me what you want and we’ll see if I can help, yeah?” Max said nonchalantly. “Yeah, you’re right… Sheesh, this isn’t like me...” Holiday said with a sigh. “Well… I want you to kill a stand.” “A stand?” Max’s raised a brow, a slight frown finding its way onto his face. “So... wouldn’t that mean killing the user as well? If that’s what you’re asking, then I’m not interested.” If that was what this ‘Holiday’ really wanted, then this was just a waste of time. “Wh- no, no! God no, that’s… Yeah, no, I won’t- that’s not what I’m asking!” Holiday said loudly. “This stand’s user… well, she’s…” Holiday sighed and looked down, scratching his head. “She’s already dead. Has been for a while. It’s just… her stand isn’t dead. It’s still out there.” Oh. “It didn’t disappear after she died?” “Yeah… Los Fortuna has a weird effect on stands like that sometimes. The stand, Gasoline Family, just… stayed. Ever since then, it’s been mindlessly rampaging around the spot of her death, attacking anyone that gets nearby and making a mess. They say stands are manifestations of our ‘fighting spirit’ or our ‘souls’ or something like that, yeah? Knowing that, and seeing the only remnant of her act like that, it’s not a very nice sight to look at. No one’s really done anything about it until now since it’s so far out of the way of most people, but I want to… to free what remains of her, you know? If that makes sense. I don’t think she’d have wanted this to be what remained of her. And at the very least, I don’t want any unprepared person who goes there to find themselves killed by it.” There was a moment of silence as Max took in Holiday’s words. “Did you know her? Gasoline Family’s user, I mean.” Max asked, his voice more quiet than before. In response, Holiday chuckled. “Yeah, I guess that was pretty obvious, huh? You could say we were friends back then.” A far cry from his previous demeanor, Holiday was somber. It made sense, considering the subject matter at hand, but it was an odd sight nonetheless. “My stand, Sleep Apnea, can help protect you in the fight against Gasoline Family, but it’s not really suited for direct combat. I can’t do this without your help. I saw you fight that mugger - your stand is strong.” Max thought back to his own past friendships and relationships, then to the people he knew in Los Fortuna. Were a similar situation to happen to someone he knew, he’d… he didn’t want to think much about that. “Well, sure. I’ll help you out.” Max said with a smile, to which Holiday responded with a slight grin as well. “... Yeah. Thank you.” “So - when are we doing this, and what can this ‘Gasoline Family’ even do?” Back in the scrapyard, 7:55 PM The first thing Ace noticed when he woke up was the splitting headache he had, and that he was lying on the ground. The second thing he noticed was the pissed-off face of Modern Holiday, staring right at him. He quickly turned away, looking at his surroundings. He’d been dragged closer to the decrepit, smoke-filled crater, and was right by its edge. Despite his best efforts, he’d gotten caught, somehow. Was the stand that attacked him Holiday’s? It just popped out of the smog behind him, and the moment it grabbed Ace, he passed out. Did it activate its ability on him? Other than the headache, he felt normal, for the most part. Slightly cold, which was weird, considering how close he was to the fires. “So, you’re awake. Care to explain why exactly you were following me?” Holiday said with a scowl. Ace wasn’t entirely sure how to respond. There was silence for a few seconds, where nothing but the crackling of the fires within the crater could be heard as Ace thought to himself about his next move. From what he’d heard, Holiday was quite a sociable person, and one who was liable to slip up every once in a while, occasionally revealing some useful and sensitive information. Then again, Vitus also said that he was pretty good at catching on to others’ motives and giving people the slip when he didn’t want to converse with them, so it would be tricky, but if Ace could gather some information from Holiday, then that’d be very good. Of course, Holiday did seem pretty pissed right now, which was somewhat understandable considering that Ace had been tailing him for quite a while. “Well, you know… I was curious about what you were up to, yeah? Walking around the slums so much, almost makes me think you’ve got something in mind~” “And what if I do? I’m- Ugh. Look. I know that you’re with SKADE, and that Vitus probably put you up to this. This isn’t related to the Ocean Soul, and it isn’t anything that you should be concerned about or that you need to snoop around for.” Seemed like Holiday wasn’t really in the mood for a conversation, like he was on edge for some reason. Even if what Holiday said was true, Ace’s own curiosity had been piqued at this point, and furthermore, he needed more information. “Well, I’m still quite curious - what’s it about, then?” “You want to know? Fine. Get up.” Holiday turned away from Ace and pointed down at something within the crater. Ace took a closer look at it. Within it, he saw piles of scrap and debris tossed about haphazardly, a few of them the sources of raging fires, emitting pillars of smoke into the air. By the border of the crater was the man that Holiday talked to before, and within it was what seemed to be a stand of some kind, the same figure that he’d seen there before. “You see that figure over there? That’s Gasoline Family, a stand. Its user is already dead, but it’s stayed here for a couple of years by now, making a mess of the area and attacking anyone that gets close enough. I’m getting help from someone in order to destroy it. Not a fan of seeing the only thing that remains from an old friend of mine do… this.” Holiday said, waving his hands to direct Ace’s attention to the chaos within the crater. “A stand, huh? I see… What’s it do? Something related to fire, I assume.” So that was the reason for the disarray of the area here. “Actually, know what - how about I help you out with this ‘Gasoline Family’? As compensation for tailing you, yeah?” Ace said, grinning. “Hm? You want to help?” Holiday said, mildly surprised. “Well, sure - I was just about to ask you to do the same. While you’re here, might as well make yourself useful. It should also help reassure you that I’m not doing anything illegal here or something like that, if you don’t believe me.” “Alright, perfect-” Ace said, taking another look at the crater. “I assume those fires hurt stands, right? Uh… Got any tips about dealing with that? If I don’t know any weaknesses or whatnot, it’ll be hard to deal with Gasoline Family when my stand’s liable to be burnt up just like that. I’d rather not get flash-fried.” Ace said with a chuckle. “Oh, that? Shouldn’t be a problem for you. See, my Sleep Apnea has the ability to force out ‘aspects’ or ‘parts’ of objects or people into copies of them that it creates. By putting the copies together, they’ll merge, but otherwise, the original body will lose said ‘aspect’ forever. Now, when Sleep Apnea first touched you, I made it activate its ability on you. It removed your body and your clothes’ ability to heat up. Of course, this means that the fire won’t hurt you or your stand at all, so that’s not going to be a problem.” Now this was information that was useful to Ace. Knowing Holiday’s stand would certainly be useful for Vitus, but… It didn’t take long for the analytical part of his brain to realize what the catch here was. His body wasn’t heating up, but it could probably still cool down - that might’ve been why he felt colder before. “And I assume you’ll bring me back to normal once Gasoline Family’s dealt with? I’d rather not freeze to death, you know.” “Well, don’t worry about that - I’d rather not have anyone’s death on my conscience, so I’ll return you back to normal so long as you don’t try to attack me or keep me from killing Gasoline Family, alright?” The anger in Holiday’s voice had disappeared, now replaced by a more nonchalant attitude, though Ace knew that he probably hadn’t calmed down much. With a sigh, Ace took a step towards the crater in front of him. “Well, alright then - catch me up on what exactly Gasoline Family does, and I’ll get to work.” Knowing that his life was in Holiday’s hands wasn’t very uplifting, but this could very well turn out to be in Ace’s advantage if he played it right, and if he showed Holiday how useful and cooperative he was to make him lower his guard and spill information. Max wasn’t sure what to expect when Holiday first mentioned Gasoline Family and told him where to go, but now that he was here, at the center of the crater in which it resided, he could see just how intimidating the stand was. The crater was absolutely decimated - thick puddles of a liquid that seemed to be gasoline were spread around, many of which had already been ignited. Piles of scraps and soot were strewn around, and the smell of smoke was overwhelming. However, Holiday used his stand on him to give him resistance from the fires, which would help in the fight. Well, if he wanted to get anything done, he’d have to actually get closer to the stand. He briefly glanced behind him, towards Holiday, and spotted someone else descending down the pit towards him, a man with a checkered suit and a bowler hat. “Oh? Who’re you? Did Holiday get you to help out here as well?” Max asked nonchalantly. In response, Ace grinned and spoke. “I guess you could say so. The name’s Ace High.” Ace sounded quite calm, unphased by the dangerous stand at the center of the crater. “Huh, I see. I’m Max. Having anyone else around to help deal with this is nice.” With a shrug, Ace took another step forward and spoke. “Heh, yeah - just make sure that you don’t get in my way, yeah? We just gotta get this over with quickly”. Max wasn’t sure if Ace was just cracking a joke of some kind or if he was belittling him. Either way, it slightly annoyed him. “Oh yeah? Sure, sure, I’ll stay out of your way… But I’ll probably be done with it by the time you get close - and if you step in front of one of my attacks, it’s your fault, not mine.” Max responded. Dealing with Gasoline Family was of utmost importance, of course, but he did get a slight urge to try and outdo Ace. “Hey, I’m just joking around, yeah?” Ace said, noticing the effect of his comment. This wasn’t entirely true - in his mind, the most important thing would be gathering information from Holiday, and performing impressively against Gasoline Family could help build trust between Holiday and him. To that end, Ace really would have preferred it if Max stayed out of his way. “And don’t just blindly rush that stand down, it’s not gonna help. That is, unless you’ve got a deathwish, of course.” Ace said, his comment doing nothing but further annoying Max. The two men stood at the bottom of the crater, taking a look at the stand in front of them while preparing themselves for the fight ahead of both of them. It likely wouldn’t be easy, but neither of them was going to leave until the stand was dealt with and the fire raging in the scrapyard was finally extinguished. OPEN THE GAME! Location:A crater at the bottom of an abandoned scrapyard by the edge of the slums. Each tile is 4x4 meters, making the map 64x64 meters overall. The players are currently at the bottom of the crater, 8 meters deep into the ground. The grey border is the incline / drop from the outside to the crater into the crater itself, and it’s quite steep. The dark grey areas are the outside of the crater, and are inaccessible to the players. The light orange shapes surrounding the map are puddles of gasoline formed within depressions in the ground - these are roughly 0.2 meters deep, and are currently the only areas of the map capable of containing pools of gasoline deep enough for Gasoline Family to teleport to (though more might end up being formed as the match goes on). The ground is a mixture of dirt, soot, and ruined pieces of (non-conductive) scrap. Despite the mess, Max is somehow still able to rollerskate around without much issue. The hollow circles are burning pieces of scrap (mainly tires), constantly emitting dense smoke. The area that the smoke obscures is represented by the transparent red circles. Piles of scrap (which also contain various pieces of conductive metal scraps of varying sizes) are littered around the area and are represented by the areas filled with various small light grey shapes, piling up to about a meter in height. At the bottom right corner of the map is Modern Holiday, whose purpose is explained in the Additional Information section. Goal: Make sure that you contribute more to the defeat of Gasoline Family than your opponent! Additional Information:Gasoline Family’s sheet (and a shortened description of its ability) can be found here.Pastebin version here For the purposes of this match, thanks to Sleep Apnea’s ability, the characters, their stands, and any and all gear that is on them, are functionally immune to any and all fire or heat damage, not even feeling it. Force from explosives can still be felt and smoke is still hazardous to breathing. Modern Holiday has briefed both characters on Gasoline Family’s abilities, and on how it fights - In general, it will remain mostly quiet, sometimes punching an object near it out of frustration but otherwise staying still until someone gets close enough for it to fight them. Gasoline Family doesn't seem to be capable of very complex thoughts or of formulating involved plans, but it doesn't need that most of the time - its overwhelming power and durability grants it the edge it needs to win out in most direct encounters, but it also knows how to use its ability to grant itself an extra edge. In close combat, Gasoline Family knows how to create and activate buttons in the environment around it to create explosions for extra damage, and even purposefully tears them off and utilizes the gasoline streams as projectiles should its opponent stay for too long outside of its range. In addition, it will attempt to advance towards any opponent that has gotten close and that is now trying to escape. After taking enough damage, Gasoline Family will attempt to teleport away to the puddle that is furthest away from where it currently is. Put in numerical terms, this happens when it loses a fifth of its “health”, meaning that it will teleport four times over the course of the match. If no puddle is available, it will attempt to fill the “viable” pools with more gasoline using streams, and if any of them have been plugged up, then it will dig out more with its own two A pow hands. At any moment it will try to make sure that there’s at least two pools available and filled with gasoline, though more than that may form as the match goes on. Modern Holiday is watching the match from the bottom left corner of the map, at the top of the scrap pile, and is willing to assist you out in a limited degree - he’s willing to use Sleep Apnea on any object tossed to him, and will toss you back the copy of it that the stand creates (without manipulating any property or aspect of it), which will be a stand object, and as such will be able to hurt Gasoline Family. Should you try and leave the map or directly and knowingly attack Modern Holiday, he will simply refuse to return your bodies back to normal after the match and you will eventually freeze to death, just as Ace predicted. Same goes for attempting to kill your opponent - injuring them is allowed, but not to an extent where they wouldn’t be able to assist in the fight any more.
“M-Maybe the attacks weren't meant to hurt us... they were meant to douse us with gasoline!?” So you’re going to have to get rid of this stand before you can get any information from Modern Holiday, but that’s fine - you’ve handled worse in the past, and you can already think of a few ways to manipulate this situation to your advantage. During the match, make use of the environment and of the various stands within it!
“He doused himself with the gasoline... He panicked, because you were going to finish him off!” You’re not sure how this whole situation got so crowded and messy, but dealing with Gasoline Family shouldn’t be too bad either way. In fact, this might even open up some new opportunities for you - During the match, make use of the environment and of the various stands within it!
2020.09.26 01:59 delta-201[Melas] - Chapter 61: Saved and Spent
Synopsis: A young woman finds herself dead and is given the chance to reincarnate in another world with cheat-like magic powers. She accepts, only to find that the world treats magic users the same way ours did— by hunting them down and killing them for heresy. My name is MELAS?! As in Salem backwards? Oh my God, and my mother is a Witch. I am SO going to be burned at the stake! [Previous Chapter] [Chapter 1] [Cover Art] [RoyalRoad Index and Synopsis] [Patreon] Tags: Isekai/Reincarnation, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Weak-To-Strong Protagonist, Female Protagonist Water, earth, fire, fire, air, earth, fire, air. Earth, air, fire, air, fire, water, earth. Water, fire, air, water. I glanced down at the final combination of symbols; it was not a common sight to see water paired with fire, since the two were supposed to be diametrically opposed in their real elemental forms. But this was simply a representation— the symbols were named as such because they roughly resembled the elements, however they were not the direct equivalence of said elements. The theory behind these symbols was a result of complex observations, with its origins stemming from the Great Hero Xander himself. There were basic fundamental rules to creating working runes to draw the power out of a mana crystal— such as how increasingly complex polygons made out of the fire symbol would generally increase the energy drawn from the mana crystal— yet it was entirely possible to create a brand new, working rune out of a random shape with an arbitrary arrangement of the symbols. So far, I had been making simple shapes: ones that had been studied thoroughly and was good for training, but had little practical use for real mana tools. It was like learning calculus as a mathematics major hoping to pursue a Doctorate in Mathematics in the future— I had a long way to go before I could create the kinds of tools my Dwarven companion did. I was diligent, but I was not a genius. I picked the piece of paper up, and inspected it carefully; there were no mistakes that I could see, which instilled in me a sense of accomplishment. I proudly laid the sheet back down onto the table, admiring my work for just a moment longer. Then the door to the room swung open, and I craned my neck away from the paper lain on the desk to see Gennady enter the room. The rotund man strutted in, his heavy footfalls thumping on the hard wooden floor as he lifted his hood. “Welcome back,” I greeted him, standing up and stretching my back after being seated for over an hour. “Ya are one studious kid, you know that right?” he commented as he peered over my shoulder. “Good job. You got everything right this time.” I was just about to grin in response when the Dwarf smacked me across the back. Ouch, still not used to that. I rubbed the spot and the light sting quickly went away. Then I finally asked the question that had been in my mind. “So,” I started, “how did it go?” “Other than the fact that I had to keep even lower than I usually am? Pretty damned good if I had to say so myself.” He placed both hands on his bed, and hefted himself up onto it; he pulled out a small metallic flask and drank from it. “I managed to speak to a few guys, and they said they could arrange a meeting between us and these two smugglers. They’re one of the best in the city.” I lifted an eyebrow, and tilted my head to the side. “Are they trustworthy though?” I asked. “That’s more important than how good they are at their job. They could be amazing, but if they betray us, it doesn’t matter.” The Dwarf furrowed his brows, and sighed. “Lass, has anyone ever told you that you are sometimes very paranoid?” “What’s wrong with erring on the side of caution?” “Nothing.” He shook his head and stood up. “I hear that they’ve never failed a job. But the thing is, they’re used to smuggling goods out and into the city, not people. There isn’t much illegal slave trafficking coming out of Luke by sea, and people who try to flee the country generally do so through land by the southern border.” He took another swig of his alcohol. “Good,” I said, nodding curtly. “I prefer it that way. I’d rather not deal with slavers or people who aid slavers. It just doesn’t sit well with me.” “Because it’s illegal?” “Because it’s evil,” I corrected the Dwarf, before changing topics. “So, where will we be meeting these smugglers?” “They have a hideout in a tavern near the docks. That’s on the northern side of the harbor, so we won’t have to worry about running into too much trouble, I hope.” Right, trouble, I thought, remembering the reason why Gennady had to wear that cloak over his head, and I was staying in the inn by myself: there were very angry sailors on the lookout for us— as confirmed by Gennady— after the incident at the main pier area a few days ago. And it did not help that we tricked the guards to buy us some time so we could escape. Were we wanted by the guards for tricking them? Probably not. However, picking a fight with dozens of sailors was probably against some law in Laxis, which meant that the city guards were keeping at least one eye out for us; we were not criminals, but there was most definitely a hefty fine we had to pay for partaking in a brawl. Gennady wanted to avoid paying it if we could, and I did not disagree with that sentiment. So due to both those reasons, we were keeping on the down low while searching for a way out of this city. I walked over to the closet, and pulled out my ‘Aria’ disguise. “Well then, let’s get going,” I said to the Dwarf. He frowned, scratching his scruffy beard. “Right now?” he asked. “I arranged a meeting for tonight.” “We want to scout out the place first, of course,” I replied casually, taking off my pointed hat. “Plus, I’m sick and tired of being locked up in this room. Maybe I can look around for anything I might want to buy in the market. You’ve bought your Superior mana crystals, well I want something of my own too.” “Aight, if that’s what you want.” Gennady gave a noncommittal shrug. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” I said, gesturing at the door. “Could you please get out?” I held my change of clothes up, indicating I needed some privacy. “Right.” He hurriedly left the room. I carefully inspected the array of mana crystals before me, reaching for one that was about the size of my hand and held it up against the lamplight. The blue-green gemstone glimmered, reflecting the shine into my eyes; it was bright. I had read in A Tinkerer's Guide— one of the books Gennady had loaned me— that mana crystals of higher quality had highly reflective surfaces whereas lower quality mana crystals did not. This was due to the difference in the mana density inside each crystal, with an increase in mana leading to a more opaque body that allows less light to pass through. And yet, it was easy to mistake the light refracting through a translucent mana crystal as light being reflected on its surface, which often caused many without a discerning enough eye to be scammed out of their silver or gold. I squinted, making a hole with my fingers and looking through it as though it would help me see better; it did, but by a small margin. I was almost certain that this mana crystal was worth its price— it was a Lesser mana crystal of ostensibly high quality costing 6 gold coins: that seemed like a steal to me. “Hey Gennady,” I called out to my Dwarven companion. “Is this one any good?” “That?” He frowned, and took the mana crystal out of my hand; he scrutinized it for a moment, then waved his hand dismissively. “Bah, it’s only a Lesser, and it’s barely above average. Maybe for its price it’s good, but otherwise I wouldn’t buy it.” I nodded. “Thanks,” I said, and turned to the store owner. “I’ll take it.” The woman smiled eagerly, rubbing her hands together as I completed the transaction; I managed to haggle the price down to 5 gold and 10 silver— it was only a two silver discount, but that was worth over a dozen meals, or a few nights in most regular inns. I returned to Gennady as he crossed his thick arms over his broad chest; I inclined my head to the side. “What?” I asked. “I told you not to buy it— it wasn’t even a good,” he said. “Are you saying it’s not good because it’s not a Superior mana crystal, or are you saying it’s not good because I was scammed out of my money?” “Well, uh, it’s...” the Dwarf stammered, scratching the side of his beard. “I was more leaning towards the former,” he finally said. “Exactly.” I smiled, and placed a hand on his right shoulder. “I got it because it was what I was looking for, and you told me it’s good for its price. I was taking your advice, don’t worry.” “But if you’re planning on getting a mana crystal to practice with, you should at least start with Inferiors, not Lessers,” he objected. “I’m not planning on using this just yet,” I said, placing the blue-green gemstone into a small pouch, and tying it closed. I attached it to my leather belt, and strolled past Gennady. “It’s not for practice now. It’s for when we’re at sea and I’ve already mastered working on Inferiors. I’m planning ahead.” I gestured for him. “Come on,” I said, “let’s get going. We don’t want to be late.” We left the shop and headed towards the docks; we passed by ships that were not currently being used— many of them looked as though they had been left in disrepair for months— while others seemed as though they were having improvements added onto them. It was mostly empty of life however, since it was evening, and the little noise we heard came from the nearby bars, taverns, or inns which were beginning to teem with life at the end of twilight. I followed Gennady as we made our way through the cobble street, finally stopping a block away from our destination. “There it is,” he said. “The Merlion’s Alcove.” I glanced at the small, wooden building; it was a much more subdued tavern than the ones we had seen on the way here, yet there were clearly suspicious people making their way for this spot. With a name like that and with people as shady as this, you really can’t be more obvious that this is a cover! “Let’s take a look around,” I said. We spent the next hour loitering around the area; the brilliant vermillion sunset was covered over by the thick, dark clouds before it had fully disappeared beyond the horizon, and a light pattering of rain began to fall upon us. The drizzle slowly got heavier and heavier, and when it looked as though it would turn into a full-blown storm; Gennady and I had seen nothing indicating that we would run into any trouble in the tavern, so we decided to finally enter the tavern. The double doors swung open with a hard push, as the bottom of the wood frame scratched across the floor. The tavern, which didn’t seem lively from the outside, actually had some minor activity on the inside; the thick walls must have prevented noise from leaking out, which led to my earlier assumption. Regardless, it was almost evidently a facade: the bards