| >>974699
>Fetching... Active ports found
>Danger/u/ {CURRENTLY ON}
>Thirty-Eight, REO, FISHING
>several other minor users were found accessing the network...
>Cannot retrieve with current privilege
>[Enter command]

| ...Alice that was totally you wasn't it? -CN

| >>974694
nym im screwin with you w

things been aight since halloweird.......figured some major shit out courtesy of """the dynamos worst best detective"""""


| >>974700
>Aww... Who's crimson eyes? Don't think I've met them before...

| >>974703
>Fetching... Active ports found
>Danger/u/ {CURRENTLY ON}
>Thirty-Eight, REO, FISHING
>several other minor users were found accessing the network...
>Cannot retrieve with current privilege
>[Enter command]

| >>974702
Is worst best detective supposed to be CN?
>Oh really? I'm glad then. She sometimes seems lonely... Do you think I'd be able to meet them some time?

| >>974703
I wouldn't bother if I were you, Ers is a little busy with trying to wrangle some stuff on the other side of inhabited space, she sure loves to involve herself in the funniest things
'Course it was, cat eyed boy. Still kicking around instead of dead in a ditch somewhere? Glad to know that.

| >>974705
yea n those are HIS WORDS

showed up to our flat draggin a FUCKEN WHITEBOARD w/ him


| >>974706
>...You think she needs help?

| >>974705
>Fetching... Active ports found
>Danger/u/ {CURRENTLY ON}
>Thirty-Eight, REO, FISHING
>several other minor users were found accessing the network...
>Cannot retrieve with current privilege
>[Enter command]

| >>974705
You totally already knew that, with how much you visited I'm sure you've been checking every once in awhile, don't even need my eye to tell me that.

| >>974706

| >>974708
Wait what??? He could've just brought a mini projector or something to throw things up on a wall...
>Oh! Sorry about that hehe. Uhhh go ahead and get back to it then! I'll... go back to the menu then

| >>974714
When have I ever said that!? -CN

| >>974714
bakebrain spun it around in the kitchen and knocked lit EVERY MAGNET off our fucken fridge


| >>974715


| >>974714
>------Current location: Glitch City-----
>Local Time: 88:88:88 (Not set)
>Current weather: Cloudy
>------USER: EOS------
>Messages: 0
>Travel history: [HISTORY] (0)
>Auth: Sublime
>Please enter DIAL to change location
>Enter HELP for command list
>Enter VIEW to use the Viewfinder
>Enter BODY to check simsense availability

| >>974715
wait that's rude as hell wtf what if one of those magnets broke???

| >>974722
You think someone would just do that? Go on the matrix and LIE? -CN

| >>974722
MULTIPLE magnets broke in his quest to learn us sm knowledge

ive opened a claim over it his ass is gettin sued


| >>974724
mf i have RECEIPTS


| >>974724
I dunno you're acting real suspicious now...
Multiple??? Get his ass. He's rich he can afford to pay reparations.

| >>974727
Alright bet. -CN

| >As you are using remote access the viewfinder will show you the current nearest access point...
>A small video window opens on the site
>The inside of a phone booth, seemingly abandoned. There's a large graffiti on the visible wall behind it.

>Local time: UNKNOWN
>[Enter Command]

| >>974713
Sorry little guy but I've been otherwise occupied with my CUTE and AWESOME wifey. No time for boys here.

| >>974739
Well that's not really a bad distraction. Either way I appreciate the help. -CN

| >>974731

| >>974743
>NO REO is present.
>Do you wish to return?

| >>974816

| >>974817
>------Current location: Glitch City-----
>Local Time: 88:88:88 (Not set)
>Current weather: Cloudy
>------USER: EOS------
>Messages: 0
>Travel history: [HISTORY] (0)
>Auth: Sublime
>Please enter DIAL to change location
>Enter HELP for command list
>Enter VIEW to use the Viewfinder
>Enter BODY to check simsense availability

| >>974655
>[Cobalt]: So my focus should be... what? Stopping whatever LS is trying to do?

| >>974850
>[II]: Start with that. Unless he's lost some of his grasp on the City, The Demiurge isn't coming back, simple as that.
>[II]: He normally would have left a message for his friends to watch out, but time was running out... or wait was I suposed to assume he'd want me to pass on the message? Because I'm [Messenger]?
>The girl sighs, it's audible over the feed.
>She pushes her body backwards and lays down on the picnic table
>[II]: I ought to ask for pay.

| >>974854
>[Cobalt]: I don't really know where to even start. We're in the dark here... Alice was talking to Ira earlier and mentioned something about a Frontier?

| >>974860
>[II]:Ignore those. We're dealing with a situation that involves the city: Great ones can't help you here; seek normal help.
>The girl extends her arms, the camera unzooms slowly
>[II]: Find the "Ogre" of Glitch city, and then, go to Neon as fast as you can. Follow your lilim friend and their Crazy Girlfriend. The rest will shake out as you go.
>[II]: That's all I can tell you, Black Suit should be able to help too, trust him, but not too much.

| >>974861
>[Cobalt]:*sigh* Boy I loved just dealing with PTA meetings the last few years. Who is this "Ogre" and where can I find them?

| >>974863
>[II]: No clue who they are, but they should be a pretty big deal, A few groups are trying to figure out who they are: You'll have to ask Black Suit and his crew.
>[II]: If only people would admire peace and stay content with it, right? I know the feeling.
>The girl once again rises, turning her back to the camera and looking over the calm vista of the purpura.
>[II]: But sometimes you have to fight for peace. You know that more than most.

| >>974865
>[Cobalt]: Unfortunately I do. Doesn't mean I can't bitch about it all the way there though.

| >>974866
>[II]: You and me both. Break a leg out there.
>She lifts her hands up, stretching, before flicking her head towards the camera, her deep red eyes appear greyer than before
>[II]: Just make sure not to break both of them, hm?
>The video player closes.

| >>974661
>Aikawa clutches at her head as it reels, palms pressing as if she's literally trying to hold her skull together.

