Topic: Sweet Dreams  (Read 17823 times)

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Alfred F. Jones

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Sweet Dreams
« on: January 07, 2010, 02:06:24 am »
Lately I was hit by a story idea, much like a 50-gallon Hefty bag filled with soup hits a sidewalk. Needless to say, I've been writing this instead of White Rose. It's quite different in mood from Kurumi and Elly, so it's not going in that thread. Thanks to terrible timing, all I can give right now is the prologue, and I'll be back in three days after vacation in the Rocky Mountains to post some more.

Rest assured, White Rose will be back. Eventually. This is shorter, much shorter, and I'd like to get this out of the way before I return to my hobby of making Koishi's life miserable.

Yes, UD, I'm using the first person perspective for once in my life. Happy now? And thanks to bofh for some source material, namely Renko's math dialogue, which is more in chapter 1 than this prologue, but whatever.

Anyway, let's begin.



I think I always knew, somehow...

It was a beautiful night, that night. We were in my dorm room, at 1:30 AM in the dead of night, laughing so hard we thought we'd get kicked out for being so loud. Instead of studying like we should have for our first round of midterms tomorrow, Mary had the idea that stressing ourselves out the night before the test would have no effect, so we decided to play a video game together. We were both doing so terribly that we had to stop; our button inputs wouldn't work if we were shaking so hard from laughter from each other's stupid puns.

Then we went outside onto the balcony, pulled out my mattress, and lay on it together while I pointed out all of the stars and all their constellations. Mary took the names and told me about the mythology of each and every one of them.

Then we started talking about Gensokyo, about Mary's latest vision of a flying ship in the sky. I thought the idea of a magical flying ship was silly, but I was interested in the whole idea of small UFOs floating about in the skies for people to catch them.

Eventually we got sleepy, but Mary wanted to talk some more.

“Ah, it's 2:37 AM... maybe we should go to sle--”

“Look, the moon. It's beautiful, isn't it?”

“I guess...”

“I'd like to see the moon in person one of these days... but not the cold, dead moon that we always hear about, I want to see the one where there are rabbits pounding mochi and see the amazing capital.”

“Hmmm... if I went, I'd like to try out their immortality elixir.”

“Oh? You would drink immortality elixir if you had a choice, Renko?”

“Of course I would! I mean, I think immortality has too bad of a reputation. You know how the stories are always talking about immortality being immoral and wrong...”

Maribel shifted then and turned towards me on the mattress. She was getting sleepy, so I lowered my tone of voice and kept going.

“They were just warning against greediness and rebellion. That doesn't mean immortality is wrong, though.”

I took advantage of the moment and put my right arm around Mary's shoulders as I waved up at the evening sky.

“Immortality doesn't mean that you'll never die, it just means that the boundary between life and death disappears, and you are in a state neither alive nor dead. Just as if you were in the world of the living and the world of the dead at the same time--”

“A Necrofantasia.”

“Yes... exactly.”

“That... sounds terrible, Renko.”

“Ahahahaha... maybe I should think about this more...”

Maribel chuckled. It was the beginning of autumn, so it wasn't cold outside, but even then she rested her right arm across my chest and hugged me from the side as she pulled closer to me and rested her head on my shoulder.

She liked having her hair stroked, I knew, so I ran my fingers through her hair as her breathing slowed and became more and more even. I was still looking up at the sky-- it was 2:54 AM, and I was almost about to fall asleep myself, but then a thought occurred to me.

“What sounds terrible, Mary?”

I had waited too long. Maribel's breathing had already slowed too much. She was fast asleep, out here on the mattress beneath the stars right next to me.

I sighed and pulled my shirt buttons open a bit. I had to get some rest tonight, after all. It would be a long day tomorrow; I had midterms in Statistical Physics II and Intro to Combinatorics, one right after the other, a quick lunch break, then a short reprieve in an English Composition test, followed up by a Solid State Physics II test.

... Oh dear... maybe I should have studied?

But now, a full year after that night, I don't regret having stayed up all night with Maribel. I did fine on the tests, though I could have done better. That's fine. It was worth it to spend the night with her.

Still, I should have known...

Right before I fell sleep, Maribel's voice responded to my question.

“Living forever.”

-----

End of Prologue



Back in three days, will post some more when I return.

nintendonut888

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2010, 02:13:13 am »
Ooh, not bad. I look forward to seeing where this is going.
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Dizzy H. "Muffin" Muffin

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2010, 04:17:14 am »
Yeah, seems to be pretty good. Nice use of the Magical Astronomy story. Also I smell shipping (not that this is a bad thing, mind you, I mean this is me talking ;))
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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2010, 04:56:52 pm »
Nice use of the Magical Astronomy story.

Contrary to what I like to let people think, I do in fact read ZUN's fiction. It's where I get my hypothesis that ZUN's drunkenness is directly proportional to the quality of his works. The reason the games' plots don't make sense is not because he's too drunk, it's because he's not drunk enough.

Anyway, thanks to fate conspiring against me to not let me go on vacation, here's chapter one in its entirety.



Chapter One

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Seventeen hours, forty-five minutes

-----

Oh dear. Three questions left, five minutes on the clock, and then I'll be free. Two weeks of break, excellent. I'm gonna go to visit the Hakurei Shrine with Maribel tomorrow night, and then we're going to go out to do momijigari in the forest, and on Saturd--

Oh, right, right, four and a half minutes now. Gotta concentrate. Let's see... “Suppose that p and q are prime numbers, n = pq, p>q,...” oh wow, can this get any easier? First, prove that p+q = n + \phi(n) - 1, then subtitute in n = pq, \phi(n) = (p-1)(q-1), distribute, cancel, receive answer. Three minutes and fifty-eight seconds to go, moving on.

Explain what prime numbers and irrationals are.... oh, this is going to be fun. Any arbitrarily long, but finite sequence of the form sqrt(p_1) + sqrt(p_2) + sqrt(p_3) + ... + sqrt(p_n) with p_k, 1 \leq k \leq n is prime. On the other hand, the irrationals are just all of the limit points of Cauchy Sequences of rational numbers (which is just a sequence where after a certain point in it, the terms in it are arbitrarily close to each other), also defined as the non-rational numbers in the completion of the reals, also defined as the set of all Dedekind Cuts over the reals. There is c many of them, i.e. they are uncountable, and they have infinite Lebesgue Measure. They also form a G_{\delta} set under the definition R \ Q = \cup_{n=1}^\infty R\{q_n}, where {q_n}_{n=1}^\infty is an enumeration of the rationals. Mathematically, it's \exists N_0 \in N s.t. if n,m \geq N_0, |a_n - a_m| < \epsilon, \forall \epsilon > 0-- oh, crap, I'm taking too long on this! One question left, moving on!

Explain Cauchy sequences using Fourier Analy-- why, that's what I was going to get to! Fourier Analysis is incredibly awesome. It states that, with some limitations, we can represent almost any periodic function as the infinite sum of a bunch of sines and cosines. All right, how to answer this question... Consider, for instance, the sequence s_n = \sum_{i=1}^n 1/n! This forms a sequence something like 2, 2.5, 2.65, 2.7, 2.71, 2.715, 2.1755, 2.716, 2.7165, 2.7175, and so on... Essentially, it gets arbitrarily close to the number e ~ 2.718281828... Now, each number in the sequence is rational. It's a finite sum of rational numbers. The rationals are a field and thus closed under addition. But when you take the limit as n -> \infty, you get e, which is not a rational number. As for Fourier: Calculate the Fourier Coefficients of 1/t, and then plug them into Parseval's Identity which gives you \sum_{i=1}^\infty |c_n(f)|^2 = \int_{-\pi}^\pi |f(x)|^2 dx. Throwing in Parseval's Identity: \sum_{i=1}^\infty 1/n^{2k}, k \in N. it all winds up converging to expressions of the form pi^{2k}/n, where n is a natural numb-- oh boy, look at the time, this test is OVER and I'm on break!

I put down my pencil and gathered my things while all my fellow students clustered around the teacher's desk, dropping off their exams. I waited out the crowd, then came up to turn in my test. Then I rummaged around in my pocket and pulled out an apple, and placed it on the teacher's desk.

“Ha, ha. Very funny, Renko.”

I grinned at the professor, who happened to be the Sealing Club sponsor. “Just wanted to say hi before break, since you'll be busy and all.”

“Ah. Yeah, you and Maribel go off and dig up graves and whatnot and tell me all about it when you get back.” She turned away from her desk and looked at me, then blinked. “My goodness, you look awfully pale.”

“I'm exhausted,” I admitted, and I was. The adrenaline of test-taking had worn off, and the hours I had spent awake over the past few days studying for my midterms had managed to catch up with me in a space of minutes.

“You sure you don't want a strawberry to raise your blood sugar?”

She offered me one from her basket of goodies, but I shook my head no. “I'm gonna go take a nap, I think.”

“That's probably best. Have a beautiful dream, Renko.”

