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LP Chapter 33

Page history last edited by Volkes_Wagon 8 years, 11 months ago

Curdled Soy

 

     "You're late."

     "...My apologies."

     "You're late, late, late, frolicking around, ruining the entire White Wing's preparation in another night wasted. How many times have we warned you, involving yourself any further in matters of the Two Powers will bring disaster on all of us. The realm of magic is not a place to lose your senses!"

     "The Stallion exceeded my expectations. You agree I had no choice but to resolve those matters beforehand?"

     "Then use force! You're perfectly capable! Do you have any idea what She will do to you if you fail this mission!? You must take this seriously. This is no longer the child's game we taught you to play."

     "..."

     "...The fifth link. We put it deep in Arachne's Web. Is that not enough black encouragement, or shall I tie a sword to a hair and hang it above?"

     "No. I understand."

     "We shall see. Make haste, cursed Shadow. The Two Powers draw near."

 

     The road Kuchiha walked upon was an endless strip of black dirt fringed on both sides by brooding pillar-like trees. It wouldn't have been so bad if she was alone. But somehow or another, she had gotten herself company--a little too much company.

     Three boys and two animals trudged beside her, all but one keeping a respectful distance from the twitching expression on her face. This rebellion was walking peacefully for the moment, belying his secret taste for domination. She knew he was only working out another way to make her bend to his wishes. The singed green scarf and hair red as fire were lost in the decaying night, but his slanted cat eyes still shone gold. 

     That arrogant audacity of his rubbed Kuchiha exactly the wrong way. She saw the two specks of gold bob closer and hissed.

     "Five strides away! I said five!! That's gotta be three at most!"

     Runo put his hands up carelessly, cross-stepping to a safer distance. "Then you're on your own if something jumps out the forest and eats you."

     "If anything with meat jumps outta the forest I'd eat it! You think I'd go down so easy!? Dang, I'm so hungry I can't even feel my stomach."

     "...I'm a vegetarian."

     "Heh. Too bad for you."

     There was a moment of contemplative silence.

     Someone chuckled by her ear. Kuchiha nearly smashed Runo's nose in, but he ducked just in time. "Your senses are dulling, she-wolf."

     She aimed a kick at him. He skipped back and took shelter behind the rest of the group, no doubt gearing up for his next attack. Inarticulate fury boiled into her mouth, threatening to burst. But weariness forced her to swallow passion and keep moving.

     An hour had passed since she had supposedly been reborn, and things were looking glum indeed.

     Sealed off from the rest of the world by an impermiable forest of ancient magic, the legendary Path of Angels and Demons was the fabled realm for outcasts and explorers. There, everyone and everything could supposedly start afresh, with no outside influence or prejudices. Not that Kuchiha was a criminal, of course. But the prospect of a clean slate was appealing.

     The Path, as most people called it, stretched around the entire belly of the world, starting from the Forest of Angels and probably ending somewhere nearby, at a place called the Forest of Demons. It was about twenty miles thick, and neatly seperated the world into two hemispheres: North, the realm of science and technology; and South, the realm of magic and spirits.

     The only other thing Kuchiha knew about it was that of the many people who entered it, nobody had ever returned.

     Life-threatening squeezes were nothing new to her accidentally created group, though. In fact, they had spent the last 16 hours saving the world. Without a complaint or even a bathroom break, they threw themselves willingly into the fickle arms of rumours and magic, ready to try their luck with any angels and demons in their path. Kuchiha had never liked waiting.

     They were dead tired, but unwilling to sleep until the oppressive darkness lifted. They travelled by a lachory-fueled lantern, held by the eldest of the group, since the canopy arching miles above their heads stifled any hope of celestial rays. 

     The lantern holder bit his thin lip and sat ram-rod straight on his horse, accenting his lanky and awkward figure. His magic lantern bathed everything with a dull green glow, and the rider's naturally blue hair and red eyes were tinted a sickly color by it - his lividly pale skin didn't help with the image. He was riding at the back of the group so that he could keep an eye on everyone.

      The lantern fizzed out and died.

     "Ah." The rider jiggled the small framework. "There's no more lachory left..."