>"Guys settled'n there yet? Wanna keep my fissures lookin' like Pangea..."

>She chuckles to herself despite the throbbing in her temples. Gonna have to tell Roy that one later; that was pretty good.

>"'Cyclapedia... tell me 'bout the new ones? What're they for?"


| >>974872
>[Esprit de Corps(Self)]: Yes, they're fitting in there all right, everything is functionning as it ought to, it feels right, like slipping in the last piece of a puzzle into place.
>[Shivers]: A tingling sense of wholeness. It travels up your arms as you shiver from the cold, it feels good.

>[Encylopedia]: Which one should I start with?

>The shards lay on the ground, they've been there for a while, they cracked under your shoes last time... you remember that.

| >>974875
>"The one talkin' 'bout night shifts."

>Got the feeling he's the kind of guy who just... gets me.

>Minding her steps, Aikawa treads carefully about the glass and proceeds to the tunnel's entrance. Her footsteps ring in her ears as the sound echoes off the barren concrete walls. Absentmindedly she rubs at her upper arm, bunching and smoothing the fabric of her jacket. Even if the chill feels good, it's still a chill...

| >>974885
>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]: Esprit de Corps, It's name derives from the English appropriation of the French term. It describes a feeling of pride or fellowship within a professional milieu. As a Package; it allows you to connect with those who share your profession or professional qualities on a deeper level. Unlike other Packages, it will simply chime in from time to time, and cannot be asked for information on it's own.

>The encyclopedia answers in it's deep, accented voice.

| >>974885
>The tunnel leads you where it should, in front of a small Izakaya, now missing it's iconic baby blue car.
>In the distance, the sounds of Burrow are heard clearly, it looks very different during the day, almost as if it was stripped of something.

>[Shivers]: Distant echoes cry out as the city still groans, it's head thumping from another night of revelry.
>[Esprit de Corps (Paramedic)]: The sirens, they're louder here.

| >>974818

| >>974890
>Oh. So he /does/ get me.

"Ain't on duty righ'now anyway. >>>I don't gotta work;>>>he don't gotta work."

>Break is sacred. Interrupt my lunch and my fist is gonna interrupt your face.

"Whattabout the other one? 'Virtual calculus'?"

>Not sure I got all that right.

>Aikawa squints as she steps into the light, eyes widening in surprise when she notices the car's missing. He said it was /his/, didn't he? Xiria helped hook him up with it, but he was the owner...

| >>974891
>She draws closer to the area where it had previously been parked. When exactly did he go missing? How long has this spot been empty?


>Sure, I do 'detective' work-- not the kind we really need right now, though.

"How often'sa network get updated?"

>It's possible this isn't happening in real time. This could be from before he got the car.

| >>974894
>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]: Visual Calculus; a skill useful to any and all with an inquisitive mind. It will allow you to understand the states of all matter around you and recreate scenes using such material evidence around the location of interest of your choosing. Think of it as a "Detective's instinct" of sorts.
>The Car is indeed missing, replacing it is a muddy patch of ground upon which are layered deep skid marks.
>The mud has barely started to dry.

| >>974896
>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]: The network operates in real time, ever since the application of Nano machine technology made it viable to do so.

>As you stare at the patch of ground where the missing car once was, a thing layout of glowing yellow lines seems to form within the marking found within the drying mud... almost as if they were layered beneath your eyelids, soon they mesh into the after-images left by the bright sun as you blink.

>[Visual Calculus]: Recent tracks, Anchored.

| >>974899
>... So I /do/ get to channel him. Wiz... long as it doesn't come with the splitting migraine.

>Aikawa raises her eyebrows, impressed-- by how familiar this is, actually. Her cyberbrain and eye augments allow her to do something similar to this, though anything requiring she use spatial awareness to reconstruct or re-examine is on her /original/ hardware-- you know, the kind she was born with.

>"How deep're these?"

>Did he peel out of here in a hurry?

| >>974901
>The meshing yellow lines seem to grow more clear as you enunciate the question within your mind, an ephemeral image super-imposing unto reality...

>[Visual-Calculus]: They're deep, a few inches more than they ought to have been, even considering the weight of Grant's vintage car. The front tires spun violently, a clear sign of hurry.

>A thin blue line draws along the tire marks, recreating the mud being kicked by the car as it hurriedly backed off.

| >>974903
>Another trail of light forms, orange in color, it seemingly leads to the backyard's entrance...

