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/qst/ - Mitsuba Archive


A Quest about fighting monsters and hippies with your government-mandated shoulder loli.



>Boots on the Ground. Looks like the PT extracurricular you signed up for starts up pretty early in the day. Huh, there's an option for night classes, too. You may as well put this body of yours for a test run, see if there's anything you might have missed.

Your first class is being held at some field a fair distance from your current location. Thankfully, a quick glance at your work phone shows that the transportation systems are up and running again. Scanning the area, you spot a bus stop sign and accompanying steel bench about a dozen feet away.

Ruffling Valentine's hair earns you her attention and a swift jabbing with her tail. She follows you with only minimal grumbling, settling down next to you on the bench, then dozes off with alarming speed. Must be the oatmeal.

Just before she starts leaning against you, you spot what must be your ride approaching in the distance. You can certainly appreciate their punctuality–by all counts, the earlier announcement was sent out less than half an hour ago.

Valentine stirs as you nudge her awake, blinking dully all the while. You can't help but sigh; is she really going to be fine? Basic or not, PT isn't something you can really do while half-asleep.

You're drawn from your thoughts as the bus comes to a stop with a near-silent hiss. As the doors slide apart, you tug your Alice along, nodding a greeting to the silent driver.

The interior of the bus is a little more comfortable than normal, with polished steel and actual cushioning on the seats, but beyond that it remains an utterly mundane vehicle. You're almost disappointed for a second–then, with a faint sense of horror, it dawns on you that your standards for what is normal have already begun to slip.

Don't think about it too hard, Jack. You're still a healthy, functioning member of society. You have no PTSD whatsoever.

"...Sir? A-Attendant Jack, is that you?"

A familiar voice brings you back to reality. You turn to look at one Harrison Schmidt, Protectorate agent and field operator.

[1/?]
>>
The woman you saved is dressed in a track jacket and spats, a far cry from the war gear she wore in your first meeting. Judging by the look on her face, she's as surprised to see you as you are to see her, though she soon breaks out into a wide grin, leaping up from her seat to approach you.

Of course, that's the exact moment the bus begins moving. Caught off guard by its sudden acceleration, you quickly find yourself sandwiched between Val and Harrison.
Your Alice wakes up with a yelp, the soldier steps back on reflex, and you do your best to ignore the excruciating agony that comes with being stabbed six times in the back. Val's horns hurt, and getting knocked in the head by her halo doesn't help you in the slightest.

You bite back a curse as you rub your new bruises from your position on the floor. Harrison lets out a little laugh before pulling you to your feet, and you note the way her muscles flex with the motion; there's some surprising strength in those arms. Makes sense, considering her choice of career.

The woman pulls you and Valentine into a nearby seat. Fortunately, no one else was around to see you embarrass yourself. The three of you are free to talk.

Harrison switches her gaze between you and Val, a warm smile on her face.

"I didn't expect to see you two so soon. How are you holding up? Not too injured from last night, I hope?"

Valentine shakes her head. "I'm fine, but Jack…"

You wave away the look of sudden concern on Harrison's face. You have to admit, her intensity is a little surprising.

"It's nothing too bad. Got it checked out and they let me go. But what about you a second your squad? Everyone alright?"

At your question, the woman bites her lower lip, hunching forward a little.

"Lost a few friends. Memorial for them is tonight."

You give yourself a mental kick in the shin. Nice going, Jack. You hate to admit it, but maybe your sister was right; studying and exercising did no favors for your social skills.
As if hearing your thoughts, Harrison hastily moves to reassure you.

"N-no, don't feel bad! I–we would've lost a lot more if you weren't around. I wouldn't be here at all if you didn't save me."

She looks away, and you have to lean in as she murmurs "Thank you for that."

Valentine leans over you to squint at the woman. After studying her for a moment, your Alice lets out a noncommittal hum and settles back in her chair.

…What was that all about?

Before you can say anything, though, Harrison abruptly claps her hands together and looks at you, the smile back on her face.