     "I'll lead." Kuchiha could imagine Runo smirking in the darkness as he overtook her, flaunting his practically bat-like hearing.

     She spat. "Whatever."

     The rider flinched, taken aback by her harshness. "I'm-I'm sorry."

     "Huh? For what?"

     "No, I thought you...the lantern was...you're not mad at me?"

     She squinted at the direction of Jay's voice. "The heck're you talking about? Why would I be mad at you?"

     "Oh." He smiled sheepishly to himself in the dark. "Thank you."

     "What the? I still don't get it."

     "Oh - sorry -"

     "Hey! Don't apologize for nothing."

     "Ah! I'm sor-"

     "I said don't apologize! Gargh!!"

     Jay blushed furiously, hating himself for making such a bad impression. He couldn't help it - the desire to please was ingrained in his nature somewhere deep. It was something completely lost on Kuchiiha, for good or for evil.

     The forest was strangely silent, like the branches and trunks were clustered so close together that the animals had all forgotten how to breathe. Claustrophobia prowled in its dark corner nearby, waiting to pounce at the slightest weakening of willpower or fraying of concentration. It was gnawing at their nerves.

     "Kuch! Kuch, are we there yet?"

     A current of agony suddenly jolted through the group. As one they turned to the speaker, even though they couldn't see him. In the darkness the only testimony to his existence was the tinkling of the bells tied to his bamboo staff, which even Jay found annoying after a while. Kuchiha responded to the little boy as she usually did.

     "Does it look like we're there yet!? Where's 'there' anyways!? Now go away!!" And she hissed at him like an angry tigress.

     His voice was more of a squeal than anything. "I don't know, somewhere? I'm hungry! I wanna eat in an inn and take a bath and sleep on a bed and--"

     "Make me pay for it, I'll bet!" Kuchiha scowled. "Well you're outta luck, Kake. There's no such thing as an inn on the Path."

     "No waaaaay!"

     Kake was weird. It was the only word Kuchiha could think of that described him. He couldn't be over 12, yet he acted like he was on a sugar high after 20 hours of nonstop action. He actually had a professional occupation as a leather peddler, which was a shocker in and of itself. But in reality his job only meant constant poverty, frequent travelling, and bad news for Kuchiha. She still owed him for the sword grip he had made. Sure, it had toughed through quite a bit of action, but 7,000 pintas for a few lengths of leather was just too much. Since she couldn't pay the bill, he had hired her as a "bodyguard" - meaning, pay for all his meals and drag him through whatever trouble he got himself into until they reached the Forest of Angels.

     Then they reached it, and still he clung onto her like an especially tenacious leech. It was aggravating. Somehow she would make him pay for it, for sure; but for now there was no choice but to put up with him.

     His hair was naturally purple, frizzy and cropped to his neck, and always concealed the right half his face. His visible eye was enormous and bright amethyst. While he travelled, he strapped to his shoulders his entire leather stock, his leather-working tools, packets of sweets (when he could afford them), and his pet rabbit in a square sack handwoven with straw. And through thick and thin, always, always, always, a ridiculous smile remained plastered on his face.

     Yup, he was weird.

     "We have to sleep here!? Next to these trees!? But-but...I don't wanna!" Complaints were the only alternative to his creepy smile. Kuchiha would have to learn to accept the tradeoff.

     "Hey. You used to beg to sleep under a tree when we camped outside. Now deal." She gnashed her teeth together.

     He bounced into her private bubble, apparently heartened by Runo's invasion. "Can't we stop soon, then, if we're not getting anywhere? I'm tired!"

     "Frizzleman! You're the only one who's still got the energy to say that. Now stop complaining."

     "But! There's nothing here!"

     He pouted in silence for a moment.

     "...Neh, what do you think the rest of the Path'll be like?"

     "Don't ask me that. What's there is there - making things up isn't gonna change anything."

     "I think there'll be boats. Lots and lots of boats. I've never seen anything as free as the sky, but the next best thing is a biiiiig lake. I want to know what it's like to fly on water."

     "So you're telling me you want an ocean. Geez, say that before you start on the boats, it's confusing."