>[Visual Calculus]: One, no, Two pairs of footprints seem to originate from the backyard, one is larger than the other, yet eerily not as deep... their strides were long, running. Shoe size of 22 on the taller of the two; oxfords or something akin to a leather shoe of the same type, the small one... flip-flops, possibly 6.5, hard to tell with all the force she was putting on.

| >>974892
>You have connected to #&@6$&#_

| >[Help]

| >>974909

| >>974910
>[Dial Black Suit]

| >>974911
>"Hello? To whom do I owe this call?"

| >>974905
>[Eos]: Heya I was wondering if I could ask a few questions about the Travel Channel...?

| >>974913
>[@&#_#5363-]: ^¢^ππ√£√√£^^°✓✓{¢§∆£[[!+#-$-$;;#--#+#+#;;$&$-7$SCARY=¢°¢°¢™™¢°°OUTSIDE™€°€^^¢¥£√π¢™¢™{§§£AIR°¢^¢^√¢™✓✓{}}}€MEET+$-$66$-$+AT&@&#&-@((=¢π^|•SEASIDE°¢^^¢^™¢={}§§×=FRANCIS-#&#&&6+°¢^¢^π¢°™™°÷GODDAMNIT°°£^¢ππ£°°°¢
>Connection ended.
>Sorry your problem was not resolved... try calling again?

| >>974912
>[Cobalt]: Hello! Uhhh... okay so this is going to sound weird, but my name is CN and I'm kind of looking for someone that you apparently might know where I can find them?

| >>974916
>"CN? Ah, yes I've heard of you, please no need to be so modest: as people who share a common sponsor, I find it only natural to answer your questions. Please, lay it out plainly and I will help you as best I can."

| >>974917
Well I guess that's convenient.
>[Cobalt]: Much appreciated! So I admittedly don't have much to go on but I need to talk with someone who goes by the "Ogre" of Glitch City.

| >>974918
>"Ah, leave that part to me, I shall make sure someone finds them, I already have a few leads... although if they do not come to bear fruit, please use this network to call "395". She is Troublesome and a hopeless philosopher, but she has more information than any of us as of now concerning the "Ogre". Is that all?"

| >>974919
>[Cobalt]: 395? Are they a REO then?

| >>974920
>"No, No, their name is from the Gematria, as I said, she styles herself a philosopher. She is odd and often snappy, please do not let it bother you."

| >>974922
>[Cobalt]: I think I'll try to contact them then. Not much for waiting around you know? Won't I need more than their name to contact via the Travel Network though?

| >>974923
>"Their SoulScream is "CHROMATIC" tell her I said hi."

| >>974925
>[Cobalt]: Gotcha! Thanks again. You've been a great help.

| >>974915
Well... that was ominous and not at all concerning.

| >>974903
>"Damn, really flyin' outta here, huh..."

>What was it that had him so spooked? What did he hear? What did he see?

>Aikawa feels her heart sink down into her stomach as Visual Calculus calls attention to the footprints.

>Ran so fast his feet barely touched the ground... and, her?

>Her face is what falls next. Aikawa's eyes trace the outline of that little sole over and over again.

>... "Didn't wanna go. Dug her heels in."

>Did they hace a choice?

| >>974950
>On reflex, Aikawa turns towards the entrance of the izakaya. Even with the software's aid, it's an incredible effort for her to picture Aru Grant, running-- from anything. The strength of his resolve would have her liken him to the boulder on which the statue near his residence perches.

>"What if it wasn't 'Getsu, though...?"

>Xiria's small. She's also kind of stompy. Could probably floor it better than Grant could.

| >>974950
>[Visual-Calculus]: Something bad most likely happened, yet the surroundings are untouched.

>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]: Flip-flops aren't rainy day shoes. Weather report from the last week was filled with intermittent rain

>[Shivers]: It was warm rain. Harsh rain, the kind that sticks to the skin like a film...

>[ESPRIT DE CORPS (Paramedic)]: Either running hard... or carrying someone.

| >>974956
>[Visual-Calculus]: Yes, Carrying someone, not someone very heavy, the indentation didn't sink enough to highlight every minute detail of the rubber sole... but heavy enough to make it so that the smallest of the two sunk deeper in. It's the only explanation, since Hougetsu's footsteps aren't anywhere to see... the girl was smaller than these strides indicates anyway.

>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]: 144 cm, 4'8" that was her height the average sole size for someone that size is lower.

| >>974927
>[Dial 395]

| >>974958
>dial tone.

| >>974942
>Connected to the last bastion of what is right.
>Cannot return to menu
>Receiving transmission
>A shame.
>Welcome to the side of the SEA!
>[Enter command]

| >>974959
...So it's going to be like that how?
>[Dial 395]

>dial tone.

| >>974960

| >>974963
>[Dial 395]

| >>974957
>Aikawa notes the back and forth between her cranium-bound comrades carefully. With the reasoning provided-- with the reasoning they've developed together-- it does make more sense for the smaller set of prints to belong to Xiria. We'll use that as a working theory, for now.

>"Surroundings are untouched, huh? Maybe /outside/..."


>Secretly, she hopes the space within is just as barren. Signs of a struggle would shatter her.

| >>974964
>Connecting to SEASIDE Acess point
>A small video player launches.
>The camera stares out into the sea, colored Blue by the sun's almost bliding rays. A large island is seen in the distance, its edges almost fading away within the electric blue sky.
>A radio seems to be playing nearby, carrying the low fidelity sound of an acoustic guitar.
>There's someone, resting in the shallows of the water, sitting down.

| >>974965
>dial tone.

| >>974968
Look 395, I would not be doing this if it wasn't important.
>[Dial 395]

| >>974966
>Despite willing your body to advance, it seems as if some force is repelling you from the building itself, almost like some variety of AT field, if that rings any bells.