playing in the corner evoked too large of a reaction from the early night crowd, and the boisterous laughter of sober men as they chatted only made the scene all-the-more jarring. I made sure to keep my hood up as a few faces inconspicuously eyed Gennady and I from their seats. The Dwarf waded his way straight to the bar, plopping himself on one of their stools as his hood fell off his head. I wanted to throw it right back on, but it was already too late; the barkeep looked over him once over and nodded. “What do you want?” Gennady grinned in response, gesturing past the barkeep. “I want your best whiskey in the house— no, the cellar. And add in a nice strawberry on top. With one of those little pink umbrellas. Make sure to mix it with a good dose of nylos, I want it as bitter as possible.” The barkeep raised an eyebrow, and slowly said, “That’s… a long way to order our special drink. But I do believe that’s not a problem.” He lifted the small wooden barrier separating us from the bar counter, and ushered us towards a door. “You can find someone able to set you up with your drink inside,” he said. “Thanks, lad.” Gennady stepped in first, almost too nonchalantly, as I kept two paces behind him. Isn’t he worried at all? I thought, narrowing my eyes. We entered a dimly lit hallway, leading to a kitchen with cooks busy preparing more meals than they should have; a roughly dressed man stopped us in the middle of the corridor, and folded his arms. “What are you looking for, Dwarf?” “Just a Merlion’s special— a nice bitter drink from below.” The man seemed to accept Gennady’s answer, and he gestured for us to follow him. He led us into a corner of the kitchen, and opened up what appeared to be a cellar door. He lifted the latch, revealing a stairway leading down into a hidden basement. “There’s only one rule down there, and it’s ‘don’t cause any trouble’, got it?” “‘Course,” Gennady said, nodding. The man seemed unconvinced until Gennady nudged me. “Oh— yeah.” I nodded curtly, catching myself from stumbling over my words. With my affirmation, the man stepped aside and let us enter; we went down the stairs— it wasn’t a long way down, only two flights at most— and reached a doorway. It was far easier to open than the front door of the Merlion’s Alcove, probably because they didn’t worry as much about noise escaping due to the rambunctious cover they had at the top. I found my nose wrinkling as the door opened; an eclectic of scents ranging from food, to drinks, to drugs, to sex wafted in my direction, with an incredibly pungent smell leading the assault. I reached up to pinch my nose to protect it from the terrible stench, but only heard the clacking of my gloved nails striking my mask. I cast my gaze around the room and was greeted by a far more naturally raucous crowd than before, with many of the individuals in it partaking in illicit activities. In addition to being set up like a regular tavern with tables and chairs strewn about with men and women consuming various foods and drinks, there were also various other forms of… entertainment available here. There were men lounging in violet couches creased with golden lines at its edges, indulging in various kinds of substances: I recognized the smell and smoke of tobacco coming from most of these men, yet a few of them inhaled a colorless gas from a pipe which a hunch told me was the source of the pungent smell. There was also a gambling area set up in the corner of the room, with scantily dressed women serving alcoholic beverages to the men dressed in robes playing with their gold and silver. While this might not seem like an unusual sight, it was, in fact, quite an uncommon one here in Laxis due to the laws banning any acts of gambling. I conveniently ignored the corner of the room where moans and grunts were coming from, and followed Gennady the moans and grunts coming from another corner of the room, and followed Gennady as he strode through the room without even blinking. I stepped up beside him, and spoke quietly. “Do you go to places like this often?” “Yes,” he said, continuing past a table of where an argument just broke out. A man stood up to throw a punch, and bouncers immediately swarmed him and dragged him out of the room. Gennady didn’t bat an eye. “But not for any of the reasons most come here for. “Ever since I left the Taw Kingdom, I’ve been trying to widen my worldview. They thought I was crazy, but they also praised me as their best, and at the time, I thought that was a compliment. But when they went ahead with replacing me with that Scientist from Xan? I realized perhaps they truly thought me mad.” “Didn’t you say that your King pleaded for you to stay?” I asked, cocking my head. “He did.” Gennady nodded as he sat at the now vacated table. “Him and half of the other Dwarves I knew. But the other half? They’re glad I’m gone, and they’re willing to embrace that madman Bertrand to get it.” I pulled out the chair opposite to him, and took a seat as well. “And what exactly have you been doing to… widen your worldview?” “For starters,” he said leaning in, “I learned magic.” I frowned. “What does that have to do with any of this?” “Magic itself is against the law. Even in the criminal world, it’s not exactly commonplace to find a spellcaster. But that’s the only place you can find spellcasters. The Dark Crusaders have many connections in the underground, and that’s how I first contacted them.” I drew in a sharp breath, and remembered why I had good reason to not fully trust Gennady just yet; I did not know what his motives were— he told me he just wanted to help me out and return to his Kingdom because of the Abominations, but how much of that was true? What if he was fully aligned with the Dark Crusaders? Could this have all been a trap for me because I killed Victor— A voice broke me out of my thoughts, stifling my paranoia for just a moment. “Ah, I was told to expect a rather rotund looking man tonight, but I never suspected it to be a Dwarf.” A rough, older looking man approached the table accompanied by a delicate, young woman. The juxtaposition between the two was immediately visible; the man was dressed in rough leather clothing, giving his already tough exterior emphasized by his scowl an even more weathered look. Meanwhile, the young woman wore more of the fashion I had seen in Laxis, wearing pure, white robes that covered everything but her smiling face. Looking between the two was like looking between the fragile bud of a flower and its sharp thorns. “Oh, uh, Mr Jack and Ms Lisa?” Gennady greeted them. “No need for formalities, Dwarf. Hearing it from your kind just doesn’t sound right. I’m assuming you’re Gen?” “Yes, and this is my companion, Aria.” I nodded my head slightly at the two smugglers. Jack ignored it, and joined our table without any invitation by taking a seat and throwing his feet up onto the table. “So,” he started, “what do you two want?” “We heard you two are the best smugglers in all of Laxis, and we’d like your help to get us out of this city.” “We don’t smuggle people, Dwarf. It’s too hard, and if you’re wanted by one of the gangs or pirates here, we’d be burning a lot of bridges.” “Of course. But that’s not a problem with us,” Gennady said, waving a hand dismissively. “We arrived in Luke just the other day. Ain’t got problems with any of the groups in the city.” “A few days is a lot of time.” Jack stared at us as his brows arched darkly over his forehead. “Or did you think I didn’t hear about what you did at the harbor just the other day?” I saw Gennady gulp, hesitating. “That was a minor incident,” he said. Then he glanced down at the table. “Y’know, we haven’t even had anything to drink just yet.” He turned to a passing server and waved them down. “Get me and this lad a drink—” “I’m not a lad, Dwarf,” Jack spat, cutting him off. “And I don’t have time for this. We’ll be leaving—” “I think we should at least stay for a bit, Jack,” a soft voice spoke over him. Lisa glanced at her companion with her smile still plastered onto her face. “It would not be wise to turn down a free meal.” The man hesitated, eyes darting between Lisa and Gennady, then he acquiesced. “Fine,” he said. “But I’m only staying because you asked me to, Lisa. The Dwarf better not get his hopes up that we’ll do this job for him.” “Hah,” Gennady laughed, “is that a challenge? Ye don’t know how friendly us Dwarves get over drinks.” “I know all too well, little man.” Gennady ignored the provocation; he continued his negotiation with Jack as drinks were served to the table. I just sat in my chair, neither contributing to the conversation nor consuming any of the beverages in front of me. I watched on as both men got drunker and drunker, while the young woman simply sat there, sipping on a glass of wine. I would have thought that getting inebriated would make Jack more amicable to striking up a deal, but it seemed to have only affirmed his resolve. “—I don’t care about who you are or if you’re a damned Hunter or the King of this country. I told you, I’m not bringing you to that damned Dwarven Kingdom!” “C’mon, lad—” “Don’t call me that! The only reason I’m sitting here, listening to you yap your mouth off is because my partner of six years— who usually has a good intuition— thinks you would be worth our time! But now I’m starting to doubt that even is the case anymore.” Gennady sighed, taking a swig of ale. “Listen,” he said, slamming the mug down. “I can offer you twice whatever the usual cost you charge for smuggling goods our size over the same distance we’re asking you. In fact, you don’t even have to bring us all the way to Taw— you can stop at Puer… no, before Puer, and we can depart from there. I’ll even throw in a good enchanted sword to replace that rusty, old blade there.” He pointed a tired arm at the man’s waist. Jack’s eyes flashed, looking down at his sword. I looked at his furious gaze, and I also remembered Gennady’s talk of a Dwarf’s craft; I could almost predict what would happen next. And I did not like it one bit. The smuggler opened his mouth, spit already coming out— “You boys are intolerable,” Lisa said, cutting him off once again. This time, Jack looked irritated at his partner’s casual interruption of when he was speaking. But she ignored him, and stared at me. “You haven’t spoken all this time, what do you have to say, little girl?” I raised an eyebrow at that, but did not comment on how she knew I was a girl. She probably heard about it being mentioned in the same breath as Gennady fighting with sailors in the harbor. A simple extrapolation of events and their associated characters. “What do you mean by that?” I replied with a question. “I’m curious,” she said, lowering her wine glass. “You and your companion want to leave this country, and we’re not going to do this for you: what do you have to say?” “If you reject us, we’ll just have to find others to do this for us.” I shrugged. “Interesting.” Lisa played with her wine glass, rocking it back and forth on the wooden table, causing a swirl in the lavender liquid inside of it. “And what happens if they all reject you? Suppose we’re the last possible person you could approach to bring us to your destination: what would you do now?” “Oi, Lisa, what are you doing?” Jack asked, annoyance clearly written across his face. I peered into the young woman’s eyes, and looked past her smile. “You want us to win you over,” I stated simply. She did not look away. “...perhaps.” Gennady, in his drunken stupor, just seemed confused and could not help me. So I drew in a deep breath, and reached for my sides. “If you were indeed the last people I could approach,” I said softly, “then I would be desperate. If that were the case, I’d offer you this.” I pulled the coin pouch, slightly loosening its string, and slid it across the table. The yellow glitter of gold coins barely escaped the small opening, but it was enough to get a reaction out of the two. “A platinum and a half,” I said. “That’s all I have to offer, yet it is more than you’ve made in a job as simple as this, no?” I saw Jack’s eyes cloud over with greed and Lisa’s smile widen even further. “That is quite the offer,” the young woman commented. “It is.” I nodded my head. “We’ll take it—” Jack began, his speech still slightly slurred. Then I scooped the pouch back up and placed it. “But since this isn’t that kind of a situation, I think my friend and I will be taking our leave.” “Wait, but…” Jack exchanged a glance with Lisa, and he quickly straightened. His tone of voice changed when he spoke up again. “We’ll do it for… three quarters the price?” I stood up, but Lisa put up a hand to stop me. “A half,” she said. “Give us a half of that, and you’ll soon find yourself on a ship heading straight to Jahar’taw.” I paused to consider this for a second, then I nodded. “Deal.” I brought a hand forward and shook with the young woman. And with that, it was over. We decided to meet two days from now at the docks, just before dawn. We agreed to pay a tenth of the cost upon our next meeting, and the rest when we arrived in the Taw Kingdom. Then Lisa grabbed her drunken companion by the arm and left the table. As they did, I could hear Jack whispering angrily at Lisa about how she lowered the price so quickly; he seemed like a man who only cared about money once it was a large enough sum, and I was right. “Lass, are you sure you should’ve paid them so much?” Gennady quickly asked once they left. “That’s over 70 gold!” he exclaimed. I rolled my eyes. “I paid you as much just to escort me to Taw, don’t act like it’s a ridiculous sum now that I’m paying someone else the same amount.” “Well yeah.” The Dwarf scratched the side of his head, frowning. “But you’re paying more than two times what I was offering to pay them. Don’t you think you jumped the gun a bit?” “No.” I shook my head. “This is the reason why I save my money, Gennady: money is to be spent, and I’m spending it to guarantee my safety. We’re not just buying passage through the sea with that, we’re also buying their loyalty. If they know we can pay them more, they would be all the more incentivized to make sure nothing happens to us.” “But—” “And don’t pretend that I’m paying it all,” I said, cutting him off. “We’ll be splitting the bill since it’s for the both of us.” Gennady’s jaw dropped. “That’s just for the payment to go to Taw, not for the drinks tonight. That’s on you.” After all, while we were both going to Taw together, he was the only one to have consumed all those drinks. [Next Chapter]
Author's Note: Not a fan of this chapter. But whatever. Next chapter will be on October 6th, Tuesday. I'm taking a week break to let my RR rewrite catch up. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I want to at least make some money from patreon, y'know? Thank you all for your support!
2020.09.26 01:41 CyrusWaughfolklore (2020) All Songs Ranked Re-Upload
The homestretch for the individual albums, after a week of reviewing these tracks, it feels like I've been binge watching a show I'm so emotionally invested in. And I've finally caught up with the present, Folklore I doubt will be here last album, but as a record it feels like a farewell in some aspects and it kinda left me down in the dumps, in terms of writing Folklore is definitely her most mature album, new perspectives in break ups, talking more about her fears and insecurities, it is what I've been craving since the Reputation era, Lover delivered in some aspects but left me unsatisfied in others, and this really took all my complaints of Reputation and Lover to heart, and delivered a fantastic record, in terms of massive million sales mainstream, this is the best album of 2020, and the only one closest to it is After Hours by the weeknd and that record is like a 6.3/10 for me. 16. Seven I just want to clarify, a majority of these songs are highly competitive, much more so than Reputation or Red, so if a song you connect to more is around last place, just take it with a grain of salt, there is something for everyone on this record. Seven kind of reminds me of Oh What A World by Kacey Musgraves in terms of the style she went for this. She's said its about a friend she can barely remember from her home state of Pennsylvania, I think the lyrics are a bit of a mixed bag, the verses are great but the chorus feels a little to silly, but maybe that was the intention because this is in the perspective of a 7 year old. And while that maybe be smart to some I don't see it, it is well produced as is all of the songs on the record. 15. Hoax Hoax, the closing track is beautifully sung, I just think it could've gone through a bit more thought process in the writing, it brings me into the narrative in the beginning but the chorus. This loses me as we progress further through it, I think details of the love could be better than her just doubting if this is real or not, like I said all these songs bring up something personal or innovative, some just come up short compared to the others. I think the highlights of the flaws in a relationship come out well, just a little simplistic chorus wise similar to seven. 14. The 1 The opener leans in a more silly side of things, like her use of shit feels a little out of place yet also casual. The first pre-chorus got me thinking, especially in the line where she says if you don't bleed you never grow, from what I can infer this her saying while breakups hurt, you need them to broaden your perspective of relationships. The key theme of this trick is the broadening of perspectives, reminiscing about a past relationship wondering if 1 thing kept one person from being the 1 for her. It feels a little bright given the messaging, still a solid intro to a great. 13. Peace Peace follows her singing to Alwyn about how as long as they are together, they will never find true peace, as the media and critics make it so difficult. I think this track would've served better as the final track. Every move they make is watched and shown to millions and how she's wondering if he is fine with the chaos that is her life. It sorta brings up her reputation but rather than the usual, address the haters, its her speaking to him and him alone, this track really subverted my expectations the first time I listened to it. 12. The Last Great American Dynasty I think percussion holds it back a bit and it is a little too fast, as well as the fact to truly understand what is going on you need the background info, which is about Rebekah Harkness and a previous resident of her Rhode Island home and how she compares herself to her, where the townsfolk always questioned her, rumors spread like wildfire about, you get vivid details of Rebekah arriving in town, about the wedding, the funeral of her husband Bill, its a touching unique story, I just think production and tempo issues overtake the song and prevent it from getting to the top 10. 11. Invisible String Invisible String is her talking about this unknown connection to her and Alwyn, and their personal experiences when they were hundreds of miles a way from each other, we get references to previous songs, little details like Yogurt Shops, actual places like Centennial Park, the progression is smooth up until the bridge where I get a little confused of what she's talking about, I'm guessing I need more context to understand it. I think it is a great concept of a song, although it kind of loses me melodically compared to the others. 10. This Is Me Trying This Is Me Trying, to me is her talking about how she is beginning to crack, so much is going on with her, she's no longer that 16 year old girl with big dreams in Nashville, she's now 30 years old and one of the biggest pop stars in the world, to her mother being diagnosed with cancer, and she's saying this is her trying, juggling a mother with a terminal illness, future music goals, her reputation (man I'm sick of using that word now) The chorus is pretty simplistic, but the writing in the verses and soothing production make up for it. 9. Epiphany Written as a dedication to all those fighting the battle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Epiphany brings out the little details each doctor and nurse, goes through, how some days and nights are practically sleepless as the hold children, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives lives in the balance, no one could've expected how this would go, out of all the songs "dedicated to the pandemic" this is definitely my favorite, as Long Violent History or Be A Light are songs I can't personally connect to and Six Feet Apart honestly sounds corny. However I don't like the comparison of these doctors and nurses to soldiers on the beaches of Normandy, 2 completely different scenarios so I take a slight offense to that, but given how beautifully written I'll give it a pass. 8. My Tears Ricochet From what I can tell, this is about Scott Borchetta and their feud that resulted in her leaving Big Machine Records, with the details of someone cursing her name, wishing she stayed, to her not willing to go with grace. It's haunting vocals convey tragedy, I think the overall message is when you try to hurt her, you hurt yourself just as much, however while I do thoroughly enjoy the lyrics elude me, as it blends the story of a relationship that's over and Borchetta. Maybe this is a personal issue, the more I listen the more I'll appreciate it. 7. Exile (ft. Bon Iver) I'm surprised this is as high as it is, I remember not digging this, my first listen. Exile details a man seeing a former lover in the arms of a man, and their personal perspectives, from the look in their eyes, how one defends while the other offends, it is one of the bigger ear worms of the record and the buildup in the bridge is so emotional, shockingly these 2 harmonize, even though the bands vocals and hers are opposites of each other. I think the more critical fans give this a shove, but I say give it a few more listens to truly understand the beauty of the track. 6. Mad Woman Mad woman is a more reasonable version of LWYMMD. When you attack or accuse her, she will become the things they say she is, and they'll poke her like a bear until she reveals the claws. It makes a lot more sense than what she attempted to portray in Reputation, with the message summarized to when they go low, she'll go lower, this song really opens up a gateway to new possibilities of songwriting themes for her, she's improved drastically when it comes to writing defense songs, they gotten more clever and thought provoking. And it makes have a lot more optimism of where she will take her career next. 5. Cardigan Cardigan really shows this rebirth of compelling relationship songs, another being Getaway Car from 2017, it follows her comparing a cardigan to the center core of a relationship. I like to believe this as well is the story of Betty & James, not really for the detail of the cardigan, but rather with lines about choosing 2 girls and losing the 1, chasing shadows in the grocery line, you get a sense there is more to this story, and there is as 4 or 5 more center around a story arc. Cardigan as a lead single is good, it is the catchiest of all of them, but Cardigan fits the new radio standard, the days of big bombastic percussion and bass are over, I can tell more and more people prefer the style of Billie Eilish with this soft style of production, it has the streaming power and I hope it does well, because all I hear is annoying trap so a sense of intellectualism in the mainstream would be nice to see. 4. Mirrorball Mirrorball has this feel that is similar to David Bowie's Heroes, (well that's what I see) how Taylor compares herself to a reflective disco ball, how she puts all her behind closed door stories and emotions, and how she calls her flaws and fears shattered edges, without a doubt one her best metaphors in her career of songwriting and she has to keep this up to please her fans, it's heartbreaking and the worst part is that the song itself is another shattered edge. Originally I had this at I believe #11 or #10, because the melody in the chorus wasn't too interesting. I still have the same opinion but a buddy of mine in virtual class, told me the true meaning and it blew my mind and I knew this had to be higher, I'm not always the best at finding the true meaning of a song, maybe I've been wrong on a few this week, but that is how I view them, and I love to see new perspective as it allows me to enjoy songs even more. 3. August August is another story in what she calls the saltbox house chapter, this song is in the perspective of the other girl, and how she seduced James, we get to get the whole perspective of what songs like Cardigan and Betty left blank. And how this unnamed girl thought she had James but it turns out he still had feelings for Betty and told her the truth. How the month of their affair slipped away through time, and now she's heartbroken, how she would drop everything to be with James and he casts her aside. The bridge is great as usual, but it I wish she didn't overuse to close out the song. We get every gritty detail of how this went down, and it makes listening to Betty even more satisfying, speaking of which: 2. Betty This is an instant classic now, its peak story telling and writing, its a mostly stripped back ballad about how James just wants to make it up to Betty, however he makes a terrible excuse of saying which sums up to boys will be boys. The storytelling is on par with songs like Love Story and Blank Space, where we get to see his personal experiences in small details of going past her house, to her personal reaction towards this confession and similar to Love Story, the chord change signifies a happy ending to a story line I was invested in my entire listen of this record. This feels like an actual country song, I have a little doubt with Lover & Soon You'll Get Better in production issues, its nice to hear it on the radio, its gradually getting streamed more and her ACM return boosted sales a lot and it's rising bit by bit on the country chart, out of all the songs like I Hope, The Bones and 10,000 Hours, which say #1 for over 10 weeks, why can't this one do it as well? But while I adore this song there is one more I think takes it over the top. 1. Illicit Affairs This song brings out everything I love about her songwriting, details I normally wouldn't hear, like being flushed after getting back, unique word play like clandestine meetings, we see both James' and the unknown girls thought process while in the affairs, what they plan to do to avoid being seen, and how in the end this will end badly for both of them, this is my 2nd favorite bridge in her long line of songs, with Lover taking the top spot, the build up to this produced so well, every crescendo to me implies them getting more and more distant as this month long affair progresses. We see the impact James has had on her, and how it destroyed her, and he came out of this cleaner than she did, all she had was him and he abandoned her. I'd either put this at #2 or #1 for my favorite song of 2020 regardless of genre, if you haven't listened, do it right now, and you'll see why, I hope this and the record get nominated for a Grammy, even if Cardigan gets the song nomination, this record is a return to form on so many levels and it bursts with quality, and songs like Illicit Affairs show that quality on full display.
