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/qst/ - Quests

A Quest about fighting monsters and hippies with your government-mandated shoulder loli.


>Aim for the chest. (Capture and Contain.)

Ganta's biggest weakness is his astounding incompetence. From what you've seen so far, the boy has no idea how to lead his shots, completely ignores their explosive potential, and has to be babysat to make sure he doesn't get distracted in the middle of a fight.

In a way, though, you can understand why he lacks any real combat skill. After all, with an ability as powerful as his, it becomes easy to slack off–something that he seems to have an alarming propensity for.

Fortunately for you, your target is standing still, having just regenerated her legs. Where she got the energy, you have no clue, but it's as good an opportunity as any.

"Aim for center mass."

Ganta gives no sign of having heard your command, three of his infused bullets already streaking towards Lily in crackling bolts of light. Blink and you'll miss it–they cross the 3-block distance in a second, searing an afterimage into your retinas as they rip apart the sky.

You can see as Lily's head jerks up in surprise. A look that might be shock begins to form on her face as she recognizes the attack for what it is.

Then, his shots connect.

Against a normal person, Ganta's attacks would be traveling too fast to transfer even a fraction of their force. Earlier, you had stumbled across the corpse of a Protectorate agent, identifiable by their body armor. A coin-sized hole had been drilled through flesh and bone as if it were nothing more than paper, leaving behind impossibly neat wounds unlike anything you had seen before.

Beasts are not nearly so fragile. Low-caliber rounds will do little more than bruise even the weakest of them, if you could call such a monstrosity "weak."

Whatever defenses Lily has, though, they're not enough to resist Ganta's attacks. You doubt there's anything on this Earth that really could–at least, nothing natural.

It is, however, just enough resistance for the bullets to ruin her.

A sizable chunk of Lily's ribcage simply disappears in the wake of the first projectile, the force of the impact twisting her body into a half-pirouette. Unfortunately, the knockback also drags her out of the path of the second bullet, which veers just a little too far to the left. It travels another half-dozen blocks before dropping from the sky, no longer fueled by Ganta's power.

The final shot is the most devastating strike yet.

It catches her as she turns, ripping through her hips at an upwards angle. This is not the neat severance of Kon's jaws. There is nothing clean or precise about the attack, for it tears her body in half. From your position, the result appears almost comical; like a tiny ketchup packet being squeezed too hard before finally squirting from one end.

The crippled Beast drops from the sky, disappearing into the swirling haze of dust. Lina, absolutely drenched in black tar, looks around frantically before she zeroes in on your position.

You can feel her staring from here.

You quickly avert your gaze. When your earpiece crackles and Arthur's voice patches through, you're grateful for the distraction.

"Arthur. Too soon to call it a mission success?"

"Don't jinx it, boy. You can celebrate once you're back home - or at the Academy - but hold off on the drinks 'til then."

He has the distinctly nasal tone of someone who's been punched in the face. You decide not to comment on it.

"Y-yeah. Sorry."

"Ah, I'll lighten up a bit. That was some damn fine work. That was the Railgun, yeah? Came just in time. Lina's gonna want a hot shower, eh?"

Somehow, even though it sounds like he's spitting out loose teeth with every consonant, the man is able to inject a bit of levity into his voice.

Yet before you can reply, a shimmering tear in space opens directly before you.

"Lina? How the hell is she…? Wait, Jack–!?"

A hand, pale-grey and flecked with tar-like blood, reaches out. For a moment, it falters, as if unsure of something.

[Select one.]

>It reaches for Valentine, grasping her by the halo.

>It pulls in Ganta, slamming shut as soon as he disappears.

>You intercept it, turning just in time to see Val's expression of horror before Lily yanks you through.



In the last thread…

During a nightly patrol of the cemetery grounds, you encountered an Alice by the name of Valentine Harper digging up the bones of some poor sod. One thing led to another, and now you've been shipped off to the Protectorate's American Northeast headquarters, Glaswelt Base. An artificial island half the size of New York City, it boasts state-of-the-art facilities, cutting-edge research programs, and an astounding level of self-sufficiency for something in the middle of the ocean.

Of course, just hours after your arrival, an assault by the Grand-Guignol resulted in the mass jailbreaking of a nearby sector's prison complex. Just your luck.

With nothing more than the clothes on your back and an untrained Alice at hand, you chose to head into the fray and offer whatever help you could. Time to be a big damn hero, Jack.

You've been waiting for a chance like this all your life.

Updates daily, usually from 10 PM - 3 AM EST (22:00 - 3:00). Sometimes updates earlier in the day. I should probably get more than 4 hours of sleep a day.
>It pulls in Ganta, slamming shut as soon as he disappears.

I think it makes the most sense from Lilys Standpoint to grab Ganta. She was obsessed with him after all.

>I should probably get more than 4 hours of sleep a day.

I heard its part of a healthy balanced day to sleep more than 4 hours. Take care not to overdo it QM.
>It pulls in Ganta, slamming shut as soon as he disappears.
I don't think anything good can come of any of the options, so it may as well happen to someone we don't "need".
>>You intercept it, turning just in time to see Val's expression of horror before Lily yanks you through.
This seems like the most *interesting* option story-wise. Ganta getting ganked seems like the least satisfying payoff for the big first fight.
>>You intercept it, turning just in time to see Val's expression of horror before Lily yanks you through.
>>You intercept it, turning just in time to see Val's expression of horror before Lily yanks you through.
Locked and writing.
>You intercept it, turning just in time to see Val's expression of horror before Lily yanks you through.

On instinct, you push Valentine out of the way, swapping positions with her as you turn.

She lets out a startled cry, reaching for your hand. Ganta stands by idly, a faint grin on his face.

Fuck's sake.

"See you in a bit, Val."

Despite the panic in your heart, you tamp it all down and offer her a reassuring smile. Unfortunately, Val doesn't seem very reassured by this at all.

Lily's hand scrabbles for purchase, scratching at the skin of your throat before finally latching onto your collar. An incredible strength jerks you backwards, and you fall through the portal head-first.
What a cruel world.
A door closes.
Allow me to set you free.
Another opens.
Go now, child. Wherever you wish, as far as the eye can see.
You hit the ground hard, knocking the wind out of you for a breathless moment. You claw at the collar of your button-up, straining and failing against the absurd strength of Lily's deceptively thin fingers.

Thankfully, you're not alone. You hear Lina's startled yelp before you see her, but she recovers in record time. For a second, sharp nails scrape against the thin skin of your throat–then your collar tears, and you're free.

You roll over, coughing and spitting violently, lungs heaving for air. It takes you a long moment to recover, but you're just alert enough to start scrambling away from the homicidal Beast.

With you out of the way, Lina's clear to move in. She straddles Lily's legless torso, pinning the other girl to the ground. The fox-girl rears back, fist cocked, and drives it into the Beast's nose. A violent crunch and choked splutter rewards the heavy blow.

It's the first time you're seeing Lily up close, and you're finally able to appreciate just how devastating Ganta's attack really was.

She's just barely begun to regenerate her pelvis, and though most of the bleeding has slowed, many of her wounds have yet to close. Every time pale flesh begins to squirm, Lina's vicious beatdown continues, shattering the Beast's concentration.

"This-" wham "-is for-" crunch "-hurting Arturo."

In Lily's current state, that she was able to move enough to grab someone at all is a testament to her willpower–

–you catch sight of her gaze, and you discard that thought immediately.

Within her pupils is a raw, unbridled fury unlike anything you've seen before.

It is not strength that empowers her. It is not wisdom that guides her. What forces the crippled girl to try and push herself up on trembling arms, even with a hole in her chest and Lina pounding her skull into the cracked pavement, is a bone-deep hatred.

Your heart freezes in your throat.

"Ganta. Those were his bullets."

"Shut up–"

Frustrated, Lina tries a different tack. You wince as she grabs an arm and twists, nearly ripping it out of the socket before snapping the limb in six places. Unable to lift herself with only one arm, Lily's face slams back into the concrete.

"--and stay down."

You are Valentine Harper, and you are currently freaking the fuck out.

Jack's disappeared. Gone. He-he saved you, probably.

You drop your outstretched arm, allowing it to hang limply at your side. It's still warm from where you gripped his hand. A little sweaty, too.

Next to you, your latest undead giggles.

"Bye-bye! Hey, hey, boss, we're alone now! No one to order us around. And…"

Ganta cocks his head, a strangely thoughtful expression flashing across his face. He licks his index finger and sticks it in the air for a moment before nodding decisively.

"Mm. Yep. This told me absolutely nothing!"

You're at a loss as you stare at him. What was he even…? No, wait–

"Jack. Jack! W-we have to help him, Ganta. I c-command you!"

The undead Alice lets out a sigh at your words.

"Do we have to…? Fine, fine. But there's not much point, you know."

He looks to the horizon. A dim orange haze illuminates the starless sky, plumes of grey smoke and scarlet flame billowing up from scattered parts of the city.

With a start, you realize that there's something approaching. A plane of some kind? Helicopter? You can't really tell, but in a few minutes, it should be close enough for you to identify with some certainty.

Could this be backup? Your heart soars.

Jack will be fine. The old geezer's strong as heck–stronger than your real father, not to mention that Lina and Arthur are still somewhere in there.

He'll make it.

Deaf to your thoughts, Ganta continues chattering away.

"After all, Papa's coming… Oh!"

The smile that appears on his face sickens you.

It is a smile of relief. Of absolute confidence. Of reassurance.

The kind of smile that wants to say "everything will be alright."

"Nope, he's already here."

It doesn't fit him at all.

"What do you mean, 'he's already here'?"

A leaden dread fills your soul. When Ganta points at the approaching aircraft, the pit in your stomach grows.

"That's him. I know it. I just do."

The boy turns to you, the azure flames in his eyes flickering with an invisible joy. He grabs your hands eagerly, like a puppy trying to get it's owner's attention.

"Boss, you should come home with us! I'm sure Papa would love to have you aboard."

His words echo in your ears.

A young girl sneaks another uncooked pack of instant noodles into her bag.

…Home. A home.

In the next room over, a crackly, aged television barely makes itself heard, competing against a man's loud snoring.

You ran away from yours.

The girl aches. A splash of yellow-purple peeks out from beneath her sleeves. Malnutrition has done no favors for her appearance.

You admit to being worried when Jack first found you. Could you continue to live under another man's thumb?

She doesn't have to stay here. Things will change. She'll be strong, strong enough to stand on her own. She can spend a few days at the library.

He was scary. A little mean, too. Frustrated. But he… kept an eye out for you, still.

Soon, everything will change.

It was odd how easily he had slept with a stranger in his home. You probably could have escaped in the middle of the night, even with the Protectorate gunning for you.

...Rough hands rub shampoo into her scalp. It's forceful, but oddly comforting. His eyes are closed in thought.

But you stayed.

The rising sun glimmers in the distance. Before her is an endless field of white.

You stayed, even when he gave you a chance to back out. To run away.

You yank your hands away from your thrall. You're the one in power. You are, but…

You wanted to be strong, but it looks like you still have a long way to go.

[Select one.]

>"Shoot that thing down, now." (Covering Fire/Escalation)

>"Carry me and bring us to where Lily fell, as fast as you can." (Regroup/Conversation)


Blugh. I should've gotten it out sooner, but this update really fought me. I ended up rewriting the chapter like 4 times before going "fuck it" and just switching PoV to Val. Have fun with some revealed history. Apologies if I came off too heavy-handed here, if I proofread it any more I'd be back at square one...
Have fun with your upcoming peek at the Arc 1-2 End Boss! If you've got anything to say about what you know so far regarding his goals, feel free to discuss it now. I'll probably come up with an opportunity to work it in as a pithy response, squeeze in some characterization for Jack.
>"Carry me and bring us to where Lily fell, as fast as you can." (Regroup/Conversation)
>"Shoot that thing down, now." (Covering Fire/Escalation)
>>"Shoot that thing down, now." (Covering Fire/Escalation)
Supporting >>5174121

Regrouping should be our highest priority.
Val is extremely tired and could probably use more backup. And while Ganta is useful he will probably hesitate for maybe a couple of moments if he is ordered to shoot at the one thing he considers as absolute as Val. That could be all the time "Papa" needs.

More backup is gonna be needed.

Also not sure on his goal. I would guess that his personal goal might just be power for powers sake. Though he might have good intentions by creating supermen with mystical powers. The way it is going on is very very bad on the other hand. Creating soldiers from the downtrodden and probably applying a good old bit of social engineering to bind them to himself.
>>"Carry me and bring us to where Lily fell, as fast as you can." (Regroup/Conversation)

you make a good point

i will change my vote here
to regroup
>>"Shoot that thing down, now."
Changing >>5174152 to
>"Carry me and bring us to where Lily fell, as fast as you can." (Regroup/Conversation)
Good point anon.
>"Carry me and bring us to where Lily fell, as fast as you can." (Regroup/Conversation.

"Ganta. Pick me up and take me to Lily as quickly as possible. I… no. Don't shoot, yet."

At your words, Ganta's smile widens, happy as ever even though you pushed him away.

"Boss! You're really gonna think about it? Yay! Yay! Alright, get on my back!"

With that, he turns around and kneels, waving for you to approach. He seems to believe that you'll actually give the Guignol a shot.

It's easier to let him think so for now. You've got bigger fish to fry. Jack and the others are waiting for you, after all.

"Was it you? No. Another. Another Alice. Where are they? Where is Ganta?"

Despite Lina's best efforts, Lily cranes her head to look at you. Her voice hammers into your skull--it's clear that however she's speaking, it's not through her mouth.

"Give Ganta back to me."

Before you can respond, Arthur staggers into view, waving away the obscuring mist of dust and detritus. It takes you a second to recognize him; the Attendant's face is still wet with blood, and his suit has surely seen better days.

Lina shoves the Beast's head back into the ground before turning to look at her Attendant. The concern on her face would be endearing if it weren't so thickly painted in the inky tar that constitutes Lily's lifeblood.

"A-Arty, are you–"

"I'm fine, I'm fine. Kon's love bites hurt more."

He wipes at his face with a tattered sleeve, though it doesn't do much to improve his appearance. In moments, blood pours from his nose yet again, staining his tie an ugly red. Arthur turns a hopeful gaze your way. You let out a weak laugh in response.

"Sorry, Arthur. The swelling isn't so bad yet, but if you want to keep your nose straight, a field setting won't do much to save you."

The Attendant lets out a mournful sigh. Or at least, he tries; it's more like a dog's wet wheezing. He sneezes into his ruined tie before balling it up and tossing it to the side.

"A shame, a shame. I liked that tie, too."

A serious look returns to his face.

"Jack. We really screwed the pooch here. Didn't think she'd be able to pull something like that off with how badly you hurt her. Sorry about that."

With a grimace, you scratch at your still-sore throat. After a few false starts, you find your voice again.

"It's--it's alright. Don't think she even meant to hook me, to be honest."

The pounding in your ears begins to fade, your heart settling into a slightly-elevated rhythm. You turn to look at the Beast. Black blood slowly pools beneath her, nearly invisible in the night. The only sign she's still alive, let alone conscious, is the way the hand on her non-crippled arm keeps scratching at the dirt.

Despite it all, she's still trying to get back up. Though it's probably safe - Lina doesn't even bother with stomping her down again - you back away a little further, suddenly aware of how thin your clothes feel.

"Should we, uh, capture her? Contain her, or something? You're keeping her alive for a reason, right?"

Arthur's face slowly morphs into a bitter smile.

"Yeah. Yeah, we are. Ain't every day we get a Beast to tie up. The eggheads will be real happy, let me tell you. I'll see if they can spare some bodies to take a look–"


Valentine's shrill scream cuts through the air, interrupting him. After a few confused moments spent looking for her, you take a startled step back as Ganta drops down in front of you, lightly landing on his feet.

Your Alice slides off the thrall's back posthaste before staggering towards you. She clutches your sleeve, takes a few steadying breaths, and immediately begins to speak.

"No–hah–no time to explain. Sorry. Ganta's Papa, is coming. Right now. Have to, to leave."

You catch her just before she collapses bonelessly to the ground, exhausted. Ganta adopts something approaching a sheepish look, the very literal fire in his eyes blazing brightly.

"Boss told me to come 'as quickly as possible.' Running in this new body is fun! I'm a lot faster than I used to be."


A thrill of alarm runs through you. You almost forgot that Lily was here.

Thankfully, the Beast seems too shocked to do much more than stare blankly. She's regenerated just a little more - the wound in her chest is gone - but her legs remain absent.

Ganta dashes over to her, ducking beneath the arm you throw out to stop him. He pushes a stunned Lina out of the way and pulls his partner up before spinning her around.

"Lily! Look, look! Papa's here!"

A beatific smile illuminates the Beast's face.

"He… is? He is… I knew he would come."

You hear it before you see it. The distinct sound of a chopper's blades scything through the air.

Something tells you that's not an ally. The frown that appears on Arthur's face as he looks up only confirms your fears.

"That's not a model I recognize... Ah. Well, damn."

Oh, fuck.

Kon flares into existence. The massive wolf is about to lunge towards the pair of psychos, but a word from Arthur halts his Alice in her tracks.

"Lina, no. We can't waste any more time here. You grab Jack, I'll get Valentine."

Probably not gonna get an update out tonight, sorry. Got my booster and I'm a little out of it. Thanks for your patience.
Well take care QM and dont overdo it.
You nearly bite off your tongue in surprise as Lina hefts you into the air. There's a few heart-stopping moments as the Alice juggles you into a more convenient position, but she soon settles down, satisfied with how she's holding you over her head.
Being carried by something significantly smaller than you are is a terribly disconcerting experience. Vaguely emasculating, too.

Something tells you that things are about to get far, far worse.

For his part, Arthur hefts Val in a fireman's carry. Her halo bobs violently at the sudden change in position, and her sputtering gasp and frantic thrashing assures you that she's plenty awake. Arthur's forced to twist his still-sore face away as she gets her bearings, but begins running all the same.

"Woah there. Settle down, girl. Don't want you falling off."

"W-w-w-what? Where–!?"

It takes a moment for her to realize what's going on. To her credit, though, your Alice doesn't ask any unnecessary questions.

"Ganta! Follow us immediately! And don't attack unless I tell you to!"

"But boss! Papa's right here!"

Despite his words, though, the thrall complies without much hesitation. He pokes at Lily's crippled form for a second--she's slumped back down to the ground.

"Lily? You awake?"

After a moment of silence, he shrugs, then lifts up the unconscious girl bridal-style. In a few bounding leaps, he catches up with you and Lina.

You bite back a curse. "Drop the Beast!"

Even if she's unconscious, she's still uncontained. Without Lina keeping her under control, Lily's likely to regenerate in a matter of seconds. You're not going to risk lives over whatever research potential she might hold.

Ganta glares at you, jerking his head to push away an orbiting piece of ammunition. "Shut up, gramps."

You grit your teeth. With how Arthur's moving, you'd be hard-pressed to get Valentine to hear you even if you shout. It's the only reason you don't press the issue–you're not willing to test just how far you can push your bestowed authority.