>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]:The network won't allow you to trespass into private property. This is another part of it's safety features, much like facial obstruction.

| >>974969
>"Stop calling me, brat."

| >>974971
Hahaha you fool! By answering once that means the conversation has begun

| >>974972
>"You inane fool, you absolute buffoon, how could you be so THICK, did they make you out of rubber the way your instincts are always to bounce back? I ought to pull out the cord of your phone and strangle you with it!"
>A seething, yet cute voice; she sounds young and proper.

| >>974974
>[Cobalt]: Look I apologize, but this is kind of an emergency and you're the only one that can help me. My name is CN and I desperately need to find someone you know.

| >>974967

| >>974975
>"Oh I know, I know you, CN, I wasn't spending the last decade in this City sitting on my pristine ass, like some others I know! I also dispose your type, the good boys of the world always doing their best. What makes you think I owe you anything hmm? Please tell >>>Ore-sama >why she ought to care?"

| >>974976
>The Phone in the booth rings...
>The person sitting in the shallows turns to face it, their face is... huh well that's a problem, they don't have one? Neither do they have a head? You've never seen that trick before...

| >>974977
>[Cobalt]: Well you are a philosopher, so I'm sure you can agree an obligation exists when there is a choice to do what is morally good and what is morally unacceptable.

...If that's not enough, answering my questions *would* be a lot faster than me just pestering you a calling you another 50 times. By the way Black Suit says hello.

| >>974978
Well that's concerning.

| >>974979
>"I knew it was that despicable business man who set you up to this! That damned suit, I ought to tie a moose with his tie! Also, do not compare my Philosophy to your goody two shoes drive. Morality means nothing to those like me, the greater good? Who's deciding what is right? What is good? Tell me, CN, What is "good"... I could waste your time like this; of course it's a relativistic fallacy so all it is a waste of time."

| >>974970
>"... A'ight, fair."

>Just gonna have to make do with what's out here, then.

>"Let's look around a li'l more."


>I'll pick up as much as I can here now, and corroborate it with whatever that little boomer knows, later...

| >>974981
>[Cobalt]: Meh, you would be more qualified to answer probably. Suffice to say even if I'm "good", a lot of it comes from a place of selfishness. I'm happy to let the City run itself just fine, but then someone tries doing some crazy change that affects me and those I care about. Then I got to get involved.

| >>974983
>"That sounds great CN, I fail to see how your involvement to help those you like involves me... is what I would normally say. But that damned Triangle bastard and the business man played a damn trick on me, the foxes they are. Meet me, bring along those damned 'friends' of yours too, the one who spent time with the witch Shimamura and her Boy toy. I'll be waiting in Midnight."
>Call ended.

| >>974982
>[ENCYCLOPEDIA]: Such is the way of the world, laws are made and obeyed.

>[Shivers]: A feeling of tension strikes as you feel a soft breeze carry you somewhere else, almost as if whisking you away from your flesh shell, it feels nauseating for but an instant. It carries your perception forth...

>[Shivers]: Someone is IN there.

| >>974982
>The entrance is as it's always been, not even a notice of absence graces the bar door, he'd be the type to leave on if he ever did end up walking away.

>[Visual-Calculus]: Nothing much to see here, this door wasn't forced, the lock is still on.

| >>974985
>Aikawa brings a hand to her head as a sensation that can only be described as a chromatic aberration of her conscious momentarily consumes her. She feels her palms starting to get clammy before it passes.

>Don't like that. Don't like that at /all/. Not even sure I wanna consider who that could possibly be.

>Aikawa circles around the izakaya, in an attempt to better map out her surroundings. She doesn't know if it'll yield more info, but it's worth a shot.

| >>974980
>The headless man slowly walks up to the phone, picking it up, he places it against his chest...
>His brown trench coat is wet, and drips unto the sand.
>A voice rings out...
>"Hello, Sorry to be so pushy. I have little time right now."
>The man... says?
>"Let me introduce myself: Member of the Tetragrammaton, representing the aspect of the [Sublime], People call me Francis Golconda."

| >>974991
>[Eos]: Oh uh, no worries. It's a pleasure to meet ya. I'm er... Eos. I'm a friend of Mili and Ers I guess? I'm guessing I have you to thank for helping me get proper access to this terminal...?

| >>974993
>"It appears so. It is an honor to meet a star of the city, Your devotion to the Sublime through Ers is commendable"
>The man's voice is placid, calm and even.
>"I am contacting you to voice a concern about your recent activities."

| >though nobody can see Nym, the lilim 100% looks around for a bit confused before finally tilting their head and pointing at themself at Francis referring to them as a star of the city
>[Eos]: Oh uh, thank you! Also sure go ahead. What's on your mind?

| >>974995
>"You and your associates are overthinking this whole situation. your focus is spread too thin. This is not the time to be expanding your scope."
>He pauses
>"Focus on Neon first, the rest will come naturally. That is all."

| >>974999
>[Eos]: Mm, alright. Will do. Thanks for that! There's so much going on that I get a bit caught up in trying to figure things out...
>[Eos]: Oh right before I forget! Did you know that there's er... someone inside the terminal? Was just wondering if uh... that's supposed to be a thing.

| >>975003
>"That one is hopeless, neither worth time nor sympathy, leave them be and that'll be enough for them."

| >>974990
>Moseying through the land finds her at a back yard. Will this be shielded from her vision, too?

