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11 mos ago
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Monday — Morning — Hallway
Dulac's shoes clacked loudly on the tiled floor, as she approached her quarry at last. Even exhausted, her hair matted to her skin, she hid her breathing, and kept her poise. Now, more than ever, she needed to hold her back straight and her head high.

She knew that she had the attention of that vulgar thing, now. With only the two of them in the hall, her light burned brightly in its eyes.

Distasteful form. Abhorrent sounds. Everything about her mark disgusted her to her core, and yet...it detected no killing intent from her. Emboldened by its insight, the creature stepped forward to meet its enemy—

—only to be brought low by a single sentence from the young woman's lips, spoken with an eerie calm, shaking the world.



"Gold Abhors Ebon."



Monday — Morning — Cafeteria
Keone looked left and right with a nervous expression, unsure of just how to react. Kat was crying more than Rebecca was. With a glance back, he saw her being comforted in a small and largely ineffective way by Chester. "That was...Malie's voice..." Rebecca's words shook, as her fingertips tugged at the skin of her forehead. "That voice...it was...Malie's voice...it was her...!"


What's happening, Cece? Did it stop?

Yes. I scared it off.

Just in time...

No. Too late. It was already concentrating when I reached it. Who was taken in?

Um...Rebecca, and the other two from homeroom. They were talking with her around the time it happened, so they were sympathetically linked...

...They're involved, then. It's only Monday, and we've this many variables.

That's why I said, I think this plan is—

It's worked before. This time won't be any different.

Cece...

I know this is painful for you, sœur. But please, believe in me. Everything will go perfectly.

...

And when this is all over...I'll make it up to you. I promise.



He took in a sharp breath. Rebecca had someone by her side at least. But to him, it seemed like Kat had been hit the hardest out of any of them. His face set in a nervous frown, he tentatively put an arm lightly on his shoulder, leading Kat away from the other students.






the rain continues to fall

99 : 44 : 12




Monday — Morning — Hallway

Far away, at the end of the hall, Kat caught just a glance of the young woman from before. Dulac was rounding a corner, away from them and out of sight. But just before she left view, it was impossible for Kat to miss the sharp, dreadful gaze of her eyes.

Once the two of them were alone in the halls, Keone raised a regretful head to Kat's tears, patiently waiting for him to calm down.

"Look, I..." He stammered, clenching his teeth for a second. "...I begged you not to help her. I really did." He told Kat with anguish written all over him. "I didn't want you...anyone, getting caught in that...I didn't want this. Honestly, I didn't, I tried to...stop it..."



Monday — Morning — Cafeteria
It was true - it wasn't the first time this kind of oppressive aura had engulfed the school. And always around testing week, either midterms or finals, usually the latter.

But it was the first time it had ever been this bad. Three students had killed themselves just in the past week. Normally there were one, maybe two during the entire ordeal, but it was only Monday, and three young lives had been claimed.

And there was something else that Kat noticed. Something that stuck out to him like nothing else did.
light
There was 'something' inside of Rebecca. Something that gave her the power and the soul to even think of persevering through all of this, when every other student simply lowered their head and went with the flow.

And there was something else that Kat noticed. Not with his eyes, but with his heart.

Rebecca herself had no idea of this. This wasn't something she was doing on purpose. She wasn't trying to counteract the miasma that seemed to choke everyone here. She simply did, as a part of her nature. She was just doing what she thought was right, in her own small world.

This girl had no idea that she was fighting against something.


Monday — Morning — Hallway

Dulac's loafers slammed on the tiles, her dress flapping behind her as she dashed through the halls. Taking the stairs two at a time, she climbed them like a mountain, pushing herself up off of the railing.

It was hard to move. She'd already identified that Curse. The miasma enervated her, sapped more of her strength the faster she tried to run. Even with all the determination she could muster, her blond hair was matted with sweat from even that much exertion, and her legs felt ready to give out.


I'm too slow. I won't make it there first.

What's going to happen!?

I don't know. What do you see?

Are you sure you can spend magic on telepathy right now? You're supposed to be conserving!

This is an emergency! Keep a close eye on it's target!

This is bad. Oh man this is bad. The other one is there, too.

Think of something, sœur. Please.



Monday — Morning — Cafeteria
Rebecca waved Kat off as he stood, continuing the conversation with Chester, who had turned around to face Kat for just a moment. "A hot plate...I see...wait, did he say 'we'? Are we all cooking them?" Her faraway voice was only able to be made out because of the relative silence in the rest of the room. "What about you, Chester? Are you helping as well?" She asked him, as Kat gripped his keychain. "We'll have to make sure that the meat is cooked through to the redworldredworld red redworld world redworld is red world is redworld is world expanding world expanding red expanding flowing careening enlarging broadening growing opening spreading s͏w͟e̢͘ļl̸͢͠ing̡͝ ̧̨͜w͘íd̷͡e͜nì̀͝ǹ̸͜g̴ b̀l̸̨o̸ą͞ti̛ņ̵͡g͘͏ ̡̨di̛͜s̷̀̕t҉͢e̡n͞d͠í̛͟n҉̢̧g̵͟ ͢i̶nf͘l̶̶̛a̷ti͘͢͟n͠͞g ̕st̵r̛͡e̸̡t̴҉c͢h̛͡i̸͠n̸̕g̡̛ ͘͠t͏̶͟h͝ick͏͟è̕n̵͠in͢g̴͡͠ ̢̛t̷̸͢w̴̢i̸stí͝ng sṕ͏re̷͜à̛͠d̵í͟ng͠ ̡͢͏i̸n͘fla҉͞t̵͡i̶͠n͢͜g̷̕ ̀é͞ń̶̵la̵r̛g̢͝͝i͘ń̴g̸ ͟g͠r̷̸o̸̸w̶͡i͘n̕g ̸b̡͞reàt͘̕h̡͢i͘n͟g ̶̕c̷̸a̶r҉͝e͜͡e҉̸ńi͢n̸̸̕g̶̴ ̷́st̛̛͘r̶̕͢e̷̕t̡͏c̢h̷͘į́͏n̴̸͘ģ ́̕fl̴͘o̶̶w͡i̷͜n̛͡g̢ ͟t͜͜h̨̡ic͘͢k̨eni̴̧n̴g̕ ͞o͞pe͞n̨̛i͢n͟g͟͞ ̴̴w̵̡i҉d́e̡͠͡n͟i̡̛ng̷̷ ̀͏b̛r̛͠o̸̧͡a̡̧de̸n̕i̷̢n̷͞g̵̡͞ ̀͞t͢ư̸͞rn̵̨͜i̴̶n̸̨̛g d́͠i̵͝͝s̀͢tend̷i͢͜n̡͡g̵̨͡ ͢͜͝b̶l̕o̴̕a̷͝t҉i̶̡n̡g̵̢ ȩ͡x̸͘p̀̕͘ą̴n̡͘d̶̸ì͟͠ng̀͝ ̢sw̴̧e͢lĺ̴į̸͞n̸͝͝g̨͘ ̀͘͜ŕa̴̡͜i͟n͜i͠n̵͝g̕ ̸͜͝sp̸͡ļ̸a̴s͏̢́h̷̡í̵n̢g̶͞ ͘s̀͝͡c̀͟͝ą͢͏t̶͜t̡̕e̛͡r̶͝i҉n͢ǵ ͢e͢҉x̷̀̕̕͠p̛͜a̧̧n͢d̶̢̡i̶̴̶n҉g̶͢͏́ ̀͝w̷͞i͏̸͡d́҉̨͠e͝҉̵̢͢n̷͘͜͠i̵̢͟͢͡n͡͏́҉g҉̵ ̧̡b̡̨l͟͟o̵̢͠͠a̵̶̢͏҉t̷̷͢i̡͟n̛͡g̸̸̨̀ ̕͏̨̢̕d̨͟i͟ś̛̕͟t̴̡̛͞͠ę͟͠n̡͏́d̷̸́͢͞i̵͢͟͢n̨̛͝ǵ̨ ̧̀́͘ṕ̢͢͡o̷̴͘҉ų̛̛r̀́i͏́͜ń̛g̛͘͡ ̨҉̕͢ś͜w̷̵̷҉͡ȩ̶́̕͞ļ̵̛͢҉ĺ̷͝i̡̢͢͠n̸g̶͘͜͡ ͘͢͝͝͡p͜o̵̢͢͢͞o̷͝͝͏l̷̢҉͢i̴̷̛͟͝n̶͢g̴͡҉̢͝ ̕͡t́͡h́͝͡i̛̕̕͟c̡͢͜k͏̨́ę̀͘҉̸n͘҉i̧̛͜͜ņ̴҉̴g̢̢͝ ̛͞͞g̛̀r̴̢͜͡͠o͞͏w̵̶͏̡į̡ǹ́͘͜͠g̢ ̷̢͜͡͝e̸̕͘͢͠n̴̡̧͜l̢̕͝҉͡a̛͏r̡g̢̢̕͠i͘͠n͜͟g̸̴͟͝ ̷̶̧͘͜s͘͞͏t͟͢͏r̶̵̴̀͞ę̶͜t͞͏̢͡ć̢͘҉̸h҉̶̡͘i̧̨͠͡n̵͜g͏́ ͞f̴͘l̨҉ớ̛͜͡w̸̡҉í̴͘͡ǹ̡͡҉g̷҉̶̀ ̸̴̛̀b̛͏r̨̢̀͡͝o͏̷̧̛a̛d̸̕͟͠è͞ń̡̧̨͜ì̴͜͡n̸̡͟͝g̀҉ ̶͡o̧͘͞p̡͘͢͜è̢͢͡n̸͟͟͞i̶̧̡͜͝n͜͢͡ǵ̴͝͡ ̴̡͡f̴̴̀͞͞ĺ̴o̷͘͜w̧̢͘͡͞ì̸n̛͏̴̨g̵ ̴̀͟͡i̸̛͘n̕͢f̷̀͞l̶̡a̷̕҉̶t̸́̕i̧͘͟ņ͏҉̡͠g̡̛͢͟ ҉́͢b̧́͠r҉̕͟͝é͟à̷t̸́͢h̵͘͢i͢͜͏͏ń͟ǵ̴̢ ̵̧̢͘͘s̡̢̧͜p̧͡҉͞į̵̡͠҉ĺ̢̛͞l̶͟͢͞͞i̛͜͜͢n҉͡ģ͠͡͡ ͘̕͜͢͞ş̧͘ṕ҉r̸̸͡è̵̷̢̢a͟͏̧͝d͜҉̢͏͘i̸̕͞͠n͞҉̵҉͡ǵ̢͟ ̡́͝͡d̶͠r̶̨i҉̛́͘b̶͘͝b̶͝l͘̕i͟͞͏n̛͘g̢̀͡



