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/qst/ - Quests

It is the early 1500s.
A small south eastern country called “Sablestream” and many others are being watched closely by western powers for possibilities of alliance or colonization.

Decades prior, the war between them and their neighboring country, “Galepeak” ended. Commerce between nearby nations and Sablestream has expanded massively since, with many foreigners eventually taking root in the land.

This era of prosperity slowly fades away as the the people and the government drifts apart.

While many things played a part of alienation, such as the abandonment of multiple magic disciplines deemed “unnecessary” while exclusively pushing out more healers for the military, the lack of funding given to rural cities, one scandal finally severed their trust - the truth behind a cult.

The “Cult of the Father” was cult that quickly amassed a following, due to their production of cheap “medicine” and ability to manipulate people into having blind faith in this cult. Originally, the population was led to believe that this group were merely grifters that could only control gullible provincials.

In reality, it was an organization that infiltrated society at large, having ties to nobility and government, who uses them to shape what will happen in rural parts of Sablestream.

With the help of several of her allies, a goblin called "Pine" was able to unleash the truth to the public. Her skills as an assassin played a large part in orchestrating such a plan and evading retaliation afterwards.

A wave of betrayal, death, violence, and paranoia washed over Sablestream.

With the country descending into chaos once again, many are plunged into the criminal underworld, by choice or not.

Thread 1 : https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2022/5290674/
Thread 2 : https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2022/5321981/
These threads aren’t necessary to understand this quest - consider them short prequel stories

>Goblin assassin, Pine
Assassin that occasionally becomes na investigator. Armed with several magic trinkets and daggers.

(once married) Goblin woman in her 30s who orchestrated Cult of the Father’s downfall.

To most, she’s a restaurant owner that lives in a small town called “Cinderpath”.
To those in the life, she’s a capable investigator and fighter.

After she dismantled the cult, Pine decides to become a…

>>Cook, focused on a legitimate career
With the influx of new criminals, there’s more threats and competition than ever. Going straight now will let her avoid those dangers and give her more time to herself.

Learning more about food will not only help with her legitimate career, but also broaden her knowledge about medicine and poisons.

>>Martial arts practitioner, proficient in combat
With more clients than ever, she decides to study and train herself to fight with multiple types of weapons.

Pine will also become more fit, able to do physically demanding tasks for longer than usual.

>>Investigator, skilled in stealth and tracking
Being an assassin right now is too dangerous for her, but Pine doesn’t want to leave that life behind. Taking lower risk jobs such as spying on someone’s spouse sounds like decent work for her.

Pine will be able to manipulate people more effectively than before, and become more skilled at blending in or infiltrating places.
A ruthless chemist wielding a invisibility cloak and a pistol under his sleeve.

Male goblin in his early 20s who is exceptionally skilled in creating potions. He once studied in a prestigious school for potion makers, taught by sea serpents, highly intelligent animals well versed in acid and poisons.

During his days in the Serpent Scholars academy, with the help of his tutor (and lover), he tortured male students who carelessly got female students pregnant and administered his abortifacient to the women, whether they want it or not.

Zeal and his tutor Cris used their invisibility cloaks to great effect in executing their vigilante activities and dismantling the cult.

Now that he has graduated, he wants to focus on…

>>using his connections and getting his abortifacients into stores
Zeal wants to get his potion, which acts as both abortifacient and a sleeping aid, into as many people’s hands as possible.

He doesn’t want to see anyone’s destiny be displaced because of a single mistake.
He saved people in his academy, it’s time to save more.

Using his connections, he could make certain stores sell these as medicine.

>>building a criminal empire of his own
During his time helping Pine, he became highly respected and feared by many in the criminal underworld. Should he dip his toes in it again, he’ll have to navigate an even more perilous life. Then again, arms dealing and overseeing brothels will suit him well.

Production and distribution of his abortifacients will be more efficient than working under the law (or rather, looking like he is under the law)
>Gravitybearer Noi
Potion maker and mage who acted as a consigliere to Pine.

Female goblin who can manipulate gravity. Most of her skin was torn off during her time as a slave for a gravity mage, and she needs to wear a black liquid like robe that mimics her skin.

Her skills in potion making and gravity manipulation saved Pine and her allies countless times during their plot, and made Noi exceptionally wealthy in the town of Cinderpath.

With that money, she decides to…

>>Invest in legitimate businesses
With money gained during her assistance to Pine, she could buy up businesses in Cinderpath, giving her more control over the town. Hard to stick charges when half of the people there benefit from her staying out of jail.

>>Invest in illegal businesses
With more competitors than ever, controlling the shady parts of society will be necessary to ensure the security of Cinderpath (and hers as well)
Sidenote: Zeal and Noi were player created NPCs in the first thread while Pine was the original protagonist.
>Goblin assassin, Pine
>>Cook, focused on a legitimate career
>Goblin assassin, Pine
Noi is tempting, too, but I want to see how Pine does with that fire-mage kid we took on as a part-timer.

expect it in a few hours!
Even before plotting to take down the cult, Pine was always in danger.

Many nights were spent infiltrating buildings and assassinating targets.

Even against other goblins, wounds were inevitably inflicted on her.

She has done many things, seen parts of the world few had the chance to witness.

From discovering the caves of Silverport infested with animals mutated from concentrated healing solutions to the witnessing the depths of hell when she was rescued by a tall entity.

However, she knows that she cannot keep doing this forever. With more crime than before, it’s best if she steps away from that and focus on her legitimate career.

With the money earned from her exploits, she studied under experienced cooks from inside Cinderpath and outside it, incorporating their techniques and styles into her food.

Under their teachings, her knowledge about side effects of certain ingredients and food expands.

Along side her teachers, Makari also helped her run the restaurant more efficiently.

Once, he was a child that was entrusted to her by his uncle to work on her restaurant during when the trading ship they worked at weren’t sailing.

During her plot against the cult, he served as intelligence gatherer and occasionally an arsonist. While his father wasn’t able to pass on his knowledge of Flamebearing to him, Makari was able to control fire decently. Still, such a power comes at the cost of burning his body.

While he liked being part of Pine’s restaurant, he wants to find a full time job and leave the ship he and his uncle works at due to the internal politics.

One day, a letter came.

[Picture of adult Makari]

During her plot, Pine and her allies traveled to the Clawflash, captial of Sablestream. A city surrounded by rivers, home of the royalty and mortal enemy of the serpents - birdmen.

It was the largest center for commerce in the country, the primary source of income for the government. This was where alliances between nations were reaffirmed, and a destination to those looking to elevate their status.

Pine made many deals with people who wished to remove the cult’s power, and one of them was a manager of a western restaurant, whose child was entranced by the cult and nearly bankrupted the restaurant by donating their funds to the cult.

With the help of Makari and Pine, he managed to keep the restaurant alive even with a small budget.

For their help, he offered them a position in his restaurant once he is able to restore it back to it’s original self.

While Pine declined, Makari and his uncle considered it. When that day comes, they ask that he send the letter to Silverport.

After a few years, the letter came.
With the money they gained during the plot, Makari and his uncle, Fern, are able live in Clawflash and work for him.

After tonight, they’ll be traveling to the capital.

[Picture of Clawflash]

Pine is sad to see him go, but she knows that even with the city being more dangerous, having a well paying job there is too good to pass up.

On the outskirts of town, within Noi’s wizard tower is where Pine and her allies celebrated their new careers.

Jess. Noi. Zeal. Cris. Pine. Makari. Fern.

All of them enjoyed a wonderful dinner and drinks.

Many stories were shared,
from the deadly plans Zeal and Cris took part in during the childhood, to the humorous truth behind the bites on Makari’s neck (Zeal and Cris figured out right away that he was kissed by a silver serpent)

The moonlight grows stronger.
This party is going to end soon.

Pine decides to…

>>Ask about The (criminal underworld) Life
What are your plans? You planning to stay or leave?

>>Ask about the Lucidity ship
I wanna hear Makari and Fern shittalk people of the ship.

>>Ask about the academy
How was the serpent scholars academy? Has anything changed?

(Sorry for being late. The writing process took a lot longer than expect)
>>Ask about the Lucidity ship
>>Ask about the academy
Rolled 2 (1d2)


Zeal and Cris said that ever since they and Pine ventured into the potion disposal plant, security on it was much tighter. More automatons and fortifications were built.

The academy released a statement about the site being unsafe due to contamination issues despite the automatons and machinery being routinely inspected.

Everyone knew that something was off, but they didn’t want to risk getting expelled or having an “accident”.

The class became even more vicious as their instruction continues.
Serpent Scholars are pushed to the limit by the elder serpents, either to grow into talented potion makers or discarded.

Many of their classmates who were doing well originally have crumbled under the pressure.

Of course, such a harsh place also breeds underhandedness.

The two have witnessed many cheaters. Some end up quite successful, earning a spot in wealthy towns, some remained mediocre, some were caught and discarded, and some ended up in hospitals.

Such is how the life.

While Zeal and Cris managed to graduate, they have gained several wounds from their actions. In pursuit of stopping lives from being displaced, they put themselves in the sights of many who were more powerful than them.

As time goes on, even they still had to bow down to injustice to keep themselves alive.

Makari and Fern also concur. As the truth about the cult comes closer to the public’s eyes, more clients start showing up, trying to bribe the ship to smuggle things.
Some of them wouldn’t accept a refusal, and sometimes the higher ups made them accept it.

When the truth of the cult became public knowledge, many clients were arrested, and more than a few students disappeared.

While the powerful people that threatened Zeal and Cris were mostly gone, the wounds inflicted upon the people who got in their way still lingered.

While their days at Silverport ended bitterly, both Zeal and Cris managed to find jobs that paid well.

For Cris, she is now a sleeping aid manufacturer in Cinderfall, a town close to where Pine lives, Cinderpath. A mere half an hour ride.

For Zeal, he became a anesthetic manufacturer in Pikebreak, a town north of the capital, Clawflash, multiple hours from Cinderpath.

The two remark somberly on their time in the city of serpents. Perhaps they couldn’t save anyone. Perhaps. But even under fire, they have helped countless lives. They will still continue to save people, in their own way, even without the specialized equipment in the academy.

As for Makari and Fern, they too hope for a better future in the capital. Maybe they will still have to bend the knee towards someone more powerful, but they too will try to find a way to undermine them.

Forever will they be hunters.

As the moon shifts further into the sky, the celebration slowly comes to the end. One by one, the group leaves the tower.

Pine spends a long time looking at the caravan that takes Makari and Fern away, watching as their silhouettes turn into dots smaller than her fingernails, and eventually fade into the night.

Good thing it’s her today off tomorrow.

Morning comes once more…

Jess is knocking on her doors once again.
The young human, in his early 20s who became her loyal customer from the start of her restaurant.

She opens the door.

The human Lightbender greets her happily. He’s overjoyed about an upcoming public test of the blacksmiths.

In a week, the blacksmiths will hold a public test where they will show off the weapons and armor enchanted with invisibility. His items will be there as well.

After years of exhausting his body and mind, the blacksmiths finally considered his work to be good enough for public tests. The blacksmiths have already paid him for the work, and he has a few days off.

She has helped him for many years, as a cook, a friend, an advisor and an assassin to bring justice to criminals that plagued Cinderpath.

He asks if there’s anything he could get for her, his senior (of ten years).

Pine respond with…

>>Thanks, but I don’t really need any gifts right now.
Her restaurant is in a pretty good state right now, and she doesn’t really need much.

>>Not really, but how about we go fishing together?
Pine has only moved to Cinderpath nearly a decade ago. There’s a lot she doesn’t know. Perhaps Jess could give her a history lesson about it, or just hang out.

>>Yeah, I could use some new clothes.
Her clothes have been through a lot.
While they remain operational, having finer ones might be useful incase of future business related meetings.

>>Yeah, I could use a few more books.
Most of her books are for culinary business only, so having something else could be useful.

>>Sort of. There’s this bathhouse I want to go to.
It’s been a long time since she has been to a fancy bathhouse. Most of her days are spent cooking, carrying objects and other physically exhausting activities, so taking some time off to relax might be good.

>>write in
>Not really, but how about we go fishing together?
>>Not really, but how about we go fishing together?

>An exhibition of invisible equipment
Sounds like a practical joke
>An exhibition of invisible equipment
Sounds like a practical joke

It’s pretty useful.
Having shields that could temporarily turn invisible allows the user to see through their shield while maintaining security

Having a section of a cuirass or polearm being briefly invisible could fool enemies into misjudging distance with the weapon or trying to attack an area that is seemingly vulnerable
Pine suggested that they should go fishing instead. They could hang out while waiting for the fish traps to catch them, or try spearfishing if they want fish immediately.

Jess doesn’t have any fish traps, but he could provide some wood and utensils for the trip. They’ll meet up east of Cinderpath.

Pine goes back into her house, grabbing a few cone shaped fish traps. The wood strips have been intricately woven and charred to ensure beetles don’t eat them.

She packs several containers and spices into her bag, alongside water and food.

Pine picks up two of her five pronged spears. While the wood is chipped and it’s colors are fading, the polearm remain operational.

Finally, she dons a long sleeved coat and a straw woven hat before heading out.

Jess awaits her at the outskirts of town, holding several bags of utensils and firewood.

Both of them wear straw woven hats, with a wide brim and a moderately sized dome.

After half an hour of walking east of Cinderpath, they come across a river that stretches far beyond what their eyes could see. A few trees and patches of plants decorate the soil around them.

They set up the traps and containers on river’s chokepoints, waiting for fishes to get stuck in it.

While they wait, Pine asks him about the history of this river.

Jess recounts a time during in childhood, when his mom’s family had to relocate to Cinderpath from the northern side of the country during the later years of the war between Sablestream and Galepeak.
It’s also where she met his father, who was a hunter in the town.

While the distance between him and his mother widened as they grew older, he still remembers one of his mother’s recollections.

According to his mom, this used to be a large forest, which served as a hunting ground for people in Cinderpath.

It was a deadly place, where boars can easily gore any unsuspecting man and the maze like nature of the place could keep people trapped for days. In certain nights, shadows moved on their own and entities roamed.

However, great treasures await them there. The abundance of fish, fruits and wild animals meant that the hunters could attain wealth in a matter of days.

She remembers it fondly, as it was one of the few places that truly awarded hard work. As her knowledge of the town broadens, she sees far too many incompetent people put in positions undeserving due to nepotism or bribery.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. As news of this place spread, more people came to the forest, eroding it until barely nothing remained.