Lina and Arthur are going at an incredible pace, considering how heavy you and Valentine must be. But no matter how strong and how skilled they are, the fight with Lily has obviously taken its toll on them. Despite their best efforts, the aircraft approaches faster than they can run.

Pale moonlight shines upon chromed metal plates, sleek and gleaming. It flies with a strange sort of uncanny elegance, in stark contrast to the devastation surrounding you.
As it draws closer, you realize with a start that it is far larger than you originally believed. Despite its almost humanoid appearance, the craft can only be described as "alien," clawed appendages too small for its main chassis swaying as it flies.

It unerringly trails your group through several twists and turns, slowly but surely growing closer and closer. Soon enough, you reach a dead end, the way ahead blocked by toppled buildings.
Arthur doesn't even bother to swear. The man skids to a stop, spins on his heel, and sets your Alice down. A few seconds later, Lina does much the same for you, followed shortly by Ganta and a still-sleeping Lily.

A look of grim resolve appears on the Attendant's bloodied face.

"Valentine. The Railgun's under your control, yeah? Get him to shoot that copter when I say so, or we're all fucked. We need to stall."

Val nods jerkily. "A-alright. Ganta, prepare a bullet."

"Okay, boss! Who do you want me to shoot first?"

Arthur takes a breath and holds it.

"...Aim straight ahead."

500 feet. Tinted glass obscures the craft's interior.

"Eh? Boss? …Straight ahead?"

400 feet. Once more, Lina claps her hands together, calling forth Kon.

"Obey me, Ganta."

300 feet. Arthur exhales. He nods at Valentine.

"...Okay, boss."


The improvised bullet blazes towards its target. Yet in the moment before it connects, it comes to a sudden stop, dropping to the ground as a lifeless chunk of steel.

"W-what? T-two more! Ganta, shoot two more!"

Oddly enough, the boy sighs. A look of resignation and vague worry appears on his face as he scoops up a fist-sized piece of pavement.

"Boss, it won't work. You just can't fight Papa."

Despite his words, Ganta still obeys Valentine's panicked order. True to form, though, your group watches in stunned silence as all his attempts end the same way; fizzling out before it can do any damage.

Finally, Lina can take no more. As soon as it's within range, the happy-go-lucky girl bares her teeth in an uncharacteristic snarl, swinging her arm in an arc.

"Kon! Swallow it!"

Her summon lets loose a silent howl. Rows upon rows of obsidian teeth prepare to savage gleaming steel–yet even he splashes harmlessly against it, breaking apart into dark mist.

Your best attempts have failed. A sense of foreboding overtakes you as the craft settles to the ground, bracing its limbs with an elegance at odds with its appearance.

Arthur tenses, repositioning himself to hide you and Valentine behind him.

"Just how on Earth did this get past our defenses…?"

Of course, there's no response. It's close enough now to loom over you. Without a sound, the oversized monstrosity leans forward, allowing a port located in its sternum to open as it touches upon solid earth.

Before anything else can happen, a man's voice drifts out, pleasant and smooth.

"Now, now, Ganta. Just who taught you to raise your hand against me?"

The boy shudders. "Ah…"

You swallow a lump in your throat as the leader of the Guignol steps into view.

The first thing you notice is how strangely unassuming he looks. Certainly, the lavender shade of his hair is odd, but by itself not worth much thought these days. His pointed ears, which you can just barely see from here, might have him mistaken for an Alice–that is, if he weren't so obviously an adult.

As you shift your gaze to examine his face, he meets your eyes.


There is a sense of being pinned. Analyzed. Taken apart and gently posed, as if a butterfly to be preserved.

It is not judgement. No conclusion is being made here. You are simply studied and collected.

You are a truly insignificant being.

It takes you a thousand years to remember to breathe again. It takes another before feeling returns to your limbs.

A small smile soon touches his lips - little more than a quirk of the lips - and he soon passes you over for Arthur and Lina. You sense more than you see as the same sensation washes over them, though they seem to handle it far better than you do.

Arthur simply shakes his head doggedly, brushing it away with a growl. Lina shivers and pulls closer to her Attendant, flattening her ears.

The man manages to collect himself in time to ask a half-hearted question.

"Just what in the hell are you?"

His only response is a laugh.

One by one, the head of Guignol looks upon your group. As soon as he sees the still-sleeping Lily, a full-blown grin appears on his face. He crosses the gap before you notice, appearing only a few steps away from you, lovingly cradling what remains of the girl's body.

"Lily, my sweet. You've grown up wonderfully. A Beast…"

He pauses and flicks his eyes over to Ganta.

"...Though, how could things have ever progressed so far, here? Hm?"

Ganta is the most pathetic you've ever seen him. The boy sinks to his knees before choking out apologies.

"I-I'm sorry, Papa."

You can't even enjoy the sight. Oddly, though, it seems that neither does he.

"Ah, come now. Don't cry. Tell me why you attacked me, my child."

You watch, heart in your mouth, as the man draws near. He shifts Lily around to free up a hand, reaching out to ruffle the boy's hair.

An expression of near-rapture appears on Ganta's face–then the flames in his eyes die out, and he slumps forward, dead.


It's almost comical, the way Papa pauses at that. His hand is left hanging in the air for a moment longer as he blinks at the corpse before him.

He looks around, confused–

Jesus Christ..... he can just nullify Alice Powers. And he is just the Arc 1-2 Boss..... he seems pretty overwhelming and powerful right now..... time to find his weaknesses and ruthlessly exploit them. I would guess that the nullification is either something he himself causes or technological in nature. He could also be a perfected Alice...... an Alice that does not suffer from the drawbacks of having the mentality of a child

Well it certainly is an effective way to take Ganta out of the Equasion. His power is very very strong and destructive. At least he will probably no longer be of active use for Gungoils operations. Still they can probably still make use of his corpse.
–and locks eyes with Valentine.


Your Alice freezes like a deer in headlights, caught beneath the full force of his gaze. The man tilts his head.

"...Is this your doing, girl? I thought his eyes were strange, but it seems that it was not a result of the latest fashion. Hm."


Your brain locks up at his words. What kind of fashion–?

No. Don't think too hard about it. In a way, confirmation of his insanity is almost comforting. Really, you don't know what else you expected.

He hums in thought for a moment longer, gently bouncing Lily in his arms as if she were simply a sleeping child.

"No, no. He was already dead, to have collapsed at my touch like that. Then…"

His eyes widen in shock.

"Could you be–?"

He takes a step towards Valentine.

On instinct, you throw yourself in front of her. The force of will required to perform such a simple movement leaves you sweating bullets, but it's enough to bar the way.

A frown appears on his face, and the spell is broken.

Arthur is the first to react, dashing forward to pull both you and Val away from danger. Following that, Lina blinks owlishly, then lets out a yelp of alarm upon registering just how close the enemy is.

"How did–!"

Arthur smacks his cheek with one hand, keeping a steady eye on the threat before you. His breath comes in short, ragged gasps.

"Fucking hell, was I asleep or something? What was I doing, just standing there?"

Papa ignores their panic. He continues to look at you–but this time, there's no accompanying feeling of helplessness.

His frown deepens.

"...Who are you?"

[Select one.]

>"Just a medic."

>"Go fuck yourself."

>"Her (legal) guardian, I guess."


First freebie of the thread!

This vote is mildly important. You won't see why until much later, lol, lmao, but I have many things planned now.
judging by my track record though I expect at least 80% of it to be trashed and rewritten within a day
>"Just a medic and someone that cares about her."

She might be a little rascal but she is still our little rascal and we took responsibility after pretty luch pishing her into service

Als Papa has hypnotic powers.... intersting.
>say nothing
>"Just a medic."
>"Just a medic and someone that cares about her."

Against your better judgment, you respond.

"Just a medic…"

Val lets out a little squeak as you grab her hand.


"...And someone that cares."

A touch of heat comes to your face as you speak, but it's not like you're lying. Even if you've known this girl for all of three days, you're nothing if not a bleeding heart. And besides, you'll effectively be her caretaker for… probably the rest of your life, really. God knows that she needs it. Just makes sense to feel a little attached to your charge.

Excuses made, you glance over at the girl in question. You weren't too presumptuous, were you?

Though she's turned her face to the ground, her tail's drawing figure-eights. Her grip is practically crushing.

Uh. Looks like you're in the clear, probably.

Thankfully, Papa chooses that moment to speak.

"Tell me, do you know just what it is you have there?"

"An Alice."

Next to you, Arthur snorts. He's settled into some kind of stance, still-spotless knuckledusters gripped tightly in his hands. He meets your eyes for a moment and cracks a little grin.


"How irreverent. I shouldn't have expected anything else. Give me the Key--the girl."

An irritating indulgence colors Papa's voice, as if he were speaking to a particularly annoying child.

"What, not even going to say you'll spare us if we do?"

You catch hold of your temper. Time he wastes talking is time for reinforcements to arrive.

They have to be coming.

The man before you raises a hand to cover a humorless laugh.

"Hah. Perhaps I shall. Would you be interested in becoming an Alice? We've been looking to make Wonderland Effect a little more… palatable."

Arthur and Lina both tense as he dips his fingers into a pocket. He withdraws a little pink lozenge before offering it to you.

"Care for a taste test?"

"I'll pass, thanks. As a doctor, I can't advise taking suspicious drugs."

"Ah, well. More's the pity."

With a wave, the candy disappears from sight. You've got something else on your mind, though.

"I'm curious. What's this about Valentine being a 'Key'?"

damn did we just embarass our little Val?

its a bit late for Valentines Day is it not.
A thin-lipped smile spreads across Papa's face at your question, obscuring any other emotion you might have been able to read off of him.

Ah, shit. You pushed too hard. You blame your nerves.

"Nothing that you need concern yourself with. If you will not give her to me, then…"

Multiple things occur all at once, then.

Papa blurs into motion, disappearing from sight–

Arthur's eyes widen, and he lunges in front of you–

Lina snarls, releasing Kon once more–

–and bare inches from your face, Arthur's fists smash aside Papa's clawed hand, whose nails have suddenly elongated and darkened into razor tips extending well past his fingers.

Caught off guard, you're too slow to react as his dagger-like digits score a trio of thin lines beneath your eye–but with the Attendant's timely intervention, the wound is purely cosmetic.

Even with Lily still slung over his shoulder, Papa manages to dance out of the way of Lina's follow-up strike. She doesn't seem too torn up over it, though, and you soon see why.

The moment Papa hops over her leg sweep, Kon rushes in from the side, jaws stretched wide enough to swallow him twice over. Victory seems almost certain–yet once the wolf-construct bites down on him, it shatters, dissipating into a fine black mist, a one-for-one match of what happened when it tried to bite down on the helicopter.

Lina springs off the ground with a growl. The normally cheery girl has her ears flattened in frustrated rage, and if looks could kill, Papa would be dead a dozen times over.

For his part, the man looks nothing if not amused.

"Now, why would you ever think that would work again? It failed the first time. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, it's true, but you're an Alice, dear. Age is hardly an issue."

"I'm a fox, you--!"

Arthur interrupts before she can finish her outraged response.

"Lina, control yourself. You're a smart girl, don't let him lead you by the nose. Look at his arm. He can't take regular attacks."

With a start, you realize his words ring true. Though you wouldn't know it from Papa's demeanor, the arm that Arthur had hammered at is hanging limply at his side. It's unlikely that he'll be able to use it for much, not unless he can regenerate like Lily.

It seems he can't though. The man in question lets out a theatrical sigh and shakes his head, and the wound on your face throbs in response.

"Ah, to think it'd come to this. I'm not much of a fighter, I'm afraid. But I simply cannot leave without the girl."

At that, an unfamiliar voice cuts through the air.

"You won't be leaving at all."

Against your better judgement, you take your eyes off of Papa and twist around to look at the new arrival–a man perched precariously on a ledge high above your group, an old-fashioned suitcase in hand. Though you can't quite make out the details of his face from here, you recognize the outfit he's wearing as some kind of… dress? No, a yukata.

Before you can further peruse the questionable trivia that comes with decades of watching anime, Arthur lets out a long groan.

"Wait a second. That voice… Ah, fuck, don't tell me they sent you."

Though he hasn't once taken his eyes off of Papa, the Attendant hacks a bloody gob of spit off to the side, clearly disgruntled.

The new arrival scoffs.

"You would do well to receive my aid, Amantea. Or would you prefer to spill a few more liters of that worthless blood of yours? Though I'm afraid I can't allow you to die, a few more minutes to watch you get beat around makes no difference to me."

"Oh, shut up and help, Takeo."

"Hmph. Very well."

With that, the man drops his suitcase to the ground. As the latches fly open, he gives you a considering look.

"You. I believe they said your name was Jack Yang? I advise you and your Alice stand still. Very still."

"Hey, what about me and Lina!?"

"Fend for yourself, Amantea. You Americans should be capable of that much, at least."

You have a moment to look confused before your world becomes a roaring storm of paper and ink.

Valentine lets out a little shriek as the stream of talismans pours forth to blot out the moon. Somehow, though, the river of ink splits neatly around you before continuing to race towards the lavender-haired man standing in the distance.

Papa shoots you a glare before letting out a disappointed sigh.

"Can't you see how stale this world has become? How desperately we need change? The Key–ah, well."

Lily in tow, the leader of the Grand-Guignol beats a hasty retreat towards his aircraft, entering just moments before the tide of paper slams into it.

Through what seems to be sheer force and volume, it manages to rock the oversized monstrosity. How–?

Wait, of course. If the nullification ability is touch-based - and it certainly seems that way - then even if the talismans lose their connection to whatever's controlling them, they can still serve as a kind of medium. The rest of the sheets won't be directly touching the machine, after all.

Your analysis is interrupted as Arthur shoves his way towards you through the tide of paper, Lina in tow. With a sputter, the man rips a fluttering tag free from his mouth, then throws it over his shoulder. You stare as the bloodstained strip floats in the air almost drunkenly before flying back into the mix, almost animalistic in its movements.

"Geh. I'd rather go a few more rounds with Lily than receive Takeo's 'help.'"

He glances at the man in question and shakes his head in disgust. In a voice so quiet it's nearly drowned out by the cacophony of rustling leaves, Val asks the question you'd very much like an answer to.

"I-I don't understand. How's he doing this? He's not an Alice, is he?"

Lina shakes her head in response, wiping away sweat from her brow.

"Don't let him catch you saying that. Takeo's an Attendant, kinda. It's something like an exchange program from one of the East Asian branches. He… he's not very nice to Alices."

At that, Arthur barks out a forced laugh.

"Oh, he hates them. I don't know what they're thinking over there, approving his license, no matter how good he is."

He plucks a talisman and holds it up for inspection, ignoring the way it tries to wriggle out of his grasp. You can't read the calligraphy painted onto it, but it certainly looks intricate.

"These little shits, he makes them all by hand with his Alice and controls them. Takes forever, but she enchants every last one of them with her ability. Not that you'll ever see her out on the field with him. Or with him at all, really. He barely interacts with the girl. Says it isn't her place or some stupid shit."

"Arty, it's not like he's the only one who thinks that way. Some of our own, too…"

"Ah, they can all jam it up theirs. Lina, ears or not, you're as human as me, doesn't matter what these stupid laws say. Give 'em another decade in the care course, maybe that'll teach 'em right."

She smiles sadly at his impassioned words and pats his arm before turning to face you.

"Sorry, Jack. Arty got into a fight with him a few weeks back and hasn't quite gotten over it yet. Um, try and form your own opinion of him, okay? I'm sure he has his reasons."

You give an uncertain nod in response. Right.

"Doesn't really sound like my kind of guy, to be honest, but I'll try and keep an open mind."

You can't say you're entirely surprised, though. Fear of Alices is more or less the public response to them, and with the destruction they tend to cause, outright hatred is understandable, even if it's not an opinion you personally share.

Looking down at your own Alice, you find that a great deal of your own concerns regarding them have… lessened, at least. Her quirks aside, you can't really see Val hurting someone without due cause. Though you're a bit surprised by the fact that there exist Attendants on rough terms with their Alices, Dmitri did warn you of something to this effect.

God, it feels like it's been months since you last saw him.

You're startled out of your thoughts as a sudden darkness falls over you. Once again, the moon is blotted out–this time by the massive sight of the Guignol helicopter taking flight.

You shield your eyes as gale-force winds buffets your group, scattering talismans every which way. The craft is practically covered in them, looking for all the world like an oversized school art project, but seems to have escaped any significant damage. Even as you watch, tags periodically flake off of it like a second skin, losing power upon contact.

Above you, Takeo conducts the seemingly never-ending stream of papers to follow the craft as it lifts into the air, forming chains to try and keep it tethered to the ground to little effect. He grimaces, and with a sharp flick of the wrist, nearly succeeds in wrenching off one of its limbs. At the last second, it slips free with an ominous creak, and a storm of shredded paper rains down upon you like so much confetti.

Arthur lets out a heavy sigh.

"Ah, well. Can't say I didn't expect this, really, but at least we managed to chase him off."

You take a quick step away and pull Val behind you as a bridge of paper materializes nearby. Takeo picks up his suitcase - really, how on Earth did that thing manage to hold so much paper? - and slides down with practiced movements.

Once he comes to a stop, the man turns on his heel and begins complaining immediately.

"Amantea, I expected better of you. Surely your Alice could have helped with that summon of hers.

Out of some sense of obligation, you feel the need to interject.

[Select one.]

>Sharply. "Lay off. Didn't you see the way your papers flaked off? It's obvious there was some kind of power nullification in effect. Kon broke apart as soon as he touched the damn thing."

>Calmly. "Hey now. They did their best and held up pretty well, fighting on their own like that. Even managed to land a blow on the leader. I'm not sure how, but it seems like only regular attacks would've done anything."

>Just stay quiet. You'd rather not have him turn his attention to you, and–shit, is that Ganta's corpse over there?

>Calmly. "Hey now. They did their best and held up pretty well, fighting on their own like that. Even managed to land a blow on the leader. I'm not sure how, but it seems like only regular attacks would've done anything."

Dude... Chill. We were fighting for our lives and the lives of the people around here. If you had not twiddled your thumb and announced yourself to him you might have actually managed to ground his escape vector before he could use it.
The second part here is not part of a vote but how i think right now.
>>Calmly. "Hey now. They did their best and held up pretty well, fighting on their own like that. Even managed to land a blow on the leader. I'm not sure how, but it seems like only regular attacks would've done anything."
>>Calmly. "Hey now. They did their best and held up pretty well, fighting on their own like that. Even managed to land a blow on the leader. I'm not sure how, but it seems like only regular attacks would've done anything."
>Just stay quiet. You'd rather not have him turn his attention to you, and–shit, is that Ganta's corpse over there?

Can't help but feel like Ganta's corpse can't be used again after being touched by that guy, but in the event something like this is time sensitive I feel that it should be checked out now
>Calmly. "Hey now. They did their best and held up pretty well, fighting on their own like that. Even managed to land a blow on the leader. I'm not sure how, but it seems like only regular attacks would've done anything."
Sorry, probably won't be able to get an update out tonight. Feeling a little under the weather. On the bright side, I do have most of the next update pre-written, so I should be able to post a little earlier than usual tomorrow...uh, today, now that I look at the clock. hopefully, at least
Thanks for reading!
It's all good QM, health comes first.
>Calmly. "Hey now. They did their best and held up pretty well, fighting on their own like that. Even managed to land a blow on the leader. I'm not sure how, but it seems like only regular attacks would've done anything."

