The lot behind Plant Hwyaden HQ has been earmarked for their own expansion. It's mostly going to end up being a stockpile and a big empty space for when they need to store stuff or do some project that doesn't fit indoors. Or possibly it'll turn into a cafe, a destination that draws people from all over. Or maybe it'll just be a gigantic elevator into the underground, where they charge admission for adventurers to go down and fight monsters in the twisty tunnels. The point is, right now, it's a big empty space, except for some hardy grasses, some low walls that mostly mark where the ruin behind the manorial HQ used to be, and... the Project.
Att Syne's Project, whatever it is, is presently a towering piece of greyish stone with the upper corners chipped down to a rough curve. Underneath a standing canopy nearby is a table stacked with gleaming multicolored metallic bits and pieces, faintly iridescent when the light hits it. Next to that is a bunch of jars that wibble with reddish slime. It wibbles and wobbles but doesn't fall down.
Att is presently standing in the yard, staring at the block of stone. He's wearing a dusty apron instead of his usual get-up, and has an array of old-fashioned tools tucked into it. He's been standing there for at least fifteen minutes, totally unmoving. Other than the plume of breath in the chilly air, he might actually be the statue here.
"What is all of this?" Count V wonders aloud, as he meanders out into the project space. He has spent most of his time assisting with projects around guild spaces lately, and when he hasn't been doing that, he's simply been lingering in his own quarters within the HQ. His expression right now is a little weary and frazzled, as if he's only just woken up. It'd probably show more if their appearance here wasn't idealized to the extreme.
That fine hair would certainly tangle and knot.
"That is to say... these," He gestures towards the red slime, and then towards the multicolored metals, "isn't this some sort of sculpture? Are these... adornments? For specific surfacings? Or..."
He trails off, unable to imagine some other purpose for these tertiary tools and ingredients.
At first, Whis had thought Att was doing a summer project.
Then, she had realized it was some sort of mood. An expressed need.
Then, she set up her lab in front of Att, a few bubbling teapots and pails of water at one end and a branch of vials and sprigs and this and that in paper, cloth, or metal wrappings. An oil burner and a cast iron cauldron sit under Att's nose as she prepares a mysterious red-amber substance with the consistency of taffy under him.
For some reason it smells like sour apple by way of a cough syrup cherry. It has a lingering tingle that remains in the nose and back of the throat.
"Do you think Att-sempai will ever wake up from his reverie, V? I'm about ready to make a health drink. Want a taste of the concentrate?"
She has an evil look in her be-goggles'ed face. A shine of the tooth, a grin too broad on her face. It may also be the red-amber sparkling shine to her face that twinkles in the light as she moves.
Att snaps out of his trance... eventually. He looks in the wrong direction first, then turns all the way around to regard the somewhat-frazzled Count V. Att is similarly frazzled in attitude, though he did not just get out of bed. "Um... sorry, what was the question? I wasn't paying atten..." He trails off. Nostrils flare. A fight-or-flight reaction comes to the fore, driven by the scent of sour apple cherry cough syrup. He coughs, and it shatters the previously-imminent monkey-brain reaction.
"...tion..." Att looks down at the cauldron. Then, he looks at Whis. Then, back at the cauldron. Then, finally, at V. "What's up?" He tries for casual. He fails pretty miserably.
"I thought you ran out of gamer juice and was mixing a fresh batch. Too much apple?" Whis replies, quite candidly, as to the question of what's up.
"Even the very focused need to get distracted eventually." Count V says, shrugging faintly. To the offer of a health drink though, he shakes his head and says, "I've been getting normal rest, Whis. There's no need to buff myself in the particular way that you prefer. Have you managed a nap yet, at all?"
The question isn't overly concerned-- more conversational. It's clear that V won't press it.
Rather than repeating his original line of question, Count V leans heavily on his stuff and surveys Att appraisingly. Instead, he asks, "What does your debuff bar look like right now?"
"It makes my throat itch and I only just smelled it." Att stares down at the cauldron. "Are there... what's /in/... what?"
He turns away. Also, steps away. Half a step. Just enough that it isn't overtly avoidance. Maybe when the cloud of stink lines follow he goes another half-step though. "Um... hold on." Att reaches up and makes a motion with his finger to expand the bar. That alone is a bad sign.
"... it's, you know, it's fine," Att hedges.
"At this point, if I miss a pill or drink, I'll probably just fall over unconscious for a few days. But I'm fine! Fixed the balance on the antidote. Trying to really..." Whis rubs her fingers over the pot, finely distributing flecks of some sort of scale over the mixture. "... dial it in."