Her family was lucky to be the first ones there, earning enough money to sustain themselves while transitioning into other jobs.

Eventually, the town faded back into obscurity. Some didn’t take it well.
Many lives were displaced, with a portion of the hunters plaguing the town as bandits.

With an industry collapsing, a new one emerges - private security. Sellswords that acted as little more than hitmen as long as the pay was decent.

Pine could tell from his expression that he is recalling more than a few painful memories from those days.

She suggested they should try spearfishing instead while talking about something else.

The late morning is spent in silence as they stalk their aquatic preys.

His melancholic expression fades away, revealing the eyes of an emotionless hunter.

Ah, she knows those eyes well.
Unlike the wild, animalistic eyes of Zeal, nor the scared eyes of that grifter Pike, it is the expression of someone who are unaffected by emotions.

By noon, Jess has skewered nearly a dozen fishes of varying sizes while Pine got eight.

The silvery scales shine brightly under the sun. A smirk on their face emerges as Pine preserve her and Jess’ portion for future meals.

A few hours more and it’ll be ready.

During lunch, the two have some grilled fish and rice together. Normally there would be a lot more side dishes and people, but both of them can’t be bothered with bringing more than a few vegetables.

As they rest under the shades of trees, Pine decides to share her own experiences with him about the days of raising Makari.

Watching this random kid she spent time caring for suddenly disappear from her life before reappearing, then after a couple years, disappearing again.

She knows the feeling of watching the things she hold dearly fade away, often times without being able to do anything about it.

Pine gives Jess some advice about dealing with the depressing things while they wait for the fishes to dehydrate.

“It’s alright to feel defeated by it all.
Shit like.. ‘just suck it up’ or ‘stay positive’ or .. ‘your friends and family can help get you through anything’ are bullshit.
There’s only so much that could do.
We aren’t machines, and people around you won’t be always there, but I’ll try my best to find time if you need me.”

“It’s alright to deal with it by your own ways. That being said, I want to warn you about certain.. things.”

“Liquor. Gambling. Stuff.. that can quickly waste money is pretty dangerous. Try to.. try to.. stay away from that, aight?”

Jess notices that Pine is breathing heavily and sweating. He fetches her one of her waterskins and answers

"Yeah. Got it."
"What do you do to cope, Pine?"

Pine nods her head in acknowledgment before saying
“I just… look at random stuff and wait until my mind is somewhat calm again. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, and sometimes it takes half an hour. If I have the time, I try to sleep it off.”

Jess goes quiet and think about his answer while leaning against the trunk.

After recomposing himself, he answers.
"I.. I try to exercise or do something to take my mind off that stuff."
"But… a while back I fucked up bad. I got addicted to masturbation."

"It was like.. five years ago, give or take. When I was just starting out as an apprentice to the blacksmiths.
Everyday I wake up before dawn and work until it’s nearly midnight."
"My parents… they weren’t…."
"……. I can’t really win, no matter what I said. I was never up to their standards."

"I was also fucking retarded back then.
A lot of times I was afraid to ask people about what to do, since always led to my mom yelling at me for being a disappointment."

"I didn’t get into crime or anything like that, but.. when I discovered how to jack off… that was one of the few things that made me ‘happy’. It was a.. break from everything. Now? My mind isn’t as consumed by it as before, but I.. relapse occasionally."

"I don’t.. arugh. Sorry about all this. This is just pathetic and..

At this point, Jess is barely able to get a word out without crying. Pine wordlessly hands him a waterskin as she waits for Jess to finish crying.

It’s been an exhausting day for both of us.

After the fishes have dried, Jess and Pine walk back to the town.

While walking back, Jess says
"Thanks you, Miss Pine. You’ve….. thanks for listening to.. all that. I.. I appreciate all the things you’ve done for me."

Pine’s reply..
>>I’ve seen a lot of people gone down in wrong path. Least I could do is make sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes as others.

>>I appreciate you too. You’ve been with me since I opened the restaurant. Helped me to save people. Hell, without you, that cult would’ve continued for who knows how long.

>>I like you, Jess. I want more than just being your senior. I want

>>Write in
>I like you, Jess. I want more than just being your senior. I want to be with you.

Let's let these two anxious oddballs have a shot at happiness, eh?
“Don’t worry about it.”
“As a your senior, it’s what I should do.”
“Be a good example and.. all that.”

“And… uhh…”
Pine takes a deep breath before announcing her feelings.

“I like you, Jess. I want to be more than your senior. I want to be with you.
Spending time here with you made me realize that.”

Jess is flustered by her words, fidgeting his hands as he tries to respond to that.

"Miss Pine?… I…"
"I didn’t know that you thought of me that way."

"I, I mean, you’re really nice, too. So I guess we could do that. Yeah.. I would like that too."

After another period of silence while they walk back, Jess asks
"So.. uhmm.. what do we do now?"

“What do you mean.” Pine replies.

"I mean.. what do couples usually do? I don’t really… know much about this kind of stuff."

Pine knows that innocence all too well. he must be instructed before someone could take advantage of him.

With a stern tone, Pine tries to ‘briefly’ explain how a relationship is supposed to work.

“They spend time together. Hang out, kinda like friends. They do things for each other. Helping with chores if they live in the same house, supporting their partner when they are going through a tough time, that kind of stuff.”

“And, I want to make this very clear - relationships are based on mutual respect. If your partner doesn’t care about how uncomfortable you are .. If their words become a demand rather than a suggestion without any reasoning, and if the two of you can’t come to a compromise after you tried talking to them about how they made you uncomfortable, you should leave that relationship.”

Pine also recounts several stories of people in relationships of varying happiness.

Ones that were pressured into sex and abandoned.
Ones that were groomed into being loyal to a cruel partner.
Ones that remained in a fracture relationship because they don’t know what to do.
Ones that managed to make their relationships work despite hardship.
Ones that got along well from the b

They’ve arrived at Cinderpath.

Pine must’ve talked for a bit too long. Whops.

Both of them are sweaty and tired from the walk. They’re not in the condition to continue hanging out, not without a bath, anyway.

Pine decides to..
>>Part ways and take a bath at her home.
It was fun hanging out with you, Jess. Bye.

>>Store the dried fishes at home, go to a bathhouse together.
It’s the end of her day off. Might as well do something relaxing.

>>Accompany Jess to his house
Let’s toy with him a little :)
>Store the dried fishes at home, go to a bathhouse together.
Pine seems too serious about relationships (understandably, since she stabbed her ex to death, if I recall?) to be very mischievous.
>Pine seems too serious about relationships (understandably, since she stabbed her ex to death, if I recall?) to be very mischievous.


She arranged her husband’s death after he tried to fatten her by adding stuff in her food without her knowledge (this was in early in the 2nd thread iirc, when she talked to zeal and cris at sunset)
Gotta sleep, can’t finish this tonight. Expect it in ~10 hrs
Pine suggests that they should go to a bathhouse after dropping off their dried fishes.

While there are a few bathhouses in Cinderpath, most situated at the west of town, at the heart of the entertainment district.

Some bathhouses also double as a brothel, although they target wealthier clients rather than the everyman, as that market is taken up by dedicated low cost brothels.

After storing the fishes, she meets up with Jess and heads to west of town. While Jess technically lives here longer than her, Pine has more extensive knowledge about the shadier parts of this town.
It’s just not worth the price.
The prostitutes are skilled and understanding, but a lot of fees don’t mean much. The bed and the decorations are mostly meaningless, the towels, while a good addition, are just something that the client can just bring for a fracti….

By the time Pine finishes rambling about the overpriced services to Jess, they have arrived at a bathhouse.

“The Daydreamers”

A wooden building with three floors that is decorated with lanterns and candles, a beacon of light that is surrounded by dimmer (and less well funded) businesses.

More expensive than most, but the sheer variety of options here make it worth it.
Or at least, that’s what the frequent customers at the bars say.

Beyond the front doors lies a female human that is diligently writing something down. Her desk is filled with books and illustrations of the bathhouse’s facilities.

She looks up and greet Jess and Pine.
The human wears chest bindings that wrap around her shoulders and her sides.
Along side her shorts and sandals, the bindings are dyed in a dark red color.

As expected of anyone in the bathhouses, her armpit is cleanly shaved and blemishes on her face are mostly hidden.

Pine and Jess looks over the many options to customize their experience. They’ll be accompanied by an employee to assist in washing their body, with a few options in terms of what soap or shampoo are used.

More employees, more selection of cleaning products or bathtubs of different sizes can be requested for additional fees.

For Jess, he wanted to try as many types of soap and shampoo as possible.

For Pine, she puts more emphasis on the use of employees in maintaining her hair.

After registering their name and paying the clerk, she documents the time and points towards the changing rooms.

The bathhouse is segregated by gender, with the male customers being on the first floor while the female ones on the second.
The upper floors are only for special clients.

With her items well secured in the lockers of the changing room, Pine walks into the female section of the bathhouse.

Rows of private rooms await her, their walls painted with an ivory white color and overflowing with faint fragrances of flowers.

A female employee shows the room she will be staying at, a moderately large room that has a small tub in the middle. Next to the tub is a tall water jar with buckets in it.

Around the room are several shelves which holds several bars of soap and shampoo, alongside brushes and other grooming equipment.

Before bathing, Pine detects several lanterns hanging on the roof, with intricately engraved patterns on the metal boxes.

That’s one way of justifying the price.

Pine’s mind wonders as the employee washes her hair and scrubs her body with the brushes.

The thought of expanding her restaurant elsewhere (if there’s demand for it) still lingers in her head, but also the thought of becoming someone like Zeal or Cris, still dabbling in “the life” by more subtle means.

As her mind cycle through memories, her thoughts of Jess lingers more than others.

That kid…
He’s too naive for an associate of someone in the life.

Come to think of it, he seemed quite reclusive when we did have to go to brothels. Is that because of his inexperience? His parents being particularly suppressive about it? Both?

I can’t let him be manipulated and turned into a mindless doll for someone to abuse, that’s for sure.

I hope that talk earlier in the day clarified a few things.
It’s the best I could do right now.

Towels soak up the water on her hair, reminding her of reality once more.

Her body is cleansed of the sweat and exhaustion accumulated today.

The two leave the bathhouse satisfied, with them having decent things to say about the place.

Eventually, Jess and Pine have to part.
As much as Pine want to stay with him, she still has work tomorrow.

Once back at her home, she checks on tomorrow’s ingredients before sleeping.

Once again, she dreams. Perhaps this will be as prophetic as the one she had several years ago.

She sees…

>>A flock of crows flying in the sky.

>>A turbulent wind that passes through a forest.

>>A female human drinking a rose colored tea.

(What’s your opinion on the quest so far? Any criticisms about it? Is the pace too slow/fast?)
>A turbulent wind that passes through a forest.
>write in
>a fish eating it's own poop only to spit it out over and over again
Rolled 1 (1d2)



2=fish shit

Expect it in ~10 hours.

Fine. I’ll let you fuck around for now, but don’t expect characters to act retarded because you typed a write-in.
>opinion on the quest so far?
I like it! The characters' behaviours don't always flow super naturally to me (who just randimly blurts out their compulsive masturbation addiction on a nice fishing date with their friend?), but I appreciate you dedication to building the little bits of the world and characters. It's a shame more anons don't play. You're a good QM!
Pine awakes up in a forest once again. The narrow branches and thin trunks obscures the sky above, but leaves the dirt path she stands on unobstructed.

She stands under the tall trees and moonless night. A cold mist permeates all throughout the crudely made dirt road she stands on.

As she walks through the path, wind passes through the forest, bending the branches to it’s will.

In the distance, Pine spots a crow standing at the top of one of the trees.

She notices that the wind seems to form a vortex around the one particular tree, but the bird remains unfazed. A storm is brewing, ripping apart leaves from the trees and ground, creating a pillar of brown which encases the crow.

After a few moments, lighting strikes the middle, blasting the leaves in every direction.

With the lightning summoned, the wind dissipates.

Pine wakes up from the strange dream.
The day continues as normal, with her preparing the kitchen and ingredients for today’s meals.

The morning and noon passes normally, with most of the customers coming at noon.

Many older folks were saddened by Makari’s departure, but understanding of their situation.

During the relatively quiet afternoon, a man with amber brown skin and unkempt hair that covered his nape and sides of his face enters the restaurant.

The human seems to be quite young, roughly 17 or so. He wears a white long sleeved shirt and loose fitting shorts that reaches his knees.

His clothes are dirty, with many spots darkened from dust or contact against something that stains the fabrics. The shirt also bears many cuts and tears.
On his side is a large bag that is nearly as long as his torso.

He orders a beef stew with extra chili.

His eyes occasionally dart at the doors, almost expecting someone to come through.

Sure enough, a few minutes after he received his stew, Zeal shows up.

The two men look at each other and give a simple nod.

Zeal orders a small bowl of noodles with chicken stock.

While the two are clearly friends, there is some distance between them from the ways they act.

After they finish eating, the young man hands Zeal several letters.

A frown can be seen on Zeal’s face as he reads through them.

The young man leaves after paying for his meal while Zeal remains at the table.

Zeal stuffs the letters in his pockets and buries his head in his arms.

Pine asks him about the situation.

It’s about his business.
His old friend, “Sira”, delivered him news about people involved in slavery really didn’t want abortifacients into Clawflash, as the foreign demand for houseborn slaves becomes stronger.

In Sablestream, there are several types of slaves. Most are found in Clawflash or other cities with a large population.

Most common are debt slaves, people who sold (or were sold) into slavery because they were bankrupt.

There’s also war slaves (prisoners of war, although wars don’t happen anymore) punishment slaves (people who didn’t have enough money to pay fines, and someone else stepped in to pay it, becoming their master until they can repay the money)

Houseborn slaves are the most highly prized, as they cannot be removed from slavery under any means. They are born from a female slave and a male master.

While slavery as an industry is legitimate, such a world is filled with crime. Violence against slaves tend to go unnoticed unless they are killed, and several jobs emerge to deal with slaves, from the auditors that keep track of their work to hunters that keep them in line.

Sira is an agent of an legitimate organization that audits slaves, but has a militia of their own.

While Clawflash isn’t where he works at, Pikebreak is only a few hours away from it. He fears that it’s only a matter of time before his operation in there is… incentivized to shut down.

Zeal’s have to return to Pikebreak tonight, too.