>"S'not like it would be to anybody /else/ passin' by..."

>... But it /is/ still technically private property.

>"Wonder'f the guy's gotta pool..."

>Above-ground, probably. In-ground's just not practical enough. Too much upkeep. Can't just put it away once summer's over. Guy's got better things to do than have 'Getsu walk around in circles with a skimmer.

| >>975040
>The backyard seems to be surrounded by a cedar hedge, following the foot prints however leads you to a large cut within the barrier formed by the meticulously arranged trees. A wooden gate... unlocked and slightly open

>[ENCYLOPEDIA]: Backyards are considered "open property", if they are able to be seen by satellite imagery, why couldn't they be accessed through the network? Of course, people may issue a takedown request of certain areas they own if they do desire.

| >>975004
>[Eos]: Oh. Well... alright then, if you say so.

| >>975042
>Oh, it /does/ work like that. Gotta look into that takedown thing later.

>"Learnin' 'lot 'bout home ownership t'day..."

>How's that work if you rent, though? Does my land lord ask about it? Hmm...

>Aikawa decides to try and edge through the gate-- if what Encyclopedia says is true, there should be no issue; anything they can see inside of is fair game. It means they won't be scoping out any murder sheds today, but she's okay giving that a miss.

| >>975070
>You manage to slip in past the gate, the backyard opens its secrets to you... A short wooden veranda lines the back of the izakaya, the rest of the yard is covered in well taken care of lawn, alongside an in-ground pool.
>A small shed rounds off the points of interest here, it's doors are flung open... not much but junk in there, and a small charcoal grill, oddly alone in it's own little space.

>[Encyclopedia]: This model of grill is older than your parents are.

| >>975099
>"How d'/you/ know how old my folks're?"

>Does she want to know the answer to that question? It'd be good to learn the extent of the network's knowledge, but at the same time her teeth are set on edge over the idea of finding out just how deeply the probing tendrils of this program embed themselves in the 'net-- and by proxy, everyone in it.

>"... Whad'appens'f I go'n that pool?"

>She couldn't touch the detergent at the laundromat...

| >>975299
>[Encylopedia]: Using Visual Calculus' installed package and the data sets within our network, I can approximate your exact age and date of birth.

>[Encyclopedia] You could walk on water, or sink, it would be up to you to choose.

| >>975305
>"Oh, /sick/--"

>Meatspace has me sinking every time I should float. Why do the same here'f I don't gotta?

>"Whattabout turnin't inta wine?"

>Not like she'd be able (or willing) to drink it.

>"... Lemme go strollin' 'stead'a sailin'."

>Aikawa begins to take her shoes off-- or at least, she tries to.

| >>975345
>Your shoes are easily taken off.

>[Encyclopedia]: Water can only be turned into wine through long and arduous processess involving grapes and fermentation.

| >>975346
>"... Thanks fer... remindin' me...?"

>Aikawa makes her way to the pool's edge, peering down at the patterns of light that scatter within the depths whenever the water's surface is disturbed-- by a passing breeze, a falling leaf... maybe in the past, a pencil-diving demiurge.


>You walked straight up a wall once, and that was in real life. You can do this.

>Aikawa sighs, and steels herself as she brings the sole of her foot to touch the water.

| >>975357
>Your sole touches the water as you rest the weight of your feet upon its wavering surface. The feeling is odd, almost as if your mind was rejecting the very reality (or unreality in this case) of the situation, it felt unreal, like floating in midair. The water felt cool, but most importantly, extremely solid yet somehow... tencile? It state seemed constantly in flux, hard and soft; solid and liquid...

>[Shivers]: It feels wrong.

| >>976030
>"Woah, /fuck/."

>Aikawa hops back up onto the pool deck almost as quickly as she stepped off of it. One second more of that, and she'd have started upchucking in meatspace. No need to chum the waters...

>"Jesus christ."

>Like waiting for a coaster to drop, or getting stuck in that fraction of a second where you/could/ save yourself from a fall, but you're pretty sure your trip's gonna end in one, anyway-- except, the crash never comes.

| >>976039
>[Encyclopedia]: He /is/ famous for doing exactly this, yes.

>The feeling recedes, slowly but surely; you feel yourself regaining control.

| >>976041
>Aikawa huffs, muttering to herself as she stamps the water off her feet and nudges her toes back into her tennis shoes, crushing the backs with her heels.


| >>976047
>The veranda is small, more like a glorified Engawa than anything else.
>There are two pairs of shoes laying on the ground, next to a glass patio door, which leads indoors, a thick cloud of darkness seemingly clings to the door, obstructing your view.

>[Visual-Calculus]: The pair of shoes, how about looking them over for a bit? Both are small, and neither of them match the footprints you saw earlier.

| >>976065
>Aikawa shrugs, and decides to do as Visual Calculus advises-- there's no harm in giving them a closer look, anyway. Who leaves their shoes outside, though? Didn't Encyclopedia say rain was in the forecast on and off this week? Nobody wants their sneakers to squish every time they take a step...


| >>976228
>Indeed, one of the pair of shoes is completely soaked from the rain.

>[Visual-Calculus]: But the other pair is completely dry still, shoe size is... 9 on the dot, their soles are flat, unlike any of the tracks seen before.

>[Encyclopedia]: Oh boy, these are ancient: 1992 converse all stars, mint condition. You'd be surprised at how hard these are to keep in shape.