2020.09.25 23:23 antikarma98Breakfast at the Diner — #18
I arrive at the diner later than usual, because this morning I fell asleep while getting dressed. It was still dark out when I sat down, pulled socks onto my feet, and suddenly there was sunlight and an hour had passed. I'm shaking my head, just remembering it. Hope I have time enough to grow accustomed to being old. ♦ ♦ ♦ This is the latest I've arrived in years, so I'm wondering if the diner's cast of characters will be different, and it is, mostly. Again, there's no Fixture on the front stool, but maybe he's already had breakfast and left? Bouffant-Walker is at the back of the counter, which makes sense; he usually comes in about half an hour after me, so he'll be finishing shortly. There are two old white guys I don't recognize at the counter, another old white guy alone at a table in the front, and two more old white guys at a table in the back. It's Old White Guy Day at the diner, and I'm the seventh. Bob is cooking this morning! He's the old white guy who owns this place. Picture Lou Grant, but grumpier and wearing a sweatshirt instead of a tie. Pre-2020 he was in the kitchen about half the times I ate at the diner, but I've rarely seen him since the virus came and kicked 'normal' out of town. Bob sees me enter and slightly tips his head, a mini-nod, and then he's again looking at the grill. I may have blushed. For Bob, that tiny nod is the equivalent of a hearty handshake and a clap on the back. I strategize a stool at the counter, as far as feasible from all the other old white guys. My habit at the diner is to take notes on the more interesting conversations overheard, but I'd never complain if there were no conversations at all, except perhaps for a few words with Kirstin, the waitress. She's usually smiley and chatty, but in a way that's inexplicably not annoying. She tells me the daily special, as usual, but as usual I order my usual instead. ♦ ♦ ♦ A young black woman walks in, and even with half her face hidden behind a mask, the first thing I notice is that she's very pretty. Like, she belongs on a TV show, not in this dumpy little diner. Second thing I notice is that she has a baby with her, in a bassinet with a wicker handle. The baby, of course, is not wearing a mask. There's no way to keep a mask on a baby's face, something I'd never pondered until this moment. Kirstin takes the woman's order, and goo-goo gaw-gaws the baby. That's usually a female thing, but if I was closer I might be susceptible too. The kid is dang adorable, and though he/she could start crying at any moment, it's our lucky morning and the baby remains cute and quiet. A flurry of thoughts flood across the dry prairies of my brain. I risk my life to have this omelet every Friday while a pandemic rages, because I don't think the risk is all that huge, and because it's my choice. Who the hell knows about other people's lives, other people's choices? I can't and won't judge, but it feels worrisome to bring a baby into this place, while masks are required, seating is limited by law, and everyone still flinches when anyone coughs. I'm still not judging but a few minutes later, it turns out that this lady's order is to go. Bag in one hand, bassinet in the other, she butt-bumps her way out the door. ♦ ♦ ♦ Two more old men come in, one black, one white, and they sit together at a table. They're buddies, and I've seen them together in the diner before. They get coffees and menus and talk about their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which surprises me. They're old, but I wouldn't have guessed they were that old. They've brought family or vacation pictures, not on a device but in an old-fashioned scrapbook, which they're showing to Kirstin, who's either interested or expertly faking it. After looking at several pictures, she assumes the classic take-order position, pen in hand, and says, "Are you guys eating this morning?" "Yeah, it's still a restaurant, right?" says one of the grandfathers. "Nope, we're a tattoo parlor now," she says. "You order breakfast, we ink it on your arm." ♦ ♦ ♦ Two women come in together, and sit together at the counter. They're middle-aged, which makes them the youngest people in the building. From what I can eavesdrop, my impression is that they're longtime friends who haven't seen each other for a while. Whatever happened to this person?, and Did you hear about that person?, and so on. Their otherwise dull dialogue briefly snags my attention when one asks, "So, are you for Biden?" "Oh, God, no," says the other. "There's nothing in that man to be 'for', but he's not Trump so I'm voting for Biden." They both laugh, and I smile. Perhaps there's hope. ♦ ♦ ♦ Later on, though, another old white man is yakking with yet another old white man at the counter, and that conversation is decidedly stupider. "I don't care about Trump's politics," says what I fear is a typical American voter, "but he pisses off all the people I hate, so I love him." "Biden makes more sense when he's talking about the pandemic," says the other old guy. "Or about anything. I'm voting for Biden." "Not me," says the first guy. "Biden is a damned socialist." "Oh, for fuck's sake" I say, surprising myself. I'm staring right at him and I've said the words a little too loudly. "Was I talking to you?" the old guy says, fists clenched all tough-like. I snicker, not because I'm brave or itching for a fight, but because he's a frail-looking elderly dullard, not the rowdy ruffian he seems to imagine himself. If he was young and buff, hey, I would've said nothing to him all morning, but here's an approximation of the man who's shaking his fist at me. "No, you weren't talking to me, but when you say something stupid loud enough to be heard...", and I shrug ¯\_(⊙_ʖ⊙)_/¯ instead of finishing my sentence. The shrug seems to calm him, and maybe it calms me too. I then make a brief, clumsy, and futile attempt to explain what socialism is, to someone who thinks it's a synonym for 'bad'. "So you're a socialist?" he says to me, and I give up. "I'm someone who knows what the word means." Any undecided voters reading this? Let me reassure you that Biden would not nationalize General Motors and Bank of America. ♦ ♦ ♦ After Kirstin brings breakfast to Salt & Pepper, they show her more pictures from Salt's family album. From her response to some of the photos, it seems she knows the whole family, and just as I'm wondering about that, Pepper explains it. "Well, of course," he says, "we've been coming to this diner since before Shep was born." I don't know who or what Shep is or was, but I reckon it means they've been eating here for a long time, and Pepper explains that as well. "Since the '80s, I think." Salt says to Kirstin, "That's even before you were working here." "Was there a time before I worked here? I thought I was born and raised in this restaurant." ♦ ♦ ♦ My breakfast, of course, is fantastic. It's always fantastic, but it's even better when it's made by Bob the Breakfast-Builder himself. Did he maybe make my portions a little larger, because I'm a little larger, and usually I'm not obnoxious? I glance at him in the kitchen as I write this, and he looks up, so I return his miniature nod from forty minutes ago. I leave my money and tip on the counter, under my empty coffee cup, and slip the mask onto my face. "Thanks," I say to Kirstin, and "Adios" to the Ancient Republican. I'm almost out the door when Kirstin yells, "Hey, Ted, do you want your magazine?" "Uh, yeah." I want my magazine. How could I forget my magazine? All my notes are all over it, written in flamboyant pink on any page with ads or excess white space — pink, just because I happened to bring a crazy pen this morning. So if anyone flipped through my New Yorker, pink words would shout everything everyone had said and done at the diner, as I ate my eggs. Fact is, I'm basically stealing words and sentences and conversations from all the strangers and staff at the diner. It probably isn't right, but it's fun so what the hell. Can't believe I almost forgot the magazine. At least I didn't fall asleep, though.
I'm a grumpy old man who lives alone and has few friends — basically a hermit. Once a week I have breakfast at my favorite diner. Most weeks it's my only in-person interaction with other humans, which is not my strong suit. Yeah, I'm aware of the coronavirus, so I go to the diner at dawn, before it gets busy. I wash my hands before and after, cough into my elbow, spray Lysol on my food, pay at my plate, tell the waitress to keep the change, and hold my breath while leaving until I'm outside. It's a little more dangerous than staying at home, but life would suck without breakfast at the diner, so get off my lawn. And remember, decent people leave a generous tip.
2020.09.25 23:16 MrPotato2753Long Time Star Trek Fan Finally Watches Voyager: Season Six Episodes 3-6
Barge of the Dead: why does Tuvok have a batleth in his quarters? For a moment there I didn’t see Tuvok, I saw Tim Russ being a nerd and playing Klingon with a batleth and I am smiling so hard. It was supposed to be such a serious scene but I didn’t see the character. B’Elanna curly hair is stunning. It makes her makeup look more natural to me. I absolutely love the doctor and Seven singing Klingon drinking songs. I know I say that a lot but one of my all time favourite Star Trek scenes is Miles and Julian singing that song about the crusades when they were super drunk (someone told me the name of it at the time). But I’m the kind of person who sings drinking songs sober. Ao I get really into that. It’s my actual favourite thing. Oh B’Elanna is just going to go do this anyway if Janeway doesn’t let her. It’s always B’Elanna in the hospital bed and Tom fawning over her. Also why was she on that away mission alone in the first place? Here’s the thing about Voyager. I wouldn’t have liked this episode. Nothing really happened, B’Elanna is still having the same internal struggle, and we’ve seen it before. Except her mother added a new dimension to it, and it suddenly hit close to home. And the way she woke up and asked if Janeway was her mother and hugged her... I nearly cried. I mean the actual barge of the dead was corny to me. It felt very Bajoran prophets to me (which if you’ve been following me for awhile you’d know I’m not a fan of). But hearing B’Elanna blame her mother when it wasn’t necessarily her mother’s fault, and having that argument with herself, was very intense. It wasn’t just rejecting her Klingon side, because we’ve seen that before, it was those arguments about her family and whose fault it is. Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy: this is one of someone’s favourite episodes (feel free to call yourself out you’ve told me this twice and I still forget your username) and I’m excited. The title is intriguing. Is Tuvok crying? To be fair the doctor’s opera is quite beautiful. What an odd holoprogram to write. Oh it wasn’t even a real program. Okay I’m not going to lie his first couple of fantasies made me kind of mad. He was just super arrogant. He is the chief medical officer! If that’s not good enough for you, acting captain isn’t going to be either. He was imagining situations where Janeway was dead or severely injured so he could take over. Not to mention imagining all the women fawning over him. Like the opera one wasn’t that bad. But the rest was pretty terrible. I think the episode improves as the doctor actually takes pretend command. He suddenly understands that command requires more than just sitting in a chair and being a hero. That said his performance when he gets his footing is super awkward. I didn’t like this as much as I think you guys did. I just missed the humor and it was kind of awkward for me. I wish we had a B story to break this up. I suppose we had the alien guy trying not to lose his job. Alice: I had a lot of fun when Tom and Harry were trying to guess Tuvok’s age. I want more Tuvok! Chakotay you do not have a full compliment of shuttles left. You’ve destroyed them all four times over and I don’t even know how many you started with. I love that the field medic shouts “I got a pulse,” when he got the ship started. Oh the ship’s gonna be sentient isn’t it...? When you see a strange woman on the ship, why not tap the com badge and shout intruder alert? I have seen this plot before, it’s strikingly familiar. The first thing that came to mind was the Twilight Zone episode From Agnes, With Love. Awe I’m not a hugger but I want to give Tom a hug. I liked this episode a lot. It was simple, no lasting consequences (except emotionally for Tom). But it was a really solid one-off story. And it left us open to some really cute moments for Tom and B’Elanna. Riddles: I about jumped out of my skin when they panned to Tuvok sitting up. Neelix was very sweet in this episode. I do wish we had seen a little more give from Tuvok in the end, that he had been a little more changed. Maybe he does end up enjoying baking or champagne. They did take something from him when they repaired the damage although I do think it was the right thing to do. In this case I believe there was reason to believe he wasn’t mentally able to make the decision to refuse treatment. And I do think that, were he mentally sound, he would prefer to be “more Vulcan.” He tried to do the emotional thing, and decided he didn’t like it. That’s how he found his way back to Star Fleet. That said I also kind of like that he came out mostly unchanged because it bothers me a little when the shows constantly harp on their Vulcans trying to make them more human. Vulcan isn’t bad it’s just not human.
2020.09.25 23:09 LovetheangelshadowSplinterbark: For My Entertainment CH 11
Chapter 11: Devils, Tigers, and Secrets
Shelly was having her knee wrapped up that evening by her mother. She had lost control of her skates and had collided into the barrier wall of the rink resulting in a slight sprain in her leg. Thomas was seated uncomfortably in the Holmes’ living room as he watched. Shelly had actually caught on to the basics pretty quickly, but then decided to push herself by going faster despite Thomas trying to tell her to ease up. It did not help a couple of his buddies from the roller derby club kind of riled her up by going circles past her. With her already in a self-depreciating mood thanks to Reed, it was easy to make her try to catch up. Not being able to handle faster speeds, she crashed hard. As president of the club, he was going to have a few choice words with them next meeting. Frix grumbled and clutched his knee yelling about how much in agony he was in even though Shelly was the only one who could see and hear him. If she did not want to seem like a lunatic, she would have right then and there chastised him reminding the imp that he encouraged her to speed faster and try and beat them. He had even started calling her a few choice words when she had started to lag behind. Vivian had completed her first aid and offered Thomas a snack since it was getting late. She could even drive him and his bike home with the second company truck since it was getting dark or call his parents. “No, I’m good, Mrs. Holmes. Mom is probably on her way to work right now anyway.” “And your father?” Thomas paused and swallowed hard. This was the first time Shelly had really seen him even look crestfallen even if it was just for a flash. She did not appear to be the only one who caught his glint of discomfort at the question. “Oh. Would you at least care for something to eat before you go? Sam is cooking tonight.” “No I…I really need to get home. I got to have dinner ready for mom when she gets home. I appreciate it though. Maybe some other time.” When Thomas and his vehicle had disappeared around the bend, Shelly asked her mother an offbeat question. “Hey mom, do you know a Mrs. Altamiri?” She mentioned that the woman asked if she was the daughter of someone named Vivian. Shelly said nothing about the less than pleased attitude the woman had when she confirmed it. “Lenora Altamiri…I haven’t had personal connections with that name in almost fifteen years.” “So you know her?” “Used to be friends. Truth be told though I haven’t talked to her since her second son was born. We…had an unpleasant disagreement. Oh right, you’re classmates with her younger son right? What was his name again? Rodger. Ramses?” “It’s Reed, mom.” Shelly giggled. At the dinner table Arthur was scrolling through his phone despite Vivian telling him several times to put it away. “They just filed a missing person’s report on Nathanial Ronder. Hey, isn’t the guy a producer at the station, hon?” “He shouldn’t have even had that position after the fire incident. I’m amazed Madame Tink has been able to keep face after that”, Vivian grumbled. “I wished she lost her face that day”, Arthur snarled. Shelly asked Sam what they were talking about and Sam just shrugged. It sounded like it was something that happened long before he came to Cadric City. Arthur stood up from the table and went into the living room. When he came back, he had his old red leather-bound photo album with him. Shelly had seen the book before. Her father had a way of keeping newspaper clippings of local crimes/mysteries that interested him from a bizarre larceny spree to monster sightings in Cadric Park. She had only seen the book once or twice to memory because Vivian forbade him to do it. He opened to a page where a singular article had been pressed inside the clear sleeves. The headline read “Ronder Bailey Circus Fire Spectacular a Blaze of Death”. The largest picture was the charred interior of the Cadric Arena’s second stage. The photos underneath were less than pleasant and he turned the book away from his daughter before she got a good look. Vivian complained at this but then said there was no use dodging the question his daughter was itching to ask. “There was a fire at the last show of the Ronder Circus because one of the final acts went horribly wrong. I was there when it happened. Protestors led by Madame Tink had barged in and distracted one of the performers. The blaze nearly consumed the whole building. By the time they got the fire under control, both sections of the arena’s interiors were practically burned out.” Sam folded his arms and nodded. “I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before. These kinds of events are like throwing a stone into a still pond. The ripples have consequences.” “Consequences by eye. Madame Tink barely got a slap on the wrist. Sure Ronder went under the radar for a while…hey didn’t you have a pal who investigated the fire say that the reason the fire was as bad as it was because of safety violations?” Arthur inquired. “You mean Julian Wyrmglade? Yea I think so. But I don’t believe it ever got published publically before he retired. His notes might still be in the vault though. He used to keep copies of his notes down there.” Shelly began tapping on her chin. She was now remembering that she had this conversation with her parents before. Though this was the first time of her ever hearing the name Julian. Maybe Thomas or Mr. Blackbird knew? It still did not help unless she knew the captives could be held. Once dinner was done, Shelly excused herself to bed early under the excuse of being tired after the midterms. There was something she had to look in to later that night. The fastest way to get through to the Cadric City News building was the well-lit Feronia trail in Cadric Park. After hoping onto the light rail station near her house, Splinterbark hoped off at the Garden Station and peddled her bike hard through the well-worn trail. She was starting to be thankful for that six month public transportation pass the Valdus Academy had her mother pay. Frix still grumbled that they should have a proper vehicle for transport around this city. Well it was not like she could fly like Silver and Jinn or have a super jump like Hunter. She texted Blackbird if he knew anything about a Julian Wyrmglade or where the station would keep their archives. She didn’t expect to get a response-but with three people now kidnapped by Prism Beak and that freaky clown character- she had little time to dawdle. Useless was she? She was going to show that blonde brute just how useless she was. Wait that did not come out right in her head. Frix agreed with her. She did not need the Silver Guardian. Just the two of them could be the perfect team. Splinterbark paused for a breather just outside the stone archway that marked the entrance to the Feronia Gardens. The low stonework fence had been heavily marked off with police tape though she did not see an officer in sight. A tug of curiosity pulled her steering close to the signpost and she walked inside. The doors of the atrium were still half open and much of the mess left behind from the party was still around. Splinterbark pulled a flashlight from her belt and scanned around. Her light fell to a pile of burnt ash and confetti. She remembered this was where the clown had disappeared with Madame Tink. She knelt down and saw that the ash had stuck to a clear set of footprints. The ground around them was still sticky too. Frix hovered low to the ground and commented the dirt smelled both smoky and sweet at the same time. The dust around was a fine powder that reminded her of old brick walls she used to help her father repair. The pair then heard something clatter towards the back of the main auditorium. Alone in the dark the echoes seemed to increase in volume and Splinterbark thought she felt it against her chest. Frix muttered that they should leave while they still could. For once, her impish partner actually made a good idea. She did not have time to investigate every mysterious noise-not when she had a deadline to reach. After all, they were really only in this spot for a breather. She had to get to the news building and find those notes. She had barely turned her foot towards the door when something burst out from the back doors of the main gallery. It was large and was sliding on all fours in her direction. Something else was following the massive thing that had just glided past her. This smaller shape’s armor gleamed in the moonlight and she could see two shimmering violet eyes behind a visor. “Heya pixie!” Hunter chirped as he bounded past her to keep up with the dark creature he was chasing. The thing was trying to make it out the door until a crimson haze surrounded them and slammed them shut. The thing skidded to a halt and snarled at its pursuers. Splinterbark tried to squint to see just what it was Hunter and Jinn were fighting. In the excitement, she had dropped her flashlight and it rolled across the room. Her plan was to grab the light and maybe she could make it out the back. Frix whined that they could stay and fight this thing. “Hunter doesn’t want us to interfere with his monster stuff again, remember. And once more, we don’t have time!” Splinterbark finally had her hand on the flashlight and held it low until she could find one of the two doors that led to the employee areas. Behind her she could hear Hunter teasing the roaring beast and the sound of the flooring scratching under its numerous claws. She knew she should have run, but inquisitiveness wanted to see what they were fighting. A quick peek wouldn’t hurt. Splinterbark gingerly turned her flashlight over towards the main wooden doors. At first all she saw as something black with dark purple stripes that seem to melt and shift over its oozy black fur. Hunter, as before, was actively jumping about and antagonizing the thing as much as he could get away with before even trying to strike back himself. Jinn was just trying to keep him from getting killed as each taunt the beast gotten ever closer to the bouncing beetle. Hunter managed to slide skid around the monster as it had nearly pinned him to the wall and jerked hard on its long serpentine tail. This cased the thing to turn its head almost completely around and the face shone right into the beam of Splinterbark’s flashlight. The face was that of a tiger. Half of its face had been slashed thanks to Hunter and vicious onyx fluid was steadily dripping from the open wound on its cheek. Somehow light irritated the beast even more so than the terrible puns of the devil and it completely ignored Hunter as it bounded full force towards Splinterbark. At first the pink pixie had her bat in hand ready to smack it down but as it was almost upon her, she froze. The image of the other tiger from earlier began to burn in her mind. The memory of its hot breath on her face and watching it screech in agony as bullets riddled its body took precedent of any instinct of survival. Her whole body went numb with terror and she fell to her knees with her head covered in her hands. She let out a scream and there were a series of sudden explosions surrounding them. The main wooden doors and the two service doors burst into shards. Hunter yanked Jinn to the ground and covered her in his cape as the shards seemed to hover for a brief moment in the air before streaking across the theatre and stabbing the beast in the legs and sides. The thing just missed her as it landed just to her side and then broke though one of the glass panels to escape out into the park. Frix blinked at just what his partner had done. Had he miscalculated the extent of what magic he had left? He tried to praise Splinterbark, and yet she did not respond. She was just sitting there on her knees and her arms crossed tightly against her chest. Splinterbark was staring straight forward at the ground and muttering incoherent ramblings about tigers and trying to escape. Hunter stormed over to where she was slumped as he was picking shards out of his cape. “Hey, Pixie! I thought I made it clear for you to stay out of my way! Pixie? Splinterbark?” Splinterbark had not moved-not even the slightest hint of acknowledgement he was even there. It was as if she was stuck in place of that memory and she couldn’t break out of it. Hunter shook her by the shoulder, but not even that got a reaction. He inhaled deeply through his nose and then began to undo one of the straps on the battle gauntlet of his right hand. He was about to place his bare hand on her shoulder when Jinn gripped it and held it back. “Hunter…you promised.” “Would you rather we leave her like this?” Jinn was a bit astounded by this remark. There was no sneering, no arrogant jest, or smugness in his voice. There was genuine concern in those words-something she did not think he had been capable of especially with knowing just what he was about to do. She let go of his wrist and took a step back much to Hunter’s own bewilderment. Hunter gripped Splinterbark’s shoulder and began to inhale and exhale slowly. A dark colored smog began to outline Splinterbark’s body. It swirled and churned, becoming thicker and thicker until she was practically cocooned in it denser than a London fog. As quickly as it built up it began to creep up Hunter’s arm and became absorbed into his skin. When the smoke finally cleared from both their bodies he exhaled with satisfaction; like taking a long drink from a cool slush drink on a hot July afternoon. There was a slight smile on his face and Jinn gripped her staff tightly as she watched. Splinterbark’s once ridged body relaxed and she almost fell on her face if Hunter hadn’t caught her. Once he had gently laid her down he cupped his bare hand over his mouth as he began to make terrible gurgling noises in his throat. He hacked up several times until he vomited a black pellet onto the palm of his hand. Small bits of ooze were dripping from the corners of his mouth as he filled his lungs again with air. He started at the pellet like he had other intentions with it before thrusting his palm towards Jinn and holding it out for her to take it from him. Jinn uneasily took the pellet and shoved it in her bag to dispose of it later. “You chose not to devour her terror”, she stated as a matter of fact even if she still did not fully believe it. Hunter casually shrugged and that smug attitude plastered itself right back in his expression. “Got no reason to. And you want me to be a good little bug, don’t ya witchy-poo?” Frix had been watching silently and intently this whole time. This boy…he was a… “Where did the tiger go? Why do I suddenly feel drained?” Splinterbark uneasily stood up though she still wobbled in her stance. “Well you did blow up like three doors. Since when could you do telepathy?” Hunter interjected quickly. Splinterbark rubbed the back of her head. “Telepathy? What are you talking about? I remember the tiger coming at me and the sound of a crash, but nothing after that. The tiger! What happened to the monster?” Jinn tched and pointed at the big hole in the glass pane. “Where do you think? Thanks to you, we have extra work tonight!” Splinterbark tried to cover her shocked expression but it was futile. She cupped her head in her hands and quaked. “Oh no…oh no oh no oh no. I messed up! I screwed up again! Silver was right! I shouldn’t be doing this!” She was shaking as she called herself stupid, idiot, among other names. “Splinter!” both Frix and Hunter shouted which made her stop. Hunter had his hands on his hips as he loomed over her. “What did that blonde feather duster say to you?!” Jinn tugged on Hunter’s horns. “Hunter, we do not have time for this. We have a big cat loose in Cadric Park, in case you forgot.” “But…” “Let’s go, Hunter! We’re losing nighttime thanks to her!” Splinterbark mumbled that he should go after the beast before it caused more damage. Hunter seemed reluctant to do so, but he followed his partner though the now very open front door. Splinterbark shuffled towards her bike. She really did feel lethargic even though the night was still relatively young. She could hear the big clock from downtown chime the ninth hour in the distance. Frix reminded her that they still had a mission. How could they prove themselves if they gave up now? Splinterbark hesitated to follow his suggestion but they might as well. They were almost there anyway. Two blocks later Splinterbark and Frix were at the corner of the news studio. Frix asked her if they were going to sneak in the same way as before. She was about to confirm when Frix noted that he thought he saw a car looking much like the one he had seen her mother drive. Splinterbark confirmed with the license plate. Her mother was pulling into the parking garage underground. But why would her mother be here? Vivian rarely ever worked the night shift or responded to late night emergency stints. Her mother was not a night person. Splinterbark hurried across the street and stayed within the shadow that her mother’s pickup truck cast on the wall. Finally she saw her mother digging for her pass key for the employee door. Vivian then paused and said, “I know you’re there, Splinterbark. Pink is not exactly a stealth color.” Splinterbark stepped out sheepishly with her hook at the ready just in case her mother decided to call security or something. Vivian sighed as she pulled out her employee card. “Researching”, she asked finally. Despite still feeling a bit faint and her knee still stinging as heck, Splinterbark forced herself to stand up tall and declare that she felt there was pattern to the attacks by Prism Beak and his unnamed partner. “So, you’re not the only one. But what brings you here?” “Not everything is on the internet?” Splinterbark remarked with a joking shrug. Vivian rolled her eyes and motioned for her to follow and follow close. The two headed directly to the elevator to head down to the archives. The two were silent as the elevator descended deeper underneath the building. Splinterbark was just hoping that her mother did not recognize her at close quarters. Granted her helmet covered her entire head including her hair and her outfit was a bit padded as to not appear as demure; it still did not ease the awkwardness she was feeling right now. If her mother showed any recognition-she did a very good job as hiding it. At last after two agonizing minutes they reached their floor. The archives was housed in a cement block just barely illuminated by yellow prosperous lighting. Rows and rows of track cabinets lined the walls with a few tables and chairs in the center. The furniture looked like it might as well have been from the city’s founding how old and slightly cracked they looked. “What we’re looking for is going to be from 2006 between the months of June and August under the name of Wyrmglade. A lot of Julian’s research notes got scattered down here after he retired. Ready?” An hour had passed as the two Holmes’ looked row upon now, shoving the track shelves aside as they perused through months and years trying to find the one thing they needed. As they searched, Vivian attempted awkward small talk with the girl, but there was little she could get Splinterbark to talk about. She was starting to wonder how this was the same girl who fought against Metilla Gorilla on her own until help arrived just a few weeks ago. Then again with her employers practically painting them with the same brush as the bad guys, she couldn’t blame her. “Hey! I think I found it”, Splinterbark declared, perhaps a little too loudly. Vivian had to shush her and stared at the entry door. Thankfully almost no one really came down here in the last decade. The file Splinterbark had located was a thick folder bound with rubber bands with a stamp not too unlike the insignia she had seen at Valdus Academy. Underneath printed neatly was “Ronder Bailey Circus-Fire Incident: July 2006-Julian Wyrmglade”. They placed it on the table and the rubber bands practically dissolved in their hands as they slipped them off. Inside was a series of paper notes yellowed with age along with photographs, newspaper clippings, and plastic bags labeled “Interviews” marked in sharpie. **** They were not the only ones looking at similar information. Bruce Phyrus was sitting alone in his office with a police folder in front of him. The archives staff made it very clear in a fifteen minute monologue how irritating it had been to find something so specific. Bruce managed to placate them with the sizeable box of donuts he had promised as payment. Sierra had gone home an hour before as she could barely keep awake without slumping face first on her keyboard and snoring loudly. She had been up a good portion of last night investigating the crime scene at Feronia Gardens and even backtracked to LeBatte Industries. Her efforts were not very successful unfortunately only managing to dig up what the already knew. She hadn’t exactly been on her usual track since catching Splinterbark last night. Bruce told her she better take a good long rest first before doing anything crazy. He brought up the Tyrannosaurus Ivanka incident and she groaned that it was “only one time”. Both laughed afterwards as she left the office. Some of the records were photocopies from notes with the signature Julian Wyrmglade. He recalled working with the reporter several times in the past before he retired from Cadric News moved to Oracle City for reasons never known. It took some doing to get all the records in order. Julian never did have a logical organization system. There had been a massive fire on opening night for the Ronder Bailey Circus. Officially the report stated that it had been a stunt gone wrong. The circus company had been proved to have had inadequate fire safety precautions. 40 audience members had died in the fire while most of the circus troupe had been killed as the bulk of the fire had taken place in the second stage area. Eyewitness reports stated that someone had shouted at the peak of the stunt and several described a woman matching Madame Tink’s description. According to Julian’s notes, the show had a safety inspection before the show and had been approved by Fredrick Bringer. Julian had noted that Fredrick had an influx of income for a while suspecting bribery from the Ronder Company. Madame Tink had also been investigated by the police but neither she nor Ronder had been brought to trial for some reason. The rest of the notes was mostly speculation and what evidence had been collected was not enough for sufficient cause. **** Splinterbark pulled out some of the photos of people running out of the burning building. She recognized three of the faces in one of the snapshots. It was her mother, father, and Mrs. Altamiri. In Mrs. Altamiri’s arms was a blonde kid with burns on his back. He looked a lot like Reed, but she knew it wasn’t as this child was at least seven or eight years of age. Reed had only just turned sixteen before the beginning of the school year. She had asked Thomas on a whim one day. Perusing the rest of the images, both Vivian and Splinterbark saw Ronder far outside the building just standing there-like he was just watching. Further notes showed that the Ronder circus had been faltering for some time now dealing with the changing times and a few unpleasant rumors about Ronder himself. “Hmm I think I get why the clown guy would kidnap these people. But what would he intend to do with them? There hasn’t been any ransom and so far no dead bodies”, Splinterbark mused. She thought how Silver had not been able to locate them for three days. “Maybe in the Underground? There is still a lot of places down there not exactly charted”, Vivian offered. It was a possibility Splinterbark thought, but it could take months or even years to find them. And something did not feel right. She thought about the fine dust mixed with soot that had been stuck to her uniform. Suddenly Vivian’s phone buzzed a gong sound and a news flash appeared on her screen. She had her phone set to Cadric City’s News App that alerted her to breaking news. When she pressed the home screen a video started playing. The video was live as everyone looking at a phone, computer, or television screen tuned to the news was now looking at a red curtain with an off-screen stereo playing a brass band march. A few minutes passed before a masked clown popped up in front of the screen and twirled his cane. “Greetings, Cadric City! We interrupt your daily complaining to bring you this special news bulletin! A once in a lifetime performance. A conclusion to a story certain people would like to see buried.” The clown pulled back the curtain with Fredrick Bringer, Madame Tink, and Nathanial Ronder tied to theatre seats and bound and gagged. The clown then turned the camera back to them. “What have these people done to await such judgement? Tune in one hour, ladies and gents. Grab the popcorn because the show is really going to get fired up.” Then the curtain fell back again and a timer appeared in front counting down the minutes. Bruce had just finished watching in the break room when he heard someone talking to the chief. They were attempting to trace the signal of the broadcast right now, but it could take time. Somehow the signal was all over the place making it hard to pinpoint. Bruce dialed Sierra’s number, but did not get a response. She might have been still asleep for all he knew. Or she forgot to charge her phone again. He grabbed his keys and headed out the door. Something in the video’s background gave him an idea where he might find the clown. Splinterbark scrubbed the video several times since someone managed to upload it online. She was starting to out the pieces together and told Vivian she had to hurry. Vivian offered to call the police but then thought against it. Knowing Foxwell, the police could very well go after the super girl and not the kidnapper. Splinterbark hurried onto her bike and sped to the outer edges of downtown. Frix questioned aloud if she was going to call Reed. Splinterbark had her finger over Reed’s contact and the shoved her phone back into her pouch. They could do this without that foul tempered angel.
