(August 31st, 300 AS – 0945 – Lindis Air-shipyard)
The ride in the airship was uncomfortable. It was not like a ship or even a commercial airplane. It was more like riding in a cargo plane that happened to have uncomfortable metal seats welded into the walls with a dozen different seatbelts to make sure you didn’t go anywhere.
Matt felt bad that Samantha and Gabriele had to be stuffed inside of those stupid balls, but on the other hand, it was probably more comfortable than these unpadded seats. Worse, apparently the flight was going to take a while. Zeppelins apparently are rather slow compared to more traditional aircraft.
Torkel sat next to him looking around bemusedly. Apparently this was his first time inside a large transport vehicle like this. Matt wondered if he’d get flight-sick or otherwise upset when it took off.
And so, without so much as a flight safety demonstration like in times of old, the airship took off at an uncomfortable angle more akin to the vertical takeoff of a rocket than that of an airplane. Matt gritted his teeth at the uncomfortable sensation.
Right about the time his ears popped, he glanced over to Torkel next to him to see how he was taking it. Much to his surprise, Matt found him grinning with childish glee as he forced his neck against the inertia so he could look out the window in between his and Matt’s seats.
Apparently, he enjoyed the wonders of flight.
Matt ignored Torkel’s mutters that sounded like they were about “raids”- did Dungeons and Dragons survive in some perverse way?- and formulated his mental agenda. He didn’t really know what to do because he knew so little. His ignorance would kill him eventually, but hopefully enough gaps could be filled to stretch his life expectancy out a bit.
(August 31st, 300 AS – 1300 – East ATTC)
Matt cricked his back as he stepped out of the airship. The ship had apparently been picking people up since three in the morning from various cities in the eastern landmass that was a part of Azure and packed them in there like sardines. Extra seats had unfolded from just about every conceivable location until they actually had seats only a few feet above other seats. This had given Matt a very stiff neck because of his height because the nincompoops that ran the airship refused to let him change seats and physically restrained him when he got up to find a better seat himself.
Obviously disgruntled, he stretched himself out and got quite a few cricks and cramps out of his system before he finally remembered Samantha and Gabriele. Dear God, he was a horrible person. Quickly, he released them.
Samantha opened a bleary eye at him as if she had been napping. How anyone could actually go into a sleep cycle inside one of those things defied Matt’s knowledge of physics and biochemistry.
Gabriele had a bit of a different reaction however. She was so tightly wound that she was already fidgeting in place not a moment after she was released.
“You two alright?” Matt asked seriously. He did not like these devices. Sure, there had been plenty of people in the past that he wouldn’t have minded stuffing away to keep them from annoying him, but involuntary confinement was very inhumane unless it was done to restrain a dangerous person. At least, that’s what he thought. What about children though? Christ, he was tying his brain in knots again.
One of the kids that had been vacuum packed in the ship noticed Matt release two pokégirls. “Hey, how’ut vyou geht tzwo?” he asked curiously.
Matt looked at him. The kid looked like he barely hit the 16 years of age cut off for the Tamer’s license. “Fortunate circumstances,” Matt jovially deflected the question.
A couple of men in uniform with pokégirls by their side began to funnel the trainees into some kind of small, outdoor amphitheatre.
It was surprisingly hosted by a human-looking women who Matt assumed was some kind of Headmistress or Commandant from what he could gather from the accented presentation. Throughout the introduction, Matt strained his ears to pick up all the words, but deep down, he knew he probably missed a lot.
What he did gather was simple stuff like that their sleeping accommodations would be barracks style, where the cafeteria was located, some vague details about the schedule, and to never, ever sic your pokégirls on another human, no matter how annoying. They were mostly common sense rules, it seemed.
In a little under an hour, the short welcome was over and the twenty-some kids there were dismissed. Much to Matt’s chagrin, he heard a handful of names called out to stay after, his amongst them.
He reluctantly went to the gruff looking man with holding a clipboard that had called out the names. Also there were two others. One was Torkel, another Matt did not recognize.
“Put vyourre pokégirls a’hway,” he ordered without even looking up at him. It looked like Torkel and the other guy’s ‘girls were already away.
“Why?” Matt asked reflexively before realizing that he probably should have put more thought into anything he said.
The man looked up at him sharply. “Vyou deaf?”