Wiping her face with the back of her hand (which transfers a smear of reddened dust, and cleans *nothing*), Whis gives an 'oh, you' roll of her eyes. "I need you around, Att-sempai. Who will I hide behind? Who will I please-take-care-of-me?"
Scooping a bit of the sludge out onto some cheesecloth with a spoon, Whis begins rolling it with a technique similar to rolling sushi before unwrapping it and chopping agar 'pills' - around six in the line.
Cupping the cheesecloth and 'pills' in her hand, she holds them out for Att. "Take three, and tell me if you feel better next time you come out of your trance. Think of them like..."
"The kind of pill you go to the family doctor for that sounds like he's doing you a big favor for writing you a perscription for. This is the uncut stuff."
"Also I want a taste test. V, come on, try one too."
"Don't you 'please-take-care-of-me' practically everyone you group with?" Count V teases, deliberately not lingering on the topic of Whis and sleep. On the other hand, he gives Att a knowing look when he has to expand the bar to check how many debuffs he's actually got going on.
When he's asked to taste test, V seems to grudgingly cede the ground without issues. He takes one of the pills and pops it into his mouth, expecting... he doesn't really know what to expect, actually. Something along the lines of cough syrup, he supposes. Not unpleasant, or only mildly so, but not really 'good' either.
What he gets is medicine-y... not gel, exactly. More like... what would he even compare it to? V seems unable to decide whether or not he actually likes it, and takes another.
He still looks undecided, but the input he settles on is, "I can't decide how I feel about this, so it's not nearly bad."
"... But," he says, looking at his buff icons, "I'm going to cap it there, for the moment."
"You, however," V gestures his staff towards Att, "need a break. If not to sleep, then at least to think about something else and refresh your perspective."
Whis appears to be counting. After 'seventeen', she just smiles at V. You can hear the sigh, afterwards. Relief of a tired, 'finally!' sort.
Her heaving breath almost sounds like her saying 'safe'.
"If you don't mind the flavor, I can stop building filler for taste and can work on the effect."
"I'm not going anywhere, I'm just here, out back. You know... sculpting!" He gestures with both hands at the huge block of stone and then with a smaller motion at the ancillary pieces piled and stored nearby. Att pats a handle sticking out of his apron's tool-pocket. "These babies have a quest I've never heard of attached, and I'm gonna be the one to figure out what the deal with it is. I just need to... /do/ it. And it's got to be perfect. So it's going to take me some time. That's all!"
"...though that will make it kind of hard to tank," Att concedes with a mutter, head tilted back and eyes turned thoughtfully to the sky.
V tries the offered product. Att looks warily at them and him, but he doesn't immediately immolate or start coughing from a Poison DoT, so it's probably fine. Especially when Whis makes noises to the same effect. "I haven't been at it that long. Just --" He looks around, then up again. "I don't know. Not long enough. I gotta keep working or I'm gonna lose that picture in my head. You know?"
"It's like," he's saying, while simultaneously taking the Healthy And Definitely Not Sketchy Medi-Tubes in-hand, "I'm finally in the creative mindset, and if I don't do something with it, it's going to drive me crazy. I just lose track of time when I'm working. I took a walk a little... long... while ago, I think, but I just couldn't make myself stay away."
Without thinking, Att flings the contents of his hand into his mouth and swallows. It does not occur to him that 'take three' may have meant 'have these along a reasonable timeframe' instead of 'consume these immediately.'
"Att, that's the *point*. I'd have one less. Also, I could set this whole thing up and get a few minutes into a mix before you noticed. So..."
She twirls her hand at the wrist and sighs, the strange coloration of her face largely making her seem *more* normal, not less.
Whis loops a strand of hair around her forefinger and shrugs. "The worry was *because* you weren't going anywhere. Once I knew you got it bad, I started brewing up a special course. So thank me! This is a pre-mi-um service. VIP, members only."
She cracks a lopsided grin, head tilted to look past Att at Count V.
"But I'm glad you liked it. Back in real life, something like it was bottled as 'Royale' health drink. I've improved the flavor, of course. The concentrate doesn't need to be cut with juice, which is a step up."
"Then again, peach juice can hide *anything*, so if you taste peaches, that's amateur hour."
"Please don't gamble with /my/ health bar." Count V requests, politely as he can manage, when Whiskey Sour begins a count down. He may be primarily Acolyte, but that bit of Enchanter does a number on his health pool. He wouldn't be the first person to die to anything, but he wouldn't be the last, either. He adds, "I've been fairly good about not getting in over my head so far. The... one time excepted, anyway."
