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The System welcomes all to the Tutorial, even isekai'd catgirls
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She reaches behind to keep a comforting touch on Keychain.

"Pokemon are another kind of Critter? These ones, Pack Rats, have Classes but I don't know if they have Class Powers and Upgrades. I'm still working on communicating with them better. How do you communicate with Pokemon?"


"Oh uh, Pokemon are from a game. Humans catch them with special balls and then train them to fight better and get stronger. They're not real. But maybe System is going to make some! My favorite is Moltres. I guess Pack Rats aren't like Pokemon... Pokemon understand people because of aura. That's the power of the soul."

"David, are you bothering that young lady?" A woman calls out.

His eyes go wide. "Am I bothering you?"


"Not at all, sir, but can you try to avoid startling the Pack Rats? They're not used to being around Tall people like us.

How do you play Pokemon? Is it a 'video game'?"


This kid will happily ramble about Pokemon for the duration of the truck ride! And about video games! And show her some of his Pokemon cards! They pick up a few more people as the truck goes - there's a brief scare where they speed up for a second, but they take down whatever was chasing them - and then they finally arrive at the workyard.

It's a large plot of land with huge concerete blocks forming a rough wall around the whole area, and the same concrete blocks forming a dozen large aggregate bins. There are giant piles of different kinds of dirt, sand, and gravel divided by the concrete blocks. It looks like there are good sight lines all the way down to the lake, with the hill on the other side bare enough that nothing can sneak up. There are several large buildings - three large garages, a giant warehouse, a few sheds, a bunch of trucks and other vehicles sitting around, some sort of conveyor belt structure, and three trailer homes just sitting on a corner of the property. There's even a crane, and men with guns standing on top of the concrete walls, keeping a lookout. Looks like a serious industrial operation.

The Pack Rats seem to approve. They're rubbing their hands- Er, front paws- Together and looking around across the area. Dave has Nick back the truck up next to the warehouse building, and everyone starts unloading supplies and personal belongings.


Cute kid. So that's what a video game is. She's not sure that a 'ping system' is as critical as he says - F'Wen's verbal announcements worked fine, and she's hoping that Pack Rats will be able to silently raise an alarm. Her Sonic Wave could be used as a risky 'wallbang'. She lets him ramble.

When they arrive at the workyard, she helps unload, keeping close to the Pack Rats in case they need anything, and thinks.

On one hand, she's morally obligated to stay alive as long as possible, if this world exists to any degree and she can prolong it. On the other hand, if she's in a Nexus aimed at corrupting her in some way, she needs to stay true to herself. It would be bad to learn to be a selfish coward, and it would also be bad to become too much of a martyr.

She needs to be useful to Dave's group, ideally in a way that doesn't expose her to danger. Fortunately, she's already doing well at that! She can craft, she's the Pack Rat interpreter (for now), and if she takes Enthralling Performance, she can save the whole group if they're about to be run over by monsters. (She can only use Enthralling Performance for like ten minutes at a time, so it's not worth her Mana to use it for lesser threats.)

...Enthralling Performance, or, more precisely, needing to save her Mana for it, will mean she can't craft as much. So she might not gain as much experience. And leveling up is important to being safe and to being useful. Maybe using Enthralling Performance to distract a hoard of monsters will give her a huge amount of 'XP', so it will work out in the long run?

It looks like Dave already has plenty of sentries, and everyone will want the opportunity to kill monsters. If she pushes to be a sentry, which seems like a good thing to do with the time that she won't be Crafting, she'll be directly taking experience from other people with every monster she kills or spots. Even if the people don't exist, she does not want to get used to the idea of hurting people for her own gain.

Anyway, she doesn't think the other guards will be enthusiastic about standing by for her to Pounce and then covering her back.

Another option is to tell Dave about some of her 'infiltration' abilities, which could be useful if a rival group of players makes trouble. And infiltrating 'enemies' puts her in a position to work toward peace with them!


The Pack Rats claim one of the smaller run-down sheds as theirs; Dave takes a look at it and then agrees, after telling them not to tunnel into any of the other occupied buildings. Sam and several other men are working inside the large warehouse space, moving shelves around and building brick walls to subdivide it into rooms. Each room gets a single bed. The families, or at least the children, are sort of hanging out near an empty aggregate storage bin being watched by an unfamiliar woman. A few are kicking a bright orange ball around, a couple are discussing Classes animatedly, a few are just sulking.