Book 1 of The HEL Jumper Book 2 of The HEL Jumper ----- PreviousFirstPatreon Thanks to Big_Papa_Dakky, Darth_Android, bloblob, AMERICUH, The_Real_Jumper, Mr_Polygon, Krystalin, Damned_Thrice, Mamish, Vikairious, Sam_Berry, RedHawkdude, KillTech, LilLaussa, Daddy_Talon, Gruecifer, Gaelan_Darkwater, Konrahd_Verdammt, red-shirt, DaPorkchop, Benjamin Durbin, and everyone supporting me on patreon. ----- A/N: releasing early because I could not share this chapter with the beta readers, because I want to share my April Patreon One Shot with you all here. It is HEL-Verse but contains no humans so it can't stand alone as a post. Finally, I wanted this chapter to drop as soon as it was ready so that I can set about the process of responding to its content and turning my new house into a home. My wife and I have quite a bit to do, and I appreciate your patience. I hope this will tide you over until the next chapter, even if I need to postpone until the 11th. Thank you all for your understanding. Please enjoy. ----- “So this god of yours, you simply refer to him as ‘God’?” Thantis asked from where he was seated in an armless rolling chair in one of the Event Horizon’s many laboratories. With him were Monsieur and Madame Dupuis, the both of whom considered spending time with the elderly Cauthan much more of a treat than a chore. Of course, Natori Kaczynski was thankful for the favor. “Oui, mon ami,” Gerard confirmed, knowing the translator in Thantis’ ear would be fine with rudimentary French. The conversation was a welcome distraction as he reviewed the ongoing analysis of the various Cauthan blood samples generously provided by the villagers. “He is God, a single entity, though many cultures call him by another name such as Allah or Yahweh. They all refer to the same, omnipotent deity.” Thantis took some time to consider the concept while Gerard reviewed a rudimentary rendering of the Cauthan blood protein responsible for oxygen transport. Yvonne smiled warmly at him as he tapped his cane on the metal floor. "If I may, Yvonne." "You don't need to be so formal, Thantis. We've already broken bread together, so to speak," she said. "Of course. But this God of yours, do you pray to him as we do our gods?" "We do," Yvonne affirmed. "So a farmer in his field would pray to this God for rain?" "If he were so inclined," Yvonne answered. "Or clear skies, or a fine harvest." Thantis nodded. "And a smith at his forge?" "Same God," Gerard confirmed over his shoulder. "And warriors about to do battle?" the Cauthan asked with ever increasing disbelief. "Oh you have no idea," Yvonne chuckled. "It would take an eon to number all the humans who have been killed in religious wars between nations who all profess to believe in the same God. The question was always who was right." "And who won?" Thantis asked eagerly. "The conflict is still ongoing, though our weaponry has reached the point that open, organized conflict would lead to the destruction of all sides. The three major monotheistic religions of Earth all remain intact," Gerard explained. "Is that so? I should very much like to meet this God and understand his reasons for pitting his people against one another," Thantis mused. “If they are all still standing that would imply they all have his favor… or that their god does not exist. I mean no offense, of course, I am simply mulling over this curious situation.” "We don’t know the truth any more than you do, Thantis. But there is a saying in the Bible, the holy text of one of these religions, that God gave man free will. Who is to say who the responsible party is in the end?" Yvonne posited. "But there are many religions of Earth beyond those three. Some people still worship multiple gods, others worship spirits or ancestors. No one knows who is 'correct' though, as you might imagine, most who do worship insist they have the right of it." "I see. It would be so strange to only worship Seil but I am not human. Perhaps it would make more sense to me then. May I ask which people worship Io? Are there other spirits like her?" the Cauthan wondered eagerly. Yvonne and Gerard looked at one another, at a bit of a loss. “Thantis, Io is not-” Gerard began before sitting straight up in his chair and stroking his well-groomed moustache thoughtfully. “No, it would be unwise of me to make claims as to exactly what she is, but she not… oh merde, this is distinction without meaning!” “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you so flustered, mon loup. Please don’t assault your moustache quite so vigorously though, I’ve taken a fancy to it after all these years,” Yvonne chuckled politely at her husband’s bewilderment. “I think all we can say is that Io is not a spirit, given that she was born from our technology, but we don’t know what she is. As my husband is exemplifying quite nicely for us, that’s hardly a satisfying conclusion.” ‘And do believe I intend to keep it that way,’ a confident voice in a thick, Germanic accent filled the room. ‘I know I’m supposed to announce myself but you set me up too well, Yvonne! Oh and who doesn’t love the idea of being a fly on the wall when you’re the topic of conversation? Welcome back to Maran orbit everyone. Thantis, so good to see you are well.’ Io concluded by co-opting a monitor hanging from the ceiling on an arm next to Gerard’s workstation. “Ah, spirit Io, a pleasure indeed! How is everyone back on Mara?” Thantis wondered. ‘I am with Russell and Veera at the Forge, but as of your departure two days ago all was well. Alice and Lachlan have been radio silent, which means no troubles I’m sure,’ she assured him. “Very good, thank you. It has been such an experience here aboard this vessel but I yearn for home,” the Cauthan said. ‘And you shall be delivered soon. As long as I have you here, may I make a request?’ Io’s question garnered the attention of all three in the room rather easily. ‘Tomorrow marks the anniversary, in humanity’s calendar, of the day Russell lost his ship and his crewmates… and the day he met Veera. Our dear Admiral has planned a small ceremony but I was hoping you might say a few words or honor them in your own way. Russell is very fond of your culture and I believe it would help ease his pain.’ Gerard and Yvonne glanced at one another with somber expressions while Thantis bowed his head. “It would be an honor, spirit Io. It’s been a long while since I visited the shrine he built for them. Such a peaceful scene it is, yes? An offering to Kel in exchange for their peace will be in order. Fret not, it shall be done. My apprentice will assist me.” ‘Thank you, both of you,’ Io replied earnestly. “But now let us move on to happier topics, if you don’t mind! Gerard, Yvonne, my friends, what have you been up to these last couple of days? Hmm, quite a bit it seems.” Io displayed herself leafing through files and folders, papers and databases, processing what data had been put together on Cauthan bloodwork. ‘Hmm, slightly less efficient than hemoglobin. Perhaps expected given the higher oxygen concentration in the atmosphere and a lower proclivity towards pursuit hunting.’ “Do go on, dear. Steal all my thunder while you’re at it,” Gerard ribbed her. Io looked Yvonne’s way. “Sarcasm, my dear.” ‘Yes right, of course… I knew that,’ Io replied in a mutter before clearing her throat. ‘Gerard, how about thundering with some information about this study here, hmm?’ “Ah, that one’s still a work in progress,” Gerard confirmed as he saw the project Io was speaking about pop up on his monitor. “It was Yvonne’s idea actually, a splendid one at that. The idea was to see if we could isolate an equivalent to human chorionic gonadotropin in Cauthan.” “Excuse me, Yvonne, but your mate appears to have suddenly begun speaking another language,” Thantis interjected with mild concern. Yvonne laughed delightedly and explained. “Not to worry, Thantis, that was simply the technical name for a chemical that pregnant human women produce. It’s part of a complicated system that prepares our bodies to support and carry a new life inside of us.” “Ah, thank you very much. Did you find one?” Thantis wondered. ‘Yes, did you?!’ Io piled on, her lab coat and clipboard making an appearance. Gerard sighed and pushed his own chair away from his desk. “We thought we had. Sequencing and examining a protein in detail takes some effort, but simply confirming a yes or no in terms of presence is quite effortless. It was easy to identify one such compound, which we tentatively labeled Cauhan gonadotropin analog, or CGA.” ‘So what was the problem?’ Io asked, settling herself down in her own chair. “We found the protein in Veera’s blood samples as well,” Yvonne explained. “And before you ask, we checked Gentia’s sample as well as the other samples from females who presented as not pregnant. Veera was the only anomaly, but it is one that we cannot ignore especially given what little we know of her background. We were hoping to obtain some more samples, get a broader picture of the Cauthan blood protein system. Do you think we could arrange for… Io? Are you still there, little light?” Thantis, Gerard, and Yvonne found themselves quite suddenly without their AI guest, who had, upon reviewing Gerard’s data, immediately beamed herself back down to Mara. She appeared on Winters’ visor with strands of hair hanging over her forehead and sweat dripping down the curve of her neck. ‘Permission to speak with you in private, sir.’ Russell, who was in the middle of the science camp, nodded and politely excused himself. Veera followed behind him and the two of them took Io’s ‘call’ together from the top of a nearby hill. “What’s going on, Io? Something wrong with the ship?” ‘No, but something strange is going on with your wife,’ Io cut straight to the chase. ‘And Veera, please do not be alarmed before we know more. If you feel in good health I am more than certain you are. It’s just that… something curious happened aboard the Event Horizon while we were gone.’ “You’re pretty damn good at saying a lot and nothing at the same time Io, spill it!” Russell demanded, suddenly agitated and angry. ‘I don’t appreciate that tone from you!’ she back talked him, cutting Veera out of the conversation. ‘If I tell you both what I think might have happened and I’m wrong… it would crush her. Just get her to the civilian medical center on the Event Horizon as quickly as you can. I will make all the necessary arrangements.’ “Russell?” Veera called his name nervously as a gust of wind billowed through the grasses around them and scattered the steam rising from far off pools of heated water. He shook his head and embraced her. “I’m sorry for getting angry. You’re fine, I promise. It’s just another one of Io’s crazy ideas, ok? She wants you to go up to the Event Horizon to speak with one of our healers. They found something interesting in your blood sample. And I emphasize interesting, not dangerous.” “That doesn’t make me feel much better, but alright. I trust you two,” Veera said quietly, holding him tightly. She was happy he didn’t have his armor on that day; his body heat was comforting. “Alright. Are you ready to go?” he asked, looking her over. She was wearing one of the dresses he’d made for her a year prior as well as a light cloak to ward off the wind that seemed to be picking up as the seasons changed on Mara. “Wait, right now?” “Yep, watch,” Russell requested, taking her by the hand and walking her back to the science camp. “Lieutenant Winters, something wrong?” Rodrigo Mendes queried, seeing the drawn look on the man’s face. “I hope not, Lance Corporal. I’m going to need to borrow Private Orlova and your shuttle, and I’m going to have to request that you dog sit for a few hours,” Russell explained, managing a tic of his lips in what passed for a smile at that moment. “The Event Horizon just got back in range for Io to touch base. She found something in the data logs about Veera, something about her bloodwork. I can’t say anymore.” “And I wouldn’t ask,” Mendes replied, touching a finger to his helmet and selecting Orlova’s channel with his eyes. “Private, we need a rapid ascent to the Event Horizon immediately.” “Yes sir,” Natalya acknowledged the orders, stashing one of her books in her footlocker, securing the container, and joining them outside a few moments later. “What’s the situation, Rodrigo?” “I need you to get Ms. Winters to one of the shuttle bays close to the bow of the ship, near as you can to the civilian hospital. Go now,” he commanded. Natalya looked from her commanding officer to her superior officer to Veera. Not a smile or soft expression could be found anywhere. She nodded, saluted, and began a remote activation of the shuttle’s engines. “Ms. Winters, if you could follow me please?” “Veera is fine,” the Cauthan replied, adjusting her cloak and heading towards the vehicle which was parked a few dozen yards from the encampment itself. Russell remained behind for a moment. “There’s a good chance he doesn’t even come back before we’re planetside again, but if he does, you can find his leash, muzzle, and various food for him at our camp, just over that hill there,” he pointed. Rodrigo nodded. “Requesting you go take care of your wife, sir. I’ll handle this,” the Brazilian assured him before activating his radio again. “Rex, Lipper, the Horizon is back in orbit. I want you two inside the facility to scout out our next point of study.” Russell nodded silently, appreciative of Mendes’ decision to engage his other two charges with something other than hanging around and wondering what the sudden burst of activity was about. “Thank you, Lance Corporal.” The two men saluted quickly and Russell jogged off to catch up with Natayla and Veera. The shuttle was off the ground mere moments after the main hatch and cockpit doors closed, rocketing off into the sky as Russell wrapped an arm around Veera’s shoulders and took her paw in the other, stroking her fur along the grain. “It’ll be alright, sweetie.” ----- “Not that there’s a problem, but do you think I could get ‘into the loop’, as they say?” Natori asked via intercom, speaking to Io, Gerard, Yvonne, and Thantis who had all relocated to one of the examination rooms in the civilian medical wing. Io had already arranged the equipment for Yvonne’s specialty by the time they’d arrived. “I believe we are all feeling the same way,” Gerard said. “Though we have not been acquainted for very long you don’t seem the type to overreact or lead others through deception, Io.” ‘Thank you, Gerard. For the moment the one person I least wish to deceive is Veera, but I will tell you all what I can as soon as- sorry, just give me a moment,’ Io requested, holding her heart in her hands and a book in another. ‘Let’s see, acetylcholine to reduce heart rate, parasympathetic nervous system, lower epinephrine and norepinephrine levels… ok, ok. Is this what people mean when they say things like the blood thundering if your ears or your heart drowning out everything else?’ “Are you well, Io?” Yvonne asked with more than a bit of concern in her voice. The AI turned around to ‘face them’ from her screen. ‘I have been given a small shred of hope that despite everything we know to be true, the deepest and dearest wish of my best friend has come true,’ Io explained both simply and cryptically. “And what wish is that, Io?” Natori inquired, tapping his fingers nervously on his chair and wishing that he had whatever it was that Io used to consciously lower her vitals. Out of the corner of his eye he watched as Natalya practically skidded into the nearest hangar to the civilian medical wing. Were it not for the breaches in protocol, he would have been impressed. ‘The wish of every woman in her tribe, sir, to bring life into this world.’ Thantis’ can clattered to the floor, and the priest looked ready to follow from his chair. “Spirit Io, are you sure?!” ‘No Thantis, I am not… hence the obtuse language and secrecy,’ she explained with a look of regret, pacing back and forth through her monitor. ‘Madame Dupuis, I daresay we will be in need of your services today.’ “And you will have them, Io, but I must point out the more likely explanation if Veera is, in fact, with child.” Yvonne put forward her proposition cautiously. “It would not be the first time a husband has received very unwelcome news in my clinic, and I doubt it will be the last.” “Impossible,” Thantis insisted, standing with the help of his now retrieved cane. “I understand we are all individuals of learning, medicine, and reason but Veera is a woman of strong, nay unshakable faith. She would not break her promise to Russell, or to the Mother.” “Admiral Kaczynski, are you well?” Qul’Roth asked with a puzzled expression on his face. Natori cut his private connection to the medical wing and ran a hand over his brow. “I am, emissary. Thank you for your concern. I am simply extracting myself from a situation that very rapidly descended into a private matter that is of no import to the operation of this vessel.” “Very well. As agreed, do you have time to review the mining logs and the current state of the ship’s inventory of raw materials?” Qul’Roth proposed. “An excellent suggestion, emissary. Let us decamp to my office.” ----- While Qul’Roth might have been an alien distracted by numbers and figures, Veera was not. The memory of Asha’s ultrasound fresh in her mind, she turned to Russell immediately upon entering the examination room and coming face to face with the Dupuis couple and Thantis. “What did Io see? What’s wrong with my womb?” she demanded fearfully. Winters’ brow was furrowed as he looked around at the small group. “I’d like to know that too. Io?” he shouted far too loudly for a medical setting. “Now.” ‘Your anger is not doing anyone any good,’ Io warned him. “And yet here we are,” he shot back, cracking his neck and straightening his shoulders. The fact that Veera’s hand remained in his throughout took a bit of the intimidating edge off. “You’ve kept me and Veera in the dark long enough. Talk.” Io hung her head and took a deep breath, but brushed some stray hair out of her eyes and complied. ‘I was reviewing Gerard’s work on the various Cauthan blood samples taken over the last couple of weeks, sir. Given the relatively large number of pregnant females from which we have samples, Yvonne and Gerard decided to run a comparative protein screen to see if any sort of pregnancy marker could be identified. They thought they found one until the protein in question also appeared in Veera’s sample… and not those from any other non-pregnant female.’ “Russell!” Veera whispered urgently, wondering if she’d understood Io correctly. He squeezed her hand lightly. “Are you alright with this?” he asked her. She turned toward him and waved her feathers questioningly. “What do you mean?” “You didn’t notice anything odd lately right? You haven’t experienced any of the issues Asha had during her pregnancy, right?” he asked. Yvonne shrugged approvingly and opened up her personal device, adjusted her glasses, and began taking notes. Thantis cleared his throat and walked over to the two of them. “I will find us some tea and return, should you wish for me to remain. I am not sure how long it would take for Gentia to arrive here. My trip was rather long,” he explained. “Of course we want you here,” Veera replied, tapping a talon against the metal floor. “And I really need to get some shoes, this floor is cold on my pads.” Thantis grinned and poked his glasses up his muzzle so they rested comfortably there. “Then I shall return shortly. Spirit Io, might I request your assistance?” ‘Always happy to help with a tea run,’ the AI affirmed. ‘Out the door and to your right, please. We will use the staff break room.’ When the door slid shut quietly behind Thantis, Yvonne spoke up. “Veera, might I ask you a few more questions? Your husband makes a good point, so correct me if I’m wrong, Russell.” “Go ahead,” he offered, reminding himself that Alice trusted Yvonne, as did Asha and Gentia. “Thank you. Veera, can I offer you a seat?” Yvonne began, offering one of the normal chairs instead of the examination seat. Russell pressed ever so lightly on her back between her shoulder blades, encouraging her. He followed right behind as she complied and Gerard stepped back to observe. “I’d just like to ask a few more questions so that I do not confuse your body with a human’s. We know so little about your people and hopefully we will be able to find the reason for this anomaly today. You seem to be right as rain.” “I do feel perfectly healthy, yes,” Veera agreed. Yvonne hummed approvingly and made a note. “Very good. Have you experienced any shortness of breath lately?” “Does running count?” she wondered. “No, my dear. Outside of exercise or normal physical activity,” Yvonne clarified patiently, pleased to be speaking directly in English with a Cauthan patient. Russell clasped his hands behind his back and waited, a stiffness present in his body normally reserved for superior officers. “No, none of that,” Veera confirmed. “Great. Any dizziness, nausea, soreness or pain?” “No.” ‘Tell them about your heats,’ Io cut in, her comment causing Winters to run his hands through his head with frustration. “Are you fucking serious right now?” ‘Yes.’ “Ma chatounette, I shall be in the labs and do my best to confirm the result. Call if you need me. Best of luck and health to you both,” the frenchman offered, excusing himself politely. Yvonne blew him a kiss as he departed before returning to her examination. “Little light, please, we all want answers as much as you do. Veera, can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like to be a Cauthan woman? How frequently can you get pregnant? I know from Asha that gestation is about a year. And what are these ‘heats’ that Io mentioned?” Veera looked up at her husband. He closed his eyes and nodded his head. “This is all your private medical information. You’re a civilian, unlike me. No one can see this unless you want them to.” “Alright. Well Yvonne, we go into heat once a season when mature. It’s not something I’ve discussed with other females but I presume everyone deals with their own in their own way. All I know about being pregnant is what Asha has gone through. It doesn’t sound very comfortable,” Veera explained. “No, no it is not for human women either, though the experience varies radically from individual to individual,” Yvonne acknowledged. “Before Thantis returns, can you tell me about your recent bouts of estrus please? That’s the medical term for ovulation and your heat. Perhaps we should stick to it for now?” “I’d like that,” Veera affirmed, having never felt more self-conscious in her life. “How far back should I go?” “It would be best to be thorough, my dear,” Yvonne explained. Veera examined one of her claws nervously. “Alright. Well, I started having them normally when I was about fifteen or so. A couple years later they stopped.” Yvonne scribbled another note before looking up at her. “Do you know why? Did you become pregnant?” “No, I was starving,” Veera clarified. Winters placed a hand on her shoulder as Yvonne made another note. “I assume they have returned, given Io’s comments?” “Yes. I’m not sure about last fall and winter. It may have happened but I wasn’t uh… I was still a maiden,” Veera tried to explain the concept of virginity without outright saying it. “I understand, dear,” Yvonne assured her warmly. “And since then?” “I definitely had one in the spring which was rather extreme.” ‘I’d say so,’ Io agreed. ‘And don’t look at me like that, sir. You’d say so too given the state of your back.’ “Now’s not the time, Io,” he told her shortly. She sighed and shook her head. ‘Just trying to lighten the mood.’ “Thank you, Io. Now Veera, what about summer?” Yvonne requested. “It was only a few days ago and very mild,” Veera confirmed, causing Winters to cock his brow. “I guess we’ll talk about that later,” he decided, causing Yvonne to titter with laughter as Thantis picked an opportune moment to arrive with tea, carried in a small cup tray. The Jumper moved to help him immediately, taking a couple of disposable cups with thanks. “This may be a bad time, but could we discuss these teabags at some point?” Thantis insisted. Russell laughed, hearing and feeling how tight his chest was. The light beige walls were agitating him. “Sure thing Thantis, no problem,” he agreed. Behind them, Yvonne had decided that it was time to move onto a basic physical. Over several minutes she took Veera’s blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen content, and other vitals that were readily observable. “I don’t have much in the way of a baseline,” Yvonne admitted, having only examined Asha in such detail before. “But if I were to use human standards, you are in excellent health Veera. So why don’t we take another blood sample so we can check on our little mystery and then we’ll have a look inside just to be sure.” “O-Ok,” the Cauthan agreed, not knowing what else she could do given the circumstances. Russell gave her tea as Yvonne prepared her other arm for a blood draw. The taste was strange, but the warm liquid was most welcome, soothing her stomach and driving away some of the chill in the room. “Ow!” “Forgive me, my dear, but that was all the pain for today,” Yvonne assured her. “Io, if you would?” ‘Of course, Dr. Dupuis,’ the AI replied, using one of the mechanical arms hanging from the ceiling to retrieve and label the blood sample before spiriting it away to the labs for Gerard’s attention. “Thank you. Thantis, Russell, I would ask you to move to the head of the examination chair, please,” Yvonne requested, seeing that Veera’s outfit would require her to lift her dress in order to have a proper ultrasound. The men did as requested, with Winters placing a kiss at the point on Veera’s head where her feathers met her fur. The doctor washed her hands well before returning, placing the bottle of ultrasound gel under her armpit to get it warmer. “Veera, we will be doing exactly what you watched the other day with Asha. Is that alright with you?” “Yes, it is. Thank you, Yvonne.” “Oh my dear, it is a pleasure,” the doctor assured her. “You have been very brave and we will get to the bottom of this one way or another. Your body will almost always tell you if something is wrong. If it does not, you have us now. Now then, let’s take a look, shall we?” Winters found himself holding his breath as Yvonne turned on the machine and the display crackled to life. Thantis could not help himself. “By Kel, what is that over there?” he asked. ‘This machine uses sound to safely peer inside someone’s body. The image will not be crystal clear, but it’s a tool humans have been using for more than a century,’ Io elucidated. “First light and now sound?” Thantis remarked in disbelief. “Is there any force of nature you humans have not conquered?” “Many, Thantis, but another time, please,” Russell requested. The elderly Cauthan composed himself and cleared his throat, well aware that outside of Veera’s health it was not the time for detailed scientific inquiry. “Yvonne, what are we looking at?” “Not a whole lot yet,” the doctor replied. “There isn’t much empty space in a normal human body and it seems Cauthan are not much different. Shall we just check in on your heart while we are here? That’s what’s pumping your blood after all.” Veera couldn’t help but shiver as a new dollop of gel was placed higher on her body and Yvonne angled the wand upward. All four of them studied the beating organ as Io resolved the grainy image as best as possible. Yvonne began her analysis. “Thank you, Io. Everything appears to be functioning normally. The tissue appears smooth and I’m not seeing any lumps or bumps that would indicate cancer or abnormal growth. I acknowledge we don’t even know if Cauthan can get cancer yet, but since they do experience aging I think the answer to that is likely yes,” she reasoned before moving on. Over the next several minutes she checked Veera’s lungs as well as a couple other points of interest that she happened upon purely by accident as they worked their way down Veera’s diaphragm. While a dissection subject or tissue biopsies would be necessary to determine the function of the organs, Yvonne was able to note that, at a minimum, nothing appeared to be wrong at first glance. “Now, your stomach is quite flat but let’s take a look anyway, shall we?” she continued, as though that were not the focal point of the entire ordeal. Her efforts at maintaining a calm environment were appreciated, but Winters could feel his palms sweating and his heart racing. Veera was not faring much better, her feathers shaking about as violently as he’d ever seen. A small, black void appeared on the monitor. “There it is,” Yvonne informed them, slowing the speed of her movement over Veera’s fur and skin to take a closer look. “Now I have seen several cases of uterine cancer and other abnormal growths in my day and I am pleased to report that I’m not seeing anything like… mon dieu. Mon dieu! Io…” ‘I KNEW IT!’ the AI shrieked. ‘Ich wusste es!’ Russell brought a hand to his mouth, tugging at his cheeks as his untrained eye took in the ultrasound. Yvonne composed herself quickly as Veera’s claws began digging into his arm. At that moment he didn’t care a lick if she drew blood. “Veera, my dear, I would stake my medical degree on the assertion that that little formation you see there is not a tumor, growth, or anything dangerous. I think that’s your… oh there’s another!” Thantis’ cane clattered to the ground for the second time in less than an hour, sounding like an automatic rifle for how quiet the examination room was. Io was mimicking Russell to an extent, both hands over her mouth as tears flowed freely from her eyes and she shook her head back and forth. “I’m sorry!” Veera cried suddenly, forcing Yvonne to sit back as the Cauthan leapt to her feet and took her partner’s hands. “I’m sorry, Russell! I didn’t- I promise I didn’t! It’s only ever been you. I promise, I promise,” she whispered. Russell’s body accepted her hands into his, but his mind was somewhere else entirely, his eyes staring somewhere well beyond the examination room and even the hull of the Event Horizon. He didn’t know if he was dreaming or if someone had simply switched his life with someone else’s, but according to the French doctor staring at them both, his wife was going to give birth to not one but two cubs in a year that could not possibly be his. The roof of his mouth was dry. He couldn’t feel his legs. He couldn’t hear anything. What he did feel, however, was Io clocking him in the forehead with a mechanical arm. ‘Where the hell do you think you’re going?!’ she screeched. He blinked and looked around. Somehow he was facing the door of the room instead of Veera. Turning around he found her, supported by Yvonne and Thantis, looking at him with a pitiful and pleading look on her usually proud face that he never wanted to see again. It was so unlike the woman he knew and loved. ‘First Lieutenant Russell Winters you turn around this instant! And if you dare say you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking so help me I will turn this entire ship around just so I can slap you harder with this arm!’ Veera choked back a sob and shook her head vigorously. He walked to her slowly and opened his arms to her, accepting her into a difficult embrace as he spoke to the ceiling. “What am… what am I supposed to think? We don’t even have the same genetic material.” “I didn’t,” Veera whispered again. Her words tore at his heart and mind alike. For a year they had both adjusted to the idea that children were a thing meant for other couples, for people who had not fallen for someone so far away from their own existence. There was now bloodwork and an ultrasound that seemed to confirm Veera was with cub. An eventuality that affected military men with depressing frequency, one he thought he’d thought impossible, was suddenly rearing its head to dominate the darker parts of his imagination. He couldn’t stop running through names. All seemed unlikely, even impossible, but each one made his blood boil. “I didn’t.” ‘She didn’t, and I have the logs to prove it,’ Io insisted strongly. ‘So if we could all take a seat and a sip of tea, I am going to put forth my thesis and you all will listen. That goes double for you, sir. I know that look on your face and none of the males in the village are going to get a visit from you tonight. Bin ich verstanden?’ she demanded, pointing her weapon of choice directly in Winters’ face. ‘I am so sorry, Veera. This should be the happiest day of your life and I intend to prove that it is.’ “T-Thank you, Io,” the Cauthan sniffled, resting a hand on her belly while Yvonne supplied her with a few disposable towels to remove the majority of the gel. “Do you really think I’m-” ‘I believe the evidence is clear and staring us in the face,’ Io replied, abandoning her harsh voice she’d reserved for her operator and switching to a far more comforting tone. ‘Thantis?’ “Yes?!” the elder replied, clearly startled at having been brought into the conversation at all. ‘Thantis, can you tell us how common twins are in your village?’ Io requested. The scholar did not hesitate. “Exceedingly rare, spirit Io. I believe the last incidence was before I was born. Why do you ask?” he wondered. ‘Because I am trying to determine just how unique Veera’s pregnancy-’ Io broke off mid-sentence to squeal with delight, eliciting a strained but honest laugh from Veera. ‘Oh how wonderful! As I was saying, I am trying to determine just how unique this occurrence is. Respectfully, Thantis, I consider Gentia’s circumstances as well.’ “If it helps, I do not mind explaining further,” he agreed, but Io help up a hand. ‘No need, my friend. But I thank you. Now that we’ve all stopped crying and attempting to do things we would absolutely regret later on, let’s review what we know and have some tea. Tea!’ Io insisted when no one drank. ‘Very good. Now then, we know that Veera has experienced resource dearth and surplus in her life. Unlike many villagers she has experienced famine and then feast. She has been mating and coming into contact with human ejaculate regularly. She possesses hormones in her blood that as of this time have only been found in other pregnant females, and she is pregnant with twins. What does this tell us?’ “I think let’s just skip to the answer, little light,” Yvonne suggested, having done nothing but take notes since Veera had leapt from the examination chair. ‘Facultative parthenogenesis!’ Io declared with no small amount of pride in her voice. ‘Think about it. What’s more likely, Veera running around behind Russell’s back, or her species being capable of self-reproduction when resources are plentiful but the male just isn’t getting the job done? No offense, sir. I’m sure you’re quite fertile.’ “Lord knows that’s probably in the HEL’s records too,” he acknowledged. ‘Sod the records! What do you think of my hypothesis? Veera is an alien, Russell. We have no idea what her body is capable of. You really think she cheated on you?!’ Winters looked at Veera, searching her amber eyes for whatever passed for truth in such a situation. He didn’t know how much was rational evaluation and how much was hope beyond hope that he hadn’t been betrayed. “No, I don’t.” In response, Veera promptly stood and seated herself in his lap, hugging him and crying that ‘Meylith had answered their prayers’. For all he knew about whatever parthenogenesis was, it was every bit as compelling of an explanation. Thantis was clasping his hands together and simply appreciating the scene, though he joined Yvonne when the doctor stood and declared she would be departing to give them some time and to organize her notes. The death priest promised that he would see them back at the village, and that it was currently his duty to report to Gentia with all possible haste. Veera simply waved an affirmative through her feathers, far too occupied with holding on to Russell for dear life. To say her life had been upended was a colossal understatement. ‘If you don’t believe me, sir, we can always go for a genetic test,’ Io proposed, willing to accept that his acceptance of the situation was likely far more difficult than hers. “Don’t,” he commanded, shaking his head. “We can… we’ll know the truth when they’re born. I don’t want anyone touching Veera’s cubs.” “Russell…” Veera whispered sadly into his shoulder, unable to miss his description of her cubs as hers and perhaps hers alone. “You promise… you promise you didn’t…” he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it, but Veera understood. “On every god, darling. On my mother’s and father’s spirit as well,” Veera proclaimed, shifting in his lap so she could look him in the eyes. He nodded and kissed her on the nose. “I guess- I guess that little cabin in the mountains is going to need another room or two,” Russell murmured. Further words proved unnecessary as Veera dissolved into tears along with Io. He contented himself with the fact that they sounded joyful. ----- PreviousFirstPatreon
2020.09.25 22:19 ThatChickVicAmong us, I am not the selfish one.
My fiancé (30, M) and I (25, F) have been together for roughly about a year. Just over actually. And someone said I should vent here about my vile FJNMIL. Because between her and my FJNFIL, I'm not really sure what's going to happen. But I can confidently say that I'll always have my fiance and vice versa. There's a few things I need to clarify. The first thing is that my fiancés parents are both healthcare workers. One is an ER nurse and another is a satellite anesthesia assistant. I mention their jobs for two reasons. The first being that it means between them they make good money. This has allowed them to settle down nicely in the upper middle class region (some could even argue they are in the lower upper class region). Having that money means they provided the best for their two kids. The second reason I bring this up is because this means my JNFMIL has a weird work schedule. She works nights and sometime during the time my fiance and I have been together her schedule got switched. She used to work nights Monday to Friday. Now they have her on a weird schedule. Where she works for 3-4 day chunks (still night shifts) and then gets the remainder of the week off. A few things you should no about my fiancé and I. We both live at home for varying reasons. Because of the money his parents make he had things taken care of to a degree. He is in university and up until a week or two ago his parents were ready to pay all his school fees. I live in a house with too many people (family). I have chronic pain and am currently looking for a job so I can move out on my own. My family is considered lower middle class. We always had somewhere to live, warm home, food and clean clothes and baths. But we can't afford the nicest, newest and best. We manage. I have a college education. Now while I am semi-aggressive and confrontational, my fiancé is not. His parents believe in our relationship I call the shots. But I don't. Over the last year and change I have helped him gain a voice and the ability to say no. He says no to me in all facets that are important, if need be. Some quick things to know about FJNMIL. She was raised upper middle class. She is verbally abusive and shrugs it off excusing herself with "that's just how I am, let me do my thing". She's a generally nasty person who doesn't think anyone is good enough for her sons. No matter what. And with both of them has made active attempts to keep them from the women they love via one way or another. She's an overachiever who volunteers to do everything on her own and then snaps when she gets stressed. And she often uses my fiances mental health as reasons for "x". But then will clap back with "you're fine you should be able to do it on your own" (She's right and if she would let him he could). So for the past year a lot of stuff has been bubbling up and a little over so I'm gonna vent about some of those things because holy crap I've had one hell of a year with her.
She constantly shits on and shit talks her other sons fiance. I've heard - personally and through the grapevine - many crappy things. When they were just getting together FJNMIL would throw FSIL stuff out. Or in a garbage bag on the front porch. When FJNMIL found out FSIL was pregnant, she told them the baby is gonna die in the womb. And gave them a thick (important to note homemade) book on the cost of having a kid, preparations, and essentially suggest they abort it. The kid they now love and fall head over heals for. She acts so casual like it makes no difference she tried to convince them to abort. At one point - while FSIL was (8 1/2 months) pregnant - FBIL came over to talk to parents and FJNMIL made a joke to him how its not too late. He could still get out and find someone better. Recently FJNMIL lost her mind on my fiancé (coming up next). She was shouting about how she was "so upset" that FBIL asked her to watch the kid during their wedding (coming up next year). FBIL simply wanted FJNMIL to watch him after. My fiancé called FBIL and explained how FJNMIL was upset. Figured out it was a misunderstanding and asked FBIL to fix it with FJNMIL/clarify. Doesn't FJNMIL lose is again on my fiancé because she just wanted something to yell about. But in reality she doesn't actually want to go to FBILs wedding because she hates FSIL.
Recently the house reached a boiling point. As I said both fiancés parents are healthcare workers. Who have been using COVID as more of a weapon than actually worrying. FJNMIL came home in her regular shitty mood (post work, she just doesn't sleep during the week so by day 4 she's usually mentally and physically drained). Fiancé downstairs for coffee and already FJNMIL was pissy. He tried to reason with her because he didnt want me to catch the shit end of that stick. But it didn't save me. Essentially, FJNMIL gets mad at fiancé and then puts me on her shitlist right next to him. Tending to treat me like crap when this happens. Awhile ago I expressed to fiancé how this can make me uncomfortable. He wound up relaying is to FJNFIL who took it upon himself to tell FJNMIL. Who then lost her shit. That whole day was spent with fiancé and FJNMIL fighting. Us trying to figure out what to do. At one point FJNMIL came to the basement where I was. And hiss-yelled at me so she wouldn't get caught by fiance or FJNFIL. She blamed me for things, told me I was overly sensitive and ungrateful. Blah blah blah. Wound up boiling down to my fiance trying to talk to his mother about stuff and being steamrolled by her. She then wound up making a list of "rules". One of which was that fiancé and I can only do day visits. He cannot come to my house and I can no longer stay at his. This was "due to COVID concerns" regarding the fact I have school age kids in my house. This however was set in place right before we all went and spent a weekend camping as a family unit. 4 healthcare workers, a baby, an 84 year old woman and then fiancé, me and FSIL. No one really socially distanced. No one cared. But when it came to me, suddenly it was an issue.
Fiancé decided "okay, maybe I'll go stay with Vic again (me)" as he stayed with me and my family before during this whole epidemic. When he relayed this to his parents they informed him that they will not pay for his schooling if he chooses to do that. They paid for his brothers. And paid for him to do some upgrading to get into the course (which he completed with a 98% from my house). Yet have decided among themselves that my house isn't somewhere he can succeed. Really, this is because they can't control him from my house. So after that, he decided its time to be on his own (really he's moving in with my family and I until we can figure things out).
FJNMIL shit talks me constantly, turns everything I do into something crappy, actively tries to keep us apart and would rather fiance work two jobs in the future than have a partner he loves. And who loves him.
I know she shit talks me cause I overheard her at one point and confronted my fiance. We decided that, since I'm okay and curious, he will tell me when FJNMIL talks trash about me. Which she does relatively often. I found out that both FJNPILs have said that they were just waiting for us to break up, and view me as a bump in the road. She has called me trashy and unworthy. She told fiance that she knew my house was my house because it was "shitty and rundown". While I have been sitting in my car in front of their house, FJNMIL has told fiancé he can do so much better. She tries all the time to say I can't come over or set limitations to our visits. She turned a vacation (for fiancé and I) that I paid for into some tactic to control him. Again, they threatened to refuse to pay for school if he came to be with me. Amd recently, when fiancé was trying to make it clear to FJNMIL that, even with university, he can't sustainably live on his own in the future. Making a last stitch attempt at maybe showing her how ridiculous she is being. Instead, she suggested he try selling real estate or working a second full time job to be able to make it without me.
FJNMIL is verbally abusive and doesn't even try to hide it. She will come home at the end of her 4 shift stint, exhausted. She takes on all these other projects so she diminishes any chance of sleeping throughout the week. So she hardly sleeps and then comes home in a fit of anger over something small and blows up. Except she blows up at fiancé for everything everyone has been doing that has been bothering her. FJNFIL is very docile. He just goes along with FJNMIL in almost every facet. He blindly agrees and doesn't help fiancé at all usually.
They don't even know we are engaged. We can't tell them. When fiancé initially asked what FJNMIL thought she said it sounded good. After FJNFIL and FJNMIL talked though they brought fiancé down to "talk to him". They didn't want a discussion but to simply let fiancé know that I was a mistake. That he could do better. That I was a detriment to his future, and that I was selfish and self-centred. And that if he did so, it would suddenly be all about me. The Vic show. This is, by the way, after I did a multitude of kind things for fiancé. Like the vacation. Or the money I put in, on Valentines day, to drive a total of 8 hours. So he could take an exam at his universities campus, to get into his course.
FJNMIL is just flat out disrespectful. She throws out fiancés stuff. She throws out mine. She stole my meds and (presumably) flushed them. Out of anger. She would hold my fiancés mental health issues over his head. And then turn around and act like it's just an excuse. She blames me for her own son finally saying "enough is enough" like him standing up for himself is a crime. And she would go in and "clean his room" whenever she wanted. This was more or less to snoop through his shit (he smokes weed, they don't want him to; it's legal here (canada); the one time she caught him smoking she blamed me, threatened to send him to a group home (at 30) and then insulted my mental health). When he asked her to stop her response was "It's a room in my house, and if I want it clean and you won't do it, I will." She has touched and moved our sex toys. That makes me so uncomfortable.
