Jul 06, 2022 9:04 PM
A VN contact team stranded in Loop Hero
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"What does the fire do?" Nelen asks.

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"Keeps things real. Usually all you lose if you leave it too early is bits of your clothes or the ends of your hair or all the stuff in your pockets or whatever, but back before we learned to be cautious, a couple of people got pretty badly sick because they went exploring the edge out of sight of the campfire right after they showed up and they faded a lot. One of 'em died. You're technically safer with me than the campfire but I can't stay to watch your house all the time, I have to be out on the path gathering supplies as much as I can."

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"How do you... work differently from everyone else?" asks Nelen.

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Big shrug. "That's a very good question and I'd love to have an answer but I don't really."

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"How did you find out you work differently from everyone else?" Zanro asks.

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"...well, I showed up on the path, and when I looped back around to the start of the path, the camp was here. Nobody else wanted to try stepping into the dark on account of how that's terrifying, so I just went back out. When I bring stuff back it stays real, in a way that stuff that comes along with people when they show up often doesn't. When people have stepped into the dark, nobody's heard from them again."

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"Where's the food come from?" asks Cassiel.

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"Well, we've got wheat fields and vegetable gardens now, so there's that, but most of what we eat is stuff I pick up on my rounds. I can carry a lot of stuff these days. The path... it's hard to explain, but the more I walk it, the more it - grows? Anyway, I can pick up a lot of different things there."

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"Okay. We don't want to inconvenience you insofar as what you're already doing, we're just from a very different place and confused," says Nelen. "Please don't let us keep you from going for walks. We'll sit here and keep writing to our people back home and Natsuko can start sketching out some ideas." Natsuko is indeed already doing this; she has produced her computer and is assembling all her old school notes.

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"Okay. I'll get a spot cleared for you to set up your house in a little while, and I or somebody else will let you know when it's probably safe to go there. Sound good?"

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"Yes. Thank you."

"Is it all right if I sing?" puts in Tarwë.

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"...sure, don't see why not."

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Tarwë sings. A bit loudly. It's ugly here.

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The Hero looks mildly impressed, but doesn't comment.

"Is there anything else you want to use your mana for, so you can grab some more before I head out again?"

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"Uh, nothing right now," says Natsuko, "if there's no room for a building and no one is injured or anything - even if they were Nelen's heal is better than mine."

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"All right, I'll see you later then." And she's off.

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Cassiel keeps making snacks for unreal locals, and Nelen puts up some colorful illusion lights to cheer Tarwë up a bit.

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Locals drop by for snacks; the kid, once they figure out that Cassiel can make multiple types of candy, keeps asking for new varieties and then circulating reviews on the rumour mill which then lure in more consumers. That guy who wanted a recipe for almond brittle is their second most frequent visitor, after the kid. Occasionally someone will throw another few sticks on the campfire, but it's unclear whether it needs it; even with a very inconsistent feeding schedule, its flame remains steady and bright.

The Hero is in and out a few more times over the course of the next while, stopping in to deposit wheelbarrowsful of assorted items in the nearby storage building and asking the team if they need anything before she heads out again, on trips that seem to last several hours at a time when she's not cutting them short for testing purposes. With no lights in the sky, it's hard to discern the length of a local day, but there does come a time when the lights in the huts start winking out one by one and a villager comes by to ask the team if they'd like to be brought bedrolls so they can sleep by the fire.

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"I can make us mattresses," says Cassiel, "thank you." She turns her cloudfluff into a less glowy similar substance, and Nelen and Natsuko and Zanro go to sleep; Cassiel and Tarwë sit up, her drinking coffee and reading, him continuing to write down everything they've observed for their report.

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Cassiel and Tarwë may note that the Hero does not appear to need sleep, what with how she keeps showing up on the same approximate schedule this whole time.

 

After the village has woken up and people have been coming round for candy again for a few hours, the Hero gets back from her latest excursion and she's... different. Her face is the same shape, at least all the parts of it that were visible under the previous outfit's mask, but she's paler and her hair is straight and white instead of dark blonde and messy, and her outfit is totally different.

"I've got a place for you set up near the edge," she says. "Managed to get it blocked off from the real edge by a farmhouse and some wheat fields. It should be big enough though I guess I don't know how big the houses you make are. I think it's probably safe to go there. How are you all doing?"

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"We're okay," says Nelen. "You look different, is that normal?"

"I used a bit of mana cleaning us all up since we don't have showers here," says Natsuko.

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"Yeah, you remember how I said there's been some hints that I'm three people merged into one? This is part of what made me think that," she says. "I have three different... faces? They're the same face, but also," she gestures at her hair. "And I can switch between them and get, not exactly different skills, but different, like - aspects? I'm lighter on my feet when I use the mask, I can do different magic when I'm like this, I don't go back to my first face much anymore because I don't like it but it had its own stuff going on. Anyway! Want me to show you to your house spot so you can see if you can fit a house there?"

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"Yes please." They will all get up and follow her; Cassiel drags the cloudfluff she's made.

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It's just a short walk away; the village is really not very big. The cleared space of bare grey dirt is big enough to fit a small house comfortably, or squeeze in a medium-sized one with some difficulty.

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Natsuko will make a house. She doesn't bother trying to make it matchy, since the existing architecture is so bedraggled; instead she makes a cute cob bungalow that doesn't stick out but also won't make Tarwë sad.

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