Dragon, Phoenix, Spriggan
Haru returns from his trip to the Palace Lands with much to discuss with his sister, Uta. He chims out an invite at the Green Dragon Inn to discuss. (Semi-Private scene, open to Uta, Curt, Gwen, and Yeowang - Page Haru if interested in joining - Slow Play by Post style)
Yet in the Palace Lands it was as direct and vulnerable as it could be. There were topics he is still processing the implications of. The one at the front is a simple one: The price of his ambition was the truth. The truth he has not told his own sister. She should have been the first to know, and although he can not change that, he can fix it. That part of Haru is fixed, his sense of duty. It makes it almost plausible that he can resolve the debt of his family. That even if he falters he will not fail.
It is not long after the boat docks that Haru chims Uta to meet up at the Green Dragon Inn. That important things have happened and she needs to know about them. The silver haired Enchanter grabs a table there, snacks, not unlike a time long ago when Fuka, Uta, and himself were snacking after a Hunter's Guild request. The nostalgia is thick. How the times have changed. He orders a single malt whiskey and takes a deep breath. No amount of rehersal in his head is helping organizing what needs to be said.
It is the sound of a Grunty imitating people, as they do: "It's FASHION TIME!", she exclaims, to which Uta replies, "Yes, Gwenty, yes it is.", with gentle pats. "I am already GETTING IDEAS!", continues the grunty, but that is interrupted by the sound of crunching vegetables. Probably the closest to a carrot of Gruntian proportions this world has to offer.
The door creaks open, and Uta peeks her head in. "Hello, is this the Hostess of Fertility in Alne?", she asks the innkeeper. "I think I was supposed to meet an Adventurer named Haru Nox at some point, but I'm not sure when. I might or might not have been sidetracked." She spots Haru. "Oh, hi, brother!", she smiles with a wave. "I'll be with you in a moment as soon as I sort out a thing!"
She returns to address the inkeeper with mild worry, "It's all a blur. Am I too late for that?", she asks.
It was only when Curtana almost directly walks into a Grunty crunching on some plants next to a wagon that he is pulled out of his thoughts and thrown into a whole new situation. One could almost hear the screeching of brakes as he stares at the...rather unique Grunty in front of him, even twisting his head as if to understand it a bit better. It was only when he Inspected it that a snort of laughter bursts from his lips as he moves around the snacking creature. "Even when she's not around, I can't escape Gwen and her 'fashion'."
Walking inside and spotting both Haru and Uta, he nods to himself as if he's catching onto something. Ordering himself a fresh cup of the local tea, his platemail clinks a bit as he sits down close by, not wanting to bother the two just yet. Taking a sip of the steaming tea, he seems to judges it for a moment before shaking his head. "Still can't find a good cup..."
"Uta," Haru says as he watches her be classically lost and exactly where she needs to e at the same time, "you are on time, at the right place, and I think the innkeeper's head is going to explode." Its possible! They are doing the 'but he is... but you are... but it is... wait who am I?!' the existential crisis is as deep as half of the people rolling out of Pela's Cafe after too much specialty mellowpan.
The whiskey in front of Haru is picked up and sipped upon. It stays on his tongue for a couple seconds before he follows and the exhale is a slow, hot aroma of earthen malt with a finishing note of caramel. "I hear Vertina's serves up a good cup," he offers to Curtana with a raise of the glass, "or the samurai there. Between that, the new pizza menu items, and waitresses it has been rather lively." Sip. "Don't tell Elf though. She seems happy to have her Inn back in order and updating the menu hasn't been a thing." He thinks. Haru gets pretty invested in Shibuya's development these days.
"Real tasting food and drinks are still not as widespread as we Adventurers would like," she says to Curtana, whom she greets with a bow. "If you want something better than hot water-"
Silence. Uta frowns, one hand raised, as if for objecting to something, but nothing further comes forth. She looks frozen in time.
Her head snaps towards Haru. She says no words, but one can deduce loads from where her eyes settle: Haru's face. His drink. Haru's face. That distinctive expression of concentration she makes when reviewing the immediately recent past, scrambling for hints, the one where she looks like she's wringing her brain and jumping on it to squeeze at least one juice of meaning out of it.
"I had a great compass," she says, as she pulls out a chair and sits down, with slow, mindful movements. Those familiar with her will be able to tell that she's not really putting barriers between herself and Haru, merely treading lightly, trying not to be a Grunty in a Palace Lands Shop. Some of that professional Etiquette she acquired as part of her in-game job title kicking in, instinctively, and she's paying extra attention to how she moves.
Once she's seated, she says nothing really, she just waits. Her turn is over, it's someone else's move now.
Listening to Uta ramble on does draw Curtana out of this mood, and he looks visibly confused by SCD, trying to figure out if it was a real condition or not. If so, this is a major concern! But before one could question it any further, Uta trails off and Curtana just nods his head once towards her. While he doesn't know just how well Uta and Haru know each other, it's obvious she can tell when he's not in the usual jovial mood Curtana is used to him being as. Taking a sip of his tea again, he reaches into his inventory and pulls out a bit of honey to drop in it. Best to just let Haru speak before seeing if he should chime in at some point.
The singular blue eye rolls over to Uta like a cloud drifting in a sea of the sky. "I'm glad the compass is serving you well. It is a custom make. One of a kind. When you make something that unique, you really dont know if it works the way you hope it will. No data to compare it against and despite being an 'Artificer', I can't make relics." A finger points up as he continues to avoid the important topic, "Yet. Did you know that when we talked to Li Gan that the Alvs were just people, yet they made Relics. Like the Church, Moonlight Construction. It begs to argue our final step into Legendary Moonlight is a Relic of some sort." He taps the silver lining of his monocle. No. That is not why he asked Uta to come here. The hand goes slack for a moment. It falls down like a leaf ripped from its branch and drifts to the table where it rests.
"Uta, my dearest sister, I have been guarded about my past. I needed time to find the path to reveal these truths with those I trust and respect, knowing full well it may be the end of everything. But of all the people in this world, I do not think you would abandon me," a finger taps on the table, thinking back to another discussion. "Nor do I think you would forgive me, nor need to, as part of that road. However, it is a shame of mine that you were not to know these details before all else. My friends," he looks to Curt and Gwen (if in the background) for that, "did and that will be something precious between us. The moment we were on the same soil you deserve to know the same."
Deep breath, sip of the whiskey. Gulp. Exhale slowly. Haru puts his glass down. "A few things known, a few unknown, and a few clarified," Haru says as he considers how best to unravel this mess. Like explaining how the house is somehow on fire, flooded, and home to a new koi fish. "My name in Japan is Haru Himekawa, not Haru Nox," he says to start. Himekawa Electronics is a household name, like General Electric. Many consumers may know their household brands and businesses require that relationship for microprocessors and boards. It id the difference between having goods delayed for months on parts and being able to meet the market demand. They are in your microwaves, your monitors, your computers, and your vehicles. They are not, notably, in any CC-based products under proprietary veil. "I am the second son of Genji Himekawa, acting CEO, and grandson to Shinji Himekawa, stepped down like his father before him to run the company." A finger taps on the table to keep a steady beat, a heartbeat, to the narrative, "The company is family owned. It has more in common with medieval nobility than it does society. You are born to fulfill a role, married under politics to similar family run businesses, and expand the power of the company. It is your life." The hand goes flat against the table. "So it is not an undue burden to say that my family is responsible for elements of the Flash of Death that left millions of people crippled or dead."
