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He'd gone and found it, an enemy stronghold. He'd done so, strangely enough, by letting go and allowing his mind to wander into the familiar and the routine. He felt like he was getting back to the school, and so it almost seemed like he was going there by pure instinct, despite his surroundings. Of course, once he HAD found it...he didn't wanna be there anymore. It was a motherfucking fortress with a bunch of strangely-clad figures wandering around on patrol. Furthermore, he had spotted what looked like Vice-Principal Ashcroft...but if it was him, he must've been insane. And if he was, so were his cohorts, because they all saluted his passing.

This...was where Romani would beat feet to try and find an exit, some way out of all of this, and here...he began to have some luck, both good and bad. After some twists and turns, he heard shouting, someone calling to that guy, Laurence, and then talking. All of this was rather urgent, and as he came closer, he found the light-haired student talking to, of all things, a bird. And the weird thing? The black-feathered avian creature perched on his arm was talking back. It had a girl's voice and was looking rather frantic. What Romani heard as he was coming across them was...

"...have to hurry! The way out is back the other way! I've sent the others ahead!"

"You're sure? What others?"

"The ones from Evergreen! There's not much time!"

"I know, it's getting closer."

All of this seemed to take away from the fact that Laurence had, in his hand, a machete. That was the most mundane thing about this picture, and yet it was about as incongruous as everything else. Laurence had already had a bit of a shock, having discovered a shapeless horror wandering this labyrinth, and he was only regaining a bit of mental traction from someone calling out to him and it turning out to be his feathery guide from before, actually capable of speech. For the moment, he was willing to accept anything as possible, including the fact that she seemed to know the way out of here. That was where Romani came in, and they both seemed surprised.

"Another? How many are in here? Nevermind, just follow us! It must be near the intersection by now! Hurry!"

Raven flew off of her arm perch and Laurence gave Romani a 'Yeah, it IS serious' look and a gesture to follow as he ran off, back the way he'd come. The scene of the intersection was... There had been shadowy creatures around, but right now what Laurence, the bird, and now Romani could see was this advancing sphere of doom, red eyes blazing as it hovered closer and moans quite audibly loud, even in their heads! As it drew closer to the intersection itself, it seemed to be sprouting red-and-black hands. Every single instinct would tell them all: Do NOT let it grab you. Down one street, they could just about see some kind of a confrontation with some amorphous shapes, like slimes. The ones dealing with that were...



Hakuro's mind was abuzz with all the possibilities he could work with, what he could do in this situation. He was just coming up with an idea to parkour around these slimy bastards, and then to get them to chase him around a bit so the others could basically follow after them, when Alex shoved past, saying he was going to make a path himself.

"Wait, that's not-"

A good idea? No. It didn't work. It did not work. And that left him open to attack by the creatures. Well, sort of... They all focused on him, and as he was attacked, Alex tried to swat them and...and...where did that gun come from? He'd whacked it with an old-style gangster machine gun! And then, he opened fire, leaving the boy with the hat and coat who LOOKED like he should be holding one of those just staring now. As Ava went over to help, Hakuro recalled Alex shouting something about needing a weapon. He'd been sarcastic, but he clearly meant it. Was...was that all they needed to do?

Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of pure imagination...

He closed his eyes, and he thought, and he muttered to himself, that he needed a weapon. He needed a weapon... He needed... Hakuro thought of the creature coming up behind them and the path blocked ahead, of the necessity to move forwards, else they probably die. When Ava kicked back one of the blobs, shouting at Alex to keep firing, two bladed devices suddenly hooked into the mouth of the thing.

The blob was suddenly pulled on hard and the hooked swords yanked it HARD into a wall, plastering it there for the time being. Hakuro stood holding a pair of Shuang Gou, or Tiger Claws. This was weird not only for the fact that he'd manifested weapons out of nowhere like Alex, but that they were Chinese weapons, of all things. Why that? Well...why not? They worked.

"Ava, concentrate! You're in danger and you need a weapon. This place runs on the mind. You can do what Alex did."

So saying, as as the lot of them were hearing footsteps from the direction they came rushing this way - Laurence, Romani, and Raven - Hakuro swung his weapons like a pair of scissors and began to kick a slime below its mouth...which was stretched out like a freaky grin for now, the way it was hooked. And that just leaves us with...



It's funny, because Mikhail hit upon the big screaming detail of the Ashcroft before him that said everything about the man. He was not what he seemed. He was all pomp and circumstance and 'In my day', wishing for simpler times to be brought back, but really...he was a massive hypocrite. He was the sort of man who would consort with the devil to fight with the devil. He was not holier than thou. He was darker by far, and cared not for your tongue. He didn't care, really, about 'back then', except for when he was important, recognized, and in charge. Not that any of this was vocalized, but it was a very important point. This Shadow of the true Ashcroft was a broken mirror that showed the true self, especially as it spoke in open contempt at Mikhail's words.

"See how it condemns itself with its own words. The worm crawls and squirms for release from its fate, but the righteous shall not hear it, for it is unclean and fit only for the dirt from which it was born."

Good fucking god, he liked to hear himself talk... Then again, so did the REAL Ashcroft. This one, though... He was far more cunning. You may be wondering why he simply allowed Mikhail to talk his head off. That was because he was telling him oh-so-much when he did. Mikhail had spoken alloud his true intentions, not what he had spoken to the others, a confession of the wrath he felt in his heart. Every anxiety and concern seemed to come out. Finally, when he'd found the boy's weakest moment, the Shadow smiled, which was something the Russian boy had NEVER seen Ashcroft do!

"My intent is not for the likes of thee, fell creature. Mayhaps some of those things, I will do, but you shall not know the hour, nor shall you escape to tell any soul of thy misfortunes. For now, if the tongue of thy neighbor offends thee, pray remove it, lest the evil spread."

He raised his spear and a strange light - gray and purple = shown from it. A wave of it passed over Mikhail, and all his utterences were silent. No word or noise could be produced. He had literally been hit with a spell of silence! The Witchfinger General turned and walked away, laughing. Once outside, he called for guards to appear at the door that he'd entered. Mikhail was in for a rough time here. The only good news is that the spell would only last a few minutes.
Aw hell...

