Status

Recent Statuses

12 mos ago
Current ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
1 like
1 yr ago
If you're not trying to romance the Pokemon, what's the fucking point?
7 likes
1 yr ago
Can't help but read 'woah' as a regular 'wuh', but 'whoa' as a deep, masculine 'HOO-AH!'
1 like
1 yr ago
That's patently untrue. I planted some potassium the other day, and no matter how much I watered it, all I got was explosions.
2 likes
1 yr ago
I maintain that if alien life observed earth from a distance, they would jack off to it

Bio

According to the IRC, I'm a low-grade troll. They're probably not wrong.

Most Recent Posts







Chopstick Eyes dragged herself sodden from the whipping waves of a grey ocean with rage in her heart, and a great knife in her hand. With the same pace at which she had marched across the depths of the silent sea, she advanced across the island.

* * *


The densest cloudbank had taken some time to find, hidden behind its lower, lesser kin. The portal was in there: Chopstick Eyes could sense it behind the endless, pelting grey of the rainlands. She remembered its smell.

Trudging through the mud to ascend a boulder directly beneath the stone ring, Chopstick crouched, and threw herself in a single bound, needle-straight, through the portal in the sky.

Her environment changed. She somersaulted, landed feet first upon the edge of the ring. Through the haze, she could see the shattered manor.

Oh no.

* * *


Chopstick Eyes raised the gnawed plastic to her face and took a deep sniff, then pocketed the oversized toy. The saliva was dry, but it smelled like rain. It was the tooth-marks that worried her.

She stormed out of Eurysthenes’ border-march, back to the So’E.

* * *


“Li’Kalla? Li’Kalla?

The Wand of Loudspaken shot her voice all through the realm, but there was only rain.

“Li’Kalla!”



* * *


The molves stirred when they noticed the foreign presence in the rain, one that was getting closer to the goats and to the other domesticated animals in Ya-Shuur’s enclosed lands. A few of them swiftly ran and barked at the goats to herd them deeper into the lands while others went to see what the foreign presence was and to warn it off.

Two of them approached and spotted the strange creature that was walking through the forest. In all their existence they had never seen a creature like this and when they saw that it was heading right towards Ya-Shuur’s lands they loosed loud barks. These were far louder than any wolf’s bark and were meant to scare off creatures.

Not far away Ya-Shuur heard the barks and he stirred. Ivy and moss were growing all on him and there was a bird nest on his head. He moved carefully to not disturb the nest and released himself. Then he went to investigate what his faithful molves were barking about. Behr-Aat was next to him. The voice, when it called, was tired.

“Hello?”

For the first second, the knife wasn’t visible, its polished surface reflecting too perfectly the mulch of the woods below. Chopstick changed her stance slightly, and the giant blade shifted, showing in its reflection the face of the molf that was hounding her. The beasts kept themselves low on the ground, growling and barking and cornering her, but the little godling didn’t move, did not so much as look at them. Her sticks were pointed squarely at Ya-Shuur.

“I… found your dogs,” she began. “They found me.”

Ya-Shuur looked at her and blinked in shock. It had been so long since he heard speech from anything other than those droning magpies. And the other shock was that Chopstick Eyes was quite scary in appearance. When he had shaken away the shock he told the molves to back away. They did this and quickly got behind Ya-Shuur but they shot Chopstick Eyes suspicious looks and growled slightly when she scratched the back of her neck.

“I am sorry if they scared you. They don’t take kindly to strangers.” Unfamiliar with knives, he looked at the strange sharp thing in her hand and held his herding stick warily. “Who… who are you? I have never seen you before. And… and what’s wrong with your eyes?” A look of concern was on his face and he grimaced in pain a bit as he looked more closely. “Don’t they hurt?”

Chopstick considered for a moment, one edge of her mouth tightening slightly. “...Don’t yours? They’re round and slippery. Must be a real pain to shed them.” She breathed in, exhaled.

Ya-Shuur was lost in thought for a few moments as he thought of what the strange creature had said about eyes. He had only ever seen Li’Kalla’s eyes and those of Vakk and then all the creatures that dwelled on the island. None of them had sticks coming out of their eyes unless they were injured in some way.

“Never mind. Forget the dogs, they don’t bother me. I’m looking for someone.” Her gaze had wandered, but she returned it now. “How long have you been here?” Ya-Shuur frowned and tried to work out what she meant by that.

“How long? Well… I have been here very long. I was here when Li’Kalla still lived in her manor but now there is only a terrible dragon there. I was here when it was all ruined and I was here when the goats were wild and alone and the bear and the wolf preyed on them. I was here before I saw that goat defying the darkness and felt that name was mine and then I was here after that too. I was here before the wolves befriended me and after that and also when the great beast called Zer-Du came and ate my friends.”

Chopstick’s knuckles whitened on the knifehilt.

“And I was here before I had horns and then after that as well. And before there were molves and after that. And I was here before water-goats and after water-goats and before they ran wild and after some of them were placed in the lake and became tame. And I was here when the cat was wild and when the ass was wild as well. I was here before the magpies learned to talk and after. That long! I used to count how many times the light came up but then it came and went so many times and I lost count.” Ya-Shuur was very excited to meet someone who could speak and understand him, so he had gotten ahead of himself a bit, but then he blinked and realized that the other person had not answered any of his questions.

“Oh, but you didn’t tell me who you are. I have never seen you before and I have travelled all over the island many many times. How long have you been here? Why have you come? Who are you looking for?”

“I’m the god with chopstick eyes,” said the god with chopstick eyes. “I’ve been here… I don’t know. A few weeks, maybe. Before that I was here for a long while. I’m looking for... a friend.” She shifted her weight a little. “Who are you? ‘Goat Defying the Darkness’? Tell me about the dragon, and the beast, Zer-Du. And tell me about the bear.” Ya-Shuur would have showed that he found her name delightful, but he could see now that she seemed a bit troubled and serious, so he kept his own face serious too.

“Okay.” He said, nodding. “I will tell you about all these things, but let’s get out of the rain. Come with me and we can go to my home and talk more.” He looked at her giant knife again, both curious about it and afraid at the same time. “But please don’t use that on me or my friends.”

“I… won’t,” said Chopstick Eyes. She licked rainwater off her lips, tongue running for a moment across the scar in her mouth. Even she could taste the naivety before her. “Let’s go.”

Ya-Shuur led the way through the lands he had enclosed.

Somewhere.

Time. Hearts. Hearts, time. Time passing. Hearts beating. Pump pump pump pump pump. Time.

Currents. Moving. Same direction. A wind. Slow, slow wind. Heavy. Still. Same direction. Twist yourself, align to it. Float still in the endless timeless pushing.

Sometimes, noise. Noise on the wind. Far, far noise. Noise like world cracking. Then dust. Dust on the wind. Dust from above, where the burning comes from. The dust tastes like...

...You have no words. You move your jaw. At heart, you are a simple creature.

The dust tastes like dust.

...