There is a pause there to let the topic breathe. Haru breathes. "To be clear, Himekawa Electronics did not send the software out that caused the Flash of Death. However, software is subject to the limitations of hardware. There are things in place to prevent harm the same way electricity is regulated to not kill people during regular wiring work. Unless," he curls his hand on the table, "you remove those limitations, which we did, willingly, in order to profit and compete with the upcoming competition, CC. It was my responsibility to argue the case for the people we served and advocate for their best interests." He looks directly at Uta, "And I failed. I thought I had this compelling arguement with my father that I lost, but the truth is I never tried. I was too desperate for attention and recognition as a second son. I only inherit the family business if something happens to my elder brother. Otherwise I am destined for regional management and cross political marraiges. Or was. Until I came here and cannot go back to that life."
Haru blinks ever so slowly with his blue eye, "This came out during a conversation with Feng Huang. Something meaningful and deep was required to forge a Bond with him, which I did. My pride was the cost and the truth can potentially ruin many things. I don't know who would want to associate with a family of mass murderers, but I am not wavering from my responsibility and debt to those we have wronged. I can't say my father even wanted to be CEO, just like I never wanted the cards I was delt. Maybe he made a mistake, I don't know, but that doesnt matter. We hurt people. It is not my power to Heal, that is yours, and it may yet be possible to mend that rift and gain the forgiveness of millions before I lack the strength to act in that ambition." It was rather obvious, even though it goes counter to something he just said, highlighting that despite his /formal/ choice of words, he truly does not know how to go about it, "And I should start with seeking forgiveness with those closest to me. I thought that, perhaps, freeing people's Wills from the Crown of Control would help make me feel I have shown this with actions over empty words and have the strength to ask for forgiveness. But. As it was main obvious to me with Feng Huang, you cannot redeem people who do not want to be redeemed. Not Shirin. Not my father."
Curtana doesn't react too much upon realizing that Uta and Haru are related, after all there are reports of entire families of Adventurers stuck in this world now. No, what has his eyes widening in surprise in shock was the extent to what Himekawa Electronics had gone to keep a competitive edge in the cutthroat electronic market. A flash of raw anger and pain appears on Curtana's face, and he looks down at his cup of tea as painful memories surge up in his mind. Physically shaking his head, Curtana drains the cup of tea he had been complaining about earlier to collect his thoughts. It's certainly not Haru's fault, but this makes a twisted sort of sense if true.
With this bombshell dropped on his head, Curtana realizes he is a bit more tied to this than he had realized. "If you don't mind me saying something real quick...i'll certainly keep that bit of news quiet, Haru, but there's something I do have to tell that to. It would help them out..." Looking back up towards his friend, he gives him a comforting smile, a smile free of judgement. "Basically, i'm not a Japanese local for sure, but I moved from England to further my education in database management at a renowned university..." Looking between everyone in the room, he lets out a sigh. He's going to get chewed out for this, he's certain. "...but...that was my cover story. Long story short, i'm a member of an international task force created solely for tracking down those responsible for the 'big three' viruses, like Pluto's Kiss or...the Flash of Death. Elder Tale Online was reportedly a big clue for us, so I was sent to Japan to investigate it." Speaking it out loud now, it certainly seems like a lifetime ago.
Focusing again on Haru, he just shakes his head once. "I know you feel like you're the one responsible for a lot of what goes wrong around you, but...I feel like you are taking on more guilt that what is actually yours. If that makes sense, anyways. I never was the best with words but, I can say this without a doubt." Making sure he was looking Haru directly in the eyes, he says this out calmly and carefully. "I don't hold you at fault. Not at all."
She's not too late, though she has been rather quietly for the dirst bit she'll sip at her own drink for a moment.
"Yeah it doesn't shock me like that there's families like that in Canada and the USA thought not quite as old."
She looks at Haru for a moment.
"Just how old where you on that."
She sounds serious at the moment.
"I got to admit I'd never figure you were from a one percenter family."
She looks to Curt for a moment listening.
"You didn't make the virus, it was your old man's actions that made the hardware have that flaw. He put you in an very unresonable situation. So I don't hold you at fault and as I said my name was Jenny and Gwen is Just the short hend of the Welsh version of the name. God lucky with Flash of death none of my family was any where near a screen the day it happened. You give a damn Haru and your clearly not faking it. Even with the Pluto's kiss ruined my life..."
Then again, this is Uta. Completely forgetting what she was doing one moment ago is exactly what she excels at.
Uta's order is delivered: a ceramic cup, the kind used for tea, full of steaming, hot water. She sips. She listens. And then it's time for the big three. Big three revelations, that is
First, the mention of Haru's real name. His role within the Himekawa family, and Himekawa Electronics in general. Uta stops moving. At least, stops macro-moving: one could say that she just holds her cup, staring ahead. Does nothing much else. But people skilled in picking up the most subtle of social cues can notice minor shifts in her posture, in the curvature of her back, in the angle of her head, in the flatness of her wings against her back: a mounting sense of awe and respect is detectable, that deeply ingrained adherence to social strata and caste playing out in full, at an unsuppressable subliminal level while the Hamster Slime in her conscious brain is spinning on neutral.
And then, they drop. Both the bombshell about the Flash of Death and Uta's cup of tea. Both leave a shattered mess in their wake. Uta begins to tremble, to hyperventilate, involuntary spasms gasping for air. She reaches into her uniform, and pulls out a squishy red ball, which she, more thatn squeeze and release, chokes and tortures, while her breathing takes up a worrying resemblance with a bad case of hiccups.
Three, Curtana's revelation. But Uta, somehow, doesn't seem to register most of that- she seems, strangely, to have a start when he mentions his studies, of all things. Crush. Release. Crush. Release. Breathe. No, no gasping. Breeeeeeeathe. Uta, you're bad at this.
Curtana is finally done. Uta's murderous grip has been downgraded to mere manhandling.
Silence. She looks down. Chin on her chest, showing the top of her nurse's cap to the rest of the party. What she, instead, sees, is some sort of necklace around her neck -- a glowing device, worn as a necklace, in the middle of a smooth mechanical looking that lays flush to the wearer. Somehow, she's managed to interlock it around a hook-shaped pendant, with a couple of birds perched on the long side of the hook, and a gem the color of her eyes at the top of the pointy end.