     "You've seen the ocean before?" He stared up at her with a shining, hopeful face. But of course she couldn't see it; she could only hear the whine in his voice.

     "No! There's only two in the world, idiot, and they're both frozen over on the ice caps. Be real, kid."

     The darkness shrank into silence, broken only by the tinkling of Kake's bells.

     Boats, huh? Completely different from what she was expecting from the Path. But come to think of it, monsters materializing and attacking wasn't very realistic, either.

     She actually wished something would jump out of the forest; at least it would be something interesting. The legendary Path of Angels and Demons was starting to disappoint her. Well, what had she been dreaming of all this time? The cause of her adventure, the reason for her risking her life, to be standing there waiting? The result of all those years of travel and hardship, resolving the moment she stepped across the forest's threshold? Of course not.

     But she had vaguely imagined a swarm of angry demons or perhaps a sea of snapping krakens to greet her once she stepped through the Forest of Angels. It would have helped to pass the time. The Path of her dreams turned out to be quiet, safe, and utterly boring.

     Yes, she was very disappointed.

     "It's going to be a long trip."

     "What?"

     "No, nothing." Kuchiha sighed and shuffled forward a little faster.

     She walked straight into Runo's back.

     "Ow! What the - what's with you!? Why'd you stop walking!?"

     Jay halted his horse. "What? Did you hear something?" His gaze darted frantically around in the darkness.

     "Shh, don't freak. I just...smell something." Runo sniffed at the air again.

     "Um. Is--is it something...bad?"

     "Actually, yeah. It stinks."

     The moved forward again, and soon the smell hit the rest of the group like a volcanic eruption.

     "Oh, dang!" Kuchiha slapped her hand over her mouth and nose. "It smells fermented! Did someone leave a pile of figs outside!?"

     "At least it doesn't smell like a monster..." Jay was earnestly comforted by that.

     Kake almost choked.

     They sped up despite the waves of nausea rolling over them, and soon emerged in a moonlit clearing covered in mud and pools of something decidedly murky. The trees resumed far out of sight.

     "Sweet! It's something!" Kuchiha charged into the clearing.

     "Wait a--she-wolf!"

     Her foot landed hard in the mud. Instead of squelching down like she had expected, the ground drew in and then sprang back with disconcerting resilience. She was thrown off balance and fell backwards onto the tight, grainy surface. Was it even mud? She was bouncing now, footing lost, like she was on a giant trampoline.

     "Eh!? Kuch! Are you-" Kake took one step forward and was sent flying.

     Jay yelled in dismay and spurred his horse onwards. They wobbled ahead for a moment, but soon met a fate similar to Kuchiha's.

     Runo slapped a hand to his forehead. "Idiots, all of you."

     "Alriiiiaayaaaahhhhhhh!?" Kake vaulted up and down, flapping his arms, until he suddenly splashed into a pond half concealed by floating reeds.

     Runo flinched. "Okay, didn't see that one coming. Hold on just a sec." Gingerly, he stepped away from the trees and walked lightly to the pond. He plunged an arm in and plucked Kake out.

     "Hope you all learned a lesson from-"

     He stopped short. The scrawny boy was streaming wet and, no surprise to Kuchiha, laughing.

     "Awesome! That was awesome! I was flying, did you see that!? Let's do that again!"

     Runo might as well have turned to stone. Kake stopped flailing and hung limp, peering up at the golden glare fearfully. But eventually Runo seemed to reach a concession inside himself and gently put Kake down.

     "...I wouldn't if I were you. Something doesn't smell right."

     Kuchiha dug her katana into the ground to stop her bouncing. Slowly, she managed to grovel her way to the pond without losing control again. "Well duh, nothing smells right here. It's like we're in the middle of a cheese factory or something. What's up with this mud?"

     "No, it's the ponds. They don't really...seem like water, do they?"

     She and Runo bent down to examine the puddle. It was definitely murky; she couldn't see her hand an inch below the surface. And at certain angles, it became a creamy white color. But that was only because the moon was reflecting off of it, right? It could still be water, right?

     The pair exchanged glances. Runo coughed. "I think we should get out of here."

