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Open Empty Hourglass

Discussion in 'Crystal Vales' started by Minato Arisato, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    November 1st, Year 108. Middle of a road somewhere in the Crystal Vales
    ~~~


    It was like drowning in air.
    Minato's body and mind surged to life in a brief instant and in the first panicked milliseconds, one thought was abundantly crystal clear. it was clear the way toddlers are certain of the black and whiteness of the world until proven otherwise, a kind of bone-deep understanding that this was the truth, no matter it's level of ridiculousness or idiocity.

    'I forgot how to breathe.'

    As if that understanding itself was enough, he grabbed the front of his shirt with one hand and forced himself to roll over onto his side. He forced his aching chest to expand and with that, his body seemed to remember what it should be doing. Coughing spilled out of him like water, achy wheezes in between to try and keep himself breathing. It felt like he hadn't been alive for...

    A month.

    His stomach rolled and he swallowed thickly, panting into the dirt road. Road... Right. He should probably get out of the way of anything coming. The fact that he hadn't died on a road, but on the top of the school with his head in Aigis's lap apparently seemed irrelevant now. The air He had managed to keep breathing tasted like the air he was used to, besides the fact that it was decidedly cleaner.
    He stumbled to his feet, almost collapsing as he moved into the grass off the road. There weren't any dirt roads like this on Tatsumi, which begged the question of where he was. Minato turned around a couple times, brow furrowing at the unfamiliar scenery.

    ... Was this the afterlife? Had he properly died and this was simply the way he had been transferred from one world to the next? That was the only explanation he could really think of, and his face relaxed to something more neutral. That was acceptable, and understandable, if a little bit of a rude awakening... And he wasn't going to get any further in by just standing here.

    With that decided -- and pockets checked, which gave him the intense comfort of his headset, his sword, and his Evoker -- he started slowly down the road, squinting the glare of the sun out of his eyes.
     
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  2. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    While the Dread Wastes stimulated Quirrel's mind more than anything else he had explored in Pandora, it was important to take a break. The Crystal Vales was the break. A leisurely stroll down well worn dirt roads might have been mundane and boring normally, but the beetle had a healthy appreciation for the more peaceful side of traveling.

    He had no real plans, as was usual. The region was large, with many sights to see, and it would be a waste to have his first major excursion be inorganically organized. All that mattered was the present. Road beneath his chitinous legs. Fresh air, much cleaner than the oppressive atmosphere in the wastes. The complete lack of sand.

    Of course there was little variation on these paths. That was really the point, wasn't it? An environment where he didn't have to be constantly on guard at every moment, lest a deadly monster catch him unawares. The relative monotony meant that it was easy to spot something or someone out of place.

    And, having not crossed paths with anyone on the road yet, the blue haired teen ahead of the giant bug stood out a lot... though probably not as much as the giant bug stood out to the teen. Quirrel raised his right arm and gave a small wave of acknowledgement. A long time resident of Pandora probably wouldn't have batted an eye at the six foot tall bipedal beetle, but this wasn't a long time resident. Quirrel did not know that, of course, so he would just continue walking unless conversation was initiated or the stranger's reaction gave him a reason to stop.
     
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  3. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    At first he'd genuinely thought he was having a hallucination of the... What was it even? A giant bug? It looked like a giant beetle, which was a little concerning, and further begged the question of where in the hell he'd ended up. Were giant bugs just a part of Heaven? Or was he... Somewhere like the Dark Hour and this was a Shadow? He felt himself tense only a little, and that was before it decided to wave at him.

    Completely perplexed now, and a bit more curious, he picked up the pace to meet up with this bug-person. Perhaps he could learn a bit more about this afterlife through a willing stranger...
    His legs and chest still ached. Exhaustion crept around his knees like a fog. He'd need somewhere to sleep and eat that was safe. Speaking of food, he was starving.

    "... Excuse me?" His voice maintained that neutral tone when they crossed, but the hint of curiosity shone through in the interested glitter of his eyes. "... Where's the nearest... town, I guess?"
     
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  4. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    There was no reason to think this person was new. The lack of any real reaction to a giant bug walking around was pretty indicative of someone who had seen such things plenty already. It might have been a little strange for someone on the road to not know where they were going, but Quirrel was aimlessly wandering himself.

    "Hmmm... well, I've been walking down this path for an hour or two since the last settlement," the beetle said cordially, his mask hiding any expression or other external indication of how he might be feeling. He tilted his head up and looked at the sky for a few seconds, pushing his hat out of the way to get a better view. "Going by the sun, around an hour and a half."

