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CORAZONES - Masa Con Papas (Formerly the Immortal Husk)
#1
A Funny Thing Happened at the Pizzeria... 
[First Reading]
CW: Mild Blood and Violence, Cosmic Horror

[Image: FgMmw8S.png]

Charon: Appreciate being invited over for a couple weeks but.. is this really necessary? It doesn’t look like a cheap place...

Geezer: Course it is, you got your license and all that right?

Charon: Mm.. technically a few months ago... lot of time for a dog like me you know?

Geezer: Yeah but like, we still gotta celebrate you know? Plus you finally got a certified badge across the bigger guild system, that's a big deal. Usually you gotta do a lot more to reach outside of local regions like that.

Charon: I mean it's not that big a deal..

Geezer's single mechanical eye immediate locks onto you with a bit of a hard look.

Geezer: Don't even bullshit me with that, I saw how hard you crammed for that. 

Charon: I won't deny it was a bit of a struggle.... I'm glad I made it through in the end. Would've liked to get it earlier but...

Geezer: Ay, but nothing. You put in the work and now you got your foot in the door. 

Charon: Lot more work than it would've been in the old days, you remember right?

Geezer: What do you mean I remember? How old do you think you are? Knight work's needed official licensing for decades.

Charon: Right....

Geezer: It's true though, lots of local governments got scared knights were gonna become militias for hire and overthrow folks. Kinda put us in a spot where we gotta regulate ourselves or have them step in you know?

Charon: Mmm.... don't really care for it considering it's the reason folks like Spit's kind exist...

Geezer: Speaking of, how's cracking down on the cult gone so far?

Charon: Baby steps, it's really difficult with how widespread they are frankly. Hard to maintain funds off just that alone though, not a lot of people are dropping contracts for it so I'm having to take a lot of mundane side work or pray that all these little towns will restock my supplies for doing a good job.

Geezer: Yeah... that's kinda how it is...

Charon: I don't mind too much personally but... I dunno. I guess I'm derailing things a bit.

Geezer: Nah, you can talk all you want. Came here to get fancy pizza and chill you know?

Charon: What's the deal with this place again? Looks trendy and… a little cursed.

Geezer: I mean... I'm not gonna lie, it's a bit heavy on the wallet but it's kind of a thing that's blown up locally. Plaza's filled with all sorts of witchy folks you know.

Charon: I understand that, I don't understand why they gave me a tarot spread when I asked for a menu...

Geezer: Alright so check this out.

Charon: Checking. 

Geezer: So gist is the pizzas here are personalized using that read to get all sorts of wild flavors out of it. Result is pizza unlike anything you've ever seen.

Charon: Guessing you've been here then?

Geezer: I mean some friends in the area vouch on this place really hard and I've seen photos but...

Charon: But you wanted to save it for a good occasion?

Geezer: I mean.. yeah. No better time to celebrate than now . Got family here, got a good excuse for it...

Charon: Got your nice jacket to spill sauce on..

Geezer: I'm not gonna spill sauce on myself....

Charon: We'll see soon.

???: You'll see now!

There's an interjection from a waitress holding a plate so piping hot the room was obscured in steam.

It's placed down on the table in front of you, an ungodly typhoon of hot smoke curling in on itself before the grand reveal. 

The room is so dark, so heavy, you can feel your sins crawling in and out of every pore on your body.
[Image: G3fXNiw.png]

It's... certainly something to behold.

Charon: Ah.... um...

You can't get yourself to finish your sentence. 

It's ambrosia for the sleep paralysis demon and all the nightmares you've ever had. The aura it gives off is certainly something. You look over at Geezer. He makes a face and gives you a shrug before turning toward the waitress who's still partially obscured.

Geezer: Hey uh... no offense but what the heck is this exactly?

???: House special, a commemoration of sorts. I... wasn't sure what to make of it when they handed it to me either but it's supposed to be entirely edible! 

Her voice rings a bell that chills your spine. You can make out her silhouette. 

You keep your eyes on her as best you can.

Charon: Commemoration?

Geezer: The hell are ya'll commemorating right now?

???: Well, Darkest Night is very much upcoming and I assume you'll both be here for it? This island takes it pretty seriously and it'd be nice if you stuck around..

???: You uh... doing okay?

You feel a little relief, the concern in her voice practically confirms her identity.

???: I had some help from outside, someone who really wants to see you.... they wanted to come personally but they're busy handling things so.. 

Charon: So you showed up instead. 

???: I mean.. better when it's an old friend right?

The smoke clears up, the tension from the baked monstrosity lowers.
 
[Image: XwiVeSA.png]
Geezer: Opera?

Opera : Mmhmm! Been a good bit but it's really nice to see you both again. It's been a long time, hasn’t it?

Geezer: Fuck, I don't even know but-

You interrupt. 

Charon: You're our Opera, yes? No shenanigans?

Opera: None. Not like you know too many Operas, right?

You can't help but give her a little bit of a glare, getting a frown.

Opera: Sorry, couldn't help. Bit poor taste in hindsight.

Charon: No big deal, just...

Opera: Too soon?

Geezer: Never gonna stop being too soon.


Opera: Feel that a little myself. That said, you two changed a ton.

Charon: I'm about the same me as I can be after everything. Try to be.

Opera: Mm... older, a little rough but cleaner at the same time, and I can't tell if you're a prince or a scientist with that cadence you have but... you still have the same feeling in your eyes.

She looks over at Geezer.

Opera: What happened to you? I mean it’s not bad but… is that really ol’ Geez?

Geezer: ‘Bout as me as always... where it matters anyway. Things got a bit off the rails for a good bit but it worked out in the end.

Opera: It's good, keep doing that. You’re way more tall than I’d imagine..

Geezer: Can’t stay short forever, right? You got taller too.

Opera: Not as much as I’d like...


Geezer: So uh... you've been okay?

Charon: Mm, last time we saw each other things sure were... complicated. 

Opera: I mean... As good as I could. Had a lot of suffering to undo you know? Been doing everything I could to help people out and... well I guess not become like-

You stop and cut her off.
 
Charon: You never will be. 

Geezer: Yeah, that's not on you. What happened there was ten tiers of freak accidents and hella beyond your control you know? You didn’t do any of that.

Opera: Either way it's been a lot of work... but I'm happier overall these days. Anyway uh... before I forget...

She pulls out an envelope from her pocket and places it firmly in your hand as you reach out.

Charon: What's this?

Opera: A job, one I don't think you're going to want to miss. You know the big Gala at sea? Has all sorts of trade secrets being whispered around, a lot of big corporate witches and knights attending, and the big auction of eldritch items?

Geezer: I’m familiar. Bit of a rich tourist thing, not something I’d want to associate with if I don’t gotta.


Charon: Same, no offense. I’m on vacation and doing security work for a bunch of CEOs doesn’t appeal.
 
Opera:  It’s… it’s a little more dire than that. Just…

She shoves a letter in your hands.

 
You open up the envelope and pour the contents out. There’s a set of photos and a document describing a auction for "Series 80 Darkest Night Lost Tech Auction Item # 78: The Immortal Husk"

Opera: here's a list of details.

 
 
"Item 78 was found through standard lost tech mining via a private company owned by [Redacted]. The item is the body of an unknown humanoid feline of otherworldly origin.

Body is alive and functional. Capable of sustaining itself off energy in the area alone, as well as storing an incalculable amount of shreds. Body does not age.

Cells have tested to be heavily regenerative and could possibly be capable of regenerating completely from any injury within the hour. May contain the secret to immortality.


Body is fully void of anything resembling consciousness allowing easy experimentation. Despite this, it was found seemingly restrained.
 
Body seems to have gone through several nearly seamless and intensive organic body modifications. Parts of various origins yet to be fully pinned down.

Found covered in fiend’s blood but does not appear to be from the body itself.
 
Has been pierced by an unknown weapon. Weapon appears to contain traces of otherworld steel and imbued with untested scrap based properties.

Contains traces of heavy amounts of angel radiation but seemingly no negative effects from the intensive exposure.

Item #78 will be auctioned for a price to be revealed at the event." 

[Image: 6KhSAq9.png]
You feel your whole gut coil and turn on sight of the photo set.
 
You're left speechless.

Geezer: Hey so… what the actual fuck? Thought she was done in and sealed off for good measure?

Opera:  She was. Someone managed to pull her out of her tomb.

Geezer: Just the body though right? Like,  not the rest of her?

Opera: Just the body in the wrong hands is about five different apocalypses waiting to happen and killing it doesn’t work. On top of that well.. You know what this means right?

Charon: Someone managed to get a haul from the pocket.

Opera: Mmhmm. You know about lost tech mining?

Opera: Little bit, folks using witches to dig into other worlds and hopefully snipe their tech to re-create and sell it off yeah?

Charon:  Mm, more or less. It’s not uncommon for lost tech to find its way here on its own but the market and demand for it has spiked meaning there’s pushes to punch into all sorts of pocket worlds and see what you can get from them.

Geezer: Cult was doing that, yeah?

Charon: Mm… they came up with some absolutely inhumane things in there.

Opera: That’s also a worry… when they go digging for these sort of auctions, they try to haul as much as possible. Anyway thankfully I was able to get tipped off on the details by a friend who’s in some circles and well… from there I managed to get in contact with a lot of others. Honestly I didn’t want a reunion to happen this way but…

Geezer: We swore if the whole ordeal came back to haunt us we’d have each other’s backs. I remember. I’m in.

Charon: Same. What do we have to do?

Opera: A lot. Having a couple of knights means we can get our foot in the door easier though and having more than one means you have each other to fall back on. I can’t fill you in on the details here though… I think people are catching on to the fact that I don’t actually work here…

You and Geezer both nod and shuffle around for your wallets to pay off the food neither of you bothered to touch. Opera stops you and shells out the cash herself .

Opera: Don’t sweat that, we got way bigger things to worry about. Let’s get moving. 
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#2
 
Alright, Let's Do This One Last Time...
[Second Reading]

[Image: 6S2iAso.png]
 The three of you manage to scurry out and in record time find yourselves immediately in a session of catch up.

Despite the giant gap in time between the last time you and Geezer met Opera in person, any sort of anxiety around the situation quickly melts away.