"I- I- I- I- I-" It is unclear if she is sobbing, or she simply keeps losing grip on a thought, and trying again, and again, and again, to grasp that slippery prey. "I- My- I- My- My-" her large eyes lost, but already looking more humid than before. One large inhale, one quick closing of her eyes, and her cracked voice finally manages to say, "My name out there doesn't matter much. We never met." There. Done. "I was- I used to- I studied-" A gulp. "College- That... That PhD that- that never was because- because- And then- Zoomies the Turtle- And- That ramen shop- And- and- Waited- and- and- I shouldn't- but-"
Two tears streak down from her cheeks, a quick prelude to the dams reining in her lacrimal ducts immediately bursting out and unleashing a flood on her cheeks. "How could you!" Uta cries, more in pain than anger, between sudden jolts of her lungs. "Before The Flash of Death I could follow ten simultaneous trains of thought without look, a squirrel!", she stutters. "And now- and now- it's a good day when- when- when-"
All there is next is quiet, silent sobbing. No words. Her breathing returns to be more regular, as is the force applied to the red ball, until she just holds it, limp, still, as her face and her breathing.
One begloved hand reaches up, touches her cheek. Her eyes, completely devoid of emotion, look down with casual interest at the tips of her fingers, as she rubs the saline solution between her thumb and index finger together. She looks up, between Haru and Curtana, Curtana and Haru, her expression back to the distracted, lost one she usually sports, without a trace of any recent development. "...Why is my face wet?" A beat. "What were we talking about again? Sorry, I... uh... have a tendency to get distracted," she apologizes.
What was a calm and collected Pooka speaking and trying to cheer Haru finally glanced over to his side to gaze at Gwen. With a strange squeak and his face almost instantly blushing a brilliant red, he points a figner at the fashionable Sylph. "WHAT DO YOU EVEN CALL THAT?! THAT'S NOT ARMOR, THAT'S A CURTAIN WITH SCRAPS ATTACHED TO IT!" Noticing a certain detail around her hips, he firmly turns his face around as he goes from outraged to completely mortified. '...she's not wearing underwear, is she...?'
Due to his outburst, he may have missed Uta reacting to the mention of his university life, but seeing her break down like that is quick to bring him back to the situation at hand. And then...the sudden shift from sobbing to questioning what they were even talking about? It sends a sudden shiver of cold realization down Curtana's spine. He's always been lucky, he knew, not to be exposed directly to the Flash of Death. And here is someone who has been going through so much since that day. Getting out of his chair (and making sure not to look at Gwen's attire), he pulls out a handkerchief from his inventory and offers it to Uta. "It's...here, use this to dry off first..." He wasn't quite sure how to explain, not again so soon after Uta's pain. He glances towards Haru and even Gwen, at a lost on how he could help. And feeling worthless for not knowing how he could.
"Would your father have put additional protections in if you /had/ advised him to?" she asks. "Would they have stopped the virus? People that make viruses are quite devious, generally speaking. But do not doubt that your father deals with the fallout from the virus everyday. Keep in mind, that a corporation does not serve the public, it serves the shareholders, or the owners if it is a private company. If your liability payouts are greater than the money you saved by not taking precautions, then you have chosen poorly, and the impact is to be regretted, and such reparations made as can be made. The lesson you should take home is that you must balance your risks and your payments better. Harm to the public is never good, but a corporation's job is not to serve the public, that is the job of government, and they write regulations and enforce laws to make it so. If you are regretting advising your father poorly, then that is a legitimate regret, but learn from that and in the future, advise people with no regard for fear nor favor in order to serve them best."
Yeowang's comments seem to completely fail to gain any traction on her consciousness -- her eyes focus in and out, unable to retain more than two or three words at a time, which means that by the time she's done, all Uta can remember is 'serve them best.' People might not be aware of this, but she temporarily glances around at the waitstaff. "Yes, yes, the personnel is pretty skilled here," she mumbles. It probably comes of as a random thought to herself for no particular reason.
While she continues drying her face, Uta looks between Gwen and Curtana. Gwen. Curtana. Wipe, wipe. Curtana, Gwen.
"I believe it's called a Gwen Special," she finally answers Curtana. "It's not that bad, I've seen her in more revealing stuff. I don't think it's supposed to be functional," and then launches into a ramble, tapping her lips, as she shares her reflections on the deeper meaning and purpose of Gwen's outfit. "It's a fashion statement. It says-" Pause. Open mouth. Close. Open. "... I wouldn't know, really. I don't speak fashion." She points at her own MMORPG-flavored gi-slash-nurse's-uniform hybrid getup. "Gwen had to design this one for me. And the accessories were lovingly crafted by my brother, here," she adds, gesturing towards Haru. "Masterpieces."
She looks at Curt for a moment and then laughs. "I'm fairly tame far as a lot of the fashion for some adventures go. Also Ashes style was about moblity and not taking hits."
Then all that goes off a cliff as Uta has basically a mental BSOD.
Then Uta seem to recover but Gwen is going to attempt to give her a hug anyway. She also makes a note to not show Curt the Desert outfit or what Her Mother tries to get people into.
Pulling out another handkerchief for Uta, he offers it to her before getting out of the Sylph's way so Uta could get a hug. Mostly everyone here was agreeing with one another, with Uta bringing up more valid points while also being a devil's advocate. Glancing over at his empty tea cup, the hedgeknight sits down heavily and pours himself another cup of the inn's brew.
Gwen's hug seems to elicit an effect which is the reverse of the intended one -- Uta, as many Japanese, is not really the hugging type, but she is taken by surprise, and sort of undergoes the hug in a sort of surprised shock which seems to suddenly jolt her memory back, and a sudden focus in her eyes shows a sudden spike in brain processing power. "Oh. OH! That-" A pause. "Sorry for the breakdown," Uta dismisses again, with a gesture and some embarrassment. "That comment just struck a nerve. The past is the past, we can't change it." Shoulders slump, and this time, instead of a knee-jerk reaction, what Uta undergoes is a slow, collected, deliberate attempt at sharing some personal, potentially embarrassing secret. "...the people I have met since the Apocalypse have been nothing but wonderful. I feel accepted and appreciated just the way I am, and in the end, that's what matters most."
"Thank you, I think I'm dry now," Uta says, holding up a hand at Curtana's second offer.
She looks between Yeowang, Curtana, and Gwen. Hair raises at the back of her neck. As she feels a hunch of where this discussion is going, and all she can think of at the moment is the F-word.
Which is 'Fashion', of course.
Silently shaking his head at how things have gone so far off track, a part of him wonders if that is potentially a good thing. Some heavy things were said from a lot of people involved. Best to see if they can improve the mood just a little. "Hey, we're a hardy bunch, we just have to keep looking forward to what we can do in the future and just make things better. And I hope we didn't offend you, Uta."
