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How wonderful it is to see you all again.
>>
“God what mess have I gotten myself into?” It's only now, as you sit on a park bench beneath shimmering lines of lanterns, that you realize you’ve really found the bottom of the stinking pile.

“Are you coming to regret joining forces with the losing side?” Hansel, sat beside you staring wistfully at the bright lights and happy people passing you by asks.

You chuckle, “Hold on, what kind of talk is that? I didn’t take you for a pessimist, you always seem so upbeat even when things get tough.”

“I’m more of an optimistic realist, I like to stay positive within the confines of reality.” He explains.

“In my experience, positivity is something you can only get if you escape the confines of reality.” You argue.

“We’re getting off track, come on and answer, do you regret picking the losing side?” he asks.

“First off, It’s not decided we’re losing yet considering the fighting hasn’t even begun and secondly, no, I would never regret choosing to help a friend, even if that meant fighting a losing battle.” You answer.

“T-That’s good to hear, if you started getting c-cold feet now I think Master Noell would be very displeased.” Emerging from the passing crowd, Gretal comes with 3 sticks of cotton candy.

“Is displeased a nice way of saying he would hunt me down and kill me if I dared to try and pull out now?” You say as you take your gold, banana-flavored stick.

“I know all this must make us come off as majorly desperate, mainly because we are but you must understand much is on the line and no one feels that more than Master Noell.” Hansel reasons as he’s handed his blueberry-flavored stick.

“Did it sound like I was criticizing him? Please, if I was going to insult him it would be to his face, I’m just saying I know just how desperate you guys are, trust me, I’m not backing out.” You assure them.

“T-Thank you so much, you’re risking s-so much to save a country that i-isn't even your own, not many men are as b-benevolent as you are.” Gretal compliments as she nibbles on her strawberry stick.

“You’re too kind…(I suppose it’s best I leave out the part where the main reason I’m here is to prevent a war from breaking out and reaching Yorbian shores)” You smile at her.

“What I’m actually shocked by is how you guys are so accepting of help from some foreigner who didn’t even know this place’s name 2 weeks ago. I know I’ve joined as a servant of the royal family but even so…Is it just because you’re that desperate?” You ask.

Hansel thinks for a moment, “Well that’s a part of it and I won’t deny there is some small part of me that thinks this really isn’t your fight…But what a fool I would be deny a helping hand just because it comes from a foreign place.”
>>
“Thanks, you two have been a great help in getting me used to this place.”

“D-Don’t mention it! It’s basically in our j-job description to help each other.”

You chuckle, “I can only hope to be half as helpful as you two in the coming days, as hellish as they’re going to be…assuming we all make it.”

“....” The silence that follows your statement tells you that you just said the quiet part they were avoiding out loud.

“Uh, Oh! I mean, of course we’re going to make it! We’re servants of the royal family damn it! We won't lose!” You hype up, desperately trying to re-vitalize the positive atmosphere.

Hansel smiles at your efforts and joins in, “That we don’t! We fight and win! So that this land of ours will know peace forevermore!”

“P-Peace forevermore!” Gretal joins in, shouting in a subdued voice.

“Yeah! Now let’s stop with all this depressing loser talk and have fun at this festival. The future might be a little dark but the present is bright and right here!” Hansel declares as he springs from the park bench and marches towards the festivities.

“Y-Yeah! Yeah!” Gretal follows him.

“Yeah! Yeah…” You crack a subdued smile as you stand from the chair and follow the excitable pair.

Right now the present is Bright and beautiful…Words as true as they are enchanting.
>>
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https://youtu.be/tzxUFDbxHd8

It’s a festival unmistakably so.

You, Hansel and Gretal are walking around Septia park, 10,500 Sq Kilometres of grass, trees, gazebos and statues, the biggest park in Brenho.

In the park’s centre is Crown Lookout, a tower standing at 1000ft, tall enough to look over the entire breadth and width of Rose City. Well 1000ft is the official height, but it’s 1050ft if you include the giant, very imposing statue of Armis looking down on all of you from the tower’s top.

That’s where Noell, Flourette and Lawrence have gone and supposedly where the ceremony is going to take place later.

From where you stand, almost 100km away from the tower, even from that great distance, you can make out Armis’s striking features, like his broad and powerful frame, his always at-the-ready stance, the precise and measured grip his has upon his sword and most striking of all, the piercing gaze bores into you, judging you, determining whether you’re worthy to walk upon his lands and enjoy the fruits of his people.

If that’s supposed to be the splitting image of Armis when he was alive, it’s no wonder so many worship and respect him.

But as impressive as you find the statue and the tower, you’re more focused on the park around you. People from every corner of Ochima have gathered to celebrate the festival, you see the fiery red hair and bronze skin of a Dalamian family pass by as their children drag them from stall to tent.

You hear a band of Siquainaan men, grey hair and glowing eyes, dressed in loosened black military uniform mixing innocuous discussion with their thoughts on the future of the continent as they clink glasses of beer.

You laugh at the way Hansel and Gretal blush as they see a Cremoxian couple hug and kiss beneath a lamppost, sharing whispers of pure love in their native tongue.

You almost get into a fight when you bump into a few Kuggendese men who’ve clearly had one too many to drink, but thankfully Hansel manages to talk them out of doing anything rash. Lucky bastards.

It’s a festival, unmistakably so.

(So this is the Razorrose Festival huh…) You wonder in awe, you expected extravagant but the showing here rivals a 4th of July party in the heart of Square Times, people from all over the continent are just having a blast.

(Almost makes you forget this all a big prelude to one hell of a bloody battle…shit, I’m thinking depressing bullshit again, I need to take my mind off of everything, at least for tonight…) You scold yourself.

“So, Hansel, where are we heading? Are we going to hit some stalls? Join some events?” You ask.

“All of the above! Right now however, we’re actually heading towards a bigger event.” he answers.

“Bigger event?” You question.

“Yes, one could even say it’s the 2nd biggest event tonight besides the ceremony, B Kupol Boli.” He states.

“What’s that mean?” You ask.

“The Dome of Pain.” He translates.
>>
“HRAH!” Somewhere nearby a man roars like a wild beast as he caves another’s man chest in with his fist.

“GRAAAAAAAH!” Howls a ferocious, hairy giant as he puts another similarly built man into a rear naked choke, squeezing his face red.

“AHHHHH!” Another burly man screams as an even bigger man crushes him in a bear hug so you tight you’re genuinely worried his opponent is going to be carried out in a wheelchair.

“You know I’m starting to see where this place got it’s name.” You admit as you sit in the stands, watching as a Dalmanian and Siquaiain violently grapple, both of them punching, kicking and biting each other like animals.

“It’s one of the most beloved Mixed Martial Arts tournaments in the country, it’s been going on for over 30 years and the turnout from watchers and fighters only gets crazier every year!” Hansel praises.

“T-Though a few people condemn it for being too v-violent and unregulated since the fighters sometimes s-suffer rather…grievous i-injuries.” Gretal adds.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH-!” Screams the Siquaiain as the Dalmanian bites his ear off and chews it in front of him.

“BY THE LORD, THAT MAN NEEDS SOME MILK.” Screams the hyper energetic announcer.

“Hahaha, you might be right Randy, but gosh, Mcgerious sure is having a brutal showing tonight!” The analytical announcer comments.

“Aren’t moves like that illegal?” You ask, looking at the referee in the middle of the cage, he stands at the ready but refuses to move in and break up the grapple.

“Half of the appeal of the tournament is that virtually anything short of killing your opponent is legal, the referee won’t act until he sees lethal intent.” Hansel counters.

“So that guy is seriously allowed to give people bad earjobs and just get away with it?” You ask.

“They knew what they were signing up for, besides pain in the dome is always mutual” he answers.

“GWOH-!” In a reversal, The Siquaiain manages to wrestle his way out of the grapple and get unto his feet and just before his opponent can stand to meet him, he slams a knee into nose adding a very nasty indentation to the bridge.

“BY THE LORD, THAT MAN NEEDS A SURGEON.” Screams the hyper energetic announcer.

“Hahahaha, that he does Randy, but just what I’d expect of Siliva Vonheim those legs of his should be registered lethal weapons!” The analytical announcer comments.

The pair’s brutal, bloody back and forth continues for a few more rounds before the Dalamain is ultimately decided the winner by way of submission, the final move was a flying armbar that nearly crippled his opponent before he tapped out.

His opponent is escorted out by stretcher as the winner howls in victory through cracked teeth and black eyes.

“Well that was entertaining, we're gonna watch a few more matches before we eat or what?” You ask.
>>
“Why does it sound like you want to leave already Derrick? What, despite everything, are you scared of a little violence?” Hansel teases.

“No, far from it, I love a good fight but just watching them gets a little boring after-all, I’d rather be eating right now.” You correct.

“Oh, so you’re saying that if you were the one in the ring it would be much fun?” He asks.

“No I just said I’d rather be eating, not fighting, what gave you the idea I want to fight?” You ask.

“You seem like you would love an opportunity to fight, just in general, you have lots of pent up energy you need to let out.” He answers.

“How the hell do you know that?” You ask.

“Come on Derrick, don’t we go way back?” He counters.

“I’ve literally only known you for two weeks and one of those weeks was us lying comatose in bed.” You counter.

“Yes but you’re forgetting that the reason we were even in those comas was because we fought side by side, risking life and limb for the same cause, as far as I’m concerned that makes us brothers!” He chants.

What do you say?

>Really? Damn man that’s touching, I didn’t know you felt that way

>You’re trying to sell me something aren’t you?
>>
>>5412861
>You’re trying to sell me something aren’t you?
Great to see this quest series back in action! I’ve been fervently waiting for it’s return!
>>
>>5412869

I could never let this series die, so easily, though as to be expected getting people to join back after all this time will be difficult.

No matter, I've always had more lurkers than posters anyway.

Also captcha really sucks now.

>You're trying to sell me something aren't you?

>Posting.
>>
“Okay what do you want?” you ask

“Huh?

“You’re clearly buttering me up, what do you want? Money? Is it money?

“N-No, that’s not what I’m-”

“Oh so you want me to do something for you is that it? That’s it right?”

“D-D-Derrick you really must stop doubting people so much-”

“What is it you want me to do, is it something I’d be pissed if you asked me straight up?”

“...Would you be upset if just told you?”

“Depends.”

“Depends on what?” He asks.

“Is it something stupid and annoying?”

“...Probably not?”

“That sounds like a yes to me, so yes I would be upset.”

“Ah, right, glad I didn’t ask beforehand then.”

“Ask what?”

“Derrick Holums! Can Mr.Derrick please come down into the cage!?” Suddenly the referee calls out for you.

“Huh? Wait…” At first you jump, shocked your name is being called but then your eyes shoot over to the man beside you.

“Hansel.” you state

“So.” He starts.

“Hansel what did you do?” You ask.

“So I’m going to need you to do me a favor.” He continues.

“Hansel why?” You ask

“There’s this special match during the tournament, where anyone can walk into the ring and fight the current champion-”

“Hansel, what did I do to you?” You ask.

“And there’s this massive cash prize that I want to win but I’m not confident I can actually fight-”

“H-Hansel you did what? I-Is that what you were doing when stuck in the bathroom for 5 m-minutes?” Gretal questions.

“I met the fight promoter in there we had a little chat and some names were thrown around and I thought Derrick would really appreciate it if I-”

“Signed me up to a fight I never asked for? Where I could get humiliated or hurt or possibly worse?” You ask.

“...” he goes quiet.

“Nope I’m not doing it, you can’t make me.” You get up and prepare to walk out.

“Wait! Wait! Wait! I promise to split the cash prize with you!” He grabs your coat to keep you from walking away.

“Don’t care for money, I won’t do it.” You grab his hands and start prying them off.

“T-Then I’ll owe you a massive favor! I’ll do anything! I’ll handle your duties for a month! I’ll pay for all your meals tonight! I-I’ll be your slave for a week! Please, I’ll do anything!” He begs and grovels.

“Why are you even doing this shit, the fuck do you need the money for!?” You throw his hands off you.

“Well…” he gets up and whispers in your ear.

If I had all that money, I could take Gretal on an amazing date and really impress her.” He tells you.

“You’re serious?” You ask, a little in disbelief.

“I know it’s petty and a bit pathetic but really.” He answers.

“So will you do it?” He asks again.

What will you say?

>Fine, I’ll fight for you.

>Hell no, you get in the ring and you fight for your own money.
>>
>>5412910
>Fine, I’ll fight for you.
Help this homie out. He better not forget this though.
>>
>>5412950

>Homie owes you one.

>Posting.
>>
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You smile, “You’re right about one thing, this is pathetic. But it ain’t petty, I’ll fight for you.”

He beams, “Derrick! You have my grat-”

You stick a finger in his chest, “Keep your gratitude, you owe me, big time, don’t forget that.”

He nods rapidly, “But of course, I’ll repay this debt!”

“You’d best.” You stand up and raise your hand.

“Oh! Derrick! Is that you?” The announcer asks.

“You’re goddamn right it is.” You state as you climb into the cage, taking off your jacket and undershirt and tie, leaving your sculpted physique on display.

“Whoa! Aren’t we excited, do you have any words for us before we begin Mr.Derrick? Why are you here tonight? Are you somekind of tough guy looking to start a career in fighting-”

You put a hand up, “Save the fucking questions, just bring out whichever bitchass bozo I need to beat and let’s get a move on.”

The audience whoops and cries, “Whoa-Hoh! Straight to business then! Well can’t say I didn’t at least try and give you your funeral rites beforehand! Bring her out boys!”

“Her?” You ask confused.

The audience starts whooping, the announcer joins in, “Ooooooooh! Looks like our stranger in the ring has got some confidence! Let’s see if this pup’s bark matches his bite! Bring her in!”

https://youtu.be/IgyX6K237xI

Then from the other side of the arena comes a caped figure who dashes across the runaway and hops over the cage, covering over 25ft of distance in less than a second, her agility something to truly behold as she slams unto the tarmac, her back bent so the body-covering cape doesn’t allow for one to see anything other than her thick purple pants and heavy black boots.

“Here she is! Rising Star of the heavyweight division! With her 15 - 1 record, 14 of them by way of TKO, she’s such a beast she couldn’t be kept in the women’s division because they feared she’s too big to play with the other girls so she had to come play with the boys! But now even the boys want nothing to do with her!” the announcer hypes her up as she slowly rises to a still standing position, her height must stack somewhere in 8ft category, you have to tilt your head to find hers.

She walks forward until she’s within grappling distance of you and looks down on you with her shadowy face, her long, thick body casting a shadow that covers your entire being as you look up at her.

You stare into the shadowy depths of her cape-hole and see a mask is covering her, one made to resemble a human head that’s had the skin burned and the gums turned inside out with her eyes, dark red almost seeming to glow with bloodlust as she breathes heavily and watches you.

“She’s big! She’s scary! She’s made of tougher shit then anyone else in the division! She’s the Man Eater!” The announcer cries out.
>>
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You stare back at her for a bit before looking to the announcer, “Is this a joke? You want me to fight a heavyweight? With a 15 win record? In my first time in the ring? This is a joke right?”

The announcer laughs, “It is actually!”

“Oh” You sigh in relief, “So who am I really fighting?”

“Her.” He points at the hulking beast in front of you.

You look at him confused, “Hold on this isn’t making sense, didn’t you just say this was a joke?”

He nods, “It is a joke. The audience volunteer section is done every year as a joke to show people they shouldn’t be so stupid to jump in a ring with professional fighters and expect anything less but a raw ass-kicking!”

“This is the part of the joke where you back out while you still can and save yourself the embarrassment and the hospital bill my friend.” The announcer suggests.

“...” You quietly look back at Hansel.

He throws two thumbs up and a nervous look that screams, (I REALLY NEED THAT MONEY)

You sigh, “I’m not backing down.”

The audience whoops and cries again, the announcer laughs, “You must either be really confident, really crazy, or really horny and into public humiliation! Whatever the case, we all want to see what you can do Mr.Derrick! so you better not chicken out half-way!”

“Oh, if there’s one thing you’ll never see me do-” You square up, “It’s fucking chicken out.”

“Is that right? Well let’s get this fight under way then, both of you to your corners!”

You approach your corner of the cage and stare down your opponent, she does the same to you, her red eyes piercing you to your very core, the referee hops into the cage and gets between the two of you and speaks.
>>
“Okay, here are the rules! All strikes and grabs allowed! No weapons in the match with the exception of the audience assistance-”

“Audience assistance?” You ask.

“The audience can purchase certain items from a nearby stand which they are free to throw into the arena which either fighter is free to use in the battle.” The referee answers.

“Those being?” You question.

“You both understand the rules? Everything good? Alright, go!” However you don’t get very long to consider anything before the fight has already begun.

"You should've backed out when had the chance." Man eater cracks her neck and says.

Your opponent throws off her cape, revealing a striking, bulky figure, her tracksuit jack thick and covered with splatters of blood, likely the remembrance of her previous fights, she cracks her massive knuckles before dipping low into a wrestling stance.

"It's been a while since I had fresh meat in the ring, you've got me excited now!" She shouts in a bloodthristy voice.

"..." You say nothing back.

(Trying to intimidate me huh? Pointless, I've killed bigger beasts than you bitch.) you think as you raise your fist lower yourself into a kickboxing stance.

(But still, something about her voice was strangely familiar...do I know this chick from somewhere?) You wonder to yourself.

You take stock of your opponent more closely, right now she's slowly closely the distance step by step, in another 3 seconds she'll be within grappling range of you.

(Wait no, that's wrong...) You reconsider, with her earlier agility, she could probably cover the distance between the two corners of this cage in less than a second, you're already within her grappling range.

(But considering she hasn't just rushed me and is making a show of the slow approach, she must be ceding the first move to me...arrogant cunt...) She must think you so beneath her she has the luxury of letting you strike first.

Shall you make her regret that choice?

>Take her up on her offer, rush in, aggression is the name of the game.

>Make her come to you, once she gets close enough she has to do try something, the moment she does you'll counter

>Play mind games, ask if you know her and if she falls for the bait, rush in.
>>
>>5413034
>Take her up on her offer, rush in, aggression is the name of the game.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Well, you know what they say: “The best defence is a good offence”. Let’s hope that saying doesn’t turn out to be BS.
>>
>>5413061

>Aggression will win the day

>Writing.
>>
https://youtu.be/kW7TtoLW2xs

You decide there's no need for trickery or mind games or playing on the defense, (In the end I just have to beat the shit out of her right?) at the end of the simple path is always the right one.

You leap into action, kicking off your leading foot, you push your primed leg forward for flying knee, trying to take advantage of her lowered stance by smashing her into her chin.

SWISH! But as expected of a proficient wrestler, such an obvious answer was met with a swift response, she skirts just past your kicking knee and goes after your escaping leg instead.

Well that didn't go as planned, but that's not a problem, you're more than used to things not going to plan anyway.

WHIP!

Just before her bulky arms can clasp your escaping legs, you place a hand atop her head and use it like a springboard to leap up and over her grab and just before you make distance again, you swing your body around to deliver a fierce kick in the back of her head that sends you to the other side of the arena.

(She's crazy fast, but nothing close to Lawerence's ridiculous speed.) You're thankful for your earlier training session with him, his speed was such that if you chose the wrong moment to blink you'd already be on the floor, in comparison this lady is a bit more on the slow side.

The kick sends her reeling for a moment but she doesn't drop like you hoped she would, instead she looks back at you, her raging look even fiercer than before.

You crack a smile, "Surely the champion can do better than that."

"So you're not all talk after-all, I was playing nice before-" She dashes right at you, "BUT NOT ANYMORE!"

Swipe! Swipe! Her large frame belies how nimble her strikes are, she openings with a series of jabs which you manage to duck and weave right through, then she feints a jab into a hook, which once you weave back, she lashes out with violent kick you have no choice but to block due to overwhelming speed and ferocity of it.

The power of the kick nearly busts right through your block, ringing all the way through your arms and sends you tumbling into the cage, the moment your back even gets near the cage she ducks down and rushes for your legs.

(I can see why this bitch is champ! She's an animal!) You admire her strength for a moment before you grab the unto the cage and pull your legs up just before she can catch them.

You're left hanging in unto the cage for a moment as she crashes into the cage just below, nearly shaking you right off the thing from the force of the impact, (If I let her catch me in a grab she'll probably dislocate whatever she gets a hold of, staying off the defense was the right move! I have to keep moving or else she'll slip me up!)
>>
Not wasting a moment, you slam your retracted legs down into her back, delivering your full power and weight into a single point.

"Gah!" And she feels it, it nearly sends her to her knees but she's a tough one and not only does she take it head on, she manages to catch your legs just before you can pull back up.

"RAH!" Abandoning all forms of martial prowess and regressing into a beast, she simply pries you off the cage with raw strength alone, swings you around to disorient you before slamming you full force into the mat.

"Hah-" The landing knocks the air right out of your lungs.

"DIE!" She doesn't let up, you don't even get a chance to bounce off the mat before she's pulling you in by your captured legs.

(Shit! Shit! Shit!) You begin to panic but then opportunity presents itself.

She frees one of your legs to reach over for your side, likely she's going to switch to a mounting position so she can either choke you out or clobber you to finish.

But that moment of freedom is all you need, the moment your leg is no longer restrained, you smash your free foot right into where you think her nose is.

"Fuck!" She shouts as you land on target, but again her toughness proves formidable, despite the hardy blow she still has a firm grasp on your other leg, your kick only proves to delay her from finishing her mount transition, giving you a solid second to figure out your next plan of action.

What will you do?

>Escape the grab at all, you can't be this close to her!

>Don't fear the grab, counter it! Try and out-grapple her!
>>
>>5413147
>Escape the grab at all, you can't be this close to her!
I think Sun tzu said it best: “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

If you enemy is a grappler, don’t try to out-grapple them, force them into a situation whereby they need to use a stance they are less familiar with than ourselves so we can gain the upper hand.
>>
>>5413156

>Nope! Nope! Nope outta there!

>Writing.
>>
Your target switches from her face to her wrist and two kicks later, you're free from her ravenous grip and rolling back to your feet, the moment your eye are level again she rushing at you once more, looking for another chance to grab you.

"Hgh!" You double-back, making as much distance as possible without putting your back to cage, half-way through your retreat your pursuer relents, returning to a neutral stance as she cracks her neck again.

"Oh? Scared of getting up close and personal with a lady? Not that I blame you, guys who get too grabby with me usually end up with broken hands. And that's if I'm being nice." She taunts in an obvious attempt to get in your head.