You two ask Opera about what happened to her after the incident, and she seems a little bittersweet on the entire affair. She spent most of her free time hopping between her home and the “angel pocket”, attempting to undo as much of the pain and suffering that happened there as she possibly could.

Geezer assures her it’s not her fault but she still seems to feel some blame.

You bring up that she was 14 at the time and all of you were dragged into that hell. She still can’t help but feel like she’s responsible for some of it.

A lot happened back then honestly. You still have heavy amounts of lingering nightmares about the entire situation. A bunch of people are dragged off by an “angel” into a composite world made from the fragments of other realities.

The friends you made on the way.

 
[Image: g5PI34q.png]


The people you lost.

The parts of yourself you don’t know if you ever will get back.

Though the entire experience of being spirited away by a cosmic horror was very defining for you in the later years and you can’t imagine the timeline where it never happened...  it absolutely is something you hope never has to be experienced again by anyone.

Ever, really.

Nonetheless, reconnecting with someone from that time makes you feel at ease even if it’s under less than ideal circumstances.

Geezer: So you just went back there?

Opera: I mean…. Yeah. Family never did all that much for me, most of my best friends were older by a year or two, so they all kinda graduated and we started having less time to meet and go on adventures and eventually they just outright had to leave town you know? There wasn’t all that much for me to return to. It seemed like the natural choice.

Geezer: That’s rough…

Opera: What can you do? Honestly, it was also why it was kinda hard to keep in contact. Being a whole reality apart doesn’t make it easy.

Charon: You spent the whole time in the angel pocket?

Opera: I snuck out every once in a while, managed to make it here and a few other places. You and your family are super hard to track down, you know? I tried to find Erica and Arabis since they’re both from this world but no dice… found Geezer easy though, and you happened to be in the same room so that’s nice.

Geezer: Happens, we try not to be easy to find, you know? Keeps weirdos from showing up at our place.

Opera: I was surprised all four of you exist at the same time like that, I figured you were all super time displaced by centuries or something.

Charon: It’s… complicated. Erica was our caretaker growing up so….

Opera: Wait, is she your mom?!

Geezer: Grandma, but I guess kinda? Main adult presence in our lives either way.

Charon: I didn’t say anything because she told me not to. We were all kinda ripped through there from various points in space and time so we couldn’t potentially cause a paradox.

Geezer: Yeah. Either way, no idea if you’ll be able to get her to come right now, she’s currently got plans of her own. We’ll be enough though, I think.

Opera: I mean, you two are a couple of knights huh?

Geezer: Yup. Protectors of the people and destroyers of evil. Just add a bit of water.

Opera: Are you two good at it?

Geezer: I’m okay I guess, things’ve been good career-wise.

Charon: I just got my license recently to work internationally, but I haven't had a lot of big jobs yet. Guess now’s not a bad chance to put my name on the radar, yeah? Crashing auctions for products of cults would do that really fast.. albeit in a way that’d probably put me on a few blacklists.

Geezer: Anyone who’d blacklist you for work after that honestly wasn’t worth taking up jobs with anyway.

Charon: I know, a little curation more than anything really. I’d rather not collaborate with salesmen and war criminals.

Opera: About that…

Geezer: Wait, what? Who?

Opera: Someone we’re gonna have to interview with later today. I tried to mostly pick up folks we could trust on this but… we kinda need a professional Saboteur to help us coordinate something like this and they want to know a bit about everyone involved.

Geezer: A pro Saboteur? You feel safe doing something like that?

Opera: I got her contact through Hick and Fenton so I figure they’re trustworthy enough. Those two are in on all of this, by the way, though they’re not going to meet up with us just yet.

Geezer: Are they still together after all these years? Goals.

Charon: Really though, wish I could get into something that serious.

Opera: Mmhmm! Carved a bit of a nice little life in the pocket- we talk pretty regularly. Oh! We’ll meet up with Mercury too today, she was pretty quick to sign up honestly. Your third muscle at the party though uh… we’re gonna have to smuggle her in a little.

Charon: Not the first time, anyone else?

Opera: Well… I was hoping one of you might have some last minute contacts you know?

Charon: I’ll check but I can’t promise anyone would be willing to bite this suddenly.

Geezer: I know someone in the area, just praying I’m not crashing any plans like this though…

Opera: Don’t press them too hard, we have a good amount to work with already.

Geezer: They might already have an in honestly. Best to beat them to the punch right?

Charon: We’re on a timer, if you can’t convince them quickly don’t.

Geezer: I know.

Charon: Ideally whoever you’re bringing in knows what they’re in for here, I don’t want to bring anyone unprepared. If things end up worse than we’ve anticipated…

Geezer: Yeah.

Charon: It could genuinely do a number on someone and you can’t take that back. You can’t unsee it, you have to just keep walking.

Geezer: I mean… you’re right on that you know?

Opera: I don’t think it’ll be the same but… I get you.

Charon: It’s a lot. Still fucks me up to this day honestly. I’m not letting you two put anyone out there who’s not ready for it.

Opera: I know.

Charon: I’m 100% for taking this up but…

Opera: I absolutely get it, trust me. I’ve had this talk a few times by now with Hickory. To be honest, after what you two went through especially I was pretty reluctant to chime in about it.

Charon: Don’t be, I’m glad you brought it up. You need muscle, I’ll be muscle.

Geezer: Yeah, we’d be a little peeved if you didn’t let us in on this. It’s our mess to clean up too you know? I’ll be fine.

Opera:  Promise me you’ll tell me if it’s too much? I know it’s urgent, but..

Geezer: We got each other’s backs right? We’re older, smarter, a little bit braver. It’ll be a cakewalk.

Charon: Hopefully.

Opera looks directly at you, you try to avoid her stare.

Opera: You especially, last time, well…

Opera: Last time it got really scary. I don’t want to see you do that to yourself again you know?

Geezer: Yeah… honestly that part might’ve done me the worst. No offense intended but..

Charon: I entirely get you there. To be frank I don’t want a repeat of that myself personally.

Geezer: We all thought we lost you, like…

Geezer: Fighting for our lives, struggling for every meal… the killing… I mean that’s all super hard you know? But…

Opera: You just weren’t you I guess. And I felt like we were all on our way too. So please stay safe okay? Please stay you.

Charon: I… don’t think I am entirely me after that honestly. Hard to say if I ever will be. Don’t know how much of my mind and soul is my own..

Charon: I’m not even sure if I’m real, or alive, or if I ever actually got out of that but..

Charon:  ...every last bit that’s still there is precious to me, especially all of you. It’s going to be nice to see everyone again after so long. I just don’t want it to be the last time.

Charon: So promise me you’ll do everything you can to stay safe.

Geezer: Fuck dude, you’re always so serious....

Geezer: Not planning on croaking anytime soon though, who’s gonna take care of you and the folks back home during holiday dinner? You can’t cook ham like that.

Charon: I’m working on it, I’ve gotten better..

Opera: I got too much on my plate back home so don’t think I can afford to die… plus I kinda wanna go out for pizza or something after with everyone. It’s been a long time… not the place we were just at though, that pie looked demonic.

Geezer: Yeah… wasn’t that bad last time but uh…

Charon: Absolutely disgusting, cheese was about to put someone in a sarcophagus.

Geezer: Kinda wish I got one bite in at least…

Opera: Please don’t… We’ll have food when we get to our meetup spot. We still got a lot to cover really fast and a few things to revisit…

 
[Image: Go8EYSB.png]


 
CORAZONES: Masa con Papas+

             
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#3
The Saboteur
[Third Reading]


[Image: tEYLuFz.png]

 
 
After a long walk and you and your cousin’s rumbling stomachs playing back track the entire time, you’re led to a cozy little spot right where the hazy streets were about to turn into the bigger city at the center of the island. It was one of those local shops that seemed to also be a residence past the entrance room.

Opera: A few of our crew should be here right now on the second floor. Got a courtesy done here by our saboteur in question, she’s a local… she’s nice once she gets used to you but she might take some time.

Geezer: I can get that.

Charon:  You mentioned you met her through Fenton and Hickory?

Opera: Mm! They said she was the legitimate deal and they’ve worked with her before on their own endeavors.. Not sure what but you know how those two are, they’re always fighting for something.

Geezer: Rebels to the end…

Opera: Rebels to the end. Anyway, let me just unlock and...

As Opera opens the door, it’s yanked closed from within, causing her to stumble. Geezer manages to swoop in and catch her. You walk over and investigate the door yourself.

Geezer: You alright there?

Opera: Yeah…

Charon: Who was that in there? Are we compromised?

Opera: No, that’s uh…

???: That’s the pro who’s going to save your little heist. Now let me fill you in quick, I was told the sweet moomin looking one would show up later today to join our little quest and… yeah, he seems as good boy as the descriptions so congrats.

???: The dog with the spooky eyes though? Wasn’t given any mention and frankly that worries me. There’s a nasty aura around him and I don’t know if I can trust any of you right now.

No mention?

???: I wanna talk to him one on one before I let any of you in, I don’t like surprise guests.

Charon: I can respect that, though I’d like the formality of exchanging names first.

???: A really fancy one, either another good boy or the boldest con man. I’ll bite.

The door creaked open enough to expose the unnatural darkness of the room ahead.

???: Once you step in here, there’s no going back though. You fuck up, you give me any sign that you’ll compromise the job and well… can’t ensure your safety. If you’ve got nothing to hide, walk right in.

You approach without a remote hint of being phased, the darkness enveloping the entrance and isolating the two of you from the rest of the world.

It’s quite a pocket but a temporary crack between realities, and the surrounding aura has a certain genuine curiosity and menace attached to it.

???: Gonna take initiative here. Name?

Charon: Charon Judgment, professional knight and alright at what I do.

???: Rosario, local saboteur and jack of all trades. Gotta say for the type of prose you use that’s surprisingly a modest description. You got that air of confidence though. You’ve seen some serious shit haven’t you?

Charon: What do you mean?

Rosario: You came in here without even the tiniest stagger, can’t smell an inch of fear in you. Can’t tell if you’re stupid or the real deal frankly.