I yawned and turned away, waving to her over my shoulder as I left. “You too, Okazaki-sensei.”

“As soon as I get all these papers graded!” she yelled, and I laughed and closed the door behind me.

I sighed and leaned on the door. I wanted to fall asleep somewhere as fast as I could. My eyes already felt like they were going to close and not open again for a few more hours. I was ready to crash.

“Renko, Renko...”

“Mary.” I tried to be cheerful, but I was just too tired.

Mary came up beside me, also looking like she hadn't had a good night's sleep in a while. “Renko, let's go to your room, it's closer.”

I nodded, my vision already getting bleary. I didn't have a fraction of the panic energy I had felt in my last class, and I staggered out of the building and headed to the dorms with Mary by my side. I shuffled along down the hallways, opened my room, dropped my stuff on the floor, and fell over onto the spare mattress. Maribel shut the door behind us, tossed her bookbag to the side, fell somewhere next to me on the bed, and the two of us fell fast asleep.

A few hours later, I woke up. I had woken up at 7:00 AM this morning after having fallen asleep four hours before. I finished my midterms at 1:30 PM, had made my way here to sleep, and it was now 6:23, according to the clock.

I groaned a bit and yawned. I was insanely hungry and I had a headache. I had had nothing for breakfast and had managed to swallow an orange during lunch while I had been cramming for my Solid State Physics II midterm. I wanted something to eat. I sat up, wondering where my wallet was--

“Mm...”

I looked down. Mary's arms were around my middle. She had fallen asleep next to me and must have decided to use me as a teddy bear. I was going to pat her head and go back to sleep, and then my stomach rumbled. She murmured in her sleep; my right eye twitched. I had to get something to eat as fast as I could.

So reaching down, I gently pried Maribel's fingers apart. She had intertwined them, which made my task a little harder, but I knew I had to do it. When she woke up, she'd be as hungry as I was.

Speaking of, she'd probably wake up soon and find me missing. I didn't want her to panic, so I pulled a bright neon orange sticky note off of my desk and placed it on the inside of my door where she would surely see it. Then I grabbed my wallet and rushed off.

The cafeteria wasn't far, and it wasn't packed either. Most of the commuters on campus had left long ago, and the only people there were students talking with one another over food, teachers with huge cups of coffee, and--

“Wait, Sanae? Is that you?”

“Ah!” Green hair, blue skirt, white sleeveless button-up with blue tie. Yep, her. She turns around, surprise on her face. “Renko? It's been so long!”

“Hahaha, nice to see you here.” I ran over and hugged her.

Sanae Kotiya is technically my underclassmen and one of my favourite people. She's about four years younger than me and Maribel. As one of the brightest students in her high school, she was allowed to take some courses here at the university before she even graduated. One day, while walking through the religious studies hallway, she saw a sign Mary and I had hung up outside of Prof. Okazaki's class (she teaches physics and a course on esoteric cults of the world, for some bizarre reason) advertising the Sealing Club. We tried to portray ourselves as necromancers back in those days, to scare everyone else away. It backfired horribly at first, since we attracted every New Age freak in Japan, but then they realized that we didn't do ghost summoning or exorcising as a proper necromancer group did. So they left, and now they all just believe we're incompetents, which is fine.

Sanae, though, wasn't fooled. She stuck around, and we couldn't exactly kick her out without her going around and telling everyone we were looking for gaps in reality. That was what the Sealing Club was secretly devoted to: finding the spiritual boundaries of this world, and possibly finding an entrance to Shangri-La. We had good reason to believe that there was a separate reality around this area, occupying the same physical space but not the same... dimension. There was a barrier separating the two, though, so we could not get in and the people or creatures in there could not come out.

But there are cracks. There always are. And after Sanae accidentally managed to stumble into them more than once, Maribel and I were forced to tell her the truth: we were looking for Gensokyo, the paradise of legend for all the things that have been forgotten over time.

After we took her into our confidence, she would come by with permission from her guardians at the shrine where she worked late at night to join us on our expeditions. I swear we were... luckier when she was around. We found more clues with her around than we ever had before. A shoot of bamboo, a large autumn leaf in the middle of spring, cherry blossoms that lit up the sky like fireflies-- all this and more happened when she was around.

She had had to leave a few months ago. Her shrine was relocating, she told us, because the two main guardians were sick and had to go to a different city to get the constant care and attention they needed. The entire shrine staff had to go with them, which meant Sanae had to go. She said good bye to us, and then she left the next day.

And now she was here!

“Why did you come back? Are you moving back for good?” I asked.

Sanae shook her head. “Sorry, I'm not staying for good. But I am spending my break with Okazaki-sensei at her house.”

“That she is,” a voice said. I looked at her, and I wasn't surprised I had taken her for a simple high school girl at first. She was wearing a blue-trimmed sailor uniform and white skirt-- about as old-school as you could get. But it wasn't a student, it was Okazaki-sensei's assistant Kitashirakawa... which is even harder to pronounce than Maribel, so I just call her--

“Chiyuri-sempai.” I nodded to her, and she tipped her sailor cap to me.

“She's staying at our house,” Chiyuri confirmed as she walked to a table with a bowl of soup. She continued talking as we followed her to a table and sat down. “Her guardians asked us to use one of our rooms so Sanae can wrap up some loose ends here.”

“Oh?” I turned to Sanae. “What loose ends?”

Sanae was smiling with undisguised joy. “I want to get my Associate's degree in religious studies!”

“You do?” I was surprised. I didn't think she would have come back for that... then again, who was I kidding? She was a shrine maiden, after all.

“When I left, I only needed three more credits to get my Associate's,” Sanae explained. “I thought it would be a shame to just leave it hanging... even if I don't really need it where I am or for what I'm doing. I just wanted to be able to say I had earned my diploma, you know what I mean?” She smiled again. “So my pa-- guardians pulled some strings and I was able to come back here for a short while. Just long enough to earn my final science credits.” She ate a spoonful of her bowl of vegetable soup. “Plus, I did want to see you and Maribel again. How are you two doing these days?”

“We just finished our midterms today!” I said. “After we stayed up for hours last night playing Melty Blood instead of studying!”

Sanae laughed. “Just like old times.”

“Who won?” Chiyuri asked.

“Mary did, of course. She used Archetype Earth, and A:E's crazy combos never stopped terrifying m-- oh no!” I hit my forehead out of stupidity. “I just woke up from falling asleep after the tests! I was supposed to bring her lunch so she wouldn't have to come looking for me!”

“Ah,” Sanae gasped as I rushed up to the counter and purchased two bowls of soup and two sandwiches as fast as I could.

I rushed back to Chiyuri and Sanae and bowed, apologizing profusely. “So sorry I have to leave, I have to take these to Mary before she wakes up and wonders where I've gone--”

“No worries,” Chiyuri said, waving it off.

“I can see you guys later.” Sanae brushed her hair over her shoulder. “Maybe you can come to Yumemi's place and we can play Melty together again!”

“That sounds great!” I said as I dashed off, leaving the two of them to talk. Chiyuri didn't look older than a high school girl, but she was actually just three years younger than Yumemi, though to be fair Yumemi Okazaki-sensei wasn't very old to begin with. Sanae and Chiyuri would be fine together.

As for me, though, I had to get this soup back to my room as fast as I could. Maribel, being Maribel, would have probably woken up by now and had headed out to look for me, ignoring the sticky note on the door, and being Maribel, she would then wind up getting horribly lost.

I opened the door to my dorm as soon as I could, ready for the worst.

“Mm,” Mary muttered as she turned over in her sleep, all wrapped up in a pillow.

I sighed and closed the door behind me. All my worry had been for nothing.

I set the soup down on the table next to the bed and walked around to Maribel. (Just because I can't pronounce her name correctly doesn't mean I don't know what it is. She has yet to figure this out.)

“Hey,” I said in a quiet voice. “Hey, Mary, wake up. Wake up, aren't you hungry?”

No response. I shook her arm a bit. “Mary, wake up, it's lunchtime and you're way past sleeping off your exhaustion.”

She still didn't wake up. I sighed and backed off. I looked over at the balcony and pulled back my mattress where we had fallen asleep the night before. Moving the cups of soup off to the side, I moved that mattress back where it was supposed to be and sat down on it. Then I sat and ate my soup, waiting for Mary to wake up.

I had already gotten bored of drawing silly scribbles in one of my old notebooks when Mary finally opened her eyes and stretched.

“Mmm,” she groaned. “Renko? What time is it?”

“It's 7:19,” I replied, closing my notebook. “You've been asleep for the past six hours.”

“Really?” Mary sat up and rubbed sleep from her eyes. “Six hours?”

“Eh, I guess it's not that big a deal,” I said, trying to put it into perspective. “We've been pulling late-nighters and all-nighters this past week. At least now you're fine, right?”

“Six hours? During the day?” Mary kept rubbing her head, her blue eyes wide.

“Eh, don't worry about it, we've been exhausted for the past week,” I reassured her. “You didn't miss out on anything.”