Resisting the urge to pretend to in fact be deaf or to comment on the fact that his poorly constructed barb would’ve only really been in context if Matt had said ‘what,’ Matt simply put his hands up defensively in an attempt to keep antagonism to a minimum and made up a quick half-truth: “Just want to make sure I’m not breaking any rules.”
Surprisingly, the man changed the subject. “Vyou ne geh’ ain Aura scan?”
Matt shook his head as a negative, afraid his confusion would leak into his voice.
“Vainne?” he asked.
“Pardon?” Matt asked, as if he had simply misheard him rather than unable to interpret his foreign babble.
“U’why ne?” the man, probably no more than 5 years older than Matt, enunciated in a subtly mocking fashion.
Matt shrugged helplessly. “The supervisor never called in a Celestial or Psychic. I saw the pokégirl at the desk tell her supervisor, the Ingenue, that one was needed, but one never came.” At least, that’s what Matt thought had happened. He had a hard time telling what was said to him even now.
The man grumbled to himself. “Fan. Wy hap ai Celestial hier. Ge tzum d’office dere,” he pointed out with a jerk of his thumb.
“Thanks,” Matt said as the man waved him off. He nodded to Torkel as he left for the room in polite greeting and acknowledgement. He was a canny guy, Torkel. He’d probably be a bit of fun to be around.
Matt entered the room he was directed to, followed closely by Samantha and Gabriele. It was an ordinary, cramped office with a single desk with an absurdly thin computer monitor that wasn’t hooked up to anything. Then again, it probably was the whole computer itself.
Gabriele wrinkled her nose when she took a look around at the lack of space. “Uh, Ai, denk vyou should put us in our ‘balls.
“If you’d like,” Matt said absentmindedly. It probably would be for the best since it was supposed to be private, and they might get into trouble if he just left them somewhere. Gabriele disappeared in a flash of light without another word. In other circumstances, he would have said something like ‘See you later’ or something similar, but he was distracted.
He briefly considered just stuffing Samantha away, but he thought better of it. It wouldn’t do to just take what little control she had over her life away from her in a blink on some whim. Matt made eye contact with her and gestured with her ‘ball. She smiled and nodded at him in understanding.
Now that he thought of it, he should probably give her a reassuring pat or kiss her or… something, but if he did, it wouldn’t be fair to Gabriele. Even if he was having trouble thinking of Gabriele as a woman because of her appearance, that was no excuse. He’d get used to it.
Samantha disappeared into her ‘ball just as Gabriele did. Matt sighed and went to seat himself in one of the little swivel chairs.
“Hi there!” said a voice from nowhere.
Matt’s heart tried to break free from his chest and sprint to Tijuana, but before it could, Matt backpedalled several steps and was about to hurl the chair to whatever was in front of him. Fortunately, Matt’s sanity kicked in before he could do something he’d truly regret.
“I…” he started and stopped himself not sure what to say, “I tend to twitch when women appear out of nowhere.”
The women merely giggled in an almost childish fashion. Matt was not sure what to do, so he set the chair back down, took a seat, and opted to pretend as if nothing happened. This seemed to amuse the woman more than anything else.
“I am to be your examiner,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
“You speak Old English very well,” Matt said neutrally. It was bizarre. It also felt weird to refer to his language as ‘Old English’ since to him, Old English was thee’s thou’s and Germanic conjugation with English verbs. Going farther back, you’d get… He was getting off track.
“It’s a gift,” she answered vaguely.
Matt took a good look at her. She was fair skinned with shoulder length, black hair and had a petite build. He figured she was a Celestial of some sort, but out of the ones he knew of, he could only think of the Warrior Nun and the Megami that were very near human. He doubted a Warrior Nun would be so petite. “Are you a Megami?” he asked curiously.
“I could be,” she said putting on an over the top façade of mystery. She was teasing him.
Matt figured that if it was no, she would have just said so and waited for him to try again. So, he would work on the assumption that she was a Megami. Were’nt they supposed to be vague anyways?
And then it dawned on him. Megami were psychics, telepaths amongst other things. she might not even be speaking to him but just using telepathy. However, the time with the Ka-D-Bra was different. Of course, the Megami could just be using his mind to create the sensation of the audibility of his voice for all he knew. Aaaaand he just complimented her ‘Old English.’ Fuck.