The blue eyed human watches Curtana's reaction. That flash of pain and anger. Right there. That is the first step. When Will digs deeper with the cover story, Haru realizes that part of the truth could land him in jail. It is one of the outcomes that kept him from talking. There is no way to act on repaying his debt if people seek justice out on him on their own. Bar or death make or a poor environment to do the works at the scale he needs to. The absolution is almost as bad. That makes him too much like his father who took limited responsibility for the situation. The motivations for reparations were those of selfish origins. Haru shares his theory, "It could be that we have been here for two years now, but I think Elder Tales and the Virus events are connected in some way. The mysteries behind the World Fractions and how global it works. The technology we used before we were trapped here. I spent a lot of time hardware and software both, hacking at them to get the answers that would not be provided by the institutions, and there were too many unanswered questions." A finger runs around the rim of his whiskey glass. A flick of the blue eye to Curtana and the absolution of guilt. "I don't think any person can possibly cut, measure, and weigh the guilt on this scale. I can't. I know I have dues from it. I know they are high. I know I owe. Think of the Manhattan Project," he uses an example closer to Japanese history, "do you think Oppenheimer had an exact metric of his guilt? He didn't do it all himself, either." A deep breath. "Thank you for not blaming me, but if you blame any of the associated hardware, we are for that specific Virus. It is hard to explain it with the way a family like mine functions. We don't hold complete individual freedom. We are born in captivity and caged to the zoo of our name. Like capitalism, perhaps, is a better example. I was born with a bank account that had a number in it. Even if I am not the one making withdraws or deposits, my name is on it and I am accountable. I reap the benefits of money I didnt make and debt I didn't make. It goes both ways."
A hand gestures out. Trying to explain his lifestyle as a social elite is not as posh and perfect as it seems. It is a different life entirely. There are things he wanted that others had, hence him coming to Elder Tales to escape just like everyone else. Haru looks to Gwen next, "Exactly, Jen, there are families like that. There are not many of them. I didnt do the math but give it a few generations and maybe we will all marry out into a superfamily. Though if it didn't happen in the medieval times, I doubt it will now. It is an artifact of governing going back to Biblical times." He takes his drink and wets his parched throat. The head shakes again, "Does it matter how old I was? By that time I had access to the files. I was deep in understanding how the company and our products worked. It is not the same timetable, but, if you want a number? I was a little over eleven. It had been two years since the Sword of Damocles had changed the climate in my cage. You get very motivated when that happens. Everyone wants to blame somebody. Including me, as I am clearly blaming myself for my part in the Flash, but not everyone looks inward. There was a /lot/ of outward anger towards the companies and the governments." An eye flicks to Curtana there. He probably knows even better than Haru does the extent of what an angry mob could do. There are records of children of the families being abducted for blood vengeance or just to ransom the money to pay for the hospital bills caused by the events. Haru was included in that list.
"Lets take that a bit further, Jen, about me not being responsible for the Virus. Lets start with my father. Acting CEO at the time, but did he build those chips? Of course not. Lets blame the lead engineer. But he didn't build it alone. He had a team. Ok, lets blame the team, then. But they all worked on components. Security is interlaced and has dependancies, no one engineer or designer is involved. Then we blame... no one, I guess. Ok, different approach, distribution. We sold a product with known defects, do we blame the sales team then? No. They have the same issue and worse yet it is covered under the contracts to accept the terms, because the alternative is they cant make thier products that require the chips. Its a cost of doing business. So our legal and business teams are not at risk, that is why we paid no official fines and had no offical recourse. When an issue is so large like this one and no single person can be put to blame, then the company is put to blame. I am the company. My father is the company. Himekawas are the company. Is it fair? No, it isnt. But if someone does not try to fix what is broken, then all that pain truly was tragic and we really are the villains society makes us out to be as callous, unthinking, inhuman creatures that use others for our own profit." Sounds well like how he is framing up his father, though. "It dishonors the memory of my mother and she had the biggest heart out of all of us. It is what she would do. She wouldn't look to take an accounting of the situation, she would just help. It was the balance in my family. The Yin and Yang." Looking back on it now, it was probably all the work she did with the Flash that eroded her down. But that was her path.
The drop of Uta's cup draws a dart of Haru's eye. The breathing. The panic attack. When the red ball comes out he is able to continue on when he did. Saying what he had to say was hard. Hearing it is just as hard. It is a path that is shared. A burden that is shared. One that has to be seen through. This was going to be the hardest one. Like a bowling ball going down a lane of broken glass. It becomes obvious why Haru has such a practiced fake smile. Why he has such a 'proper' way of talking that dresses up his feelings in a tux and bow tie. That he seems fine when listening to Uta, but he isn't. There is more blood behind the mask than bowling alley and the bowling ball made of a beating heart as it rolls through shared after shard. "I know, Uta," he says with the energy leaving his voice. "We were just talking about the past. You came across a memory that was a little sad, a little angry," he says. Haru has a very calm voice. He has used this voice before when visiting his mother after the episodes left her with so few tangible memories. They would come flooding back with a song and sight. For a moment she would remember who she was. Then she remembered how she got there. Then back to her chair, the running water, the songbirds. Haru never really knew if that was healing or opening the wounds and he never will while here in Elder Tales.
The whiskey is gone now as Haru raises up only to put it back down. "And now it is out in the open. I don't want to argue about it. I just wanted you to know my side of it," and a turn to Uta, "and I wanted you to know firsthand as soon as that became known."
And now that is all behind them, he thinks. "Fashion," Haru catches up with the topic at hand. "I was wondering if the tournament might have a bit of fashion items for the contestants. The same way sports teams have T-shirts and the like."
As to companies having some minimum level of public interest inherent in them, she nods agreement. "I think we agree on that. But where we disagree is the amount of protection. If your recommendation would have saved people, and if it would have been implemented had you recommended it, then you are certainly a contributor, in whatever part, to what happened. But not a cause. But it was not an accient, it was deliberate mischief, and unless you wrote the virus that caused it, your responsibility is much less. It took fifty years for automobiles to get seat belts, and seventy to get air bags. Safety is incremental, and can only be fully implemented when we have a better idea of the risks."
She looks to Gwen, then Curtana, then says, "Protection is relative, and there are other factors some people choose to value over protection."
And then, when she undoubtedly must have reached the salient moment, it clicks.
Her expression shifts to one Haru has seen. Once. It was when he had sort of foreshadowed his involvement with viruses to Uta, but kind of misled her into thinking it was more about Pluto's Kiss than the Flash of Death. The same inner conflict, the same look of shock and confused reconsideration one would expect from a mountaineer who's been pushed off a cliff by their climbing partner, only to be yanked to a halt a few feet down by a surprise rope the very same climbing partner had just been surprise-hooked into one of the loops in her belt.
Squeeze. Release. Squeeze. Release.
"I think we should save the past for later. At present, we should focus on the future," she states, guarded, tightly controlling her words; a flavor of care which is less poker player, and more like beginner chainsaw operator. Those who know her well can also notice a palpable lack of Uta's trademark aimable carefreeness, a word she thankfully does not think about at the moment, or she'd be rather annoyed at the inconsistency of it not being actually spelled 'carefreedom', but an extra dose of her sense of duty and responsibility, coupled with the aftermath of a confusing realization.
She shimmers a roll of paper into existence, clears a portion of the table clean of items with a single sweep of her arm (luckily the only item on that section of the table was a wet hankerchief, which she herself had just put down a moment ago), and unrolls the new item.