Lastly, FJNMIL lies to control and manipulate fiancé. Yet has the audacity to try and say that I am the one who does that.
We were gonna leave the family camping trip early, because she "wanted me gone Monday. When we got back". And I didn't want to be rushed. So we resolved to leaving Sunday. She lied and told fiancé that if we stayed I could stay until the following Monday. Not the one coming up, but the next. When we got home, she said "Nope, want all her stuff out tonight". Which left me only a few hours to pack a ton of crap and go. On Friday, she asked if fiancé was having me over. I believe this was to ensure he wouldn't kick up a fuss for the day. But the next day when she found me at the bathroom door I said good morning politely and she rudely retorted "Oh, you're here?" She goes out with FJNFIL and called. She's very loud and one of the first things I hear is "What part of no more staying over does she not get?" Not this Monday past, but the monday prior his parents left for a nearly 2 week camping trip on their own. During this time my fiancé decided he was done. We packed up all his belongings and made roughly 6 trips with my crappy little Mazda to move him into my house. For a year, and then we are getting our own place. He didn't tell his parents he was doing it. We cleaned the house, moved him out and left. He left them a note. And to be honest, I'm relieved. I guess I'm posting on here to: A) Get this anger off my chest. B) To get input and advice (ish). Because he left the way he did we are about to come into a shit storm (if he left while they were home and told them WWIII would have started in the house and its likely he would have gotten nothing but a single suitcase of clothing). From his parents end. I have no doubt FJNMIL will reach out to him. And when that fails, she will reach out to me. She's also likely to smear my name with the rest of the family who likes me, and I like. But this was his choice. He made it, I simply offered him a place to stay. But I need advice on what the best way is going to be about handling his parents (and how to potentially deal with the fallout with his family, I happen to really like them). If FJNMIL and FJNFIL show up to my house, my parents are home and are already pretty livid with them. But we arent even home. I don't want to deal with FJNMIL if she calls or texts and goes for blood. I have mental health issues and dealing with her normally is rough. I don't want to block their number because fiancé isn't around his phone too much. And I'm usually who they contact to get ahold of him. If you read this whole thing, thank you and God bless your soul. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it! Because it's about to get rough.
2020.09.25 21:48 dogeman87I just found out why I’m an only child.
You know how it goes. They tell you you’re the perfect child. You were so perfect that they didn’t want to have any more. You’re smart, caring, sociable. Any goal they set for you is reached. Any goal you set for yourself is too high, but you reach it anyways. I imagine that is how most only children feel at some point. My parents are wonderful people, and I think most of what they say about me is true, even if they tend to sugarcoat it. Now that I’m in college, I do some more questionable things that they might not approve of, but who doesn’t? In truth, I’m not as perfect as they make me out to be. I’m an above-average student, but I’m not pre-med or engineering. I’m majoring in economics. I do well, I get solid A’s and a few B’s, and I’m active in a couple clubs. I still have no idea what I want to do in life, though. I’ve only dated one girl, all the way back in sophomore year of high school. The relationship fell apart at the beginning of senior year. We split amicably, I think. Since then, I just haven’t found anyone. You know how it is, scrolling through Tinder and finding so many prospects but then realizing that all of them are either assholes or comically awkward. Does it bother me? No. None of it does. I couldn’t care less if I’m dating or doing well in school. As long as I’m maintaining my GPA and having fun, classes don’t bother me. I go to parties, I hang out with friends, I smoke a bit of weed every now and then. I’m living the college life. Well, I was. Then I had this conversation with my dad my freshman year. I’m a senior now. It seemed harmless enough. He asked how my week went, and I told him fine. I asked how he and mom were doing, and he said fine. He asked me what my grades were. Normal, I told him. A’s and B’s. He was satisfied. Before he hung up, he admitted something to me. “Grant,” he said. “Have you noticed anything strange lately?” I was dumbfounded. “No, Dad. What do you mean?” “I don’t know.” He left it at that, and I could only speculate what he had meant. He wouldn’t elaborate. He only told me to have a great rest of my day. The next evening, he washed up dead on the riverbank. * After two weeks, the police gave up. They said the cause of death was drowning. The autopsy matched up, I guess. They don’t know who did it. The fact that there was foul play is obvious, because my dad was stripped of his wedding ring and clothes and he lived far away from the river. I had to fly halfway across the country for the funeral. I ended up taking incompletes for my classes that semester. The day would not move fast enough. The services took forever. I don’t remember much, only shaking a lot of people’s hands and watching my mother fall apart. That was the hardest part, I think, watching her sob uncontrollably. Nothing is more disturbing than watching a loved one break down like that. It hits hard, harder than a punch or a knife to the gut. It twists your stomach until you can’t eat anymore, can’t sleep, or maybe you sleep for fifteen hours and still feel exhausted. I don’t like to dwell on the funeral, so I won’t. I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks. You can picture what it was like. I returned to school the next semester. Everyone was sympathetic, but at the same time they gave me space. They knew I didn’t want to talk about it. What college student would? How weird would that have been, breaking down at a party or in the middle of class and talking about my dead dad? Normal, yes, but also embarrassing as hell. Nevertheless, I found myself talking about it with some girl. I was drunk, way too drunk for my own good. One thing they don’t tell you at parties is how to pace yourself. College kids don’t have much tolerance for alcohol. A couple beers is all it takes to get wasted, for some of us. I was a little different. I’m tall, over six feet, so I could take more than most. Still, I had only been to a handful of parties at that point. It only took a couple hours to lose self-control. The girl was pretty. I remember that, though I don’t remember what she actually looked like. She consoled me for a while. I don’t remember why I was talking about my dad, either. I’m sure she had heard the story already. Word got around campus fast. She still listened. I’m not sure how it escalated, but one thing led to another, and the next thing I remember she was sucking my dick in a closet. Sounds bad, I know, and it was. Not as bad as some of the other things, though. Someone had brought coke- thank God I didn’t go for that- and as we’d made our way to the back of the house, I saw a couple having sex on the couch. In the middle of the room. People were just walking around them like it was nothing. At least I wore a condom? Whatever. College is crazy. Case closed. Right? I wish it were that simple. Thing is, after we had sex the girl, understandably, left me by myself. Probably went to blow some other guy. I went back into the main room, and that’s when things started to go to shit. They were still doing coke. One of the guys offered some. When I declined, he pressed a straw into my hand instead. I told him he could go shove it. For some reason, the guy didn’t react. He just turned back to the table. I knew I had to get out of there. Getting caught with alcohol is one thing. But coke? I could go to prison for that. I started extracting myself from the room when I heard it. There was someone in the bathroom at the top of the stairs. They were whimpering. My first guess was sex, because I’d seen so much of it already that night. But there was only one voice, and the whimpers sounded like pain. Then there was a thud. I knocked on the door. No response. I rattled the doorknob, and of course it was locked. Then I kicked the door in. The guy that I’d heard was on the floor. There was a little blood, but most startling was the pool of vomit and the guy’s facial expression. He looked dead. I checked his pulse, determined that he was indeed alive, then rolled him onto his side and pulled out my phone to call an ambulance. That’s when I saw the shadow. It was so faint. I’m not sure how I noticed, really, except for the fact that it shifted. I looked at the shower curtain. Fear settled in my stomach then. I realized that I was in a room on the second floor, far from the rest of the party, with no one but the passed-out guy within calling distance. The shadow was just from a headlight outside. I began to breath again. Then I felt the hand on my shoulder. I tried to scream. Another hand slowly closed around my mouth. It was cold and leathery, and wet. I tasted what was probably blood, and I suspected it was from the hand. I began to hyperventilate, which, as you might have guessed, was a really bad idea when my airway was being blocked. I pretty much was asking to lose consciousness. The hand that had grabbed my shoulder moved down my back. I felt what I can only describe as a tonguelike protrusion running over my neck. I trembled. I figured I was about to die. I would be lying on the floor like this guy, killed by a monster, and no one would find us until next morning at the earliest, and undoubtedly they would think I died the same way as him. Amazingly, my first thought was of my mom. She couldn’t deal with another death in the family. She would lose it, as anyone would. That, more than the immediate threat that had presented itself, chilled me. That’s when I ripped the hand from my mouth and screamed. The hand fell on the floor, disintegrated into dust, and I screamed some more. Whatever had been behind me was gone. I knew it the second it left, because the room suddenly warmed up. I had not realized it had been so cold. Probably I had been too caught up in the moment. The temperature now was like a sauna in comparison. I looked around frantically. I examined the walls, the ceiling, brushed back the shower curtain, peered carefully behind the toilet. There was nothing. I sat there on the floor for a while, waiting for the shadow and the monster to return. My skin crawled, thinking of that leathery hand on my mouth, the tongue leaving saliva on my neck. If I had been doing coke, I could have chalked it up to a hallucination. But I’d been clean. I’d had a few beers, but at that moment I was pretty lucid. I was certainly more lucid than the guy on the floor. I had forgotten about him, actually. I looked at my phone, which had fallen on the floor during my encounter with the shadow, and I picked it up. I dialed 911, told them what had happened, then left. The next morning half a dozen people were looking at drug charges in addition to underage drinking. The guy that I found? He recovered. I think after that he didn’t go to any more parties. I don’t blame him. His blood alcohol content was .35, if I remember correctly. He should have been dead. I didn’t go to many other parties, but for a different reason. My name had not been used in the paper, so my mom didn’t know. There was no pressure from her or anyone else, least of all the police, who chastised me but were happy that I did the right thing. No, it was the shadow that stopped me. I didn’t want to be in a place where everyone was drunk or coked out again, because if I was that shadow could return and probably kill me. I’m certain that it left because it thought others would find it. It was waiting for a time when I was alone. Much better to stay home, in the safety of the dorms, with my two other roommates and the dozen others that were within earshot and sober. Much better to forget what had happened, chalk it up to stress or a laced drink, and go on with my life as I had before. Thing is, it’s never that simple. I wasn’t able to forget about the monster, because that wasn’t the last time I saw it. \* My roommates were out, and I was by myself. That was the first mistake. Jason had gone to a D&D game. Richard had been invited to a party by one of the football players, somehow. He’s not athletic, not particularly impressive in any way, but he’s chill as hell. Everyone is his friend, which is probably how he got invited. I wasn’t doing much. I was not alone, either. There were people on either side of my room, behind the walls, guys who were probably jerking off or playing video games. Me? I was reading a book. I know, not exactly what you would expect from someone my age. But I like reading. I especially like Stephen King (which may have been the wrong thing to read at that moment), and that’s what I was reading when I heard the noise. I didn’t react to it. I figured someone was outside. We lived in suites, where four or five rooms shared a semi-private bathroom. It was a hell of a lot better than the bathrooms in other dorms, which were set up for entire floors. Here you could have some privacy. The bathroom door closed. There was a loud grunt, then a plop. I sighed. It was probably Randolph. He takes the largest shits of anyone I have ever known. He can sit there for twenty minutes and keep dropping them. Usually we have to use the plunger or call maintenance when that happens. That night, though, would be different. He gave out a yelp, and then I heard the door slam. I looked up. My door was partially closed, so I walked over to open it, and that’s when I saw him. He was slumped over on the toilet. I ran over to him, ignored the penis in his hands, and checked for a pulse. He seemed fine. There were no wounds on him. He hadn’t moved, either, had obviously passed out on the seat. So how had the door been flung open? I felt it again. The hand. It was on my arm this time. I would have let out a scream had it not clamped down. It felt like my bones were being grinded together. The pain was so immense that my vision flickered, and I could only whimper. I was thrown back into my room. Somehow, I landed on my bed. Then I saw it. The monster was there, standing in the doorway. Perhaps demon is a better word. It was tall, maybe seven or eight feet, and it was completely black. I don’t mean black as in a black laptop or shirt or an xbox. This thing defied logic. It seemed to be so dark that light did nothing to illuminate it. It had horns, antler-like but distinct in that they came from the side of its head and were not very long. The eyes were the worst. They were coal-black, with tinges of red where white should have been. And they were looking straight at me. I did scream then. Someone said something in an adjacent room. The demon’s head whipped to the side unnaturally, like a kid whipping a pool noodle, and then it scrambled into the ceiling. Yeah, you read that right. It went into the ceiling, climbed up the walls like a drugged-up lizard and just phased through the tiles. I didn’t move until the RA came over. He noticed Randolph first. Surprisingly, he did not make any snide remarks about Randolph’s dick. He called campus police before asking me what had happened. I told him. I asked if I would be in trouble. He said no way, because I obviously had not hurt Randolph. What had happened to him was a mystery. Well, until the police arrived. They took him in, and I heard that he tested positive for MDMA. Ecstasy. I had not known him to be the druggie type. I mean, most college students experiment, but doing it in the dorm? It was asking for trouble. And Randolph was not stupid. He was a lot smarter than me, got a single B first semester and didn’t have to study as hard as most of us. I wished he had been awake to see the demon. If he had been, of course, I suspect the demon would not have showed. It seemed to be fixated on me and me alone. It did not want to be seen by others. That was a comfort, I suppose, if not downright terrifying. There would be moments, I was sure, where I was forced to be alone. In the dorm or at a party or in a bathroom between classes… forgive me for the cliché, but the possibilities were endless. So I told my roommates about what had happened. They didn’t get back until late that night, well after I had gone to sleep. I don’t know how I did. I guess I’m a heavy sleeper, is all. You kind of have to be if you want any rest in a dorm, at least one as rowdy as ours can get. None of us had classes the next morning. Jason was skeptical, as he should have been. If he had told me about monsters and demons, I wouldn’t have believed him. Richard was more open to the idea, but he didn’t seem to care. He told me to chill out. I was too stressed, he said. Did I need to talk about what had happened last semester? “It has nothing to do with that,” I snapped. He raised his hands. “Hey, dude, don’t yell at me. I’m just trying to help.” “Yeah,” I told him. “I know.” “Then listen to me, man. You need to take a breather. When’s the last time you went to a party? Hey, you know what, I’ve got the perfect idea. I met this girl last night. Super hot and friendly. She’s your type. I think-“ “I’m not looking for a hookup,” I said flatly. “What? You’re gonna turn down sex?” I stared at him, and I think he finally got the message. He shut up. “I have an idea,” Jason said. “What if we set up surveillance? I know a place where we can get hidden cameras. It’s not far from campus. I’ll get them after class Friday. If it doesn’t like being watched, like you say, then it shouldn’t bother you again.” I knew Jason didn’t believe me. Still, the fact that he wanted to ease my nerves meant a lot. He’s not the most outgoing kind of guy. He’s a nerd, a chemistry student with a passion for chemistry and nothing else. He’s involved in academic extracurriculars only. I think he’s dated before, but I never learned the details. He doesn’t talk about girls. I only know that there’s this one girl in my English class, Jessica, who says he’s a creep. We stuck to the plan. It wasn’t foolproof- I would find myself alone outside of the dorm eventually- but it was good enough. As it turned out, I would be by myself Saturday morning. Jason had a club meeting that for some reason had not been held during the week, and Richard was going on a date. He has unconventional good looks- long black hair, brown eyes, thin beard with just the right shape- and he’s smooth. Like, more smooth than should be humanly possible. He’s chill around us and chiller around girls, like he’s known them forever. They love that about him, how genuine he can be. I begged one of them to stay. Jason told me, understandably, that he couldn’t miss the meeting. Richard was not about to ghost the girl he had been building a relationship with for the past month. Jason said I could always call for the RA or other guys in the dorm. I figured he was right. I also figured I didn’t want the demon to show up at all. Screw proving it to my roommates- I just wanted it to go away. It didn’t appear until two hours after Jason left. Richard had already been gone for a while, had probably made his way back to the girl’s room. I heard it before I saw it. The demon made a slithering sound when it walked. I had not noticed before because it always appeared, never really moved across the room. I looked up. You’d think seeing it two times before would make it less scary. You’d be wrong. Having a seven-foot, black-skinned behemoth with antlers and red eyes stand over you, it’s just too much. I screamed like a girl. I guess that time it didn’t get close enough to shut me up. Its head darted toward the door, and for some reason I took my eyes off the thing. Jason was standing there with his backpack in his hand. His jaw had dropped so far open I thought he would shriek like one of those possessed people in horror movies. The demon skittered up the wall and through the ceiling. We looked at each other for a while, neither of us speaking. He was still holding his backpack in one hand. I was halfway out of my chair, frozen, ready to spring up at the sight of another monster. Finally he dropped his backpack, and I fell into my seat. “What the fuck was that?” Jason said. His words startled me. I almost never heard him swear. “It’s what I told you about,” I said. Even as I spoke, Jason was climbing on the bed, reaching for one of the cameras, taking it down and hooking it up to his laptop. “Now you believe me?” “I think I have to,” he said, laughing nervously. “Unless we’re both insane.” He tinkered with his laptop for a while. When he started cursing, I walked over and asked what the problem was. He just pointed to the screen. I looked and saw the timestamp in the bottom left corner. Twenty minutes ago, about when he had walked in and saw the demon. The room was empty. Then I saw him appear in the doorway, flabbergasted, before climbing on the bed and taking down the camera. The footage ended there. “It didn’t show up,” I said. “We’re both crazy, after all,” he told me. “No, we’re not. Think about it. Would a demon want to show itself? This is the first time someone else has seen it. If you hadn’t walked in when you did, I doubt you would have ever gotten your proof.” He rubbed his chin. “You might be right.” “You can’t tell me you think that was a hallucination. I told you about it earlier this week. How the hell do you explain seeing what I had already seen?” “Yeah,” Jason sighed. “I just was hoping it wasn’t real.” We talked about it for a while. He wanted to know exactly what had happened at the party. I wasn’t sure what good it would do, but I told him anyways. There was no harm in sharing. Besides, I wanted to tell someone. I had only mentioned the demon in vague details when I had first seen it. Telling the whole story, about how it had emerged from a shadow and almost suffocated me to death, that would have been a red flag for sure. Jason would have referred me to the counseling office. We waited for Richard to get home. When he did, he was drunk on ecstasy or alcohol or both. I don’t mean the drug ecstasy, either. He was grinning stupidly, and I was sure he’d have some wild sex story to talk about. Before he could share, Jason started explaining rapidly what had happened, and he sobered up fast. * Richard hadn’t been skeptical from the start. Hearing Jason talk about the demon only made him more convinced. He wanted to summon it immediately and fight. “We’ll be killed,” I told him. “Nah,” he said. “I can call in some of my buddies. I think one of them, that football player that lives off campus? I think he has a gun.” “Jesus, Rich,” Jason said. “You want to bring a gun into the dorm?” He shrugged. “Would they blame us if we were hunting a demon?” “Yes, they would,” I told him. “There are no guns allowed. Besides, the thing didn’t show up on camera.” “Oh. Right.” We hinged on a plan that admittedly had more flaws than a third-grade essay. Jason did some research. He had to go through the deep web, which I know nothing about, and he found some information. First, he determined that, from my description, the demon supposedly took away men’s fertility. Had it killed my father? I didn’t want to think about that. It hardly mattered what had happened, because the past would not change. We didn’t really find anything on how to kill the demon. Jason had a few suggestions based on the show Supernatural, but I shot those down. I figured a fictional series would know nothing about real life. Unless those were real, he told me. I’d seen a little of the show myself, and I insisted that what I had seen was very different than a demon occupying a human host. In the end, we had no idea what the hell we were doing. We just made a conglomeration of different precautions. Jason bought some salt, Richard brought a hunting knife (that, unlike a gun, might not get me expelled), I asked around and found out that most of my friends found me crazy. I understood. If one of them had come to me asking about demons, I would have acted the same. Richard also asked some of his friends for help. Somehow, they believed him. I’m not sure if it’s because of Richard’s charisma or because he never lies or both. Whatever the case, he actually found someone who claimed to know a thing or two. She was an old woman, and she met with Richard during the week. He came back and told us that the demon took the fertility of older men, then killed them. I asked why it was stalking me. He said they did not like leaving any descendants. I think that’s when I realized: this thing had been hunting my dad. It seemed so obvious now. There are many, many people in the world that purposefully have one child. My parents, though? I knew immediately what had happened. This demon had stalked my dad. It had killed him, too, and now it, as Richard had said, wanted to finish the job. That was when I stopped caring. I didn’t mind that what we were doing was crazy. I didn’t mind the possibility of a horrible death, because it was quite likely given our meager preparations. I was dead anyways, and that knowledge made me more confident in what we were doing, as strange as it may sound. After my dad died, I was never angry. My mom was, for sure; she blamed the police for botching the investigation, when in fact there was absolutely no evidence for them to use. I had understood. My dad had been murdered, yes, but without a perpetrator I had not been able to direct any anger I might have felt. Now it was different. I wanted to confront this demon and rip its eyes from its sockets. I wanted to send it back to Hell, or send it there for the first time if it had never visited, and let it suffer for all eternity. I couldn’t know if my dad was the only victim. He probably hadn’t been. Most of the time, the demon tended to pray on men that had no children. I’m not sure how it made a mistake with me. I just knew that the mistake would be its last. * I was sitting on my bed, surrounded by salt, holding a knife and a bottle of holy water with Jason and Richard waiting down the hall. They had closed the door, and to make themselves inconspicuous they were pretending to work on homework. In reality, they were waiting for me to call for help, if I needed it. I suspected I would. Richard had dug deeper into his network of friends. He had spoken to a mother of a friend of a friend who owned an antique shop. She apparently owned a ceremonial dagger from the Middle Ages. She allowed him to borrow it for a price, so long as he brought it back in good condition. I don’t think she knew what we were using it for. I felt the demon before I saw it. The room grew cold. I don’t mean chilly, I mean cold, like those walk-in freezers. Jason likened it to a cold room he had used during research. I don’t know anything about those, but maybe the analogy is useful for someone else. It still scared me. The tall black figure with its truncated antlers was so unnatural, I figured I would never get used to seeing it. When it appeared in front of me and reached out a hand- I noticed now that the hand was covered in dry, cracked, human skin- I wanted to scream. I didn’t. I reached out my knife and stabbed it in the arm. It didn’t flinch. The hand kept moving and grasped my neck. I could feel the dry skin shed and fall down the front of my shirt. I wanted to gag. The roughness of the hand drew blood. Instead of freezing up, I managed to open my bottle of holy water and toss it. That did something. The demon let out this whine that I can liken only to an electronic device. It backed up, and I tossed more water on its face. The skin started to melt. I thought I had succeeded, but then bone began to surface from beneath, forming what looked like a grinning animal skull that was gnashing its teeth. I screamed then. Richard burst into the room and threw his knife. Somehow it landed in the demon’s chest. That’s what did it, I think. It screamed so loud I thought I’d lose my hearing. My ears rang, and Richard was saying something to me, but my attention was fixated on the center of the room. The demon had tripped over a particularly large pile of salt. It was melting, taking the floor with it, like we had dropped a bottle of acid. There was a hole next to my bed. I ignored what he and Jason were saying. I kept my eyes on the floor, watching the hole widen. It stopped, and when I finally turned towards my roommates, an RA was staring at us through the open doorway, frozen in place, fixated on the same thing that I had been. He must have also noticed the antlers next to the hole. * The official report said nothing. It could not determine what had happened in the room. The RA didn’t believe our story. No other explanations emerged, though. I was told that no acid could eat through the floor as quickly as the demon’s remains had. Thank God Jason still had cameras up, because they showed exactly what had happened, though without the demon it just showed a hole opening up in the carpet. Richard lost the knife and had to fork over a whopping two thousand dollars. He told us it was a bargain. The item had been priceless, most likely, and the woman could have bankrupted him for losing it. I haven’t been haunted by anything since that incident freshman year. I started going to parties again. Jason moved on, pretending that none of it had happened, but Richard had a fantastic story to share with people. Most didn’t believe him. Some egged him on. A choice few took what he said too seriously, offering him other demon-hunting supplies. He laughed them off, saying the problem had been dealt with, so they instead came to me and explained the seriousness of my situation. I shook them off, too. What was I supposed to do? Start stockpiling ceremonial weapons and holy water? I never told my mom. She wouldn’t have believed me. She didn’t hear about what had happened in the room, either. The footage showed us doing nothing, only me staring at a bunch of salt as it started dissolving the floor. None of us got in trouble. They didn’t even care that I had a knife sticking out of the wall. I guess they were too preoccupied with the rest of the scene. I wish I could give you some dramatic conclusion, a fight that lasted for hours or an epic chase. On second thought, I’m glad I can’t describe that, but the truth is that what happened was pretty simple. I tossed some water and Richard threw a knife. That was it. The whole thing took thirty seconds at most. It seems that most things in life are anticlimactic. An exciting movie, a first date, graduation- once it’s over, you’re left with a certain emptiness, like whatever you just did shouldn’t have ended so quickly. They say time flies (I hate that cliché), but it doesn’t. What happens is we expect things to be greater than they really are. We imagine some grand outcome, beyond what reality can provide us, and it almost never goes that way. I can’t know for sure that I will be safe for the rest of my life. I only know that I’ve gotten through college unscathed so far. If there is another encounter, it won’t end well, because I won’t be prepared this time. It will be different, surely, a more dangerous monster or just a surprise attack when I least expect it. I definitely won’t write another story about it, because I’ll probably be dead. If you hear about some university kid that dropped dead of a heart attack or washed up in a river, it will probably be me.