Fuck… why did his friend have to end up on the opposite side.

Pine responds with..

>>Suggest slander against them.
Zeal has destroyed people’s reputation before, surely he could do something about this organization. Maybe accuse them of being sympathetic to the false genders*?

*Males or females that have attraction to their own gender

>>Suggest him to work with gangs that deal with prostitution.
They have the same interest in mind. With his higher quality abortifacients, maybe he could form a partnership with them - gaining more leverage.

>>Silence. It’s best to let him vent things and hear him out.

Alcohol might sooth his wound for now.
He can confront it later.

>>Write in

Oh. Huh. I guess I didn’t make it clear that Pine was one of the few female friends that Jess trusted deeply (he didnt have many women in his life that he has positive relationships with) and when talking about their ways to cope with stress he just tried to be honest. My bad.
Ah damn, just realized i couldve made it flow better if I made jess recluntant to say his hobby at first then Pine pushed him

Welp. Guess my 1am brain wasnt able to think of that. Shame.
>Silence. It’s best to let him vent things and hear him out.
Let's not leap right back into "the life". We're getting steady again as a regular old goblin cook!

I see where you were going with Pine and Jess' interaction, it just seems sort of odd based on my experience.
Yeah. My 1am mind was unable to flow properly.

Next post in ~12 hrs. Gotta sleep for now.
Pine stays silent. Listening to him right now is going to be more helpful.

Zeal vents about his old friends.

Back when he was a child, when he did not have to worry about getting into the Serpent Scholars Academy, he attended Three Plumes, a school for prospective potion makers.

It was his golden years.
Life was stressful sometimes, but he had plenty of close friends, and the adventures they had together made things bearable.

There were six of us back then.

Xiao. (Zeal’s original name, although due to the school’s insistence on clarity, his name was changed into Zeal.)

Sira and Nhon were his closest friends, and were quite the slackers compared to him, but taught him valuable lessons on dealing with people.

Fha and Khao were the first female friends he got close to, and were able to trust fully. Fha in particular caused Zeal to take interest in weapons, and later became his sparring partner.

Song was the most distant to him, but both of them understood each other quite well, even with few words.

As they graduates from the Three Plumes, they went their separate ways.

Sira and Nhon both got a job in Clawflash. Pine heard they got decently paying jobs there, but didn’t know about the specifics.

Song and his family left the country, moving somewhere westward. Before he left, he mentioned that he plans to continue his studies at an academy there.

Khao wanted to continue studying, but she was rejected from the schools she wanted.
Last time Zeal heard from her, she is working as a maid for an wealthy family.
She was one of the hardest worker by far in their group, and yet she failed.

Fha was the only one to join him in Serpent Scholars Academy, and that didn’t work out terribly well either.

[Picture of young Sira]
While Fha never knew about the plot to override her wishes and feed her the abortifacient, they slowly drifted away from each other.

Once she found about his actions during the plot, they saw each other less and less, and each time they felt more estranged.

She only thought of him as a heartless monster. Anything he tried to talk about it, only arguments followed. No matter what, he ends up losing.

She cannot accept any civilian casualties. She would rather have dozens of men die assaulting a compound than risk the lives of a few children to plant explosives around it.

Sira and Nhon, despite working for organizations that want to restrict his abortifacients (and working in a company that allows women to be raped to produce children), understands more about sacrifices than someone like Fha.

When he talked to Sira, he understood what he had to do, the sacrifices he made, and the unfairness of it all far more than Fha ever did.

Zeal doesn’t know what to feel anymore.

All his old friends have left him in some way and he is powerless against the companies in Clawflash.

A wave of silence washes over the restaurant once more as his words fade into the air.

Zeal thanks Pine for listening to him, and tell her that he will figure some way to deal with this.

The rest of the day went normally, with most of the customers coming near dusk and fewer coming in during the night.
Her restaurant is doing well.

Zeal and Cris both left Cinderpath tonight.

The next five days shows an increase in customers as the blacksmiths advertised the upcoming public demonstrations of arms and armor.

Pine has a day off once more.

In the south of Cinderpath is where the demonstration takes place. Brightly colored tents and stalls are set up near the outskirts of town, selling anything from second hand knives to the bulletproofed cuirasses.

The morning begins with test cutting with the lower quality blades before biddings or sales.

Countless people flock to the stalls, from the elderly looking to replace their knives to parents teaching their kids about hunting.

There’s a few hours before noon, when the enchanted arms and armor will be tested.
Jess’ stuff will be there.

During that time, Pine decides to..

>>Check out the event
Maybe she could buy something for cheap.
>>Visit Noi
Noi is likely in her tower, outside of the town.
>>Read some books at home
Perhaps it’s time to brush up on her knowledge about plants and their toxicity.
>>Write in

(Sorry for being late. A lot of work at uni lately.)
>Maybe she could buy something for cheap.
>Invite Jess (since you're dating) and ask him if it's cool if you invite Zeal too (since he seems bummed and lonely)
Still writing! Dont worry
During the early morning, Pine visits Jess’ house to invite him to the fair and ask about potentially inviting Zeal.

Jess wants to be there from the late morning until the afternoon anyways, as the he wants to see his colleagues’ works be tested.

He doesn’t mind Zeal or anyone else joining them. Having users of lightbending objects judge the tests could reveal hidden flaws or potential improvements.

Today, both Zeal and Cris are in town but they won’t be joining the fair during the morning hours. There’s someone important they need to talk to, a representative of an organization in Clawflash that has similar goals to them.

Even with Cris beside him, Zeal is more jittery than usual, his fingers shifts around erratically.

Pine and Jess wishes them the best of luck in dealing with this person before going to the fair near the outskirts of town.

Pine never formally trained in combat with most of them, and relies on her allies to act as operators on more overt missions.

Even if her skills in infiltration and combat are underused currently, she can still quickly identify any noteworthy objects being sold.


Pine only has a tubular pistol hidden under her sleeve, similar to Zeal.

>>Matchlock arquebus [3 FUNDS]
Modern firearm that requires a slow burning match. The one Pine is is particularly interested in is short enough that is does not require a fork to stabilize it.

>>Handgonne (Hand cannon) [2 FUNDS]
Earliest form of a firearm - a large tube on a pole. The weapon is far longer than Pine herself, making it hard to conceal.
Pine has several daggers and knives, and a few cheaply made swords designed for cutting leaves or wood. She already has several polearms anyway, so Pine only needs to look for a decent sidearm.

>>Messer [2 FUNDS]
One of the more technologically sophisticated weapons. Single handed sword with extensive hard protection. Capable at cutting and thrusting. Due to Pine’s proportions, the sword’s height is roughly half of hers.

>>Falchion [1 FUND]
Wide bladed sword that excels at cutting. While (wealthier) people considers it lacking in quality and status, it remains a capable sidearm for civilian and soldier alike. Not the best, but good enough for most.
Pine still has several sets of cloth armor and a bright blue brigandine that remains operational. Investing in more armor now would be unnecessary - more magical items could prove more useful instead.

>>Lightbending Buckler [2 FUNDS]
Metal shield that can briefly turn invisible, allowing the user to see through the shield while keeping themselves protected. While small in the hands of humans, it can nearly cover Pine’s entire torso.

>>Lightblaring steel balls [1 FUNDS]
A handful of steel balls that could be detonated by heat, producing bright lights for several minutes that can blind people and illuminate a room.

>>Gravity enhanced firearm [4 FUNDS]
Long arquebus enchanted with gravity magic. Upon firing, each section of the barrel will pull the bullet forwards as it travels through the barrel, allowing it to achieve much higher velocity. It also comes with a fork to stabilize the gun with.
I wouldn't find buying a nice Falchion and some Lightblaring steel balls, myself.
Pine buys a pouch of Lightblaring steel balls and a falchion.

The pouch contains roughly 20 of the steel balls, each containing an engraving of the sun with rays expanding from it.

The falchion has a clip point blade and a crossguard that curves upward slightly, which has a small cut out on each side of the guard. The hilt sports a wide circular pommel made from iron. Both the hilt and sheath are covered in a black leather. Overall length is 34 inches (0.86 meters)

A decent cutting blade with room for thrusting.

Because Pine is almosy 3 elbows tall* (1.5 meters), the sword fits nicely on her hip alongside the pouch of steel balls.

After purchasing the things she wanted, Jess and Pine several hours enjoying the fair. The late morning was spent visiting various vendors of the fair, watching them try to entice buyers by dramatically demonstrating their products.

For lunch, they got a few sticks of skewered meat and some vegetables.
A simple meal sold by the food stalls at the fair. Sure beats sitting in a overcrowded restaurant at noon.

Salty, and slightly too spicy for her, but it serves as a decent meal non the less.

With noon quickly approaching, rows of people gather as the demonstrators brandish the arms and armor and boast about it’s qualities.

Countless cut and strikes were thrown towards hay and fruits, then later, various types armor. The crowd clapped when the blades that once effortlessly sliced through random objects are deflected by cuirasses and brigandines.

Later in the afternoon, duels with blunted weapons occurred in the middle of the fair.

Combatants wielding light bending shields and cloaks were able to quickly dispatch several threats, showing off the accomplishments of Lightbenders.

This was also a good opportunity for different blacksmiths to show off their approach to their products, with each duelist weapons with different types of designs.

Advanced arms with western designs clashed against well tested weapons native to Sablestream. From sword to polearms to daggers, it was a spectacular display in martial arts and arms, showing off the fast paced knife fights to tense duels between sideswords.

Alongside lightbending, works of other disciplines were also shown.

An arquebusier wielding the gravity enchanted firearm showed the crowd why the crown invested in so many of these mages, hitting in total of six birds that were still flying in the sky without missing once.

Instead of a cloud of smoke that remains after firing a matchlock, a strong wind is expelled from the barrel, blasting away the smoke and nearly moving the shooter. While noticeably louder, it’s range and speed surpassed any other firearm.

As the sun moves closer to the horizon, more people leave the fair. They left with a smile on their face, either due to the satisfaction of buying something they wanted or the excitement of being part of such an event.

Pine and Jess discuss what they found entertaining about the fair as they walk back to their homes. While Jess enjoyed how satisfying it was to see weapons cut through fruits, Pine enjoyed the dueling and how the practitioners showed how elegant the art could be, dispelling the notion of the brutish, untrained fights with foreign weapons.

The two notice Cris and Zeal walking besides a female giant with pale pink skin. The giant towers over the human and goblin. Pine can roughly estimate her height to be 6 elbows (3 meters)

She has a pony tail which reaches the middle of her back.

Curiously, she seems to wear less clothing than most people around here, with only a white sleeveless shirt and brown shorts which reach her kneecaps. Long sleeves or a hat is a must for long hours in the sun.

In her right hand is a large walking stick that has a large top which gradually tampers, with several brightly colored cloth wrapped around it’s head.

Odd. Such ornaments are usually for appeasing spirits in trees. Perhaps she is religious (or a practitioner of black arts).

Cris and Zeal seem to get along with the giant just fine, talking to the representative casually.

"… that’s how the first rapewar ended?"
The giant is perplexed by whatever Zeal and Cris said before that is inaudible to Pine.

“Yeah. He had a heart attack on the bed. The kid didn’t have to do shit.”
‘The whole corporation kinda went down after that.’
The two replies.

Seems like the conversation is going well.

Pine decides to…

>>Leave them alone and go back to their respectively houses. She wants to move away from “the life” anyways.

>>Leave them alone and continue hanging out with Jess. She’s not exhausted yet.

>>Eavesdrop. The giant might be connected to someone she once knew.

>>Talk to the giant. It’s good to have some connections to someone in “the life”.

>>Write in
Pine’s falchion
>Talk to the giant. It’s good to have some connections to someone in “the life”.
>Leave them alone and continue hanging out with Jess. She’s not exhausted yet.
Resist the urge! We're having a nice date with our boyfriend!

>Eavesdrop. The giant might be connected to someone she once knew.
...But maybe listen in JUST a little?
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Didnt expect this quest to still be alive. Nice to see two players again.

2=leave them alone & eavsdrop
Pine decides to leave them alone. It’s best if an associate of them doesn’t interfere. She’s trying to move away from “the life”, anyway.

Then again, there’s no harm in listening.

Pine decides to visit a street vendor nearby the giant. She says the vendor sells pretty good dessert (and technically that’s true), but the real reason is unrestricted view of the giant’s lips at that position.

While Jess is enjoying a bowl of bananas boiled in coconut milk, Pine begins to decipher what is being said between the giant and her friends.

They talk about ‘the second rapewar’, a conflict which occured a few months ago in Clawflash.

They talk about Tian, someone in the ‘Bloody Lips’ gang, which hosts underground cockfighting for money.

Pine knows about this person. Unlike other gangsters, he seems to have a strange sense of justice.

When he caught a creep who tried to spy on women, he stripped the creep naked and left him inside a cage for several days. Food and water were served in a bowl. By the end, he was constantly scratching his skin like a dog due to the mosquito bites. Before letting him go, Tian castrated him with a hunting spear.

"A human is more intelligent than an animal, capable of higher thinking, able to do more eating or breeding. He regressed into one. He will be treated like one.”

His words still remain with Pine to this very day.

The giant recounts the second rapewar…

One day, Tian’s dog went missing. After a month, It was later found in a club, fucked to death. Among the pile of dogs that died from internal bleeding due to rectal wounds was Tian’s dog.

This particular club was owned by the ‘White Brows’ gang, who earn money through prostitution.

One of their clients was into dogs and paid a fortune in order to rent the club for a day so he can exclusively use it.

Due to the amount requested, combined with the short notice, they had to resort to using strays. Once they knew about the dog, they gave Tian and the Bloody Lips a large sum of money as compensation.

After tracking down the identity of the client, they found out he was a wealthy fowl breeder inside Clawflash.

After poisoning the farmer, the gang amassed hundreds of male ducks in heat and released them into his farm when he was not there, allowing the male ducks to rape all the female ones to death, decimating his livestock.

For his chickens, they jammed their rectums with metal scrap so they are unable to expel waste, slowly killing them.

By the time he recovered, all of his animals are either dead or beyond recovery.

As one last spiteful act, with the last scraps of his money, he ordered a hit on the club and the White Brows, mistakenly believing that they were the ones behind the attack.

This eventually spiraled into a gang war as protection obligations from organizations allied with the two kicks in.