    Really, he didn't know the area well at all. "Could be somewhere closer, though," Quirrel admitted. "If one were to try going off the path, that is. I wouldn't know. Haven't spent much time in the Vales yet."
     
  5. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    The bug apparently spoke Japanese, which threw Minato off just a little, but he didn't show it really on his face. A slight nod of understanding for the approximate time it would take to walk to the next town. An hour and a half of walking didn't sound incredibly good for his already shaky legs, but it was better than wandering aimlessly and possibly dying a stupid death via exposure next to a God-damned road.

    The final sentence earned a slight tilt of his head, the one visible silver eye flashing in interest. A location?
    "What is the Vales?" The smallest frown graced his features, elegant and slightly offput. "I... Woke up on the road ten minutes ago." He gestured back the way he had been coming from before looking back at the bug person. "Where am I, exactly?"
     
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  6. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    Silver eyes. An odd trait. Quirrel idly filed it away. Far weirder eye colors in Pandora, even if this one was such a familiar shade. More noticeable was that, despite the rather stoic and uninterested exterior, the stranger seemed a bit clumsy on their feet. Exhaustion? Frailty? Was he just reading into things too much?

    Unfortunately, this had to turn into a difficult situation. "Crystal Vales," he responded after a few second pause. Apparently this guy was new despite not even reacting to a giant masked beetle? How remarkably intriguing! "One of the major regions around here. You should know that already... and yet you don't." Despite realizing it wasn't the most direct way to go about things, Quirrel prided himself on being quite good at explaining Pandora to newcomers. A little bit of build up tended to make the news go down easier.

    "And the reason you wouldn't know... that would be because you are new here, yes?" the elderly beetle asked rhetorically. "New to Pandora. That's your answer, by the way. Another world, separate from where you might have come from." Honestly, he should have known. Quirrel seemed to attract new comers like honey drew in flies. "You look a bit unsteady, by the way," he remarked idly.
     
  7. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    Pandora. There was his answer. Not the afterlife, but some alternate reality. In a way he felt both relieved and cheated by this little universe that had yanked him away. Was the seal unsteady now that he hadn't properly died..? That wasn't a great thought. He felt vaguely ill and staggered his footing a little to prevent himself from falling over. The bug even commented on it and Minato grit his teeth, forcing his chest to expand and clear the oncoming fuzz in his head.
    "I feel ill." He admitted quietly, hopefully that might gain him an escort, or a helping hand otherwise. "I wasn't... I think I was about to die in my previous world... After a month of... Clinging... To life."

    The word 'clinging' felt strange on his tongue, it was something he'd never known himself to do. Cling to life as if he feared death. The understanding was a little bit chilling. He'd ask what the Crystal Vales was later, likely when he was sitting down with food and more time to relax.

    For all he knew he might be dying now.

    "But I am new." A small nod. "I was somewhere else and then on this road with no idea how or why. I would greatly appreciate any more information on Pandora."
     
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  8. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    Well he certainly didn't look like a man on the brink of death. For someone who was apparently clinging to life for a month, he seemed fairly intact. Exhaustion was a far cry from being on death's door. Still, it was entirely possible that whatever was killing him just didn't apply here. Wouldn't be impossible, with all the infinite variations between worlds.

    "You'll need some help then," he stated simply. It wasn't a question. Quirrel looked the boy over again with his compound eyes. "We've all been new arrivals once, wouldn't be right to just leave you stumbling blindly down the road." He fished around in a bag for a few seconds before withdrawing a canteen. "Got a lengthy walk ahead of us, no matter which way we go. Best if you drink up." The beetle held the water out for Minato to take. "I'd offer you food as well, but I've found that humans tend to shy away from eating bugs."

    Quirrel required little sustenance to keep himself going, so it wasn't really a big deal offering up the water. It was really only kept around for emergencies. Might as well let someone make use of it.

    Explaining the concept of Pandora itself didn't seem to trouble the stranger that much. But that didn't mean there weren't questions asked. "If you're looking for a reason, I regret to inform you that there isn't one," the beetle remarked. "Not one that is currently known, at the very least. As for the how, the way it normally works is that black vines drag people here... once again, though, no one really knows why."
     
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  9. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    The water was welcomed eagerly and Minato murmured a "Thank you" as he took the canteen and drank from it. It was like everything he offered his body was suddenly coveted with an intense need. His first breaths and he was gasping in air, water tasted like nothing, and yet it was like heaven. It was almost overwhelming.
    He almost downed the entire thing, in a nearly worrying desperation. He could feel the minute shaking of his hands as he held the canteen.