Arthur looks ready to sock Takeo in the face. Though you can't really blame him, it's best to intervene before it gets that far.

"Hey now. I'd say they did pretty damn well, you know? Held off a Beast pretty much by themselves for a while there, and they even managed to land a hit on Papa."

Takeo pauses his tongue-lashing to turn and face you, pushing up his glasses as he does so. The scowl on his face is a bit unnerving, but you soon realize that it's his default expression.

Admittedly, that doesn't really make it any less uncomfortable to talk to him, but you're familiar enough with the idea of "resting bitch face" to not hold it against him.

"Hm. I suppose that is true enough. But they did receive help from you and… your Alice, did they not?"

"I barely did anything, really. Mostly just ran around a lot."

He gives you an appraising look.

"Humility is a virtue. I heard a brief report, but the agent you saved - Miss Harrison Schmidt - was rather earnest in trying to convince me to deliver her message…"

Behind him, Arthur rolls his eyes.

"Get on with it, Takeo. The kid's tired, and you and I both have reports to file. The boss is gonna want to hear about Papa."

"Hmph. Well, she says she 'would like to meet you sometime soon to thank you again.' Whenever is convenient for you, but possibly within the next few days."

Before you can come up with a response to that, a gentle tug on your sleeve alerts you to Val.


Your Alice looks dead on her feet. Now that the adrenaline's beginning to wear off, the results of overtaxing herself to raise Ganta are finally beginning to catch up to her.

Lina raises a hand. "Ah, would you like for us to call–?"

Best to pick her up before she actually collapses. You wrap Val's arms around your neck and lift her so her head's resting on your shoulder, taking care to avoid her halo. Embarrassed, she puts up a token fight before giving in to her exhaustion.

If you close your eyes and ignore her horns, you may as well be holding one of your nieces. Though she's a bit larger than they were, you can at least handle this much. Good thing her wings fold in.

With a start, you realize you've interrupted Lina. Apologetically, you nod at her.

"Sorry. You were saying something?"

The fox-girl giggles. "Nevermind!"

"If you say so."

Whew. Actually, you take it back. Val's normally pretty light, but you're not feeling too hot after all that exercise.

A quick glance at Takeo shows a slightly deeper frown to his face, but it passes so soon you're not sure if you simply imagined it. He looks off to the side, surveying the wreckage of the area.

"Hrm. Two… No, maybe three weeks to repair these structures."

With that insane declaration, he claps his hands twice. The various sheets that litter the area begin funneling into his suitcase, kicking up a breeze with the sheer volume of paper being moved around.

You're really going to have to ask either Arthur or him how that works later, but right now you're more preoccupied with what he just said.

"I'm sorry. Did I mishear you? Three weeks to fix…?"

"Five days to clear the mess, but the rest should be well within the Protectorate's means. At least, for my home branch, it would be. I expect your Glaswelt to have much the same capabilities."

Arthur snorts. "Yeah, yeah. Want to bet on it? Two weeks of repair time. 30k USD."

"Gambling is a vice for fools and the poor, and I have no interest in swindling either. You would do well to direct those funds towards less frivolous pursuits, Amantea."

"Are you calling me an idiot?"

"Are you poor?"

You can only gape at their conversation.

"N-no, but…"

Lina lets out an exasperated sigh and trots over to you, away from where the two Attendants are butting heads.

"Sorry, Jack. We're professionals! I promise!"

"It's not as if I doubt it. I just–really, three weeks?"

You've driven over roads with potholes at least a decade old. Even if you skip past the complex maze of infrastructure and budgeting politics, though, there's just no possible way for repairs to be finished so quickly.

"Well, it does cost a pretty penny, but Alices can make quite the difference, you know. And we're always prepared for disasters! Though, I think this is the first time we've ever had something like this…"

"If you guys are so effective, then why…?"


You know why. Takeo is a living example of why.

There's no trust towards Alices. Even the Protectorate and its Attendants are side-eyed by the general public for the most part.

Seeing that you understand, Lina nods.

"Mm. It… Well, I can't say it makes sense, coming from my perspective. But I try to understand, Jack. I try. Even if it makes me a little sad."

You shift Val a bit so you can get a proper view of Lina as she speaks. A sudden question leaps to the forefront of your mind.

"How old were you when you, uh, became an Alice?"

The regret is immediate.

"How rude of you, to ask a woman her age!"

She rears back in mock offense, one hand raised as if to smack you. You take a step back–there's no way it won't hurt, even if she hits you as a joke. Lina's strong as hell.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

The Alice lets out a huff and settles for flicking you instead. It's not much of a mercy; combined with your present fatigue, it takes all you have to avoid taking a knee.

Retribution delivered, Lina settles back down, watching as Arthur tries and fails to challenge Takeo to a contest of strength.

("Are you even a man!? Fight me, damnit! I can still take you like this!")

("Arm-wrestling is a poor measure of strength, and insecurities over your masculinity are unbecoming.")

("Gah! Fuck you! I'm heading back first!")

"For your information, I'm about… Oh, 40? 42? A little bit younger than Arty!"

She hums. You think about commenting on the fact that she's older than you. The aching pain in your thigh tells you to shut up and stay quiet.

It's not long before she speaks again.

"I was Arty's wife. I still am, even if no one but us two recognize it… No, he doesn't do that with me, wipe that look off your face!"

"Oh, good. For a moment I thought I'd have to call the police."

"Hmph. I may look like this now, but I'm a mother to two, you know. Kon included!"

"Hah. And the other?"

"A daughter. 18 years. Just entered college. She's a good girl. Still keeps in contact, even though I'm like this now. Really, I think she handled it better than Arty did!"

"What's this about me?"

A rather annoyed-looking Arthur interrupts. As soon as he starts touching Lina's fluffy ears, though, the tension visibly leaves his body.

"Nothing special, Arty. Are your hands clean?"

"Clean as a whistle, dear."

Incredible. Animals aren't normally ever allowed into hospital settings, but maybe you can figure out a way to simulate and patent something similar as a stress relief.

His wife waits a bit longer before shaking him off.

"Are we going back now?"

"Yeah. State of emergency hasn't been called off yet, so it's not like we can call a cab, but someone should be coming to pick us up once we enter a more-intact area."

He looks up at you, then claps you on the shoulder.

"Want to come with us? We'll drop you off at the Academy. We've got a bit of time, too, so if there's anything you still want to do around here…"

He tapers off, realizing the absurdity of what he's saying. An awkward silence stretches out.

In the distance, a building collapses, finally succumbing to the numerous fractures inflicted upon its foundation.

You both studiously avoid looking each other in the face.


>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."

[Select up to three options, unless voting to skip.]

>Skip ahead to the Academy. You want that juicy school life. Wait, didn't Emily say something about paperwork a while back?
>"So, uh, how did you guys meet, anyways?"
>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"
>"Do–do I get a reward for, uh, any of this?"
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"

[///] OR [///]

>"Much appreciated. I'd actually like to stay and talk to Takeo for a bit longer. Can you take Val off my hands for me? I'll catch up with you in a bit."

[Select up to three things to talk about.]

>"Do you… dislike Alices? Can I ask why?"
>"I have to know. How on Earth does that suitcase work?"
>"Would you happen to be a priest of some sort?"
>"I'm curious. What's your branch like? How's Glaswelt been treating you?"

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Clarification on votes:

You'll be collecting Ganta's body next update no matter what you choose, so don't worry about that. Also, you'll still be heading off to the Academy with Lina and Arthur, no matter what you choose. I'm reasoning that you're so tired you'll fall asleep while in the car.
This vote is more about whose bonds you wish to further develop. For the record, not speaking to Takeo here won't necessarily lock you out of anything by itself; you'll just have to make more of an effort to connect with his related plot threads and stories.

Also, have a meme. Substitute sensei for Jack, the perpetually single protagonist.
Gah fuck the part I had pre-written ended up not being used at all!
Also I think this is the first full update I've completed in a single go since basically day one of the quest, I'm ashamed... Thank you for bearing with my piecemeal updates!
>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."

>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>"I take it your *disagreement* with Takeo comes from the way he seems to treat his Alice and you treat your partner? How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"

Right now i would rather Pursue Arthurs Bond. And i would like to find out more about Takeo. He seems to have a... i am not so sure. He might not hate Alices..... He might just be convinced that they should stay away from fighting if they can not directly contribute. His Alice seems to be one that needs lots and lots of preparation for her talismans. So he might not take her with him because it would only put him in danger and would allow his Alice to remain of use even if he should fail. Just my two cents on my reasoning for leaving

Grats OP.
on both parts. Have a great night anyway and no need to feel ashamed. Writing can take a lot out of people especially the Setup.
Danke, danke.
I'll note that you actually have two of the same vote--asking how Arthur got into a fight with Takeo. You can swap one out for a different one.
Yeah thank you for noticing that. I was in a bit of a rush this morning. I am >>5183126 just on my phone

and just out of curiosity. Why German?

Ammending my vote from >>5183126
>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."

>"So, uh, how did you guys meet, anyways?"
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>"I take it your *disagreement* with Takeo comes from the way he seems to treat his Alice and you treat your partner? How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"
I don't actually speak German, unfortunately! Or fortunately, depending on who you ask. According to some friends, learning it as a second language is utter hell.
Nah, I just think German "danke" sounds nice when you say it twice.
Yeah i can only imagine. It can be a very.... flexible and expressive language.

But i completely get why people hate the different times and forms. I understand like only half of them myself on a concious level. The other half i use only subconciously.
>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>"So, uh, how did you guys meet, anyways?"
>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"
>>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."
>"So, uh, how did you guys meet, anyways?"
>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."

>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"
>"Do–do I get a reward for, uh, any of this?"
>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>"So, uh, how did you guys meet, anyways?"
>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"

>"I was Arty's wife. I still am, even if no one but us two recognize it… No, he doesn't do that with me, wipe that look off your face!"
>"Oh, good. For a moment I thought I'd have to call the police."

Why though?
>"Yeah, thanks. I could use the rest. Hell of a first day."
>"Do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"
>"So, uh, how did you guys meet, anyways?"
>"How'd you get in a fight with Takeo, anyways?"

You let out a heavy sigh.

"Yeah, thanks. I could use a break. Hell of a first day."

Arthur laughs in response.

"Not a bad start, though, eh?"

"Are you kidding? First I had to fight off two Alices, then deal with Lily after she turned into a Beast. As if that wasn't enough, we ended up coming face-to-face with the leader of the goddamn Guignol. You call that 'not bad'?"

You can't help but let a little incredulity creep into your voice. Now that you've laid things out like that, it almost doesn't feel real. It's as if you're finally paying the price for lazing about these past few years. If you weren't busy patting a sleeping Valentine on the back, you'd probably be crying into your hands.

Unexpectedly, Arthur simply nods in agreement, a grin on his face.

"You're exactly right. And you know what? You're still here to complain about it. Still kicking. Full transparency, I know some Attendants that couldn't do half as well as you. You've got real promise, Jack."

"I–Arthur, we couldn't even finish the job with Lily."

"Eh, sure. But you know, officially speaking, handling a Beast is normally a job for four, maybe even five of us at a time."

He pauses to rub his throat, then eyes your bag.

"Sorry, but do you have any water in there? I'm parched."

"Yeah, always make sure to pack a few."

With one hand, you unzip a pocket and rummage around a bit before tossing him a lukewarm bottle. He nods in thanks, takes a gulp, then passes it over to Lina before continuing.

"Probably didn't look that way, but Lily was surprisingly simple for a whole bunch of reasons. She wasn't rampaging mindlessly. Wasn't a fuckoff-huge monster. Hell, she was still getting used to using direct attacks. Really, if it weren't for that Papa of theirs butting in, things would've gone pretty well. And before you say anything, don't tell me you didn't contribute."

You close your mouth, shut down before you can even get a word in edgewise.

"Sure, maybe Jack Yang himself couldn't have done much against a Beast. But ask yourself, and answer honestly–would Valentine have done as well without you? And didn't you successfully take down Ganta and Lily? Don't lie, Jack."

"...Fine. But what about Papa, then? I was a total deadweight there."

He gives you an amused snort.

"Gotta say, it's the first time I've ever met someone so desperately try to pass themselves off as useless."

"What, never seen a slacker before?"

"Hah. Slackers don't last long in our line of work, Jack. And if you're a slacker, well, I'm even worse off."

Lina coughs into a fist. "If you're already aware of that, dear, why not try and wake up in the morning without my help for once?"

"That aside! Listen, if the Guignol were that easy to stop, the Protectorate wouldn't be necessary. Not to mention you're still a greenhorn… Nah, untrained. Hard to call you inexperienced after all this. Some of us don't get to see Beasts for months at a time."

He looks up at the moon for a moment, then pulls out his phone to check the time.

"Trust me, Jack. You've surpassed anyone's wildest expectations. Just don't go blabbing about it when you're in the Academy, will you? Opsec and all."

"Ah… About that. I won't get dragged in for questioning or anything, will I?"

"Oh, no, they'll definitely call you in. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but sometime this week for sure. Expect a message from the Spine. You know, Administration. The top brass."

You swallow a sudden lump in your throat. While you understand why it's necessary, you can't help but feel nervous at the prospect of meeting your future employers like this. Or are they already your bosses?

"Uh. In that case, do you have any advice for me and Val, going forward?"

"Ah, don't look so scared. The worst they can do is kill you. Maybe put on the thumbtacks."


"A joke! It was a joke! But to answer your question… Hm. Honestly, Jack, I dunno what to say to you. Be a little more specific."

"What to say when I get interrogated, then?"

Arthur blinks, surprised by the genuine concern in your voice.

"You're really worried about that? Come on, Jack. Plenty of people to vouch for you. Put a little faith in the people you saved. And me. Though I guess I do fall under that, in a way. Not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but blasting apart that Beast really helped us out. Good work there."

"If you're sure."

"They'll probably just ask you for your version of events. Relax. Though, I guess Valentine's power might raise a few eyebrows."

You wince. "Yeah. Can't exactly ask them for corpses to use up front, can I?"

Lina frowns, lost in thought.

"It… depends? Maybe they can work something out with prisoners slated for death row. Do you know if it works on animals too?"

"Val hasn't said anything about it."

"Something to test later, then!"

shit, my bad, was so tired I fell asleep as soon as I got home. Will be updating earlier than usual as an apology. Thanks for your understanding.
Its all good QM. Please take care not to overdo it and burn yourself out.
It's fine QM take your time.
A friendly silence settles, allowing you more time to think on your next question–namely, how Arthur and Takeo got into a fight to begin with. You're in the middle of working out a way of phrasing it that makes you less of a busybody hen Arthur shakes his head and prompts you before you're prepared.

"Come on, tell me what's going through your head. I won't bite."

"--Eh? Oh, uh. Okay. I was just wondering…"

You try to buy yourself a bit more time, but it's too late. Arthur's already waving for you to go on. With nothing else coming to mind, you plunge forward.

"...Why did you start fighting with Takeo, anyways?"

He blinks at you, and you're forced to try to hide your instinctive cringe of embarrassment. Arthur runs a hand through his hair as he thinks, shaking free a small shower of dust.

"Nevermind, sorry. Don't know why I asked that."

Oddly enough, though, he simply waves off your apology. It seems like he's actually going to answer you.

"No, no, it's fine. Honestly, it's mostly just embarrassing for me. Uh, where should I begin…"

He idly scratches his chin, then nods decisively.

"Yeah, sure. I've already told you a little bit about Takeo's Alice, haven't I?"

"Sure. Doesn't appear in public very often and in a rocky working relationship with him. Lina said the fight was a few weeks ago?"

"Right. Takeo hasn't been here for very long, barely over a month. Usually keeps to himself, too, so while most of us already knew there was going to be a visiting Attendant from one of the East Asian bases, actual information on him hadn't really made the rounds, yet.

I was running a job for the Academy. Not a lot to do when you're stuck at home base, but they rotate who's on roster and who gets out in the field twice a year… not important, you'll learn more about it later. What is important is that that's how I met his Alice.

Didn't even know who she was at first. Actually, she's the kind of Alice that could pass for a regular human. It's not as if there's a booming population of typical teenagers on base, though, so it was easy enough to figure out she's an Alice.

But I digress. Just saw her milling around and looking all wide-eyed at the grounds, fresh off the station. Can't blame her; beautiful place. Probably the smallest sector in Glaswelt, right after Residential in the west, but probably the best campus in America. Even gives graduates official diplomas and everything.

Now, kind soul that I am, I go over to help her. After I finish my delivery, of course. A job is a job."

"Was a little surprised to still find her there, to be honest, but figured she was probably just lost. Right away, we ran into a little communication block. She couldn't speak a lick of English, just gave me a confused look when I tried. I'm nothing if not skilled, though! Master of a million languages."

Lina rolls her eyes at that.

"Arty, knowing how to say 'hello' and 'where is the restroom' doesn't make you a master."

"Hey, it's always important to know. Anyways, I tried cycling through what I had until I got a response. About halfway through, though, Takeo came in out of nowhere. Easy enough to figure out he was a foreigner, just looking at the way he dressed."

Arthur nods in Takeo's general direction, then pulls you a little closer. The levity disappears from his voice.

"Now, as a father, I understand the value of discipline. Sometimes a few smacks are necessary. I get that. But that's something that should be done behind closed doors. Not in public.

Altogether, I can't say I know him well. Not sure if I want to, either. But for what it's worth, it was the first and only time I've seen the man really infuriated. He's a right bastard, but he's not really one for shouting. That time, though? He tore her a new one right in the middle of the station–all in Japanese, of course, so it's not like I knew what she'd done to deserve it. Can probably guess, but…"

He leans back a bit, eyes shut in thought.

"Honestly, it was kind of odd. She cried, sure, but she didn't say a word the whole time. Just wiped her eyes a lot. Lina, you know anything about that?"

"I've only ever seen her in passing. She waves when you say hello, but that's about it."

At that moment, Valentine shifts a bit, half-stirring. You have to turn your head away to avoid getting poked by her horns, but continue patting her back as mumbles something about food. Soon afterwards, the Alice settles back into light snoring.

You're still pondering the oddity of Takeo's own Alice. There's a number of reasons for her apparent lack of speech, ranging from severe introversion to simple unfamiliarity with the language, but you can't be certain without having met her yourself. You shake your head to clear it, then refocus on Arthur.

"Alright. Where's the fight?"

"Ah, darn. You really don't let up, do you… Well, to make a long story short, I stepped in to stop him from hitting her. It probably wouldn't have done much - Alices are supposed to be tough, even compared to us Attendants - but she seemed like a nice enough girl, and watching it was… ruining what would have been a pleasant day. Let's call it that."

Even to you, it's obvious the man looks a little uncomfortable.