It was bad enough that Luke was going on the way he did, that the man with no tact was either trying to boost morale with Marathon- No, Thomas' death, or that he was trying to become the unsung and desperately underappreciated hero to take down Green Fox. It was a completely other thing for this to start devolving into a fight, but devolve it did. Let's be clear: As soon as Isaac heard Ines talking, he was definitely thinking 'Oh shit...', but there was also a part of him that said the dressing-down that was taking place was also necessary. Luke's behavior was wrong, and so was his attitude towards the Darcsens or most anybody that pissed him off. He was a loudmouthed pain in the ass whom you would never admit that he was right about anything without the word 'Unfortunately' or 'Sadly' or 'begrudgedly'. Isaac really wanted to let this go, but he couldn't. He knew trouble when he saw it. Hell, the wolf was flattening his ears back now! The Gunner looked over his partner, who was watching this with a little concern, and indicated with his head that they'd better deal with this.

They arrived to see Luke flipping out. Seems like Ines touched a nerve. Maybe 'stabbed it' was the better term. So, the two Gunners happened to be part of the group that held the guy back from just completely losing it, with Rikes growling at the guy's flank, swinging at the Darcsen for being completely justified in chewing him out. The way she did it wasn't exactly right either, but you'll notice Isaac did NOT keep her from delivering the tongue-lashing that she did. Luke eventually petered out in his yelling and he could be safely released, having let out in front of god and everybody over his fears, and things he thought were right. And then, they heard from Diana, who couldn't keep her thoughts bottled in either. Diana was always good for an emotional speech. Her emphasis on family pretty much underlined what was wrong with this situation, right here. Isaac now got in the middle of all this, between Luke and Ines and everyone else packed in here.

"Somehow, I don't think Luke has the patience to get married, Diana, but I take your point. This needs to stop."

He looked around those who were gathered.

"This squad IS like a family. It bickers and argues, but it also cares, or at least that's the way it should go. We're not a bunch of super-tough soldiers who can take on the world. We're just human."

He caught a tilted head look from Rikes.

"Mostly. The point is that we have to look out for one another. Because, Luke, we don't want to end up shot to hell, alone and afraid-"

"Isaac, don't."

"-with no one there to pull us out, stop the bleeding, or just anything that might save them from the cold embrace of death...or not face it without knowing that someone is there or cares that it might happen. We are not leaving people like that, dammit."

Now, Isaac looked directly at Luke.

"That's how Middleton works, and I'm not doing it that way. Thomas deserved better."

He looked over at Ines, then.

"I'd kind of appreciate it if we don't talk about Jean being a coward like that. We all know that he gets put under alot of pressure that he's forced to deal with and he has about as much experience as the rest of us being in charge, which is to say none, so the fact that he hasn't abandoned us in a fit of madness - considering what he has to deal with, at times - is pretty impressive. Now, how about we break this up, huh?"

That would be the end of Isaac's involvement with this, as he soon walked off to try and get some rest if this was all he had to look forward to until the time of the big assault. Chances are, he and Britta were going to be pushed towards assaulting their base out there, since alot of the rest around here were gonna sapping the tunnels. Britta soon caught up with him, though, starting in his path.

"That was going a little too far, don't you think?"

'What, comparing him to Middleton?"

"No, the other part..."

Isaac sighed.

"Sorry, I couldn't... I couldn't stop from saying that. He left Thomas back there, and did he even keep watch for the sake of those whom the world-class sniper hadn't shot yet? No. He left them all, and he came back here to yell about it when his actions about as appealing as a pile of shit. Some people are too much. I'm sorry. I know they don't need reminders of what could happen to any of us. I just don't want this sentiment of leaving people in the lurch to pass. I want to keep us in one piece, Britta."

"I know you do. Just try and keep being yourself, okay?"

"I will."

She was going off to make the rounds, see if anybody needed anything at the moment. Isaac was heading off to sleep again, leaving Britta alone for the time being. She knew, of course. It wasn't just Luke, or Jean, or Ines, or Diana, or anyone. They were all afraid of something, even herself. Even Isaac. She knew what he feared, as well. He had had his moments of flinching in his sleep, and only after that explosion before did she know that what he feared...was to vanished without a trace, engulfed in destruction and rendered no more.
It was hard to tell if Romani killed a man or not, because there had been this groan or a sigh, and that had been human, but the form...the form had been horrifying to behold. He didn't know what he killed, or where he was, because this wasn't London. At was like no London that HE knew of. There was fog all around, the air tasted funny, Big Ben was listing to the left in the distance...and yet it also felt like reality. That fight had certainly been real. Romani would feel that he was on the edge of something, that there was something there that he could almost reach out to. He had suddenly become armed and dangerous enough to fight, and he certainly hadn't had these weapons to begin with. It was almost as if...

It was like he called them to him in his time of need, right out of thin air.

This was too weird...but he had to go. There was another feeling, a sense like...he knew there was somewhere he must go, somewhere safe. Somewhere in this world, there was a place he could go. Downtown, where all the lights are bright? Hard to tell, and he didn't even have a direction yet, but he needed to leave and find this place, because...

"Mommy? Are you there?"

"Come out and play!"


...there were more. They weren't as close as the first creature, but like distant wolves howling to each other, they were in the vicinity...and they were on the hunt!


Hah, you think Alex and Hakuro are handling this well. It was more like the situation was so crazy that the only way not to panic or get lost forever was to just go with it and hope for best. As they moved on, they saw some things. Some of them were just shadowy people with yellow or red or green lights for eyes, say, while others were masked monstrosities, preying upon others, and then there was this one frantic figure that ran right up to them and- Holy shit, that was Laurence! Both Alex and Raven called after him, but he was moving too fast. He something had really freaked him out, more than some of the figures that he'd shoved aside, including at least one of them. There was a little bit of confusion as to whether to follow him or not, but...

"That was him, and he IS moving in the right direction."


Hakuro had looked back to see what the boy might've been running from, and he no longer looked unshaken. In fact, Mr. Bond, he looked shaken AND stirred. He had done so just in time to see one of the shadow people fall back as a heavy black limb came out of the mist and smashed it flat! The limb retracted and...oh, they could see the horror approaching. The limb was sucked back into this hovering black mass of dense blackness, and as it came into view, a number of red-blaring eyes opened and they could all hear faint moans growing steadily louder, both from its direction AND in their own heads. Raven seemed to twitch in mid-flight.

"Get moving! RIGHT NOW!"

Right! Back to the running, with Raven leading them ahead in the mist to get where they were going! They knew that that thing was in pursuit, as the voices seemed to persist in the back of their minds. They came to a turn now, which Raven was about to turn to, but she heard footsteps moving down another direction!

"Laurence! Laurence, this way!!"

She wasn't sure he had heard. Quickly, she stopped on top of the wall and pointed her wing down an alleyway.