“Old English, huh?” Matt mumbled almost accusingly. He knew she was invading his mind, he just knew it! “So, is this supposed to be an Aura scan or a Psychic one? I’ve heard people talk about both,” he broke the silence with.
The (presumed to be) Megami smiled genially and said: “Either.”
Matt gritted his teeth. Not only because either could mean ‘both’ but because he couldn’t shake the feeling of insignificance and weakness. He hated that feeling. The faster this was over with, the better. But first... “Before we begin, could you please give me a breakdown of the difference between a psychic scan and an aura scan?”
“Well, the questions asked are the same,” she began in a surprisingly straightforward fashion when juxtaposed to her prior behavior, “but the main difference is the main method of observation. With a psychic scan, your surface thoughts are scanned whereas with an aura scan only the fluctuations of your aura triggered by your emotions.”
The corners of Matt’s mouth twitched downward into a brief grimace. Neither sounded very appeasing, but he definitely didn’t want his head rifled through with legal pretense. There was probably nothing he could do that could stop her from picking through his thoughts at her whim and little legal recourse lest he wished to have his thoughts rifled through to look for evidence.
Besides, celestials had an annoying reputation where no one would believe ill of them. At least, that was the case in the stories. Who knew if there was any truth to them? Well he hadn’t been led astray yet.
Resisting the urge to make small talk and prolong the inevitable, Matt made the obvious decision and said: “I think I’ll go with the Aura.”
The Megami looked disturbingly smug before she composed herself and asked the first question. “What’s your stance on parity?” she asked professionally.
Oh Christ, was this always the first question? Fuck, should he deflect? No, Celestials were naturally occurring lie detectors. Answer shortly? No that’d be confusing. Actually give a long answer with supportive details like his brain constantly sought and urged him to construct on his own?
Matt sat there quietly for a bit, his ‘aura’ no doubt traveling the entire spectrum if the emotional turmoil he felt was any indication. “Well,” he began quickly running his tongue between his lips, “the short answer would rather simple in ideal circumstances, but because of the many obstacles standing between the present and the ideal, the answer is unfortunately complicated.”
Matt took a breath. Fuck it. This was going to take a while. She had probably figured it out already anyways. This stupid, stupid move might actually do someone some good anyways. “Okay, before pokégirls were an impure thought in James Sukkutto’s head, there was slavery in many forms rearing its ugly head innumerable times including instances of human slavery during the Revenge War. At least, until that particular government was assumedly toppled by the plagues and the invaders et cetera.
“There were many varieties, but the variety that resembles the bondage that women have been placed into is racial slavery. The most powerful example of the struggles of transition between slavery and freedom that I know of is that of the United States which is the large, extremely powerful country that later became Indigo, Jhoto, Sunshine, and Crescent Leagues.
“The racial slave system started centuries before Sukkutto was born, I think it was in the late 1400’s or sometime in the 1500’s but I don’t remember the exact time. For references sake, this year is 2304 on the Gregorian calendar. It did not take long for the previous system of indentured servantry to be completely overtaken by permanent lifelong enslavement of the individual human and all of his or her descendants.
“White, Western Europeans became the dominant races of the world, and even if you weren’t you could usually pass for one with the right accent and of course-“ Matt paused and gestured to his fair skin before continuing, “In America, the impoverished got the worst lots in life, but the imported African slaves became a staple of the southern American economy in the early 1700’s and were locked into permanent slavery.
“They were not treated well. Oh, they fought back when they could and even ran away or even rebelled sometimes, but the slaves weren’t organized enough or powerful enough to succeed in their rebellions, and so, slaves were stuck as plantation workers and the occasional maid or butler.
“Then a divide came in the United States between the North and the South in the 1850’s from built up politic. In the North, the industrial revolution was in full swing. People no longer had a craft or trade where things were masterfully assembled one thing at a time. Machines made it possible to create dozens or even hundreds of units of their goods in mere hours. However, in the south, there were no grand factories, only massive plantations spanning for hundreds and in some cases thousands of acres populated by a rich owner in his manor, all the slaves necessary to keep the place running, and working class whites employed to keep the slaves in line.
“The south sold its cash crops to the North and overseas buyers, producing 400- I… er- 200 million kilograms of cotton per year as well as many other lesser cash crops. This was almost all of the country’s foreign GNP. However, in the North, slavery was becoming less and less common. Business owners discovered that simply using the wage system hire expendable unskilled and semi-skilled workers for peanuts was much more efficient than providing room and board for slaves and virtual slaves.