Charon: Might be a little of both, they’re not mutually exclusive.

Rosario: A jokester, cute honestly.

She approached, her face in full view.

Rosario: Though a pretty face and a wisecrack aren’t really helping your case here.

Charon: Not even a little?

Rosario: God no, that’s the first sign of a devil in disguise.

Charon: Mm.. that’s not entirely off the mark, can’t say for sure what I am these days.

Rosario: Same boat really, bit of a chimera myself.

Charon: Feel that, can’t walk through the streets without everyone’s pets screaming at me.

Rosario: You’re just bad with animals. Happens to me sometimes too though, they know something’s up.

Charon: Mm.. couldn’t keep any pets growing up because of that. Most animals are instantly aggro’d on sight. Shame too, grandmother used to have a familiar she used to ride in and out of town and eventually just had to give it away..

Rosario: Dang... used to be a cute little critter that followed me home from school. Then one day mom got a little stir crazy and cursed me for life. Wouldn’t even show up at the school after that.

Charon: Ah….

Rosario: Called herself a witch, ironically got burned alive after her work leaked. Dad was never really around so I got no sentimentality toward him.

Charon: Never really knew my parents at all personally, but they sure left me with tons to worry about.

Rosario: Oh, passed away?

Charon: Don’t know for sure, but I’ve done some sleuthing and they’re probably alive. Maybe...

Rosario: Ah.

Charon: In hindsight it’s pretty obvious though the exact details are unclear. Between the small number of possibilities, fiend biology being a nightmare, and potential partners well… I can’t say I like it.

Rosario: Really? How bad could it be?

You shake your head.

Rosario: That bad? Now you have to tell me.

Charon: Do I really? Feels like we’re already pretty off topic..

Rosario: You wanna pass the screening? My rules.

You lean into her ear and whisper. Her eyes widen.

Rosario: You’re kidding… that’s ridiculous. Too weird, maybe even too many?

Charon: I told you.

Rosario: , you gotta ask that doctor to check again. Like no offense but…

Charon: Trust me, I know.

Rosario: You sure someone didn’t mix samples by accident? Like..

Charon: It’s a very real possibility.

Rosario: Well shit… what a nightmare.

Charon: Mm… granted it’s still mostly speculation and by the nature of things well...

Rosario: Ugh.. I’m sorry.

Rosario: I was going to do this whole routine but I think I’d just dive into a rabbit hole.

Charon: You’re not going to keep going? I’m a little disappointed.

Rosario: Think it’d be bullying at that point.

Charon: Your point?

Rosario: You’re a weird ass dog… creature.

You can’t help but smirk at her.

Rosario: No wonder your aura is so off. Fuck…

The realm of shadow and static around you rapidly retreated into her body.

Rosario: Congrats, you’ve passed in the most fucked up way. How’s that make you feel?

Charon: I can’t really say. Better is almost correct but good is absolutely wrong.

Rosario: No kidding. Gonna be interesting having you around, always appreciate working with a fun wild card.

Charon: What do you mean by that?

Rosario: Don’t know what to expect from you at this point, there was someone of similar description in an earlier draft of the recruitment plan but the name Charon was never there and your vibe doesn’t match at all..

She looks over your shoulder at Opera. You turn around and follow suit. She tilts her head with genuine confusion.

Rosario: Gotta wonder really… you should go check up on them. Looking forward to talking more at tonight’s meeting though, you seem cool.

She gives you a pat on the back before walking through the black door.

You can’t help but feel a little nervous at her comments. Despite this you make your way over to check on your friend and cousin.

Geezer: You took a good bit in there, you alright?

Charon: Mm… was a bit tense for my liking to be honest.

Geezer: No kidding, shit was spooky.

Charon: You two alright?

Opera: Mmhmm! Got me super scared at first though, last time she got that serious, there was a bit of a fight…

Charon: With who?

Opera: Mercury.

Geezer: Yeah that checks out…

Opera: Everyone ended up being mostly okay in the end though. Glad you weren’t hurt at all...

Charon: Mmm…

You get lost in thought for a moment.

Opera: Are you sure everything’s alright?

Charon: Honestly? I got something to talk about privately. Matter of something she said.

Opera: I can talk to her if she went too far…

Charon: Nothing like that... She said my name was never given to her period. You know anything about this?

Opera: I’d assume it’s because we couldn’t track you down too well, got lucky that we found you in town.. Never got sent out for Erica or Arabis for the same reasons… I’m not the one who handled the actual list she got though.

Charon: I suppose that makes sense..

Opera: Did suggest you for this but… you’re really hard to find actually. Geezer’s the only one in your family we could pin down without trouble. Is that everything?

Charon: For now I suppose… just had me a little concerned.

Opera: You’re here though, that’s what matters right?

Charon: Guess so. It’ll be nice to meet up with everyone again-

Geezer interrupts the two of you.

Geezer: Hey, just realized I’m in town to talk to a friend of mine who might be handy to bring in. Gonna try to see them before it gets too late. Hate to do this last second but…

Opera: We need all the help we can get honestly, just be back quick please…

Geezer: I’ll do what I can. If I take too long, start without me and fill me in later. Save a bit of something for me too, I’m starving. Might stop for a burger on the way back too...

Opera: Mm!

Charon: Of course, don’t be too long out there.

Geezer gives you a confident little wave as he adjusts his jacket and starts walking.

You return it with a little gesture.

He keeps it going until he’s just a dot at the end of the sidewalk.

What a dork.

 
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#4
Reverse Rebirth
[First Reverse]
CW: Discussion of Existential Topics.



[Image: SfHcIE0.png]

Platino: Mornin’.

Manzana: Really wish it wasn’t. Couldn’t sleep the best.

Platino: Night terrors?

Manzana: Mm, happens. I’m surprised you’re still out and active though, something wrong?

Platino: Nah, just staying up a bit longer. Made you something to help you out.

Manzana: That so?

He scoots a plate and a glass your way. You nearly fumble the entire thing.

Manzana: Give me a sec, still waking up… gotta say this is new though. Hot breakfast… there a catch?

Platino: Nah, just know you’ve been having a lot of trouble with work lately and wanted to do something nice. Plus I know you got something special coming up later tonight…

You manage to get a closer look.

Manzana: Huevos divorciados…

Platino: Divorced eggs.

Manzana: Managed to get each sauce nicely spread.  It’s pretty.


Platino: I remember you being big on these. Not the best job but I did what I could.

Manzana: Really appreciate it, don’t know how it’ll help for later though…

Platino: It’s a lot of beans and eggs, high protein breakfast to start the day right and all. Don’t want you low on energy.

Manzana: It’s not that big a deal…

Platino: It is, you’re going on your first real date in a long time.

Manzana: First I got to arrange for myself...

Platino: Don’t think about past stuff right now, focus on what’s up ahead. 

Manzana: Maybe.

Platino: It’ll be nice, they seem awful sweet from what I’ve seen.

Manzana: That’s what worries me most. I’m… not.

Platino: Being a little reserved doesn’t mean you can’t be nice.

Manzana: A little is a bit of an understatement.

Platino: I think once you get a feel for things you’ll loosen up fine. Plus you can always call me if you need help. Always just a word away.

Manzana: Might take you up on that… I do want to try and get through this mostly on my own though so I’d appreciate it if you weren’t too direct with helping me here. No confrontation or taking the wheel-

Platino: Unless you have a panic attack or you feel like you’re in danger. Easy enough.

Manzana: Mmhmm.

Platino: Gotta say, kinda curious about something though.

Manzana: Oh?

Platino: You’re a pretty cautious person, can’t say I pictured you going straight for asking the actual angel spawn out. Like don’t get me wrong, they’re cute but…

Manzana: But?

Platino: I dunno, never imagined you going for the tall and monstrous type you know?

Manzana: It’s practical and comforting.

Platino: Yeah?

Manzana: Having someone tall and strong around makes me feel safer, I guess.

Platino: Against what? You could drop anyone.

Manzana: I mean I know, it’s silly but… it sounds bad when I think about it.

Platino: Say it, I’m not a cop.

Manzana: Being able to lean on someone every once in a while is nice… you do a ton, granted, but I don’t want to put that all on one person.

Platino: It’s no bother.

Manzana: I mean it is a little, you only can sustain that body for so many hours a day before you knock out. You’re pushing it as is.

Platino: I napped some last night just in case, don’t worry about it.

Manzana: Hmm…

Platino: Mean it, I’ll be fine later. Been better at this lately, making sure you actually eat isn’t a big deal.

Manzana: If you say so, don’t think I’ll ever get why you’re still around. Your contract is fulfilled after all.

Platino: Where else am I going to go? Plus, I don’t really know what’s up either, so you’re stuck with me anyway.

Manzana: You don’t miss wherever you came from? Thought you had a lot back home to finish.

Platino: Did I say that?

Manzana: You did.

Platino: Drawing blanks, must’ve been a long time ago. Probably wasn’t all that important.

Manzana: So strange.

Platino: Either way I don’t think I can leave so I’m making the best out of it.

Manzana: We got a bit of a unique situation, don’t we? 

Platino: I got theories on it. Might be a bit heavy for morning though.

Manzana: It’d be just as heavy later, lay them on me.

Platino: Theory one, we’ve been connected for so long we partially merged and now we got a common soul. Explains why I can’t keep a separate body all day.

Manzana: Interesting, rare for pact phenomenon but it happens.

Platino: Doesn’t explain everything, but does explain a lot.

Manzana: I’m assuming by everything you mean…

Platino: Memory issues. Don’t know how much I have left from before we met.

Manzana: Mm… I think I’ve had some of your memories though. A merge of souls could have jumbled us up...

Platino: Theory number two, I’m just a proxy all along based on whatever entity you signed with. Never living the past you supposedly had is a pretty good reason for not remembering.

Manzana: But… I’ve been able to summon it without you around?

Platino: Your proxy is a gun without a gunner. It’s pretty oddball.

Manzana: Weapon proxies exist.

Platino: I mean yeah I guess… still doesn’t line up all that much though.

Manzana: Mm…

Platino: Plus I can remember a little bit back to before we met so… that’s a bit weird.

