Monkey feet weight lifting shoe attachment
Onewheel GT stability/turning problems
2023.06.01 23:38 LanceAddison17 Onewheel GT stability/turning problems
I just upgraded to the Onewheel GT from the original pint and although I am liking the speed and better range as well as the other stuff I can’t get over how bad the turning and side to side movement is especially off-road. I am about 150lbs and have a shoe size of 11 and it seems very unstable when turning. My stance is diagonal in the middle of the front footpad and directly sideways in the middle on the back so I think a pretty normal stance and my feet hang over about .5-1inch on each side on the back footpad and doesn’t hang over at all on the front since it is diagonal. On my first ride on the GT I went to turn heal side on the road and as I tried to lean back with my body weight the board didn’t want to lean with me so as I leaned back it got to the point where the board flew out from under me toe side so I fell backwards but luckily I wasn’t hurt very much. Also on off-road if there is any sort of incline the tire tries to go on that is parallel to the board it seems like the board wants to tilt in the direction of the incline since it is on the incline but when I try to lean to one side the opposite of the incline direction to flatten the board out like I would do on the pint so I am basically riding on the edge of the tire it just doesn’t lean at all so I end up in a really unstable position with my ankles bent to much where I am just trying to get off the incline back to a flat part before I fall. Is this just how it is with the bigger tire and I get used to it over time or is it because my feet are to small which makes getting leverage over each side harder because doing tight turns at slower speed seams pretty hard to do as well. Am I just doing the turns wrong or have my foot placement wrong. Keep in mind that everything is stock future motion including footpads and treaded tire psi since I just got it a couple of days ago. If anyone can help me with this I would appreciate it because I couldn’t find anything really online about this and am really hoping for some help since I have almost fallen more times just trying to turn at around 10mph and less.
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2023.06.01 23:22 Trash_Tia My college's cheer squad have too much school spirit. In fact, I think they're going to kill me.
If I had to pick an embarrassing moment which will haunt me until I die—it has to be the time I tried out for The Sunbeam cheer squad last year. I was a freshman, and I wanted community. Friends.
I heard the cheer squad were just an extra-curricular group rather than an actual majoring level class, so I figured I’d give them a shot. It’s not like I could ignore them.
On my first day when I was moving into my dorm room, I must have walked into the same girl three times. I am in strict belief that it is not possible for a human being to be permanently happy.
And yet that was her. She wandered around like the sun shone right out of her ass, and it was both endearing and terrifying.
The girl resembled the sun herself, a halo of golden curls held in a scrunchie and a flaunting sundress, matching ribbons wrapped around her. The Sunbeam Squad were easy to spot because they were all wearing insanely bright yellow—waving around gold streamers, ribbons tangled in their hair. They all spoke in insanely high pitched voices like they inhaled helium for a living, but that must have been their shtick, right? It was kind of cute. I wasn’t expecting such a welcome in the shape of guy’s and girl’s looking like they had just stepped off of ABC Kids. The girl who handed me a flyer and yelled in my face about school spirit was practically hopping up and down, a bright grin splitting her lips apart.
I nodded and smiled politely, stuffing the flyer in my bag and heading into my room to finish moving my stuff in. When I looked out of my window a few hours later, the Sunbeam squad was still threaded through the crowd, each of them wrapped in glittering fairy lights illuminated in the late evening sunset glow. Sunbeam. Yeah, I got it, but it was still kinda overkill. They were starting to remind me of a cult.
That, however, didn’t stop me trying out. I’m fairly athletic, and they were exactly what I wanted. I’ve never had a group of people I could call friends.
Though it’s not like I could blame anyone but myself. I was a shut-in for most of high school. I either worked or preferred my own company in my room. One of my biggest regrets is pushing people away, friends I wanted to get even closer to. Because now they had built these lifelong friendships and relationships, and I was stuck at 18 years old with nobody but childhood friends I spoke to once a year when we sent mutual holiday greetings to each other. But college could change that.
At least, that’s what I hoped. I spoke to as many people as possible on my first day—and in my head I was making them. Slowly but surely I was actually making friends in my classes I wanted to hang out with.
Sunbeam were my attempt to go even further and join a club. Through word of mouth in my first few weeks of classes, I learned they were more of an extra-curricular group for fun.
They didn’t cheer competitively and had been formed in the mid-90’s by some kids who wanted to make a community out of positivity and school spirit. Sunbeam had a reputation for being Watson State student body’s beacons—and their team’s good luck charm. It was well known across campus that the squad was the reason behind the college’s fortune.
It had been like that since they formed 30 years ago, with members through the generations carrying out that pledge to spread as much pep as possible. While I say that they seemed nice judging from what I heard from others, they weren’t exactly the easiest clique to get into. Unless you were on the squad.
I saw them around campus between classes. They always moved as a group, the six of them with their arms wrapped around each other, brandishing the school colours. The guy’s in loose fitting varsity jackets, while the girl’s flaunted cheer skirts.
The way they acted was a little too close, like they were more than friends—and community and friendship had bled into something else. Like they had just walked out of an early 2000’s teen movie. Not that I was complaining. Their style was intriguing. They were like this untouchable group of god’s who had been placed on the highest pedestals. They ruled over campus, which made me want to get to know them even more. So, I tried out. Which was my first mistake of many in my freshman year.
It didn’t hit me that I was in way over my head until I was in the college gymnasium, standing in front of a four person panel like I was auditioning for a Hollywood movie. Sunbeam took their try-outs incredibly seriously. Which was weird considering they were known to be the complete opposite.
There were maybe fifty or so applicants, and we had to stand near the back wall and watch others try out one by one. Which was already setting off my anxiety. Weren’t they supposed to be closed try-outs? Initially, I was excited.
I had my routine in my head. What I had learned from watching the squad at my old school. High V, Low V, followed by a Touchdown, and then a backflip. I was confident. I mean, it ticked most cheer moves off, and even had a flip to complete the routine. My high school were a multi-sex quad, so I learned a lot from watching the guy’s moves during pep rallies.
I wasn’t really worried about the quality of the moves since they were known not to take everything too seriously. But watching the others try-out, impossible flips without crash mats and twisting their bodies in ways I didn’t know was possible, I quickly realised I was screwed. My competitors were acting like they were auditioning for an Olympic level team. My gut was dancing when I took centre stage.
The panel were made up of four members of the squad. Two boys and two girl’s, including the blonde who handed me the flyer on my first day. I was surprised when her eyes lit up with recognition.
"Oh, I know you!" She squeaked. Leaning forward, her smile seemed to brighten, illuminating her features. All four of them seemed to emanate a warm glow.
I felt myself relax slightly, the knot in my stomach loosening. Maybe their heightened positivity thing wasn’t a shtick, after all. The girl, as well as the other members of the team seemed genuinely happy to see me trying out. “What’s your name?” Her voice reverberated off of the walls, and I was suddenly aware of a dozen other students watching me.
“Alex.” I said, offering a shy wave. “Hey.”
Still grinning, she nudged a redhead next to her playfully. The guy was like no other I’d seen before. He was a god damn traffic light. He was easy to spot in a crowd and was usually one of the low-key members who kept his head down. All of those colours painting him, and yet somehow he wasn’t blinding people.
Though admittedly, he suited them; bright red hair clashing with the blue and gold of his football jersey, pasty skin and dark eyes drinking me in while the blonde girl pulled at his sleeve. “See, I told you annoying freshmen would work!”
In response, he chuckled, rolling his eyes. “Whatever you say, Evie.” The guy straightened up, leaning his chin on his fist, a curious spark in his eyes. “Alright.” Twisting around in his chair, he signalled for music. When it started, the beat slammed into me, rumbling under my feet. “Let’s see what you’ve got!”
I’m not going to describe my routine because I don’t have time to describe how fucking bad I was. In my head, I was doing okay. I was ready to finish with my back flip, but the music abruptly cut off and I found myself struggling to find my breath with my hands in the air, panting like an idiot. The blonde maintained her smile, but it was slightly strained. I could tell she was struggling to keep the façade of a Sunbeam member while also retaining critical thinking.
The redhead looked like he was in pain. He was first to speak, and I could tell by his sympathy smile I’d screwed up. The others who I hadn’t fully taken in until that moment, an asian American guy, and a girl with pigtails, were laughing like pre-schoolers. And they didn’t stop until the redhead shot them the warning eyes.
Weirdly enough, the crowd of onlookers didn’t join in. I expected the redhead to politely tell me I sucked, but instead he cocked his head, chewing on his pen. “You’re good.” He said. “You’re a good dancer, and I liked your moves…”
He trailed off. “But it’s positivity we’re looking for. And you didn’t smile once through your whole routine which made you look stiff. Like you weren’t even enjoying it.” He shrugged helplessly. “I like you, and I like your dancing. And I’m sure you could be better if you worked on it. There are countless dancing clubs here, so maybe you might be better fitted there.” After exchanging a look with the blonde, he sighed. “Unfortunately, you’re not the type of person we’re looking for.”
Evie nodded. “I agree. We pride ourselves on staying positive and smiling. I didn’t see that on you, Alex.”
“Same here.” Pigtails, still giggling, joined in. “I don’t think you’ve got enough school spirit.”
The other guy scoffed. He looked to be of Korean descent. Unlike the redhead, he was always at the centre of their group, always joking around and laughing. Just looking at him told me he was the leader. “Bullshit!” He slapped the table with one hand, running his hands through thick dark hair with the other. “I liked it. Fuck pep, amirite?” He threw his pen at the blonde, who retaliated in a squeak, lobbing hers at him. “Ignore these clowns. I think you’ve got what it takes. We just gotta work on you, y’know? All you’re missing is a cheesy grin.”
He pointed to himself, stretching his lips into the widest smile he could muster. “See? Like this.”
“Clowns?” Evie shook her head. “I didn’t see one smile. Sunbeam is all about smiling!”
“You make us sound like a cult.” The Korean-American caught my eye. “Which we’re not, by the way. These guys are just scared of change.”
“Okay, that’s too far.” Pigtails shot him a scowl. Are you seriously disrespecting the alumni who created us? Who birthed us?
“Well, yeah!” He threw his paper at her. “Sunbeam is a pep cult. We get high off of happiness. I thought we distinguished that.”
“Take that back!”
“Never! Why do you think I joined? To get high! Do you really think I joined for the cheering?”
They were joking around. I could tell by the smiles on their faces—a smile I knew I would never be able to mimic.
“Quiet.” The redhead shushed them. The guy had been sitting silently. Studying me. He leaned back, folding his arms.
“See, even now—even when I’m considering giving you a chance, there’s no hope in your eyes. Not even a glitter of excitement. You’re still not smiling and that’s what we want, Alex. We want people who will embody what Sunbeam is all about. Even if I give you a second chance to brighten up your routine your smile will be fake. And that’s not what we want. We want people who are willing to shed their humanity and become beacons.”
And they were seriously saying they weren’t a cult?
The redhead stabbed at his sheet of paper with the end of his pen. “Can’t you just give us one smile? It won’t kill you.”
It was then when the others watching started to laugh—and I wanted to punch the asshole in the face.
“Dude, chill.” The Korean-American played with his pen, twirling it between two fingers. “He’s right, as much as I hate saying it. We do need smilers, unfortunately. But hey, you can try out next year! Just remember to smile, alright?” He threw something at me. A squashed candy bar.
Which made me look even more pathetic.
I found myself nodding, even when I knew it was all bullshit. Still though, what each member had told me hit me harder than it should have. They were just words, what could they do? It turned out, words were far more powerful than I realised—I just didn’t know it yet. I didn’t wait for the others to speak and made a quick getaway, my gut twisting and turning.
They were a cult. That is what I decided. These guys were a cult who needed members willing to throw away their souls. Probably for ritualistic sacrifice.
They needed weak people, I thought. Even when part of me knew they were right. I wasn't a smiler. Every photo I'm in, I'm either frowning or look constipated. Still though, I didn't dwell on the try-outs for too long. By the time a week had gone by, I had mostly forgotten about it and threw myself into my studies and college life.
Though something was wrong with me. It was as if the world had slowed down, had stopped making sense completely. Every day felt like a dream, and I myself felt like I was a ghost, like I was disassociating from my own body. Conversations with people felt fake. Like I was making them up.
I remember waking up day after day in a daze I couldn’t get myself out of. It was only several weeks later did the thick mind fog which had been blanketing my brain finally lift—only for me to hear the news that all six members of the Sunbeam squad had disappeared. I don’t know how I didn’t notice, how I didn’t see the police investigation, or hear rumours being spread around like wildfire.
According to the college, it wasn't technically considered a disappearance since the members were all over eighteen, no longer minors. However, an investigation was conducted, with a statement being released that they were due to be performing at Knoxville College, cheering on our football team. But they never turned up. And what made it worse, was their bus was found abandoned on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Sounds bad, right?
Well, that's what we all thought. Vigils were already being held, and bodies weren't even found yet. Every time I walked back to my dorm after classes, the night would be lit up in warm golden light, candles flickering in the breeze. I'm not sure how many days had gone by-- they all seemed to blur into one-- when our college made another statement. The members of the Sunbeam squad were alive and healthy and had been sent to a training academy for professionals.
When the student body responded with confusion and scepticism, the college reassured us they were coming back once they were finished training. And while my classmates were relieved, I found myself confused. Sunbeam didn't cheer competitively. Their whole thing was that all they wanted to do was spread cheer and pep, regardless of how good they were. I had seen them perform, and they were good, sure. They were better than average. But definitely not good enough to be trained into pro’s. Their moves were too clumsy, too half assed—which I was convinced they thought overwhelming amounts of positivity could fix. So it didn’t make sense that they had been sent to some training academy. I kept up my scepticism until I saw them for myself.
The college were right. Sunbeam returned a week later like nothing had happened.
I did see a change in them. I think that was a universal opinion though. Sunbeam were well known for their pep and cheer, their constant smiling faces which drove me crazy—and it’s not like that stopped. They still smiled. They still walked around campus laughing together, in their own little world. That was when people were watching. When they had an audience. I caught them when they didn’t have an audience. Without eyes on them, they detached from each other, their eyes darkening, expressions twisting, like each of them could smell something rotten in the air. I started noticing they were getting progressively clumsier at keeping up that Sunbeam façade they must have pledged when they joined the group. I figured it was just tiredness. They must have been through some pretty intense training.
Anyway, months went by. I started to feel less distant, and the fog which had been choking me faded, thankfully. I started my junior year moving into a shared house with my roommate, and the only talk I’d heard about Sunbeam was that one of their ex members was rumoured to be pregnant. As for the rest of the squad, they were still popular, still talked about—but their disappearance had definitely made people wary of them. I even heard someone say they were considered bad luck. I guess people thought they had sold themselves out for a chance to get into the big leagues. And it wouldn’t surprise me.
Forced positivity can get you a long way, sure—but recognition can get you further.
It was just a few weeks ago when I was invited to a game. Our first of the season, thanks to delays due to cuts in the sports department. I’m not much of a sports fan, though I needed a distraction from the copious amounts of assignments I’d let pile on my desk.
When I sat down with a chilli dog and Coke, I wasn’t expecting to get so invested in a game where I had no idea what was happening. It was loud and obnoxious and I was choking on the stink of fried food, but it was fun. It was fun until Sunbeam walked out onto the side-lines. I glimpsed them in a blur of blue and gold, and a dull pain crawled across the back of my head. “You okay?” My housemate’s voice was barely distinguishable in my ears, when I found myself transfixed by the way they moved in erratic jumps, quickly taking position. They had gotten better. Everything which was Sunbeam had been stripped away. Their smiles were forced. Wrong.
I remembered they used to push and shove each other, making the crowd laugh. Now though, they were in almost perfect sync in the way they moved, no longer shakily, sometimes stumbling into each other. Their routine was longer than it usually was—and when the Korean-American guy perfected a triple flip, the crowd went crazy. I expected him to smile when he landed, grinning into the audience to generate what Sunbeam was made for. But his expression stayed stoic. Robotic. They were stiff. Heads up, backs straight, staring ahead of them. I was told when I tried out that fake smiles weren’t allowed, and yet that was all I was seeing. I was seeing egotistical grins and curled lips, quick glances between each member.
I expected looks of reassurances, and in jokes only they found funny. Instead, it looked like a mutual agreement.
They were planning something. From the looks on their faces, it wasn’t a firework show.
Sunbeam used to generate happiness. Their smiles, even under a façade, had always been real.
These guys emanated power. The way they stood. The guy’s at the front, readying what I guessed was a lift, and the girl’s on top of them.
Their routine ended with the music reaching a climax, and the two main girl’s being lifted into the air while performing High V’s.
But they didn’t stop there.
When the crowd exploded with applause, one of the girl’s slowly raised her arms and shot into the crowd with finger guns.
She shot twice—and with every time she pulled that imaginary trigger, her painted lips stretched into a maniacal grin.Until her gaze was on me. And then behind me. I could see it in her glittering eyes I could no longer call human. I met Evie at the start of my freshman year, and then at the disastrous try-outs.
I knew her wide smile, and the glint of passion twisting her expression—a love for the group and the members she couldn’t put into words. Right then I wasn’t seeing Evie, a Sunbeam cheerleader. I was seeing something else entirely, a being scanning faces in the crowd for a victim.
Her expression seemed to melt, from a gleeful grin, to something twisted and putrid, someone who craved the exact opposite of what Sunbeam preached. I watched her lips. I watched the words pop into existence, drowned into nothing by the crowds cheering. But I saw them in perfect clarity. “Drop.” She said, before pulling the imaginary trigger again.
No sooner had the words left her mouth before someone screamed behind me. I twisted around to see a guy had collapsed. He was pronounced dead five minutes later by his sobbing girlfriend who had attempted CPR. When I twisted back to look out onto the field, the Sunbeam Squad were gone. It didn’t make sense that they were the ones to cause the guy’s death—but it couldn’t have been a coincidence, right? Evie had shot into the crowd at the exact same time the guy had dropped dead. Finger guns weren’t a weapon of course, but the timing was too coincidental. I already knew there was something wrong with Sunbeam. And this just strengthened my claims.
Obviously, when I tried to tell people this, I was called crazy. Delusional. I reported it to the student information building and just got a blank stare.
The woman wasn’t even attempting to hear my story. She just heard “murder” and “Sunbeam” and her lips curved into an amused smirk. “You know, you are quite fascinating,” leaning back against her chair, the woman frowned at me through wonky glasses. "First you unexpectedly quit, and then you accuse them of murder. Which I can tell you is false.”
She flipped through a notebook in front of her. “According to the autopsy report released a few days ago, the young man died of a brain haemorrhage, not the result of being pretend shot at by a cheerleader miming finger-guns.” The woman cleared her throat.
“Tell me, what exactly do you have against the Sunbeam squad?"
“You quit the squad at the end of your freshman year,” she said, “And now you’re trying to accuse them of murder? Fascinating.”
Her words struck me, a shiver sliding down my spine. The office was cosy, and when I sunk into the rich leather of the couch in front of a roaring fire I recognised the book on her desk. It was a dog eared copy of Harry Potter. I’d seen it before. But that was impossible. I had never been in her office. “Quit?” I shook my head. “No, I don’t…” I trailed off, stumbling over my words. “I’ve never been part of Sunbeam.”
“Were you not?” She shook her head, a crease forming between her brows. “Ah, I must be getting you mixed up with someone else.”
I nodded. “Just… can you just listen to me? That Evie girl was fucking—”
She cut me off. “Language.”
“Sorry. Evie. She was… I don’t know what she was doing... she was doing like... like magic?”
“Are you sure you didn’t dream it?”
“Mmm hmm.” The woman cleared her throat, dismissing my protests. “I’m not a doctor, but If you’re experiencing memory loss and confusion, I suggest you go to the hospital. As for your ludicrous claims, you should keep them to yourself. That poor young man died due to a brain haemorrhage. Terrible and tragic, yes. But it was accidental, and not the work of… I’m sorry, what were you claiming it to be?”
“Magic.” I said, again.
When she raised her brow, I couldn’t resist a groan. “I saw her! She shot into the crowd and mouthed something!”
“She… mouthed something?”
Again, her words sliced into mine. “Okay, let’s say you were right,” she said. “If you are saying this girl shot into the crowd with her imaginary gun, wouldn’t it be a gun shot which would have killed him? You said it yourself—, it was some kind of witchy magic to kill him. So, where was the bullet wound?” When I tried to speak, she raised her arm to shut me up.
“Exactly. There was none. Because the man suffered a haemorrhagic stroke, and nothing could be done to save him. Your claims a group of young people carried this out as a murder is not only blatant defamation, but also disrespectful to the young man and his family. Now, please leave my office. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” The woman nodded for me to stand up. “I think you have been watching too much TV. Might I suggest focusing on your studies?”
I left her office, slamming the door.
My housemate wasn’t helpful when I told him. He told me I was maybe a little too obsessed with Sunbeam. He headed to work, and I ended up in the lounge trying to focus on an episode of Criminal Minds. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Evie.
I saw what she said.
But it wasn’t the force of her imaginary finger-guns ricocheting back. It was the word. Drop.
It had been alive on her lips like it was a sentient thing bleeding into existence. I managed to fall asleep, twisted like a pretzel in my housemate’s favourite chair, when three loud knocks on the door tore me from slumber. I was on my feet, blinking, disoriented. It was rare when we got a visitor. Stumbling over to the door, I had a moment of hesitation. I imagined Evie on the other side.
I imagined her raising her arm and shooting her pretend finger-guns directly into my head.
When I opened the door, I was surprised to see three little kids. The youngest must have been maybe nine years old. To my surprise, they were dressed in Halloween costumes. There was a little witch, a ghost, and a scarecrow all carrying pumpkin shaped holders It took me a moment to realise I was staring at a group of Trick or Treaters. It wasn’t even mid-October yet.
“Hey there,” I said, “Uh, you guys are a little early.”
The little girl’s eyes were wide and unblinking. “We want candy.” She held out her candy holder. “Now.”
I decided to be firm with them. “It’s not Halloween.” I said, taking a small step back. I was grasping the handle, ready to slam it in their faces. These little shits were freaking me out. Not just their tone, but their expressions were vacant. There were no lights on and that terrified me. “Sorry kids, I don’t have any candy. But like I said, come back when it’s actually Halloween, and I’ll have candy bars for all of you. "
What I wasn’t expecting was for the Scarecrow to pull a knife out of his pumpkin shaped candy holder. He didn’t hold it like a kid should, clumsily, confused. There was a strategic way the way his fingers were wrapped around the handle—like he’d brandished one before. The kid held the knife up to his own neck and made a slicing motion. Like the little girl, his eyes were blank. Unblinking. There was something wrong in the way he was standing. Stiff, like a puppet on strings. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He squeaked out a laugh. I didn’t see him lunge forward, I was already moving back, stumbling, losing my footing.
The kid moved with impossible speed—and before I knew what was happening, the hilt of the knife was buried in my lower leg. I didn’t even feel pain. My body was being driven by adrenaline, pushing me to get away from him. I remember falling back. I remember my own trembling hands grasping hold of the handle and pulling out the knife. Red was pooling down my jeans and onto our hardwood floor. The little kids turned around and ran back down the steps into the night, and I watched them in a sort of daze.
They didn’t move like normal.
They stalked down the sidewalk like video game characters. The witch shoved a passing old man before pulling out a gun and pointing it at his head. But she didn’t shoot. The three of them ran off—and it was only when I was watching the top of the girl’s witch hat disappear into the night, when I glimpsed something—or someone—at the corner of my eye.
Before I heard laughter. The tree in front of me moved. At first I thought they were shadow’s. Before the shadows bled into figures. Four of them. I glimpsed the school colours. Blue and Gold. I saw twin ponytails, velvet and blonde-- as well as the tell-tale Sunbeam varsity jacket. The group were laughing, whispering to each other. Not exactly doing a good job of hiding. When they slipped from their hiding place, I recognised Evie. Her fingers gingerly on her nose while intense red pooled down her chin.
The others were the same, swiping at their faces with jacket sleeves. They didn’t seem fazed. The redhead’s gaze was latched onto the retreating children, his lips curling. I could sense he was still tethered to them. He was still commanding them to act out grand theft auto. They had caused the man’s death at the game and had controlled those children.
I wasn’t crazy or delusional. Evie had killed someone by simply shooting imaginary finger guns, and somehow the others were able to bleed into children’s heads, taking them over.
Pulling my phone from my pocket, I heaved out a breath. The pain was starting to hit in waves I had to grit through. I couldn’t move. I was stuck, curled up on my floor. While they laughed.
I was halfway through stabbing 911 into my phone when one of them came over. It was the Korean-American. The one who had been the nicest to me out of all of them. The real smile I remembered was gone, replaced by something inhuman. Something I didn’t want to question.
With his hands stuffed in his varsity jacket pockets, he approached me with mocking eyes, almost an attempt at trying to mimic his old self.
The guy knelt in front of me with a chuckle. “Kids these days, right? They’re animals.”
His voice, no, his words, were hurting me. I felt each one penetrate me like gunshots.
My wound wasn’t bad. That’s what I estimated, anyway. I don’t think the kid had hit anything vital. But I needed the emergency room. I still had one hand grasping at my side, drenched in red.
I managed a hiss, grasping for my phone when he pulled it out of my grasp and waved it in the air. “Fuck off. What did you do to those little kids?” I gritted out, trying to reach for my damn phone. I was starting to feel the pain in my side and it hurt like a mother fucker—dizzying bolts of electricity which felt like waves of boiling hot water slamming into me one by one. I tried to get onto my knees, but he pushed me back down again. The guy cocked his head to the side, confusion creasing his expression.
“Ouch. That must hurt.”
"What did you... what did you do?" I hissed out.
His presence was hurting me. Every time he opened his mouth, it was agony. Somehow, it was worse than the stab-wound. This kind of pain was no other I’d felt before. The type I’d rather die than feel. A cry was clawing at my throat, fight or flight taking over. Again, I tried to move, I tried to get away from him. But he was holding down my arms and prodding at my side before sticking his finger in the cut and twisting. "I didn't do anything, Alex.”
His voice barely hit me when my vision blurred and I screamed. Like a fucking animal, I screamed. But not because his fingers were digging around in my insides.
Because my brain was suddenly boiling, a metal rod piercing my skull and stirring it into a soupy mess. His voice was inside me. It was bleeding into me, taking over me. But not just his voice. The world blurred around me and I was no longer in my doorway, bleeding out against the wall.
Instead, I was moving. I was… I was walking. No, I was being dragged. Except these weren’t my memories. This wasn’t my mind. I could see bare feet beneath me delicately slapping on white tiles. When I looked up, I saw an expanse of white like I was being led straight into the clouds. This was a building. There were glass doors and electronic panels, people in black guarding each one. It took a while for me to gain my senses—or him to gain his.
We could smell something like chlorine and taste rusty coins at the back of our throat. Feel the ice cold tiles against our bare toes. A strange feeling at the back of our head. We kept wanting to run our fingers through our hair, but every time we did, our fingers only touched bare skin. Scuffed and rigged skin. Tight fingers were wrapped around our arm, dragging us further and further into a white oblivion. Until a glass door seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
From now on, I am going to describe his memories very vaguely. I’m just going to tell you what I saw.
The room we walked into reminded me of a classroom—but there were no desks. In front of me were the other members of Sunbeam pressed against the back wall. They faced forwards, their gazes penetrating nothing. But I saw they were trembling. Terrified. The squad were dressed in pale white shorts and t-shirt, ugly red spattering the front. There were still traces of blue and glitter on their faces, ribbons hanging from bedraggled curls.
Their feet were bare and filthy like ours. When we were shoved forwards, we took our place next to Evie who had half of her hair shaved off. Her arms were folded across her cheer uniform, her bare feet tapping a beat against the floor. When a woman with dark red hair held in a strict ponytail entered and asked if either of us wanted to show her what we had learned, Evie eagerly raised her hand. “Okay, Evie.” The woman’s voice was too sweet. Sickly sweet. She gestured for the girl forward. “Show us what you’ve got.”
The door opened, and a man stepped through. His hands were tied in front of him, his eyes blank.
Evie nodded, her eyes set in determination. She cleared her throat. “Shatter.”
“Intent, Evie.” The woman said. “It doesn’t matter how you say the word unless you use proper intent. Try again.”
The girl did, growling in frustration.
The man’s head flew from his torso suddenly in a river of red, and the girl squeaked in excitement.
While we watched in horror, the rest of the squad gave in to their own despair.
Different days bled into one—and we watched faces change. Heads were shaved. Hair grew back. Fear turned to joy.
A blonde girl exploded into bloody chunks, splattering against the walls.
“Yes!” The redhead high-fived pigtails, the two of them locked into some bizarre handshake. “That’s what I’m TALKING about!”
“Bang!” One of the girls used finger guns, and with each “shot” innocents dropped against the wall one by one, their heads blown through.
She jumped up and down in glee. “Bang, bang, bang!”
“Keep going,” the voice of the woman crackled through the speaker. “You’ve almost got it.”
“Divide.” Pigtails used her pointer finger at an old man who was skewed by an invisible force sending bloody chunks of him to the floor.
"Show off.” The redhead said in a sing-song voice. He was slumped against the back wall using his jersey to wipe blood from his face while the others painted the room scarlet. With simple words of intent and a hand gesture, they were able to take people apart piece by piece.
Pigtails snorted when another “test subject” was brought in. "Oh, you think you can do better?”
“Think I can? I know I can.”
This time he plunged two fingers into his temples. He was centre stage, the others against the back wall with their arms folded.
“Rip it out.”
The test subject’s eyes widened, her trembling hands clawing at her own head, fingernails digging into flesh. “Rip…rip it out?”
His lip curved. “That’s what I said.”
We didn’t see the test subject rip her own brain from her skull. We were already burying our head into our knees and screeching into the floor. Another flash. Like watching a movie.
This time we’re cutting into our wrist with shards of glass. Pulling back fleshy flaps of our flesh, there are two wires entangled with muscle and bone. One red and one blue. “Why won’t you submit?” A sharp growl, and I can feel our body pressed against metal. Our arms are restrained. “Out of all of them, you refuse it.” A hand slaps our face. “You don’t want it!”
He started to laugh.
“You don’t want… control?”
He leaned his face closer. “Tell me to mutilate myself. Tell me to… to tear out my brain stem! That’s the beauty of it! No matter how impossible the order is, it will be completed! Control, my boy. Use it. Do you even understand how much you are going to shape the world? Words! Do you know how powerful they are? When said from the right mouth, with the right intent, they can cause bloodshed, pain and misery-- a despair drowning our already shattered earth. And you will be the centre of it. You will bring this world to its knees, Jason."
"Now, do it. We call it cutting, but you will find familiarity in referring to it as erasure. You can make up your own words if you would like. What matters is the intent.” I feel something slicing into our arm. It’s nothing medical. It’s torture. He plunges something sharp into the same spot and twists the blade until we throw our head back and scream at the ceiling.
“You’re the last one.” The man hissed. “Do it.”
“No.” I heard his—our—voice. “I… I can’t!”
He’s dragging us again, forcing us down a long winding corridor until we reach another door.
"Drown." The boy - - Jason's-- voice was suddenly in my head. I could sense it was trying to hold back, attempting to peel back whatever power his own words had. But the word came again and again until it was suffocating his mouth. “Drown. Drown. Drown. Drown.” We were standing in the doorway of a smaller room. In the corner there was a figure curled up with their head pressed against the wall.
It was a guy.
I recognised our school colours, a bloodied varsity jacket over shorts and t-shirt. When he lifted his head and twisted to face the boy whose mind I was in, I noticed he had an uncanny resemblance to me. His eyes wide, frightened. They were my mother's.
This guy looked exactly like me.
No, it WAS me.
My eyes were shadowed and haunted.
Like I had been drained of everything I was.
As quickly as the memories came crashing into me, they were yanked away when the guy must have pulled back.
I blinked rapidly, and Jason looked as confused as me. Slowly, he pulled his finger from my cut. The man's voice was in my skull, and it was agonising. I felt the command in my head, my body instantly reacting to... to nothing. I had my hands out, ready to do.... do something.
"That was… just a trick,” He said. “Yeah! Just a trick!”
I found myself nodding, echoing his words. Something warm ran from my nose.
"Just... a trick..." I whispered, the words forced from my lips.
Blood spattered down my chin.
“Louder.” He said.
"JUST A TRICK!" I yelled, the force of the wail sending me my knees, panting. The guy was frowning, seemingly unsure what to do with me.
He wrapped up my wound and told me it wasn’t bad—and it wasn’t. I watched in disbelief as my skin stitched itself back together.
"Go into your kitchen." Jason said, and I felt the power of his words ripping through me like bullets. My body moved on its own, and I got to my feet and stepped into my kitchen. He followed me, grabbing a scarf off of the table.
"Get on your knees." I did, dropping to my knees, my breath in my throat, my mouth sealed shut. I could sense the others in the doorway as he wrapped the scarf around my eyes, the heel of his shoe slamming into my neck forcing me onto my stomach.
"I want you to wait for me to kill you."
His words pierced into me. I did. Even when I knew he was gone, the door slamming shut-- I waited. I waited until the next morning, until I regained control over my own body and pulled the scarf from my eyes. I'm still waiting, my brain in constant panic, twisting around when I'm alone, looking into every corner.
I was roped into going to Friday's game against Harrington. During Sunbeam’s routine, they did it again. They had the crowd's attention, and Evie was mouthing something. I felt her words, sharp like needles cutting into me. But they didn't penetrate. They have done something to the student body. Ever since, I’ve been catching looks around me. Those whose heads they have crawled into. Mindless eyes. Every so often an arm will touch mine, fingers will wrap around my neck. I can hear their feet pitter pattering after me. Those little kids from that night. I keep seeing the little witch girl in the corner of my eye. They’re creating an army who are coming for me once he decides to kill me.
If only I knew what happened to the Sunbeam squad. Maybe I can help them somehow.
But something tells me they’re way past help.
And so am I.
I wonder if one day, I might be allowed a glimpse of my memories. What really happened to me during my freshman year.
And why, ever since going into his mind, I dream of a white room.
submitted by Trash_Tia
to TheCrypticCompendium [link] [comments]
2023.06.01 22:27 horpses Replacing broken hydraulic jack and walking jack
Short story: I'm looking into buying a new replacement jack after one of mine broke, there don't seem to be a lot of hydraulic jacks being sold these days which is what I have on all 4 corners, are they obsolete in some way? Is a crank style preferred? Also do people like the Brophy tri pod jacks? They seem safer but also seem like the feet would get in the way (my camper fits on my truck only by a few inches on the sides, and that's with the extensions on the existing jacks.
Long story: I purchased a camper that I shouldn't have for reasons I won't get into, and promptly tried selling it, got someone to come pick it up and in the process, because of the lift of his truck, overjacked one of the jacks and broke it. No one in my area has been able or willing to fix it, including the hydraulic repair and manufacturing shop, so I'm looking into just buying a new one. Another issue I'm facing is one of my jacks walks when being lowered, as in it's slightly slanted, and as the camper is being lowered, it leans forward, putting more and more weight on this one front jack, and creating quite a sketchy situation. The jack itself doesn't seem to be bent, maybe it's the attachment point? Any tips on this would be greatly appreciated as it's quite scary and unsafe feeling.
Thanks for reading!
submitted by horpses
to TruckCampers [link] [comments]
2023.06.01 22:07 DueMacaron7789 Cause of erectile dysfunction for my boyfriend
I have a boyfriend who is 43 and has had ED for a number of years. He has some back injuries from lifting weights when he was younger . However he told me that the doctors he has seen has told him that isn’t the cause of his ED and they don’t know what is. He has numbness and tingling in his groin area and legs and feet from time to time and had EMG tests and nothing. Doctors just tell him he has sciatica probably.