"All of you, it's that way, a straight shot and down the stairs. It can't follow you down, so don't worry, once you're there. I have to catch him and get him to head the right way. Don't wait for us! Just go! I promise I'll bring him back!"

And with that, she flew off to get the other student, to make up for the mistake shed' made before. Alex, Ava, and Hakuro had a direction to take, and a dark enemy in hot pursuit. They had no time if this thing was on their heels, but...if they looked down that way, they could see...I'm sorry, it looked like a humanoid figure had shaken itself apart to become a series of small hideous blobs... What the fuck? Either way, the path seemed blocked, but the way Raven had something fairly Hulk-sized slamming about.

"Okay, I think I can parkour this, but I dunno about you guys."

Were they trapped? What the hell were they going to DO?


And in the meantime...things had not gone well for Mikhail, either. The figures had all been speaking with their voices and even using their faces, was a paper-thin disguise, at best...and it was not the best. In fact, the illusion had been far worse, as they had all - as one - removed masks of dead flesh to reveal jovial green masks with sickening leers and empty eyes. Almost immediately, four flintlock pistols had been pointed, and these 'men' grabbed him, dragging him away like a dead weight. Of course, he had shown that he was very much alive by protesting the whole way, but they paid him no heed. The lot of them appeared to be dressed in a colonial period uniform, as in that of some sort of army which wore dark clothes and vests with black hats. They laughed coldly at his protests, and then finally, one of them spoke, but not to him and not in the voice of anyone he knew. It was more a distorted dead man's rattle, saying...

" we are."

They had lured him out into the open, into the world of the shadow through a distortion caused by the Metaverse, and now they had dragged him along to...but this was the edge of the school grounds, wasn't it? What could be here that...? Oh... That's not the school at all. No...that was a goddamn fortress.

It was huge, made of stone with heavy wooden doors and many stakes around it to prevent easy climbing or escape or really ladders. It had to be several stories, plus parapet with patrolmen walking along. The doors were opened, and inside Mikhail saw something akin to a gentleman's hunting lodge, mansion, and military outpost in one. Decorative trophies - thankfully, no humans - were along the walls in places. Once they were inside, one of the men who'd grabbed him said "Inform the General! We have ourselves another one!", followed by other uniformed figures letting out a victorious cry as they dragged him away...down into the basement dungeon. There...things were far less gentlemanly. Good god... ALL the torture devices of the old age, some of them being used on people, even as they passed to the cell area. Mikhail was tossed inside and the bars locked. If he protested then, they only laughed and left him alone.

There would be a long wait, and perhaps a few distant moans in the interim, but eventually...the door to the cellblock - of which he was in the furthest cell from - creaked its way open...and someone stepped inside. A man had come, walking towards him, reading from what looked like a large hardback bible. Mikhail could not see his face from the angle, but he was in uniform as well. He too dressed darkly and wore a white vest, and in his unoccupied hand he held a spear that looked like its headpiece was a big sharpened cross! He also wore a strange medal on his chest and a black hat like the others, with a crucafix flanked by two pentagrams on its front. As he spoke...

"In the name of the Lord thy God, all those who are wicked in His sight shall be put to the sword. For in His mercy, we are saved, but..."

...that voice! It couldn't be...! He slammed the book shut and glared at Mikhail with evil yellow eyes.

"...none shall suffer a witch in their midst."

Time was...something that had a habit of running out at the wrong moments. For some, anyway, this was the case. For others, not so much. In a fair and just world, this war wouldn't even be happening, but more to the point...better, decent men than those who hate everybody around them and always shoot their mouths off would never die. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. One thing at a time.

First, the explosion...

When Isaac had gone out to go look over the scene and see what had gone on - shouting for everybody to ready for combat - he had seen damage in the street, to old buildings, to some of the encampment, and so forth. He had no idea what'd done it or if they were really about to be attacked by Imperial soldiers. Something had happened, something with a single shot...and then no further action. It was like a sudden jarring threat, reminding them that their enemy can touch them, blast them to bits. The question on Isaac's mind had been how. they'd fired some cannnon, it made a severe impression on the area, and then...what? And then...they left? And then...they were on a smoke break? Did they only bring one shot? Because, if so, Isaac wasn't complaining, but it was damn peculiar! He looked left-to-right after lowering the binoculars, seeing a man from the next camp over basically doing the same thing he was.

"Did you see anything?"


"Does anybody know what's going on?"

"Apart from getting blasted? Not a clue!"

"Keep asking down the line, then. I don't like this kinda' surprise."

"Who would?"

He didn't wanna answer that, because the obvious implications here were that the Imperials rolled up some kind of cannon and fired it at them...but what a cannon! It'd probably been worse than a mortar. If he and Britta had been closer or out here in the open, they'd been hit by all the debris thrown around by the explosion! Britta was, in the meantime, making rounds to check on everyone, seeing if they were alert and ready, or injured from the attack. Rikes was with him, by his side. He was silent, staring, but fortunately...not overtly reacting to any sounds he might've picked up.

Time passed...for some. For others, it had stopped.

He was watchful, keeping an eye out on the town of Amone, trying to spot the endpoint of something like a cannon or alot of troops or even a flash to indicate that something had fired. Hell, he almost expected another one of those machine gun cars to appear, but in this case...nothing. He kept his eyes open, drank shitty coffee that made him AND Rikes gag, and prayed he was wrong about everything, that there wasn't something bad going down. He didn't notice that the scouting team had come back until he heard some kind of commotion...and Luke Godfrey. There were worse things to hear, but right now, Isaac couldn't think of any. Luke was shouting on to some other soldiers that they'd been attacked by Green Fox...and that Thomas was dead.

Oh, shit fucking Christ...

In a fair and just world, none of this shit would be happening, but even in a marginally-decent world, Thomas would be alive and Luke would be riddled with holes, dying in a ditch, possibly having been killed by a Darcsen. But no, there was no luck today, no good to be found in the world. They'd been blasted by the Imperials and Thomas 'Marathon' Carter had been killed.

There weren't enough cuss words in the world for this.

He didn't even know Thomas that well. He was just an Oceanic guy who was working with them, pulling his own weight like everybody else, but Isaac did what they all did around here when someone new shows up: Treat 'em like family. Granted, that was a tall order with Luke, but he was a black sheep. There's always going to be problems with his like. Britta came up to him as he was petting Rikes, who had no idea why he was so somber, but stuck by him to alleviate that, anyway. The other Gunner was a bit ashen-faced right now.

"I guess you heard?"


"We have alot of good people in this Squad. I don't think we're getting over this easily."