>[Visual-Calculus]: Indeed. Not even scuff marks can be seen, someone loves their shoes.

| >>976230
>Completely dry... Got here recently-- maybe even today-- the person in the izakaya...?

>/'90's/ Converse... who the fuck is out here wearing shoes that're almost 100 years old? Most sneakerheads would have these up on a shelf, not sitting on a welcome mat--

>"... Wait."

>It couldn't be... could it? She's the one who left you that message. You've met her in the network before.

>"... There any way t'review records with'is thing-- 's it always recordin'?"

| >>976442
>[Encyclopedia]: Sadly, the network does not record anything but the information it requires to function. The sheer amount of data required to make this simulation possible is already prohibitively expensive to maintain, to record it would take more space than the whole network can afford.

>[Visual Calculus]: We can, however help you out with remembering things. Shimamura was it? What shoes was she wearing?

>[Esprit de Corps]: Boots, she wore boots, she's one of /those/.

| >>976444
>"'One'a those'...? 'One'a those' /what/-- people who like t'be tall? Like t'make a lotta noise'n they walk? Gotta sole't's more 'trench' than 'foot'?"

>Aikawa is silent for a moment as she contemplates her options.

>... /I/ was able to take my shoes off...

>"... Possible fer those t'b'long ta someb'dy else usin' the network?"

>Are they "here", or are they /here/? Either way--

>"Could I ambush 'em?"

>Stake 'em out and see if I can ID 'em by their 'fit?

| >>976446
>[Esprit de Corps]: You know the ones, /those/. The type that wear boots with steel toes despite having never been on a worksite in their lives; Style over Substance. Fashion people.

>[Encyclopedia]: Just ignore him for now.

>[Visual Calculus]: These shoes are real, realer than you are right now. Whoever was wearing these is physically present here, which means...

>[Encyclopedia]: Their face is likely to be concealed.

| >[Shivers]: Clouds cover their face, a youthful face, but their body is bare... it's heart and soul lays out for you to grasp as your conscience drifts to the shadows which obscure...

>A cold sensation creeps over your left side, almost crawling up your arm, like a servant tightly winding itself over you.

>[Shivers]: An empty sleeve. Sublime.

| >>976448
"... Whattabout other identifyin' marks? Tats, piercin's, limb augs... any'a that shit get blocked?"

>I could tell you a dozen more ways to place the owner of a body.

>Not expecting her questions to have been answered in this way, Aikawa looks down at her arm-- supinating and pronating it as she searches for indication of change.

>Am I supposed to do something with this...?

>She reaches forward, towards the house.

| >>976450
>An instant seemingly seems to drag itself into an eternity as you reach forward, a vision comes over you.

>[Shivers]: You see them, staring at you, from the other side of the looking glass. Sitting on the floor of the Izakaya, the smell of the sea... an empty sleeve, missing the arm to fill it.

>[Visual Calculus]: No. It's not missing, you just cannot see it

>[???]: A demon inhabits that sleeve! A forbidden Beast! Close them out now Milady!

>[???]: Temperance.

| >>976452
>"Milady"...? Oh, /god/--

>"Fer fuck's sake-- thought y'were takin' some time off...!"

>Who's this other one? Don't think I've heard him before...

>"Any /more/'a ya show up'n I'm gonna start chargin' /rent/."

>Gonna need a little help subletting the lobes of my brain...

>"... Why can't I see it?"

>'Temperance'? In a /bar/? That's like saying you've found a casino full of penny-pinchers.

| >>976453
>Oh, there's a lot more now, you can /feel/ them, all crawling in there

>[Inland Empire]: Justice never rests Milady, there are always dragons to slay, kingdoms to save, speaking of slaying--

>[?]: Can't you tell? This drek head over on the other side; He's /hacking/ you, letting the dumbass back in, you're /hallucinating/, cut the connection. Now. Or what is it? Do you want to sprawl your ass on the ground again? There's no Fal here to pick you up.

>[?]: Wait.

| >[Shivers]: the snake coils once more, tightly binding you into his embrace, you feel something... a slight tensile touch, almost as if a finger is tracing letters upon the skin of your neck.

>[?]: Oh no, don't you dare listen, ignore the feeling, you're no bitch he can walk over; show him who's boss. Make him show his face.


>[?]: Calm down, deep breaths.

| >>976455
>The most Aikawa can do in response to all of this arguing is jam her hands over her ears-- and of course, that makes no difference in the number of voices jabbering away, their volume-- but, it's what she can manage. The clamor, the fear that she may be re-living a near-death experience: the potent mixture these create leave her incapacitated. She has no choice but to wait... but by the pounding of her heart, you can tell she's certainly not doing so calmly.

| >>976460
>[?]: Just breathe. Deep breaths, calm down, it's not the same as the last time. You can ignore them, just focus on the sound of my voice.

>[?(hearing)]: Your heartbeat, the pool's filter, despite your hands their sound still reaches you.

>The cacophony begins to quiet down, the snake loosens it's grip...

>[Shivers]: The letters, keep your mind on them.

>[?]: This is an art piece. And you are the canvas. '015, Temperance, Call.'

| >>976461
>Aikawa screws her eyes shut, gritting her teeth as she tries to keep from squirming under this phantom's touch. It's a miracle she manages to hold out long enough in this battle with her reflexes to let Temperance finish their magnum opus.


>Sorry, guys. It's been fun, but the party has to end at some point. Got an important call I gotta take.

| >>976462
>[?]: Yeah, cut him out, fuck him.
>[?]: It's fine.