Manzana: Except I can too…

Platino: Right. There’s also the third possibility that I’m Manzana and you’re whatever proxy or entity which.. Checks out.

Manzana: I… don’t like where this is going but continue.

Platino: Fact that we both got equal control over the rabbit body, you can remember more about me than me sometimes, honestly the old contract depending on how you interpret it lines up too.

Manzana: It was fulfilled on my end.

Platino: Maybe, could’ve monkey paw’d. You remember what you asked for?

Manzana: Freedom. Freedom from the life I was trapped in at the time…

Platino: Vague as hell isn’t it? Didn’t specify how.

Manzana: I don’t think I’m understanding.

Platino: Never specified how. Being replaced by someone else would absolutely count since you’re no longer-

Manzana: Stop. I… don’t think I was ready for this, actually and I rather not.

Platino: Yeah… yeah trust me I get you. Too heavy for morning in the end?

Manzana: Too heavy in general…. You been thinking about this a lot?

Platino: Yeah, honestly. Much as I try not to, it freaks me out.

Manzana: If… if any of these were true, what would you want?

Platino: Hard to say? Honestly most of these are pretty out there and there’s still a ton that wouldn’t make the most sense. Still a bit of nasty thought loop. Proxy theory seems pretty viable lately.

Manzana: Either of us a proxy would be pretty bad for your long term plans, no? I thought you wanted more freedom to go off and do your own thing.

Platino: It’s still possible, eventually.

Manzana: Hmm...  Really difficult to safely separate us completely if you wanted to go separate ways. Detaching proxies from sources is a hard process and takes a ton of recovery when it does work.

Platino: I’ll figure it out, don’t mind sticking around with you either way.

Manzana: Thought you wanted to be immortal too? Best you’re getting out of me is a century if you’re incredibly lucky. Kind of short by comparison.

Platino: Eh, it’s mostly for flex. If we get 100 years, we get 100 years.


You go silent for a bit as you finish up your breakfast. You make sure to wipe your face thoroughly of any sauce and yolk. You keep your eye on Platino as he seems to fixate on what little lighting is in the room right now.

Manzana: Thank you for this, you really helped me start my day right.

Platino: It’s no big deal. You got work today?

Manzana: Only for a brief meeting, then I have to get home and prepare to meet up with March.

Platino: Nervous?

Manzana: Very… never been on a date I actually want before.

Platino: Have fun with it. I’ll be up and have my phone with me the whole time. Plus I can peek if something is goes wrong

Manzana: I’ll text if anything happens. Don’t do anything without asking.

Platino: You know I wouldn’t do you dirty like that.

You stand up from your spot and walk toward the sink to drop your plate off. He stops you and takes it for you.

Platino: I got it covered, you shower and dress. Gotta make hustle if you want to get through your day smooth.

Manzana: Thank you again-

Platino: Don’t worry about it. Now scram yeah? Need some sleep myself… 
 
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#5
THE SWORD AND THE SLUG
[Fourth Reading]

Perspective: CHARON JUDGMENT

CW: Mild Blood and Violence, Cosmic Horror

[Image: 0DMsrKm.png]
 You make your way to the back room with both excitement to see so many of your old friends again and a bit of nervous hesitation.

You should've listened to the latter feeling.

The moment you step into the room you feel the air around you twist as you’re nearly slammed by the biggest sword you’ve ever seen.

You manage to dodge but fumble it and find yourself on the floor. You are now on the bad side of this actual hell knife.

On the other end is a rabbit-y looking sea slug who you personally know is ready to thrash you on the spot.

Opera: What are you doing?!

Mercury: Making sure you didn’t pick up unwanted company.

Opera: You know him, it’s Charon!

Mercury: That’s for him to prove.

She looks straight at you.

Mercury: Look on your face doesn’t sit right with me. Something’s up-

The space around you fragments.

You cut her off quickly with a counter attack, manifesting a weapon in each hand pulled directly from the shattering and distortion around you.

She’s able to side step you with ease and swing at you repeatedly.

You manage to guard each hit with middling success. Lances and swords repeatedly shatter and form in your hands as the giant blade continuously pushes you toward the wall. Your body starts to crumble under the weight of the hundred pound blade’s repeated blows. Your back truly is to the wall now. 

Mercury: You’re all quiet this time but you’re not putting on much of a show. You really taking it that seriously-

Taking advantage of the briefest window, you manage to counter attack with a thrust of a lance.

Mercury: Shit dude, let me finish talking.

She manages to jump over it with a finesse you can’t replicate.

The moment you baited her into leaping she was committed to that move.

You intercept her attack with the club in your free hand to pin her arm down to the wall.

She tries to retaliate by grabbing you with her other hand.

It’s all in vain.

The lance in your hand is twisted in space as it’s molded into a blade. With only a slightest moment to react you manage to slice her arm.

Opera: Hey, stop?! What the fuck are you two doing?!

You’re interrupted by your feline friend who by the look on her face is having trouble processing this..

Charon: It’s a bit of a thing we do-

Opera: What?! No you have to actually explain that!

Mercury: I’m checking if he’s kept up with his homework, taught this kid how to throw hands myself. Gotta say you went a little harder than you needed to there…

Charon: Apologies.

Mercury: Kind of the right call though. If you didn’t I would’ve dropped you there and then.

You release your opponent and step back.

Mercury: Surprised you didn’t summon your proxy there, would’ve shortened the fight.

Charon: You were holding back by a lot, didn’t have reason to…

Mercury: You could tell?

Charon: You wouldn’t give me the opportunity to get back up that easy if you wanted to really push me.

Mercury: Yeah? I’m still surprised you were willing to land a big hit like that. Thought you’d be too timid frankly. You want your report card?

Charon: If you could.

Mercury: Your defense isn’t half bad, you took the opportunity when it came, and you kept the fight as short as you needed. Last one’s always the most important.

Charon: I try to..

Mercury: Longer a fight lasts, the more things that can go wrong. Honestly though I’m a little disappointed you never pulled out the other guy.

Charon: I wanted you to see how much I’ve improved on the physical front… I felt a proxy would undermine that.

Mercury: I can respect that. First time I gave you a lesson, you summoned it and then ducked behind it most of the time. You really grew some guts trying to hold your own there.

Charon: So what’s your excuse for holding back?

Mercury: I didn’t want to hurt you.. Plus when you’re a proxy yourself, going too hard this close to darkest night’s a bit risky. Imagining you’re worried about that too?

Charon: Mm. Extreme Revelation is a bit unhinged lately. No idea what summoning it right now would entitle.

Opera: Paige has been more rowdy lately but she hasn’t done anything too wild…

Mercury: That’s because you’re probably not asking her to do anything too intensive. I gotta limit myself or well… I don’t want to think about it. Most I can really do safely is manifest the sword and get some fresh air but anything more? Kinda iffy…

Charon: Speaking of… how’s the situation?

Mercury: Hmm?

Charon: You know…

Mercury: Ah… yeah well. The other part of me’s been doing better but she’s still in bad health to be the one taking control of the body too much. Mostly been limited to visits with family and friends but you know…

Charon: Mm… I’m sorry.

Mercury: Don’t be, it’s slow improvement but it’s so much better than before you know?

Charon: Mm..

Mercury: On a side note, what’s that thing you got there?

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: That thing.

She points to the electric club.
[Image: UlTh2tg.png]
Mercury: Looks like a custom job. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that anywhere before…

Charon: Mm….

Mercury: Not once in my life.
[Image: u2RPxTH.png]
Your lack of a proper answer tells her everything. She gives you a smirk.

Mercury: That’s adorable! You missed us.

Charon: Mmhmm…

Mercury: Kinda flattered honestly. Maybe not as cool as the original but absolutely in the top 3. Got a lot of its own style. What’s it do?

Charon: You’ll see if it comes up…

Mercury: Nice. God it’s so weird seeing you two so much older.

Charon: It’s weird seeing you.. Not that different.

Mercury: I mean it hasn’t been that long. 4 Years right?

Charon:... It’s been 10.

Opera: 12 for me. When we beat the angel, everyone who went back to their proper times well… went back to their proper times. Erica was your age when you met her but in the current day she’s pretty old.

Charon: Mm.. I guess that makes sense. I’m assuming Hickory and Fenton are in the same boat as you then?

Opera: They did stay behind with me to help people in the pocket world so yeah.

Charon: Huh…

Opera: You okay?

Charon: Throws me off a bit to think about that… Makes me wonder about some of the folks I met.

Opera: Mm… sad to say that there’s probably a number of folks who probably aren’t around in our equivalents of modern day so..

Charon: Ah…

Opera: You going to be okay?

Charon: I’ll try to be… speaking of okay…

You turn toward Mercury.

Charon: We should really treat your wounds right now.

Mercury: I told you, it grows back. I’ll be fine by tomorrow afternoon.

Opera: It’s faster if we reattach it…

Mercury: Nah, ya’ll should keep it, It’ll be *handy* I’m sure.

Opera: Stop….

Charon: I’m sure with a few *pointers* I can think of something.

Opera: That’s really bad….

Mercury: Worst case scenario, just keep it in the fridge in case you need some finger foods.

Opera: No, no more. I’m gonna go wait for Geezer with Rosario, you two can bond over shit jokes anywhere else.

Opera returned to the room up front.

Mercury: Damn, scared her off. Gives us a good chance to meet everyone else just before we plan though yeah?

Charon: Mm… how many?

Mercury: In the building? Two, maybe three if he’s still around. Either way, I figure you’d want to catch up with everyone a little before it becomes all work for awhile.

Charon: Mm… I’d appreciate that. 
Reply
#6
 
A Moment of Quiet
[Reading 4.5]

Perspective: CHARON JUDGMENT

CW: None

[Image: demGKGY.png]

Mercury: Before we continue, think we gotta address something?

Charon: Oh?

Mercury: Something I noticed during our little spar. You’ve been able to cast and summon all those blades without directly summoning your proxy?

Charon: Mm…

Mercury: It’s pretty impressive… casting quietly on reaction and that consistently takes a lot of work. Proud of you there.

Charon: I try to put in the work where I can… hasn’t been the easiest but…

Mercury: I mean that’s good, means you’ve grown up a ton. That said wel.. I can tell you haven’t kept up with all your studies.