     "Un-mud-like mud? Un-water-like water? No way!! Are you kidding, this is too good!" Kuchiha grinned, genuinely excited.

     Runo rolled his eyes.

     Jay had managed to quell his own bouncing, but his horse had more trouble with it. Luckily neither of them had been hurt from the fall. He rubbed his eyes and scanned the swamp in front, noting a squat city a mile or two off. Then his eyes caught the almost imperceptibly different way moonlight struck ponds covered by reeds and the alien mud, and he realized that the others could easily fall into the ponds by accident. He turned to warn the group of the danger.

     "K - Waaahh!!??"

     Kuchiha and Runo snapped to attention. "Jay!?"

     He pointed a shaky finger at what was behind them. Immediately they shot a glare over their shoulders, which quickly dissolved into a look of alarm.

     The forest was gone. Where once stood pillars of towering trees now sprawled an extension of the vast plain of marshland. And there, peering at their backs hardly four strides away, was a man.

     His ocean blue gaze shone in the shadow of his peaked hat, contrasting all the more with his white clothes. He seemed to be reading into them with his eyes, measuring up their abilities. Kuchiha noticed him linger on Jay's abnormal hair and eye color. He touched his hat cordially, but his voice was smooth and cold.

     "Why are you here? Are there any bounties among you?"

     Kuchiha snarled, yanking her katana out of the ground with her left hand. "What d'you want!? I'm a friggin' bounty hunter here-!"

     She stopped as she realized the answer to his question. She cast a sidelong glance at Runo. He was on his feet, tensed to leap at any second, one hand sliding surreptitiously into his pocket.

     "Again. Why are you here?"

     Kuchiha reached to the sword hilt on her right shoulder with her free hand. "None of your business."

     "I am sure you are aware that this is the first clearing in the Path of Angels and Demons. I am one of its protectors. As such, it is my duty to know what you intend to do upon entering it."

     "Well, then what's a bounty got to do with it!?"

     "All bounties must first be evaluated before they are allowed to pass. I'm sure your friend won't mind." The man slid his gaze to Runo and grinned. "How much is it, may I ask?"

     The bounty met his eyes evenly. Silence spoke for him.

     A faint glop, the sound of wind in cloth, and the man was whirling a kick at him.

     Runo sprang back, the attack grazing his forehead. Kuchiha drew her sword and slashed wildly at the man, toppling over from the unpredictable footing. Her sword didn't connect. She got up and tried again, slicing at his chest, but he dodged so gracefully it felt like she was trying to cut water.

     "Stop it!" Runo lashed out with his whip. It hissed from his pocket in a long black blur and wrapped around the man's leg. "You'll cut my whip! I'll handle this!"

     "No way!!" Kuchiha slapped her two blades across each other and slashed at the man's neck.

     The man took a moment to analyze her fighting style - a strange combination of fluid katana moves with choppy longsword strikes. He had never seen it before, but it didn't seem to pose much of a threat. Then he took a moment to examine the coils around his leg. This Lither, now, was quite good - the coils around his leg were fastened tight. Well then.

     The swords' shadow was across his face when he began to counter. With one smooth movement he swept his bound leg up in an arch, blocking Kuchiha's path with the whip. She cursed and redirected the blow to the ground. Runo, meanwhile, had been yanked off his feet and was actually flying from the pull of the man's leg, gripping his whip handle tenaciously.

     Kuchiha roared, jabbing at the man before the ground throbbed beneath her and sent her tumbling.

     Kake glanced up for a moment as Runo soared over his head. "Ehhh, wish I could do that." Then he turned back to sploshing his hands around in the puddle and sniffing at it.

     The man's leg glided to the ground, turning his full attention on Kuchiha. Now her swords reached him quite easily, but every time she was about to finish him he flowed away again. The unsteady ground kept tripping her up too. It was infuriating.

     Jay clutched his racing heart. Fear had frozen his limbs until then, but now he saw a way to be useful. He scrambled to his feet. "Mr. Rukamina! You'll land in a swamp if you keep that course!"

     He unslung a long, deep red bow from his back and shot an arrow. A foot from Jay's hands, the arrow burst into flames. 

