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Welcome to Lemons' fourth year on RPGuild. PRAISE BE!


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Quinn's mind was full of fog.

Thick, sticky, sickly black fog, crawling down her throat, choking her from the inside out, smelling of brine and metal. The world swam in front of her eyes. Akihiro was gone. Everyone else in the restaurant was gone. Everyone was gone. She was alone. So awfully alone. Alone with the fog in her head. She dimly realized that she was still crying.

The door opened behind her. She wanted on some level to check why and who, but for some reason the thought couldn't quite cling to her mind, and her body wouldn't cooperate anyway. When she blinked, her eye felt thick, gummy. Then a warm arm wrapped around her shoulders. Quinn—jumpy as she tended to be—usually would've jerked at the unexpected contact. But instead she just let it hold her tight, steady her. She didn't feel quite right, and it was...nice, to let someone else hold her up instead.

"Hey, hun. Hey, it's me. Missed you this morning, just wanted to stop by to see you. How you doin'? You okay?"

Her head moved laconically almost without guidance, and she found herself staring blurrily into Besca's face. Her eye wasn't quite focusing properly, and it was plain to see in how she squinted up through her tear-stained face. The devastating loneliness that had been festering at her core for the past few weeks slowly began to wither. Her voice, when she spoke, was slurring, and wobbling with unrestrained tears.


She stared for another moment. Just stared. And the pain was more than evident in her eye.

Then she heaved a long, drawn-out, agonized sob and collapsed into Besca, wrapping uncoordinated arms around her and grabbing on like a life raft in a hurricane. Things that sounded like they were supposed to be words rushed out along with the crying, but they were half-formed mumbles at best and totally incomprehensible through the slurring.

Here and there, though, and infrequently, some things managed to be coherent, just enough to understand.

...dn't wann' rem'ber...

...hurt her...

...feel...shick...'t go 'ome dn't wanna...
Quinn kept sitting there, looking at the bar, as the memories bit and snapped at the back of her mind. Akihiro's noodles—usually a point of love for Quinn, she'd never pass up an opportunity to scarf a bowl or three down—sat in front of her, glistening in the light of the faux lanterns. She'd just finished her second glass of soda, and a third one had been brought to her. She heaved in a long, sighing breath.

Then, as she looked up, she found her eye seeming to...lag behind itself. She blinked suddenly at the strangeness of the situation, putting the glass back on the counter after a long drink. Her blinking felt suddenly...clumsy? Was that the word to describe it? She somehow didn't know. She shook her head suddenly, like she was trying to shake cobwebs loose from it. Once. Twice. Her eye didn't seem like it was focusing right, and she blinked rapidly a handful of times. Nothing came of it.

She picked the glass up, took another—smaller—sip from it. Was this what being drunk was like? If it was, then it wasn't working. Her mom stayed lurking behind her, rubbing her hand slowly on her back to calm her down when she was upset. Her sharp inhalation echoed around her head.

Blink. Another moment passed. Or...was it a moment? The people around her had shifted around, she though. Someone hadn't been sitting in that booth, had they? Maybe they had and she was just...remembering it wrong. She, somehow. Slower, muddled. Like waking up after a long, long sleep.


Blink. Blink. It seemed brighter, somehow. Like the lights were blurring together into a bigger light above her. She was swaying in her seat now. Why was she swaying? It felt like her thoughts were passing through deep water to get to her head. It felt like something was wrong. Something was really wrong, though she didn't quite know what it was. She tried to stand, but lost her balance and slumped back down into her seat before she even really got to her feet.

And yet...

She lay her head down on the bar. She might've groaned. Had she? She wasn't quite sure. Her hand was wrapped loosely around he half-empty glass as she stared down at the wood. She couldn't see quite right. Everything had gone vague and...and blurry. Not just what she was looking at, but everything. Everything in her eye, in her ears, and in her head were all mixed around and together, blurring into each other like smudged paint. The memories shifted and melted in her head, and she was left only with a background of pain and fear, horrible and awful but mercifully free of any specific image.