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: You’ll see in a sec. Summon it.

Charon: Now?

Mercury: Now.

On whim, a towering floral entity manages to manifest itself out of seemingly nothing. Despite it’s faceless nature, you can feel it’s gaze on the two of you.

Mercury reaches out toward it.

Mercury: That your proxy?

Charon: Mmhmm.

Mercury: Mind if I look closer?

Charon: Go ahead.

She pulls it’s head a little closer and examines it very carefully for a good while.

Charon: Is there something wrong?

Mercury: On the outside? Not at all. It’s growing strong and healthy. A tad softer but in a way that’s probably good for both of you.

Charon: That’s a relief-

Mercury: Keyword is both of you.

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: I mean it’s disconnected from you… it’s not entirely you right now.. It’s not exactly its own person either. You aren’t still under contract, are you?

Charon: Absolutely not, terminated it years ago.

Mercury: That’s odd…

Charon: What are you looking for?

She ignored him and grabbed its hand.

Charon: Well? What’s wrong?

Mercury: You’re bottling. I can’t detect a thing looking at you but your proxy is the manifestation of everything that makes you up. Poor thing can protect you from any attacker but it sure can’t lie.

You grow silent.

Mercury: You can’t use your proxy to the fullest anymore because you got all sorts of feelings you refuse to address. You’re desynced.

Charon: Mm..

Mercury: You may be harder and stronger on the outside but you’re really hurting yourself where it matters.

Charon: I’m sorry…

Mercury:  Don’t apologize to me, this is your problem.

She let go of the Proxy and gave it a pat on the back.

Mercury: That said, you made a point of getting involved in everyone’s problems including mine so I don’t mind returning the favor there. Talk to me.

Charon: I’d rather not dump like this-

Mercury: I don’t want to hear that. People bottle up all the time and say shit like that as an excuse to keep doing it.

Charon: It really is a lot.

Mercury: Then we’ll do this little at a time.. If you’re willing. I can’t exactly force you to suddenly open up to someone you haven’t seen in a decade like that but… you know.

Charon: …

Mercury: Promise you though that you’ll be safe talking. May not be practicing officially yet but I gotta make sure you feel comfortable if you do.

Charon: You… have a license?

Mercury: Had to do something over the last few years right? Decided to go back to school, maybe take some classes that’d help me figure myself out… and then I guess I just figured I wanted to help people. Go figure.

Charon: I never imagined you as a shrink but… it’s a welcome surprise.

Mercury: I may be a slug but I found something new in life pretty quick.

Charon: Certainly shows your salt in life.

Mercury: Really have the backbone to make a gag like that?

Charon: Can’t be helped.

Mercury: You smiled so I can forgive you this one time. So-

Charon: So you’re willing to help me out? I don’t want to impose.

Mercury: I mean the way I see it, it helps you and it helps me. If we’re doing this job I want you to be able to use your proxy to the fullest.

You look over to your ghostly friend.

Mercury:  We can schedule something while we still have time, maybe overcome a few pits and figure it all out?

Charon: Mm… I’ve never really had a psych before so it’s something I’d like…

Mercury: I mean I know you personally outside of a professional context, so I can’t exactly BE your doctor but I can still hear you out and help you brainstorm it.

Charon: You can tell me if it’s ever too much.

Mercury: I don’t think it will be. Might get hard at times and I may ask for a break here and there but… as long as you’re willing, I won’t abandon you.

Charon: Mm…

Mercury: Got a few things to get done right now so I can’t do something proper just yet but if you wanna talk after the meeting? I’m down.

Charon: Absolutely.

Mercury: With that said, you’re surrounded by friends right now, a few of which we gotta catch you up with.

Charon: Geezer too.

Mercury: Yeaaaah, he was supposed to be here today. We should catch him up too, can’t imagine what he’s like these days.

Charon: You might be shocked honestly.

Mercury: Really now?

Charon: Pretty confident in it, hoping he makes it back soon so you can see for yourself.

Mercury: Any sort of hints? Is he tall? Grew a mustache? Bet he went full cowboy…

Charon: Soon.

Mercury: You can’t leave me hanging on that.

Charon: You got one of those right.

Mercury: Knew it. He’s going to walk in and give the whole crew a big howdy.

Charon: I hope not…

 
 
 
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#7
ESPERANTO
[Fifth Reading]

Perspective: CHARON JUDGMENT

CW: None

[Image: 1pK2qG0.png]
The two of you make your way upstairs and find hallways of living spaces. Mercury leads you to a door simple labeled with "Please Knock First..."

You can't help but feel a little nervous suddenly.

Mercury: This is Esperanto’s room. You’re going to want to go into this one alone.

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: I mean this one’s gonna get intense but also they insist on meeting everyone before the meeting so… you know.

Charon: Any reason?

Mercury: They’re the type who likes to screen people, you know how it is. We didn’t know we’d be picking you up today so they'd especially want that.

Charon: Mm.. I suppose I can understand. Doesn’t explain why you can’t come with me however.

Mercury: You want someone who can call for help if things get screwy.

Charon: I really don’t like that phrasing.

Mercury: Yeah well… good luck.

Charon: Ugh…


You knocked on the door. From the other side you can hear a voice.

“W-Who is this?”

“A new recruit, I was told to introduce myself.”

There was a long pause.

“Do come in… but don’t let the light follow you.”

You creek open the door enough to manage a peek inside. You get a very tiny glance before you’re dragged all the way through. The door shuts behind you.

The room is pitch black.

“Tell me your name.”

“Judgment.”

“Tell me your real name.”

“Pardon?”

“You walk in here carrying a title that suggests knighthood, yes?”

“Certainly, I wear it with the pride of my entire family.”

“Interesting… in that case I will accept it for now.”

The light flickers on with an uncanny and unnatural hue.

In front of you is a faceless figure, rather tall and despite the lack of eyes very clearly getting a good look at you.

“Esperanto. Curious…”

They walk up to you, fixating on every detail of your attire before zooming in on your off eye. You give them the cold stare.

Charon: Is everything alright?

Esperanto: You’re marked…are your intentions honest?

Charon: Pardon?

Esperanto: What’s your motivation for the job?

Charon: Tying a number of loose ends, some of which have plagued my family for years. Cults, witchcraft, rivalries, and curses.

Esperanto: A noble type?

Charon: I don’t know if I could say that.

Esperanto: Mm.. your eyes show decades but your face reeks of inexperience. The mocking presence, a cadence that can’t seem to decide whether it wants to laugh or cry. Pity.

Charon: What are you exactly going at here?

Esperanto: You reek of death and you have the reaper’s touch ingrained… yet somehow despite that, there’s a gentle nature you’re covering up. I can’t tell if you’re afraid or unqualified and that terrifies me.

Charon: We just met and yet your words attempt to tear at me with surgical prose. Who are you exactly to cast this level of judgment on me?

Esperanto: I’m simply testing your resolve. Right now I suggest you turn back and enjoy the rest of your life, you’re not cut out to be a killer. A little saint like you shouldn’t be imbued with a power like this or a burden so heavy. Why do you carry it?

Charon: If I don’t, someone else will have to. I have the power to do good for others and I’d be a fool not to use it.

Esperanto: You’re not entitled to.

Charon: If I stand by and let others suffer, it’s my responsibility.

Esperanto: I ponder you.

Charon: Go ahead.

Esperanto: Tell me Mr. Reaper, could you prove your own worth right now?

Charon: Define further.

Esperanto: I can see that little proxy of yours. Your heart and soul yet forever borrowed, you put in the work and yet it feels somewhat unearned. You sacrificed so much of yourself to gain it. Your health, your sanity, your childhood sense of innocence. 

Charon: It was what needed to be done and I’ll use it til there’s nothing left.

Esperanto: It carries a certain love to it, though it doesn’t belong to yourself exclusively. It remembers the taste of blood between its teeth and trials so cold that its bone remains frozen in time. Where are you truly?

Charon: My body stands before you, my mind scattered across time and space. One eye in the moment while the other can’t forget.

Esperanto: You are not whole but there’s just enough threads keeping you whole. It certainly concerns me if you’ll last through future trials to come, Mr. Reaper.

Charon: Though I do not know who I am individually, one’s person consists of everyone in their life. Everyone who loved them, everyone who they care for. Each moment of suffering and the ever healing wounds and scars that create the fabric of who I am. I cannot do everything but I can make the lives of others better.

A looming darkness creeps in suddenly, you feel your feet being pulled off the ground. You suspect it’s illusionary in nature but the intensity of it is too much to break out of.

Esperanto: I’d like to see what that truly means.

Charon: What are you doing?

Esperanto: I can tell so much of your history looking at you, but something throws me entirely off… I’m going to dig inside that skull of yours and find out who you really are.

The world around you rips and tears, your body is struggling to keep itself together.

Esperanto: A clash of the physical does nothing but tell me you’re a fool with talent. I’m going to challenge you on a front where you cannot run or hide. Do you have the strength to overcome such a trial or will you perish like the dog that you are?

Charon: You don’t scare me.

Esperanto: Do you wish to take my challenge?

Charon: You already know the answer.

Esperanto: Certainly a choice, cursed boy. I’m going to truly take you back to the beginning. You will suffer through great pain your body still hasn’t forgotten. If you succeed? You will be rewarded greatly. If you fail? I don’t wish to see your face in another guild ever again.

Charon: After everything? Backing down would be the move that proves me unworthy.

Esperanto: And you accept all the consequences that will come of this?

Charon: I do.

Esperanto: Excellent… do take care Mr. Reaper… I wish for your success in the end.

You feel yourself dragged into a slumber…


You feel everything shrinking...

The smell of your family home...

That very fateful day.
 
 
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#8
Back to the Past.
(Fifth Reading)

CW: Violence, Injury, Gore, Mention of Death, Emotional Abuse.


 

[Image: mIAwhlo.png]

You feel yourself being sucked into a familiar abyss. 

The air is cold, the sea breeze envelops your senses.

It’s the armory, your little slice in time and space but…

It’s not yours alone. 

Someone else is with you.

You hear the voice echo.

“Took that like a trooper. You pull off the blue look rather nicely.”