As if seeing the question in your eyes, Arthur sighs. He claps a hand to your shoulder - the one Val isn't sleeping on - and gathers himself.

"Listen, Jack. Butting in on another Attendant's business, especially when it concerns their Alice, is considered a real faux pas. Out of jurisdiction. Do I regret what I did? No, not really. But I do wish I had a little more information before I went ahead with it, you know? Things got a little ugly, and it really just felt like I made things worse for her."

"...Yeah. I get it."

He thumps you again, then drops his hand.

"Alright, Jack. My turn to play 20 Questions. Let me ask you something. How would you have handled that situation? No right or wrong answers here. Can't promise I won't judge you, though… Nah, just fooling."

He cracks a grin at that, but you can tell he's expecting a serious answer.

[Select one.]

>Thinking about it honestly, you probably would have done the same. It's all well and good to plan, but some things in life must be acted on, even if you don't have all the information. You tend to trust your gut.

>It's not easy to admit, but you likely would've just kept walking. Human relations are complicated things, and throwing Alices into the mix–no, it's just not for you. If you were there, you either would've intervened before it had the chance to escalate, or just stayed away outright.

>It might be the cop-out answer, but you simply don't have enough information. How hard could it have been to just get an explanation from Takeo? Would he have brushed you off? You can't say for certain, but you would've tried for moderation. Call it being a concerned citizen or something.

>Write-in. This is encouraged, but not strictly necessary.

Blugh, this fought me every step of the way. Can't say I'm too happy with it, but I hope it's still acceptable. Good thing I had the first part drafted at least, so I didn't have to stall that much.
>>"To be honest. Its a very difficult question. If i had to make the judgement in a split second.... I like to think i would have also stepped in. Alices are still human still have feelings.

With more information about any kind of social norms for Alices and Attendandts i might not have done it out of social conditioning. Maybe it a cultural thing with them. Or he could be like an extremely worried father that goes way overboard in his methods trying to instill virtues into his 'charge' "

Shrug your shoulders. "I for one think you still did the right thing. No one deserves to be hit just for wandering away from their chaperone in a supposedly safe location surrounded by wonders."

Sorry about that here>>5186161 forgot to add the >

Ammending my vote to read like.

>>"To be honest. Its a very difficult question. If i had to make the judgement in a split second.... I like to think i would have also stepped in. Alices are still human still have feelings.

>>With more information about any kind of social norms for Alices and Attendandts i might not have done it out of social conditioning. Maybe it a cultural thing with them. Or he could be like an extremely worried father that goes way overboard in his methods trying to instill virtues into his 'charge' "

>>Shrug your shoulders. "I for one think you still did the right thing. No one deserves to be hit just for wandering away from their chaperone in a supposedly safe location surrounded by wonders."
>Thinking about it honestly, you probably would have done the same. It's all well and good to plan, but some things in life must be acted on, even if you don't have all the information. You tend to trust your gut.
>Thinking about it honestly, you probably would have done the same. It's all well and good to plan, but some things in life must be acted on, even if you don't have all the information. You tend to trust your gut.
>Thinking about it honestly, you probably would have done the same. It's all well and good to plan, but some things in life must be acted on, even if you don't have all the information. You tend to trust your gut.

You consider Arthur's words for a moment, rolling them over in your mind.

How would you have handled a scene like that? You've never really been one for upfront confrontations–at least, you don't think so. Other than the occasional bit of roughhousing in your childhood, fighting was never really part of your life.

Not for the first time, you realize how fortunate you are to have had such a peaceful upbringing.

Slowly, though, you're beginning to realize just how little it fits you.

"...Yeah, I probably would have done the same as you."

"Oh? Can't say I expected that. From what I've seen, you look like the sort that's level-headed."

"Not too long ago, I might have agreed with you. No, I would have, for certain."

"Why the change of heart?"

You let out a little laugh at his question.

"I don't know if you can even call it a change of heart, really. Maybe more… I don't know, a rediscovery. An opportunity to see what I'm really like, outside the comfort of an everyday life."

In retrospect, would a rational person really decide to stick around in an active warzone with zero experience? Even with Valentine, there was no reason to think that amateurs like you would've been anything more than a dead weight during the fight against Ganta and Lily, let alone Lily as a Beast.

But… you stayed. You fought--or, well, something like it, anyways. You actually contributed, even if it didn't feel like much to you at the time. Something had pushed you onwards. A long-forgotten childish dream.

Well, you always knew that sitting behind a desk wasn't really for you.

"Mm. Sorry to break your image of me, Arthur, but I've got a bit of a temper, too. I do try to rein it in a little, at least."

"Hah. You're more of an adult than me, if that's the case.

"I wouldn't say that. Maybe call it an instinct to help. If I feel like something's wrong, if I should do something… Well, I don't want to sit back and regret it, you know? I've had quite enough of those."

"An 'instinct to help,' huh? Sounds like you want to be some big damn hero. We're both a bit old for that, don't you think?"

He falls silent. Despite his words, he seems to approve, going by his rueful grin. Lina picks up the slack in his stead.

"Nothing wrong with wanting to be a hero, Jack. I think it's admirable. Just make sure it doesn't land you in trouble one day, okay?"

"I think I'll manage. I've got Val with me, after all."

"Of course. Heaven knows I have to do the same for Arty."

The man in question sniffs haughtily, though the effect is weakened somewhat by the resulting nosebleed. Lina sighs and shakes her head, though she can't quite hide the amused smile on her lips as she procures a pack of tissues from her jacket.

…Ahh, part of you really wants to save this for another day, but you're on a roll as it is. May as well give it a shot.

"How'd you two meet each other, anyways?"

Arthur gives you a nasal chuckle. He picks his way over to a mostly-intact bench and waves for you to sit next to him. In a voice slightly muffled by the wad of Kleenex held to his face, he speaks.

"Asking about our marriage stories now? You'll be here 'til sunup if that's the case."

"Give me the broad strokes, then."

"You really don't want to hear the details? I'm hurt, Jack. I can tell you all about my girl, down to the mole on her–"

"Finish that sentence and I'll have Kon bite you. Sit down and focus on breathing through your mouth, dear."

Ears flicking, Lina turns to face you once again, holding a hand to her cheek.

"Mm. Where do I start…? From the beginning?"

"As good a place as any."

"It's really nothing special, you know. We met in college. Arty came from somewhere in Northern Italy–my family's been in the U.S for a few generations, now.

I can't say when I fell in love with him, but I always think about why. He spent a few years saving up before coming to America, so though I was younger than him, I was still his math tutor. One of those peer-study things, you know?

A lot of the time, I'd see people start off strong, excited to improve… but then they'd just, well, give up. They'd miss a few sessions, come up with apologies and an excuse, then just keep slipping until they stopped coming entirely. Arty was probably one of my worst students–barely passed his tests most of the time.

But he never stopped coming. Always did his best. And over time, he really did improve. Ended up reaching the top 10% in his classes, and he became the only person who stayed with me for over a year.

I was the one who asked him out first. He was dense as a brick–"

"Was? I still am!"

"--and only had eyes for his studies. Always said he wanted to work for the government; picked it up from all the spy movies he watched while he was learning English. I don't think either of us thought it would end up like this."

She gives a little laugh. Arthur scratches his cheek, as if embarrassed.

For your part, you just sit back in thought, absorbing her story. Their story, really.

Love. Other than a brief fling in highschool - and that barely lasted a week, so it doesn't really count - you've always been single.

[Select one. While not irreversible, this will have an impact on how you view potential romance.]

>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.

>Though really, now that you think about it, being a bachelor has treated you fairly well. Lina and Arthur seem to have a good thing going, but you've heard too many horror stories to believe everyone can have something like that. Maybe one day–but nah, that's just wishful thinking. And who would want to be saddled with… Oh, God. You're technically a single father now. Kind of.


>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.
>used have to admit twice in a row
Its fine QM. As far as I understand its quite late when you post these. Such things can happen.

You might want to get an Editor though. Just to proofread
An editor would be great, but most of the people I'd feel comfortable showing my work tend to fall asleep at a decent hour instead of 3 in the morning. Alas. I'll just have to remind myself to reread my work after a short break to avoid tunnel vision.
>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.
>>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.
>Though really, now that you think about it, being a bachelor has treated you fairly well. Lina and Arthur seem to have a good thing going, but you've heard too many horror stories to believe everyone can have something like that. Maybe one day–but nah, that's just wishful thinking. And who would want to be saddled with… Oh, God. You're technically a single father now. Kind of.
>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.
>Though really, now that you think about it, being a bachelor has treated you fairly well. Lina and Arthur seem to have a good thing going, but you've heard too many horror stories to believe everyone can have something like that. Maybe one day–but nah, that's just wishful thinking. And who would want to be saddled with… Oh, God. You're technically a single father now. Kind of.

No romance please.
>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.
>Realize that you are a kind of a single father

That last part to add a tiny bit of spice
>>Though really, now that you think about it, being a bachelor has treated you fairly well. Lina and Arthur seem to have a good thing going, but you've heard too many horror stories to believe everyone can have something like that. Maybe one day–but nah, that's just wishful thinking. And who would want to be saddled with… Oh, God. You're technically a single father now. Kind of.
>You have to admit, you're a little envious of them. It sounds nice to settle down and fall in love like that. Though with everything that's in store for you now, you have to admit that it would be rather irresponsible of you to drag someone into this life.

You take your hand off of Val and spend a few seconds observing it.

Your fingers are long, toughened and thickened from years of weightlifting and diligent exercise. There's a sizable callus along the joint of your middle finger closest to the tip–a result of holding your pencils and pens just a little too tightly.

At 39 years of age, it's unlikely that you'll ever put a ring on. You're conscious of your years, to be sure, but there's also no avoiding the fact that your new career does more harm than good for any potential romances. Not to mention the guilt you'd feel if you dragged in someone unrelated, anyways.

You let out a little sigh. It's like you were out of the race before you could even begin.

…Yet, knowing this, why is it that you feel a pang of envy for Lina and Arthur?

It would be nice to fall in love.

Lina pats your shoulder comfortingly. With a start, you realize you said that out loud.

"Chin up! You're a handsome man, Jack. I'm sure you'll find someone sooner or later."

Arthur settles into the bench and folds one leg over the other.

"Don't rush into love, though. Nothing good comes of treating it carelessly, yeah?"

You nod sheepishly, too embarrassed to speak. Your parents always said something similar–in particular, your mother had always been a firm proponent of avoiding relationships until you entered college and had your future secured.

Hah. The irony of the situation doesn't escape you.

Arthur's pocket lets out a quiet buzz, interrupting your thoughts. He pulls out a sleek-looking phone, grunts, and stands up.

"Ride's here."

You see it approaching before he even finishes speaking. It looks rather stylish, though admittedly you're not much of a car person. With a bit of regret, you realize you probably won't be seeing your own vehicle again anytime soon. Even if it was a secondhand purchase that you didn't often use, it was still something that had belonged to you.

As Arthur walks over to greet the driver - a bald man, his face obscured by sunglasses - you shoot a glance behind you at the still-scowling Takeo. He seems busy studying one of his talismans–a powerless one, you realize. Around him, a significantly smaller swarm of paper does its best to organize a clear path through the ruins.

Lina follows your gaze, then lets out a little "oh" of understanding.

"He's setting things up for the cleanup crew. Probably going to be tagging the dead, too. They'll appreciate that. We'll be going on without him; he'll return later."

"I see."

You turn your focus back to Arthur once he waves you over. Lina opens the door for you, then cheerfully claims the shotgun seat. With a little more care than is probably necessary, you slide a sleeping Valentine off yourself and into an open seat. She grumbles a bit as you move her, but settles back down soon enough. You move in next to her.

The air-conditioned interior is a welcome reprieve from the summer heat. Even though it's already nighttime, the humidity seems to have only increased. Such is life on an artificial island surrounded by sea.

[Select an Intermission.]

>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)

>Home Is… (A look at Guignol.)

>Old Bonds. (A look at your family.)

>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)
>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)

Lets see how the Nerve Center of this island will react now after these events.
>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)
>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)
>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)
I know we keep joking about it but the MC's potential love life is so fucked. Even more than the norm for those in this line of work cause our alice is a freaking necromancer. At least we can hire whores still maybe...hopefully. To be perfectly honest the kind of woman who would actually be interested in the MC under these circumstances what she would have to be like kinda scares me, to be frank.
or in the same industry... as a single mom with her own Alice.
Alas, no interest in your family's dark past as top-class hitmen for the Hong Kong Triads and the exploration of Alices in relation to the criminal underworld...
These hidden plot threads will remain hidden, chugging along in the dark!
at least until the next mini-arc anyways lol
>>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)
>Cerebral Connection. (A look at the Spine.)

The core of Glaswelt is a busy place at the best of times, but tonight, it is utter pandemonium.

"ETA five minutes for power to come back on–"

Massive steel shutters block off the largest windows, reinforcing the superstructure against any potential threats. Emergency lighting illuminates over a hundred different floors, connected to an array of backup generators with dozens of built-in redundancies.

"--Seven requests for backup all across the East Sector, pull someone from the Academy–"

An electrifying tension runs through the air. Tonight, the symphony of clacking keyboards and ringing phones is drowned out by panicked shouts and the movements of a near-panicking crowd. Every floor has transformed into a veritable hive of activity, with a small army of exhausted interns shuttling coffee and tea to overworked employees.

"--Still can't patch comms through to Beaconsfield!?"

Above it all, at the very peak of the Spine, within an elaborate office nearly touching the clouds, an aged woman lets out a heavy sigh. She eyes a bottle of painkillers with a complex mixture of longing and resentment, then sets it back in a drawer.

Though layers of sound-proofed material and reinforced walls separate her from the rest of the world, it would be impossible to miss what was going on. After all, her position offered her the best view of the utter chaos currently rampaging through Glaswelt Base.

As if the constant stream of alerts pinging her computer wasn't enough. Dozens of them fill her inbox by the second; status updates, critical mission reports, all variations of the same. She considers the email regarding confirmed Guignolian Alices sighted n the East Sector, located near Branch B-2, then looks back at the mass of tentacles churning in the distance.

If there had been an Alice before, well...

Unconsciously, her fingers curl, as if wrapping around a trigger. Her blood cries for justice. Her heart demands she leap into the fray once again. There was only one Attendant pair facing off against that Beast, and though she had confidence in her men, the woman knew that they could only last so long. Reinforcements had been sent, but would they arrive in time?

Reality and responsibility settle upon her shoulders, a weight fit to crush the world.

–Then, before her eyes, a blazing line of light streaks through the sky.

[Intermission End.]

No no, they were involved in researching element 115, and Wunderwaffe DG-2.
Anon even a single mom in this industry with her own Alice would have higher standards. Plus I doubt the MC would want to make his life that much more complicated...I mean seriously we are kinda bottom barrel material in terms of bachelor in this industry. You gotta ask yourself what kind of woman can stomach an necromancer alice alone. The answer is scary to think about. Much less the whole package deal and her own issues.

I'm still waiting for the romantic angle hidden plot thread to blow up in our face in the biggest most unimaginable ways possible. Starting with a woman who actually likes our creepy alice.
Apologies in advance, but I might not be able to get anything out until Friday. I have a lot of work I need to catch up on...
Thanks for understanding. I'll do my best to write when I can, so please look forward to it.
All good QM, will be looking forward to it.
You jerk awake with a sudden start, gasping for air. A now-awake Valentine practically jumps out of her seat at your sudden movement. For his part, Arthur simply leans away, allowing you time to catch your breath. He looks at you sympathetically.

"Nightmare? Don't blame you. Been a long night for all of us."

You shake your head, both in response and in order to clear it. No. That wasn't…

Though it feels like you're talking through a mouthful of cotton, you manage to rasp your thoughts.

"A… dream? I…"

You can tell it's hopeless. The details are already beginning to escape you. That's beside the point, though–you've got more important things to do than start a dream diary. Namely, checking on your ward.

After a quick sip from your water bottle, you feel marginally more human. It doesn't do much to help the grime and sweat sticking to you like a second skin, though. Hopefully this isn't going to be a habit.

"Val. Woke up before me, huh? How do you feel? Any pain? Exhaustion?"

"N-no. Still a little tired, but–wait, Jack, your face!? Lina, pass a tissue!"

"Huh? Sure, just a second… Here you go!"

You blink in surprise, caught off guard by the level of concern in Val's voice. She swipes the proffered wipe and leans forward to dab at your cheek as if you were a child. The tissue soon comes away smeared in your blood–a lot more than you'd expect from what feels like such a small wound.
Valentine stares at it for a second, dumbfounded, then promptly drops it on your leg.

Well, you were going to write these clothes off, anyways. What's one more stain?

"I'm fine, Val. Doesn't hurt a bit. Which is, uh, actually kind of concerning. It should at least sting, since it's reopened."

"Hm. Look here for a second, Jack."

Arthur taps your shoulder, drawing your attention, and gently holds you by the chin. There's a thoughtful frown on his face. He peers closely at your cheek, nods firmly, then lets you go.

"I have absolutely no idea what this is."

"Well, that's helpful. Shouldn't we take him to a hospital?"

Under the power of Val's glare, he simply chuckles.

"I mean, it looks like a normal enough injury, but you'll definitely want to get that checked out–I mean, who knows, yeah? I'd actually recommend heading to the Academy first. Their health department is among the best on base."

Valentine looks somewhat mollified by his reassurance, but still shoots you a worried glance every now and then. Looks like you made an impression on her over the past few days. A sudden urge to ruffle her hair strikes you, too powerful for you to resist.

"Like I said, I'm fine. Don't worry, kid. I've got some years left in me."

"I-I'm not worried."

Your charge taken care of, you dig around in your bag for something to hold against your face. A disinfecting wipe and a wad of gauze might seem like overkill, but better safe than sorry.

You're not quite able to visualize the path that the driver's taking, but the view of your surroundings soon begins to change, rapidly shifting from a modern concrete jungle to an open view of the sea at night. As the car turns onto a freeway - seriously, just how huge is this place? - Arthur speaks up.

"Won't be long now. There's a few different ways to access the main campus. Most take the metro, but for now, we'll be coming in through one of the priority gates."

Unfortunately, you're unable to appreciate his words, as you're struck by the sudden realization that you may have forgotten something.

Something like… a certain dead Alice.

"Oh, shit. Ganta. I don't think Papa picked him up, so his body should still be around. I don't suppose you've got him in the trunk, do you?"

You twist in your seat as if to try and see him just by looking through the back window. Arthur shakes his head.

"Don't worry about it. They would've taken his body for research even if we brought him with us, and I doubt my friend here would appreciate lugging around a corpse in his trunk. You want him for Valentine's use, right? Probably won't get easy access while you're still in training, but you can put in a request for practice later. Who knows, maybe they'll even let you take him out once you go on real missions."

Val pokes her fingers together. She shudders at the mention of Ganta, but steels herself enough to say what's on her mind.

"If I can resurrect him, they could use him for questioning and interrogation."

The Attendant stops. He raises a finger as if to prepare a counterpoint, then lowers it again. He turns to face her fully, a serious look on his face.