It's long and narrow like one would expect your average scroll to be, and the main feature is a line that bisects the surface into two columns, line which is marked with ticks all over the place. "I am a newbie, this is my first real videogaming session since I was a kid. So I did not know much about the real world history of the Elder Tale franchise, or its in-game Lore. But I have been asking fellow Adventurers, and it turns out that, before the Apocalypse, the time ratio would be fifty to one. One minute in the real world corresponded to fifty minutes in game. One real day, fifty game days. One real year, fifty game years. And there is a shocking amount of congruence."
"I have been obsessed with the Flash of Death in particular, for reasons that I suppose are obvious by now." She runs her finger along that vertical separator, which turns out to be a partially compiled timeline of real world events, on the left, marked with real world dates, and in-game events, marked with in-world dates, on the right. She reaches the relevant point, and jabs it. The left side reads 'June 7, 2003 -- Flash of Death'. The right side, a wider, approximate interval matching '100(ish?) Before Princess War: Prelude to Song'
It will not be lost on people that 'Uta' is the Japanese word for 'Song', possibly providing some extra insight about why the Spriggan feels such a personal connection to the subject.
"An unknown event stuck with historians," she quotes, tapping the corresponding spot on the paper while she rattles out what little is known about what happened back then. "A great light that lit across the land. Some claim it is the source of the 42 Songs." A sigh. "Maddeningly difficult to nail down." The last one was definitely Uta's addition, no quotation.
She crosses her arms and pulls back. "But maybe... If I found out- if -we- found out what it's all about... perhaps..." Silence. "I am no computer scientist, but we did cover the basics of information theory in our lectures. More for the philosophical implications than the hard mathematics. And I remember something about..." She gestures. "Information as a quantifiable entity. As organization versus chaos. I know it's a romantic theory, but-" She hunches over, conspirational, and looks sideways at each member of the party in turn. "What if the Flash of death somehow stole 'order' from our world, and pumped it here? What if- what if there was a way to find what has been taken from us, and maybe- maybe get it back?" She turns to Curtana, "Find the answers we are seeking." To Haru, "Restore what was taken." To Yeowang, "A challenge, to rise to the next level. To reach where nobody has reached before." To Gwen, "To finally crack a mystery, and possibly help all of us who have had something precious taken from them."
Uta places both hands on the table, only the fingertips touching the wooden top, fingers slanted slightly upwards, forming squat pyramids of sorts. "Ladies. Gentlemen. I think that the point I am making is obvious, and at this point, it is equally obvious what the next question I am asking is." Her eyes narrow, with unprecedented intensity. She inhales.
"...Who is Jen?", she asks Haru, abruptly turning towards him. She looks confused.
Yeowang certainly seems doubtful, but considering she already knew a major part of just who he was, he felt he might as well chime in. "A staggering amount, but...the higher ups were pieceing together evidence that the Japan servers of ETO specificially would be where clues to the 'big three' could be found in. It's the reason why I wasn't back in England and playing on the servers there." Which makes him wonder just how much things could have been different if that was the case. Nobody even knows if other servers besides Japan and SEA were like their case, but it certainly seems like it is.
As the conversation turns back around to a topic he couldn't care less on, he waves a hand dismissively. "The point i'm making is that you can have armor that does look nice or fancy. I rented a set once for one of Baroness Wake's parties. It's just...I can't really accept something like...uh...Gwen is wearing," Curt is notably not look at Gwen. "could have just as much defense as my own platemail. It doesn't make sense."
And Uta brings up something important that he hasn't even considered before was that possibly the historical events that have taken place in Yamato could actually be related. It could be more than just background information for how things were? Uta is certainly focused on this, but before he could ask a question, one was asked...and not what he was expecting after all that build up. Scratching the back of his neck in embarrasment, he looks off to the side. "We...uh...kinda exchanged our real names."
Curtana's explanation of why he's here passes muster, but she wonders, "So, what have you discovered?" As to the defensive value of armor, she says, "The armor you wore for Baroness Wake's event, did that have the defensive value of your current set? Why then can you not accept that Gwen has forgone some amount of protection in exchange for ... other benefits?" Watching Curtana turn twelve shades of red does count as a benefit, of course.
"Jen," Haru points to Gwen. He even makes the Je more Gwe sounding.
"As a class that is fairly locked in to Cloth Armor," Haru says with a grin, "I can't say it offers the same protection as Heavy Armor. If I don't get out of the way of an attack, I am toast." Squishy caster woes. "Thats why I use summons so often. We share a health pool, but they mitigate damage much better with the exception of Yumi. The air sprite has the same defense I do but is far more mobile." A wink, "Cloth has more charisma bonuses. Great for 'negotiating a sale'." He looks to Gwen. Yup. Fashion! "Gwe-n learned accessory forging too. Maybe she can go Moonlight later and I can teach Crown Breaking. Thats the main requirement to the technique when Tian and I figured it out."
She smiles a bit and leans back. She also seems pleased at her nickname being used for the moment.
"Your mom sounds like she'd have been a wonderful person to meet from how you are talking about her to me."
She says nothing about her own mom's ahem sudden second 20 something period due to being isakaied.
"One of the companies with the Angelic Layer scene was working on a Man machine interface using dive tech for improved prosectics. One of the people on the project was trapped here with us and came out with what he knew. Also it's a full on ... brain access soooo. Yeah lets not got there."
it could be in the end the RPers may be the ones to not go mad if it comes out everyone is a copy. Though with Gwen in mind she's be more Gwen than Jen at this point anyhow.
"As my dad says when it came to PVP fantasy games. Kill the clothies first."
She grins at this a bit more as Haru seem to do it.
"Oh lord I'd just be strange mooding all the time..."
She looks to Curt for a moment.
"Look if we get to Europe from what Taggart told me it's a total PVP fest there could be no one recalling Earth left by the time we get there."
She looks to Curt and sighs.
"Haru shared his and I felt it was only right to share mine."
"I think Curt never got out much with dating when they were younger..."
Gwen shows a shade of her mother for a moment. Which she doesn't even notice.
"Maybe we should play match maker for you Curt?"
ogne vilta` convien che qui sia morta.
Noi siam venuti al loco ov'i' t'ho detto
che tu vedrai le genti dolorose
c'hanno perduto il ben de l'intelletto"
Uta recites the verses in the original Italian (or, if one wants to get technical, "Florentine" at the time), absent-mindedly, more thinking out loud than declaiming. Luckily, there is a translation system at work in Elder Tale Online:
"Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned,
All cowardice must needs be here extinct.
We to the place have come, where I have told thee
Thou shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect"
Uta blinks, suddenly snapped back to reality. "Uh... oh... sorry. Inferno, Canto II, verses 14-18. European Renaissance poetry was supposed to be my- uh- field of specialization."
"By 'next level' I meant a generic, you know, 'a bigger challenge'," Uta replies to Yeowang. "It's harder than anything I've done before. I didn't mean, like, game-level. I'm still struggling to understand the mechanics myself."