"Nevermind that, though. I'm sure you've got a lot of questions for me, like why I'm here at the Academy instead of at the Defense Hall! Ask away!"

[2/3]
>>
You look at her for a moment, then let out an awkward cough. The bus trundles along at a measured pace.

"...Not really? I mean, your business is yours. I'm glad to see you're safe, though."

"A-are you sure? I don't mind, you know."

The woman looks mildly crestfallen. Valentine also gives you an unamused look. Feeling as if you've done something wrong, you decide that you do have a few questions to ask the agent.

[Select up to three questions to ask her.]

>"Alright, I'm sorry. I'll bite. What's your business at the Academy? Anything I can help with?"

>"Wait, don't tell me. You're aiming to become an Attendant too? Is–is that how it works?"

>"I don't actually know much about the Defense Hall. What can you tell me about it?"

>"Uh. Got any hobbies? …I'm sorry, I have no idea what to ask."

>"Are you feeling alright? You seem a bit more energetic than the last time we met. Ow, Val, why'd you kick my shin!?"

>Write-in. This is encouraged, because I'm a hack.

[Do you ask to attend the memorial as well? Do note that this will take up tonight's time slot.]

>Yes. She'd likely appreciate it, and you do feel an obligation to give your respects. Their sacrifice should be honored. Worst comes to worst, you'll just stand in a corner.

>No. You didn't know the fallen, and whatever prayers you could offer would feel hollow. You wouldn't want to intrude.

[3/3]
>>
[ARCHIVE]
https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=AttendantQM

[CHARACTER LISTING]
https://pastebin.com/Rfp12tDb

[TRUTH FRAGMENTS]
https://pastebin.com/AfLTYNQi

[ELECTIVES]
https://pastebin.com/h47gbWXD



In the last thread…

Against your better judgement, you stayed behind to fight tooth-and-nail against an opponent that far outclassed you. With the help of Arturo and Lina Amantea, an Alice-Attendant duo, you managed to take down your very first Beast–a bioweapon monstrosity armed with arcane powers and a healthy dose of insanity.

Well, saying you helped is being generous. In reality, you spent most of your time running around trying not to get killed. What else could you have done? It's not like you're a real Attendant yet. Those guys are practically superhuman, and you are only human. For now.

Still, no one can deny your efforts, and your heart's definitely in the right place. You've certainly grown closer with your own partner as a result; Valentine Harper, a 16 year-old girl and 3 day-old Alice. She's as new to this as you are, but together, you think you'll manage just fine.

All things considered, you did a damn good job–for a rookie, that is. You and Val are in sore need of training, and that's where the Protectorate comes in. Under their employ, you'll receive everything you need to become a keeper of the peace.

Welcome to the Academy at Glaswelt Base. Signing the injury waiver form is mandatory.



Updates daily, usually from 10 PM - 3 AM EST (22:00 - 3:00). Occasionally posts earlier in the day. The QM does not know what a healthy sleep schedule is.
>>
>>5220652
>"Alright, I'm sorry. I'll bite. What's your business at the Academy? Anything I can help with?"

>"I don't actually know much about the Defense Hall. What can you tell me about it?"

>"Wait, don't tell me. You're aiming to become an Attendant too? Is–is that how it works?"

And a +1 to attend. I mean they helped us live too so it feels right to attend but I dont know if the rest would appreciate it.
>>
>>5220652
Supporting >>5220678
>>
>>5220678
I think it should not be a problem. We die not know them but at least for a little while we were Brothers in arms, fighting to keep as many people alive as we possibly could.

>>5220649
Hmmmmm... she might have developed a bit of a cpmolex with Jack. We should give her time to cool after this so she does not explode once she sees Jacks Dadbod
>>
>>5220652
>>5220678
+1
>>
>>5220678
support

welcome back qm
>>
>>5220678
>>5220723
I agree we fought together so there shouldn't be problems if we are there.
But Valentine being a necromancer will make things a bit awkward, it's not her fault honestly is just how she will be seen by the soldiers.