I have been encouraging him to see doctors because I am concerned not only about our sex life especially if I were to make a long term commitment to get married, but also don’t want doctors to miss something more serious. I have made several doctors appointments for him since he hasn’t taken the initiative to, and at first he was open to going and thankful that I am caring enough to try to figure out the issue.
So far we have seen three neurosurgeons, a urologist, a neurologist, and a PCP. I have been encouraging him to see an endocrinologist next. Now he is saying that going to these doctors are expensive with the copays and that they haven’t found anything and he doesn’t want to keep “going down a pointless rabbit hole”. I told him that I don’t want to be in a long term relationship with someone who a) doesn’t take their health seriously and refuses to see doctors unless I nag them to do so. This is part of the reason I believe why women out live men. And B) not only doesn’t satisfy me sexually but doesn’t make an effort to do so.
He said that we have sex for 10 minutes and I should be satisfied with that . I said ten minutes is nothing ! It takes women on average 15-20 minutes to have an orgasm compared to men which is much less time. He thinks that I have to just accept the way things are and see that this is as good as it’s going to get . Foreplay does nothing for me I like actual intercourse. He has been taking viagra but doesn’t like having sex for longer than ten mins because he says it hurts him or he can’t feel anything after so many minutes. Wondering if there is any other doctor he should be seeing for this issue. His testosterone levels are around 400 so I don’t know if that’s an issue with this. Also wondering if I should just say to him if he’s not willing to work on this issue then i am thinking of just moving on. I really love and care about him and even see myself marrying him but I feel like sex is also important in relationships .
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to erectiledysfunction [link] [comments]
2023.06.01 21:58 StevenDJackson The quiet ones
I suppose I’m glad Amy took her laptop to the campsite. Well, not glad obviously. It’s hard to be glad of anything when I know my life can now be measured in minutes, but thanks to her need to be connected to everything all the time I can tell our story in the time I have left.
I’m currently lying on my back in a hotel room which I am struggling to accept will be my tomb. The bed is comfortable, the lights are bright, the TV on the wall is huge. It all seems so friendly and welcoming. My heart is fluttering like I’ve been running, but it’s just fear. Adrenaline. It’s like my heart’s trying to act as alive as it possibly can, to squeeze a lifetime of beating into these last frenzied moments. It’s finding this as difficult to accept as I am, the fact that I will die here before the dawn slips over the horizon, when there’s really no reason why we couldn’t have carried on for another sixty or seventy years.
But there is a reason. And it’s a reason I need to tell you about, whilst I try not to listen to the desperate thumping in my chest, each rhythmic beat counting down to a grand finale I’ve come to almost accept is now inevitable. Almost. The occasional stab of hysterical fear still grips me, but there’s nothing I can do. Not against them.
They call them the Quiet Ones, or at least that’s what the old man told me. It’s the name the old folks gave to the shapes in the dark, the things that crouch in the shadow just beyond the edge of sight. They are the ones that creep unseen through the underbrush at night and dance beneath the moon away from the eyes of humans.
And so they would have remained, living alongside us in their dark, hidden world, if we had not broken the ancient laws –
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It was a sunny morning as we drove up. I can hardly believe this was only two days ago; my friends were still alive then. I mustn’t think about how many times we could have turned back, how many words I could have used to change the plan.
I knew there was something wrong with that place. Of course there were no signs, no warnings of any physical kind to prevent us driving off the road three miles before the campsite and crashing off through the undergrowth. I almost feel that we were being drawn there, and perhaps we were. In fact, I’m sure we were.
The car was being scraped and brushed mercilessly by the overhanging trees, and more than once I asked Amy if she was sure this was even a trail let alone a road. She insisted she’d seen a sign of some kind along the road, though she couldn’t describe it. It was like a mixture of confusion and pride alone was keeping her foot pressed on the accelerator. We bumped and jolted along, the two boys grinning widely in the back, until at last the mud-track opened up into a clearing.
The grassy area was maybe fifty feet across, surrounded on all sides by thick forest. Old trees stretched up around us, their old and gnarled branches reaching like twisted fingers into the darkening sky. As I got out of the car, I realised how deathly quiet it was. I could hear nothing of the road we’d left behind, though it couldn’t be more than a mile or two behind us, and no birds fluttered above. It was like the world was holding its breath, or perhaps that the world itself was just…different…here.
I wanted to leave more or less the moment I stepped out of that car and looked up at those horrible trees. I’d looked up the campsite we were actually aiming for and it had showers, a club house, a coffee and bacon sandwich van in the mornings. This was a clearing in a forest, and I did not want to be there.
The boys, of course, loved it. We’d barely stopped before they started pulling the bags out and setting up the camp, almost falling over themselves to be the first to get their tent up. Amy and I watched them with that resigned, world-weary expression female friends of overgrown man-children tend to adopt when they get together and act – well, like overgrown man-children. I remember watching them yelling and shoving one another, enjoying themselves, and not quite being able to shake that horrible sense of foreboding. But nothing I said was taken seriously, and eventually I gave up, resigned to the fact that we were spending the weekend in that dark, quiet place literally in the middle of nowhere.
That night was when it started. We had a fire going, and Tom had his feet too close to it. He didn’t think anything of it, the night was cold and we were all trying to get as close to the flames as possible. But when he stood up to get a beer, he realised his left hiking boot had almost fallen apart. The heat had melted whatever rubbery glue held it together, and the sole was no longer attached. After a lot of laughter, swearing and general hilarity he threw the ruined boot off into the darkness. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was what had sealed our fate.
The next morning Tom was gone. We weren’t worried at first, thinking he’d just gotten up early and wandered off, but then Simon noticed the boot. Melted and ruined. The one Tom had thrown into the darkness. It was sitting, innocently enough, in the tent on his sleeping bag. But there was no sign of Tom.
We all assumed as the morning wore on that Tom had walked into town to buy a new pair of boots. But when he didn’t return by mid-afternoon, what had been a tense atmosphere soon became one of fear. Of course, there was no cell phone reception in that cursed clearing, so we were left with no choice but to search the woods and shout for him. We found nothing. No tracks, no Tom. As the light faded we tried searching with flashlights, but when Amy wandered away and fell into thick stinking mud, losing her flashlight in the process, we abandoned the search. Amy was near hysterical by this point, and I wasn’t far off myself. It was only because I had Simon with me that I was able to cope, and together we took Amy back and got her into our tent. The next morning, we decided, we’d leave in the car and ask around the town, nearly three miles away. Surely that was the only place Tom could have gone.
When I woke the next day Amy was gone. Just gone. On her sleeping bag, as if it had every right to be there, was her flashlight. The one she’d lost in the forest. It was caked in mud, as though it had been pulled from the quagmire by someone and returned to her. I was terrified by this point, but Simon insisted that she must have resumed the search for Tom as soon as the sun rose, and had no doubt walked into town after finding nothing in the woods. She’d known that was our plan anyway, so it made some (though not perfect) sense. We were desperate at this point, on the verge of panic, so I suppose it’s understandable that we weren’t thinking straight. We took Amy’s keys and left for the town; Simon’s face was stony and grim the whole way there. We barely said a word.
No one in town would speak to us about our friends. The villagers simply stared at us, made suggestions about other campsites, acted like they knew nothing. But in their eyes I could see something more. An understanding. A fear. Like they knew perfectly well what was happening but wouldn’t say. Simon said I was being paranoid, and had to drag me out of the police station by force when I lost my self-control and started screaming at the officer behind the desk. He’d barely even blinked, just given me a bland assurance that they’d look into it, without even a hint that he meant it.
The sun was setting by the time we walked with resignation into the little shop by the edge of the village. An old man, careworn and ragged, was about to close up when we arrived. As we silently grabbed sandwiches neither of us wanted, he asked if we were the ones he’d heard were asking about their missing friends. By then I’d given up hope, so those words were like a fire inside me and I almost threw myself over the counter. He smiled sadly, told us there was no chance of finding our friends. He explained to me what I now know; what I didn’t believe at the time.
The Quiet Ones have always stalked us, flitting between the shadows and murky unseen depths just beyond our world. Sometimes, in ancient forgotten places, their world and ours overlap. Out in the dark, untouched wilds, the forests and the mountains, some places remain where the barrier between them and us wears perilously thin. If we keep to our side, they must keep to theirs. But for the unwary fool who strays one dark night too far, beyond the wispy veil of our territory and into the Quiet, only horror awaits. Because the age-old pacts, struck millennia ago by our terrified ancestors, still hold even now. Those who violate their world belong to them; just as it has always been. Tom’s shoe, Amy’s torch. Both carelessly thrown into the darkness, both returned in place of their owners. A terrible balance restored; a terrible bargain fulfilled.
Simon flew into a rage before the old man finished speaking, shouting and threatening like a lunatic. He knocked a stack of papers off the counter as he lunged for the old man, but just then the police officer from the station arrived and curtly demanded that we leave.
I expected Simon to drive us away, to leave the hideous place far behind. But he was incensed, in an impotent fury that stole his reason. I pleaded with him to drive on, but he was just as angry with me for believing the old man’s lies. To prove a point he drove us back to the clearing, and leaping from the car ran into the woods, screaming and daring whatever demons lurked there to show themselves. I was too terrified not to follow, tears streaming down my face, my cries rebounding from the half-seen boughs of ancient trees. Simon was far ahead of me, his hysterical screams echoing into the woods, before they rose in a final horrified shriek and were abruptly cut off. I turned to run and fell in a blind panic. I flailed and thrashed, imagining spiny hands clutching at me, dragging me towards a gloomy otherworld from which I’d never escape. But I got up, and I ran. Somehow I made it back to the clearing, slammed the car into gear and drove away, still crying, heading back to civilisation without looking back.
Shortly after that I arrived here. A cheap hotel by the roadside. Warm and inviting. Thinking I was safe. But then I realised my watch was missing. My left arm was caked in mud, with scratches from where I’d fallen amongst the brambles and roots. I must have left it there. Or somewhere between there and here. The same place the boot had been thrown. The same place the flashlight had been lost. The place where Simon had crossed over and…not returned.
So they’ll be coming for me. I don’t have long. Just enough to warn you.
Remember me, and beware the Quiet Ones.
submitted by StevenDJackson
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2023.06.01 21:24 RandomAppalachian468 Don't fly over Barron County Ohio. [Repost]
The whirring blades of my MD-902 throbbed against the warm evening air, and I smiled.
From 5,000 feet, the ground flew by in a carpet of dark forests and kelly-green fields. The sun hung low on the horizon in a picturesque array of dazzling orange and gold, and I could make out the narrow strip of the Ohio River to my left, glistening in the fading daylight. This time of year, the trees would be full of the sweet aroma of fresh blossoms, and the frequent rains kept small pockets of fluffy white mist hanging in the treetops. It was a beautiful view, one that reminded me of why being a helicopter pilot trumped flying in a jumbo jet far above the clouds every day of the week. Fourteen more days, and I’m debt free.
That made me grin even more. I’d been working as a charter pilot ever since I obtained my license at age 19, and after years of keeping my nose to the grindstone, I was closing on the final payment for real-estate in western Pennsylvania. With no debt, a fixer-upper house on 30 rural acres all to myself, and a respectable wage for a 26-year-old pilot, I looked forward to the financial freedom I could now enjoy. Maybe I’d take a vacation, somewhere exotic like Venice Italy, or the Dominican Republic. Or perhaps I’d sock the money back for the day I started a family. “Remember kleineun, a real man looks after his own.”
My elderly ouma’s
voice came back from the depths of my memories, her proud, sun-tanned face rising from the darkness. She and my Rhodesian grandfather had emigrated to the US when they were newlyweds, as the violence against white Boer descendants in South Africa spiraled out of control. My mother and father both died in a car crash when I was six, and it had been my grandparents who raised me. Due to this, I’d grown up with a slight accent that many of my classmates found amusing, and I could speak both English, and Afrikaans, the Boer tongue of our former home.
I shifted in my seat, stretched my back muscles, and glanced at the picture taped to my console. Both my parents flanked a grinning, gap-toothed six-year-old me, at the last Christmas we’d spent together. My mother beamed, her dark hair and Italian features a sharp contrast to my father’s sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. Sometimes, I liked to imagine they were smiling at me with pride at how well I flew the old silver-colored bird my company had assigned to me, and that made the long, lonely flights easier to bear.
A flicker caught my eye, and I broke my gaze away from the photograph.
Perched in its small cradle above the controls, my little black Garmin fuzzed over for a few seconds, its screen shifting from brightly colored maps to a barrage of grey static. Did the power chord come loose?
I checked, ensuring the power-cable for the unit’s battery was plugged into the port on the control panel. It was a brand-new GPS unit, and I’d used it a few times already, so I knew it wasn’t defective. Granted, I could fly and navigate without it, but the Garmin made my time as a pilot so much easier that the thought of going blind was dreadful.
My fuel gauge danced, clicked to empty, then to full, in a bizarre jolt.
More of the gauges began to stutter, the entire panel seeming to develop terrets all at once, and my pulse began to race. Something was wrong, very wrong, and the sludge inside my bowels churned with sour fear.
“Come on, come on.” I flicked switches, turned dials, punched buttons, but nothing seemed to fix the spasming electronics. Every gauge failed, and without warning, I found myself plunged into inky darkness.
Outside, the sun surrendered to the pull of night, the sky darker than usual. A distant rumble of thunder reverberated above the roar of my helicopter’s engine, and I thought I glimpsed a streak of yellowish lightning on the far horizon to my left. Calm down Chris. We’re still flying, so it must just be a blown fuse. Stay in control and find a place to set her down.
My sweaty palm slid on the cyclic stick, and both feet weighed heavy on the yaw pedals. The collective stuck to my other hand with a nervous vibration, and I squinted against the abyss outside. Beep.
I jumped despite myself, as the little Garmin on my panel flared back to life, the static pulling aside to reveal a twitching display. Each time the screen glitched, it showed the colorful map detailing my flight path over the ground below, but I noticed that some of the lines changed, the names shifting, as if the device couldn’t decide between two different versions of the world.
One name jutted out at me, slate gray like most of the major county names, appearing with ghostly flickers from between two neighboring ones. Barron County.
I stared, confused. I’d flown over this section of southeastern Ohio plenty of times, and I knew the counties by heart. At this point, I should have been over the southern end of Noble County, and maybe dipping lower into Washington. There was no Barron County
Ohio. I was sure of it.
And yet it shown back at me from the digital landscape, a strange, almost cigar-shaped chunk of terrain carved from the surrounding counties like a tumor, sometimes there, sometimes not, as my little Garmin struggled to find the correct map. Rain began to patter against my cockpit window, and the entire aircraft rattled from a strong gust of wind. Thick clouds closed over my field of vision like a sea of gray cotton.
The blood in my veins turned to ice, and I sucked in a nervous breath.
Land. I had to land. There was nothing else to do, my flight controls weren’t responding, and only my Garmin had managed to come back to life. Perhaps I’d been hit by lightning, and the electronics had been fried? Either way, it was too dark to tell, but a storm seemed to be brewing, and if I didn’t get my feet on the ground soon, I could be in real trouble.
“Better safe than sorry.” I pushed down on the collective to start my slow descent and clicked the talking button for my headset. “Any station, this is Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, over.”
“Any station, this is Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, requesting emergency assistance, over.”
Still nothing. If the radio’s dead, I’m really up a creek.
With my hand shaking, I clicked on the mic one more time. “Any station, this is—”
Like a curtain pulling back, the fog cleared from around my window, and the words stuck in my throat.
Without my gauges, I couldn’t tell just how far I’d descended, but I was definitely very low. Thick trees poked up from the ground, and the hills rolled into high ridges with flat valley floors, fields and pastures pockmarking them. Rain fell all around in cold, silvery sheets, a normal feature for the mid spring in this part of Ohio.
What wasn’t normal, were the fires.
At first, I thought they were forest fires for the amount of smoke and flames that bellowed from each spot, but as I swooped lower, my eyes widened in horror.
They were houses.
Farms, cottages, little clusters that barely constituted villages, all of them belched orange flames and black pillars of sooty smoke. I couldn’t hear above the helicopter blades, but I could see the flashes on the ground, along the road, in between the trees, and even coming from the burning buildings, little jets of golden light that spat into the darkness with anger. Gunfire. That’s rifle fire, a whole lot of it.
Tiny black figures darted through the shadows, barely discernable from where I sat, several hundred feet up. I couldn’t see much, but some were definitely running away, the streaks of yellow gunfire chasing them. A few dark gray vehicles rumbled down one of the gravel roads, and sprayed fire into the houses as it went. They were fighting, I realized, the people in the trucks and the locals. It was horrific, like something out of war-torn Afghanistan, but worse.
Then, I caught a glimpse of the others
They didn’t move like the rest, who either fled from the dark vehicles, or fired back from behind cover. These skinny figures loped along with haphazard gaits, many running on all fours like animals, swarming from the trees by the dozens. They threw themselves into the gales of bullets without flinching, attacking anyone within range, and something about the way they moved, so fluid, so fearless, made my heart skip a beat. What is that? “Echo Four Actual to unknown caller, please respond, over.”
Choking back a cry of shock, I fumbled at the control panel with clumsy fingers, the man’s voice sharp and stern. I hadn’t realized that I’d let go of the talking button and clicked it down again. “Hello? Hello, this is Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot out of Pittsburgh, over.”
An excruciating moment passed, and I continued to zoom over the trees, the fires falling away behind me as more silent forest took over. “Roger that Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, we read you loud and clear. Please identify yourself and any passengers or cargo you might be carrying, over.”
Swallowing hard, I eyed the treetops, which looked much closer than they should have been. How far had I descended? “Echo Four Actual, my name is Christopher Dekker, and I am alone. I’m a charter flight from PA, carrying medical equipment for OSU in Columbus. My controls have been damaged, and I am unable to safely carry on due to the storm. Requesting permission to land, over.”
I watched the landscape slide by underneath me, once catching sight of what looked like a little white church
surrounded by smaller huts, dozens of figures in the yard staring up at me as I flew over a towering ridgeline. “Solid copy on that Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot. Be advised, your transponder shows you to be inside a restricted zone. Please cease all radio traffic, reduce your speed, climb to 3,000 feet and proceed north. We’ll talk you in from there. How copy, over?”
My heart jumped, and I let out a sigh of relief. “Roger that Echo Four Actual, my altimeter is down, but I’ll do my best to eyeball the altitude, over.”
With that, I pulled the collective upward, and tried my best to gauge how far I was by eyesight in the gathering night, rain still coming down all around me. This had to be some kind of disaster or riot, I decided. After all, the voice over the radio sounded like military, and those vehicles seemed to have heavy weapons. Maybe there was some kind of unrest going on here that I hadn’t heard about yet? Kind of weird for it to happen in rural areas though. Spoiled college kids I get, but never saw farmers get so worked up before. They usually love the military.
Something moved in the corner of my eye, and I turned out of reflex.
My mouth fell open, and I froze, unable to scream.
In the sky beside me, a huge shadow glided along, and its leathery wings effortlessly carved through the gloom, flapping only on occasion to keep it aloft. It was too dark for me to see what color it was, but from the way it moved, I knew it wasn’t another helicopter. No, this thing was alive, easily the size of a small plane, and more than twice the length of my little McDonald Douglass. A long tail trailed behind it, and bore a distinct arrow-shaped snout, with twig-like spines fanned out around the back of its head. Whatever legs it had were drawn up under it like a bird, yet its skin appeared rough and knobby, almost resembling tree bark. Without pause, the gigantic bat-winged entity flew along beside me, as if my presence was on par with an annoying fly buzzing about its head.
Gripping the microphone switch so tight, I thought I’d crack the plastic, I whispered into my headset, forgetting all radio protocol. “T-There’s something up here.”
Static crackled. “Douglas Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, say again your last, you’re coming in weak and unreadable, over.”
“There’s something up here.” I snarled into the headset, still glued to the controls of the helicopter, afraid to deviate even an inch from my course in case the monstrosity decided to turn on me. “A freaking huge thing, right beside me. I swear, it looks like a bat or . . . I don’t know.” “Calm down.”
The man on the other end of the radio broke his rigorous discipline as well, his voice deep, but level. “It won’t attack if you don’t move too fast. Slowly ease away from it and follow that course until you’re out of sight.”
I didn’t have time to think about how wrong that sounded, how the man’s strict tone had changed to one of knowledge, how he hadn’t been the least surprised by what I’d said. Instead, I slowly turned the helicopter away from the huge menace and edged the speed higher in tiny increments.
As soon as I was roughly two football fields away, I let myself relax, and clicked the mic switch. “It’s not following.” “You’re sure?”
Eyeing the huge flapping wings, I nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see me. “Yeah, I’m well clear.” “Good. Thank you, Mr. Dekker.”
Then, the radio went dead.
Something in my chest dropped, a weight that made my stomach roil. This wasn’t right, none of it. Who was that man? Why did he know about the thing I’d just seen? What was I supposed to—
A flash of light exploded from the trees to my right and shot into the air with a long finger of smoke. What the . . .
On instinct, I jerked the cyclic stick to one side, and the helicopter swung to avoid the rocket. Boom.
My world shook, metal screeched, and a dozen alarms began to go off inside the cockpit in a cacophony of beeps and sirens. Orange and red flames lit up the night sky just behind me, and the horizon started to spin wildly outside. Heat gushed from the cockpit door, and I smelled the greasy stench of burning oil. The safety belts dug into my shoulders, and with a final slip, the radio headset ripped free from my scalp. I’m hit.
Desperate, I yanked on the controls, fought the bird even as she spun toward the ground in a wreath of flames, the inky black trees hurtling up to meet me. The helicopter went into full auto-rotation, the sky blurring past outside, and the alarms blared in a screech of doom. Panic slammed through my temples, I screamed at the top of my lungs, and for one brief second, my eyes locked on the little black Garmin still perched atop my control panel.
Its screen stopped twitching and settled on a map of the mysterious Barron County, with a little red arrow at the center of the screen, a few words popping up underneath it. You are here
Trees stabbed up into the sky, the belts crushed at my torso, glass shattered all around me, and the world went dark.
Copper, thick, warm, and tangy.
It filled my mouth, stank metallic in my nose, clogged my throat, choking me. In the murkiness, I fought for a surface, for a way out, blind and numb in the dark. This way, kleineun.
voice echoed from somewhere in the shadows. This way.
Both eyes flew open, and I gagged, spitting out a stream of red.
Pain throbbed in my ribs, and a heavy pressure sent a tingling numbness through my shoulders. Blood roared inside my temples, and stars danced before my eyes with a dizzying array. Humid night air kissed my skin, and something sticky coated my face, neck, and arms that hung straight up toward the ceiling.
Wait. Not up. Down
I blinked at the wrinkled, torn ceiling of the cockpit, the glass all gone, the gray aluminum shredded like tissue paper. Just outside the broken windows, thick Appalachian bluegrass and stemmy underbrush swished in a feeble breeze, backlit by flashes of lightning from the thunderstorm overhead. Green and brown leaves covered everything in a wet carpet of triangles, and somewhere nearby, a cricket chirped.
Turning my head from side to side, I realized that I hung upside down inside the ruined helicopter, the top half burrowed into the mud. I could hear the hissing and crackling of flames, the pattering of rain falling on the hot aluminum, and the smaller brush fires around the downed aircraft sizzling out in the damp long grass. Charred steel and burning oil tainted the air, almost as strong as the metallic, coppery stench in my aching nose. They shot me down. That military dude shot me out of the sky.
It didn’t make sense. I’d followed their orders, done everything they’d said, and yet the instant I veered safely away from whatever that thing in the sky had been, they’d fired, not at it, but at me.
Looking down (or rather, up) at my chest, I sucked in a gasp, which was harder to do that before.
The navy-blue shirt stuck to my torso with several big splotches of dark, rusty red. Most were clean slashes, but two held bits of glass sticking out of them, one alarmingly bigger than the other. They dripped cherry red blood onto my upturned face, and a wave of nausea hit me. I gotta get down.
I flexed my arms to try and work some feeling back into them, praying nothing was broken. Half-numb from hanging so long, I palmed along my aching body until I felt the buckled for the seat belts.
“Okay.” I hissed between gritted teeth, in an effort to stave off my panic. “You can do this. Just hold on tight. Nice and tight. Here we go . . .” Click.
Everything seemed to lurch, and I slid off the seat to plummet towards the muck-filled hole in the cockpit ceiling. My fingers were slick with blood and slipped over the smooth faux-leather pilot’s seat with ease. The shoulder belt snagged on the bits of glass that lay just under the left lowest rib, and a flare of white-hot pain ripped through me. Wham.
I screamed, my right knee caught the edge of the aluminum ceiling, and both hands dove into a mound of leaf-covered glass shards on the opposite side of the hole. My head swam, being right-side-up again enough to make shadows gnaw at the corner of my eyes.
Forcing myself to breath slowly, I fought the urge to faint and slid back to sit on the smooth ceiling. I turned my hands over to see half a dozen bits of clear glass burrowed into my skin like greedy parasites, red blood weeping around the new cuts.
“Screw you.” I spat at the rubbish with angry tears in my eyes. “Screw you, screw you, screw you.”
The shards came out easy enough, and the cuts weren’t that deep, but that wasn’t what worried me. On my chest, the single piece of cockpit glass that remined was almost as big as my palm, and it really
hurt. Just touching it felt like self-inflicted torture, but I knew it had to come out sooner or later. Please don’t nick a vein.
Wiping my hands dry on my jeans, I gripped the shard with both hands, and jerked.
Fire roared over my ribs, and hot blood tickled my already grimy pale skin. I clapped a hand over the wound, pressing down hard, and grunted out a string of hateful expletives that my ouma
would have slapped me for.
Lying on my back, I stared around me at the messy cargo compartment of the MD-902. Most of the medical supplies had been in cardboard boxes strapped down with heavy nylon tow-straps, but several cases had ruptured with the force of the impact, spraying bandages, syringes, and pill bottles all over the cluttered interior. Orange flames chewed at the crate furthest to the rear, the tail section long gone, but the foremost part of the hold was intact. Easily a million-dollar mess, it would have made me faint on any other trip, but today it was a godsend.
Half-blind in the darkness, I crawled along with only the firelight and lightning bolts to guide me, my right knee aching. Like a crippled raccoon, I collected things as I went, conscious of the two pallets of intact supplies weighing right over my head. I’d taken several different first-aid courses with some hunting buddies of mine, and the mental reflexes kicked in to help soothe my frazzled mind. Check for bleeds, stop the worst, then move on.
Aside from my battered chest and stomach, the rest of me remained mostly unharmed. I had nasty bruises from the seatbelts, my right knee swelled, my nose slightly crooked and crusted in blood, but otherwise I was intact. Dowsing every scratch and cut with a bottle of isopropyl alcohol I found, I used butterfly closures on the smaller lacerations that peppered my skin. I wrapped soft white gauze over my abused palms and probed at the big cut where the last shard had been, only stopping when I was sure there were no pieces of glass wedged inside my flesh.
“Not too bad.” I grunted to myself, trying to sound impassive like a doctor might. “Rib must have stopped it. Gonna need stitches though. That’ll be fun.
Pawing through the broken cases, I couldn’t find any suture chord, but just as I was about to give up, I noticed a small box that read ‘medical skin stapler’. Bingo.
I tore the small white plastic stapler free from its packaging and eyeballed the device. I’d never done this before, only seen it in movies, and even though the cut in my skin hurt, I wondered if this wouldn’t be worse. You’ve gotta do it. That bleeding needs to stop. Besides, no one’s coming to rescue you, not with those rocket-launching psychos out there.
Taking a deep breath, I pinched the skin around the gash together, and pressed the mouth of the stapler to it. Click.
A sharp sting, like that of a needle bit at the skin, but it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the cut itself. I worked my way across the two-inch laceration and gave out a sigh of relief when it was done.
“Not going to bleed to death today.” I daubed ointment around the staples before winding more bandages over the wound.
Popping a few low-grade painkillers that tumbled from the cargo, I crawled wriggled through the nearest shattered window into the wet grass.
Raindrops kissed my face, clean and cool on my sweaty skin. Despite the thick cloud cover, there was enough constant lightning strikes within the storm to let me get glimpses of the world around me. My helicopter lay on its back, the blades snapped like pencils, with bits and pieces of it burning in chunks all around the small break in the trees. Chest-high scrub brush grew all around the low-lying ground, with pockets of standing water in places. My ears still rang from the impact of the crash, but I could start to pick up more crickets, frogs, and even some nocturnal birds singing into the darkness, like they didn’t notice the huge the hulk of flaming metal that had fallen from the sky. Overhead, the thunder rumbled onward, the feeble wind whistling, and there were other flashes on the horizon, orange and red ones, with crackles that didn’t sound quite like lightning. The guns. They’re still fighting.
Instinctively, I pulled out my cellphone, and tapped the screen.
It fluttered to life, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get through to anyone, not even with the emergency function designed to work around having no service. The complicated wonder of our modern world was little better than a glorified paperweight.
Stunned, I sat down with my back to the helicopter and rested my head against the aluminum skin of the craft. How I’d gone from a regular medical supply run to being marooned in this hellish parody of rural America, I didn’t know, but one thig was certain; I needed a plan. Whoever fired the missile could have already contacted my charter company and made up some excuse to keep them from coming to look for me. No one else knew I was here, and even though I now had six staples holding the worst of my injuries shut, I knew I needed proper medical attention. If I wanted to live, I’d have to rescue myself. My bag. I need to get my go-bag, grab some gear and then . . . head somewhere else.
It took me a while to gather my green canvas paratrooper bag from its place behind the pilot’s seat and fill it with whatever supplies I could scrounge. My knee didn’t seem to be broken, but man did it hurt, and I dreaded the thought of walking on it for miles on end. I focused instead on inventorying my gear and trying to come up with a halfway intelligent plan of action.
I had a stainless-steel canteen with one of those detachable cups on the bottom, a little fishing kit, some duct tape, a lighter, a black LED flashlight with three spare batteries, a few tattered road maps with a compass, a spare pair of socks, medical supplies from the cargo, and a simple forest green plastic rain poncho. I also managed to unearth a functioning digital camcorder my ouma
had gotten me for Christmas a few years back, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to do any filming in such a miserable state. Lastly, since it was a private supply run from a warehouse area near Pittsburgh to a direct hospital pad in Ohio, I’d been able to bring my K-Bar, a sturdy, and brutally simple knife designed for the Marine Corps that I used every time I went camping. It was pitiful in comparison to the rifle I wished I had with me, but that didn’t matter now. I had what I had, and I doubted my trusty Armalite would have alleviated my sore knee anyway.
Clicking on my flashlight, I huddled with the poncho around my shoulders inside the wreck of the chopper and peered at the dusty roadmaps. A small part of me hoped that a solution would jump out from the faded paper, but none came. These were all maps of western PA and eastern Ohio. None of them had a Barron County on them anywhere. The man on the radio said to head north, right before they shot me down. That means they must be camped out to the north of here. South had that convoy and those burning houses, so that’s a no-go. Maybe I can backtrack eastward the way I came.
As if on cue, a soft pop
echoed from over the eastern horizon, and I craned to look out the helicopter window, spotting more man-made flashes over the tree tops.
“Great.” I hissed between clenched teeth, aware of how the temperature dipped to a chilly 60 degrees, and how despite the conditions, my stomach had begun to growl. “Not going that way, are we? Westward it is.”
Walking away from my poor 902 proved to be harder than I’d anticipated. Despite the glass, the fizzling fires, and the darkness, it still held a familiar, human essence to it. Sitting inside it made me feel secure, safe, even calm about the situation. In any other circumstance, I would have just stayed with the downed aircraft to wait for help, but I knew the men who shot me down would likely find my crash site, and I didn’t want to be around when they did.
Unlike much of central and western Ohio, southeastern Ohio is hilly, brushy, and clogged with thick forests. Thorns snagged at my thin poncho and sliced at my pant legs. My knee throbbed, every step a form of self-inflicted torture. The rain never stopped, a steady drizzle from above just cold enough to be problematic as time went on, making me shiver. Mud slid under my tennis shoes, and every tree looked ten times bigger in the flickering beam of my cheap flashlight. Icy fear prickled at the back of my neck at some of the sounds that greeted me through the gloom. I’d been camping loads of times, both in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but these noises were something otherworldly to me.
Strange howls, screeches, and calls permeated the rain-soaked sky, some almost roars, while others bordered on human in their intonation. The more I walked, the softer the distant gunfire became, and the more prevalent the odd sounds, until the shadows seemed to fill with them. I didn’t dare turn off my flashlight, or I’d been completely blind in the dark, but a little voice in the back of my head screamed that I was too visible, crunching through the gloomy forest with my long beam of light stabbing into the abyss. It felt as though a million eyes were on me, studying me, hunting me from the surrounding brush, and I bitterly recalled how much I’d loved the old Survivor Man
TV series as a kid. Not so fun being out in the woods at night. Especially alone.
A twig snapped somewhere behind me, and I whirled on the spot, one trembling hand resting on the hilt of my K-Bar.
Nothing. Nothing but trees, bushes, and rain dripping down in the darkness.
“This is stupid.” I whispered to myself to keep my nerves in check as I slowly spun on the spot. “I should have went eastward anyway. God knows how long I’m going to have to—” Creak.
A groan of metal-on-metal echoed from somewhere to my right, and I spun to face it, yanking the knife on my belt free from its scabbard. It felt so small and useless in my hand, and I choked down a wave of nauseas fear. Ka-whump. Creak. K-whump. Creak.
Underbrush cracked and crunched, a few smaller saplings thrashed, and from deep within the gloom, two yellow orbs flared to life. They poked through the mist in the trees, forming into slender fingers of golden light that swept back and forth in the dark. The soldiers . . . they must be looking for me.
I swallowed hard and turned to slink away.
Ice jammed through my blood, and I froze on the spot, biting my tongue to stop the scream.
It stood not yards away, a huge form that towered a good twelve feet tall in the swirling shadows. Unpolished chrome blended with flash-rusted spots in the faded red paint, and grime-smeared glass shone with dull hues in the flashes of lightning. Where the wheels should have been, the rounded steel axels curved like some enormous hand had bent them, and the tires lay face-down on the muddy ground like big round feet, their hubcaps buried in the dirt. Dents, scrapes, and chips covered the battered thing, and its crooked little radio antenna pointed straight up from the old metal fender like a mast. I could barely make out the mud-coated VW
on the rounded hood, and my mind reeled in shock. Is . . . is that a car?
Both yellow headlights bathed me in a circle of bright, blinding light, and neither I nor the strange vehicle moved.
Seconds ticked by, the screech-thumping in the background only growing closer. I realized that I couldn’t hear any engine noises and had yet to see any soldiers or guns pointed my way. This car looked old, really old, like one of those classic Volkswagen Beetles that collectors fought over at auctions. Try as I might, I couldn’t see a driver inside the murky, mold-smeared windows.
Because there wasn’t one.
Lightning arched across the sky overhead, and the car standing in front of me blinked.
Its headlights slid shut, as if little metal shades had crawled over the bulbs for a moment and flicked open again. Something about that movement was so primal, so real, so lifelike,
that every ounce of self-control I had melted in an instant.
Cursing under my breath, I lunged into the shrubs, and the world erupted around me.