“And so, slowly slavery was being outlawed in the North for economic and racist reasons.” Matt paused when he saw the woman’s confusion. “The majority of non-black people held racist beliefs and practices against the blacks,” he explained, “One of the more popular practices was to deport them back to the African continent which is how the country of Libya was eventually formed.
“The working class was afraid they’d be displaced in the job market. The abolition of slavery did not take place because of a moral change of heart with the exception of a few oddball individuals. Most everyone at the time belonged to a religion that would condemn them to hell for what they did to the blacks, and it was justified with stupid ambiguities in a holy book that had been translated into dozens of languages quite ineffectively before the English language touched the first tongue. The other main rationalization for the enslavement was created by using various pseudosciences such as phrenology and physiogamy to label the Africans as less than human.
“Anyways, by the 1850’s the country had been literally bisected by opposing economic ideals. The North believed that the corporate leaders would one day rule the world and that the South’s cash crop system was dying out and obsolete while the South didn’t want to be wrenched from old habits because most of the upper class would be dead by the time and they wanted to enjoy their vast wealth without having to learn new tricks to survive.
“The central government attempted to keep the country together with a series of compromises each more ridiculous and invasive than the last until finally war broke out with the presidential election of 1861. The succession of the southern states tore the country in half one by one. They formed their own confederation based on the principles of states’ rights and fought a defensive war.
“The North wanted to reconsolidate its power by taking back the South. And then the bloodiest war in history American History took place… Well, World War 2 and the R-war were worse, but it shattered the country itself and lost more of its citizens in a few years than every other war it participated in combined.
“The North undermined the South’s power by offering all the blacks in the south freedom and issued an executive order declaring that all were to respect their freedom. So, due to this as well as uncountable other variables, the South was forced to surrender. Various amendments to the nation’s constitution outlawed forced labor at the highest level of law.”
Matt paused and looked over to the Megami. He wanted a response from her before he continued. She had a calculating look on her face. She pondered his words for a few moments before she spoke: “So what you’re saying is that in order for parity to occur, the world must discover that wage labor is economically more efficient than slave labor?” She had a thoughtful look on her face.
And now he had to drop the next anvil. “I’m saying that’s the first step. It’s not like everything was sunshine and rainbows after that for the blacks. Racism interfered with that. A very small faction wanted to cut up the treasoners’ plantations and give them to the slaves that worked them, but the powers that be would rather hand them right back to the original owners who tried to tear the country in half rather than see the land in the hands of blacks.
“Sure they were free, but almost all of them were unskilled and illiterate with no money, no assets, no food, and no shelter.” He gave the Megami a poignant look. “Sound anything like what might happen in a sizable chunk of the world if pokégirls suddenly found themselves free and on their own?
“And so, very unconstitutional/illegal laws were passed legalizing and requiring racist practice in the South despite this. The vast majority of black citizens found themselves in various states of virtual slavery. Amongst them was sharecropping which was essentially serfdom and incarceration. Thanks to a loophole in the amendment prohibiting forced labor, anyone convicted of a crime could still be forced to work during their sentence. In a racist world, this meant blacks were thrown in jails left and right just to put them to work.
“Most were illiterate and unable to fight back. Blacks couldn’t sit in the same bus seats, go to the same restaurants, or even use the same drinking fountains as non-blacks. This continued for about a century which coincidentally happened to be around the same time the last slave owner died. A civil rights movement occurred and in the 1960’s or around thirty years before Sukutto became Sukebe which made the rights of non-whites a bit more tangible and a bit more in-reach. However it was still a very good idea to be born white up to the infrastructure collapse of the world governments during the Revenge War when humans were given a new thing to step on for the exact same reasons, women.”
There was a pregnant pause between the two, the human male and the pokégirl woman. The two were so similar but they came from very different worlds. Also, one could crush the other like a bug.
The Megami finally broke the silence. “Do you think something similar will happen with pokégirls?” she asked quietly.
“I’m almost willing to bet my kidney and left nut on it. The disparity between the anti-rights leagues and the pro-rights leagues is too great. Even the moderates might get caught up in it. I’m sure as soon as one league starts the transition, it’s only a matter of time until there’s a decisive war.