White Brows is allied with Catchers corporation, a slave audit firm that has a security force which tracks down rogue slaves. This is the organization Nhon and Sira works for.

Bloody Lips is allied with Red Winter, an organization that oversees brothels in Clawflash’s green lamp districts.

At the end of the rapewar, White Brows was dissolved and both the Red Winter and Catchers corporation weakened.

Both Zeal and Cris think that was quite the entertaining story and thank the giant for of her.. interpretation of the rumors.

Their smirks give away their inner thoughts. That giant is part of Red Winter.

Cris says that she knows a spot outside of town where they could talk more about the stories in Clawflash. Zeal, Cris, and the giant heads towards Noi’s wizard tower.

Before Pine could think more about what was just said, Jess reminds her to finish eating her bananas boiled in coconut milk before they go cold.

Oh. Right.

After Pine finishes eating, he suggest that they should go watch a shadow play, as it’s the late afternoon - theaters will be opening soon.

Pine response with..

>>Sure. Let’s see what plays they got.

>>[Invite Jess back to Pine’s house] Hey, I noticed you seemed like those bananas a lot. I can teach you how to make them. Right now. There’s ingredients back at my house.

>>Sure, but let’s follow those three first.
I don’t want them in any trouble.

>>Write in
What an utterly bizarre series of events.

>Sure, but let’s follow those three first.
>Sure. Let’s see what plays they got
Rolled 1 (1d2)

1 = follow
2 = play
Pine agrees to Jess’ idea, but she wants to make sure the three doesn’t get into any trouble.

Considering Pine has seen an agent of Catchers Corporation a week ago, the presence of threats of Red Winter in this town is very much possible.

For the next half an hour, the two observe the giant and their colleagues from afar, watching the expressions on people’s faces when they see the giant.

Most react with surprise, looking at her briefly before continuing on with their activities.

In Sablestream, giants and goblins have been with the country from the very beginning. They are traditionally considered as protectors, with statues of them being built around religious institutions.

However, with since they cannot breed with other species, most of them are concentrated in larger cities like Clawflash.

Pine and Jess sees nothing unusual but notices that the giant seems to occasionally grab Cris and Zeal’s shoulders and arms to stabilize her movement.

The pale skin. The difficulty of long periods of physical movement. The strange staff. Pine has seen this type of people before - bloodbearers.

They are able to manipulate blood at the cost of draining blood from their own bodies. One of the few disciplines that the government tries to expand.

An organization like Red Winter having someone like her does make sense. Thinking back on what Zeal said earlier, a bloodbearer could terminate pregnancies and accelerate the process of menstruation, making prostitutes more efficient.

Alright, that’s enough snooping around.

Jess and Pine head back to the theaters and see what sort of plays they have.

The plays typically last for a few hours, so they’ll probably be hungry for dinner right after they finished watching.

Pine goes over what plays the theaters have…

>>”Black Lord”
Play which covers the life of Sablestream’s previous ruler, mainly focusing his actions during the war between Galepeak and Sablestream. It’s likely filled with embellishments to make things more dramatic.

Action focused.

>>”Glory of Rham”
Mythology epic which tells a story of a giant and a god that reincarnates in the human world, seeking to defeat each other. One of the most well known stories, and possessing the usual quirks of old mythology, namely the bizarre feats and dialogue.

Dramatic, bizarre, and hard to comprehend.

>>”Fruits of the Forest”
Tragedy about two men and a woman from different tribes that is forced into an arranged marriage. One of the newest plays, recently written by the monarchy.

Heavy on drama.

Collection of several short stories about people in Clawflash, and how they lived.
Heavily discusses Karma and the unfairness of ‘good’ people not being rewarded.

Thought provoking, but not completely filled with cynicism.

Jess doesn’t have a preference for any of these.
Yeah, seems good. We're regular folks, so let's see what the playwright thinks of regular folks?
‘Fated’ seems interesting.
Traditionally, shadow plays only occur at night, with the audience sitting in front of a large white cloth being brightly lit from behind. Originally native to the southern parts of the country, but the recent influences of foreign countries prompted people to expand the industry. Instead of wandering troupes, they settle in towns and rent out buildings to serve as theaters.

The theater Pine and Jess stays at is a wide room with several mats and pillows on the floor, a nod to their early days, while having some semblance of comfort.

The north of the room holds a wooden stage, where a wall of thin white cloth stands, alongside boxes of paper drawings attached with sticks.

Aside from the stage, everything else is completely dark.

A few dozen people eventually fills the room. It is time.

While the performers say that ‘Fated’ is a collection of true stories, the names and certain details such as the time the events took place are changed.

The first story is about 'Whan', a man born in the north eastern provinces of Sablestream. One day during his childhood, he spotted his father having sex with a mistress. While trying to sneak away, he was caught and beaten by his father. Afterwards, he fled the house and a group of bandits took him in as one of them.

Over the next few years, he became a merciless crook that cut down anyone that stood against him. Even killing one of the bandits that disagreed with his methods while passing it off as a casualty during a raid.

Some time before he went to Clawflash, he was in a sexual relationship with a single mother. When the woman became too sick to have sex with him from the toxicity of abortifacients, he raped the daughter for several days before leaving Clawflash with the mother’s money.

Whan continued his criminal ways in Clawflash for multiple years until he was eventually caught and sentenced to execution.

Despite living a short life, he never once shown any regret for his actions.

Was he born this way?

The second story is about 'Khaew’, a woman born in Clawflash.

During her childhood, she spent most of her time working as a maid or a babysitter to keep her family afloat.

After her mother has died, she became a shopkeeper’s assistant. During that time, she fell in love with a restaurant owner.

Despite having more dedication and working harder than many of her peers, it took half a decade before Khaew was promoted to an accountant.

Her spouse’s family was rather hard to deal with, especially his grand parents who had very high expectations for a suitor, and her relatively low salary was a big problem for them, but they eventually gave permission for them to marry.

The marriage was well, but they had problems conceiving. It took two years before she was pregnant.

During the later stages of the pregnancy, her husband died due to falling down the stairs while moving his restaurant’s ingredients.

When she gave birth, the child was mentally retarded. It was financially and emotionally difficult to raise the child. There were many days when she did not have dinner or lunch.

Both of them drowned due to a shipwreck when they went to visit her husband’s family. Age 36 and 7.

Despite living for much longer, did she achieve happiness?
How come she repeatedly suffered misfortune despite her moral actions? Why did karma not reward her?

The third story is about 'Rung’, a man born in a wealthy family.

Ever since he was a child, his parents wanted him to pursue a career in international spice trading, like them.

However, his passion lies in decorative woodwork.
Still, he wanted to respect his parents’ wishes.

During his 20s, he was a merchant traveling from different countries to sell spices. It was a harsh job for him, with few people he could talk to and rarely being able to meet most of his friends. The job had a great salary, though.

Several years into his career, the operations were scaled back due to tensions between countries. He took this opportunity to pursue his desired job as a carpenter.

During his time as a merchant, he often sculpted wooden objects and studied under the carpenters, so he would already have skills for his dream job when an opportunity presents itself.

For the first year, his venture in wooden toys was mildly successful, but the war between Galepeak and Sablestream heavily reduced the amount of customers.

With both of his jobs now unfeasible, he manufactured cheap furniture instead.
This pursuit yielded a sizable amount of money, allowing him to support himself and his families as the war intensified.

Rung recounts that he began enjoying the work as time went on. He continued to operate this business until he retired.

Died at 65. Unmarried.

Is marriage a necessity for happiness?

For the final story, it is about 'Yamada', an immigrant in his 30s who fled to Clawflash after his own country is entering a civil war.

During this time, Sablestream was at war with Galepeak. Yamada served as an advisor for local militias and eventually gained the reputation of the government.

Alongside him were former soldiers and civilians fleeing the war torn country who served as combatants and supporters of Sablestream’s military force.

When the war ended, the western countries were displeased with his people’s influence over the south Sablestream, as they have settled there and became a competitor for the western powers.

The government forced them to relocate to a zone designated only for foreigners.
Even after they complied, governmental support for them quickly fades away as they pour resources to support the western foreigners instead.

Yamada himself died in Clawflash at age of 40, poisoned. Many speculate that this was due to racial hostilities.

Did the government abandon him out of fear? Due to negligence?
Should people put faith in the government?

Each of these stories presents questions for the audience, with many people coming up with interpretations on what is the lesson each of them was trying to teach.

Perhaps Rung’s story represents the ‘dream’ not working out, and that taking a more practical job, although tiring, is more beneficial in the long run.

Or maybe it could represent moving on from failures. While Rung failed in his dream to become a toy carver, he found success in making wooden furniture. Maybe people can’t always accomplish their dreams, but perhaps they could settle for something similar.

Khaew’s story could be interpreted as a complete failure of the karma system drilled into people’s head by the religious institutions due to the sheer amount suffering she went through.

It could also be interpreted as criticism for families. Had her husband’s family be more supportive of her, be more willing to trust her, her situation could have improved.

The troupe leaves the questions open ended.

Pine and Jess leave the theater, with Pine talking about all the possible lessons that could be learned from the collection.

Khaew’s story could be criticism of the general negative perception towards abortion if Pine really thought about it.
Zeal would be quite vocal if he was here.

Jess thinks that most of the stories ended too bitterly.


Night approaches once more.

Tomorrow the cycle will start again, with Pine having to work continuously for six more days before having another day off like this one. Even if Pine likes the job, it’s still physically exhausting for her.

Then again, perhaps she did have some fun after all. Watching the fair, spending time with Jess, listening to the bizarre story of the ‘second rapewar’, and finally watching the shadow play.

For dinner, the two enjoy a simple bowl of noodles from a street vendor nearby the theater.

Stars begin to decorate the night sky as the sun fades away.

Pine decides to..
>>Part ways with Jess
It’s been fun today, Jess. See you.

>>Visit Noi’s tower together before parting ways
Let’s talk to Zeal and Cris. Maybe they could share information about giant.

>>Invite Jess to a bar
That was some depressing shit, huh?
How about we drink together. Get all that shit out of your system. There’s a bar, just a few minutes away from here.

>>Invite Jess to drink together at Pine’s house
That was pretty fucked up. I got some liquor back at my place. Fuck paying for some drinks at a bar - those are overpriced anyways. We can talk about anything, really.

>>Write in
>Invite Jess to drink together at Pine’s house
We can talk to Noi tomorrow. For now, let's end this date in a mellower, happier note.
>Invite Jess to drink together at Pine’s house
Ending today on a somber note isn’t good enough.

Pine invites him to drink together at her place. It’s way cheaper than going to a bar, anyways.

She made plenty of her own alcohol, which were sold to earn more funds for her plot against the cult. While rice wine were her most popular product, she prefers the sweet and sour taste of fruit wines.

Much like other houses, her home is made mostly from wood, and features sharply tampered roofs.

Pine’s house has two floors, with an attic.

The second floor is where she stores most of her personal belongings, from pieces of clothing to emergency equipment and rations.

The first floor is where the kitchen, study and living room are.

Before entering the house, they both washed their feet by using cups stored in the water jars next to the house.

Pine welcomes him to the living room, adjusting the mats and giving him pillows to rest his legs and back.

Around the room are a few bookshelves and drawers that contain illustrated cookbooks from different cuisines and cooks.

It’s a great way of documenting the many cultures of the world by looking at their food, and an excuse to show off drawings of her food.

Pine tells Jess to wait in the living room while she sifts through the attic.

Pine comes back with two boxes containing eight bottles each.

Jess is surprised by the amount and says Pine doesn’t need to bring all of this for him.

Pine says that he should not worry about it - it’s the perfect excuse for her to finally drink she made.

Jess prefers ones that are sour, and asks for her advice.

There’s more than a few bottles of fruit wine. Pine’s favorite is plum wine, and she pours for him first.

At first, there’s a slight sour taste that is followed by a mild sweet aftertaste and bitterness.

He takes a liking to it and ask for more of the fruit wine. Pine liked watching him squirm from the sourness of the lychee wine and joins in on drinking the most repulsively sour wine she made.

There was a moment after tasting all of the wine where Jess wanted to say something but decides on hugging Pine instead. He whispers that he wants to try the stronger stuff now.

The rice wine is made from fermenting sticky rice, which result in a sweet but high in alcohol content. The two gaze at the pale yellow liquid before drinking at the same time.

Sugary taste reaches their mouths first before the sensation of burning hits their throats.

After a couple more gulps, both are left completely dazed.

For the next hour or so, they snuggled and rested their bodies against each other without saying many words.

Maybe they could talk about a thousand things right now, their past, their future, their regrets, their fears…

But they don’t really need to. Being by each other is all they really want now.

Pine wants to..

>>Sleep in the living room next to Jess
She can’t be bothered with going upstairs and the living room already has pillows and blankets.

>>Caress his thigh and tease him more
Pine already toyed with him once. Let’s see what his reaction will be. Is he going to take it all or will he push back, she wonders. Either way, she’ll be satisfied.

>>Ask him whether or not he feels comfortable with sex
There’s six days before she gets to have this much free time again. Pine wants to connect with him physically, but it’s best if she make sure he’s on the same page.
Consent is a good precedent to set, anyways.

>>Ask what Jess wanted to say earlier
Let’s get this out of the way now. Pine doesn’t want Jess to feel alone. She can help advising him just like before.

>>Write in
>>Caress his thigh and tease him more
Buckle up, motherfucker
>Caress his thigh and tease him more
Sure, fair play.

After tonight, she’ll have to work for six days straight before having this much free time again….


Pine wakes up a bit later than usual.

Next to her is an asleep Jess.

Around her are pillows, once wet towels, and piles of his clothing and hers, alongside a few skirts that were folded into extremely short ones that barely cover her crotch.

While it feels to finally fulfill her.. need after so many years, she still has to run her restaurant.

She carries her clothing into baskets to be washed later and washes herself before leaving the house.

Fuck. Her groin still hurts. They were a bit.. overzealous last night. At least she didn’t get a hangover.

Before leaving, she writes a note and places it next to her lover’s clothes. She would rather let him sleep as he still has a day off. The note is hastily written, expressing happiness regarding yesterday’s activities and lecherous plans for next week’s session (assuming if they are both available)

Humans and goblins not being able to breed does come in handy sometimes, it seems.

The day is as busy as ever, with countless faces coming to eat during the morning and noon.

With the day ending, she tries to find Zeal and Cris for answers regarding the giant and Red Winter, but they seem to have left the town.