She still looked worried. I stood up and poured Maribel's cold soup into a bowl, and tossed it into the microwave to re-heat it. “Oh, that reminds me. I saw Sanae today.”

“You did?” That seemed to distract her a bit. Maybe Mary felt guilty about sleeping so long. “She's back?”

“Not permanently,” I replied. “Just visiting. She's staying at Okazaki-sensei's house.” I took out the bowl of soup, pulled out a plastic spoon, and handed them to Maribel, who attacked it with hungry ferocity. “You're welcome.”

“Thanks, Renko,” she told me.

She ate in silence while I opened up my notebook again to doodle. Then she spoke up. “Uh... Renko?”

“Hm?”

“Can you toss me my day planner? It's right next to you inside my bookbag.”

“Sure.” I turned to my left and opened up her bookbag. Yep, her day planner was the small notebook right inside. I pulled it out and reached over the table to hand it to Maribel.

“Thank you.” She pulled a pen out of her pocket and wrote something down.

“I assume you've written down the date for our expedition tomorrow night?” I asked.

“Of course.” She tapped her pen against her chin, then spoke up again. “Wait, if Sanae is back, will she be coming with us?”

“Maybe. Damn, I forgot to get her new cell phone number.”

“She has a new cell phone?”

“Probably,” I said, pulling out my cell phone and dialing her old number. “Didn't her old number stop working when she left? Probably out of range.”

In only a few seconds, I had a response. “Hello?”

“Ah, Sanae. Your old number still works?”

“Oh, Renko. Hey there. Yeah, I still have this old cell phone. I guess it works now that I'm back.”

“Did you never charge it while you were gone?”

A short pause. “Ah-- yes, I mean no, I charged it when I got back.”

“You didn't have electricity?”

“Not really...”

“I didn't know Sendai was that backwards.”

“Uh....”

She was lying, I knew. I had known ever since Sanae had first told me that she was moving, all those months back. Still, if she was lying, it was probably for a good reason. Sanae was a good girl in the best sense of the phrase; she wouldn't conceal something from me and Mary for no reason at all. Oh well, I wouldn't press her for it.

“Either way, Sanae, would you like to come with us tomorrow night? Me and Mary are going on an expedition, just like old times.”

“Oh, searching for cracks in the boundaries.... sorry, I don't think I can. I've got stuff planned tomorrow.”

“Okay, then. Give me a call if you change your mind.”

“Will do. See you, Renko!”

“See ya.”

I hung up and closed my cell. I looked over at Maribel, who had pulled out a calculator for some reason and was jotting things down in her notebook.

I went over to the calendar and marked the day off. “Wednesday finished... Thursday, expedition night.”

“How late are we going to be out?” Maribel asked.

“I don't know. Maybe 1:00 AM like last time.”

Maribel looked pained. “That late?”

“You stay up all the time, Mary. How is this any different?”

She lowered her eyes. “In that case, I should go to sleep now.”

“But you just woke up...”

“Can I stay here?” she asked, wrapping herself up in my covers. “I don't want to go back out to my dorm.”

She looked so adorable wrapped up in my sheets that I sighed and nodded. “Yes, you may.”

“Thanks, Renkobon.”

Such a silly nickname. “Sweet dreams, Mary.”

She smiled at me and without another word, Maribel lay down. Before long I heard the sounds of her soft snoring.

I sighed and pulled out my research notebook. Tomorrow would be a long night, and fortune rewards the prepared.

My notebook fell open to a certain page. It was a sketch Sanae had herself drawn, a sketch of a mountain set against the autumnal sky, complete with orchards and rivers and a waterfall. It was what she had seen when she had fallen into the border the last time we had gone on expedition.

I looked up at Maribel's sleeping body and looked back down. I turned the page and wrote the next day's date at the top.

Expedition: Thursday, October 17th.
Site: Former site of Moriya Shrine


Sanae might not like this, but it was a hunch. And if she wasn't around to notice, well then...

I glanced at the overly detailed drawing she had produced the last time, and looked up at the title. I had to wonder.

“... Youkai Mountain, eh?”

-----

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Seventeen hours, eleven minutes

End of Chapter One.



Boy, this is being written fast! Mainly 'cause I really wanna get the intro stuff out of the way. Also, thanks to bofh for rambling on IRC about math stuff, because there's no way I know any of that. :S

Drake

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2010, 06:38:20 pm »
Hahaha making fun of Sana

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2010, 06:54:54 pm »
YES RENKO YESSSS
Oh look, a Renkobon. Renko always makes me smi-WHY DOES A:E KEEP POPPING UP

I don't know how using questions I asked bofh is making fun of me, but even if it is, I don't care because Renko. >:<
« Last Edit: January 07, 2010, 07:00:18 pm by Sanamite Rave »

Dizzy H. "Muffin" Muffin

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2010, 07:14:26 pm »
Still good so far. But one thing stuck out -- the whole reason Renko can't pronounce "Maribel" is because it isn't a Japanese name. Wouldn't Renko find "Kitashirakawa" easier to pronounce?
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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2010, 08:58:15 pm »
Oh man I'm highly interested in this one.

Once again Ruro fails to disappoint.

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2010, 12:15:34 am »
Extraordinarily nice!
Except the math part that brings back bad memory's.
Bella gerant alii, tu felix Gensokyo nube. Nam quae Mars aliis, dat tibi diva Venus.

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2010, 01:43:13 am »
The math bit made me  ???

I like it so far ¦3

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2010, 08:51:20 pm »
Still good so far. But one thing stuck out -- the whole reason Renko can't pronounce "Maribel" is because it isn't a Japanese name. Wouldn't Renko find "Kitashirakawa" easier to pronounce?

Ah... bu-- ah... yeah, good point. >_> I'll worry about making that consistent later. (I've also noticed stupid spelling errors here and there that I'll go back to as well.)

And the math gives me bad memories too. :( Anyway, Wednesday update go.



Chapter Two

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Sixteen hours, thirty-one minutes

-----

The only real problem with expedition nights is that the days are really, really boring.

It was Thursday, about 3 o' clock, and I had nothing to do. Maribel had gone to the library to read books early in the morning, around seven-ish, and since I hate being woken up early on my days off, I didn't come along. I had woken up groggy and sleepy while Maribel bustled around my dorm (doesn't she ever go back to hers?), and before I knew it she had made me some waffles and set them down in front of me as she went out the door, waving bye.

They were delicious. I was well-fed. But my mind had nothing to do at all. I felt like Sherlock Holmes after an interesting case, thinking that there was absolutely nothing out in the world to occupy my mind. Sleep was out of the question; I had woken up too late already. Spending several hours on the computer destroying other people at mahjong netplay got boring after a while, and there were only so many C-Riesbyfe combos I could perfect before my brain decided to distract itself with something, anything.

I looked out the window. Argh, cursed sunlight. That... thing that my eyes could do, to look up at the sky and from the position of the stars and moon and from there know exactly where and when I was, I could only do it at night, with more than one star in the sky. The sun indicated that it was 3:22, but without another star in the sky to use as a second base, my eyes couldn't tell me where I was.

Maribel's strange eyes were more useful, in my own opinion. She could see where the cracks in the boundary were. And this didn't apply just to the boundary separating us from Gensokyo, it applied to boundaries everywhere. Like the boundary of bullets and hitboxes, good choices and Nice Boat choices, and the boundary between normal operations and the blue screen of death, all of which were useful for Kana Anaberal (given her permanent NEET status, this wasn't a chore; Kotohime always told us she was a rather sickly girl), and the main reason we were allowed so often in the Anaberal Manor. We called it Okazaki-sensei's house, but it was really Kana's.

Speaking of. Okazaki-sensei was still around, wasn't she? She still had that class on religion on Thursdays. We were professor and student, but outside of class we were good friends. It was she who had fed my love of physics until I decided to take it as a major instead of chemistry, and it was she who had taken my and Maribel's request for the creation of the Sealing Club seriously.

Plus, she played a mean H-M Ryougi. And she was a great conversation partner if you could get her started on something science-related.

So I headed down to Yumemi's class, deciding that I would enter on a pretext of picking up my test from yesterday. (I could also learn my grade in her class, which would be nice.) Then I'd just stick around.

I got lucky; once I got to the physics lecture hall, half the class was already out of their seats and out the door. The other half were turning in their own midterms. I wondered for a brief moment what a midterm on esoteric cults of the world would look like. Heh, glad I wasn't taking that class.

Either way, I managed to make my way into the hall with ease. And when Yumemi had finished getting the last few stragglers out of the room, I waved hi.

“Hey, Renko!” She returned the wave and after stuffing the tests into her briefcase, we walked off together.

She was the very model of the physicist I hoped to become, I realized. All of my other physics colleagues, both students and professors, were sickly, weak fellows with skin so unexposed to the sun that they looked jaundiced (and a few of them probably were). They had intelligence, yes, but they also had weak characters. They thought that by virtue of knowing a few more math problems than the biology students and practicing a “purer” discipline, they were somehow more important and more intelligent. I couldn't stand it, nor could I stand those people who identified as scientists, implying that they were therefore super smart.