ç͢͡a͡nt ͏d͢͡͠o͟ ̵̕i̢̕͘t̵̢ ͢c̸̴͝a͜͞n̴̸̢t̵͘ d̕͡o͜ į̶t͘͟ ̨c̵͠a҉͘n̴͠t͢ ͠d̶o͏̴̧ ͟i͠t̵̢ ̛͝c̕a̸nt͟ ҉̢do̷͝ ̛it ̛͘c͏̨a̵n̸̴͞t̷͞ ͜d̨͠o͞͝ ͝ì̸͘t͘͜ ̧c̨a̕n̸t҉̵̀ ͡d̴҉̧o̷̴͠ ҉i̸͞t̡ ͟c̵a̶̢̨n̵t̸̛͢ d̢͘o҉ ̛i̡t ̢͘͘c̶̢̡a̕nt̶ ̧̨͡d̡̢̢o̸ ҉į͢t ̵̀t̢̨o̕o̴̴͜ ̵̶̛h͜a͠͠r̷d̶ ̵t̀͝ơ҉̸o̷ ̶h́͠ar̷̕d ̸͘͞t̵oo ͢͟ḩ͏a̡͞r͠d̴͜͢ t̕o̶̵o̴ ͢h̵a̶͟rd̡́ ̨t͡͏͘ǫ͠o̸̡͞ ̶̛͏h̸a̶̡r҉̵d̢͡ t́͟ò͠͡o̸ ̛͡m̶̸͢u̕ch̶͜͜ s̸t͢r̨̕͝e͘s̴̨s̵ ͡too͢͞ m̶ư͠ch͘͟ ̡t̡̧͝r̵̨ou̶̕͠b͢l͠e̢͘͝ ̧͠t̷͝oo̸͘ ̨̧m̕u̷ch ͢p̵̷r̨͢͞e̸s͞͝s̵̡u̷̧ŗe̴͝҉ ͘to̴͘o̧͟ ̵much̶̸ ͜͏èx͜pe̷c̨͢t̸͟a̶͞t̴͘͟i̷҉o͢͢҉n̴҉ ҉t̛͡óo͘͜ ͏m̸͡͞u͢͏ch̸ ̸̵͡f̢̕ù̧t͠ų̕͜r͞ę̶ ̧t̛͡o̸̧o̴̢ ̧̛m̧uch͢͞ ͘wo̧͝r̨k̡ ̀͡t͘͟o͢͞ó m̷̶u̶c͝҉h ̡̛͠ş̷͡ţù͢͜d̵͡y̛͡į̷̀n̨g̀͝ t͏o̶o͞ ҉m͜͢u̧̕c̷̴h͘ w͠o̢ŕ͞r̷҉͡yi͡͝n͘ǵ ̀t̨o͠o ̢̢m̸̀u̢c̛͘͞h̕͘ ͟͞͝i͞m̛͢͠p̷͝ơ̢͡r̷tá͜n̷̴͘ç̕͘e̢͞ ̵́͘d̴o̵n̛̛̕t w̛͘aņ͏͜t̛ ̴̧͟t͘ǫ ̢d̕͢o̵̵nt̸ ̛͟wa̡n͠t ̀҉t҉o d̵̀o͞n̕t̨́͟ ̴̵͝ẃ̵a҉̛ǹt̵ t͡o͡ ̧do̶̵͘n͠t̡͠ w͞a̕͜n̡͡t̵̡ t̴̸͞ó̴͡ ̴d̴̕o̧͠nt̸̸ ̕͠w̢̛͢á̢n̷̨t̛͞ ̧͞to̕͞ ̕d͡ơ͜ņ̵t̨ w̷͝a̶̧n̴͘t̴̷ ̶͟t̕o̶ ͏̶͝d̀ón͜t̸ ̕w҉҉̴a͟nt̀ ̴͝t͞o͡ ̢̛͠d̷̶on̢t̴̨͠ ͠w̸̧a̷̛͞n͜t͏̧҉ ̛t̸̨҉o̸ j̀͢҉u͜st͢͠ w̸̨à̛͝nt ̛͟t̷̶o͝ ́s̕le̛e̛p̶͠ ̧̀i̧n͝s̶̛ţ͡éá̛d҉͢ ͢͢jus̵̀t҉ ҉w͏a͘ǹ͞t ́͜t͘ǫ̛͏ ̷͝śl͠e̸͜e̸҉p̴ ̛j̛u͘̕s͏̸t̴͝ ̀wà͜n͞t̸͡ ͟t͏̕o̕ ś̕le͡e̶p̀̕͜ ͢҉f̛͢͠o̕r̸̴e͡v̕͠ȩ̀r̡̀͡ ̡a̛̛͢n͘d̢̛ ͏͠eve͟͡r ą̶͠n̨̨͘d͡ ̴̧eve͡͏͠r͞ ̶̛à͟ņ͝d ͞e͡͝͡v҉̵͜e͜͡r̴͘͜ ̵̸̀a͘͘n͠d̷͠ ͘e̷̛v̡e̴r a͢n̵̸̴d҉ ͜͞è̛vé̷͢r͘͘ ͘͘a͠n̶̡͢d̨̡ ͏͜͝e̴vę͞r͟ s̸l͠ęe͘p̢̕ ҉̀s͏le̡҉e͝p͜ ̀͏s̵̸͞l͜͠è̕͜ep ̢̛in ͢th̴e͏͝ r̷̨̕e͢͡d̴ ̢͜i͏n ̶͟r̕ę̛d ̢̛e̛͝xp͢ą͝n͜͞d̷̡in̸̴g͏ ̀͢r̴̸ed̸ ̢p̧͟ơ̷͟úr̵i̶͡ng͡ ̨͠r̷e̷d̨̛͞ s̴p̀́i̶ļ̸͡l̢͜į͞ņg̡͡ ҉r̴̀͝e͡d ̷̀s̶̀͠l͘eèp f̨҉o̷͡r̵͝e̴v̢͜͞ęŕ̕̕ ͏̀f͢l͜owi͘͠͞n͠ģ̶ ̸̸re̴d͝ ͟w͟͝ó͢rl͘͝d ҉̷r̶̕e̕d͏́w͏̧or̨͝l̀d̷̨ ̷r̨͞e͟͏͏d͡w͠o͠͠rl͜d̛ ̵͢͡r̷̛e̵d͏͝w҉͏͞o̶r̵̴͠l҉͠d̵͡ ̛re͏͝ḑ͜w̧͜͠o͜͡r̷̀l̡͢d̕ ̴̧r̷̨͘e͝d̛̀w͠͞o҉r͡l̸d ̢͞rȩ̢̛d͘w̶̛oŕ̛̕ĺd́ ͘͞r̡͜ȩd̵w͘ó̵͝r͝l̀d̷͢ ͠w̸̨͜ó́͝r̨̛ļ͜͜d̸͏̢ ͞is ̛͞ư҉s͟el̢̛̕é͟ss̵͞ ̸w͡o̢ŕl̸d̸ ̨i̵̧̕s̷̴͡ ͢f͢u̵̶͠n̶͘ ̨w̸͢ǫ̴͝r̢͡l҉d̴ ͏͘i̶s͘ ̸͜͝f̨r̸͏ę̸e͞d҉o͡͝m̛͏̷ w̕o̵̧҉rl͏d̶̢ í̧s̡̀ ̡͢l͝au͢͟g̨͟hi̷n̛g ͏҉w̵o҉r̶l̵d ҉i̛͟s̡͝ ̸͘f͝a̡r̷̵ ̡҉̸ą͘w̴̵àý҉̷ ̷͞f̀a͡r̢ ̵͡aẁ̡͠à̸͘y͘͏̡ ́͝on͜͠ th͟͠e͏̡͡ ̨ot͢͡ḩ͘er̕ s͞i͟d̵͡e͟͞͞ ̨̨ơ҉͜f ̀͜t͟͠͡h̸e͟ ̶w͏́a͝͞l̵l͠ ̴̴̛ça̛͜͠n̛͞t͟ ̷͠͡c̷͡li̵͞m͢b̸̢ ̵̵́c̛a҉̵̀nt̢ ̧t͘͜r̕av͝e̵̷r̡̨s̡̡e̢ ͢c̨̡͜a̢̨n̸̷̕t̢͜ ҉̨̧j͟um͜p̵̀͘ ̵͏ć͢a̵n͏t͏͠͡ ̡̀ć́a͡n̷t̛͞ ͢c͝҉͜a͘͝n̢t̛ ͜c̷an͞t̷ ҉c̷̡a͝ņt ̨͞c̨ànt ҉ç̀̕a̧̧͠n͟t̢͜ ̢͜͡c͞a̴͡n̡͡t̢͡ t͏o͘o͝ ̢̢͠h҉̴a͘r͡d ̛t҉̷̡o̡o̵͢ ͝mư̢c̴͡h̶ ͡ev͘͝͞ȩn͘͟ j̸̢u̕s͡͝t̸͘ ̡ó̢͜n͏e҉ ͏͟͠wé̢e̕͘k ̛ì̵s̵͠ ͠t̸̸o̕o̷͏ mu̵c̕͞h̡ ̨i ̴̛caņ͡t i̷͏ ̷̛c̨ą̴ǹt̴́͝ ͡í̢͜ cą̶n͏t͢͝ ̵̴i̧̨͘ ҉c̷͡͡an̶t̶͟ ͘͞į͟ cańt ý̸̢o̷͘͘u͡ ͡c̸ą́ǹ̢̕t͜ i̡͝͠ ̶̸c̀͏á̵͘ńţ̕ ̸̴s͏h͘̕e͜͞ ̶͠c̴͝a̷͢n̡͡͡t̕͠ ́c̛̕á̴n̶͢t̸͝ c͝ańt̕̕ ͏c͏́͢ant̢̨ ca͏͠ń͡t̡ ͠ca̷n͘͞t́͡ ̕͝c̵͠an̕t͘ c̶a̸̸̛n͡͝t̛͞͡ ̸̸w͝͡a͞n̛t́͘ ̶̛͝to̵ ̛͞b̨̕e̡̨ ͠i͢͜͟n̨̕ t͞h̡͜e wo͟r͢҉ļ͢͢ḑ̕ ̧̨w͢a̴͞n̶͘t̷̀ t͏ò ҉b̡͟e͘͡ ̷̛w̕į̛͞t́̕h́ w҉a͘͡n̸̕t̵͡ ͢͟͏t̢o͠͝ ̶b̵e̷̢ ̵̶ą͢ţ̕ ̶͡wa̛n̶̴t̡ ̀t͠ǫ͢ b̀ę͘ w̷̨͢h̕͢ere̶̡͜ u̧̡ş͏e̶͜͞l̵̷e̢͠ss̀ ́u͜͞s̶̕el͜ę͞͠s̛s̀ us̵͞e̕l̴͢e͢s̵̡s̶͟ w̵h̷y ̶͡c̕ą̷́nt̷̨ ͝í̕ ̷̀w̴o̴͟r͡ķ ͡why̨͢ ̵̛ć̛҉a̵͡ņt̀͠ ̀͟i ̷͡h͘͞͞an͠d̡le ̕ẁ̢h҉y ͢ća̕҉n͝t͡ ̸̢͘i̵͠ sl̕eè̴̕p̕ ̸͡wh҉y ͞c̡a͘n͠t̷͏҉ ̕҉į ̢ȩ̛x̨͞p̢̛ȩ̸c̢̡t̵̴ ̀͝w͟͠h̢͢y̧͟ ͏̵͞c̢͠a̕̕̕n̴t ̧i ̀b̵r̵͞e͝at̶͝he ͠w͏̴h͏͠y̸ c̸̸a̡̕nt͟ ̧i ̧͠br̶e̶a̢t̶h̷̀e̡͢ w̵͝hy̡̢͜ c̴͠a̢҉n̛҉̵t̕͠ ̶i̡͟ b̴́r҉e̛͏a̸̶̕t̵̵h̛ę ̶̸ţ͜h͠ęy͝ ̷to͟ld̷ ̢͢҉ḿè̷̵ ̧͡i̛͠t w̷o̷̕͟ù̢l̨d͢n̸t̴͢ ̢h̷͝ur͝t͠ ͘͞t́h̡ey ̴tơ̧l̨҉d ̧m͢e̵̶ ҉̢i̶҉͡t̶̛͠ ́w̢͠o͟u̕l͟dn҉̧ţ̕ ̨͡hù͜r̡t͞ ̷̵҉t͡h͢҉e͝҉̕y̨͜ ̢t̷͘͠o̵͢l̸d ̢mȩ̛́ ͠it̀͡ ̷̕w҉͢o̴̸u҉͝ļdnt ̷͝i̧͢t̶ ̸w͘ou͝l̵͠҉d̷̶n̴͜t̢̕ ҉̷͡ì̵t ̶̷w̸̛o̸̡u̵l͢͝d̵͡n̵̸͢t͏͡͠ ͞ca̴͠͝n͘t ͘͞ş͝to͜͝҉p͘̕ ͡i̷͠t́͟ ̡ća̶n̵t͠ s̵̶͠t͏͠o͡p̨ ̴c͞a̴͢ń͢҉t̢ ̷s̵̢ç͟rȩ̕͢a̵҉m c̷̛a̵̛n̶t̷͝ ̵b͡r̀ea͞t̶͝͡h͡e҉͝͝ ̸cant́͡͡ ̸͝͠w̵̨͟al̕͢k̷̡͘ ̸͜͡ca͏n͟͠t̴̢͞ ̵̀l̨̢i͜͝f̛͢t̀ ̴̡c͟ant͠͏ j͠úm̡p҉̡ ̵̧c̀ąn̛t͢͝ ́́c̡̕l͝i̴̧m͞b̛ ̀c͏a̵͜ń͡t ̴g͞è͘͡ţ͢ ͢ovȩ̀̕r͝͏ í͝t͞ ̡͞g͟et ̨͝o̡v̶͝e̡͢r̷̨ ͏̸i̕͞͡t͡ ̵̀͘n͞͞o̷͡ ̷b̴i̛͏g̶͘ ̛͝d̢̧e̛͝a̛l̴͟ ̛̛͢g͝e͠t ̧͜͢o̷͝v͏e͟r͜ ҉i͡t̵͝ n̢o ͠͏̨bi҉͠g̸ ̵̨͜d͟e̶̡͘al̛͡ ̧ẃ͡ơ͝ŗ̀l͞d͢ ̛ì̴s̵̨͢ ̶͢͡l͞au̴̧͘gh̢̕i͡n̴͜g͠ ͏s̡l͞e̢̧e̸͞͏ṕ̕͞ ̨f͝óŗ̶̧ev̀e̢r͜͡ ͢ú͘͘s̨̛ȩl͢é̢͘ş̛͠s ̀p̸r̡̢͘e̢͟ś͞s̸͏͡ư̡ŕ̨͡é̷ ȩ͞xp̸ą́n͟d̀i̴n̵̕g͘͢͠ ̸́l̵i̷͝f͞t̷͡i͢͠n̕͠g͠ ̷fŕ̕e҉è̸̛do͏m͟ ̸sp̶͞ill͡i̷͜͟n̛ģ ̸͠şl̴eep͏ ư͝sel̵̡è̀ś͞ś͢ ̀fļ͢ǫ̢w͠͏in͜g̶͘ f̛ór҉̶͝e̶͘v̶̕er̀ c̸͝a̡r̀e̷͘ȩn̸͟ì͘͢n͞g̕͢ ̶҉p͘ou̧r̛͡ìǹg̛͝ ͡ȩ̷́x̛pá́͡nd̴͠i̷ng p̡͜r̴͞e͜ś̴s͏́͟u̶̴̢ŕ̶e̕͘҉ ͘w̕e̶̶ek͞ ̛e̷͜xp̶ec̕͝tat҉̢̡i͘͠o̢n̨͜ ̧w̡͡a̢l̕͢͞l̸̨ ̷h͢͡͏an̡dlé͡͞ ̸͘s̵l̡̀ȩ̶̧e̢̛p ̧̛͝b҉r͡ę͟a̵ţ̴h̷҉͢e͠ ̧͞fr̶̨e͡e̢͡҉d͝͝om b̕r̷e҉̷a͡͞t̨͞ḩ̷ing͏ ͞s͘l̛e͟͠͏ép ̧̧͢s̢̛p̨͏rea͏͏d͏í͏n͘ģ̡ ͢b̴̕re͜͡҉a͝t͏h̨̢e̶҉̀ ̢p̸o̸̡͢uri̶̶ń͠g͟ ̧͏f̨͠lo͏ẁ͜in͜g̵ s̸̨̕l͟é̶e͘͠p ̛͠r͢a͟͜͝i̧͝ǹ͢͡i̛n̷g̶̕ ̧br҉͢oa̸͟d̶̶͜e͠͠n̵i̢͏n͠͞g ̕s̴̕ļ̢ȩę̷̸p҉̵ s͢͞͡c̕͞a̴̡t̢́͡t̢e̴rìn̴g҉͠͝ ̡́s͡c̶̡͜at҉̴͢t̸̕e̡̛ri̵̡n̨͜͡g̨͏̨ ͞f̧̀͠l͟ow̸in͏̧g̵ ̷f̴̨͠o҉͡r̸̨e̡͏͝v̷̸e͞r̨͘ ̀͠i̕͟͡n͝f̸l͢͟át͟i̷ng͡͠ ̵̛͜f̴͠o̕ŗ̴͘eve͠͏r̸ d̨r͡i̧͏b̧̨̛bl̴in̶̸g҉̢ ̶b̶͜r̸e͘͝a̶̶t̸ḩi҉n̸̨͏g̴ ̧͜f̷̡͞òr̢ev͞e͞ŕ͢ br̨ea͞͠͏ţ̀͞h̨̀e͟͞ ̴̛͞f̷͟or͘͏é͢͠v͜͟͏ȩ̴ŕ̡ ̵́͞s̀͜tr̀͠͞e͡t͞chin̨̨g̕̕͝ ͏̶w̶͜a̵l̷͝l͠҉ e̡͞xp̕a͠ndi̴n͜g͜ ęx҉ṕ҉̸a͏nḑįng͏̧ ́͞s͝҉p̧l̵̛a͝s̴h̸̢i҉n͢g̵̀ ̴̢l̢̢͘a͏u͟g̴̴h͞i͏̵͞n̕͡g҉҉ ̨̨́o̴̶҉p͏͜ę́ni̢͘n̛g͟ ̶͏͝ş̶̕p͞i͢lļ̷̶i̷n̨͞g ̷ò҉p̵en̕͞i̷n̨g͏̀̕ ̸́d̨í͡s̡t̢eǹ͠d̨i̶̛͡n̡͜g ͏͟w̕͏͜į҉d̵͘͞ęǹ̀͘i̕͡n̴g͘͜ p͝r̛̀̕e͜ss̷͡ųr͘͞͠e ̸͘҉s͏͞w̴͝e͡l̨l̸͝i͏̸̧ǹ̢g͟ ̢͡spillì̴͡n̵͜g̨ ̴͝b̴͘r̡͞o̡aden̡̕͜i̢͏n̸g̕̕ ̸͠s̵̸͟pr͘e̷͝ád̢ing̢ ̷̷b̶̧̛l̵͝oat̛͜i̛͢ng ̛͜i̴͡n͘fļ̛̕at̴́ín̵̕͜g͏ ͏͢ȩ̵͘x̸́͞p̡a̴nd̢i̴͟n͘͠g̸҉ ͝͏͢p͠ó͢ơl̛͝i͏͠n̕g̸҉ p̨͜r̢e͠ss͏̨͘u͝ŗ̀e̶͠ ̶br̕҉̸ȩ͝á̢̕t͢he ̵͜fo̴̢͡r̷͝e̡͜v͡e̷͟͡r ̛s͠l̀́e̛̕͜e̛ṕ ̕͢ś͟le͝è̴͢p͝͏ ̵͟s̕͝p̶͟l̴͞͏a̡͞sh̸҉i̴ńg͠ ̶e̡̕͢nl͝͞a͟͜ŗ̷͜ǵi͏͠n͡g̶̀ ̧͟u̸s̛e̸l̨͘ȩ̨s̷̷͞s̢ ҉s̴t͘͞r҉e̶tc̡҉h̴íǹ̷ǵ ͢͝͝w̷͜àl̡͝ĺ͟͠ ͜l͢a̡u̸̢g̨h͢͜ì̡͢n̷͢͡ģ ̷͜c͞ar̢҉e̢e̵̸n̸͏inǵ̵͜ ̵͜w͜͝all̴̡ ̡͝flo̧̨wį̸n̶͢g̀͜ ͢s̡p̕͘i̵͞͞l͘l̢i͠ņ͏g̵ ͝p̷ool̢ì̡̨ng̕ ͝é͜x̶̸p̡e͝c͡ţá͟͜tì̧͞o̵ǹ̨͞ ̸͜fr̵̵ę̷e̛͠d̷̛͠o͟m͜҉̛ ̀͝d̀r͘i͝b͘bl͠i̡͟n͢g͞ ̵͢f̷̕lơwi҉̨ng͏̧ ͞éx̴͡p͜ąnd̶in̛͢g̸̶ ̶̕͡s̛̀͡le̢e̵͡p̛҉͢ ̷̀͡c̴̷͢a͡r͟e͝èńi͞n̵̨͝g̵̴ ̴ę̢xp̷̵e̢c̢̕͢t̀a͘͟t̴̨͝i̧o͢n̨ sw͢e҉҉l҉͝l̀i҉̷n͞g̶͜ ̸҉s̀p̀i҉l̷̸͞l͞į̷͘n͞g̴̨ ̡s̷͝p҉ĺa̛s̨͟͞h͠i͘ǹ̨g͢͢͠ ҉̵li̵̧͢f̨͢t͏̵i͡ń̴͟g̡̛ ͟҉͜s̨͞c̛ą̵͜tţé̷r҉i̴͞͝n̶̵g͘͘͝ ̷̨h̨an̵̡̢ḑ͢l̴̕͠e ͠l̶̢ift͠in̨͡͏g ̕r͜a͟i̢͢n͡ín͡g҉ ͏̸̕gr̢o҉w͡i̡ń̶̛g ͜p̛̕ou͘ŕ͟iǹg͟ ̧e͢͟x̷p͟à̛n͞d̢͘i̕͡n̡͜g̵ ́́w̶̵̧i̸͟͜d̷͜en̵̴i̡n̨ģ ͝w͘e̛̕͡e̶k̛͝͞ f̢̀l̵̢͡ow̴͜͠ì̴n̵͠͡g sp̧͞͏r҉̀e͘͝àd͏̢i̴͘ǹ̢g͢͞ ̧͘b̸͘l̀͝͠o̵͡a̵͞ti͢n͏̢̡g̴̴ ̵̨͢g̶̨̧r̕ow̧͘į͘ņg̵͜ t͝h͝i̡҉̷c̴̨k͞en͜҉i͡n͝g̶̡ ͞ex̨p̛͡a̷͜͟n̶͡d҉i̸n̶g̸͜͜ ̡͜u͡s͘e͝l̵̵̡e͠s͝s ̀w̵e̛e̢҉̴k̕ ͝in̷f́l͜a͡t̶́í̢͘nģ c̷̛͠a̶̕r͝e͡e͟͞͝ni̴͝n͟g̀͟͞ ͘f̵l̛͟o̵҉wi̛ǹ̷͟g̶̴͏ ̵͢͡l̡a̢̛ú̷͟gḩ̴i̢̕͡n̛͡g̴͟ s̴͝t͜r̷e͢t͡҉c͘hin͡҉̵g̕͞ ̡̕͡h̵͞a̷n͏d҉͘le̵҉ ́͞us̵̸e̡l̸es̸̡͠s ͝͝w͡i͠͡d̵͝e͠͝n̡҉in͢͜͞g͜͡ ̶br̶͟o̕͝͡ad̷͠͏e͏҉͢n̛in̵͝g̨͘ e҉xpa͜n͟di̛͠n̷͡g̴ ̨e̸̡x̴̕p̕ec҉t̢͠a̸̢ţ͘͠i͡on̴̵͜ ͡͝f͏l͝͠ò͢͏w͠i̸̶ń̴g ͘͞ẃ̷͘eek ̸̛h͞a͏͡n̶d̴͜le̡͝ ̵p̡r̶ès̵͘͟s̨͠u̕re̛͡͡ ̴p҉o̧͝u͜riņ̛͞g̛͡͝ ̨b̵̡͝l̢͘͠o̵͘a̛͡t̢in̶̸͞g ͢͡f̸̸͝l̢͡o͡w͏̶i̢n̸̕g̸͝ ̷͜͢e̷͘nļ͞a̕͠r̵̨gi͝n̶҉͡g̷ ̢̀ơ̶p͞ȩ̵n͝í͜n̢̕͏g҉̷ ̵̨́p͠r̛͞ȩs̸͠s͞u͞re̷̡͞ ̛s͏͜p̴i͏l̷͢l̵̛͡in̶̶g̡ ̵͜p̵͘óǫ͏l҉͟͡in̢g̷̨̛ ͢d̸͟͝i̶͏͢s͜͡͠t̨̀͜e͘͝nd̛͝ìn̵͜g͟͞ ̧҉ṕ͢ŗ͟e͘͢͝s̕͟sur̵̴e̶̷͘ ͟şl͘͝e̛҉ȩṕ͠͠ ̨҉l͝i͘f̛t͠i̛͘n̨͡g̷̛ ̢͠po͟͞ù͟͝r͝i͠͝n͢g̛ ̷̢͜ę̶x͞p̶͠an͏di͟ņ́͝g̕͞ ̧̀͘d̨is̷̀ţ̨e͠n̷͢d̨͟i̴ng̕͡ ̸̧br̢e̢҉̨a̶͘t҉̷h͟͟i̴̴͏ng̨̕ ͞dr̷i͡b̧b̴̨͠ļ̨i̛n͘͞g͜ ̛͡p̡̕͢o͜͞u͟r̸͟i̕͝҉n̕g̡ ̛͢s͜͝l̸̕͝e͝͝͡e̴͝p̴ ̧r͢͟ą̛͡in̡̨in̴͟g̨ ̶͢us̷̡͝ęl͜͜͡ȩs͞s̀̕ ͜pơ͞͝ù̸r̵i̶n̛͝g̢̛ ̕f̕͞l̢o҉̕͢wi͏͡n҉́g҉̧ u̷̢şe̵͠l̡͜͠e̛s̀̕s̴̨͞ ͢͠s͝we͘llin͠ǵ͘ ̵̛̀f̢͞r̛͟͜ę͢e̴̛d͘o̕m e̴̕xpa҉̀͟n͠d̵̢͟í͟͜ń̀͝g̷ ͢t̸̶͜hi̸c͜k̢͡e҉n̛͡in͘g̛ p͏r̸͘eş̕͠s͝͞҉úr͏e̴ ̸ù̡s̴͘ę͞l̀e̕͡s͜s̶ ̷͝e̶͢n̸ļa̷r͝g̶͠i̛n̸͟g̵͜͝ th̶̨́icķ̷e͠͝͝n̛į͝n̡̕͡g ͠sl̴҉eé̛p ̨͜ǵ́͟r̵̡ǫw̕i̴̢͜n̕͝g s͏p҉̀҉i͡lliņ̕g̢ ̶̛̀f̨o̶͏r̷͜e͏͝v̨e̶̡r ̛͡s̕le͠ę̡̛p̶̕ ̧r̡̡e͡͏d͝ ̛sl͠e̷̷e͡p͝ ̸r̕̕e̴̛d̶͞ s̨͟͜l͟ę͢e̢͞p̶ ̸͞ŕe҉̧͞d̶̸͘w̸͜ǫr̶̛l͝d҉̶̧ ̧͢͠i̸s̶͡ ҉r҉͡e͘͞d̛w͞o̸r̀͠l͢͡d i̸҉s̶ ͞҉r̸̢͘ed̀͏ ̡̛wor̴̨͏l̢d͝ ̵i͢s̴͡͝ r̨͘e̸̕d̀͢w̷̕͢҉o̢͞͞r̡̕l̡͞d̷͘͟͠͠ ͘͟r̷̛e̶̸͞d̸͜w͏̷̡͜҉ò̀͝r̸͠l̸҉̶d̴̛̀̕̕ ͘҉͢͠r̸̷͞e̢͠͞d̡̕͘͠w̡̡͘͟o͏͠r̵̴̷̢l̶̨͝d̢̛͢ ̵̧̨̡́r̸è̸̀d͝w̨̡͜ó͜r͟͝ļ̷̸́͢d̸͜͢ ͢r̢͘e̢ḑ͠͏҉w̸̸͜͜o҉́r̸̶͜͢l͟͜͏͘d̡́͏̀͘ ̡́͘r̢͡҉e̢͘͘d̢̡̀͢͞w̷̧̡̕͡o͘͟͝r͘͠҉́̕l̷̨͟d͞҉ ̧́͡͡r̛͝e̶͢͞d͞͝ẁờ͢͜r̕҉̵l̀͟d̀͠ ̡̧͢͠͞r̵͢͢e̕͢d͜͏̀w͞҉̢ǫ̴̨͠ŕ̸̶͢l̷̶̨͘͢d̢͟ ͏̕r̷͠҉̶e̷͡d̕͢͝ẃ̛o̷͜͏͠r̶̵̢͡͡l͞͝d̷̨̛ ̡͟͠r̴̀͘͢͜e̢̕͡͞ḑ̶̨̨̀w͘͞͞͡͞o̵̷͟͢r҉̷͘͢ĺ̡̡͏͞d́́͘͠ ̵̕͘͘r͝͏͏ȩ̵̨d͡҉w͘̕o̢͟͡r̸͞͠l̵͟͢d̢̡̧͟ ̷̨͡r̷̡̕͏e͏͢͏d̡̡̀̀ẁ̸̧̧͠ò͠r̷̵̕͝l͞͝d̶̵́͢͢ ͏̶͜҉r̵͜͠è͡d̨̛͢ẃ͜o̕͝r̴͟͠ļ̸̴͡͝d͜҉͜͝͡ ͝r҉̸̢̨e̵̷̷͘͜d̕͏͟͡͞w̷̕o̴̧̧͞r̸̢l͘͏̶ḑ̴́͞͠ ͟͢͡r҉e̢͠͏̡d̡͞͠͡͝ẁ̨̛͜ơ̶̷͢͢r̴͢͢͢l̸͜͏d̡̨̢ ̛́́r̛é͝͡ḑ͠ẁ͠o̵̵̧͘r̴̵̵̵l̢͞͞d̵̢͝ ̷̢̛͜͢r̸̸̵͝҉e̕͝͞d̢̀w̧̡͞͞҉o͜r͞͏̶̸ļ̸̴̴́d̷̨͟͟͢ ̵̸̛͢͝r̀͟͞e͜͝d̸̵͘ẁ̶̨͘o̡͢͝͞͝ŕ͘͜͝l҉̡d͜͠ ̶̴͜ŕe̷̶҉d͡͠͞w̵̡̕͞͡o̧̧͢͜r̶l̢̛̀́͝d̷̛́ ͜҉͡r̢̨͟͡e̷͟͞͏͞d҉̵̀͠w҉̷̢͡o̕͞r̀l̶̴͟d̴̢͟͏̵ ̸̴̢͡͞r̢̧͟͜͠ȩ̶̷͟͜d͜w̵̧̢͘ó̧͠҉ŗ̢̛́͜l̴͢d̛͡͠ ͟͏̀̕r̨̧̨͜e̶͘͞d̷͘͢w҉̴͝͞͝ò̢ŕ͘͜ļ̀́͝d̡̧͘ ̀͝͝r̛̛͟͏͘e̸͟͜d҉̢́͘͟w͢͏̀͡͞ó̕͡͞r̛͠l̕҉̧͟͞d̶̨́̕͟ ̧̢̕͟͜r̢̛͞͞é͟҉̶͡ḑ̴w̛͜͜͝ò̀͢r҉̵̵͘͠l̶̢̛͏͞d͘͝ ̧̨͘r͠͝͏̵̧e͠d̛͢͞w̡̨͜o̵̡͠r̡̀͠l̢̀d̀͟͟ ̵̨͟͝͠ŗ̴͘e͏̢͘̕d̵̷̢͏w̴̴̷̡̨o̶̵r̴̷̢͏l̨͜͟͞͡d̨҉҉ ͡͏͢r̵̵̢̧e̶̷̕d̴̨͞w̴̢҉o͡҉͡͠r̷̡͘͜҉ĺ͡͝d̛̀ ̡̡͘͟͠ŕ̡͟͝e̡͝d̨͟͡w̛̕o̴̡͟͏͞r̨̀҉l͡d̛ ̵̢̧͡r̢̡̢͘͡e҉͢d̸͢w̕͟ǫ̶̵̛͏r͘͢͞l͠͠͞d͏̷̡͟ ̧͢r̢͞͡e͞҉҉d̷̷̢͘w͏̢ǫ̨͡r͜҉͞l̢̧̕͝͏d̨̢҉ ̸̧́͢r̸̛͢͝ȩ͠҉͠d̢̕w̸̶͟͠o͠҉̧ŕ̵l̀͡͏d́́͡͠ ̀͘͜ŗ̶̴̨e̷̢̧̧͡d̷̀͡͝͡w̷͟͝o̶̵r̵̡͘҉͟l̵̢͜d͢͞ ̢̛͡r̡̕e̸̢͢d̶́͞w̧͘͠ǫ̢̕r̀͝l̷͏͠d̷͘ ̶̕r̸̀́͞͝ę͡͞d̶̶͜͜͞w͡͡ǫ͜r̕͘l͜d̀̕ ̸̢̕r̢̨̀͘͡ę̡̕͜͞d̶̶̸́̕w̵̨̨͞͞o͞͠r̶̢̛̕͝l̡͢͡͝d̕͝ ̴̛̕͢r̨̧͟҉ȩ̴͢͞d̶̛́͞w̵̛҉̷̴o̢͏r̸̡̧̕͡ļ́d̷̨͞͝҉ ̶̡̛ŗ̧͢͜é͟d̢̕͝w̸̴̡͟ó͠͠ŕ̛͘l̴̵̴̀d̕͘͟͞͏ ̀r̵͘é͞҉͢d͡͏ẁ͘͟o̶̡r̛̀l͘͟͝d̵ ̀͝͏r̷̡͝e̸d̨̢̛͟w̢̨̡͠ò͢͜͡r̶͢l̸̷d̶̢̢͘͢ ̴͡͏̧r̶̶̵͘e̶̵̕͟͜d̶̛w̡͢͠ơ̕͟͡͠r̶̢l̛̕͜͞͞d̸͟ ̴̀ŕ́͟e̕͏d̀ẃ̵͏̢o̡̡͢͝r̸̷҉l̢͝ḑ̵̶̧ ̡͜͜͞͠r҉͟e̶͝ḑ̛͘͝҉w̷̢͡͝o̵͜ŕ͜l̸͢ḑ̷ ̷̛͟͝ŕ̸̡͘͜e̶̷ḑ́͢͝w̨̡͘͡o̶̧͞ŕ̡̛l̀d͝͠ ͜r̴̀͘͟͝ȩ̀̕͟d̶́́̕w҉̡̧́ơ̧͘͢r͘͝l͝͝d̵̨́͘ ̧́r҉͟e̴͘d̛́͜͜w̢͟o̡̧̢̧͝r̸̢͡l҉̴̶̡d̡͡͝ ̡̨͟r͘͟é̢̕͜d͝҉w͡͠҉̛ǫ̷͞҉̧r͢͏̛l͏͞d̷̛́ ͠͏͠҉r̕͝e̵͘͏ḑ̢w̛͏͢͡o̵͘͢r̵̸̨͘͞l̸̡̨͟͢d͏҉͜ ͏͟͢͞r̴̢̢̕͡e̶̛ḑ͢͞͡w͏̴͏o̢͘̕͞҉r̵̵̵̀l̕͠͡d̶̴͘̕ ̶̶̢͢͟r̵̡͜͞e̡̛͠҉̀ḑ̛́͘͠w̢̨ò̶̀͟r̸̨͏͟l̴͘͢͠͡d̴͏̶͘ ̶̛r͏͜e͜͞d̸̢̨̛͟w͏͡o̵̴̧͢r̸̡l̶̡͠d̡͝ ̢҉r̵̡͝͝e͏̴̛҉̕d͢͡͝͡ẃ̸͝ǫ͏r̴̶l̵̶͘͏d̡ ̶͠͝r̢͢͢͠ȩ̡͘ḑ̶̷͢ẃ̸̸̶̢ǫ̶̕r̵҉͝͡l̨̡̢d͠҉̴̨̢ ͢͢͢͠r͜͠e̶̷͘͟d̶̴̀͘͢ẃ̢̨͢o̢̧̧͘͢r͞͏̵l͏̧͢d͏̷͝ ̡̨͞r͏é͜͝d̨͠҉ẃ̸̧̨͜ó͞r҉̴̕l͘͜͞͝͞d͏̸ ͞r͢͟e͟͏҉͝d͟͠͠͞w̴̸̧͢͞o͏̡͟͢r҉̴̢̨̕ļ̧̛́͡d͏͏̢͜ ̸̵҉̶͝r̡̕e͏̴̧͠d̢҉҉̨͝w̢̛͡o̷҉̧͝r̛l̷d̴͡͡͠ ̡͝r̨͜e̴͡d͘͞͞w̢͜o̷̢̢͟r̢̕͝l̕͞d̸̴̛͡ ̶r̨̀̀e͢҉̧̢̢d̸̵͢w̴̧o̕͠͏̨r͡͝l̴̴̡͟d́͘ ̛͞r̴̡̛̕͟éd̢͜҉̡w̨͜ó̶̸̵͢ŗ̕҉l̡d̡̡ ̴̢͡r͘͏e̛͠d̶͏w̸ơ͠r͢͞͞l̸҉͡d̴̵̢̢͠ ̧͘r͟͞͏è̷͘͠d̀͘w̸o͠r̶̶̢͢l҉̀͟͞d̴̴͢͡ ͞r͜e̢̛̕͢͡d҉͞w̵͢͞ǫ͞͝͝r̢̕͟͞l̛͏͏d͘̕͡҉ ̷̛r̴̨͟é̛̕͏d͠ẃo̶̴͢͝r̸l҉̡̡͜d҉̸̸ ̵̸̷r̵҉̧͢é͝҉̶̛ḑ̡̧͞w̵͜o̶͢͢͏r̸̡̛̛̀l҉͜͞͝d̸̛ ҉͟͡r͢e̶̢͟͢d̕͢w̧̢͘͜҉o̸̴̢͝r͞l̵̨͟d̶̀́ ̶̨̢̕r͏e͟͏̴ḑ̀͜͠w̵͞͝o̵̶r͢҉l̷̀͘̕d̵̨͏͏ ̡̨͝͠r͝҉̴͠ę̕͜d̸̛̀̀w̶̷͜o̷̸͟r̢̛̀͟l͏̴͏̷̀ḑ̶̕҉͏ ͡҉́ŕ͟e̵̶d̵̸̴̛͏w̸̢o̸̡̢r͏́l̵̕͢d̨͢ ͞͞͡r̡͝e̛͞͝͏d̷̷̴̡͝ẁ̷́͘o͟͢r̶̨̨̛͠l͘͠͞͡d͠҉҉́͠ ͟͟͜r̢̢è̵̴d̵͟w҉o͞r̶̢̡͡ĺ͜͏d̴̷ ̸r̴҉͞͝ęd̶̛̛̕w̸̴͟o̕̕͠҉r̴̨̨͘l̷̨̧̕͞d̛́͜ ́͟r̨̡͜è̵̸̡̨d̡͞͠͝ẃ̵̨̛o҉̨͏r̴̡͡l̵̢̕͢d̸̸́̀ ͘͠r͞e̷̶̢͝d̵̨w͢͢o҉̛̀͞r̸̨̛͜l̀͘͜d̛͜͟ ̷̴͜͟r̷͘͝e̛͟d̵̡͡w҉͝o̷̷͝͞r͟҉̷͝l̀́͝͞d͘ ̢̀͢͢r̨͝ȩ̴̸͜ḑ̷͜͡ẃ̷̶̷͡ò̧r͝l҉̸҉͏d͢͜ ̷͘r͏̵̡̢e͜҉̷̛͟d̷͘w͟͜͞ǫ̀̕͜͡ŗ̕͜l̵̢̀͘͠d̴̶̕ ̷̡͢͝r̵̡͟ȩ́̕͟͡ḑ̵̕͝w̵o̴͘r̵̕ĺ̶̛d́͞͡͠ ͏ŕ̕̕e̸͏͡͠d̸̡̛̕̕ẃ̶͝͝o҉̴̨͢ŗ͠͏̀l̕͝d̕͜͞ ̸҉͠ŕ̛̛͞e̴d̴̡͢͝͡w͘͘o̵̶͠r̵̡͟l̨̨͜͠d̸̸͠ ̶̴̴̢̀r҉̶é̵̢͞d̀͝҉w͘͢͠ó̶̵̢͡r̸̵͟͝͏l̕͟҉͡d̶͘ ̷r̵̵̢͠͠e̴͢d̡̛͜͡͡w̴̵ó̶̷ŕ̷̡͡l̶̕̕͢d̵́̕͏͜ ̴̛͘͜r͟͏̡e̸̷͞d͘͟͟ẁ̵̸̶o̸̕͟r̶̵͟l̶̵̶͘͟d̡̨ ͟͝҉̶r҉̧̀e̶͞d͝͡w҉̨̡͠o͟҉̧͢͠ŕ̷͞l͏̕͟d̵̶̛͜ ̡̕͡͡r̶̵e̴͟d̵̀͝͝ẃ̧ơ̢͜͟ŕ̷̷́̕l̷̢͢͠ḑ̶̛́͟ ̴̀̕͟͞r̸̵̛͏̸ȩ͞d̢̢͢͢ẃ̨̧̢ơ̸̢r̷̛͞l҉d̶̷͞ ̸̷̨̧r͏̡̢͢é̷͠͡͡ḑ͟ẃ̶̡̡o͏̢r̛̀l͏́d͟͟ ̢́͜͝r̢̀̕͠e̛̛͝͡d̕͟͝w̨͝͠o̷͜͜͝r҉͞҉l҉d҉̷̕͜͠ ̛͞͡r̸ȩ̸̛̕͞d̡҉w̡͢ǫ̵̴̀̀r̢͘͟l͏̶̵d́͟͞ ҉̴͞ŗ̶͠͡e̛̕͜d̛̕w̷̧͟͠o̵͏r̵̶̢l̢͘͢d͜͟͞ ̴̡̢̡r̴̸ę̵̧́ḑ̛́͡w̵̛͟ò̸͘͘ŕ̷ĺ̨̧̛d̷̢̨́ ͟͡͡͏̸r͟͝e̷͝d̶̶̸̶̢ẁ͘͠͝o͏͟r̵͜͝l̨͜͟d̢̀͞ ͏̸̛r̀͘͝͝e̵̛͜͞d̶͢w̨͠o̕͢ŗ̵̡̢͝ļ͝d͏̀ ̶̧́͢r̸̢͢e̸̷̢͘͟ḑ̵͜w҉̢ǫ̷̢́͡r͡l̡̡̀͘͝d̷̨́͘͞ ̕҉ŕ̶̵͞͞é́͝͠͠d̀́͜͢͜ẃ̸͘͞ò͘r̀͘l̢҉d̕͜͜ ͏̡͏r̶̴e͞͏͘͞d̴́͜ẁ͡ǫ̶́͏̡r̴̢͟͝ļ͟d̷̡͢҉ ҉̛͘͜r̴͏͜ę́͘d̕͜͢w̴̸̨͟o̕͞r̢͞l̨̨d̷̸͏̡ ̢͢҉͠͝r̸̛͢͞͝e̡͏̸͘d̵̢͢͟͞w͘͜͡͞o̷̢r̢͡l̴͘͞d̶̷͘͡ ̡͢r̡̀e̷͠͠͏̴d̸̨w̷̶̴͝͠ó͝͝r̶̶̢̛͜l̵̴d̵̢͟͢ ̴̸͟͞r̨͘͡è̴̡͢d̸̴̀̀͢w̵̶̷̴̕ò̸̀r҉̶́͘ĺ͢d̴͘͘҉ ̸͝r̡e̷̴̴̢̢d̸̷̕w̨͘͡ơ͞ŗ̴l̴̨͞d̸͠ ̡͘͘͢͟r̸̡e̴̛͘͢͠d̀͢͏w̶̡̡͢͝ò͟r̢͏l̷̸̵̢͠ḑ̢́͟ ̸̕͢͜͞r̷̡̛͘͟e̷̷̢d̨w͢ǫ̧̕r̵̀̕l͏̀̕͢͡d̸̛̛҉ ̴̶ŗ̀́͠e͢d͢w͏̶̡o҉́r͘l̀͘d̵͟͜͡ ̸̡̢r̶̛͞e̴͏̵͏̀d͏҉w̵̵͏̴o̕r̵̵̀͜͡ĺ̴d̨̡͢ ̶̛͜r̵̢̛e̛̛͟͜͏d͏̶̀͜w̢̨o͜҉͟͏̀ŕ͘ļ̸̧͞d̸҉̡̛ ͠͏r̡̛҉ȩ́͘҉̀d̢͝w̸̨̛̕̕o̡҉̷̡r̵̢l҉d̸̨͠͝ ͢͟͠ŗ̷͢͠e͘d̡̛w̢ò͢r̴̷l̵͜ḑ̴̕͞ ̸̴̵̛̀ŗ͏e̕͜d̡͏̵̕w̴̴̕͘o̡̨͠r͘͞l̷͞d̸͘͢҉ ̷̸͠r̛҉̷͝e̢͞d҉̶́w̸̢o̵͟͢͝r̵̷̶̵͘l̶̵d͠ ̨̡̧҉ŗ̨e҉͢͢d̢̛͜͜w̵̷͢͠ớ̶͟͢ŗ͟͡͞͝l͏̵̛ḑ́͘͢ ̷̵̵r̶͘ȩ̶͘͠d̢̀̀͞͏w̶̸͜҉ò̶̧͘r̵̀͘͞҉ļ̨d̕͟͝ ̨̕r͘e̡͘̕d͏̷̢͢ẃ̸̛͠ó͜r͝҉͟͝ļ́͘͢d̶̀ ̵͠ŗ̷́̕e̶̢̨͠d͏̷̴̡͏w҉͠͠͏ǫ̸͘͟͏r̀͠͝͡l̡d̷͘͢͝ ́͠҉̀͜ŗ̵̨͝͡ę͜͏d̴͏w҉͟ò̕͜r̷̨̛̀͜l͟ḑ̷̛͢ ̷͜r̢̛e͜͢͡d̡͘͟w̵̢͡o̷҉͟͞r̴͞͏̢l̨҉̛d̵̨͟͡͠ ̴̛͡r͏e̢͘͠d̶̛͢͠w̢͘̕͟o͢r̛̛͟l̛͘d͏͘͏ ̵͘͜͢r̡͘͢͞҉e̴̕d͡҉͘͝w̡͏̸͜͟o̴̸̸͘͟r̷͜͜͟͝l͠͏̨d̶̨ ͞͞҉r͢͢e͏̡̀̕͠d̸̨͜͜w̡̡͠o̢̡͠r̢͘l͢d̵̛̕͠͝ ͏͟r҉̀e͠d̶̴̛̀͜ẁ̵̵͜ǫ́͢͡r̸͘l̵͠d̸̵͡ ̛́͟͝r͟͞͠ȩ̸̶̀͞ḑ͡͞ẁ͜͠͠o̡r҉͡͝l̸͡҉́d̸̸̡̢́ ̨r̵͜é͢d̡͟͟͡w͢o̷҉͝͏r̡͠͠l̨͢͢͡d̕ ̸̨҉̢r̛͟e̴̶d̡͢͢͠w̴҉ò̶̢͞r͘͟͟l̛d̷̵̢̢ ̨͞r̷̶̸̵͠e͏̨̕͘d̷̛͢͜͝ẃ͘o̶̡̢͞͡r̵͜͢l͘͢͜͢d̢́͜͜ ̶͘͠r̨̡͘͟e̸̕d͠҉̕w̡̧͢͜ó̴͢r̷͜͏l̀̀͘d͟҉̡ ҉̡͟͞r̕͞͡ę̨͠d̡̧͘͜w̛̕o̶͡r͏͘͞͡l̷͘d̴̢̛́ ̵̵ŗ͘ę͘͏d́͝͡w̷͝͞o̸̷ŗ̸̧͞͡l̴͝d̀͢ ̸͠͞r̷̶̀̀́e̢͝d̡͞w͞͏͝o̡̨͠ŕ̛͝ļ͡҉d̀̕͟͝ ̴̵͠ŗ̷͘͢͜é͟͝҉ḑ̨̡̕͟w̛ó̡͡͝r̶̸̛͝l̶̶̨̧͟d͏́͘͢ ̷̵̧͢͝r͢e̷̵̸̷͠d̴̶w̨͟͏҉ǫ̵͟͞r͘͞l̸͘͟d̕͡ ҉̵̛ŗ̀͜e̕͢͟͟͡d̛͢͡w̨͞o̴̕r̷̶̕͝l̀҉͡d̨̛͘͜ ͢҉̸҉͡ŗ͏̧͞e̢̛͏̕͡d͏̸̛w̡̕҉ǫ̛́͘͜r̛̀͘͡l̡̡̡͢͢d̵̢̛̀͝ ̸͞҉r̸̶͘è̴͘d̨͢͞ẃ̶̷̷̨o̵̧͟͏r͢͜ĺ̕͢͜͠d҉́̀͟ ͏͏́̀r̸͡e̶̡͢҉̕d̸҉̢̛͠ẃ̷̶o͘͢͞͞͞r̡͢͝͠l̵͡d̸͟͞͏͠ ̛̛͞ŕ̡̢͘͝e̡̧͞d͘w̴̢̕͜͠ǫ̷̷̀ŕ̷͝͝͠ļ̴̢͢͟d̀͢͢͠ ͏̵̡̛̀ŕ̷̢͟͠ę̨̛͞d̀͞͏w҉̸͘҉҉ǫ̨̨͡͞ŕ͞l͏̴̵̛͜d̀͜ ̵̴̡̕ŗ̷̷̢͞e̛͘ḑ̸̢ẁ͞͞o̢͏͜҉ŗ̢͞l͘͢͡d̴̢͠ ̷͏̶҉͟r̷̶̛͝ȩ̸d̸̵́͞w̧̛͡ò̴͟͝ŗ̴͟͜l̴͡d̷̴̷͡ ̨̧̕̕͝r̕e͏̶̴̢͟d̶͝w̷̧͝o̧̡̢r͢͠l̵͘͟d̸̴̸̴́ ̕͞҉̧͢ŕ͟e͏́d͘҉w̴͟͢ó̸̧͞r̸̷͝l̷̸͟d̵̕͜ ̵̨ŕ̶͟e͞d̷͝w̢͢͝͡ò͜r҉̨͟l̛͞d̵̢͟ ҉̕͜͠r̴̕͟e̡͝d̶́͢͞͝w͞͡o̶͘͟͝r̵̛͘͟͜ĺ͝d̡̀̕͟ ̴̕͟͞r̀͟ȩ̢̀͜d̕͢ẁ̴҉̸̛o͞͠҉r̢͢l҉̶̢d̨͘͡͏ ̶̵̷̕͡r͠e̵d̡͝ẃ̴͜ǫ̀͞͠r͢͡l̢͘͝͝d͡ ̡r̶̡̨̢e̸̷͏d̸̛̕̕͡w̶̸̧͞͡o̶̷̧ŕ̶͠l̛͢d̸͡ ̴̴̨͜͞r͢͠ę̸d̕͢w̵̢̧͠o͠҉ŕ҉̧͘l̷̷͘d̷̶͟ ̶̷̡̕r̶̸e̴͜d̛͞͏͢w̴̧̕͘͟ǫ̢̢͘͞r̡̡͏҉́ļ͝͝͠ḑ̷̛͠ ͢͞ŕ̷҉͘e̵̴͢͠d̵̢̕w̵̸̨͡o̷҉̧͠ŗ͞͠͝ļ̢̀͡͠d̶͏ ̶̷̛͞r̶̕͘͠ę̵̢͡d̡͟w͏̷̀ǫ̶͢͡ŗ̢͟l̨̀͝d̷̵͡ ̵̶̡͘͘r̵̀̕͏e͜҉d̕͡ẃ̴͟͡o҉̴͢ŕ̡̨l̢̢͡d͞͡͡ ̷̷̧r̡̕͠͡e̸̵͠͡͠d̵̸҉͏ẃ̧̛͜͝o̴͢͟͠r̷̕͟͠l̷҉͠d̶̡̀͜ ̨̛̀r̛͟͟ę̷͘͘d̶͟͠ẃ̵o̶̧͝r̴͢l҉̀d̵̀́̕̕ ̴̨̛́r̸̨͞e͞͏͏d̡́w̡̢̛ò̷r̷ļ̴d̡̀ ̶̧͢͏r̨̧͢e̴̡̡͢d̛҉̶w̶͏̴̴̨ớ̸̡r͘͟l̸͜҉͏d̴̨͟͢͞ ̶͠r̀͘͢ȩ̶̶d̵̨̛w̵̧͜o̸̡̨͞r͏̢͜l͏̸d̀