(Oh shove it, you were on the ropes until you got me in that last grab, don't act like you're anymore in control here than I am.) You want to say but you keep to yourself, any time you spend going back and forth with her is better spent coming up with your next move.

"GODDAYUM THAT WAS CRAZY!" Screams Randy, prompting the otherwise breathless audience to erupt in ecstatic cheer.

"hahaha, you got that right Randy! Amazing showing from both the champion and the challenger, that last exchange had everyone on the edge of their seats! You can really see that the challenger has the bite to back up his bark! His reflexes are sharp and he knows what he's doing in the ring, wouldn't you agree Randy?" The other announcer analyses.

"MY GOD JEFF! THAT BLONDE GUY WAS SO FAST! HE JUMPED LIKE WHOOSH AND KICKED MY GIRL RIGHT UPSIDE HER HEAD! TWO TIMES TOO! GAVE HER ASS THE TWO-PIECE! GODDAYUM THAT WAS CRAZY!" Randy shouts.

"Hahaha, right you are Randy! But let's not forget to give the champion her credit, if she had managed to finish that last grab our new boy wonder would be six feet under! It looks like this match-up is going to come down to whether our challenger can keep up that kind of pressure on the champ long enough to wear her down, do you think our challenger can pull it off Randy!?" Ask Jeff.

"MY MONEY IS ON MAN-EATER GRABBING UP THE NEW GUY AND BENDING BOTH HIS ARMS AND TURNING HIS ASS INTO A WALKING PREZTEL!" Randy predicts.

"Hahahah! But Randy, that's what she did to the last guy she fought a week ago! You know she keeps things fresher than that!" Jeff laughs.

(Christ the commentary sure is filling me with confidence...)

"They got a point though don't they? If we keep up this song and dance for too much longer things are going to get stale fast." She responds, almost as if reading your mind.

"I'm an entertainer at heart, so I like to keep things fresh...HEY FUCKERS!" She bellows out in her fearsome voice, shouting for the audience.

"YOU WANT TO SEE ME CLOBBER THIS FOOL! THEN GET ME MY TOOLS!" She demands, leaving you baffled for a moment, but within a few seconds you see an object fly up and over the cage, which she grabs just before it hits the mat.
>>
"What the fuck!?" The object turns out to be a sledgehammer, a black maul that she holds in one hand like it's regular hammer.

She gives it a few practice swings, the power of which makes you feel as if even the air that comes from them would be enough to snap your bones like twigs, when she's done, she slings it over her shoulder in a bored and relaxed manner and extends her hand in invitation.

"You're free to come at me whenever, at least make things fun little man." She eggs you on.

(Well shit that changes the dynamic a little, now what?) You wonder.

What will you do?

>This changes nothing, if anything she's slower hauling that thing around, continue with your aggression.

>Maybe you should bring your own weapon in? Might even the odds a little, time to make a request (What weapon)

>Now would be the best time to get on those mind games, you just can't shake this feeling of familiarity every time she speaks.
>>
>>5413198
>Maybe you should bring your own weapon in? Might even the odds a little, time to make a request (What weapon)
>spiked knuckle dusters
A sledge hammer eh? Well, since she seems to be familiar with this weapon, since she can use it one handed easily, I suggest we grab something similar to what Derek is used to handling in combat; a pair of spiked knuckle dusters would seem the most obvious choice, so our punches can even the odds a little.
>>
>>5413215

>Get me my knuckle dusters!

>Writing...
>>
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"Come at you whenever huh? Okay, mind waiting a second?" You ask.

"Huh?" She shoots out.

"Hansel! I'm calling in that favor early! I need you to buy me something ASAP!" You shout out for him in the stands.

"Fret not my friend! I've already got you covered!" Hansel shouts back, as he tosses something over the cage, you catch them mid-air and realize they're a pair of spiked knuckle dusters.

You whistle, impressed, "Damn, excellent choice, you really weren't lying when you said you know me well." you say as you equip them.

"No need thank me! Just get that rude slag crawling on the mat already!" He cheers you on.

"You've got it!" You rush in.

"Finally found your stones huh pussy!? Come at me!?" Man-eater cries as she meets your rush.

https://youtu.be/Ph4BZqB7yr4

As you close into attack range you go over your battle plan in your head, this takes less than a second because it is rather simple process.

What is your problem?

That this woman is ridiculously strong and will likely one-hit kill you if she gets her way.

What can you do about it?

She's tough but invincible, though she does a good job of covering it up, each of your attacks are getting to her, the more you hit her the closer you get to a real chance to knock her out or get her to submit.

So what is the solution?

Hit and run.

So that's exactly what you do.

The first exchange is a quick one, the moment you're in range of her hammer, she does a short horizontal swing aiming for your body, so you pull your entire upper back while keeping your legs firmly planted, dodging the swing by mere inches before shooting a lighting fast jab into her abdomen.

The force of your punch is reduced owing to the fact you had to spend most of your energy dodging, but the spikes on your dusters make their worth known as she has 4 new holes to get belly piercings in now, drawing blood.

First strike goes to you.

"RAHHHH!" This clearly upsets her as she pushes with the handle of her hammer and in a swift movement swings her hammer from under you aiming to putt your head like a golf ball.

The shove from a moment ago leaves too off-balance to dodge so you're forced to roll prone to escape.

The second exchange begins with you rolling like a barrel away from an enraged Man-eater repeatedly attempting to crush you with her hammer while you're on your side, eventually your rolling puts you against the cage.

She sees her chance, she rears her hammer like a stake and attempts to squash you underneath, but then you sweep at her feet, her over eagerness left her stance unrealized.

She falls to the mat and in an instant your positions are reversed, she's on the floor as you rise your feet and move to mount.

POP!POP!POP!

You get 3 solids strikes, one against the side of her face, tearing her mask off a little the following two to her right arm that she's uses to block, all draw blood.

2nd, 3rd and 4th strike goes to you.
>>
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Then as you're rearing back for a 5th attack, she uses her blocking hand to grab your neck instead.

"Kah!" She throttles you, reversing all your momentum in an instant forcing you to relent and hop off her before she can advance the grab any further, she kicks you on your way out, knocking the wind out of your sails a little.

The 6th strike goes to her.

"Errrr..." She comes back to her feet, growling and panting like a wounded beast, she likely regrets choosing to take her hammer now as she if she had both hands free a moment ago she could transitioned that grab into a winning grapple.

But she chose the path of the entertainer rather than the winner, she has committed to winning with the hammer so now she must carry the hammer to the finish line.

You on the other hand, have no such stipulation, the next exchange will be the final one.

You're both getting to be on your last legs, to even pull off these strikes means going full-force the second you get into her effective range, your stamina is starting to catch up with you now and while the hits she's got on you are few, they are effective, your arms are still a little shaken from that first kick and the hit she gave you just now damn near made you want to kneel over.

But she's in the same boat, if not worse off than you, her status as champion means she not only needs to beat you, but beat you climatically, anything less will reflect badly on her record so she can't come at you with any cheap shots or boring stratagems, her character demands a cruel but spectacular finishing move to end this match.

And that is precisely what you will give her.

You both approach, slowly this time, leaping into action would be too costly at this junction, this is now a game of inches, who will step into the other's effective range first and how will they take advantage of that.

Once more, the answer is a simple one.

Her hammer has greater range, so this slow approach works in her favor, once you cross the threshold she raises her hammer skyward to cave your head in, you then take advantage by leaning in close and throwing an overhand hook faster than she can swing down.

She smirks, this is exactly what she expected.

CRACK! Goes the bones in your foot as feints her overhead swing, skewering the handle of hammer in your foot instead.

"ARGH!" You cry out in pain.

"FELL FOR IT MORON! YOU'RE DEAD!" She let's go of the hammer and goes for grab with both hands, this is the moment she built for, by committing to the hammer she was playing you into thinking she had to finish with it when in reality she just wanted to pin you down to finally get you into her playground: Grappling.

A beautiful turnaround, once again she proves why she is the ruler of this ring, you can't dodge with your foot pinned and there's no way you'll out wrestle her, so it would appear this is the end of the line for you.

So it would appear.
>>
Slip!

Even as the hammer was driven into your foot, the motion of your overhand hook never stopped, the reason for this is that you too were feinting, halfway through the hook, you released the knuckle, turning effectively into a short-range arrow that is being flown directly into her face.

"Hm!" Her reflexes are sharp, she takes one of the hands she was grabbing you with and swats the duster away before it can harm her.

But now, in this moment that in total makes up less than half a second, her chin is left wide open and her focus is directed to your upper body where the duster flew from, so it's physically impossible for her to see where the real attack is coming from.

BOOM!

Right from below, a full-power uppercut complete with the spiked duster. The impact rings out like the discharge of a shotgun and actually manages to life the veritable giant off the ground for an instant, tears her mask clean off her face and sends her crashing down to the mat where she lies twitching and unconscious.

"...." Everyone is left speechless for a moment, your fist is still raised in the air as you watch the woman below to ensure she's really down and out for good.

A few seconds pass and she doesn't get back up.

"GODDAYUM! THAT BITCH NEEDS SOME MILK!"

"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" It's Randy's senseless prattle that brings everyone back to their senses as the whole arena erupts with cries of excitement and shock.

The refree approaches the prone form of the maneater and checks on her shooting out a signal that must mean she's out like a light and the medics are needed on scene, confirming the fight to really and truly be over.

"OH MY GOD! WHAT UPSET THE CHALLENGER ACTUALLY WON! THIS IS A FIRST IN BOLI HISTORY! RANDY! THOUGHTS!" Jeff shouts.

"THAT MAN JUST WON HIMSELF A CONTRACT WITH THE AGENCY! WHATEVER YOUR DAY JOB IS MAN, QUIT IT, WE NEED YOUR CRAZY ASS HERE!" Randy offers.

You throw a middle finger to the announcer's table, "Fuck that! You think I'd ever want to do this shit again? Just get me my goddamn money!"

"Oh! This man is cold, but a promise is a promise!" Jeff signals for some very attractive and scantily-clad women to enter the cage, carry a massive check that with a million Jenny with your name signed on it.

"Here's your prize Mr.Derrick!" The girls hand the check over to you before flanking you on both sides as cameras roll in, snapping pictures and taking videos of you.

You sigh, (I'm so glad this wasn't a stealth mission because if anyone from the organization saw me right now I'd they'd axe my ass in an instant. I hope none of my friends see this...)

>Meanwhile at Bradford's house...

"Holy shit! Holy fucking shit!" The man of the house can be heard pacing his living room back and forth, shouting expletives incoherently.

"Derrick won! Did you see that guys, he won!" Etheline, sat on the couch alongside recently returned Vanilla and flanked by Reynauld who both stare in disbelief.
>>
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"Shut the hell up pig! We know you're excited to see your boyfriend win but aren't you going to ask why what the hell he's doing on TV!?" Vanilla questions.

"B-Boyfriend!? Oh please Vani, it's not l-like that, he's just a friend, really!" She fawns.

"That's the part you fucking care about!? Oh my god, why did I agree to come to this stupid watch party..." Vanilla complains as she leans back into the couch.

Reynauld snags a beer from the table and pops it open, "Same reason I did girly, because you get free beer and Bradford's pantry is always filled with snacks!" He laughs.

"Ball-sucking motherfucking cunt! Horsefucking shitcake bitch!" Bradford shouts out.

"If only the man of the house wasn't so loud! I can't enjoy all my stolen snacks! What are your panties even in a bunch bout boah!?" Reynauld asks.

Bradford snaps at him, "As if you didn't just fucking see why! Were you not watching the TV!?"

"Oh, so you're actually worried about why you're friend is fighting in some far off and possibly getting hurt? Aw that's surprisingly sweet of you Brad." Etheline compliments.

"FUCK NO! I'M FUCKING JEALOUS!"

"..." She's left speechless.

"That motherfucker disappears for almost a month now and it turns out he's off fighting badasses on the otherside of the world while I'm stuck doing fucking paperwork!? Fuck this, how much for a airship ticket to Bohemia!?" He asks.

"It's Ochima retard." Vanilla corrects.

"It could be timbuckfucknowheretu! If it's got fighting, money and babes I want to be there! Derrick can't have all the fucking fun! I'm going to start packing!" He rushes off to his bedroom to get his things.

"He didn't even figure out how much the tickets are before he rushed off..." Etheline points out.

"Doesn't matter technically he's got his license don't he?" Reynauld points out.

"That also doesn't matter, all of Ochima has travel restrictions right now, something to do with some political turmoil or whatever? Not even members of the organization are being allowed in right now." Vanilla corrects.

"Oh...I guess it's a good thing we got him on that boat before that then." Etheline realizes.

"Yeah, if only the fucker would tell us what the fuck he's doing over there before he fucking left." Vanilla complains.

"I'm sure he has his reasons, we just need trust that he'll come back to us soon." Etheline counters.

Vanilla wags her finger, "You shouldn't be so reasonable piggy, you should be calling him up and demanding answers from him, he owes it to you to explain what's going, that's how you should think."

"What!? No way, who am I to demand things of him like that, I'm just a friend of his..."

"And that's always what you'll be with an attitude like that, a woman who isn't demanding of her man comes across as uninterested you know? Some other woman will snatch him up at this rate."
>>
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"Hey I told you it's not like...you really think someone else will take him away if I don't?"

"Yeah, who knows, the bitch that will steal him from you might be closer than you think..." Vanilla casts her away.

"Huh...what does that mean?" Etheline doesn't quite catch her meaning.

Reynauld laughs, "It means the gun-witch has a beating heart and working vagina after-all!"

She glares at him, "Shut the fuck up before I make a leather sack out of your fucking sack cowboy!"

He laughs even harder, "Sorry,Sorry! Said too much have I!?"

"Huh? Huh?? What's going on???" Etheline grows more confused by the moment.

"Shut up pig! It's none of your fucking business!" She shouts, blushing and sipping at her beer.

Then serval heavy steps come from the nearby staircase as Bradford drags two overstuffed check bags, with two carry-ons stacked on top of them along with an very heavy looking backpack slung over his shoulders and a pair of sunglasses on his face.

"Alright bitches, I'm ready to go to Sunny Bohemia!" He shouts.

"1.Ochima is known for rain and grasslands, not sunshine. 2.The country is closed and accepting no visitors, not even Hunters. 3.Stop being such a fucking idiot Bradford." Vanilla lists.

"What." he drops all his bags and falls to his knees, "So...I can't be with my best friend kicking ass and taking names?"

"No." She flatly answers.

He falls unto his hands, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK-" He shouts.

"Oh god it's going to be all night with him isn't it?" She pinches the bridge of her nose and drinks more.

>Back to the present.

"Got your money bitch-boy." You say as you finally manage to escape the crowding media and make it back to the stand.

Hansel looks ready to break into tears, "T-Thank you so much, I can't believe you fought so hard for me, I'm eternally grateful-"

"Ah!Ah! Save the fucking waterworks man you look fucking pathetic! If you're going to take your girl out on a date you can't be looking that fucking goofy!" You say putting a hand up.
>>
"D-Derrick you're being too loud-"

"H-Hey!" Gretal speaks up as she approaches, scaring the daylights out Hansel who has this expression of (Did I just get caught, I just caught didn't I!?)

But she skirts past Hansel and bows to you instead, "T-That was incredible, I know you showed your stuff during the incident a few w-weeks ago but you really are an amazing fighter!"

You scratch the back of your head a little embarrassed, "Thanks, I mean that's really the only reason Noell hired me, I'm more of a bodyguard than a butler."

"T-That's what we really need in times like this, seeing you out there just filled me with all the confidence I-I needed to win this war! Yeah!" She cheers.

You smile and join in, "Yeah! We're gonna win!"

"With Derrick by our side we can't lose!" Hansel joins.

"YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!" You all start chanting to each other.

"Hey bastards." That's when a familiar voice calls out from behind you.

"Yeah! Yeah-huh? HUH!?" It's then you turn around to see the prone form of Man-eater speaking to you as she's being carried by a pair of medics towards the medical office, but that's not what has you shocked.


"You're-" Her mask is off now, so you can finally see why you couldn't shake that vaguely familiar the whole time you fought.

"Little Mary!" Hansel finishes for you, the full bright-red hair and shockingly cute face that doesn't match her monstrous body is in full view.

"Yeah, yeah it's me." She admits.

"What the fuck-!? You work at this place too? What is Man-eater like your masked persona or something? They not pay you enough being a servant at the Royal family?" You ask.

"Oh I get paid more than enough, this was actually my job before I joined up with the servant corps. I was actually scouted by Madam Nylora during one of my matches here." She explains.

"Oh so you were working here before you even joined the royal family huh? Then why are you still here?" You ask.

"Call it stress relief, call it keeping in practice, I just love being in the ring and I can't let my title as champion just get claimed without me putting up a fight right?" She reasons.

"Anyway, just stopped on my way to say good fight. I never expected to be beaten by the same man twice in the same week. if you've beaten me like this, You can consider your place in the servant corps secure now." She assures.

"It was in question until now?" You ask.

"Even after your showing the during the game of tag, many still doubted your ability and thought that you really only won thanks to all the help you got from Madam Flourette and Sir.Noell, but there can be no such excuses for that last fight. I will personally ensure that no one doubts your ability ever again." She answers.

"Damn, thanks." You smile.

She smiles, "You're welcome, know if you'll excuse me, I have a number of holes you opened up to close now. Have a great festival night, enjoy the town." She wishes as she's carried away.
>>
“Well that was…fun?” You can’t help but ask.

“It was…something.” Hansel nods.

“W-Wanna get something to eat guys?” Gretal questions.

You both nod, “If there’s one thing I am after all that, it’s hungry, where’s eats at in this place? Apparently I can cash this check out by the front so we got plenty of money to play around with, Are we hitting any of these food stalls outside?”

Hansel laughs, “Oh no, of course not! We’re servants of the royal family Derrick, we’re far too good to eat stall food! I swear you must drop this poor Yorbian mindset of yours!”

“Well sorry for being poor and practical, where the hell are we eating then?” You ask.

“W-We already reserved a spot at a nearby restaurant.” Gretal asks.

“One appropriately high class for us of course.” Hansel brags.

“(Oh so that's what he needed all this money for.)Okay, where’s it at?” You ask.

“Patience, patience Derrick, we have a few…” Hansel looks over to Gretal,

“Stops to make first.”

“Stops?” You question.

“Yes, places me and Gretal were planning on visiting first, we have some time before the reservation so we should be able to make most of them.” He answers.

“Oh…Well, okay.” You agree.

“You’re surprisingly cooperative, I expected you to throw a fit and demand to be given food immediately.” Hansel counters.

“What sort of childish image do you have of me? I am a little peeved you two have got plans I didn’t hear about but it is what it is. So long as I get food before the night is over I don’t care.” You clarify.

“T-Thank you for being so understanding and mature.” Gretal compliments.

“That’s not what I’d call it…whatever, where are we even going? What are we doing?” You ask.

“Someplace fun to do something fun!” Hansel answers.

“Oh? Are there more shows and rides we haven’t seen yet?” You ask.

“Oh yes! But I doubt these ones will be your speed…” He answers.

“What does that mean?” You ask.

“Follow us and find out.” He answers.
>>
https://youtu.be/Gsh8DHVRxEs

“Couples discount! Discount for couples only over here!” A barker shouts.

A little while after following them, you quickly begin to understand.

“Check out this newly constructed roller coaster! So fast and exciting! Young couples get in the priority line!” Another barker shouts.

This is not a happy place.

“Come all young lovers and take a trip around one of our beautiful lakes in a swan boat, trust me boys and girls, there’s enough room for two! No more! No less!” Another barker shouts.

This is not a happy place for the likes of you.

“Is it just me…Or are all the attractions around this side of the park…” Sat at a table of a very high-class restaurant by the name of tomber amoureux which is Cremoxian for Falling in love, you look out the window to see any number of young lovers holding hands or locking arms as they walk by.

“...a little anti-bachelor?” You announce.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Hansel asks.

You laugh, “Ah now I get what you meant earlier. This side of the park won’t be my speed…because I don’t have a girl to mac on, unlike you.”

Hansel goes red, “G-G-Girl to mac on!? You can’t mean Gretal, what a lewd thing to say…”

You scowl, “Oh don’t even try me with that shit! Have either of you looked in a mirror recently?”

“And what precisely does that mean Sir!?” Hansel asks, offended as he folds up a kilt made for him by Gretal in a sewing contest with the words, Light of my life inscribed into the fabric on his lap.

“Oh miss me with this bullshit…can you believe he’s trying to deny it at this point.” You look to Gretal.

“D-Deny what?” Gretal asks, taking a second to admire the Arctic Monkeys handkerchief, which Hansel had bought and signed by Alexander Turner with the words: For Hansel’s Lovely girlfriend written on the front.

“You two cannot be serious! The shirt! The Kilt! You can’t expect me to not see that as blatant proof you two are in love with each other!” You shout.

“L-LOVE-!?” They both gasp in unison.

“Yes! L.O.V.E! Lovey-dovey-smacks-of-honey! I was fine with playing coy with you two at first because it was a little cute but now it’s just annoying!” You shout.

Gretal panics, “N-N-N-No Derrick, it’s nothing like that! The k-kilt is, how do i say…it’s basically…I meant that p-platonically!”

“Platonically?” You ask her with an annoyed look on your face.

“Y-Y-Yeah, Hansel has been my best friend since we were kids so he’s the f-friendly light of my life!” She explains.

“Right…And that Arctic Monkeys shirt Hansel had signed for you with the words girlfriend that you accepted with tears in your eyes is also purely platonic?” You ask.
>>
“Oh come now Derrick, I know you’re a dumb Yorbian but even you must know that in Ochima we always refer to our friends who happen to be girls as girlfriends. We aren’t like you lewd and brazen westerners who can’t practise healthy male-female friendships.” Hansel laughs, speaking in a confident voice as sweat drips like a waterfall from his forehead.

Your look becomes dubious, “Uh huh…you know it’s not just how you two look either…there’s also this air of…how do you say…”

You look around the restaurant and see any number of couples, old and young sharing tables, some chatting about how they met and when’s their next anniversary and what to do, others feeding each other cake and taking sips from their partner’s wine glasses where the lips touched, some walking out of the restaurant while holding hands.

“...Romance?” You point out.

Hansel looks away, “I-I have no idea what you’re talking about…” He says as he plays with the heart-shaped locket containing a small photo of Gretal inside.