"And, we shouldn't, but at the same time...we have to."

He could only imagine what Jean was thinking, right now. It'd been his mission, Thomas was under his command, and he'd been a friend to them all. No way was their Darcsen Corporal taking this lightly. Isaac didn't want to even guess at how distraught he was, and Britta picked up on that from the look on his face. Change of subject time. Maybe not a good topic, but a change nonetheless.

"You still think that Middleton will order us to go looking for whatever hit us?"

"He didn't when it struck, but I guess he doesn't have to. We're going on the attack soon, so we'll probably FIND it, on the way. They moved it here in the night, they couldn't have moved it far, by now."

"Unless it's like that car..."

Isaac stared at her a second, considering the possibility for a moment.

"God, I hope not..."
Alex did not appreciate his impersonations. Ava was fairly-silent about all this, just sort of taking it all in. Yeah, it was rough, being caught in the middle of this mess, having to take all their information from a talking bird. The only good thing about this was that Raven seemed to know what she was talking about, that she spoke with confidence of the things regarding thi world and its...inhabitants. There had been things they were quickly passing by, not gaining the attention of, that were definitely not normal. Things like that made the normally ridiculous explanations, to Hakuro's mind, way more plausible. He was sure that all this and the dream were linked. He believed this because, let's just face it, he wasn't as logical a person as Alex, preferring sometimes the intuitive leap and to live with the consequences of being wrong than to stay secure in a world that only believed in readily-available evidence. That said, Alex also steered them onto another important point: Was anybody else here?

"There might be, but the four of you are the ones I've spotted, lately."

"How many others have you seen?"

"I'm not sure... I just know this isn't the first time. Remember, I've been thinking almost nothing but bird thoughts for a while. All the memories I've got are a bit jumbled."

"Then, how do you even know what you're telling us?"

"With nothing else to see but this horror show, how could I forget?"

"But you forgot the people?"

"You don't know how birds actually work, do you? Face recognition isn't exactly top priority. Gimme some time, maybe I can sift some things back into place. Right now, I'm mainly working on momentum here and I'm hoping it lasts."

She already felt bad about Laurence. It didn't help to bring up other possible failings. She didn't think there was anybody around, though...


Speaking of Laurence, he was still lost - of course - but on the plus side, he had avoided wide-open spaces in this peculiar farce of London, because he just didn't trust it... He hadn't even tried to call out, as something made him feel as though it would not end well if he did. There were no bearings, and the bird that he'd felt was trying to guide him was gone. He'd hesitated... That was the problem. He should've leapt at the tiny possibility that that bird was actually something he could rely upon. The whole ordeal left him in a terrible slump, almost depressed.

That feeling lasted about three seconds, and then the creature lunged for him.

He'd jumped out of the way, but it wwas only at the last second that he'd noticed something that was mantis, spider, and scorpion creeping up on him. It looked to be the size of a fully-groan mastiff, and that it could topple him like one, though the front claws were certainly the more menacing part of the thing. He backed away carefully, transfixed by not only the fact that it existed and was interested in possibly tearing his face off, but also by the mask that was the upper-half of a human skull, stretched out. The creature jumped at him, and he tried to do similar, only to trip back into a trashcan.

Alright, at least I can use this!

Scything claws stabbed at him and met with a trashcan lid, jabbing into it or scratching against it. Laurence reached back for something to throw or to club at it with, but when he felt the distinct shape of a handle...he smiled and swing it forward with all his might. A machete swing into one of the creature's claw-arms and cut into it! He had no idea what that was doing there, but he was grateful, and even moreso when it seemed like the monster wanted to get the hell out and skittered up a wall. Laurence watched it go, feeling a little better now that he'd managed against something like that, not quite settling in that this was all crazy.

However, the wake-up call was about to begin.

The spider...hadn't been afraid of him. The spider had sensed something and decided to leave. Like what? Like something further down the alleyway, something that seemed to form a puddle in the middle of the street - a large puddle - and then grow into a mound...and then a sphere...and then a floating sphere that shifted around like liquid...but seemed utterly solid at the same time. Laurence could hear a low moan from that direction. It was getting gradually louder, and overlapping with a dozen other voices, at no particular speed...except perhaps as it was getting closer... It was hovering towards him, and as it did, easily a dozen red eyes opened up, staring blankly and coldly right into his soul...

That's when Laurence ran.


This place was as creepy as creepy can be. All the figures were now gone, this whispering intensity seemed everywhere, and he was thoroughly lost. This neighborhood was like a ghost town, and he mighta' just seen the ghosts. Wait, no, that can't be right. There must be people around In fact, when he shouted, there was an answer!

"Over here! Over heeere!"

Aha! A voice! It sounded like a young boy's...or a girl's. Hard to tell, before puberty, sometimes. The good news with that, though, was that it had a definite direction. It was down the street and coming from an alleyway to the left. The bad news is...Romani wasn't going to like the owner of the voice, if he followed it. It was not a young boy, and it was not a young girl... It was also not gender-fluid, neutral, or any other classification you care to mention. It was an IT, and IT was some kind of horrible reptile that seemed to grow out of the confines of its natural skin...and its teeth grow out of the normal confines of its mouth. And every time it opened its mouth, a mask that looked like The Scream kept calling out.

"Over heeere!"


Of course, after his talk with Ashcroft, Mikhail couldn't have known that the acting principal of Evergreen Academy had one to his office specifically to pour himself a glass of something alcoholic so that he could properly boil his blood over having to deal with such people as him. No end of trouble, that's what he was. Himhail Chekhov did NOT belong here, causing the other students distress. He wanted him out...but he knew he'd never just be able to make him leave, nor did he have anything to use against him to do it 'off the books'. This was so damn hard, sometimes... He wished these people would just shrivel up and die, or someone wise to their unwanted insolence and foolishness would just take them away and make them no longer his problem.

What he didn't know was that while they would always be his problem, someone wise indeed was going to deal with this. As Ashcroft continued to glower out the window and let his imaginings take him, a thing would be happening elsewhere. Namely...


...voices, calling out Mikhail's name. Familiar voices.

"We're all sorry, Mikhail. We want to help you..."

Alex and Philip, sounded like.

"It's alright. I managed to convince them..."

That was Merja... Where was it coming from? Outside, it seemed. Maybe a little off-campus...

"You guys are all in, then? That's great..."