She leans over to Curtana, excited but with a hint of dread. "This- this is BIG!", she says. "So... so the Big Three tie into Elder Tale Online, the Yamato server specifically? This makes far too much sense. Which reminds me-" She looks at Gwen, then turns to Curtana. "So you two have either played, or know someone who has played on the European server, huh? I have encountered a fairy tale about the ' Wyvern Riders of Londonia ', and would be interested to know if you're aware of something about them. And to know if Orth was a town in the European server. I'm pretty sure it's not in Yamato. Just gotta figure out just -where- in the world it is. It's important."
Uta reflects at the new mention of shared names. She goes serious. She tilts her head left and right.
"Uta was my nickname outside Elder Tale as well," is what she decides to share, in the end. It may not be as much as the others share, but it's something. She also looked startled at the suggestion of killing the clothies -- but she's quick to recover and realize it was not personal. Just reporting second-hand strategy, one she's, sadly, all too familiar with.
"...Gwen, you're turning into your mother," Uta comments, at the mention of matchmaking.
He shakes his head in the negative at Uta. "That's not a fairy tale i'm familiar with, or any town by that name. My first time playing ETO was in Japan, and the only other major game I played before then didn't even used the keyboard, just the mouse to interact with the world. I...never came across much in my own investigations here. The only thing I found of note was a sketch I drew of an ancient painting under Dun Loireag, one I believe Prophylaxis may have shared at some point."
Suddenly frowning, his brow scrunching up, the thought of London seems to tickle something in his brain. Snapping his gauntleted fingers together, he smiles. "Actually, I do remember something from a few years back. My direct supervisor mentioned it off hand. I don't remember it all, but..." He tries to recall more of that distant memory, but he just shakes his head. "...damn. All I remember is that one of the terms that came up in our investigations that left everyone stumped is...Camelot." Shaking his head, he tries to make sense of it all. "I know there was more, but I was low on the totem pole, so to speak. If I can recall the others, i'll share them."
He is suddenly derailed by Yeowang, and he is a bit confused at first, then he starts to gain a blush as the implications set in. "It was far weaker, but I couldn't just wear my everyday armor...and I just don't like that it's considered armor when it doesn't look like it can protect anything!" He doesn't even try to answer Yeowang's second question, but then Gwen jumps on it.
That blush of his only grows a bit stronger, and he bashfully looks away from the others, suddenly finding a bottle of wine on a shelf to be much more important. "...I...never got to go on a date. I didn't really have any friends, let alone...anyone like that."
"I AM NOT A CRAZY SHIPPING THOT! WHO TRIES TO SET UP THINGS BEHIND PEOPLES BACK!"
"She really is," the silver haired man offers on Gwen turning into her mother, much to the strong disagreement of Gwen herself. "I give it two years, tops, before she starts flashing an evolution screen and becoming Gwenori," he says to lighten up the mood. Sip! He considers the painting, "Was the painting one of someone giving another person a ring? I ran across one of those while becoming a Moonlight Goldsmith." Camelot wasn't part of it, though. He sips his whiskey again and considers. So many threads. Like someone grabbed a fist full of spaghetti and threw it at the wall.
"As someone who has had one," Haru holds up a singular finger on his left hand, "girlfriend in Japan and one," he raises his right, "in Yamato I can conclude: You are not missing much. I didn't know who was my friend or not before Elder Tales. Some people just want to be around you for your money or status." Entourage! "Not having either here, its been a learning experience making connections like that. At least Im back to being bossy in Silver Sword when I need to drift back to my comfort zone of middle management."
Uta remains silent throughout the rest of Curtana's explanation. Then she thinks for a moment.
She flicks her menu open, and materializes a leather-bound notebook (a full-sized one, the size of a proper book, not the small pocket variety). Unhurried, she flicks through the pages, until she finds one she's satisfied with. She places the item face-up on the table, turns it to make right-side-up for Curtana, and pushes it across the table towards him.
The page is warped, as if it got wet and then dried. The pattern is suggestive of rain, or tears. The fountain pen ink spells out the following, in Uta's handwriting:
"Though rightfully called the Fourth World Fraction, it involved the Fifth Shard of the Twilight Dragon. With the arrival of the two ancient ones, Cú Chulainn and Camelot, their attempt to take control was halted by the Bandit King and the aid of the Ezzo Exodus members. As the outsiders ejected the Blind Goddess and used FRELLIA to release the debillitating Wave, the Fifth Shard was used to seal the Ezzo Empire in an attempt to cut off the invaders' control through FRELLIA."
"The Fourth World Fraction. The Arrival of the Adventurers." A pause, as she looks sideways towards Gwen first, and Haru next. "The events of the Apocalypse, it would seem." A short pause, then adds, "Loremaster power, at the edge of Ezzo" to explain the source of the information.
"So, you don't entourage such behaviour," Uta jokes with a chuckle in response to Haru's comment. She stretches. "Don't worry about that, Curtana. I've never gone on a date, either, neither outside nor here. That doesn't make us lesser people or anything."
Gwen's outburst takes Uta by surprise! "Sorry, sorry, I- uh- I didn't mean it like that." Look left, look right, worried at having apparently annoyed Gwen. Jen? One can see Uta almost biting her nails -- almost: it would be kind of hard with those almost arm-length gloves. "You... uh... only do it to their face?", she offers, tentatively, in a possibly ill-informed attempt to save the conversation.
That all said, she looks back to Uta and tries to follow what she's saying. "I think I don't understand what you're saying," she says. "I don't know all your computer games or past events and no one will explain -anything- clearly." An extra glare for Haru, here. "It's all half-explanations and pronouns and it's never precisely clear what's meant. It's like you've got a club and you don't like to let new people in. Well, I'd /like/ to come in, but if I'm to be kept out, I can continue on as I have been. But it's a bit tiring to hear all about things you can do nothing about as people talk over your head like you were four again."
Trying to follow along the story written in the notebook was giving him a headache due to a great deal of the terms mainly going over his head, but two names certainly stood out. One he had just shared, but the second? With a start, Curtana points a finger at the notebook carefully and taps it several times excitedly. "That's it! One of the other names right there. Cú Chulainn was another phrase that came up. If we follow the pathern and actually consider everything being tied together? Cú Chulainn and Camelot did not mean mythical heroes or places straight out of Arthurian legend...it was players!" Looking back up to Uta, he grins at her excitedly. "I think this can prove you're certainly onto something, Uta."
A bit caught up in this revelation, Curtana calls down his menu and starts to scroll through his inventory. "Where did I...ah, here we go." Materalizing a sheet of paper, Curtana places it down on the table. On it was a surprisingly detailed sketch done with charcoal of a mishappened angelic-like being, with depections of people below and symbols of magic brought to bear against it. Helpfully, a name and title were written above it as well.
"If what two people there said are correct, this thing is supposed to be called Skeith, the Terror of Death. I think I remember something about being a Princess?" He didn't get much answers back then, but he is hoping Uta might have one for him now.
"You'd never know who was gold digging for money or your family name yeah. Must be hell when I think about it."
"Ha and you know I'm been a long fan of Celtish mythology by the way. I'm conflicted being a Fairy let me tell you."
She nods to Yeowang
"Don't give up hope on finding him if you ever need help in the hunt hit me up."
She turns to Curt for a moment. She stares for a moment at it and stares at it.