You are hungry. So so hungry. You are hungry in your belly. You are hungry in your soul. Time drags, rubbing against your brain, the smooth edge growing rougher every time it passes. Time burns away your simple mind like a carpet will burn skin. You can feel your brain fraying.

Motionless. Frozen. Stuck. Helpless. Collared. You start to see things moving in the dark. Flashes, patterns, burnings, reversals, palindromes. Time goes backwards forwards backwards forwards sideways up. You forget you have meat because you are made of wood. You become the ocean, feel your skin from the outside, feel the skin inside your throat. Your muscles might as well be stone.

You don't have a word for it, but it's still Hell.




In time the Alpha Serpent's scales began to dim. Unmoulted and unsmoothed by the action of the water, of which there was only the faintest current, the initial glory granted by its otherworldly meal was replaced by its old nature. Brown-grey grime leaked from its skin and caked its outer surface, solidifying in the crevices. The bright colours washed out, new tubercles grew. The light in its belly began to flicker. Soon it was so faint that only the center of each light pouch was visible, even when it shone.

The beast's jaw cracked open slowly, one millimeter at a time, and eventually, wide open, stopped. For a while, there was a silent scream.

Then the beast began to sing.




You are a squid.

Specifically, you are a large, really enormous squid, which is a state of squid that it is particularly wholesome to be. You spend your time catching things that are most certainly not large, really enormous squids, of which there are thankfully plenty. You live your life in constant danger of being encountered by something that is not an enormous squid but may somehow actually be a threat to you, like a rambunctious meteorite or a particularly peckish Kalmar, but when you are a squid you don't tend to really think of these kinds of things.

You don't have a great sense of hearing. You certainly couldn't play the piano, though you have enough limbs to. When you hear the song, it's the clearest noise you've ever heard.

It's a clicking moaning humming wailing rasping groaning gasping...

There's no melody, no rhythm. It's random, discordant, distant, and full of pain. Somewhere in your little squid soul, you taste that pain. The memory of it breeds in you and mates with pains of your own. You are but a simple squid, you do not know other minds. But pain...

You travel to end the pain. You travel with great haste.




You find it in the depths where you do not go. You find it giving light, much like your own, only weaker, older, more delicate. You find it floating over a mound of bones, tied to a trinket. You hear it singing, see its mouth.

There there, you say, embracing the side of its head with your tentacles. Its antennae brush past you, tiny dead lights rubbing your own young ones. There are others with you, not squids, some of them not alive, some of them not even embodied, all eager to find . There, there. The song changes pitch, only for a moment. There, there. I am with you. I am here for you.

You slip yourself into its open mouth. Its jaws contract, and, for a moment, the pain is over.

Today Chopstick created a postbox.

It's just a regular postbox, no supernatural stuff, but she'll check back to see if anything's in it from time to time.
-Route to my pad
-trying to see if you can use it as a shortcut
-apparently you can't
-but

Chopstick Eyes drew the blade, bright as silver, sharp as a razor, and put it in her mouth. Wincing hard but unable to blink, she pulled it to the edge of her lips and drew it out, dragging it through the left corner of her mouth, opening her face that much wider. When it was done, she buckled, clutching her stomach, and made it into a bow.

"Th-there," she said, wiping the blood into a streak. "I've taught it to cut gods." She offered him the knife.


We in business, boys.


Chopstick Eyes stood at the edge of the sea, the Lustrous Garden shimmering over rippled waves. She checked a watch she was not wearing, and, realising this, tapped her feet impatiently. The tapping turned into a bored, humming little jig, over the course of which she nearly missed her rendezvous.

She spotted Veradax casting its shadow over the smog of the Pyres just in time, and startled, scrambling back to the spot she was meant to watch. There, as the celestial spheres aligned- not in any noteworthy arrangement, but not random, never random- she spotted it: a mess of foam along the tide-line, a squiggle of sand in a shape that could have been, but was not quite, writing. In another moment it was gone, wiped clean by the waves.

Gotcha.




"C'mere."

The frog refused, flexing its throat as frogs do in a thoroughly nonplussed kind of fashion. Chopstick sighed with her hands on her hips, and looked around, as if for help. There was none, none but the fogbank of Li'Kalla's gate in the distance. And she was fortunate for that, too. She couldn't afford witnesses.

"C'mon, lemme just..." She stretched (some of) her arms into the muddy hole again, and when they weren't long enough, she tried her hair; the strands returned, carrying a fat green amphibian, resigned but by no means beaten. Chopstick looked over her shoulder again, quickly this time, and put the frog to her ear.

"..."

Nod.

"... ..."

Nod nod. Chopstick put the frog back from whence it came. Later that day, she found a marshy puddle, and, splashing her feet into it, disappeared completely.




A dark space, but not lightless.




A fragment of a walkway with no rails.




A door.




Chopstick Eyes stepped out into the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar, wiping the dust of things indescribable off her skin. Lanterns greeted her warmly; street hawkers greeted her too warmly. But it was all grass around her feet and branches brushing the elephant's back. She was God, here. She was in command.

With a hop and a skip and a jump and about eight full-size meals from the intermediary food courts, Chopstick Eyes had returned to her workshop, the one with the monster doodles scattered all over the floor. She picked one up and smiled, half-shrugged. It was funnier now, but she did need something to keep her pad safe, and even with two Chopsticks, she wouldn't be here all the time. Especially now that she had a promise to Li'Kalla.

Her well of ideas had not since become any less dry, but there were other ways around her many weaknesses than trying to muscle through them alone. Donning a trench coat and a black hat, Chopstick Eyes set out for yet another trip to the places few would ever see. This time, it was quick.




The black market was a place of bright lights and dark faces, if faces there were. The floating gloves had lead in their knuckles. The voices were quick and were muted.

The wagon Chopstick ordered were already carrying a heavy load of goods, crude, hefty iron pieces, choppers and maulers and, to her own astonishment, enormous boomerangs. They didn't come back when she threw them, unfortunately. They weren't weighted that way. But good lord were they heavy. And sharp. And remarkably cheap... All of the weapons were. Chopstick made a note to take a good look at this 'Pit of Trials' sometime.

As for the rest, well, she waited until she was back in the workshop. It wasn't much, really: a fancy gold-trimmed black box, a stapled document, and some old blueprints rolled up with rubber bands. She started with the documents.

On Stem-Line Nanyte Replication in Second-Generation Autonomous Cluster-Based Perimeter Monitors
M. Salma Lei

Abstract
Since their introduction as post-urban infiltration and insurgency countermeasures, nanyte cluster perimeter monitors, colloquially Haze Men, have been field-tested for real-time environmental awareness and perception as well as combat efficiency, measured in terms of algorithmic response coverage, response rate, burst stamina, maximum force output, impact, compressive, tensile and fatigue strength. The lifespan of each unit measured across 800 cycles at periodic maximum and near-maximum performance has


Chopstick stared at the document blankly. It was at least forty pages long.

"Iiiiiiieeeeeee can't fucking read this," she announced, and threw it in the incinerator. "Black market know-how it is."