>Welcome back!

| >>976463
>------Current location: Glitch City-----
>Local Time: 88:88:88 (Not set)
>Current weather: Cloudy
>Messages: (0)
>Travel history: [HISTORY] (4)
>Auth: Traveller
>AG packages installed (4)
>Please enter DIAL to change location
>Enter HELP for command list
>Enter VIEW to use the Viewfinder
>Enter BODY to check simsense availability

| >>976463 >>976464
fuck...... holy shit........FUCK!!!!!!


jesus fucken CHRIST


| >>976465
>Please enter the number you wish to call, enter the directory or return to the menu.
>[Enter Command]

| >>976466
>[CALL 015]


| >>976468
>Dialing [015, SoulScream: VOID]
>Connection established!

| >>976469
>"Touch my /fuckin'/ neck again 'n I'll have the fuckin' /feddies/ breathin' down /yours/ fer simsense A&B, you piece 'a /shit/-- the FUCK was that?! Wanna rip my fuckin' /skin off/, jesus christ..."

| >>976470
>A static filled voice rings out, toneless.
>"Should I apologize? Unfortunately that was the only way I could have reached you. Have you ever tried reaching out to a nano machine ghost being operated from half a continent away? It's like threading a needle through an atom. I'm only glad I didn't trigger that safety mechanism of yours, I would rather not give you a scare AND some dumpshock."

| >>976472
>"'Should you apologize'-- fuckin', /YEAH/-- you /SHOULD/ fuckin' apologize!!"

>There's a pause, followed by a very shaky breath. It seems that only now she's decided to take the advice of that one voice, calmer than the rest.

"... W-whaddaya want? Y'even sure y'got the right user?"

| >>976480
>"Feisty aren't you."
>The voice sounds bored, a sigh resounds through the line
>"Sorry! My bad! Teehee?"
>The static grows louder, as the deadpan voice replies in a fake chipper tone.
>"... Ah...."
>A pause
>"Aikawa Ei, I think I got the right person, unless you're someone else? Perhaps you're a very good imitator, can you tell me if your eyes have seemed more purple recently?"
>A wave of static rushes in for an instant.

| >>976481
>"... Y'got the genuine article."

>The "purple eyes" comment misses her-- she's only really familiar with the significance of those on the other end of the spectrum.

>"... Why we talkin', Temprance?"

| >>976483
>"Victor. Call me Victor; I was the one who brought up real names, I may not be pleasant, but I'm willing to engage on a common ground. Fairness is the name of my game."
>The static makes it hard to derive any emotion from the intonation of "Victor"
>"I contacted you because I wanted to discuss something with you. Really your appearance at the Entrance was fortunate. It's about that theory of yours, I have a tip."
>More static
>"Care to hear it?"

| >>976485
>"A'ight, Victor."

>Don't have to be nice to be respectful; "polite" and "pleasant" are different words for a reason, after all...

>"... Y'mean what I was talkin' t'Neil about?"

>How many people actually listen to that program, anyways? Could this guy be one of the fans who sent the host a pic of his dong?

>"... I'm down. Spill."

| >>976486
>"... Ah."

>Right, yeah we should clarify that.

>"I wore the dress "

>He's... oddly serious, this seems to be something he /needs/ to mention.

| >>976487

>"... Sure y'ain't lookin' t'talk t'my /husband/?"

>... Uh, maybe we should clarify /this/, too--

>"He, uhh... wants t'report Neil t'the IRB... one of 'em, anyway-- dunno which. Thinks'a whole dick pic thing's alla part'a some fucked up study with fucked up methods."

| >>976491
>"Tall men make me nervous."

>Victor says, without missing a beat.

>"... Study is it? I'm afraid my data won't be useful to that endeavor, seeing as I am an outsider. It's also nothing impressive."

>He keeps saying outrageous things yet doesn't fail to always keeps his tone steady

>"Now, to return to the point."

| >>976493
>"... Yyyeah, the... /point/--"

>Aikawa has slowly adopted the dull customer service voice she defaults to when taking histories from patients who tell the nice paramedic about every single health crises they've ever had in their entire life /except/ the one that caused them to call the ambulance /this/ time.

>"-- y'wanna go 'head'n tell me what that was?"

| >>976495
>"Your theory, that was the point."

>Victor points out.

>"I won't comment on the veracity of all of it, I think you'd rather hear that from someone with a bit more... Anchorage"

>He doesn't elaborate on the meaning of the word 'Anchorage' but his inflexion makes it sound /important/

>"I just wanted to give you a tip: don't go to that burned out apartment complex, not without the Ogre anyway."

| >>976497
>"Anchorage" is not a word Aikawa is immediately familiar with-- and as such, it takes her a moment to decipher it's spelling, along with it's meaning. Once this is all complete, she writes it off as something to look into later-- and maybe with some additional help.

>"'Lax, Victor. Women do /everythin/'n pairs. Use'a restroom... fill their water bottles... do /crime scene recon/--"

| >>976842
>Static again... it seems like the connection is really unstable on his end.

>"I suppose my concern was uneeded then."

>He says, bluntly, somehow it feels like he's happy to let his concern go, it's hard to tell with how deadpan he sounds.

>"How about a freebie then, I'm sure you're curious to ask."

>He lets his words linger before continuing:

>"Why I was in Aru Grant's house."

>He says.