Under my shoes, the ground shook, and the car surged after me in a cacophony of ka-thumps
that made my already racing heart skip several beats. A weather-beaten brown tow truck from the 50’s charged through the thorns to my left, it’s headlights ablaze, and a dilapidated yellow school bus rose from its hiding place in the weeds to stand tall on four down-turned axel-legs. They all flicked their headlights on like giants waking from their slumber, and as I dodged past them, they each blared their horn into the night in alarm.
My breaths came short and tight, my knee burned, and I crashed through thorns and briars without thought to how badly I was getting cut up.
The cheap poncho tore, and I ripped it away as it caught on a tree branch.
A purple 70’s Mustang shook off its blanket of creeping vines and bounded from a stand of trees just ahead, forcing me to swerve to avoid being run over, my adrenaline at all-time highs. This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening.
Slipping and sliding, I pushed through a stand of multiflora rose, and stumbled out into a flat, dark expanse.
I almost skidded to a stop.
What had once been a rather large field stood no taller than my shoestrings, the grass charred, and burnt. The storm above illuminated huge pieces of wreckage that lay scattered over the nearly 40-acre plot, and I could just make out the fire-blackened hulk of a fuselage resting a hundred yards away. The plane had been brought down a while ago it seemed, as there weren’t any flames left burning, and I threw myself toward it in frenzied desperation.
Burned grass and greasy brown topsoil slushed underfoot, and I could hear the squelching of the cars pursing me. Rain soaked me to the bone, and my lungs ached from sucking down the damp night air. A painful stich crept into my side, and I cursed myself for not putting in more time for cardio at the gym.
Something caught my left shoelace, and I hurtled to the ground, tasting mud and blood in between my teeth. They’ve got me now.
I clawed at the mud, rolled, and watched a tire slam down mere inches from where my head had been. The Mustang loomed over me and jostled for position with the red Volkswagen and brown tow truck, the school bus still a few yards behind them. They couldn’t seem to decide who would get the pleasure of stomping me to death, and like a herd of stampeding wildebeest, they locked bumpers in an epic shoving match.
On all fours, I scampered out from under the sparring brutes, and dashed for the crumpled airplane, a white-painted DC-3 that looked like it had been cut in half by a gargantuan knife blade. I passed a snapped wing section, the oily remains of a turbo-prop engine, and a mutilated wheel from the landing gear. Climbing over a heap of mud, I squeezed into the back of the ruined flight cabin and dropped down into the dark cargo hold. Wham.
No sooner had my sneakers hit the cold metal floor, and the entire plane rocked from the impact of something heavy ramming it just outside. I tumbled to my knees, screaming in pain as, once again, I managed to bash the sore one off a bracket in the wall.
My hand smeared in something gooey, and I scrabbled for my flashlight.
It clicked on, a wavering ball of white light in the pitch darkness, and I fought the urge to gag. “Oh man . . .”
Three people, or what was left of them, lay strewn over the narrow cargo area. Claret red blood coated the walls, caked on the floor, and clotted under my mud-spattered shoes. Bits of flesh and viscera were stuck to everything, and tatters of cloth hung from exposed sections of broken bone. An eerie set of bloody handprints adorned the walls, and the only reason I could tell it had been three
people were the shoes; all of them bore anklebones sticking out above blood-soaked socks. It smelled sickly sweet, a strange, nauseas odor that crept into my nose and settled on the back of my tongue like an alien parasite.
Something glinted in the beam of my flashlight, and my pulse quickened as I pried the object loose from the severed arm that still clung to it.
“Hail Mary full of Grace.” I would have grinned if it weren’t for the fact that the plane continued to buck and roll under the assault from the cars outside.
The pistol looked old, but well-maintained, aside from the light coating of dark blood that stained its round wooden handle. It felt heavy, but good in my hand, and I turned it over to read the words, Waffenfabrik Mauser
stenciled into the frame, with a large red 9 carved into the grip. For some reason, it vaguely reminded me of the blasters from Star Wars.
I fumbled with a little switch that looked like a safety on the back of the gun and stumbled toward a gap in the plane’s dented fuselage to aim out at the surrounding headlights. Bang.
The old gun bucked reliably in my hand, its long barrel spitting a little jet of flame into the night. I had no idea if I hit anything, but the attacking cars recoiled, their horns blaring in confusion.
They turned, and scuttled for the tree line as fast as their mechanical legs could go, the entire ordeal over as fast as it had begun. Did I do that?
Perplexed, I stared down at the pistol in my hand. Whoosh.
A large, inky black shadow glided down from the clouds, and the yellow school bus moved too slow to react in time.
With a crash, the kicking nightmarish vehicle was thrown onto its side, spraying glass and chrome trim across the muddy field. Its electro-synth horn blared with wails of mechanical agony, as two huge talon-like feet clamped down on it, and the enormous head of the flying creature lowered to rip open its engine compartment.
The horn cut out, and the enormous flying entity jerked its head back to gulp down a mass of what looked like sticky black vines from the interior of the shattered bus.
At this range, I could see now that the flying creature bore two legs and had its wings half-tucked like a vulture that had descended to feed on roadkill. Its head turned slightly, and in the glow of another lightning bolt, my jaw went slack at the realization of what it was. A tree trunk. It’s a rotted tree trunk.
I couldn’t tell where the reptilian beast began, and where the organic tree components ended, the upper part of the head shaped like a log, while the lower jaw resembled something out of a dinosaur movie. Its skin looked identical to the outside of a shagbark hickory but flexed with a supple featheriness that denoted something closer to skin. Sharp branch-like spines ranged down its back, and out to the end of its tail, which bore a massive round club shaped like a diseased tree-knot. Crouched on both hind legs, it braced the hooked ends of its folded wings against the ground like a bat, towering higher than a semi-truck. Under the folds of its armored head, a bulging pair of chameleon-like eyes constantly spun in their sockets, probing the dark for threats while it ate.
One black pupil locked onto the window I peered through, and my heart stopped.
The beast regarded me for a moment, with a curious, sideways sniff.
With a proud, contemptful head-toss, the shadow from the sky parted rows of razor-sharp teeth to let out a roar
that shook the earth beneath my feet. It was the triumphant war cry of a creature that sat at the very top of the food chain, one that felt no threat from the fragile two-legged beings that walked the earth all around it. It hunted whenever it wanted, ate whatever it wanted, and flew wherever it wanted. It didn’t need to rip the plane apart to devour me.
Like my hunter-gatherer ancestors from thousands of years ago, I wasn’t even worth the energy it would take to pounce.
I’m hiding in the remains of the cockpit now, which is half-buried under the mud of the field, enough to shield the light from my screen so that thing
doesn’t see it. My service only now came back, and it’s been over an hour since the winged beast started in on the dead bus. I don’t know when, or how I’m going to get out of here. I don’t know when anyone will even see this post, or if it will upload at all. My phone battery is almost dead, and at this point, I’m probably going to have to sleep among the corpses until daylight comes.
A dead man sleeping amongst friends.
If you live in the Noble County area in southeastern Ohio, be careful where you drive, fly, and boat. I don’t know if it’s possible to stumble into this strange place by ground, but if so, then these things are definitely headed your way.
If that happens . . . pray that they don’t find you.
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2023.06.01 21:00 Spartawolf Galactic High (Chapter 72)
/Previous Okay everyone.
Chiyo began, as all members of the household settled down and sat cross legged in a circle in the living room. We're going to try out a guided meditation. It should help with stress and anxiety, and it's really relaxing! Start by gently breathing deeply through your nose, and then keep repeating this until the guide tells you what to do next…
It was getting late in the evening, and Jack had only returned about an hour ago, having very much lost track of time before he finally made his way back. He had a little trouble finding a path back through the districts despite being able to use a marker on his commlink to pinpoint the location of home. The hot tub, which was slightly larger than Jack had expected, had been mostly finished by the time he arrived. However, due to several employee absences the team leader apologised and promised to finish the last of the plumbing the following afternoon after the group got back from school, which Alora quickly planned out with them. Sephy had swept the area for any possible bugs or electronic tags an undercover enemy could plant, but had fortunately found nothing.
A few of them looked sceptical as Chiyo put on a guided meditation program with some relaxing music in the background, which to Jack sounded like the most bizarre series of timbres and pitches unlike anything he had heard. It had the peaceful, slow quality of meditative music from earth, but it still jarred him somewhat due to its unnatural nature.
Still, he tried to follow Chiyo’s instructions as the Ilithii floated back to the circle to sit next to Sephy, who already looked like she was having trouble concentrating, though she made the effort for Chiyo’s sake. Next to him, Nika was already controlling and slowing down her breathing along with him, both of them semi-used to the concept of meditation already, and it looked like Alora was doing something more akin to prayer. The twins and Vanya seemed to be able to cope enough as well, all having some kind of magical ability that required some basic kind of mental concentration.
“Now, bring your attention to your physical form…” The soothing voice of the instructor gently called out over the background music. “Feel your body pressing into the surface beneath you, and take note of any areas of tension or discomfort…”
“I’m well aware of my injuries you dumb bit-” Nika grumbled before Chiyo psychically reminded her to be quiet during the meditation.
“Do not try to change anything with these sensations, merely observe them…” Relax Sephy…
Chiyo quietly told the Skritta, who was slightly fidgeting. Try not to overthink it!
“Now return your attention to your breathing, noticing all the sensations as you inhale, then gently exhale…” The voice continued. They did so, though by the sounds some of them were making they were overdoing it.
“As you continue to breath, bring yourself mentally to your peaceful place. This could be any location that brings you a sense of tranquillity and relaxation. Now imagine yourself in this place, surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells that make it special to you…”
Jack’s mind brought forth an image of home. His mother, his father, his brothers, his sister, his grandparents all surrounding him. He was safe, he was with his family. He had his whole life ahead of him…
And it had all been taken away from him.
Jack squirmed involuntarily as his mind was dragged back to a dark place, his grief threatening to overwhelm him again…
“As you bask in this tranquil scene, allow yourself to let go of your worries and concerns that may be weighing on your mind. Imagine them fading away, leaving you at ease…”
All the faces of the people he would never see again stared at him coldly, judgingly. He had committed acts of horror he never thought he would ever have to commit. Even if there was a chance he could return to Earth, could his family even recognise the shell of a person he had become? What would they say?
“When you are ready, take a deep breath, and as you exhale, slowly open your eyes, and reorient yourself with your surroundings. Carry this sense of calm and relaxation with you into the rest of your day…”
As the guided meditation came to an end Jack quickly got to his feet to get a drink.
“Jack, is everything alright?” Alora asked him in alarm.
“All good.” He lied. “My legs are just a bit stiff, and the meditation was a bit hard.”
“Yeah I get what you mean.” Sephy used her wings to help her kick up. “I don’t really understand the whole ‘sit-and-do-nothing’ thing to be honest, it’s like I need to be actually doing something. But hell, I still gave it a go…” Thanks for trying it anyway Sephy!
“So what do we do now?” Nika asked everyone, as Jack returned with some canned drinks for all of them. “Still got a few hours before we probably need to go to bed."
“Nothing exhausting, please. Let’s just watch a movie?” Alora suggested after a few seconds of nobody contributing anything. Perhaps some of our new housemates have a suggestion?
Chiyo asked, looking to Vanya and the two Squa’Kaar, who hadn’t been confident enough to suggest anything as the newest additions to the household.
“I’m only a temporary housemate, I still have my own place.” Vanya smiled softly. But maybe WageMage?”
“That’s a good classic to start with!” Sephy grinned. “Have you seen it before Jack?”
“Can’t say I have, the Temple of Hope didn’t really have movie nights.” Jack reminded her with a smile. “What’s it about?”
“It’s basically a comedy film about an office worker that uses magic to get ahead and prank her bosses!” Vanya told him. “But you really need to watch it!”
“I’ll get some snacks.” Alora called, quickly grabbing a few bags of sweets out of one of the cupboards while the others tried to get comfortable on the sofa. It was large enough for all of them…just about.
“We should probably go furniture shopping at some point.” Sephy pointed out the obvious problem. “Especially if you’re gonna offer refuge for those that need it, Alora.”
“Damn, well, we are gonna hit a few of the rubbish heaps and scrapyards for materials we can use to fix up the shuttle, and anything else that we could use for home improvements.” Nika reasoned. “We even got this sofa from one of them though it was a bitch to drag all the way back here!” At least we have more people that could help now. Maybe even more depending on who joins us.
Chiyo added. Because I remember helping you spend half the day dragging that here, and I swore never to do manual labour ever again!
“Well, perhaps we can find a better way this time.” Alora concluded as she came back with the sweets while everyone sat down, and took a few blankets to warm themselves up with. Jack took one of the ends of the sofa so he wouldn’t be squished between two people this time, and Vanya was quick to sit next to him, even putting an arm around him, which he wasn’t opposed to. The thick, warm brown fur of the Chuna made him feel comfortable, and he subconsciously leaned in and relaxed.
“Ooof!” He grunted, as Sephy sat on his lap, pulling the blanket over them and cuddling up to him. Jack reflexively put his other arm around her to keep her in place, lamenting that he could no longer reach for the bag of sweets until Chiyo telepathically sent one his way.
“Hey Chiyo, could I have one as well?” Sephy cheekily asked the Ilithii. Sure!
Chiyo agreed, sending another sweet floating towards Sephy, before pinging it off her forehead,
“Ow!” Sephy grunted as they started the movie.
Jack appreciated the humour and plot of the movie, with the hapless office worker using magic to explode her boss’s tea, and accidently making her manager believe his wife was cheating on him, only to later discover that she actually was. He could see why this movie was a favourite with the girls, though he didn’t know if it would be well received on earth. Though this film was well written and amusing (despite him not understanding much of the humour), he could imagine it being received as too woke back on Earth. When the plot eventually evolved into the protagonist trying desperately to avoid the investigations of the alien equivalent of ‘HR’, it really ramped up the humour, which had even him chuckling on occasion.
However he was more subdued as the others laughed freely at the shenanigans, his mind going back to the horrible experiences he'd had, and his grief from being separated from his family. Yet all around him, like a beacon of hope was a home full of friends having a good time with him.
Could he get used to this?
Yeah. He thought he could.
Svaartal snarled as his arms ever so slowly pushed the weighted bar up, feeling the burn in his chest and arms as he repeated the motion, over and over, his heart pounding as he pushed himself to lift more weight than he had ever lifted before with his natural strength. Forcing himself beyond his limits, he felt his muscles straining as his breaths became more and more laboured. He knew he was overdoing it, but he didn’t care. He was determined to become stronger, more focused, more powerful. He had Carrow watching over Svaarti, so this gave him the opportunity to really cut loose.
Devil’s Daughter would come for him and Svaarti again. He barely won their previous encounter and it took all he had to stand a chance against the raw power of her spells. Next time he would be better. He had heard the words she spoke to his sister, calling Svaarti a thief, though as far as he was concerned, if his mother looted the Golden Staff during the Demonfire War from the Stygians, it was hers by right of conquest. Not that the Devilspawn would care. If Devil’s Daughter was going to target him, Svaartal had no doubt she would attempt to do so through his sister, so he needed to be ready.
He had been pushing himself harder and harder ever since he first faced Frost to a standstill in that ambush, fully expecting to face him again soon, especially after the Drow of House Mal’Kar recruited him. He had been thoroughly changed by that experience, and he suspected the Outsider was changed by it too. From open hostility towards one another in their first week to caution in the next, it was a strange dance the two of them did.
Something about the Klown attack had changed him even more. For just a moment the two of them had fought side by side for a common cause, and though he did strongly consider it, he didn’t stick with the human. Despite that however, the words Frost told him certainly stuck with him. Help me stop them.
And he did, didn’t he? He stopped to rescue several of the trapped partygoers and had cut them a path to safety, only to then decimate the Klown numbers with his most powerful spells. He had been considered a hero of the battle, alongside Frost himself and the dragon-bitch that officially kicked him out of the Red Legion. In a strange way, it felt…gratifying? ‘Though the greatest hero that night may not recover from her sacrifice…’ Svaartal thought to himself sadly. Why, Svaarti?’
He got up from the bench and slowly slunk over to the tension cable, cranking up the weight as high as he dared. Taking a deep breath he grabbed the handle with both hands and pulled, yanking the cable over his shoulder before releasing, then doing the same exercise over his other shoulder.
His memories of his fight with Devil’s Daughter came back to him, though he cursed not having a recording so he could better recall. Many of his actions had been instinctual, so much so that he could barely remember what he even did in several instants. He was fortunate that he kept a versatile array of spells prepared and ready for use in any situation, though it was his blade and quick thinking with his illusion and spacial magic that allowed him to slip through the Stygian’s defences.
But though he focused on the fight, her words still rang out in his mind. ‘Why the hell do you hate my people so much?!’
Dumb question. The Devilspawn killed his mother, and even after the Demonfire War many of their kind went rabid, committing horrific acts on innocent people, just the same as they did when Azazel, Lord of Torment was still alive.
But something about the sheer hurt in Devil’s Daughter’s expression tugged away at the back of his mind, like an itch that wouldn’t go away. Perhaps it was…
He was interrupted by the noise of someone approaching. Letting go of the handle, the cable he was pulling quickly snapped back to ping against the weights as he collapsed to the floor, his body dangerously overheated and his breath coming in ragged gasps. He quickly activated the enchantment of his Riverspray Ring, sending out a cloud of cooling mist that instantly made him feel slightly better.
“Good evening, Dextra.” Svaartal greeted the drow politely as he slinked over to where he had left a towel.
“Hey.” She replied, before something caught her eye and she pointed to his bare back. “What happened there?”
“What do you mean?” Svaartal stiffened at the sensitive question, having an idea what Dextra was referring to.
“By the gods…” She muttered. “Your scales are cracked and fucked up, and you’ve got a lot of scars, how?”
“I am aware that my scales need grooming.” Svaartal replied tersely, trying to be patient with the inquisitive drow despite the sensitive subject. “However I did not have anyone to teach me how to do it growing up. If it displeases you I will attempt to rectify the issue…”
“I’m not my sister, so you can shut up.” Dextra snorted. “You’ve got a fuckton of scars too, that can’t be good for you…”
“It is not.” Svaartal growled in anger before he quickly steadied himself, realising he was talking to a Drow Noble. “My apologies Lady Mal’Kar, what did you wish from me?”
Dextra snorted at the sudden formality, but she paid it no mind as she showed him her commlink. Displayed was a NetTube video from a channel by the name of ‘DevilLover69’.
“What is this?” Svaartal asked, confused.
“You might find this kinda funny!” She grinned, and played the video, the thumbnail of which displayed a medium sized, overweight looking being with pinkish-brown fur, a long cone-like trunk, huge grey bulbous eyes and thin, spindly arms.
“Ahem, attention everyone! Listen up, for I have a message for all of you! Recently, I have heard rumours that somebody out there has apparently defeated my beloved waifu, Devil’s Daughter, in combat! Let me tell you, that is something that will not go unpunished! I have spent countless hours defending her honour online, but now I have heard the call, and The Supreme Gentleman will step up and avenge her!”
“I’ve been training hard all this time, inspired by the queen herself! I’ve watched all of her fights, and I’ve practised martial arts on my Devil’s Daughter body pillow! So I hope the killer is watching, because I’m ready, and I’m coming for you! And I promise you, when I defeat you, you will wish you had never been born! I’ll see you on the streets, punk!”
“Pretty funny right?” Dextra asked, as Svaartal gave a slight grin.
“I really hope that’s not a troll!” he chuckled.
“Well if The Supreme Gentleman is legit and if he comes for you, it’ll give the others a good laugh.” Dextra giggled. “And…um…I could try and help you with the scales if you want? The datanet should have some videos and I could do your back if you want?”
Svaartal considered it for a moment, knowing where this would likely end up. He had not been requested by Izadora tonight, who seemed to be particularly busy with House Mal’Kar business, and they had never been anything more than casual so he had the freedom to do as he wished.
“I don’t see why not.” The Nirah shrugged, as he followed the bubbly drow to her chambers.
“He’s her son.” Grandmaster Ilvella told her with a sad look on closing the door to his quarters. “I knew it the moment I saw him, though I couldn’t believe it.”
“What?” Nya exclaimed, having broken protocol and immediately followed her master to talk, with Rena trying to stop her. “Not a chance! There’s no way! They’re nothing alike! He’s evil, he can’t be!”
“I knew Svaarvali for a long time.” the Grandmaster sighed, drained from sharing his painful memory. “Even if he didn’t resemble her physically, there were subtle things I saw in just those few moments meeting him that could only have been from one of her line.”
“Are you certain he is not a different relation to the Saviour, Master?” Rena asked stoically.
“I am certain.” The Grandmaster nodded, closing his eyes. “But irrespective of how I may feel on the matter I will not sacrifice everything we have built for sentiment. Our plans do not change.”
“What are your orders, Master?” Nya tentatively asked.
“Do not engage this…Svaartal under any circumstances, unless in self-defence, and maintain your civilian cover.” He strictly told them both. “He will no doubt expect Devil’s Daughter to retaliate soon if she is able, so we will be patient and wait. I have not seen this Svaarti you are familiar with, but it seems like she may be more receptive than her brother if she is able to recover. If she does, continue to be her friend and get closer to her.”
His gaze then returned to the steely look Nya was used to from her master.
“However, Devil’s Daughter must be sighted soon, unharmed and doing something good to restore the people’s faith. A few days of inactivity will be expected before you must return, and with luck we can completely obscure the truth of your defeat as mere rumours.”
“I don’t think Head Whisperer Ratai has anything recent, save for the possible signs of the latest Killer Klown attack.” Nya reasoned. “And Scholar Volus is still deciphering what was discovered at the Pallid Pit, though Jack and his group have not relinquished the Gloom Cauldron they discovered as far as I am aware, which had ties to the ritual room, and which they’re theorising might have worked as some kind of beacon, though for what I have no idea.”
“I am sure we will find something.” Ilvella concluded. “Perhaps you and Rena can discover something in your civilian lives? The Outsider for one certainly seems to be a good source of trouble. Regardless, you two are dismissed. Heal up and rest early. You have school tomorrow.”
With that, Nya and Rena took their leave.
“This is…” Rena began.
“Impossible.” Nya snapped. “I refuse to believe it.”
“Nya…” Rena gently called to her, understanding the Stygian’s pain.
No, Rena.” Nya snarled, causing the usually stoic Vulsta to take a step back in shock. This wasn’t like her friend at all. “I should have killed him when I had the chance during our fight, and now I learn he’s related to the Saviour? Her son?!”
“You have another chance in the future.” Rena pointed out. “And you can lay the groundwork for that by preparing and training. Taking a loss like that is difficult, but it can be a blessing if you learn from it.”
Nya looked at her friend conflicted, and Rena was glad that the stone corridor of the monastery was deserted.
“Yes.” Nya sighed as she let go of her anger and returned to her normal self. “You’re right. I’ve taken losses before and I’ve come out stronger. I even faced the Killer Klown himself and sent him fleeing, so the problem isn’t necessarily my abilities, but my mind.”
Rena nodded calmly, seeing that Nya was pulling herself up. “And what is your next move?”
“The Grandmaster is right that I need to make a quick reappearance as Devil’s Daughter.” Nya began, sounding more like her usual self. “The Cult of the Destroyer would be an obvious target but the ones at the Pallid Pit were wiped out when my friends decided to go there for some reason, though at least we were able to kill the Stygian masquerading as me and tarnishing our people’s reputation."
“As a civilian I am already friends with Svaarti.” Nya then reasoned. “And unlike her brother, I can actually believe her being related to the Saviour. I can only hope that she wakes and recovers from her arcane backlash. I did talk to her in astral form, so I have faith.”
“So what will you do now?” Rena prompted. The coolly composed Vulsta still expected an answer to her previous question as Nya closed her eyes to think.
“The Whisperers might have something for me.” She decided. “Though there was clearly nothing worthy of Grandmaster Ilvella’s attention, maybe they have something smaller or less reliable I can use to at least been seen by the public.”
“That would be wise.” Rena agreed. “You still need to heal.”
The Chamber of Whispers was set on the ground floor of the monastery, hidden away and far from the entrance or anything else. Following the subtly different pattern of dim lights, the two quickly made their way to the hidden underground bunker that served as their resident spy headquarters.
“BWAH! I knew you’d be up and ready for more work in no time!” A jovial voice called out before they had a chance to knock on the doors. “Hello to you too, Rena!”
“My footsteps were silent…” Rena muttered as they entered the room.
Upon entering, the first thing that struck Nya’s attention was the sheer number of lights illuminating the chamber, bathing the entire room in powerful brightness, and allowing for no shadows to form in heavy contrast to the route they took to get here. Then she focused on the huge table in the middle, with a large map projection of Naganai City, complete with many extensive annotations on several notable districts, and with one of the Whisperers compiling a report on the Pallid Pit.
The walls of the room were lined with the blue glow of several monitors, either displaying popular all-day news outlets or with investigation boards on notable personages. In one of the side rooms Nya could see one of the monks at a console talking away on a headset, likely tapping into the community’s small network of contacts in the city from the safety of their remote system.
“Nya!” Head Whisperer Ratai grinned as the chubby Stygian waltzed over and gave her a gentle bear hug that still lifted her off her feet. “I’m glad you’re back! We’ve got news but it’s not urgent, so you should probably rest…”
Ratai gave her a knowing wink.
“What’s new Ratai?” Nya smiled, used to acting familiar around the man despite his high position.
“HAH!” The Stygian chuckled. “We mostly have reports of the post-klown cleanup, but a few players have already made their moves. Nothing too big but interestingly I’ve received a reliable rumour that our Outsider friend decided that massacring the klowns wasn’t enough for him and was involved in liberating a thinly populated swamp district."
“He’s claiming it as territory?” Rena asked, suddenly alert. “He may be more of a threat than I had initially warned…”
“No, no.” Ratai’s grin got wider. “Nobody seems to have claimed the land, but interestingly enough Clan Ashtail seems to have rehomed the vast majority of the population, and they seem to be sincere in allowing them to rebuild and recover in their newly annexed territory.”
“Do you consider Clan Ashtail a threat?” Nya asked.
“Of course!” Ratai snorted in amusement. “Vetch Ashtail was the one who all but hinted at the damnable rumour in his last correspondence to me, the smug bastard! His clan plays the game well, but there are many other more nefarious groups that will attempt to take advantage of the chaos. I'm particularly concerned about what Corvin Enterprises will try to do, but if they are planning on making a play, which I am almost positive that they are, then they are being very subtle about it.”
“Anything immediate?” Nya asked.
“That admirer of yours was quick to post a new video!” Ratai teased, causing Nya to bury her face in her hands in embarrassment.
“Don’t remind me.” She groaned. “That guy is pure cringe and you need to stop mentioning him to me!”
“Hah! Well I haven’t gotten much within the city itself, but we’ve found a series of accounts online about gangs trying to run protection rackets and establish themselves as local powers. Maybe you can crush a few of the weaker ones to make an appearance as you recover to full strength?”
“Nya will still need some time to recover.” Rena cautioned. “But if we approach this like any other mission and I act from the shadows, it will be fine.”
“Excellent, I shall begin my delving and let you know.” Ratai smiled. “In the meantime, you kids should go to bed!”
“I wish I didn’t have to.” Nya sighed.
“I didn’t exactly have much of a weekend.”
And with that, the weekend is over for our....heroes?
If you're impatient for the next chapter, why not check out my previous series?
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2023.06.01 21:00 yellowumbrella Best Leg Workouts for Men - Leg Strengthening Exercises
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There are a few immutable rules that govern the workout world: Monday is International Chest Day, don't ever curl in the squat rack, and you should never. Skip. Leg Day.
Okay, not everyone at the gym follows these commandments-and that's fine. They shouldn't! Maintaining a healthy, productive strength training routine takes more than just pledging a meathead's devotion to unwritten decrees from some Schwarzeneggian deity. But that last rule is one that you should actually follow, at least in spirit. Unlike the bro reasoning of the first two guidelines, your lower body should never be ignored when it comes to your exercise routine. Give those glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and other leg muscles as much love as you can handle. After all, your whole body will benefit from training legs. Since you'll often be pushing some of the biggest muscle groups in your body with multi-joint movements, you'll be getting your core involved, too-and your upper body often has to actually secure the load. Moving big weights and putting major strain on your body takes gets the metabolism going, too, so you'll be set up to torch calories and burn through fat.
But you don't need to stay restricted to the squat rack on leg day, or even to big barbell movements, for that matter. While those types of exercises are absolutely effective, there's more to lower body training than just hitting the heavy weights. For balanced programming, you should be mixing up implements, switching up your planes of motion, and yes, even sprinkling in some isolation exercises from time to time. Really, your leg training is only as limited as your imagination.
Here are some of our favorite leg exercises you can use to build a stronger, healthier lower body. Sure, there are other variations of this exercise out there (more on that shortly)-but when you say the word "squat" to just about any lifter, they're probably going to assume you're talking about this one. The back squat is a classic for a reason: there are few better, simpler ways to train the major muscle groups of your legs. The exercise is also an entry point to other variations, so it helps to get the OG form down pat.
As we previously stated, there are an endless variety of barbell squat variations. Few, if any, will give you more bang for your buck than the front squat. The front-loaded nature of the move is going to push you to develop shoulder, ankle and hip mobility, and here's the best part of all: Your entire core has to be firing the entire time to protect your spine and make the move possible. It's an ab workout wrapped in a leg workout. Not far behind the front squat is the classic bodyweight squat. This is a great leg move that can go anywhere with you, and it's trickier than you may think. Most people make the mistake of thinking squatting is about your knees and don't sit back as much as they should. Learn to sit back and you'll attack your glutes and hamstrings more. Bodyweight squats level up more than you think, too: Add a pause or pulse in somewhere, and you're creating challenge without necessarily adding weight.
Consider this the king of all posterior chain-focused exercises, and a great way to pack muscle onto your entire body. Whether you're doing it sumo style, conventionally, or with a trap bar (a underrated deadlifting method and one of the best ways to do it), you'll be hammering your core, training your back and your forearms more than you think, and, most importantly, you'll be challenging your hamstrings and glutes with serious load. This is destined to be your strongest lift in the gym. First off, it's fun to swing a weight around. Secondly, when you do it with a good-form kettlebell swing, you're hammering your core, driving your heart rate through the roof -- and piling size, strength, and power into your hamstrings and glutes. A well-done kettlebell swing builds serious lower-body explosiveness, and the oomph you get from it translates beyond the weight room, too, adding to your vertical leap, broad jump, and other more athletic moves. This one's a must-have in your leg day library.
That's right: We're not falling in love with the stationary lunge too early. The walking variation is superior due to the fact that the trail leg can "step through" to the next rep. That trains the glutes more effectively and keeps the lift more dynamic in nature. On top of this, the knees take less stress forces due to less need to constantly start and stop or change direction. Start by learning basic lunge mechanics, which you can do right here.
Consider this move your ultimate squat tutor. If you're struggling to achieve good squat depth or keep your torso in the proper upright position, doing goblet squats is a perfect way to solve those issues. You'll learn good mechanics, and start to understand your ideal body position for a squat. One more secret, too: Holding that heavy weight high in a goblet squat will fire up your core a ton too.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Few exercises build leg strength while simultaneously challenge your balance and your leg mobility as much as Bulgarian split squats. Elevating your rear foot onto a box or bench instantly creates a challenging stretch for your quads and hip flexors on your back leg, and it places more of a balance challenge on both your front leg and your hips. It's a great way to build mobility toward a deeper squat. Overall, you'll smoke your quads and glutes while also sparing yourself unwanted back pain. Sure, you want to ostracize this movement as being "not functional enough", consider the tremendous benefits. First, it's a great way to hit the quads with plenty more isolation than most squat variations can deliver. More importantly, it's a joint-saving lift for lifters with their share of battle scars (think back, hip, and knee issues. Should the leg press be the backbone of your workout? Should you load it up with titanic amounts of weight and ego-lift? No. But don't run away from the machine, either.
This is a prime hamstring builder, using free weights that you can really load up. It's as simple as that. Perhaps the best part of the Romanian deadlift is how it prioritizes a controlled negative (or eccentric) contraction, a changeup from most leg moves (and exercises in general sometimes), which push you to focus only on lifting the weight and never challenge you as you lower the same weight. Your hamstrings deserve love too, and this exercise will give it to them. You'll also give your glutes some attention, too. They key here is bracing with your core, owning your hip hinge, and keeping your back from rounding. Make sure that you work your way up with the load-think about pushing your butt back, rather than folding at the hips.
Lunging backwards rather than forwards stabilizes the front knee. You also get to focus on the all-important posterior chain, which includes your glutes and hamstrings, instead of relying so much on your quads and hips. But a reverse lunge gets even more intense once you add a deficit by standing oni a plate or a slight platform. Now, you're leading leg and glute work even harder to drive back onto the box, but it still all happens in a safe way. This is a great way to bear plenty of load to challenge the glutes and hamstrings, without having to fear excessive low back or spinal stress. Since the force angle is horizontal and not vertical relative to the body, this is a tool for both healthy lifters, and those on the mend from a back flare-up. Even better, you can do hip thrusts more frequently than some other leg exercises, since your upper body doesn't have to bear as much strain. This one's a glute-developing go-to.
Think of the glute bridge as a variation on the hip thrust that requires only a load (think barbell or resistance band) and floor space. You're hitting the glutes from a slightly different angle compared to hip thrusts, and involves a shorter range of motion that's even more isolated to the glutes. Plus you don't have to fidget around with a bench to find the best position. If you're struggling to learn hip thrusts, step down to this and enjoy it. Bonus: You can do it anywhere, even in your living room if you're just using bodyweight. One of the king hamstring developers, take advantage of this piece of equipment if it happens to be in your gym. Your hamstrings have two key roles: They bend your knees, and they also help extend your hips (essentially aligning hips and torso). Your hamstrings have to focus on both things during glute-hamstring raises. Perhaps the best part: This one only requires bodyweight to drive your hamstrings to bionic levels.
Also known as the "natural" glute hamstring raise, this is a fair alternative when in a poorly equipped gym. The secret comes in the negative rep. Accentuating the eccentric by lowering yourself as slowly as possible to the ground taps into the strongest muscle fibers your hamstrings possess, and won't fail to improve their strength. Not only is this great for leg development, but it's even better for injury prevention; eccentric hamstring strength is key in decelerating the body. The classic step up, when actually done with good form, is a hidden weapon for knee health, hip and glute strengthening, and unilateral stability. The key is stepping up with good form, keeping your glutes tight, and your knees turned out, not in. Do so, and you're blending strength, flexibility, and balance into one move -- and a worthwhile move no matter whether you're a bodybuilder, CrossFitter, or general strength enthusiast.
If you want to be an athlete, you have to be strong not only when operating on two legs but also when operating on one. And few leg exercises will challenge you on one leg quite like the single-leg deadlift. You'll hone balance, and coordination on this one, and you'll build more core strength than you think as you work to stay in balance and keep your hips square on every single rep.
When is a sprint not merely a sprint? When you're trying to sprint uphill. Whether you're doing that on a treadmill or on an actual hill, you'll be hammering your glutes and quads, and you'll naturally be honing better sprint form, simply because of the challenge of the angle of the hill. Make sure you sprint for no more than 20 seconds at a time, though (with solid rest in between). Go much longer than that, and you're basically just running uphill instead of actually sprinting.
More and more gyms have sleds and performance turf inside; if yours does, you should take advantage. But that doesn't just mean pushing and pulling the sled. Attach some bands to the sled for support, lean against it, and push it in reverse. You'll be forced to extend aggressively at the knees, a key function of your quads. Expect major quad burn.
2023.06.01 21:00 The_Fallen_1 [THJVerse] Arcane Starfarers - ep 38 - Closing shop
“So, how’s everyone at home been?” Milla asked Celenamartra as she began to stretch her legs out, preparing to stand up.