>>5220723
>We should give her time to cool after this so she does not explode once she sees Jacks Dadbod
Kek
>>
>>5220916
Good thing you didn't raise any soldiers yourself back when you had the chance, huh? You'll still get a few glances, but no one's going to accuse you of much.
>>
>>5220933
>Good thing you didn't raise any soldiers yourself back when you had the chance, huh? You'll still get a few glances, but no one's going to accuse you of much.
ye. This reminds me that we might want to experiment with her necromancy, of course if we have permission. Some wild animals bones should suffice.
>>
>>5220652
>>5220678
+1 Ayyy it's back.
>>
>>5220652
>>5220678
support
>>
>"Alright, I'm sorry. I'll bite. What's your business at the Academy? Anything I can help with?"
>"I don't actually know much about the Defense Hall. What can you tell me about it?"
>"Wait, don't tell me. You're aiming to become an Attendant too? Is–is that how it works?"
>Yes.

You raise your hands in half-hearted surrender. You're not sure what you did wrong, but you know a lost cause when you see one.

"Alright, I'll bite. What are you doing here? Is it something I can help with?"

Valentine folds her arms. "Jack, I'm pretty sure she knows more about Glaswelt than the two of us combined."

You wince. Unexpectedly though, Harrison seems to have an answer in mind. The woman gives you a serious look before speaking.

"In all honesty, I came to the Academy looking for you, sir."

"Me? Why's that? Can't have been just to thank me."

She accepts your quizzical look with a nod.

"How much do you know about the inner workings of the Defense Hall? The duties of a Protectorate field agent?"

"Not much, I'm afraid."

"It's to be expected. Most media focuses on Alices and Attendants, after all. Those of us in the rank and file seem boring in comparison."

The agent cracks a grin. "I can't blame them for thinking that. We aren't nearly as flashy. They're missing the forest for the trees, though. We work together on a personal level–every Alice and their Attendant works with a permanent roster of agents."

"Huh. I think I know what you're talking about, actually."

When you first met Val, Viktor had responded to your call with two vans' worth of soldiers in tow. Arthur had also mentioned coming to the fight against Lily with a team of his own, though if you recall correctly, he had rushed ahead and sent them off to reinforce Harrison's group.

"...What about Takeo, though?"

Now it's Harrison's turn to look confused. "I'm afraid I don't recognize that name, sir."

"An Attendant from one of the Far East bases. Arthur said something about an exchange status–he came to back us up later in the fight, but went alone."

You consider telling her about Papa for a moment, but decide against it, Arthur's warning fresh in your mind. You're still not sure how much you can reveal.

She thinks for a moment, then lights up in understanding. "Ah, I think I know! Wears something like a dress, correct? I only caught a glimpse of him, but my team leader spoke with him last night. I think he said something about 'preferring to work with known factors' and 'having a team back home.'"

You can't tell whether to laugh or sigh. "Sounds about right. But back on track–that doesn't really explain why you're here."

[1/?]
>>
Remember if you like loli's you're a pedophile.
>>
Upon hearing your question, Valentine puts her face in her hands.

"Jack, how are you this dense? Even I can already tell what she's going to ask, you fool."

Her words stab into your heart. "W-what do you mean?"

"It's obvious. She wants to join your team. Our team. You know, work with us. How did you fail to realize that?"

…What?

You glance over at Harrison, who sits up straighter beneath your gaze. She gives a firm nod.

"I've talked it over with my team already, of course. They're alright with the idea, but the final decision falls to you. The way it works is that we'll be training with you once your Attendant classes move onto teamwork and field exercises."

Her hands tighten into fists as she speaks, knuckles whitening under the force.

"I… I wanted to repay you, somehow. This was the only way I could think of. It's… It's all I can really offer. I'm sorry."