     Still in the air, Runo grabbed the streak of fire between his feet. The force of the flame propelled him in a different direction, so that he swerved in an orbit around the man's leg until finally skimming to a stop on more or less solid ground. He stomped out the flame and picked up a smoking arrow.

     "What's up with the formalities, Jay?"

     "Huh? Oh, I called you...S-sorry, I tend to do that when I get nervous."

     Runo shrugged briefly before tossing the arrow back.

     The man was amazed. Was it magic or science that had lit that arrow on fire? Either way it had been quite a beautiful performance. Changed direction in midair was no light feat.

     The whip around his leg sprang to life. Runo had begun flicking it a few feet off, forming loose shapes in the air. "Alright. Go for it, she-wolf."

     "Tch. You-...! You don't have to tell me that!!"

     Kuchiha charged. He dodged her left sword easily; but then she twisted around, curved katana almost chasing his figure and smoothly running across his sleeve. And then her longsword struck out of nowhere in an upward thrust for his face.

     He managed to duck, somehow - but in a panicked sort of way, the fluidity lost. Her blade thunked satisfactorily through his straw hat, parting it from his head. He scrambled to move to a safer position.

      Too late did he notice that he had walked right into the whip's writhing black lines. The random shapes suddenly fell into place, made sense--but there was no time to dodge. Runo tugged sharply. The whip clamped in perfect coils around his arm like a crocodile's jaws, jerking both his arm and his leg unexpectedly. He gasped and was brought to his knees.

     Kuchiha was there in a flash. She brought her sword to his neck and halted it there uncertainly.

     "...So, now what do we do with him?"

     "...Him?"

     "What?"

     Jay looked confused. "Who are you referring to, exactly?"

     "This guy here, duh!"

     Runo sighed. "That's not a guy, you idiot. Take a look. She's a girl."

     Kuchiha blinked and looked at where her sword was pointing.

     A sweet-faced girl, hardly past 16, looked back and smiled amiably. The gaze was still the same ocean blue, but it was like the ice over it had broken. Now her smile was warm and refreshing. "Yes, I'm female. Hello there.”

     "Uh." Kuchiha blinked a couple more times. "Well-well that doesn't change anything!! We still gotta do something with her!"

     "No need to worry, I won't attack you again for my life." The girl got to her feet slowly, not from fear of the blade, but more like she had chanced upon a couple of rabbits and didn't want to scare them away. "I only fought you to measure your hostility. There's nothing more trustworthy than the feel of your fists. That's a Lighthouse's job, you see. We make sure the people who enter our precious clearing won't ruin the peace."

     Kuchiha kept her sword raised. "What d'you mean?"

     "This entire clearing is the city I live in. You see, it's speculated that the Path of Angels and Demons works like this: most of it consists of long strips of narrow pathway, bordered by impermeable trees. Between these, there are broad clearings able to sustain life. After many centuries, and many people entering the Path and deciding to stay here, this first clearing formed a city. People still come sometimes--all sorts of people. But mostly outcasts and outlaws, unwanted everywhere else. What do you think would become of a city filled with criminals?"

     Kuchiha squinted her eyes. "I still don't get why you attacked us."

     "Oh, really? Well...it's like this." She thought for a moment. "Say there's a mushroom. Gnomes live in it."

     "Uh-huh."

     "And there's a bunch of fairies that turn up every, oh, every week or so."

     "Mmn. Yeah?"

     "The gnomes let the good fairies in and keep the poisonous ones out."

     "Ah."

     "And the gnome-eating ones, definitely not those."

     "Oh, I see."

     "To figure out whether the fairies are good or bad, we have to give them a gnome and see what they do with it."

     "Oohhh, I get it."

     Jay stared at the two girls incredulously. "...How did Kuchiha just understand that?"

     Runo considered his whip. "Looks like they're both crazy, just that one knows how to use it."

     The girl held out her hand to Kuchiha. "I'm really sorry I had to do that, but it's my job, and for the sake of the clearing. I hope we can still be friends?"

     "Friends?" Kuchiha couldn't help but glance at the ragtag group beside her. People had said that they were her friends.

     After a brief flashback she reached the conclusion that if that was the case, an army of flame throwing rhinos would be more appealing than the definition of the word "friend." She flexed her hand at her side.