“It annoys me that these people are supposed to be what I'll look forward to in a few years' time.”

Yumemi was also a good listener. She had bought us milkshakes (strawberry for her, lime for me) and sat there sipping quietly while I went on.

“But Yumemi, you're different. You're full of energy and life. Vitality. You have an actual personality, and it shows. Students fight to get into your classes, because you're a great teacher and you have a knack for making physics interesting, even fun.”

It was true. I had fought in my freshman year to get into her introduction to physics class. Sometimes I regretted using brass knuckles to get to the signup list, but it wasn't very often.

“The reason for the second part is that I'm extroverted, unlike everyone else in academia. It's called natural charisma.” She took another sip of her milkshake and set it down. “The first part is even simpler. I'm a genius.”

She said it without a hint of pretention. More like she was stating a fact. “I always have been. I was once Yumemi Okazaki, the child prodigy of Japan who would help bring our country into the forefront of scientific technology. If the other physicists here are always trying to make themselves look smart, I'm partially to blame. I don't have to try.”

I nodded. She wasn't exactly bluffing. I had read all the articles on Yumemi Okazaki, one of the famous Okazaki family members, also showing signs of being a brilliant scientist at the age of eight. It was why she had managed to become a professor at age 16, something unheard of in this country until her. She was destined to be the Einstein of the East, the leader of the new science--

But by age 18, everything had changed.

“Yumemi,” I asked, “If you're as smart as you say you are-- which you are-- why are you still teaching here, and not at some super-expensive university?”

She raised an eyebrow. “You're not asking the whole question.”

My face flushed. It was a dead giveaway that Yumemi was right. Damnit!

“I knew it.” There was a slight gleam of triumph in Yumemi's eyes. The girl really was a genius, in interpersonal relations as well as science. “So tell me, what did you really want to ask?”

“What happened to you, Yumemi?” There wasn't much point in mincing words now. “Why aren't you president of your own elite college of science nerds by now, if you were so big back in the day?”

Yumemi was not one to take a pensive moment and then respond. She responded with a slightly bitter tone. “Because as smart as I am, as smart as Chiyuri is, and as convincing as we are together, once people decide that you've gone a bit off the deep end, you stay that way.”

“It's a very long story,” Yumemi replied preemptively to my question. “And though I'm still not allowed to tell it to just anybody... I can tell you that it's why I didn't think you or Maribel are crazy when you told me you wanted to have a club so you could find Gensokyo.”

I nodded. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“You're quite welcome.” Yumemi sipped her milkshake. “At least that whole mess taught me that you can't take the future for certain.”

“Come again?”

“Your fate isn't set in stone, Renko. I mean, look at me.” She sat back in her chair. “I was, and am, a genius. I was supposed to be the next big thing, writing papers that rewrote the laws of physics themselves. I should be the head of my own research laboratory in Japan-- heck, I should be in America right now, teaching at a top university, and spending my free time working on the Large Hadron Collider! And look at me now.” She chuckled. “I went from being Japan's top star to another eccentric college teacher who wears a cape to class.”

“The students love your cape,” I said, fingering the creases of my own capelet.

“Only the weird ones like you, Renko.” But Yumemi had been cheered up. That was the way she was; when she got depressed, she would make more and more nasty jokes aimed at herself. Anyone else would mistake it for self-deprecating wit, but I'd been her student and her friend for too long to fall for it.

“What I'm saying is--” Yumemi paused to finish off her milkshake. “That you can expect a whole lot out of the future, but your plans can be derailed in a matter of days, minutes by the whims of the world.” She pointed her finger at me and jabbed it in the air with each word. “Don't. Take. Anything. For. Granted.”

“I know.”

“Of course you know, Renko. You're a smart cookie like me. But do you REALLY know?”

“Hah?” I... really didn't get what she was talking about now.

“Let me tell you a story.” Yumemi set her empty milkshake down on the table and wiped her mouth clean with a napkin. “There was a man and his servant, and they lived in Baghdad, back in the days when Persia was the great power of the east. This man sent his servant to the marketplace to pick up some trinkets, a bit of food. The servant goes and gets it, but while he's in the marketplace, he bumps into someone. It's Death herself, and she looks at him, straight in the eyes. The servant panics and rushes out of the marketplace and back to his master.

“The servant tells his master what has happened in the marketplace, how Death saw him and glared at him. In sheer terror, he begs his master to let him have the fastest horse for tonight and ride to Samarra, several miles away. Surely, Death will not be able to track him down there.

“The master is a good man. He gives his frightened servant the horse he needs and waves him off as the servant rides off to Samarra. Then, to settle his own suspicions, he goes into the marketplace himself, and before long, he too comes face to face with Death.

“'Why did you glare at my servant earlier today?' the master asks Death.

“Death looks at him, confused. 'I didn't glare at your servant. I was just rather surprised to see him in Baghdad today. You see, I have an appointment with him tonight, in Samarra.'”

Yumemi paused after her story. “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Ever read it? Scheherezade was very good at suspense stories.”

“I...”

That story sent a chill up my spine. For a moment, I couldn't think straight or do much of anything.

“Death is inevitable, Renko.” Yumemi's voice was firm; again, she was just stating a fact. “One day, you and I will be fertilizing a rose garden somewhere. See this?” She put a hand over her heart. “It's beating now. One day, it's going to stop. Might be today, might be in twenty years from now. But it'll happen.”

I put my hand over my heart as well. I felt as if a cold sweat had broken out on my forehead. And then it hit me. All those diagrams of the heart I had seen when I was younger, of blood pumping through the chambers, through the aorta, pushed out of the ventricles-- what was there to stop my heart from stopping? Nothing.

All it would take was one tiny nudge...

“Like I said.” She was drinking from a glass of water now. “Don't take anything for granted. Not time, not life. Those are the only two things anyone can take from you that you can never get back.”

“Is this what they call an existential crisis?” I asked, trying to give her at least a weak smile.

Yumemi nodded. I could tell she wanted to give me a hug, but she was restraining herself. “Yes. You won't believe how many of those I get in my class.”

“Your religion class?”

“Actually, more in my physics class.” She winked. “Just remember, Renko, don't worry about it. You can't add a single moment to your life by obsessing about how it's going to end, so don't even bother, just use it.

“... And always remember that some people have far less time than others.”

At the time, I didn't ask why she added that last line. One of many clues missed, I guess.

Yumemi yawned. “What time is it, Renko?”

“It's--” I looked up at the sky. “... 3:50. Man, I've still got so much damn time to kill.”

“Time to kill?” Yumemi frowned. I knew that frown. It was her professional “I just explained this shit already” frown when she thought her students weren't paying attention.

“Sorry. Time to use.”

“Much better.” Yumemi got up and picked up her briefcase. “Aren't you going on expedition tonight?”

“Yeah. Maribel's in the library getting stuff done before we take off at 10.”

“Ten o' clock?” Yumemi seemed... amused, somewhat. “What time did she wake up?”

“Uhh, she woke up before I did... she left at seven-ish, so she prob'ly woke up around six.”

“Hm.” Yumemi smiled. “Take care of her, or else she might fall asleep in the middle of your job.”

“Ah, I know. She's an early bird, that one.” I looked up at Yumemi. “Why do you ask?”

“Because,” the professor replied, “The reason Scheherezade always won was because she took advantage of the Sultan's early bedtime.”

“Huh?” I had never read A Thousand and One Arabian Nights; the reference was lost on me.

Yumemi shot me one of her annoyed glares. “Philistine.”

“Hey, that's mean, Okazaki-sensei.”

“Do you know what the word 'philistine' comes from, Renko?”

“... uh, no.”

She frowned. “You should take my religion class.”

“I don't need it for a physics major!”

“See, that's the problem with you math and physics types. You never want to learn something that you have no immediate use for, so you miss out on all sorts of cool stuff.”

“What are you talking about? You teach physics!”

“I have a doctorate in religious studies and a master's in zoology.” She took another drink of water, and grinned at my shocked expression. “What? You didn't think I actually knew physics before I started teaching your class? Heck no, I was just learning it as I went.” She winked. “Otherwise, it would have been boring.”

“Okay,” I said, rubbing my fingers against my temples. “Before my mind breaks at the implications of what you just said, quick question, 'cause you just reminded me.”

“Shoot. Preferably not bullets, I'd hate to have to dodge those again.”

“A doctorate in religious studies? Is that why Sanae is staying with you?”

Yumemi raised an eyebrow. “How do you know Sanae's staying in the Anaberal Manor?”

“Because I ran into Sanae earlier today and she told me herself.”

“Ah.” The professor nodded. “Yeah, she's back from Sendai for the next semester. She's got almost enough credits to get an Associate's in religious studies, only needs the last three or so to top it off. Sure, they're science credits, but she needs to pass a final exam in religion too. I can help her with studying for both of them.”