"I feel ... fear just looking at it. Skieth... the Terror of Death... I take it we see this it's time to run... I had something in this world take something from me in the tower...I still don't what it stole... but I'll make whatrever is behind it /bleed/ for it."
Haru considers something, "Aren't those names connected with the Cursed Waves as well as the Twilight Dragon?" He vaguely recalls something like that. It is just as easy to be confusing the Arthurian names with another strand of lore, though.
"That is part of the theory, yes, that the previous World Fractions had impacts on our world. Think about it. How many world wide Virus events were there? Three. Sword, Flash, and Kiss. Want that to be just a coincidence? Fine. Its a theory that we can prove fairly easily with more information. Find the date and time of the other World Fractions. Compare that with the flow of time here versus the real world. See if they line up. Then we can prove correlation or disprove it. This is stuff the LOONS do across all the Alliances." Different issue. Different time and place for it. He points a finger to Uta, "And I do not entourage such behavior. Besides, everyone is built differently. I'm not going to lose sleep if my romance and friendship affinity skills are as low as my Physical."
There is look over to Gwen as Haru raises his whiskey to that. He sips. Breathes the exhale of it out. "Trust and respect both come slow to Himekawas. Im the nice, sensitive one if you can believe it. My brother and father take the pretentiousness past 11." He considers the Tower. "Data Drain style theft?" The System Artes are at the heart of a lot of the metaworld voodoo. The path to Hacker has been slow on leads, but he was also investing more in finding Feng Huang until today.
"Skeith, Fidchell, Gorre," Uta begins, rattling out name as she counts on her fingers, "Tarvos, Innis, Magus, Macha, Cobernik. The eight beings who 'followed the Alv' after the world was 'annihilated'." A pause. "Something about them She turns to Yeowang. "If it is any consolation, I feel exactly the same. Snippets of information most of which I have no idea of what it means." Squeeze ball. Release. "We just exchange it, so when people stumble upon bits they can share. Like one of those cypher word puzzles where you painstakingly figure out a letter at a time.
While she attempts to trace a simplified schematic of the creature, she continues, "Someone hypothesizes that those names referred to the Scrapped Princesses. You seem to lead credence to this hypothesis." Some pause, after which she continues. "Have you considered joining our Loosely Organized Open Network of Students? We're a bunch of people from various alliances and walks of life who research Lore. The main/initial goal was trying to crack the Alv language, but we've since expandded into hunting any kind of lore. You would be a great addition to our efforts!" Silence. "Oh, requirements are really low. Be willing to share your findings openly. Meet with other people whenever you feel like, spontaneously. Pass info along." A pause. "Don't hoard for yourself. That's it."
"I am sorry to hear you lost something, Gwen," Uta says, somber.
Haru gets a simpler, "Mapping the three big ones, huh? Seems like a good way to go. We'll need to cross-reference the in-game Lore, the Lore as remembered by someone who played the games or researched it out-of-game, and real world events." She looks around. "...And I am a terrible fit for being the one who remembers the gaming side of things, here."
And Haru has blown her off formally. Well, it's what she expected from him, and she hasn't been particularly sympathetic, and certainly is not wise in the way of this gameworld, his sarcasm is not lost on her. She will have to have a separate conversation with Uta, she's a more patient teacher, with what she knows. It's more than Yeowang knows, she demonstrates. "I will be off, then, and I hope you can puzzle some of this out."
With that, she rises and will make her way out.
Waving a hand to Yeowang as they take their leave, he takes one last drink of his tea before setting the empty cup down on a table. "And I should head off for now myself. I still got stuff I need to do...and an idea of my own to think about. Everyone, do take care, alright?" With his farewell and a clanking of his platemail, the Pooka starts to make his own way out of the Inn.
"A western one it was going to be what looked like a Fantasy game but part of the way in it turns out the whole thing was on a Ring world think the book of the name or Halo. Look I got a second chance I'm not blowing it far as I'm cerned the people here are real. Also someone has to keep my mother reigned in or it will be like an Eroge fashion show..." She makes a face.
"Another drink would be good!"
She leans back again, hands behind her head and elbows sticking out as she looks in the distance. Then to Curtana again, "For some reason I cannot quite fathom, I tend to be elsewhere when events crucial to the understanding the world around us take place..." Some silence, a blink, then she shakes her head. "That is why I- no, we LOONS need everyone to share. We can't all be everywhere at once. But if we join all the little bits we know..."
To Curtana and Yeowang both, "Just let me know if you are interested in a Lore 101 kind of casual meeting. I'll be more than glad to share the fundamentals of what we've found out so far."
"Speaking on sharing information," the Artificer says as he looks to Uta, "besides all those secrets laid bare from my soul, there is something else that occured in the Palace Lands." Casual tone, very casual. "I was able to establish a bond with Feng Huang." He produces a large feather from his inventory, one from the Divine Beast himself, and shows it to the Kung Fu Nurse. "His temple was in the north eastern region and inside was a bird paradise. It was its own biosphere. Bonding with a Divine Beast doesnt give a personal connection per say. Like, Feng Huang himself wouldnt appear through the bond. They are not traveling with those people. Instead it is a manifestation of the Mind Guardian, the guardian of one's Cosmosphere." He is still connecting all the dots there, but it does explain why a Divine Beast can have multiple bonds.
She turns in the direction where she believes the Pelapuff Cafe to be, which might or might not be the direction it actually lies in (it's probably not). "It was Pela who started it all. Gave us all she had on the Alv alphabet. Which was pretty much a bunch of charcoal rubbings from the Chaos Gates and the teleporter of Fort Ouph." Uta's eyes defocus as she remisisces. "It was amazing to see all that snowball, bit by bit. Merek showed me how they found one Alv language word, 'enne'. From there, we've managed to figure out more and more correspondences between glyphs and sounds, so that we have a small handful of them now. Alas, 'enne' is the lone case where we know what it actually means."
Uta listens carefully to Haru's explanation. "Fascinating. I didn't know Cosmospheres had guardians associated with them." Uta turns to Curtana. "Usual principle: when in doubt, overexplain. We do not much about what 'Cosmospheres' are. But sometimes, when meeting particularly powerful foes, we get strange warning/status effect messages about Cosmospheres having been 'Exposed' or them being at risk. I am not (and, I suspect, we Yamato Adventurers are not in general) are not 100% sure of what it means, but the general feeling is that it's something related to the the mind, or the soul, of an Adventurer. General idea, no details. I can collect and quote the sources I have at some point. Further details welcome."
Back to Haru. "Do you have more details about this bond?"
Gwen leans back for a moment and tilts her head.
"Oh yeah one other little thing that might explain a bit about my family and I. We're all redheads." Gingers every last one of them...if one gets the western view of red heads perhaps some things make more sense now.
"I have tried innate-Loremastering the Red Light itself," is the first point Uta addresses. "It seems like neither my innate abilities nor my aspect apply here." Gentle drumming of fingers on the tabletop. "...but perhaps I can ask Shiruba..." Lean back. More drumming. "...and we could ask Yeowang about the Cosmosphere Guardian. Why didn't I think of this before?"