After a little bit of unloading is done, Wynn comes and finds her, bouncing on her feet happily, tail wagging.

"Shooting lessons in the back corner! Come on!" Is all she says.


Interpreting "don't tunnel into other occupied buildings" is easy enough!

Poor kids. Maybe she can help with teaching or entertaining or comforting them later. But now, she has to study the Art of the Bullet.

She follows F'Wen, (ahem) calmly and gracefully, with her ears attentive. Breathe. Focus on each thought and add it to a layer of hardened malice. She doesn't know how to put the malice into the gun, but Nick will explain that.


Wynn goes serious as they approach, too. There's half a dozen people here in total- A teenage boy and three women, including nurse Marie.

Nick has arranged several pistols, a shotgun, and a big rifle on a table. He paces in front of them.

"A gun is a deadly weapon. Its purpose is to kill. To end lives. I don't want anyone I teach to take it lightly. There is no such thing as a 'disabling shot', not really. When you pick up a gun, you are doing so with intent to kill. Because you want something to die, to stop moving and never move again."

"Always assume a gun is loaded and ready to fire, even if you know it is not. Even if you personally checked just a second ago. Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard, away from the trigger. Remember- Always assume it's loaded. Never point your gun at anything that you don't want to kill."

He pauses.

"I know I'm belaboring the point, and I'm doing it deliberately. Good habits save lives. I've seen a lot sloppy, lazy drivers- They don't stop at stop signs. They don't obey the speed limit. They drive if they're a little bit buzzed, not quite drunk. They break the rules. And they crash, and people die. They had bad habits, and as a result, innocent people are crippled or die. If you break these rules, I will yell at you, I will take your fucking gun away and lecture you and you will deserve it. Do you want your friends to die because you were careless? Do you want to realize that you've accidentally shot someone, and you can never take it back? It's better to get it right the first time."

He begins talking about the potential dangers of misfires, hangfires, ricochets. He carefully handles one of the pistols to show them the basic operations of loading, safeties, etc, always pointing it downrange or straight down. You should know what's behind your target, and assume you're going to miss and hit that. In this case, behind the wooden targets he's set up is a nice concrete wall, so they can shoot. But if it was open ground or someone's house? Not so much.

He takes in their reactions to his safety speech.


Nick is scary! She doesn't want him to be angry at her!

She's had to learn lab safety rules before. They're annoying, but she can accept that her unconscious habits need to be trained. She brings those memories forward in her mind so he'll sense her seriousness.


He seems satisfied with their seriousness and will go ahead and teach them all how to actually use a gun! These are the bullets and this is the safety and so on. They can practice holding it, unloaded, while he adjusts their grip and pose gently. Mostly with words telling them to adjust their thumb slightly, or to keep their fingers away from the breach because scalding gas is going to come out of it. He's visibly hesitant to actually touch anyone.

But here is a pistol, a Glock 19, cold metal and hard plastic in her hands, and here is how to hold it and the proper way to stare down the sights at what she wants to kill.


Maybe he's going to get to the psychic parts later? "Sir, if you please, to help me plan, how long do you expect before a diligent student is refined enough to use a gun productively?"


"Productively, you say. Why don't you tell me what you're imagining? Shooting a monster a hundred yards away and one five feet away are very different things. I can get you to better than not having the option to shoot, today."


...The two Men face each other across a field of cauliflower. One, the owner of the village, is flanked by a group of nervous dogs and a bear. The other, the merchant, is alone. They slowly draw their guns, staring at each other, and aim. A dog bursts into tears. The merchant steps forward severely, smirking - and drops dead. No shots were fired.

...In the shadow of the old Daimoni ship, the fox huddles and peeks around a corner. The wolf gang, seven remaining since their leader's death, run towards her. Six shots get them all in gory slow-motion. One is alive, who she later tortures for the location of the kidnapped cat.

...The Lord, on the day before his deathday, gives his son a long-barreled pistol. "When my father gave this to me, it had five bullets. It has five bullets today. As long as it stays loaded, our line will prosper." The son, who has just been challenged to a duel, nods. "I will see that I pass it on with five, father." Roll opening credits, overlaid on a series of paintings in the Lord's study showing how the sixth bullet was fired during an assassination attempt by a jealous cat breeder.