Interesting. Hadn't Yumemi realized that Sanae saying she had gone to Sendai was a lie? She seemed to believe it enough.

“And her guardians are letting her stay with you because...?”

“Because I'm the Sealing Club sponsor.” She grinned. “I always knew that sponsoring you crazy girls would pay off somehow.”

“Gee, thanks.” I checked the time by glancing up at the sky. “3:57. Man, I need something to do with my time. I have all our supplies, all our research already done, but I have to sit around for a few more hours before I actually get to do anything.”

“Hmm.” Yumemi rubbed her chin. “Tell you what. You come with me to my office, grade over two hundred freshman test papers and then come in and feed me strawberries while I soak in a hot bubble bath, and when you're done we'll watch Doctor Who on my very large widescreen monitor setup with a four-speaker surround sound system.”

I turned to her slowly.

“... is it season ten?”

“Of course. I've also got strawberries and cream in my refrigerator there that you can have. You in?”

“Am I! Lead on, Okazaki-sensei!”

“Awesome. I'll explain Heisenberg-Robinson's Uncertainty Principle on the way there, then.”

“I thought you didn't like math or physics.”

“Oh, I can't stand 'em. Twice as pure as biology and psychology, and four times as boring to make up for it. But I came up with the idea of this yesterday, then I looked it up online and saw that Heisenberg and Robinson had beaten me to it! So naturally I'm going to try and explain it better than they ever could.”

Yumemi shot me a giddy smile. I sighed.

“... I guess that makes some kind of sense.”

So I wandered off to Yumemi's office, making sure to leave my cell phone on for Maribel to give me a call.

-----

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Sixteen hours, nineteen minutes

End of Chapter Two.



Good news: Thanks to this fic saving my desire to write, White Rose is progressing ever so slowly. Hooray. \o/

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2010, 11:11:07 pm »
Haha nice.

Shit, this just reminded me that I gotta go update MY fic now.

Solais

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2010, 11:55:34 pm »
I like this. Very very much.

Also, I knew that joke with the Death, but I didn't knew it was from 101 Nights (Is it 101? It's translated as 1001 Nights here).

<Ruro> Oh that is just such a glaring error AAAAAAGH HOW DID I NOT NOTICE
« Last Edit: January 14, 2010, 12:53:33 am by さくら るろうに »

Kuma

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2010, 12:24:22 am »
Fuck yes, Yumemi is the best teacher ever!

Ruro, you make me want to right, but I have no talent <:3c
Wotters gonna' wot

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2010, 05:46:19 am »
All I can think is ... "You know, people from Gensokyo must have so much (sarcastic) fun refraining from clearly spelling out Gensokyo to their muggle friends ..."
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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2010, 11:07:03 pm »
“Tell you what. You come with me to my office, grade over two hundred freshman test papers and then come in and feed me strawberries while I soak in a hot bubble bath, and when you're done we'll watch Doctor Who on my very large widescreen monitor setup with a four-speaker surround sound system.”
That's what I call: "A offer you can't refuse!"
Bella gerant alii, tu felix Gensokyo nube. Nam quae Mars aliis, dat tibi diva Venus.

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2010, 03:14:02 am »
Needs moar update.

Not rushin you or anything, just letting you know - you've got readers for this'n.

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2010, 10:21:17 pm »
Weekly updates are a joy~



Chapter Three

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Sixteen hours, ten minutes

-----

We were right about to watch Planet of the Dead when my cell phone fell off the table from vibrating so much.

“NO,” Yumemi gasped. “You cannot possibly leave before we watch this! You can't!”

“But it's expedition time!”

“PLANET OF THE DEAD IS MORE IMPORTANT!” She declared, pulling out a black and silver stick. She flipped out the plastic casing within it and lit it up red. “FACE A SITH LORD'S WRATH!”

*And thus, Darth Okazaki is born. You're welcome, Touhou fandom.

“Gah!” I pulled out my own green lightsaber and began to duel with her as I answered Maribel's call with my other hand. “Hello?”

“Renko! Where the heck are you?!”

“In Yumemi's office house... thing,” I said, jumping back to avoid a low sweep of Yumemi's red lightsaber. “I was helping her grade papers and feeding her strawberries in the bathtub.”

“... you WHAT?!”

“Doctor Who,” I explained, picking up a chair to shield me from the professor's onslaught. “I couldn't resist!”

“Whatever! Did you even check the time, Renko?”

“HAH!” I laughed as I beat Yumemi back with the power of the Force. To Maribel: “Uh, no. Should I have?”

“It's 10:55! We should have started almost an hour ago!” She didn't sound too happy. Whoops.

“What, really?”

“YES, REALLY! NOW GET YOUR PHYSICIST ASS DOWN HERE BEFORE I USE FORCE LIGHTNING ON YOU!”

“-- wait, how did you know I was LARPing Star Wars?”

“Because Yumemi's making those woom woom lightsaber sound effects in the background.”

“Hi, Maribel,” she called through my phone as she lunged at me with dual-wielding red lightsabers.

“I'll be there as soon as I can,” I promised Maribel.

“Hmph. You'd better. See you at the baseball field.”

“See you in a bit.”

I hung up just as Yumemi launched Force Lightning at me, complete with the electricity sound effects. “Hahahaha! Renko Skywalker, come to the Dark Side!”

I sighed. “Sorry, Okazaki-sensei. I have to get going. I'm late to the expedition tonight.”

“No problem,” she said, switching off her lightsabers. “Sorry for making you late.”

“I owe you a lightsaber duel,” I said, tossing my green lightsaber to her. “Thanks for today, sensei.”

She nodded. “Good luck with finding something tonight,” she said as I picked up my jacket and backpack.

“Don't worry,” I said as I let myself out the door, remembering our destination. “I'm very confident we will.”

-----

“The baseball field late at night. You'd think we were practicing around-the-clock to make it to Koshien.”

“YOU ARE AN HOUR AND TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES LATE!”

“An hour, twenty-six minutes, and fifty-five seconds late, to be exact.”

“I WAS ROUNDING.”

“I am not one to be debated on matters of time~” I came up to Maribel and tried to touch her shoulders. “Come on, don't be like that, Mary...”

“Don't touch me.” She was in a bit of a huff. Justified, so I couldn't help feeling bad.

She stalked off to the side of the baseball field, where she had left our prepared supplies. I didn't say anything as she hauled my bike out of the shadows. She pulled out her own bicycle, took her seat, and rode off without speaking to me. I followed her.

My backpack was light compared to hers; Maribel's backpack was full of research books from the campus library. I would have asked her if I could have carried hers, but she wouldn't have responded. Instead I waited for her righteous anger to burn out. It would, given time, especially if she tired herself out first.

We didn't need to speak to go to the Moriya Shrine, anyway. We had visited the shrine before, with Sanae. It was only a fifteen- or twenty-minute bike ride, but somehow it seemed to drag on hours and hours. Watching Maribel's ever-receding form in front of me was painful.

Like me, she hadn't changed her clothes, though she had hitched up her dress onto her legs for riding the bike. I wondered if this was a good idea, given what we did on our expeditions, but I remembered that no one would expect enlightened, female university students in the 21st century to be wearing long dresses and poofy hats. In case anyone spotted us, they would write us off as harmless fools. Just like the Sealing Club, this was a good thing. If people took us seriously, they might start looking into our activities, and we couldn't have that.

I followed Maribel in silence, keeping an eye on the reflective panels attached to her bike. No cars in front of us or behind us. Kyoto was a big, busy city with an active nightlife, but not around the university. Behind the university, already located on the edge of the city, was strictly a residential area.

It was surreal, going through this area; we at the university considered ourselves to be cosmopolitan and modern, but anyone who took a ten-minute bike ride behind the main campus would find themselves in old Heian-Kyō. This place had been largely ignored by developers and industrialists since the Taisho era. Around here, there were traditional Japanese homes, with the sloping roofs and all, and a few large mansions; this was a historical neighborhood, one that had retained a certain air of... mystique. This neighborhood was intriguing, almost enigmatic. It was like being transported to the past, in a way. The only things you had to remind yourself that you were in the 21st century were the streetlights. Even the streets had retained their original pavement, mostly because few people here kept cars.

And there went Maribel, with me following her, riding through what could be mistaken for a street of the Meiji era, zooming along on our bikes.

In a neighborhood like this, it was no wonder that a place like the Moriya Shrine could have lasted as long as it did. Though it was a world away, the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof would have worked well here. These people clung to their traditional lifestyle in the midst of all the clutter and rush of modern life. One of those traditions was respect to the old gods. The legend of Mishaguji being subjugated by the frog goddess Suwako was old; the legend of Suwako being defeated by Kanako was even older. Back in the safety of the classroom walls, it was easy to listen to people like Okazaki-sensei discuss this kind of fantasy legend with reason, with a certain professional detachment. But around here, those legends were real. So real, in fact, that people had until just recently come to the Moriya Shrine to pay their respects to Suwako and Kanako, day after day, week after week, for years, their last loyal servants.