    So this world had little rhyme or reason, it seemed. Pulling and releasing for no obvious purpose. He gave a small nod of understanding, silently wondering whatthat would mean for him. If Pandora simply... Pulled people in on a whim... What happened to his timeline? The people he cared for..? Were they okay?
    "What... Are the places here. You said the Crystal Vales? What else?"
     
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  10. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    He had seen insects on the brink of death from dehydration drink less greedily than this kid. Clearly it had been a good idea for Quirrel to offer the water, with how much it was apparently needed. "I wish I had more," he remarked sincerely. "You clearly need it. A shame I didn't pack any food that wasn't insects... though if you are desperate enough then I assure you they are completely harmless." Being that thirsty suggested there was probably a need for food as well.

    Now that the youth's needs were at least partially met, it was time for more questions. "Walk with me, if you are able. Best to try making some progress while I explain," the beetle suggested earnestly. Better to start the walk back to civilization now than when they had exhausted anything to talk about that might distract them from the long road. "And I think I'd rather have a name for you, by the way. My own name is Quirrel. Quirrel the Student, to be precise." It wouldn't do to keep mentally referring to the stranger as "boy or "youth" or whatever.

    Regardless of whether they began moving or not, the elderly bug would begin to answer the question. "Well, there are four major regions, five if you count the Cosmic Wilderness. But the thing to keep in mind is that they all seem to conform to a 'theme' of sorts," Quirrel began. "Crystal Vales, where we are, is like a fantasy book, full of magic with little technology. The Dread Wastes live up to their name, being a sparsely populated area that'll eat alive all but the strongest individuals. Centria is, from how others describe it, sleek and modern... a big city sort of place, if that means anything to you. The Cosmic Wilderness is... well, it's space. There's a city on the moon called Elysium, but other than that there's not much to talk about. And finally, Pandopolis is the smallest region that's right in the middle of all the others. It has no set 'theme' to it, and is a generally chaotic area because of it."

    "Of course, all of this was after the end of the world. But that's not relevant to you."
     
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  11. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    He fell into step with the bug-man -- Quirrel, he said helpfully. An interesting name. It was good to have a name to refer to him anyway. He nodded a little deeply in response. "... I am Minato Arisato... It's a pleasure to meet you, Quirrel."
    Thankfully neither seemed very inclined to walk fast and Pandora was explained as they went.

    Five regions, with rules of a kind. The concept of that itself was fairly interesting and he felt his curiosity pique as they walked. A fantasy world, something that sounded post apocalyptic, a city-place, and what sounded like a science fiction novel on a moon, barring the central region of no discernable theme. The final comment drew a small frown.

    "The world... Ended?" He sounded a little confused. "... You speak as if that was recent. Like the world ended two months ago."
     
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  12. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    Thankfully the youth, or rather Minato, was up for walking while they talked. It always made a journey feel shorter when there was interaction to spice it up. They weren't moving very quickly right now, but allowances had to be made for the person who had apparently been clinging to life for a while.

    The mention of the calamity was meant to be a convenient topic for their conversation to expand to. An apocalypse made for an interesting conversation starter, at the very least. Still, Minato asked questions that didn't seem so natural. "Two months ago," he nodded, the beetle's tone betraying his curiosity at being provided such a conveniently exact guess. "Though I suppose calling it the end of the world is a bit a fib. You need only look around to see the absurdity of the term. A better way to describe it would be... a transition into another world."

    "Yes, Pandora on the last day of August was vastly different from Pandora on the first day of September. None of the regions I mentioned existed, except for the Cosmic Wilderness," he continued, clearly enjoying himself. Teaching others was a treat all on its own. "In the moment between those two days, three days fit. The sky was stuck in a permanent twilight and the clocks didn't move. Things were falling apart before our eyes. But after seventy two hours, everything was... this. New Pandora, I like to call it. Very fascinating event, really."

    One he had not gotten the opportunity to discuss with another often enough. The Calamity had such interesting implications that it provided endless potential for debate. "Things were a lot stranger when that time outside of time ended, though. Nothing that should be relevant to your time here, but I'm always willing to share information to those who are willing."
     