Or...less free of the images, and more...every time she thought of one, it skated off her mind. Though they were still there, and she could feel them, she couldn't really see them.

And everything felt like she was hearing and feeling and thinking it through cotton, so she didn't know when she'd started crying, or how loud it was.

She didn't much care.
Quinn eyed the glass that Akihiro had set in front of her. She'd seen him pour a bit of a clear liquid into it from one of the bottles, she couldn't read it from here. Picking it up, she swirled it a little, watching detached as the pale green liquid sloshed around the sides. It looked just like the usual stuff, really. Didn't look like anything had been mixed with it. So, just like those months ago when it had been a bottle of crystal-clear water, she lifted it to her mouth and took a tentative sip.

She blinked.

It tasted yuzu soda.

There was a vague burning aftertaste to it that she couldn't place, but it wasn't too bad, and it wasn't strong either way. So by the time Akihiro had come back with the menu, she'd already drained half the glass. Nothing happened. Maybe she hadn't had enough to drink, or maybe she needed to wait. Maybe both.

Either way.

She picked at the noodles, idly wondering whether or not she should, or could, eat them. Took another drink.

Idly flipping through the menu that Akihiro had set beside her, she closed her eye gently to his gentle gaze. She felt like she was suffocating. Drowning inside her own head. Falling back down in that well that she was trying so hard to crawl out of, and had been for so long. Enough that stringing words together came with some effort. "No, I'm—I can't—" A long pause.


No more words came out. Her head dropped.

She took another drink.
Quinn stared hopelessly down at the floor. If Roaki could've met her eye, she would've found not revulsion, not hatred, but pain. Deep, burning pain that ate at her newly-empty stomach and withered her lungs before breaths ever found them.

"...No. I'll...I'll come back later. I don't—I don't feel..."

She let herself trail off, and hauled herself to her feet, plodding to the door, pushing it the rest of the way open, and sliding out before shutting it behind her. As soon as she did, she fell against the wall, making her way wearily back through medical like she'd just been awake for fifty hours.

I'm sorry, Quinny. You can't go outside, you know it's dangerous out there! You can go when you're all grown up, okay, sweetie?

Her breathing hitched as memories kept seething up from the depths of her mind. She closed her eye tight and just stopped for a moment. This was a new pain. A different pain. A pain that stole her breath away. A moment after, she opened her eyes again and kept moving, managing to resume her feet proper this time.

Aww, Quinny, it's summer! You're going to get dehydrated, sweetie! Drink it all up, okay?

All these memories. They wouldn't go away. They kept playing back, over and over and over.

We're just worried about you, sweetie! Dad and I just want to keep you safe, make sure you healthy! So lie down for me, please?

Quinn had never, even right after Hovvi, wanted to forget something so badly as she did in that moment. do I forget?

If she thought about it for more than a moment, the answer jumped out at her. She'd read online that people drank alcohol to forget. Besca wasn't drunk often, but...when she was, she always seemed so happy. Quinn didn't know exactly what the process was, but she knew that it couldn't be too hard. Just drink something alcoholic, right?

For a moment, she paused, and wondered if this was really a good idea. But then another memory tore through her mind, this one of her mom telling her a bedtime story. A painful twist jolted from her heart. And then her mind was made up.

Skulking around the edges of the station—she didn't want people to see her in this state—she passed through the commons, and eventually found herself at one of her favorite haunts: Tohoki grill. It wasn't noon yet, so it was completely empty, as far as she could tell. Everyone was at work, or at CB Danes, which was a bit less of a sit-down place. Chef Akihiro turned to her with a smile, but it quickly turned into a confused frown at the way she was carrying herself. And, as she slung herself down, the frown grew a little more concerned.

"I'd like a yuzu soda," she said tonelessly. And a moment later, she waved behind the counter, where a dizzying array of bottles was pressed up against the wall.

"And put one of those in it, please."
Seconds passed like they were minutes.

Minutes like they were hours.

The stream of awful acid muck poured from Quinn in a way that was horribly, blindingly familiar, and, when it finally finished with her—when her stomach finally stilled—tears were pouring from her eyes again. And the memories were still there.

