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19 Aug 2023
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Reed: Enter forest.

This'll be fine. You've dealt with spirits a ton already.

One more fake-dead-Nino for the day is nothing you couldn't handle.

Ludwig rushes forward, outpacing your walking speed. It seems to be his way of watching out for you, just as Aria instructed him to. Although you don't need that much protection... you will admit that he is a well-trained animal.

Perhaps a good boy, even.

--/-->

The forest is eerily quiet, so quiet that you only hear your own breathing.

Perhaps you won't run into a spirit that soon, then? Or better yet, maybe there aren't any here in the first place. Wow, wouldn't that be great?

So great that it's probably too good to be true.
Better not lower your guard any time soon.

--/-->

  • ????: So...
  • ????: You are changing your strategy this time, I see.
Suddenly, you hear a familiar voice.
It is a voice you have not heard in many years.

--/-->

Your entire body shudders for a second, frozen in place, but you quickly turn around to face the source, readily aiming your weapon.

You don't even need to see what's in the shadows before you shoot it to death.

Reed: Confront the speaker.

You are met with a face that is impossible to see today.

You almost instinctively fire off your arm cannon at the sight of it...
But you manage to stop yourself at the last second.

  • ????: Oh my... you're actually holding back.
  • ????: So you really intend to properly speak with me?

--/-->

  • ????: Very well, then.
  • ????: Let us put that to the test.
It's not like this is a new trick to you.
In fact, it's the oldest and dirtiest one in the book.

That's why you've always made sure to kill them as soon as possible, before they'd even have a chance to try it... but this time, it's different.

You promised Aria that you'd do your best here.

--/-->

  • Reed: ...Yes. I'm not looking for a fight.
  • Reed: So you don't even need a disguise.
  • ????: Hmm, you see... doing this is a strategic choice.
  • ????: I knew that it would easily get a rise out of you. I can see it...
  • ????: Everyone who tried this disguise before was dealt with in record time!
  • ????: So I would not have even bothered in regular circumstances.
  • ????: But if you want to simply talk,
  • ????: Then this is a good way to test how serious you are about it.

--/-->

  • Reed: ...Can't you just use another disguise, then?
  • ????: No. This mask stays on.
  • ????: If you really are willing to be amicable to a spirit,
  • ????: Then, you will do it even if it sounds and looks like this, won't you?

Reed: Try not to remember...

  • ????: Right, Reed...?

Reed: ...And fail miserably

  • Ruby?: My adorable little brother.
Dammit. What a load of crap.

Memory-reading powers are such a horrible invasion of privacy, unparalleled in their awfulness. Who'd even willingly let such a thing go unpunished? But Aria has placed a lot of trust in you to put up with spirits here for as long as you can.

You don't want to let her down this soon.

Reed: Ask what their goal is.

  • Ludwig: GRRRRrrr...
  • Reed: Shh. Don't attack. It's fine, I'm fine.
  • Ludwig: ...Brrk...
  • Reed: Look. We'll talk like this.
  • Reed: Just don't bother putting on the act to go with it.
  • Spirit: Hehe. You really are sincere about this.
  • Spirit: Very well, human. What would you like to ask me?
  • Reed: I'm almost certain that multiple spirits are working against us,
  • Reed: And that you are just another one of them.
  • Reed: What's your group's goal here?
  • Spirit: To make you go back home. That's all.
  • Reed: ...Why, though?
  • Reed: It makes sense if a monster wanted to drive out humans from this world, but spirits have never cared whether they attack humans or monsters.
  • Spirit: That's funny!
  • Spirit: Can you say every human hates all monsters,
  • Spirit: Or that every monster hates all humans?
  • Spirit: Take your little group, for example.
  • Spirit: Aren't you quite the outliers, befriending and helping a monster out?
  • Spirit: So if you cannot generalize yourselves like that,
  • Spirit: Then you cannot generalize spirits, either.

"Humans and monsters are diverse in thought. Assuming otherwise is a mistake."

  • Spirit: Your sister said something like that too, didn't she?
  • Spirit: Well, spirits are plenty diverse too!
  • Reed: Is attacking us not a survival tactic for you?
  • Reed: From what I know, killing someone gives a spirit more power.
  • Reed: I've heard it phrased as "taking a person's soul" before.
  • Spirit: That's not wrong.
  • Spirit: Perhaps it's why you think it makes no difference whose soul is taken...
  • Spirit: Technically, any soul would do the job, yes.
  • Spirit: But not all spirits take the same actions for survival.
  • Spirit: Some spirits might have their reasons to attack specific people,
  • Spirit: And some might attack whoever they can get their claws on.
  • Spirit: It could be due to preferences, biases, or something else.
  • Reed: Are you saying... you're really just here to make us leave,
  • Reed: And that you don't want to actually kill us?
  • Spirit: That's correct.
  • Reed: ...Why? What does it matter to you that we're here?
  • Spirit: It is because you're trespassing, which isn't allowed.
  • Spirit: That's all there is to it.
So, to get all of this down..