She turns her face to the ground as she trails off. Somewhat hesitantly, you reach out to touch the woman's shoulder.

"Hey, now. Nothing to apologize for. It's just… A lot to take in all at once. I mean, are you sure you're fine with me? I imagine this is a pretty big deal, you know."

"It is. Our assignments become more frequent. Those partnered with active Alice-Attendant pairs tend to have a… higher turnover rate. It's not absolute, of course, but that's simply how it is.

This kind of life was never going to be peaceful, though. We all knew that, going in. Or at least, I thought I did. Last night, I realized something."

The woman looks up at you. There's determination in her eyes.

"No matter what people say, death is something you can't ever prepare yourself for. With it, awareness and fear are inseparable. We compromise, but ultimately, we live on borrowed time."

There's a moment of silence. Valentine stares at her, wide-eyed. A distant part of you wonders if the bus driver has any thoughts on the matter.

Harrison leans in closer to you.

[Harrison Bond IV: Met?]

She smells like asphodel.

"Jack, I don't want to live my life with regrets. What you did for me means more than you can imagine."



[Select one.]

>...Something feels wrong. You can't accept this right now. Maybe later, once the memorial ends and you get a chance to talk to her squadmates.

>Your pulse quickens, beating in time with her own. There's something in her that speaks to you. You'll take it. You'll embrace it. It's the least you can do.

[2/2]
>>
>>5222580
>...Something feels wrong. You can't accept this right now. Maybe later, once the memorial ends and you get a chance to talk to her squadmates.

Whiue it would be hilarious to go for romance right now and maybe we wont get something like this again. But i dont want her get stuck with us because of some savior complex....
>>
>>5222580
>...Something feels wrong. You can't accept this right now. Maybe later, once the memorial ends and you get a chance to talk to her squadmates.
I want to accept her as part of our squad but let's talk with her squadmates first, couple things we could talk to them about like how our alice is a necromancer and if they'd be up for being revived if killed and such.
>>
>>5222580
>>...Something feels wrong. You can't accept this right now. Maybe later, once the memorial ends and you get a chance to talk to her squadmates.
>>
>>5222580
>...Something feels wrong. You can't accept this right now. Maybe later, once the memorial ends and you get a chance to talk to her squadmates.
Later it might be a bit awkward now, before the memorial. Though Jack is kind of in a dry situation by quite some time. So i don't think he would put the option down completely, not with what the future holds being the attendant of a necromancer will not give him a good rep. He is still a man too. A good man, but one nevertheless.
Knowing each other first would be beneficial even if nothing happens.
Asphodel uh ? What an interesting choice, fitting too.
>>
>...Something feels wrong. You can't accept this right now. Maybe later, once the memorial ends and you get a chance to talk to her squadmates.

…For some reason, you find yourself thinking back to Val's question.

In hindsight, Harrison's goal should have been obvious to you. The lead-up wasn't exactly subtle, and though you're not exactly the most social creature, you like to think that you're still capable of reading the situation.

What confused you, then? Why didn't you see it?

It isn't that you missed it, Jack. You simply saw too much.

Slowly, so as to hide your sudden unease, you take your hand off of Harrison's shoulder. As you consider how to word your response - not a refusal, simply a desire to wait - a vague feeling of embarrassment begins to rise up within you. You've never been the best at these kinds of confrontations, and–

–You crush your excuses underfoot.

You're working off of a feeling. A hunch. The researcher within you objects to the unscientific nature of such, but that gut instinct tells you that Harrison's thoughts are something you should take care of now.

"Harrison. Thank you for your words."

You've barely begun to speak, yet a strange stillness seems to come over the woman. Perhaps it was something in your tone, or maybe it's the fact that you just can't seem to hide your feelings.

"However, I cannot currently accept your offer."

Either way, the expression on her face is one of painful resignation.

"Let me be clear. This is not a refusal. I'm touched that you feel so strongly."

At the same time, though, you sense a quiet gratitude. A shameful relief. A burning desire to be reborn.