"I guess I just mean skilled enough that those without a gun won't resent my privilege, sir. My understanding is that mastering any art requires great effort, but I will abide by your judgement of me, sir, and your choice of lessons. Will you be covering mental refinement?"


"Mental refinement? You don't want to have to be calm and steady to shoot - that's why practice is so important. Holding a gun is scary until you're used to it. Repetition, until it's a habit. Until it's so automatic you don't even think about it. I suppose that's mental refinement of a sort. I am beginning to suspect we have... A major mismatch of expectations here."

Nurse Marie pipes up, "You're making it sound like some kind of martial art. The dao of the gun. I don't think that's what this is. Maybe you've been reading the wrong kind of books."


Ooookay. So they don't know about using telepathy to fight. She can't think of a reason that would follow from being in a low-tech variance zone with lots of Men and few furs - but more urgently, she has just discovered that Nick is not the master gunslinger she thought he was, and now he's going to be upset at being exposed as a fraud. But lying seems like a worse idea, if he later finds out the truth... unless then he's grateful for covering for him? Oh, if she focuses on Marie then she's not directly criticizing him!

"I don't know what a 'dao' is, ma'am, is it a kind of telepathy?"


"It's some asian martial arts master thing."

"I know this one! The dao or tao is an east Asian philosophical concept. It means 'the way' or 'the natural order'. It's not referring to the laws of physics and gravity but a sort of spiritual thing I don't really understand and gets used a lot when talking about meditation and focus, but like, making anything at all of it might be overinterpreting. It's not telepathy, more like a way of being."


"There is a mindset to shooting. Steady and smooth. Pose, breathing, fingers, a hundred little things. I just think it does you a disservice to make it more mystical-sounding than it has to be. If you can't explain it to a five year old, are you really that good?"


Nick needs to stop digging himself into a hole!

But, while his forthrightness is foolish here, she likes his attitude of explaining things simply - she has that attitude to thank for getting an efficient useful education rather than spending decades learning the grace and erudition of a Man.

"Oh, yeah, that's not telepathy."

They teach five-year-olds to use guns here? Even for furs, that's too young to reliably pay attention to, say, where a gun is pointing. Unless they use powerful psychic shaping on their soldier five-year-olds? If they all have telepathy that strong, that would explain why they don't use telepathy in martial arts - they can fight with it by itself. Weapons are a distraction, so their physical fighting techniques are kept as simple as possible.

She hasn't been aware of anyone using strong telepathy here, but of course if they're that powerful they can avoid her notice. And she doesn't really know what it would feel like - in the real world, she's never been subject to telepathy other than basic reading and projection (before this incident, that she knows of), and the only thing more powerful than that that she has even witnessed was a duel, with swords, from a distance.

"Thank you, sir. I understand."

If Nick can't teach her to use telepathy with a gun, and she can't figure it out by herself, then she needs to optimize for combining a gun with what she does best. Hiding, maybe. Not Pouncing since then she can't use Dancing Claw. While performing? She can figure out how to make it graceful by herself just fine.

"If you please, sir, would you guide me on using a gun quietly?"


"Guns are not quiet. Suppressors make them quieter, but they are still very loud. The only reason we don't have ear protection is health points making that somewhat irrelevant. Let's move on."


Now he'll show the motions of loading and unloading a gun, and let them shoot at a target, one at a time. "Breathe steady. Pull the trigger, don't squeeze. If you squeeze you will unconsciously tilt the gun. You have to be patient and focused, or your aim will fail." C'esther can go first.


She meant the part before firing, all those clicks and scrapes. But it would embarrass Nick to clarify that now. She'll practice on her own, or ask him in private.

She watches his movements and copies them as best she can. Bang?



The gun leaps upward in her hands. A neat little hole appears in the wooden target- The edge of it. It's thunderously loud, this close.


"Eep!" Eyes wide, ears flat back - she manages to hang on to the gun at least.


"How many shots, sir?"


He's speaking calmly and reassuringly now.

"There is one in the chamber, and six remaining in the magazine. I see your shot went high and to the left. If you want to keep shooting, make sure to correct for that for your next shot. If you don't, unload the weapon like I showed you, make it safe."


...she tries firing one more time. Bleh.

Are all guns this loud? Maybe they have more powerful guns because they have the mental strength to withstand the greater shock of firing one.

She finishes the magazine, mentally preparing before each shot by focusing on keeping her movements smooth.

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