She wanted nothing more than to curl up into a ball in her bed now and do nothing for the rest of the day. But she couldn't. She just couldn't. She had so much to make up for. She had sims to do. She had to help Dahlia, whatever happened. She had to try and cause as little trouble for Besca as she could, and ignoring her training wouldn't do that at all. So she just had to...she just had to keep going.

She stayed kneeling there for a few moments longer, closed her eyes to the world.

Then she spat the rest of the stuff into the toilet, blew it out of her stinging nose, flushed, wiped her eyes, and slowly walked out back into Roaki's presence like there were a thousand pounds on her back. She righted the chair just as slowly, like all the energy had been sapped out of her. Sat down heavily, and placed her face firmly in her hands. Her voice was muffled when it came out, but it was clearly not happy. Not miserable, perhaps, but if not, then very close. And filled with pain.

"Sorry," she mumbled, pulling her hands away, sitting up straight, and looking at Roaki, trying to distract herself from the memories that were still lancing through her head."I was just remembering—something—I—"

She dropped her head again.

"Never mind."
Quinn knew already that Roaki had killed her family. She'd fought duels against them, after all, and duels (almost) always ended with someone dying. But still, the plain admission had her hiss in a breath through her teeth, and a part of her wanted to yell at the younger girl for it. Her own family—the real one, at least—was so important to her that just the idea of killing family drove a stake into her side.

But Roaki was talking, and she shouldn't interrupt, she'd asked the question after all.

...And besides that, there was a part of her—not Quinnlash—that yearned, that urged upon hearing Roaki's words, to beat her parents black and blue before squeezing their throats until they stopped struggling and turn them into past tense if she ever found them alive. But every time she tried to picture it, tried to want it, all she could see was

Her mom looking lovingly down at her as she pricked the IV into her arm.

Sitting with Quinn and smiling as the little girl excitedly talked about all the places she wanted to see when she was a grown up.

The way she gently stroked her hand down her braid when she had a nightmare.

I love you so much, Quinny.

Then, before she even realized it, she was on her feet with a sudden burst of dry-mouthed panic. The chair crashed to the ground behind her as she lurched violently upward, eye wide in horror as she held a hand over her mouth with a vague panicked gagging noise, using the other to steady herself against the wall. Bile crept up in her throat, and she thought she might be sick.

"I—" she choked out as her stomach churned, "I—I didn't—I—she—it's not—"

And she got no further before she turned, stumble-ran into the bathroom, and emptied her guts into the toilet.
Quinn closed her eye as Roaki spoke. When she responded, it stayed shut, and it took on that same melancholy that it'd carried earlier, something that was becoming more common to hear from Quinn. But it was a bit different this time; it was underscored with a taut, bone-deep tension.

"The problem is..." She didn't want to admit how she'd felt before, that awful feeling of hoping they were alive. Hopefully she'd just forget it with enough time. "...They weren't in Hovvi that morning, the only reason I could leave cause they left my door open by mistake. They'd gone to do thing in Queenshand."

She sighed heavily, then leaned forward and opened her eye. "Until today, I was sure they were alive. But the stuff I read said they were going back when they learned the singularity would hit. So I don't actually know if they were there or not."

She smiled lamely. "And not knowing is so much worse. Dumb, right? But," she went on after a beat of silence, "what do I do about it? Now that I know, I wish I didn't."

Her voice dropped to a whisper then, and she pulled her legs up, resting her feet on the edge of the chair as she curled her arms around her knees. "And...I don't think I can forget them. Could ever forget them. They'll always be...there. They're, like, burned into my head." She made a muffled sound of distress, but didn't start crying again. She'd promised herself that. No more crying today. "See?" She motioned towards the door, held slightly ajar, forgetting Roaki wouldn't look at her. "I still can't do doors."
Another long silence followed Roaki's question, with no answer immediately forthcoming. For a brief time, there were only Quinn's soft, hiccupping tears.