"I just want some time to… to think it over? No–not that. That's not what I mean."

A contradiction–yet somehow, you cannot consider any of her emotions to be false.

"Is this really what you want?"

[1/?]
>>


I do so love humans. They are simply the most wonderful cornucopia of emotions and complexes. Forever changing… Ah, what a transient delight. How could one ever get bored?

>>
Harrison looks as if she's been struck. She speaks in stops and starts, as if struggling to come up with an answer.

Valentine's tail has wound itself around your leg, tight enough to hurt. You can't really turn to look at her right now, but listening in on this is probably too much for her. That said, the lack of blood circulation is becoming a serious concern.

Yeah, you're still not going to comment on it. The current atmosphere is just a little too heavy for that.

After a few minutes of drawn-out silence, the bus hits a speedbump. That jolt seems to be what Harrison needs to get talking again. She leans back in her chair and looks out the window before speaking.

"...I don't know anymore, sir. I'm about to finish my first year here, and I'm already… tired."

Her fingers lace over themselves, eventually settling atop her lap.

"I've fought Alices a total of nine times. Beasts, four times, including last night. It doesn't sound like much for 10 months of work, but… You don't know how the Defense Hall works, correct? About our recruitment methods?"

You shake your head, and she gives a wan smile in response.

"It's stringent. I wouldn't say unethical - some of us are even volunteers - but the selection process is… exacting. Demanding. For most Attendants, age isn't much of an issue, on account of the resources allocated to them. The rest of us need to keep up while given only a fraction of that."

Her breath quickens.

"That means most of us in the field aren't much older than 30. There's a few retirees, but they enter the game at an older age to begin with. Me, sir, I'm--I'm turning 24 in a few months."

Harrison looks at you, utterly neutral.

[Harrison Bond IV: FALSE.]

"I don't know if I'll last that long."
Do not hesitate.
[You are the Hermit.]
Your eyes see everything.
You don't even need to think for your response.

[Light the way.]

"To hell with that. A few months? I'll be there to celebrate it with you. Valentine, too."

The agent is visibly taken aback by the sheer force with which you make your promise. When you mention Val's name, your Alice lets out a choked wheeze.

You press on, unfazed.

[2/3]
>>
"What you said earlier, about not wanting to live your life with regrets–that's something I can get behind. But Harrison, I don't think you even believe what you're saying."

"I-I want to repay you–"

"That much I'm sure of. It's important to you, and I respect and appreciate that. Helping others is practically my calling."

You hold her in place with a level glare.

"That's why I don't want you to throw away your life. You don't want that, either–you said it yourself."

Your own life, so rife with mistakes, flashes through your mind. How many wasted days? How many missed opportunities? How many regrets of your own have you built up over the years?

More than you'd like to admit, and you're only now beginning to overcome them.

[Falsehood Revealed: Ideal Hero.]

That experience is why you refuse to allow such a promising young woman to fall prey to the same ennui you once did.

[Falsehood Overturned. True Bond Revealed.]

You feel a spark.

[Harrison Bond II: Met.]

There's a light, there.

[Harrison Bond III: In Progress.]

But… Are you overreaching? Can you really say you know enough about Harrison to lecture her like this?

What a shame; so close, yet so far.

[Harrison Bond III: Met.]

A little bit of interference never hurt.

–What does that matter? You'll see this through to the end, for your sake, if not hers.

"You want to live without regrets? Then…"



[Select one.]

>"...Stop preparing to die."

>"...Do it properly."

>"...Act with the appropriate conviction."

>Write-in.

[3/3]
>>
>>5223937
>"...Stop preparing to die."

The future should not be crippled by the fear of it. Caution is good but to much will destroy ones own chances of Living.... not just surviving.
>>
Allow me to briefly explain the significance of your decision.

You could have embraced the comfort of a lie, one day turning dreams into reality.

Instead, you refused to compromise on the truth. You chose to confront and overcome the world in its unwholesome entirety.