She approaches her trusted ally and consigliere, Noi.

Reaching the top of her stone tower, Pine sees a sleeping Noi on her desk, surrounded by piles of open books and paper. Odd. She rarely sleeps on the job and isn’t usually this interested in learning.

The books and piles of paper seem to be a collection of news, but it is written in an archaic form of Sablestream’s language. It’ll take a while if Pine wants to read it on her own.

>>Let her rest. Wait for Noi to wake up before asking questions.

>>Wake her up immediately.

>>This is odd. Look around the tower in case she finds anything strange.

>>Write in

Regarding ghostbin

so, what did you think about the scenes? Anything did you like or dislike about the sex?[spoiler/]
>This is odd. Look around the tower in case she finds anything strange.
Insidious sleeping potions are, after all, a thing.

Pretty dang cute and honest, really. Much less dramatic and frantic than most fictional fantasy-sex. It feels... right, for Pine.

>Pine is really into impregnation roleplay and abs while Jess is into exceptionally short skirts and flat chests

Based taste, those two.
>This is odd. Look around the tower in case she finds anything strange.
This is suspicious.

Pine looks around the tower for any signs of foul play.

Noi’s potion shelves looks normal.
The lanterns around her room have extinguished a long while ago, with barely any candle wax remaining.

She didn’t see anything unusual downstairs either. The spiral wooden stairs to this room looks about the same.

Fearing for the worst, Pine returns and puts her ear against Noi’s chest.
Her heart is still beating. There’s still air coming out of her nose, so her lungs are also working.

She spots something on Noi’s desk, inside a half open drawer are several vials of unusually shiny blood.

Huh. This looks odd.

Before Pine could think about entering the rooms above the study, Noi’s private room and the observatory, Noi wakes up.

Pine shifts her fingers away from her nose and ask her if she’s alright.

Noi says she’s fine and recounts what happened last night…

Last night, Zeal, Cris and her had a meeting with the giant, Bow, in her study.

A few days ago, Zeal and Cris came to her about Sira’s message - the Catchers Corporation do not want another abortifacient producer in Clawflash.

They still want to help people in the capital, and ask for Noi’s help in getting them into an organization sympathetic to their cause.

Rather than making or selling abortifacients in Clawflash, they could send ingredients while letting an already established group produce it.

Noi herself has a few eyes and hands in Clawflash, selling potions to people in the life. After looking through the gangs, she concluded that Red Winter seems to be most likely to support their actions.

After sending a recommendation letter, and a few days of investigation, a representative of Red Winter was sent to evaluate them.

The meeting starts out fairly formal, with Bow mostly asking questions about their future plans, the plausibilities, internal politics, logistics and other parts that are necessary to import the ingredients and sell the finished product in the capital.

It lasted for several hours, but Bow was eventually satisfied with their plans. They still have to wait for a approval from the higher ups, but it seems likely that they will be part of Red Winter.

Before leaving, they exchanged gifts as a symbol of good will.

Zeal and Cris gave her an ink bottle containing invisibility ink that can be seen when heat is applied.

Noi gave her a box of dried fruits covered in herbs and medicinal powders - a snack to alleviate the summer heat.

Bow gave each of them a bottle of Messenger Blood.

Messenger [of the gods] Blood refer to liquids that put Birdmen’s blood inside them.

The birdmen are messengers of deities, and possess the strongest connections to the supernatural.

While some have more bird like features, such as a beak or more pronounced talons, all of them have red skin and lack facial hair.

They are generally larger than giants, being nearly twice their size (~5 meters) and nearly invulnerable, with a direct lightning strike only able to remove a single feather from their bodies.

Birdmen are frequently seen in Clawflash, but remain mostly distant from other beings.

However, some that are unpopular with their deities meddle more with humans and the likes.

The few that earned their favors were bestowed with their feathers and blood - able to imbue those that hold them with a fraction of their vitality.

Most Messenger Bloods have only a small amount of Birdmen blood in it, with the majority of the liquid consisting of juices of sweet fruits, to compensate for the extreme saltiness of the blood.

Lower quality ones barely shine while high end ones resemble liquid metal.

Even ingestion of a small amount pushes the body function beyond what is normally possible, granting more stamina, strength, faster reaction time and regeneration.

It is best compared to a stimulant rather than a drink.

Giving such a precious substance as a gift is a sign of wealth and immense trust.

Naturally, Noi wanted to test the limits of such.

After drinking a finger sized vial of the Blood, she performed several tests on her body, from exercising to pain tolerance.

She finally passed out some time during the evening, after staying awake for nearly a day.

Zeal and Cris have already left Cinderpath and returned to their jobs back in Pikebreak and Clawflash.

As for Bow, she will be leaving tomorrow.
She says that she has someone else to meet in Clawflash. Pine will probably find her if she searches the bars.

Noi seems to be pretty happy with the meeting. Bow sounds professional and the organization she works for is strong.

Pine decides to…

>>Hang out with Noi
Noi had a long day. Let’s just talk about random things.

>>Go talk to Bow
She sounds like an important asset. Pine should go talk to her.

>>Observe Bow
She sounds like an important to Noi and those kids. Pine should make sure she doesn’t get hurt.

>>Write in
>Observe Bow
Writing. Expect it soon
Pine decides to watch over Bow.
Having her hurt in Cinderpath is going to sour relations.

She leaves the tower and heads to the entertainment district of town.

Even on weekdays, it remains as populated as ever.

Ample light from the many lanterns strewn near the bars blare at Pine’s eyes.

When she stared at the lights, she saw a few transparent dots and lines. Floaters.
It’s not obstructive at all, but it’s a reminder of her age.

Perhaps it’s best that she stopped being part of “the life”. Some 36 year old can only push their body so far.

Even with her body being not as good as it used to be, Pine still deduces the location of Bow rather quickly by eavesdropping people as they exit the bars.

After hearing a few people talk about a female giant looking for her brother, she decides to visit the bar they recently left.

It didn’t take long before she noticed a considerable amount of noise coming from the second floor of the bar.

While Pine is sipping a cup of plum wine next to the bartender, she sees Bow dragging another pink skinned giant to her by grabbing his shirt collar.

Bow shoves him into the counter and ask the bartender for the total amount cost for the drinks he had.

A large pile of steel ball coins are produced from the male giant.

When it was clear he didn’t have enough, Bow hands over four pouches of coins.

She seethes and the canine teeth extend from her mouth as the bartender says that it wasn’t still enough.

After handing two more, the bill was finally paid.

Pine stalks the two giants as they move away from the entertainment district and into the outskirts of town.

There’s a carriage that waits for them. Roughly six humans are inside that car, waiting for the giant.

After Bow shoves him into the vehicle, they nod and leave.

As for Bow, she returns to the bar and tries to initiate a conversation with someone, but he got too scared of her. It didn’t help that she was still baring her canine teeth.

As Pine orders another cup of fruit wine, she
decides to…

>>Approach her and tell her about the brothels

>>Leave. Inform Noi about what you saw.
She did not have the most subtle of approaches.

>>Continue observing.
Let’s see how well (or how long) she can continue to handle rejection. Will she wisen up or still bang her head against the wall?

>>Write in
>Continue observing.

Make sure she gets out of town in one piece.
Pine decides to continue observing her until she leaves Cinderpath.

After a few more tries of attempting to talk to someone at the bar, and them rejecting her, Bow leaves.

For the rest of the night, she stays in an inn, writing something down.

After she finishes writing a pile of it, she pulls out a waterskin and ravenously devours the liquid inside it.

A trail of crimson flows down her chin due to the reckless slurping. It’s blood. Not glistening like Messenger blood, just regular blood of someone.

Shit. Looks like she’s staying for the night, too.

Pine spends hours watching Bow alternate between writing with her ink stained quill, drinking more blood and sleeping.

Guess she won’t have time to sleep tonight.

Bow finally leaves in the early morning on a private carriage.

Pine’s restaurant is closed for today due to her being sick.

In reality, she slept until late afternoon before reporting to Noi about what happened.

She thanks Pine for taking the time to watch over her, but assures that she doesn’t have to do that in the future. She has plenty of eyes and ears already.

Over the following months, Zeal and Cris became closer to Bow, with Cris becoming a made member of Red Winter while Zeal becomes an associate.

Noi’s eyes report that hostility between gangs have increased rapidly after Red Winter’s underboss was assassinated in a water market.

Those kids visited Pine less frequently and their words became more distressing with each visit.

While they had a certain darkness, like the time when they overruled their friend’s choice to not abort and forced their abortifacient on Fah, but they still had a certain optimism to their speech.

“They should’ve taken our offer. We could’ve saved them. We should’ve pushed further.”

“Why the fuck didn’t they take our offer?
Financially, mentally, physically.. it makes sense!”

“We lost too many because we respected their choice. They HAD to be fucking retarded.”

“We’re not gonna let some breeders get in the way of themselves from having a good future.”

“Their lives are worthless compared to the amount of people we saved.”

“Those breeders deserved nothing.”

“Their lives mean nothing.”

Summer has ended.
Rainfall is upon Sablestream.

It is a weekday’s night.
Pine is in the living room once again, sleeping on Jess’ lap.

Both of them had a long day of working.

Pine needs to talk about something…

>>The future of those two kids
I’m worried about Zeal and Cris.
Any advice?

>>Should we.. take a break?
Situation in Clawflash isn’t looking good.
I don’t want them bleeding over to Cinderpath. How about a vacation?

>>Nevermind, let’s read some books!

>>Write in
>The future of those two kids
Choice locked!

Gotta sleep. Can’t finish it tonight
No worries, QM! Sleep well.
Pine talks about the future of Zeal and Cris, voicing her main concerns about their changed worldviews that could lead into more disappointment and pain.

She has seen this all before.
People with a single minded focus,
doing anything to achieve their dreams.
They will fracture. It’s only a matter of them before they shatter.

If they push away their friends now, who knows who will be beside them, guiding them?

Jess doesn’t know much about mental health or dealing with trauma, but he does know that it cannot be fixed quickly.

It takes a lot of time to recover from a mindset like that. Forcing someone to accelerate through that could break them.

It took years before the pain of being seen as a disappointment to his parents faded away enough that he doesn’t fixate on it.

For him, it was pursuit of other goals that got him out of that state.

His parents will never be proud of him, but maybe he could make his colleagues and teachers proud. Make himself proud.

For those two kids, they seem to place a lot of value on the women they want to help, and when they fail to live up to that, they become disappointed.

While Jess and Pine can’t really force them to take a break or change their minds, maybe they could be support them from a distance.

For the next few months, Pine and Jess encourage Makari and Fern to get closer to them, hanging out with the two when they had free time.

They don’t need to ask about their work life nor give them suggestions, they just need to be around.

The few times they did visit Cinderpath, Jess and Pine usually takes them to bathhouses or entertainment districts.

Pine doesn’t really know how much it helped them, but seeing those two not talk about work constantly seemed like a good sign.

During these months, Jess and Pine also discussed about the nature of their relationship. Since he doesn’t want his family to be involved with her, and Pine’s family isn’t really there, they decide to keep the marriage relatively low key should it happen in the future.

It is the start of another year.
For most people, it’s a time of celebration,
spending time with their families and loved ones.

Jess and Pine are watching the fireworks from the comforts of her bedroom, occasionally wiping sweat from each other’s skin. They’re too lazy to take a shower after enjoying each others’ bodies.

Repeated knocks on the door annoyingly interrupts their desires.

It’s Noi.

Her eyes and ears in Clawflash just reported that mass killing and arrests of Catchers Corporation members have occurred just a few hours ago.

The majority of the corporation’s security force was killed while outside of Clawflash, ambushed while in their carriages.

The management was replaced.
Some were arrested for pedophilia, possessing sexual attraction to the same gender, demonstrating malicious intent against the monarchy, and other crimes that usually result in death. Some just disappeared. Likely turncoats.

Their replacements have begun working on paperwork already.

The auditors remained alive.
Slaves remained alive.

A few masters had an accident, bleeding out before anyone could’ve saved them.

It seems that Red Winter has won.
They’ve defeated the Catchers corporation and replaced their higher ups.

This is huge. Red Winter would have an insanely high amount of funding if they are able to maintain this company.
With a legitimate front, Zeal and Cris could achieve their dreams much easier by selling their products.

Of course, there’s no telling how other slave related companies would react. While Noi’s eyes report that they remain neutral to this action, dynamics might change quickly.

Other “legit” slave audit firms have their roots in slavery, loans and extortion.
Having a newcomer that operates mostly on prostitution might cause some tension.

With the dissolution of the old Catchers Corp, remnants might head for Cinderpath.

"Crime, fights, hits, it’s gonna happen a lot more here for a few months."
Noi warns her and Jess about the impending threat.

Indeed, such violent actions descended upon Cinderfall and Cinderpath during the early months of the year.

A few fistfights occur in public places after some expresses the wrong opinion about the gangs, with some ending up lethal a few days after.

Pine’s restaurant doesn’t really have that, as she is near the edges of the town, but she does neutralizes a few while not working.

Even the toughest of crooks are unable to stand when their leg tendons are cut, or the threat of being cut.

Repeated trouble makers get removed.
It’s probably something illegal, but the locals can’t be bothered to care.

After a few months from the new years purge, Red Winter bought and transformed an old slaughterhouse into something else.

It is nearly the end of Winter, the early months of a new year.
The violence seems to die down for now.

One day, the two kids visit her.

Those two have changed quite a bit.

Both Zeal and Cris wear clothing of red shades now, with even their signature witch hat’s insides being dyed red.

Cris has changed her sliver moon earrings into a smaller gold ones. Simpler to maintain, and further association from Serpent Scholars.

Zeal’s hair is more voluminous but better groomed, with fewer stray strands.
Very fluffy.

This time, they’re the ones giving her the ever glistening Messenger Blood.

They seem to be a lot more happy now, and they apologize for not visiting during the last few months and the recent uptick in violence.

They’ve been very busy cleaning all that up.
They come to her with a proposal.

Pine is one of the best investigator they worked with, and they wish for her to train their operatives.

She’ll be well compensated and able to set the time.

>>Agree to proposal, and suggest more.
She can train them in not only investigating, but also combat and strategies when dealing with goblins, giants or other threats.

>>Agree to proposal.
These people can save lives better if they know where to look. Pine can help with that.

Sorry, but Pine doesn’t want anything to do with people in the life. She could teach them legitimate skills like cooking or cleaning, though.