"Holy shit."

For a moment, that's all he can bring himself to say. He leans back and runs a hand through his hair, then lets out an explosive sigh.

"Okay. Okay. I'll definitely need to add that in the report. I'll see if I can stop them from dragging you out of bed first thing in the morning. I don't know if that'll make them more likely to let go of the Railgun, but you can probably come up with a decent argument for it. At the very least, they'll definitely see you as a valuable asset."

The crows feet at the corners of his eyes seem to deepen a little, his shoulders dipping slightly as he speaks. It's almost unnoticeable, but before you can comment on it, he bounces back upright.

"Well, you've got a big day tomorrow. Or is it today? What time is it right now?"

At Arthur's prompting, the chauffeur finally breaks his silent stoicism.

"It is currently 23:30, sir."

"Ah, just say 11:30 PM. You can relax a little, Jack won't bite."

You raise an eyebrow, and the man responds in a tone as dry as ever.

"Understood, sir."

Arthur gives an amused snort, then turns back to you.

"As I was saying–big day tomorrow, lots to look forward to. New semester starts in just a week, but squeezing you in will be easy enough. We don't often pick up civvies like you, you know; most of the time, we recruit from the military. But recommendations are a perfectly acceptable means of joining up, as well."

He leans forward and begins rummaging around the pocket built into the back of the driver seat. After a brief bit of blind fumbling, he pulls out a little notepad and accompanying pen.

"The Attendant who sent you here has some good instincts. I'll have to thank them sometime… Did you ever tell me his name?"

"I don't think so. It was Viktor Constantia–hold on, I think I still have his card somewhere…"

Arthur waves you off, then continues scribbling on the notepad.

"Ah, Constantia. Don't bother, I know his name. Haven't met the kid myself, but he's pretty damn famous. One of the Academy's fastest graduates. We don't normally make a habit of letting trainees leave early, but he's certainly proven himself worthy of it. Maybe you'll be next, eh?"

The Attendant tears out the sheet from the notebook, then pats himself down before pulling out his own card.

"You'll want to keep this–at least until you finish getting your papers sorted, anyways. It's a sign of my own recommendation, yeah?"

He unceremoniously stuffs both papers into your breast pocket, then gives you a cheery grin and a thump on the shoulder.

"Not a bad haul for your first day on the job. You want to catch a drink with me some time, you just call that number, yeah? Feel free to bring Valentine along, too. Only soda and water for her, though."

He gives her a wink, to which she puffs up indignantly in response.

"Hmph. I have no interest in alcohol, anyways!"

She looks out the window to stare at the moon's glittering reflection, rubbing some leftover tiredness from her eyes. You let out a sigh and give an apologetic nod to Arthur.

"Much appreciated. I'll take you up on that offer sometime, though I'm afraid I'm not much of a drinker, myself."
A look of exaggerated disappointment appears on Arthur's face, and he lets out a dramatic sigh.

"What a shame, what a shame. Surprisingly hard to find a drinking buddy on base, you know. No one knows how to have fun."

An exasperated laugh escapes Lina in a huff.

"No, Arty. I'm not letting you drink in the afternoon again."

"It was one time!"

"Apologies for the interruption, but we're approaching our destination."

Though the chauffeur's words are sober, Arthur's cheer only seems to grow.

"Ah, Jack, keep your eyes peeled. Shame you're not in a window seat, but…"

"I doubt you'll need it. Plenty of time to take a better look later."

As the Academy comes into view, the only thing you can do is gape in awe. Val certainly isn't faring much better–you have to physically stop her from leaning out the window to get a better view, and while you can't blame her for her excitement, you sincerely hope that Arthur's friend doesn't mind the inch-deep gouges her horns have left in the ceiling.
If he does, you certainly can't tell behind his sunglasses. Come to think of it, it's a little odd that he's wearing them at night–maybe it's a fashion choice.

The architecture of the Academy is unlike anything you've seen before. Taken apart, the influences are somewhat recognizable, but put together, it's almost anachronistic in design. Elegant arches and piercing spires are paired with the functional geometry of modern buildings, creating a silhouette that defies expression. Though it's supposedly the smallest sector of Glaswelt, only now do you realize how misleading such a description can be. There are probably university towns that were smaller than this.

You turn a disbelieving gaze upon Arthur.

"There's no way this was made in a few years–I mean, come on. I know information on Glaswelt and the other Protectorate bases is strictly controlled, but…"

The Attendant nods in acknowledgement.

"You're right. Even with the help of Alices, finishing Glaswelt in a single lifetime would've been a total pipe dream. No way around it. But we weren't working from scratch, and the Academy–well, suffice to say, we don't have exclusive access to it."

He doesn't elaborate, though he doesn't really need to. The Protectorate is an IGO; you'd guess that's part of the reasoning for Takeo's exchange status. Though you'd like to press him for more information on what he means by "from scratch," a large part of you wants to take in as much of the view as possible. Hopefully tours of some kind will be available. You can only imagine how easy it would be to get lost here.

Valentine breaks the brief silence, though her voice is slightly muffled from how tightly she's pressed herself up against the glass.

Lina covers up a little laugh.

"No, of course not! Most of it is really just shared facilities with the Defense Hall and Research Wing. As for the curriculum, Attendants and Alices take different courses. Arty?"

"While there's some mandated classes - comes with adjusting to the job - there's really no shortage of electives. It's something like a graduate school, but for those of us who already have a diploma, you get a lot more freedom. "

He holds up a hand to forestall any more questions.

"I'd love to tell you more, but honestly, there's nothing I can say that won't be covered by your orientation. Not to mention the fact that the Academy wasn't really a thing when I first started. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a report to get started on."

You take the hint and settle back down. Out of the corner of your eye, you watch as Arthur flips open to a fresh page in the little notepad–then you return to looking out the window.

Ten minutes later, you finally reach a rather nondescript little checkpoint. Locked in a booth, a tense-looking man stares at his computer screen. He jerks his head up as the car approaches, some minor alarm briefly flashing across his face, but waves your group through once the driver pulls out a card for scanning. Arthur briefly glances at him and anticipates your unspoken question.

"Probably watching the bulletins. I've got an ear open, myself. Attack ended not too long after Papa took off. Now we're just dealing with the aftermath."

He turns back to his multi-page report with little fanfare. Looks like he's far more serious once he has to deal with paperwork.

It doesn't take much longer before your next stop, a building nearly identical to the administration branch office save for a small fountain splashing merrily at the center of its plaza. A glance at the bronze plaque set into the fountain's base confirms your thoughts; Administrative Branch Office A-1 is proudly displayed.

At Arthur's prompting, Val exits the car first with you following close behind. A quick check of your satchel confirms you have all your papers in order, though the folder is covered in a fresh smear of concrete dust.

For a brief moment, a ridiculous idea flashes through your mind. You're not going to be attacked again, are you?

Likely misunderstanding your hesitation, Lina pops her head out the window and gives you a winning smile.

"You two take care, okay? I hope to see you again soon. Don't forget to do your homework and study, Valentine."

"I don't need reminding, thank you very much!"

The fox-girl laughs, and the tinted windows roll back up, obscuring her from view. In moments, you're left reading the license plate as their ride disappears into the distance, presumably headed for the Spine.

You take a breath to steel yourself, chasing away any more thoughts of your impending doom. Surely a disaster like tonight couldn't happen aga–

You're absolutely not going to finish that thought.

"Hold onto my hand, Val. Don't want to lose you now."

Alice in tow and papers in hand, you make your way through the entrance–

–and almost immediately bump into an exhausted-looking Emily. Caught off guard by your sudden appearance, she nearly drops a steaming cup of coffee, but manages to save it with only minimal spillage.

"Hey, watch it! You–you…"

The two of you stare at one another, dumbstruck. Unfortunately, you're not alone. Valentine collides with your back face-first.


Her muffled squeak breaks your impromptu staring contest with the office worker. Not knowing how else to respond, you give a sheepish little wave with the hand holding your papers.

"Small world, huh?"

Emily gives you an incredulous look, shakes her head, and mutters something you can't quite catch before refocusing on you.

"I see you're still alive. I assume you're here to get registered?"

At your nod, she sighs and clicks her tongue.

"Well, at least you're in the right place now."

"Hah. I honestly didn't expect to see you here. They're not making you work after all that, are they?"

The light goes out of her eyes. In a monotone voice laced with bitter cynicism, she responds as if quoting someone.

"I had a clean bill of health and sustained no apparent injuries. Therefore, I am expected to return to regular duties within a day, with weekly checkups scheduled for the next month in the event anything changes. In light of the current situation, I shall be temporarily transferred to the Academy's First Branch Office and given the appropriate hazard pay as compensation. I simply came here to scout out my new workplace."

A kind of bleak horror fills you as Emily continues to speak. What sort of sweatshop organization did you sign yourself up for? No, wait, nothing's official yet. It's not too late to leave.

Your hopes are dashed as a despairing smile forms on her face. It doesn't reach her eyes.

"Frankly, I'm shocked that you actually managed to survive that mess. Jack, I'm certain that you'll do well in the Protectorate. Seeing as I don't officially start work until tomorrow, I'll bring you to someone I know."

"I-I don't remember you being this friendly. And that still doesn't explain why you're here instead of resting."

"Friendly? Oh, no. I just don't want to suffer alone. To answer your second question, I'm only here to scout out my new workplace."

Without much choice in the matter, you're guided down a hallway and to your inevitable doom. A terribly confused Valentine trails after you, glancing between you and Emily every now and then.

[For your first three weeks at the Academy, you will be given the opportunity to explore a variety of electives before settling on your final choices. Consider this a preview–it will help establish a basis for future interactions and also provide an opportunity to pick up new skills. As you have a medical degree, additional choices have been unlocked and marked with an exclamation point.]

[Please select up to three extracurricular options for Week 1. Note that some of these options will be doubling down on the pre-existing Attendant curriculum; for example, you do not need to take an additional combat class, but it is available should you decide to further improve Jack's fighting ability.]

>Studio in Art, Feat. Calligraphy Club.
>Silent Library Coalition.
>The Tea Party. (Popular with Socialites.)
>Communications Club.
>Community of Occult Research and Extermination. (Actually, we prefer Cohabitation, but CORC doesn't sound as cool.)
>Oversight of Alice Academics. (Takes 2 slots. Allows you to directly attend your Alice's classes, you helicopter parent.)
>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>(!)Research Program: Advanced Alice Studies.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
>Girls With Guns. (Guys Welcome, Too.)
>Remember the Basics: CQC.
>Write-in. Subject to veto.

Early update as an apology for the slow week! Will update tonight as well. Thanks for reading!
>(!)Research Program: Advanced Alice Studies.

I think it would be wise to learn more about Alices in general.

>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.

We need to be able to get up there with the best of them to support Val as much as possible so she can concentrate on putting her minions onto offense.

>Studio in Art, Feat. Calligraphy Club.

Let us see if we might find our good friend there that treats his Alice so nicely from Arthurs Perpective.

While i would like to follow Val to her classes i think we should let her have her time for now. We can check them out later if we feel the need for them. But we could recommend her some Medical Subjects.

I would also like to send Jack to a Social Party just to see him suffer but i am not feeling that cruel right now. No...... i have reserved all my hate for That godforsaken Preceptor Miriam........
>>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>Communications Club.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
>I think it would be wise to learn more about Alices in general.
Was debating if I should include this, but I guess it makes sense to.
As an Attendant, you already have some subjects mandated for your curriculum. You're like a weird mix of elite special ops handler and glorified babysitter.
These classes primarily include:
>General Alice Studies
>Childcare and Oversight
>Teamwork Exercises
>Battlefield Administration
As your main courses. Open to adjustments depending on feedback, so feel free to let loose. You've already graduated college, no point putting you through it again.

They're all pretty self-explanatory except for GAS, so here's a brief overview:
Primarily covers a history of the Wonderland Phenomenon, Alices, the relevant laws, your responsibilities regarding them, etc, etc. What Advanced Studies offers is a joint program with the Research Wing where you really dive into the meat of experimenting with Alices and Beasts. Spoiler: Despite all their manpower and funding, they've hit a brick wall. Maybe you'll be the one to help fix that... Somehow!

Hope that helps. If there's anything else that needs clarifying, feel free to ask.
nice. Now i really want to dive into the meat and potatoes of that. Seems like a good way to also learn about the weird reality bendy stuff Alice can apparently do and we might be able to utilize that on the move to maybe find out some weaknesses for future enemies.
>repeated "came here to scout out" twice
That's it, I'm finding a beta. Faster than waiting for my tunnel vision to reset. Fuck my life.
Gonna wait and see if we can get a few more votes before posting the next update, may leave it open for tomorrow as well if necessary.
>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
With all the running we do, this should help
>Remember the Basics: CQC.
Should balance with Val. Let us catch anything that gets past the minions.
>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
>Communications Club.
Since we're mostly going to be support seeing as we're a medic and our Alice does minion stuff going with communications should be good so we can support others from far away, especially if we're able to get Ganta's body with us then we can become a mobile artillery piece.
I think I got fucking food poisoning, can't guarantee an update right now
Will see how I feel in a few hours, apologies
Take Care QM. Food Poisoning is no joke. Stay safe and i hope for a speedy recovery
>Silent Library Coalition.
well we have several books laying around maybe a nice, calm place would be good.

>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.

np take care of yourself
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
>Girls With Guns. (Guys Welcome, Too.)
>Remember the Basics: CQC.
Looks like the winning votes are:
>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
>Communications Club.
If what you wanted didn't get selected, don't worry. You still have another 2 "weeks" to preview other courses or double down. Some plot threads will continue moving even without input, though, so keep that in mind.
>(!)Medical Program: Assistant Nurse.
>Boots on the Ground - Basic Physical Training.
>Communications Club.

Somewhat dejectedly, you observe your shiny new I.D card. A silver stripe runs down its side about half an inch from the edge; supposedly, the color declares your status as a Trainee Attendant.

You were advised to not lose it, as the cost for replacements would be coming out of your own pocket. Upon being informed of just how much you'd have to spend, you resolved to keep it on your person at all times.

Slightly ahead of you, Valentine leads the way to the Academy's residential area, foldout map in hand. Supposedly, your luggage would have preempted your arrival.

Though everything being predetermined would have normally chafed at you a bit, the speed of your processing is a welcome change from the typical bureaucratic roadblocks and week-long waits that you might otherwise expect. On top of that, your brief nap in the car only seems to have emphasized your fatigue. Despite your best efforts, you can't quite hide a yawn.

Val's tail unfurls and pokes at you gently, drawing your attention. You wave it away before responding.

"Need something?"

"I'm, uh, not sure how to read this."

There's a light blush on her face as she hands you the pamphlet.

"We're not lost, are we?"

She studiously avoids looking you in the eye. With a sigh, you take the map and begin scanning it. Fortunately, you have some minor experience with reading these–nothing too impressive, but in a few minutes you're able to determine that you've traveled 13 blocks in the wrong direction.

Rather than mention it and further embarrass Val, you simply ruffle her head and turn around. She falls into step with you after a moment, poking her fingers together.

A comfortable silence fills the air as you walk. Surprisingly - or perhaps not, considering the possible student population - a fair number of lights are still on at this time of night. Do evening classes normally run this long?

You think about your own course selections. The list of extracurriculars you were given had a number of rather odd-sounding groups. Though you never really focused on clubs while you were in college, you sincerely doubt that any of the Academy's available options would be indicative of a typical experience.

Considering you've already received your degree, you've got a bit more leeway in your schedule when compared to Valentine. At 16 years old, she still has to finish highschool; apparently something well within the Academy's capabilities.

Honestly, you weren't expecting the Protectorate to be so accommodating. The cynic in you asks what's the point, considering she'll never be able to live a normal life anyways, but the rest of you appreciates it regardless of that. It's difficult to put into words why, but if you had to guess…

Well, they still feel human to you.

A small hand slips into your own.

File: 1492928461736.jpg (36 KB, 413x569)
36 KB
>A small hand slips into your own.
It's some time past midnight by the time you reach your new residence. According to your map, it's only one of several Attendant dormitories within the Academy grounds. Each building is only two floors tall, though the amount of space between doors indicates a healthy amount of room.

You'd expect them to focus on building something more akin to your previous apartment–higher rather than wider. Then again, considering Attendants likely have to share a dorm with their Alices, it could simply be a welcome nod to comfort. The well-tended grounds are scenic enough, with colorful flowers and trimmed hedges flanking the paved road. If you didn't know better, you could almost mistake it for any other prestigious university.

As you draw closer, a strangely tense atmosphere presses down on your shoulders. Many of the lights are still on, more than you'd expect to see at this time of night. Likely the fault of the raid, rather than college students simply taking advantage of their youthful energy. Has news of the attack's conclusion been released yet?

After a bit more wandering, you finally reach your designated room. A plaque to the side proudly presents itself as "Room 257-C."
The card lock lights up green once you slide in your ID, though you also take the time to set up a new passcode. Out of curiosity, you test Valentine's ID as well, almost identical to yours save for a single blue star marking her as an Alice. It accepts that as well.

Motion-activated lights silently come to life, and a quick survey of the dorm's interior shows it to be remarkably well-furnished. If it's a little plain, you certainly can't complain--that's a free laptop on the desk right there. Off in the corner, you see your luggage has been deposited as well. Valentine pushes past you eagerly, just barely missing the edge of the doorframe with her halo. For a moment, she really does just look like a kid.

"Wah! A TV! And such a huge couch! Do we have our own rooms, too?"

"Looks like it. Go ahead and unpack. I'll be gone for a bit. If you're hungry, I'll see if we can get dinner somewhere."

She turns to you, confused.

"Where are you going? And, uh, no--I'm not hungry, thanks."

"I'm just dropping by the medical wing, see if I can get my eye checked out. Don't know how long they'll keep me there, though."

Unexpectedly, Valentine seems caught off guard. She shuffles in place a bit before speaking again, though in a quieter voice than before.

"O-oh. That makes sense."

You frown and step a little closer to her. She looks up a bit and meets your gaze, visibly flustered, but doesn't back away.

"Hey. What's wrong?"

"Nothing! No–you can go, it's for the best!"

"Come on. You can trust me. I know we haven't known each other for that long, but after today, hell, we may as well be family."

She freezes at that. It's another long moment before she speaks again, though you have to lean in to hear her.

"It's fine. I don't want you to risk yourself, Jack."

[Select one.]

>Well, if she says so. Ruffle her hair one more time and wish her goodnight. Who knows what random superdiseases Papa could have left in you? (Present Valentine Interlude, ??? Dormant… for now.)

>...You can kind of guess what she wants. Though the doctor in you tells you this is a terrible idea, maybe you can put off the visit for tomorrow. (Past Valentine Interlude, ??? Active.)