Despite their devotion, though, time took its toll. Suwako-Kanako worship had once been prevalent in Kyoto, according to Sanae, but that was way back in Meiji. By the time Taisho rolled around, interest had already been waning. Almost ninety years later, the children of those who had believed in Suwako and Kanako were being claimed by old age. Thanks to the growing secularization movement amongst young people, Suwako and Kanako had not only been ignored, but actively derided as relics of a bygone, ignorant age. There was simply no place for worship of the old deities like that anymore.

With their worship base gone, Sanae told me, there was not much point in staying here in Kyoto. Even the most derelict shrine needed occasional donations, but now there was no income whatsoever. She was a rare case herself; she was young, but she had from childhood been one of the last remaining devotees of Kanako and Suwako. I had never understood how an orphaned seventeen-year-old girl had managed to obtain the deed to a hundred-year-old shrine, but somehow she had managed it. All the income from the Moriya Shrine went to her, to pay for her western-style schooling. It had run out constantly, but she had managed to snag donations from local fundraisers and historical societies, enough to keep herself afloat and keep food in the kitchen.

It was for this reason that she had seized upon the university's offer to allow high school students to take college courses for free if they had enough credits to graduate from their home school. The idea was to make them continue their schooling here, and though she didn't have much money or time,  Sanae took full advantage of their offer. It was for this reason that she had met me and Maribel on campus, hanging up fliers for the Sealing Club. She was so close to getting her degree without even having finished high school; she did fantastically well. Naturally gifted, and with a tremendous work ethic to match; she was unstoppable.

Even then, she was always on the brink of bankruptcy. When the two main guardians of her shrine-- the two remaining ones, I assumed, though I wondered where they had been the whole time Sanae was trying to fight off poverty-- got sick, there really was no choice. Sanae had made the best of her situation thus far, but it was ultimately hopeless; with no worshipers, no money, and no chance, she was forced to say good bye to us and relocate to one of the few remaining Kanako-Suwako shrines, off in a rural area of Sendai.

She had returned now, but she wouldn't have returned to the Moriya Shrine. The shrine was doomed to sink into ruin with no one to look after it. But it still stood, at least for now. And it was worth investigating. Truth be told, I had wanted to investigate this place ever since I had heard about it, but out of respect for Sanae, I did not. She might be getting it appraised, possibly sold to the city-- I had heard something about making it a designated United Nations World Heritage Site, though I didn't put much stock in that happening-- but for now, Sanae's priorities were elsewhere.

This was our golden opportunity to investigate. And investigate it we would.

We were there before I knew it. The streets around here, paved during the Meiji era, were in remarkably good shape. It wasn't hard for us to make it here on our bikes. We soon pulled up to the street-facing path to the Moriya Shrine. But before we could walk in, we had to talk.

She halted her bike and got off, hauling it into some bushes near the entrance to the path so it wouldn't be seen. I was right behind her, but she was already hurrying down the path. I let my bike crash on the pavement as I jumped off.  “Mary,” I called out before Maribel could take a step down the path. “Mary, stop.”

“What?” She turned halfway, enough to see me and glare at me. The sky was cloudy, with no moonlight. There was a light right next to us, a lamp post on the top of the right-hand gate of the Moriya Shrine. It was a city post, so it was still on. The light shone on Maribel's blonde hair, making it look almost like gold, but she was turned away from it, so her eyes were in shadow. This didn't stop her from glaring.

“I'm sorry for being so late.” I looked down at the ground. I really had come to regret arriving late. That wasn't fair to Maribel, who had woken up early and had done tons of last-minute research on our destination while I had lazed around and watched TV with Okazaki-sensei.

“I won't do it again,” I continued. “I promise.”

She didn't budge.

“Well, ah... I might do it by accident. But I won't do it on purpose like this again. I'll keep my phone on pocket on vibrate or on a loud ring. But as best as I can, I'll get to our meetings on time.”

Maribel turned towards me the entire way. The light now reached her face. She was still glaring for a few moments. Then she relaxed her blue-eyed gaze and nodded. “In that case, I forgive you.”

I sighed with relief as I opened my arms. She smiled and hugged me.

I hadn't wanted to start out our expedition on a sour note. ... and as Okazaki-sensei had taught me, time was short. If something went wrong on our expedition, then I don't think I could have lived with myself if I hadn't asked Maribel for forgiveness before something could go wrong.

“Hide your bike in the shrubs,” Maribel mumbled against my shirt as she pulled away from our hug. “So that no one will think that we're looters here to ransack the shrine.”

“Sure thing.” I went back to my bike and picked it up out of the street. No one was on the streets around here so late at night; most of the people in this neighborhood were older people anyway. We didn't have much to fear from intruders. I guided my bike to the same shrub Mary had hidden hers, hoisted it up, and set it next to its companion.

“Do you want to leave your backpack here, Mary?” I asked. Mine was only carrying a notebook, so we could pick up any artifacts that may pass through from the other world to ours. Hers was full of books, enough that she couldn't zip up the pockets the whole way.

She shook her head. “There's a decent chance of rain tonight. I don't want my stuff to get wet.”

“Eh, okay.” I made sure our bikes were secure and joined Maribel on the entrance to the cobblestone path leading to the Moriya Shrine. It wasn't visible from here, but there was a torii gate a ways down the path that showed me that we were in the right place.

Maribel turned to me with a smile. “Shall we?”

I tipped my hat. “Lead the way, ma'am.”

Together, we set down the path to the Moriya Shrine.

-----

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Sixteen hours, five minutes
– WARNING – LESS THAN ONE HOUR LEFT FOR TODAY – WARNING –


End of Chapter Three.



And now, the mystery deepens. :3
Also, I must now get someone to make a shop of Darth Vader with Yumemi's head. >_>

Esifex

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2010, 12:27:49 am »
You have created a monster

For this sin you shall burn

Burn with your monster

ahahaha xD

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2010, 03:53:02 am »
Whee, suspense! Can't wait to see what happens next.
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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2010, 04:55:36 am »
Star wars Yumemi...

...I.thought we agreed that she was Han :V

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2010, 08:54:50 am »
No, that'd be Maribel.
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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2010, 12:18:21 pm »
Anatevka? In Kyoto? Well, ... *imagine folks in black white kimonos who addressing their questions to Rabbi-sama  surprisingly fitting.
Anyway, you did a great job creating a subtle suspense in a chapter where "nothing happened".
Bella gerant alii, tu felix Gensokyo nube. Nam quae Mars aliis, dat tibi diva Venus.

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2010, 11:03:31 pm »
Star wars Yumemi...

...I.thought we agreed that she was Han :V

Yumemi is Han. However, if she were given a choice, I think Yumemi would try to be Darth Okazaki instead.

Anyway, let's get going. I was going to update this yesterday, but I didn't want to distract from Odda C. finishing his fic. Again, congratulations. \o/



Chapter Four

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Sixteen hours, five minutes
– WARNING – LESS THAN ONE HOUR LEFT FOR TODAY – WARNING –


-----

Maribel looked up at the sky and frowned. “Get your flashlight out, Renko.”

It was a dark night, with clouds covering the light of the moon. The last remaining streetlamp was behind us, and we were far enough in on the Moriya Shrine grounds-- past the first torii gate-- that no one outside would be able to see our flashlights.

Well, my flashlight, at least. Maribel did have a flashlight, but it was one of those piercingly bright, overpowered ones that you could make a Batsignal with. It was pretty big, and it was also too bright for our purposes. But we brought it along just in case. Ever since Maribel had wandered into that strange bamboo forest that one time*, she had carried some sort of lamp along with her.

*See: Changeability of Strange Dream

Even then, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to use it just now. Maybe further on inside the Shrine itself. As it stood, I pulled two flashlights off of my backpack and handed one to Maribel. “Here you are.”

“Thanks.” We continued past the second torii gate. Dark or not, I wasn't scared. These shrine grounds were a safe place to be. Maribel looked slightly nervous, though; she kept glancing at her watch, which lit up when she pressed a button. 11: 50. 11:51. 11:52.

I was about to say something when the third and last torii loomed just ahead of us. I honestly hadn't noticed it before; I was watching the light of Maribel's flashlight on the ground so I knew where to step. I didn't like the idea of her going in front of me-- I didn't like the risk. Whatever happened to us, I wanted it to happen to me first. I didn't want her in danger. ... and I will admit that I wanted to be spirited away to Gensokyo too.

We slipped beneath the third torii and onto the front yard of the Moriya Shrine.

Sanae had abandoned it several months ago, and while that hadn't been enough to let the shrine fall this far into disrepair, I remembered that the Moriya Shrine had never been in the best condition to begin with. She hadn't been able to afford my advice of hiring a roofer. In any case, the shrine looked as if it had been abandoned for years, not months. The doors were cracked and the walls were decaying. The roof was caving in and the entire place looked dark and foreboding. The grounds of the shrine were no better, but at least those had the explanation that Sanae had just stopped sweeping. There was no need for everything else to look... hollow was the best way of putting it.