“Y-Yeah, really, I have no idea what you mean…” Gretal says as she plays with a silver ring with the words My treasure ~ Hansel inscribed on it.

“Riigggghhht” You’d have to be a dung beetle to eat half the shit they’re putting out, but you do understand the need for the front.

While part of it is clearly because they’re a pair of dorks who can’t be honest with each other. Even if they would just confess, their workplace isn’t exactly romance-friendly.

Part of the contract for the job prohibits romance between staff members, the justification is something to do with power dynamics and conflicts of interests or some other old bullshit they came up with to say no hanky-spanky between butlers and maids.

Anyway, thanks to that there’s absolutely no romance between any of the maids or butlers of the family…or at least no one is open about it lest they wish to risk their livelihoods.

With that in mind, you have refrained from making explicit mention of their relationship in front of your superiors or within earshot of our employers (Though everyone must know at this point).

(But good God all-mighty! Both Lawrence and Flourette have gone off to the tower for the big meeting between the candidates! If there was ever a time for these losers to be honest with each other it would now!) You seethe in frustration.

(It’s clear they both know how they feel about each other already! Arranging this stupid-long date, buying all those gifts for each other! Hell, the only reason I’m here instead off doing my own shit is so these two can have an excuse to tell their bosses when they ask what they did for the evening! Can’t be a date if they’ve got a 3rd wheel like me stuck with them!) You realise.
>>
You were fine with playing 3rd spoon for a while but soon the harsh stares and whispered questions started getting to you. Even now you sit awkwardly between the two lovers, your chair squeezed to fit at a table for 2, with half the restaurant giving you confused looks as they wonder what the hell someone with no date is doing here.

This situation has left you a mixed bag of feelings, you don’t know whether to feel pity for their inability to express their real affection for one another, or rage that they would use you like this and not even have the decency to ask first.

Still, the fact they feel obligated to deny their love for each other no matter what presents the opportunity to have a little fun at their expense…

What will you do?

>Leave well enough alone.

>You must make them suffer as you have.
>>
>>5413407
>Leave well enough alone.
Just let them enjoy their night for now, they’ll figure out their relationship with each other eventually. Might as well just let them have fun this night since they don’t do this kind of thing often. Why spoil a good evening?
>>
>>5413433

>Let's be civil, let's be civil...

>Posting.
>>
You smile and nod, “Okay then, I believe you, there’s nothing going on between you two, you’re both just good friends right?”

“Yes, I’m so glad you’ve come to see reason…!” Hansel says, elated.

You nod, “Right, right, I’ve seen the light! All the rides you two went on-(And left me behind)-” You grumble under your breath, “-All the photos you took-!(Where I got pushed out)-All that heart-shaped, lovey dovey paraphernalia alllllllll purely platonic right?”

“Y-Yes, it’s all platonic, every last bit of it…” Hansel looks away, sweat beginning to accumulate on his
brow as he notices you haven’t fallen for his sham at all.

You smile, “Yes, now shall we order some purely platonic, totally not romantic food?”

“Of course…!” Hansel says through a forced smile

“O-Oh before we get to ordering, do you mind if we have a pre-meal snack?” Gretal asks.

“Snack?” You ask.

“Y-Yes, I actually have some muffins in my pack…” She answers.

“Muffins? That sounds wonderful!” he agrees.

“W-Well I have a batch of them in my bag from that baking contest we went to…” She says as she reaches into a small backpack near her and produces a paper bag filled with scrumptious smelling muffins.

“Oh yeah, we did jump into that one baking contest that you ended up winning didn’t you? Didn’t the judges eat all your muffins though? They said it was the best they’ve ever tasted.” You point out.

“I made some extra for us to enjoy!” She takes one out, the wide pink top, sprinkled with small seeds indicate a straw-berry flavouring and possible pudding filling, the one in her hand has frosting spelling Hansel’s name with a heart surrounding it and a cupid arrow piercing it.

“For you…P-Platonically of course!” She denotes.

“W-Well thank you for making this one just for me! I’ll take it, platonically of course!” he coughs as he bites into the muffin, moaning in delight.

“Oh my word! Is this dark-chocolate filling I’m tasting purely platonically!?” He questions.

“Well I know you have some slightly unique tastes and like your sweets mixed with a little bitter, I made these muffins with you in mind…P-Purely platonically of course!” She corrects at the end.

“Oh Armis I love you!” He moans in delight once more before opening his eyes wide realising what he’s just said, “-I mean-Platonically! In a purely platonic fashion, I love you as a Child would love his mother!”

“Okay then Mommy, where’s my purely platonic muffin made with love and care?” you ask.

“O-Oh, well uhhhh…I didn’t r-really know what your taste for sweets was so I went on the safer side…” She admits as she fishes into the bag and produces the most generic chocolate muffin you’ve ever seen in your life, in frosting the words For Derrick are written with no special adornments.
>>
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You take it, feeling just a bit disappointed, “Oh…Well, thanks…nom...Whoa!” Despite how bog-standard it looks, the taste is among the best you’ve ever had.

As you enjoy your muffin, Hansel begins to fish into his own bag, “The muffins are amazing Gretal, I simply must return the favour…here.” He says as he takes a beautifully designed box with a number of highlights and personal touches with the words For Gretal designed on the cover.

“Wha-Wait, is this…what I think it is?” Gretal looks to be at a total loss for words just looking at it.

“Yes, it’s your favourite flavour of blue-berry cheesecake from that little store you love down the street.” He answers.

She takes it into her hands and opens it, confirming the presence of an entire, heavenly look cheesecake, adorned with all sorts of fruit, primarily blue-berry.

“I…I…It can’t be, that place is so expensive and even buying a slice from there can really cut into your funds and you not only got a whole cake but specially designed…” You see a tear forming at the corner of her eye.

“You don’t need to think about the price, you’ve already paid me back with these muffins.” He offers.

“Are you kidding me!? Those muffins barely cost a quarter of what you must have paid for this, I can’t just-just-” Hansel takes Gretal’s fidgeting hands into his own and she looks into his eyes.

“It’s okay, I just wanted to thank you for always being there for me and…and…look just take it…for me?” He asks her.

“I will…thank you, I love it.” She says, closing the box and putting it in her pack.

“You do? Great, because I think I see something I love…” Hansel says looking into her eyes.

“Me too…” She says looking back at him.

“Where’s my cheesecake? Did you get me anything?” You cut-in, feeling completely forgotten.

Hansel shoots you a placid look that just screams ‘Did you have to ruin the moment?’ as he reaches back into his bag.

“Here.” He hands you a white box with the store logo printed onto it.

You open it up to find a box of lemon cake, “Why lemon cake?”

“It’s yellow like the colour of your hair. It’s your favourite colour right?” He asks.

“Do you want to fucking die? Also my favourite colour is orange.” You threaten.

“So you don’t want the cake then? I can take it back you know, it cost me quite a bit of money-”

“I never said I don’t like lemon cake!” You shout as you chow down, thoughtless as the gift maybe, cake is cake.
>>
You sigh after you finish the cake, “Okay, enough of this nonsense, can we just eat?”

“Right, we still haven’t ordered have we? What are you having Derrick?” Hansel asks.

“Depends, what are the prices here like?” You ask.

Hansel looks away, “Uhhhhhhhh…welllllll…”

Your eyes sharpen, “Why are you looking away like that? Didn’t we come here because they have special reserve spots open for all royal family staff with discounts included?”

“W-Well, reserved seats are free for all staff but the discount only applies to staff who’ve been in service for at least 6 months…So that doesn’t really apply to you…” Gretal answers.

“Oh…well isn’t there some other discount going on? It’s the Razorrose festival for god’s sake! Doesn’t that mean everything is half off or something?” You ask.

“This isn’t Black Friday, but you are correct when there is a special discount for the day…for couples only…” Hansel answers.

You groan, “Oh my god again…!? Wait, doesn’t that mean everything here is full price for me? Are you sure my paycheck can handle this place? It seems a little expensive…” You point out.

“Well it does import most of its food from high-class chefs from Cremox but it’s really not as expensive as you may think! Here’s the menu.” Gretal says, handing the menu to you.

“Really? That sounds reassuring-” Hope blossoms as you grab the menu and open it up, “Well let’s see what they have to offer…”

You take a look at the prices.
>>
DING! DING! Goes the door chime as you walk out of the restaurant.

“W-Wait Derrick! Come on!” Hansel chases after you, Gretal following in his league, “We’ll help you foot the bill I promise!”

“Don’t bother, there’s no way I’m burdening you or myself with that bill” You cringe just thinking about all those zeroes, “Besides, I think it would best for me and you two if I made myself scarce without you two telling me to leave.”

“A-And why would that be?” Gretal asks.

You smile, “Because now you two have the perfect excuse to have your little wine date without dragging me around.”

“...” The two of them go silent and blush.

“I’m going to wander the park grounds and see if I can find my own fun, you two lovebirds don’t go too crazy while I’m away…or hell, do go crazy, get all your lovey-dovey crap out of your system while I’m not around.” You suggest as you walk away.

The two of them look confused for a moment before Hansel shouts, “T-Thanks Derrick! I won’t forget this! If you need help or a guide, just ring one of our phones and we’ll come to get you!”

“Got it, got it…” You nod as you get further away.

“B-Be safe! Security is high but you never know w-who’s wandering out there!” You can almost hear the smile on Gretal’s face as you disappear into the distance and out of earshot.

“Ha, you say that like I’m gonna run into a serial killer or something…though that might be fun in its own way…” You resolve as you wander off.
>>
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Time: 9:30 PM, Nighttime.

Location: Septia’s Flying Tower, 50th floor, Lord’s Hall

The elevator doors open and you step into a place that feels straight out of myth. It’s a vast hall, one where you hear each of your footsteps across the marble flooring echoing from one end of the hall to the other.

The room is dimly lit, the only light comes lamps filled with Torch flies scattered haphazardly along the walls, the sound of their incessant fluttering overpowered only by the chattering you hear coming from the table ahead of you.

As you get within earshot, those at the table take note of your presence, “Ah, the final guest of the night has arrived, well met!” Shouts Gaius an excitable and friendly voice.

“Well met and well late, it’s only 30 minutes before the ceremony begins, I was beginning to believe you would never show up…” Complains Juno in an annoyed voice.

“I was [i[]hoping[/i] they wouldn’t show up, couldn’t have been kind enough to get in a car accident on the way here? Less competition would be nice.” The voice of Catherine is as womanly as it is harsh.

“Come on now, you shouldn’t wish ill upon your rivals simply because that would be convenient for you. You know that’s immoral.” Rafael’s kind and rational voice disagrees.

“My apologies Father…” Catherine says in a much more sincere and reverent way.

“Another sheep wandering to the slaughter? And one so young too, I swear, how could the Queen be so cruel as to send her only son to die…” Vincent laments as he sees you pass by.

“...” The mean-faced dog at his side stares you down, almost looking ready to pounce you if you get too close to him or his master.

But you don’t let the mean-faced mutt distract you for long, as even more despicable mutt cuts in before you can even say anything about the first one.

“Well I don’t know about you all, but I'm actually overjoyed to have a familiar face among all these strangers, wouldn’t you agree?” Asks Volt Jaeger, his kind smile almost masking the sneer he shot the second he saw you.

“Is he an acquaintance of yours?” Johanna beside him asks, her tone more inquisitive than friendly.

Volt smiles, “Oh more than an acquaintance, he’s a friend, I would even call us close.”

“Are you really going to start antagonizing me before I even take my seat?” You ask.

“Antagonizing? I’m being friendly! I know it may be hard to believe but I really consider you a friend.” He shoots back.

“Well I don’t and you know I don’t, so stop acting like I do or ever will.” You answer.

He laughs, “Ahhhh! So you say, but you must be my friend! The fact that you’re here is proof you want to help me just as friends should.”
>>
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“And what does that mean exactly?” Flourette questions.

“Brenho has many fearsome warriors, you know? I would’ve hated to have to face one in this competition, you’ve saved me a lot of trouble by taking up the spot a real threat could’ve taken.” He answers.

Thank you for that friend. ” He says behind a mocking smile.

You scowl at him, “I see you’re still prone to petty provocation. It’s good to know you’re still the same bottom-feeding rat.”

Johanna holds her hand up, “Enough Volt, even if they’re the enemy, a proper show of manners and respect is necessary for cordial relations. We came here to talk, not to fight.”

Volt bows his head, “Right as always mistress Johanna, but with all due respect, this man has never once given me respect or shown me anything resembling manners. I question if he even knows the meaning of the word.”

“I do have manners, you’re just not worth them.” You shoot back.

“See what I mean?” He notes.

Annoyance furrows Johanna’s brow, “Enough, I order you to be quiet..”

“Understood.” Volt pulls back.

Johanna sighs, “Apologies for the embarrassing conduct Prince Noell, my subordinate has been rather snappy lately and I know not why, perhaps they haven’t fed him properly in SISF?” She jokes.

You laugh, more to be cordial than anything else, “You’re forgiven, just make sure to tighten the leash around your dog there.”

“Grrr….” Volt glares at you.

“Volt.” Johanna states.

“...” he clicks his tongue, shooting one final glare your way before looking away.

“Hmph.” Putting your unfortunate reunion here aside, you take this chance to remember those you’re dealing with.
>>
Sitting at the head of the table are the two favourite to win, hailing from Dalam: 1st Grade Winged Knight Sir.Gaius Aurelius and his aide, Flight Commodore Juno Caldia, the first is a hero of the Schism war and Bloody 9, the second is a commissioned airman officer, still wet behind the ears from the DFA but word is she’s an ace both in command and combat.

Sitting to their left are the fighters for Cremox, Vincent Dominique, the owner of Ochima’s largest PMC Dominique Original Grendiar Squadron aka D.O.G.S , renown for having fought in practically in almost every major conflict across the globe in the last 20 years, he has taken the very strange choice of bringing an actual Dog as his aide, if you had to guess the breed you’d say it must be a mastiff of some kind, face is almost as old and haggard as it’s masters, with scars that tell a long tale of combat experience.

Then from Siquaa comes Johanna Pulterwitz, Grade 1 agent of SDIR, one wonders what a diplomat is doing at a table of warmongers preparing to fight but I’m sure time will tell her purpose here, though perhaps the fact that Volt is her aide is already an indication that this purpose is nothing savoury.

Fighting for Kuggend is Rafael Valentine, a pilgrim who’s made quite a name for himself in the world of christians, apparently he has the ability to purge evil from the hearts of humans with what he claims is a god-given miracle and has been using this miracle to cure criminals all over the globe that others have claimed irredeemable or without remorse for the last 10 years.

It sounds like nonsense but he does have a track record to back it up, in fact, his aide is proof his magic is not mere boast.

The woman to his left, Catherine Zenyatta, more famously known as The Butcher who once led one of Ochima’s most violent terrorist organization and was sentenced to death for her crimes 10 years ago.

From what you hear, she previously felt no remorse for the innocent lives she took whether through her orders or personally and she proved to be an extremely violent and disobedient prisoner, so much so they had to lock her away in solitary confinement for the safety of other prisoners.

But after meeting Rafeal, the prison reported that her violent tendencies disappeared almost overnight and she’s become one of their most well behaved prisoners since. Though supposedly she still hasn’t renounced her past actions and has no intention of doing so.

And it seems Rafael’s magic must be the real deal, for how else could he have one of the most dangerous criminal’s Ochiman history following him as his aide on parole?
>>
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Gaius breaks into laughter, “Well now, if that wasn’t a nasty reunion, Save the fighting for the field lads, tonight is the night of the festival, we should be making merry!”

“Making merry is for the masses outside. Last I checked, we’re all enemies vying for the throne or have I come to the wrong meeting?” You ask.

“No, you’re in the right place but clearly at the wrong time. We won’t be enemies until we set foot on the Isle of Rose, so please save the hostility for the battlefield.” He counters.

“If you think the only thing keeping us from being enemies is our location you must be as optimistic as you are heroic, eh Gaius?” Vincent questions

“I was just saying that trying to act a little more civil might make this meeting go a little smoother but if you all wish to tear each other to pieces before we even hit the battlefield, go ahead, I certainly won’t stop you.” Gaius answers.

What even is this meeting? What are we doing sitting in this circle? It can’t be for us to talk considering we have nothing to say to each other barring insults and platitudes.” Catherine asks.

“Why for the ceremony of course!” From the darkness emerges a being so foul that you baulk as they enter the light, your sister.

“Nylora…” You say her name with a hint of surprise but mostly derision.

She smiles at you, “Noell my precious little brother, fantastic that you made it, late as you are.”

“I had some extra business on my way here that I simply had to tend to, my sincerest apologies dear sister.” You explain.

“Business more urgent than the fight to unite our homeland?” Gauis questions.

“Don’t ask the question if you know I’m not going to answer it.” You counter.

“Well no matter, the only thing that matters is you’re here now and we can proceed with the ceremony on time.” She clarifies.

“Hold it, why are you parading around here, acting as if you’re leading the ceremony?” You ask.

“Well aren’t we rude? Can’t you see I’m wearing the traditional Pan-Ochiman dress? I thought that would act as a dead-giveaway.” She answers.

You grimace, you’re ripe to snap back when Flourette cuts in, “What the young master means is, was her Majesty the Queen not supposed to be leading the events of tonight? Why are you here in her place?”

“That was actually going to be my question, I’m a little confused at the moment, why are you here dear Princess? Not that I’m by any means, disturbed by presence, quite the opposite in fact.” Gaius states.

She giggles, “Oh hush you, but yes, I do owe the table an explanation, though I’m not sure why you’re acting so surprised dear brother, I informed you this was going to happen before anyone else did I not?”

You give her a confused look, “What? What do you- wait, you can’t mean…”
>>
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“Then answer me, dear brother, where do you think you lie on the food chain...?” Nylora asks you before taking a sip of her tea.

“Excuse me? What sort of question is that?” You ask.

“Exactly as it sounds, where on the food chain within this castle do you think you fall? How high are you?” She asks.

You narrow your eyes, “in terms of…?”

“Authority and influence.” She answers.

“I wouldn’t know, why don’t you enlighten me, dear sister?” you ask.

“Come on, at least try.” She insists.

You shake your head, “I will not, I won’t haphazardly guess at a question I’m not sure of.”

“Is that so? Well then, Flourette, what do you think?” She asks.

“You wish to hear my opinion?” She questions as she watches over the two of you from nearby.

“Yes please.” She answers.

“I’m nothing but a servant, I don’t my thoughts would be very useful-”

“Just answer.” Nylora demands.

Flourette clams up for a moment, “At the very top would Her Majesty the Queen, followed by you Mistress, followed by the Regents while at the bottom would be Noble families, Master Noell and then servants like myself.”

Nylora contemplates, “Hmmm, a very apt summation for the supposedly useless opinion of a servant, you’re mostly correct.”

“You honour me.” She bows.

“What do you mean she’s mostly correct? As far as I could tell, that was a pin-point answer.” You cut-in.

“It was 90% correct, funnily enough it’s because she got both the very top and very bottom parts of the summation wrong.” She explains.

“The top and bottom parts? How so, are you saying Mother isn’t at the very top and the servants aren’t at the bottom?” You question.

“Well the bottom is self-explanatory, at the very bottom is you, because even a servant like Flourette holds far more authority, value and use than you do here, I’m guessing she switched them around to save your ego.” She answers.

“Did you just call me here to make fun of me? If so, I’ll be taking my leave now.” You threaten as you stand up.

She puts a hand up, “But she’s also wrong about Mother being at the very top, she’s close to the very top, but not quite there, there’s someone above even her after-all.”

“...Who?” You slowly sit back down.

“Who else? Father of course.” She answers.

Your eyes narrow, “...Technically you’re correct. In terms of value, power and respect, Father is unparalleled. But are you forgetting the part where he hasn’t been in the castle for a decade now?”

“Of course not, but as you said, technically he’s still the most powerful and respected man despite his abenstia.” She smirks.
>>
You sigh, “Oh bloody hell, I knew this was going to be somekind of dumb trick question…This is why I didn’t play along, you never said dead people counted.”

“Who said Father was dead?” She asks.

“Who said he wasn’t? He’s been gone for a decade sister and even if he was alive he’s basically dead in the eyes of the kingdom…He’s certainly dead in my eyes anyway.” You counter.

She shakes her head, “No, no, no brother, you fail to understand. I asked you Who said Father was dead?

“...What are you getting at?” You ask.

“What if I said I had evidence to the contrary?” She asks.

“Then I’d say stop taking the mickey.” You answer.

She laughs, “Well you’ve got me there, I don’t have any evidence of that!”

“...You really are just making fun of me aren’t you?” You ask.

“Oh brother, it’s just a little teasing~” She answers.

“I’m leaving, come along Flourette.” You walk away.

“Wait, wait, just play along a little longer, this is building to something I swear!” She stands up.

“I don’t have time for games.” You declare.

“But you do have time for the game of thrones you’ll be playing later right? What if I told you this was related to that?” She asks.

You stop and sigh, “...Then I’d say you have 20 seconds to convince me you’re not full of shit before I walk away for good.”

“Right, how about a thought experiment then?” She asks.

“One you can complete in 10 seconds? That’d be the day.”

“Wasn’t it 20 a moment ago?” She asks.

“It will be 5 seconds if you keep wasting time.” you counter.

“Ask yourself, what would happen if Father were to suddenly return to the kingdom?” She asks.

That gives you pause, “If he were to return…well to put things simply it would make things very complicated.”

“That’s not a simple answer.” She counters.

“Because there’s no one simple answer to what would happen. His return would lead to a massive upset, one that could lead to rebellions, terror attacks, collapses of various institutions, any number of nasty things.” You describe.

“Ooooh, you really think all that would happen?” She hums.

“You think it wouldn’t?” You ask.

She shakes her head, “No, I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, any other ruler in exile returning to retake his place would cause many of those things to happen. But our Father is different, you know that.”

“...” You grimace.

“You don’t believe me?” She asks.

“The fact that I can’t say you’re wrong immediately is why I believe he very well could just walk back after 10 years and retake the throne without issue.” That’s just how capable your Father is, that’s just how beloved and feared he is, he could do it.

She nods, “So you see, even if he isn’t here, he still counts by that logic, no?”
>>
“I suppose…okay was that tangent just to prove your answer wasn’t total horseshit?”

“That and it would make this entire Razorrose Festival fiasco pointless wouldn’t it?”

“I suppose it would…but it isn’t going to happen.”

“But what if it did, what would you do?”

“Huh?” That question catches you off guard.

