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Before Concordance, there was less than nothing.
At least, that is what the stories say. The rumour is that you are on a Ship of some sort, some kind of versefaring worldcraft, but seeing as you ended up here without even a glimpse at the outside, all you have to go on is the word of the Diet and the ship-scientists, or at least what the rumours say their word is.
There are people who will affirm it vehemently, and then there are people who will deny it just as vehemently, and sometimes they fight. That is how things go in the city of Concordia.
Concordia the noble! cry the official posters, displaying the bright spires of Zone One and the grandiose halls of the Everlasting Diet. Concordia, the sun that shines in the darkness! Concordia, bastion of life!
The fact that it would be extremely difficult to imagine anything less noble than Concordia is patriotically ignored in such assessments, as is the fact that the current sun is most likely fake. Nobility is not inherent to jigsaw puzzles; the same for a jigsaw city, cobbled together from Rooms.
Rooms. The term still confuses you, mostly because there seems to be an incredible lack of standardisation. Founders' Park is one Room. Why then are the Founders' Park Public Restrooms - themselves of great notoriety - why then are the public restrooms two separate Rooms on their lonesome? Why are there Rooms the size of large phone-booths and small phone-booths the size of Rooms? Where are the city planners and how did they allow this to happen? Where are the walls? What is a phone? Why is everything of importance prefaced with a capital letter, as if doing so made it Incredibly Solemn and Worthy Of Note?
Perhaps the Draughtsmen know.
The general agreement, however, is that there are Rooms because you are on a Ship, and that the Ship is bathed from prow to stern in a furious flow of illogicality. Some people in the outer Zones say they can smell the Incoherence, and others swear that the Incoherence has somehow taken up residence in their bathroom mirrors and behind their kitchen counters, like a particularly insidious mold, but what absolutely no-one denies is that the Incoherence exists, because you've seen it.
A reality-quake could happen at any time, and then your brain might swap places with your ankles, and not even the Healers can fix that. The last time a quake happened around your parts, you heard Bernard's sister's best friend's living room turned into a goldfish.
If you turned into a goldfish, you wouldn't be very happy about it, but you'd find a way somehow. No need to make things too complicated. New things happen every day.
An old saying sometimes floats through your mind, conjured by association, or by a cultural memory not your own, drifting to you from universes away.
Too many cooks do what?
Ah, what of it? Life goes on.
Too Many Cooks Spoil The Multiverse
Twelfth of Firstmonth, Accord 143
Zone Six; Industrial District
"And I said, 'that's a mighty fine pie you have there, mind if I steal it?' But she didn't seem too happy with that, and so I had to steal the pie, of course. Not eat it. I did not eat the Christmas pie. Don't believe what you've been told!"
The Egress Eternal is clearly not a Room, just a spaceship that appears to be stuck in the side of an ancient warehouse - which, all things considered, is a very accurate metaphor for the general Concordian situation. No-one knows how the Egress got itself embedded in the side of a warehouse, or how it even got on the Ship to begin with. Everyone agrees that it is the finest watering hole this side of Setsuna's, and that the booze is of an uniformly excellent quality.
You might be here for the booze. You might be here for other things. It doesn't matter, because once you ascend the ramp and shake off the pervasive smell of oil and factory smoke, you are embraced by Elvis via vibrospeaker.
The mess bustles with patrons from all across the City. Jailhouse Rock blares loudly and brashly, currently declaiming on Shifty Henry and Bugs and the kicks and the nix. The seats are red leather, the tables are chrome. The food smells delicious and the liquor smells thicker.
Oh, yes. Ol' Gressie has you now.
Intelligent mice sit around their small thimbles and discuss the state of the black market. A crossdressing elf arm-wrestles an octopus in a spacesuit. Three dogs in a trenchcoat yap angrily at each other and then set to chasing an invisible tail. An old man faints. Behind the bar a little girl swings a small furry thing around by the head, giggling at its obscenities.
The proprietor, the one talking about the Christmas pie as he shines the mugs, is a large minotaur in a bright red coat with a tricorne on his head. His name is Rum-Eyed Rufus. He has seen many things and been at many beginnings, but he knows more than to pry. His false eye pokes out of his head, bright as an empty bottle, with something blue and cold floating in its center.
He was looking for something once, or perhaps he still is, but he seems very open about it all, which is to say that he asks no questions and gives every answer, even when it isn't needed.
"Ah!" he says, his booming voice full of glee, to no-one and everyone in particular. "Welcome, welcome! First time, I presume? Come in, come in. Have a drink."
Zone One; Central Business District
Corner Of Seventh and Ninth Street
My name is Violet because that is the name the Major gave me. The Major's brother found me on the island when I was the last person on the island and he gave me to the Major. The Major taught me words like flower and hope and beautiful and he told me that I should hope to grow up beautiful like a flower.
I am not beautiful because I have no arms, they are more like stumps because I lost them in the war, and the new ones they gave me are made of metal and hurt when they rub against my bones so I am not like a flower.
I went to kill for the Major because there were people trying to hurt him in the war and in the war I learnt words like slut and monster and Gilbert's bitch. The Major gave me a green stone and he said the stone was the same color as my eyes and when he said it he looked like he was hurt but there was nothing on his body that was hurt and so it must have been a pain somewhere else inside him.