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  13. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    The world ended two months ago. Minato wanted to feel more shocked in honesty but from what he had seen of Pandora, it wasn't that surprising. He was almost a little sad that he'd missed this pre-end Pandora and was stuck in this new one, having escaped yet another end of the world.
    He seemed to be doing that a lot lately, if his still beating heart and still breathing lungs were anything to go by. He absorbed this information with a quiet and thoughtful nod, fingertips tapping against the water canteen in his hands.

    "What was the end like?" He asked, if nothing else, out of morbid curiosity. "To live through?"
     
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  14. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    Quirrel let out a small chuckle at Minato's question. "Bold of you to assume I lived through it," he replied casually, like that statement was self-explanatory. "I died. Plenty of people did, in fact. But everyone who did is fine now. Very strange, but convenient." It had been two months since then, so the beetle had worked through a lot of the mental issues that literally dying entailed.

    "But I did last for around two days. Pretty frightening time, really. I was most concerned about having one last look around my favorite place," Quirrel recounted. "Silverwood Forest isn't around anymore, but it was quite fascinating. Had myself a grand time on that final visit. Up until a giant spider ambushed me. Venom did me in, though not before I returned the favor."

    "Still, I'd say the experience was a positive one for me. I'm getting on in years, going to face a more permanent end eventually. Dying has given me a better perspective on death, I suppose."
     
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  15. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    Minato opened his mouth to respond and found little in way to respond to. Pandora even made her own death an uncertainty at the end of a phase of life. He had no idea what or, rather who 'Venom' was. This conversation was granting more questions than answers... Interesting. He shut his mouth and ran through his thoughts for a moment.

    "... Nothing's certain here, then?" A note of humor entered his voice. "Not even death... People are thrown in and out and stuff and the world never stops changing..."
     
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  16. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    Pandora was truly a fascinating topic of discussion. Quirrel once again felt upset that he had arrived only after the association of people devoted to studying the box had dissolved. Would have been a fascinating experience, to pursue such mysteries with fellow scholars.

    "Things aren't certain anywhere, Minato," the bug responded wryly. "Pandora might have uncertainty as its guiding principle, but every world has some ambiguity." His posture straightened out for a moment. "I, personally, love this world how it is. It's regrettable that I wasn't able to fulfill my duty before I was taken here, but at least I didn't die." Despite how he tried to sound unfazed, the mention of his duty had an undercurrent of sadness to it.

    Still, his pace did not falter. "I'm an explorer, first and foremost. My passion is to see things, to be a witness. And an ever changing world, one where something I see or someone I meet may never be seen by another again... it makes what I do important!" he explained, seemingly reinvigorated by discussion of his lifestyle. "To see something that might never be seen by another soul... I think that is something special. And Pandora gives me a whole world of that."
     
  17. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    "I would imagine so." He nodded, hesitating in his steps. He still felt somewhat lightheaded and dizzy, and his feet and knees felt unsure. Perhaps he really was dead, and he'd just die right here... At least he still had the comfortable apathy he was familiar with... Though simply dropping dead here might greatly concern his new companion and. He wasn't in the mood to cause too much shock to the poor man.

    "I feel worse." He admitted bluntly, stopping with an unsteady wobble. "I might faint. How far are we from the town?"

    Better to warn him than to collapse on the dirt. He felt out of breath now too, the ache in his chest becoming a little more insistent.
     
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  18. Quirrel

    Quirrel Hollow Knight

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    It wasn't too difficult to tell that Minato was still suffering from... whatever it was that had left him so weak to begin with. Quirrel had hoped that the walking might have been enough to keep him going, but it seemed that might not be the case.

    "Shouldn't be too much longer now," the beetle reassured the weak teen. Quirrel extended his arm and pointed down the road. "See that part where it slopes upwards? Once we get past that it should be within view." Might not be able to even make that distance, though.

    Wouldn't be a problem if Minato ended up fainting, though. "If you pass out than I'll carry you there... honestly, it would probably be quicker that way." Though not one to toot his own horn, the elderly beetle was incredibly fast. Even though it would be a burden, Minato looked light enough that he would still be able to rush. Probably would cut down the travel time to a small fraction.
     
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  19. Minato Arisato

    Minato Arisato Persona

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    "... That... Might be a decent plan." He admitted weakly. His head was spinning a little still, and his chest hurt. He knelt to minimize the distance he'd have to fall if he did black out and tried to keep his eyes open and his breathing going. Push through, stay conscious. If you pass out you might not wake up. His breathing was loud in his ears despite the gentleness of it and he found himself silently praying to anything that would listen.

    Please, God, let me stay alive here.