     "My name is Luccin, known around here as Lighthouse Beacon. What's your name? Or nickname, or allibi, or any random collection of syllables--just something to refer to you as. We have a loose policy concerning names."

     She glanced up. "Oh. Then I'm Kuchiha."

     "Nice to meet you, Kuchiha." Luccin looked at her expectantly, a shade of hopefulness twinging in her eyes.

     Kuchiha stared at the outstretched hand before her. Half against her will, she grabbed it with her own hand and shook awkwardly. Luccin smiled with overflowing happiness.

     Maybe she could get used to friends, after all.

     Luccin turned to the rest of the party. "And your names are...?"

     "Kakeeee!" The boy was still busy doing whatever nonsense he was up to this time.

     She watched him in polite surprise and decided to shake his hand later. "Nice to meet you, Kake."

     Runo had found a smudge on his whip handle, and was rubbing his shirt against it with intense concentration.

     "Excuse me. May I ask what your name is?"

     Jay looked at Runo anxiously. "...Um..."

     "20,000." His golden eyes darted to Luccin's and seemed to weigh their turquoise depth. "You?"

     There was a moment of heavy silence.

     "The heck're you talking about!?" Kuchiha jabbed a finger at him. "This guy's Ruru--"

     "No I am not."

     "--and he's a wuss and a control-freak and suuuuper duper annoying--"

     "Stop it." Runo shook his head and deliberately uncoiled his whip. He skewered another quizzical glare at Luccin, who flinched and blushed with confusion written all over her.

     "...Did...did I hurt you? I mean, I really didn't want to toss you like that, but you never know, being a Lighthouse is a dangerous occupation, and you all fought so well I lost myself a little bit back there--truly, I...I was afraid of you." Her eyes shone with honest regret. Urgently she pressed on, not hiding a thing. "I'm so sorry, I really am. I should never have doubted any of you. Because I panicked I did something horrible, and now I know that you are good people and would never mean harm to any of my friends in the city and I'm so sorry, and, God, I know I don't deserve forgiveness but isn't there something, anything, anything I can do for you?" She took a shaky breath. "...Please?"

     Something seemed to die inside Runo. He coiled up his whip and pocketed it in defeat. "...Alright, alright. My name's Runo, if you have to know."

     Luccin beamed so sweetly Kuchiha's fingers itched to pinch her cheeks. "Thank you! Runo!"

     She looked like she wanted to hug him, but something made her stop and simply gaze at him appreciatively. Jay smiled in relief, glad that the problem had been resolved. She noticed this and diverted her smile to him.

     "And last but certainly not least. What's your name?"

     "Oh, um...you can call me Jay."

     "Nice to meet you, Jay." She held out her hand again.

     Jay was a little shocked by this. Nearly two decades of nurturing a paranoia against strangers were swirling through his system, so naturally he withdrew his hand.

      "...Um...do you...do you know what a Blue Rider is?"

     Kuchiha snapped her focus to him and hissed under her breath. "What're you doing!?"

     "A Blue Rider? Why, never heard of it." Luccin peered at Jay's face earnestly. "Is it something you want to talk about?"

     "Um, no, well, it's...I...You don't mind my eyes?" They were ruby red - some would even say they were the color of fresh blood.

     But Luccin only smiled. "Whatever do you mean? There's nothing wrong with them! They look like jewels!"

     Jay blushed. "...Thank you. Really. But..."

     "You know, if it's one saying the people of this town truly uphold, it's 'don't judge a book by a cover.'"

     He broke into a hesitant smile. "R-really?"

     "Of course! Lots of people here just want a fresh start at life, and we know that. At the beginning, it can take some time to get used to things; but pretty soon, you’ll realize that here nobody ever judges by looks. But even then, if you still feel uncomfortable with exposing your looks, we have plenty of disguises - just wait till you see them! My friend's collection of costumes could dress up a whole theater! Now you don't fret - I trust that friend with my life. She would even let you guys stay at her place, regardless of who you are or what you look like. She loves visitors. Would you like to go there now? Here, we can take my boat."