There is a pain somewhere inside me but I don't know if the pain is in my arms or my groin or my stomach because I cannot remember the last time I ate. I am on the side of the street at my table with my typewriter and the sign I wrote myself says:
Auto Memory Doll
Letters Five Marks A Page
Missives Five Marks A Page
Official Correspondence Ten Marks A Page
All Business Welcome
I could not write the words well because my hands are metal and cannot hold a pen so they are not good words. If I think hard enough, I can punctuate the words correctly in my mind, just like the Major taught me, and use big words like saturnalian and sesquipedalian; but because this is not how I think I do not usually do this and anyway it is hard to do.
Before the Major lost me and I lost my arms he said I love you but he could not have meant that because there is nothing to love in me and so I have to find out what he meant.
If I had my way I would write what is love on the sign but I cannot do that because it is not good for business and so instead I have to put the question in my head,
What is love?
But there is no-one to answer me so I must sit here and wait for someone who will pay me five marks to type something maybe three or four marks so that I will have something to eat tonight and oil to shine my arms.
Edited by troydenite on Jan 12th 2021 at 2:18:54 AM
Another day winds down.
Your shoulders are stiff and your knees ache. You spent hours kneeling in the dirt today, watering, planting, tilling, tending. Your pants are filthy. Your cape's hem is caked in muck. A little rain would solve both problems, but you can't muster the energy to call it down.
Your name is Everett, and you're tired. You're always tired, these days.
Yet you aren't tired enough to go home yet. And so you hang your head and start walking. You have no destination in mind. Your feet will take you wherever they will.
You aren't sure how much time passes as you wander. Could be hours, could be minutes. All you know for sure is that, eventually, you find the muffled notes of a familiar song drifting into your ears. Your feet still themselves. You look up and find yourself standing in front of the Egress Eternal, proof—if proof were needed—that the universe has a twisted sense of humor.
Alternately, proof that any higher power which might have created the universe has run out of ideas. Here's one of those restaurants with a car sticking out of the wall, only the car is a spaceship! Far out!
You don't laugh at your own private joke. You've heard it a dozen times now. It was only funny the first two.
You've never been in there, now that you think about it. And as the smell of well-cooked food wafts out to enter your nostrils, your stomach rumbles. A not-unconvincing argument, you admit. But your hand drifts to your hip and slips into your pocket. The handful of marks you feel there make for a sobering counterargument. You have little enough as it is, and gardening pays less. But you need to eat. But you need to save up for the end of the month. The rent won't pay itself…
You worry the split halves of your bottom lip. Maybe there'll be an expedition in the next few weeks. Maybe your pockets won't be so empty then, and you can make up for this expense. Maybe…
You shake your head. This isn't the place for you. Too loud, too bright, and it has too many reminders of the way things used to be. The way they can never be again.
You sigh in resignation. "Gruel it is, then…" There is no shortage of that waiting for you back at your apartment. But you'll bear it. You'll bear it like you've done every single day for the last fifteen years.
Because you have no right to complain about the quality of your food. Not while they might still be out there. Not while they might be even worse off than you are.
And so, you turn to leave. But you've been standing here for some time now. And the bony goggles which encircle your eyes have given you literal tunnel vision to go with the figurative kind. Anyone could have been standing behind you…
Edited by SullenFrog on Jan 11th 2021 at 1:50:58 PM
Zone Six - Outside the Egress
Perhaps it is fate.
Amaterasu herself doesn't know if she believes in such things. Waka claims to see the future, but his predictions are always things that a clever person could guess with the right information. That is, when he's not outright manipulating people to act as he wants.
The thought reminds her of her companion from long ago, and a pang of sadness hits her.
She lets it sit with her a moment, before it gently floats away, replaced by warmth. Happiness, for she has run into one of her fellows. She has met him before, told others of his status, announced him an equal. But his rather... unsettling features, have thus far made it hard for many to accept him.
That, and the light within him is wrong. Broken, somehow. He is a god, a god of rain, and yet Amaterasu wonders if he can even gather Praise in the way that she can.
She will find out, she decides.
Everett turns to find the wolf looking at him. Amaterasu is quite large for a wolf, the size of a small horse; easily big enough for a man to ride on with minimal discomfort. The flaming disk, Solar Flare, hovers above her back, swirling with a rainbow of flames. The light of Solar Flare seems to reflect off her crimson markings, accentuating them against snow-white fur.
Despite the fire, one could touch it without burning one's hand; one would find that much like Amaterasu herself, it is pleasantly warm. The fires only burn that which Amaterasu judges as evil.
Amaterasu is smiling at him, a big, goofy, doggy smile, and her tail wags, slapping the ground and leaving a small ink stain. She rests on her haunches, and tied to her side with vines is a bag resembling a flower bud.
"Hello, Everett." She greets. How she is able to speak with a dog's mouth is a mystery. It is fortunate that she can, else she'd need Waka to follow her everywhere and translate. "Care to join me for a drink? My treat."
Amaterasu considers the amusing reversal of a dog offering a treat to a man, and her smile widens a little.
There was a raucous tittering that arose from the bar, with its the foremost contributor being the 7th Zone's very own premier back-alley doctor, one Kayné Ainsel. Most wrote her name without the accent mark, because it was hard to remember to include it, and typesetting it was a bit hard, anyways. Today she wasn't tending to her patients or seeing to any Draughtsmen or scientific business. Today was a day for orange mashed potatoes and strenuous bout of reminiscing with Ol' Rum-Eyed Rufus.