2020.09.25 21:17 FemboySamanthaHeheI hate when you post a shower thought and people try to challenge the idea
It's at the point where everyone is just ignoring all depth. Even if something isn't that deep like the world being a repeating gif of a spinning circle, people would try to sound sophisticated and say "But it's not just a video" like no shit. It's not even that deep it's pretty relatable and you know what I mean. Oh no but you're "the thinking man/woman/person". Like okay think of the obvious reason this shower thought is true.
2020.09.25 20:44 Britneyfan456Which Actress had the best run in the 70s?
Best run in terms of anything Ellen Burstyn: The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Same Time, Next Year, The King of Marvin Gardens, Harry and Tonto, Tropic of Cancer, Alex in Wonderland, Harry and Tonto, A Dream of Passion, and Providence. Diane Keaton: The Godfather 1 & 2, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Interiors, Sleepers, Lovers and Other Strangers, Play It Again, Sam, Love and Death, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Harry and Walter Go to New York, and I Will, I Will... for Now. Meryl Streep: Manhattan, The Deer Hunter, Julia, Kramer vs. Kramer, and The Seduction of Joe Tynan. Shelley Duvall: Nashville, Annie Hall, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Brewster McCloud, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson, 3 Women, and Thieves Like Us. Bibi Andersson: La Rivale, Scenes from a Marriage, Chelovek s drugoy storony, The Touch, Story of a Woman, The Man from the Other Side, Afskedens time, Blondie, The Kremlin Letter, Twice a Woman, Quintet, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, L'Amour en question, Chelovek s drugoy storony, Barnförbjudet, An Enemy of the People, It's Raining on Santiago, and The Concorde ... Airport '79. Karen Black: Nashville, Family Plot, Airport 1975, The Great Gatsby, The Day of the Locust, Trilogy of Terror, Burnt Offerings, A Gunfight, Cisco Pike, Drive, He Said, The Pyx, Little Laura and Big John, Law and Disorder, Rhinoceros, Crime and Passion, Killer Fish, The Last Word, Because He's My Friend, The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver, Mr. Horn, Capricorn One, and In Praise of Older Women. Julie Christie: Shampoo, Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Go-Between, Don't Look Now, Demon Seed, and Heaven Can Wait. Liv Ullmann: The Emigrants, Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face, Pope Joan, Leonor, 40 Carats, Lost Horizon, Zandy's Bride, The Abdication, Trollflöjten, A Bridge Too Far, Players, Autumn Sonata, Fruen fra havet, The Serpent's Egg, The New Land, Cries and Whispers, Cold Sweat, and The Night Visitor. Pam Grier: Coffy, Foxy Brown, Black Mama White Mama, The Big Bird Cage, Women in Cages, Friday Foster, The Arena, Scream Blacula Scream, Sheba, Baby, Bucktown, The Big Doll House, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Cool Breeze, Hit Man, The Twilight People, Drum, Greased Lightning, and Twilight of Love. Goldie Hawn: Shampoo, There's a Girl in My Soup, Foul Play, Butterflies Are Free, The Sugarland Express, Dollars, Lovers and Liars, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, and The Girl from Petrovka. Romy Schneider: Ludwig, Death Watch, Mado, Group Portrait with a Lady, A Simple Story, Bloodline, Womanlight, A Woman at Her Window, Innocents with Dirty Hands, Le vieux fusil, That Most Important Thing: Love, Un amour de pluie, Qui?, My Lover, My Son, Bloomfield, La califfa, Max et les ferrailleurs, The Assassination of Trotsky, The Infernal Trio, César and Rosalie, The Train, and Love at the Top. Faye Dunaway: Network, Chinatown, The Champ, Little Big Man, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, The Towering Inferno, Three Days of the Condor, Doc, Eyes of Laura Mars, and Voyage of the Damned. Stéphane Audran: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Violette Nozière, Le Gagnant, Eagle's Wing, Les Liens de sang, The Twist, Silver Bears, The Devil's Advocate, Death of a Corrupt Man, Chi dice donna, dice donna, The Black Bird, Vincent, François, Paul... et les autres, Hay que matar a B., How to Do Well When You're a Jerk and a Crybaby, And Then There Were None, The Heart's Cry, Un meurtre est un meurtre, Wedding in Blood, Le Boucher, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, Sans mobile apparent, Aussi loin que l'amour, Just Before Nightfall, Children of Mata Hari, and The Breach. Talia Shire: The Godfather 1 & 2, Rocky 1 & 2, Maxie, Gas-s-s-s, The Outside Man, The Dunwich Horror, Prophecy, and Old Boyfriends. Ingrid Bergman: Autumn Sonata, Murder on the Orient Express, A Matter of Time, A Walk in the Spring Rain, Henri Langlois, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Madeline Kahn: What's Up, Doc?, High Anxiety, Young Frankenstein, Paper Moon, Blazing Saddles, The Cheap Detective, The Muppet Movie, Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, at long last love, and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. Marsha Mason: Cinderella Liberty, The Goodbye Girl, Chapter Two, Blume in Love, The Cheap Detective, Promises in the Dark, and Audrey Rose. Monica Zetterlund: Stubby, The New Land, The Apple War, The Emigrants, and Guttersnipes. Jane Fonda: Julia, Klute, Coming Home, A Doll's House, Steelyard Blues, Tout Va Bien, The Blue Bird, Fun with Dick and Jane, California Suite, Comes a Horseman, The China Syndrome, and The Electric Horseman. Marisa Berenson: Cabaret, Death in Venice, Barry Lyndon, Killer Fish, Un modo di essere donna, and Some Like It Cool. Geraldine Chaplin: Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson, Nashville, Welcome to L.A., Noroît, Elisa, vida mía, Mama Turns 100, Ana and the Wolves, Z.P.G., Innocent Bystanders, A House Without Boundaries, The Garden of Delights, The Hawaiians, Perched on a Tree, ¿...Y el prójimo, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, Yankee Dudler, Cría Cuervos, Scrim, Roseland, In Memoriam, Remember My Name, A Wedding, L'Adoption, The Widow of Montiel, Mais ou et donc Ornicar, One Page of Love, Blindfolded Eyes, and Marriage à la mode. Gena Rowlands: A Woman Under the Influence, Opening Night, Minnie and Moskowitz, The Brink's Job, and Two-Minute Warning. Eileen Brennan: The Cheap Detective, The Last Picture Show, The Sting, Scarecrow, Nourish the Beast, Daisy Miller, FM, Hustle, The Great Smokey Roadblock, My Old Man, When She Was Bad..., Murder by Death, and The Death of Richie. Barbra Streisand: What's Up, Doc?, The Way We Were, A Star Is Born, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Owl and the Pussycat, Up the Sandbox, Funny Lady, For Pete's Sake, and The Main Event. Shelley Winters: Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Pete's Dragon, Blume in Love, Revenge!, Flap, Bloody Mama, How Do I Love Thee?, What's the Matter with Helen?, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, Something to Hide, The Poseidon Adventure, The Stone Killer, Cleopatra Jones, Diamonds, La dahlia scarlatta, Journey into Fear, The Tenant, Poor Pretty Eddie, That Lucky Touch, Tentacles, Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino, King of the Gypsies, An Average Little Man, Black Journal, The Magician of Lublin, The French Atlantic Affair, City on Fire, and The Visitor. Isabelle Huppert: Violette Nozière, Rosebud, Going Places, The Lacemaker, Successive Slidings of Pleasure, The Bar at the Crossing, Faustine et le Bel Été, Aloïse, The Common Man, Serious as Pleasure, The Big Delirium, The Indians Are Still Far Away, Scénario de 'Sauve qui peut la vie, Return to the Beloved, The Brontë Sisters, Little Marcel, Spoiled Children, I Am Pierre Riviere, Docteur Françoise Gailland, The Judge and the Assassin, and L'Ampélopède. Lee Grant: Shampoo, Voyage of the Damned, The Landlord, There Was a Crooked Man..., The Internecine Project, Airport '77, The Spell, The Mafu Cage, Damien: Omen II, and The Swarm. Monica Vitti: Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino, Ninì Tirabusciò: la donna che inventò la mossa, The Pizza Triangle, Le coppie, Teresa the Thief, La supertestimone, That's How We Women Are, The Pacifist, Duck in Orange Sauce, Polvere di stelle, Gli ordini sono ordini, The Phantom of Liberty, La Tosca, An Almost Perfect Affair, Amori miei, Tigers in Lipstick, Per vivere meglio, divertitevi con no, State Reasons, L'altra metà del cielo, The Immortal Bachelor, Blonde in Black Leather, and Basta che non si sappia in giro. Carrie Fisher: Star Wars, Mr. Mike's Mondo Video, and Shampoo. Cybill Shepherd: The Last Picture Show, Taxi Driver, Daisy Miller, The Heartbreak Kid, At Long Last Love, Aliens from Spaceship Earth, A Guide for the Married Woman, The Lady Vanishes, Americathon, Special Delivery, and Silver Bears. Cloris Leachman: Young Frankenstein, The Muppet Movie, The Last Picture Show, WUSA, Lovers and Other Strangers, The Steagle, The People Next Door, Dillinger, High Anxiety, The North Avenue Irregulars, Crazy Mama, The Mouse and His Child, Scavenger Hunt, Charley and the Angel, and Happy Mother's Day, Love George. Diane Ladd: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Chinatown, WUSA, The Steagle, The Rebel Rousers, Embryo, and White Lightning. Delphine Seyrig: Utkozben, Aloise, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, The Last Word, India Song, Caro Michele, Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert, The Garden That Tilts, Baxter, Vera Baxter, Faces of Love, A Doll's House, The Day of the Jackal, The Heart's Cry, The Black Windmill, and Daughters of Darkness. Tatum O'Neal: Paper Moon, The Bad News Bears, Nickelodeon, and International Velvet. Jodie Foster: Taxi Driver, Napoleon and Samantha, Tom Sawyer, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Freaky Friday, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Candleshoe, Bugsy Malone, Kansas City Bomber, One Little Indian, Echoes of a Summer, Moi, fleur bleue, and Beach House. Jill Clayburgh: An Unmarried Woman, La Luna, Starting Over, Griffin and Phoenix, The Telephone Book, Portnoy's Complaint, The Thief Who Came to Dinner, The Terminal Man, Silver Streak, Hustling, and Semi-Tough. Sissy Spacek: Carrie, Badlands, Women in Revolt, Welcome to L.A., 3 Women, Prime Cut, and Ginger in the Morning. Glenda Jackson: A Touch of Class, Women in Love, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Hedda, Elizabeth R, The Music Lovers, The Boy Friend, Mary, Queen of Scots, The Maids, The Devil Is a Woman, The Triple Echo, Bequest to the Nation, Stevie, Nasty Habits, The Incredible Sarah, The Class of Miss MacMichael, Lost and Found, House Calls, and The Romantic Englishwoman. Vanessa Redgrave: Julia, Mary, Queen of Scots, Murder on the Orient Express, The Devils, Dropout, La vacanza, The Trojan Women, Agatha, Yanks, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Bear Island, and Out of Season. Tuesday Weld: Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Play It as It Lays, A Question of Guilt, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood, Who'll Stop the Rain, A Safe Place, I Walk the Line, and Reflections of Murder. Ann Margaret: Carnal Knowledge, The Cheap Detective, Tommy, The Train Robbers, RPM, C.C. and Company, The Outside Man, The Twist, Magic, The Villain, Joseph Andrews, and The Last Remake of Beau Geste. Jane Alexander: Kramer vs. Kramer, All the President's Men, The Great White Hope, Eleanor and Franklin, A Gunfight, The Betsy, and The New Centurions. Sally Kellerman: Brewster McCloud, MASH, Welcome to L.A., Brewster McCloud, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Lost Horizon, The Mouse and His Child, Slither, A Little Romance, Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins, The Big Bus, and A Reflection of Fear. Shirley MacLaine: Being There, Minnie and Moskowitz, The Turning Point, Two, Desperate Characters, The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir, and The Possession of Joel Delaney. Mia Farrow: The Great Gatsby, A Wedding, Full Circle, Hurricane, Death on the Nile, Avalanche, See No Evil, Dr. Popaul, Follow Me!, Goodbye, Raggedy Ann, and Peter Pan. Anne Bancroft: The Turning Point, The August, Lip Stick, Silent Movie, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Urban Living: Funny and Formidable, The Hindenburg, Blazing Saddles, and Young Winston. Liza Minnelli: Cabaret, A Matter of Time, Lucky Lady, New York, New York, Liza with a Z, Journey Back to Oz, and That's Entertainment!. Raquel Welch: Kansas City Bomber, Myra Breckinridge, Hannie Caulder, The Three Musketeers, Fuzz, Sin, The Four Musketeers, Animal, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Prince and the Pauper, Bluebeard, The Wild Party, and The Last of Sheila. Louise Fletcher: The Cheap Detective, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Thieves Like Us, Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Magician of Lublin, The Lady in Red, Russian Roulette, and Natural Enemies. Stockard Channing: The Cheap Detective, Grease, The Big Bus, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, Sweet Revenge, The Fortune, The Lion Roars Again, The Hospital, and Up the Sandbox. Maggie Smith: California Suite, Murder by Death, Travels with My Aunt, Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, and Death on the Nile. Lee Remick: The Blue Knight, The Omen, The Europeans, Telefon, The Medusa Touch, Touch Me Not, Loot, Hennessy, A Severed Head, A Delicate Balance, and Sometimes a Great Notion. Susannah York: Images, That Lucky Touch, The Maids, Jane Eyre, Zee and Co., Conduct Unbecoming, Gold, Eliza Fraser, Superman, The Shout, The Silent Partner, Country Dance, Happy Birthday, Wanda June, Sky Riders, Fallen Angels, Long Shot, The Golden Gate Murders, The Golden Gate Murders, and A Month in the Country. Cindy Williams: American Graffiti, The Conversation, Travels with My Aunt, Gas-s-s-s, Drive, He Said, The Killing Kind, Beware! The Blob, More American Graffiti, Mr. Ricco, and The First Nudie Musical. Terri Garr: Young Frankenstein, The Conversation, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, The Black Stallion, Oh, God, The Absent-Minded Waiter, and Mr. Mike's Mondo Video. Claudia Cardinale: The Immortal Bachelor, Blonde in Black Leather, I guappi, Father of the Godfathers, A Girl in Australia, The Adventures of Gerard, L'udienza, One Russian Summer, The Legend of Frenchie King, Libera, My Love, Il comune senso del pudore, Jesus of Nazareth, In the Name of the Pope King, Il prefetto di ferro, L'arma, Goodbye & Amen, and Escape to Athena. Sally Field: Norma Rae, The End, Heroes, Stay Hungry, Hooper, and Smokey and the Bandit. Ali Macgraw: Love Story, Convoy, Players, and The Getaway.
2020.09.25 19:53 gunperv51Originally posted this on my late father's 84th birthday
This was originally posted on a private FB bariatric support group back in June: Today would have been my dad's 84th birthday. And while yes, I'm sad that he's not here anymore, I do have to thank his passing for my life. Fair warning--its going to be a long post... A little background for those who don't really know me. I was always obese as a kid, and like everybody else, I was teased about it. My way to comfort myself and deal with it was to eat junk/fatty foods. Whole bags of pretzels, whole bags potato chips, supersized French fries, white chocolate, stuff like that. And soda. LOTS AND LOTS OF SODA. (I estimate I was drinking 6-8 LITERS of soda a day. EVERY DAY!) As I grew up, the food became my "go to" for anything. Bored? Eat. Having a good day? Great...Eat! Having a bad day? §ĆŘƏW IT, AND EAT! So naturally, I would gain weight. Fought with my doctors about it. He'd put me on a diet, and I'd (mostly) ignore it. Weight Watchers, Atkins, Liquid, etc. Lose some weight, but gain it back with more when I went off the program. Like everybody else in my family, I was on meds for blood pressure and all my other health issues. Getting back to my dad. He was obese and had health problems. The worst was his diabetes. After a long while, his podiatrist had to start removing bones from his toes to get rid of diabetic sores on his feet. Cured one, a new one popped up on his other foot. In June 1998, he had to have another bone removed. This time, there was a complication, and he ended up where they had to amputate part of his leg. He tried to live on his own, but had issues. When my sister bought her house and had her housewarming party, we took him to her. Even though he was doing PT, he couldn't get up the steps. He never went again to her house. Frequently, my brother and I would get calls in the middle of the night or early in the morning that he fell, and we ran to help him off the floor. One morning, he had had enough and cried. The last time I saw him cry was at my grandmother's funeral 15 years earlier. He eventually had to give up his independence, and had to move into a nursing home. While there, he started to really lose weight, but eventually found out they had a candy machine, and played it like it was a slot machine. He gained a lot of weight again. All while he was on dialysis. The weekend of November 24 to the 26, 2001, he was on dialysis, and had a stroke. We spend the entire weekend in the hospital, waiting. Went back to work on the 26th, and got a call that he passed away. Went through the Jewish funeral process--Shiva, Shloshim (the 30 days after funeral), and the year of mourning for a parent. Dad died at 65. Back to me. Less than a year after his passing, I went for a physical and spoke to our GP (who was a friend and former coworker of my dad's) about my checkup. He bluntly said to me, "If you don't do anything about your health, you'll die of the same çřåp your father did in 5 years!" (I was 31 at the time.) He declared me morbidly obese, and was about to wash his hands of me. We spoke about Bariatric surgery, but he didn't believe in it. In 2004, we spoke again about it, as one of his other patients said "eff it, I'm going to do it, without his blessing". And he was impressed with her success. He then said it might help. I made a promise to myself that this was it. If I can have the surgery, I will do whatever was necessary to make it work. When I researched it, I knew I wanted the RNY surgery. In March 2005, my remaining family and I went to a bar mitzvah for a family member and got an instant picture. We all looked...huge. Not "big". Not "fat". HUGE! As Fluffy would say, we were "OH, HELL NAH!". My sister had a friend who had the surgery, and she recommended their practice. We went to the pre surgical seminar, and made an appointment for all of us for May 11th. We all went through the procedures (testing, appointments, etc.). We finally got the clearance for the surgery date for myself and my brother. October 11, 2005. My sister had hers in January 2006. I said I would be the first one to have the surgery. Everybody thought I would have bailed if I heard whatever happened with my brother if he had the surgery first. It was actually the reverse, where my brother wanted to bail. (I later learned it was National Coming Out Day, so I view it as I also "came out", but it was from my old life as I want to live again). I learned I liked to walk and exercise. And wear nice clothes. Sad to say, both of my siblings have not kept up with it, and look almost as big as they did before the surgery. Fast forward to April 2012, and I was reintroduced to a lovely and beautiful woman who I had a long past history with (Junior High and High School). Seventeen months later, we were married. She had her VSG surgery in April 2019. She was pretty when she was larger, and now she is gorgeous. I cannot say I am perfect, as I will on occasion slip. I have gained about 25-30 pounds back, but with the help of my wife (on bad days, I tell her "nothing is as bad as her being a born again dietician"), I am slowly losing the weight again. My ultimate goal number is 199 pounds. Both to be in "One-derland", and the that was what I weighed when I entered High School.
2020.09.25 19:50 PidmikThe Return of Nefertari Vivi to the Straw Hat Pirates
I was inspired to compose this theory by this post posted yesterday, the reason why I'm making it a separate post and not just a comment is because of how much I have to say on the matter. I've been mulling this theory over for several months (why it's so long and detailed). Apologies in advance since this is going to run very long as I have a lot of points to go over. Before I start, I will warn readers to not continue unless you are generally caught up to the manga (by the end I'll be talking about current events, so anime-onlies may want to skip out when I get to the "Final Thoughts" section). Starting things off, there's a big question mark regarding the end of the Reverie, all we know is that whatever happened involved the Nefertari Family and Sabo (it's literally the only two pieces of information about the event we're aware of). When trying to work out what happened at the Reverie, one must first establish who was (plot-)important among the people shown to be attending; which is as simple as asking who belongs and who doesn't. Most of the characters attending the Reverie did so because of "what the Reverie is" lining up with "who they are", but there are some that are there for seemingly no reason other than to be "Chess Pieces". The Chess Pieces in this case are CP-0, Fujitora, Ryokugyu, Kuma, Bonney and the Revolutionaries. Almost all of the Royal Families and their groups can easily be written off here because they're "supposed" to be there; the Nefertari Family, of course, are the exception, since we are told directly that something happened involving them in Chapter 956 "Big News". I think most people can easily come to the conclusion that Cobra was assassinated because he started asking the wrong questions, that much goes without saying (it's telegraphed super-duper hard). What happened to Clover is going to happen to Cobra for basically the same reason. But where does that leave Vivi if her father is murdered by the Government? Would the Assassin leave her alive if she caught them in the act? Of course not. However, that raises a question: if Vivi is to survive, how can she do so? Well, my judgment is that the assassin was most likely Lucci. And if he was the Assassin then an avenue for Vivi's escape opens in a fascinating way. One of the first things established about Karoo is the running speed of the Super Spot-billed Duck: "Faster than a Leopard" (Lucci's Devil Fruit). There is a strange parallel between Lucci and Vivi that may fly under most One Piece fan's radar, mostly because it requires knowledge of supplementary material, in this case the SBS; anyone who doesn't read the volumes or otherwise look up the SBS on their own time would naturally miss this detail. Like all Strawhats, Vivi has had multiple details established her (favourite foods, associated colour, flower and animal, etc). The important one here is her associated animal: Dove. Doves and Pigeons are actually the same animal (the Family Columbidae), the difference is usually merely in the colour. Vivi is a "Dove" with a companion comparable to a "Leopard", while Lucci is a "Leopard" with a "Dove" companion. That's not even getting into the fact that Lucci looks a hell of a lot like Cobra for no conceivable reason (possible illegitimate child or government kidnapping victim?). Anyway, to not belabour the point: Cobra asks the Gorosei uncomfortable questions and they sic Lucci on him shortly after (they'd probably allow him to leave their office and then call their attack dog cat). If Vivi is present when Cobra is attacked, or enters the room as the crime is in process, she would naturally flee as fast as possible using Karoo. Karoo outspeeds Lucci just enough for her to get some needed distance. As this happens, the Revolutionaries stage their attack, causing a ruckus by releasing several of the World Noble's slaves. In the ensuing chaos, Vivi and Sabo run into each other. Vivi would recognise the Mera Mera no Mi's powers as Ace's, if she expresses this out loud, then a connection is formed between them. It can be as simple as:
"Ah! That's Ace's power!" "You know Ace? He was my brother." "Oh, I didn't know Luffy had another brother."