She opened the box, then closed it again. When she opened it a second time, everything was just the way she'd left it: a box lined with velvet, and eight bags full of dust. Eight incredibly expensive plastic sachets of black, black dust. She ripped one open and poured it out on the floor.

The cloud that rose wasn't choking, nor did it cover the skin and sink into the floorboards. It coiled, flexed and expanded, then shrank, the dust pouring from the sachet in a continual, impossible waterfall, sucking itself into itself until it formed a solid mass. The mass began to glow.

Up stood a creature like a steel spring, coiled and sharpened for violence. Heads and shoulders it towered above Chopstick, watching her with eyes bored into its face with a harsh, mechanical light.

A Haze Man, once again. Chopstick grinned, and booped its nose. She got almost to its face before its hand seized her wrist, its body and gaze unmoving over a vicious grip.

Very nice.

"Alright, point taken. Lemme go, mall cop," said Chopstick, and it did. "You think you can find your own way to the Palace?" The creature creaked, buzzing in a language that she did not understand. "Yeah? Well, close enough. Meet me there and I'll tell you who not to kill." The Haze Man made a noise like gravel being scratched.

Bit rough around the edges, for sure, thought Chopstick Eyes. But definitely a cutie.




The Palace was one of the largest hotel-restaurant-brothel combinations in the Grand Bazaar, and Chopstick Eyes owned one hundred percent of it. It was certainly the grandest: trimmed with brass and golden statues, it was styled true to its name, with vast, silken rooms, its own private square for dances and performance, and kitchens enough to feast nightly. Sometimes, when Chopstick was feeling particularly lavish, she would sleep in its basement.

It was also, unfortunately, quite empty. Advertised as a place 'where the gloves are leather and lace', they were really just silk for the most part. There were neither guests to enjoy the Palace's premium service nor any staff capable of supplying it. The gloves were great for spanking and such like, but man cannot live on handjobs alone.

Oh well.

Chopstick met the waiting Haze Men in front of the hotel, and promptly instructed them to arm themselves. The Palace was empty for now, sure, but one day it wouldn't be, and on that day she would tolerate no tomfoolery.

...

Well, that was a lie. She'd tolerate a lot.

Probably encourage it.

Probably be responsible for it.

But still. No tomfoolery.




Chopstick crawled out of the earth as she was wont to do, and changed out of her tunnelling overalls. It didn't help much. The rain was remarkably heavy today, and the mud splashing around her feet was awfully lively. Halfway through wrapping her kimono, Chopstick aborted the process and opted for a bright yellow raincoat with gumboots.

It certainly wasn't flying weather. She couldn't make it back to the Gateway if she tried, assuming Li'Kalla was even there in the first place. But that didn't matter much. She'd made another purchase in the deep markets.

From the deep pockets of the raincoat, Chopstick retrieved a wand of curious construction. Its haft was some fine-grained black material, matte and weighty, and a shiny, silvery metal orb formed its head. A thin steel band encircled the grid-like, rippling wirework of the orb, and visible within was some kind of dark foam. It had been sold to her as Michael's Wand of Loudspaken, and she had every intention of testing it out.

She activated the wand and tapped the orb. A fizzy thudding sound echoed for miles around. She inhaled.

"HEY, LI'KALLA!"


...okay, maybe that was a little too loud.

"Whoops! Sorry! Didn't mean to startle you, hey. Hey, I made a reservation for you at my hotel in the Bazaar, so you can pop in any time! Just let the staff know you're in and I'll be right there to meetcha, alright?"

No answer. She probably didn't have a Michael's Wand of Loudspaken. What a sucker.

"If anyone else can hear this, uh... Hey listeners, what's up! I have chopstick eyes, and I'm totally open for business right now. Need some goods? Want some services? Just call Choppy's Business Delivery Hotline for a totally free consultation! We do deliveries! We do pick-up! We do deliveries clocked at eight hundred miles per hour directly to your chosen recipients cranium! Want some emotional advice? Look no further! Want some sexual advice? I do too! Just call Choppy's Business Delivery Hotline! Call it with your throat! Call it with your tuba! Call it with a big sack of angry cats you're trying to pass off as bagpipes! That sounds hilarious! Terms and conditions may apply, but I'm deliberately ignoring them! Thank you!"

...

"Oh yeah, by the way, if anyone wants to bring my security staff, like, a cup of coffee or something, sometime, that'd be nice, they look kinda parched."

A nearby mud-clump stared at Chopstick Eyes incredulously.

She shrugged.



We in business, boys.


Chopstick Eyes stood at the edge of the sea, the Lustrous Garden shimmering over rippled waves. She checked a watch she was not wearing, and, realising this, tapped her feet impatiently. The tapping turned into a bored, humming little jig, over the course of which she nearly missed her rendezvous.

She spotted Veradax casting its shadow over the smog of the Pyres just in time, and startled, scrambling back to the spot she was meant to watch. There, as the celestial spheres aligned- not in any noteworthy arrangement, but not random, never random- she spotted it: a mess of foam along the tide-line, a squiggle of sand in a shape that could have been, but was not quite, writing. In another moment it was gone, wiped clean by the waves.

Gotcha.




"C'mere."

The frog refused, flexing its throat as frogs do in a thoroughly nonplussed kind of fashion. Chopstick sighed with her hands on her hips, and looked around, as if for help. There was none, none but the fogbank of Li'Kalla's gate in the distance. And she was fortunate for that, too. She couldn't afford witnesses.

"C'mon, lemme just..." She stretched (some of) her arms into the muddy hole again, and when they weren't long enough, she tried her hair; the strands returned, carrying a fat green amphibian, resigned but by no means beaten. Chopstick looked over her shoulder again, quickly this time, and put the frog to her ear.

"..."

Nod.

"... ..."

Nod nod. Chopstick put the frog back from whence it came. Later that day, she found a marshy puddle, and, splashing her feet into it, disappeared completely.




A dark space, but not lightless.




A fragment of a walkway with no rails.




A door.




Chopstick Eyes stepped out into the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar, wiping the dust of things indescribable off her skin. Lanterns greeted her warmly; street hawkers greeted her too warmly. But it was all grass around her feet and branches brushing the elephant's back. She was God, here. She was in command.

With a hop and a skip and a jump and about eight full-size meals from the intermediary food courts, Chopstick Eyes had returned to her workshop, the one with the monster doodles scattered all over the floor. She picked one up and smiled, half-shrugged. It was funnier now, but she did need something to keep her pad safe, and even with two Chopsticks, she wouldn't be here all the time. Especially now that she had a promise to Li'Kalla.

Her well of ideas had not since become any less dry, but there were other ways around her many weaknesses than trying to muscle through them alone. Donning a trench coat and a black hat, Chopstick Eyes set out for yet another trip to the places few would ever see. This time, it was quick.




The black market was a place of bright lights and dark faces, if faces there were. The floating gloves had lead in their knuckles. The voices were quick and were muted.

The wagon Chopstick ordered were already carrying a heavy load of goods, crude, hefty iron pieces, choppers and maulers and, to her own astonishment, enormous boomerangs. They didn't come back when she threw them, unfortunately, they weren't weighted that way; but good lord were they heavy and sharp. And they were remarkably cheap. All of these things were. Chopstick made a note to take a good look at this 'Pit of Trials' sometime.