“It's like... someone gutted it,” Maribel said quietly. “Pulled out all the peaceful atmosphere of the inside and took it somewhere.”

“Do you still want to go in?” I asked.

Maribel looked over at me, scoffed, and stepped over the debris that littered the front yard to the door of the shrine. Guess we were going in. Holding on firmly to my backpack’s straps, I followed her.

-----

Getting in wasn’t much of a problem. The shōji that made up the entrance to the side of the shrine were torn wide enough that we could just get in through the hole.

The Moriya Shrine had seen better days. At various points, the roof had broken open, and rain had managed to get into the shrine and ruin the tatami. There were no decorations, not even outside; there were no lanterns left at all.

“This shrine is... built oddly,” Maribel observed, speaking in a hushed tone. “Were there never any small auxilary shrines, or is that just me?”

“I don’t remember,” I replied. I did kind of remember seeing a komainu set outside the last time I had been here, but I hadn’t seen them this time. Maybe looters had taken them? But that didn’t make any sense-- I did remember that the last time I had been here, I had seen a board full of archaic, long-abandoned ema that Sanae had never had the heart to take down. Why would looters be interested in stealing ema, of all things?

“There’s something... off about this place.”

Maribel’s flashlight danced around the room until she found the sliding door leading to the next room. “There’s definitely a lot of small cracks in the border here. Too many.”

“Too many? Didn’t you find dozens of cracks in the border when we visited the Hakurei Shrine?” It was I who had suggested visiting it in the first place. It was tended by a neglectful shrine maiden we heard of but never saw, and though she kept it in decent condition, she hadn’t been interested enough to stop us from going in to investigate.

“Yes, but those were all in one place,” Maribel replied. “In the back, that one marker. That was where all the cracks were leading to.” She shone her flashlight along the floor of the shrine, where the floor met the walls. “In this case, all the cracks are on the ground.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. I felt a tinge of jealousy again-- Maribel’s eyes, weird though they were, could see things that I never could. Maybe if I could see cracks in the boundary, I would be less skeptical about Gensokyo’s existence.

“The cracks are vertical,” she said, but she wasn’t really replying to me. She was talking to herself. “Not horizontal. It’s like... someone pulled this entire shrine up off of the ground.”

“As far as I can tell, it’s still here.”

Maribel turned to me, an uncharacteristically coy smile on her face as she brought her flashlight up beneath her chin, throwing her face into shadow and light. “Oh, is it~?”

“Hah?” Now I was really getting lost. She grinned and turned her flashlight to the next door. “Let’s keep exploring. I think I might have an idea of what happened here.”

“I don’t know how to say it,” I said as I walked through the next door, following Maribel. “But this place feels strangely...”

“’Gutted’ would be a good word to use,” Maribel replied.

“Yeah. But I don’t know how.” I pointed my flashlight around the room. There was no furniture here, just as in the previous room, but there were imprints on the tatami that indicated that at some point, there had been a few shelves and maybe a wardrobe. “Everything’s just... gone.”

“We’ve been here before, Renko. What’s so different about the shrine now?”

“It's...” I racked my brain for the right words to use. “Oh man, I don’t know how to say it. But... it feels... old and unappealing. Unwelcoming.”

“You’re right,” Maribel said. “The last time we were here, the shrine was already old, but even when Sanae wasn’t here, it was never as foreboding as it is now.”

She was more observant than I gave her credit for, it seemed. “This place’s atmosphere has changed. Not even graveyards feel this ominous.” I said that without a hint of sarcasm. We had been in graveyards more cheerful than this shrine.

“Everything that made this place feel safe is gone.” Maribel nodded. “And the same cracks are in here as there were in the other room.”

I was starting to get worried. I didn’t really like the idea of small cracks in the boundary around the walls-- what if they fell in? And why were they structured so oddly?

I could only think of one way to figure it out once and for all.

“Let’s go into the heart of the shrine, Mary.”

“Eh?!” Maribel looked surprised. “But Sanae told us that that we couldn’t go into the honden!”

“Sanae is not here.” I shone my flashlight at the ground between us so she could see my face. “And we’re not going to tell her.”

“But the honden is supposed to be sacred and closed to the public. We could invoke a kami’s wrath.”

“Exactly. No one else would go in there, not even looters. No one will expect us to either.” I looked at my friend and grinned. “I may believe in Gensokyo, but that’s just because I’ve seen the physical evidence you and Sanae have brought back. I have absolutely no reason at all to think that kami exist.

“And besides,” I said, opening the next door and heading to the back of the shrine. “If Kanako and Suwako were ever here, they’re long gone by now. I don’t think they’ll mind.”

“If you say so,” Maribel said, following me.

-----

It may ruin my reputation as a science-loving heretic, but I must admit: I had never before snuck into a honden. They were the sacred home of the shinto god that was worshiped at a particular jinja. But I had never gone into one before. Never had the chance.

I did, however, know where the Moriya Shrine’s honden was. It was visible from the outside. I had made a note of it when I had come in. It was in the back of the shrine, set apart from the rest by being raised above the walls of the shrine proper. The state of the shrine made my task even easier-- all I had to do was find a portion of the roof that wasn’t caved in, and there I would find the honden above us.

We walked further in. I hadn't been able to see it from outside, but the Moriya Shrine was built on a gently-sloping hill. So we went further up and further in.

“The green cracks are increasing,” Maribel noted as we passed through the rooms. “The cracks in the boundary. They're getting longer and there are more of them.”

“We must be going the right way, then.”

I opened the next door. There, up on the ceiling. Jackpot. Even if I hadn't known where the honden was, the very fact that this room had wooden support beams and a wooden platform in the center of the room would have given it away.

Maribel gave a slight gasp behind me. “What's wrong, Mary?”

“The cracks are... all over the ceiling. Stretching from there--” she pointed at some invisible line I could not see, her flashlight beam following. “To there. They're everywhere.”

“Then we must really be going the right way, then.” I climbed up on top of the wooden platform. It was sturdy enough to hold me, but it wasn't a staircase that could help me reach the top of the ceiling. If I lifted my arms up, I could get a firm grip on-- on what? Hold on.

I pushed up and a small portion of the ceiling gave way. It was a square of wood, and I tossed it inside, up into the honden. I heard it thunk. The ceiling was strong enough to hold my weight-- unlike the rest of the thatched ceilings in the other rooms, this one was built for strength. It would still be a bit difficult to get up, unless you were a gymnast--

Which had been Sanae's specialty back in high school. This shrine had been designed for her.

I was no gymnast, but I was strong enough to get up. Whatever answers we could get, we would find them up there. I took hold of the ceiling beam.

“W-wait, Renko! Are you going to go up there?” Maribel looked up at me, standing on the worn tatami next to the platform.

“Uh, yes,” I replied. “How else did you think we were going to get any answers?”

“You can't go up there, Renko! There are too many cracks! What if you fall into one?!” Maribel raised her voice-- and in a way, it was comforting, because since we had come in, we had spoken to each other in low whispers. “You could be in serious danger!”

I shrugged. “No more than any other time we've been on expedition.”

Maribel growled. “Damnit, Renko...” She took off her backpack and wedged her flashlight inside its straps, pointing it upwards. “I'm coming up there with you. Hurry up.”

“Eh? You are?”

“Of course I am. You can't see the cracks in the boundary, can you?”

“I suppose not.” I extended my hand to Maribel, and she took it. I helped her up onto the wooden platform. There was just room enough for the two of us. This would be easier if I had help, anyway.

“Mary,” I said, turning to her, my face no more than six inches away from hers. “Mary, I need you to put your hands on my waist.”

“E-eh? What?” Though the light was dim, Maribel's face was reddening. “My hands? On your w-waist?”

“Yes. I'm going to jump up onto the inside of the honden and it's easier if you help me lift myself.” I put my hands on her shoulders. “I'll use you as a support.”

“Haah,” Maribel stuttered. I wondered what was wrong with her. “Y-you got it,” she muttered as she put her hands on my waist.

I winked at her. “Thanks, Mary.”

She looked like she was about to faint. Was she sleepy?

I tensed my knees. “Alright, on the count of three. One, two, three!” I jumped up, with Maribel supporting some of my weight. I pushed up on her shoulders as far as I could and caught hold of the ceiling beam my first time.

“Got it--” Then I began to slip. “-- Er, don't got it.”

But before I could fall, Maribel regained her sense of balance down there and took hold of my right foot. Cupping her hands under it, she made me a foothold. Scrambling to get a grip, my hands found a rung of sorts on the inside of the honden. Taking hold of it with both hands, I pushed up from Maribel's hands, feeling her push me up from below. I hoisted myself up and into the honden.

“Mary, toss up that overpowered flashlight of yours.”

Maribel nodded and grabbed her backpack, zipped it open and pulled out the powerful flashlight I had noted earlier. I set it next to me. I didn't want to turn it on in the honden without Maribel being next to me.