But then she turned away from the bar for one second, intending to get some fresh air, and caught the few words that tumbled from Everett's lips like fallen leaves in the wind. Kayne cocked her head behind the rain god, and clicked her tongue to get his attention. "Then it's your lucky day, Everett!" she joked. "Today's suddenly-amended weather forecast predicts a winner-winner-chicken-dinner for you. I'll pay, I have more than enough marks, so don't worry about it, alright?"
That was, most definitely, a half-truth at best. Kayne didn't have to pay rent as she owned her little two-story shack in the 7th Zone, but she did spend enough on extra food and medical help for those who asked that she was stretched thin enough. Her dear Moloch's extra dividends from his coffee shop could only help so much, after all, try as he might to make more marks.
Still, Kayne smiled at Everett—however blue and fanged and tunnel-visioned he was—with a scarred and careworn face of her own, and invited him to sit with her and Amaterasu at the bar. Not that she would have let him refuse it. A fellow Draughtsman and comrade of hers would always eat well, whether out in the field or at home. She swore by it.
Thank goodness she lived in a city that beat and bled and burned with love that was true.
"Young lady, a moment of your time please," the respectable gentleman in a top hat called out to Violet. "Yes, you with the typewriter! I have a new sample of coffee from my shop! It's freshly brewed and free, so why not take a short break and have some?"
Moko smiled at the young lady and tried to hide his sharp teeth, both on his real hat-body and magically constructed one. He knew that it was often discomfiting for people to see his teeth, but Kayne liked that part of him. She never blamed him for the way that he was made. Kayne liked him and that was enough.
He waved cheerily at the Auto Memory Doll from a distance, standing at the entrance to his coffee shop and holding a tray of coffee samples. Business was a little slow now since the rush hour of the morning was over, after all, so now he had the time to hawk his wares, so to speak. As his face broke into a happy grin, he realized he was exposing his teeth again, and so tried to restrain himself. Still, Violet was a common sight around here, so what harm was there in giving her something for her troubles?
Edited by JumpingFruit on Jan 13th 2021 at 5:56:52 AM
Setsuna — Outside Egress
Setsuna never ventured into Zone 6 much. Hell, she barely touched the other Zones at all. About the only time she went out of Ameratsu's turf was when she did some work for the Guild, and that was only once or twice a week. But every now and then, she got the urge to drown her sorrows and drink herself silly. Like, she could probably buy a keg of sake or something at the local brewery, but next to the Egress, that stuff was swill. Didn't matter if it was on Diet turf, it was still one of the best bars in the city! And there was always the chance she'd see one of her friends there. The Guild was always planning new trips or excavations or chilling out after a long day's work. And this was one of their top spots. If they weren't knee-deep in another Incoherence, then that's where they'd be.
But the last thing she expected to see was her lord and saviour.
She was skipping along on the last stretch when she spotted her, wagging her tail as she sat in front of... Everett? That was it, wasn't it? She'd seen him at the Guild, but she never worked with him as much as some of the others. But it wasn't cuz he was creepy or strange or anything. Maybe she wasn't disfigured or missing an arm, but she was still an eight-foot-tall oni with a six-pack. Next to her, he didn't look too out of place. Maybe it was fate? But hey, no reason she couldn't make up for lost time, right?
Assuming she could work up the courage to talk to a near stranger.
But any such thoughts were tossed out and strangled by the Mother of Us All. As soon as she saw her, she skidded to a halt and prostrated, pressing down her open jacket as she tried to keep her tracksuit from getting caked in mud. "Oh, uh, sorry Lord Ameratsu! Um, Mother of Us All, Sun That Rises, Patron Saint of Fluff! crap, is that even a real thing? Uh, but yeah, really sorry! Nearly bowled you and the blue hobo over, huh?"
...wait, blue hobo? The hell did she just call Everett a blue hobo in front of the mother of us all? Wait, wasn't she talking to him? Did she just piss off someone the Mother of Us All saw fit to grace with her presence?
"Crap, sorry! Again! Uh, didn't mean that! I mean, I did, but—"
And then she went and dug herself deeper. She clasped her hand over her mouth, burrowing her head into the ground as she nearly carved out a small hole. "CRAP, SORRY, PLEASE FORGIVE ME!"
Edited by kkhohoho on Jan 11th 2021 at 3:47:37 AM
Amaterasu merely nodded at the woman as Kayné showed up to help usher Everett inside. Kayné was strange. Amaterasu could feel the touch of godhood within her, yet at the same time was certain that Kayné was not a god.
Before she could ponder the girl's nature any further, another familiar face appeared. And then promptly disappeared into the dirt, as Setsuna bowed deeply to her. Amaterasu huffed, a sound halfway between amusement and disappointment, as she trotted over and gently put a paw on Setsuna's forehead.
"It's alright, my child." She lowered her paw. "As I have told you before Setsuna, there is no need for such formalities. We are friends, are we not?"
With a flick of her tail and a splash of vanishing ink, Setsuna's slightly muddy clothes were rendered fresh and clean once again, as though they had never known filth. "Everett, Kayne, and I were planning to have drinks. Would you care to join us?"
The past few days had been much like any other, really. Jester had placed a pail of ice water atop the door of her office, causing it to spill all over her when the angel entered. As troublesome as she found the tiefling’s antics at first, they were starting to become a part of Helena’s normal routine at this point. She grown to find them kind of… charming? Yeah, that was one way of putting it.