“I’d be lying if I said they weren’t worried after they heard what happened to the Ridgerider, and then that you were being sent out of UPC space,” the Goddess admitted.
“I thought so. They’re ok though, right?”
“Yes, though your parents are eager to see you as soon as possible.”
“Hopefully I’ll be home before too long. We just need to get the Langan settled in, and then they should at least put the Ridgerider’s crew on leave.”
“Don’t spread this around as it’s not official yet, but the whole crew of the ship will be going on leave so those that wish to partake in first contact celebrations can do so.”
“That’s good then,” Milla replied, cautiously standing up, using the bed frame to balance herself for a moment, before turning to Hannah’rah and Daniel. “Hey, I imagine you’re going to celebrate with your friends, mind if I tag along?”
“Sure, but one of your little brothers will be there as well,” Hannah’rah warned her.
“Xailin isn’t so bad that he requires a warning,” Milla chuckled.
“It’s good to see you’re already mostly recovered, Milla,” Celenamartra told her, turning her attention to Daniel. “May I speak to you in private for a moment, please?”
“Uh, sure…” Daniel replied, following the Goddess to the other side of the room, finding that the sound around them became muffled as Milla and Hannah’rah conversed on the other side of the room.
“I’m sure you have many questions about the past few weeks, and I feel like answering a few,” the Goddess explained. “Not everything, there are some things I don’t wish to talk about, and others that I am not allowed to at the request of others, but feel free to ask away.”
“Uhh…” he mumbled.
“It’s alright, take a moment to think.”
Daniel’s mind began to frantically process what was going on, realising he had a fully private audience with a Deity; a being far beyond his comprehension, who had near infinite knowledge and wisdom, and she was willing to take questions from him. His mind ground to a halt as it tried to make sense of what was happening in the moment, as his mind still hadn’t fully processed the fact that she requested him by name to follow her into the room, let alone the current situation. All he could think about was Deities, and a single question he had been wondering for a while stuck in his mind.
“Ordos. Who is he, and can I trust him?” Daniel asked.
“I don’t wish to reveal his identity; that is for him to do. I will say that he can be trusted as much as any Deity. He follows the Divine Contract, just like the rest of us. You shouldn’t worry about being aligned with him any more than any other Deity.”
“Ok, but if Ordos isn’t known to anyone else, then other Deities could exist…. How many Deities are there really?”
“At least seven,” the Goddess replied, the corners of her mouth forming a faint smirk.
“I see…” he mumbled, realising she wasn’t going to give him clear answers given the chance. “... Did we leave any living Langan behind?”
“No, you rescued all the survivors,” she confirmed.
“That’s good to hear,” Daniel replied, feeling a weight on his mind lifting that he wasn’t aware of. “The attack on the Ridgerider, what really happened?”
“You have the report with all the details available to you.”
“Well, why did Haemish defect then? It’s not like he was raised in that environment.”
“Not everyone likes the UPC or us Deities being around, and they sometimes act irrationally, thinking that fighting is the only way, when leaving the UPC an is an option, and us Deities will respect anyone’s wishes for us to not intervene in their lives. Sometimes it’s as simple as they were raised under an older Human religion that doesn’t allow for the existence of us Deities, and they feel their way of life is threatened by us.”
“If they were to leave, where would they go when all the planets and stations are part of the UPC?”
“It’s not hard to get the necessary equipment to terraform a good candidate over the course of a few years at this point, especially as part of a larger group, and the UPC has said that they will recognise any group that does this as independent. But that’s not what happened here. He came into contact with a group of people that had no qualms with doing unspeakable acts because they can, and he joined them because he also felt that it was fine to commit such atrocities to get his way, even if the safer paths were easier and more likely to be successful. That’s just the way some people are.”
“Thank you for being honest with me.”
“Honest? Well, I didn’t lie, but I didn’t answer half your questions either,” she chuckled.
“Well, thank you for answering those questions.”
“No problem. I’m just surprised you didn’t ask about the other thing,” she replied, tapping the hidden compartment in his arm with the tip of her tail before walking back towards Milla and Hannah’rah.
He furrowed his brow as he tried to work out what she was hinting at, almost kicking himself when he overcame his mental block and remembered exactly what was hidden there, and that he had potentially just missed his only chance to gain some much needed information. He almost called back out, but he didn’t dare bring it up in front of anyone else, even if he felt like he could trust Hannah’rah and Milla more than most people, nor would he want them getting involved if he did. He knew it was his mess to deal with, and no-one else’s.
"How are you feeling now, Milla?" the Goddess asked.
"Better, thank you, though I won't be jumping the ship anywhere for a while," she admitted.
"That's not a problem. It shouldn't be necessary for the time being. Let's carry on with the task at hand, shall we?"
Daniel sat at his console, watching the large station dominate more and more of his view as the ship drew closer to the large torus that housed the docking beams to the Langan's temporary home, with the large central spire blocking out the light of the system's star from their angle. He fought the urge to look back at Celenamartra and Oprin, who were engaged in deep conversation about philosophy and religion, the former more eager, and the latter still put off by the dominating presence the Goddess exuded. He did glance back at Milla however, and while she was obviously uncomfortable, she sat in her seat, ready for her duty, but desperately hoping a portal wasn’t needed anytime soon.
The Trailmaker slipped through the small fleet acting as a defensive force, ready in case one of the few civilian ships that had arrived in the system entered the broadcast restricted perimeter. It did afford the crew a sense of ease however, as while they still had jobs to do, it meant that they didn’t always have to be almost combat ready for the first time in about a month. The ship continued onwards, sliding into an open docking arm’s grasp, sending reverberations down the length of the ship as it clamped down onto various sections, and attached docking ports to the ship's airlocks.
“And there we have it,” Captain Harris announced as a silent but collective sigh of relief washed over the bridge. “We’re officially docked with the recently named ‘Olinath Orbital’, and our mission is now officially complete. Operations will take over from here, so wrap up your business, and those of you not involved with the next tasks, go get some well earned rest. Inform your teams that access to the station is available upon request, and we now have an active uplink to the internet if they wish to use it.”
Daniel began to close most of the running programs on his console to make sure none of them got in the way if anyone came along to perform maintenance, and then logged himself out. As he stood up, Hannah’rah did the same, and they began to leave the bridge, checking if Milla was leaving as well, but she remained where she was, seemingly waiting for the Goddess to conclude her conversation, and waved to Daniel and Hannah’rah to go on their way. They both headed to their team rooms, splitting up as they reached the server room, which Daniel headed inside, pleased to find all four members of his team, though Corporal Kreklan was half asleep and Corporal Seling’ten looked like he had only just woken up.
“Hey all,” Daniel began. “Just a quick one. We’ve finally docked. Station access is under light restriction, so make a proper request if you want to go aboard. It should get approved if nothing is going on at the time. Bridge duties are over until the time comes for us to undock, and internet access has been established. You’re all free to use it, but we just need to keep an eye on the monitoring tools. Operations should be the first port of call for any issues, but anything severe will likely fall to us. That’s all I have to say. Any questions?”
“Thank you, Sir,” Sergeant Zent replied. “... I don’t think we do.”
“Good. Take things easy now. Also, Corporal Kreklan, Corporal Seling’ten, is there any reason why you’re both up?” Daniel asked.
“We both got pulled out of bed. ‘No one slacks off while we have a Deity on board,’” Corporal Kreklan replied, his voice slightly slurred. “So we’re waiting in here until the Goddess departs.”
“Who said that?” Daniel asked.
“Just some Sergeant that sleeps in the same room as us,” the Centaur explained. “Don’t know their name.”
“Ok, I’m ordering you both to rest until your next shift starts. If he gives you shit, send him to me. I’ll be right here for a few more hours. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir,” they both replied, faintly smiling as they left.
Daniel shook his head and sat down at his desk, bringing up a half-complete report he'd been working on. He continued on from the section on system performance, finishing it with a recommendation for someone to look into installing a background radiation filtering tool, as one really should have been added for sake of convenience, even if there was a risk of a faint signal being lost. He also made sure he mentioned the signal spike before departure, recommending that the EM sensors be checked out, and the signal analysed, just in case. He then began to write up about the performance of his subordinates, making sure to credit the actions he had noticed or been made aware of, though pointed out that due to his time on the Langan's home world, he had not been around constantly to properly monitor the team for a short period of time, mentioning how Sergeant Zent had stepped up instead.
Daniel's attention was pulled away by someone knocking on the server room's door, and he began to wonder if the two Corporals had returned, or if he was about to set someone straight.
"Enter," Daniel called out.
A large Human man entered the room, who quickly stood to attention when he saw Daniel.
"... Well, why are you here, Sergeant?" Daniel asked, standing to his feet noticing the rank on the man's slides.
"Sir, I came to you to report that two of your Corporals are slacking off, Sir," the Sergeant replied, wearing a very faint smug grin.
"What do you mean, 'slacking off?'"
"They're sleeping in the middle of the day, Sir."
"Do you sleep in the same room as them, Sergeant?" Daniel asked calmly.
"Then why the fuck haven't you noticed they're late shifts!?" Daniel shouted. "They've been doing this for a month! Did you not see them sleeping when you finished for the day, or got up in the morning!?"
"Yes, Sir," the Sergeant responded, losing his faint smirk immediately.
"So why do you think now is any different to then!?"
"Because we have a Deity on board, Sir."
"There are no rules or regulations stating everyone must be awake and working 24/7, and I can personally assure you that Celenamartra doesn't care if they're awake or not. In fact, I think she'd prefer it if they were asleep, as that way our ship's security is at less risk of being compromised by half-asleep crew!"
"But, Sir, isn't it disrespectful?" the Sergeant tried to argue. "Everyone should be at full alert."
"What's your job, Sergeant?"
"I asked, what's your job?"
"I work in engineering, Sir."
"If you're meant to be at full alert, why are you in the crew quarters and not engineering?"
The Sergeant opened his mouth, but no words came out, so he closed it again.
"I don't know, Sir."
"You don't know? Then why are you harassing people who do know why they're where they are!? … Apologise to the people you disturbed if they're awake, but leave them alone if they aren't, and apologise later instead. I will be asking them to see if you have done so."
"Yes, Sir," the Sergeant replied, turning to leave.
"You are not dismissed, get back here."
The Sergeant turned back around to face Daniel, regret clear on his face.
"If you have done the same to the members of other teams, I suggest you apologise to them and their superior officers very quickly before they blow up on you as well."
"Yes, Sir. I will do that, Sir," the Sergeant promised.
"Good. Dismissed," Daniel told the Sergeant, watching him leave.
"... Remind me not to give bad orders to anyone under you, Sir," Sergeant Zent commented.
"Eh, you'll probably be fine. You aren't terminally stupid after all," Daniel chuckled, sitting back down.
"Why did you go so hard on him?" Sergeant Zent asked. "Yeah, he was wrong, but he was trying to do the right thing."
"Don't reward dumb, even when it comes from a good place, else people will never learn to think and do things right. Also, us techs get pushed around a lot. I'm just making it clear we shouldn't be. I advise you to do that as well if you're in a position like that. The last thing you want is people walking all over you and the people that depend on you."
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2023.06.01 20:39 xtremexavier15 TSWT 26 (pt 1)
Boys: Ezekiel, Mal
Episode 26: Hawaiian Punch
"Previously, on Total Drama World Tour!" Chris said, the first clip of the recap showing a pan from the wrecked plane to Izzy, Mal, and the host himself. "The Final Three took off like bats out of Drumheller," Chris continued as Mal was shown ducking behind a rock with a smirk, Izzy and Topher took off into the air in a makeshift hot air balloon, and Ezekiel was reading a newspaper in the train's passenger car.
"Unfortunately, Izzy brought Topher the plane-wrecker along for the ride," Chris added as the two teens were shown flying into the hailstorm. "Even more unfortunate? A broken yeti heart." Mal was shown being disgusted by the yeti kissing him.
"Thankfully, Ezekiel Clone made things less crappy to watch," the host conceded as Ezekiel Clone was shown chasing Ezekiel around the dessert cart. "Good times!" the host added as Ezekiel's boat hit a naval mine and were blown into the air.
"In the end, Mal the Mayhem King reached Hawaii first," he said as Mal's triumphant arrival on the beach was shown. "And Captain Canada and Princess Destructo tied for second place," he added as Ezekiel's boat was shown crashing into Izzy's, sending both finalists and Topher flying onto the beach at the same time. Chris laughed as the Final Three reacted with shock at the tie.
"Who will Mal face in the final challenge?" Chris asked, the recap ending with a flash to the beach, where the Final Three were lined up behind him. "And who will go home with a million dollars?!" he exclaimed in a dramatic emcee's voice. "Iiiiiit's finale time! Right here, on Total! Drama! World Tour!"
"Welcome to the live finale of Total Drama World Tour," Chris said, a triumphant tune already playing as the camera zoomed in on him, the finalists, and Dawn and Harold standing on the beach. "Moments ago, these guys tied for second in a boat sandwich," he said, the shot zooming in on the finalists before he stepped over to join them. "Tasty!" he added.
"During the break, we sent them to vent in the confessional. Check it!" Chris told the camera.
Izzy was first, and the new Hawaiian confessional seemed to be a roofless wooden outhouse set up somewhere in the jungle, based on the vines that were drooping into it.
"Finale time!!! I can't wait to purchase my very own race track and monster truck!" she cheered. "Granted, I tied with Ezekiel to the finish line, but I think I can handle him."
She paused for a moment. "It's Mal that's the most challenging. He shouldn't be in juvenile detention. That guy belongs in jail!"
Ezekiel's confessional started with a whoop of joy. "I can't believe how close I am to the million dollars! With that amount of money, I can hire more teachers to homeschool me and buy new and advanced books to study from."
He facepalmed his head. "I just have to beat Izzy and Mal in order to reach that goal."
Mal was next. "Getting rid of the fifteen past losers was like scraping gum off my shoe. A bit sticky, but oh so satisfying! And with Mike trapped in my subconscious, that million dollars is mine!"
He delved into maniacal laughter once more, with the background fading into a fiery inferno before the shot zoomed into his subconscious again.
Mike, Manitoba Smith, Vito, Svetlana, and Chester have reached the top, panting in exhaustion from the stairs they had climbed.
Mike, who still had Chester on his back, walked over to a red button in the center of the room. "Oh, come on. We came all the way up here for a lousy button?" Mike complained.
"It's a destruction button, you ninny!" Chester stated.
"What? What does it do?" Svetlana asked.
"You see this tower here?" Chester started. "You press this button, and the tower goes kaboom!"
"Why would Mal have a self-destruct button?" Vito asked incredulously.
"Mal made this tower and since his head is all swelled up, he put this button there just to mock us for not being able to stand up to him," Manitoba deduced.
"But what if it hurts all of us?" Mike asked in concern.
"It's not going to kill us. That's not how DID works!" Chester moaned. "Mal will lose control of his body when his tower is destroyed."
"And after that, Mike and Mal will have to go one-on-one to see who'll claim control!" Svetlana realized.
"Hold up. I have to fight Mal?" Mike said in shock.
"You two are the most dominant out of us," Vito reasoned. "If me or anyone else tried to face him, we'd lose immediately."
"And if Mal defeats you, we'll be back to being under his control, and so will you, for the rest of your life!" Manitoba emphasized.
"That means I won't see my family or friends ever again," Mike gasped. "I have to do this!"
"Go Team Ezekiel!" Sadie cheered, drawing attention to the stands just off to the side where most of the rest of the cast were seated. "Your team is rooting for you!" she said, waving a small flag with the home-schooled guy's face on it.
"Why are they in teams?" Mal asked Chris, stepping towards him and shooting a skeptical look towards the gallery. "And why do I not have one?"
"The Peanut Gallery's playing a major role in choosing a winner," Chris explained, earning a cheer from those in the stand.
"Sweet," Duncan grinned. "I guess we're all voting on the winner again."
"A vote?" Mal said blankly and nervously.
"Yep. If you can't tell, you're done for," Noah smirked.
"We are here for you Izzy!" Owen said. "So show them you're the boss!"
"But first," Chris said as the music turned tense, "we gotta break a tie. Mal," he turned to the evil personality, "you won the race to Hawaii, so, your reward is this advantage: you can select the tiebreaker yourself, or you can let Izzy or Ezekiel do it."
"Like I'd give these short sacks a choice," Mal said with a chuckle. "I'll do it!"
"I was hoping you'd say that," Chris said with an ominous laugh that caused Mal to raise an eyebrow.
"Ta-da!" Chris said as the footage skipped forward to a close-up of a clear glass booth with some sort of yellowish bulb filled with small balls on top. "Each ball inside our challenge booth has a different tiebreaker written on it," he said, gesturing to the bulb as the shot pulled back to show the Final Three on the left and the Aftermath hosts behind the booth on the right. "So, take your pick!"
"This is going to be such a thrill," Mal said cynically before walking into the booth.
The door was closed and the machine whirred to a start, challenge music playing as Mal was pelted with the white golf balls of the challenge booth. "Are these golf balls?!" Mal yelled, wincing with every hit and causing the Peanut Gallery to laugh.
"I know for a fact that we only put ping pong balls in there," Harold said nervously, Dawn nodding in agreement.
"I know," Chris told them, "and I'm not mad. Just disappointed. I had to dial it up to meet my usual high standards!"
"Enough!" Mal said, still wincing with every hit. "This should stop right-" he said, tilting his head up as he tried to reach for the bottom of the bulb – the source of the balls. He was cut off abruptly, and suddenly put a hand to his throat. His eyes starting to bulge, he barged his way out of the booth and began to gag.
"No ball, no exit," Chris told him. "Back you go!"
Mal stayed put, grabbing his throat as he coughed and choked about. Eventually, he spat up a ball, and it landed in a small pool of spit in the sand.
"Dawn, Harold, go ahead and read that, would you?" Chris asked them.
"Yuck," Dawn winced, crouching down to pick up the spit-covered golf ball in two fingers. "Mal has selected the Traditional Hawaiian Fire Dance of...Death?" she announced, ominous music playing as Ezekiel frowned at the news while Izzy clapped for it.
The same Hawaiian tune that had been used in the past couple of episodes was playing as the footage skipped ahead to Ezekiel and Izzy standing on opposite ends of a wooden platform in the ocean, each dressed in coconut bras and grass skirts and holding padded jousting sticks. Between them was Mal, tied up tightly to a pole in the center of the platform.
"Why does a male warrior have to wear a coconut bra," Ezekiel commented, motioning to the odd piece of equipment.
"Forget about tradition?" Mal griped as the Hawaiian music cut out. "I'm stuck to a pole!"
Those in the gallery laughed. "He's funny when he's tied up and can't hurt me!" Owen laughed.
"Once I win this finale!" Mal countered, "you will all treat me with the utmost respect! I will not be forgotten again!"
"Right," Chris told him, the shot cutting to him and Chef on the beach – the hulking man in a floral-print skirt with a bow in his hand and a quiver of arrows on his back. "The first person to free Mal wins the last spot in the Final Two," Chris announced, "and a shot at the million!"
"I have one more question," Izzy spoke up. "If no one frees him, would that make me and Ezekiel the Final Two?"
"Hey!" Mal said in outrage.
"Won't work, I already checked," Chris answered. "Chef, would you do the honors?" he asked his assistant, the man drawing back two flaming arrows and releasing them with a twang. They struck a darkened patch on either side of the platform, just behind each competitor, which promptly burst into blazing fires that startled Izzy and Ezekiel.
"Oh, and stay out of the water," Chris added. "Starting...," Chef shot off another pair of arrows, these ones tipped with steaks, "now!" The arrows landed in the water where a pair of shark fins were already circling; one rose up and swallowed an arrow just as it plunked into the water.
"Good thing we're out of the game," Ella whispered over to Sadie.
"And rekindled our friendship in the process," Sadie agreed as challenge music began to play.
The gallery began to cheer and holler as the camera zoomed in on the platform, Izzy quickly taking the offense by swiping at Ezekiel with her jousting stick. "Prepare to go down!" she said, slamming her stick down hard against his as he tried to block.
"I'm too young to die, eh. I'm gonna take you down!" Ezekiel glared and blocked Izzy.
"Stay on your guard, Zeke!" Topher encouraged him.
"Go for her legs! It's easy!" Shawn spoke out as well.
"Alright, Izzy! You can pound him into meat!" Eva shouted.
"I'd ask any of you for my encouragement, but it'd be useless," Mal mumbled.
"I don't support people who mess with my best friends!" Sky said firmly.
Mal scowled back at her, and an arrow from Chef hit the pole he was tied to, causing it to burn up while Mal tried to blow it away.
His view was covered by Ezekiel having the upper hand on Izzy and thrusting her back. "Save yourself the trouble and let me win!" he said and continued to push his jousting stick onto Izzy and send her closer to her edge.
"Someone better win or I'm going to burst into flames!" Mal yelled impatiently.
Izzy struggled under Ezekiel's stick, but an idea formed in her head. "Hey Ezekiel, I see a hawk that's flying towards you," she fibbed.
"Do you really think I'm that stupid?" Ezekiel said. "Nice try."
"Darn it!" Izzy cursed under her breath.
Ezekiel pushed her to the ground, and just as he was about to swipe her off, Izzy lifted her stick and hit Ezekiel's foot with it. The homeschooler howled in pain and let his guard down, and Izzy used the opportunity to jab the padded end of her stick at his chin, knocking him a couple inches into the air and allowing his jousting stick to sink into the water.
He landed on the platform on his back, and Izzy quickly ran over to Mal. The camera angle switched to show her hands darting to the knot on the back, already partially undone, and seconds later the ropes slid off Mal as the challenge music ended.
"It's about time you got me out!" Mal whined. "You took too long to beat Ezekiel of all people."
"You leave him alone!" Izzy snapped. "He's proven himself to be more capable than any of us this season, and he is twice the person you will ever be!"
Ezekiel, still lying on his back, took the moment to smile. "That really means a lot coming from you," he told Izzy.
"Sorry I had to defeat you just to reach the finals," Izzy said as he helped Ezekiel back on his feet. "Are you going to be fine with taking third place?"
"I'm not going to win the cash prize," Ezekiel admitted, "but I've made friends, improved my views on the outside world, and gained a girlfriend from this show. That's more than enough for me now!"
Mal rolled his eyes, and someone in a hazmat suit appeared on the platform with a fire extinguisher. As they began putting out the flame on the fallen charmer's side, the former Final Three made their way to the edge of the platform to the general cheering of the unseen gallery.
The scene skipped forward to Izzy (back in her usual clothing) and Mal standing on the beach with Chris, the person in the hazmat suit clinging to the burning and sinking wreckage of the platform in the background.
"Now that we have our Final Two," Chris said with a broad smile, "it's my pleasure to announce the Peanut Gallery will not be voting for the winner."
"Yeah!" Mal said in triumph.
"Wait," Topher spoke up. "You said we were supposed to be playing a major role."
"Yep," Chris told him. "Just not in a vote-y kinda way. Prepare to have your minds blown out by the most lethal challenge in Total Drama history!" he announced dramatically.
"Izzy," he said as a shot of The Psycho Hose Beast smiling goofily against a red background, "versus Mal," a shot of The Malevolent One grinning darkly against a bluish background took over the screen, "versus the Volcano!" The shot changed to a distance shot of a volcano as it belched out a plume of smoke.
"Back in the day," Chris said as the scene cut to him standing between the two finalists; Mal on his left behind a light blue rug, Izzy on his right behind a light red rug; "human sacrifices were tossed into Kilauea volcano to appease the Gods. Sadly, the lawyers won't let me use real people as sacrifices. So! Mal and Izzy will have to make sacrifice stand-ins, using the island's most abundant resources."
The camera followed off-screen, landing on a pile of "Pineapples, and driftwood!"
"And to make it nice and symbolic," Chris continued as the shot cut back to him and the finalists, "you guys have to make dummies of each other to dump in the volcano. Now, you each get to pick two helpers."
"I'm not letting either of you pick me," Duncan immediately told them.
"I'll pick Eva," Izzy said immediately.
"Great!" Eva said standing up. "We'll win this one!"
"Exactly," Izzy smiled. "And my second choice is Noah."
"I normally don't care about contests, but this is one I can't sit out on," Noah said with a smile of his own.
"Sorry, Big-O! I need Team E-Scope for this part!" Izzy told her boyfriend.
"No problem. I want you to win with the best of the best," Owen told her.
Mal looked at the Gallery nervously, the camera panning across Peanut Gallery, all its members glaring at him. "Do I have to pick two?" Mal asked the host.
"Definitely! And all of them hate you." Chris snickered.
Mal groaned under his breath. "In that case, I'm choosing Sky first!"
"I'll help…but only for Mike!" Sky enforced.
"And lastly," Mal scanned the Gallery again, "I'll take Shawn!"
"I would refuse, but the rules won't allow me to do so," Shawn shrugged.
"Okay! We have our helpers!" Chris said as the scene flashed back to the two colored rugs; Izzy by the light red with Eva and Noah, Mal by the light blue with Shawn and Sky. "Now, Izzy and Mal, you have to stay on your mats and direct your helpers to bring you logs, driftwood,and pineapples that resemble parts of your opponent. And to make things a little more rhymey~!" He added with an excited smile as the all-to-familiar dings sounded and the musical note icon appeared on-screen.
[A reverent, almost chanted riff opened as Sky and Shawn looked up and back, and the colors of the scene shifted to something more animated: the two in blue, against a background of reddish-pink flowers. The shot changed so that it seemed to be looking up at a blue volcano as it erupted against the floral background, and a blue and almost larger-than-life Mal emerged from its peak and with a laurel wreath on his head.]
"Hey peons, you should head straight! Don't ask, it'll make me ache!"
[He sang commandingly as a hip-hop tune began; holding out his arm as if to catch something before an almost cartoonish thunderbolt appeared in his hands. He threw it, and the camera followed it down to Shawn and Sky. They were forced to flee before the bolt struck where they'd been loitering along the ground.]
"You two, get me; wood shaped, like Izzy's tiny fe~et!"
[His helpers ran to a titanic pile of neatly-stacked blue logs, and the shot cut back to Mal idly examining his fingernails before turning to his helpers and smirking as he finished the line. The shot panned to the right to a red volcano as it, too, erupted; a red Izzy emerged from it, also wearing a laurel wreath.]
"Come on, come on, move it fast! Hurry, hurry, won't be last!
[She sang as another cartoonish thunderbolt appeared in her hands, casting her opponent a disparaging glance then throwing the bolt over her head down at the red Noah and Eva below. They too were forced to flee before the bolt struck where they'd been loitering.]
"Find wood that looks like him, so pencil-like and sli~im!"
[The camera continued to follow Eva and Noah as they ran past Sky, who was securing a rope to a peg on the side of a large hunk of wood. She briefly turned her head to watch them, then turned back and tugged the rope extending up off-screen.]
"I'm gonna win it (Yeah!) And you can't take it (No!) I'm right here in it (Yeah!) But you just fake it! (Oh!)"
[The two finalists sang, together even with the chanted words in the background. As they dueled the shot moved from Mal, his hands alternately throwing lightning bolts at his helpers, to Scarlett, throwing only one bolt, to both as they turned to one another and sent their god-like abilities at each other, resulting in an explosion of purple smoke that took over the scene.]
"Are these legs thin enough?"
[Eva called out, the smoke dissipating into her close-up before the shot zoomed out to show her standing on a pale gray scaffold next to another large chunk of wood suspended by a rope tied to a peg.
"Uh-huh!" Izzy replied from off-screen.
"H~ey!" Mal sang, the camera panning up to a higher level of the scaffold where Shawn was standing next to a rather thin piece of wood, also suspended point-down on a rope.
"Man, is this neck squeezed enough?" he asked, receiving a red thunderbolt for his trouble.]
"Whoo! Now it's psycho versus insane; Mal and Izzy cause some pain and!"
[The purple smoke cleared to show Shawn in his Drama Brothers outfit and a mic in his hand; the beat changed slightly as he began to rap from a small pillar of rock between the two finalists. The camera rotated about him as he gestured over his shoulder first at the finalists.]
"All this tension for the million; to that I have no opinion!"
[The camera zoomed in as he smirked and threw a dollar bill in the air, then zoomed back out as he got in front of Izzy, who threw a thunderbolt at him.]
"That is good, hurry back; I need arms weak and slack!"
[Mal continued in a commanding tone as Shawn, now riding atop another cone-like piece of wood as it was carried along by the attached rope, met up with Sky who was in a similar position and the shot cut back to Mal.]
"Her butt is su-per flat; And don't forget that!"
[Mal sang. He then turned to Izzy and shot her a mocking smile.]
"Get me two stringy knees; and hands like flat cheese!"
[Izzy responded, throwing another thunderbolt at her two tiny followers. Eva quickly ran away but Noah stayed in place and looked at her.]
"One more thing should be said; Don't forget his big head!"
[She pointed to a pile of giant red pineapples. Noah nodded then ran off.]
"I'm gonna win it (Yeah!) And you can't take it (No!) I'm right here in it (Yeah!) But you just fake it! (Oh!)"
[The two finalists repeated, once again sending their lightning towards their respective helpers before turning their god-like powers on each other.]
"All of this hard work; won't make me go berserk!"
[Eva sang, the smoke dissipating to show her on the scaffold once more next to a long and surprisingly arm-like piece of wood. The shot zoomed out to show it already affixed to her team's effigy – currently a long piece for the chest, a slightly bulkier piece for the waist, and two skinny legs; all pieces were connected by the shorter wooden pegs the ropes had been tied to. On the other side of the scaffold was the effigy Mal's team had created – two small, thin pieces for the chest and waist, two thin arms and a somewhat curvy leg; the effigy was kept upright by a rope tied around the short peg where the neck would be.]
"Now place the head right there; Pineapple, not pe~ar!"
[Izzy told her, looking down before the shot cut to Noah trying to push a massive red pineapple across the ground.]
"I'm gonna win it (Yeah!) And you can't take it (No!) I'm right here in it (Yeah!) But you just fake it! (Oh!)"
[The finalists repeated a third time, sending their lightning towards their helpers at a slightly faster pace than before. And still, they ended up turning their god-like powers towards one another to cause another purple explosion.]
"I'm gonna cash it! (Yeah!) You'll never win it! (No!) You should trash it! (Yeah!)"
[They continued as the smoke dissipated to reveal Eva and Noah carrying their red pineapple, before gaping in shock as Sky managed to slot her team's head down in its proper place.]
"'Cause I just did i~it!"
[Mal sang triumphantly, the shot pulling back to show Sky sighing in relief, Shawn on the other side wiping the sweat from his face. The scene finally cut to reality as the song ended, Mal smiling smugly with Sky and Shawn beside him, the two of them not looking at all enthusiastic.]
"And Mal takes the lead!" Chris announced over a shot of Izzy squinting at her opponent. "Next step, haul your sacrifice to the top of Kilauea and toss her into the volcano, like so!"
The shot quick-panned away from the host all the way up to the crater where a person in a hazmat suit tossed a crash test dummy into the magma below. This, however, caused molten rock to splash back up, partially coating the person in the hazmat suit. They screamed in pain as fire engulfed them, and ran away scorched.
"Yeah," Chris said as the shot cut back to him, "watch out for the back-splash. We'll be right back with all the hardcore lava-riffic sizzling finale action," he told the camera, "here! On Total! Drama! World Tour!"
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2023.06.01 20:26 GryphonKingBros Alternative Concept for Season 4: "Bilious Cataclysm"
Season Briefing "Alright Miners, listen up. The Rockpox situation just escalated. The lithophage comet has been caught in Hoxxes' orbit and is now circling the planet rather than passing by as R&D suggested. Considering the fragments of this vile rock are already doing enough damage, the consequences of allowing the comet to land on Hoxxes IV could be catastrophic. The comet's collision course with the planet is inevitable, so Management has approved the destruction of the comet in order to disperse the severity of the comet's impact. There are several mining rigs chipping away at the comet, though the task is proving difficult to say the least.
The fight against Rockpox has merely begun and we've got a lot of work to keep our planet clean. With the increased amounts of Lithophage meteorites impacting the planet, very few regions are safe from the outbreak. Most missions you embark on will have Lithophage running rampant, so stay on your toes. Additionally Rockpox has upped the ante with reports of several new lithophage-infested bugs. Expect some common threats to become a bit tougher to fight. News doesn't get much better from there as there are also reports of pure lithophage abominations. Be on the lookout for much larger parasitic baddies when cleansing the caves.
It's not all bad news however. R&D has been cooking up some new toys to help you combat the ongoing threat of Rockpox. With that said, these new toys are primarily designed to combat a particularly nasty parasite, but that's on a need-to-know basis and you don't need to know just yet. Nor will you want to know, because frankly it's some nasty stuff...
Last but not least, it is imperative that we keep the lithophage off the Space Rigs. Samples have been moved after a few outbreak reports, but the lost samples are still loose in the Rig. If you manage to find chunks of Lithophage, take them to the contaminant disposal receptacle near the drop pod and you'll be rewarded some performance points off the clock!
As always, Management sends their regards."
Synopsis Season 3 has been a blast, but it felt incomplete to some extent. Don't get me wrong, GSG did a wonderful job as always and it's very polished. It's just... Two zombies and an angry noodle? You'd think this space plague would put up more of a fight. I say it should. As much as I'd prefer a new theme, another two-parter is very welcome. The Rivals didn't need a part 2 and was likely either GSG unloading a few unfinished concepts that weren't ready in time and/or just trying to kill time while they got Season 3 ready. Season 3 on the other hand greatly benefits from a part 2.
I wrote up this literal document of ideas deadass months before the season teasers and announcement. GSG already has everything finalized, but regardless I wanted to share my ideas. Partially because I didn't want my ideas to go to waste, but mostly because I had a much darker and more grotesque vision of Rockpox with horrific mutations that leave the hosts in agony which I think are moderately better than what we got.
Hoxxes IV's condition The basic premise is that the lithophage situation has escalated and the comet is on a collision course with the planet, meaning the lithophage outbreak is spreading rapidly. In an effort to stop the outbreak once and for all, DRG has sent out mining rigs to chip away at the comet and destroy it piece by piece. As the season name implies however, the comet has been "vomiting" meteors more frequently as a result and some nastier parasites along with it, presenting cataclysmic results. In other words, DRG's efforts are resulting in a Bilious Cataclysm. While DRG attempts to destroy the comet, operatives on the planet must keep the infection at bay. That means more lithophage outbreaks and more lithophage enemies.
The main meat of the Season would be a significantly expanded roster of infected enemies and even some unique rockpox abominations made of lithophage parasites. In order to find said beasties, the Lithophage Outbreak warning is available in any biome. Obviously it'd be annoying to deal with Lithophage enemies everywhere you go, so there is still a small area on the map that has more outbreaks than others. All regions are capable of having a Lithophage Outbreak mutation but they are limited to one warning maximum. Meanwhile, epidemic zones will have two minimum and can have up to four maximum. You can encounter a very small handful of rockpox enemies on any mission (the game will decide which enemies are available in the spawn pool in the same manner as the appearance of excessive amounts of special enemies such as Exploders, Swarmers, Mactera, and Wardens) while the whole roster is limited to just epidemic zones. However, there is one exception:
The infection spreads With the outbreak worsening, Rockpox has been spreading rapidly. Not only that, but Rockpox Larvae have gone from spreading pathogens to Glyphid Grunts and Praetorians slowly through their environments to taking a figurative jump in evolution and a literal jump onto enemies. They will now actively target and infect (compatible) enemies like they do against the dwarfs. Any creature it infects will have their attributes enhanced, including both their strengths and their weaknesses. If you're unlucky enough to have a larvae find a tough host, it will turn into a Rockpox variant regardless of the spawn pool.