"Hey–!!!"

Kat jerks awake, as his right arm is yanked roughly. A dull pain emanates from the palm of his left hand. It's gripping something tightly.
red
A knife.

Just a plastic, cafeteria knife - they wouldn't give out real knives to students, even to cut their food. But the red mark on Kat's right wrist, throbbing freshly with pain, indicated that it had very much been used like a real one. One of the plastic teeth was snapped off of the knife's 'blade', as it failed to break the skin.

Tightly gripping his right forearm, forcing his palm into an upturned position, is the boy with the crumpled shirt from before. The one who had passed him the note during class, and the one who had been watching the three of them from a distance just a moment before.



"You still here? Stay with me. Put that down. Come on."


Keone put a bit too much weight into holding onto Kat than was necessary, but Kat had no idea what had been happening just before that point. He was standing in a different part of the cafeteria than he had been before. His phone had clattered to the ground, without him noticing, in the place he thought he'd been up to just a second ago.

"Don't fall into it." Even though Kat was very much lucid, painfully lucid at that moment, Keone was still calling out to him as though he were dazed. "Hey, you– you're here, right? Are you with me?"


A few meters away, at the desk, Chester was reeling from something, as though he'd been struck in the head. He was only dazed for a moment. But as he turned back, he saw Rebecca, clasping her head with both hands, knuckles white, fingers digging into her scalp.

"Oh my god." Her voice shook, as she blinked, recognizing the cafeteria table and the rotten food below her. Her voice was low and almost imperceptible. "Oh my god. Oh my god oh my god oh my god–"


All around them, students continued to eat their meals in silence.
disconnected
No one cared.

Monday — Morning — Cafeteria

"Like, food for donations...yeah, that might work." Rebecca said faintly, looking down at her own untouched meal. "It feels bad to think of things that way, but...I guess if I gave them something in return, they'd be more willing to participate."
can't do it
The words left a bitter taste in her mouth. She wanted to think of people as being better than that. But faced with everything around her, she couldn't help but feel that it was true. The girl cast her eyes around the cafeteria, at everyone wrapped up in their own worlds, and wondered just what it would take to break down all of those walls.
can't do it can't do it can't do it
"...I wanted to do something from the school...to show Malie's parents how many people here cared about her. It felt like she was friends with almost everyone." Then again, for the veritable party girl that she'd been, it could seem that way. Some people have finer lines between 'acquaintance' and 'friend' than others. "Maybe the timing is just off...it seems like it gets this way every year. Around finals, or midterms sometimes...when everyone is stressed out about tests, everyone gets like this..." She mused, "But, if I wait until after finals, getting people together during the summer would be a mess...and a bunch of people are graduating and moving..."
can't do it i can't do it you can't do it
It was hard for her to shake herself out of the negative thoughts. The speedbumps and the why-nots. The easy excuses. All she really wanted to do was wallow in her own feelings, and dragging herself out of that dark lagoon to do everything else took all of her willpower. If it hadn't been for Kat, at least being able to tell her that she wasn't crazy just for trying, that someone understood, she would have already given up.
can't do it its too hard its too hard its too hard just want to sleep instead
"I'll do it tonight. My dad has a grill he'd let me use. I wouldn't be able to study, but—" Rebecca's words stopped suddenly. She stared downwards at the table, as though reminded of something. "...But I'll be fine."


Keone sits at the end of another table, sluggishly eating their own meal. They're keeping a close eye on the three from afar, with a worried expression.
When Rebecca turned to Kat, he saw for the first time just how wounded she was. That really was the only word for it - wounded, in every sense of the word. Dulac could have harmed her less by hitting her in the face with a textbook. Her mouth was hanging slightly open, limply, and her eyes seemed just a bit devoid, sparking to life again only after recognizing a familiar face.
light
Her smile was very faint.

"Try...again...?" She repeated the words slowly, as if to herself. It seemed like she didn't want to. Like she just wanted to give up. It would have been easy if she were alone - there would be no one to blame her or judge her. Her feeble attempt would simply fade into obscurity.
redworld
Just like Malie.

The fact that one person believed in her was at least enough to take a breath. "Y...Yeah. Try again." She said it like it was a sentence, that time, rather than a series of fragmented words. It had meaning. "We can...talk about it at breakfast...if that would be okay."






the rain continues to fall

99 : 44 : 37




Monday — Morning — Hallway

The young woman stood alone in the halls, staring upward at the ceiling with a discerning gaze and furrowed brow. Like a statue, she didn't move even an inch — her attention focused entirely on the space above her.

Only after a few moments was such focus vindicated. A gentle thumping, like a galloping horse, thundering above the ceiling. In the crawlspace between the first and second floors, something had moved.

Following the sound with her head, its path of movement was clear. The cafeteria.

The young woman seethed. "The ones that stay put are one thing..." She spoke to herself, clenching a fist. "...but this one is just a nuisance."




Monday — Morning — Cafeteria


"Did either of you...know Malie?"

The cafeteria was as packed as always, but eerily quiet. It took a moment to discern the reason. Almost none of the students were talking amongst each other. The deafening cacophany that was normally circle upon circle of friends trying to out-shout each other to throw their voice a mere few feet was now merely a quiet chorus of chewing and plastic forks, like a procession of rats, marching to the percussion of the rain.

"She made friends with a few boys...or, you might have met her at a party, if you go to those. I never did." Rebecca continued, looking back and forth between Kat and Chester. "I thought that, maybe, since you seemed to care...maybe you kind of knew her." She frowned, thinking back on everything she could have done differently. There were so many things.

"It's fine if you didn't, I mean. It's not like you had to be really close to her to want to give something." The girl backpedaled a bit, "When something like this happens...it feels like everyone should care. Everyone is so...dismissive, and I just, I felt like I was crazy. Like it was weird that I felt like I should do something, and I wasn't sure if I was just bothering people for no reason." She admitted, her voice spilling out. She had no one else to talk to. "So, when you pitched in...I was really happy."

The food was awful. The cafeteria workers were putting in the minimal amount of effort possible to not get fired, and it showed. One student in line had muttered that one of the workers had spit in his food, but didn't bother doing anything about it. Messes and spills along the floor weren't being cleaned up, and the trash cans were overflowing. Even though the school was fully staffed, everywhere one looked, it seemed like it was falling into disrepair.

Rebecca wasn't eating her portion anyway. Even though the gym final was right after, she didn't feel up to it. Dulac's words played back over and over in her head, beating down even the most simple of pleasures. Food was tasteless. She couldn't form a tune in her mind. Pleasant thoughts seemed to run away from her stream of consciousness in fear.

"I wanted to try and do something at the school...if we go outside, or on the internet, no one would know who she was." Rebecca pointed out glumly, "But, maybe...if it's really true that no one cares, then...I don't know. Maybe it's meaningless, anyway."

Hallway
"I have reasons for my actions, Chester." Dulac stated matter-of-factly, "I have accepted those reasons as valid, and that is enough for me. Your opinion on my means is not necessary or desired." Curtly, she turned her back on the boy, seeing no further reason to speak to him - save for one, final remark, spoken under her breath.

For a brief moment, just a second, the rain seemed to make no sound at all, the hallway was eerily silent, and her low, breathless voice seemed to carry on for miles and miles.



"It's for her own good, anyway."


The sound of raindrops returned with the force of cannon fire, drowning out even her footsteps as the young woman continued along her path.



I hope you're able to deal with the other one, ma sœur cadette.

You know just as well as I what is at stake here.


Classroom
"Geh—" A timid complaint came from the boy as a large wad of paper bounced off his shoulder. No one was paying enough attention to mind, and he shakily reached down to grab it.