Hatto-san?! Had he...? Did they all believe him...? Was it alright...? It seemed like they wanted to meet out there to discuss things. thing is, though...if Mikhail started to follow the voices, he might not notice that his surroundings were beginning to change. The ground, the sky, the architecture, or that after he had exited the school, there was now a high wooden fortress wall. By that time, though, they might've tricked him all the way through. They may've had the faces and the clothes and the voices...but they were not his friends.

They were all a lie, luring him into their clutches, and once they were his...their superior would be pleased.
This was an uneasy first meeting. What had started as a bit of a shock soon settled into confusion and concern, for the most part. The boy with the hat, for his part, had tried to keep her talking, largely because he seemed unsure of the situation and wanted as much information as possible, confirming god knows what. It was hard for her to get a read on him. Ironically, the mental exercises were helping her think straight, so it's all good. When the girl decided to essentially let the situation be what it is and go with it to find Laurence, that put a little confidence into things. Alex, the last boy, was understandably suspicious, and made this fact known. He was very authoritative about it, too.

"I understand the mistrust. It's a difficult situation to deal with. There's no need to give the order, though."

She wanted to help, anyway she could. that she had her head back...she remembered seeing people being victimized by the Shadows, consumed or...much, much worse. Raven took off in place, apparently able to keep herself in the air and roughly in-place so she didn't leave people behind, like she had apparently done with Laurence.

So, Laurence, Ava, Alex, and uhh...Hat-Boy. Right. Got it.

So, she turned towards a wall, used her claws against it to get some quick lift over the lip of buildings, then swooped back down in a glide and the occasional flap to pass them and lead them away from the Charnel Place to where the alley proceeded further, saying "This way!", and needing them to keep up a pace with her doing this idle-glide. She could fly in place, but obviously that needed more energy. Raven never understood how hummingbirds had the energy for it all the time. Along the way, she started to speak to the three of them.

"Alright, this is going to be about as hard to swallow as everything else, but try to remember I've been living here a while now, so I know a thing or two. You're not in the world you know. I'm sure you figured that out, yourselves, but let me drop the other shoe: This is a world where everybody's inner-selves live, their true being. It's a world of everybody's minds, where all the creatures that speak say whatever reality their real-world counterpart really thinks and how they view the world. You could say that it mirrors the soul. I've been thinking of it as a 'Metacognitive Universe', or Metaverse, for all you Philosophy majors."

"Oh no... Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

"What do you think I'm saying?"

The hat boy stopped for a second and began to sing "Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of pure imagination..." in a decent impersonation of Gene Wilder. There was a snerk from Raven's direction, and she had to land and lean against a wall with one wing, covering her beak with the other to keep from laughing too hard.

"Don't joke at a time like this, Hatman."


Raven paused for a second, remembering how she'd addressed him earlier. Yeah, okay, fair point...

"Right, right...sorry."

"So, the things, then, that you're afraid of...?"

She looked at all of them seriously now.

"Everyone has a dark imagination in them, somewhere. The 'They' I mentioned are Shadows. Shadow of people, dark imaginings made manifest, living nightmares, etc. I've seen alot. You three were just about to walk into a place the more feral creatures come to hunt for prey."

Giving them a second to let that sink in, Raven soon took off again, saying "We should go. Some Shadows are worse than others." as she turned and again started a lazy flight that she was trying to keep in pace with their walking/running speed, but she would prefer that they remained swift, if they could, if they wanted to avoid the darkness... Every now and again, she would swoop up to get their bearings, though Hakuro had one question that came to mind.

"If everything here is a Shadow, what're you?"

"Not everyone's a Shadow. I mean, you've seen how easy it is to get lost in here. But as for me...I dunno. There's alot of darkness here. Maybe I'm light!"

"But you're a Raven!"

"Nobody's perfect!"



This place was really off. His surrounfings held twisted optical illusions and voices whispering out of thin air from...nowhere. It seemed like London, but it seemed NOT like London. The sky was wrong, the fog was weird, the distant landmarks appeared to be listing, and there was a distant banging and shouting from somewhere. All in all, not a great experience. Worse yet, any sort of...well... Okay, one might guess that they were perpetually cast in a bad light, but the truth is that they were blackness in the shape of human beings, clothing fairly normal in the dissonant picture of the normal coating the abnormal. The point is that they all appeared to be muttering themselves...and each one was traveling down an alley or down the street or into a building in EXACTLY the right speed to keep ahead and out of Romani's reach, disappearing around a corner or in a door without him discovering anything. It was almost as if an elaborate prank were being played, but if so...then half or ALL of London had to be in on it.
It was strange, all of it. In fact, it had to be worse for all those who were better-acquainted with London than he was. For Big Ben, the London Eye, and other buildings to be tilted and drifting slowly along in the distance - Indeed, for there to be even this close-by slight noise of stone-grinding, here and there - was disconcerting in the extreme. Hakuro had experimentally pulled out his phone to see if he could get anything going, maybe test just how much Ray has gone bye-bye while Alex was taking a more hands-on approach at the moment, like testing the wall that should've been the direction of the school.

There was nothing. His phone just didn't turn on.

I know it's got a charge. It just won't function. If this were a dream, I'd be willing it to at least light up.

Not that he actually believed it was a dream, but he had to see just how 'real' everything was, just in case, and at least someone had to see if they could get out something as simple as a phone call, use a camera, or whatever else. That was going to be a decided NO, though. Finally, Hakuro saw that Alex was creeping along the wall while Ava watched, and he decided to take up the other side, basically across from him, to {A} get his own perspective and {B} cover him if anything happened. They were getting close to looking more clearly...



Somewhere... Going somewhere. Leading someone there. Somewhere safe. Lost track. Looked back. No one there. Who was it, again?'re a pretty bird...

Who said that? Did someone say that? What was she thinking about again? Lost focus. Pecking the ground a bit. Heard the distant lurch of stone movement and flew off.


...pretty bird...

So hard to think. Always something slipping. Avian thoughts instead of her own, crowding her mind...



Something there.

People. Three people.

Oh no...

They were almost in the thick of it, on the very precipice of it, the Charnel Square where the feral ones would often feast. It was their feeding ground, a place to swarm and destroy and swell their numbers. Lately, they'd been thinner, but these three would provide new blood if they weren't careful. Her thoughts rang true on this, stronger now than before.

Before when?

Nevermind, this is important!

She headed towards the alley, calling to them.

Don't go in there! You can't go in that place!


She flew down, crying her lungs out to be heard, but they didn't notice! They didn't understand...!

NO! You have to listen to me! You have to-



"What the...?"

Someone shouted at them from nearby, away from the corner that he and Alex were about to investigate, trying to warn them. It sounded like a young lady, maybe only a few feet from Ava, but there was nothing there but a bird, a raven...