"Don't stop trying to curb the taste, by the way. I can tell it would be awful without the effort."
To Att, he replies, "I think I understand... but I also wonder if there is not some sort of compulsion upon you. It's probably safer to play it out, if that's the case, and I'm sure there's a significant reward for figuring this thing out. But you do still need to take care of yourself in the process. Could there, perhaps, be sculptures in the world that might be worth a visit to help?"
He glances towards Whis, frowning a little. It's not an upset-at-anybody kind of look. It's more like an expression of concentration, as if she said something that tripped something in the back of his mind. Royale Health Drink? That definitely sounds familiar...
"Amateur hour is, to be fair, where we're at at the moment. We're all re-learning basically everything." He points out.
"Er, well... I was... focused." Awkwardly denying the truth of the matter doesn't actually help any, you know, Att! For shame. Embrace this madness before it's too late!
This sort of meta-commentary is probably the drugs working.
"I never really got into the health drink craze. One of my co-workers had this thing about energy supplements, though... there were some weird ones." Att scratches at the back of his neck. "I think one was a plant he kept hiding under his desk and then just sort of..." He makes a wafting gesture, and a sniffing motion. "Come to think of it, I don't know if any of them worked, either."
He steps back, turns, walks a couple paces, turns back, and begins some good ol'-fashioned pacing. "There might be. In all of our theories about this world except the most outlandish ones, the nebulous 'they' have access to our brains, and in the strangest possibilities, magic might be able to do just about anything. I don't really... /feel/ the exhaustion stacks like I did before. I'm aware of them, but I think it's got to be at an extreme before I'm forced to stop. Instead, I'm just... here. Doing this. All night."
A smile, then. "We're not re-learning /everything/. Sounds like Whis knows her kitchen chemistry, game features aside!"
When the bar doubles back on itself, you feel it." Whis confirms, around a whole spoonful of the stuff in her mouth.
She, at least, levelled the spoon before consumption. She is not taking Generous Scoops of Drink Concentrate.
"Bathtub, really. I never bubbled about with a cauldron before but..."
She hugs the top of the smoking, black pot. "It's kind of wonderful. Like laying down on the grass sort of way."
"Maybe I'm supposed to cackle and live in a large shoe, too. Do you think?"
Her grin melts lopsidedly from one side of her mouth to the other as her headtilt reverses.
"I like making my own sauces. Did you know, if you make a sauce hot enough, it becomes an 'extract' or an 'additive'?"
"We could probably get you a really big shoe," Att muses. "Maybe we just fight a real giant and then take theirs? I suppose it'd have to be a really really giant giant to pull it off, though, or it'd be too small. Really really giant giant." Att frowns slightly. "Really really really giant giant giant. Really really really really giant giant giant giant. Really really --"
He pulls his hands away from his face. "I didn't know that, no. Do you mean spicy-hot or temperature-hot? Is it a reduction or a mouth-burning?"
"Spicy-hot. Though, past a certain point you stop giving people a flavor and start giving them chemical burns. Anyway, point is: That should square you up on the debuffs."
She points a finger past Att, and into the mansion. "And that's my house unless you're kicking me out. Still, *I* haven't recieved a maniac compulsion from the game to create garden sculptures. And the *only* difference between us is that I've not slept."
Whiskey Sour is on an absolute cocktail of effects, and also has more than one thing not in common with Att Syne.
"Fancy drinks come in all shapes and sizes." Count V chimes in, inadvertantly offering up another point of Definitely A Host(ess?) for Whis's tally. He waves his staff at Att and says, "Fairy Healing!"
There doesn't seem to be any damage, he's just hoping to relieve some of the effects of the stacking fatigue debuffs, if only a little. Leaning on the staff afterwards, V hums thoughtfully, "I'm not altogether sure there is a 'they'. That is to say, I don't feel as if this is particularly... coordinated. Or if it is coordinated, I don't think it is coherently coordinated by a single party. I think..."
He shrugs, "I think there are rules. I wouldn't expect 'anything' to be possible, but I think that most things reasonably within the bounds of the genre are. And given that some of the other servers existed in a different genre than ours entirely, I suspect that the programming exists to enable progression through time periods-- and thus, progression to different genres."
His gaze slides from Whis, to Att, and back again. He says, "A shoe doesn't quite fit. More like a cabin in the middle of the woods somewhere. But I think that our winding catacombs beneath the city more than suits that sort of atmosphere, if indeed we are seeking that sort of atmosphere..."