Apologies for the delay, was catching up on some last second work after I fell asleep early by accident. Feeling better rested than normal, though, so hopefully this isn't as bad as my typical 3 AM writing. Please enjoy!
>>Well, if she says so. Ruffle her hair one more time and wish her goodnight. Who knows what random superdiseases Papa could have left in you? (Present Valentine Interlude, ??? Dormant… for now.)
>Well, if she says so. Ruffle her hair one more time and wish her goodnight. Who knows what random superdiseases Papa could have left in you? (Valentine Interlude, ??? Dormant… for now.)

uh ... better check if there is something wrong. Well ask her if she wants anything, we can bring it with us on our way back.
Give her an hug and pat her head, that should calm her.
We can talk about what she means another time, now some rest would be appreciated.
>Well, if she says so. Ruffle her hair one more time and wish her goodnight. Who knows what random superdiseases Papa could have left in you? (Present Valentine Interlude, ??? Dormant… for now.)
>"If you want to talk we can talk nearly any time. Just maybe not after an Evening like the one we just got through. We are both only human."
I support this
I think I somehow managed to give myself a minor cold. Amazing. Gonna post what I have so far - which isn't a lot, unfortunately - because I don't think I can write too well in this state. I'll continue writinf ASAP. Thanks for your patience.
>Well, if she says so. Ruffle her hair one more time and wish her goodnight. Who knows what random superdiseases Papa could have left in you? (Present Valentine Interlude, ??? Dormant… for now.)
>"If you want to talk we can talk nearly any time. Just maybe not after an Evening like the one we just got through. We are both only human."

[Interlude: Valentine]

Your Attendant sits down on the couch next to you, but you're already anticipating his next move. You can see it in his eyes!

And yet, despite your best efforts, you can't seem to escape Jack's hand as he musses up your hair. Damnit!

He lets go after you smack his hand a bit, but the damage is done. Keeping your hair straight with your new horns in the way is a huge pain!

…You'll allow it, though.

It reminds you of happier days.

Jack lets out a little laugh as he straightens up.

"Sorry, sorry. Couldn't resist. Listen–I'm not sure how long they'll keep me for. Worst comes to worst, it might be all night. If you need anything, just call me, alright? Did you set up that new phone they gave you yet?"

Hesitantly, you shake your head. You've only ever used the library computers, and you're fairly certain those machines are as old as you.

"No. I'm not really sure how to…"

"Ah, that's alright. I'll show you before I go."

It doesn't take long before you begin tapping away at the screen, though you'll need some more practice before you get used to the keyboard. Satisfied with your progress, Jack ducks into the bathroom to wash his face. After a moment, he calls out to you.

"Could you get me some new clothes? Doubt they'll appreciate it if I walk in covered in dust."

"What am I, your slave?"

"Isn't it the other way around? I'm your Attendant, after all. Hah!"

You huff, but follow through with his request and begin digging through the luggage for his suitcase. With a bit more effort than you'd like to admit, you manage to pull it clear.

Once you unzip it, though, any thoughts of your disappointing strength are banished by a sudden embarrassment. His underwear is… so large! It would practically be a skirt on you!

Gingerly, you lift the bit of cloth by the edges, airing it out on full display–

"Val? Clothes?"

"Eh–uh, coming! It's coming!"

You drop the offending cloth ike you've been burned, then hastily throw together a basic outfit for Jack. A hot blush rises to your face, unbidden.

Damnit, why are you acting like this? It's not like you haven't handled men's laundry before. Your real father was–

No. Stop that. That man is no longer a part of your life.

Its no problem QM. Take care of yourself and make sure to get well soon
Yeah qm you are doing a wonderful job so far! Don't push yourself too hard and get enough rest/sleep.
Having sobered up, you carry the bundle of clothes under your arm and step across the floor to knock on the bathroom door.

Unexpectedly, it swings open quite readily. Out of panicked reflex, you look away and toss Jack's clothes in what you assume to be his general direction, then dive for cover.

"Woah! …I still haven't taken anything off, you know."

You can hear the smile in his voice.

"It's the principle of the matter! Hurry up!"

"Alright, alright."

Just where does he find the energy to laugh like that?

Before long, Jack exits the bathroom, wiping his face dry with a towel. A pang of envy hits you--you've noticed it before, but he really does put effort into his body. Though you like to poke at his age, from behind, he could pass for someone ten years younger. It's with disappointment in your heart that you poke at your own noodly arms. Why couldn't you have gotten super-strength like a normal Alice?

Your observation comes to an end when he lets out a sudden yawn, stretching his arms above his head. After tensing for a moment, he hangs the washcloth up on a rack, then turns to you.

"I'll be heading out now. Don't forget to brush your teeth--they've already stocked up the toiletries."

Indignation rises up within you. How old does he think you are?

"I'm not a kid! I can take care of myself, thanks!"

He nods in sage acceptance, which only bothers you more. Before you can wind up for a good poke in the ribs, though, Jack crouches down in front of you. The look on his face is serious.

"Val. If you want to talk, if there's anything on your mind, I'm happy to listen. You wanted to tell me something earlier, right?"

Your rage withers away, replaced by a sudden cold shame. Silently, you look down and shake your head.

"No--it's really nothing important."

He sighs.

"I'm your Attendant now, Val. Granted, I'm still not 100% sure what that entails, but I'm pretty sure being able to communicate to one another is important."

A rough, tanned hand reaches out to take your own. It's easily twice the size of yours, yet you can't help but think of it as gentle.

"But even before that, I care about you. I don't need a job to tell me to do that. I want to thank you for sticking with me through tonight, even after I put you in danger. Not the brightest move on my part, but–"

"--it was the right thing to do."

You finish for him.

"Right. It's not enough to repay you, but… Tell me what's on your mind."

"You–you shouldn't wait to get checked out."

"Sooner you tell me, sooner I can go. How can I help?"

His hands seem to warm your own.

…How do you tell him?

How do you express the worries in your heart, this fear of the unknown? How do you explain that you're afraid of being alone, that you're still thinking of how he pushed you away so Lily couldn't take you, that? How do you describe the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that seems to plague you even after you gave up your humanity like the idiot you are?

…How do you tell him that he's already helping, just being here?

"I don't want you to go, damnit."

You're too slow to catch the words before they slip out. A mixture of embarrassment, horror, and shock blooms in your chest.

You're afraid to look him in the eye. The thought that he might be disgusted, that he might abandon you, flits across your mind–

And a comforting weight settles upon your head.

"I'll return as soon as I can. Don't worry."

"...You've been asking me to trust you an awful lot, you know."

"I'm sorry. I'll definitely repay you."

"Hmph. I expect you to!"

It seems like you were worried for no reason.

All too soon, Jack stops and steps away. It takes an inordinate amount of willpower to stop yourself from leaning forward for more.

Dangerous! How'd he get so good at those, anyways!?

There's a soft smile on his face. It fits him, though he'll never hear that from you.

"Goodnight, Valentine. Remember, if you want to talk, anytime is fine. Just not tonight. We both need our rest, yeah? We're only human."

"Mm. Goodnight, Jack."

Coward that you are, you just can't look him in the eyes. After a moment, the door swings open, then clicks shut.

You think on his words and can't help but shake your head. For a doctor, he really is a fool.

"Human, huh?"

A slight warmth suffuses your heart.

[Interlude: End.]

good shit
awwww. its good that she feels some warmth again. It warms my own dead heart.

now i am doubly happy my vote won out
Really nice
By the time you reach the Academy's medical department, your legs feel thoroughly tenderized. Though your new phone informs you that Central has put out a message calling off the emergency alert, public transport is still on hold while the total damage is assessed. If it weren't for that, you'd hitch a ride at one of the Academy bus stops you saw along the way.

Not for the first time tonight, you curse the awful luck that led to being attacked during your first day on the job. If you were even half as superstitious as your parents, you'd be writing up charms and burning incense. In the meantime, you'll settle for punching an imaginary Papa in the face. Repeatedly.

It doesn't really make you feel any better, to be honest. What does, though, is the blessed air conditioning that hits you once you step through the well-lit building's automatic sliding doors. Soft music drifts through unseen speakers, quietly playing an upbeat tune you don't recognize.

Unfortunately, you don't get to appreciate it for long. You jerk back in shock as a man nearly a full head shorter than you seemingly materializes out of thin air, his face hidden entirely in shadow.


His only acknowledgement to your surprise is a tilt of the head--you can't even see a hint of an expression under his hood. Frankly, it's a little unnerving. Considering how bright your surroundings are, there should at least be something visible. A patch of skin, maybe.

The man simply stands there as you get your heartbeat back under control. As soon as you're ready, he spins on his heel and marches ahead, though he turns back to look at you when you don't immediately follow.

At least, you think that's his intent. You glance around at your surroundings, a little uncertain. There's not a soul in sight save for the two of you, and you can't help but frown. Even assuming they don't have any patients, being so understaffed is a little irresponsible.

Are you really in the right place…?

[Select one.]

>You may as well follow after him. Oddly enough, you get the feeling that he's not a threat.

>No, you have to double check. Step outside and enter one of the other buildings, see if there's anyone else around. You know from the map that this isn't the only part of the medical department.

Apologies for how long it took me to write such a short update. Wasn't feeling too good, but also wanted you guys to get back to voting as soon as I could.
And blugh, found more typos in the Interlude. Could've sworn I caught them all, too... Damnit!
>You may as well follow after him. Oddly enough, you get the feeling that he's not a threat.

Lets see where this gets us. I hope though that Jack will speak up why he is actually there before the good man in front of us actually tries to do anything.

I could swear from my experiences on this Board that all QM's are either damn busy people or completely overworked. Please make sure you stay among the busy and not the overworked side of things QM.

Its what happens don't beat yourself up over this.
>>You may as well follow after him. Oddly enough, you get the feeling that he's not a threat.
Inform him of what we need to do, maybe he will tell us where to go
>>No, you have to double check. Step outside and enter one of the other buildings, see if there's anyone else around. You know from the map that this isn't the only part of the medical department.
>You may as well follow after him. Oddly enough, you get the feeling that he's not a threat.
>You may as well follow after him. Oddly enough, you get the feeling that he's not a threat.

Well, even if you aren't, you're kind of curious as to where this'll go. You get the feeling that this man doesn't have any intention to harm you, though you can't figure out why you feel this way.

That doesn't mean you won't ask him questions, though. For starters, you should probably confirm that you didn't get lost somewhere down the road.

"This is the medical department, right? You work here?"

Though he doesn't respond verbally, he gives a short, clipped nod, waits a few seconds, then nods again.

Well, it's more than you expected, but less than you were hoping for. Talking this way is going to get tiring pretty fast.

Once confirms that you're going to follow him, the man begins to move at a surprising speed. Though his legs are shorter than yours, you find that you still have to jog a bit to keep pace with him. In short order, you travel down several long hallways and down a steel stairwell.

All the while, the man remains eerily silent, nearly ghostlike in his movement. You know for a fact that shoes like his should be making noise as you travel, but the only sounds that can be heard are coming from you. It doesn't take long before you speak again, if only to break the silence.

"Sorry, but I'm here for a reason. It's a bit of an emergency–can this wait?"

The man shakes his head in flat refusal. You're about to try again when he tilts his head, then sticks out his hand in a so-so kind of gesture.

"I'm… not really sure what you mean."

He shrugs, then motions for you to keep following him. Well, you can't say you didn't try.

After several flights of stairs, the two of you finally come to a stop before a vaultlike door that practically looms over the two of you. The walls around it appear reinforced several times over; evidently, it's been built to last. Whatever's inside must be valuable.

The man steps off to the side, approaching a code-lock presumably connected to the door. He withdraws a keycard from the depths of his pockets, holds it against the connected digital lock, then walks away.

Unexpectedly, rather than the impressive metal gate, a wall of all things opens up to reveal a rather attractive, if plain, wooden door.

The man opens it on oiled hinges, then pushes you through first. For a moment, you're caught fumbling blindly in the dark before the little click of a lightswitch reaches your ears.

Instantly, the room is bathed in a soft, warm light.

It takes a few seconds for you to blink the spots out of your eyes, but once you do, you have to rub them again to make sure you're not hallucinating.

Mountains of stuffed dolls and children's toys lay scattered about the room, all kept in pristine condition. A few oil paintings can be found here and there as well, nestled among the heaps of multicolored cloth rather than hung on the walls. The childish decor is in stark contrast to the array of machinery and wires running through the walls and along the floor, steel behemoths gently humming with activity.

None of this is what holds your attention, though.

No, you're focused entirely upon the boy submerged in what appears to be an oversized fish tank, located smack dab in the room's center. Vents in the base of the tank periodically eject a spray of little bubbles that slowly float upwards to breach an unseen surface.

As you sincerely doubt the Protectorate is in the habit of kidnapping young boys and putting them on display, it's easy enough to infer that this is another Alice. That leaves the question of why he's here, hidden away in some secret room, and why the man led you here.

Honestly, you're beginning to question if this man is actually human… actually, scratch that, you're confident he isn't.

In hindsight, that really should've been obvious. However, in your defense, working with Arthur has taught you to cast aside all presumptions regarding your understanding of human limits.

Damnit, if that's the case, why did you slave away in med school for so long!?

You gather your wits and turn to question the man–only to have a teddy bear suddenly thrust into your face. After an awkward pause, you take it, holding it out in front of you like it's diseased.

The man sits down in front of you and crosses his legs. You get the oddest feeling of anticipation emanating off of him.

[Select one.]

>...Sure. You'll humor him. You have a few stories up your sleeve; shouldn't be all that different from putting your nephews and nieces to sleep. You get the feeling that this Alice is closely connected to the medical department, and you know well enough the importance of establishing bonds.

>No, no, no. This is entirely wrong. You came here for a reason, and you're not going to be distracted by… all this, whatever it is. You've gotta be responsible! Admittedly, your track record on that isn't doing so hot, but you can change that starting now!

>>...Sure. You'll humor him. You have a few stories up your sleeve; shouldn't be all that different from putting your nephews and nieces to sleep. You get the feeling that this Alice is closely connected to the medical department, and you know well enough the importance of establishing bonds.
>...Sure. You'll humor him. You have a few stories up your sleeve; shouldn't be all that different from putting your nephews and nieces to sleep. You get the feeling that this Alice is closely connected to the medical department, and you know well enough the importance of establishing bonds.

So we have another Alica and Attendant Bond here.... Looks interesting.

Maybe they can help us with the eye thing that we came here for.
>>...Sure. You'll humor him. You have a few stories up your sleeve; shouldn't be all that different from putting your nephews and nieces to sleep. You get the feeling that this Alice is closely connected to the medical department, and you know well enough the importance of establishing bonds.
>>...Sure. You'll humor him. You have a few stories up your sleeve; shouldn't be all that different from putting your nephews and nieces to sleep. You get the feeling that this Alice is closely connected to the medical department, and you know well enough the importance of establishing bonds.
Man, last night's update was pretty rough for me - ended up rewriting it something like 2-3 times - but I think I managed to turn it around a bit and set up something a little more interesting than what I had originally planned. Didn't get too many assignments and off work for today, so I'll post the next update as soon as I can. Thanks for participating!
no worries QM. Just make sure your Real Life does not suffer because of this Quest
You're here forever.
He does not need to know that. don't scare it.
I have not slept in 22 hours, several of my gacha games are receiving updates today, and the localization for Rune Factory 5 is coming out tomorrow, god help me this Quest is the least of my worries
>...Sure. You'll humor him. You have a few stories up your sleeve; shouldn't be all that different from putting your nephews and nieces to sleep. You get the feeling that this Alice is closely connected to the medical department…

Somehow, you expected the life of an Attendant to be a bit more glamorous than what you've experienced so far. You've done a lot of running away, been covered in dust and dirt, and now you're playing babysitter to an apparently pseudo-comatose Alice.

A distant part of you wonders if you should be concerned by how quickly you've acclimated to the many oddities of your new life.

You side-eye your newest companion. Though it's evidently sentient to some degree, you doubt this is an actual, living human. There's always the chance that it's another Alice, of course, but somehow, you don't think that's correct, either.

Actually, why not just ask the question outright?

"Alright, sure. You want me to play with you? I've just got a few questions, first. What are you, why are you here, and… Well, you nodded when I asked if you worked here. I got hit by–"

wait, shit, Arthur told you not to blab too much about tonight, think fast

"--by, uh, some kind of Alice-Beast thing. I think it did something to me. Can you give me a checkup or something?"

You are many things, but a good liar is not one of them. Fortunately, the man has no readily apparent way of asking you difficult questions like "what's an Alice-Beast?"
He simply raises three gloved fingers. Slowly, he points at himself, then points at the Alice in the tank, repeating the motion several times. The entire affair calls to mind a strange game of charades.

It clicks for you. "Oh, you're the Alice in there."

He nods, then wiggles his hand in a so-so gesture.

"You're… connected to the Alice?"

A thumbs up.

"Are you a projection?"

Two thumbs up and enthusiastic nodding. While you absorb this new tidbit, the man switches to his second finger and sticks his free hand in one of his many pockets before pulling out a familiar card. You squint and bring it a little closer to your face, noting the star stamped onto it.

"Rafael… White. Special Permissions Alice. Chief Surgeon, Senior Staff at Glaswelt Academy."

The man exudes a palpable aura of pride. You decide not to ask why the Academy needs a Chief Surgeon.

Some things are better left unknown.

For your third question, Rafael simply nods. In a way, showing you his credentials already answered it, but the Alice - you'll consider this projection an extension of the boy in the tank - seems to be nothing if not thorough.

Right. Now it's your turn.

Honestly, you're thrown for a loop by the idea that you'll be playing doll with someone that likely far outstrips you in both medical and life experience. There's something about the situation that you find incredibly surreal… and just a little depressing.

This is the power of Wonderland Effect, huh? If you had any interest in becoming an Alice before, it's rapidly diminishing.

You take a breath to clear your thoughts and turn to scan the room. Right now, you have to uphold your end of the deal. What can you present to him…?

Out of the corner of your eye, you spot plush dolls of a dog, a monkey, and a chicken.

Hm. It's not a pheasant, but close enough.

"Have you ever heard of Momotaro?"

You've read this one to your sister's kids a few times. Though it's a bit ethnic, the folktale you have in mind has cemented itself rather thoroughly in the field of culture. You yourself used to own a copy of it translated into Cantonese.

When Rafael shakes his head no, you take a seat on the floor, taking care to position yourself so that you face his true body.

May as well go the full mile, right?

Feeling extremely tired, won't be able to update tonight. I've got some written, but not enough to post. Will come tomorrow, though!
It's all good QM, take your time to rest.
Thanks for your hard work, QM, looking forward to seeing the rest.
An unrested mind is not a sharp one, take care OP
Rafael is an attentive listener, though you're not sure how much of that is an illusion brought on by his silence.

Though you begin somewhat stiltedly - you're still a little tired, and it's been some time since you did this for your nephews and nieces - you soon settle into a comfortable rhythm. It's not long before you start changing your voice to suit different characters, to which the Alice's projection nods appreciatively.

Once or twice, you think you see the body in the glass smiling a little. Perhaps it's a trick of the light.

Just as you begin winding down, a distant slam echoes from the corridor. Rafael perks up. At the sound of hurried footsteps, he gets up to open the door.

In short order, a rather frazzled young woman bursts into the room, face flushed and dripping with sweat. She immediately stoops over, hands on her knees. She manages to gasp out an apology between breaths.