>>Write in
>Agree to proposal.
We can offer more of we approve of what we see them do woth these first lessons.
>>Agree to proposal.
What's the worst that could happen?
Pine agrees to be the their tutor.

If she deems the students sufficient in morality and potential growth, she might adjust her schedule permanently.

For now, she decides to train them during her day off.

The students consists of roughly 15 people, mostly humans, but there’s a few goblins. Made members who are training to become eyes and ears.

The day begins with Pine testing the students about their methods of investigation.

As an exercise, she presents a small replica of Pike’s building and tasks the group with coming up with ways to investigate the shopkeeper’s behavior.

As befitting of students handpicked by Red Winter, they quickly figure out the blindspots of the shopekeeper and devise several plans to observe him.

For the first few exercises, with small compounds and with few people, they are quite successful.

They run into a few problems with longer operations, especially when dealing with civilians. They either underestimate children or threaten them once spotted.

In terms of planning, not bad.
Their intimidation tactics will do more harm than good when dealing with children, though. They aren’t dealing with people in the life.

From the late morning to the afternoon, they send time on disguise and subterfuge.

It is not about just clothing or make up, but behavior as well. Acting older and younger than you are, voice manipulation and even faking disabilities will greatly help in convincing others.

Only a third of the class manage to have good enough vocal controls.
It’s not essential, but they’ll be able to play fewer roles.

The evening is spent analyzing fights Pine and her colleagues have took part in, going through the events before and during the fight.

Admittedly, this is less academic than the rest. Pine teaches about ‘tells’ of people beyond reasoning, when to use your ‘gut feeling’ to determine if a fight will occur or not, and when to escalate or deescalate.

The night is spent evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, and attempts to correct them.

They listened to her teachings well.

Despite being part of the life, a few humans aren’t ruthless enough. Many initially failed their exercises due to underestimating female civilians, children and the elderly.

And one or two were a bit too eager to kill people as a first resort when discovered.

Still, she sees some potential in these future eyes.

And she doesn’t mind the shift away from restaurant work anyways.

Pine decides to scale back the restaurant opening hours and days to accommodate this new job.

While it is less physically straining than having to cook for people for an entire day, having to coach these people, read excessively about the manuscripts of other investigators, spies and people in the life is a lot more mentally challenging than she thought.

It has been two months since Pine has taken on this new job now, and the organization has taken notice of her presence, occasionally sending her gifts that range from money to jewelry.

Her health is getting worse as she continues teaching them.

There’s more floaters in her eyes than before, and her ears sometimes ring.

It got her thinking about the future for a bit.

Pine had a pretty interesting life.
Went through more than a few adventures, both in her younger years and as an experienced assassin.
Done and seen terrible things to achieve her own personal goals and peace.
Be part of the world few ever got to live in.
And recently, stepped away from it all.

For the next few years, what should Pine do?

>>Spend less time on working
Her health is deteriorating from all the strain she puts herself through from work, not to mention the strain on her body during the younger years.

Perhaps it is best if she work less.

>>Dedicate herself on passing knowledge
At this rate, in a decade or so, she won’t be able to do much. Best thing she could do is keep everything she knows alive, so that others can still make use of it.

To do what with it is ultimately up to them.

>>Spend more time with her close friends
Might as well take the time to visit Makari and Fern now since her body might make it more difficult in the future.

They’ve been with you throughout her life. She’s not going to drift away from them any time soon.

>>Explore and accumulate knowledge
While Pine does know a lot about Sablestream and it’s inhabitants, and even supernatural things, there’s more than a few myths and rumors that are unclear to her.

Before she is unable to do so, Pine could complete her manuscript.

>>Write in

(By the way, this story is going to end soon. Not right away after this choice, but it’ll probably end at ~150 replies)
>Dedicate herself on passing knowledge
>Spend more time with Jess on her off-hours
>Scale back restaurant work, or hire someone to do the bulk of it
Pine scales back the amount of days she had to work, with a few other people being hired to run the restaurant instead.

It took a few months of supervising before their performances were acceptable for her.
They have the fundamentals down, but they are a bit slow.

Whenever she isn’t whipping the new cooks and waiters into shape, Pine is writing and drawing the many things she have learned throughout the years, occasionally asking her friends whenever she is unable to completely understand more obscure topics.

Maintaining a happy relationship with Jess is also important for her. To make sure it still feels special even after a few years, the two of them will do something extra once in a while.

Compliments, gifts and physical displays of affection go a long way in making each other feel appreciated.

Pine and Jess decide to quietly live together, away from his parents. They wanted Jess to have children, so dating a goblin was definitely something they would’ve disagreed with. He doesn’t want them interfering with his adult life, anyway.

It has been nearly a year now.
She has finished writing a few books about her experiences with the occult during her life.

While in the process of writing about places in Sablestream, she gets a letter from Zeal.

Letter To Pine

We ask that you cancel your classes on the 31st of the 7th month.

The old slaughterhouse will undergo extensive machinery repair - several hours of loud noises will happen on that day.
I recommend you also leave the town for a few days due to the presence of private fixers. They are easily angered due to the recent downsizing of their companies.

We appreciates your dedication and expertise in teaching our students.
You will be compensated for this unexpected occurrence.

[Secret message]

There will be siege on the slaughterhouse turned hospital by other slave firms because some of the men we used as organ providers were apart of other companies.

Red Winter agents have prepared for this event and will be deployed to protect the property and Cinderpath. I doesn’t want you to get hurt in some war that you weren’t a part in.

31st? That’s only seven days away.

While Pine wants to believe this letter,
she decides to take this to Noi and let her confirm this. After making sure that handwriting and usage of words match up with his previous letters, she confirms that it is real.

The letter confirms what she have suspected for a while - the hospital are using the dangerous troublemakers and threats as vessels that are extracted for use.

>>Stay to fight.
Cinderpath is her home.
There’s a couple of people she knows that are willing and capable to defend it.

>>Stay to assist in the fighting.
Pine still has medical supplies, weapons and armor that could benefit the Red Winter agents.

>>Stay and hire mercenaries
The entertainment district is filled with mercenaries. It’ll cost her a lot, but the jewelry and money she got will prevent financial strain.

>>Leave town for a couple days.
Might as well take this opportunity to take some time off. She has books to write, after all.

>>Write in
>>Stay to fight.
>Stay to fight.
Get Jess out of here, though.
Damn that was fast. Noted!

I always wondered, are you two Souv and ReptoidQM?
Yes. It's-a-me
So it would appear!
No. This town has been her home for years. She can’t just abandon it.

Pine writes back to Zeal that she will remain in the town, alongside other armed civilians to protect it.

Pine informs Jess and wants him to leave, but he insists on being here with her.
He could convince his colleagues to assist in the fight.

From the reports, there will be roughly 30 men assaulting the hospital.

On the enemies’ side..

20 are members of Black Leaf gang
5 are agents of Forked Spear
5 are agents of Owl Eyes

This is a joint operation between Owl Eyes and Forked Spears, the two other slave auditing firms.

Unlike most hits, they outsource most of the men. Black Leaf is a gang affiliated with neither of them and only attacks due to their payment.

The gang is led by Black, a bandit known for his brutality. Some said that he was shot multiple times in the head and torso but was unharmed each time.

On Red Winter’s side..

15 are ‘Crows’ led by Sira, security force of Catchers Corporation
10 are members of Bloody Lips, led by Tian
10 are Noi’s men
5 armed civilians are recruited by Pine
5 colleagues are recruited by Jess

30 vs 45

Good enough.

The first two days are spent recruiting civilians and allies that are willing to fight for the hospital. It was quite tough finding those that know about it and are willing to help.

While Red Winter’s hospital does help civilians if they cannot afford regular hospitals or unable to find treatment, it’s still an old slaughterhouse to most of the public.

Then again, it’s understandable that burned patients that got skin grafts would refuse to clash swords with bandits.

The third and fourth days are when members Bloody Lips and Catchers Corporation enter Cinderpath. With the existing influence of Red Winter, they quickly find places to settle and prepare.

The fifth and sixth days are spent preparing for the siege, going over plans and setting up defenses. While they cannot inform the public too much, lest the bandits catch on to the ambushes, Red Winter tries to pull some strings to ensure that most public events are rescheduled.

It is the 30th of 7th month.

The plans have been set.
Because the hospital is on the west outskirts of town, which faces the forest, that’s where the threats will likely come from.

Going through the city gates (north) would unnecessarily alert the law enforcement, attacking from the east will put them in a position with no cover, as the forest there have been cut down, and attempting to perform a siege in the south will put them right next to the entertainment districts, where the mercenaries usually are.

The forest has been trapped with Noi’s gravity enhancing grenades. Once her men spot the threats, they will activate the grenades which will spill out a mist that slow down their movement by subjecting them to strong gravity. During the fight, they will deploy rockets containing gravitational mist towards the forest.

This will allow for agents from Bloody Lips and Catchers to get a few volleys off before they reach the hospital.

Sira and a few of his crows will surround the sides of the forest adjacent to town, to cut off the escape routes and flank the enemy.

The recruited civilians will be posted around the town to alert the main force in case they approach from different angles.

>>Tian’s unit - Main fighting force
Spear. Sword. Axe. Gun.
She has faced them all before.

>>Noi’s unit - Trappers
Pine has worked with Noi’s devices before, and her eyes are still operational.

>>Sira’s unit - Flankers
Being half as tall as humans will come in handy when the goal is to be undetected.
Errrr, do you want us to choose a unit to go with, or?

>>Sira’s unit - Flankers
Oh yeah choose a unit, i forgot to write that “Pine decides to be part of…” thing
>Sira’s unit - Flankers
Choice noted
Pine decides to be part of Sira’s unit, the flanking force.

There are six people on the south and north side.

For the north side, there are three Crows, two recruited civilians, and Pine.
The south is where Nhon and Jess is.
The rest of Crows are with Bloody lips, acting as the main force.

Because they will be primarily acting as ranged units, the flankers carry multiple types of firearms and ranged weapons.

For the most part, they will be using matchlock arquebuses and hand cannons to pick off the bandits.

However, if the bandits decide to charge them, they will deploy the fire arrow launchers - large matchlock cannons that shoot out incendiary projectiles. While too impractical for single targets, it is perfect for setting grass on fire, forcing enemies back into the forest.

The flankers also plant several firecrackers along the edges of the forest, which could be remotely tiggered to feign gunfire, making the force seem larger than it is.

For clothing, they mostly wear gamberson, cloth armor that will resist a sword cut but easily pierced by polearms and gunfire.

Layers of dark green and brown fabrics are draped over nearly every part of their bodies. Stealth is vital to their success.

Should they manage to close the gap, each flanker have their preferred own melee weapons to deal with attackers. For Pine, it is the Falchion she bought a few years ago.
She also has several items like the lightblaring steel balls and the squeeze trigger pistol that could come in handy.

On the 30th, she spent the day familiarizing herself with the many types of firearms and going over the plans.

Pine and Jess rarely talked that night, preferring to savor each other’s body rather than say anything related to tomorrow’s operation. It’s already stressful enough.

The 31st day finally arrives.

The two spent the morning in her bedroom, going over the plans and researching the Black Leaves gang.

Apparently, Black was a man born in the southern provinces of Sablestream. Formerly a police officer. His career ended when he killed his father and fled north.
In two years, he managed to destroy the Silk Hands gang, and establishes Black Leaves in the central provinces of Sablestream.

According to eye witnesses, he has dark brown skin and his body is covered by tattoos. Despite being human, his size is similar to giants.

The few people that survived an encounter with him recounts that he was able to endure being shot several times with barely any injuries.

Black carries multiple firearms and a club with a metal spike. His bandits generally carry long guns and swords.

Some speculate that his supposed invulnerability is due to gold pendant he wears around his neck, likely a magical trinket that can quickly heal his wounds.

If what they read has some truth to it, taking down Black will be difficult.
Best way to kill him is to immobilize then strangle him. Severing or restraining his limbs will be vital to taking him down.

The two eventually leave her home for lunch. The afternoon is spent with their units, going over the plans one more time.

While many spend the evening talking to their friends or writing letters, she takes a nap instead.

Night finally comes.
A full moon night with no rain nor wind.
Pine has already blocked off the noises of the forest from her mind.

After hours of lying on the ground, Pine and the other flankers notice some vibrations…

Silhouettes of men holding long guns are spotted by the flankers, from the crude hand bombards to the more modern arquebuses. There’s about ten humans, four goblins and four giants.

The short humans and goblins are furthest ahead, acting as scouts. Because giants are priority targets, due to being harder to fight in melee combat, the trappers decide to wait for the giants to move up first.

However, upon seeing the scouts point their fire arrow launchers at the hospital while waiting behind the trees, the trappers activate the gravitational traps immediately. They cannot risk the slaughterhouse being set on fire.

Clouds of mist burst open from the trees, pushing the scouts into the ground.

A thunderous volley of gunfire rip through the scouts, forcing chunks of organs and bone into the floor.

Briefly, the shadowy buildings around the hospital are illuminated.

As soon as the remaining bandits hear the gunfire, they cover their heads while biting on their sleeves.

Another volley from the main fighting force flies through the forest, but they are deflected away from the bandits.

So it’s not healing from some pendant
- it’s the clothes that are enchanted with gravitational magic, forming a bubble that deflects projectiles.

As soon as the volley ends, they return fire and begin sprinting towards the hospital.

Much like the lightbending cloaks those kids use, their trinkets don’t last for long.
Only a few minutes at best.

A few fire arrows make their way into the hospital. Pine can only hope those trappers manage to put them out.

The trappers on the hospital shoot out crossbow bolts that are attached with lightblaring steel balls, illuminating the forest with a light so bright that it’s reflection almost blinds Pine and the other flankers.

After a few seconds, the reflection fades away. There’s a few gravitybearers among these bandits, deflecting those arrows back at the hospital and the buildings.

It’s time.

Pine and other flankers deploy their own fire arrow launchers, shooting them near the ones that struggle to stand up or stumbling - a dead giveaway of gravity mages due to the backlash on their bodies.

While their clothing can deflect projectiles, the heat will kill them all the same.

Out of twenty or so bandits, only three mages were spotted and fired upon by both units of flankers.

Right after they fired the arrows, incendiary bombs were thrown at the mages to finish them off.

When the other bandits tried to retaliate, the firecracker traps were triggered, baiting them to look at the wrong positions.