She entered the bar, looking to unwind after a hard day’s work in the ER. Honestly, the accidents some people managed to get themselves in were truly bizarre at times. But that wasn’t something she wanted to think about right now. She ordered a large glass of a particularly strong ale that she had grown fond because it could actually get the job done in spite of her unusual physiology. The angel took her mug and made her way over to an ever growing crowd at one of the tables.
There she saw some familiar faces. She of course knew Ammy, the friendly dog deity. She was pretty sure she had met Kayne once or twice on a Draughstmen mission before, and then there was… Everett. She didn’t know him particularly well, but he seemed to try to avoid her on the rare occasions they had met. Maybe he had something against angels or incredibly tall people, but who knows.
Oh, Setsuna was coming over now. She was about to greet her when… oh dear. The poor girl really didn’t have a way with words sometimes. Maybe it was best to just gloss over that.
“Hello everyone,” Helena greeted the others as she took a seat next to them. “Hope you don’t mind if I butt in, but I couldn’t resist.”
Setsuna— Zone 6, Outside Egress
She blushed as Ameratsu put a soft fluffy paw on her forehead. It wouldn't be the first time. Lord knows she went and plopped herself in front of her like a serf every other day. But how could she not? She was the Mother of Us All. Bringer of light. Giver of hope. Creator of the ground she walked on. Next to her, she was nothing.
Just as she'd always been nothing.
But Ammy was also a big adorable pupper with cute little paws and a cute little tail and a big fluffy coat of fur and she so CUTE! Even if she wasn't a God, she'd still worship her on that alone. There was a reason she kept making so many plushies of her, and it wasn't just because she was their lord and saviour.
But she was right. She was always right. Even if she was wrong, she was right. "Oh, uh, sorry about that!" She got up, dusting herself off as she towered above the others. But even if Ammy insisted she drop the formalities, she couldn't bring herself to look her saviour in the eye. "Uh, yeah! Like, I was gonna head in anyways, but..."
She briefly shook her head, shaking out the hesitation and doubt that often filled it. Get it together, Setsuna!
"...um, I mean, sure! Like, do you even gotta ask?"
She meant that sincerely. Ameratsu never had to ask. If she wanted her to jump, she'd jump. She was the mother of us all, and always had their best interests at heart. Even if her father never did. As much she wished to go with her anyways, what she wanted wasn't up for debate. Least not with Ammy.
She turned to Everett, scratching the back of her head as she spoke with a bit more confidence. "Um, sorry about you calling you a blue hobo. No clue where that came from. We cool?"
Zone Six: Rum-Eyed Rufus’s
All-told, Jester was having a great day.
After Helena had fallen right into her masterfully-laid trap ("Did you really go to doctor school? You kind of look like you washed out!” Jester had said, before exploding into a fit of giggles and disappearing into the next room to avoid the retaliation) she’d had a full day of sketching patients, eating pastries, making faces at children, giving those children lollipops when they started to cry, getting scolded by their mothers for giving candy to their children without permission, and making faces at mothers. Oh, and healing, somewhere in there. But now, now she and Helena were going to meet up at watering hold in Zone Six, owned by a cow-man with one eye that said silly stories about things that didn’t make any sense. But those were favorite kind of stories, so of course she kept coming back for more.
But then, Jester saw her.
In some ways, it was her greatest accomplice, who had never once tattled on her to the city’s guard. In other ways, she was a fluffy boi who usually showed up right around the time she was done with making all of Amaterasu’s shrines prettier. Sure it was kind of a weird coincidence that this dog looked so much like the statue dog, but c’mon, what kind of god went around accepting belly-scratches? That would be silly!
So just as soon as Jester got over her momentary surprise at seeing the snow-shite puppo here of all places, Jester broke into a dead-sprint at the gathering of motley figures, only one word on her mind and on her lips. Appropriately enough, it quickly ascended into a high shriek, that only dogs could hear.
Unless otherwise interrupted, Jester would all but catapult herself at the creature’s flank, up and onto the back of the inordinately-large wolf, before pressing her powder-blue face into the animal’s silky-soft fur and rubbing it back-and-forth.
“Oh my gowsh, what are you doing here, you cutesy-wootsy slobber-face? This is a big mean city, not a place for pretty doggies! And you are a pretty doggy, aren’t you? Aren’t you~?” Jester would coo softly, before reaching her arms down around either side of the large animal, and arching her fingers into makeshift claws for optimum scratch-potential.
After a moment more of dog-scritching, Jester would look up, and, after spitting a hefty puff of wolf-fluff out of her mouth, smile and wave merrily at the others gathered around. “Hey there, Helena! How’s it going, Mister Grumpy Guy? What’s up, Other Lady I Don’t Know? What’s the good word, Big Red—” Jester froze, mid-word, as she fully comprehended the last member of the impromptu troop, her eyes slowly going up—and up—and up, as she took in all eight feet of blood-red muscle who had once pledged to rip her alter-ego limb-from-limb if she ever caught her. Once that Jester knew of, anyway. “—Nice, Pretty, Lady! How’s, um, the weather? Up there?” Jester asked, before furrowing her brow, trying to remember if that was something that tall people thought was funny, or if it just made them want to crack your head open in the crux of their elbow.
Oh well. Fifty-fifty shot.