“Say it happened, what would happen to you dear Brother? This game of thrones, it’s your last chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of the kingdom, take back what was rightfully yours and if Father were to return and retake the throne…what would become of you?”

“...” You dread to even think, you would be stuck in this hellish situation you find yourself in for the rest of your life most likely.

“Looks like you already know dear Brother…drop out of the festival.”

“What? What is this all of a sudden?”

“Drop out of the festival, there’s no point in you participating, I’ll have someone else go in your place.” she offers.

You narrow your eyes with blatant suspicion, “What is this? Did someone put you up to this? You weren't against me running before and now this?”

“Everything I do, I do for the sake of your well-being, I know you don’t believe me, but I’m the only person in this castle who actually cares for and loves you.” Just behind her Flourette glares daggers at her back, closing her eyes when Nylora glances back at her.

“You’re right, I don’t believe you, I think this is just another power grab for you. Not to mention, if I drop out of the race I really will have no way to get out of this hole I call my life.”

“But you would! I’ll have you join my Lifeguard.” She answers.

“You can’t be serious…You mean you want me to willingly slap on a collar and call myself your lapdog.”

“Come on now, don’t put it like that and think about it! If you joined me I could remake you! I could fix your image, bolster your strength, let you have power and influence that could rival even the regents!” She promises.

“If you leave it all to me, I promise you within 5 years you’ll be one of the most respected and beloved figures in all of Ochima. Just think, It will be the redemption story of a lifetime!”

“Rejected.”

“I said think about it! You didn’t even try! Why!?” She asks.

“Because it wouldn’t be my story.”

“So pride’s stopping you!? Or is it that you don’t trust me!?” She asks.

“A bit of both, but neither of those are the main reason.” You answer.

“Then what!?”

You shake your head, “You wouldn’t understand even if I told you, don’t bother asking. Anything else dear Sister, or was this meeting just an elaborate sales pitch?”

“No…I called you here because I was trying to be nice, but it seems that was wasted effort.” She says in a nonchalant tone, but you can tell from the small twitch at the corner of her mouth, she’s furious, your sister hates to be rejected.
>>
“Indeed, now if you will excuse me.” You shake your head and turn around.

“Oh, one more thing dear brother and this one is quite important. There will be change in ceremony proceedings, Mother will no longer be leading.”

“What? Why?” You turn back.

“She’s going on a trip abroad, she won’t be able to make it.” She answers.

“So suddenly? The ceremony is to start in a matter of days, where could she have gone?” you ask.

“Donghai, Kakin.” She answers.

“For what, more diplomacy meetings? Can’t that wait?” You ask.

“Apparently not, apparently it was urgent and she informed us she won’t be back for weeks, possibly months.” she explains.

“What? Then she can’t possibly make the ceremony, it will have to be delayed-”

“It won’t be delayed, the announcement will be made public by the end of the day and the festival will proceed exactly as scheduled.” She cuts in.

“But who will lead it if not Mother? It’s tradition that a woman of royal blood has to lead the proceedings.” You counter.

“And who do you think you’re talking to? Isn’t it obvious who will take her place?” She counters.

You? but you’re-”

“Shut your mouth, I won’t forgive you if you finish that sentence.”

“...”

“I see you don’t believe me, don’t worry, the truth will show through soon enough and when you see me leading the proceedings, don’t forget that means I hold the right to force you to drop out, so perhaps…” She trails off.

“So perhaps…? What?”

“What indeed?” She laughs, a belligerent and arrogant laugh.

“...” You say nothing as you walk away for good this time
>>
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“So you weren't pulling my leg…” You concede.

“Indeed I wasn't brother and as I informed you earlier, the right for you and everyone at this table to run in this race is held exclusively in these hands of mine, don’t forget that as we proceed.” She smiles.

“...” You grimace.

“Yes, I did hear that Her Majesty left on a trip to Donghai…I wonder what for?” Rafeal wonders.

“I’m sure all of you have many questions, but unfortunately there isn’t much time to be answering them, it’s already time to start the ceremony itself and seeing as that is the case, I will be asking all champions to follow me up to the ceremony grounds.” Nylora points to a door on the far side of the room.

“The champions will begin the judgement process and naturally only the champions will be allowed to proceed, so all Aides will be staying here.” She informs.

(Judgement…So she wasn’t kidding about that part either…)

“Is that so? Well let’s go then…” Gaius nods and stands up, the other champions follow in his league, naturally you do as well, but there’s a hint of hesitation in your step, much of your certainty has turned into worry.

With your sister at the helm, pretty much any plan you had has been swiftly grounded to dust and all that you say can and will be used against you, with that in mind, who wouldn’t worry? Not that you would ever let such a thing show.

“Master Noell.” So you thought, but there was one person who saw through your mask.

“...” You crane your head ever so slightly to show you caught her voice.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” She tells you.

“...Hmph.” You snort.

Always so hopeful, that pig.
>>
Time: 10:00 PM

Location: Septia Park

“I said I would find my own fun but damn, who knew fun was so hard to find…” You sigh in frustration as 20 minutes would come and pass with you just wandering about the place.

“Hansel and Gretal weren’t kidding when they said you could easily end up lost in this place…in fact, I’m already starting to forget which way I came from…” You look back and see a veritable maze of merging pathways and trails, all of which look vaguely familiar to you.

“Maybe it’s time to turn back before I really forget, being a 3rd wheel is better than ending up a lost child…” You think.

You sigh, feeling disappointed that your little side tour bore you nothing but boredom, you find a random nearby bench and decide to rest your legs and crowd watch, hoping deep down that something, anything would happen to free you from this accursed boredom.

“Mommy…Daddy…!” Fortunately for you, just one event finds its way to you, crying out in worry.

“Huh?” Following the cries, you see a small child, a little girl hugging a cute toy doll for comfort as she looks around, clearly lost and alone, with tears welling in her eyes as she calls out for her parents to no avail.

(Oh shit, an actual lost child.) Just as you were worrying you were going to become one, it’s almost comically timed.

“Mommy! Where are you!? Daddy!?” But before you laugh at the universe for actually granting your wish, you first lament at the distress of the girl, she shouts and shouts for help and yet everyone around her does nothing, either because they are too caught up with themselves to notice or just can’t be asked to help a girl that isn’t their responsibility.

(Fucking bastards...) You can't stand to see it, the injustice of it all lights your heart aflame, before you know it you're already moving in.

Thinking about it logically, in a festival as big as this there must be any number of security guards patrolling the grounds looking for kids like this one to return them to the parents and while she certainly isn’t safe wandering through a crowd of strangers like this, the likelihood of her getting kidnapped or attacked is low in an area as well-lit and guarded as this one.

So thinking from a purely logical stand-point, you have no reason nor obligation to help this girl and honestly she’ll probably come out this just fine.

“Mommy…Daddy…Why’d you leave me behind…!” She looks up forlorn, ready to burst into tears before the night sky.

“You haven’t been left behind, kid.” You stop her before she wanders any further.

“Huh? Who are you mister…?” The girl looks up at you, a twinge of fear in her eyes.

You crack a smile, “An annoying meddler who can’t leave well enough alone.”
>>
But that’s the wonderful thing about being human, you don’t need a logical reason to do anything.

“I’m going to help you find your parents, so knock it with the waterworks.” You say as you reach into your pocket.

“Really? You promise?” She asks.

“Promise. Now stand still while I make a quick call…” You ready your phone and hit the speed dial.

“Did you get lost already?” Hansel asks, his voice ever so slightly annoyed at the interruption.

“No, not me but I found this little girl and I’m wondering what to do with her.” You sum up.

“Presumably take her back to her guardians or the security guards? Unless you plan on becoming a kidnapper…In which case I don’t know you.” He quips.

“When the hell did you learn sarcasm?” you ask.

“I suppose I’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd for too long!” he cracks up and then you hear some vague chatter in the background, “Oh, seems Gretal wants to know what’s happening, I’m putting you on speakerphone.” He explains.

“Then I’ll do the same so you can talk to the girl.” You turn on speakerphone.

“H-Hey Derrick, where are you? What’s this about a lost little girl?” She asks, an almost motherly concern in her voice.

“I’m 20 minutes away from the restaurant, where are you two at?” You ask.

“Not far, we went to a ticket booth to buy tickets for the ceremony showing in an hour, it shouldn’t take us 30 minutes to get your current position.” Hansel answers.

“Good but before that, we need to know where this girl’s parents are so we can take her, I’m guessing she must have gotten separated from her parents a little while ago during all the excitement, am I right?” You ask her.

“Yes! Yes!” She nods at your guess.

“But how long ago was A little while?” Hansel questions.

“How long have you been looking for your parents?” You ask as you bring the phone closer to her.

“I don’t know, I think we got separated…an hour ago…?” She guesses.

You grimace, “Yeesh, it’s been a while then they must be a decent distance off…”

“It will be hard to find where she came from if she’s been wandering around for an hour now, are you sure you shouldn’t just drop her off at the guard’s station?” Hansel suggests.

“The guards? No, no please!” The suggestion causes her eyes to widen with fright.

Hansel is taken aback by her reaction, “Huh? Why not?”

“Oh, I, uh…Don’t like the guards, they’re so big and the guns they carry are so scary…I just want to go back to Mommy and daddy…” She argues.

“D-Dear don’t worry, the guards won’t hurt you-” Gretal tries to reason with her.
>>
“No…I don’t want to, please…please just take me to Mommy and Daddy…” She shakes her head and pleads.

“It sounds like she’s about to cry, you shouldn’t bully children like that Gretal.” You quip.

“W-W-What!? No! No! Ahhh! P-Please don’t cry!” Gretal panics.

You burst out laughing, “Okay but seriously, what are we going to do about this if she doesn’t want to go to the station?”

“Derrick…Do you mind taking me off speakerphone for a second? I’ll do the same.” He requests.

“Huh? Okay…” You comply and put the phone next to your ear.

Hansel speaks in a cautious voice, “Can make some distance from the girl? Or at least get far enough away that she doesn’t hear you?”

“What? Why?” You ask.

“Just do it please?” he requests.

“Hmmm…” feeling a little suspicious but trusting his judgement, you ask the girl to go sit down at the bench you were sitting at and make some distance.

“What is it?” You question, a dubious tone to your voice.

“Listen, Derrick, don’t you think there’s something a little off about that girl?” he asks.

“Off? Off how?” You ask.

“The way she refuses to just go to the guard station, that’s strange isn’t it?” He points out.

“I guess…maybe she’s had some bad experiences with the guards in the past?” you ask.

“Perhaps…Our guards are known for not being the most polite and friendly sort, not even to children…But even so, to not trust them to even guide you back to your guardians is far too cynical a presupposition, especially for a child…unless there was something preventing her from asking for their aid, something illegal perhaps?” He points out.

“Are you seriously saying that tiny thing has done something to upset the cops?” You ask, almost laughing at the thought.

“No but what’s to say it wouldn’t spell trouble for her supposed guardians if she did go to the guards?” He asks.

That puts a little on edge, “Are you saying her parents might be bad people? Like criminals?”

“I wouldn’t know, it’s very likely I’m overthinking things but my point is, despite what she says, it might be best if you take her to the guard station anyway.” He suggests.

“But I promised her I would help her find her parents…” You note.

He laughs, “I know this will sound strangely cynical but adults lying to children for their own good is just a part of life.”

“Just a part of life…” You hate to admit it but it’s true.

“I’ll send over the coordinates to the nearest guard station.” He announces.

“I’ll think about it…call you later to pick me up.” With that you say your goodbyes and hang up and turn and head back to the girl.

As she sees you approach, she speaks in a nervous voice, “A-Are you going to help me Mister?”

“Yeah, apparently I’ve made you into my problem now.” You answer.
>>
“Are you going to take me to the guard station?” She asks.

“That’s probably the best thing to do in this scenario.” You answer.

She looks a little perturbed, “I-I know, I know you I should just go to the guards but I really…really don’t want to, please…”

“Why not? If it's because the guards are scary, don’t worry, they’re only scary because they need to scare all the bad men who would hurt cute little things like you away.” You comfort.

She frowns, “I know but…it will be big trouble for Mommy and Daddy if I have to go to the guards…”

You narrow your eyes at that, “Big Trouble? What do you mean big trouble?

Her eyes go wide in panic, “No-wait-I mean, uh…I mean…Look, can you please just take me to Mommy and Daddy! I promise they aren’t far! Pretty Please!”

“Hmm…”She begs you with puppy dog-eyes, honestly they’re getting to you a little but more than that but more that, it seems Hansel was right, there’s more this Mommy and Daddy than she’s letting on.

Now you’re left with a choice, lead her back to her mysterious parents? Or take her to the guards?

What will you do?

>Best to go to the guard station, don’t know what you’re dealing with.

>Take her right back to her parents and find out what’s going on.
>>
>>5413529
>Take her right back to her parents and find out what’s going on.
I’m intrigued. This girl is obviously hiding something or her parents are at least. I think it’s a good idea to figure out the deets before handing this situation over to the guards. Plus I don’t like lying to children regardless.
>>
>>5413534

>Let's see these mysterious parents...

>Posting.
>>
(These parents of hers must be some form of criminal to warrant all this? Fugitives from the law? Kidnappers? Maybe even gang bosses? Don’t see why they would come to this festival in that case but you never know…) You theorize

(And if they are any of those things, that's all the more reason to send this girl straight to the guards so they can get her away from whatever dangerous sorts are holding her hostage…but at the same time…)

But at the same time, there’s another possibility that makes you hesitate from doing such a thing and that possibility drives towards more illogical action.

“Fine, I’ll take you to Mommy and Daddy.” You agree.

Her eyes light up, “Y-You will!? Thank you so much Mister! You’re the kindest in the world!”

“Yeah, yeah, save your compliments for if and when we actually find these two, first, we’ve got to retrace your steps…”

>20 minutes later…

A few questions and a trip around the park re-tracing all the girl’s footsteps later, you manage to stumble upon the mysterious parents of the mysterious girl.

They’re an elderly pair, a man and woman with soft round faces and gentle looks in their eyes, ones that light up with delight as they see the little girl being escorted towards them.

But they aren’t the only ones looking for the girl, as you see a school bus worth of other children of kindred age to the little girl who all cheer and shout when they see her approach.

“Daisy! There you are!” Proclaims the mother as she runs up and hugs her daughter.

“Where have you been, young lady!?” The Father asks, anger in his tone.

“I-I’m sorry, I ended up getting so excited I ran off and got lost…” She apologises.

“You runt! Do you know how worried we were!?” The Father joins the mother in embracing the child.

“Yeah Daisy, we thought we would never see you again!” One child shouts.

“We were all so worried for you.” An slightly older child affirms.

“I was scared I’d never be able to get my 200 jenny back, so I’m super happy you’re back!” The professional joker of the little family cracks, but despite his joke you can see real relief in his eyes.

“I’m so sorry Daddy! I’m sorry everyone! But guess what! It’s okay, I found this nice man and he helped me!” The girl points at you watching this wholesome exchange from the distance.

“You were the one who found our lost baby and brought her back to us?” The mother questions.

“That was me.” you nod.

“Thank you so much…So how much do we owe you young man? I’m afraid I don’t have much…” The Father offers.

You shake your head, “Don’t worry man, I didn’t do this for a reward. I saw a lost little girl and helped her, anyone would do that, that’s basic human decency.”

The father smiles, “Oh Armis thank you so much, you’ve brought our angel back to us and you won’t even ask anything? It’s good to see they’re still good men in this world.”
>>
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“No need to go so far, trust me, this much is granted.” You scratch the back of your head, feeling a little embarrassed and not sure how to respond to such praise.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything? We never would have found her if not for you.” The mother offers.

“Just make sure she doesn’t get lost again alright? I was there to help her once but I don’t have a hobby of looking for lost little girls so I won’t be there to help again.” You demand.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll make doubly sure not to let this rascal out of my sight again.” The Mother says as he gives the girl’s cheek a pinch.

“Owwww! I said I was sorry!” She proclaims.

“Sorry won’t cut it young lady, go running off like that again and you’re grounded!” The Father declares.

“It won’t happen again, I promise!” She nods.

“Good, now thank the kind man for helping you!” The Father orders.

“Thank you Mr-Mr uhhhh…” She realizes she never learned your name.

“Derrick, you can call me Derrick.” You tell her.

She smiles, “That’s a cool name! Thank you Mr.Derrick, you’re my hero!”

So she says before she’s carried off by her parents to continue enjoying the festival, this time with much more supervision alongside her many siblings.

“A hero…as if.” You crack up, once upon a time you were almost arrogant to call yourself such a thing, but you’ve grown and learned, those who call themselves heroes are those who claim justice is on their side.

But that kind of thinking is wrong, it’s diseased. It’s a disease of the brain to think that way and you won’t make the same mistake twice.

“I’m no hero…” You sigh as you reach into your pocket and prepare to make a call.

“You are a hero.”

“Huh?” but then you’re interrupted, stopped by a voice from your flank, one cold but sure in its tone.

You crane your head to the side see a strange man, one dressed in pure black clothing that doesn’t match the festive atmosphere in the least, a 100-yard stare on his face with eyes so faded they verge on being empty, He gives off an aura so depressing you swear you almost see some kind of dark energy springing forth from him.

“You are undoubtedly a hero, don’t cast away the title you’ve just earned.” he declares once, not facing you as he stares at the backs of the Mother and Father as they walk away with their children.

“Okay, I disagree…but first and foremost, who are you?” You ask.

“Who am I? Well I’m-” He pauses, “I’m…I’m…”

“You are…?” You insist.

“...My apologies, it appears as though I’ve forgotten my name.” He answers.
>>
“Are you fucking with me?” You shoot him a glare.

He shakes his head, “No, No, I sincerely mean it…but since I’ve forgotten it can’t be that important…unless…no I swear it was…but wait…”

“Are you okay man? You aren’t on drugs or something right?” You ask.

“Fret not, I’m not on any drugs. It’s just I have a very spotty memory and at times I forget unimportant things.” He answers.

“Uh, I’d argue your name is pretty important…(Damn, talking to this guy kind of reminds me of Okabe…I wonder what he’s doing?)” You think.

“Anyway, my name isn’t what I came here to share. I’m here because I wanted to thank you.” he answers.

“Thank me? For what?” you ask.

He turns to face you finally, his movements are a little mechanical and his stare is almost unblinking, “For stepping in and saving that girl, there aren’t many who would’ve got out of their way as you just did.”

“Saved her? Isn’t that going a bit overboard?” You disagree.

He looks away, “No, I think the word save is apt here, where many would take her straight to a guard’s station, you chose to take her right to her parents, that was the right choice because if you had gone to the guards that whole family would have been taken in and arrested.”

“Because those 2 aren’t her real parents?” You state.

He nods, “Yes and not only did you realize that but you also realized they aren’t a threat. What tipped you off?”

“I figured from the way she was talking and refusing to just go to the guards that something more was a foot, I’m assuming none of those kids are actually theirs? All street kids, right?” you guess.

He nods, “I see you're an astute man, it’s exactly as you think. That old couple is running an illegal orphanage in this city. They’ve been doing so for almost 20 years now.” He affirms.

“I knew it…” You’ve seen their types before, kind and gentle souls who’ve spent their whole lives giving and never asking for anything back.

They were a rare breed back in the streets of Yorknew, But an old couple just like them ran one near your old house, they would take in street kids who lost their homes and parents due to abandonment or gang violence.

Even though they barely had any Jenny to their names they still took in as many kids as they could, a kindness that would later backfire when they got reported and charged for kidnapping since they had no license.
>>
After that the police took custody of the kids and took them to a real orphanage and you have no idea what happened to them after that, hopefully they all found homes.

You felt bad for the old couple that was arrested, you don’t think the police or the person who reported them was wrong, you don’t know anything, those two could’ve been doing a number of harmful things to those children.

But even so, when you heard the news, you felt heartbroken and even a little angry, there wasn’t even one person who cared enough for those kids besides that couple, the only reason most of them didn’t die out in the cold streets was because they provided them a home and yet in the end they were punished for their kindness.

It made you feel as if there was no justice in this world, it was illogical but you couldn’t help but feel that way.

That’s why in your head, while the chance was vague and not worth betting on, you felt just maybe…and your guess ended up being right.

“You say those two have been doing this for 20 years?” You ask.

“They’re former charity workers, their organization was made during the Schism war to deal with the growing number of orphans.”

“But a few years after the war was over, the mayor who was heading the organization started using the funding to fuel a money laundering operation in which a number of politicians were involved to line their own pockets.”

You click your tongue, “So shitty city officials are a thing in every country huh?”

He nods, “Soon enough investigations were launched on him and evidence was stacking up and so he started destroying many of his operations in an attempt to save his own skin, this of course included the charity in question.”

“So he destroyed the lives of god knows how many children just to reduce his sentence, what fucking garbage…” You clench your fists in rage.

“Your righteous indignation is impressive for someone who isn’t a hero.” He compliments.

“Give me a break, so basically that old couple has been picking up the slack that scumbag left right? If you’re going to talk about heroics then they’ve clearly got me beat.” you counter.

He nods, “You’re not wrong there, those kids you saw with them are only a small fraction of the group they care for and even so they somehow manage to make it work. They feed them, clothe them and give everything they have for children not even their own.”

“I can’t imagine any of that is easy on their wallets, how do they make ends meet?” You ask.

“They go on charity drives using their old organization's name, most didn’t realize they disbanded and they still have the signs and posters.” he answers.

“Sounds a bit extralegal if ya ask me…” You point out.

“Do you think if they cared for the law they would be doing any of this?” He asks back.

“Good point.” You admit.
>>
“Basically they lead simple lives, surviving on the kindness of others and doing kindness onto others to repay. Truly, if there is a God in this world and he is good, those two must be some people living up to his will.” He praises.

“You sure know a lot about them…do you have some kind of personal relationship with them?” You ask.

“I do, a close one, I was one of the original children they saved after I lost my parents in the war.” he answers.

“Oh…” So he’s like Hansel and Gretal, “Sorry to hear that, it must’ve hurt, losing your parents.”

“In the past it did but honestly back then I was too young to even remember what my old parents' faces look like, to me, that old couple have always been and always will be my real parents.” he smiles.

You smile, “Why don’t you go and say something to them?”

He looks a little perturbed, “That would be hard…Or actually impossible.”

“Impossible? Why? Don’t tell me you’re shy or embarrassed or some shit?” You ask.

“I am both of those things and more, let’s just say for all intents and purposes those two meeting me in my current state would make life worse for everyone involved.” He answers.