The Lithophage parasites have become more accustomed to Hoxxes IV's vast ecosystem and have begun burrowing into a variety of different hosts such as Glyphid Guards, Slashers, Acidspitters, and Swarmers, Mactera Spawn and Trijaws, Q'ronar Shellbacks, and even poor innocent Loot Bugs! Truly no creature is safe from this plague.
Also quick disclaimer: Use the Rockpox Grunt and Praetorian as a template for all of these enemies. All of the enemies will still have the glowing yellow cysts (weakpoints) that do critical damage when broken unless specified in the description of the enemy. Along those same lines, unless specified, all of these enemies have their normal abilities with the added Lithophage enemy stats. I say this because I'm afraid people are gonna think l'm not taking into account the fact that Rockpox-infected enemies tank 90% of all damage if you aren't aiming for the weakpoints. None of these enemies wil have only the one weakness mentioned. That's just a weakpoint special to the corresponding enemy *(e.g the Rockpox Guard has a weakpoint on the face but also has 3-4 cysts all over its body like Rockpox Grunts). There's a reason people didn't like Elites after all.
Rockpox Guard The infected Glyphid Guard has its front armor enhanced with it's face completely eviscerated with Rockpox in order to support its front armor. The front armor is impervious to damage, but is actively attached to it's face which is it's weakpoint. When it attacks, it will briefly latch onto its target and entangle them in Lithophage, rapidly infecting the target with Lithophage (increases lithophage status by 50%) before tossing them back. During this attack you can quickly kill the Guard by attacking the tendrils on its face.
Rockpox Slasher The infected Glyphid Slasher has it's sharp front legs enhanced with Rockpox. It will rapidly sprint around the room to dodge fire, before darting towards a target, quickly slashing them with it's bladed tendril arms, and then going back to dodging fire. Instead of stunning the target in place directly however, the Slasher will rapidly infect the target (increases lithophage status by 80%) which in turn can lead to indirectly stunning the target. The legs are a major weakpoint, but it's rapid movement makes it hard to hit. Whoever is targeted by the Slasher has the best opportunity to kill it due to its legs facing the target.
Rockpox Acidspitter The infected Glyphid Acidspitter has it's acidic saliva enhanced to fire three contagious Rockpox projectiles. A direct hit will immediately encase the target in Rockpox while hitting terrain will create a cloud of Rockpox to slowly infect nearby dwarfs (increases lithophage status by 15% per second, takes less than 7 seconds to ensnare them). The Acidspitter has more health than usual and behaves similarly to a Menace; it fires off a few shots before quickly repositioning with a much faster movement speed than its uninfected counterpart, though it obviously cannot burrow (comparable to how the Glyphid Spreader behaves, but more evasive).
Rockpox Swarmer Infected Glyphid Swarmers behave similarly to Rockpox Larvae. They spread infection through their attacks (increases lithophage status by 5% per hit), but do not burrow into your beard. Instead they will continuously nibble at your feet until you're helplessly ensnared in Rockpox and at their mercy. Killing Swarmers up close will result in being contaminated by the small amounts of pathogen they release (increases lithophage status by 10%, and only when killed in close proximity, the rockpox aoe does not linger).
Rockpox Exploder The infected Glyphid Exploder has enhanced their explosive tendencies to spread the infection. Instead of rapidly self-destructing, they have volatile cysts that slowly and methodically seep Lithophage pathogens by draining their blood until they die. They will remain in a stasis state until disturbed or burrow out of the ground nearby ready to strike, constantly releasing pathogens. Exploders move significantly faster than normal and will persistently breathe in your face and infect you with Rockpox once they get close enough (increases lithophage status by 20% per second when within normal detonation range) while still constantly following you.
Like normal Exploders, they are easily dispatched with just a few shots. However, like other Lithophage-infected enemies, their bodies are very strong and the cysts must be popped instead to deal significant damage. When killed, they will combust into a cloud of pathogens. As mentioned previously, the Rockpox infection will constantly drain the Exploder's health over time until they collapse. If they die of their own doing, they won't leave behind any pathogens. Once their health is depleted, they will have nothing left in their body to release.
Rockpox Oppressor The infected Oppressor has impervious armor like it's uninfected counterpart. Unlike its uninfected counterpart, their weakpoint isn't in the rear (though they are more susceptible to damage from the back) but rather in the front. Some areas of it's front armor are bloated by tumorous growths of Rockpox. These areas are weak (strength of Grunt armor) and can be broken away to reveal weakpoints. Breaking all the weakpoints shatters the front armor and reveals a grotesque wall of Rockpox. This will trigger the Oppressor to move significantly faster and attack much more quickly while seeping pathogens from it's mouth (melee attacks do not increase lithophage, but being within 3m of its mouth increases lithophage by 25% per second). Fortunately, it now has no impervious armor and cannot perform Sonic Stomp or Rage Quake.
Rockpox Spawn The infected Mactera Spawn has its abdomen enhanced with Rockpox to fire Rockpox Larvae, instantly ensnaring the target in Rockpox if it's a direct hit or alternatively releasing a Larvae onto the field if it hits terrain. Like the Rockpox Praetorian (correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure I observed this new behavior on the experimental build), it can launch larvae in conjunction with its normal projectile attacks at random intervals rather than this being a separate attack. It's abdomen is initially not a critical weakpoint, but it will unfurl it's abdomen into an appendage to launch Larvae. The appendage can be destroyed to disable it from launching Larvae and deal critical damage to the Spawn, similarly to a Goobomber.
If the Spawn dies with the appendage still intact, it may perform one final gruesome attack by extending it's abdomen appendage up to it's mouth, horrifically reaching down it's throat, ripping out a bundle of spines, and tossing them vaguely in the direction of dwarves at a rapid speed as the poor Spawn helplessly flails through the sky and crashes to the ground like a Goobomber.
Rockpox Trijaw The infected Mactera Trijaw has it's abdomen enhanced like the infected Spawn, as well as it's projectiles. The Trijaw's projectiles will release pathogens on impact (increases lithophage status by 10% per second) and inject large amounts of Rockpox into targets if they hit directly (increases lithophage status by 70%). Like the Spawn, it will unfurl its abdomen to launch Larvae, however it will launch 2-3 at a time in quick succession. The appendage again can be destroyed to disable its Larvae throw attack and deal critical damage.
And once again, if the Trijaw dies with the appendage still intact, it may perform a final gruesome attack by extending it's appendage outwards, straightening it into a sharp spear, piercing the Trijaw's throat, causing the Trijaw to wail in horror and spew a barrage of projectiles out of it's mouth as the poor Trijaw flails through the sky before crashing to the ground.
Rockpox Shellback The infected Q'ronar Shellback has it's body enhanced head-to-toe in Rockpox, nullifying it's typical form of attack of rolling around a room attempting to ram it's prey. The Shellback's primary form of attack is instead it's Acid Spit attack which it will use to fire acidic bile that lingers on the ground. This bile will both slowly infect organisms (increases lithophage status by 5% per second) and dissolve their flesh. Alternatively instead of firing acidic pools of bile, the Shellback can let out a horrific gargling screech as it regurgitates dozens of Larvae out of it's mouth for several seconds. Unlike most infected organisms, there are no cysts on the outside of the body. Instead, a mass of Lithophage has grown out of the Shellback's mouth, meaning you have to attack while it attacks. On death, the Shellback will drool a pool of acidic bile.
Furthermore, the Lithophage pathogens have become more viral and deadly to the more common Grunts and Praetorians. Reports have miraculously identified grotesque proxies of the Lithophage infection; helplessly transformed after prolonged exposure to the parasites into cyst-coated rockpox delivery boys designed only to spread the virus. Stay on your toes and keep a puke bucket at the ready...
New anti-Lithophage equipment The situation may seem grim, but fortunately R&D has been cooking up some goodies to make exterminating the Rockpox Plague easier: the LithoGauge and the RAIL Cannon (Rebuke Artillery Ionizing Lithophage Cannon). The LithoGauge is a modification to the Laser Pointer that identifies what kind of Lithophage threat you're dealing with. Aiming at Rockpox will show a gauge underneath the targeted surface and slowly fill the gauge as it gathers information. The LithoGauge will only gather 33-50% of the outbreak data per infected area, meaning you'll have to scan all of them (if there's only one, it'll automatically be filled).
Once the gauge is filled, the Lithophage meteorites will be visible on the map and active cysts growing on Lithophage terrain will be visible to more easily locate and remove rockpox from the environment. Similarly, you can also scan a lithophage meteorite fragment to locate all other fragments in the area. Additionally, the LithoGauge can identify anomalies in Lithophage meteorite crash zones which is important for identifying a particularly nasty parasitic biomass that has been showing up recently. It's also what the railgun is for, but we'll get into that in a bit...
An evolving menace As mentioned, the Lithophage parasites are rapidly evolving and adapting to their new home. Parasites are growing larger and more deadly. Like their predecessors, they all are devoted to spreading the plague and stopping us from exterminating it. And in order for them to evolve into abominable monstrosities they must use a host organism as a cocoon. As mentioned previously, the short-ranged airborne Lithophage pathogen has been evolving to more strongly affect hosts. Those hosts are what evolve into larger parasites should they remain undisturbed.
Rockpox Grunt Envoy A grotesquely mutated Glyphid Grunt covered in a mass of cysts and tendrils. After prolonged exposure to lithophage parasites, these infected grunts have grown large masses of rockpox across their entire bodies and have no purpose other than to spread the infection as well as fertilize proxy host organisms. While idle, they will occasionally vomit up larvae with a mist trail following them, allowing you to notice when an Envoy is in the cave. If another envoy is nearby, it will approach and share pheromones and pathogens, fertilizing the organism. Since its covered head to toe in cysts, it's rather easy to dispatch. However, if it manages to get within 5m of a dwarf, it will immediately project a mass of tendrils at the target, wrap itself around them, and instantly down them before combusting, leaving a dangerous mist on the player.
Attempting to revive the dwarf will result in the rescuer being rapidly infected with lithophage (increases lithophage status by 40% per second) with an on-screen notification warning the rescuer to "Cure your teammate or wait out the infection." Meanwhile, the downed player has a timer visible on screen and over their player icon on the hud showing how long they have to wait for the infection to pass. To revive the player, you must either cure them via the LithoFoamer and LithoVac, wait out the mist for the infection to pass, or bypass the rapid infection via the Field Medic perk or a full team reviving the player simultaneously (for solo games, Bosco will ignore the timer).
Rockpox Praetorian Envoy A grotesquely mutated Glyphid Praetorian covered in a mass of cysts and tendrils. These praetorians serve as mobile cocoons for larvae to use to evolve into larger threats. While idle, they will wander around vomiting up larvae with a mist trail following them, allowing you to notice when an Envoy is in the cave. If it notices a dwarf, it will either quickly flee and burrow once out of sight to protect it's larvae or try to attack.
If it targets a player, it will beeline for them, starting at default movement speed but exponentially speeding up to as fast as Trawler. Similarly to the Grunt Envoy, it's much weaker than its uninfected counterpart, with as much health as a Glyphid Guard. If it manages to approach a dwarf, it will vomit a mass of tendrils to briefly strangle the target before downing them instantly and leaving behind a mist over the player. Like the Grunt Envoy, this makes the downed player a trap to others if they try to revive them before the infection is cleared. Unlike the Grunt Envoy, the Praetorian has a larger purpose to the parasites so it will either continue fighting or burrow away. If it spawns with a group of enemies, it will never burrow away. On death, it will either leave behind a swarm of parasites in addition to a contagious cloud of Lithophage or transform into a Lithophage Bellower (more on that further down).
Rockpox Loot Bug Envoy Though most creatures targeted by the Lithophage parasites are naturally hostile and aggressive making them perfect hosts to spread the plague, they've been infecting the helpless unsuspecting Loot Bug of all things. Infected Loot Bugs will behave normally with the only giveaway sign that they are infected being their desaturated skin tone and glowing cysts... as well as occasionally pausing to adorably sneeze like a sick kitten.
Unlike the other two Envoys, Loot Bug Envoys can serve both as carriers of the disease as well as cocoons for parasites to metamorphose within. So depending on their state of infection, they will do one of two things when attacked. If the infection is still early, the Loot Bug will simply drop gold and nitra, 1-2 parasites, and occasionally a plagueheart. If the infection is farther along (which is a very rare occurrence), the Loot Bug will immediately react to the damage by horrifically transforming into a Lithophage Bellower (more on that below).
If the parasites are able to complete their metamorphosis within the host, they will transform into one of five monstrosities:
Rockpox Grouser An impenetrable vine-like parasite that stretches down from the ceiling, announcing its approach with a loud creaking noise and distorted cackling. It will stare at its target for a few seconds before exhaling lithophage fumes onto the dwarf for 5 seconds. While it's mouth is open, you can do critical damage to it. Alternatively, you can also power attack it to cause it to cough and reveal its mouth earlier, but it will softly thrash its head back and forth making it more difficult to hit. Once its head is destroyed, the vine portion of the parasite will whip around wildly spewing blood-like fluid before rapidly retracting back into the ceiling and bursting once retracted.
Rockpox Quicksand A collective body of parasites that hides in rockpox terrain. It's invulnerable and nearly undetectable, with it's only telltale sign being it shifting briefly and releasing spores, until approached. When activated, it will writhe wildly, begin to glow, and reach tendrils towards dwarfs that are within 10m. Once targeted, it will follow the target for up to 30m.
Quicksand will either quickly whip a tendril at a target, knocking the target back as well as stunning it when it touches the ground, or latch onto and quickly drag them back to the Quicksand to be consumed. When grabbed, all equipment is disabled except for your pickaxe in which three hits or a power attack will free you and stun the tendril temporarily. If the tendril drags you all the way back to the Quicksand, you cannot escape and need to be rescued by another teammate. If no target is within 10m, it will simply writhe until a new target approaches. The tendrils have their own individual health and can be killed. The quicksand itself must be damaged in order to kill it. Once killed, it will liquify, bubble briefly, then dissipate into a cloud of toxic fumes.
Rockpox Deacon A large mass of parasites that has a chance to spawn from a larvae pod in place of a normal parasite. It will release a shockwave of lithophage that heavily increases lithophage status upon spawning. The Deacon will idly wander around at first. Once encountering a dwarf or being attacked, it will unhinge a large pair of jaws from the top of it's body, roaring wickedly to summon a small swarm of lithophage-infected enemies and briefly unveiling a writhing mass of glowing tendrils. Similarly to the Warden, you can kill the Deacon early on while it's still on it's own and weak, with the glowing tendrils being it's only weakspot that takes critical damage. Once it stops roaring, it will hide it's weakpoint, becoming heavily resistant to damage with it's outer armor shell, and approach the nearest dwarf. The only way to damage the Deacon after the war cry is by chipping away it's shell like any other armor plating on an enemy.
If it reaches a dwarf, it will latch onto them and take over all movement leaving the player helpless unless they have Heightened Senses. The player can resist the Deacon's influence by spamming A and D which will not only slow the Deacon down and throw off their aim but will break some of the Deacon's armor. The Deacon will ride the dwarf around firing their primary or secondary weapons for up to a minute until the host runs out of ammo or dies before seeking a new host. This of course means teammates will be forced to risk shooting their captured teammate both to save the teammate and eliminate the immediate threat. Deacons will not spawn in solo or in empty lobbies.
Rockpox Bellower An immature parasite interrupted during it's metamorphosis, it's body consists of an indistinguishable writhing mass of tendrils. It will rarely spawn in place of a Praetorian or Loot Bug Envoy's death. The Bellower will release an endless stream of parasites, draining it's health as body mass is lost. Once it's health gets low enough, either from spawning parasites or taking damage from the player, it will sprout long appendages and begin fleeing while bellowing loudly, summoning infected enemies to aid it. If it manages to get far enough away, it will burrow away. If you kill it before then however, it will trip and land on it's head kicking it's legs wildly, before finally combusting violently; shooting it's long limbs across the cave, dropping 3-5 plaguehearts, and converting terrain in a 5m radius around it into inert rockpox.
Rockpox Stalwart A stone biomass held together by lithophage that guards infected areas and serves as an alternative to the typical cleaning mechanics of infected areas. Unlike it's lesser kin, the Stalwart is incredibly powerful on it's own. While every other contagion spike is protected by an army, the Stalwart IS the army and then some. Unlike normal contagion spikes, the Stalwart is directly linked to the upkeep of the contagion zone and must be defeated in order to decontaminate the area. No amount of soap and water is going to clean up this mess.
Similarly to a Dreadnought, it has two large health bars, a shell and a core, that must both be depleted one at a time to defeat it. The Stalwart's shell is highly resistant to all damage except for Explosive, Armor Breaking, and Temperature Shock, and is weak to Rockpox Repellent Energy (more on that below) and Melee damage. Once it's shell is destroyed, it will reveal it's lithophage innards holding it together that can be damaged by any damage type. The general jist of things is that this enemy is incredibly powerful and difficult to defeat. It doesn't play nice by any means and that's the point. You MUST be prepared.
In order to combat this insane menace that'd bring a Glyphid Menace to tears, R&D has cooked up a powerful antibiotic formula that has a very destructive effect on Rockpox. Dubbed "Rockpox Repellant Energy," or R2 for short, this concoction has a similar effect to radiation, separating cells on the atomic level and dissolving most organic matter, Rockpox in particular, on the spot. It's so powerful that most Rockpox organisms can't survive even the smallest dosage (one shots EVERYTHING with Rockpox in their name). Of course there's one exception: the organism that's taken it's name literally and has its organic mass covered in stalwart stone (hence the name Stalwart).
Instead of calling a cleansing pod, you will call a RAIL Cannon Armory pod with special railgun weapons loaded with R2 energy used to fight the Stalwart. Be warned: these monsters aren't impenetrable and can be taken down by conventional means just as well as they can with R2 energy. These railguns are a privilege not a requirement, and frankly this stuff ain't cheap, so you only get one RAIL Armoury pod, two railguns, and two refills. The railguns have a limited ammo capacity and can only be refilled as long as spare energy is available in the pod. Make it count!
The Stalwart will emit gargling moans that echo throughout the cave like BET-C's distress beacon to announce it's presence. When approached or damaged, it will awaken unfurling into a gorilla-like posture before slamming the ground angrily and beginning its attack.
It has three phases: Incursive, Offensive, and Vulnerable. It will initiate its attack with either Incursive or Offensive.
During Incursive, it will gallop towards targets, or slowly crawl if climbing a vertical or ceiling surface. Once it reaches it's target, it will raise it's arms for 2 seconds before quickly slamming it's full dead weight onto the dwarf, dealing an incredibly dangerous blow to the target if it lands directly and heavy damage and knockback to anything else nearby. It will not shift targets and will continuously pursuing it's target for up to 30 seconds. Once it either reaches its target or gives up pursuit, it will switch to Offensive.
During Offensive, it will perform one of three abilities before returning to the Incursive phase: Guard, Rupture, or Scream.
When Guarding, it will raise it's fists in front of it, becoming 50% resistant to attacks from the front and regenerating up to 50% of it's shell health, and face the nearest player. While it becomes resistant in the front, it will become 50% vulnerable to all damage and 20% more vulnerable to it's weaknesses, both from behind, for the duration of the Guard ability.
When Rupturing, it will briefly plant itself into the ground and consecutively release 15 shockwaves of lithophage in different directions. The lithophage shockwaves will knockback dwarfs and heavily increase lithophage status. When it launches the shockwaves, it will become 80% vulnerable to all damage and 50% more vulnerable to it's weaknesses for the duration of the Rupture attack. Additionally, firing an aoe blast at it with the railgun will stun it and interrupt the attack, destroying the shockwaves in their tracks. The attack lasts only a few seconds, so there is a very short window to attack it.
When Screaming, it will roar at players for several seconds, releasing 7-12 parasites from it's mouth. Similarly to the Grouser, you can shoot it in the mouth to deal critical damage, damaging both the shell and the core. One impact blast from the railgun to the mouth will drop 2/3 of it's shell health and 1/10 of it's core health.
Once you destroy the shell, it will enter it's Vulnerable phase. The Stalwart will collapse for several seconds, falling off walls and ceilings if it enters the phase from that position, and reveal lithophage innards between it's shoulders, neck, and belly that can be damaged to deplete it's core health. It will then release lithophage fumes from all four weakpoints that heal small amounts of its core health. Damaging a weakpoint will disable the healing ability for a few seconds, meaning attacking each weakpoint equally will stop the Stalwart from healing outright for the duration of the Vulnerable phase.
Additionally, if you used a railgun at any point before the Vulnerable phase, the Stalwart will synthesize the energy into a resistance and create a protective field around it's weakpoints. If you fire a railgun at any of the weakpoints, it will reflect the blast, drain the railgun of it's ammo, and deal significant electric damage. You will have to decide if spending the railgun is worth it before the Vulnerable phase as you won't be able to use it during the Vulnerable phase until the next attacking phase if used prematurely; a simple but precarious dynamic to keep in mind. If the Stalwart isn't defeated during the Vulnerable phase, it will regain it's shell health and return to one of the two other phases.
Once defeated it will writhe wildly for several seconds, launching lithophage projectiles in a radius around it and emiting lithophage fumes in a large radius around it, before finally blasting apart and releasing a shockwave that cleanses the surrounding area and kills all lithophage in the area. If you are covered in lithophage during the shockwave, you will be instantly downed. You will be rewarded with 3-5 plaguehearts and multiple chunks of gold and nitra when it is destroyed.
Keeping the Space Rig Clean Last but certainly not least, after all the hell and destruction unfolding on the planet, you still aren't safe on the Space Rig. If you recall, R&D was housing several samples of Lithophage on the Space Rig. Likewise, I imagine you remember tapping on the tanks like children at an aquarium? Well turns out that it wasn't such a good idea because several samples were reportedly missing, meaning we have some stowaways on board. It was already hard enough to keep track of the samples that got out on their own accord, so keeping track of ones that escaped because "you hairy moronic midgets couldn't stop mucking with the damn biotanks," Management's words not mine, is gonna be even harder.
With that said, R&D has developed a simple contaminant disposal receptacle to toss any Lithophage gunk you find on the ship. Lithophage will randomly spawn in different nooks and crannies all over the Space Rig, hell the main area will look like the aftermath of a college party with how much junk lines the floor. And because you likely need some actual incentive, for every few chunks of Lithophage you throw away you'll get a reward ranging from credits to phasyonite to even overclocks and cosmetics.
Conclusion With all that said, it's clear that it'll take a village to keep our planet clean. So pull up your sleeves, slap on some gloves, pick your cleaning utensil of choice (guns included), and let's get to work, Miners!
submitted by GryphonKingBros
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2023.06.01 19:57 NamelessNanashi [The Gods of Dragons: Beginning] Ch 12 - Starting at the Bottom
--- Table of Contents
--- Spring 4985, 20 Buromoth
The armor Smith Nangran gave them fit much better than the pieces lent to them for the trip. Shon still hated it, but he hated it a lot less. Practice
, he told himself, trying to picture Master Veon-Zih's face as he did so, you can accomplish anything with practice...
Except Master Veon-Zih didn't wear armor.
"I thought we were going to learn plate, or at least half-plate..." Rerves whispered to his fellows as they adjusted their new armor, working the straps so they weren't too tight or too loose.
His whisper wasn't quiet enough, however, because Master Daunas laughed from where he stood beside Nangran, and the smith huffed. "So you want to try plate, do you, boy?" The Weapon Master asked a little too innocently.
Rerves looked up hopefully, "Is that an option, ser?" Shon swallowed nervously.
"Sure! Let's give it a try..." Master Daunas grinned, the look definitely sinister in Shon's opinion. "Got some plate for the big one, Nan?" He asked Nangran, who rolled his eyes before moving deeper into the forge to retrieve a set of battered but sparkling platemail.
Rerves rushed to remove his new, specially fitted, leather armor, while Thom looked on in envy. Shon half expected Thom to request his own set of the fully encasing metal, but the shy boy stayed quiet and instead settled with helping his friend strip off the leather and strap on the clanking plate. Rerves beamed but could barely lift his arms to don the helm.
"There you go, boy! Halfway to a Paladin already." Master Daunas called out as he turned Rerves by the shoulders and marched him, waddling under the metal's weight, out of the smithy. Shon followed silently, taking note of the guards looking down from the wall and some Squires elbowing each other and snickering in the courtyard.
The four weeks of watch rotation had started, giving the new boys time to catch up before the oldest Squires 'graduated' on the spring equinox. It was four weeks in which they trained from before dawn to after dusk in the basics and foundations, while the others had mostly free time outside of their six-hour watch. Which meant the new boys had an audience of off-duty seniors.
"Now all you need is a sword!" Master Daunas was saying to Rerves as he left the over-encumbered Squire in one of the sparring rings. He strode to the weapons rack and grabbed a sword and shield before returning and presenting them to the boy. Rerves grabbed the sword, but as he took the shield, his arm collapsed, the metal of his vambrace clanging loudly against his chausses. He was still trying to heft the shield into position when Master Daunas drew his own sword, "Now let's test it out, shall we?"
Rerves dropped the shield, gaping at the Weapon Master, "But... but," he scrambled for an excuse and settled on the live steel in his hand, "You don't have any armor, ser, what if..."
Master Daunas never stopped smiling, but his voice was finally serious, "Boy, if you can land a hit on me in that, then you deserve to graduate with the others this year." and he swung.
Rerves didn't really dodge; he pulled back and fell on his backside, scrambling on his butt and trying to roll over to push himself back up but barely able to move. Master Daunas hit him with the flat of the blade in the side with a resounding gong-like ring hard enough to help push Rerves over so he could struggle to his hands and knees. "Get up boy, if you're on the ground in a fight this early, you've already lost."
Shon watched in horror as the Weapon Master continued to hammer down on Rerves with the flat of his blade. The Squire did manage to get to his feet and retrieve his sword and shield eventually but he still couldn't lift them, flailing them weakly at the Weaponmaster's legs. Master Daunas dodged easily, even yawning lazily before he flicked his sword and disarmed the poor Squire again.
"Call match!" one of the Squires shouted from the sidelines, the small crowd of them all shaking their heads at the display.
Master Daunas laughed, but Rerves took the advice and called "Match, match!" as loud as he could before dropping to his knees, heaving in heavy breaths from just a few minutes of trying to move in the full armor.
"Match it is then," Master Daunas conceded, saluting the Squire with his sword before gesturing for the others, "Help your brother out of that boys. He did his best."
Shon and Thom rushed forward to help Rerves, but they weren't alone. The other Squires came forward, one with a water skin he presented to Rerves after the helm was removed, "You did better than Zihler did last year," another of them said with a comforting pat on the shoulder after Shon removed the breastplate.
"Huh?" Rerves let out a tired questioning grunt, and another Squire pulled him to his feet so they could get the legs off.
"There's one every year," one of the eldest said sagely, picking up the discarded armor and slinging it easily over his shoulder.
"Yeah, it was Jawsh in our year," another explained.
Master Daunas strode forward and clapped Rerves on the shoulder, giving him a little shake, "You'll be ready for plate eventually, boy, but not until your third or even final year. Grow stronger in leather, then banded mail, then half-plate. Everyone starts at the bottom and works their way up."
Rerves smiled weakly but had regained some of his confidence apparently because he managed to say, "You could have just told me that, ser..." which made Master Daunas laugh out loud again.
He didn't even bother to answer the Squire, just turned around and went back into the smithy, shouting at Nangran, "I told you it would be the big one this year! You owe me ten copper Nan!"
For the entire first week, the new Squires were instructed in the basic drills of their assigned sword types. It meant they couldn't truly work together -each sword having different techniques- but it also gave them a chance to get to know some of the older Squires who helped them early on. The year ahead of them had five Squires, one of the largest years in recent history. Kefir and Baradin both used one-handed longswords and shields and worked with Rerves. Uther and Rehlien both used large two-handed greatswords and helped Thom. Zihler was the only one who specialized in the bastard sword and worked with Shon. He wasn't left-handed, but Shon did all the exercises with both hands anyway, letting Zihler help him with the right first, then switching to using his left after he was confident he had them down.
During their second week, they were given their first sword forms. Like the kata Shon had been studying under Master Veon-Zih, the sword forms were meant to represent actual maneuvers to be performed in combat, and he took to them with even greater gusto than he had the simple drills.
"He's like a dancer..." Kefir whispered to Zihler as they watched Shon work through the form, without complaining, for what must have been the twentieth time that day.
Zihler nodded but also huffed, "I bet he flinches the first time we spar, though."
"I don't know..." Kefir muttered, then louder explained, "He's the one who bloodied Selv on the raid. Rerves said he trained under some old man fighter before he came here."
"We'll see," Baradin interjected, joining his fellows, "Master Daunas is on his way. He wants us to get out the sparring swords."
Zihler gave his brother Squire a lazy salute. Baradin was the unofficial leader of their year. It had chafed at first, and Zihler was still the most prone to defy him on occasion -usually when it didn't matter much- but over the course of their first year even he had stepped in line to Baradin's passive ability to take command. The three waved down Uther and Rehlien, who jogged over.
As Baradin had said, Master Daunas arrived a moment later with the resident Cleric close behind. "Fall in, Squires!" he bellowed to the practicing three, and Shon, Thom, and Rerves all quickly obeyed, standing side by side at stiff attention. "It's officially week three and time to start sparring," he informed them, gesturing for the senior Squires to move forward and exchange the real swords for wooden ones. He looked each of the three over carefully, then nodded to himself and said, "Thom and Rerves, face off."
Zihler noticed Shon's shoulders slump ever so slightly as he stepped away from the other two, who turned towards each other. They were obviously nervous. "Those are wooden swords, but this is a real fight. They will still hurt like a bit-" the Cleric cleared his throat, interrupting the Weaponmasters' use of profanity. Master Daunas coughed but continued, "Despite that, I don't want you to hold back, you fight like you train, and if you go easy on each other, you will go easy on a real opponent. You are not civilians, and neither is your opponent. This isn't a game. The fight won't end until one of you takes a killing or disabling blow. Every adult here, minus myself and Smith Nangran, is capable of healing any wounds you might give or receive. So again, no holding back. If I call 'hold,' that means to freeze, stop moving, hold your position. Now lay on!"
Rerves and Thom both swallowed down their fear and moved slowly, unsure what their first strike should be. As expected, the two did hold back, both from nervousness at not knowing what to do and honestly not wanting to hurt each other. Daunas sighed, but Zihler understood. It had taken him months before he could really hit his friends. And he was one of the faster ones to manage it. And even then, only really
when they were in armor.
The two newbies eventually sped up but were still pulling their hits. They both flinched with each strike, many of which were going to leave decent bruises, but Master Daunas wouldn't call an end until one of them landed a killing or disabling blow hard enough to count. On the other side of the sparring ring, Zihler saw Shon narrow his eyes as he tapped his boot with his sword.
"Match!" Master Daunas called after a loud smack pulled Zihler's attention back to the sparring pair.
Thom dropped his sword, cradling his hand. Rerves rushed forward, "I'm sorry, are you okay?" he had apparently caught Thom on the knuckles unintentionally.
"Both of you are aiming for your opponent's weapon instead of his body. You only hit their sword to parry or deflect. Hitting their weapon won't end a fight." Master Daunas instructed, "Practice boys, it's the only real way to learn, I can talk until my face turns blue, but you won't know until you make and take a few hits. Shon, you're up, Rerves, get ready."
Shon stepped into the ring, and something changed. Zihler couldn't describe it, but Rerves obviously felt something because he met his friend's blue eyes and swallowed. "Lay on!" Master Daunas shouted, and Rerves immediately raised his shield.
Just in time too, because Shon came in like a hurricane. He held his sword one-handed, but it still rang off Rerves' shield like a hammer. Rerves tried to counter as his form dictated, but Shon twisted his sword, taking it in both hands and sliding it along Rerves' blade before pivoting it up and swinging hard with a sickening 'thwak' against Rerves' shoulder. The larger boy immediately dropped his sword and reached for the wound with his shield arm while Master Daunas shouted, "Match!" and Shon stepped back.
He didn't apologize or rush forward as Rerves had done for Thom. The five senior Squires all stared at him, but Shon just bowed to Rerves while the Cleric came forward to check his arm.
"Well, I'll be damned," Master Daunas said with a wide smile, "It's about time someone listens to reason, but can you take as good as you give, boy?" Shon just arched a silent black eyebrow at the Weaponmaster, who laughed and took Thom's two-handed sword from him, handing it to Zihler, "Don't hold back, because this one certainly won't." he instructed the senior.
Zihler saluted the Weaponmaster and stepped into the sparring ring as Shon brought his sword to the ready position. As Zihler met Shon's eyes, his throat turned dry, forcing him to swallow as Rerves had done. His full year of more experience wasn't enough to prepare him for Shon's stare. The boy's icy eyes seemed to bore right through him. He wasn't at all nervous or scared. He didn't even seem determined or angry. Just cold. Like he could take Zihler's head and not lose a wink of sleep over it.
Zihler braced himself for an attack, but Shon didn't rush in as he had for Rerves. He maintained his guard and his stare until the senior Squire advanced. Inching forward, Zihler looked for the opening he knew had to be there. Shon didn't have enough experience yet to truly compete with the older Squire and when he swung, he swung hard. Master Daunas would accept nothing less.
Shon managed a parry, but both swords shook with the force of the hit. He didn't flinch and countered just as hard, telegraphing his attack and taking a breath too long, giving Zihler an opening. Shon was going to take the senior in the neck just as Zihler had imagined, and what was worse, he still hadn't blinked or changed his expression.
Zihler aimed for Shon's ribs, expecting the boy to redirect his sword and block the same way he had for Rerves. He didn't, and Zihlers wooden blade smacked him at full force in the side. If his ribs didn't crack, they were at least bruised, and Zihler felt himself flinch on Shon's behalf as the younger boy couldn't help but fold over the attack. Shon's swing lost some of its momentum, but he didn't stop, continuing to follow through, towards Zihlers neck, until "Match!"
Shon's sword stopped after barely tapping Zihler, showing that he hadn't lost control of the weapon and still had enough sense to pull the strike once the match was over. Would he really have hit the Squire full force if Master Daunas hadn't stopped them? Zihler felt himself sweating and had to swallow again. Shon finally blinked and stepped back, reaching for his ribs and flinching in pain as he gripped them.
The Cleric rushed forward, already speaking a prayer, and Zihler muttered a quiet, "Sorry..." as Shon flinched again at the healer's touch.
Shon furrowed his brow, then asked, "Why?" making Zihler blink in confusion, "We weren't supposed to hold back." Shon explained.
"Yeah, but..." Zihler started,
"You could've blocked that. It's the same technique you used in your first match," Master Daunas instructed Shon sternly.
Shon looked down at his sword, then back up at the Weapon Master. His eyes darted momentarily to Zihler before he muttered, "If I'd been faster, I could have ended it before he put too much force behind it..."
"You took the hit on purpose?!" Zihler shouted in disbelief.
Shon just shrugged, his ribs healed enough that it would only hurt a little to move, "I wasn't fast enough."
"Next time, block," Master Daunas chastised the younger boy, "Even if the blow had lost half its strength, you would've been injured." Shon hesitated, and Zihler noticed him clenching his fist at his side before he nodded in answer.
The bell for lunch sounded its twelve long rings, filling the courtyard as Master Daunas waved the boys towards the weapons rack, signaling an end to the practice. Zihler’s fellows joined him as he handed the practice weapon back to Thom. He didn't speak until the three newbies moved far enough away not to hear, "That was scary..."