As for the rest, well, she waited until she was back in the workshop. It wasn't much, really: a fancy gold-trimmed black box, a stapled document, and some old blueprints rolled up with rubber bands. She started with the documents.

On Stem-Line Nanyte Replication in Second-Generation Autonomous Cluster-Based Perimeter Monitors
M. Salma Lei

Abstract
Since their introduction as post-urban infiltration and insurgency countermeasures, nanyte cluster perimeter monitors, colloquially Haze Men, have been field-tested for real-time environmental awareness and perception as well as combat efficiency, measured in terms of algorithmic response coverage, response rate, burst stamina, maximum force output, impact, compressive, tensile and fatigue strength. The lifespan of each unit measured across 800 cycles at periodic maximum and near-maximum performance has


Chopstick stared at the document blankly. It was at least forty pages long.

"Iiiiiiieeeeeee can't fucking read this," she announced, and threw it in the incinerator. "Black market know-how it is."

She opened the box, then closed it again. When she opened it a second time, everything was just the way she'd left it: a box lined with velvet, and eight bags full of dust. Eight incredibly expensive plastic sachets of black, black dust. She ripped one open and poured it out on the floor.

The cloud that rose wasn't choking, nor did it cover the skin and sink into the floorboards. It coiled, flexed and expanded, then shrank, the dust pouring from the sachet in a continual, impossible waterfall, sucking itself into itself until it formed a solid mass. The mass began to glow.

Up stood a creature like a steel spring, coiled and sharpened for violence. Heads and shoulders it towered above Chopstick, watching her with eyes bored into its face with a harsh, mechanical light.

A Haze Man, once again. Chopstick grinned, and booped its nose. She got almost to its face before its hand seized her wrist, its body and gaze unmoving over a vicious grip.

Very nice.

"Alright, point taken. Lemme go, mall cop," said Chopstick, and it did. "You think you can find your own way to the Palace?" The creature creaked, buzzing in a language that she did not understand. "Yeah? Well, close enough. Meet me there and I'll tell you who not to kill." The Haze Man made a noise like gravel being scratched.

Bit rough around the edges, for sure, thought Chopstick Eyes. But definitely a cutie.




The Palace was one of the largest hotel-restaurant-brothel combinations in the Grand Bazaar, and Chopstick Eyes owned one hundred percent of it. It was certainly the grandest: trimmed with brass and golden statues, it was styled true to its name, with vast, silken rooms, its own private square for dances and performance, and kitchens enough to feast nightly. Sometimes, when Chopstick was feeling particularly lavish, she would sleep in its basement.

It was also, unfortunately, quite empty. Advertised as a place 'where the gloves are leather and lace', they were really just silk for the most part. There were neither guests to enjoy the Palace's premium service nor any staff capable of supplying it. The gloves were great for spanking and such like, but man cannot live on handjobs alone.

Oh well.

Chopstick met the waiting Haze Men in front of the hotel, and promptly instructed them to arm themselves. The Palace was empty for now, sure, but one day it wouldn't be, and on that day she would tolerate no tomfoolery.

...

Well, that was a lie. She'd tolerate a lot.

Probably encourage it.

Probably be responsible for it.

But still. No tomfoolery.




Chopstick crawled out of the earth as she was wont to do, and changed out of her tunnelling overalls. It didn't help much. The rain was remarkably heavy today, and the mud splashing around her feet was awfully lively. Halfway through wrapping her kimono, Chopstick aborted the process and opted for a bright yellow raincoat with gumboots.

It certainly wasn't flying weather. She couldn't make it back to the Gateway if she tried, assuming Li'Kalla was even there in the first place. But that didn't matter much. She'd made another purchase in the deep markets.

From the deep pockets of the raincoat, Chopstick retrieved a wand of curious construction. Its haft was some fine-grained black material, matte and weighty, and a shiny, silvery metal orb formed its head. A thin steel band encircled the grid-like, rippling wirework of the orb, and visible within was some kind of dark foam. It had been sold to her as Michael's Wand of Loudspaken, and she had every intention of testing it out.

She activated the wand and tapped the orb. A fizzy thudding sound echoed for miles around. She inhaled.

"HEY, LI'KALLA!"


...okay, maybe that was a little too loud.

"Whoops! Sorry! Didn't mean to startle you, hey. Hey, I made a reservation for you at my hotel in the Bazaar, so you can pop in any time! Just let the staff know you're in and I'll be right there to meetcha, alright?"

No answer. She probably didn't have a Michael's Wand of Loudspaken. What a sucker.

"If anyone else can hear this, uh... Hey listeners, what's up! I have chopstick eyes, and I'm totally open for business right now. Need some goods? Want some services? Just call Choppy's Business Delivery Hotline for a totally free consultation! We do deliveries! We do pick-up! We do deliveries clocked at eight hundred miles per hour directly to your chosen recipients cranium! Want some emotional advice? Look no further! Want some sexual advice? I do too! Just call Choppy's Business Delivery Hotline! Call it with your throat! Call it with your tuba! Call it with a big sack of angry cats you're trying to pass off as bagpipes! That sounds hilarious! Terms and conditions may apply, but I'm deliberately ignoring them! Thank you!"

...

"Oh yeah, by the way, if anyone wants to bring my security staff, like, a cup of coffee or something, sometime, that'd be nice, they look kinda parched."

A nearby mud-clump stared at Chopstick Eyes incredulously.

She shrugged.






Heavy rain pounded the trench. Large droplets tattered off Chopstick Eye’s wide brimmed helmet, but no matter how hard she tried to hear the rain, she never could. The rapid fire tak tak tak tak of machine gun fire fought against the ringing after-wave of explosions for dominance in her ears. A mixture of mud and sweat fogged any vision she could have.

PTNK!

A stray bullet slammed into the man to her right, his head jerking back as a spray of crimson erupted behind him. Running on planks raised out of the muddy ground another soldier in red stained beige ran to the machine gun nest of the dead man. Before he could make it, a grenade bounced off the back of the trench and by his feet. Quickly the man scooped it up and as he tossed it outwards it exploded.

Chopstick was thrown backwards from the blast, and between stinging blurs she saw the man writhing on the ground, dirt soaking in his exposed elbow, his severed arm nowhere to be seen. Another soldier ran up to the man, pressing a hand deep into the dark ooze that was pouring from the wound, he turned to look at Chopstick.

“Daniel! Man that fucking gun!”

Why do you always, thought the creature in the long coat, think you know my name? But out loud she said, ”Okeydokey, sarge boy.”

It was a brief splash and a slog before she made it to the nest of sandbags and wire, set her hands on the handles of the gatling gun. From here, she had a clear view of no man’s land. The rain fell in a heavy blanket, but it couldn’t make leave her much blinder than she already was, or more far-seeing.

tak tak tak tak tak tak tak tak

It was a remarkably effective, and a remarkably boring, tool. Men were leaping from holes in the dirt, running between the wire and the craters in the hope that they could make it to her side before being spotted. They were always men, never women, and they were never right. Chopstick pressed her buttons and the machine spoke and they fell. Every now and then one of their own machines would speak in a different tone, and she’d hear something miss her head with a zip oh wait no that last one hit.