The hat boy sort of stared as the bird landed, almost looking out of breath, but very clearly anxious about something. The fact that it continued talking quickly explained matters...sort of.

"My voice...! I can talk! Thank god... You can hear me, right?"

"Yes, we can hear you. Who-"

Before Hakuro could even ask, she suddenly interrupted, almost out of fear that she'd lose herself again.

"Don't go down that way! Don't ever approach a marketplace! They go on a feeding frenzy every time someone does!"

"Hey, we don't even know where we are or what this is."

"I know, I know... I'm sorry."

She held her wing up to her head, as though to wipe her brow in relief, then looked back up at the three of them.

"This place is dangerous, a real labyrinth, but I can guide you out of here. I remember that much now."

At the word 'Guide', all three of them would suddenly recall something very important.

One you must seek and one you must find. The Moon will wander along the path to this world. The Sun will guide you in this place.

Hakuro, not wanting to sound entirely crazy just yet, tested the proverbial waters.



Her beak didn't even move when she spoke.

"Right. Of course. Has...anyone else been lost here, recently?"

Raven's eyes - those little red beady things - visibly widened.

You're a pretty little bird, aren't you?

"Oh no..."

She hopped in place, turning around to face the other direction.

"Oh shit... I left him."


She returned her focus to the there here now.

"Err...blonde guy, tall or at least I think he was tall, blue eyes? He was...nice to me, and I was trying to help, but...I lost my head for a while. We should find him, if we can. I won't consign someone to this place. The labyrinth alone is treacherous, but I can see it all from above, see alot of things. I can get us all to safety, I promise! Will you trust me?"

Will they? By that description, she'd seen Laurence. Even Hakuro knew who she meant, because he remembered that he'd taken his picture - among other things - from the tree. This Raven seemed like a decent enough sort, though. It sounded like she was struggling to keep herself focused before the three of them came along. No, make that four of them...
All things considered, it was a wonderful dinner, a nice respite from the terror that surrounded them. If only it could have lasted...

Rikes' cuts and scrapes were looked after. He was gonna be fine. His 'uniform' was kind of a mess, and there wasn't a replacement available, so while Isaac had tended to his wounds - Not an easy task. YOU try helping someone who nips at your fingers when you hurt them. - Britta had at least managed to find some needle and thread to make the vest less...destroyed. The wolf had had a few close ones, or he snagged it alot. Hard to say, really. This tear here could've been a knife, or a twisted piece of metal... That one had definitely been a bullet, as it matched a scarred part of his body. The process took at least an hour. Once it was done, they'd reconvened to the so-called barracks that was the sleeping area and decided to take a rest, Isaac idly petting the wolf.

"I thought he was gonna take your hand off, back there."

"No, he wouldn't. Between my training and the army's training, he's more likely to kill an Imperial Soldier than anything. He knows better."

"So, can I...?"

"Yes, you can pet 'im."

He chuckled as she did so, and the wolf grunted with certain approval. Here, it was finally when Britta shared what was bothering her.

"My little brother is in the army, Isaac."

"Your brother? I didn't know you had one."

She nodded, solemnly.

"Hans has always looked up to me, so...I guess when I joined the army to lighten the load, back home, he must've thought it was the best thing to do, as well."

Immediate thoughts went to Jean and his dearly departed sister, Olivia...

"I've tried to get word to him, find out his situation, right now. I'm pretty sure he's through training by now and serving somewhere."

"If I hear anything, I'll let you know."

"I'd hope that anyone would, but thanks just the same. I did get word out that I wanted to hear from him. Barring some communications block, I should hear something from relatively soon."

"I'm sure you'll get thr- Hey, whoa!"

Britta had been scratching Rikes behind the ears particularly well, just then, and the wolf let out a groan and a whimper before hopping up and proceeding to lick the young woman's face. The suddenness of it surprised her, immediately breaking the tension that'd been there and she fell back on the bed they were sitting on, trying to keep this shaggy beast out of her face.

"Oh my god, his breath is horrible!"

"Rikes, how dare you! I was there first!"

They managed to get him off and the wolf began running around a bit at random as Britta cleaned her face off. She then smirked at Isaac.

"'I was there first'? I don't recall a permanent claim being made, Mr. Isaac."

This actually caught Isaac by surprise, enough to make him feel red with embarassment.

"The things that come out of your mouth, I swear..."

"It's just what naturally comes to mind..."

Britta sighed and shook her head, shoving the Edinburgher over with one swift motion.

"I'm just teasing you, you crazy wolf-man. Now, make room on this thing. We both need rest, and I want to be around someone that doesn't have dead animal breath."


So, sometime later, we have a fairly-pleasant scene. The two Gunners were asleep in the same bed, essentially making sure the other didn't fall out of it. They hadn't done anything more than try to get some sleep, but to say they weren't thoroughly comfortable around each other would be a blatant lie. Rikes, in his somewhat-repaired army vest, lay nearby.

Sometimes, he snored.

Other than that, there was very little disturbance that could be noted during the post-dinner moments - which were relatively peaceful and calm - and now. Now was when everything went wrong. Now was when that moment of peace was suddenly broken. Now...was when the shot rang out. More of a Boom, to be fair. Like a cannon. In fact, the words 'cannon shot' was exactly what occurred to Isaac as his eyes opened. Then, his mind leapt directly to 'Mortars' and even 'Gas' before resolving to...

"Oh no, not again..." the close-up blast of Hill 58 went through his mind again and he clutched the waking Britta tighter, half-thinking there was going to be an explosion right nearby again.

It WAS nearby again!

The moment the far-off sound of a cannon fired, Britta had slowly come to, but Rikes alot faster. He was on his feet with a whimper and a growl. Then as she felt Isaac grip her, she knew exactly what he was the in-bound whistling of a high-velocity object was incoming, coming close-


That resounding explosion, the sounds of shattering and destruction not far from here, and yet loud enough that it almost seemed to be on top of them... The way Isaac reacted, after his too-close encounter with a mortar shell...completely understandable. The Lance-Corporal soon came back to reality when he realized the explosion was both not imagined and very different from the mortar shell.

"What the heck was that? Sounded more like a cannon, than anything."

Basic training. They familiarized them the sounds and sights of explosive materials being shot and such at the training grounds. Isaac got up, as did Britta, to strap on their equipment. Outside the barracks, there was activity and even panic, everyone asking the same questions: What was that? Where did it come from? Isaac wanted to get some binoculars... Hell, there WAS a pair, just lying around! He saw Diana nearby, looking just as shocked.