Edited by Uncandescent on Jan 11th 2021 at 7:19:57 AM
Surprise makes you take half a step back. It quickly gives way to a feeling you can't quite pin down.
When you first met this Amaterasu, what stuck out to you most wasn't the fact that you were looking at a giant dog who could speak and had the powers of a god. You’d already met one of those, though the difference between her and Gaueko was—literally—night and day. It wasn't the fact that she shared her name with someone you knew, either, though that had definitely been bewildering.
No, what stuck out to you was the fact that she was whole. She had never been through the things you'd endured, and her powerbase was alive and well. There was no room for you to compete in this space, not broken as you were, not against someone so well-entrenched. And so, you never bothered to try.
Well, that's not true. You did try, until the extent of the damage became apparent, and you realized that trying to grow stronger was futile. That you were now a shadow of yourself, and the power you once wielded was lost—probably for good.
It stung, almost as much as the pity she continues to show you.
You open your mouth, but before you can respond another voice calls out to you from the doorway. It's Kayné, and her smile is kind and welcoming. The sight of it pains you, for it’s a smile, a kindness, that you don't deserve.
That's as far as you get. Amaterasu's little hanger-on, Setsuna, has shown up out of nowhere and thrown herself down in a display of abject devotion. You can’t help the pang of jealousy the sight sparks in you, even as you fight the urge to cringe. Your own followers had never been that sycophantic, had they?
You hold up a hand. "Please. You don't need to a—"
But Amaterasu has already taken the matter in hand—or paw, as it were. More than that, she's ensnared you. If you try to back out now, you'll make her look like a liar in front of one of her most devoted worshippers. You don't think you can deal with that. You don't know Setsuna that well, but you've seen how she gets when she's angry. You can't afford the aspirin that you'll need once she's done biting your head off.
Sighing, you lower your arm and hang your head. "Alright." You say it like it's an admission of defeat. "I'll take you up on that. All of you."
And so you let them lead you inside. You barely notice the Fifties décor, or the Elvis Presley music playing over the sound system. You do look up when Setsuna addresses you, though.
…huh. Between everything else, you honestly missed her calling you a hobo. But you can't fault her for speaking the truth, now can you?
"Like I was saying, you don't need to apologize." You paw at your cape as if brushing off a piece of dirt and give her a tight smile. Tight, because you long ago learned that an open smile makes the halves of your bottom lip pull away from each other. It's the kind of thing that makes babies cry and dogs bare their teeth. "It's rain rolling right off my back. And I am the god of rain, after all…"
You trail off then. Your smile disappears. Another acquaintance has come over.
It's the wings. The wings and the sword and the halo. They all remind you of her. And it hurts because you know it's not her. The two of them don't even really look all that much alike. But you can't help it. Every time you see this woman, you can't help but think, just for a split second, that it is her. And you curse yourself every single time for letting hope skittle onto your shoulder, only to sting you with the venom of disappointment.
You avert your gaze. You swallow the lump in your throat and force yourself not to cry. "Hello, Helena."
And then, the blue typhoon that is Jester Lavorre sweeps into the room.
You stare in bemusement as she gives Amaterasu the mother of all belly rubs. You wave awkwardly in return when she waves to you, Mister Grumpy Guy. You can't even be annoyed at that. And you rest your chin in the palm of your hand and watch as she seems to realize just how tall Setsuna is. Granted, she is pretty damn tall and built like a small mountain, but then again, you’ve met bigger. Maybe Jester hasn't.
The tension you felt moments ago has deflated, as if the demon-girl took a pin to a balloon. For the moment you forget the guilt, the duty, the resentment. In there place you feel only puzzlement.
Today is not turning out at all how you thought it would. And you have no idea how to feel about that.
Edited by SullenFrog on Jan 11th 2021 at 7:48:29 AM
Setsuna — Zone Six, Outside Egress
As soon as the blue demon lady jumped on Ammy, Setsuna flicked on like a light switch. "HEY! GET THE HELL OFF HER!" She growled like a raging ox, stomping over as she tried to force her off. Like, sure. Petting and rubbing Ameratsu's soft fuzzy belly was a dream come true, and she'd do the same thing if she got the chance. But she wasn't gonna let some random demon lady come in off the streets and go hugging her like random pupper. What if she had a knife or something? Like, okay, probably not. But she wasn't gonna take that chance.
But there something else about her that pissed her off too. She wasn't sure what. It was kinda more like an instinct thing? Like, she knew she was pissed about something, but only Ammy knew what it was.
Other than what was happening in front of her.
Edited by kkhohoho on Jan 11th 2021 at 8:11:30 AM
Zone Six - Egress
Setsuna thinks too little of herself. Amaterasu knows this well; such dedication comes not entirely from genuine gratitude, but from doubt. It is something that Amaterasu has been trying to correct. But perhaps she has been too subtle.
Jester is suddenly there, and Amaterasu can't help but let her tongue loll out as the perky woman scratches her in just the right spots. "Ah, hello, Jester. It's always nice to see you. And yes, I am a pretty doggy."
At Setsuna's outburst, Amaterasu turns to face her, rearing up so that Jester is shielded by white fur. "It is alright, my child. I love nothing more than when people pet me. To see them smile, to see them at peace, is the greatest treasure in the world. And it reminds me that that happiness, that gratitude, is my power."