“Really? Then why are you here, watching them from a distance they might just discover you from? Doesn’t that mean you want to deep down?” you point out.

He closes his eyes, “You’re…probably right…but even so it would change nothing. They wouldn’t even recognize me, I’d be nothing but a stranger to them now.”

“So you’ve been watching them this whole time but never went out to say anything because you’re scared they won’t recognize you? What a shy boy...” You berate.

He cracks up, “I was very shy as a child, it seems I simply haven’t grown up…”

“Well I wouldn’t know, this is the first I’m seeing or talking to you…” Wait, that reminds you…

“Where did you come from by the way?” you got so caught in this strange conversation you forgot to ask such a basic, very obvious question.

“What do you mean?” he asks.

“You suddenly appeared, almost from thin air as soon as I helped that girl, were you…watching me?” You ask.

He shakes his head, “I wasn’t watching you, I was watching the girl actually.”

“You…what?” You question.

“I’ve been watching her and the whole family ever since they arrived at the festival while being careful not to be noticed. So that I could help them in case anything happened, I owe them as much for what they’ve done for me after-all.” He answers.

“You do realize how insanely creepy you sound right now?” You point out.

He laughs, “Apologies, it’s just…I can’t bring myself to face them.”

“And so you opted to watch them from the shadows instead? I’m going to repeat myself, that’s hella creepy man.” you point out.
>>
“Fret not I’m well aware but don’t worry, I have no predatory intent, my only will was to help them if something happened, which it did, the poor girl, Daisy got lost.” he corrects.

“So you noticed her going missing before anyone else did? But she said she was wandering around for an hour. Are you telling me you didn’t do anything even after you saw her getting lost?” You ask.

“No, as I said I can’t let anyone from that orphanage see or know of me, it would be trouble if they did.”

“So how the hell were you going to help her?” You ask.

“I was going to inform someone else who I trusted to escort her for me.” He answers.

“And why didn’t you then?” you ask.

“Because, as much as I wanted to help her as soon as possible, a certain curiosity of mine got in the way.” He answers.

“A certain curiosity?” You question.

What if I wait? Would someone else help her if I waited? that question had wrought my mind and so I decided to give at some time before I helped her to find the answer.” He answers.

You grimace, “You shouldn’t waste time and endanger the safety of children to answer dumb, pointless questions.”

“You’re absolutely right, but I just had to know, in this place with 100s if not 1000s of people walking around, would not 1 just go out of their way to help her?” He continues.

He then frowns, “No…Until you showed up, the answer was no.”

“The people…so many of them saw that girl crying out for help and yet they didn’t do anything, all of them cast her aside and decided their own business was worth more than that girl’s life…Such evil never had I witnessed, when did this place turn to such shit?” He wonders..
>>
“Evil? Man, has anyone ever told you to love using strong words? it’s horrible to just walk by a scared little girl but with her being stuck in the middle of one of the most well-guarded places in the country right now I’m sure they were thinking someone would come to her rescue.” You counter.

“I doubt they were thinking that far ahead, most just saw the girl as a potential inconvenience and turned away, if they were mindful enough to even give her a second look.” He argues.

“And even if they were thinking that far ahead, that doesn’t excuse the selfishness inherent to such an action. You would abandon someone in need just because someone else is probably going to save them? What if she wasn’t saved? What if some filthy, disgusting fiend found her before the guards did and murdered and violated her?” He asks.

“Okay buddy calm down, I seriously doubt that would happen…” You counter.

“But it isn’t impossible is it? They all knew of that possibility deep down and still kept walking away, that means they accepted that possibility and even then continued to say it’s not my problem.” He argues.

What do you say?

>Because it isn’t their problem

>I guess abandoning kids is a sign of society on decline…
>>
>>5413564
>I guess abandoning kids is a sign of society on decline…
>>
>>5413567

>Can't be abandoning kids now can you?

Last few posts for the night coming up.

>Posting.
>>
You nod, "You know you do have a point, a society that won't even help a lost child that's right in front of them...that's a society on decline."

"See, you and me are of a similar mind then, that sort of selfishness is a disease that has infected this city and it spreads more and more everyday. Soon enough, I fear it will be too late for this place..." He adds.

"Maybe...but even so, there's nothing you and me can do to change the hearts of those people. We just have to do good by our own standards and help who we can where we can, when we can." You argue.

"There's nothing we can do? Are you saying we cannot ask people to have at least the amount of decency you just displayed?" He asks.

You shake your head, "No I don't think we can, just think about it, Horrible things happen to innocent people everyday but it’s not as if anyone can do anything about it. We can’t stop wars or murder from happening, we can’t cure every disease, we can only take steps to prevent it from happening where possible.” You continue.

“And anything beyond that is beyond the average person’s ability or resources to handle and so caring would just be bad for them.”

“A sound argument…But you’re still wrong.” he argues.

“Excuse me?” You narrow your eyes at him.

“Tell me, did you hear about that terrorist attack two weeks ago? The train bombing that took place in downtown.” He asks.

“Yeah…(Forget heard about, I was one of the targets of that attack.)” You recall.

“The horrible things you speak, the tragedies to which you refer, that must be one of them. Something that is totally beyond the control of the average person, no one could’ve done anything to stop such an incident and so many died, the death toll has reached somewhere in the 100s last I heard.” He informs you.

You feel a pang of pain in your heart, “...Your point?”

“Your sense of scale is wrong. If we were talking about such an incident, your point would be perfect, but are you trying to tell me the average person has neither the resources nor the power to help one lost girl?” He asks.

“Well that’s…” You can’t say anything back.

“Unless you believe the average person to be as worthless as dirt, certainly not. So tell me, what do you call someone who has the power and resources to do something, but refuses to do anything anyway?” He asks.

“...” You don’t respond.

“Evil. I don’t know about you, but I would call something like that evil.” He answers.

“No…it’s just selfishness, but selfishness isn’t evil, it’s just human nature.” You counter.

“That doesn’t excuse anything and tell me, if selfishness is human nature, are you not human?” he asks.
>>
He scoffs, “I doubt that was your true intention but no matter, let’s say you’re telling the truth. That still makes your brand of selfishness much preferable to whatever the people of this city have. A selfishness that saves lives is heroic selfishness and so it can be forgiven.”

“Like I said I haven’t saved anyone-Oh nevermind, to hell with this! I didn’t come here to debate philosophy with some guy whose name I don’t even know.” You turn around to walk away.

“Wait just a moment.” he turns to follow you and grabs you by the shoulder to stop you.

You brush his hand off, “What is it? I have friends to be returning to, you know?” You turn around with an annoyed look in your eye.

“I feel as if we’re ending this off on the wrong foot, I wouldn’t want this pleasant experience soured because I complained about my homeland too much.” he explains.

You sigh, “It’s fine man, despite everything you weren’t that unpleasant to talk to, you’ve given me some interesting stuff to think about, so let’s leave it at that.”

He smiles, “Fine then, I hope you have a good evening.”

“...Same to you.” You say as you take out your phone and walk away.
>>
As you exit earshot and out of his line of vision, the strange man’s phone rings, he picks it up, “Mission successful?” A voice question on the other line.

“Yes, I’ve made contact with the target just as requested, the rest is up to you.” He answers as he walks to a more secluded area.

“Good work. Do you mind if I ask you something?” the voice on the other end questions.

“Don’t waste time asking if you can ask, just ask instead. You always waste time with pointless chatter.” The man scolds.

“I just wanted to know why you chose to converse with the target? The mission was just to have physical contact with him, you didn’t need to go to all that trouble.” The voice questions.

“Why are you curious?” He asks back.

“Don’t answer a question with a question. But if you must know, Such unnecessary action can arouse suspicion and we can’t have him getting paranoid before the wetwork of the operation is complete.” The voice answers.

“You’re right, it seems I really am letting my curiosity get the better of me, it’s making me do all sorts of nonsensical things. You have my apology.”

“I didn’t ask for an apology, you got the mission done, I just want a reason. Why?” The voice asks.

“...That man interests me.” He answers.

“I didn’t know you swung that way.” The voice quips.

“I will hang up.” The man threatens.

“What do you mean, he interests you?”

“Looking at him felt as if I was looking into a mirror, one that’s been beaten down and broken by the cruelty of the world so much that it’s forgotten what it’s supposed to be. Talking to him only confirmed my suspicion to be right.” he answers.

“That…Doesn’t make any sense. You say a lot of vague and weird stuff, you know that?” The voice complains.

“As if you have any room to talk, you barely make any sense on the best of days.” The man complains.

“I can’t help that, it’s a part of the persona, I’m contractually obligated to act the fool.” He counters.

“Explaining why you’re a fool makes you no less of a fool.” He argues.

“Yes but at least I have a reason for it while you don’t have jack.” The voice counters.
>>
“Anyway it’s a shame you’ve taken a liking to him, considering you’ll be escorting him stage left when he’s served his use.”

“When did I say I liked him?” He asks.

“You said he reminded you of yourself didn’t you? Or something close to that.” the voice reiterates.

“When did I say I like myself?” he asks.

“Whoa~ Edgy~” the voice quips.

“Keep your opinions to yourself, to see justice done I will do anything and kill anyone…even if that one is myself or all those like me.” He preaches.

“You’re not making your case look any better.” He comments.

“Do you think I’m doing this to impress anyone? No matter, we’re moving to the next stage are we not?” He asks.

“Yes, stage directions say my part is next, this next objective will actually be my final act before the curtain call.” The voice agrees.

“Oh yes, I heard this will be your final mission, is that true?” he asks.

“I’ve finally completed my service, that accursed magician is finally going to grant my wish.”

“So this is our final time working together…” The man realizes.

“Yeah, aren’t you sad? We’ve been partners for almost 15 years now, I picked up so many tricks from you, you basically taught me how to fight.” The voice recalls.

“And I’ve made use of your power more times than I can count…” the man laments.

“Oh? Is that woe I hear in your tone? Are you going to miss me? Don’t worry, even after I’m dead and gone, I’ll be in your heart always.”

“Who would miss scum like you? I was lamenting the fact that I would lose use of your convenient ability. The world would be infinitely better without a low-down viper like you slithering about and ruining the lives of good people.”

“Whoa~ You really have nothing nice to say about me? Even after all we went through?” The voice asks.

“I always saw you as more of a useful tool than a person. I would’ve killed you myself the moment you stopped being useful.” he admits.

“Whoa, didn’t know you felt that way, I’m a little hurt…But to be honest, I saw you the exact same way. And I won’t lose a wink of sleep when you end up dead in a ditch.” The voice confesses.

“Bottom-feeder…No matter, I have long accepted that I will meet a cruel and vile end for my sins, just as you will.” he admits.

“Just as we all will, Simon.” The voice points out.

“Simon? Oh yes, that was my name wasn’t it.” he realizes.

“What? Are you telling me you forgot again?” The voice questions.

“Apologies, Cracked Mask has become much more familiar to me now, it’s what everyone else calls me.” He admits.

“That’s not an excuse…” The voice scolds as the two disappear into the enjoy the festive night.
>>
And that is where I close off for the night, hopeful more people will come tomorrow, but for now, to my wonderful single reader, I thank you for your time.
>>
>>5413599
No problemo Rock. Thank you for bothering to continue the story of this quest and writing even though it was only one person responding to it!

See you tomorrow! Time for me to sleep.
>>
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HOLY SHIT DUDE YOU'RE BACK. I've missed you rock
>>5413599
Sorry for missing the intial session, I only really check /qst/ semi regularly these days. I'm apprective you're willing to continue writing, I fucking love your stuff.
>>
>>5413599
Damn, I was busy all day yesterday so I couldn't really vote but now that it's the weekend I shouldn't have those same problems! Super lovely to see you back!
>>
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>>5413807
>>5413920

Well this brightened my morning, I'm just happy people still remember this quest once existed.

We resume in 15 or so minutes.
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>>5414065
Who could forget such a great quest? Really, anyone who played it, I know for a fact loves it.

Anyway, time for gaming.
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Bloody hell, I went outside just before the quest to run an and I caught in a road accident (One that didn't involve me thankfully but I had to help an old lady get out of the road before it got any worse)

Anyway I'm here now.

>Posting
>>
You step forth, climbing a long set of stairs, each step feeling more nerve-wracking and heavier than the last. The halls around you are filled only with the sounds of these footsteps, those of yours and your competitors as you ascend in silence.

You wonder for a moment whether their nerves are preventing them from speaking but then you realize it’s more likely they’ve just all decided the time for talk has passed and any idle chatter at this point would just serve to be a waste of everyone’s time.

And so as you near the top of the tower, a dim orange light flickering in and out of the doorway leading to the precipice, but one thought flashes through your mind.

(It’s here, it’s this one moment, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for…) Your mind focuses to a razor point as you step into the archway and out into the cold sand.

(The moment the corpse prince takes back the life he lost.) A world of stone, sand and stars spreads out in front of you. A ring of stone encases you in an arena like setting, with the stars, too close for comfort above you and sand crunching beneath your feet as you and all your rivals walk side by side.

Towards that woman wearing a grim expression and traditional grab, in her hands a golden goblet with a number of others just behind her.

At the other end of the arena, above her a long wooden platform on which your judges reside.

Merlin with her eyes of aloof inquisition and a measure of disappointment.

Lawrence with his eyes of keen discernment and looking past your beyond and into the depths of your soul.

Harlequin, his eyes hidden but you just know he’s looking down on all of you with eyes of amusement and scorn.

And Natalie, her face scowled, her eyes a perpetual glare, her disgust and anger is palpable, her belligerence undeniable.

Each of their eyes is a 1000 pound weight, but eyes that feel heaviest of all are Lawrence’s, you thought you might find an ally in him with this ceremony but one look into that stoic stare tells you he has discarded all notions of favor or bias, he has been tasked with selecting the best for the future of his nation and all those who do not qualify might as well not exist.

You will find no sympathy here, no easy outs, no one to save you if something goes wrong.

On one hand you wanted it to be this way, on the other, the feeling of having your closet and oldest ally having a hand in possibly ruining you is despair-inducing.

You quietly swallow your spit, keeping your face complete and composed as you arrive within 10 ft of your discerner.

Nylora’s face is an unreadable mask of stoicism and apathy, today she knows she is not the princess nor is she even a judge, she more like the court itself and her court is supreme and so her every word is law.

“Kneel.” She orders of all of you and within a moment, 5 knees are buried within the fine and cold sand.
>>
>>5414211
Jesus Christ, I’m glad you okay man. That’s a very stressful situation to have been in.

On a separate note: Could this be a sign of the HxH curse from the other threads coming back to life now that we’re starting up again? I dread the very idea…
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Johanna reveals a welcoming smile and looks up at her , “Good evening Princess, it is our greatest honor to stand before you on this blessed night, However, if I may, can I-”

“Quiet, one more word and your participation is forfeit.” She declares.

“....” Her smile fades.

“Johanna, you just made two grave mistakes, do you know what they are?”

“...I do not.” she admits, her tone humble.

“Firstly you raised your head without my permission. Lady Johanna, do you know what you’re kneeling on right now?” She asks.

“Sand?” She answers, a little confused.

“Wrong, you’re kneeling on a page.” She corrects.

“A…page?” She’s even more confused.

“Yes, you’re kneeling on the first page the historians will write of this day and of this ceremony. And you’re every word and action are being written about as we speak.” She clarifies.

“...” She stares with a hint of fear.

“These moments? They are going down in the annuals of history and every time you move or speak without my say so, that is one more line our historians will waste noting that. Is that what you wish to be remembered as Lady Johanna, a historic time waster?” She asks.

She shakes her head, “I do not.”

“Perfect as for your 2nd mistake.” She points to herself and leans in closer.

“I am not Princess Nylora.” She answers.

“You…aren’t?” She asks.

“I am not.” She repeats.

“Then…who are you?” She asks.

She smiles, “...I am Ochima.”

She pulls back a little in shock, you all do, “You are…Ochima? As in…the nation itself?”

“That is correct, you stand before Ochima herself and all that makes me great.” She fans a hand to the judges above.

“We are the body of the nation, the tools and will that drives her forward.” Lawrence explains.

“Sir.Lawrence? You as well?” Johanna questions.

“Wrong. I am not Lawrence. I am the Army, I am the nation’s sword and shield, it is through my sacrifice that this nation knows peace and it will be my wrath that robs other nations of theirs.” He explains

“I am the people. I am their interests and desires. I am the nation's prosperity. I am the blood that runs in her veins. Without me, the nation is nothing, without the nation, I am nothing.” Merlin declares.

“I am the economy. The wealth of the nation. I am the force that pushes the nation forward. I am the ultimate desire of the people. I am root of all power and I represent those who hold the power.” Harlequin declares.

“I am the Law. The will of the court. The foundation of the nation. I am that which protects the people from themselves. I am that which civilizes the human animal. Those that abide by me will know peace and happiness, those that stand against me will face my sword.” Natalie declares.

“And I am Ochima. The nation itself. The amalgamation of the law, the economy, the people and the army working together to make me whole.” Nylora declares.
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>>5414229
Thanks for the concern, thankfully there were no injuries, just a very unfortunate man who has to pay some mechanic a whole lot of money, my condolences.
>>
“....” From the look on her face, the gravity of the situation at hand just hit Johanna as hard as it hit you when you walked in.

“So now you understand how you’ve offended the nation? Worry not however, with knowledge of your ignorance, you are forgiven your transgression.” Nylora smiles.

“...The benevolence of Ochima knows no bounds.” She bows her.

“Good…now, as the proceedings go forward, you will be judged by each of us individually to see whether or not you are worthy to take the throne.” She explains.

Vincent raises his hand, Nylora acknowledges him with a nod and he speaks, “I thought our positions as champions were already secure?”

“Not quite sorry to say. Out of all the candidates that have come, you lot have proven the most suitable but as head of ceremony, I have full power to just delay the proceedings and force a referendum on a new champion. I could replace all of you should I desire.” She explains.

Gaius raises his hand, she acknowledges him, “So we can all still be disqualified? But I was informed by a number of officials that our entries were assured.”

“I don’t know why they’re giving assurance when it is not their position to do so, but likely they meant that Queen Gwenynerve was so certain of electing all of you that there was no chance you would be denied, but now that I am in charge, that has changed.” She answers.

You raise your hand, she smiles and acknowledges you, “And why is that?”

“Because I cannot see what in the world she thought made you all worthy of anything.” She answers.

“...” You scowl.

“Don’t look so worried with word from the council of judges above, I will hear the reason you are worthy of the throne and if I find the reason satisfactory you will become champions just as you wish.” She promises.

“...” The arena goes silent.

“No more questions? Excellent, let the ceremony begin.” Ochima Declares.
.
“...(This is bad…)” You don’t let it show on your face but her words send a wave of deep, will-crushing fear down your spine.
>>
Stars.

Stars are amazing things, cosmic bodies of unfiltered light, grand from a distance and powerful when close. At the peak of their lives they glow bright enough to illuminate a universe of darkness and when they die they have a chance to become a bottomless pit that consumes everything into darkness.

The death of a star creates a black hole. Black holes too, are amazing.

A hole in the universe, a tear in reality, a quantum sandwich of infinite gravity mixed with infinite density to create a gash that consumes anything and everything with such speed and power that even being in the general vicinity of a black hole will have your existence stretched into infinity itself, jumping you across all plains of time and space.

In concept such a thing is terrifying, if not the most terrifying thing in the universe but honestly, you don’t think being in a blackhole would be nearly as bad as all those physicists make it out to be.

Seriously? You might say, You don’t think having your molecules scattered all across space time before dying would be that bad? Are you braindead?

Well my very rude friend, you do agree that the dying part of that equation wouldn’t be something you’d enjoy. But just think, just before you die you get to experience what it would be like to have space and time switch places, for just one brief instant you’d be everywhere at every time doing everything.

Isn’t that what every human strives for? To see and do as much as you can before you die? In that sense being in a black hole is like speed-running life itself!

Not to mention Died jumping head-first into a black hole would make for one amazing tombstone engraving.

Still not convinced? You understand, before now you most certainly wouldn’t be putting this much thought into insane thought experiments like this.

But how about this? Allow me to present an infinitely more terrifying concept than a black hole, what you have aptly named a Funhole.

It’s like a blackhole but instead of sucking up matter, it sucks up fun instead. Instead of being a soup of infinite gravity and density, it’s a mess of boredom and repetitive bullshit that just systematically sucks all fun from anyone or anything that gets near it, forever.

Now imagine diving head first into that instead of a blackhole? Sure, you get to live, but you’d live a life of pure boredom, robbed of all color and pleasure, merely coasting from one end of life to the next.

Is that anyway for a human to live? Doing nothing? Gaining nothing? Feeling nothing? In your humble opinion, such a ‘life’-if you can even call it that- is hell. You’d be happier to dive head first into a blackhole then suffer such a fate.

The thing is, you’d have to fly all across the universe to find a blackhole but finding a funhole? That’s easy, they exist everywhere, which might be why you were so unlucky to stumble your way into one.
>>
This funhole is made up of Hansel and Gretal, who sit a little ways across from this bench on the side of a little cliff looking up at an (Admittedly) beautiful view of the stars as they hold hands in silence.

This place is famous for being a hidden dating spot for young couples, the perfect private hideaway for you to surprise your special someone.

Well the thing is that’s a lie actually. The words Famous and hidden are oxymoronic so naturally, though this place is marketed as being private and underground, there are 10 other benches along this cliff side each with their own couple romantic hand holding to the view.

And that’s not even counting the more forward and feisty couples hiding away in the nearby bushes getting down and dirty behind you thinking they're sneaky. Lord only hopes they brought tarp with them or they might give birth to a brand new STD with all the dirt they’re rolling around in.

However it’s clear that Hansel and Gretal have no intention of letting those dirty birdies ruin their evening of romanticism, the picturquse way they just hold hands and look into the distance could make for a beautiful ending to a sweet coming of age movie, you can imagine the credits rolling by now and the audience crying tears of joy as johnny gets the girl.

Except the thing about those endings is that they aren’t actually endings.

Getting the girl is actually the prologue of the story, keeping the girl and keeping the girl happy is the real start of the story.

Why don’t they show those parts then? Well that’s because while people are good at starting romances, they’re terrible at maintaining them. Saying I’ll support you for the rest of my life sounds nice on paper but when the bills start rolling in and you can’t pay them that's when the bitter part of your bittersweet romance begins.

And it’s not just money that ruins things either, conflicts of interest can build up too! Sometimes it’s big things, like how she wants to work but you want to start a family or you both want a business but one thinks it should be a pet shop and the other wants a car dealership.