"We're at the ready, Diana. We have to be prepared to move out, 'cause I think they'll be asking people to go find out what that was...and guess who will volunteer us. Get the word out."

He got out his binoculars now to look around while shouting "Everybody suit up! We're being attacked!".

There was someone else coming... When people are just a bit - or alot - afraid and they're listening VERY carefully for signs of something ordinary or OUT of the ordinary, they tend to pick up on things pretty quickly. To wit, there was a sound that was coming closer. It was definitely the footsteps of another person, although in this place, you only HOPE it's a person...and not a creature. This was not normal London they found themselves in. This was some bizarre twist on the thing, and they didn't even know how they got here, when just a moment ago, they'd been walking into a normal alley.

Just like those footsteps were about to. There's no doubt that they were being followed.

They were coming closer, closer...

Hold on, that's no creature, there, and he certainly wasn't a serial killer or alley grifter either. It was just...

Hakuro Kuroda


A Few Minutes Ago...


The last class of the day had spent itself, and he could finally relax! Well...he could almost relax. There were a couple things on his mind, right now. One was his earlier encounter with Mikhail. If he could find out which one was Merja or Philip, or anyone else in the boy's Chemistry class, he could try to confer what he thought the guy was up to. If it was as he suspected, the Russian boy was gonna need some help getting his life together before he did something that landed him in jail. Can't have that.

The second thing, he just remembered as he saw two figures moving rather quickly. Well, hey! Just the people he wanted to see, the people he met at the tree! Hakuro had lately been getting this weird feeling of deja vu around them, but it wasn't a good time to talk about it, because he was pretty sure it was about this dream he had about a train with them on it... The whole feeling was kind of vague and he didn't remember it all. Well, he remembered that Alex had a better attitude there than at the tree, but then again he'd been talking to someone and...

Hey, where'd they go?

Hakuro had been following them, but then around a corner...nothing! Actually, first he'd been distracted by something he thought he saw - a flicker of motion on the walls - but then when he couldn't fiind a trace of it, he noticed that Alex and Ava were gone and...what the hell? So, he walked into the alley-

Everything flickered with a sudden change of light and surroundings, to the point where he had to guard his eyes, and was all different. He almost he'd been pushing against something, something that then POPPED, and here he was...looking at a hazy green sky and an alleyway just slghtly on wrong angles. You could just about see it, the changes... Oh, and Alex and Ava were here too.



This was not the world as they knew it.

It had to be some kind of other place. Everything was just a bit off. There were twists and oddities in the walls. The ground seemed almost to slope, thanks to the surrounding buildings, even though it didn't. The buildings seemed imposing and...was that one drifting in the distance? Was Big Ben TILTED at an angle?! Hakuro shook his head. He'd been to some strange places before, but never somewhere that was trying to fool the very sense of his surroundings. How did this happen? How did it come to be like this, so suddenly?

Did he eat some bad pie?

No! Bad Hakuro! You NEVER blame the pie!

In any case, he was heading over to where Alex and Ava were now. The look on their faces told him everything: This wasn't a hallucination, not unless they were all having it. This was real, and really weird.

"Guessing this isn't normal London weather we're having. I'm glad I caught up with you two, but..."

Wait, hold on... There was something he remembered, about Big Ben... Nah, he couldn't place it.

"...this isn't where we were a second ago, right?"

Oh yeah. They were in the thick of it, now.
((Collab post between Letter Bee and FalloutJack.))

Mikhail Chekhov

Ouch. It was only Mikhail's respect for libraries that prevented him from screaming obsceneties at Philip when he departed. Nevertheless, denied help and having only made things unpleasant, he left as well, either for his remaining classes or if school was over, for home.



It was Friday now, and Mikhail was 'enjoying' his free period by stalking the hallways, lost in dark thoughts and trying to radiate a demeanor of intimidation that would keep people away from him. And by that, he hoped that his perpetual scowl would act as a barrier keeping away busybodies and interlopers. But alas, it seemed that not all would get the memo - Some people are just that blindly optimistic to the point of denseness.

Well, if by blind, you mean 'He never saw him coming', then yes. Hakuro had been along and completely failed a spot check, as it were. The lad in the hat and coat was fiddling about with his phone and walking in a direction he'd more-or-less memorized, turned a corner, and ran smack dab into Mikhail. Hakuro tripped, fell over into the hall in Mikhail's midst, landed on his ass, but then managed to catch his phone, which had flown free from his hands just a second ago.

"Okay... Not my best save, but I'll take it."

Yeah... Mikhail, you've seen this guy around. It's the hat guy from P.E.!

Mikhail was the first to get up, shouting at the 'Hat guy from P.E', "You're lucky that profanity and violence are looked down on in this school, or I'd be making your face weird, you cosplaying freak!"

He purses his lips, "First I get denied help and pushed back to square one, and now I have to deal with weirdos worse than I am who live happy-go-lucky lives like a ball of sunshine - I'm sick of it!"

Cosplaying? Cosplaying?!

Now, Hakuro may've recognized the guy from the gym, but he didn't have nearly as much animosity towards him, if any at all. However, when Mikhail spoke to him the way that he did...he was up on his feet in an instant.

"Hey, I'm original character, alright? I don't dress this way out of fandom."

He said this, straightening out said coat and putting his phone away, and then followed up with a look of confusion.

"Now uhh...what the hell are you talking about?"


Mikhail could not help but chuckle at Hakuro claiming he was an 'original character', prompting him to dial the hostility forward in order to compensate. "Well, my dear weirdo, if you want to know, you make me sick, being happy and peppy and optimistic and just blindly assuming others would be happy just because you joke and clown around."

Okay, that was hostile, but not exactly an escalation. Hakuro must have made a better impression on his subconcious than he thought. Mikhail then decided to give a further explanation, "And as for getting denied help, well, let's just say I had an... Argument with several people in the library a few days ago. Not that you can help with that matter unless you're a genius at Chemistry, which you're not as I'd have seen you in Chem class earlier on."

"Making alot of assumptions there, doncha' think? I mean, just because I'm in a good mood now doesn't mean I'm always Mr. Sunshine."

Or Mr. Blue Sky, or Mr. Sparkles... Take your pick.

"Mind you, it looks like you could use a picker-upper, and less people walking into you. I'm sorry about that. Let me make it up to you?"

Hakuro had made his own bad assumption earlier. He assumed there wouldn't be anybody in his way as he headed off to the cafeteria, and he was wrong. But hey, no sense not having company there.