And that is when she addresses Gwen again. "Wait a minute - warning? What warning?"
Back to Haru. "It's an interesting parallel," she comments. "Each root city seems to have a Kunie, which kind of works like... a Guardian of sorts? And they dwell within some sort of 'remnant of the old world'." Silence. Reflection. Drumming. "Our cosmosphere. It is protected. It has a Guardian. And if it is our 'soul', or 'mind', it most definitely is a sort of 'remnant of the old world'. I wonder if it is a coincidence, or..."
She makes a face and does not deny the temper either. Eh? I my meories fuzzy on it I'm sorry and this stuff is getting trippy as hell to have the soul accessable is a horrific idea and fact to face. There are many vile men and women who would do things with that like the Place Lander Leaders."
She humms at Uta for a moment.
"The old man on the day we got brought here brought up there were others up to something with us..."
The distraction of lore helps Haru lean into a better topic. "It would also connect with those Root Cities being where we come back after we die. Remnants of the Old WOrld both," he says. Though the truth is more like a mirage on the distance of the desert. You walk towards it, but you don't actually reach it. One learns to love the journey, not the destination. "If I figure out how to unlock the protections on these secrets, I feel we will get so much further." One day. "But does that mean they can also unlock the Cosmosphere? Is that what happens when our protection is removed, that something is disabling our Guardians?"
He looks to Gwen and notes, "Ah, the Old Man. So much was going on that day that i don't recall that detail. What do you remember?"
"I have heard accounts of a status effect. <<Cosmosphere At Risk>>," Uta begins, an undercurrent of dread flowing through the cracks in her voice. "We seem to lose the red light. We bleed. Monsters can cut through and get to our internal organs." She takes one hand to her forehead, and rubs it between her thumb and the rest of the fingers. "I have Loremastered an event which I believe to be compatible with this. That sadistic Gnoll boss, Roarschach, did this for his research on the anatomy of Adventurers. Dead bodies despawn, as you know, so he somehow, through means unknown, managed to cut them open and keep them alive as he studied them." A shudder. "I still have nightmares about that vision..."
She shakes her head, flicks her menu open. "Right. Gwen's comment. The Holographic Old Man's message from the Apocalypse. Let me fetch my notes..."
Menu flicked open. A small notebook appears. Uta flicks through the pages, and when she finds the one she's looking for, she clears her voice and starts quoting: "If you are seeing this, then it means the worst has occurred. Unfortunately, it seems my invention has been taken into the hands of someone who means ill." Flick page. More quoting. "My fellows seem to truly be fools, loving power so greatly. They have not learned from the mistakes I made." Uta mumbles something about 'anguished expression, then continues quoting, "I will instead put my faith into you. And let you, those trapped, decide what to do with both this Gift, and this Curse I left in the hands of my Children."
The notebook is closed. Not slammed: both sides are turned, gently, until they touch. Uta's eyes are closed.
She stands still, like that, then exhales as she leans back. "As you were saying before... we've been here two years. It's strange to think of this as not reality. And you were questioning if we're sending signals to an avatar in a virtual world. Well..." Her eyes open, and frown a little. "Seems like we have full-fledged bodies in this world, virtual or otherwise. Flesh and blood and internal organs and all."
There is some silence. Uta may not be one to lie outright, or fake her emotions, but, as people may have noticed by now, there are things she doesn't let out. Kept stored away, within, never to see the sun, little bits of her inner chaos shut off behind a wall of outer chaos.
But that wall, right now, is crumbling, with the wrinkles of concern that appear on her forehead, and one question escapes.
Uta may have uttered the words "Just... -what- are we?", but it is obvious what the little bit of Chaos hidden behind the unsaid folds of the phrase actually says: 'I am scared of the answer'.
"Something I have been working on since I logged onto Elder Tales, even before the expansion, was to try to be 'present'," Haru says with this notion of what that means, "I often times find myself trapped in my own head and bound to the past or laying a road to the future. However, not here, in the present. To see and connect with people." It seems unrelated to the topic at first. A slow blink of the blue eye, "Being present is being in a reality, any reality, when it comes down to it. It is as if we shift through the layers. We are travelers from one reality to the next. The only thing that changed is we can't switch back. We are a television that switched channels and can't switch back. If you believe in reincarnation, then we are reincarnated here." He doesn't sound entirely sold on that, though. "One day we may fix the television, go back to the previous channel. There may not be a channel at all. As to what this channel is? We are still figuring out the programming. It is constantly changing. The broadcasting station is still changing the lineups. The audience is broad."
"The one thing that persisted is that we, the audience, knew the channel we were on prior to switching over. So our mind, our consiousness, is the same. Our bodies they are not. As much as I look like I did back in the last world from doing a body scan, there are differences. That and noone I know in Japan had actual wings, tails, or were-ears." He grins, leaning up and sitting back up from the seat. "Our bodies, in my mind, are just vessels for this consiousness. Like taking warm blanket and moving it from one box to the next or a hermit crab changing its shells," he thinks aloud. "No one cracked the 'why do we exist' or 'what are we' in the last life, so I don't think it'll come easy here, either. However, why we are treated differently than Landers as a Control and Experimental group? That is the curiosity. We both seem to have potential rivaling the Alvs and also face against those that have current power rivaling manga action heros."
Haru reaches for his whiskey again, "I thought I'd be content not needing to know those answers, but every day there is this burning to know. I don't know if it is an echo of shame for being so brainwashed before or if it is a pure sense of wonder that wants to play and discover. I just /want/ to know and I wont accept points of authority denying authorization to this knowledge. Even if not knowing is better, safer, I feel it is the path that leads me to a world where my debt isn't the only thing that drives me forward." A sip of his whiskey, "To Hope. As we are so deep in the dark after two years, its what will keep our minds sane, our hearts brave, and our bodies able." He looks to Uta, "Risks will need to be taken when that time comes. The opportunity alone requires us to be bold and lucky both."
"Knowing a horrible truth would probably not be as bad as not knowing." She glances at Haru. "It's all about long term plans. Should we invest our long-term energies in this world? The one before the Apocalypse?" One arm is relieved from face-supporting duty, leaving the other to deal alone, and is reallocated to head-scratching. "I guess you're right though. There's nothing else we can do but live in the moment. Be what we are now." Eyes dart sideways, to Haru. "And I think you have a point. If not literally, at least -functionally-, this is a reincarnation. So, maybe..." A sigh, not unlike the one from before. "...maybe I should start thinking about it that way. A taciturn reincarnation scared of commitment."
There is some silence, as she considers something. The arm on a business trip returns to headquarters (anatomical pun!) and she engages in a light, nervous laughter. Rhythmic, meant to sound liberatory, but betraying a melancholic undertone. "It's funny, you know...", she begins. "I'm a member of Crescent Moon. We teach newbies the ins and out of the game, and that the most important thing is to 'have fun playing'."
Her drink is brought to her, a beer. She lifts the tankard, and toasts, "Nurse, heal thyself." And chugs down a good quantity of liquid.