But most of the time? It’s the little things that chip away at your heart, like when you want to go to the beach but she wants to go to the mountains. You want beef pasta for dinner but she wants chicken stew, you want to head out to motocross with the boys but she wants to go drinking with the girls and one of you is going to have to stay back and watch the kids.

When interest stops aligning like this it makes you start to wonder ‘Boy do we have anything in common?’ and when that feeling starts to sink in the romance starts to die because not only are future interactions being tainted with the worry of another argument, your agreements in the past start being tainted as well.
>>
‘We went to the beach last time and she said she loved it, now she says she doesn’t actually like the beach? Damn this bitch is a liar!’

‘He wants to go to motocross and just leave the kids behind? He hangs out with his friends basically everyday while I never get to see mine and now it’s a problem when I want to have fun for once? I can’t stand him!’

Romance dies, friendship fades, sweet youthful memories become old bitter ones and before long the divorce papers come out.

This is why whenever these boy meets girl movies get a sequel the boy gets a new love interest he has to pine for and his relationship with the old interest just ‘faded during the summer’.

But enough of this, your thoughts are becoming that of a bitter heartbroken old man while you’re still in your 20s and you’ve never had a girlfriend.

But then again, your thoughts would’ve never taken such a depressing turn if your good friends would stop dragging you around!

So far the only really interesting things you've done during this festival is get into a fight with an oversized woman and help a lost little girl and talk to a total weirdo who stalks old people and children!

You didn’t want to do this, but you’re going to have to force things.

“Hey guys?” You start, eyes still upturned at the shining star-filled sky.

“Yes Derrick, what is it? Do you need direction to the nearest toilet again?” Hansel answers, also still looking up at the sky.

“No, not that…(Though if I have to take anymore of your lovey-dovey crap I’m going to vomit.)” You answer.

“O-Oh then do you want to eat again?” Gretal asks.

“No, it’s not that either…(Unless my hunger for stimulation counts…)” You think.

“Then what is it?” They ask in unison.

You sigh, “Okay you two, I’m going to come right out and say it…I’m bored as hell.”

“What? Really? You are?” Hansel says, sounding genuinely astonished.

“Y-You’re not having any fun with us?” Gretal asks, a little bewildered.

“Not at the moment, no.” You admit.

“But really? On a scale of 1-10, how bored are you right now?” Hansel asks.

“I’m so bored that the idea of jumping off this cliff so I get sent to the hospital again is actually starting to sound tempting.” You answer.

“Oh that sounds…very bad.” Hansel nods.

“Yeah, so how about instead of hanging around boring dating spots, we go somewhere that’s fun for me for once?” You demand.

Hansel nods, “Sure, you’ve humored us for long enough but where do you consider fun?”

“Welllllllll-” You take a second to think.
>>
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“-So this is the best bar in the city?” You ask as you step through the wooden door and step down into the foyer, presenting a wide and lively area filled with pool tables, darts boards, dining tables and one long counter where a number of bartenders pour pint after pint to many patrons.

“Yes, the Winslow Pub! One of the oldest pubs in all of Ochima, it’s been here since the founding of Rose city and is famous for hosting parties featuring such guests as Jerry Atrick the 2nd, Philly Cheze the 3rd and even Armis himself-!”

“Save me the history lesson, just tell me how much for a Rum and Cola.” You demand as you head straight for the bar.

“Good evening gentlemen, lady, what can I get you this evening?” The bartender, a tall, bald, intimidating man with a dark look on his face asks of you, his posh tone hiding a gravelly, heavy cockney accent as you approach.

“Glass of rum and cola for me and for my friends, uh…” You look at Hansel and Gretal.

Hansel looks troubled, “Oh, actually I don’t drink, just a glass of orange juice for me.”

“Oh really? Alright, get my friend and her girlfriend some orange juice.” You add.

“Her? Don’t you mean his girlfriend…and she isn’t!” He counters.

“I know what I said pansy.” You berate.

“A-Actually I’ll take a tall glass of Green apple vodka please.” Gretal interjects.

“A Rum & Cola, Green Vodka and some water coming right up.” The bartender nods and heads for some glasses.

“Wait what? You drink Gretal?” You ask in genuine astonishment as you take a seat at the nearest stool.

“W-What gave you the impression I didn’t?” She asks.

“Well, no offense but you seem really soft and girly so I thought you’d prefer drinking soda and baking muffins over downing a glass of vodka.” You admit.

“I-I do like drinking soda and baking muffins. I also h-happen to like downing pints as well.” She counters as the bartender places and slides a tall glass of vodka her way which she catches in a perfect, almost practiced motion.

“Did you jump to conclusions because Gretal is a young maid, Derrick? You know better than to judge books by their covers-Oh thank you!” Hansel scolds as the Bartender hands him his drink.

“Can you really blame me though?” You ask as you’re handed your Rum & Cola.

“Of course I can! And I’ll warn you too, don’t think just because they wear frilly cute dresses that the maids of the castle are in any way soft! Let it be known that the girls quarters have regular drinking contests to see who is worthy of the title of Iron-liver maid.” Hansel informs you.

Gulp! Gulp! you look over to see that Gretal is not simply drinking her spirit, she’s throwing it back, bottoms up.

You watch in terror while Hansel admires her pristine form, “Ah the way she chugs beer like a construction worker celebrating a finished site is always so beautiful~” Hansel compliments.
>>
“Mhm…AHH~” She shouts as she finishes the chug and slides the glass back over to the bartender, “T-Tastes amazing, another please!”

“You got it.” The bartender nods and quickly fills up her glass again.

“She can throw it back like some kind drunkard sailor…” You tither out.

“I know isn’t she just amazing~ She always places 3rd in the weekly contests~” Hansel admires as he takes a sip of water.

“Yeah amazing is way to describe what I’m looking at…” You stare in horror as finishes a 2nd glass in seconds and demands a 3rd without hesitation.

“And wait, she's 3rd place drinking like that? Who’s 2nd and 1st in that case? Do I know them?” You ask.

He nods, “Yes, both of them actually. You met 2nd place this morning.”

“Oh you mean that Brittany chick? Well first I ever saw her was her being drunk off her ass on her lunch break so that shouldn’t be surprising…who’s 1st then?” You ask.

“That would be Madam Flourette.” Hansel answers.

The bartender turns his head to face you and Hansel, his expression hard and dark, “Excuse me Sir, did you just say Flourette? Do you know her?”

What do you say

>Yes we do?

>Who’s asking?
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>>5414312
>Yes we do?
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>>5414312
>>Yes we do?
>>
>>5414312
>Yes we do?
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>>5414315
>>5414324
>>5414325

>Yes??

>Posting
>>
"Yes we do?" You answer with a slightly perplexed face.

“My word, you’re friends of Flourette? Why did you not say so earlier!? Oy mates!” His dark look becomes a beaming smile as he calls out to all other bartenders nearby.

“You see these 3!? Anything they order is on the house, friends of the Big Lady, I won’t be hearing otherwise, understand!?” He orders, they all nod.

“The Big lady?” You question.

Hansel laughs, “I guess no one ever told you, Flourette is one of the big names of the Rose city nightlife, her binge drinking nights are the stuff of legend!”

The bartender laughs, “Friends of the big lady of the borough! You know how much she’s done for us? Everytime things are looking dark for old Winslows, she comes in with so much Jenny it’s like we never had trouble to begin with!”

“Whenever she’s about, she buys a round for everyone for every round she buys! By the end of the night the whole bloody street is drunk as a skunk!” A nearby patreon shouts.

“Holy shit seriously?” You ask.

“Ya damn right seriously ya Yankee! Howse about you do the same for us tonight! I was just running low on me glass!” He answers.

“Oh hell no Digby, even if they buy a round, you’ve had your fill, you ain’t getting no more tonight.” The bartender shuts down.

“Pussyclot! you saying I can’t handle another round!?” He shouts back.

“No, I’m saying ya wife can’t handle dragging your worthless drunk ass home no more!” The whole bar erupts with laughter.

“Anyway, friends of the big lady, are friends of Winslow, feel free to empty our cellars tonight lads and lasses!” He cheers.

“R-Really!?” Gretal’s eyes light up.

“Be careful what you say keep! If they’re really friends of the lady they might actually empty the bloody thing!” The whole bar laughs again.

You laugh as well, “Holy shit, this is the most friendly and fun the people here have ever been to me!”

“That’s the power of good alcohol Derrick, breaks down barriers and builds bridges, rickety though they may be.” Hansel preaches.

What will you say?

>Yeah you’re right, I should take this time to enjoy the good atmosphere and good people…

>That’s too many words, not enough binging! Drink damn it!
>>
>>5414366
>Yeah you’re right, I should take this time to enjoy the good atmosphere and good people…
How do you do fellow drunks?
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>>5414366
>That’s too many words, not enough binging! Drink damn it!
ALCOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOL
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>>5414366
>>Yeah you’re right, I should take this time to enjoy the good atmosphere and good people…
>>
>>5414397
>>5414386
>>5414384

>Take this time enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the people

>Posting.
>>
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“Those are some wise words…Too bad they're coming from someone who doesn't drink so they feel a little weak." You decry.

Hansel is a little shaken, "W-Well what can I say, I can handle my drink but I'm just not very keen on it is all..."

"Hansel as someone who's been a bartender and impromptu for 8 years, let me tell you, anyway not keen on a drink just means they can't handle their drinks." You berate.

"I-I can, I can handle me drink!" he counters.

"Then don't be a wet blanket, join me for a drink?" You offer.

"Well...when you put it that way I owe you for giving me and Gretal such a wonderful evening, so why not? I'll drink." he consents.

You smile “Oh so you're cool with drinking with me? Good to hear hey Bartender! My friend here says wants a wonderful evening can you find one for him?” You ask.

He smiles, “I might, depends on how wonderful an evening he wants! 10% wonderful? A 15% wonderful?” He questions.

“Make it 50% wonderful.” You give a devious smile.

“5-5-50%!?” He shouts out.

“Listen to how excited he is! You got what I need!?” You ask.

“I do have a particularly strong rum in the back that’s been sitting around since god-knows-when, I’ll have a check for ya.” he turns back and heads for the storeroom.

“No need! No-” You cover his mouth.

“Yes please!” You shout as the bartender heads into the kitchen.

Hansel fights you off of him, “W-What are you doing!?”

“You said you wanted to drink with me." You point out.

"That doesn't mean I wanted to jump from sober to downing 50% alcohol! Can't we start with 3% or even 6%!?" He counters.

"Oh come on now, Don’t tell me you’re scared? Surely you can handle a little rum." You taunt.

“A-As if, I can handle a little rum! It’s just…Drive! Yes, who will drive if all of us are drunk!?” He counters.

“We’ll call a taxi. So drink, prove me to you can handle a little rum.” You taunt.

He blusters, “I-I don’t have anything to prove to you! You and your bullish ways! The moment that bartender returns, I’ll tell him to put that drink right back, you can’t make swallow that swill!”

“You’re right I can’t…but you know, I bet Gretal would think any man that could handle his rum is real sexy.” You challenge.

“As if that would ever be true-”

“WOOOOOOOO!” You hear Gretal shout in voice shrill and loud like you’ve never heard from her.

“I’m feeling good! hic-up! I’m feeling bloody crazy! How about one of you blokes takes me in a d-drinking contest!!?” She jumps up onto a nearby table to challenge the men of the bar.

“Drink-off with a goddamn Cromwell maid!? Bloody hell, sorry but I like my liver!” They protest.

“Oh You-hic-cup! panises! None of you got any stones in those pants!?" She then turns her drunken gaze to you two.
>>
"Hansel Hic-cup I heard you're going to get a whole bottle of rum?" She asks him.

"Well I don't think it's going to be a whole bottle-"

"Drink with me!" She stumbles off the table and tumbles toward him.

"G-Gretal-!?"

"Come on Hansel Dri-Hic-up with me, I feel so lonely! I bet that Rum would taste so much sweeter with me!"

"Gretal I think you need to calm down..."

“Damn I didn’t think Gretal god so wild when she was drunk…Does she always get like this?” You ask.

“If think this is bad then we should just stop while we're ahead, we can't be encouraging this behaviour-"

"Hansel~" Suddenly Gretal hugs him.

"GRETAL!?" He shouts, blushing and a little panicked.

"Drink with me~ please~?" She begs him.

"I-I can't, I want to but I just can't-"

"How about this if you out-drink me, I'll show-hic-up I'll show you what color I'm wearing tonight~." She whispers that last part to him.

He goes wide-eyed, "Y-You'll what?"

"I'm not joking, aren't you curious? Special offer, only for you~" She flares her skirt to emphasize requests in a hushed tone.

"Wow! That's a huge step, you really gonna turn her down Hansel? That's weak sauce man." You laugh and tease him.

"..." But then Hansel gets a very serious look in his eyes.

"Hansel?"

The bartender returns with saucer of glasses of various sizes, ranging from shot glass to tall and a bottle of rum in hand.

“Alright lad! Since this is probably your first time, i’ll be nice and let you pick a size! What are you feeling tonight!?” He says as he puts the bottle of rum and the tray next to each other.

Hansel turns back to the bartender with the look of a tiger in his eyes, “Put those glasses back.” He orders as he grabs the whole bottle and slams it on the counter in front of him and Gretal.

"I'll take you up on that drink." He smiles.

“Wow!” She cries with excitement as she grabs the bottle and the two divulge into drunken stupor.

The bartender laughs, “What do you know, you’re a bloody matchmaker yankee doodle!”

“No, those two will just flirt over anything…” You shake your head and laugh.
>>
“Hey brother, how about a show with your drink? That ceremony should be happening about now.” The bartender flashes the remote at you.

“Oh yeah, hit it!” You demand.

“Righto then.” he changes the channel to national broadcasting.

On the screen displayed is the upper body of a woman behind a long wooden desk with a logo that reads FBC: Your source for all things National, a similar caption flashes on the screen behind with a string of headlines flowing above and below the caption.

The woman behind the desk had glistening skin, saccharine lips that were as nice to look at as they must have been soft and long midnight-black hair that was adorned with a pattern of gold highlights and a pair of hoop earrings that cry out for your attention and grabs it the moment you look.

She would almost be stunningly beautiful if it wasn’t for her stunningly bad fashion sense, it didn’t help that she clearly wasn’t as young as she thought she was. She dressed like she’s in her teens but looks like she raised a few teens herself.

She fiddles with a stack of papers, checking if she has them in order before saying “Mic-check, mic-check.”

“Is this chick a regular newscaster of theirs? She seems a bit gaudy.” You can’t help but think looking at her glittery, purple dress and very distracting hairstyle.

“What? No, that there is Happy Holiday, big time celebrity who’s making an appearance on FBC for the broadcast tonight.” The bartender explains.

“Oh so she’s a celebrity doing a special appearance…what’s she famous for?” You ask.

“Being a trainwreck.” He laughs and points at the screen.

“Hey! Mic-check, mic-check, sounds coming okay, right?” She appears to be talking to someone off-screen.

Yeah, everything’s okay on my end!” Some far away voice, presumably that of one of the camera operators, answers.
>>
“Oh good, during all those test runs, getting the sound right had to be the BIGGEST pain in my ass! If it acted up again at this point I’d personally cut the sound master's balls off.” She complains.

Uh, wait, Ms.Holiday-” The crewman tries to interrupt her.

“No! Don’t stop me, that loser did nothing but bitch and moan about how hard his fucking job is instead of just doing it! Saying I’m not being cooperative or I’m being too loud! Yeah!? Well bitch, if you would just get the damn sound working faster I wouldn’t have to be shouting would I!?” She berates.

No,No, Ms.Holiday, we’re-

“And it wasn’t enough that he never figured out how to shut the fuck up and do his bloody job, he started saying it was my fault that the sound wasn’t working, because I wouldn’t just work with him! Well I sure as hell didn’t go to any sound college or wherever the fuck you go to learn to be a soundmaster! He’s one handling the settings so how the hell am I screwing everything up!?” She shouts.

No! Ms.Holiday, I understand that, but we’re-

“So know what I told him!? I told him I was going to report his ass and get him fired for talking down to me and not doing his job and oh! Then came the fucking waterworks! He started saying that he needed this job, that he couldn’t pay his bills without it! Bollocks I said! If that’s fucking true hurry up and fix the sound then!” She starts.

“Then came the excuses! All the typical ones! Oh, I’ve only been working here for 5 months! Oh, I’ve actually been super stressed because my mother was put in hospital for cancer! Well wah, fucking wah! Is Mommy’s cancer what’s fucking up the sound levels!? If that’s the bloody case I’ll storm into the hospital and pull the fucking plug myself-”

WE’RE LIVE! WE’RE LIVE! WE’RE BROADCASTING!” The operator, deciding that being quiet about wasn’t going to work, basically shouts at her.

“I know, I know-Wait wot!?” For but a moment, her face goes as still as the Mediterranean sea before opening back into a storm of anger, directed towards the cameraman.

“Bloody fucking hell, it’s been live this whole time and you couldn’t have said something lad!?” She complains.

I was trying to but you were being so loud I couldn’t get a word in-!” he counters.

“Oh so now you’re making this my fault!? I swear to Armis himself, is all the staff in this place fucking useless!? See shit like this is why no one pays their TV license!” She berates.

But Ms.Holiday I can’t get the cameras working if you won’t work with me on this-” he asks.

“Oh not this shit again! If you talk back one more fucking time you’ll be tasting my shoe tonight!” She shouts.

Please don’t be violent, the world is watching Ms.Holiday!” The cameraman begs.
>>
“And the world is about to see your whiny ass taste high heels you nampy-pampy sissy Faggo-!” And then there’s a sudden cut to commercial break.

“Holy.Shit.” Is all you can say.

“Right? She makes everything so much worse just by being there, it’s the best!” He laughs.

“Well this is certainly way more entertaining I’ll give you that, refill by the way.” You ask.

“Coming right up.” He slinks away to fill your glass back up.

Soon the broadcast resumes, you notice the appearance of a new man, standing beside Holiday as he appears to be lecturing her.

The man is tall and brawny, wears a tacky yellow suit and matching tie with white pants and a pair of sunglasses on his face despite being indoors with the only somewhat professional thing on him being a badge that reads producer.

Clearly going for somekind young and wacky look but the wrinkles on his face speak the tale of a man deep into his middle-age.

You hear the man’s voice from the microphone and it comes out quick and snappy with an intonation that you can only describe as distinctly homosexual.

“Baby, what do you mean you didn’t know we were live? The red light was flashing right over there.” He points out.

“You expect me to see that one tiny fucking light among the 100s of other lights being shone in my face!? I’m basically getting a photon bukkake over here!” She complains.

“Girl, I don’t even know what that is but I know you’re being all kinds of extra right now.” He counters.

“Oh-You-Armis dammit you’re right!” She admits, clutching her head in her hands, “But can you blame me!? This is my first time doing a live broadcast and it’s on FBC for Armis sake! And not even 5 minutes in and everything is already fucked up! Just think about what people are going to say! What my fans will say! By the lord, what the celeb mags will say!” She wigs out.

“Baby, baby, calm down honey. First off, your fans love it when you have a public breakdown, views basically tripled after that first incident, so good job on that.” he starts.

“And second, It’s Razorrose honey! Biggest party of the decade, no one’s gonna remember a threat here or a slur there!”

“I know that! You think me shooting out slurs or threatening cancer patients is news to anyone!? I don’t give a fuck that anyone saw me freaking out on air!”

“Well then what in the hell are you fretting about?” He asks.

“What if my hair is frizzy? What if my clothes don’t look ironed-By Armis!- What if that wrinkle I found this morning is showing!?” She answers.

The man pauses, “...Is it just me honey, or are your priorities all kinds of fucked up?”
>>
“You don’t get it, Riche! For the tabloid rags, the only thing more valuable than a sex scandal or a slipped nipple is a visible wrinkle! Once they see the age is showing on your skin, those vultures turn into sharks that will report on every loose hair and bad spa day I have!” She explains.

“So?” Riche questions.

“Damn it Riche! Don’t you get it!? My beauty is half the fucking reason anyone tolerates my shit! You think I’d get away with half the bullshit I pull if I wasn’t drop dead fucking gorgeous!?” She shouts.

“Woah, that's a lot more self-awareness than I would expect someone in her position to have…” You praise.

Noticing that Happy (Whether rightfully or not) is distressed, He puts a hand on her back and says.

“Well don’t fret honey, you're looking beautiful as ever. Not a single loose hair or wrinkle to be seen.” He comforts.

She smiles, “Thanks…but don’t call me Ms please, makes me feel old...Not to mention it reminds me I still haven’t gotten hitched…”

“Yeah, a real tragedy no one’s given you a ring huh? Such a pity, you’re such a catch too!” He points out.

“I know right!? I swear modern men just have no balls! Leaving a prize like me unclaimed! Just because I’m a little crazy all the men run away! They don’t even know I’m crazy in bed too!” She shouts.

“Damn right Sister! A trophy like you going unappreciated just shows everything wrong with today’s men!” He agrees.

“Oh, Riche, you just get me! And, you know, I’ve always thought you were kind of cute…” She flirts and flashes him bedroom eyes.

Riche flashes his sunglasses and looks away, “Oh honey, I’m just flattered but didn’t you get the memo? I’m unavailable…” He tries to break it to her gently.

“What really? I don’t see no ring on that finger! And even if I did, there’s no way she’s as hot as me and or half as willing to do whatever to make you happy~” She makes suggestive hand signs at him.

“No, no dear, I’m unavailable to girls you see...” he tries to be more obvious about it.

“Oh! I understand!” She says, the truth dawning on her.

“Good, good, now back to the show-”

“You don’t want to play with little girls and all their little games, don’t worry baby, I’m a woman and I don’t play any games...well, except for the ones I like to play in the bedroom.” She flirts, clearly not getting it even now.

“Oh lord Armis gives me strength, I’m starting to see why no man wants to date you, woman…” He pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Hey! Don’t say that! That’s what my last 4 boyfriends said before they dumped me! Seriously, what am I doing wrong!?” She asks.

“Well before I answer that girl, let me tell you what you ain’t doing and that’s listening to me and I can tell you men hate a woman who can’t listen.” He advises.

“What do you mean I’m not listening!? I can hear you just fine!” She counters.
>>
“Yeah but you ain’t listening to a word I’m saying or else you would figure out why I’m not taking any of your advances!” He counters.

“What? Is it my looks?” She asks.