A group of spirits came together, deciding that it's wrong for you to trespass.
Then, they decided that the right course of action is to send you home peacefully, and to only fight you if the situation calls for it?

That still doesn't make any sense to you.

Reed: Try questioning it further.

  • Reed: ...I can't see any benefit in you doing this.
  • Reed: You're letting potential sources of nourishment go, just like that?
  • Spirit: Oh, the living are so narrow-minded!
  • Spirit: If I hunger, I will simply find my meal elsewhere.
  • Spirit: You lot are dishes that I have no choice but to let go.
  • Reed: ...You didn't answer me.
  • Reed: How exactly do you benefit from sending back people who cross the barrier?
  • Reed: You wouldn't go through the trouble if you didn't gain from it.
  • Spirit: ...
  • Spirit: Sorry! I can't answer that.
  • Spirit: It's a secret.
  • Reed: Huh? Bullshit.
Well, there's no guarantee that anything the spirit said so far is true, or that it doesn't have any ulterior motives. Its words might be riddled with lies and half-truths simply meant to lead you around.

You've got to figure out what is and isn't trustworthy for yourself, it seems.

Especially since there's things it just won't tell you... yeah, you aren't even sure if hearing more would even help here.

Ugh, man. You kind of regret agreeing to this in the first place.
And the fact that it's continuing to imitate her makes this ten times worse.

Some things are easily forgotten...

The last time you spoke with your elder sister was over a decade ago, but the memories are still very fresh in your mind.

Ruby was a very radiant person whom everybody liked, and you were no different.

At the time, you were very, very small. So small that she constantly carried you around in her arms. And when you could walk, you'd follow her everywhere she went.

And some things, we cannot forget no matter how hard we try to.

Until, well... she went somewhere no one could follow.
Thinking about it, maybe that was the point everything started to go wrong.

Worst of all, it hasn't exactly stopped yet.

  • Spirit: ...Now, I think it's my turn to talk.
  • Spirit: I would like to ask you something, human.
  • Spirit: It seems I caused you a lot of bad feelings...
  • Spirit: But, it might be good to think about some of that when it comes to the question I'm going to pose here, actually.
  • Spirit: I have given you my time, so won't you give me some of yours?
  • Reed: ...
  • Spirit: Look, I'll even remove this disguise if it helps!
  • Spirit: I'm willing to let my guard down if you'll hear me out.
  • Spirit: I'll just be myself, plain and simple little ol' spirit. How about it?
Spirit: Reveal yourself.
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Wight
Wight
8 months ago
Reply to  Nights

Hi

VBrainer
VBrainer
8 months ago

Reed: Just one last question, if it's willing. It claims you are trespassing, but to who's standards? Their's? The prince's? Is somebody commanding them?

Reed: Accept... but be on your guard and answer as vaguely yet technically correct as possible.

Mysteriousmaverick
Mysteriousmaverick
8 months ago

Spirit: This is a diplomacy mission, if you truly wish to reach your goals try to inform other spirits to pacify them and somehow guide them to their destination if it doesn’t conflict with yours. That disguise may have seemed smart, showing that you aren’t trying any tricks, but the living would disagree with you. At least attempt to draw a more serious demeanor, for the sake of your goals.

Lunk
Lunk
8 months ago

Spirit: Reveal yourself.

Spirit: Ask your question.

Reed: Answer a question with a question.

Reed: Keep up your guard.

Lurking_Chronicler
Lurking_Chronicler
8 months ago

Reed: Hear the Spirit out... but be careful.

Hambeler
Hambeler
8 months ago

Reed: Hear the spirit out and try to reach an agreement

Grendle
Grendle
8 months ago

Spirit: point out that this isn’t some game, the world isn’t zero sum. After all, many people interact peacefully even if another has something that they want.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 months ago

Ludwig: Stay on Guard.

HousePet
HousePet
7 months ago

No really, that doesn't make sense.
Attacking people doesn't make them go home. It just makes them fight back. Which means they take longer to leave.

^