Then, a bit later, she gritted her teeth, swiped her arm across her eye, and spoke huskily, "I don't..." The word know was on the tip of her tongue, when she cocked her head to the side as a thought struck her. Because she did know at least a little now. "Or, well...they're, or they were, modiologists. Really, really good modiologists. The most famous in Runa, I think." And maybe more than that; she thought she'd seen some articles in Casobani when she'd run her search.

She rubbed her eye and socket with her hands, and when she pulled them away, she looked down at the floor and spoke softly, giving voice to the thought that had been lurking in the back of her mind since she discovered their modiology: "Maybe I was just a science project."

She wished she could talk about this kind of thing with Besca and Dahlia too. But Dahlia was either asleep or in sims, and she was awake—as seen today—she was certainly in no place to help Quinn work through her own problems. Besca was in the dorm to sleep for three hours and then leave for the bridge before Quinn woke up; they almost only talked over the phone now. So Roaki was...she gave a weak, weedy chuckle. Roaki was her only confidante, and there was something sadly funny about that.

She shook her head vigorously then, doing her best to banish the thoughts. "I didn't mean to lay all that on you." She forced another laugh, still pained but a little less so. "It's just...on my mind today. Sorry."
"Okay, sure. Why’d they do it?"

Quinn went quiet again, though this time for only a few moments, as she screwed up her courage, forced herself to think back to Hovvi, and her life. The discovery that water was supposed to be clear was a memory as crisp and clear as it was painful to look back upon, and she sucked a harsh breath in through her teeth.

"When I...when I was a girl--a kid, I mean, or, a few months ago, before the Hovvi Incident." she started slowly, voice stopping and starting as she fought to string her words together properly. "...I thought water was supposed to have a dark tint."

As she went on her voice grew more constant, but also unsteady, shaky, like it always did when she was really upset. Yet she still forged on.

"I had no way of knowing. parents, they didn't tell me anything, they cut off almost the whole internet, they told me everything was normal. Including the water." She closed her eye, taking a few deep, shaky breaths in an attempt to calm herself. "It would've tasted funny too, though I didn't know it at the time, really. Bitter metal and salt brine."

One more deep breath. One more long pause. Her eye grew hot and stung as she fought back tears, holding herself together as her voice quaked.

"...Modium. It was modium."

"They kept me inside so nobody would know and I wouldn't understand." She clung grimly on to her composure, even as her voice grew thick and tears started to build around her eye. "They cut me open to check if my insides were okay." She wasn't sure if that was true, but it was the only thing that made sense. "I didn't—"

She stopped speaking abruptly, and finally, her composure broke. Her thin shoulders quaked.

And she began to quietly cry.
Quinn took a long, deep breath as she walked over to the chair that she had become a constant tenant of in the past couple month or so. As it always was, the air in here was thick, stifling. Not physically, of course. But Roaki's soft monotone mumbling dug into her heart every time she heard it. And her thoughts still being stuck on her parents' possible untimely death didn't have her feeling any better. So, unlike usual--very unlike usual--when she sat down, she didn't talk for some time. Instead she just...looked at Roaki. Look at her, and wrestled with her thoughts.

When she finally spoke, it was after almost five minutes had ticked by.

Through the conversations she'd had with Roaki, there was one question that, no matter how she was asked it, she always skirted around. She'd talked about her parents, of course. She'd talked about being kept locked up in one room for sixteen years, never allowed to leave, never even allowed to see out of it. She'd talked about the compact operating table being wheeled into her room, and being put under, only vaguely recalling anything about what had ever happened. She'd talked a lot, at Roaki's questioning. Answered every other question she'd had. Except one.

What she'd never talked about was...the water. But it was on her mind now. And she couldn't get it off.

When she spoke, her voice was most unlike its usual state as seen by Roaki. Gone was the bounce in it, the cheerfulness. There was no anger or sorrow. All that was left was a deep melancholy. "You asked me a while ago why my parents kept me locked up, why they operated on me, and I never told you because I said it was too painful to think about."

She hesitated.

It was still hard to talk about. So, guiltily, sadly, she redirected it outward, in a strange kind of delaying gambit. "Do you still want to know?"
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