“No, I said it before, you look beautiful.” He answers.

“Is it my personality?” She asks.

“You’re definitely an acquired taste but you wouldn’t be so famous if you weren’t at least fun to watch.” He answers.

“Then why!? I don’t get it!” She shouts.

“Bitch I’m gay!” he finally say is flat out.

“Wait-What!? Wait...Ohhhhhhh…” She drones as she finally puts two and two together.

“Yeah, sorry to say, but I prefer poles over holes honey, so it ain’t happening!” he gives it to her straight.

She puts her hands over her face and groans “Heavens spare me, first man to understand me in years he’s a fucking pole jumper! Fuck me, At this rate I’m going to be the kind of woman who looks at full egg cartons in the mart and gets jealous...” She bemoans.

“Your growing hate for egg cartons aside, honey, there’s something I've been meaning to tell you.” Riche starts.

“That you’ve magically been cured of your man-lust and want to marry me now!?” She shouts in desperate anticipation.

“Nope, still gay.” He shakes his head.

She groans and gives him a dismissive look, “Then what? What’s so bloody important?”

He points to the microphone in front of her and says, “We’re live again.”

“Huh…wait, you mean…this whole time?” She asks.

“Yeah, guys on the camera only just told me through my earpiece a second ago, so I only just figured it out.” He explains.

“But-But what about the flashing light? Didn’t you say you could see it?” She asks.

“I thought I could see it, turns out you weren’t exaggerating about that photon bukkake huh baby?” He answers with a laugh.

“....” She stares at the camera like a deer in headlights for a few seconds, “Is…it possible to cut all that out in post…?”

“Do you not know how a live broadcast works Honey?” Riche asks her.

She holds her head in hands, “Then can we go on another break so I can jump into the bathroom and vomit real quick? I’m feeling a bit sick…”

Riche touches his earpiece and listens for a second, “Staff is saying no, ceremony is already starting, we delay any longer and they’re going to cancel our contract and withhold the rest of our pay for the night.”

She clicks her tongue, “Ah the one thing I value more than my dignity, money…fine, fuck it! We’re starting! We’re broadcasting! That’s what you bastards want right!?”

“It would be nice if you did your job, yes.” Riche agrees.

“Damn this really is prime television.” You admit as you take another sip of your drink and the program begins in earnest.
>>
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WHIRRRRRRRRRR The sound of broadcast helicopters overhead fill in the otherwise windy silence of the arena, they distract you for only a moment as the ceremony proceeds.

The first to be judged is Gaius, “You, Warrior of Dalam, raise your head.”

Without a word Gauis obeys, his face as serious as you’ve seen it all night, “I appreciate that look in your eye Gaius.” She approaches him, chalice in hand.

“Despite your lack of scars, I can see behind that polite mask of yours, the grim look of a man who witnessed the tragedies of a 100 battlefields. Your title of hero is well earned.” She deems as she stands before him.

“My sincerest thanks for the compliments, oh Ochima.” He bows his head.

“Do not be mistaken. I am not complimenting you. This land isn’t in need of a Hero but a King.” She counters.

“...” he says nothing, keeping his head down.

“Let it be known, the throne is no place for heroics, no place for one who seeks to save everyone. Sacrifice is necessary for the continuation of any nation, great or otherwise. At times this sacrifice will be on part of the ruler, at other times, the people…” She goes on.

“I understand that my precious homeland, believe me I do, I know there is no bright future for me or this land without sacrifice.” He counters.

“Oh I know you do, in-fact perhaps you understand this fact too well.” She explains.

Gaius’s eyes narrow, “I have seen the records for some of your greatest victories Gaius, let it be known, the number of men that were lost in achieving them was justifiable…but they were far from few.”

“...” Gaius bends his head down and says nothing.

“You understand that sacrifice is necessary, but do you understand there is a limit? A balance to be struck? Can you find such a thing? What is it you seek to do to me and my people precisely? Slaughter them to a man to sate your ambition? Is that your aim?” She asks.

He shakes his head, “I would never dream of such a thing, to take the land I treasure, the land I was born in and bring to it only bloodshed and suffering, nothing could be further from my aims.”

“Then I ask you, is your aim in taking the throne, peace?” She asks.

“...” He closes his eyes contemplatively.

“Your silence speaks volumes. If it is not peace you seek in taking the throne, what precisely is it you want? Oh hero?” She asks.

“An honest world.” He answers.

“...”

“In the end that’s all I want, a world where all can be honest and free. A world where no one needs to lie to get their way, where one who tells the truth is treasured above those who hide behind lies.”

“Is that all?”

“That is all.” He declares.
>>
She huffs something close to a scoff and a sigh, “So he says, tell me council what do you make of this man?”

“The people stand behind him, in terms of popular support he is unmatched. We want our hero who will guide us from this dark time. We want Gaius Auerilius.”

“The Law is on your side, you’ve done much to bring justice inside and outside your lands, you’ve fought wars both civil and international in our name and have brought much order because of it. I find no fault in his ascension.”

“You would struggle to find a single noble family or corporation that wouldn’t back a man such as this. If the flow of cash is in the direction of the victor, then Gaius my friend you are long victorious.”

“You are the dream of soldiers nationwide, you are the man they aspire to be and many would live and die at your behest. With or without my word, the military’s full backing is yours but know that you have my word regardless.”

Ochima chuckles, taking in their words, “My, aren’t you a wonderboy my child? If this contest was a democracy you would’ve won right here and now!”

He smiles, “My sincerest thanks.”

You feel scowl as you cringe listening to this spiel, (My god what a lengthy session of incessant ass-kissing. I already knew that Gaius was going to be the biggest threat of this contest but I didn’t think he’d be the biggest annoyance as well…)

“But enough pretty words and petty compliments, the time has come for me to render my judgement.” Ochima declares.

Gaius bows his head once more and raises his goblet as Ochima lofts the wine goblet above his head, “If it is that you are worthy to pursue the throne, I will pour this wine into your goblet so that you may take it into your person and only then will you be deemed worthy as a champion.”

“Should I find you lacking however, I will cast this wine into the sand to be washed away, along with your rights as a challenger.” She explains.

“Though I yearn for the throne with all my heart, I will accept any judgement Ochima deems worthy of me.” He declares.

“Is that so? Then…”

In the next moment, the satisfying sound of wine slowly being poured from one vessel to the next hits your ears.

“Shall you take up arms and fight in my name once more?” She asks.

“Without hesitation, my precious Motherland.” He nods as he takes a hearty swig of the wine.
>>
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(And to no one’s surprise, the hero is elected to fight the good fight. Meanwhile I’m stuck here desperately trying to come up with something, anything that will convince my sister to put me in this race.) You lament as Nylora moves on to Vincent.

“Raise your head, warrior of Cremox.” She orders.

“...” He looks up to her with a face that’s a mix of abject boredom and slight annoyance.

She scoffs, “For someone who stands before the world stage with the spotlight on him, you don’t look very excited to be here.”

“Oh am I supposed to be acting excited? I wasn’t aware that enthusiasm was a requirement for the interview.” he counters.

She laughs, “I see, you’re not a man to mince words or flash a fake smile are you?”

“I’m me and I only ever act as me.” he answers.

“Perfect, honesty is what I seek, so if honesty is what you will give, I have a question for you. Who's paying you to stand here right now?” She asks.

“No one I’m contractually allowed to name.” He answers.

(You’re going to ask him that while he’s on live TV? There’s no way he’d answer honestly, I’m amazed he answered you at all.) You think.

“Can you tell me what they’re paying you to do in the event you win?” She asks.

“That’s for everyone to find out after I win.” He answers.

“I see, So I can’t get you to be honest about that…alright, how about this instead, is there any personal reason you would seek the throne?” She asks him.

“...None.” he answers after a moment.

“None?” She questions.

“I don’t have a single reason to stand here of my own. My will is that of others, just as it’s always been and so it always will be.” he answers.

“And is that what you want? To live on someone else’s terms? To be someone else’s puppet?” She questions.

“If they pay me well enough, yes.” He answers.

She smiles, “Is that so? What does the council think?”
>>
“The people stand against him. We do not believe a mercenary more interested in money than human lives would work in our interests and would likely abuse us to line his own pockets. We are against him running.”

“The Law stands by him, though your business is nasty, it is legal and you’re a born Ochiman, to say you’ve got justice on your side would be an outright lie, but in the name of fairness, the courts will not stand against your ascension..”

“The economy is on his side, though its origin is dubious, it is unquestionable that this man can and will do everything possible to keep the money flowing. Many noble families have taken note of this and while they would never say so aloud, they respect and support you for it.”

“You will find no support in the Army, though your list of accomplishments are great and you have supported our country in times of need, you would just as easily turn against it should betrayal prove more profitable. A man who can only measure the weight of duty in dollar bills has no place leading a country say I.”

“My, a much more mixed reception, aren’t we controversial?” She laughs.

“Just means I’m that much more interesting than Mr.Perfect over there.” He quips.

“Perhaps, perhaps, but the question is-” She lifts up the goblet, “Is being interesting enough to make one a King? Or does it merely mean you’re a fascinating fool?”

“...” Vincent silently raises his cup.

Swwwwwishhhhh

“I look forward to putting you to the test and finding out.” She states as she pours the wine into the goblet.

“Thanks, was just feeling thirsty.” He chuckles before emptying the goblet down his throat.
>>
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(I can’t believe it, the paid frog actually got through, we don’t even know who's funding him but we’re giving him a chance to run the country? My sister must be letting her whims choose for her again, but then again that’s one of the things she takes from Mother…) You shake your head as she moves to Rafeal.

“Warrior of Kuggend, raise your head.” She asks.

He brings his head up, his face a mask of pleasant smiles and kind eyes, “Pastor, Father, healer... Mr.Rafeal, you are a man of many names.”

“Yes and I strive to live up to all of them.” He states.

“All of them you say? Is that so, well what about liar?” She asks.

“Hm?” he’s taken aback.

“Liar, outlander, criminal apologist, some even say you’re a criminal yourself, do you live up to those names as well?” She questions.

“I would hope I do not, but then the first thing a liar would do when caught is lie no?” He answers.

“Yes, I suppose you would know, what with it being your career to collude with murderers, thieves, rapists and other career liars.” She points out.

“I prefer the term consul to collude, thank you. I do not encourage their bad habits, I cure them.” He explains.

“Oh? Cure them? You cure them?” She questions.

“Yes, would you like to know how? I am happy to teach you.” He answers.

“No need, I’m afraid I won’t understand a word you tell, rather another question:”

“Despite your Ochiman birth, in the eyes of many you are practically a foreigner, some believe that if you win, Ochima as we know it will cease to exist.” She adds.

“It is true I have travelled the world over and absorbed many a foreign culture…but all my time abroad has taught me is that there is no place like home.” He counters.

“I seek to change nothing, in fact I will do everything in my power to make sure this place stays true to its spirit!” He explains.

“it’s spirit?” She questions.

“Yes, the spirit of order and balance. Everything in it’s appropriate place, at it’s appropriate time, living appropriate lives…balanced lives.” He answers.

“Oh? I would like to know what exactly you mean by balanced but let us not drag out this discussion, council, what say you?” She asks.
>>
“The people stand with him. Though he believes in a foreign God, his morals and principles are unquestionable, he has brought peace and redemption to the lives of many and we sincerely believe that, despite half his blood hailing from some far away land, he is just as Ochiman as the rest of us.”

“The Law stands by him, though man would say your blood is tainted, you are a born denizen of Kuggend and by extension a citizen of Ochima. Your work does much to redeem those we of the courts saw as irredeemable, if you know anything, know that justice is on your side.”

“The economy is against him. His work is honorable but not very profitable, not to mention being half outlander means many nobles want nothing to do with you, so you can’t find much in the way of financial support. Sorry to say, but you’re bad for business my friend.”

“Good hearted men are always welcomed by the army, especially those who help many of our down-trodden men, who despite all they did, society deemed them beyond saving, you didn’t and that made all the difference. We’re with you.”

Nylora chuckles, “Quite the positive reception.”

“More than I was expecting, more than I deserve.”

“That is for me to decide Sir.Valentine.” She raises her goblet.

“Render me a fair judgement, oh homeland.” He raises his glass.

Swishhhhhhhh- And down comes the wine, straight into the vessel.

“Do not disappoint me oh knight of Christ.” she demands.

“This is my greatest honor.” He declares as he drinks.
>>
(And the priest advances without a hitch, almost with as much support as the accursed hero, there’s only Johanna left and with her ties she’s practically a shoe in to get through…meaning the only one who’s going to get the boot at this rate is me.) You realise.

A bead of sweat runs down your forehead, despite the fact that you’ve been spending all this time thinking of ways you could argue your case to get her to approve you, even now you struggle to find anything that would convince her.

(There’s no way she’ll approve me on merit-based grounds, I don’t have the kind of results that could convince her. If I try to use political grounds I’d have no footing, not only am I illegitimate, I have no popular support whatsoever.) You think.

(Try to appeal to economics is meaningless, No matter how deep the pockets of the Association run, I can’t tell them my campaign is being funded by a foreign group, there are already suspicions I’m a Yankee shill thanks to my trip away.)

(And I wouldn’t even try and reason with her militaristic side, not only would I have leverage, the moment she brings up my discharge, it will be more than my heart that breaks…)

(Is there nothing I can say? Have I reached my end before I even begin?) You wonder.

What do you think?

>There must be some argument I can use to appeal to her…

>It’s hopeless, you’ll just have to find a way without the contest
>>
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>>5414501
Now this is tough, the only arguments I can really think of are something to due to with Hope or redemption. Do the other anons have any idea as to what angle he could go for? I don't like my man's odds
In fact he probably looks like pic related right now
>>
>>5414501
>It’s hopeless, you’ll just have to find a way without the contest
The powers that be have sadly, already decided our fate, best to plan for an alternative route now and better prepare a new strategy.
>>
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>>5414509

Based Muramasa enjoyer in the thread.
>>
>>5414511

>Well screw this then!

>Posting.
>>
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>>5414501
>There must be some argument I can use to appeal to her…
>Argue that you should be given a opportunity BECAUSE of your failures and sins. If a leader has never learnt the bitter taste of defeat and failure, then how can they be expected to lead when they eventually encounter setbacks? If a leader has never committed wrongdoings, then how will they understand the true scope of their actions when innocent people are hurt or killed due to their decisons?
This is really the only pratical argument I can come up with, sorry Noell you had the deck rigged from the beginning. It was either this or go do a full schizo rant
>>5414536
NVM
>>
(Oh who am I kidding, I know better than anyone, once my sister has made up her mind there’s no one who can change her mind, especially not me and she’s determined to get me out of this race and under her boot.) You accept.

(There’s no hope of me being able to turn things around with this method anymore, which means I’ll have to go with one of the back-up plans, extreme as they might be, there’s no way I’m going to let my Sister’s whims be the end of my journey.) You decide.

(I should leave considering this is basically a waste of my time, but before I do, I have some choice words for my precious sister I would love for her to hear-)

“Warrior of Brenho, raise your head.”

“...” When you look up, you see your sister looking down at you, a delighted smile on her face to match your annoyed one.

“Tell me, why is it you fight?” She asks you.

You scowl, “Before that, do you mind telling me why my judgement is coming before Madam Johanna, I was sure she was next in line.”

“What line? I don’t believe I ever said there was a set order to whom I would be judging, my apologies, did I give you a wrong impression?.” She asks.

(Translation: I was running down the line to trick you into thinking you were last so you would get into your head and I could trip you up as I pleased.)

“No it’s my fault for not listening closely to the proceedings, but does that mean you’ve just been picking at random so far?” You ask.

“I wouldn’t say it was so much random as…let’s just say I have my own criterion.” She laughs.

(Translation: I was just picking whoever looked the most fun to harass)

“I see, and you couldn’t give me a little more time to think and prepare myself?” You ask.

“I believe you’ve had more than enough time to think and you should have been prepared before you even arrived.” She reasons.

(Translation: I believe I’ve let you stew in despair and stress for long enough, allow me to put you out of your misery.)

“You have me there, I suppose I’ve had more than enough time, no use in delaying any longer.” You admit.

She smiles, “It’s good to see you’re so understanding.”
>>
>Meanwhile at the bar

“Oi mates, look! The Cadver Prince is about to get roasted on air!” A random patreon states.

“Say wot? That ripe ol bellend actually came out for the ceremony? Here’s I thought he would do wot any sensible man would’ve done, run for the 'ills!” Another laughs.

“Forget the hills, mans should have found the nearest deepest hole to hide in with the public whipping he’s about to get! Makes you almost feel bad for ‘im”

“Like that shit-pile deserves any sympathy! With all the things he’s done and he has the gall to think he can be bloody king!? I say she do worse than whip him!” The bar gets rowdy as all attention falls unto the TV screen.

“Master Noell…” Gretal watches as well, a sad look taking her eyes.

“M-Master Noell, where?” Hansel asks, confused as he is shit-faced.

“Look Hansel, can’t you see Hic-up! Master Noell is struggling on TV?” She asks him.

“Oh, well um…Hic-up! honestly I’m having truebell seeing what’s right in front of me…” He admits, his red face swaying from side-to-side.

“Truebell? What’s a truebell? Some-kind of hic-up! bird?” She asks.

“Oh I meant trouble, I was talking about trouble.” He corrects.

“Oh you meant trouble, hahahaha!” Gretal laughs an unnecessarily high decibel.

(Christ, someone needs to take these drunks home…) You think before you turn back to the screen, watching with bated breath.

“This is your moment Noell, if you had some secret back-up plan, now would be the time to pull it out your ass…”

>Back to the tower

“Now, back to my previous question, why is it you fight?” She asks.

“Well that depends on the context of the question, what fight are you referring to?” You ask.

“I would rather you not answer my questions with questions, you should know which fight I’m talking about.” She answers.

“I kindly ask that you be specific, I happen to find myself in any number of fights at any given time you see.” You request.

She looks a little annoyed, “Aren’t we snide? Well of course I was referring to this fight for the crown, but now that you bring it up, why do you find yourself in so many fights? Why do you fight in general?”

“Well most times it’s because people can’t seem to leave me the hell alone but there are a few exceptional times where I’m the one starting the fight.” you answer.

“And is this one of those exceptional times?” She asks.

“Yes, yes it very much is.” You nod.

“And why is that? Why are you fighting?” She asks again.

You answer:

>Because I’ve got something to prove

>Because there’s a wrong that needs to be made right
>>
>>5414542
>Because there’s a wrong that needs to be made right
>>
>>5414542
>Because there’s a wrong that needs to be made right.
He has nothing to prove to anyone. He fights because he MUST fight. To undo evil and wrongness, fighting can be the only option. Having something to prove to anyone will only lead to manipulation and ultimately corruption from the righteous path. You do what is right because it is right, not for anyones approval or any kind of permission!
>>
>>5414542
>>Because there’s a wrong that needs to be made right
>>
>>5414544
>>5414553
>>5414558

>Something's wrong, it must be made right.

>Writing.
>>
"Because there's wrong that needs to be made right." You answer.

“And what is this wrong that needs to made right?” She asks

You answer:

>I want to correct the mistakes of my past.

>I want to prevent the destruction of the future.

>I want to change my present self
>>
>>5414586
>>I want to correct the mistakes of my past.
>>
>>5414586
>I want to correct the mistakes of my past
Correct the mistakes of the past by fixing the future.
>>
>>5414588
>>5414592


>I want to correct the mistakes of the past

>Writing.
>>
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"Because in the past..."You look down, as you always do when thinking of the past, "I made a lot of mistakes, mistakes that I have to correct." You admit.

"What mistakes?" She asks.

"Mistakes too horrible to voice here, not that anyone needs to hear them again, they all know what I've done, they all know who I am. What they don't know is why I'm here." You answers

"And there is the most important question of all, why are you here? What do you hope to gain, standing here?" She asks.

"Well, once, I hoped to gain the approval. I fought not to be hated, but then I realized that's pointless. The sins of my past have warranted me hate I can never wipe away-" You raise your sand-covered hands and stare upon them, "My hands are soaked in blood I can never wash away. But that's..."

"...That's?" She implores you.

"That's fine, my hands are soaked in the blood of the innocent. My past steeped with sin, but my future remains undecided, it's the one thing I have left and I'm going to use it to make things right." You answer.

"You're going to sacrifice your future to make right the wrongs of the past? To me that just sounds like you haven't learned to let go, you can't make right the wrongs of the past, even trying is form of madness." She counters.

"I'm just telling you what has driven me this far, whether it's right or wrong...I still can't tell." You admit.

"But you must be able to tell, if you can't answer what's right and wrong for yourself, how in the world do you plan to decide that for an entire kingdom? A number of kingdoms? You expect to be king with that attitude?" She asks.

"...." You ponder for a moment, "Perhaps I phrased that last sentiment wrong, it's not as much that I can no longer tell as I no longer care."

"Excuse me?"

"I see their faces. At night. Every night." You start.

"Whose faces?" She asks.

"The people I've killed. Both those innocent and those who deserved it. They appear in my dreams, a different one each night, sometimes the same one. They always curse me for killing them, they always demand I die to give them justice." You admit.

"What are you getting at?" She asks.

"But they didn't get their justice, I didn't die and after a while it became clear to both them and me that death would be the easy way out. So a few years ago, their demands changed." You answer.

"Change the world." You look up, your eyes curved into a fierce look, one so focused they verge on obsessed.

"..." She's stunned quiet.

"Change this cruel world that killed us, break it down and build it back into a place where none have to die like we did. You must do this or we will never forgive you." He quotes.

"That's what their requests became and I thought to myself, you know what, they're being quite reasonable." You nod.

"Changing the world is the least I can do to make up for what I've done to them."
>>
After a moment, She cracks up, "You're mad."

You shake your head, "I haven't gone mad, not yet. They won't let me, madness would be yet another escape. I'm not allowed to die or go mad until I've fulfilled my promise to them."

"You live to fulfill a promise to the dead? What else do you call that but madness?" She points out.

"Call it whatever you like, it is why I stand here today and think of it this way: If I was sane, I wouldn't be kneeling here would I? A sane man would've sat at home, accepted there's nothing he can do and rotted away into obscurity. I refused that path, so the path of madness is all I have left." You counter.

Her smile grows ever wider, “My word your time aboard really has changed you hasn’t it brother? Though I sincerely cannot tell for the better or worse.”

“Oh Sister…You’re breaking character.” You scold.

She catches herself, “Oh! ahemCouncil, what say you?”