Her gazed softened, turning from amusement to genuine concern. "That is why I do not like it when you bow so deeply to me. I am a god, but that means I am a conduit of mortal spirits. It is I who should be bowing to you, and to all the others who grant me strength."
So saying, Amaterasu lowered her head a moment. Then she raised it, turning her head a moment to lick Jester's face. "So let's all relax and have fun, alright? No violence here."
Marima Dola — Zone Six, Egress Eternal
The Egress Eternal wasn't the only place to hear, spread gossip, quarrel with strangers or bet on the week's best dressed pit fighter at, and much less was the best at any of them. But blessed be, it was the most delightful to be at, out of anywhere in the seventh, sixth or fifth Zones.
Marima hadn't been there in far too long, hiding in one or another's roof the last couple of months, and didn't think twice before joining the small ensemble of people cheering on a complete stranger to accept an offer to dinner (that they had, seemingly, already accepted). It was boisterous and lively and completely unnecessary; but it was hard to resist, and the couple of drinks she merrily gulped down weren't helping matters. The man did look like he could do with a meal—or several, to be truthful, so what was the harm to it?
As the voices died down, she pulled the top of her hood closer to her face and retreated back to her spot on the bar, under the solace of a lone awning fashioned from a piece of metal stuck to the ceiling. It wasn't much, but between the people coming and going and her rundown coat, it helped her blend with the background more easily. Even if the benefactor was Doctor Ainsel herself, she was still a Master Draughtsman, no less. It had paid off to be cautious before, and Marima had no reason to stop doing it—If anyone had business with her, they'd come. She took the liberty of asking a rosy faced waiter to sneak one more bottle of rum on the shared dinners' behalf, though.
With a restrained smile, she considered the group forming around the White Wolf of Legend. Everyone knows the tales surrounding her, and many swear living them by themselves. To all what's due, and to her the recognition for helping others; But a god? Really? One of them reacted badly to something someone else said; Marima already had a hand on the pommel of her sword when Amateratsu tried to talk them down. She wondered if that happens to her often.
She caught sight of Rum-Eyed Rufus and tilted her head towards the new gathering of people. "New day, ain't it? Is there anything new under the sun? Will there ever be?"
A broad wheel scraped against the rough, worn pavement, propelling a brightly colored machine down the road and toward a destination uncertain.
Machines like this one could be seen almost everywhere that sapient life had carved out a niche in this Ship, most round and primarily colored and with the exaggerated animal motifs that marked it as belonging to a specific creator. One who had built the factories that produced them with his bare hands, and who had fought against many other money-minded people to secure a niche in this city. One who made sure that even looking at the silhouette of these robots could evoke an image of its maker, and who ensured that even the deaf, dumb and blind knew who had made the tools that built their homes. A man who, as per his nature, lacked subtlety.
Even if the round, beetle-like machine was left unnoticed due to its ubiquity, it might have turned a couple of eyes as it left the street and turned into a bar of ill repute. Some machines of his making had personalities of their own, but not most. It wheeled around the seats and feet of its many patrons, and made a beeline directly towards one occupant in particular.
The mechanical beetle stopped at his feet, its simplistic eyes turned up to him plaintively. An unmistakable voice came through a hidden speaker.
"You are great at making yourself hard-to-find, Mr. Greed, but leave that kind of talk to the philosophers. Do you have a moment? I've already taken quite a bit out of time out of my schedule to meet you in-person today!"
Edited by wikkit on Jan 12th 2021 at 5:18:13 AM
One of the most interesting things that came from living in a nexus of worlds like this was that there tended to be a lot of disparate literature that appeared with people. That literature would swap hands as people needed marks for food and lodging, and one way or another they would end up in the hands of Johanna Faust. She could be the city's greatest librarian if she ever felt like sharing.
This fine day found her walking down the street, a trio of books in her arms. It had almost become a weekly ritual to peruse the various pawn shops, street stalls, and veritable yard sales for anything of interest she could get her hands on. Her various side jobs made paying fairly easy as it were, and left her with more than enough to live on as well. Anyone looking closely could make out the titles of the books printed on the spines.
The Fundamentals of the Laws of Equivalent Exchange
The Once and Future King
The Daring Tales of Taryon Darrington
It was when she rounded the corner that she heard some magic words that made her ears burn. They were coming from a man with a hat holding some sort of tray. She quickly made a beeline to him, taking a quick glance to the shop behind him. It was a smell she had come to adore. What was once a bit of a luxury back home was now common place and within the average person's price range. She apprached the man and asked, trying not to sound too forward. "Did you say, free coffee?"
Zone One, Central Business District, Moko's Cafe:
Upon introspection, Elerin felt very much like what others called a "ghost": wandering thing, its existence barely noticed. The only difference them and the apparitions was that they possessed a physical form, even if unstable. And this feeling rooted itself in more and more as their time in the City passed and passed. It was high time that they fixed themselves into this City as something whole, one way or another.
This time, the formless found themselves walking near a "cafe", as they learned from nearby conversations. The scent of those black drinks quizzed Elerin, since they found it difficult to fixate. They moved their hands, mimicking how people in the cafe made when they were "enjoying the smell". Elerin tilted their head, not sure if it actually had an effect on them. It was not the first time that they tried this compound of caffeine. The taste was... "ex...exquisite", yes, but I still don't understand about "not being able to sleep" aspect. Hmmm, maybe I should try drinking a galleon of it to take effect? After little pondering, they merely shook their head and headed to the cafe, approaching the man with a hat, with hopes that they would learn something new.