"I-I'm sorry for the delay! The trains aren't running right now and everyone's busy with the attack, so I had to run…"

She looks up at Rafael, then slides her gaze over to you.

The two of you speak as one.

""Who are you?""

The two of you backtrack on instinct.

"Ah, sorry–"

"My bad–"

"--you should go–"

"--no, you first, please–"

As expected, this does not help the situation.

Before the two of you can continue in this vein, Rafael tosses a plushy at each of you. You both turn to stare at the Alice, who responds with his characteristic silence.

Well, that's one way to get things back on track. You clear your throat and take the initiative.

"I'm Jack Yang, a Trainee Attendant. What's your name?"

Damn, it still feels weird to call yourself that.
A nervous tension visibly seeps out of the woman as you introduce yourself.

"R-right. I'm Jessica Lin--a n-nurse. I'm sorry, sir, but… I thought I was on duty tonight?"

You fold your arms in thought. "On duty?"

"Yes, to care for Mr. White. Um, are you not aware…?"

"Just signed on with the Protectorate today. I came here for a checkup, but Rafael dragged me in here and had me entertain him."

Next to you, Rafael raises a hand to sheepishly rub at his neck. After hearing your version of events, though, the woman's panic returns in full force.

"Oh, but then–you're not supposed to be here, sir! T-this is a restricted area!"

[Select one.]

>"Like I said, I didn't mean to come here originally. I'm still waiting for my checkup, you know."

>"Restricted? What for? Seems lonely as hell. I was just telling him some stories to pass the time--haven't touched a thing."


>Write in
>"Like I said, I didn't mean to come here originally. He dragged me in here and after what happened today this was not the weirdest thing for me. And he seemed pretty lonely. And i was just telling a story. Unless you tell me his power can make stories manifest i think i am still kinda sagfe"
>"Like I said, I didn't mean to come here originally. I'm still waiting for my checkup, you know."
>>"Like I said, I didn't mean to come here originally. I'm still waiting for my checkup, you know."
... cute
>>"Like I said, I didn't mean to come here originally. I'm still waiting for my checkup, you know."
>"Like I said, I didn't mean to come here originally. I'm still waiting for my checkup, you know."

You hold your hands up in surrender in the vain hope that it might do something to calm her down.

She continues floundering helplessly. Well, you can't say you didn't expect this.

"I–you need you to leave, Mr. Yang! Oh, no, if they know you came in here while I was on duty…"

You interrupt her wrist-wringing with a heavy sigh.

"Listen–Jessica, was it? I came here for one reason. I got smacked around while in the frontlines–"

She gasps and stares, lifting both hands to cover her mouth.

"You were fighting out there? B-but, didn't you say you were a Trainee?"

"Wrong place, wrong time. What can you do? I'm still alive and the battle's over. But as I was saying–I just want a checkup. It's late, I know, but my kid is waiting for me back at the dorms. If I end up needing to stay here all night, I don't want to leave her waiting for me to come back."

Your voice hitches a little when you call Valentine your kid, but you try not to let it show. Neither the Alice or the nurse appear to notice, at least.

Rafael, for his part, simply rubs the back of his head sheepishly. Jessica no longer seems like she's about to cry, though you're not sure if the awe in her eyes makes you feel much better.

"U-understood, sir. I'll see to your treatment myself. But, uh, for the record, I still need to ask what you were doing down here…"

"Nothing special. Didn't touch anything other than the dolls, told Rafael some stories to keep him entertained. He dragged me down here as soon as I stepped through the doors, you know."

"Ah… m-my apologies. He likely mistook you for me, one of his caretakers. I was supposed to come earlier. I hope he wasn't too much trouble, sir…"

You shake your head. Honestly, it was kind of relaxing for you. It's been a while since you've told stories to anyone, now that your sister's kids have grown older.

"Don't worry about it. Wasn't really any trouble at all."

You trail off, bemused, as Rafael slides up next to you and links arms with you. He pats you in a way that's probably meant to be reassuring, then pulls you towards the door.

Jessica's caught flat-footed for a moment, but soon follows close behind.

"Mr. White, you really don't need to… I can…"

The projection shakes his head, silent as ever. As you walk up the stairs and down sterile corridors, passing by token potted plants posted every now and then, you find yourself thinking about how different Rafael's room was.

It looked like something straight out of a sci-fi show. You only recognized maybe a quarter of the instruments there as some form of long-term life-support. Before you can stop yourself, you aim a question at the nurse.

"So, Jessica. Why does Rafael need to be in there, anyways? Seems pretty elaborate. And you said something about caretakers, multiple? Does he not have an Attendant?"

No update again tonight, sorry... Came back after a hard test and my brain still feels fried, it seems. Look forward to a larger update tomorrow, though, and a bit of a reveal as to what Papa actually did to you.
your health comes first! Get enough rest take your time!
She jerks her head up in surprise, nearly tripping over herself. After a moment to collect her thoughts, she speaks, if timidly.

"W-well, Mr. White is… a special case. His ability isn't quite suited for field activity, you see, but with his skills, it's really quite fantastic. If I may explain?"

The Alice flaps his hand at her, then goes back to hugging your arm. Out of curiosity, you try prying him off as subtly as you can manage, only to discover that his grip is like iron. He doesn't even seem to notice when you embolden your attempts.

How clingy. Well, it doesn't really bother you much, seeing as he's taking care to not crush your arm.

Blind to your little byplay, Jessica continues talking.

"Mr. White is a meritorious healer, with several decades of experience under his belt. His spotless record and employment under other organizations are what earned him a place at Glaswelt."

You can't help but notice a change in her form as she speaks. Her shoulders are no longer drawn in, and her stammer disappears almost entirely. It seems she becomes a fair bit more confident when covering ground that she's familiar with.

"Over 75% of the rooms in this building operate under his jurisdiction, managed entirely by him and his projections."

In a quieter tone, she adds a rather ominous line.

"His efforts are quite possibly the only reason we're not overworked, considering how often our trainees get injured…"

A seed of worry plants itself in your heart, but before you can ask what she means by that, Jessica hurriedly continues.

"None of this truly answers your question, though. Simply put, Mr. White has been in a coma for the past four… No, five years. His projections are his only means of interacting with the world."

Your breath hitches. Five years?

A part of you notes that the timing would mark him as one of the first Alices, but that observation falls to the wayside in favor of a faint sense of horror.

Five years as a shadow.

You can't decide if his current state is a kinder fate than the ignorant bliss of a regular coma.

"Do you know why…?"

Jessica turns her face to the ground, uncertainly nibbling at the bottom of her lip.

"The-the current theory is that Wonderland Effect hadn't been, um, perfected yet when Mr. White was exposed. He was at the Times Square attack–you may have read some articles about complications from that particular group…"

You nod, a frown marring your face. For the next year, Guignol and Alices were all that the world could talk about. Even the news of possible complications wasn't enough to stop the waves of people clamoring for the chance to become an Alice themselves. After all, who would turn down the opportunity for superpowers?

If Grand-Guignol hadn't had such limited production ability, if Beasts hadn't begun to appear so soon afterwards, if governments across the world hadn't acted so swiftly…

Though the world today has its issues, you shudder to imagine what could have been.

"--why we have our current system."

Ah, damn. You were too busy thinking and missed what she was saying. With a light blush, you raise your hand to grab her attention.

"Sorry–could you repeat that again? Wasn't focused, my bad."

"Oh, uh, certainly. I-I was just saying that as a non-combatant, Mr. White doesn't really… have an Attendant. He has us–his nursing staff, I mean. We, well, keep him company."

She sends a complicated look at the projection glued to your side.

"It's… the least we can do."

Led by Rafael, your group turns down a hallway that wouldn't be out of place in a hospital. Eggshell-white doors line each side in groups of three, numbered with little plastic plaques. The familiar scent of cleaner fluid burns in your nostrils.

It's like you're ten years younger and starting your internship all over again.

As Jessica moves to open the door, Rafael detaches himself from you and pushes you in. In short order, you're seated, given a health form to fill out, and divested of your shirt.

The nurse lets out a choked whimper upon seeing the bruises covering your body. It's a modern-art display of purple and yellow blooming beautifully. Rafael shakes his head, silent as ever.

"S-shouldn't that hurt? Y-you didn't say anything?"

You let out a half-laugh, half-sigh.

"Aches likes you wouldn't believe. Looks worse than it is, though–I checked, no broken bones. I'll call that a win."

"Still… W-well, what did you come in here for?"

You tap your cheek, just below the eye, tracing your fingers along the lines that Papa left you.

"This. I have reason to believe that there's more to it than it seems–was hoping you might be able to help figure something out."

A nervous look crosses Jessica's face.

"I'm not sure how much help we'll be, really… T-the experimental stuff is more… It's more like something that Research would handle."

Rafael, on the other hand, claps his hands together. The sound is muffled somewhat by his gloves, but he has your attention.

The Alice sets down the clipboard containing your health form and motions for you to sit at the table. Then, he passes Jessica an ophthalmoscope.

"Starting off with the light reflex, then?"

"M-makes sense, doesn't it?"

You nod in acceptance. As soon as Jessica shines the light in your eye, though, your vision blurs.

A searing agony brands itself into the interior of your skull. You feel claws scraping inside of you, as if there was something desperately trying to burst free from your forehead.

[Select one of the following. Guaranteed success.]




[///] OR [///]

[Select one of the following. Roll 1d20, DC 10, Best of 3.]




[///] OR [///]

[Select one of the following. Roll 1d20, DC 15, Best of 1.]

>Takeo's Alice.


ill cast a vote for /ouralice/ to start but wouldnt mind going for Lily or Takeo's if other anons want it

We take care of her and little Val takes care of us.
Something tells me this vote might be something that fucks the person we choose, unless we fail the roll we're the ones who gets fucked

There is a garden.

It is the Garden.

An empty utopia, our motherland, existing far beyond the reach of man.

An endless field of green grass and bright flowers stretches far, far into infinity, covering every square inch of this land without borders.

Somewhere in the distance, an enormous tree of titanic proportions stands tall, unbowed. Its leaves whistle in the wake of an invisible breeze, its branches stretch out to touch the sky, its roots drink deep of the rich soil, and its boughs are laden with knowledge.

A table for twelve sits beneath its shade, highly decorated and dressed by an elaborate lace cloth. Burdening the engraved surface of its wood is a bountiful array of finger foods and teacakes, the very picture of luxury. Surrounding the table are a dozen high-backed chairs, cushioned and throne-like, more than a match in appearance alone.

Though eight of the chairs are filled, you fail to perceive any of their occupants' faces. They exist as little more than grey, smudged outlines in your eyes–yet somehow, you know that for anyone else, those chairs would seem empty.

Yet even as you look, there is someone you do recognize. A familiar girl leans back in her chair, head tilted and eyes shut in gentle slumber.

White hair. Black horns. A dimly glowing halo, encrusted with thorns.

Brown hair. Scarred skin. A miserable human, through and through.

Your body moves without input, slowly approaching the girl you know as Valentine Harper.

Every step flattens the grass. A soft wind caresses your skin. The aches and pains of your years seem to wash away.

You take your rightful place behind her and feel whole.

Then the sun disappears.

(This is wrong.)

Or did it exist at all?

(You are not prepared.)

The words brand themselves into your skull.

(Seal this sight, this memory.)

Where–where are you? You don't recognize this place. You've never, never, never been here before.

(The gift he gave you is but a curse.)

You collapse to your knees, driven to the earth–the arid, cracked earth, covered in the withered husks of long-dead plants.

(Yet your efforts deserve a reward.)

The dirt beneath the tree cracks, widens, a gaping chasm of a maw that seeks to swallow you whole.

(I grant you the flesh of the forbidden fruit.)

Valentine tilts back and falls with you, still sleeping.

(A fragment of the greater truth.)

[Valentine Bond V: Met.]

On instinct, you reach out, pull her in, hold her tight to your form.

(Do not fear your ignorance, Jack.)

Against your better judgement, you force your eyes open, ignoring the scything wind, the scattering debris, the absolute dark.

(Overcome it.)

You owe it to her. You are her Attendant. To protect is your duty as a healer.

(There is a light at the end of the tunnel.)

But above all, you do it because you care.

You are the Hermit.

(One day, you will return, for you belong to the world beyond the veil.)

[Select one.]

>"What do you mean!?"

>"Who are you!?"

>"What did you do to me!?"

>"Drugs, not even once."

>Stay silent. Stay resolute. You'll discover the truth yourself.


[Prologue End.]

[Bond Levels Revealed. Check the CHARACTER LISTING.]

[Due to your actions, ??? has been temporarily downgraded to (Oracle's False Eye). Upon establishing a Bond of III or greater with an Alice, gain a fragmented glimpse of their Core Truth. More will be revealed as Bond Levels increase.]

[Valentine's Core V: Necromancy?]

Focused on "cooperation" and "pulling out mankind's innermost potential." It is close to the idealized — which — seeks; —, —, and —.
However, it is also a reflection of Valentine's inner desires. She needs family. She needs —. She suffers from —, and she herself is weak. It manifests in its current form because —. It utilizes —.

Congratulations are in order. You somehow went down the exact sequence of events necessary to unlock something that I didn't expect you to get to until, like, Thread 10. Granted, it's a super gimped version right now, but that's probably for the best. Jack would've had his first Bad End if you didn't choose to go get checked out!

All I have to say is: you didn't think the Alice in Wonderland theming was just because I thought it was cool, did you? It was totally because I thought it was cool I'm sorry

As a gift for completing the Prologue, I'm willing to answer any three IC/OOC questions you may have. Nothing too spoilery, mind you, but feel free to go wild; the worst I'll do is veto it. In the interest of keeping things as fair as possible, I'll be limiting it to one question per ID. You're also welcome to discuss potential questions with other players before finalizing what you want to ask.

Here are some freebies: The table is made out of the tree of life. You've met one of the figures at the table. Yes, the Hermit is referring to the Major Arcana.
I can't believe I wrote a 55k word prologue, what the fuck is wrong with me
Nice writing, nice work hanging in there with all the irl stuff, and nice quads. I still need to catch up with the last few updates so I'll go ahead with a casual question and ask which quests do you like/follow?
Damn, didn't even notice the quads, my brain is too fried this late at night.
Anyways, I'll give you this one for free! I mostly read stuff on Questionable Questing, Sufficient Velocity, and Spacebattles (typically QQ though), but on 4chan... The active quests that I'm currently following are Haremvania, Manager Help!, Help Wanted, and Violent Masquerade. I've also been reading some archived quests like Princess Guard Quest and Fate/Paradox Reincarnator, among a few others.
Those numbers are just beautiful. Thank you for being such a madman to write such a long prologue

>Jack would've had his first Bad End if you didn't choose to go get checked out!

Thought as much

And that ability is intersting. An In-Universe ability to see Bonds. Interesting

>Stay silent. Stay resolute. You'll discover the truth yourself

If this is what i believe it to be then we will have to come back with a Godslayer in Hand to get rid of this Eldritch Creature... or a really good Lawyer. We have to find the best ones and make it a battle royal who can bend the others words the most to find the most powerful ones. Maybe the Nine Hells would be open for a Business deal.
This is just what i want to see but is obly brainstorming so that others might contribute id they think any of my ideas are worthwhile.

For Questions i would like to ask:
> Is "Papa" an Alice or can he somehow channel the powers of one?

>How does the Wondeland Procedure work? Is it a Serum, Surgery or something akin to a virus that nees an activation trigger?

>How difficult is it to get a hold of the Wonderland Treatment?

>what is the Geopolitical Situation. Is there still conflict between nations?

>Are Alices actively used for Warfare/Crime Prevention by any Government aside from the Protectorate?
>"Drugs, not even once."
After two daring days, I think Jack might be just a bit tired lol

Well thank you.
Can you give us sometime ? I am not quite sure what to ask. Maybe something about necromancy it self, if others are cool with it. Or about the alices
Also it was quite nice for a prologue good job !

Huh Quads

>I wrote a 55k word prologue
I think you might like to write a lot, nothing wrong with that.
>>what is the Geopolitical Situation. Is there still conflict between nations?

i will take and ask this one from this anon >>5210034
if everyone is okay with it
I don't mind seeing as i am the poster of that little Brainstorming session now finally back home after writing it during my morning break. So my opinion might be a bit biased

Personally i would then like an answer to: >How does the Wondeland Procedure work? Is it a Serum, Surgery or something akin to a virus that nees an activation trigger?
>"Drugs, not even once."
Don't think I'll be able to get out a update tonight, so I'll get to answering the questions instead. Apologies.

>How does Wondeland Effect work?
You shouldn't think too hard about it, but the bioweapon takes the form of a microscopic parasite that quickly incorporates itself into the biology of the victim. Once the Alicization process is completed, it's nigh impossible to extract for observation. Due to its properties, the parasite can be easily distributed in a variety of ways. A spoiler question would be something like "where does the parasite come from/how did Guignol engineer it?"

>What is the current geopolitical situation?
Extremely simplified overview:
Most nations under the banner of the Protectorate contribute a not-insignificant amount of resources to the organization. In the interest of maintaing peace in the face of the threat posed by Grand-Guignol, a ceasefire treaty among its member nations has been put into place. That said, there are some countries that haven't joined the Protectorate for a variety of reasons, ranging from relatively minor Alice activity to tense diplomatic relations with member nations to a simple desire to maintain as much of their independence as possible. They operate their own defense agencies as a result. Regarding geography, a few cities and particularly small nation-states have been unfortunately wiped off the map.
On a related note, the use of Alices in war has been officially banned due to concerns over excessive force and potential collateral damage in the event someone turns into a Beast.

There's room for one more question if you guys are interested. I'll allow repeat IDs since so much time has passed.
Then i would like to pose a Question.
>Do Organisations/Nations other than Guignol or the Protectorate use Alices for anything like (organized) crime, terrorism or warfare?
>>5211004 #
Great question! Yes, on paper everyone follows the "no Alices in war" rule, but deniable assets and other such cells don't pay attention to such things--or at least, they wouldn't if they existed, and they most certainly don't exist. In true keeping with hot-blooded anime land spirit, you can expect to encounter defectors with that terrible flaw known as "having a heart" who want the best for their Alice and don't believe a short, brutal life of blood and fire is conducive towards that. They usually get hunted down pretty quickly, though.

Moving towards the private side of the underworld, it's a whole different ball game. Alices are at once the best and worst thing to ever happen to them; they're both major power boosts and also terrific equalizers, allowing enterprising gangs and internal power struggles to rise up and succeed with some luck and smarts.
After all, though Wonderland Effect is highly resistant to being studied, it's technically still pretty easy to access. I mean, Valentine literally got her dose by basically emailing the Guignol from a public library. While that did ping some flags, it's not exactly a simple matter for the police to track down a single runaway in the middle of a city within the span of 24 hours based off of a 30 minute search on a public computer. Say what you will about the Guignol, but their dead drop delivery system has some top notch service.

And yes, you can expect this to be relevant. I-I mean the organized crime, not Guignol's same-day delivery.
>And yes, you can expect this to be relevant. I-I mean the organized crime, not Guignol's same-day delivery

So Guignol is what Amazon aspires to be? I wonder what their hiring process would be like to get people to put it into the Dead Drops.