But something seemed off. The noise he let out sounded like it had actually hurt him - as though the large wad of paper, however lightly, had struck a fresh bruise. The shaking of his arm as he reached down, and the slowness of his movements, all suggested that he was suffering from physical pain.

He unwrapped it gingerly, as though trying to avoid a papercut, and let out a frustrated sigh as he received only a question mark for his trouble.

The boy glanced at the clock, then back to the paper. Then, slowly, he turned his head back to Kat, who was now sitting alone. His face wasn't threatening or forceful - it was meek, beaten down, and pleading. A worried frown, a biting of the lip. And a subtle, easy to miss, shaking of the head.


"They'll let us out soon, right?"

"We should grab our umbrellas."

"I hope they fixed the bathroom flooding..."


the prisoners are released from their cell
The clock reads fourteen after. There is one minute remaining before the students here are allowed to leave.

Hallway
The clacking of loafers against the hallway floor stopped. For a moment, there was a cloistering silence, almost a subtle intimidation as the walls seemed to curve unnaturally around the young woman's body. Then, with a gentle swish of her gown, Ceciliane Dulac turned and faced down the boy with resolute eyes.

"You are certainly correct. I did not need to answer her..." Dulac replied sharply, calling a spade to a spade. "...nor do I need to answer you, Chester. Last I checked, we were not friends nor acquaintances."

Her irises were like daggers of cold ice. Both their voices seemed to carry unnaturally in the hallway, darkened by the cloud cover outside. Miniature rivers of raindrops ran down the windows to their side, blurring their view of the world outside.

"I do not intend to stoop down and defend my actions to you. You may hold whatever ire towards me you wish." The young woman said simply, "Hate me from afar if it behooves you. Seethe every time you look at me if that is how you must live. Keep it to yourself, and I will not mind." Her feet turn, pointing her shoulder towards the boy. "...Or are you here to do something other than glower in my general direction?"


NPC List










Scene Catalog




Rebecca flinched just a bit, as Kat's hand almost touched her shoulder. But as he gave her but a few kind words, the girl seemed to smile a bit, for the first time that day. "...Thanks." She smiled warmly. "I'll...I might need that."

It was only a few coins, but it meant something. It meant support. It meant someone was there with her, that someone agrees with her when she says 'this shouldn't have happened'.
brighter
On her own, that voice was very small. Now, it was just a little louder.


She lingered for a moment, as though there was something more she wanted to say. But in the end, that was all that occurred between the two of them at that moment. Young men and women befriending each other, especially in such a setting, created suspicion and unwanted rumors. Like an invisible wall between them, it gave just enough of a nudge for her to let it be for now - as though it wasn't okay to simply know someone. By the time any thought had occurred to her of how illogical it was, her chance of getting to know the boy any more was passed over. This time, at least.


The boy in the wrinkled uniform scrawls something onto a sheet of paper, torn from a notebook. Balling it up, he looks left and right, before nonchalantly tossing it Kat's way. It's angled expertly, suggesting an unusual talent for dexterity, rolling softly along the top of his desk.



Rebecca continued her rounds, emboldened somewhat by the partial success. Just a minute later, she arrived at the desk of a young woman with blonde hair, and piercing blue eyes. "Excuse me." Rebecca leaned forward just a bit, a glimmer of hope in her tired expression. "You might have heard already, but I'm asking ar-"

"You're useless."

"...ound...?"

The young woman slowly turned her head towards Rebecca, her stoic face unfazed by her gesture. "I just...wanted to help...somehow..." The sapphires blinked, gleaming gems momentarily obscured. "And what exactly do you hope to achieve using the lunch money of students?" The woman asks pointedly, "Funerals cost thousands of dollars. From this room, I'd be surprised if you surpassed five. You're wasting your time."

Rebecca was stunned speechless from the sharp words, taking a step back. The basket with Kat's change in it nearly slipped from her fingers. Even with the choking atmosphere, the heavy air, the pervading sense of apathy, she still managed to summon up enough anger to fire back. "A-And what difference does it make to you, then!?" She yelled at the top of her lungs, turning a few heads in the room. "Why do you care!?"



"I don't."

"And neither should you."


Rebecca slumped backwards, as though she'd been hit with a baseball bat, stumbling for her balance. A small bruise on her left shoulder, just above the heart.

She stammers, her pupils dilating from sheer emotion. Her arm jerks, as though she were about to throw the straw basket at the young woman out of rage. Making the decision for her, the blond-haired girl gets up from her desk, sliding her chair back as she heads for the door.

"Bell 'asn't rung yet..." Mr. Gordon called out in a lazy voice, not making any actual attempt to stop her as she closed the classroom door behind her. Rebecca could only stand still, mortified at what had just been said to her with such impunity.


"Why is Dulac such a bitch?"

"Isn't her family really rich? You'd think she could do something."

"I think that's just a rumour. She'd be at another school if that were true."



The boy in the wrinkled uniform winces and shudders. The bruise on his arm was not there before.

Rebecca slowly sits back down at her desk, leaving the basket where it is. In the end, no one besides Kat had pitched in. Muttering laughter makes its way from a corner of the room, and she can't help but feel that it's at her expense.
the prisoners are released from their cell
The clock reads eleven after. There are four minutes remaining before the students here are allowed to leave.
"Excuse me..."

A meek girl with auburn hair in a practical ponytail slowly raised a hand as she stepped near the two boys. In her other hand, was a small straw basket that looked worn, still bearing a sticker on its underside that betrayed its source from a local dollar store. They would both know her as Rebecca - a somewhat moody classmate of theirs who was often friends with the less popular girls.

"Um...if I'm not interrupting, I've been asking around..." Her eyes moved slowly back and forth between Kat and Chester, both of them boys whom she didn't know that well. "I'm trying to raise a collection for...for Malie's funeral."

Her basket was completely empty. Not for lack of trying - she'd asked a few people before the two boys, all of whom had simply ignored her. She was clearly uncomfortable, having exhausted her list of people she talked to regularly, and now going around to students who were more or less strangers.
escaped
"She...slit her wrists, over the weekend." Rebecca recounted slowly, "It's like no one's heard about it...No one's even wondering why her seat is empty...I'd asked the homeroom teacher to announce it today, since she was in this class, but I guess he...forgot..."
disconnected
Or perhaps he just didn't care.

"Sorry I'm bothering you...I just thought..." The girl bit her lip, not sure how much she should share with people outside of her circle. Not that she had much of one these days. "...Her and I were friends, and, I wanted to do something for her family...you know...?"



Perfect.

Certainly, perfection is something to strive for. It is a goal to which one runs, albeit asymptotically. But much like Icarus, there is a story of one who reached that unreachable goal.

There is something to be learned from the story of Sir Galahad - that this world has no place for a 'perfect human', and indeed, that such an individual would not be considered 'human' at all.

To reach out for perfection is considered noble, but to reach perfection is considered heresy, and those who achieve such are removed from this world as punishment.

I did not understand this paradox until I, myself, lost my humanity.

I wonder, if I am now to see what before I glimpsed only once...




Perfect, huh?

Heh. No, uh...on a scale of 1 to 'Perfect', I'm a 1 for sure.

I didn't even know what a 'perfect me' would even look like, before. I mean, I had a pretty good general idea, yeah, but the details were always really blurry. Some days I'd want to be like one thing, some days I'd want to be like another thing...even basic stuff, like hair color, right? I flip-flopped on that for like forever.

But then, I just, kinda...got there, somehow? I mean, I don't know if I'd call like the entire situation perfect, but...it was perfect for me. It was everything I wanted.

I had it for a little while. And I hate myself for it. The pain of having lost that is, just...I mean, I'd rather have just dealt with never having it at all.

But I know that even if I had never reached it...I'd just spend the rest of my life wanting to be perfect, anyway.





Monday — Morning — Homeroom
@Antarctic Termite

The day was far from perfect.

The atmosphere itself felt choking. It was hard to breathe, like the room was filled with smoke. The sky was filled with dark clouds, and the forecast was heavy rain for the entire week. Drenched umbrellas littered the floor of the classroom, and the sound of stampeding raindrops added an almost welcome background noise to the suffocating silence. Even though the window was right there, the world outside seemed so far away. Looking down at the ground felt something like gazing from the side of an airplane as it took off from the city. you could jump right now. it's just high enough, if you angle your head just right, it will

For a room full of students who had supposedly just gotten back from a restful weekend, they didn't look the part. Exhaustion, apathy, and emptiness seemed to take hold in all of their faces. Dark circles under their eyes, lethargy in their limbs. One student, a boy in the back row, was outright asleep. No one seemed to care. The floors hadn't been washed like they were supposed to, and a spilled drink from last week remained as a sticky floor-trap near the back door. The students seemed to have resigned themselves to simply walking around it.

The entire room was beaten down by something. Maybe it was just the accumulated stress of school, or maybe it was just the bad weather. But there wasn't a single student here who seemed to be having a good day.
guard
"Today marks the beginning of finals week..." The teacher's voice droned on, with a heavy sigh thrown in almost every sentence. He wasn't looking at any student in particular, or really, on closer inspection, any student at all. "Nothing really to do for homeroom, so just...get some last minute studying in, I guess." He rested his chin in his hand, gazing indifferently to the side, his eyes unfocusing. He wasn't keeping track of the passage of time.

It's cloistering. Like the inside of this building is its own world, a sticker slowly losing its adhesion, and slowly, slowly lifting from the surface of reality.


From the corner of the eye. Movement in the ceiling. A tile is dislodged, with a black void beyond. A pair of red eyes momentarily cast their way about the room, before disappearing into the darkness, just as quickly as they showed themselves.

A young woman in an impeccably dry-cleaned outfit sits with her back straight, keeping a refined posture. She seems not to share the lethargic mood of her colleagues, but neither is she particularly energetic. Her hands are clasped together on her desk, patiently waiting for the next period.

A scrawny boy in a wrinkled and dirty uniform holds his head low, staring down at his desk. He perks up just a bit, as though hearing a noise, casting a momentary, worried glance at the ceiling. Blinking a few times, he rubs his eye, and loses his gaze in the cloudy outdoors.


"What are they going to do for the gym final? It's pouring out there."

"...There's a gym final? How does that even work?"

"I mean...every class has a final, I guess. That's just how it is."


the prisoners are released from their cell
The clock reads three after. There are twelve minutes remaining before the students here are allowed to leave.
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