Chopstick fell back into the mud with a big hole in her face, across her cheek and jaw, an ugly blasted tunnel that showed off her broken teeth and jaw and leaked a red slime that might have been blood. Oh, she thought. Oh that’s going to start hurting soon.

It did.

“Fucking hell,” A voice called out. A soldier slided next to Chopstick, a crust of blood and dirt on the side of his face, staining a white band across his helmet. The man stared at Chopstick, shoving gauze onto her gaping wound, and pouring water around the edge, forming brown rivulets down her cheek. She shrieked at him, an injured, cornered fiend with teeth sprouting in a dense forest from the opening in her face.

As the man fought to work on her, she noticed a figure rise above the lip of the trench. The enemy soldier was wearing a dark uniform with N.R.R. emblazoned on his sleeve, and in his hands he aimed a trench sweeper at the medic.

Chopstick met his gaze and stopped, then watched, as, in one small movement, he blew a hole through the soldier on top of her, and a larger, messier one, in her belly.

She shrieked, though she couldn’t hear it any more, and leapt at him, throwing the dying medic off of her one-handed without noticing him. The dark soldier had no time to stagger or pump his shotgun; she was on top of him, screaming, smashing his face with her fists, strangling him with her hands, shaking him back and forth like a ragdoll.

On the ground, they were too close together for anyone to take a clear shot. As soon as she stood up over the corpse, more bullets entered her, leaving holes in her coat and her flesh, and she dropped, leaking, dribbling red.

But there was something very interesting attached to the end of the killer’s gun: a long, thin knife with a single edge.

Chopstick pulled her helmet away from her head and let her hair cover her, let her arms scuttle away, dragging her wounded body like a ghastly cockroach in the direction from which her attackers had come, leaving a trail of mud. More bullets came, but she was a fast target now, fast and low. Her hair cracked like a whip as she reached the first man, opening him with the knife. The hair collected another bayonet, and Chopstick leapt onto the second man. Then the third.

There was a brief whistle that sounded over the cracking of bullets. Suddenly Chopstick’s entire world lit up in a ball of flame. A great explosion landed behind her, sending her barreling forward alongside disembodied limbs and clumps of mud. The pain was something new as it ate up the flesh on her back.

As she dazed on the ground, she noticed a new shape in her peripheral, a mighty metal monster rolling around on treads, spouting massive explosions from a barrel, Rozdeleny painted across the cannon. With a silent whirr the turret repositioned itself again, and slowly the cannon came to bear down on Chopstick, but before it could fire a familiar hand grabbed what was left of the collar on her coat and began to drag her from the scene. It was the Sarge.

The man was bleeding heavily from his forehead and the beige in his uniform was blotted out by stains. He turned on his feet, pulling Chopsticks behind a bend in the trench. Slowly and gradually the sounds of the battle began to disappear behind them. A tension she didn’t know she was holding fell over her, and slowly the world went black.

Her eyes snapped open, she was in bed. There was no evidence of ever being wounded on her body, and for some reason she had a feeling years had passed since that day. She even recognized the room as her own, from the war memorabilia down to the curtains.

There was a urgent knock on her door.

Chopstick mmrmphed, cautiously pressed a finger to the side of her head where her cheek had been missing, then pulled herself upright and said, “Fuck off..?”

She reached into the bedside table and pulled out a packet of paper-rolls with black leaves in them, selected one and lit it with a match. “Alright, you can come in now,” she clarified, shaking out the match and dragging on the cigarette.

“Sarge?” A man walked in, the left sleeve of his suit was stapled to his shoulder, his arm missing from the elbow down, “Theresa let me in, but-”

But Theresa can fuck off too, thought Chopstick Eyes. Lemme sleep.

“It's Daniel, he hasn't been answering any calls, haven't seen him around. I want to go check on him, but he- he will listen to you,” the man shoved his hand in his pocket, “I have the Studebaker out back.”

Chopstick considered. She made sure to take the longest, slowest pull on her cancerstick before answering. “Who’s Daniel?”

The man looked at Chopstick bewildered, “Danny? From the war? Our best friend? Took a bullet to the teeth while on the gun. Our Danny boy? You pulled both our arses out of that hellhole... Is this a joke?”

Chopstick sighed. “Oh yeah. That guy.” She grinned, fit to swallow something very large, though the right side of her face seemed to have developed a twitch. “I reckon she’ll b- he’ll be pretty chuffed to see me, ey?”

“I hope so,” the man held the door for Chopstick, “I have a pit in my stomach, you know what they say about some of the good old boys who never adjusted.”

“Eh, don’t worry. I think she’ll be juuust fine.” Chopstick chuckled and slithered out of bed and onto the floor, her white vest hanging loosely from her frame. Now let me just figure out what a Studebaker is and we’ll be right as rain.

Within a few minutes they were on their way. Choppy let her head dangle out the car window like a over eager dog. They zipped by grey sidewalks and brown buildings. People were going about their business and the clouds hung low over them. The man with Chopstick wore a worried look, like he was about to be sick and then finally he cranked the shifter in the car and put her in park. They were outside an apartment building.

The man exited the car with a slam and began to walk up the chipped stairway to the front door. Chopstick followed suite as the man pushed the heavy door open and made his way down a stained hallway that reeked of cigarettes. To her, it smelled of heaven.

Eventually the pair came upon Apartment 2B. The man gave it a stiff knock but there was no answer. He shared a cursory glance with Chopstick before trying the handle, it turned. The man sucked in a breath and pushed the door open.

“Daniel?”

The door opened into a kitchen that was rather unkempt, with dishes piling and the icebox open and thawed. The man made a face as he exited into the living room, and then he froze.

Daniel sat on the floor in his pajamas, tears staining his face and prosthetic right jaw. Burn scars wrinkled the back of his bald head and the nozzle of a gun was pressed into his mouth.

The man held out his hands, “Daniel- what are you doing. Daniel!?”

Daniel met eyes with Chopstick. Her skewers stared at him, unwavering, and the room grew so quiet you could just about hear them creak. Very gently, very slowly, Chopstick stepped across the room, put one hand on Daniel’s shoulder, and pulled the gun away.

“Here,” she said. “It’s much easier if I do it.”

Daniel’s brain peppered the floor for an instant before he fell, his body covering the mess. The other man was screaming, swearing and rushing towards Chopstick. Before he could ever get close enough, a man wearing a nice black suit, smoking a long white cigarette appeared in the corner of the room. He looked over the scene with a long stare to match the drag on his cig. Suddenly the stranger snapped his fingers and-

And then she was awake.

The sea lapped gently at the gravel beach around her feet. Wind rustled in the leaves. Some had fallen to cover her- she’d been here for some time. She sighed. Building the Feasting Forest had taken a lot out of her.