Probably Hypnosis in combination with Drugs. And that answers the other question i had about how easy it is to get access to that stuff
Papa is Jeff Bezos confirmed.
How did you access my notes!? Egads!
Sign up now for our Grand Subscription and receive ONE (1) complimentary Perfect Formula as a bonus!
Question for you lot while I prepare the update; would you be willing to become an Alice?
Sure but a lot further down the road, we still gotta have our attendant fun times for a while, if we do become one I assume we'd get some sort of support powers to go along with us being a medic.
>Stay silent. Stay resolute. You'll discover the truth yourself.
Add the next:
>And if I can, with those dear to me

If it's not spoilery, can you give us in a nutshell what would happen if we had the bad end?, if you can't for spoiler reasons, then, how much have you been enjoying writing this prologue?

And suddenly, each chapter is 300k word long

Yep, I want cool wacky powers, and if possible, when alices are fairly more equal to humans in rights
I meant more along the lines of "You, personally," but it's good to know that you wouldn't be averse to playing Jack as an Alice. I'm not sure if I'll ever do that, but honestly speaking, with the way things have been going I'm no longer certain about anything.
Like I said in the first thread, it would've been VN-style. A chunk of writing along the lines of a typical update, then Jack's unfortunate demise.
In this case, since you would have taken no active attempt to repress the gift/curse, Jack would've had the equivalent of a super-powered brain aneurysm with accompanying physical deformity. Val would have been incredibly traumatized to wake up next to him.

But since you've done the smart thing, that's no longer gonna happen. You'll just be leaving Valentine to spend her first night at Glaswelt all by herself, quietly wondering why you're taking so long and regretting the fact that she didn't try and push to follow you! Good thing Glaswelt has everything on record, so it's not too difficult for Jessica to call her and explain what happened after looking you up.
Personally? Absolutely not. The powers are nice. But i dont want to go back potentially to my goddamn Child brain no matter how cool the powers. Well my Teenage Brain would be a bit better since i was a relatively calm and mature teenager so Beastturning would be a bit less of a risk. But the answer would still be NO!! I would mind cyberization a whole lot less though

In Game. Probably not to be honest. Jack does not strike me as someone who just takes the easy path with such drawbacks.
>"Drugs, not even once."

As you fall, a million thoughts flash through your mind. Where are you going? What is the "world beyond the veil?" Where are these words coming from?

Just what have you become?

Then, with exaggerated care, you ball up your myriad uncertainties and throw them out the metaphorical window.

Idly, you wonder if you won't just die of stress midway through your new career. If every day ends up like this… Gah, you don't want to think about that.

Ah, well. It's not like you'd want to give this up, even if you had the chance.

In the words of your mother, you're a big boy now. You'll handle things as they come, just like you always have. Internally, you offer a half-hearted apology to your father. Looks like you won't be able to stay out of trouble like he hoped.

You pull Valentine a little bit closer and rest your chin atop her head, avoiding her horns and halo as best you can.

"Drugs, man. Not even once."

You wake up in a bed that isn't yours.

A ray of sunlight from a nearby window warms your face, the outside world peeking in through partially-drawn curtains. There's a distinct sense of pins-and-needles prickling your arm, and someone much smaller than you is holding your hand.

A quaint little analog clock reads as 5:50.

"...Another unfamiliar ceiling."

Hell yeah. You've always wanted to say that line.

Actually, this ceiling is pretty much identical to any you'd find in your previous hospital, right down to the plate-sized shield that covers the room's sole lightbulb.
You'd expect a communal sickbay for a place this size, but a glance to your side reveals a complicated series of machines that takes up most of the room's space. Though you're a few years out of practice, it's rather disheartening to realize that you have no idea what they're for. You can't even tell what model they are…

Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a little plastic tag attached to one of them. The words "Prop. of Research Wing, Sec. 3-A. Glaswelt" are printed in bold, blocky words.

Well, that would probably explain why you don't recognize any of these things. Who knows what kind of tech the Protectorate has access to. You feel a little better about yourself, now.

With a sigh, you pull yourself upwards a bit to see whoever's drooling on your arm.

Probably no. I feel like there is a secret drawback in the candies. Who wouldn't put a security measure in them ?
This said if it happens we will roll with it. Even if returning to be a child as an adult, after being an Attendant would be very weird and depressing for him.
And it would put a block, to any relation Jack might had made even with being the tutor of Valentine. Can't really have any relation when you look like a kid. Still having powers would be nice, can't argue with that.

What a shame
We will find something for excuse us.
As expected, it's Valentine. Your Alice's distinct halo enters your field of vision the moment you get up.

Though you thought it would be her, it's still a little surprising to see her sitting by your bedside. Maybe she just got lonely while waiting for you…


A strange feeling of emptiness washes over you. Your heartbeat slowly picks up as you chase after that fleeting thread of an idea, only to find that it leads you absolutely nowhere.

You met Rafael. Spoke with Jessica. You entered the room, and then–


Lost in thought, you pull away from Valentine, freeing your arm in the process. At that, she grumbles a little and begins to stir awake. Your Alice lets out a yawn before blearily rubbing at her eyes with her free hand. There's a sizable mark running down her cheek from where she used your arm as a pillow.


"Hey there. Sleep well?"

Steady breaths, Jack. You'll set aside your concerns for now–maybe Jessica can fill the gaps in your memory. For now, it's a new day.

Valentine stares at you through lidded eyes, still dazed from just waking up. After a moment, she points at you accusingly, strands of tousled hair bobbing along with the motion.

"You, you said you'd come back soon."

Despite your best efforts, you can't help but chuckle at her appearance. Thankfully, it seems that Valentine isn't much of a morning person; she only has the energy to poke you with her tail a single time. You wave it away before responding.

"Sorry about that, Val. I'm not sure what happened; if I had any choice in the matter, I'd be hunting down breakfast for us right now."


Despite her pout, she seems mollified by your response. She seems just about ready to go back to sleep when a question for her springs to mind.

"How'd you get here, anyways? I'm still in the medical department, right?"

Unfortunately this quest is henceforth undergoing indefinite hiatus. There's just too much work piling up in my day-to-day life to keep up. Please forgive me.
As an apology and a thank-you for bearing with me all this time, here's a Pastebin detailing my rough notes for major plot and setting details, plus some extra character goodies. Thank you for playing so far.
Oh... this is sad QM. But thank you for your time none the less. This was pretty nicely written.

I hope your life will turn out a bit better from now on with a bit less work.
I have to say a Grand Story you were planning. To bad you may never get to finish it.
At that moment, the door swings open, admitting Jessica into the room. She trembles beneath the weight of a bright red tray laden with fruit. The distinct smell of cinnamon oatmeal wafts into the room.

Your Alice snaps wide awake as the nurse approaches, her stomach performing an impressive rendition of a lion's roar. She stares at the food with zero shame, even taking a half-step forward when Jessica notices you and nearly drops the tray.

"Y-you're awake!"

"Seems so."

She stares at you for an awkward moment, confused by your apparent nonchalance, but snaps back to reality when Valentine piteously reaches out for the food. The woman carefully lifts it out of reach, earning a glare for her efforts, then turns to you for help.

"Miss Harper wouldn't happen to have any, um, dietary restrictions? That part of her file was left blank…"

"No, she's fine. Nothing special."

"Right then, very well…"

You watch in mild shock as Valentine practically inhales the tray set before her. Seems she's got an awful sweet tooth. If it weren't for your own uneasiness killing any potential appetite, you'd take a few grapes for yourself.

You glance to the side as Jessica timidly raises her hand for your attention. Once she confirms you're looking at her, the woman takes a deep breath, squeezes her eyes shut, then rapidly dips into a deep bow.

"Please forgive me for last night!"

There's a brief pause as even Valentine looks up to stare at Jessica's earnest apology. She soon goes back to munching on a pear, though, an expression of bliss on her face.

If only you could feel so relaxed.

"I-it's fine, so please raise your head! I don't blame you! And Valentine, eat slower or you'll choke."


Jessica looks up at you, teary-eyed.

"Y-you mean it? H-how are you feeling? Any lingering pain? Oh, I should have led off with that, I'm no good at this…"

You hold back a sigh.

"Listen, you're fine. About last night–I actually have a few questions. But first, what's Val doing here? Not that I don't appreciate her eating my breakfast."

Valentine's the one to answer you. She hastily swallows her current mouthful of food before speaking.

"I-I stayed up late last night. Jessica called me and asked if I was… Your Alice."

The girl pokes her fingers together briefly before continuing.

"I said yes, naturally, and she told me that an emergency had come up. A-as your partner, I had a right to know. It took a little bit, but I managed to find my way here, and she let me in."

You can't help but stare in shock. She walked that distance, by herself, in the dark? You got to experience her sense of direction last night; that couldn't have been easy.

…Why did she bother?

"You didn't need to come, Val. I mean, I appreciate the thought, but there's no way you got enough sleep–"

"I-I couldn't just leave you alone!"

She rises to her feet as she speaks. In her haste, though, the spoon in her bowl clatters as it's knocked to the ground.

There's a light dusting of pink on her cheeks as she stoops to pick it up from the floor. When she stands again, she studiously avoids looking you in the eye, choosing to focus instead on wiping the utensil clean.

–Of course. You can't believe you missed it.

She's as new to this as you are, in an unfamiliar place, a brand new world. You can't deny feeling some degree of anxiety yourself, especially once you recall Arthur's claim that you'll be called in for further questioning.

But you're an adult. You have the benefit of your years to keep you afloat. It's not the first time you've experienced a sudden change in your life, even if nothing was quite so drastic as all this.

Valentine, on the other hand, has no such luck. She's 16, after all. It makes sense that she'd try to stick close to the only thing here she's familiar with.

Even if that happens to be a man she's known for less than a week.

You let out a tired sigh, a little disappointed in yourself. You're really going to need to crack open that book on parenting sometime soon. Hopefully you get more use out of it than your sister did.

In the meantime, you've got an apology to make.

"...Thanks for staying, Val. Means a lot to me."


The awkward silence that descends is soon broken by an equally-awkward cough.

Shit, you nearly forgot Jessica was here. The hapless nurse offers a weak smile at your apologetic nod.

"R-right! Um, good to see you two… Have such a strong bond? Are so close to one another?"

She trails off weakly.

You've had quite enough of awkward moments for today. Back to business.

"Right. Jessica–small problem. My memory of last night is incomplete. I don't recall so much as a second of what happened after I entered the ward."

At your words, Jessica's demeanor markedly changes, falling back into that same confidence you saw in her last night when she spoke about her duties with Rafael.

"Please elaborate, sir. How much do you recall?"

While she waits for your response, the nurse takes out a pen and notepad, ready to scribble down whatever you say. A juvenile part of you wonders if her handwriting is as bad as yours, a habit of everyone who's ever graduated medschool.

"I was with you and Rafael. We turned down a hallway, walked into a vacant room for my checkup, and then it all blanks out there. Neurology isn't my specialty, but I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen."

"Hm. No, it's not. Oddly targeted for memory loss. For your information, we barely even managed to start the process; you passed out in pain as soon as I began to shine a light in your eye. Further examination from Mr. White - shallow, nothing intrusive - revealed no particular reason for such a reaction, and as I understand it, nothing in your medical history stands out as a potential link."

She pauses in her notation, then glances uneasily at Valentine.

"Er--you'll have to take off some clothing for this next part. Miss…?"

It takes a moment for your Alice to make the connection. Her only response is to turn a slightly deeper shade of pink, nod once, and hastily leave the room.

What an odd reaction. You're certain she's seen you topless before.

You'll chalk it up to it being too early in the morning, maybe.

With a sigh, you begin unbuttoning your shirt, uncomfortably aware of how dry your mouth feels. Hopefully they've got some toothpaste around here. You'll ask Jessica once this is done.

Your idle thoughts are interrupted by the woman in question. A touch of anxiety enters her voice as she approaches you.

"S-sir? My apologies, but I could have sworn you had bruises last night…"

You blink at her, confused. What's she talking about? You were practically a modern art painting last night…

But if that's the case, you should've been sore as all get-out once you woke up, particularly after the strain you put yourself through.

You look down at yourself, mildly concerned, and are greeted with an expanse of flawless tanned skin.

Well then.

15 minutes later, the two of you remain utterly stumped. For all intents and purposes, you're healthy as an ox. Hell, you feel better than normal–your hidden aches and various joint pains have cleared right up, too.

Of course, the fact that nothing's wrong is a clear sign that something's wrong. At your insistence, Jessica calls in Rafael, who rather reluctantly puts you through another eye test. Contrary ro what you all expected, though, nothing of note occurs beyond a slight increase to light sensitivity in your left eye. It's expected to be temporary, but even if it's permanent, it's highly unlikely to significantly affect you in any way.

With nothing else to be done, the Alice draws a vial of your blood for testing; you'll get the results back by tonight.

Jessica shakes her head morosely as she sticks a band-aid over the pinprick of a wound. It's already beginning to itch.

"I don't understand. I know we should be happy that there's technically no issue, but…"

"Yeah. Not knowing what's going on is pretty terrifying in its own right, huh?"

She nods quietly, then glances at Rafael. Now armed with her notepad and pen, the Alice is free to communicate with you.

In rough shorthand, he scribbles out "Come every day, 7 days, 6 P.M. Further observation needed. Call if anything happens."

After a moment of hesitation, he turns the paper over and writes on the back of it as well.

"Please play with me again. Liked your story."

With that, the projection nods decisively, folds up the note, and stuffs it in your shirt's breastpocket. He steps away, then fades out of sight with a wave goodbye.

Before you leave, Jessica tugs on your sleeve. She passes you two sheets of laminated paper, both stamped with the Protectorate emblem.

"I, uh, took the liberty to get this week's schedule delivered here. This is yours, and this is Ms. Harper's…"

"Much appreciated."

You tap your fingers to your forehead in a brief salute before pushing past the door. No point in longer farewells when you'll be seeing her again soon.

It opens up to the ground floor lobby, the light of dawn streaming in through a series of large glass windows. Valentine's waiting just outside your room, sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. Her arms are wrapped around her knees, though she lifts her head up to look at you once you draw closer.

"Finally done?"

"Looks like it. Big day ahead of us. Here, look this over. I'll check a map, see where my own classes are located. We shouldn't be too far away from here."

"We share a few lessons, don't we?"


You glance outside. There's a bright blue sky out there, and the sun's only just begun to make its way above the horizon.

Hah. You better get used to having a day job, now.

[Welcome to your first morning at Glaswelt. Please select a day class to attend. This does NOT take up the whole day; the corresponding update will eventually be followed by votes for your afternoon classes. Once that finishes, you'll be voting for night courses. You cannot take the same class more than twice in a single day, but you can take it twice in a row, with certain exceptions.]

>Boots on the Ground. Looks like the PT extracurricular you signed up for starts up pretty early in the day. Huh, there's an option for night classes, too. You may as well put this body of yours for a test run, see if there's anything you might have missed.

>Communications Club. What's this about morning announcements? Feels like an on-site news station.

>Medical Program: Assistant Nurse. Supposedly, rush hour starts in the afternoon. Getting used to the environment before you have to deal with all that sounds like a good idea.

Apologies for the rather slow week! Now that the Academy arc is starting properly, though, we'll be kicking things back into high gear. As tense as the Beast attack? Maybe not quite on that scale, but I hope to make it interesting nonetheless. I will likely be shamelessly stealing ideas from various shonen manga and whatnot. I make no apologies!

As a reminder of how these next three weeks will work…

We'll be playing through one or two days from each of the first 3 weeks before finalizing your course selection. As a result, there will likely be some timeskipping. This does not include the weekends, which we'll be playing through fully.

This is an opportunity to develop new skills or further improve upon pre-existing abilities. For this style of quest, though, the real benefit is being able to meet new characters and strengthen your relations with old friends.

For the sake of space, I'll be posting the full list of possible electives in a pastebin later on. Feel free to come up with your own suggestions for electives and accompanying setting details. Worst I'll do is veto them.
>>Boots on the Ground. Looks like the PT extracurricular you signed up for starts up pretty early in the day. Huh, there's an option for night classes, too. You may as well put this body of yours for a test run, see if there's anything you might have missed.
>Communications Club. What's this about morning announcements? Feels like an on-site news station.
GOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM! Picking this solely because that came into my head when I saw "morning announcements".
>Boots on the Ground. Looks like the PT extracurricular you signed up for starts up pretty early in the day. Huh, there's an option for night classes, too. You may as well put this body of yours for a test run, see if there's anything you might have missed.
>>Boots on the Ground. Looks like the PT extracurricular you signed up for starts up pretty early in the day. Huh, there's an option for night classes, too. You may as well put this body of yours for a test run, see if there's anything you might have missed.

>Communications Club. What's this about morning announcements? Feels like an on-site news station.
>Medical Program: Assistant Nurse. Supposedly, rush hour starts in the afternoon. Getting used to the environment before you have to deal with all that sounds like a good idea.

Discover if they have the means to solve balding
Since we're on page 10, I'm gonna make a new thread after I archive this one. If you have any recommendations for summaries or tags, feel free to post them. Otherwise, the working summary for this thread is as follows:
"You and your shoulder loli gang up on a little girl, then get in a fight with her drug-dealing father. Also features a 39 year-old man (you) and his college re-debut."

Same as last time, I'd greatly appreciate any compliments and critiques! In accordance with suggestions I received in the last thread, I tried to stick to shorter updates between votes this time around. Did it work out well? At least there aren't any 13-post sequences like before, kek

Unfortunately, finding art for some of the things I wrote was a little harder this time around, so I didn't get to include as many images as I would have liked. Maybe one of these days I'll end up drawing it out myself. You'll be able to tell by how shitty it'll look!

As a freebie, here's Valentine's electives:

Morning: Boots on the Ground
Afternoon: Silent Library Coalition
Night: Silent Library Coalition

Do look forward to how that turns out for her.
Dad touches Jack in a bad place while Val watches in Horror.

I know i know bad joke. Now for something more serious

The first day goes not as planned as Guignol starts throwing rocks at a World made of Glass

Tag Ideas: Supernatural, Superowers

Social Links, Persone
thanks for the thread
lol i like the summary, for tags maybe mystery, action, magic, parental issues ? I am not sure what kind of tags the quest could have, beyond your qm name.
>Silent Library Coalition
i wonder why she has a sudden interest in books ...
>interest in books
I'll hold off on answering this directly for now, but I'll note that you can make an inference as to why if you check my previous comments. All I'll say is that it isn't sudden by any means!
You can also just wait for when she brings it up/it becomes relevant, which shouldn't take too long.
Old men have violent three-way as daughters watch, wife interrupts.
This is a really good short description QM

Your first one was also good though. Its hard to think of something fitting the entire Vibe of this chapter.
Thread archived! Vote for it here. please


Next thread will be up either today or tomorrow. I'll include the shiny new pastebins that I promised in its summary post. Thanks for playing!
New thread is up! Read it here:

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