"He really went all out, didn't he?" Kefir asked. Zihler could only nod.
"Cold-blooded," Rehlien commented.
"You have no idea," Zihler confirmed, "Even the seniors hold back more than he did."
The five turned toward the fortress and lunch, Baradin saying, "He could've though, did you see how easily he stopped his swing?"
"I felt it," Zihler mumbled, rubbing his neck. But he'd also seen clearly that Shon wouldn't have had the match not been called.
"I couldn't do that..." Uther mumbled, more to himself than the others, his shoulders slumping.
The other four immediately shifted their attention to their fellow. The poor boy had struggled through every stage of their combat training. Baradin patted him on the back, trying to sound soothing, "It’s only been a year. You have plenty of time."
Uther sighed heavily, "That was his first match, and he's already better than I am..." none of the others had an answer for that.
"I can't do this..."
Shon looked up from his book to furrow his brow at the older Squire. Uther looked as dejected as ever, staring unseeing at his own books spread out on the table in front of him. They showed drawings of fighting forms being performed step by step with explanations detailing each one's use.
"Uther..." Kefir whispered, reaching out to rub his friend's back, "You can..."
"I can't!" Uther slammed his book shut, and every Squire at the table jumped in surprise, "I don't want to. I hate this. I hate all of this." he crossed his arms over the table and dropped his head into them.
Shon tried to go back to his book. It was none of his business. He hardly knew the boy, and even if he did, what would he say? What could any of them say? And yet he listened as the others tried to comfort the frustrated Squire. "You're the best at our theology and law lessons, though, Uther. We can help you with the rest. We still have time."
"I don't want to fight..." Uther spoke into his arms, "I never did... I just thought... I thought that if I tried hard enough, I would learn..."
"I don't want to." he was barely audible now, even in the absolute silence of the library.
At the end of the table, two boys a year older than Uther exchanged looks and silent nods before they stood and came to kneel beside him, "You don't have to." one of them said. Shon looked up again.
The other rubbed the Uther's back gently, "There was a boy a year older than us, his name was Karlin, he had a hard time too..."
Uther turned his head just enough to look through his arms at the Squire, "He gave up?"
"He went to train as a Cleric instead." the first said, "We got a letter from him last year, he's really happy, Uther. Maybe..." he hesitated, and his friend picked up for him,
"We would never encourage you to quit. If you want to stay, we'll help you. Everyone here will." he gestured to the table at large and then to the rest of the fortress beyond the library door. Uther lifted his head, and Shon nodded when he met the older boy's eyes. Though what he could do, he still didn't know.
The senior Squire continued, "But if you really don't want to, we will support you in that too."
Uther looked around at all of them, then whispered, "It's not too late?"
"It's never too late," the Paladin on duty chimed in without looking up. Perhaps not wanting to interject too much into the Squires' group effort to comfort their own.
"You've only been here a year, and Karlin already showed it's possible to transfer. If that's really what you want."
"I... I think I'll go pray..." Uther finally managed to choke out. The two boys stood and helped him to his feet but let him walk to the door on his own. Shon went back to his book.
He'd wanted this so badly it had hurt. He couldn't imagine being in Uther's position... But he also felt a strange sort of pride in his fellow Squires. They had stood up to help their fellow without hesitation, even now that he left, they weren't judging him for his voiced doubts. And even Uther himself. Shon had to imagine that it took a lot of strength to admit to the others that he might give up, that this path wasn't for him.
The next day Uther left Hamerfoss.
Along with the fundamentals of their swords, the new Squires were caught up in lessons on kingdom law. As Paladins, it would be their responsibility to enforce the law in each of the ten provinces, each with their own nuances. However, kingdom-wide laws always superseded province laws, so the new Squires were expected to know as much of that as possible before they started with the others.
Today they were learning about magic regulation...
"You should've all learned the basic theory of arcane magic before reaching maturity..." the Paladin giving their lecture began, waiting for their nods before continuing, "So you know that, theoretically, anyone can practice arcane magic. With enough study and funding. The kingdom has granted the Mages Guild a leading voice in the laws surrounding the use of arcane magic, and the power to enforce them with the assistance of the local Temple representatives."
The classroom was made to hold twenty five Squires and so felt particularly large and empty with only the three of them seated in the front row taking silent notes as the instructor spoke. He explained how the teleport system of gates worked within the Guild. That transport could be purchased to instantly travel between Guild towers, but that permission had to be granted from the destination if crossing province lines; otherwise, travelers would be trapped in the Guild and heavily fined, even imprisoned in some cases. He touched briefly on the cost cap of certain magical items, such as bags of holding and weather-resistant cloaks, to prevent price gouging. And handed out a list of outlawed magic items they would be required to memorize in their own time for a test at the end of this training period. It mostly consisted of anything that could cause outright harm, rare and valuable spell components for powerful spells, or items that aided in stealth that could be used for thievery. Though with the proper licensure, some experienced allies of the Temples were permitted to use many of them.
"Arcane magic has the potential to be very dangerous, and as such, all practicing Mages are required to be trained and registered as members of the Guild. Only Archmages, the highest Mage rank, are permitted to conduct research outside the Guild and take apprentices at their leisure. Which brings us to Sorcerers..."
Shon looked up from his notes. Their teacher was writing on the board again. At the top, he scrawled 'Sorcerers' then drew two lines down from the word to 'Clearance' and 'Sealing.' "When a Sorcerer awakens, they are required to..." he started, but Thom and Rerves both quickly raised their hands.
"What's a Sorcerer?" Rerves asked after the instructor nodded his way. Thom put down his hand, having had the same question.
The instructor looked at Shon and asked, "Do you know what a Sorcerer is?" when Shon shook his head, the man looked disapproving, "Then why didn't you ask?"
"They did..." Shon muttered down to his notebook. The teacher sighed and Shon glared at his notes. He would've asked if Thom and Rerves hadn't... assuming the answer wasn't made clear as the lesson continued.
Rather than further chastise him, the teacher moved on to answer the question, "A Sorcerer is someone who possesses natural arcane magic. They are born with power over one of the five elements. The power usually manifests around puberty, and when it does, the Sorcerer in question is taken to the Mages Guild. There they are either trained to control it -taking many years of study- or the power is sealed." He turned his back on the boys to continue writing on the board. Under 'Clearance', he wrote 'training' and 'testing', and under 'Sealing', he wrote 'tattoo' and 'item.'
"A Sorcerer with a clearance is the same in practice as a Mage who is registered with the Guild. Most Sorcerers, however, have their power sealed, preventing its use,"
"Why?" Thom asked, then quickly clapped his hand over his mouth, embarrassed for interrupting.
The instructor didn't seem to mind the interruption so much as the question itself. His eyes went wide in his disbelief as he looked down at the boys, "It is incredibly dangerous. Earth Sorcerers have been known to cause small earthquakes; Water and Air Sorcerers can drown or steal the air right from the lungs; Ice Sorcerers can freeze an entire room; and Fire Sorcerers... well, they are the most destructive. And all of that can be unintentional. Their magic is driven by their emotions, and if they can't control it, they are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. This is also why they are usually sealed with a tattoo..." he tapped the word on the board, "The sealing tattoo blocks their ability to use any kind of magic. It locks their energy, and thus their magic, in their body, preventing its manipulation. It is also given to any Mages, Druids, Clerics, and even Paladins that break the law and endanger the kingdom."
Rerves opened his mouth but then remembered to raise his hand, waiting for permission before he asked, "But don't Clerics and Paladins lose their God's blessing and their magic if they use it for evil?"
The teacher sighed again, though sadly this time, "Only Saint Giorgos reveres law itself as holy, and not every God holds the same standards for evil."
"Horsa..." Rerves growled under his breath, and the instructor nodded solemnly in agreement, his eyes flashing angrily at the mention of Hengist's brother and nemesis.
"Spells that are acceptable in Horsa-controlled provinces are not always permitted in Hengist's lands and vis versa. The Temples prefer to transfer those caught performing illegal acts with magic to a province where it is permitted, but occasionally, even a Cleric or Paladin can be tattooed to prevent further spell use. In some provinces, and you will learn more about this later, they even tattoo non-magic users who commit violent crimes. To prevent them from ever learning dangerous magic in the future."
Shon stared at the word scrawled in his notebook. Sealing tattoos worked by sealing the person's energy in their body, their ki... would it prevent Monk abilities too? The bell ending the lesson interrupted his thoughts, and Shon looked up to the teacher with the others, waiting for official dismissal before they would close their notebooks, "You should have that list of contraband memorized by the end of the week," the instructor reminded them as he began to erase the board, "Dismissed."
A rabbit made of fire hopped its way around the open cage. She sat on the floor, focusing on it, forcing it to keep the shape she willed while she stroked the cat's crimson-scaled head. The cat rested its entire front half in her lap, its lower legs splayed out on the ground, limp, too weak to move. She fought back tears as it tried to lift one great paw to bat at the bunny. She let the cat hit it, even made the flame rabbit fall down, pinned under the red claws. Not all of her treasures could touch her fire, but this one could, so she would do this for it at least. It purred in triumph at catching the flaming bunny but closed its eyes a moment later, letting out a ragged breath.
It was dying. They all died eventually, but it didn't stop the pain. She sniffed, trying to keep the tears from falling as she let the fire go. Snuffed out like her treasure.
"Come on, Red... it’s time to go..." Ran whispered into the cage.
She shook her head, stroking the large cat's side. Its breathing had slowed even further, "Not yet," she choked, then sniffed again.
Brom rested a hand on Ran's shoulder, "Give her a little longer."
"He can wait," Brom whispered.
Her tears finally started to fall, streaming silently down her cheeks and over her scales, the same shade as this treasure, the first treasure she'd ever pet. It had lived longer than the others, somehow, and was one of the few she was capable of touching for more than a few moments. "Why?" she asked the journeymen, not really expecting an answer she could accept.
They squatted down outside the cage together, and Ran answered, "Their bodies can't handle the magic. They're animals with dragon power. We're trying Red, but we haven't figured out how to stop it yet..."
"Am I going to die too?" she asked. The cat's breathing slowed further, her tears dripping onto its head and sizzling as they landed.
"No, Goldy, no... You're different... you're..." Brom struggled to find an explanation.
"A Sorcerer Red," Ran provided, "And a really powerful one."
Her treasure breathed its last, letting the air out slowly until it was unmoving in her lap. She cried silently. Curling around the large cat that was too heavy for her to lift, she cried into its neck, holding it close.
Brom crawled into the cage, but he didn't touch her, "Come on, Goldy, maybe the next generation..." he braved grabbing her arm, flinching at the heat of her skin and pulling her out of the cage as silent tears continued to fall. She tried to control herself but couldn't and fell to her knees as soon as she was out. Brom pulled quickly away, shaking his burned fingers. "Oh, Goldy... please don't..."
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stop crying while also keeping her power pulled in, so she wouldn't catch any of the scattered straw or her caretakers' robes on fire. Her eyes flew open when a thick heavy blanket wrapped around her, and strong arms held it tight to her.
"I've got you, Red... It's okay to cry..." she could feel the antifire spell on the blanket press into her skin, but past that was Ran's arms, and a moment later, a second set, Brom's, wrapped her in a tight embrace. It was the only way they could hug her, and she was grateful enough that she let herself go, her shoulders bobbing as she sobbed and wailed for the loss of her treasure... and for herself.
--- Table of Contents
Thanks for making it this far, you are the real MVP
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2023.06.01 19:40 3eemo Issues W/Deadlifts
- I workout at planet fitness. They only offer smith machines Can’t find a really good video explaining to me how that specifically impacts the movement
- They scare me. I feel like it’s the perfect move to just fuck your back up forever with, whats better than bending your spine thru it’s whole range of motion with hundreds of pounds attached! /s
- So this really impacts the amount of weight I’m willing or able to lift. I can squat more than 300 lbs and do over 600 on the leg press machine, but with deadlifts I’m constantly “resetting myself,” checking my posture making sure the momentum is coming from my the right place, the movement is exhausting to the point that I can’t get more than 12 reps in at like 140 lbs.
I realize the obvious solution is to start low and get comfortable with the movement. The problem is I started a workout program based on a push pull leg cycle and lifting heavy on the deadlift is highly emphasized as key movement for the pull workout. I want to get the most out of this program, but I can’t even figure out a good 1 rep max given all the variables stated above.
So If anyone has an alternative perhaps or any tips, please feel free to Lmk. Im totally fine not doing deadlifts. I haven’t done them for years for these reasons.
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2023.06.01 19:30 ctam312 Progression Run w/ Adios Pro 3 -- "Adios mfs"
| || | submitted by ctam312 to RunningShoeGeeks [link] [comments]
Total distance ran:
5 miles (8.05 km) Weather ran in:
78F-82F -- 25.6C-27.8 My profile:
Height: 5'8" (172.72cm)
Weight: 190 lbs(86.18kg)
Range of average cadence with this shoe: 168 - 180 steps/min
Strike Type: Midfoot bias/heel
Average runs a week 22 miles (35.4km). Positives:
- Nice responsive somewhat firm but soft cushioning (compared to SC trainer fuel cell)
- Great for wide feet
- Slight rubbing on the inner side ball of the right foot
- Slight Achilles/heel slip, but helped a little with runner loop
Like I said in the title: Adios mfs. These shoes are truly fast ones. I took these out for a very fast run to the gym for fun that was about .53 miles and I was probably running faster at a 7:34/mi pace versus my average 8:45/mi pace (keep in mind, just full-on fastest mile pace). I was gonna post cause how excited I was, but I think these deserved a much longer run to truly determine what they should feel like.
I was a little nervous about these since they are race day shoes and usually race day shoes run narrow. However, for my wide/slightly wider feet people, these were amazing. I was sad I could never truly feel comfortable in Alphaflys or Vaporflys, but Adidas always does me right with them comfortably fitting wider-footed people. I'm sure these would work great for medium-sized feet as well. For sizing in New Balance, I'm an 8.5 and for Adidas, I'm a 9.5. I'd say stick to the measurements Adidas recommends as I'm 265mm heel to toe, and Adidas says their 9.5 is 267mm.
The run I did for this review is a progression run with 45 min easy pace then finishing out with a 15 min marathon race pace. Ignoring the heat and Boston hills, these shoes were fast. Looking at the averages my 45 min easy pace went faster by 30 seconds. Felt like I was really rolling smoothly, and the return was very poppy but comfortable even though I was slower than race pace. I think these shined when I sped up for my last 15 minutes. I didn't expect the speed boost for the last 15 minutes as I was so tired from the heat and sun beaming on me for 45 mins I didn't think I can drop my pace that fast. These last 15 minutes were also running up some steep Boston hills on comm ave near BU. Overall, I'm really excited to take these on my long runs on Sunday and I think these are a great contender for people who are looking for alternatives away from Nike's flagship racer shoes. Worth buying?:
Yes, if you can get these on sale and if you are slightly past the beginner stages of running. Luckily I was able to get them for 127 USD. I would say these are better for after you can start running faster and keep your cadence high cause I believe these shine at your higher speed runs with great form.
2023.06.01 18:46 slugger-o-toole [LONG Text Review] 13kg Big First Haul! FK Reverse Mochas, Panda Dunks, Syracuse Dunks, Dior B23s, Gucci x Adidas Gazelles, Sambas, Converse, Hermes Oran Sandals, FOG Essentials tracksuit, shorts & quarter zip, Goyard cardholder & AirPod case, Supreme Pill case, Tiffany money clip
About Me Gender:
F // Age:
32 // Country:
5’9”/175cm // Weight:
65kg // Build:
Men’s Small - Women’s UK 8-10/Small // Shoes:
EU40 - UK 7 - US Men’s 8 - US Women’s 9.5
I ordered some ‘hype’ items and some boring items in this haul because they were cheaper than buying retail and I just wanted to try some things out. I’m not overly worried about being called out because I’m 32 and I don’t care, but have checked other reviews/images of the items to make my comments about accuracy. List of items in haul: FK Reverse Mochas, Panda Dunks, Syracuse Dunks, Dior B23s, Gucci x Adidas Gazelles, Sambas, Converse, Hermes Oran Sandals, Essentials tracksuit, shorts & quarter zip, Goyard cardholder & AirPod case, Supreme Pill case, Tiffany money clip
Agent: Pandabuy Comments:
This is my first haul and Pandabuy was super easy and clear to use, I wasn’t confused by the process at any stage. The communication was great, including asking if I wanted refunds when sellers took ages to send. Shipping was easy and quick, imo. Sidenote: I used After Ship to track as it had more detail for my country than 17track. It was very accurate with delivery times etc. Parcels were delivered on my end by ParcelForce.
Shipping Divided this into 2 parcels. Full details of shipping timeline here. Carrier:
GD-E-EMS // Total weight:
~13kg Total time from warehouse:
6 days (Parcel 1) // 8 days (Parcel 2) Haul Total:
¥3021.63 // Shipping Total:
¥1441.56 // Total Cost: ¥4463.19
// £504 // $628
|Timeline ||Parcel 1 ||Parcel 2 |
|Order Submitted ||May 24th ||May 24th |
|Order Received ||May 30th ||June 1st |
|Total Shipping Time ||6 days ||8 days |
|Details ||Parcel 1 ||Parcel 2 |
|Actual Weight ||6.3kg ||6.4kg |
|Estimated Weight ||6.6kg ||6.5kg |
|Actual Shipping Cost ||¥719.72 ||¥710 |
|Estimated Shipping Cost ||¥746.79 ||¥721.84 |
|Insurance ||¥59.59 ||¥72.33 |
|Extras ||¥25 - vacuum packaging, shrink wrap ||¥5 - moisture bag |
|Declare amount ||$50 ||$50 |
Gucci x Adidas Gazelles, Adidas Sambas (no box), Converse (no box), Essentials Quarter Zip, Essentials shorts, Essentials tracksuit, AirPod holder, pill case, metal money clip. Parcel 2:
TS Reverse Mocha AJ1, Dior B23, Dunks x2 (no box), card holder, Hermes Oran sandals. Notes: The vacuum bag was pointless, it wasn't actually vacuum packed, just in an unsealed vacuum bag in the parcel. Added the moisture bag as it was only CNY 5 and thought it might discourage too much rooting around in the parcel lol. Also asked them to add in foam packing material and a note saying “from grandma” or something. Trying some different things. Border Force checked only the Hermes and TS boxes, they were opened and resealed with Border Force tape.
I'm not an expert on any of these shoes so take what I say with a pinch of salt and look at the in hand pics and make your own decision.
Travis Scott Reverse Mocha Air Jordan 1 - FK Batch (EU40) Seller:
CSJ Price: ¥360
(+ ¥10) // £41 // $51 W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 9/10 // Comfort: 8/10 // Quality: 8/10 // Fit: Notes: 4 days to warehouse. Shipped with box because I like the box.
The box was a little damaged, but not wearing the box etc etc. They're comfortable enough, my first AJ1 lows, not as comfortable as the highs I have (retail) and maybe don't feel quite as good quality, but quality is off with a lot of retail Nikes in general so that could just be the TS's anyway. The laces feel kind of plasticky, but idk if that's normal for this model. Suede seems ok to me, but I'm no expert. In terms of flaws, The "Cactus Jack" under the white swoosh is slightly misaligned compared to retail. The AIR is slightly different to retail on the tongue. But they look pretty good to me, not complaining. Obviously I could be completely wrong. I'm happy.
Panda Dunks and Syracuse Dunk Low - VT Batch (EU40) Seller:
Passerby Price: ¥199 each
(+ ¥20) // £23 each // $28 each W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 9/10 // Comfort: 8/10 // Quality: 9/10 // Fit: TTS Notes: 2 days to warehouse. Shipped without box.
Shipped these without the box so they were a little beat up when they arrived, but were fine as soon as they were on feet. The Syracuse were sent with spare laces in an SB bag but not SB laces, a bit strange. In terms of accuracy, the Nike logo isn't as puffy as on retail. On the Syracuse, the orange on the liner top bit of the shoe doesn't really match well, but not super noticeable. Tags on the tongue don't seem quite right and maybe the NIKE on the back is a bit small. No major flaws and these are so common I don't think anyone will call them out as such. In terms of fit, they are close to TTS I'd say, but the Pandas are a little tighter than the Syracuse.
Dior B23 (EU40) Seller:
WWTOP Price: ¥400
(+ ¥10) // £45.50 // $56.50 Colour:
Black and White High Top W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 9.5/10 // Comfort: 9/10 // Quality: 10/10 // Fit: TTS Notes: 10 days to warehouse.
Box was damaged. These are a lot more comfortable than usual 'Converse' style shoes, actually feel really good on foot. Fit a little large for me, but not much, so I'd say close to TTS. I don't think the tongue or the material have the kind of leathery quality that the retails have but you'd have to touch it or look inside it to see that. I think the translucent layer is meant to touch on the front half of the shoe, but not too noticeable. Overall pretty good reps.
Adidas Sambas (Size EU40) Seller:
7up Price: ¥134.83
(+ ¥10) // £15 // $19 Colour:
White and Black W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 7/10 // Comfort: 9/10 // Quality: 8/10 // Fit: TTS Notes: 5 days to warehouse. Shipped without the box and tags and they were fine when they arrived, not mashed up at all.
There are some issues with this pair: you can see in the pictures that the suede on one shoe is slightly darker than the other (this is more noticeable in pictures than IRL), the “SAMBA” is way too close to the stripes, the corner of the lacing unit should be aligned with the edge of the first stripe, the tongue seems a little short but that’s not noticeable on-foot.
Overall, it’s a pair of Sambas, nobody’s going to LC them and they’re comfy, so I’m really not bothered by the flaws. Feels like leather but smells like plastic. I’m happy with this pair for £15. Let’s see how they hold up.
Black and Cream Converse Chuck 70 Hi (Size EU40) Seller:
ezreps Price: ¥150
(+ ¥10) // £17 // $21 Colour:
Black & White/Cream W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 8/10 // Comfort: 7/10
(but I feel this way about all Converse Chucks) // Quality: 7/10
(but not far from retail) // Fit: TTS
(which in my experience is slightly large) Notes: 5 days to warehouse. Also shipped without the box and tags and they were fine when they arrived, no damage.
Again, some small flaws with these: star on the back tag thing on the heel is too large, sole’s maybe a little thick (idk). But again, Converse Hi Tops, nobody cares or will LC. They feel like normal Converse, where quality is not amazing. But honestly, I’d never spend £85 on a retail pair of these when you can get these for under £20 and they’re fine. Meant to actually buy regular Converse Hi Tops in B&W but bought these by accident, they’re fine though, happy enough with these.
Brown Adidas x Gucci Gazelles (Size EU41) Seller:
Xiaorao Men's Clothing Discount Store Price: ¥388
// £44 // $54 Colour:
Brown Gucci Print W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 8/10
// Comfort: 8/10
// Quality: 7/10
// Fit: 1/2 size small Notes: 6 days to warehouse. Shipped with the box and stuff because I bought these for my mum. Came with the box, tags and some weird plain dustbags and one Adidas x Gucci dustbag (like for one shoe) and a carrier bag. Box was mashed up in a few places, but not wearing the box so that’s fine (pictures of the packaging here).
I love these shoes, they’re fun. As I said, bought them for mumsy but they’re a bit too small for her but fit me, so another one in the haul for me now! These look great, but do have flaws. The “G” of Gazelle on the left shoe is shoddy AF (shown in in-hand pics). Print of the “Gucci” logo on the back is printed pretty badly. They don’t feel as comfortable or good quality as the plain Sambas that I bought for myself, but this could be because they’re canvas. Print looks alright to me. Tongue doesn’t feel great, and might be a bit short, but doesn’t seem too noticeable on foot. Going to buy another pair, a size bigger for mum. For £45 vs. £700+ mum’s happy, and now I have a pair so I’m happy too.
Brown Hermes Oran Sandals (EU 42) Seller:
Fisherman Price: ¥480
// £55 //$68 W2C: WhatsApp (+86) 16602067117 (I bought via this link) QC //In Hand // Retail (for reference) Accuracy: 9/10
// Comfort: 7/10 (but they're leather sandals with wooden bottoms, not exactly comfortable shoes in any case)
// Quality: 10/10
// Fit: TTS but narrow Notes: 11 days to warehouse, sent QC directly (before sending to warehouse) after 7 days. Communication 10/10.
Another pair for mum. She really wanted this pair so I looked around and Fisherman seemed to have decent ones. He had good communication, I recommend him as a seller after this interaction. He told me they were TTS and length-wise they're good but you'd need to have quite narrow feet. I have narrow feet but mumsy doesn't - so she's going to have to stretch them out a bit.
They're leather. The stitching is maybe a bit bright-white compared to retail and the foot-pad thing is a bit square - this is common on all reps of these sandals and you can't see it on foot. They look like really good reps overall, mum's definitely not going to get called out on these and she's happy.
Ordered different Essentials bits from different sellers, wanted to see the difference and I’m mostly concerned about comfort. Added images and QC and everything so everyone can check out the stuff from these sellers for their own information. I’m not adept at legit checking Essentials so you’ll be able to see the flaws in the pictures, but I won’t necessarily. For me, I’ll wear most of it regardless because I can wear it at home and it’s comfy AF. Also, I’ve put them through the wash and reported how they’ve held up after a wash. At present, I can’t vouch for any more quality/longevity than that.
Essentials Tracksuit (Small) - 1688 Seller: 1688
- Ningbo Yinzhou Price: Hoody ¥130
(£15/$18) + Trackpants ¥110
(£12.50/$16) (+ ¥12) Colour:
Moss QC // In Hand Hoody: W2C
// PandaBuy Link Pants: W2C
// PandaBuy Link Accuracy: 6.5/10
// Comfort: 10/10
// Quality: 9/10
// Fit: Hoody oversized, pants a bit small. Notes: 4 days to warehouse. I was aware the seller didn’t take refunds before they sent (Pandabuy agent told me ahead of time) but thought I’d go ahead and get it anyway because I know I’ll wear it either at home or on school trips (I’m a teacher) that I have to go on and not worry about clothes getting messed up.
First the good, super warm, really nice weight to them and super comfortable. One of the most comfortable hoodies I own. The hoody is oversized and quite large on me but the pants are really tight but still comfy. I think together they look a bit odd because of the size difference (see fit pics). Pant legs and sleeves are quite long, so if you’re tall these will still work. Flaws:
The main problem is the wonky and thin font on the front of the hoody. This is a bit annoying Also, inside tags aren’t great. Probably way more because these just seem fairly inaccurate all round.
All in all, it’s a comfortable tracksuit for less than £30 all in. I’m going to try another 1688 seller next time, as I’ve seen some decent ones in the subreddits from there.
Held up good after a wash and still super warm, soft and fluffy. None of the print peeled or anything.
Essentials Shorts (Small) - 1688 Seller: 1688
- Lu'an Jiangzuo Electronic Commerce Co., Ltd. Price: ¥50
(+ ¥6) // £6 // $7 Colour:
Matcha Green (plus velvet) W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: /10
// Comfort: 10/10
// Quality: /10
// Fit: TTS Notes: 4 days to warehouse.
So. Comfortable. Don’t know if they’re the most accurate, don’t care that much since they were £6 and I haven’t taken them off since getting them. I’m not sure anyone would legit check shorts that closely, but they’re certainly not doing it to me. Will buy more, love these. Worst bag of the selection, but we don’t wear the bag.
Held up good after a wash and still super warm, soft and fluffy. None of the print peeled or anything.
Essentials Quarter Zip (Medium) - Gman Seller:
Gman Price: ¥235
(+ ¥12) // £27 // $33 Colour:
Avocado (same colour as the Matcha Green shorts - think it's actually 'Sage Green' in Essentials) W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: /10
// Comfort: 9/10
// Quality: /10
// Fit: Notes: 5 days to warehouse. Ordered a size M as this was the smallest size available from Man.
From Gman, seems good quality. It doesn’t feel as soft or comfy as the tracksuit or shorts tbh. This was the one Essentials item that I really wanted to get, so a bit disappointed that it’s too big for me. Ultimately, this is comedy large on me, so I will most likely give it away or sell it and have to get this from a different seller (recommendations welcome).
Goyard Cardholder Seller:
u[30467653 Price: ¥35
// £4 // $5 Colour:
Orange W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 6/10
// Quality: 7/10 Notes: 16 days to warehouse.
Had to get the FashionReps classic ¥35 cardholder. Not overly bothered by accuracy tbh but seems ok. Feels nice, looks nice. The Ys don’t touch, so maybe I’ll get called out. I like it though and that’s all that matters.
‘Goyard’ AirPod Case Seller:
Chinese cabbage mobile phone case Price: ¥14.80
// £1.60 // $2 Colour
: "Orange Stripes" W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: No idea (pretty sure this is fantasy) // Quality: 8/10 Notes: 2 days to warehouse.
I ordered orange (I wanted something that would match the cardholder, and this is more muted and not orange like a lot of the Goyard stuff). But I needed an AirPod case, it fits my AirPods and it’s sturdy, so it does the job and looks pretty nice. It was under £2. Not much more to say, might try and find one more like what I wanted but it’s no biggie.
Supreme Pill Case Seller:
Plaything Research Institute Price: ¥20
//£2 // $3 W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 9/10
// Quality: 9/10 Notes: 4 days to warehouse.
Just needed something to keep my meds in. It’s pretty accurate from what I can tell, but again not super bothered about accuracy - I put 9/10 because I’m sure there are some flaws but what they are idk. I will say this is very small, there’s no way I can keep all of my meds in there given that some of them are larger tablets. Also, now I’m wondering if it’s safe, I’ve disinfected it so I’m sure it’s fine?
Tiffany & Co Money Clip Seller:
Baojibao Zhongbao Shangpin Collection Price: ¥16
(+ ¥10) // £3 // $4 Colour: '
YQJ101-silver wide and long 6 bottles' W2C // PandaBuy Link // QC // In Hand Accuracy: 6/10
// Quality: 6/10 Notes: 4 days to warehouse.
Needed a money clip - don’t like trying to stuff cash into my card holders. Did cut through one of my notes when I pulled it out, so I needed to pull it apart a bit and loosen it up. When I did that there was a big flaw which is that there’s a bit where the silver coating has come off, presumably from rubbing against each other (hard to describe, you can see it in the pics) and it had created a sharp bit. Filed it down with some sandpaper and it’s fine now, no more cutting the notes.
It’s not the most accurate, the engraving isn’t deep enough, it’s a bit too shiny and the 1897 is too wide. But idc, it does the job and it was £3.
That’s a wrap. Thanks for reading (sorry it was so long). I’ll be doing another summer haul soon - lots of shorts and t shirts and probably more trainers, so looking forward to that.
If this review was crap, sorry. Let me know what I can do better next time!
submitted by slugger-o-toole
to FashionReps [link] [comments]
2023.06.01 18:44 eyeofhorus919 Grimmaldus, the Titan.
O----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------O Name: Merek Grimmaldus
Family and Relations: None.
Voice Claim/Accent: American
Role in a party: DPS Tank
Level: 2 (4/10)
Intelligence:5(+1 from racial)
Species: Artificial Human Bound Monster
Personality: Kind and bigger than life.
Likes: Forges, LMGs, and other high power firearms
Dislikes: Pancor Jackhammer, Goblins, and Eldritch monsters.
Markings/Scars/Tattoos: Scratch marks on his cheeks.
Extra: Has three platinum studs in his skull above his eyebrow.
- Equipment [Pictures also suffice]:
Clothing: While out of his armor he wears Jeans, combat boots, a Evil Dead shirt, and a holster for his Talon of Flames.
Armor and armor attachments:
- Assault Pack: A even stronger version of the jump pack, boasting two massive thrusters as well as a energy field projecter designed to allow for the power armor wearing user to crash down like god himself among enemies.
Only usable while wearing power armor, allows for the wearer to fly up to sixty feet per turn, applies a +3 to dodges, and upon landing from a height greater than thirty feet apply a strength save of 10+ distance in feet above thirty in groups of five + wielder’s strength. On a failed save any enemies that are within ten feet of the landing point are knocked prone and the wearer can make attacks of opportunity against them, on a crit fail the enemies are stunned for 1d3 rounds.
Armor set: Emperor’s Angel.
Helmet: Prateor’s Visage (Legendary) - ”Crush them…slaughter them.”
- Armor Mods - Heads-Up Display (Unlocked): A tactical visor which displays necessary biometric and target-acquisition data. Provides a +2 bonus to Perception rolls
- Armor Mods - Treasure Finder (Unlocked): A specialized radar which allows for the detection of hidden treasure in a 15ft radius around the user. Cannot detect treasure hidden by supernatural means.
- Armor Mods - Terrain Anomaly Detection System, T.A.D.S. (Unlocks at PC Lvl 3): An A.I. image processing unit constantly scans the terrain within view of the user, highlighting any anomalies such as footprints, claw marks, etc. for easy detection.
Gauntlets: Hochmael’s Will (Legendary) - ”You need only to send me to face our enemy. My hands alone will be enough to break their bones and their souls.”
- Armor Mods - Striker (Unlocked): A sufficiently light alloy ensures fluid movement while covered in armor. +2 to dodge rolls and to unarmed strike attacks such as punches.
- Armor Mods - Punches of Power (Unlocked): Every punch made has a chance of dropping an orb of power. Roll a d10, if it lands on 1, an Orb of Power is made. When an Orb of Power is generated it is automatically collected by its producer. When collected an Orb of Power reduces the cooldown of the producer’s Super Ability by 1 round. (Gives Grimmaldus 10 Phoenix flame)
- Armor Mods - Tempered Rage (Unlocks at PC Lvl 3): Every successful 5 unarmed strikes performed grants a temporary buff to all further unarmed strikes for 2 rounds. Upon being buffed unarmed strikes deal 3% damage than they would normally.
Chest Armor: Hollowed Fortress (Legendary) - ”They thought it was impenetrable…they were wrong.”
- Armor Mods - Strong Alloy (Unlocked): A stronger metal alloy ensures the wearer of this armor’s safety even more so than before. Takes 20% less damage from Piercing and Slashing sources.
- Armor Mods - Anti-Magic Alloy (Unlocked): A safe Hive spell has been cast on this armor, making it slightly resistant to magic attacks. Takes 20% less damage from magic sources.
- Armor Mods - Dense Alloy (Unlocks at PC Lvl 3): The alloy of this armor has been increased in width, allowing for greater concussive force to be absorbed while mitigating damage as much as possible. Takes 20% less damage from Bludgeoning Sources.
Leg Armor: Strapped Slingers (Exotic) - ”An outlaw’s never looked this good.”
- Armor Perks - Locked n’ Loaded: Weapons which take multiple rounds to reload have that time cut in half. Weapons which take one round to reload are instantly reloaded when stowed away. Allows you to pull out weapons much faster and provides a +2 bonus to initiative rolls.
- Armor Mods - Spring-Loaded Soles (Unlocked): Newly added suspension system quite literally gives the user a spring in their step, providing a +2 bonus to movement rolls as well as allowing the user to jump an extra 5 feet.
- Armor Mods - All-Terrain Boots (Unlocks at PC Lvl 2): A heap of modifications have allowed the user to properly traverse almost any terrain. Toggleable magnetic plates allow the user to walk up walls and across ceilings without issue as well as stick to any solid surface with an attraction force of about 50 pounds. Magnetic plates do not slow movement speed.
- Armor Mods - Even Springier Soles (Unlocks at PC Lvl 3): Previous spring-loaded suspension system has been upgraded, giving a +3 to movement rolls instead of 2 and allowing the user to jump an extra 10 feet in the air.