“Hell, it could start with freed pokégirls being allowed to work with employment contracts instead of being property. I’m sure it would scare the hell out of the anti’s. They’d probably have nightmares about their little toys suddenly sneaking off to a place where they have hope for some modicum of control in their life even if they’re bound to be screwed thrice over by their employers and the laws. Of course, the bonding process between men and women will probably make even getting that far difficult simply because Sukebe seemingly intended women to be subservient simply because of the way he engineered his creations.”
There was another pause before Matt added: “That’s not to say it isn’t worth it though.”
The Megami gave him a genuine smile. He could tell by the crinkling of skin next to her eyes. “You’re an interesting fellow, Mr. Brandt.”
“Wanna hear the punch line?” he asked.
“Sure,” she nodded.
“Here I am touting historical parallels between a civilization that experienced the same bullshit that the entire world is going through right now and the world, and saying things like this undoubtedly at my own risk over some stupid ideal; I’m here to become a certified slave wrangler and trader. I get to support the goddamned system at the expense of my moral values because I’m probably going to die if I don’t. I finally get to find out what it’s like to be a horrible person.”
“I think I have what I need. Your interview is over,” the Megami said professionally. “Off the record, hearing someone talk about significant information that was lost 300 years ago would raise a lot of red flags.”
Matt snorted. “Like you couldn’t tell already.”
“In all honesty, I didn’t think anything was amiss until you said ‘Old English.”
“And then you did some digging.”
“As you would say, ‘I plead the fifth.”
“The source of that joke doesn’t make it funny.”
“You start talking about ground breaking historical evidence and expect a psychic not to prod? Besides, if you had raised this many flags in front of anyone else, you might be in hot water.”
“Am I?” Matt asked seriously. He did not want to be screwed over because he did something this stupid.
“Not too badly.”
Fuck, he didn’t like the sound of that. He got nervous when she stood up and walked around the table to his side. She was a short woman barely over five feet tall, but she suddenly had a presence that dwarfed the much larger man.
“I’m going to need you to not struggle,” she said soothingly.
The very first thing that popped into Matt’s head was death, the next was rape. His thoughts didn’t get past the ‘d’ in death before fight or flight had him ready to throw the chair at her and bolt. However, an invisible force restrained him. He couldn’t even scream or bite his tongue.
She shushed him gently and placed her dainty hand on his back of his neck and rubbed gently. “It’ll all be over soon.”
Tears escaped Matt’s eyes as he thought of everything he would never do. He thought of his family back home, and he thought of the women he had become responsible for. Gabriele hadn’t been with him long enough for his absence to bring her any great pain but for Samantha…? What would happen to her? Had he pulled her out of the woods just for her to be recycled back into the pool of pokégirls? Plus she was a common. Would she even be given a home or would she just be stuck in stasis until a need for her was found?
An odd sensation started in his skull like it was an orange being pealed only not as painful as that sounded. He had never once wondered what a flopping fish made of jell-o would feel like if one materialized in between the two hemisphere his brain; he had never done that kind of drug. Before it was all over though, he had the experience of an odd approximation.
And then there was nothing.
(August 31st, 300 AS – 1445 – East ATTC in a small office with one cold body)
The Megami sighed. She was not proud of what she had just done but felt that it was for the best, for his own good as well. It was better that she found him before another psychic did anyways.
An eye opened. He wasn’t dead? Matt shuddered as cold sweat dripped off his form. He noticed that his body was no longer restrained. His head turned to the Megami. “What just happened?” he asked dumbly.
She just smiled at him innocently, gave him a noisy kiss on his sweat soaked cheek, licked her lips teasingly, and waltzed right out the door. After she left, Matt found a white business card in his lap. He examined it. One side was blank. The other merely said in an odd, loopy font ‘By the way, my name is Sarah.’
(August 31st, 300 AS – 1500 – Undisclosed Location)
Sarah stood cheerily in front of the desk of a very powerful woman. Various precious materials adorned it, seemingly growing out of it in a happenstance of ornate beauty. The polished-to-perfection wood gleamed as it screamed out the rank and power of the individual seated behind it. The woman had enough abnormalities about her to denote that she was not a normal woman in the traditional sense.
Odd markings shimmered across her face like holographic tattoos. They seemed to shift and dance across her face even though they never moved an inch. She was grand; she was powerful; she was a Megami-sama, one of the most powerful Celestials not for their raw strength but for what happens between whispers behind closed doors.