She rubbed her mouth and yawned. The right side of her face had developed a twitch. She looked out over the strait (why was it boiling?) and thought back to the images flashing in her head. A dream. A long dream. She didn’t know what to make of it. But...

Vakk was right, she thought. Killing is fun.




Li’Kalla


Goddess of Rain
17 FP - 10 MP





There was an odd smell in the air. A smell that she could not quite place.

The moment Li’Kalla crossed the Gateway to the So’E, the smell invaded her nostrils. Now, it wasn’t foul. On the contrary, it was quite pleasant and reminded her of those nights her family would host exotic feasts when inviting another family over for the night. There would be dancers, singers, artist--All kinds of beautiful people with strange skin colours and faces she’d never seen before!

But this scent wasn’t supposed to be here. And this scent could only mean one thing… The kitchen was in use.

Upon gingerly landing on the sandy shores of the So’E, she looked straight at the manor, its facade half hidden behind some trees a scarce half kilometer away.

Her lower jaw twitched before relaxing. A cold sweat formed on her forehead and it suddenly felt as she’d been fastened to the ground. The front doors were ajar.

Li’Kalla looked down at her legs with wide, scared eyes and saw that they weren’t fastened.

She sighed in relief and blinked.

There she was, huddled against a corner of the dark, damp cell. Trembling as she desperately hoped the light coming through the unforgiving metal bars passed her by this time-

The Goddess found herself on her hands and knees, panting as she looked down at a small pool of water. She gagged and gulped as the sand eagerly drank the pool of liquid.

”I guess I haven’t eaten anything yet...” She said quietly, to herself.

II


”Good afternoon, everyone! Aaaand welcome to another episode of Chips and Chops. I’m your host, Chopessa Stickelle, and today I’m going to walk you through how to prepare a Broad River Breakfast. Now, this is a two-course meal usually started the night beforehand, but you can make it any time you like, so long as you have a strong enough oven. So let’s chop!”

Her audience, a mop in a dress with two pears strapped on, watched with great, if silent, anticipation.

”First you’ll want to grab hold of your eel, which is the most important part of the pie. If you just… Hang on. You just grab your eel… Oh wow, slippery- just- grab it and- damnit- damn it FUCK- just grab your eel and whooOOOOPSIDAISY oh shit- hold on, we’re having a bit of a problem. You grab the eel and GUh-” Chopstick lost her footing and disappeared under the kitchen table. ”-fff- just- wait- no- fuck- come back here- I-” Pans clanging. ”-just gotta-” Pots breaking.

Chopstick Eyes emerged from under the table with a skewed hat and popped her pie on the table.

“...Oven bake for thirty minutes at two hundred degrees and enjoy~”

The mop clapped appreciatively, albeit with some assistance. Now THAT’S a wrap.

Something moved outside, dropping Chopstick from her reverie. She looked around at the baked, boiled and fried results of the previous thirty-two episodes of Chips and Chops, and realised that she’d lost track of time.

“...Hold it right there, Moppy. We've got bigger fish to fry.”

With a move between a skip and a snoop, Chopstick made her way to the mansion door, cracked it open wide enough to stick her head through, and gave a tentative, ”Howdy.”

A pale woman dressed in a blue gown was standing outside, looking like a lost wild puppy hesitant to ask for food. It was Li'Kalla, the Goddess of Rain. Her ears perked up upon hearing the greeting and she hid her face beneath the shadow her hair cast upon her face.

“Chopstick…” Li'Kalla grimaced as her eyes stole a peek at the eyes of the fellow Goddess, “... Eyes?”

”...Yep, I have ‘em.”

“I am uh, Li'Kalla.”

There was a moment of silence between the two. Li'Kalla shifted on her spot, waiting awkwardly to be invited inside into her own home.

“... Are you okay? Don't your eyes hurt?”

”Don’t yours? All round and slippery. Like walking on marbles. Uh,” Chopstick looked around. They were the only two people in this entire plane of existence. ”This, uh, isn’t your house, by any chance, is it?”

Li'Kalla shrugged. “I used to live here, a long time ago.” The look in her eyes betrayed her conflicting emotions, for as much as she tried to hide them. They were emotions the little goblin god had no idea how to handle.

”Is it, uh...” An awkward shuffling. ”Do you still live here?”

“... Kind of? I haven't entered it at all, though. Hey, um, what are you cooking?” Li'Kalla's eyes met chopstick's sticks with a predatory gaze.

”Oh, you know, the usual. Come on in!” Chopstick yanked open the door with spindly arms, skittering a little as it pulled her along.

There was food everywhere.

If the villa had seen such a feast before- and, given the luxury of the place, it may have- it had not been in many an interdimensional year. The banquet table was decked from end to end with pots, platters, plates and pans, reflecting a thousandfold between the facets of the crystal goblets and the edges of the silverware. Dishes were fitted together so neatly, and so tightly, that some had evidently been reappropriated as stuffings and toppings for others; even so, the viands extended out of the banquet-hall and into the kitchen and coffee tables. It was astonishing that one god could produce so much food, and one house could contain it; though, judging by the kebabs in the bird-cage, it was nearing its limit.

Standing beside Chopstick Eyes was Li’Kalla, mouth hung open at the sheer sight. After a moment, she wiped some drool off her chin and grinned widely.

”W-Wow! How long have you been cooking in here, Chopstick Eyes?!” She was basically screaming at her fellow Goddess in her enthusiasm, and seemed to be lightly bouncing in place.

”Well, basically since I, uh,” Chopstick scratched the back of her neck and looked briefly away, ”picked the lock with my toenail, but...” Murmur murmur. It wasn’t like Li’Kalla was listening anyway.

”Wait, i-is that… Are those Cornellian Songbird Drumsticks with bitter sauce on top?! H-How did you make them?! I thought they didn’t exist in this universe!” Her eyes went wide and in the blink of an eye, Li’Kalla was near the big dining table, reaching for a dish with what seemed to be several extremely large chicken drumsticks. The only difference being that the meat was completely white.

”I… Have no idea!” shrugged Chopstick, broadly and merrily. ”Only one way to find out, right?” She took a drumstick and flipped it into the air, where it spun like a juggler’s club before she caught it with her long sticky tongue and swallowed it whole, the bone cracking loudly inside her gut.

Li’Kalla stared in awe at Chopstick’s display of… ”What was that?!” Li’Kalla giggled and took a bite of one drumstick before setting the plate down on the table again. Even in her excited estate, one could see how carefully she chewed and how much care she went into proper etiquette. After swallowing the mouthful, she groaned and melted on the spot -- Or she would have if she was Ashalla and her body was fluid. She really just groaned happily.

”Choppyyy, were you a cook in your past life? I think you may have worked for my family! Or- Maybe not, you make the drumsticks even better!” The Rain Goddess chuckled and grabbed Chopstick’s hand and guided her along the table. ”Come on, come on, we have to taste every single dish, you know? Not like that dressed up mop over there can taste it for us!”