- Servo Ghost: The source of his power, this tiny skull like companion is at the moment broken, keeping it from bringing him back from death beyond what it already has but it’s ability to grant him access to pure plasma and electromagnetic fields to contain them as well as protect him from the Phoenix Flame protocol.
Can hack and scan independently of Merek’s turn.
- Rosarius: A necklace/amulet that can be tied to a belt, the amulet contains technology that produces a transparent field of energy that turns tiny objects and energy moving at high speeds through it into light.
Applies advantage to block bullets and similarly fast ranged attacks. (Does not work against magic)
Uses Strength to be thrown, deals X1.5 damage when thrown, if it hits and is retrieved Merek is healed for 25% health.
Deals 1d12+STR blunt (or the same amount of piercing if used with the pointed end) and 1d4+INT burning on a hit.
If not retrieved before three rounds are up after being thrown this hammer vanishes and reappears attached to his belt after six rounds.
- P10K: A two handed SMG designed after a old world P90 but takes energy cells, the same shape, mag load area, and the silencer on it resulting in the weapon being perfect for Merek due to him being from modern day earth and used to the SMG. The main body of it is designed with a mag lock body, resulting in it sticking to armor when not needed and the tube at the end not only helps to hide the source of the shots by hiding the flash but also lowering the already quiet Energy weapon.
It has been improved via the pack a punch to a much cleaner version as well as having better cell magazines, holding a hundred rounds instead of fifty rounds.
Deals 5 burn damage but makes five attacks due to burst fire, this damage is boosted to 8 burn per shot against armored targets.
After firing thirty shots, the gun can release the heat generated by the plasma going out in a shotgun like blast of energy.
Deals 25 plasma (Unable to be healed in combat) + 1d20 plasma to a single target up to thirty feet away.
- Whirlwind Launcher: A armor module that attaches to any form of armor, as well as allowing for impulse control or manual controls. The unit typically remains folded into a small orb with a rectangle to the side but when unfolded forms four rocket launchers loaded with smart ammo.
Uses intelligence and dexterity.
Deals 2d20 blast damage.
Kraken missiles: ignores armor bonuses, deals quadruple damage to armored vehicles and double armor wearing enemies.
Antipersonal: hits all enemies within ten feet of the target, deals double damage to unarmored targets.
Flak shot: Flying enemies automatically are grounded when hit, advantage against airborne enemies.
Energy surge: On a hit apply a 15+intelligence DC, on a failed save all electronics within ten feet of the target are shut off.
Takes ten rounds to load a barrel. (Passive)
Can be fired as a bonus action or fired all at once with a attack action.
• Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi: ”A legendary blade who’s name literally translates to “Grass-Cutter”. This blade is said to be able to cut through almost anything and is practically indestructible. In earlier legends, this blade was associated with the clouds or winds and said to have been wielded by Amaterasu, the sun goddess of Japanese mythology. Because of this, it is able to emit a powerful gust of wind every 4 rounds which can knock opponents back a good distance.”
Deals 2d6+DEX slash damage that ignores nonenchanted armor and slash resistance. Can be used to parry and block energy weapons.
- Komodo shotgun: A belt fed shotgun designed for clearing out zombie infested ships, the heavy gun contains a means of blasting back groups of people to buy the wielder time to reload due to a gravity engine built into the gun under the barrel.
Deals 2d10 piercing.
Upon using the attack action with this gun attack the same target three times or attack three targets.
Deals double damage to zombies.
Has the ability to apply knockback to any enemies inside of ten feet to send them to thirty feet back. Cooldown of four rounds.
Capacity: sixty shells
Loading time: three actions.
Capacity: 9 bullets.
Uses Perception and Intelligence.
Deals 1d6 piercing per shot. Deals triple damage on a crit, crit chance of 18.
Burst: Once per ten rounds tag 3+wielder’s level amount of targets or a single target that many times, firing that many times in a single action.
Burst can only be used by cyborgs, while wearing power armor, or wearing sci fi optical wear and a mechanical arm sleeve.
Magical Null: Merek is unable to be healed by spells or learn magic.
Artificial Human Bound Monster: Merek’s nature as a HBM made his body stronger and his mind sharper than it had been in life, his body actually becoming unaging and a bit bigger than he was in life originally.
Plus one to strength and intelligence.
Unaging (appears 41)
Superhuman body: Falling damage from a fall up to 10 stories is nullified, all other is subjected to a 90% reduction.
Secret’s in the armor: Grimmaldus can only wear his Imperium Armor set and it replaces stats. The armor gains power as Grimmaldus levels up.
Combat Mastery: Grimmaldus moves surprisingly fast when it comes to combat,
Actives: Hammer of Dawn: Merek’s strongest SG given ability, during it he summons a massive burning hammer and swings it about, smashing bones and burning away his enemies with his Servo Ghost’s plasma. While the hammer itself is extremely powerful it has even more powerful abilities than simply swinging it about, using them results in draining the Phoenix flames that fuel his hammer.
For every attack of Merek’s that lands and enemy attack blocked gain half of the damage dealt in Phoenix Flames, upon reaching 100% Phoenix Flames the Hammer of Dawn can be summoned.
Has a plus 3 to attacks.
Deals (LVL)d8+STR in blunt and a additional (lvl)d4+INT in burn damage.
Requires both hands to swing, can be held with one hand. For every round held drain Phoenix Flames by 10%.
Eruption: Merek brings his hammer up and back down, leaping ten feet into the air to slam his hammer into the ground and discharge a blast of flames through the ground and into a single target.
This attack has advantage and adds intelligence modifiers to it.
Drains ten percent Phoenix Flames in addition to the round drained amount.
Dawnguard’s Wrath: Merek’s Phoenix flames wreath his arms and body, blessing his body with sheer strength and speed enough to unleash a flurry of three blows in the span where one should be done…
Grants the ability to attack three times per attack action while wielding Hammer of Dawn but consumes 10% Phoenix Flames per use.
Ignition Burst: Merek makes a ball of plasma in the palm of his left hand, contained by electro magnetic fields before being flung like a baseball at a target, upon sticking it burns into the target before exploding!
Deals (Lvl)D6+INT burn damage, this weapon is considered sticky, dealing (X1.5) more damage upon a successful stick. Explosion radius of 4 feet.
Uses Intelligence for casting.
Cooldown of 6 rounds hit or Miss.
- backstory: Merek was a spec ops in life, helping to train American troops in Europe with a captured AS Val, showing them how it could not only pierce body armor but also served as a suppressed sniper rifle or a SMG. Eventually he was shifted over to training with the P90 and literally fell in love with it, the ambidextrous grip, top loading mag, and the over all length of it helped the fact that it was made to RIP armor into fragmentation made it all the better. However, before he could start training other soldiers with it, he was trampled to death when a mounted cop’s horse was spooked by a car back firing, his broken body resurrected via the Ghost Servo’s Phoenix protocols in order to have a outlet for it’s power.
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2023.06.01 18:37 R420R77 Random thoughts of a dying man.
Well, I guess I should start at the beginning the majority of all stories tend to start. I was born in Detroit, Michigan in the month of June 1977. I was soon adopted and never met my biological family but have been told that I have two biological sisters, Karen, and Xinea as well as two brothers named Robert, and Jerry(perhaps Gerry I suppose). My mother is Patricia Bray, and my alleged father is Carl Ambers according to the adoption records that I found after the death of my adopted mother, Opal in 2001; I was a grown man by then. I was adopted by Opal and Frank Smith(we will say) in 1978. Somehow they knew my biological mother but that connection was never revelled to me. Opal was one of 17 children who grew up on a mountain somewhere in West Virginia. I was told that her father killed himself in front of her and her siblings when she was less than 10 years old. He was a coal miner and was injured in some type of accident and left unable to work with 19 mouths to feed; hard to fathom but for the love of God why in front of the children? Regardless of his reason this event left a lasting impact upon his 9 year old daughter that would ripple throughout space and time with the force of an atomic bomb; to this day that act and subsequent reaction linger. Opal was a devout Pentecost, Southern Baptist, or whatever similar religion she felt; not exactly sure. She was once a member of the People's Temple church in the early days when they were in Indianapolis (circa 1953-54). She left the church when the new leader, a man by the name of Jim Jones took over and began to allow people of other races into the fellowship; Opal being a woman of God as well as a devout racist left the church. They would later commit forced suicide in Ghana by drinking cyanide laced drinks at the end of machine guns. Opal was a small woman and she had many older brothers. She spent her developmental years fatherless, emotionally wrecked, and on a mountain with those brothers; I do not wish to even imagine what that must have been like, but one thing is for certain; she grew up mean and she knew how to fight, how to hurt a person, and how to use her 4' 11" 120lbs to do damage. Her temper was short and she was fast to react in a violent physical nature. She was married to Frank who was from Kentucky. Frank ran a laundry delivery service, smoked cigars, and loved pro wrestling. He was already in his forties when I was adopted as was Opal. Frank was amazing to me as a young child but as time went on he became isolated and didn't much bother with anything other than work. Looking back it is obvious he was terribly unhappy but that is unfortunately the theme of this story. I also had three adopted sisters that we shall call Kay, Mary, and Carry. All of whom were already 10 and older once I was brought into the household. The six of us lived in a two bedroom single bath home on the south side of Indianapolis. My earliest memory is literally the day that they brought me to their house; you may think that is crazy, a child less than a year old having a vivid memory but I swear to you I do. I remember being brought into the kitchen and being placed into a high chair with a pack of saltines....then a bath and to bed. For the first few years it seemed that we had a happy, perfect family. Frank made good money and so Opal stayed home and managed the house while watching me. I remember how nice she was at first but that would soon change, everything changed. The early eighties were a rough time economically and it showed. The stress of life really brought out the mean in Opal, she would fly off the handle in a millisecond flat. I was a very advanced child for my age and by pre-school I could count to 1000, read children's books myself, and I knew all my shapes and colors beyond the standard "circle, square, blue, red". My adopted parents were not very well educated and I think they were taken aback by the rate at which I absorbed information. It could not possibly be that this child simply has a thirst for knowledge and an ability to process things; it must be DEMONS...yep, folks, demons. From the time I was maybe 3 until I stopped speaking to Opal circa 1999 I was repeatedly told that I was "FULL OF DEMONS" as well as the everpopular"YOU ARE GOING TO HELL FOR _________" Now you can add whatever you wish to that blank up there because she sure did. I was going to hell for running in the house, catching insects, not going to bed on time, throwing rocks, playing with sticks, you name it, and he'll was fucking terrifying. I was taken to churches where people preached that the devil was not among us , but inside of us all!!! and as I watched them shake and scream and yell it honestly scared the shit out of me. Being a developing child and being told you are possessed by creatures from hell may have a lasting mental effect. Like many kids I began to rebel against and since I was full of demons I began to act accordingly. Things in the household spiraled downward like a toy boat circling an open drain. Opal was becoming aloof and isolated, coming from her bedroom only to cuss, complain, and rage. After the first few times getting my ass or face slapped up I learned to shut my mouth but unfortunately my older adopted sister Mary never got that lesson. She was about early high school age when I was adopted but I do not remember either of my two oldest sisters going to school at all. She like rock music of the time, she didn't dress appropriately, she was loud, and she did not listen to anything she was told. She was a typical teen girl in the 80's until she snuck out one night and some men snuck PCP into her drink. She had a bad reaction and seized, they just dumped her from the car onto a cold, dark Indianapolis street corner in the middle of a ghetto where she lay until found. She was rushed to the hospital where she died and was revived many time; luckily she lived, but she had went without oxygen and it left her with some mental impairment. She never really progressed past a teen mentality. I do not know if it was shame at her sneaking out with men and being discovered or the lingering mental illness but Opal had a fire for her like no other. They once had a shouting match over what Mary was wearing and after a few minutes Opal picked up an old golf wedge club that I had found and began to beat her savagely. I counted at least 30 shots before I got the courage to jump in from of her; I was maybe 8 years old. The following years would show a pattern of such actions with all four of us occasionally getting it but Mary and myself got the brunt of things...there were hot off the stove spatulas to bare skin, broomsticks, rake handles, and even the cast iron skillet with hot oil still inside. My father, having been introduced to Opal's violent nature knew better than to intervene, choosing to withdraw all together of the situation. Left to free rein Opal never missed an opportunity to abuse physically, or verbally. I remember being perhaps 9-10 years old and being as my parernts were way older I dressed like I was from the 60's,. Opal had since went to work at a metal polishing factory and I was left to the daily care of three teenage, adopted sister with no clue about basic hygiene so I smelled terrible and the stress of my violent home life had put weight on me other kids fucked with me hardcore. I had had a terrible day at school; my pants had ripped and all the other kids were laughing and calling me fatass and such literally all day long. So I get home finally and I totally break down into hesterical crying fits to which my "mother" responds to be yelling "BOY!!....WHAT IS ALL THE NOISE ABOUT!!?!" and through tears and in broken English I struggled to explain the events of the day and how all the kids said I "stink and that my clothes were trash and that I was too fat!!" and her caring response was to look me dead in my eyes and yell to me "YOU ARE FAT AND I AM NOT BUYING YOU NEW CLOTHES UNTIL YOU LOSE SOME WEIGHT!!" This event would truly cast a demon of hatred and anger deep into my soul that I would struggle to shake for the next 20 or more years. The next day at school, on recess a group of slightly younger children began to gather around me and began the usual verbal and physical harassment. As they had a few days previous they were attempting to set me up for that trick where one person gets down in a dog-like pose behind you while you are distracted and once in place the other push you over and everyone has a grand old laugh at your expense while you struggle to get your fat ass off the ground and get your wind back but that day I was not playing that shit and so when the little fucker ducked down behind me I immediately swung around with my right foot and landed a vicious snap kick directly to his eye socket; the sound of it breaking echoed the playground followed by painful wailing. It felt good to hear, it felt good to see the fear in the eyes of his friend's eyes, to send a message that I was no longer their victim or anyone else's for that matter. I started skipping school, vandalizing, petty theft, shoplifting, and anything other than wholesome which got me arrested for stealing CD's and Transformers from K-Mart. L.L. Cool J.....funny the shit you value when you look in retrospect. The ride home from the juvenile center on East 21st street was a long one and I was petrified of the beating that awaited me as new and different ways and items to beat the fuck from me danced in my head like those fucking sugar-plums from that stupid Christmas Song. When we finally got back to our house in Fountain Square I was directed into the kitchen where a length of 2/4 about 2 foot long waited on the kitchen table. Opal from behind me yelled out "BOY!!" which was what I was always referenced as as if I had no fucking name and when I did a 180 she belted me across my face with a hard right fist, but unlike every other time she hit me I did not scream out, cry, or even flinch from the blow. This further infuriated her and so she struck my face again to the same result, and again, and again until I firmly grabbed her right wrist at which point she immediately hit me with a hard left and I subsequently grabbed her left wrist. I was about 175lbs if not more and my strength overpowered her ability to strike me and when she realized that she could not move and seen in my eyes that this was not going to happen she began to scream "LET GO OF ME!!" to which I replied "I am going to let you go and when I do you are not going to fucking touch me in any way!!"...I let go, and defeated she walked away. After that she offered no real support other than a place to sleep. I began to steal clothing from people's clotheslines and after wearing the same pair of shoes for so long that my feet are literally deformed, I took a pair of Nikes off of someone's porch. Over the next few years I would have many more legal troubles, assaults, thefts, arsons until the State of Indiana stepped in and made me a ward of the state. I was sentenced and sent to a place called Glen Mills Schools in Concordville, Pennsylvania. It was supposed to be a fresh start and a chance to better myself and I was able to get my HSE, learn computer aided drafting, and I got to compete in powerlifting as well. It was the first time in my life I had seen a dentist even; I was 15 years old and finally I felt hopeful and happy; that would soon change.
If you would like to hear more please leave a comment or like. I also appreciate any feedback about my writing as I am not a professional in any way but always looking to improve my craft. If you made it this far; you are greatly appreciated.
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2023.06.01 18:31 Willyouwork My Delicate 5-year-old
I'm not talking emotionally. I can understand being emotionally sensitive at her age.
I'm talking physically. I give her a plastic bag with a couple of composition notes (5) and 2 small tubs of foundation to carry to the car, and she's near dragging it on the ground as if I gave her two gallons of milk to carry. Whining that it's 'sooo heavy'. And she's not short mind you. She's just shy of 4 feet. That's no reason she should be dragging that bag.
I tell her I'm going to be vaccuming her room and to put the things she can lift on her bed. She puts her American doll jeep and a wicker basket filled with stuffed toys that is almost as wide as she is tall. But leaves the empty plastic and canvas shoe rack and near-empty foldable mesh box with a small blanket and kickball inside on the ground by her bed. There was still plenty of room on her bed. And she claims they're too heavy. The jeep and basket weigh more than those 2 things combined. Not to mention not even 5 minutes later she's picking up and carrying around her 30 lb little brother.
Now she gets bumped by a empty plastic laundry basket, the cheap ones you buy at Walmart or Target. Because I slid it down the stairs, which she happened to be standing in front of, unbeknownst to me. And then has a breakdown because the basket hurt her ankle. There is not a mark on her. Not even a scratch, and she's crying and wailing like she just fell off her bike into gravel.
And this is just today. I don't want to sound insensitive but if she doesn't toughen up it's going to be a very long summer for both of us.
Please, someone, tell me this is just a phase, and I'm not going to have a kid that turns into one of those whiny-ass adults everyone wants to throat punch because the simplest thing is so hard to do. And no, she has no physical conditions. She is perfectly healthy, her last Dr visit confirmed it.
Sorry to put this hear. But my husband will just logic his way through the conversation, which in turn pisses me off. Because I just want to be heard, not lectured about my inability to handle my child's whining and meltdowns.
submitted by Willyouwork
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2023.06.01 18:25 ayanami_pasta Asuka character analysis
CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR END OF EVA
This essay is purely for my own autistic ass, make of it what you will lol. (first time posting on reddit too!)
Asuka is often viewed as a conceited, narcissistic and deeply flawed character in NGE. I don’t believe Soryu is truly as horrendous as others perceive her to be, perhaps that is due to my own projections or simply me giving her the benefit of the doubt, so I’ve decided to take it upon myself to truly understand every aspect of her traumas, her actions throughout the series and finally her death. I want to know what caused her to become such a self loathing yet egotistical child. every tiny detail of her personality can be traced back to specific events, she's been created with such detail and precision, it's hard not to want to delve deeper into her story.
Prior to the traumatic events of NGE Asuka had a horrific home life. She was neglected by her mother who was busy with work, leaving Asuka feeling irrelevant. This sparked an overwhelming need for attention, which followed her from early childhood right until her last breath.
Kyoko Sohryu (Asuka’s mother) was a key scientist in the German division of Gehirn. (What would later become NERV’s third branch.) She was the subject of the contact experiment with Unit-02, where during this experiment part of Koyokos soul would bond with the eva, causing severe mental damage. This led to her becoming incredibly unstable and psychotic, believing one of Asuka’s dolls was her daughter rather than Asuka. As a result of her mothers insanity, Asuka felt even more neglected and abandoned. She was replaced by a doll, not even a human, but an inanimate object.
At Kyoko’s most deranged she pleaded Asuka to die with her in a double suicide, to which Asuka, in an act of desperation to be loved, agreed. Her mother instead hung herself alongside the doll. Asuka was so replaceable to her own mother that she wasn't even worth being killed. In later life Asuka grows to feel utter contempt and disgust towards her own weakness; she was completely vulnerable and desperate to be loved, so much so that she would have died. She’s extremely black or white. If he can’t be loved, she should die.
The Asuka we are first introduced to doesn't seem to carry much of this weight at all. She’s bright, bubbly, feisty and fun. Her presence brings a much needed lift to the show with dance routines, montages and general playfulness from both her and Shinji. How can such a broken character appear so confident? Asuka uses her ego as a safety net, she wants to appear as confident (if not bordering on narcissistic) as possible to hide the fact that she is very much still an insecure child. If she doesn't appear vulnerable, no one can hurt her. Her confidence will project onto those around her and she will be the most loved girl in Japan, right? She is the best Eva pilot by far, they need her. These thoughts are enough to keep her not only alive, but living.
Obviously this doesn't keep up, as we see Shinji strike Asuka’s nerves more and more with every episode that passes. Shinji is the counterpart to Asuka, everything that he lacks, she will overcompensate with. His nonchalant, pessimistic, self pitying attitude is everything she hates. But shinji isn't all too dissimilar from Asuka at all, his ego is absolutely huge; if he isn’t happy, why should anyone else be, he's not loved so everyone should die. Everything that Asuka pushes onto herself, Shinji pushes onto others. This causes a very expected clash between the two. Part of me believes that Asuka potentially sees in Shinji what she could have become if she had not been chosen to pilot unit-02. Someone merely existing, an insecure child whining at any given chance about doing this, that and the next thing. Someone ‘useless’. Asuka demands to be used at any given chance for recognition and validation, even at the prospective cost of her life/sanity.
While Shinji is the embodiment of the internal threat of her deep rooted shame, insecurities and fears, Rei represents the external threat that she can and will be replaced. Rei is the golden child, she does as she’s told, she fights well. This can be proven in episode 22 after Asuka has yet again been defeated by an angel, her sync rates drop. This comes as a massive blow to her fragile ego. To make it worse, Ritsko notices Asukas mental disturbance and orders Rei to shoot the Angel, leaving Asuka literally in her shadow. This is when the mindrape (i hate that term but i can't think of anything better to describe it as) occurs, leaving Ritsuko no choice but to start looking for a replacement pilot. Rei ends up saving her by using the spear of longinus. This absolutely destroys Asuka, how could she be shadowed, let alone saved by someone as spineless as Rei? She's being replaced yet again, bringing her back to square one in regards to her Mothers horrific passing. At this point both Shinji and Rei are performing better than her, proving her to be useless. The very thing she berated Shinji for from the beginning.
Kaji and Misato also play some of the most important roles in Asukas life, being her only acting guardians. Kaji is the only person we see Asuka actively regress back into a childlike state with. Her pleas to be recognised and loved by him are overwhelmingly upsetting. Screaming that she is an adult, that she wants to have intercourse by him and be viewed as somewhat of an object is a desperate cry for help. She wants to prove that she’s no longer an insecure child, but her ways of doing so only prove that more. While Kaji never made advances on her, he equally enabled it to an extent. I believe that sex is what Asuka perceives as the most adult thing she can comprehend, so she yearns for it with an adult figure to not only prove to him but herself that she is no longer the sobbing infant at her mother’s dangling feet. Kaji seems somewhat aware of her past, which may be why he never put his foot down with her. He knows that the harsh rejection of her advances would cause the spiral that eventually came due to her sync scores dropping. Pleading for intimacy may also be (in her mind) one of the least shameful ways for Asuka to beg for validation. We never saw Asuka in this state with any of her classmates, leading me to believe that she uses Kaji as he is somewhat of a parental figure to her, as fucked up as that is. She needs him to validate and praise her as she never got that from either of her parents, but would never hurt her pride by saying that blatantly therefore relying on sex to get her point across. When it’s revealed that Misato had previous relations with Kaji, this obviously hurts Asuka’s ego to an extent. She views Misato as a fully fledged woman who, like Rei, is capable of what she is not. Asuka’s battle with the constant sexualisation of herself is one of the most misunderstood parts of her character. A lot of people seem to believe it was used as fucked up fanservice, but i wholeheartedly think it’s a very jarringly real way to portray how neglect and abuse can affect a young girl, regardless of how uncomfortable it is to watch firsthand. It rounds out her backstory fully and adds a whole other level of depth to her character for individuals to identify with.
At the end of Evangelion we have a broken, soulless and decayed Asuka. She is no longer the abrasive, confident and overbearing character some of us (guiltily) adored. Only a miracle could bring back the determined character we know and love. Thrown into unit-02 for safety, Soryu is left comatosed only for her mothers voice to wake her. Kyoko can be heard saying the words ‘You’re alive!’ several times. This implies that the maternal part of Kyoko's soul was the one trapped inside unit-02, and is now cheering Asuka to fight, to live! However, another voice joins in, begging Asuka to ‘Please die with me!’. Both these voices mix together, thus suggesting that the insane Kyoko and Maternal Kyoko have merged together inside the Eva. Regardless of her mother chanting to die with her, the voice telling her to live on shines through and provides the motivation to have one of (what I consider) one of the best battles in cinematic history. Asuka comes to the realization that she was never truly alone. Her mother was always watching over her, watching her pilot the eva. Everything she had ever longed for was truly validated in that moment. She fought with a might that we had never seen before, she truly gave it her all. It feels so incredibly bittersweet to see her truly at her happiest, screaming out ‘mama!’ as she brutally tears mass unit eva’s to shreds, smashing their heads in, ripping off limbs etc. The whole scene is so authentically Asuka Langley Sohryu. The sheer shock, the horrifying events unfolding while she has a wide grin on her face. She was actively risking her life knowing she has the validation she has craved since he was a toddler. Everything I have spoken about in this essay truly comes together in this heart wrenching scene; her screaming about useless shinji, her crying out for her ‘mama’, her overbearing confidence in herself. Even in her last moments she was determined, not to prove to anyone else but herself that she was useful. She says through gritted teeth and a struggling breath ‘I’ll kill you’ thus proving how she was genuinely set on being seen till her very last moments on earth.
I firmly believe that Asuka is one of the most well thought out and genuinely complete characters I’ve ever seen in fiction. While she is not the most ‘likeble’ she provides a very important role in making Neon Genesis Evangelion the show we know and love. Anno has done a fantastic job of creating a character that is so easy to hate yet so easy to relate to. As previously mentioned, some of this may be projection but I truly do feel she is a character anyone could pick apart and find some sort of self in.
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2023.06.01 18:19 PrivyPaul "Relapse" on panic attacks
I don't get it, the last 2 weeks I had 5-6 panic attacks and 3 major long ones, the major ones were in public transport and I don't even know why. Its like I feel a pressure in my head, I feel like I'm on so much adrenaline that my mind is racing and I try to find things to keep it bussy and not focus on the panic, I move around, I watch things on the phone. Still it comes in waves, one minute its bad the other minute I think about where I can find an emergency station or someone that can help, I didn't have these really intense attacks for a long time.
Thought this was over.
It kills me, it literally destroys my life.
Also I don't think people I have contact with can really understand how bad this experience is, not that i want any pitty but I want them to understand that this makes my life a daily fight. But they only see whats on the outside, they can't even tell that in my head I'm having the worst time again.
"yeah we sympathize with you but our company needs to make money and we can't tolerate that so either you perform or you have to go"
Yeah fuck you, do you know how much effort i put into my life, into getting things in order? I would love to just have a normal life with a wife and kids, but no I run from doctor to doctor to find the 100005th way to deal with it. FUCK ALL YOU. Put on my shoes, please. You managers, I switch with you on any day. Have fun. If I am lazy then it should be easy for you right??? Oh no I forgot, you have no clue about how hard this shit is.
I WISHED there was a way without benozs or any GABA drug but it just doesn't work. They keep. coming. back. no matter what I do. Cardio, weight lifting, tracking my sleep and having 8 hours of perfect sleep. Good diet, hanging out with friends or just going in nature. Working. Meditation. Supplementing everything (like 200$ a month), TRT and optimal blood levels, nutrition levels. Everythings perfect.
But I am down bad again.
Nothing works except those stupid fucking pills. And if this attempt of just doing things despite of my major fears doesnt work. If putting in all those pain for nothing.
Then im out of it. I won't try again. This is my last shot at life, i will try everything but if it goes in the direction its currently going im out.
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2023.06.01 18:02 katefeetie Trip Report: 2 Weeks in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Koyasan and Kanazawa
Since this sub was so helpful in planning, I wanted to share my itinerary and trip report! We had an incredible first time in Japan and I can't wait to go back. Couldn't fit our (very detailed) itinerary in this post, but if you'd like to download it's here.
Medium article version with photos + itinerary is here
And our shareable Google map is here
. About us:
Some overall learnings:
- We’re New Yorkers in our 30s who have been planning this trip for about 6 months.
- My bf has been learning Japanese for about a year, and I’ve been learning for about 5 months (a mix of Pimsleur and Duolingo).
- Boyfriend is into history and baseball, I'm into skincare and nature, but we’re both big on food so that was our number one priority.
- He has a peanut allergy and avoids all nuts. He learned to say that in Japanese (私はピーナッツアレルギーがあります - "Watashi wa piinattsu arerugī ga arimasu”), and every restaurant and hotel was understanding and careful. Luckily most cuisine is nut-free anyway, but we managed not to have any close calls in 2 weeks which is amazing.
Hotel Reviews: Tokyu Stay Shinjuku Eastside (Tokyo):
- If I were planning this trip again, I think I would skip Kanazawa. It was a lovely town and the food was amazing, but we wished we had spent that time with a night or two in Osaka instead of just making it a day trip from Kyoto.
- Even if you’re not a baseball fan, Japanese baseball games are so much fun. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
- I packed a suitcase and brought a fold-up duffel bag, and halfway through the trip I moved my clothes to the duffel and just used the suitcase for souvenirs. It was a great idea but we ended up buying an extra suitcase at Donki our last day anyway.
- We both felt a bit underdressed compared to locals, especially in Tokyo. I wish I’d packed more dresses, skirts and trousers and fewer jeans and tees - the only people I saw wearing sweats, athletic wear or cutoffs were other tourists. Obviously you can wear what you want, just be aware you’ll stick out! Also, women are generally more covered up, even on warmer days, to protect their skin from the sun.
- If you go clothes shopping, take your shoes off in dressing rooms. I made a right fool of myself.
- Clothes sizing is wildly different in Japan. Know your cm measurements! Your size here may be hurtful to your ego.
- People line up to get on the train (check the ground for a guide of where to stand) and let everyone off before they get on. This seems obvious, but I’ve been living in New York so long that I wanted to weep tears of joy every time.
- If you’re new to sitting showers: there are two buttons. One is to fill up a bowl of water, and the other is to turn on the handheld shower head. Both automatically turn off a minute after you turn them on, but you can also turn them off manually. You sit on the little stool and there’s usually a mirror in front of you, which is… a humbling experience. There are usually also scrubbing washcloths.
- The worst train station toilet was still nicer than a goddamn Nordstrom bathroom. It was a pleasure to have IBS in Japan.
- At many European and American historical sites, you pay a hefty flat fee to see everything. In Japan, you can usually get into the temple grounds for free, then pay for each individual building you go into. Most were 400-700y/person, which felt really reasonable.
- We came at an almost perfect time (mid-May) weather-wise. Most days it was clear or sunny with a high in the mid-seventies. We definitely got some rain, but less than we were expecting (maybe 3-4 rainy days and 5-6 rainy nights).
This was a great basic hotel, close to plenty of transportation and right on the edge of Kabukicho. The buffet breakfast was the highlight - a great mix of Western and Japanese breakfast options, including a great miso soup.Hakone Airu (Hakone):
Mixed review here. On the one hand, the in-room onsen and public onsen were both wonderful, and the service was extraordinary. On the other hand, the mix of Balinese and Japanese didn’t quite work, and dinner and breakfast were more confusing than enjoyable.Hotel Alza (Kyoto):
By far our favorite stay. I can’t recommend this place enough, and it was definitely worth paying a little extra. They brought us an amazing bento breakfast in our rooms every morning, they had every amenity we could need (they even re-upped the free sheet masks every day), and the micro-bubble bath at the end of a long day of walking was amazing.Koyasan Syukubo Ekoin Temple (Mt Koya):
This was a great temple experience. Koyasan in general is obviously pretty tourist-y, but Eko-in still made it feel authentic, and dinner and breakfast were both amazing. Your stay includes a meditation class, morning prayers and a morning fire ritual, and you can pay to attend a cemetery tour, all of which were great.Utaimachi (Kanazawa):
We were only here for two nights, but this place was pretty good. Very close to the Higashi Chaya area, where we didn’t actually end up spending much time. Always love tatami mat flooring, and the washedryer was a nice bonus, but we were also right next to the lobby and right under another room so there was some noise.The Gate Asakusa (Tokyo):
A great and very Westernized hotel with amazing views of Shinso-ji and the surrounding area. It’s on the top floors of a building right in the middle of all things Asakusa, but is still pretty quiet. And has a wonderful, deep soaking tub with free bath salts.
Tuesday: Arrival, Shinjuku 1 PM: Arrival at Haneda
We got customs and immigration forms to fill out on the plane and everything went fairly quickly. Picked up some cash and Suica cards, went to see about taking the Airport Limousine bus ($10/each) but we should have booked in advance because there wasn’t one for another hour. We ended up taking a taxi (about $50) to our hotel in Shinjuku. 4 PM: Arrival at hotel - Tokyu Stay Shinjuku East Side
We dropped our luggage and went to a nearby eel restaurant, Shinjuku Unatetsu. The eel was incredible and not too filling. Wandered Kabuki-cho for a bit, I dragged my bf through all 4 floors of Don Quijote (I had a list of beauty items to pick up), then rested at the hotel. 7 PM: Dinner in Shinjuku (Tsunahachi)
We went to Tsunahachi for dinner and got some amazing tempura (I wish we had sat at the bar to watch it being made!) and then crashed by 9 pm, because we are young and cool.
Wednesday: Harajuku, Meiji, and Shibuya 7 AM: Hotel breakfast
Up early for hotel breakfast, which has convinced bf to start making miso soup every morning. 9 AM: Shinjuku Station - Pick up JR Passes
We went to Shinjuku station to pick up our JR passes, then spent 30 minutes finding the place where we could get them before 10 AM. There was a long line (staff shortage) so we waited about an hour but we got them and headed to Harajuku. 11 AM: Meiji Shrine & Yoyogi Park
We walked to Meiji Shrine, stopping at the gardens along the way (well worth the 500y entrance fee, especially on a beautiful day). We were lucky to come across a wedding at the shrine. Then we walked around Yoyogi Park a bit. 1 PM: Lunch (Gyoza Lou)
Walked into Gyoza Lou and were seated right away. Incredible gyoza as well as beer and bean sprouts with meat sauce - maybe 10 bucks total for 2 people. 1:30 PM: Shopping/museums in Harajuku
We split up so I could do some shopping in vintage stores - Flamingo, TAGTAG and Kinji (my favorite), and bf could go to the Ota Memorial Museum for their Cats in Ukiyo-e exhibit (which he loved). I walked down Takeshita street to meet him and managed to get a green tea, strawberry and red bean paste crepe from Marion Crepes. 3 PM: Shibuya Scramble & Hachinko Statue
We grabbed the train to Shibuya, saw the scramble and the Hachinko statue, then entered the maze that is Tokyu Hands. I got some onsen powders for gifts and some more cosmetics. My boyfriend checked out the Bic camera store and I went to Gu, which is like the love child of Uniqlo and Primark. I immediately undid all the “light packing” I did with new clothes. 7 PM: Dinner Reservation - Shinjuku Kappu Nakajima
I got us a reservation a few months ago at Shinjuku Kappu Nakajima. It was probably one of the best meals of my life. The omakase came out to less than $100usd each, which felt like a steal. 9 PM: Golden Gai bar (Bar Araku)
We wandered Golden Gai and went into a bar where the entrance fee was waived for foreigners called Bar Araku. It was very small but had great vibes, highly recommend. I drank too much sake, which will be a theme.