"So," he says, "if rest isn't what you need, what CAN we get you?"
To Whis, he replies, "There are a lot more differences than that. I don't think that our flags are perfectly aligned even between two players with approximately identical character creation options."
"Hmm. Yeah, thanks." Att checks his debuffs again. He does some mental arithmatic. He should be good to go until whatever cocktail of strange items that Whis just not-quite-coerced him into taking wears off. "Well, yeah, that you haven't slept, and all the in- and out-of-game attributes that might be weighing in," he remarks. "It's not a garden sculpture, anyway. Here." Att pulls out a chisel. It looks... chisel-y. Inspecting it, however...
[Moonlight Sculpting Tools]
A set of sculptor's tools found beneath the moonlight.
Those who hold them find that their best works inspire those who look upon them.
"I'm making a statue of the Burning One," he declares. "A goddess. Seeing the one in that Lander shrine for the Beautiful One sort of told me what my competition was looking like. I think this is going to be really something."
Sparklies take the edge off. Some of the general disorientation and the frazzly air fade a little. "Yeah, you're probably right. I wonder if there are any mechanical engineers in here with us? Maybe it supports higher tech than we're giving it credit for... Anyway, I probably just tripped a flag and it's --"
Something strikes him. "-- oh, damn, I need to go check Giant's Seat, too. Maybe tomorrow, or... the next day...? We've been organizing the construction of that cabin, and..." He trails off. Att shakes his head. "Um. Food? It occurs to me that I'm starving."
"Oh, yeah, that's actually a side effect of the pill-drink."
Whis taps her red sooted nose.
"It cranks up your metabolism. You want to eat and do things. Honestly, doing everyone a favor. People who take health drinks need more of an appetite - not less.
Whis isn't looking as she adds a vial of a wickedly black something with the consistensy of hot molasses to her cauldron. Her measuring is... still fairly precise. It's definitely a feeling thing.
"Let's make a sandwich the slow way, and I'll put on some barley tea. I think I got it roasted right this time."
Unfortunately, as it will turn out, she burnt them. Whis doesn't seem to notice too much.
Count V examines the chisel as-invited. It takes him a moment to notice the particulars he is being drawn to, blinking blearily at the object all the while. After a moment he leans back and says, "I wonder if that means that your best works will provide some sort of buff to people who look at them, or are around them. Or maybe it's an infectious 'fey mood' sort of thing..."
"You get it, and pass it on..."
"I haven't heard of any mechanical engineers, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. We probably just need to ask around. As much as I made Construction a part of my character's skill set, it isn't something that I personally studied in real life."
"I'm glad," he continues, "That we're not in a 'survival game' scenario instead, where there's no infrastructure but what we build up. All told, things are comfortable compared to how I could imagine them being. Can't imagine it's nice for the guildless, though."
"And food, we can do."
V joins Whis in trying to make food. He's not an actual in-game cook, so the process mostly takes the form of trying to burn some meat reasonably acceptably to put on. He generally ends up overcooking whatever it is that he's burning.
Slightly crispy lamb(?) isn't too bad for sandwich meat, though...
Hunger is a good seasoning, after all.
"It might help," He offers to Att, "if you put together a schedule that can help guide which projects happen when, and when you need either free time for something new or just 'do nothing' time."
"'Do nothing' time is extremely important."
Att gives the wicked blackness the suspicious side-eye, but doesn't bring it up. "Yeah, alright. I can break for that." He does, mostly by sitting down on a stool he'd setup nearby. There's three or four of them kicking around out here. It's like whoever set them up was compelled to put a complete furniture set out for decoration instead of just leaving a table and saying that's plenty. "A schedule, huh." A sigh. "Organizing game-as-life time..."
"But I think the first one. I was going to put it in the shared workshop, see if I could give a stacking bonus to crafting projects? Depending on how it turns out, I might just leave it in the HQ, or out front, or something. I didn't expect a side-quest pop-up when I started it." He smiles faintly. "You know, I actually totally finished a statue once already? It didn't feel right though, so..." He mimics hefting something two-handed to his shoulder and swinging it down like a hammer, then shrugs. "I hope this one does the job."
Att does not involve himself in the cooking process. He is similarly ungifted in that area, and is pretty sure he'll get purplish mush out of anything he messes with. He'll eat without complaint, though, looking up and over at the partly-misshapen lump that is slowly being worn down into a piece of art.
He can already picture it. He just has to...