It… it couldn’t be.

“Styx?!”

“The one and only.”

You’re ripped back to that time and place where every word and action suddenly had the weight of an anvil for the first time. You may have been 14 but you were expected to work like a adult and punished just as hard in this world. 

You made friends…

“You lost plenty too.”

Burned down a cult.

“With every town on the way…”

You don’t know why he’s here. 

“Just because you killed me doesn’t mean I’m gone.”

Shut up.

“My body is lost and my soul’s been put through the paper shredder but you know what? That’s fine. The way you remember me keeps me alive in a way that matters just as much.”

Get out of here right now.

“You’re in a rush to make me leave? A pity. I’ll tell you though, no hard feelings for what you had to do.”

You made it that hard.

“I did…. Tell you what though, you’re forgetting something important.”

Something important….

You ponder…

Are you actually here? The war? Have you somehow been dragged back in time?

You feel your body dangling upside down.

You’re reminded of bruises and aches you haven’t had in over a decade.

Your stomach rumbles… it's been a bit since you’ve had a real meal

You miss your grandmother’s cooking…

"Then go back already. You don't need to be fighting out here."

If I don't who will?

"Plenty of others can carry that weight for you, go home and take care of your dear family..."

This isn't real. The angel pocket, the war, the mistakes.

You're seeing them all flash in front of you.
 

THE HANGED MAN.
(Arcana 12)

CW: Violence, Injury.
[Image: S2rWJNZ.png]
Styx: Gathered yourself?

Charon: ....

Styx: What's wrong? Took more punishment than you thought you could?

Charon: I want to go home…

Styx: If you want to go back you need to keep your end of the contract. My kingdom for someone who can break me out. Now do you remember what you’re supposed to be doing right now?

Charon:  I… I was in the middle of a fight. I think I managed to find this place by accident but I kinda passed out after.

Styx: Mm… you’re awfully dehydrated and you’ve taken quite the beatdown, you deserve a rest.

Charon: I can’t, I need to go back right now. I just hope they’re all okay..

Styx: They’re more than fine, time doesn’t work the same between worlds. You taking a nap to rest off your injuries here is about a solid minute over there. Of course in most fights that feels like a millennia.

Charon: So in that case….

Styx: Mm. Rules work differently in this place. The armory, a little piece my host spent quite some time working on hoping some little heroic soul might one day find use for its utilities and knowledge. Impressive, right?

Charon: I guess.. I can pop in here anytime?

Styx: Mm… it’s quite large though and you do have to worry about bumping into others who took this same power up. Maybe you’ll meet him here…

Charon: Meet who?

Styx: Hard to say, I’m hoping you recognize him if the time comes and you make the right choices but we have yet to see. Also do be careful of the janitor, he’s quite friendly but he gets a little intense when he’s doing his maintenance routine. Don't want to be stuffed in a soul jar.

Charon: Why do we even have those?

Styx: In due time.

Charon: Noted…  

Styx: So tell me kid, what do you need right now? Tools? Archives? Perhaps a nice place to rest?

Charon: I need you to send me back to the fight right now.

Styx: You certain? Don’t you want to sit down for a bite and maybe renegotiate our contract? I don’t think your current one is going to give you enough to make it through this…. Or save your friends for that matter. 

Charon: What are you offering?

Styx: Something you absolutely need right now, the power to kill a god. If you’re strong enough you can keep everyone safe and make it back home, and if you're bright you'll keep yourself alive too. 

You are reluctantly considering it. 

Charon:  What’s the catch?

Styx: Nothing you can’t afford.. at least I think you should be fine.

Charon: I don’t like that wording. Don't bullshit me.

Styx: I just want a little more. You promised to get me out of this realm but I need more than a construct shell made of vendor’s trash or a refurbished corpse. You witchy types are pretty good at managing to get your hands on both and calling it a day. 

Charon: Alright… so you want guarantee of quality.

Styx: Mmhmm. That cult’s been stockpiling fiend bodies for their elites. They choose to indulge in the blessing of potential immortality that folks like you and I naturally are offered… one you should seriously consider more exploration of. 

Charon: I’m not stealing blood.

Styx: You don’t have to with the right friends and money- but fair enough. Not all of us can make the decision to ascend the mortal plane. My point is simple, though.

Charon: Grab you a body?

Styx: The strongest you can find. You’re not the only one I have a contract with in this world and I can tell you for certain that there’s some really powerful things they’ve been working on in there.

Charon: How do I know you’re not going to pull anything the moment we do?

Styx: Because you and your friends have enough firepower to check me easily right now, couldn’t if I wanted to. But… you need to have friends left. You aren’t strong enough right now to save them with how underdeveloped your proxy is but… if you want to speed up its growth I can certainly help you get there. 

Charon: Something like that could kill me right now….

Styx: It’s what you have and need the most. You’re weaker than all your friends, you don’t need them to see you as a burden. 

Charon: I’m not a burden…

Styx: They certainly think about the fact that they have to work extra to keep you safe. You can see it on their faces when they have to dive in and save you regularly. Erica especially, she’s been putting herself on the line the entire time hasn’t she? Doesn’t even know you’re her grandkid from the future but already has plenty of practice.

You fall silent.

Styx: You want to be helpful don’t you? You want to do everyone a big old favor and keep them safe? Then you know what you have to do.

He offers you a hand.

Charon: I want to make sure all of us make it out safely. I don’t want any sudden doublecrossing or wavering. 

Styx: I don’t care what any of you do after all this. The moment I get that body we’re parting our separate ways and never looking back.

You return the handshake.

Charon: I can live with that.

Styx: Now tell me Mr. Hero, are you ready to go back and make up for all your mistakes?

Charon: I’ll do whatever it takes, just let me save everyone.

Styx: Absolutely. I love it when we both get what we want out of a contract.

As you feel the power seep in, you’re yanked about a week forward. 

You’ve been planning this raid for months. You’ve torn through the block to get in admin after admin and now you’re finally in the moment confronting the center of it all.
 
THE TOWER, PART 1/3
(Arcana 16)
CW: Violence, Injury, Mention of Death, Emotional Abuse.

[Image: Cc0zOZS.png]


The cat looks down on you from her line of bangs with empty eyes and a croc smile. The presence around her is drowningly oppressive to the point that the air is almost suffocating. 

You look over to your friend to remind yourself that you’re not alone but..

Opera is just as scared as you if not worse.

Charon: Are you okay?

Opera: No.. you?

Charon: I'm trying to be.

You hear a intrusive voice echo in your head.

Styx: Time to pay up I do think. Don't disappoint.

What does that mean?

Styx: That's it, the biggest prize of all. Cash in.

This is it.
 
Reply
#9
[Image: 33yz3xI.png]

(CWs: Violence, Injury, Fear, Gore, Mention of Death, Emotional Abuse)

You put up your guard immediately. You spoke big, yelled for weeks about how when the time comes you’ll be the one to dethrone the wretched leader of this cult and burn it all down with her…

And now that you’re here it’s taking your all just not to shake in front of her. 

You want to cry.

She looks directly at you. 

Rook: Why are you hesitating? 

Rook: You’ve caused me quite a bit of trouble these past couple of months. Bunch of misfits and mutts stirring up a mess just as we were on the verge of creating a utopic world. 

Rook: Pity you didn’t take the offer when it was given to you. Would’ve been a damn good addition. I’d give you one last chance but right now I think I’d like you better as fertilizer. 

She smirks.

Rook: Don’t have any words? All this talk of revolution and heroics and the moment you have the chance to make a difference you’re silent? Your friend there I can understand, but you? I expected more.

She approaches you slowly, every step with a mocking swagger before pressing her chest up directly against your weapon. 

Rook: Make this easy, show me you have the guts to do it. If you have any resolve you won’t hesita-

Before she finishes her monologue your proxy dives in immediately and blasts the upper part of her into chunks with a full powered slug. 

Opera can’t help make a scream out of shock. 

The rest of her stumbles back, struggling only for a moment to maintain its balance before managing to recollect itself. 

Her body rapidly reforms at rate so fast and grotesque you can’t help but wince. 

In one swift motion she cracks her neck before regaining her posture as if nothing had happened.

Rook: Didn’t even need me to finish talking to take orders, like a little soldier. 

Charon: So the rumors really are true…

Rook: Mmhmm. Can’t die no matter what you try to pull. Have to give praise where it’s needed though, you have the bite to back up your bark. 

She turns over to Opera.

Rook: That other one there did for awhile too but she gave up. I’m a little disappointed, got a lot of entertainment from all those attempts. Better for me though, a broken soul is easier to harvest. 

Opera: You’re awful, you and everyone around you!

Rook: You’re the reason all this suffering is happening in the first place. In another time and place you were dragged in here by the angel and took every desperate measure to make your way out until there was nothing left. 

Rook: Contracts with devils, breaking holes in reality, creating crimes against humanity. Nothing you wouldn’t do to get out of here… and when you did? Life changed, everyone moved on and you’d been gone so long there was nothing for you left. Miserable little thing became an unrecognizable shell and for no reward… 

Rook: When I came to collect you didn’t hesitate. You made yourself the perfect immortal host with the assets to bring down a small nation. Really are a gem of a person. Unfortunately at that point your soul didn’t hold up very long for someone like me and well… I needed something from you. Fortunately there’s plenty of realities to dig another you up from. 

Rook: Could you imagine finding out how much potential for tragedy you can create for yourself? You’ve already been gone from home so long too.. If you were to return now there’d be very little left. You parents never cared, your friends already gave up. 

Opera: You’re a lying piece of shit! 

Rook: Really? Then why am I here? Why are you looking down those sights pointing that barrel at me? Because you gave up, you have the potential for so much ruin and you didn’t even know-

Opera opens fire and tears a big hole through Rook’s chest. 

It takes a moment for her to regenerate, shock in her eyes this time.

Opera: I’m not you! I’m not you or anyone other than me right now! What you did, all your mistakes are yours to live with and nobody else’s!

Opera: You’re a leech, nothing you own was ever yours to begin with! The people under you, your crown, and the body you’re dragging around are all because you don’t have anything! You’re a pathetic excuse of a creature.