“Wait, what mop-” Chopstick Eyes, who had been getting to like this new friend, jerked like a body at the end of a noose and blurred to the kitchen, from whence was heard a crashing of glass. Moppy, it seemed, was no more.

”...So, uh, yeah, where were we?” said Chopstick, peering into a cauldron of rabbit (or maybe jackalope). ”Tasting everything! Also, what’s a past life?”

Li’Kalla, who had been chewing on some fried octopus tentacles, turned around to face Chopstick. Li’Kalla’s face, originally grinning and with happiness pouring out of every part, slowly dulled. ”You don’t have a past life…? Oh, I-I guess you don’t remember it...”

”Remember? ...Ohhhh.” Chopstick looked up, then poured the rest of the jackalope soup down her gullet and swallowed. ”I remember… Skraghnaphgh. A salesman named Skraghnaphgh. That’s all I remember.” She shrugged, and moved on to the caterpillar tart with cream and cacao. ”I think I might be Skraghnaphgh. But that doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t matter, anyway; I wasn’t alive back then. You?”

Li’Kalla had been listening intently, even going so far as to stop eating entirely. She tilted her head and looked at Chopstick with a mixture of pity and envy which quickly gave way to one of understanding. ”It may be a blessing, not remembering. This manor used to be my Family’s, a symbol of our status. I lived here throughout all my childhood. It was a good life, until… Until, well, I didn’t live here anymore.” A shudder went through her body and she wiped her eyes preemptively.

”Say, Choppy- I mean, Chopstick Eyes, you’re the Goddess of Markets, right? So, when you create markets, will you sell people in them?”

Why do people keep assuming that’s my name? thought the little god, or maybe mumbled. Out loud, she said, ”Sure. Why?”

”Oh, well, I just-” Li’Kalla rubbed her temples and then sighed, ”Can you make sure the people sold in them are not, uhm, hurt? You know...” She shrugged lamely and tried not to look directly at Chopstick.

Chopstick scoffed, waggling at Li’Kalla with a kebab. ”What kind of vendor would I be if I sold damaged goods? You need to get a sense of business, you do.”

Li’Kalla puffed out her cheeks, ”I-I didn’t mean it like that! More like, afterward? Like making sure they’re not sold to bad people.”

Her guest thought about it, and shrugged. ”I… don’t know, actually. Depends on the offer.”

Li’Kalla looked at all the food still on display, and after thinking for a while, she spoke. ”At least they will eat well while they’re under your care, I think.”

”Oh duh,” said Chopstick, with one eyebrow raised. ”Say, you know what? You can come check out my premises any time you want. See if it suits ya. C’mere, I’ll show you a special shortcut.” She beckoned.

It took Li’Kalla a moment before nodding and stepping a bit closer to Chopstick, ”... Okay! I’m ready to learn. Do you sell mak- Actually, let’s just focus on this first.”

”No, no, wait, do I sell what now? I’m sure I do! Mak… eovers? Makimono? Mako sharks?”

”Makeup!”

Choppy laughed. ”Oh buddy, have I got a show for you. Here.” She leaned in, cupped her hands around Li’Kalla’s ear, and whispered a secret.

It was a long secret, and a strange one. At times it was quite frightening. It settled in Li’Kalla’s brain in little pieces, like smuggler’s signs, scratched into the nooks and crannies of her head, hard to notice unless one knew what one was looking for- and then as clear as daylight. Above all, it was a wordless secret, though Chopstick Eyes was speaking in something like words. It could not be articulated- but now, it was known.

”That’s the shortcut,” said Chopstick Eyes. ”It shouldn’t be too hard to follow for a big girl god like you. Just don’t try to write it down, yeah? You might mess it up if you do.” Shrug. ”Some things don’t like being seen.”

Li’Kalla stood there confused, but at the same time knowing exactly what had just transpired. ”... You’re more creative than me when it comes to creating shortcuts, that’s certain.” She clasped her hands in front of herself and smiled demurely. ”I will visit you, I promise! Uhm, friend?”

Choppy grinned, fit to swallow the rest of the banquet, and spread all seventeen arms. ”Business buddy!” She seized Li’Kalla in a hug. The rain Goddess merely squeaked like a mouse at the sudden affection, but she slowly returned the friendly embrace.

With a flushed face, she spoke unsteadily, ”O-Of course! Business buddies! Business buddies, right!” She was eventually released.

”I’ll need to make some reservations. But you can stop by any time you like.” Chopstick looked out the window, to where the clouds were still streaming into the marble ring. ”Say, uh… You don’t… You don’t happen to have a ladder, by any chance?”

”Oh, uh… Sure. There should be a retractable one in the basement. I usually just very slowly float to the ring, you know?”

...Float?

”...Yeah, nah, I’m gonna go fetch the ladder. We’ll figure something out.”

And they did.






Between the great stone trees of the Feasting Forest, a subtle tapping could be heard. Tk tk tk tk. It came from a sun-dappled, hidden little grotto, and it was Chopstick Eyes, working with a hammer and chisel to gently carve away one of the last Forest Shrines.

Above here, and beyond, crept a dense canopy. It was green and thick- could even be called lush, by the foolish or naive. But green as it was, this forest was not lively, only quietly, insidiously, alive.

No leaf of Phystene dwelt here, no bright river of Shengshi, nor any of Ashalla’s lively algs. None of Azura’s birds sang, and what few insects crawled were shapeless, odd-legged black things with no eyes. The foliage warped and clawed its way around the great stone trees of Vakk, with roots in the air and gnarled trunks bending down over the earth as if dripping. It was difficult to tell where the roots of one tree ended and the branches of another began. So densely covered were the twisted stone trees with hefty, drooping creepers, that somehow they seemed more alive than anything else in this mockery of a forest.

Tk tk tk, went the chisel on the stone.




Earlier.

Chopstick reached into her purse and pulled out a little centipede, held it in her bare fingers. She’d found it crawling around the lower levels of the Bazaar before she’d left. Maybe it and its like could do some good here.

She flicked it a few times, and it duplicated itself each time, each generation of duplicates acquiring more and more error and asymmetry. Then she set it on the ground.

The land was yet young and the soil was yet unspread, though some odd fungi had blown over from the Kick’s southern neighbor and started chewing up the rock, which was handy. Chopstick had covered her bare feet with some boots and swapped her neat dress for overalls, and was filling in a ditch when she came upon the thing.

It was brightly coloured, soft, and quite dead. Chopstick sampled it and found it to taste a little like snail, but not much, and mostly like Azura. She turned it around and around. It had a mouth, but only a little one.

Hm.

Chopstick lifted a finger and waited for a mote of ash to fall on it, which it did. There was a lot of ash around these days. Maybe that’s where all the stray souls had gone.

She rubbed it into the skin of the Phase Mote, and began to work.




Later.

The earth-worm had swum for hours through desiccating water and a strong current, and when it finally made landfall on the other side of the strait, it was exhausted. The land it left behind had been abruptly upheaved of late, forcing it to depart, but it was only a young worm, with little strength.