     Kuchiha and Kake immediately perked up. "Boat?"

     "Her house is just a little ways into the city; if we go there now, nobody will notice us, since it's still dark. We could have you all fed and tucked in bed before sunrise. What do you say?" Luccin held out her hand again.

     Jay was only too happy to take it.

     She laughed. "This is great! I'll get the boat." Luccin went to where the group had first seen her and started to chew. It seemed like she was chewing gum--apparently she'd had it in her mouth the whole time. She blew a bubble with practiced ease, then popped it.

     A rather puffy canoe glopped out of a hidden swamp and burst, perfectly dry, onto elastic ground.

     Kuchiha gaped. "That was--just now, did you--was that--magic!!??"

     Luccin smiled. "Alright, all aboard everyone!"

     There was a splash. A voice bubbled up from a nearby pond. "Awblblesoooomblblble!"

     Everyone turned and stared at the top of Kake's head. They couldn't be staring at his face, you see, because that was completely submerged in the suspicious liquid. Kake was drinking.

     Runo leaped over and yanked Kake out by his hair. "What the heck do you think you're doing!? That water isn't safe!"

     Kake was laughing so hard he could hardly breathe. "Ha! ha! It's! not even! water!"

     "Then why'd you drink it, you idiot!?"

     "Cuz! it's! tasty!"

     Runo cursed and dragged Kake to the boat. He chucked him in harshly, but the little boy was still laughing.

     "Right. Let's go." Runo hopped in.

     "Wait, wait, wait. Tasty!!??" Kuchiha pointed a finger at Kake incredulously. "Did he just call those stinking puddles tasty!!??"

     "That means it obviously isn't water. Come on, before he dies of food poisoning."

     "No, hold on." She stared at the strange mud and water, forehead wrinkling from the effort of thought.

     Jay stepped towards her cautiously. "Um...Kuchiha? What's wrong?"

     "Shht. Hey, Luccin. What exactly is this...stuff? We've all been wondering for a while...and I think I've just figured it out."

     Luccin only smiled; a slow, broad, mischievous smile.

     That settled it. Kuchiha took a deep breath, plunged down, and bit into the ground.

     Runo almost fell out of the boat. "Has everyone gone nuts!!?? Is it the smell!?"

     "I don't know, sir!" Jay was hyperventilating. "Kuchiha! Are you okay!? Sp-spit it out! Kuchiha!"

     Kuchiha sat bolt upright, chewing quickly. Her face was pensive - then suddenly it scrunched up. She scuttled to the nearest pond and spat it all out as fast as possible.

     "Gah! I knew it! That smell! Putlarrgh!"

     "What!? What is it!?"

     "We're in the freakin' bloody land of soy!!!!!"

     If there had been crickets anywhere nearby, they would have been heard chirping.

     "...Go on?" Raised by a diplomat, Jay always did his best to stay polite. Runo didn't have such a refined upbringing.

     He guffawed.

     "No! I'm serious!" Kuchiha blushed furiously. "You never had soy before!? Y'know, little yellow beans, milkish stuff, tofu..."

     Kake wriggled out from under Runo and enthusiastically agreed with Kuchiha. "Yeah! I thought it was water, but it was kinda like milk! D'you think it's called soy milk?"

     "Don't be an idiot, those name-pickers were more creative than that." She stuck out her tongue in disgust. "This whole ground isn't mud, it's tofu. Tofu. And really bad quality ones at that."

     Luccin nodded at her proudly. "You guessed it right. Come on, everyone! I'll explain everything on the way to town."

     The group quickly piled onto the boat, eager to hear about the strange new world they had just entered. Luccin picked up a long pole that rested across the boat and drove one end into the pool. She leaned her weight on it, and the boat eased off of the shore and along a narrow strip of soy milk that widened as they progressed. The channel they traveled on twisted and turned like an intricate maze, hidden from the eyes beneath reeds of soy. But Luccin navigated through without ever backtracking once. She knew this landscape by heart. Even Kuchiha had to admit that they might never have gotten anywhere without her.

     Then the Forest began again. And the strange thing was, it was made of tofu.