Mikhail blinks and says, "All right, I want Ice Cream. Let's see if there's any cookies-and-cream in the cafeteria."

And with that, he then added, "Oh, and you're paying if the Cafeteria issues extra fees for ice cream!"

Well, that was easy. What is it they say about this? The best way to a person's heart is through the stomach? Might've been a beast. Best not to mention that, then, just in case. But yeah, this miserable guy needed a moment, and it seemed like that moment would be served by ice cream. So, Hakuro shrugged and said "Okay, follow me.", heading for the cafeteria. He knew for a fact that they would charge him for the ice cream, because he'd had other deserts and it resulted in the same thing. So! Coming to the cafeteria, Hakuro wasted no time in asking one of the ladies on staff there about cookies-and-cream ice cream. No brainer. That was a popular flavor. They always had it. He then asked for some pie-of-the-day and was given a choice of apple or rhubarb. Here, the young man did what he often did in these circumstances, just pulled out a coin and flipped it to decide.

"Tails. One rhubarb pie, please."

Mikhail was handed his ice cream as Hakuro paid without even worry. Then, he accepted this pie that looked like it was packed with...something pinkish-purple. Rhubarb is an acquired taste. The Hatto-san wasn't even sure he'd acquire it now, as he took a seat.

"So...what're the pressing need for a genius all about?"

Mikhail said, "You know of the Chekhov Incident, right? Vasily Chekhov, defector from Russia, getting poisoned and dying from it."

He then hands Hakuro several newspaper cuttings, this time from The Guardian, detailing the incident. "Basically, Vasily is my father, I'm the crying and sullen kid on the pictures, and people just refused to help me do some chemistry work to help me break down the chemical code for the poison so that I can make an antidote for it."

Mikhail felt bad for fudging the truth about that last part in order to hide the fact that he wanted to poison his father's killer himself should he find him. But only towards Hakuro and perhaps Merja - Everyone else can f**k themselves.

That cut to a rather serious topic in a hurry. Hakuro felt he'd heard the name somewhere, but needed to whip out his phone to get a bit of background on who Mikhail was talking about. Of course, no sooner had he done that than te boy showed just how on top of the subject he was. He had clippings of the subject in question. Hakuro looked them over as the boy went on about wanting to engineer an antidote to the poison.

'...he is survived by his son, Mikhail Chekov.'

For a moment, the Hatto-san didn't taste the tartness of the rhubarb pie. He'd seen some lives harshly-affected by everything from circumstance to outright deliberate attack. It's the price of wanting to see the world and know the people in it: You get more than you bargained for. The picture, the report, the attitude - it made Hakuro think...

He's drowning...

He shut his eyes for a second, shutting that thought away. It wasn't wrong to think that, because Mikhail must've been in a bad way, losing his father like that, but at the same wasn't the right thought, either. He then gave it a little more thought.

"Mikhail, you don't think someone's gonna poison you too, do you?"

It didn't seem likely, but what Hakuro wondered was if the boy was concerned that his own life was in danger, as well.

Mikhail laughs. "Doubt it, they underestimate me. No, I just want to protect future defectors from Russia."

That last part was a lie.

And Hakuro really didn't know enough about defections from Russia to really know otherwise on the matter. Even if he never came in contact with another person in the same situation as his father, it made sense that Mikhail would want the cure to this poison, just to say that he did something about the whole ordeal. People need all kinds of closure. That said...the anger and the attitude...

"And the other people... They didn't want to help you, presumably, because that meant working with the poison, in the first place?"

The chemistry lab on-campus would - no doubt - have volitile chemicals for the various classroom assignments, and so on, but that was all in due-course towards the cause of science and education. This was 'I want to work with this concoction that was used to kill someone'. It was a bit different in motivation.

Mikhail tilted his head slightly to the left, and said, "You're smarter than you look, and that's part of it. The others just didn't believe me except Merja, and she regards herself as unable to help. Well, that and they regard me as a jerk who spouts out 'manipulative' nonsense. Hypocrites with no purpose in life, all of them. Especially Philip from St. Paul's,that asshole."

It was clear that Mikhail was genuinely bitter about that ordeal.

Hakuro gave him a flat look as he got back into his remaining pie and went "Calm down. You got free ice cream out of it." before thinking this over. Now, he could be trying to create an antidote to this one poison that was used on his father, or...he could be after the poison itself. Yeah, Hakuro was plenty smart, enough so to see that a wounded heart might turn to bloody vengeance, if given the chance. It sounded so crazy, thinking he was talking to a guy that looking for revenge, but he was pissed off and he was carrying around news clippings, for god's sake!

Can't just ask him about it. He'll either deny it, or worse...confirm it. Either way. bad news, there.

Suddenly, Hakuro was glad he wasn't a genius. Or rather, not one in chemistry. Jury's still out if he was a brilliant mastermind in other ways.

"In any case, it probably sounded weird to them because they haven't been where you've been or felt what you've felt. You can't expect miracles when out of people you've barely met, and it's not gonna do any good to shout at people."

Mikhail leaned in closer, suspecting that Hakuro knew more than he let on. "Then who can give me the miracle I need? There is no God or Gods, or a Buddha. So I have to extract help from other people by any means possible."

Extract? Did he hear that right? Hakuro paused, staring at him for a second. How did this guy talk to people before his tragedy? Was he getting a bad translation because a Russian-born youth was talking to a boy from Okinawa, neither of them using their first language?

"I mean, you have to get to know people before you ask them to work on something like that. A friend'll loan you a little money faster than some guy on the street, if you know what I mean."

Mikhail nods. "Well, I don't know how to make friends now. I used to have some but I left my old school because I was afraid of hurting them after my father died."

"Well, you should ease up, for starters. I don't really know anyone from Chemistry, but this isn't a thing you just ask people. If they feel a little weirded out later, tell 'em you just can't stop thinking about what happened and it's made it hard to cope. You don't seem like a manipulator to me. You just want one thing, very badly."

He finished his pie, then looked over at Mikhail, extending a hand.

"Hakuro Kuroda, though some people call me the Hatto-san."

A smile - A genuine one - from the sixteen-year old as he shakes Hakuro's hand, "Nice to meet you, then, 'Hatto-san'. I hope associating with me won't get you tarred by others."

"No worries there, I assure you."

The Russian kid didn't even know he had a following. And besides that...

I'm gonna make sure you don't go doing what I THINK you're gonna do with that concoct...oh man, I forgot to get a drink. I NEED MILK!!

They don't charge extra for that, at least.
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