With Vivi now established as a friend of Luffy's (possibly a member of the crew if the discussion goes that far), Sabo, much like Whitebeard, would give the order for the Revolutionaries to protect her at all costs (Sabo would give the order because he's the highest ranking person among them). Beyond this point there are two major possibilities, but no matter what Sabo is caught on camera with Vivi in some capacity, this perfectly explains the reactions the Revolutionaries had to the article about him, if he was dead or captured they'd be far more angry and/or upset, instead they are simply confused, Koala's reaction in particular reading as a confusion born of jealousy (Sabo and Koala are very close and it's possible they have unspoken feelings for each other). Option 1: Sabo escorts Vivi to one of the Bondolas and they are photographed leaving the scene (Vivi may or may not be crying because her father just died), the World Economic Journal spins it as Sabo being the Assassin and that he is kidnapping Vivi and the Revolutionaries are left very confused: why would Sabo kill Cobra and then kidnap Vivi? They'd know that to be out of character for him, not to mention straight-up killing Royals is not really their MO. Now out of Mariejois, Sabo escorts Vivi to Luffy using his piece of Luffy's Vivre Card. Option 2: Sabo is photographed directly protecting Vivi from Lucci (if you want to get really on the nose, maybe he's holding her in his arms right at the moment the photo is taken). The confusion of the Revolutionaries stems from the fact that Sabo is helping a Royal (again, not the Revolutionary MO). In both cases, Koala's particular confusion comes from Sabo being seen with a(nother) woman. Now, Option 1 gets Vivi into the New World pretty cleanly, but leaves a lot of hanging threads. Not only that but Option 2 requires more meat, it doesn't even explain how Vivi gets into the New World so that she can rejoin the Straw Hats. To do that we're going to have to get crazy. Perhaps, before all of this started, a certain somebody (e.g. Wapol) accuses Vivi of the crime of Piracy to the nearest Marine, one of the two Admirals currently there. (There is a tiny window of opportunity where Wapol would have been able to learn Vivi was a member of the Straw Hats, during the SH's first encounter with him; even then, Vivi was open about her connection to Luffy so it wouldn't be hard for such suspicions to be confirmed if you tailed her for like a day.) There is no proof of said person's accusation, so at first the Admiral either writes him off as spouting politically motivated nonsense (if it's Ryokugyu) or deliberately ignores his accusation (if it's Fujitora, because he happens to like Luffy, also the Alabasta cover-up thing). Regardless, with the Revolutionaries now acting "out of character" and protecting a noble, there is mounting evidence of the claim. In the chaos, Kuma is one of the slaves released from their bonds, but without his humanity he simply does nothing (much to the distress of the people who know him, naturally). Perhaps Bonney goes to his side, if her Devil Fruit is particularly potent she may be able to bring him "back to life" (probably temporarily). All this time, Lucci has been trying to kill Vivi, either due to that being the Gorosei's orders or simply to leave no witnesses of his murder of Cobra. All this leads into a crescendo, Fujitora/Ryokugyu asks an important question of Vivi: "Are you connected with the Straw Hat Pirates?" In this moment, Vivi finds that she can lie no longer and declares:
"Yes! I, Nefertari Vivi, am a Straw Hat Pirate!"
Upon saying this, Kuma springs into action and does his thing (either willingly because Bonney restored his humanity or due to the lingering effects of the "Protect the Sunny" programming that caused him to guard the ship for 2 years). Perhaps he does it right at the last second before somebody (Lucci/Ryokugyu) strikes her down. Now, what would happen next? Well, what do we know about Kuma's launching power? Sentomaru actually gave us a general description of how it works.
"The people repelled by Kuma's paws fly through the Sky for three days and three nights... or so he says. But only the person himself knows where they fly to."
This is presumably why Kuma usually asks the sendee where they'd like to go, because the process is automatic and you're sent to a place that is, in a sense, of your choosing (or relevant to you in some way). This would explain why literally all the locations the Straw Hats were sent to were so perfectly in line with their skill sets despite Kuma most assuredly not being aware of the nitty-gritty of what roles they held on the crew or their personalities (he is unlikely to have known Sanji was a Cook to deliberately send him to Momoiro Island, where they happen to have 99 Body Improving Recipes, or Chopper was a Doctor to send him to the Torino Kingdom, where they happen to have incredible medicinal plants to study; for example). Likely, if you have a place in mind (specific or general) right at the moment of being propelled you are sent there (Perona went to Kuraigana because it was her perfect Vacation Spot, Zoro went there because he wants to get stronger and Mihawk, the strongest swordsman, lives there). Anyway, with Vivi having just uttered that she is a Straw Hat (along with the general thing of her old life collapsing around her), she'd most likely be thinking about them at the moment she is sent away by Kuma. This results in her (and Karoo, she'd almost definitely be riding him at the time so have her hands firmly on his reins and her legs around his torso) flying toward Wano/Onigashima at high speeds, probably knocking the Queen Mama Chanter off the Wano Entryway Waterfall a third time if the Paw Barrier is powerful enough (Rule of Threes and all that). Worth noting about Kuma's ability is that there is a funny little detail about the order he vanished the Straw Hats on Sabaody, a detail I haven't seen anyone talk about.
Zoro, Brook, Usopp, Sanji, Franky, Nami, Chopper, Robin
This list of Straw Hats is seemingly random, but if you separate the list into "East Blue" and "Grand Line" sets something happens.
East Blue: Zoro, Usopp, Sanji, Nami Grand Line: Brook, Franky, Chopper, Robin
With the four East Blue Straw Hats, they are listed in "final join order" (Nami officially joined after the Arlong Park arc). With the Grand Line Straw Hats, they are listed in "reverse order of introduction" (Robin was introduced in Whiskey Peak, before Chopper). Either way, both lists are representative of the Straw Hats journey as a group and converge at the entry to the Grand Line, leading one to possibly conclude "If Vivi had been there, Kuma would have gotten to her last". Isn't that interesting? Also, and this is a minor, possibly circumstantial, point: while Luffy is flying to Amazon Lily, he calls out the names of his crew, in order, but takes breaths where he and Vivi would go. "Haa... Zoro! Nami! Usopp! Sanji! Haa... Chopper! Robin! Franky! Brook!" I understand that this is kind of a silly thing to point out, especially since such a thing doesn't happen elsewhere (and Luffy has called out the names of the crew in order several times). Anyway, returning to the point of Vivi being "delivered" to the Straw Hats by Kuma's power. Depending on timing, she could literally fall out of the sky during the battle at Onigashima (currently ongoing, as of this writing). Maybe it'll be the Chapter 1000 cliffhanger? To be honest, I think it's a little more likely that she'll show up after the battle at Onigashima is over and the Straw Hats and the rest of the Wano Natives are celebrating (or preparing funeral rites for the deceased). However, if this is the method Vivi returns to the Crew, then her reappearance can only happen during the Wano arc (any later arc goes over the stated duration time of Kuma's "Vacation" power). Now... if I'm right and Vivi does rejoin the crew: what position would she hold? I think the answer is fairly clear and easy to answer, given Vivi's previous interactions with the crew and her own skill set: QuartermasteVice Captain. The role of "Quartermaster" is not the same as a "First Mate", though it can be easy to confuse them. The First Mate is Zoro, he fits pretty much all the basic criteria to be one: the First Mate was a crewmember handpicked by the Captain, becoming their right-hand man, their top priority was ensuring crew safety. There was also a Second, Third and Fourth Mate, forming a chain of command, when the Captain was unable to perform their duties, command would fall to the Mates in descending order. (Sanji is the de facto Second Mate, pulling double duty with his role as the Cook; remember the "Curly Hat Pirates"? Zoro similarly "lead" the crew during the time the crew was split up during Skypeia,) On Pirate Crews, the Quartermaster was elevated to a higher ranked position than the role had in official Armies and Navies.
Quote: Wikipedia The quartermaster ranked higher than any other officer aboard the ship except the captain himself, and could veto the captain's decisions whenever the ship was not chasing a prize or engaged in battle. The quartermaster also was chiefly responsible for discipline, assessing punishments for crewmen who transgressed the articles.
The Quartermaster also handled the loot after raids, determining who gets what. They did not, usually, take command of the crew when the Captain was otherwise indisposed, because their role on the crew was different to the direct leadership of the Captain. Throughout the entire Story of One Piece, only one crew member has ever successfully vetoed a direct order from Luffy, and only one crew member has ever been given permission to dictate the course Luffy takes on his journey: Vivi. Other characters, like Kuma and Big Mom (and Shiki in Strong World), have forced Luffy to redirect course, but that is merely a testament to their power and influence; similarly, Law's alliance doesn't count either because he merely gave Luffy the choice to ally with him, a proposal Luffy could have easily refused. During the Drum arc, Vivi was not only allowed to decide whether to head to Alabasta or seek out Drum Island, but she successfully prevented Luffy from giving the crew the order to fight the Drum natives. Compare what happened when Luffy and Usopp got into their argument about Merry, or how Sanji tried (and failed) to stop Luffy from telling Usopp to get off his ship if he can't accept his command. With regards to the Post-Water 7 arc, and Zoro's ultimatum regarding Usopp, that falls in line with his role as the First Mate, his concerns were all to do with crew safety (a crewmember who can't follow orders will eventually become a liability) and he never actually tried to veto the decision (he instead preemptively threatened to leave the crew if Luffy gave the order to welcome Usopp back with open arms). He achieved the same result of stopping a foolish order but through different, albeit somewhat extreme, means. Currently, Nami is the closest the crew has to a Quartermaster (she deals out punishments and handles the money), but she has never once vetoed one of Luffy's orders, especially not with regard to determining course (unless you count stealing the Merry and forcing the crew to visit the Conomi Islands, obviously an illegitimate way of getting the Captain to do something). If the Straw Hats ever get a full-time Quartermaster, it could only be someone like Vivi, someone Nami is especially close to (she's unlikely to trust anyone else to handle "her" money, for starters). Something interesting about Vivi is that, in her flashback, she is established as the Second-in-Command (Vice Leader) of the Suna-Suna Gang. Not many other Straw Hats are highlighted in such a position (Zoro was second best to Kuina, Sanji was Sous Chef at the Baratie). As a final thought, there are some interesting parallels between Vivi and Oden.
A noble leaves their home country with a single retainer to join the unorthodox Crew of a powerful Pirate in order to answer an important question; after a few years, they leave that crew to join the crew of the Future Pirate King, leaving behind their retainer in the process. The Noble learns valuable life lessons on the crew and proves invaluable in regards to the Pirate King's mission due to their skills. Eventually, however, returning to the island of their birth results in them having to make a tough decision whether to continue their journey with the crew or stay at home on their island and help rebuild.
This is a descriptor I wrote back in March (during the Oden Flashback) in a Discord chat, with this as a follow-up.
The big difference boils down to their "sense of responsibility"; Oden was deeply irresponsible most of his life, and his first true act of responsibility was choosing to leave behind Wano to help the Pirate King finish his mission (when Oden could have asked Roger for help dealing with Orochi); meanwhile, Vivi is deeply responsible and her very reason to leave Alabasta in the first place was to save it, when presented the choice she would obviously choose to stay home to help it recover. Heck, even Vivi choosing to stay and Oden choosing to leave has direct parallels since both involve "not facing the country as they leave" along with the rest of the crew having a brief argument immediately after getting out of the countries waters (Roger calls Oden "Scum" for leaving and the Straw Hats insult Zoro for suggesting they should have taken Vivi by force if they didn't want her to leave that badly).
During a recent discussion with a friend of mine, we came to the conclusion that there are four characters who seem to represent the culmination of Oden's goals. Zoro: Considering the fact that neither of his swords are Black Blades, Oden never mastered the Sword. Vivi: Oden was never able to rule his homeland (despite being in line to do so), he was usurped by a man who lied and cheated his way into power. Robin: Oden was never able to help the Pirate King solve the One Piece puzzle, despite his ability to decode the Poneglyphs. Yamato: Oden was never able to open Wano's borders, and the wisdom he learned on his travels with Newgate and Roger documented in his journal would be lost if not for her. (Naturally, this one operates on the assumption that Yamato might join the Straw Hats after the Wano arc ends, there are no guarantees). Nobody ever said that only single individuals can inherit a person's will. Presumably, Momonosuke will eventually represent all four, as his son; the only ones feasible for him as he is currently are helping the Straw Hats with the Poneglyphs (which he has already done) and the border thing. I feel like, at the end of the Wano arc, Yamato will pass Oden's Journal to Momonosuke and Hiyori and go on a journey with the Straw Hats to "find herself". In closing, I hope the people who actually sat down to read this thing in it's entirety enjoyed doing so, like I said, I had a lot to say on these matters, and I hope I managed to convince people of my perspective. If you find a flaw, feel free to point it out, there may be something I missed or didn't elaborate well enough on.
2020.09.25 18:57 girlwhoplayswithbugsANNND She's Outta Here! (1.5 mos Ago)
My story may not be shared anywhere. Thanks. Update: Please be kinder in your words about my FH. This story is not over. In the weeks following my last post, things were quiet. It was a Saturday morning, the only day we have to sleep in, when FH received a call from JNMIL… at 7:30 a.m. He sleepily answered the second time she called, and she asked if he could come over and help her boyfriend load a truck as he was moving today. Yeah, sure. Let me rush over to help your boyfriend load a truck, on last minute notice, on a Saturday morning. Sure. If you haven’t already figured it out, one of my many pet peeves with this woman was her failure to give heads up. Ever. We didn’t have LO because her mom wanted to have her a weekend here and there and we’d made plans to sleep in and go for a hike before it got terribly hot, and of course, those plans were busted. FH rushed over as JNMIL made it seem urgent, but then had to wait for boyfriend to retrieve the truck from across town, therefore nothing had even been loaded. It turned out to be a long, frustrating day. Once I found out that it was just him moving, I called her to see what was up, make sure she was okay, etc. She said things were fine and that he was going to [other state] to make preparations for them before she moved down too. I had hopes, but oh well. A week later, her parents surprised her with a trip to Vegas with her best friend. I could see that they were trying to show her how much fun she and her best friend have together and that moving away would suck. Her parents stayed in her apartment while she was gone and we spent a lot of time over there with them, discussing JNMIL and her boyfriend. Something I noticed that I didn’t think my FH noticed was that literally every piece of furniture was still in the apartment. Every couch, shelf, buffet, table, everything. The only thing her boyfriend took when he left was his bed and clothes. I mentioned it to FH, that I didn’t think he would come back to help her with anything. He brushed it off. Fast forward. Not even 4 days have gone by. JNMIL calls FH and says that she NEEDS him to help her load everything onto the truck then UNLOAD everything at a storage unit. She even hired someone to come help. Ya’ll. I was fuming. If you could hire one dude, hire two and leave us alone. Before Loading Day, he was summoned several times throughout the week so take furniture apart, de-install shower heads and ceiling fans, it was a mess. She saw him more than I did all week. Now, we have had PLANS for about 6 weeks to see friends out of town and we would be leaving first thing Saturday morning and staying with them until Sunday evening. Everyone was aware we were going out of town. Loading Day (Friday) comes, and it is a DISASTER. Nothing had been packed. No food had been packed and/or thrown away. Nothing was on the truck at all. FH and the hired helper literally did EVERYTHING as she was “too stressed” to pack or load. Gag me with a spoon. I went to work in the pantry and fridge because I wanted to get out of there at a decent time. Truck get loaded and FH and hired helper go to the storage unit. Only to realize it was closed and they couldn’t access it. At all. She didn’t get a key. So she’s on the phone with the company for over an hour and they basically told her to piss off and that they would be open tomorrow. Now. This is it. The moment I lost it. Without asking, without even speaking to me first, she looks over at her best friend and says “Welp. I guess FH is stuck helping me tomorrow.” I heard her. I ignored it at first. Then she turns to me and says “Call FH and tell him he will have to come back out tomorrow.” That was it. I saw red. I told her that her that t wasn’t our fault her sorry ass boyfriend didn’t help her move and wouldn’t come back. I told her I would NOT call him and make demands. I told her that she had some nerve, just TELLING us what we were going to do. I reminded her that we had plans and she rebutted with “I don’t care I am his MOTHER.” And that was it. I told her I didn’t give a shit that she was his mother, she wasn’t a very present mother until recently and that I am his wife. That this was not our responsibility. And then I left. I walked out the door, got in my car, blocked all forms of communication, and went home. FH called me and I told him everything. He went home and told her off for not only disrespecting our time, but also disrespecting ME. She cried. He told her to stop crying etc. It was a whole ordeal. He agreed to help her move the shit into the storage unit, but he would be arriving at 7 a.m. and he would be leaving in just a couple of short hours. He just wanted it over with, and I get it. The next morning, he arrived and had to wait around for an hour for her to even come to the door, and to his horror, she told him she didn’t re-hired the other guy because he wasn’t needed. She literally just expected FH to move everything himself! Commence another argument. He takes his ass over to the storage place and demands help from the employees, since it’s their fault for not writing in the agreement anywhere that they closed their gates and access at 8 p.m. They give him help, but it’s pretty useless help and he doesn’t arrive home until FIVE IN THE EVENING. Needless to say, our weekend was pretty busted. He got her in the car and didn’t offer to see her off, just goodbye and left. Bonus material: She and her bf didn’t have anywhere to even move to, so she had to move in with him at his elderly mother’s home. After speaking with FH sister, a month later and experiencing death in the family, I unblocked her from texting but nothing else, and we talked a little. I am, after all, still worried with her living with him. (I know, I shouldn’t care). She realized I still had her blocked on Facebook and talked shit about me to her boyfriend, who then text my FH and told him he needs to “keep me on a leash” and threatened us if I ever “hurt his mother’s feelings again”. FH just called him, laughed in his ear and said “big talk from a guy who left his disabled girlfriend to move an entire apartment by herself” and hung up. Needless to say, he got a call from his mother and we all three argued on speaker phone because my FH wasn’t going to let anyone talk to or about me like that. Next post will be the finale as well as current day dealings. Sorry for the long wait everyone. Life got hectic.
2020.09.25 18:52 TaliaLackey"Ew, Pumpkin Spice Lattes" and other dogwhistles for misogyny
It's that glorious time of year again where the leaves turn and pumpkins appear on roadside stands. That time of year when the air is cool and crisp and all you want to do is curl up with your favorite hot beverage under a blanket. Maybe even a pumpkin spice latte. The iconic Starbucks drink always makes an appearance this time of year and while it is well loved by many, it always seems to cause controversy. Walking down the halls at work with a Starbucks cup in hand, I've always gotten jeers by the older men at work: "oh, that better not be a pumpkin spice latte." And if it is, the answer is "yuck, those are disgusting. I don't like pumpkin spice lattes." There aren't any other flavors of coffee that bring about that kind of revulsion. Starbucks has many seasonal drinks: caramel Frappuccinos to join the PSL in the fall, a swath of Halloween themed drinks that come out towards the end of October, peppermint mochas and chestnut praline lattes in December, specialty Valentines drinks, and a host of cold summery flavors that come out in the spring. No one at work tries to do a "gotcha!" for a kiwi dragonfruit refresher. If I try to do the jeer back towards the men at work, I'll usually get some sort of sour face back at me: disgusted, as if I had asked them why they weren't wearing a skirt to work. And then another reminder: pumpkin spice lattes are gross. It's not a new idea that men don't want to buy products associated with women. Have any of you see the Dr. Pepper 10 commercial? Remember, ladies, it's not for women. If you buy and enjoy a product, it'll somehow emasculate men who also buy and enjoy that product. It's also the reason why there are so many shampoo, deodorant, shaving gels and body washes marketed exclusively to men: men will stop buying products if they're associated with women, so they get their very own products to make them feel... more like a man, I guess? That brings me back to the pumpkin spice latte. When you conjure up the drinker of one, I'm sure you imagine a young woman, maybe a college student, a sorority girl. I bet you imagine her taking a picture of her drink, maybe a selfie with her in a flannel shirt, maybe with leaves in the background. And suddenly, the PSL becomes a symbol for vanity. It becomes the symbol of pretty women in leggings and uggs and perfect blond ringlets sitting atop of plaid patterns. Next time someone says "Ew, pumpkin spice lattes!", use it as an opportunity to talk about internalized misogyny. Even if a woman says it. I know a woman who I look up to and admire and she often talks about how she's going to "lose her middle aged white women card" for not liking pumpkin spice lattes. I've pledged that the next time she brings that up, that I will ask her what she means. She always rolls her eyes when she says it, and to me, it's another way to say "I'm not like those other girls. I'm not vain and vapid like those other girls." And if you sincerely do not like pumpkin spice lattes, then that is fine. It's not misogynistic to not like a particular flavor drink. But if you feel particularly smug about it, I challenge you to ask yourself why.
Van Halen - (Oh) Pretty Woman (Official Music Video) - YouTube
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Albert King - Oh Pretty Woman - YouTube
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Oh, Pretty Woman - YouTube
Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman (Audio) - YouTube
Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube. Albert King - Oh, Pretty Woman Recorded Live: 9/23/1970 - Fillmore East - New York, NY More Albert King at Music Vault: http://www.musicvault.com Subscribe t... Shop the Stax Online Store: http://found.ee/StaxRecordsStore Pick up exclusive collectible items, plus music from your favorite Stax artists and legends. Alb... Music video by Roy Orbison performing Oh, Pretty Woman. (C) 1987 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT #RoyOrbison #OhPrettyWoman #Vevo #Pop #VevoOfficial Brought to you by Van Halen's Official You Tube Channel: Van Halen TV Music video by Roy Orbison performing Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman (Monument Concert 1965). (C) 2011 Sony Music Entertainment Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment Oh, Pretty Woman · Roy Orbison The Essential Roy Orbison ℗ Originally released 1964. All rights reserved by S... “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison Listen to your favorite Roy Orbison songs: https://Orbison.lnk.to/top_tracksYD Subscribe to the Roy Orbison YouTube channel...