This place seemed calmer. The earth-worm crawled on, trying to crack rock; but this rock had a bitter and desolate taste, much unlike the other place. Perhaps there were easier meals. It crept on, into the forest.

A huge creature slid before it, and it stopped. Eyeless, limbless, but glowing with odd motes, the giant slug-beast didn’t notice the worm at all. It waved its tentacles and slithered on, along with a kind of trail. The worm waited until it had gone, though that seemed quite unnecessary, then continued in the opposite direction. It smelled food.

What’s this? Dead matter, but somehow different to the raw leaves. The worm did not recognize the fine pies, breads, and cakes that were before it, nor the stuffed duck, or the broth or the pork or anything else that lay on the shrine. But it recognized easy protein. Cooked meat was not so different from rotten meat, and it gorged itself, as scavengers do.

The worm did not notice the Phase Beast returning on the trail. It did not smell it, it did not hear it. It did not feel the tentacles reaching around its body.

But the Phase Beast saw it. The Phase Beast saw it very well.

And the Phase Beast was hungry.




Vakk had seemingly tuned out of reality as Choppy had done her work, almost in a trance yet very aware of what was happening immediately next to him. However, nothing happened next to him because life generally didn’t like him, or he just didn’t want to be bothered. Eventually, the Lord of Speech came out of his thoughts, violently shaking his head and flicking his tendrils around. He had yet to see what Choppy had done as he began to groggily speak, ”Are you quite done yet? I grow bored of waiting for you to..”

He finally took in what was going on around him.

”... Finish.”

Vakk looked at what had filled the forest of stone that he had created, merely inspecting it for a few moments before impatiently going back to Chopstick Eyes. He did not like how she had done so much more than he had, it upset him so much that he physically could not show it if he could. This was a transgression that could not go unanswered.

”You mock me with how much you managed to do as I… meditated.”

”You snooze, you lose,” Choppy shrugged, leaning on her shovel and watching the hapless earthworm dissolve in the translucent belly of the beast. Her flying-lantern shivered. She looked up and nudged Vakk playfully. ”Maybe you should’ve taken the shovel, ey?”

He frowned. ”Holding it is awkward,” Vakk complained, before he reached to pick up the shovel he had thrown aside. He looked at it, then hit the wrong end against the ground as he had before, clearly not having paid attention to how Choppy used it. He threw it away again, not wanting to hold the cursed object any longer.

”I can make this place better.”

”Oh?” Chopstick let her head rest on the backs of her hands, which were leaning on the shovel. She raised an eyebrow, smirking.

Vakk gave a light chuckle before he opened his mouth, seeming as if he were inhaling the air. His body relaxed and from from the small gaps between his teeth leaked a cloud before he exhaled, a thick fog spreading over Chopsticks and her creations. It was blinding, certainly, no mortal would be able to know where they were going. The fog blocked sight of the life Chopsticks had created, save for the translucent beings.

He let out a laugh as the dense fog settled. Revenge had been exacted.

”Much better.”

Chopstick stared at the resultant gloom, took off her straw hat and scratched her head. She harumphed and walked off into the fog. For a few seconds, she may as well have been in another Sphere.

”Well, this’ll get ‘em lost, alright,” she said from about five meters away. She reappeared. The flying-lantern crooned. ”But now they can’t see the shrines. I’ll have to… Hang on, I’m just gonna fix that real quick.”

Chopstick strolled over to her purse and rummaged, inserting first one arm, then the other, then several more, and then her whole torso into the accessory. ”Uh, hang on… Ah gotcha.” She retrieved a tall, wrought-iron lamp-post with a glass cage, and tk-tk’d to the flying-lantern, who approached.

”Just hold still for a second… There we go.” Chopstick lit a splint on the flying-lantern’s flame, then transferred it to the lamp-post. The post nodded to receive it. It blinked, the flame flickering momentarily, and looked around. It hopped out into the forest on stumpy little wrought-iron limbs, and was soon joined by several more of wood and stone; they vanished into the fog together.

Vakk cocked his head, ”Was the purpose not to get them lost, Chopstick Eyes? It seems you more want them to find that particular shrine.”

”I mean, I guess.” Chopstick scratched her head. ”I… I guess I do.”

He snapped his jaw before he raised his head above the treeline, he saw it stretch on for a long way. Eventually, he figured that it was not worth the time to argue the point, after all, Chopstick did help him raise this continent not too long ago. Vakk lowered his head back down to her level before he continued speaking, ”I suppose it is not too much of a problem. A minor detail such as this is fine for whatever purpose you need it to do.”

”Yeah. Whatever purpose...” Chopstick wasn’t scratching her head any more, but she still hadn’t looked up. ”Whatever… I need it to do.”

She stared into the mist.

”...Vakk,” she said, very softly. “Why did we build this forest?”

The Lord of Speech thought to himself for a moment, an eerie silence coming over the two as the fog stood between them. After those few moments of silence, Vakk spoke, his tone being comforting, ”We made this first because we wanted to. We wanted to do this together because we are friends, remember?” a tendril reached forward to shift her view towards him.

”...”

His words wrapped around her mind, around her very existence. They invaded her mind, gently persuading her that Vakk was truly someone she could trust.

”...Yeah. Because we’re friends.” She looked down at the shovel, gripping it with two hands. ”We made this place because we’re f͝r̀i̴en̨d̵s. And we wanted to. We wanted to...”

She looked up and watched the mutant phase motes patrolling the forest, delicately heaping their mouths with sacred meals. Nothing wholesome would ever grow here, and nothing good would ever thrive. It was a deeply cursed place, and it was good for one thing only.

“Ki̸ll̛,” she finished. ”We wanted to ̷k͞i̕l̶l͘ ̡toge̕t̕h͜e̸r.”

Vakk’s caring smile turned sinister at her words, his head drew nearer, ”Precisely.”

The words settled in. Slowly slowly, Chopstick ordered her thoughts and regained her lucidity. She shook her head, as if to clear it, and Vakk’s spell disappeared beneath the surface like gold in mud.

And then she stretched, yawning like a cat. ”Mmmrrnnrnaaah! Well, that’s fine by me. Time to wrap this one up, eh?”

Confusion hit the inner soul of Vakk, who was unable to properly process what Chopstick Eyes has just done. Had she simply shaken herself out of his words? Or had his words not had enough power to them? He could not tell and it showed when he simply stated, ”... What?”

In reality, that word was supposed to be more internal than it was as the sheer force of Chopstick Eyes suddenly changing tone made Vakk unable to properly think of what to do or even say.

”Aww, don’t be like that. It’s a beautiful day!” Chopstick spun around the shovel and skipped off into the woods, accompanied swiftly by her lantern. ”I’m gonna go snatch some cursed breakfast, so gawk or come with, up to you. Catchya~”

And she was gone.

He stayed there, uncertain of what just happened, but he refused to question it as that would probably confuse him even more. Vakk sighed to himself before he spoke, knowing that she may not even hear him through the fog, ”Goodbye, Chopstick Eyes.”






Just realised I described Swahitteh-Tendlepog as having 'straight energies' instead of 'strange energies', lol.
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