Elerin heard a person with books mention about some "free coffee". The scent grew more potent, which Elerin was able to pinpoint and fixate. They registered this as a "smell of coffee", once again.
"Is it really free?" they asked, while standing stiff.
Edited by kaalban on Jan 16th 2021 at 4:33:55 AM
Setsuna — Zone 6, Outside Egress
"BUT... but... you don't know..."
She was gonna let her go? After she went and jumped her? Seriously, who knows what she could've done?! If she hadn't gone after her and called her out, then... then...
...and then Ammie said she was in the wrong. For what? Showing her praise and affection? If anyone deserved to be worshipped, it was her. What was she good for? Getting herself beat to hell back by her father every day? Just thinking about it was enough to make her want to march over to Jester, lift her up by the neck and—
The part of her with common sense pulled out a soft plushie from her backpack, shaped suspiciously like a fluffy white wolf. She squeezed it again and again, almost hard enough to pop its head. Until at last, the squeezing stopped. The world spinning, she stared at her bulging muscles, slowly receding as her anger faded.
...she'd nearly gone and lost it. Again. And for what? Because someone was rubbing Ameratsu's belly? Like she did every other damn day? Like, maybe they could have tried something, but... they didn't? The demon lady was still there, but so far, she hadn't harmed a hair on her head.
She'd went and lost her shit for nothing.
She would've prostrated in shame, were it not for Ameratsu making it clear she didn't want that. She still wasn't sure why. She didn't want to think about her father again, but she still wasn't worth more than the monsters she squashed with the Draughtsmen. How could she be a worthy conduit if she wasn't worth anything herself?
But she wasn't gonna press it.
"...okay. I mean, if that's what you want, then, uh, I'll try to stop." She glared at Jester, but quickly averted her gaze. "I, um, think I need a drink. Like, a really big drink. A really damn fucking big drink." She stomped into the bar. If this place didn't have enough booze to make her forget everything, then someone was gonna get wrecked.
Edited by kkhohoho on Jan 11th 2021 at 8:54:04 AM
Jester squeaked as Setsuna made her very-scary ultimatum, resolving that the weather up there wasn’t very good at all, before taking shelter in only the most logical place: behind Helena’s towering, and surprisingly-solid form. Peeking out through a combination of around Helena’s side and between her own fingers, Jester held her breath to see if she was going to have to add this street to the List Of Places That Jester Probably Isn’t Allowed In Anymore.
But then, the talking dog (Oh my gosh, her mouth is just so precious when it moves, I can’t take it!) launched into an impassioned plea about love and acceptance and how the inherent rightness of petting the fluff is good. Jester was so taken in by the heartfelt message, in fact, that as she nodded along in agreement she totally spaced out on the second part about having a mortal can-do-it attitude and something about bow-wows. Jester had leaned in far enough during the doggy sermon to be in prime licking range, and let out a soft giggle after the tongue hit her cheek and she leaned back to gently wipe the drool off of her face. “That’s right!” Jester said triumphantly, resting her hands on her hips. “We should all get along! The pretty doggy said so!”
Jester nevertheless shied away from Sestuna as the much, much taller girl sidled past, not really sure how much of the lesson had gotten through considering how many teeth that the tiefling could still see bared in her direction. In doing so, she nearly bumped into Everett, and when she turned around to apologize, she noticed that she had somehow ended up on the side of his body that was neither armed nor dangerous. One of the bar’s neon tubes lit up above her head as an idea planted firmly behind her eyes, an arguably more dangerous phenomenon than thoughtlessly throwing herself head-long at a giant wolf ever could ever be.
Grappling with the height differences between herself, that of a middle-aged man, and Helena being like thirty stories tall, Jester nevertheless attempted to throw her arms around their shoulders, or at least through the crook of her elbow in Helena’s case, and physically pull the two closer together. “So this one time,” Jester said, looking excitedly between Helena’s face and Everett’s goggled-gaze as she recounted her story, “this guy, he came in, and he didn’t have a hand anymore, because he got it cut off by a wall that grew teeth and tried to eat his face or whatever. So he shows up, and he’s all like, ‘Oh no, my hand’s gone foreveeeeeer’, and Helena was all like, ‘That’s what you thiiiiiiink’, and then, like a week later, his hand was all like, handy again!” Jester finished with a determined nod, before looking between the two of them as though she had just imparted a great and important life lesson on par with the canine across from them. “So I guess what I’m trying to say is, you two should totally hang out! Something might just grow between you!”
Zone Four - Konohana Park
It was quite the stroke of luck this place existed at all, Neraida reflected as she walked on the stone footpath. The clamor of the city died at its entrance, and the resulting tranquility was much more palatable. It was similar to her home in that way, but different in so many others.
Home had been the concealed wellspring behind the ancient oak tree, the shadows on the forest floor of sunlight cast through a thick canopy. This was all open fields and lakes, shining in the unimpeded sun. It probably didn't even rain. Neraida sighed softly, not especially keen on remembering everything that was different. The process of being forced into this society had been unpleasant - the workings of the economy even more so - and yet she had the means to eke out a comfortable existence.
The Incoherence was another matter, though, and possibly the most fascinating part of her new home. Pure instability, its very nature sparked her interest, and the few expeditions she had made under the eye of the Draughtsmen's guild and the letter of a temporary contract only heightened her curiosity. Perhaps it was malleable enough to grant her some way back home, away from the eyes of the crude masses that had settled in this place.