“In the eyes of the people, you are either a clown to be laughed at or enemy to be felled, you will find no support from us.”

“In the eyes of the law, you are a former felon, one that escaped proper punishment owing to your status and your family, though you have served your time, the sins of your past will haunt you for all your life, never forget this.”

“It’s good you came all the way out here hoisted up by foreign money because you won’t find a penny thrown your way by anyone over here, in the eyes of the economy, you’re a walking deficit waiting to happen.” Harlequin adds.

“Your service is spoken of in shame by many in the army, seen by many as a mistake and hated by some who would do anything to see you not come to power, in the eyes of the Army, you are a pariah.” Lawrence finishes.

You begin to laugh, “Was anything that was just said funny for you?” Nylora questions.

“Oh no, my apologies, it’s just the sheer frankness of it all, caught me a little off-guard.” You admit.

“Noell…Are you sure you’re not a masochist? You were just degraded and insulted live on national television and your first response is to laugh?” She questions.

“Can you just move onto the judgement?” You demand.
>>
“I don’t believe you're the one in charge of the proceedings but if you insist-” She holds the goblet up high.

“I believe you already know the result but let's ask regardless brother, are you ready for judgement?” She questions.

You hold up your goblet, “Born ready, but one thing before you render your judgement, oh Ochima.”

“Hm?” She pauses.

“Let it be known that your judgement is meaningless to me.” You add.

“...” The whole arena goes silent at that one.

“What did you just say?” Nylora asks, genuinely shocked.

“Your judgement is meaningless. This whole ceremony, this charade is meaningless, do you all sincerely believe this petty game of pretend will help you pick a King?” You start.

“Do you think the Kings of old were chosen by ceremony? Deemed worthy by the people? Were ordained by God, Fate, the land or whatever madness you call it?” You question.

“Wrong, none of those things make a King. You know what makes a King? Strength. That’s it.” You declare.

“It was through pure strength that Armis founded this land, it was through pure strength that all who came after him sustained this land, and it was through strength my Father ruled over this land and led it to such prosperity.” You explain.

“And to someone with strength, things like contests, tradition, procedure…those things are meaningless. In the end they are just petty games we play to determine the truly most important here, which of us is strongest, for it is they who will claim the throne in the end, whether it be via this crown contest or otherwise.” You finish.

Nylora’s look turns severe, “...You have just broken every rule I set for this ceremony, disrespected the traditions that have led us here and spit the face of everyone here and everyone watching right now.”

“And?” You ask.

“And I have one question for you in that case.” She answers.

“What is it to be strong?” She asks.

You answer:

>To be the greatest, to be unparalleled in everything

>To be willing to sacrifice, everything if need be, for those can’t

>I don’t know, I came here because I wanted to find out.
>>
>>5414629
>>>I don’t know, I came here because I wanted to find out.
>>
>>5414632


>I'm here to find out.

>Writing...
>>
"I don't know." You answer.

"You don't know? You speak so highly of strength but you can't even define it?" She counters.

"Do you know?" You ask.

"Huh? Well..." She ponders.

"Does anyone here know? Well Gauis? Vincent? Johanna? Rafael? Can any of you tell me what strength is? How my Father and Armis had so much of it?" You ask.

"...." They all don't respond.

"Answering that question has been a life-long journey for me and I've asked many people for an answer it's always different. Strength is sacrifice, strength is power, strength is good morals, strength is...is what?" You ask even yourself.

"I think once I take the throne, and I sit in the place where all those who where strong sat and I have to fight the same way they fought, only then will I understand strength...I think." You answer.

“Aren't you being hasty, speaking as if your path to rule is in anyway secure, do you sincerely believe I'd elect you after that outburst?" She asks.

"No quite the opposite, but as I said, I've already committed to this path and I will follow it. With or without your approval, so hurry up and bump me out so I can get to planning again." You demand.

"Well in that case, Noell Cromwell…” She pours forth the wine, based on the trajectory it can't be heading for the cup, so you presume it's going into the sand.

Splash! But then something even you didn’t expect to occur came to pass, she didn’t pour it into the sand, but unto your head instead, letting a litre of sticky, spicy-sweet red wine Splash unto your head and run down face.

“...” Once again the entire arena is left silent.

After the small flood of wine has left your head sufficiently sticky and wet, you lick your soaked lips to clear your mouth before asking.

“Why?”

“You’ve been accepted, the wine was ingested into your person was it not?” She quips.

“...Oh. I see, why thank you.” You are in some ways shocked (Mainly that you got accepted) and in some ways not. (That your sister harassed you.)

"You're welcome."

"Now again, I ask, why?"
>>
"I have two reasons why, both begin with the phrase, because you're mad" She starts.

"1st, because you're mad but determined, I see a strange kind of potential in you. Believe it or not brother, you're near manic episode just now proved to me you're more than just talk. You can take that madness and to make it into something truly exceptional despite everything." She explains.

"2nd, because you're mad, just like you said, you'll do anything to obtain the throne whether I approve or not. But we both know there's only one other way for you to take the throne that doesn't involve this and I think that's a bloody mess we'd both like to avoid." She adds.

(True my only other option besides this would be an outright coup, I would much rather it not come to that.) You admit.

"So if I do give you my approval, that means you have to fight by my rules, in a place of my choosing, where I can watch you. I need a way to contain your madness so it doesn't harm anyone and I think within the Crown Contest would be excellent place." She explains.

"So you approving me just now was your idea of throwing me in a padded cell?" You ask.

"One with 4 other cellmates to keep you company! In a contest to see which among you all is crazy enough to make a throne out of midair." She laughs.

“You’re breaking character again Sister.” You scold.

“Oh but I thought this little game of pretend was meaningless? What do you care?” She asks.

“Not much I just thought you did care.” You counter.

“Not as much as you may think, you’d be surprised to know just how much I agree with you, but nonetheless the show must go on. I hope you enjoy what we have in store for you.” She smiles as she moves on to Johanna.

(And so she defies my expectations again, I swear that sister of mine will be the death of me. Probably literally.) You realise.
>>
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Johanna's Judgement comes and passes with her being selected, though some noteworthy things were said, what was truly noteworthy came after the end of the ceremony.

Two major events came to pass, one right after the other, first was this:

“Are we allowed to speak freely now?” Gaius asks as soon as the proceedings end.

“Yes, feel free.” Nylora permits.

“Right, so now that is over with, when does the contest begin, how long do we have to prepare for the coming battles?” He asks.

“Time to prepare? My, you were given that in the months leading up to this ceremony, surely you’ve all already gathered the necessary resources and manpower to fight have you not?” She asks back.

“Oh, well yes I’m sure we all have but it would still take time to assemble and ready the troops for combat, especially when so much is on the line.” Rafeal counters.

“Troop readiness and planning is part of the challenge of the game, there will be no delay simply because your men are not ready.” She counters.

“I never said they weren’t, but my, from the way you describe I would be tempted to guess the start date must be rather close, perhaps only a month?” He hazards.

“Wrong. We’ve already begun, you fools.”

“Huh?” You collectively gasp.

RUMBLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

“What the-!?” Gaius shouts as the ground beneath him quakes and shakes as if the whole 1000ft tower is ready to collapse beneath his feet.

“What’s happening!?” Johanna cries out, echoing all of your fears and confusion.

However, in spite of the sudden shake, Nylora and the council remained calm and spoke in a placid tone.

“The war has already started, the champions have been selected and the grounds decided, there is no more wait and preptime.” Nylora clarifies.

“W-We get that already, what’s happening right now!?” You ask, slightly panicked.

“Have you all ever wondered how this tower got its name? This whole thing was built by just one man. The Royal architect for Armis, Septia, a man who promised to create a structure as perfect and beautiful as the King himself as a show of devotion to him.”

“This man was said to be so obsessed with this project that he spent all his years designing and re-building this tower, all alone, over and over again, until he drove himself mad in his quest for perfection.” She starts.

“Is now the time for a history lesson!?” You ask.

“In his madness he realised that his simple human strength and mind wasn’t enough, so he turned to alchemy. He spent over 60 years mastering and dedicating himself in the ways of alchemy and finally at the ripe age of 100, he used his mastery to sacrifice his own life to construct this tower. Quite the legend right?” She continues.
>>
“W-Who cares, but what does it have to do with this sudden Earthquake!?” Vincent asks.

“What it means is that this tower is actually contains the soul of an alchemist within it, granting it special properties should you also have an appropriate level of alchemy knowledge and power as well.” Upon saying this Nylora holds her hands out and that’s when you notice it.

Nylora is using Nen, she’s pumping out energy expansively and rapidly as if using Ren, but rather than concentrating on herself, all of her energy is going into the tower itself, you believe they called this technique Ko back during your training?

“Now that I’ve informed you where the name Septia comes from, all me to show you where the Flying part of the name comes in!!!” She declares as the power reaches a zenith and the rumbling becomes so totalizing you can feel your brain vibrating in your head.

BOOOOOOOOM!

Then in the next moment, it’s as if a flashbang goes off right in your face. The whole world goes white, your ears go deaf and your balance completely fails you, sending you tumbling to sandy floor.

Then everything is silent, the whiteness fades and is replaced by black, the shaking stops and now the only thing you feel is grainy, annoying feeling of sand getting all over your clothes.

Your eyes flutter open, when they do, you see the arena wall and soon after you look around to see virtually nothing has changed, The council is still seated, watching you from above, Nylora is still standing a little ways away and all the champions are here as well, though they’re all tasting sand similarly to yourself.

You prop yourself back onto your feet, brushing the sand off your person and nursing a strange headache you have all of a sudden.

“What the hell was that? What did you do?” You ask.

“That’s no way to talk to the head of the contest committee, where’s your please and Madam?” She berates you.

“Oh spare me, I wasn’t going to kiss your ass to get in and I won’t do it now that I’m already in, just answer the question.” You demand as the other champions rise to their feet.

“Well with that attitude I don’t very much feel like answering, why don’t you look around and figure it out for yourself?” She suggests.

“Oh spare me…” Getting fed up with dealing with her, you do as she suggests and look around, a quick glance around the area and notice nothing has changed.

The tower itself is exactly the same, there aren’t even any new cracks formed from all the shaking, even the night sky above you is just as clear and starry as before-

(Wait, clear?) You only just noticed.

“Where are the news helicopters?” Gaius quickly voices the oddity you notice.

“And is it just me or is the weather a little different? Wasn’t it supposed to be partly cloudy all-night? Did the weatherman fuck up?” Vincent questions.
>>
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“Not quite, the weather forecast was accurate. It is partly cloudy…in Rose City anyway.” Nylora answers.

“How about you stop being vague and just tell us what’s happening already.” You demand.

“I think it would be faster just to show you.” Nylora start pumping out energy once more, the rumbling starts again but this time it’s far lighter.

The floor begins to rise, like a giant elevator carrying you over the cap of the tower and giving you a 360 degree view of your immediate surroundings.

And that’s when everything makes sense.

Spread out in all four directions as far as the eye can see, is not a sprawling metropolis but a vast grassland that gives way to a number of almost confusing biomes.

West you can see forest of plenty, flanked by what almost looks like a giant swamp, west is made up a great desert, north is clouded by the vision of numerous snowy mountains and south is more grassland that gives way to the vast seas.

“Where…are we?” Johanna rightly questions.

“This is some extraordinary terrain…could this be…” Gaius starts putting the pieces together.

However you’ve already solved the puzzle, “...Ah. Now I get it, this is Rose Isle.”

“Correct, impressive deduction dear Brother.” She compliments.

“So the flying part of the name refers to the tower’s ability to teleport, incredible, this really can only be the work of a master alchemist…” Rafeal admires.

“The tower does much more than just move but that explanation can be saved for later, for now what’s more pressing is that from henceforth you’re all mortal enemies.” Nylora declares.

Vincent laughs, “Oh yeah, didn’t Mr.Hero say we wouldn’t be enemies till we set foot here? That we were in the wrong time and place?”

Gaius sighs, “Yes, while there’s no way I could’ve seen it coming I set myself up with that one, we are now in the right time and place to kill one another.”

“Say no more, it’s been a while since I’ve had to kill with my bare hands but these old bones needed a workout anyway.” Vincent takes a battle stance, you all follow suit.

“Hold it!” But then Natalie intervenes, “Not one more goddamn move! This tower is neutral ground, we can’t have you gaggle of morons wrecking it with your roughhousing!”
>>
“Oh come on! All my enemies gathered up in one place and you’re really telling me to wait!?” He complains.

“Yes Sir.Vincent, you and everyone else will need to wait until you depart from this tower before any fighting may ensue.” Lawrence adds.

“And you’re all leaving by helicopter by the way, not giving you lot any chances to ambush each other on the way to your respective bases.” Merlin adds.

“Bases?” You question.

“Everything will be explained in due time, for now-” She pulls out a sliver pocket watch, the time on it reads midnight sharp.

“Today on February the 25th, marks the end of the christening ceremony and the first of what is likely to be a series of long, bloody, hellish battles ahead for every last one of you.” She declares.

“But know that every drop of blood, sweat and tears that touches the soil of this precious sacred land will be one drop closer to restoring the glory of our great nation. From this day forward-”

“THE CROWN CONTEST BEGINS!”

At that same time, the once dark and empty eyes of the Armis statue light up, a burning, almost demonic look in his eyes as he too comes to life with excitement for the coming bloodshed.
>>
That was the first major event, the a truly grand opening to an equally grand arc in the life of the Cadaver Prince, Noell Cromwell.

However a short while after an equally major if not more major event took place on a much smaller, much more personal scale.

It occurred just a little after the disappearance of the tower, to a one Derrick Holums, shortly after he returns to the dormitory, practically hulling the drunk Hansel and Gretal back home, the results of their contest inconclusive as they both ended up fainting right as they finished the bottle.

Derrick had witnessed the incredible and strange disappearance of the Septia tower and Noell along with it, he knew right away it was the work of Nen, not that his expertise could explain how any of it happened, just that no other explanation would make sense of it.

And by that same token, if it was the work of Nen, that means it was the work of a Nen user, more than likely Nylora or one of the Regents and that it was all a part of the ceremony and not some random terror attack (Or at least that’s what he hoped).

Thankfully his fears were quelled as, about an hour after midnight, Noell and Flourette called and, while they didn’t give a particular thorough explanation, they confirmed it was all a part of the ceremony and that they were safe and sound on Rose Isle.

Well maybe safe and sound is putting too nice a bow on it considering they mentioned something about a fight to the death but they said they would give you the full run-down when you personally arrived on the island yourself which will be sometime in the next few days.

So basically, all that remained to do now with this particularly wild day was to return to his new room, go to bed and prepare for even wilder days to come.

That’s all that was supposed to happen.

So why is it then?

That the moment he walked touched his door, he noticed the door was already unlocked.

Why is it then?

That he stepped through the door, filled with a grim and disgusting feeling, only to see there was someone sat with his back to him, hunched over and unmoving.

Why is it then?

That he, against his better instinct, stepped forward to touch the body of this person, only to realise this person wasn’t breathing, dead, with strange marks on his neck.

I shall answer.

Firstly, it is because Derrick was foolish.

Perhaps it was all the drinking? Perhaps it was the shock and suddeness of it? Perhaps it was because he had grown too relaxed in this new environment when he should know better than anyone that nowhere is truly safe.

Secondly, it is because despite realising he was no longer safe, his experience and knowledge told him to first look and grasp the situation rather than immediately flee.

Finally, because he knew this dead man and once he saw who it was, all his better brain functions simply shut off for just a moment in mix of confusion and despair.
>>
The dead man’s name was Landon. Augustus Landon. Someone you knew well, or at least someone you’d hope to learn more about.

But none of that matters now, he’s dead. For some unknown he’s here, he’s dead. He can tell, this coldness, this stillness, this emptiness, this is unmistakably the feeling of a dead body, he’s seen and touched so many that he could never mistake it.

His first instinct was to scream, he suppresses that feeling realising it would be better to just call someone over, perhaps even do some investigation on his own before anyone else arrives on the scene.

He turns around.

And then it’s lights out, the whole world goes dark, something, or rather someone was waiting behind him and this person cold-clocked him before he even had a chance to react.

As he hits the floor and unconsciousness begins to take him, a million thoughts race by as they do:

Who? What? Where? When did they get behind me? My senses were sharper than ever, I would've noticed them if they were there the whole time? Did they just appear? Can I move? I can't move! What do I do? Am I dead?

And then during the scant few seconds he remains in the world of the waking, he gets a look at the person who attacked him’s footwear.

Long black boots, military in design but fashionable in display, by the size it was the foot of a lady, the voice that came after confirmed this:

“Nighty, nighty Blondie~ When you wake up the next, the world will be a very, very different place.”

She then rears the boot he was just staring at up and brings it down on your head, the final thought in our poor hero’s mind was:

(Where have I heard that voice before?)

>To be continued…

https://youtu.be/Laf2pgF2ay8
>>
Out of curiosity was this saved to the arcive and if so do any of you have a link?
>>
And so I close off this thread with a rather wild ending if I do. Now this was a lot shorter than my usual threads, but there's two reasons for this.

1.A problem with a lot of my older threads, even the good ones is that they drag on and take too and I end up overwriting if spend too much time on them.

All the previous threads together could make serval full-length novels and an entire Visual novel series just for chapter I think that makes it a real problem for new people to catch up and read ahead.

2.Shorter threads means I can actually take less than a year to get content out. This isn't my saying speed over quality of course but I can't be disappearing for a year at a time, this quest will end by the time we're all old men at this rate.

So with those in mind, I'm trying to trim the fat and get these threads out at least once per month.

Speaking of which, next thread should be out soon-ish (No definitive date as I don't want to jinx myself or make promises I can't keep) but as you can all see by the ending, from here on out we've entered the meat and potatos of this arc, there's a whole lot of action coming up and I don't pre-write action scenes, I only pre-plan them so I only have a few scenes I need to prepare before I just jump right to the next series of threads.

I'll try and keep you updated on my twitter, here's the link for all those who want to stay on top of things:

https://twitter.com/309thChairman

>>5414743

Was just getting to posting that.

If you have time and want to see everything that’s happened up this point, here’s the archive:

http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=hunter%20x%20hunter%20quest
>>
Also many of you would've noticed some key words that were highlighted like so, these are words and concepts I wanted to explain in the thread but would've ruined the pacing since I would have to exposition dump for random things that in all honesty aren't that important.

So instead I will post what they mean here in a sort of extras and fun facts for those interested in reading.

>Posting
>>
1.Torch flies:

A species of fire-fly endemic to Ochima, they are larger than the average fire-fly and give off much greater bioluminescence. Their namesakes comes from the ancient practice of catching a bottle of them and using them as a in place of a torch when firewood was starting to run low

They are considered mildly dangerous as the light they give off can grow so strong and hot that it can mimic the heat of real flame but they only ever release such light when stressed or panicked.

2. The DFA:

Dalam Flight Agency, located along the coast in the city Erzahertz, the top flight school in all of Dalam and one of the most prestigious in the country.

3. Alchemist:

Alchemist is an old term for Nen users in Ochima, with the existence of Nen being prevalent in Ochiman culture since near its inception, there are those who use their ability as a form of entrepreneurship, with those who use sell Nen as a service or produce Nen goods being known as Alchemist or performing alchemy.

4.Alchemy:

Alchemy likewise is just a stand-in term for Nen usage and Nen mastery, Alchemy has an extensive history all over Ochima, mostly people treat it as a alternative medicine and meditation and many even see it as a scam and those who practise it as scam artists, which is why mastery over the art and usage of Alchemy products remains niche and is even frowned upon by many in more intellectual circles.

5. The SDIR:

Siquaa Department of International Relations an agency for the training and assignment of Diplomats, a much lesser known governmental agency of Siquaa as they are known for usually solving their problems with war first and words later but in times of peace like agents of the SDIR have seen much more relevance on a domestic and international scale. But many also believe that the agency is a front for creating spies and assassins as has been true with many other Siquaaian Agencies but so far these claims have remain unfounded.
>>
6.Lifeguard:

Owing to some nasty history of assassinations and betrayals, each member of the Royal family is permitted to form a small militia to act as personal unit that obeys only their command known as a Lifeguard.

Of course, considering how easily such a power could be used to enact a coup, this personal unit has several restrictions added to it. Most prominent of which is that the unit can only be deployed either as a form of self-defense or as a countermeasure in certain extenuating circumstances, any proactive use without sufficient cause gives the Federation the right to immediately disband and restrict the member’s use of this power.

All members of a lifeguard are handpicked by the owner, the force can be as small as a single person but no larger than a platoon. The Federation must be made aware of each member that has been allowed to join a particular lifeguard but has no control over who the owner allows into their lifeguard, However, in abidance to international laws, the Federation will bar Known B to A class criminals from entry.

7.FBC:

Federation Broadcasting Center, The official Federation sanctioned news network. Started back in 1806 as a radio program, it has become a mainstay network that does everything from report the news nationally and internationally, to produce TV shows.


>Some fun facts

>Nylora has the biggest lifeguard in royal history composed of about 35 members,a few members short of a platoon, one such member is Little Mary who is the newest member.

>Most other lifeguards are considerably smaller, The Queen’s is made up of about 5 people, one of which is Lawrence, Noell’s was previously composed of a single person, Flourette. However (unbeknownst to him), Derrick was also added as a 2nd member.

>Back during his rule, King Zain didn’t have a lifeguard as he saw it as unnecessary, however during the bloody nine, for a period of time, he elected Lawrence as his Lifeguard, more out of respect for his performance in battle than any fear on the part of Zain however.

>Despite their household name status, the FBC is seen by many as a state apparatus to push propaganda and since they they are state-funded, everyone is required to pay some part of their taxes to keep the program running, which has driven many to refuse to pay for their TV license in protest.


That's it for the fun facts and as usual I'm here until the thread dies to answer any and all questions.
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>>5414742
Good fucking shit as always, thanks, even if its not often. My favorite part has gotta be the introduction to all the political rivals in >>5413478. Really fleshes out the nation we're fighting over!
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It was a fun ride while it lasted, and I look forward to the next thread, rest assured I will be present!

Thanks for running, rock! It’s been fun this time around! See you in the next episode! (Whenever it comes out)
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>>5414777
Good stuff QM, I'm curious to see Landon's shenanigans next thread. Kinda wished that the thread was longer like your usual threads but I get the change
In-fact, there's a certain song that I think will be very fitting for Landon
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_qiWvjJ3kk
I tried, I tried
What did we expect?
My dearest friend
Tell me when we shall make it end



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