Another volley of crossbow bolts fly into the forest, putting another lull in combat.

Bullets and fire arrows are randomly sent into and out of the forest, due to both sides blind firing. Smoke and flame begins to engulf the forest.

When the light stops, the mages are somehow standing again.
Remnants of their clothes are fused into the skin, with most of their bodies visible. Despite having exposed muscles all over their body, they can still move and manipulate gravity just fine.

There’s no fucking way healing potions or food did all that.

The gravitybearers send burning tree trunks into the hospital and buildings around them, tearing apart the wooden structures and crushing a few unlucky fighters.

After a few moments, the tree trunks are shot back into the forest, spinning in the air and flattening multiple bandits.

The rest of the bandits try to hide behind the unburnt trees to avoid being a potential target. By remaining in cover for a long time, and looking at the wrong directions, multiple humans and giants were shot in the head, negating their gravity shield clothing entirely.

It has been nearly half an hour.
The buildings are torn apart, with the large gaping holes stained by blood and fat.
While the flames are mostly extinguished, the stench of corpses make the forest just as disgusting.

There’s only two bandits left alive.

Pine and the others finally get to see what Black really is.

An abnormally large man with decaying skin and misshaped muscles.
He is a fleshbearer.

Unlike other, professionally trained ones that know the anatomy well, he can only reconstitute the basic functions of a body.

With a goblin fleshbearer in his left hand,
he essentially has a portable gravity bubble, allowing him to quickly negate the numbers advantage of the Bloody Lips and Crows.

In his right is a large spiked club that easily outreaches any human sized polearm.

Once he finds a downed opponent, he can drain their muscle and bone into himself, which is then used to keep the goblin mage alive.

Despite their muscles and bone being constantly ripped apart and quickly reattached, they easily deal with the main fighting force, incapacitating most of them.
Trails of organs and fat stain the dirt and rubble.

The ones still standing are only doing so because they ingested the mercenaries potions, which heavily pushes their bodies’ upper limit for strength, speed and reaction time.

Black has now grown to be as tall as a birdman (5 meters) and as wide as an ox.

Maybe it isn’t just money that motivated him to hit this place - it’s the promise of more flesh for him to add to himself.

Pine cannot back down from this.
The authorities were paid off by Red Winter to look the other way - they must settle this by themselves.

Only the flankers and trappers remain unscathed, hidden among the trees and buildings while Black continues the absorb the corpses of fallen soldiers.

To bring this monstrosity down, they will..

>>Distract Black, then coordinate our gravitybearers to sever his left arm.
The mage won’t be able to keep going without a steady regeneration.

>>Retreat and shoot his goblin mage from a distance.
when Black thinks he killed everyone.
A building isn’t worth twenty more lives.
The organ donors have been moved to somewhere else, they’re only fighting to keep medical equipment.

>>Send tree trunks into Cinderpath.
The authorities will definitely investigate when people report a tree trunk of mangled corpses rip through the town walls.

>>Write in

if you guys ever watched My hero academia and played Elden Ring, he’s basically a combination of Muscular and Godrick the grafted
Current numbers
Main fighting force (5)
Flankers (12)
Trappers (8)

Jess - Flankers
Pine - Flankers
Bow - Main fighting force
Tian - Main fighting force
Noi - Trappers
(All of these characters are still alive)
>Send tree trunks into Cinderpath.
We need real firepower.
>>>Send tree trunks into Cinderpath.
>The authorities will definitely investigate when people report a tree trunk of mangled corpses rip through the town walls.
While Bow and other giants are standing their ground against this malformed flesh, the gravitybearers send a bloodied tree trunk towards the inner parts of Cinderpath.

The uprooted tree punches through the stone walls and crashes into the brightly lit town.

Splinters of blood stained wood and chunks of organs splash on the street, awakening the town to the carnage on the outskirts.

The flankers are still hidden in the forest, loading the last of their fire arrows and waiting for Black and his mage to be distracted.

Noi and other mages also hide behind the buildings, waiting for a moment that the bandit slips up.

The moment arrives after his thrust is displaced into the ground. Black tries to pull the weapon out, but the spike of his club remains stuck on the dirt, causing him to briefly turn around and direct the mage to retrieve his weapon, as most of their peripheral vision are lost due to the constant blood loss and skin peeling which covers their eyes.

Five fire arrows strike Black in his torso and legs, making him whip his left arm around to deflect more volleys.

The goblin mage creates a spherical shield around Black, but the second volley never comes. This distraction gives the remaining members of the main fighting force to retreat into the shadows of buildings and trees.

Noi and the mages embed several wooden and stone spikes into the ground around Black, ensuring that his movement will be hindered if they try to pursue the fighting force.

Another lull in combat emerges, with each side patching up their wounds rather than trying to end the fight.

After looking at the emptiness of the hospital, Black climbs on it and leaps into the town - they’re too much trouble for their worth. Unprepared civilians and guards make for easier targets.

The entire fighting force is exhausted.

Bow and other fighters only have a few more minutes before the duration of the potions run out.

Noi and other gravitybearers are barely able to stand up or breathe due to the gravity backlash from constantly moving objects around.

The flankers only have a few fire arrows and bullets left. By this point, most have resorted to using the bandits’ own long guns.

Bow and the four others decide to sprint to the north of Cinderpath to inform the law enforcement about the fleshbearer and his mage. With their increased strength and speed, it should only take a few minutes.

A few of the flankers climb on the trees and use light signals to order the recruited civilians stationed around the town to get civilians away from the west side of Cinderpath.
Those kids…
Pine hopes they’re still doing alright.

The guards won’t be able to slow Black down for long, even with lightblaring weapons and explosives.

Noi’s usual plan of dealing with these fleshbearers, explosives, hallucinogenics and corrosive gas will not be possible to the risk of civilian casualties.

There is one possibility - the tampered portals.

When Noi was a test subject and slave for a gravitybearer, she managed to usurp his tower by tampering with his experimental portals and changed his destination into somewhere in space instead.

While the portals remain too archaic to be recalibrated into actual transportation portals, they make for good excavation tools, capable of sucking up limitless amounts of land. The portals are four elbows wide and long, and made up of stone. (2x2 meters)

Since they are too cumbersome to be held by a single person, Noi designed several exoskeletons outfitted with gravity reduction enchantments.

Noi and other gravitybenders, armed with the exoskeletons and the portals could jump towards Black’s location, suck him up, and quickly end this threat before more people could get killed.

Sira and other flankers carry the exhausted gravitybearers to Noi’s tower at the outskirts of town.

Once they reach the observatory, the highest point of her tower, they come across four metal frames and stone discs with glowing white inscriptions on them.

The exoskeletons are the tallest constructs Pine has ever seen, somehow being slightly taller than birdmen, with the particularly large metal hands and feet. To even use it, several straps must be put on the limbs and torso.

However, these constructs are merely prototypes, designed to only operate the stone portals by someone like Noi.
Without a gravitybearer as a pilot, it becomes a cage as the enchantment on each part wears off after a few minutes. Additionally, it lacks any weapons.

Noi and five other gravitybearers stock up on healing potions and concoctions that push their bodies’ natural limits. It’s time to see how far Messenger Blood can push someone.

While there’s only room for one pilot, there’s plenty of anchor points on the exoskeletons to hold objects and people.

Since there’s eight mages and twelve flankers, each skeleton will have their own mage as a portable shield creator, and four flankers who are using the construct as a mode of transportation.

File: file.png (63 KB, 420x147)
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While the mages are getting their armor ready, Aside from resupplying their arrow launchers, Pine and other flankers also take lightbending cloaks and other magical trinkets from the tower.

Pine takes one good look at the observatory before attaching herself to the exoskeleton.
Even after all these years, Noi never bothered to clean up the bookcases.

A section of the observatory’s dome opens up. Symbols on the exoskeletons glow with a bright purple color as they prepare to jump.

As the constructs jump into the night sky, they shatter the wooden floor and knock away objects in the observatory.

The only sound Pine and others could hear right now is the uncaring wind constantly rushing past them. The full moon still shines brightly in the sky, despite it being a couple hours into the night. The town becomes nothing more than a cloth with some patterns on it.

Being this high in the sky does offer her some serenity, it seems.
To make sure those exoskeletons are able to suck Black into the portals, the flankers have brought a special type of ammunition to distract him.

>>Lightning caller arrows
Arrows enchanted by lightningbearers, capable of calling down lightning on targets struck by it. It will cause extremely loud noise and bright flash.

Stop his heart and lungs. Blind and Deafen him as well.

>>Messenger Blood arrows
Arrows with Messenger Blood payload.
A shower of this blood could overclock Black’s body to the point of muscle and bone ripping itself apart every time he tries to move.

Overload his body with strength and watch Black destroy himself.

>>Barbed arrows
All steel arrows with multiple barbs.
Once hit, the arrow will cause more wounds if Black tries to remove it. Having steel rods stuck in his body will make it harder for him to manipulate his flesh as well.

Foreign objects in his body will make healing his mage difficult.

(Hey, this message is from SchizoQM. Got banned right now)
>Messenger Blood arrows
>Throw those flashbang balls we bought, too
Oh, and best of luck with the ban. I hope it expires soon!
Attached to the large arrows are cylinders with long needles and rope which will inject a jar’s worth of Messenger Blood into the target.

One or two injections will increase muscle strength to such an extent that it will rip itself apart by small movements.
Even if he somehow doesn’t move, the strain on his heart and lungs would make them explode.

The time to admire the serenity of the night sky is over.

They begin to descend.
From afar, they can see the wounds in buildings and mangled corpses of those who were slammed into it. Black made his way east, ravaging through the central parts of Cinderpath.

The flankers depart before the exoskeletons reach the ground, landing on rooftops.

Four flankers split off to the north, to inform the law enforcement and civilians about their plan.

The remaining eight follow the trail of destruction, traversing through the broken buildings.

Interestingly, Black is actually on the run.
There’s less damage to structures as they go further east, with chunks of random flesh and blood decorating the poorly constructed apartment and houses.

While he had the right idea of going to the east of Cinderpath, as law enforcement is fewer in numbers there, and there are plenty of poor people condensed in small buildings, he didn’t take into account the lack of safety of the structures.

Metal panels hastily pasted onto damaged buildings, nails that were never hammered properly, and old wooden boards that easily fractures have severely hindered the movement of someone this large.

While not enough to kill him, it did slow down his movement long enough for some shot to land on him.

The blood trail leads… upward. He’s hiding in the rooftops of the decrepit ghettos.
Even with the full moon’s light, it’s still hard to spot a pile of flesh amongst all hoards of junk.

It’s too dangerous. The rooftops aren’t very stable and Black’s mage could easily push the flankers off.

Pine hears up her lightblaring steel balls by rubbing it with her hands before handing it to other flankers, to perform a synchronized throw.

Before they could throw them, the flankers spot some small thing moving to their right.
Pine immediately ducks down.

A storm of fast moving objects zip through the sky, perforating some flankers and the cover some of them hide behind. A fork embeds itself close to Pine.

Black’s mage must’ve propelled some utensils and other small objects at the flankers.

Those lightblaring balls become a hindrance, illuminating a few flankers that did not manage to throw it away in time, resulting in a barrage of forks and dishes being shot at them.

The remaining flankers rubs on their cloak and move further south and east, trying to move away from the mage’s line of sight.

They finally catch a glimpse of Black and the mage, sitting still under a pile of wet blankets and clothes. They spot several large spikes and metal shards poking out of in the fleshbearer’s body.

His legs barely resemble meat, with metallic sheets and nails covering most of the muscle in dark orange rust. He must’ve impaled himself while running through the alleyways, and climbed up when he couldn’t move.

The flankers toss a few steel balls in different directions, distracting the mage long enough that arquebuses are readied.

The mage pull more objects to their hand, but gets perforated by three rounds before another barrage could be released.

In that very same moment, Black gets hit by two arrows. Messenger Blood gets pumped into his neck, causing him to raise his arm in an attempt to block.

However, with the newly increased strength, the second Black flings his arm, flesh is ripped apart from his bones, disintegrating his right arm, showering the streets below with red meat.

When Black tries to extend his left arm to catch the falling mage, his fingers rip through the mage, cutting the body into multiple chunks. His left arm and shoulder also gets ripped apart when he jerks them back in shock.

Blood doesn’t even flow out of the stumps that were once his arms. Only fragments of bone and fat remains.

He lets out a deafening scream, echoing throughout the town.

The flankers do not dare to approach him, signaling to the exoskeletons and other security forces to back them up instead.

Out of eight flankers, three were hit.

While waiting for the reinforcements to come, Pine and others decide to put more rounds into him. Two more Messenger Blood arrows get shot into the ox sized torso, as his thighs contain too much rusty metal, and his wrists are gone. The torso is likely where bloodflow actually happens.

When other people are reloading their launchers and guns, Pine notices something strange with Black’s movement.

Ever since he got injected with more arrows, his torso begins moving rapidly.
He’s hyperventilating. His eyes dart around and his mouth constantly open for air.

Black leans forwards and slams his back against the wall with such force that it causes the buildings to vibrate. Not even an earthquake is this severe.

He follows up by using his tongue to push his teeth out, sending fast moving projectiles towards everyone facing him.
Inaccurate, and slower than the mage’s barrage.

With blood leaking from his gums, he spits out a line of extremely high pressure blood, slowly moving his head to control the beam.

Pine knows what to do, but the question is, what defensive action will she perform against each attack?

(1st action -> 2nd -> 3rd)

>>Duck -> Hide behind pillars -> Hit the floor
>>Hit the floor -> Duck -> Hide behind pillars
>>Hide behind pillars -> Hit the floor -> Duck

Briefly squat down to avoid attacks.
Black can still see you, though.

>Hide behind pillars
Dash into cover.

>Hit the floor
Get to the floor and to minimize profile.

Roll 3d100
DC 70
Correct answer will give a +69 bonus to rolls
Rolled 92 (1d100)

>Hide behind pillars -> Hit the floor -> Duck
Rolled 17, 39 = 56 (2d100)

you forgot to roll the 2 other d100s
I as saving some for Souv.
Rolled 70, 6, 65 = 141 (3d100)

+1. Watch THIS

Sequence partially correct

First action incorrect
Lying down is the best thing to do when dealing when earthquakes

Second action correct
Because of the inaccurate shots, minimizing surface area is the best way to avoid the projectiles

Third action correct
His slow head movement means he can’t make quick adjustments to the high pressure blood beam.