Thursday: Shinjuku 4 AM: Earthquake
The phone alerts are insanely loud! We rushed down to the hotel lobby and the only other people there were fellow foreigners - apparently Japanese people at the hotel knew a 5.1 is okay to sleep through. 9 AM: Shinjuku Gyoen
We strolled around in the sun taking photos for about 3 hours. Today is a lot less planned than yesterday - I kind of wish I’d switched the itineraries after how long getting the JR Pass took. We did go to the fancy Starbucks, of course. 12 PM: Lunch (Kaiten Sushi Numazuto)
We tried to go to a nearby sushi place but it was full, so we walked up to Kaiten Sushi Numazuto. We were a little disappointed it wasn’t actually conveyor belt sushi (the conveyor belt was for show and you ordered from the staff). Stopped in Bic camera afterwards for a bit. 2 PM: Ninja Trick House
We tried to go to the Samurai museum but learned it closed a few weeks ago. A good excuse to go to the Ninja Trick House instead. You’re thinking: “Isn’t that place for children?” Yes. Yes it is. And we loved every minute. I now have a camera roll full of myself being terrible at throwing stars. The dream. 3 PM: Don Quijote
More Don Quijote, mostly to get out of the rain. Got my last few beauty products I really wanted and a few souvenirs. An overstimulating heaven. 6 PM: 3-hour Shinjuku Foodie Tour
We signed up for a 3-hour “foodie tour” of Shinjuku that stopped at a sushi place, a Japanese bbq spot with insane wagyu beef, and a sake tasting spot. It was great, and we loved our guide, but wished it had stopped at a few more spots to try more things. 9 PM: Walk around Shinjuku
We attempted to play pachinko, got very confused and lost $7. Tourism!
Friday: Hakone 7 AM: Set up luggage forwarding to Kyoto with hotel
Luggage forwarding is brilliant. We did it twice and it went so smoothly, for about $10 USD per bag. Highly recommend. 9 AM: Transit to Hakone
We got to experience Japanese transit at rush hour. I can’t believe I have to go back to the MTA after this. We took the subway to Tokyo station and then the Shinkansen to Odawara, then a train to Hakone-Yumoto. The hotel was only a 20-minute walk away, so we decided to take a more scenic route - which turned out to be a forest hike straight up switchbacks most of the way. 11 AM: Lunch in Hakone (Hatsuhana)
We stopped in a soba place called Hatsuhana with a system of writing your name down and waiting outside to be called in. They skipped our names because they weren’t in Japanese, but let us in when they realized their mistake. The soba was made and served by old aunties so of course it was insanely good and well worth it. 1 PM: Hakone Open Air Museum
We took the train down to the Hakone Open Air Museum, which lived up to the hype. I’m not normally into sculpture, but seeing it in nature, and the way the museum is laid out, made it incredible. And obviously the Picasso exhibit was amazing. 3 PM: Owakudani, Pirate Ship, Hakone Checkpoint
We took the train to the cable car to Owakudani, then the ropeway to Togendai, then the pirate ship ferry to Motohakone. We were running behind so unfortunately had to rush through the Hakone Checkpoint, which was empty but very cool. 6 PM: Dinner at hotel
Back to our hotel for our kaiseki meal. The staff spoke very little English and Google struggled with the menu, so we had no idea what we were eating half the time, but overall it was pretty good. 9 PM: Onsen time
Experienced my first public onsen, followed by the private onsen in our room. The tatami sleep did wonders for my back.
Saturday: Travel to Kyoto, Philosopher’s Path, Gion 8 AM: Breakfast, travel to Kyoto
Took the train to Odawara and then the Shinkansen to Kyoto station. We booked all of our Shinkansen seats about a week in advance but you can also book them on the day, I believe. 1 PM: Lunch in Gion
Our Kyoto hotel let us check in early, and then we went looking for lunch. Quickly learned that most every place in the Gion area has a line outside and closes at 2! We eventually found a tiny spot with insanely good ramen. It also had chicken sashimi on the menu but we weren’t brave enough. 2 PM: Philosopher’s Path, Ginkaku-ji
We took a bus over to the Philosopher’s Path, which was not busy at all because of the rain. It was pretty, and I could see how great it would look in cherry blossom season. We had to kind of rush to Ginkaku-ji, which was gorgeous nonetheless. 4 PM: Honen-in, Nanzen-ji
Stopped by Honen-in (which we had completely to ourselves, thanks rain!) and then Nanzen-ji. My bf is a big history guy and he went feral for the Hojo rock garden. It was very pretty and I’d love to see it in better weather. 6 PM: Food Tour of Gion & Pontocho
This food tour stopped at two places (an izakaya and a standing bar) with a walking tour of Gion and Pontocho in between. We also stopped at Yasaka shrine and caught a rehearsal of a traditional Japanese performance. 10 PM: Pain
My feet hurt so bad. Bring waterproof shoes, but make sure they don’t have 5 year old insoles. I tried some stick-on cooling acupuncture foot pads I picked up at Donki and they were bliss.
Sunday: Arashiyama, The Golden Pavilion and Tea Ceremony 8 AM: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The forecast was for heavy rain all day, but we lucked out and only got a few drizzles here and there. We headed to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in the morning and it wasn’t too crowded. We did have an amazing bamboo dish at dinner last night so now bamboo makes me hungry. 10 AM: Tenryu-ji, Iwatayama Monkey Park
Headed over to Tenryu-ji, which was very nice but very crowded, and then to one of the things I looked forward to most on the trip, the Iwatayama Monkey Park. It’s a 20 minute hike up there but it is worth it. Oh my god. Getting to feed a baby monkey made my whole week. 12 PM: Lunch near Arashiyama (Udon Arashiyama-tei)
Headed back down to the main road and got duck udon at a little place called Udon Arashiyama-tei. I know I keep calling everything incredible but… yes. 1 PM: Ginkaku-ji
Ran into some bus issues (the first time we experienced anything public transit-wise not running as expected!) but eventually got over to Ginkaku-ji. It was also very crowded (seems like Japanese schools are big on field trips, which I’m jealous of) and not my favorite temple, but beautiful nonetheless. 3 PM: Daitoku-ji
We were ahead of schedule so we got to spend some time at our meeting place for the tea ceremony, Daitoku-ji. It ended up being our favorite temple, especially Daisen-in, a small and very quiet spot with a great self-guided tour. The monks showed us a section normally closed to non-Japanese tourists with beautiful calligraphy. 4 PM: Tea Ceremony (90 mins)
The tea ceremony we booked said it was in groups of up to ten, but it ended up being just us. It was very nice and relaxing, plus we got a little meal. 6 PM: Dinner (Gion Kappa), Pontocho Alley
We both nearly fell asleep on the bus back so we took it easy for the night. Went to an izakaya called Gion Kappa which had the best tuna belly we’d ever eaten, then did a quick walk around Pontocho Alley, got treats at 7-11 and went to bed early.
Monday: Fushimi Inari, Nishiki Market, Kyoto Imperial Palace (kinda) 9 AM: Fushimi Inari
Our plans to get up super early to beat the crowds to Fushimi Imari were hampered by the fact that we are no longer in our 20s. It was packed by the time we got there, and the amount of littering and defacing done by tourists was a bummer. 11 AM: Tofuku-ji
We had planned to go to the Imperial Palace at 10:30 for the Aoi Parade, but decided instead to get away from crowds by hiking from Fushimi Inari to Tofuku-ji, which was beautiful (I’d love to see it in the fall). 12 PM: Nishiki Market, lunch (Gyukatsu)
Grabbed lunch first at Gyukatsu (wagyu katsu - delicious) then wandered Nishiki a bit. It’s touristy, but fun. 2 PM: Kyoto Gyoen, Kyoto Handicraft Center
It was supposed to rain all day but ended up sunny, so we went back to the hotel to drop off our rain jackets and umbrellas. Stepped back outside and within ten minutes it was raining. We went to Kyoto Gyoen and saw the outside of the imperial palace; it was closed because of the parade earlier and half the garden was blocked off because the former emperor was visiting. Without the palace, Kyoto Gyoen is kind of meh. We walked over to Kyoto Handicraft Center which was also meh, but we picked up some nice lacquerware. 7:30 PM: Dinner at Roan Kiku Noi
We had a reservation at Roan Kiku Noi where we had maybe the best meal of our lives. Amazing that it only has two Michelin stars, honestly. Had fun trying to decipher the pain meds aisle at a Japanese pharmacy afterwards and then called it a night.
Tuesday: Day Trip to Nara 8 AM: Travel to Nara
We took the subway to the JR and were there in about an hour. 9 AM: Nara Deer Park
Two things about the Nara deer. One: if you bow to them, they bow back, and it’s very cute. And two, if you buy the 200y rice crackers to feed to them, do it somewhere where there aren’t very many of them. I got mobbed by like 15 deer and bitten 3 times. My fault for having skin approximately the shade of a rice cracker. 10 AM: Kofuku-ji, Nara National Museum
We saw Kofuku-ji and then the Nara National Museum, then stopped at a random little cafe for rice bowls with some kind of regional sauce (I can’t find it now!). 12 PM: Isetan Garden
We spent a long time finding the entrance to the Isetan garden only for it to be closed on Tuesdays. 2 PM: Giant Buddha
Saw Nandaimon Gate and the Daibutsu (giant Buddha), which are both every bit as enormous and glorious as advertised, as well as very crowded. 3 PM: Kasuga-taisha Shrine
Wandered over to Kasuga-taisha shrine, which is famous for its hundreds of lanterns and thousand-year-old trees. There’s a special inner area (paid) where you can see the lanterns lit up in the dark. 4 PM: Wait for the emperor
We got held up by a procession for, guess who, the former emperor again. Stalker. 5 PM: Nara shopping and snacks
Walked around Higashimuki Shopping Street and Mochiidono Shopping Arcade, bought a nice sake set and an amazing little hand-painted cat, ate some red bean paste pancakes and headed back to Kyoto. 7 PM: Dinner in Kyoto
Walked around Pontocho searching for dinner and landed on Yoshina, where we got even more kaiseki. Finished the night at Hello Dolly, a gorgeous jazz bar overlooking the river.
Wednesday: Day Trip to Osaka 7 AM: Depart hotel
Started by taking the subway to the JR. Took us about an hour altogether, though it would have been faster if we’d caught the express. 9 AM: Osaka Castle
We got to Osaka Castle in time for it to hit 85 degrees out. The outside of the castle is gorgeous, but the line to get in was long and I don’t know if the museum parts were worth the wait, especially with the crowds. The view from the top is nice, though. 12 PM: Okonomiyaki lunch (Abeton)
We went to an okonomiyaki spot in Avetica station called Abeton that was full of locals and absolutely bomb as hell. 1 PM: Shitteno-ji, Keitakuen Gardens
We headed to Shitteno-ji (our oldest temple yet) which was nice, though the climb to the top of then 5 story pagoda wasn’t worth the sweat. Then we walked over to Keitakuen Gardens, a small but gorgeous garden in Tennoji Park. Had a nice sit in the shade to digest and plan our next moves. 3 PM: Ebisuhigasbi, Mega Don Quijote
I am a crazy person, so I had to go to the Mega Don Quijote. We walked around Ebisuhigasbi for a while first, and while I was buying gifts in Donki, my boyfriend entered a sushi challenge for westerners (which turned out to just be “can a white boy handle wasabi”) and won a bunch of random crap! Now we own Japanese furniture wipes. 5 PM: Dotonbori & America-mura
We took the Osaka Loop to the Dotonbori area, which was super crowded as expected. We walked around America-mura and enjoyed seeing what they think of us. There are great designer vintage clothing shops here if that’s your thing. 6 PM: Dinner (Jiyuken)
We tried to get into Koni Doraku, a crab restaurant, but they were booked up, so we went to a tiny spot called Jiyuken for curry instead. I would do things for this curry. It was the platonic ideal of curry. It was served by old Japanese aunties from a very old recipe, so we knew it was going to be good, but it exceeded our wildest expectations… for <1000y each. 7 PM: Return to Kyoto
My feet were feeling real bad (the Nikes may look cool but they cannot support 25k steps a day) so we headed back to Kyoto and packed for our early morning tomorrow.
Thursday: Travel to Koyasan, Temple Stay 8 AM: Bus from Kyoto to Koyasan
The transit from Kyoto to Mt Koya is complicated, so we ended up just booking a bus directly from Kyoto Station to Koyasan (which barely cost more than public transit!). We got there bright and early for the 3 hour trip - if you take a bus out of Kyoto Station I definitely recommend giving yourself extra time to navigate to the right bus. 11 AM: Arrive at Eko-in, lunch
We arrived in Mt Koya and checked in to our temple, Eko-in. The quiet and the beauty hit me hard and I fell asleep for a few hours. We got a nice lunch at Hanabishi in town. 4 PM: Meditation class, dinner
The temple offered a meditation class, which was lovely, followed by a vegan dinner in our rooms. I can’t explain how peaceful this place was. 7 PM: Okuno-in Cemetery
We signed up for a monk-led tour of Okuno-in, which was definitely worth it. Came back for some public baths and fell asleep to the sound of rainfall.
Friday: Travel to Kanazawa, Higashi Chaya District 7 AM: Service & ritual at Eko-in
The day started with a religious service and a fire ritual at the temple. Both were stunning. I did wish that my fellow tourists had been a bit more respectful by showing up on time and following directions, but luckily, no one has more patience than a Buddhist monk. 9 AM: Travel to Kanazawa
We took a taxi through some sketchy mountain roads to Gokurakubashi Station, took two trains to Osaka Station, and then the JR Thunderbird to Kanazawa. 1 PM: Arrive at Kanazawa, Lunch (Maimon)
We got into Kanazawa station and went straight for a sushi spot called Maimon, which was delicious. Struggled a bit with the bus system and eventually got to our hotel, Utaimachi. 4 PM: Higashi Chaya District
Wandered the Higashi Chaya district a bit. It seemed kind of dead, but maybe we are just used to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo/Kyoto. 7 PM: Korinbo, dinner (Uguisu)
Walked down to the Korinbo area southwest of the park and found a tiny ramen spot called Uguisu. Incredible. Some of the best broth I’ve ever tasted plus amazing sous vide meats. 9 PM: Bar in Korinbo (Kohaku)
Went to a little upstairs whiskey bar called Kohaku. Boyfriend got Japanese whiskey and they made me a custom cocktail with sake, pineapple and passion fruit that was just insane. They were very nice and talked baseball with us for a while.
Saturday: Omicho Market, Kanazawa Castle, 21st Century Museum 9 AM: Kenroku-en Garden
We walked over to Kenroku-en Gardens, which were as beautiful as advertised. I was hurting pretty bad (crampy ladies, just know Japanese OTC painkillers are much weaker than ours, BYO Advil) so we’re moving slowly today. 12 PM: Omicho Market, lunch (Iki-Iki Sushi)
Walked to Omicho Market and ate little bits from different stalls, then waited about an hour to get into Iki-Iki Sushi. It was worth it. Some of the best, freshest sushi of my life. 2 PM: Kanazawa Castle, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
We walked around Kanazawa Castle a bit, then walked over to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. It was packed and the line to get tickets to the special exhibits was crazy, so we looked at the free ones and then headed back. Along the way we stopped in a few little stores and bought some handcrafted lacquerware from a local artist. 6 PM: Onnagawa Festival, dinner (Huni)
As we walked towards the restaurant, we came upon the Onnagawa Festival on the Plum Bridge, which included a beautiful dancing ceremony and lantern lighting. We went to Huni for dinner, our first “westernized Japanese” restaurant, and it was fantastic. 9 dishes served slowly over 3 hours at a table overlooking the river. Highly recommend if you’re in Kanazawa. 10 PM: Why does the bathtub have a phone
We went back to our hotel, struggled with the automated bathtub, and enjoyed our last night on tatami floors.
Sunday: Travel to Tokyo, Tokyo Giants Game, Ueno Park 7 AM: Travel to Tokyo
Grabbed a taxi we arranged the night before to Kanazawa Station - it would have been an easy bus journey but our number of bags has increased - and boarded the Shinkansen for Tokyo. 12 PM: Travel to Tokyo Dome and Tokyo Dome Park
Dropped our bags at our hotel in Asakusa, then headed for Tokyo Dome. We got there a little early to look around - there’s basically a full mall and food court and amusement park there. We grabbed some beers and some chicken katsu curry that was delicious. 2 PM: Tokyo Giants vs Chunichi Dragons
Japanese baseball games are so. much. fun. This was a random mid season game, and the stadium was full and people were amped. I’ve been to many American baseball games and never seen fans this excited. We also scored some fried cheese-wrapped hot dogs on a stick and a few more beers and had the time of our lives cheering for the Giants. 5 PM: Ueno Park
After trying and failing to find the jersey we were looking for, we walked to Ueno Park and looked around a bit. It was lovely, but we were exhausted and full of too many beers, so we headed back to Asakusa. 7 PM: Dinner in Asakusa
There was a festival all day around Shinso-ji and there were a ton of street vendors and day-drunk people when we arrived in the afternoon (as a native Louisianan, I approve) and it seemed like the partiers were going on into the night. We ducked into a restaurant for some buckwheat soba (never got the name, but it was only okay) and tucked in early.
Monday: Tsukiji Food Tour, Kapabashi Dougu, Akihabara 8 AM: 3-hour Tsukiji Food Tour + lunch
We started the day with a Tsukiji food tour, which ended up being my favorite food tour of the 3 by far. The guide was great, and we stopped by a dozen food stalls and sampled everything from mochi to fresh tuna to octopus cakes. We finished with lunch at Sushi Katsura, where our chef prepared everything in front of us. 12 PM: Imperial Palace, Don Quijote
We were planning to spend the afternoon exploring the Imperial Palace and Edo Castle Ruins, but it was hot and the palace was closed, so we walked to Taira no Masakado's Grave, then headed back to Asakusa for, you guessed it, Don Quijote. I did not intend for this trip to be “guess how many Don Quijotes I can visit” but here we are. We bought another suitcase and I filled it with food and gifts to bring home. 3 PM: Kappabashi Dougu
We walked Kappabashi Dougu and browsed kitchenwares while wishing we had a bigger kitchen, an unlimited budget and a way to get a hundred pounds of porcelain home in one piece. 6 PM: Akihabara dinner + games + drinks
We took the train to Akihabara, got dinner at Tsukada Nojo, then played games in a few arcades and ended the night at Game Bar A-button, which lets you play vintage handheld games while you drink.
Tuesday: Senso-ji, Flight 9 AM: Breakfast, Senso-ji
We got breakfast pancakes at Kohikan, then walked around Senso-ji and the surrounding shopping streets for a while. 12 PM: McDonald’s
Look, I couldn’t leave Japan without doing it, okay? I got the Teriyaki Chicken Burger (too sloppy and sweet) and bf got the Ebi Filet-O (he said it tasted exactly like a Filet-O-Fish). It was not great but I deserve that! 3 PM: Cab to the airport
I caught the flu on the flight home and have now been in bed for a week! Welcome back to America, baby.
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2023.06.01 17:51 muzzletgh Whispers of the Dreamgrove - A Lillia Story (Fan Made Story)
I would first like to clarify, that while I do main Lillia, I am not super in tune with her lore. I just know that I adore her and her Disney-esque whimsy. Secondly, I am an amateur writer who is horrible at writing dialogue, so I tend to write my short stories without it. This is my first attempt at writing a story that takes place in an IP that is not of my own creation. I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback, but also love to hear what you think about this story.
Whispers of the Dreamgrove - A Lillia Story
In the heart of Ionia, where emerald canopies of ancient trees intertwine, a sanctuary untouched by the chaos of the outside world reveals itself. Here, time dances to a different rhythm, and the air sings with a whispered enchantment. It is in this hidden grove that Lillia, the Bashful Bloom, discovers solace and kinship.
The grove, embraced by towering arboreal sentinels, stands as a haven for all that is pure and wild. Its serene beauty weaves a spell that tickles the senses, as gentle sunlight filters through the lush foliage, casting a delightful dance upon the forest floor. Fragrant blossoms scent the air, their delicate aroma mingling with the faintest whispers that ride a breeze meant for the chosen few.
Nestled within this secluded haven, Lillia resides, her ethereal presence a mere ripple in the tapestry of the grove. Cloaked in a soft aura of mystery, she moves with a grace that mirrors the swaying branches above. Her hooves, delicate and soundless, tiptoe upon the mossy carpet, leaving no trace of her passing.
Lillia, the guardian of dreams and secrets, embodies the essence of solitude. Only the ancient trees and the moonlit wanderers of the grove are privy to her existence. Her purpose, twofold, binds her to the very soul of the forest: to protect the slumbering dreams and to safeguard the hidden secrets nestled within the depths of the foliage.
Silent and elusive, Lillia roams the grove, her slender form blending seamlessly with the whispering leaves. Her pale skin, kissed by the moon's gentle light, radiates a luminescence as though she were spun from the forest's essence. Adorning her head rests a crown of antlers adorned with delicate flowers, a whimsical symbol of her connection to the realm of nature and dreams.
The denizens of Ionia, blissfully unaware of Lillia's presence, continue their lives beyond the grove's borders. Unbeknownst to them, a guardian spirit watches tirelessly over their dreams, her existence shrouded in secrecy. The pact between the ancient trees and the enigmatic spirit ensures that Lillia remains known solely to the forest, a charming secret shared between friends.
In this enchanted grove, where the line between waking and dreaming blurs, Lillia stands as an unseen guardian. Her gaze, brimming with wisdom and compassion, pierces through the veils of slumber, nurturing the dreams of sleepers and ensuring they remain undisturbed by the chaos of the outside world.
In recent times, an unusual affliction has descended upon the sacred grove, shrouding its once-vibrant foliage in a dark and foreboding veil. The vibrant colors that once adorned the leaves have now withered, replaced by a sickly hue that hints at an insidious presence lurking within. The gentle whispers that once filled the air with a melodic symphony have been silenced, as if the very essence of the grove has been muted. This delicate balance, cherished by Lillia, now hangs in peril, and her heart resonates with the forest's mournful lament.
Deep within the grove's inner sanctum, where sunlight used to weave its playful dance upon the emerald leaves, now lie shadows that slink with treacherous intent. The once-lively hues have faded into a pallid shade, betraying the presence of a malevolent force. The ancient trees, guardians of the grove, tremble with an eerie unease, their branches stretching out in desperate supplication towards the heavens.
Lillia, ever attuned to the murmurs of the forest, feels the weight of distress that blankets her cherished sanctuary. Her gentle heart quickens with a mixture of determination and trepidation as she embarks on her personal quest. With each step she takes, the soft earth beneath her hooves resonates with both her unwavering resolve and the burden of responsibility she carries.
Guided by her profound connection to the grove, Lillia follows the faint echoes of anguish that linger within its depths. The whispers, once filled with life and beauty, now bear a mournful tone, as if mourning their own fading existence. She traverses the familiar paths she knows so well, her feet barely touching the ground, blending seamlessly with the ethereal ambiance of the grove.
As Lillia ventures further into the heart of the forest, she encounters pockets of the enigmatic darkness that taints the once-vibrant foliage. It clings to the leaves like a suffocating shroud, draining their life essence and casting a somber veil over the grove. Her heart aches with a bittersweet blend of sorrow and determination as she extends her delicate fingers, hoping to kindle a glimmer of restoration in the corrupted leaves.
With each tender touch, Lillia feels the pulse of the grove, a shared heartbeat reverberating through her being. She whispers words of solace, her voice a gentle zephyr that rustles through the branches, carrying the essence of hope upon its breath. Despite the looming threat of darkness, Lillia remains resolute, refusing to surrender to despair. Her resolve, akin to a flickering candle flame, only grows stronger in the face of adversity.
Motivated by her unwavering love for the grove and its denizens, Lillia presses onward, guided by an unseen hand. Though the whispers of the ancient trees have dimmed, their echo still resonates deep within her spirit, urging her forward. She knows that the fate of the grove, and all it symbolizes, rests squarely upon her shoulders, much to her dismay.
As Lillia cautiously ventures deeper into the heart of the forest, an unsettling truth begins to reveal itself. A long-dormant and wicked force has awoken, casting a dark shadow over the once serene grove. This entity, known as the Shadowveil, now emerges with sinister intent. It thrives on the dreams of the innocent, twisting their hopes and aspirations into haunting nightmares.
Within the labyrinthine depths of the forest, Lillia's timid nature senses the presence of this awakened malevolence. Her heart races, and a shiver of fear runs down her spine. The whispers of the trees, usually comforting, now carry a somber warning, urging her to beware the dangers that lie ahead.
With each cautious step she takes, Lillia's trembling hooves navigate the treacherous paths of the grove. She treads carefully, her senses on high alert for any sign of the encroaching darkness. The once peaceful sanctuary transforms into a battleground where opposing forces clash, leaving her overwhelmed and uncertain.
As Lillia continues her journey, she encounters undeniable signs of the Shadowveil's presence. Twisted and thorny vines replace the once vibrant foliage, their grotesque forms seemingly mocking her. The once fragrant air now carries a dank, foreboding scent, making her nose wrinkle in discomfort. The forest she once found solace in becomes an unsettling place that tests her fragile courage.
In a hidden glade deep within the grove, Lillia stumbles upon an ancient mural that tells the chilling tale of the Shadowveil's rise. The vivid images depict innocence transforming into despair, a sight that strikes fear into her trembling heart. Though her natural instinct is to flee, a flicker of determination stirs within her, urging her to face the daunting challenge before her.
With trembling hands, Lillia reaches out to trace the faded lines of the mural, her touch hesitant yet filled with a desperate need to understand. The mural responds to her timid touch, emitting a faint glow as if it recognizes her presence. Whispers, both ancient and gentle, guide her through forgotten incantations that may hold the key to confronting the Shadowveil's grip.
As Lillia cautiously ventured deeper into the heart of the forest, she confronted the twisted creatures that emerged from the influence of the Shadowveil. These grotesque beings, born from the malevolent force, had transformed the once-familiar inhabitants of the grove into corrupted and joyless beings.
With her lithe frame and nimble movements, Lillia engaged in stealthy battles, relying on her agility and the latent magic of her dream-laden branch. Swinging it with grace and precision, she swiftly neutralized the corrupted beings, ensuring that her strikes found their mark.
But it was not only her physical prowess that aided her. Lillia's connection to the dreamscape granted her an advantage beyond mortal capabilities. Tapping into the ethereal realm of dreams, she wove intricate patterns of energy, casting ethereal strands with a wave of her branch. These strands ensnared the minions of the Shadowveil, trapping them within their own nightmares.
As the dream traps took hold, Lillia witnessed a transformation in the corrupted beings. Their twisted forms convulsed and contorted as they struggled against the invisible restraints. In that struggle, their captivated minds were freed, the darkness fading away to reveal glimpses of the innocence and purity that had been stolen from them.
Filled with compassion and determination, Lillia saw these battles as opportunities for redemption, not destruction. Each encounter became a testament to her strength and the power of dreams. With each release, she glimpsed the flickering hope that her efforts might eventually restore balance and light to the grove.
With each victorious encounter, Lillia pressed on, guided by ancient whispers and the luminescent glow of her dream-laden branch. The path ahead grew increasingly perilous, yet her courage blossomed alongside the challenges she faced. No longer burdened by trembling hooves, she moved forward with purpose, delving further into the darkness that enveloped the grove.
And so, Lillia continued her whimsical struggle against the Shadowveil, combining nimble grace with dream-woven magic to battle its corrupted minions. Through each encounter, she inched closer to unraveling the malevolent force's hold on the innocent. With every ethereal trap she crafted, she moved one step closer to reclaiming the dreams that had been devoured by the insidious entity.
As Lillia valiantly battled the twisted creatures born from the influence of the Shadowveil, she embarked on a poignant journey to uncover the origins of this malevolent force. Hidden among the verdant foliage, she discovered ancient carven stones adorned with intricate symbols, each stone revealing a fragment of a sorrowful tale.
Through the hushed whispers of forgotten lore, Lillia pieced together the tragic story of the Shadowveil. Long ago, it was not a harbinger of darkness but a benevolent guardian spirit, entrusted with the sacred duty of nurturing the dreams and aspirations that bloomed within the grove.
Before corruption had tainted its essence, the Shadowveil embodied ethereal beauty and a gentle grace. It danced with the sunlight filtering through the leaves, casting enchanting patterns of shadow and light. Its presence inspired hope and filled the hearts of the grove's inhabitants with a sense of wonder.
But destiny, cruel and capricious, intervened. A lost and tormented wraith, wandering through the realms, encountered the radiant spirit of the Shadowveil. This wraith, consumed by its own suffering, saw the purity within the guardian spirit as an opportunity to perpetuate its own despair.
The wraith's malevolence seeped into the very fabric of the Shadowveil's being, tainting its essence with an overwhelming darkness. The once-ethereal spirit was consumed by the weight of its own despair, transforming into the malevolent entity now known as the Shadowveil.
Lillia's heart ached as she envisioned the radiant spirit that the Shadowveil had once been. She could almost see its luminescent form, glowing with the dreams and aspirations of the grove's inhabitants. It was a heartbreaking reminder of the innocence lost and the tragic fate that had befallen the guardian spirit.
Driven by compassion and a deep sense of empathy, Lillia fought not only to restore stolen dreams but also to bring solace and redemption to the corrupted spirit. Each encounter with the Shadowveil's minions served as a poignant reminder of the beauty that had been extinguished and the pain that now permeated the grove.
Her dream-laden branch pulsed with an otherworldly power, a testament to the dreams and hopes it held. The luminescent glow that emanated from it whispered of forgotten memories, guiding Lillia deeper into the heart of the forest. She was determined to not only heal the grove but also to offer a glimmer of healing to the wounded spirit that had once been the radiant guardian of dreams.
As Lillia pressed onward, the battles against the corrupted minions of the Shadowveil became a somber dance between despair and hope. She fought not only for the dreams and aspirations of the innocent but also for the chance to bring redemption to a spirit lost in the depths of its own anguish.
Driven by her unwavering compassion for the forest and her kin, Lillia ventured deeper into the heart of the grove, guided by the radiant glow of her dream-laden branch. Her destination was the sacred clearing where the formidable Shadowveil stood, its twisted form casting an ominous shadow that seemed to suffocate the land.
With a mixture of grace and occasional clumsiness, Lillia initiated her intricate dance, effortlessly evading the tree-like entity's attacks. Her dream-laden branch emanated an ethereal glow, pulsating with the pure essence of dreams she had reclaimed from the corrupted minions she had encountered. Each strike she delivered resonated with a potent determination, gradually weakening the Shadowveil's hold on the forest.
The ancient guardian spirit, now enveloped in darkness, unleashed waves of malevolent energy, its branches contorting and reaching out hungrily. Yet, Lillia's otherworldly agility allowed her to evade the grasping tendrils with nimble movements. Although her dance bore hints of awkwardness and unrefined elegance, it exuded a raw beauty that stemmed from her unwavering conviction and the glimmer of hope that persisted within the Shadowveil.
The air grew thick with a palpable blend of despair and longing as the showdown unfolded. Lillia's heart thumped with each beat, resonating with the pain and turmoil she sensed within the corrupted spirit. Deep within the layers of darkness, she knew that a fragment of the radiant guardian's essence still yearned to be set free.
With each strike and defensive maneuver, Lillia tapped into not only her own strength but also the collective dreams and aspirations of the grove's inhabitants. The dream-laden branch shimmered, interweaving the hopes and wishes of all who had been affected by the Shadowveil's corruption. Its radiant energy infused her attacks with unwavering power, as if the very essence of the forest rallied behind her, lending her strength in the battle against encroaching shadows.
In the midst of the tempestuous confrontation, the ultimate outcome remained uncertain. The delicate balance between Lillia's compassion and the Shadowveil's despair teetered on the precipice of redemption or eternal darkness. Undeterred, she pressed on, guided by an unwavering belief in the transformative power of dreams.
As the pivotal moment approached, a surge of energy coursed through Lillia's being. A torrent of radiant light, interwoven with the very essence of dreams, gathered within her. With unwavering determination, she unleashed this formidable power, directing it towards the looming presence of the Shadowveil. The luminous cascade enveloped the corrupted entity, penetrating the layers of darkness that had plagued it for far too long.
The surge of radiant energy, infused with the dreams reclaimed from the Shadowveil's minions, acted as a cleansing force, unravelling the insidious tendrils of corruption that had ensnared the ancient guardian spirit. The Shadowveil convulsed, its twisted form contorting in a mixture of agony and relief. Lillia's magic, driven by her boundless compassion, permeated every inch of the entity, offering solace and forgiveness in its wake.
In that climactic moment, the weary guardian found solace at last. The essence of the Shadowveil yielded to the soothing embrace of an eternal slumber, its torment finally laid to rest. Lillia, her voice filled with heartfelt empathy, whispered a tender wish for pleasant dreams to accompany the guardian spirit in its eternal repose.
As the radiant energy dissipated, a serene stillness settled upon the grove. The corrupted tendrils that had tainted the once-vibrant land withdrew, vanishing into ethereal wisps of shadow. The oppressive shroud cast by the Shadowveil lifted, and the grove bathed in the gentle glow of renewed tranquility.
With the malevolence banished, the grove erupted in joyful celebration. The once-stunted flora flourished with newfound vitality, their vibrant hues painting the landscape with a kaleidoscope of colors. Delicate flowers bloomed, their fragrant petals dancing upon the soft caress of the breeze. Sunlight filtered through the dense foliage, casting enchanting patterns of light and shadow upon the rejuvenated forest floor.
The inhabitants of the grove, from the tiniest woodland creatures to the towering ancient trees, reveled in the return of harmonious existence. Their spirits lifted as the weight of the Shadowveil's corruption dissipated, replaced by a profound sense of hope and bliss. Whispers of gratitude echoed through the verdant expanse, mingling with joyous songs of celebration, creating a symphony of nature's delight.
And yet, amidst the jubilation, an air of anticipation lingered.
Lillia stood amidst the vibrant grove, her heart swelling with a newfound victory and a flicker of courage that had ignited within her. The triumph over the Shadowveil had awakened her spirit to the possibilities that lay beyond the familiar confines of her secluded home. The forest, in all its ancient wisdom, seemed to beckon her towards the mysteries of the wider Ionian realm, urging her to step out and interact with the humans who dwelled there.
As she stared into the distance, Lillia felt a tantalizing sense of adventure tugging at her very core. Her imagination painted vivid pictures of encounters, friendships, and stories that awaited her beyond the boundaries of her forest sanctuary. The allure of the unknown whispered promises of growth and connection, enticing her to take that leap of faith.
But just as she was about to muster the courage to step forward, a chilling breeze of doubt swept through her. Fear, like an old adversary, crept into her thoughts, whispering tales of rejection and the pain of not being accepted by the world beyond. It gnawed at her, threatening to shatter her fragile hopes and dreams.
With a heavy sigh, Lillia gently shook her head, as if trying to dispel the doubts that threatened to hold her back. She knew that her journey, though filled with triumphs, wasn't quite complete. There were still layers of healing and growth she needed to unravel before venturing into the uncharted territory of the human realm.
Resolute in her decision, Lillia chose to return to her secluded existence, at least for now. She embraced the contentment that came with the personal victory she had achieved, finding solace in the healing embrace of the grove. The forest, sensing her choice, whispered its gratitude, a gentle breeze carrying its appreciation through the rustling leaves. The ancient trees, now teeming with newfound life and vibrant energy, swayed and sang songs of heartfelt appreciation to their humble protector.
Lillia understood that her journey would continue, guided by the whispers of the wind and the dreams that still burned within her. She knew that, one day, when the time was right, she would gather enough strength to step beyond the safety of her forest home and embrace the human world with open arms. But for now, she would cherish the tranquility of her grove, nurturing her own spirit and blossoming alongside the vibrant flora that surrounded her.
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