Rook: Touche. I’ll give you both credit, a lot more fire than the previous little heroes who managed to make it this far.

Charon: With any luck it’ll be the last. Right now you should be thinking about what god you want to meet at the end of this. 


You feel yourself fizzling out, recollecting things so vividly is taking a lot out of you. 

 
[Image: Y3pY57p.png]
 
STRENGTH PART 1/2

(Arcana 11)
CW: None

Your bird friend has been spending the past 20 minutes examining your ghostly buddy thoroughly, not a thorn nor petal unchecked.

Hickory: Your proxy sure changed a lot after that last fight. 

Charon: Yeah.. is that normal?

Hickory: Absolutely. You’ve been through a lot these past couple of weeks here, you and your cousin aren’t going to stay green forever. Gotta say though, seeing it up close it’s pretty impressive. No idea how you managed to end up with something so strong this fast.

Charon: Yeah well… I guess there must be something special.

Hickory: Don’t get cocky… but yeah honestly, there might be. Maybe you always had something in you. Little bit of fire under your ass can bring it out.

Charon: Not something I really chose honestly…

Hickory: Don’t worry about it. 

Charon: So what’s happening then? Is it that much stronger?

Hickory: Proxies don’t necessarily get stronger when they change, sometimes it’s just different and you gotta adjust for it but… 

Hickory: Honestly? Probably stronger, yeah. I have to show Fenton, think he’d have some interesting thoughts on this.

Charon: Where is he anyway?

Hickory: Visiting the bodega, he likes taking care of the owner’s pets. 

Charon: I mean that cat is pretty good.

Hickory: …Charon.

Charon: Mm?

Hickory: The cat is the owner.

Charon: W-what?!

Hickory: Yeah. Call them gremlins. Bunch of weird little things that phase through and eat metal. Pretty wild stuff.

Charon: They eat… metal?!

Hickory: Yep. Easy to sustain in a place like this though with all the junk and debris the angel brings in. Speaking of, you wanna go check on him? He’s been gone for a bit…

Charon: Yeah, I’d be down-

You’re ripped out of the memory once again.

You were happy if only for a moment…


Esperanto: This is all wrong, there’s something deeper in here that’s haunting you. 

Esperanto: Something that’s changed your very physical being. I need to look to the furthest I can.

Charon: You don’t want that.

Esperanto: If I can’t figure it out I don’t want you on this job. If we’re compromised it could mean so much unneeded suffering.

Charon:I really would rather you not-

Your pleas are ignored.

You’re… here again.

JUDGMENT, PART 1
Cw: Suffering, Fear, Violence. 
[Image: EB1weCA.png]


What is in front of you is something you can barely comprehend with your eyes alone but…

You can feel every pulse, every vibration of its emotions.

Its heart bleeds a tower of emotions into you.

Dread of reality…

Missing a long lost love…

An eternity of loneliness. 

Despite no need, the angel has taken a form that’s a puzzle of its original self. 

JUDGEMENT.

It speaks out.

JUDGEMENT: You’ve really come a long way haven’t you..

JUDGEMENT: I’m impressed.

JUDGEMENT: I can see a bit of him in you.

JUDGEMENT: Even though we’re meeting for the first time, it feels like meeting an old friend.

Charon: It’s weird but… yeah.

JUDGEMENT: Unfortunately we both know what has to be done.

Charon: Yeah… 

JUDGEMENT: You’ve gone through so much hardship, poor child.

Charon: It’s what I had to do. I know you’ve been through a lot too.

JUDGEMENT: I couldn’t describe it but… you can feel it, no?

Charon: Mm.

JUDGEMENT: You could’ve escaped with your friends. Why didn’t you?

Charon: Because I’ve got loose ends. You’re the biggest one of them all. 

JUDGEMENT: Fair enough. You know you can’t win though, right?

Charon: Don’t know that.

JUDGEMENT: There’s no reason for you to do this the hard way.

Charon: Wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t so…

Charon: Right now you’re SOL. 

JUDGEMENT: A fool. A brave one.

Charon: As always. 

JUDGEMENT: I’d like a little more time to enjoy the moment before we begin… it’s been a long time since I’ve met someone who understands.

Charon: I’m in no rush. 

JUDGEMENT: Miss him, really do but… I’m glad he has people. It means a lot to know he’s not alone.

Charon: He misses you too you know?

JUDGEMENT: That hurts to think about honestly… He deserves better.

Charon: Don’t think there is.

Charon: You’re the best there ever was.

Charon: The original Judgment. 
Reply
#10
Rollback... Part 1 
[Intermission Chapter]
CW: None

SleightRemorse: Hey, hope you don’t mind DMs. I recently read your thread on Troubler’s Archive talking about your experiences with a pact gone sour. It really hit close to home and I guess I really appreciate seeing someone else talk about similar experiences. Are you up to talk about it some? I know it’s late so you don’t have to now.

SleightRemorse: Are you up to talk about it some? I know it’s late over there so you don’t have to now.

EternalPlatinumWinter: No it’s fine, I was up anyway. Tend to be most active late with the way my schedule is.

SleightRemorse: Oh good! So first off, any touchy subjects?

PlatinumWinter: Honestly, it’s hard talking about our mom sometimes so don’t expect me to answer every question about her. And I guess don’t make it too existential if you can? I know that’s kind of unavoidable with the topic but… you know.

SleightRemorse: After that, you have no idea how much of you is the real you.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Exactly, you get it.

SleightRemorse: On a side note, I really love that icon. Something about the expression feels comfortably smug. 

EternalPlatinumWinter: Good! 

SleightRemorse: Is it from anything?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Not in particular, just a character I drew a lot back in the day. Here.

 
[Image: Hhxpoxv.png]

SleightRemorse: Ah, a OC?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Feels weird calling it that but yeah

SleightRemorse: Yeh.

SleightRemorse: Can I hear more about them?

EternalPlatinumWinter: You wouldn’t want to hear about an old thing like that….

SleightRemorse: I mean, I used to have something similar as a kid. 

SleightRemorse: Hold on…

 
[Image: j6QeyIE.png]

EternalPlatinumWinter: That’s cute…

EternalPlatinumWinter: Any Name?

SleightRemorse: Call him Solly. He was a character I had back in the day as kind of my mascot. I still use him as a placeholder on a lot of my diagrams for witch tech.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Glad you found use for him still. 

SleightRemorse: So what about yours?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Mine? 

SleightRemorse: Lore drop, do it.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Fuck okay

EternalPlatinumWinter: So her name is Platino. She’s a duelist and bounty hunter who takes big money jobs and fights to help out kids living on the streets. She didn’t have an orphanage growing up so she wanted to be able to take care of kids without folks to take care of them.

EternalPlatinumWinter: I made her a lot of things that I wished I was as a kid. Brave, strong, confident in anything from fighting to romance. I guess it made it easy to imagine a life where I felt like I did what I wanted.

EternalPlatinumWinter: She became really personal to me so she’s still my Icon to this day.

EternalPlatinumWinter: I wanted to be that cool. Anyway sorry to vent like that, just didn't expect to be talking about her today.

SleightRemorse: You always still can be.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Maybe? I don’t know. These days I’m living away from my mom and I have a roommate with me but our scheduling is tricky.

SleightRemorse: Work?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Sort of. I only really post here late because my roommate needs the computer during the day and we both have work. We’re pretty busy people.

SleightRemorse: Ah, you don’t sleep in?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Nope. She hates it when I stay up too much because she’s not getting sleep either. Hopefully that’ll change soon, we made a bit of an investment. Something that’ll give us our space more.

SleightRemorse: Any details?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Not yet. We’re still looking through options but maybe I’ll show people when we figure it out.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Anyway, hopefully it’s not too late where you’re at.

SleightRemorse: It’s almost morning here so..

EternalPlatinumWinter: Oh god I’m sorry

SleightRemorse. I’m all good. I got some stuff to do in town soon though.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Ah. 

SleightRemorse: I wanna talk more though whenever we can. Would you be okay with that?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Yeah! 

SleightRemorse: What do you want me to call you by the way? You user name is a bit of a mouthful. Winter?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Winter is good. You?

SleightRemorse: Sleight is fine

SleightRemorse: We never really talked about the thread so I guess I’ll pester you later about it? I actually should go now.

EternalPlatinumWinter: You do good out there.

SleightRemorse: Of course. You too, get some sleep. Your roommate would probably appreciate that.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Will Do! 


SleightRemorse has Logged Off


EternalPlatinumWinter has Logged Off
Reply
#11
JUDGMENT, PART 2
Cw: Exploration of Trauma

[Image: unknown.png]
 JUDGEMENT: That’s a ton to assume… though I don’t know if you’re entirely wrong.

Charon: who else could you be?

JUDGEMENT: Just a eye on this world latched to a remnant looking for something beloved. I don’t know what fascinates you however…

JUDGEMENT: You’re not so different yourself. Maybe your humanity was fully intact when you entered but… something changed.

JUDGEMENT: And yet despite all that, you’re still you deep down.

JUDGEMENT: You have the admiration of the thousands who dwell here and the scorn of the kingdom you tore down.

Charon: I did what I had to, nothing more complicated than that.

JUDGEMENT: Mm. I can see him in you….

JUDGEMENT: You have that same heart… I’m sure your family is proud.

Charon: I don’t know honestly.

Charon: I got my Grandma and Geezer. And I guess all the folks I met here now too.

Charon: I’ll be honest, spent so much time being a burden. I wasn’t a knight or a hero or anything before I got here.

Charon: Don’t think I can call myself that honestly after the way things went.

JUDGEMENT: You did the people a favor didn’t you?

Charon: But I couldn’t save everyone…

JUDGEMENT: Nobody can, but you saved many regardless. You know, you were offered quite the deal.

JUDGEMENT: A crown that’d remain unchallenged, a shell of immortal flesh, and power to surpass all those who rule. Most would fall to that temptation.

JUDGEMENT: So why didn’t you take it up? I mean… I know why but.

Charon: You want to hear it from me.

JUDGEMENT: Mm.

Charon: Really I guess  I just… miss my home, my family, my bed…

Charon: Being a god and all sounds great but…

Charon: After everything?I just want to play some games, curl up a hot drink, and wait for my grandma to get home from work.