...And so Neraida continued, completely off in her own little world, subconsciously swinging her basket back and forth on one wrist. An excellent mugging target, all things considered, but also vulnerable to jumpscares and the like. Someone could pop up from behind a tree - or just walk out from somewhere, really - and say "hello" for instant comedy, for example.
Helena frowned ever so slightly. She could tell from looking at Everett that something was troubling him, though she honestly could begin to guess what. Had he been attacked by an angel in the past? Possibly, but she’d expect his reaction to her to be much more violent if that were the case. Something else was probably going on, and she couldn’t help but be curious.
“It’s nice to see you, Everett. Um, listen, if there’s something that’s-”
Her train of thought was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Jester, and the small burst of chaos that seems to happen whenever she and Setsuna are in the same place with the divine canine. Her gaze was that of a war weary veteran as she watched things nearly go down right there. Thankfully, Ammy was being the voice of reason right now, for which she was thankful.
Then Jester had pushed her closer to Everett in what seemed to be an attempt to play Friendmaker between them. Well... it was a valiant effort if nothing else. Sure, why not?
"Um... sure, if that's ok with him. I wouldn't mind hanging out some time."
What was with that story, though...?
You watch what unfolds next in silence. Setsuna flying off the handle, Amaterasu gently chastising her, Setsuna using a plush toy like a stress ball, and then stomping off to get a drink in a sulk. You watch her go, waiting until she’s out of earshot and until the ringing in your own ears has faded away. Then you slowly turn in your seat to look at the object of Setsuna's devotion.
"I'll admit, there are a lot of times where I've envied you," you say to Amaterasu. "This was not one of them."
Jester bumps into you then before you can say anything more. Next thing you know there’s an arm around your shoulder and Jester is pulling you into an awkward position and she's… telling both you and Helena story about a guy with no hand and a girl with healing powers.
You give the demon-girl a stone-faced look. "Subtle."
But Helena seems to agree with Jester's goals here. You look past that horned head of blue hair into the face of the angel—and for just a split second, you're not seeing Helena. You're seeing blue-green eyes and hair that's somewhere between blonde and brown. You see an orb, glowing and glasslike, attached to a forehead seemingly by nothing.
You shut your eyes. There’s no hiding the pain on your face.
It's not her. You mouth the words without meaning to. It's not her.
You open your eyes again. You see platinum hair and piercing blue eyes. You see no orb.
"I…" You swallow. If you ever had a talent for speaking, it's deserted you now. It takes you a second to figure out what you want to say. "I don’t know. But… I guess I'm willing to try?"
...Another day, another job rushing between Zones to make deliveries with what seemed like an easy morning with only a single letter to someone in Zone 7 ended up turning into about a dozen for those residing in the Business District in Zone 1. ...That and requests for things to be delivered by mail order. ...Kind of lazy on their part they couldn't go there themselves, but work was work. Elliot wasn't exactly going to complain.
And getting there would take no time at this pace, knowing a few shortcuts and just going FAST that he'd made it to Zone 4 already, giving a friendly wave and smile as he strolled past the park to those there, probably oblivious to Neraida being distracted but it wouldn't hurt to be polite.
"Good morning! ...I'm pretty sure it's morning."
Edited by TheRealWren on Jan 12th 2021 at 4:26:50 AM
Zone One, Corner Of Seventh and Ninth Street
The man named Bondrewd, who in his past life had been known as "the Novel" and "the Sovereign of Dawn", walked down the street in the middle of Concordia's central district at a pace that was at once unhurried and yet not too slow. The ever-present mask over his face revealed nothing of what he was thinking, and his tail, which parted the back of his longcoat and was currently curved steeply upwards and swaying methodically side-to-side like a giant metronome, imparted just as little about his current mood. One could not even divine his intent from the fact that he was armed with some strange, bulky wrist-mounted devices, for he was always armed with such and never seen without them.
Inscrutable though he was, the small entourage of Draughtsmen beside and behind him and their general trajectory made their destination obvious to those who knew the area: the cafe Kothys’, the visitation of which was a time-honored tradition by those of their profession who were stationed nearby and soon to depart for an expedition into the Incoherence. As the party approached, however, the man in the mask spotted several familiar faces, and paused to address them. Stepping toward them, he spread his arms out at his sides as if in exultation of those he was greeting and awe at the everyday miracle of their meeting. When he spoke, his voice was a warm, rich baritone that rolled slow, soft, and sonorous out of his concealed mouth like a soothing lullaby.
"Ah, Violet, Johanna, Moko, Shinano, Elerin! How wonderful to see you all! How does this fine morning find you?"
"Hello, everyone!" the white-haired young woman in green at his side, a good two heads shorter than him, piped up with a cheerful wave. This was Bondrewd's precious daughter and fellow member of the The Most Estimable Guild of Draughtsmen, Prushka, as anyone who had spent a sufficient amount of time around either of them would quickly have learned.
"Prushka, why not go ahead and secure us a table?" her father suggested, reaching over with a gloved hand to pat her hat-topped head, "I shall be along to join you shortly."
"Okay, Papa!" she agreed immediately, proceeding to the nearby cafe door with beaming smile and jaunty step.
Edited by darksidevoid on Jan 12th 2021 at 12:24:07 PM
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