I reached down through the hole in the ceiling. “Climb up here. I've got you.”

Maribel stood on the platform and counted aloud. “One, two, three.” She leapt up and caught onto my arms. I nearly started to fall down with her, but I had a foot wedged into the rung I had managed to catch onto when I came up here. I slowly lifted her up and into the honden, where she scrambled to her feet.

“You all right, Mary?” I asked, brushing her hair out of her face.

“Y-yes, I'm fine.” But she can't have been fine, she was nervous. Was she claustrophobic in the dark?

Speaking of. I picked up Maribel's overpowered flashlight, nodded to her, and switched it on--

HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

-- And fell back screaming. “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” I flailed wildly, tripping backwards over my own feet, stumbling. I nearly would have fallen down the hole I climbed up through except for Maribel pushing me out of the way in the last second. As it was, I landed hard on my backside, somehow managing to keep a grip on the flashlight the whole time.

My flashlight beam danced up and down over the shadowed, angular face of a massive hissing snake. But it wasn't hissing-- that little detail had been added by my strung-out nerves. Still worth getting nervous over, though.

Maribel stood, looked over at me, then at the snake, then back at me again. “For heaven's sake, Renko, it's just a bronze statue.  Look.” She indicated the kanji inscribed at the base of the statue. “Kanako Yasaka. It's the symbol of the snake goddess.”

“S-so,” I stammered, still crawling backwards on my elbows, “I-if that's Ka-Kanako, where's Su-Suwako?”

Maribel pointed at a spot above my head. “Probably that one right there.”

I looked up and had the pleasure of getting an eyeful of the gullet of a frog statue. This was nowhere near as scary as the snake had been, but it still wasn't something I wanted to go near. I crawled away from it, to the wall--

“NO! DON'T GO NEAR THE WALL!”

Maribel's yell surprised me as much as the statue of the snake had. I froze in my tracks.

“Renko, get up and come over here, to the center of the room, please.” She was speaking in an oddly formal tone-- definitely nervous. “Come on!”

I got to my feet and walked over to her, but before I had even gotten to her side, her arm shot out and her iron grip pulled me towards her.

“Hey, what--” But she wasn't looking at me. The light coming from her flashlight only made the intense gaze in Maribel's eyes look even stronger. She was looking up, down, around, on all sides, her flashlight following each movement, along the walls, the ceiling, the floor.

“Cracks,” Maribel explained. “Larger than any I've ever seen.” She glanced over at me. “I was right. This entire place is a gateway to Gensokyo.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“I was thinking about it this entire time we've been here,” she began. “Why does this shrine feel so different now than it was before? It's not just because it's night. It's because the shrine has changed ever since Sanae left.”

Her flashlight danced over to the snake statue and met it right in the eyes. I nearly jumped when I saw a red light in the Kanako statue, but closer inspection revealed that it was just two rubies, one in each eye. Maribel continued. “Think about it, Renko. This shrine was old, worn-down, and had only one teenage girl to defend it against vandals or thieves. Sure, it's not exactly near any centers of population, but why did no one ever, ever attack this shrine?”

“I have no idea, but I'm going to bet you're about to tell me.”

“The blessings of the gods.” Maribel's flashlight turned to the Suwako statue, and the yellow glow of quartz in its eyes responded. “Yes, these gods. Kanako and Suwako were here, and now they are gone. And they took the shrine with them.”

“Uh, as far as I can tell, the shrine is still here.” I was now getting thoroughly lost by her 'explanation'.

“This isn't the true shrine, Renko.” Maribel turned to me now. The flashlight was turned away, so I never knew if the purple gleam in Maribel's eyes was reflected off of her dress or if it came from within. “The true Moriya Shrine was an insulated place of refuge, kept safe with the prayers of the devoted and the powers of the gods, within the walls of the shrine building itself. That's why there were those tiny tiny green cracks in the boundary on the ground where the wall met the floor. That's why they got longer and longer as we came closer to the honden. That's why they're everywhere here.” She moved her flashlight again, tracing lines in the air I could not see. “It's just like they pulled the real Moriya Shrine out of this building, up and out. Now it's just a simple wooden building falling apart.

“But you see, the cracks remain. They pulled the true shrine up and out and it left scratches in the boundary, kind of what happens when you drag a table with metal legs across a wood floor. It leaves tracks.” She looked back up at the inside of the honden. “And this place has been left as a gateway. The cracks here are large enough to fall through if you aren't cautious.”

“So why haven't we fallen through? And what are we waiting for?” That was the news I'd been waiting to hear! A path to Gensokyo, right here and now? Sure, why not? It's what I'd wanted for so long, to find an open gateway we could cross through!

“We can't.” Maribel sighed. “We should be able to, but we can't. Actually...” She handed me her flashlight, and before I could stop her, she smacked the far wall.

Predictably, she ended up with nothing but a sting in her arm, but for a split second-- if I had blinked I would have missed it-- at the moment of impact, there had been a flash of green. A glimmer of light had spread out from where Maribel had touched the wall, and it traveled the lines of cracks. For a half moment, I could see the lines in the boundary as clearly as Maribel could-- and now I understood why she had been so nervous. She hadn't described them to me as being as terrifying as they actually were. The walls, the floor, the very space of the air seemed to be covered in green lines, cracks in the boundary. It looked like a spiderweb crack on glass, spreading and distorting the way reality was supposed to be.

Then it was gone, and even as I started to comprehend what I had just seen, Maribel staggered back to me, rubbing her sore arm. “See? I should have fallen through that crack. But I didn't.” She took her flashlight back from me and pointed it back and forth at the snake and frog statues. “And they're the reason why.”

“Hm?” I asked, trying to put it all together in my mind. “What do the statues do?”

“They're this gate's komainu set. The guardians.” She slowly moved her flashlight across from the tip of the snake's nose to the frog's and back again, looking at something I could not see. “There's a white rope here. We can't cross through this gate unless we have the key for it.”

“A rope? What the heck are you talking about?”

“A kekkai, like the kinds they put up in mountain shrines. A seal. It holds the gate shut until the person with the right key to open it comes along.”

“And... who's the person with the key?”

Maribel turned to me. “Do you really have to ask that question?”

“Kotiya Sanae.” I knew it before, but I didn’t really understand what it all meant until I said her name aloud.

Then I realized: Sanae knew about Gensokyo, and had possibly known about it before she even joined the Sealing Club.

And the old shrine that she lived in was a gateway to Gensokyo.

-----

Estimated total average waking hour capacity: Sixteen hours, three minutes
– WARNING – LESS THAN ONE HOUR LEFT FOR TODAY – WARNING –




Renko and Maribel have discovered Sanae's secret?! Will they be able to get through this gateway to Gensokyo? Or will they be found out? What's going to happen now? AND WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT OF THAT WEIRD TIMER AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF EACH CHAPTER?

Find out next week. (Except for maybe that last one!)

Sana

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2010, 11:13:32 pm »
[18:04] <Stoker-Rurouni> Hey Sana
[18:04] <Stoker-Rurouni> Renko
[18:04] <Stoker-Rurouni> http://www.shrinemaiden.org/forum/index.php?topic=4587.msg235184#msg235184
[18:05] <Keine> Title: Sweet Dreams (at www.shrinemaiden.org)
[18:05] * Stoker-Rurouni runs
[18:05] <Sana> RENKOOOOO

Esifex

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2010, 12:55:05 am »
Timer = how long till Renko spontaneously falls asleep? :O

Fatigue sets in when you run out of waking capacity. Defeat a minor enemy for an energy tank, or find a safe spot and rest to recharge your waking capacity. Red Herbs can also be used as a substitute.

Whoops, she doesn't have any of those, does she >.>

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #26 on: January 29, 2010, 02:05:57 am »
Curse you cliffhangers!  Curse you!

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #27 on: January 29, 2010, 02:18:51 am »
This update was a splendid one~

Fatigue sets in when you run out of waking capacity. Defeat a minor enemy for an energy tank, or find a safe spot and rest to recharge your waking capacity. Red Herbs can also be used as a substitute.
I confess that I imagined this in Colonel Campbell's voice.
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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #28 on: January 29, 2010, 03:18:54 am »
As always, I am very jealous of how well your writing flows. If I could just steal some of that talent...

A-anyway, looking forward to more. But what's with the sudden random insertions of Japanese words? The only reason I even understand some of the story is because I'm in my fourth year of Japanese and know some of these words.
nintendonut888: Hey Baity. I beat the high score for Sanae B hard on the score.dat you sent me. X3
Baity: For a moment, I thought you broke 1.1billion. Upon looking at my score.dat, I can assume that you destroyed the score that is my failed (first!) 1cc attempt on my first day of playing. Congratulations.

[19:42] <Sapz> I think that's the only time I've ever seen a suicide bullet shoot its own suicide bullet

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Re: Sweet Dreams
« Reply #29 on: January 29, 2010, 03:21:10 am »
Man, I'm really close to finishing the next chapter...

...I need to stop procrastinating goddammit!
 

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