“Sarah, I know that look. Out with it. Now,” she barked having no time for the usual banter and nonsense.
Feeling mischievous, Sarah decided to use the tool of confusion favored most by the Megami breed, vagueness, to stir her superior up a bit. “We may be heading to a world war between the pro-rights leagues and the anti leagues, and the moderates may end up joining the antis.”
The powerful Celestial had a look of pure shock on her face. Celestials were natural lie detectors, and she knew that no lie had been spoken. However, she was too distracted by the implications to notice key vague terms used in the sentence. The Megami-sama went white as a sheet as she slowly sat back into her chair.
“How much time do we have?” she asked.
Sarah smiled jovially, completely killing the mood. “Oh, probably a century or two given the evidence,” she chirped.
A cold calm fell over the Megami-sama. “Out,” she hissed.
“You’ll be interested in what I have to say.”
“Ariel, we’ve got another offworlder.”
Ariel, the Megami-sama, choked on her saliva. The sad thing was, this was the norm whenever she met with this particular Megami once every odd decade. “Like a Ranma Saotome offworlder?” she asked incredulously.
Sarah idly inspected her nails during Ariel’s repeated panic attacks. “Yeah, apparently we’ve missed quite a few.”
“Dunno, you’d have to ask him that, I didn’t dig that deeply into his head.”
Ariel regained some of her composure and stood her full height which was far above average for a woman. “You mind-raped someone?!” she accused with indignation.
Sarah gave her superior a flat look. “Don’t pull that with me. Everyone knows you’re not that lily white. I was only trying to help him not die.”
“Where is he?” Ariel asked. The cogs in her head were starting to turn now that the initial shock had worn off.
“Azure league. He’s in one of the League’s mandatory training camps for new tamers, but he’s already been very helpful and I don’t want to rouse too much suspicion from him or towards him.”
Ariel gave Sarah an annoyed look. Her castles in the clouds were already crashing down to earth. “Why don’t you just show me what happened.”
The interesting thing about telepaths is their ability to connect their brain to another without a tangible sensory organ. Now, no two brains are the same, and it’s impossible for someone to download all the information in one. Well, you could, but good luck figuring out what any of that garbage means.
Sure, things like sight and sound were universal. The other 12 to 20 senses (depending on what expert you asked) of the human body, not so much. Everything else was like trying to read an upside-down print out of an encrypted message with your eyes crossed.
However when two telepaths get together, they can help each other along by using their own hypothalamus to aid the recipient’s own brain filter and index the information that would normally just be like the above simile.
When they broke the connection a few hours later they had also exchanged their thoughts and observations on it but wanted to return to the normal means of communication for comfort’s sake. Old habits die hard.
They were both intrigued by Matt’s odd gut feeling that he was being mentally probed when he was, but chalked it up to paranoia. The odd parallels presented by his parable of the end of American slavery were eerie. History does repeat itself it seems.
One twinge of guilt did itch in the back of Sarah’s skull though. Now that she had revealed his existence to her associates, his life might get even more interesting. Granted, it would be hard to explain where she learned this ancient history without doing so and probably would have been ineffective. Oh, and she did tweak his brain a bit too. How would he take that? Eh, he was a smart guy, he’d be able to deal with it.
(August 31st, 300 AS – 1445 – East ATTC)
Before all the drama unfolded at [Undisclosed Location], Matt wobbled out of the office still drenched with sweat. His head still felt funny.
“Have fun?” came the smug voice of the man that directed him to the Office of Doom™.
“More than I needed this week,” Matt grumbled, “Where do I go now?”
Matt paused. “Matt Brandt,” he said.
The man’s eyes scanned down a clipboard before he read off, “Dorm B, room 214.”
“Thanks,” Matt said tiredly.
His eyes, however, shot open when he heard the man mutter: “Stupid little foreign prick with his English. He…”
The voice trailed off as the man rounded a corner. Matt wasn’t focused on the fact that he had been insulted or the fact that his language was apparently thought of as stuck up but rather the fact that most of those words had been so garbled in foreign babble that all but a few were unrecognizable to him. Yet he understood them.
It just shouldn’t work that way.
What did that Megami do to him?!
A bit shorter than the othersm but this should put the word count above 35k.