Charon: You miss that so much right now.

The angel stares off quietly for a bit, seemingly lost in thought.

Charon: Is everything okay?

JUDGEMENT: Mm.

JUDGEMENT: As much as you might feel disconnected from your previous sense of self, I think it’s very much still there.

JUDGEMENT: I want you to protect that with your life. Cherish it. You may not find the fame you seek…

JUDGEMENT: But you’re already further into figuring it out.

JUDGEMENT: Life isn’t about winning on a broad scale, or becoming wealthy and powerful. That’s something you more than understand.

Charon: It’s about that personal fulfillment. Feeling like those little interactions matter.

JUDGEMENT: Mm… I will say, when you return there will be a hardship you will carry on your back.

JUDGEMENT: The burden of knowledge. When you return, you’ll have seen so much and been through even more that you might have trouble connecting to that world.

JUDGEMENT: You’re just as much a resident of this place as you are where you came now.

JUDGEMENT: You’re a eldritch beast in the shape of man, everything from your thoughts to the fibers of your body are betrayed by your appearance.

Charon: I know.

JUDGEMENT: But… that doesn’t mean you stop being you. You may not always feel that way but.. It’s true.

Charon: Mm..

Charon: You’re like that too.

JUDGEMENT: To a bigger extreme.

Charon: Why don’t you come home with me? I know there’s someone there who misses you.

JUDGEMENT: Mm… the temptation is there but…

JUDGEMENT: I don’t know if I want him to see me like this. My existence would endanger him greatly.

Charon: We can fix you.

JUDGEMENT: No… though part of me wants to return, the angel that I’m merged with is a liability.

JUDGEMENT: I’d be endangering him and everyone else in this form. That’s why I exiled myself to the pocket.

Charon: That doesn’t feel right.

JUDGEMENT: Mm… Your only option is to free me at this point. Then maybe… part of me can be with him…

JUDGEMENT: Raise your sword.

Charon: I don’t want to fight you.

JUDGEMENT: You wish to go home? Show me your resolve. As a reaper, as a Judgment, as the best of all of us.

JUDGEMENT: You carry a common soul with anyone who’s worn the family crest. You’re just as good as any of them. You’re not making it home until you get past me, don’t give me less than your fullest.

Your feelings tenderize in the turmoil of being taken back to so many of these moments. Whether you like it or not, all of this was formative.

The bonds you made, the things you lost, the scars you carry. Every moment of it is what makes you who you are.

You feel the illusion around you ease some. A voice starts to echo in.

Esperanto: You’ve… been through so much.

Charon: What happened, happened.

Esperanto: At such a young age too… you poor child.

Charon: Don’t think it would’ve been any easier now if I’m honest but…

Charon: I’ll endure. I made it home, I have my family, and now I’ve caught up with folks from back then.

Charon: I won’t be alone, no matter how hard the future might get.

You hear them make a murmur.  You can make up a single torn utterance“ I’m sorry”

You weren’t sure if what you heard was real or not. Its tone bathes in a sense of genuine concern that gives you a conflicted sense of warmth.

Esperanto: I apologize for tearing in. I truly was worried something was left lingering to compromise things.

Charon: Personally I’m peeved after that but.. I suppose I understand.

Charon: I wouldn’t trust me either on a glance I-

The illusionary haze seems to spike back up.

Charon: I thought you were done!

Esperanto: I am, there’s something in there trying to manifest.

Esperanto: Some repressed elements I cannot contain.

Charon: Turn it off!

Esperanto:  I can’t!

Esperanto: Whatever happens next, don’t let it take you!

Esperanto: I’ll grab assistance! Stay there! I-
Before they finish, you find yourself dragged into a endless tidepool.

You’re taken back again….

???: That certainly was something.

???: I’m surprised enough of me was left in here to gather consciousness.

???: I do hope you remember me, our bargain isn’t quite done yet. 

???: Though I have to say, this reunion makes me… bittersweet.

 
[Image: unknown.png]

Charon: …Styx?

Styx: None other. Now let’s talk about cashing in, shall we?
Reply
#12
A Morning Talk
[Intermission Chapter 2]
CW: Abusive Dynamics, Injury, Discussions of Death
 
[Image: unknown.png]


You find yourself stirring, waking up just before the crack of down and having a difficult time going back to sleep. 

You pace around, mess with your own personal writings, and try counting sheep. 

Nothing really works for you. 

You decide to go through your morning routine since your insomnia isn’t playing nice today. Ali went out to handle some work and she’ll more than likely be back soon. You choose to wait for her, perhaps getting the chance at a nice morning conversation…

As if anyone could have a nice conversation with Ali. 

You make yourself situated and comfortable, falling asleep on the couch to the white noise of the television.

Your dreams haven’t been the same ever since you made a contract with an otherworldly devil. They haunt you, feeling more like bad memories than anything.

 You see yourself as someone else, see yourself as a hero, and witness the end of the world in rapid fire.

 You wake up with a jolt even more tired than before somehow. As you try to shake things off you find yourself hearing a knock

Manzana: Who is it?

There’s a familiar grumble before the entrance door unlocks to the couch.

Stepping through is Ali, your tall hellhound of a mother.

Manzana: Ali?

Ali: It’s early, go back to sleep. 

Her cadence is weaker. You can see bandages and blood stains all over her outfit. You can identify bullet and knife wounds.

Manzana:You’re hurt.

Ali: Don’t you worry about me. Just gotta sleep it off. 

Manzana: Please let me help,They look really bad.. maybe I could jus-

Ali: Don’t even think about it. 

She looked worse for wear than you’ve ever seen her. You’re amazed she was able to walk herself through the door in that condition. 

Manzana: What even happened..?

Ali: Had to settle the score with someone in town. Thought age would’ve caught up with her but she had a lot more bite than usual today. 

Manzana: The other dog?

Ali: Mm. Big shame on me for getting hit. Got her just as good… still a net loss in the end. 

The other dog was a gunslinger, your adoptive mother’s sister who she regularly got into scuffles with but… by the look at Ali’s wounds…

It was certainly more dire than last time. 

Manzana: A net loss?

Ali: If I give her a limp she can still pop off her little annoying gun the next time. If I get a limp I’m going to struggle more next time. Don’t think it’ll be that bad..

Her face was flushed and her clothes were stained dark. She’d bled quite a bit.

Manzana: You need a doctor.

Ali: I’ll sleep it off. You catch some yourself while you still have the chance. I’m not going to be able to give you your lesson today at full capacity so take an extra hour today. 

Manzana: You shouldn’t be teaching at all!

Ali: Quitter’s talk. If I can’t teach by example I can’t prepare you for the world. Right now you’re witnessing a perfect example of the type of things you’ll have to be willing to tough through to pick up the mantle as knight. 

Manzana: Is this really the best way?

Ali: It’s the only way. Shit’s brutal. You can’t accept that? Don’t bother. 

Manzana: You should at least let me take a look at your wounds, if there’s bullets still inside-

Ali: I’ll get them out myself. 

Manzana: Ali…

Ali: Tell me, did you take your meds last night?

Manzana: Of course.

Ali: You check your card in the morning?

Manzana: Star reversed.

Ali: Don’t like that. Meditate on it, figure out a way to avoid pitfalls today. 

She gives you a little brief look before turning away.

Ali: Your eyes weren’t blue before. That pact of yours is taking a toll. Resolve it or execute. Choice is what you want it to be. That proxy of yours is strong but if it’s going to eat you up, you’re best off settling for good enough. 

Manzana: I don’t know if I can do that. It’s been hitting pretty hard. 

Ali: Yeah? You’re an adult, fix it. While you’re at it, get a trim too. Looks like a broom right now.

Manzana: A trim? 

Ali: Your hair’s growing pretty long.You want to either keep it short or tuck it away. Don’t need extra ways for people to grab you during a fight. Least you didn’t leave it hanging down.

Manzana: I like it..

Ali: Figures. I guess it’s important though right? 

You give her a hesitant nod.

Ali: It’s manageable enough I suppose.  Suggest a hat or something personally. They’re not my cup of tea but it’ll tuck it all away easy without having to gel it all back. You like dressing up in that costume stuff so I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

Manzana: Mm… 

She lets out a big yawn, her tough posture no longer quite as maintained.

Ali: Maybe I will call off today actually. I don’t want to take you out to the field until you have that resolved so I’m giving you the next couple of days to find a solution. If you don’t come up with something I’ll shave it all down myself. 

Manzana: Please don’t.

Ali: Then make things happen.

Ali starts slumping toward her room. 

Ali: Go handle your contract, meditate, figure out the solution to that hair. I’m going to go and take a break to rest off these wounds.

Manzana: Please let me help you, you’re going to bleed out..

Ali: Don’t stress over me, not planning to croak like this.Set an alarm for a couple hours from now, get your rest. 

Manzana: Mm…. I’m sorry.

Ali: My mistakes are mine to make, don’t apologize.

You hesitate to leave her on her own. You two have a bit of a strained relationship but.. You’ve never seen her like this.  Maybe you should pester…

Ali: Why aren’t you moving? Go.

Manzana: I… have a question.

Ali: Make it quick.

Manzana: You and the other dog, you both fight like this all the time right?

Ali: Pick your next words wisely.

Manzana: What happens when you eventually win?

Ali:  Her kids would hunt me down after that. They’re soft, but they’ve got a lot of talent. Wasted on them really.

Manzana: And you’ll fight them too? 

Ali: Absolutely. Until someone strong enough to break our curse appears I can’t rest. I can’t go down til the cream rises to the top, and if that ends up being me in the end so be it. 

Manzana: What happens if you can’t keep fighting?

Ali: You think I’ll die?

Manzana: No but-

Ali: That’s always a real chance. If she manages to gun me down by surprise I got a few backup plans.

Manzana: A few?

Ali: Always need more than one. Had a couple others just in case but… one I don’t see being viable and the other? We’ll see. That's all you got to ask?

Manzana: Mm… 

Ali: Good. 

Manzana: Don’t push yourself too hard today-

Ali: Go to bed. I’ll see you in a bit. 
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