>"I'm sure you're curious."

| >>976848
>"Gonna tell me y'needed his standin' mirror t'model yer /dress/, or ya gonna give me the /real/ answer?"

>Let's make sure our definitions of "freebie" are the same, here...

| >>976849
>"I wouldn't get much use out of the height of the mirror, plus I model at home."

>Victor responds

>"I may be curt, but I am if nothing else honest; that I can atleast assure you, Aikawa."

>Static fills the line once more, drowning it for an instant.

>"I was making sure the stove was off, And locking up; I have a key."

>He says, in the same tone as always.

>"As boring as it is. That was it."

| >>976850
>"... How'd y'/get/ that key?"

>Legitimate means, she hopes. She knows Grant has friends, but can't guess at how many they number.

>"... Prob'ly ain't a freebie; figured'd try my luck anyway."

| >>976851
>"Isn't it proper proceedure to leave a key with your relatives to house-sit?"

>Victor says, as if this was the most self-evident thing in the world

>"...Ah, Guess I never gave you a last name, I guess I don't need to though?"

>He sighs, more static fills the line as he does

>"Victor Raynolds, but my mother used to go by 'Mrs.Grant', before she remarried."

>He still explains.

| >>976854
>"Maybe if y'got relatives y'actually /want/'n yer house..."

>It's hard for her to relate, on multiple levels-- her family wouldn't have been particularly pleased with the state of her apartment in Niihama, and she wouldn't have been particularly pleased to host them-- they were the reason she left, after all.

>"... Which one'a you's older?"

>Not that it matters. She's curious, though.

| >>976855
>Victor pauses for a second.

>"I'm the older one. You could never tell though, I'm that small."

>He puts it bluntly, there's a hint of... /something/ in his voice, it's impossible to tell what it is, regret? Maybe.

>"I doubt he'd ever called me up if he weren't in such a big mess though, like you said... Sometimes familly gets in the way."

>Another pause, more static

>"I know I did."

| >>976856
>"Sure y'got /free admission/ t'shit longer'n /he/ did, though--"

>If she'd had the brains of somebody years older than her as a child, she'd have certainly kept her mouth shut about being six when the menu said children five and under got meals without charge...

>"... Maybe this's a way t'make't right-- if ya both want to."

| >>976857
>"It has it's perks: Men end up looking taller."

>Victor answers, pausing for a second.
>He sighs deeply.

>"I don't know what's right anymore; I'm past the point where I can just say 'my bad' and move on like nothing ever happened."

>A whisper is interrupted by static

>"--It's still nice to be relied on, I'll admit it."

| >>976859
>"Thought y'said tall men make ya nervous."

>Maybe he likes that? Different strokes...

>"... Right's somethin' y'both gotta figure out yerselves."

>Maybe it involves closing away a part of one's past, maybe it takes that part of the past into consideration-- it's whatever lets both parties reach a point of acceptance.

>"... Think about it. Y'don't gotta... make'ny plans t'try'n help shit along now, jus'... think about it."

| >>976862
>"They do, make me real nervous."

>He bluntly adds, before falling silent.
>He listens closely, the line stays clear for a bit.

>"I see why he took such a liking to you, you're a good person."

>Static clouds the line, it almost sounds like a chuckle

>"Here I was, giving you advice, and yet your turned the table and offered some of your own, good advice too."

>Victor seems happy?

>"Shame you're not as tall as your husband, then you'd really have my heart throbbing."

| >A beat

>"That was a joke. I'm no homewrecker, nor do I descriminate on my attractions, despite what I've said may lead some to think."

>"Still, you get my point; Thank-you."

| >>976863 >>976867
>"Ah-- uhhh, um--"

>She's tongue-tied-- far too much to spin a joke and deflect. They'll all come to mind long after the fact: some clever quip about it being her job to get hearts throbbing, a witticism revolving around her not being particularly jealous of her husband hitting his head off of things that normal people's skulls come nowhere near...

>"Yyyou're-- yerrr welcome."

>A beat.

>"Hope't all works out. Honest."

| >>976871
>Victor chuckles, it sounds so gentle, so fleeting, it's the first time you hear anything approaching any proper emotion in his tone.
>He has a very beautiful voice when it's not marred by the emotionless tone which drips from his every word.

>"Maybe I /can/ hope it does, maybe I'll talk to him when this is all over, properly."

>He adds, before the tone shifts once more.
>Deadpan, once more.

>"Good luck to you as well, things'll be rough for you guys in Glitch City."

| >>976872
>"... Y'mean... more than they are /now/?"

>It can always get worse. They can always hurt you more. Better to assume the answer to that question you just asked, rather than leave it open. Nature hates a vacuum; the universe will gladly fill in that hole for you-- with the very best that Murphy's Law could possibly ever produce.

>"... Thanks. We'll manage. We gotta."

>How can I see the end of this, if I don't?

>"... Take care, Vic."

| >>976873
>"...Yeah, You too Aikawa."
>Returning to Menu...

>------Current location: Glitch City-----
>Local Time: 88:88:88 (Not set)
>Current weather: Rain
>Messages: (0)
>Travel history: [HISTORY] (4)
>Auth: Traveller
>AG packages installed (4)
>Please enter DIAL to change location
>Enter HELP for command list
>Enter VIEW to use the Viewfinder
>Enter BODY to check simsense availability

Total number of posts: 173, last modified on: Sun Jan 1 00:00:00 1695692654