92, 6(+69), 65(+69) VS 70

Well done.
90 & 75 & 134 vs 70

When Black slammed his back against the wall, causing the ground to shake and buildings to vibrate, Pine dashes behind a pillar in hopes of hanging onto it to stabilize herself.

The structures shakes with such force that even with her hands grasping the pillars and her center of gravity being low, they are unable to keep her steady, resulting in Pine falling to the floor.

She braces herself by covering her head with her forearms. It hurts slightly, but the pain quickly fades away.

Her hands continue to cover her nape and head as she waits for this vibration to pass.
Mountains of tattered clothing gets ripped from their hangers, threatening to drown Pine but she quickly cuts herself free with a knife.

Pine rises just in time to see Black shoot his teeth towards anything facing him. Pine immediately drops to the ground again, with the knife pointed away from her. The stone and wood cracks behind Pine. Those teeth barely missed her. Rather than perforating the building, they merely embed themselves in it, more akin to a regular bullet than the gravity boosted hail.

Having used up his teeth, it leaves his mouth bloody and uneven. As one last act of defiance, he starts blowing his highly pressurized blood out, forming a line that easily cuts through stone and wood.

The constant sound of rushing water follows the sanguine line as it cuts through the sky.
It slowly moves downward diagonally, severing objects around the roof.

The flankers closest to the stream manage to avoid it by briefly turning invisible and lying on the floor.

Pine doesn’t fear this type of weapon.
She dealt with pressurized water before. Those druids couldn’t kill her then, and it certainly won’t kill her now.

Pine draws her small firearm from her sleeve, and fires it at Black’s face. While the small barrel makes it inaccurate, it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to blind him.

The bright flash causes Black to wince, closing his eyes and sharply raise his head, causing the line to move upwards briefly.
Pine ducks under the line and grabs the gravity assisted arquebus she recently took from the observatory.

After flicking a lever, sigils around barrel begins to turn purple. The slowmatch is already in position. It’s primed. Another flash illuminates her position. A round zips through the air, piercing Black’s chin and splashing his brains against the crumbling walls.

The blood rapidly turns from a precise beam to a hose of blood and grease.


Her ears are ringing quite badly.
Firing two shots in quick succession isn’t the best for her hearing.

When she ducks behind cover to load another shot, she notices the floor rumbling.
From the north of Cinderpath, two exoskeletons climb up the rooftops, with several guards and mercenaries attached to them.

The pilots are heavily exhausted, with redness on their skin and eyes being half open. Cinders and ash cover the steel construct, indicating the exoskeleton have been used extensively as firefighters.

Black tries to turn his head to face one of them, but ends up decapitating himself due to the wounds on his neck. For a few moments, his eyes glance at one of the exoskeletons.

Several bolts are launched at him, dispersing corrosive liquid on the mountain of decaying flesh.

It’s… finally over.

Out of three flankers, two were injured and one died. Due to Pine’s shot, the beam never reached Jess or Sira.

Roughly 30 injured, and 10 died.
Most of the casualties were from fires which broke out when the gravity mage deflected the explosives and fire arrows.

The exoskeletons worked quite well as firefighters, able to quickly remove debris and smoke. The pilots were able to reduce the weight of rubble and rescue people. However, the large amount of stimulants being pumped into their bodies to keep them operational have caused them to strain their muscles and lungs heavily - Noi and one other pilot went unconscious due to smoke inhalation and had to be rescued.

There’s still a lot of flaws with the prototypes.

As for the (unwilling) donors of the hospital, they are kept safe all throughout the night by being locked inside basements of associates’ houses.

Maybe Red Winter can cover this up, or at least deflect the blame onto bandits, but it doesn’t matter right now. Pine passes out, still wondering about what those kids back in Clawflash are doing.

Back in Clawflash, Red Winter have taken action against the other slave firms. Owl Eyes and Forked Spear are too big to be completely killed, but they can put them on the back foot.

A single command was issued.

>>Execute leaders
Strings of murders being publicly committed in a single night will bring a lot of attention from the police - forcing the firms to lay low and cut back on their illegal operations.
>>Plant Sea Serpents aligned evidence
Clawflash is filled with Birdmen aligned organizations and people - without the support of legitimate customers, those firms will be severely weakened.

>>Kidnap as many people as possible
If they can’t hit everyone, they might as well hit everyone adjacent to them. Associates of those firms, their friends, family, they will be designated as organ donors.

>>Write in
>Plant Sea Serpents aligned evidence
>>Plant Sea Serpents aligned evidence
Noted. Can’t finish it tonight.
Expect it in a day.

Btw this quest is nearing it’s end.
A couple more choices and it’ll be over.

I’ll post a couple behind the scenes notes and thought processes after, though.
Just like the Elden Ring oneshot, I’ll be happy to answer any lingering questions.
It's been a blast! Excited for the finale
The agents of Catcher Corporation and members of Red Winter have waited a long time for a chance to destroy their competitors’ public image.

With a portion of their security forces acting as ‘advisors’ for the bandits tonight, it becomes easier to breach previously secure locations.

The rivalry between birdmen and sea serpents is as old as Sablestream itself, due to Birdmen being chosen over the serpents as messengers for deities. Because both have unique byproducts and specialties, it’s not uncommon for knowledge to be shared.

However, any goodwill goes out the window when trophies commemorating defeats of past wars are being worshipped.

Smear campaigns and misinformation have always been an essential part in those two kids’ success, anyways, so they are naturally suited to it.

Trinkets, statues, and artwork depicting sea serpents triumph and celebrations of avian death are carefully planted in rarely used lockers and desks.

For unsuccessful infiltrations, they frame it as vigilante action against sea serpent supporters, by damaging the objects they brought.

For the next following months, a few news publishers and well known figures are nudged into talking about the situation, making sure that rumors of Owl Eyes and Forked Spear employees being serpent supporters are not easily forgotten.

Of course, certain things are also fabricated to increase vitriol amongst the people. Sexual misconduct? Corruption?
Disloyalty towards the monarchy?
The public readily believes them due to the naturally shady behavior of slave firms and this recent revelation.

To keep the public on Catchers Corps side, they nudged news publishers to write about the corporation positively, portraying them as the underdogs, struggling against crime and fixing the damage done by past members.

Within half a year, Forked Spear had to turn to security work and private investigation to keep the company afloat.

Owl Eyes manage to survive, mainly due their primary customers being foreigners, who don’t really care about the politics of laborers.

However, this shift has some consequences towards those adjacent to the companies.

Families and close friends of workers in the two companies have to endure entire attacks on their home, beatings and harassment.

More than a few have committed suicide due to the immense stress, and countless more were beaten to the point of sustaining permanent injuries for being traitors to the city.

For those in the life, there was an exodus as the gangs under their command begin to drift away from the company, seeing that the pay and reputation was dwindling.
Not all were able to escape unscathed.
A few were persuaded into becoming turncoats in exchange for their families’ safety.

By the end of the year, Forked Spear has been reduced to merely a private investigation company, solving affairs and missing person cases. Their illegitimate means of earning money are only a couple houses for gambling and cockfighting.

Owl Eyes is still a relatively powerful slave firm, but the lack of combat personnel have made attacks rarer and smaller in scale.

Due to this newly created power vacuum, smaller slave firms and minor gangs have sprung up. While their allegiance are easily bought, they a lot more volatile, necessitating frequent interventions and guidance from Red Winter to ensure they don’t anger older organizations unintentionally.

Brawls break out more frequently, but death and injuries are somewhat less compared to the hits previously sanctioned by the two companies.

Being part of the life is always rough, no matter what.

As for Cinderpath, the combined efforts of Red Winter associates and treated civilians made the authorities go along with the cover story of people being blackmailed into giving money to Black Leaves, and a militia formed to intimidate the bandits, which led to the bloody battle.

They were willing to overlook a few anomalies in the story due to the exoskeletons. Firefighters, construction companies, farmers, and anyone with a decently large wallet were interested in the potential of these constructs as most exoskeletons are owned by the monarchy and their army.

The portals were too dangerous to be replicated, though. The knowledge of creating stable teleportation devices seems to be lost to time.

With the help of blacksmiths, Noi and her mages have created two new exoskeletons with space for two pilots. Even with new modifications, the high strain on the pilots prevents them from being used for more than an hour.

It will not completely change industries, but this type of technology could be another important tool in Cinderpath’s repertoire.

These past few years have been quite interesting for Pine. While not filled with adventure and danger like before, there’s plenty of memorable experiences.

Her eyes do get slightly blurry whenever she spends several hours staring at her books.

Her ears still ring occasionally when things become too silent.

At least, she still has a decent group of friends, someone she loves, and a purpose to keep her going.

New years is coming up once again.
Pine wonders what activities she should do..

>>A tour of south Sablestream
Organize a trip to the south of Sablestream, visiting the archaic parts of the country.
While Pine has witnessed dryads and other occult aspects of the country, her friends (Makari, Zeal, Cris, and Jess) haven’t.
It’s best to revisit them now before they fade away, just like the schools of elemental magic that Makari and his father studied.

>>Fun nights in the entertainment district
Hang out with her friends in Cinderpath. Those kids are going like the bathhouses and performances in the clubs. With Red Winter supplying her with funds and jewelry, she doesn’t really have to worry about most expenses anyway.

>>Visit Pikebreak
The cold mountains of Pikebreak could be a nice change from the heat of Cinderpath.
The weather there is going to help Pine relax. Apparently it’s healthier, too.

>>Visit Silverport
Pine could revisit the city of potion makers, see how much has changed in half a decade. Painting landscapes and writing another entry in her journal could prove interesting.
>Visit Silverport
A nice bookend to our story!
Perhaps she should visit Silverport again.
Five years ago, that visited permanently changed her life.

She encountered Zeal and Cris, discovered their vigilante actions, and assisted in them.

Met Makari, the kid she took care of again, and gained closure on why he left.

Discovered a lead on the cult which eventually help her dismantle the cult that spied on the people.

Explored a potion processing plant, a cave contaminated with highly concentrated healing potions, which created a strange ecosystem.

Witnessed stone like sea urchins and malformed crows inside the cave.

Avoided capture from cave’s automatons and left the plant uninjured.

With the help Zeal and Cris, delayed a drug production that was sanctioned by the government to make Galepeak more crime ridden, in order to prevent foreign countries to invest in their rival.

Came in contact with an anomalous entity that somehow brought her and those two kids back at the academy.

She later learned that the anomaly carried them through a section of the underworld before it passed on.

The people there are quite interesting, too.
It’s quite rare for a large part of the population to be non humanoids.

Pine picked up painting recently, so the varied shapes of buildings there could serve as good practice.

Jess is also onboard with this, as he wants to go to the beach.

For new years, Pine and Jess decide to spend their time at Silverport.

Forests still surround Silverport.
Noises of wildlife and the occasional nap helps distract her from moments when her ears still rang. It does give her a pretty good excuse to sleep on Jess’ lap, though.

Even at new years, the facilities in west of the academy are populated. While the structures remain largely the same, many have their purposes changed.

When the cult was revealed to the public, roughly a third of parents and students disappeared shortly after.

Effects of that still remains to this very day.

The island next to the academy, which once exclusively served as apartments for students and staff became classrooms and storage.

Most restaurants are basically small mess halls, with relatively cheap food and basic utensils and seating.

Even the once glimmering white walls and main tower have become quite dusty and desecrated with cracks and stains.

The one thing that has remained the same all throughout these years are the recreational potion stores - where stressed out students escape from reality briefly by drinking, hallucinating from potions, and engaging in one night stands.

That, and also the way people dress.
While the students have to wear scholarly robes as a uniform, they tend to wear them open faced when outside of classrooms. Both male and female students show a lot of skin, wearing shorts which show most of the thighs. While most don’t wear shirts, the males have scarfs around their shoulders and the females wear cloth wraps around their chest.

Alongside their muscular arms and legs are multiple swords and daggers adorning their hips. Pine notices that even their scabbards have less sophisticated patterns now.

Despite the reduced funding, the students seem to be less stressed out. When Pine and Jess visited the entertainment facilities, most people are spending time with their friends and loved ones, hanging out and drinking together as opposed to staring at ceilings or walls while they lucid dream for a few hours.

Perhaps the smaller size of competition and expectations has made the people happier.

After spending most of their first day exploring the enter districts and markets, Pine and Jess end up at the beach.

The setting sun that illuminates the giants and serpents unloading objects from merchant ships will make for an interesting painting.

It’s a relatively decent painting, with more emphasis on the landscape and ship rather than trying to capture the detailed expressions of the workers’ faces.

The start of the second day is spent mostly at markets and restaurants. With Pine’s guidance, he was able to get several discounts or additional items with just a few gestures or words.

During the afternoon, the two ventured into the forests east of the academy, with Pine painting a picture of fruits in the forest while Jess tries out his new knives and axes on stray branches.

They ended the day by visiting an bathhouse in Silverport. Originally, it was located in the academy but now has moved to the outskirts instead so that it can attract more visitors.

The flamebearers are still present at this bathhouse, allowing the water to remain cold or hot all throughout the year.

The two meet plenty of people here, from cow sized sea serpents looking to stay cool to giants that serve on merchant vessels with several stories to tell.

Stories of ghostly ships and bizarrely shaped sea creatures inspires her to paint another picture during the second day’s evening.

The progress on it was halted when Jess suggested that they try out the drinks he recently bought. It went similarly to the first time she invited him for a drink at her house.
At least they made it to the bed this time.

Pine has come to loathe the silence now, and talks about random things with Jess until she can fall asleep. He indulges her in that aspect, but also stroke her hair and kiss her forehead occasionally while she talks.

Before she falls asleep, he would like to..

>>Ask her about retirement
Red Winter sends her a lot of jewelry and money already. She doesn’t have to wake up early and work for an entire day anymore. If she retires soon, she can spend a lot more time painting or doing her hobbies.

>>Ask her about the books
He notices that her eyesight has been getting worse. Maybe he could help write those books so that she doesn’t need to stay up late to write them.

>>Remain silent. She deserves some sleep.
Let’s not ruin this moment.
He can’t tell her what to do, but he’ll try to support her regardless. That is the basis of relationships, after all.

>>Write in
>>Ask her about the books
>Ask her about the books
Pine obviously likes to stay busy, but a bit of help never hurts... It'll make her more productive!

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