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 32

Chapter 34

Comments (12)

Volkes_Wagon said

at 7:59 pm on Jul 27, 2011

i'm trying to design this so that you don't need to read the first book to understand. tell me the moment it gets confusing! THE MOMENT. i will try my best to revise the story or explain in a comment.

speaking of which, the beginning is a dialogue b/t two unnamed ppl, and they use code. so you aren't supposed to get it completely until you read the whole second (and third?) book. ;)

Mokona Go said

at 9:23 am on Jul 28, 2011

but we've all read the first book! 0-0

Volkes_Wagon said

at 5:01 pm on Jul 28, 2011

or so i wish

Mokona Go said

at 9:45 am on Jul 28, 2011

I don't know who's speaking in the dialogue. no one would be able to tell that kuch is conversing with ruru until they got to "'she-wolf'"
Who's Jay? is he the one that pulled the jug out in the fist place??
I believe hair is singular. refer to it as it, not "they" (unless Jay's hair is so cool it defies the laws of english XD I mean, it's blue!)
quotes around "there"
make the connection between Kake and his description and Runo and Ruru. It's confusing otherwise.
What was the "'argh'" about?
who is this "Kuchiha" anyhow?
oh wow I'm harsh. -_______- (I give you gingerbread)
I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS SO LONG THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!
mostly your most recurring "fault" (if I could call it that) is that you tend to launch into dialogue without explaining who's talking. That either means that you're really into the story and just forget that you're reader is actually a clueless idiot or you hate us all BECAUSE we're all clueless idiots. or something else.
now I feel mean. am I mean? please tell me I'm not.

Volkes_Wagon said

at 5:07 pm on Jul 28, 2011

you gave me gingerbread. of course your'e nice :D
no seriously. this is what i'm talking about when i say constructive criticism. thanks! XD
so, the reason my dialogues are unexplained is because i'm experimenting/practicing with how to do them without saying "he said, quote" "quote, she said" that kind of thing. if you notice, i've never (at least tried to never) used those in any LP dialogue. (i use them in other stuff though.) i dunno if i should keep doing it. it gets annoying.
so YEAH BASICALLY I STILL CONFUSE PPL. sigh. it's a long road ahead of me, eh...

Mokona Go said

at 7:43 pm on Jul 28, 2011

Actually, people write short stories were there is nothing but dialogues. They're typically between only two people, and they have to be reallly good at making the personalities so unique that you can tell who's talking and what kind of person they are without an ounce of explanation. And it feels like a regular story.
I bet you could get good at that.

Volkes_Wagon said

at 10:52 pm on Jul 28, 2011

yeah, i need to work on that. so...tired...and *why must this chapter take so long!? i'm sticking in too many intros aren't i!? it's moving slower than a snail isn't it!? arggggggghhhhh i wanna tell you guys about luccin already~~!!!*

Volkes_Wagon said

at 12:15 pm on Aug 11, 2011

you know, i love action scenes. they're so epic when you're watching them in anime. i can play the whole thing in my head.
they're not so cool when you're trying to write them out.

Volkes_Wagon said

at 6:44 pm on Aug 25, 2011

do you like luccin? i'm trying to make her adorably sweet. i dunno if she sounds false, which WOULD NOT DO. she must sound honest.
ahhhh, i've been wanting to introduce her for so long. <3 the goal is to make you love her. but she kind of scares me. what scares me even more is how easy her words come. i won't tell you why just yet...
jay is sweet through his actions. luccin is sweet through her words. sigh...oh luccin...

Volkes_Wagon said

at 3:56 pm on Sep 4, 2011

AW YEAH. CH. 33 IS DOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNN XD
about 200 left to go.

...dang, kinda miss the good ol' days when one of my chapters would be half a page long. things've changed, eh.

Volkes_Wagon said

at 5:39 pm on Sep 30, 2011

so. um.
anyone care to actually read this monstrous block of text for once? (and, um, maybe give me feedback?) I know you're all busy, but i'm looking to write smth one day that ppl will enjoy. can't do that alone.

...anyone?

Volkes_Wagon said

at 9:41 pm on Oct 22, 2011

I POSTED IT.
...now what? should we say somewhere which member of the group wrote what?

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