Both paths are equally acceptable. There was no right or wrong choice. In my notes for the expected progression of this Quest, this scene would have laid the groundwork for some of ???'s initial abilities once you finally received it. Now you've got a very early start, though, so uh. Have fun! also Harrison totally sees you as a reliable big brother now lol
>>
>>5223937
>>"...Stop preparing to die."
>>
>>5223937
>>"...Stop preparing to die."
>>
>>5223937
>"...Reflect in your past, live the present, and reach a future where happiness awaits if you fight for it, no matter the situation, live with no regrets."
>>
>>5223937
>"...Stop preparing to die."
>>
>"...Stop preparing to die."

As soon as the words leave your mouth, you fight the urge to cover your face. In an occupation like this, acknowledging the likelihood of one's mortality is the responsible thing to do. Hell, even a normal person has to consider life insurance and freak accidents. Being alive means death is around the corner at any moment.

"No, wait–I meant to say stop expecting that you'll die. It's smart to prepare, but… Ah, damnit."

You finally give in and bury your face in your hands. Harrison lets out a weak chuckle before tentatively rubbing your back.

"I… think I understand. I shouldn't let my fears control me, then?"

"Yes! That. That's what I meant to say." After a moment, you frown. "Sounds like a fortune cookie when you put it like that, though."

The agent offers a half-hearted smile. "Similarly, it's something easier said than done, sir."

You shrug. "True enough, but I'm sure you've got people to help you with it. Don't doubt for a second that you're alone in your fears. Ask your squadmates; they can help."

There's a brief pause as she tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear. In a quiet voice that doesn't seem to fit her, she asks you the question you were waiting for.

"...Can I ask you for help as well?"

"Anytime."

[1/?]
>>
You straighten your shoulders before taking Harrison's hands in your own. She doesn't resist.

"Listen, on the topic of your team; do you mind if I come to the memorial? I'd like to get to know them before I accept your offer. Pay my respects to the dead too, of course."

She dips her head in acceptance, and you let out a sigh of relief.

"Great. Thanks. Sorry if I'm intruding."

"Hardly." More quietly, she adds, "Thank you for still considering me, sir."

"I did say it wasn't a refusal. What, did you think I was lying?"

She cracks a grin. "I job-hunted for a little while before entering the military. That line is standard fare in rejection letters."

"Hah. Fair enough."

An easygoing quiet replaces the tense air of before, and you take the opportunity to settle into your surprisingly comfortable seat. Though Valentine is no longer trying to garrote your leg now that your little scene is over, it's another few minutes before you feel anything more than prickling numbness.

Damn, you're lucky there wasn't anyone around to watch you two. You don't think your heart could handle it.

After a moment to rest and reset your thoughts, you clap your hands together with a little too much force.

"So!"

Val flinches and Harrison blinks, drawing a little cough of embarrassment from you before you continue.

"Have you ever thought about becoming an Attendant instead? Is that something you can just do?"

Harrison gives you an incredulous look.

"I'm quite alright with being a soldier, sir. An Attendant's life is easily two or three times as stressful as mine, even with their benefits and budget. Even ignoring the fact that you have to be recommended for entry, I'd rather not end up on the Protectorate's list of candidates."

Well, shit.

The agent laughs at the expression on your face.

[2/?]
>>
Over the course of the next 20 or so minutes, you watch as Glaswelt Base comes to life. Early-birds dressed in uniform trudge through the streets as they head to their respective stations, and more than a few come on board. Valentine gets some looks, but far less than you'd expect.

You're taken aback for a moment by how quickly the once-empty bus fills up–even seated, Valentine ends up pressing herself against you. By all rights, it's still quite early in the day. Then, after some thought, you realize that not everyone here is a day-shift worker.

You can tell by the slight sagging of their shoulders, the weariness at the edges of their eyes. Oddly enough, though, you feel as if they still carry a faint sense of pride in their work, whatever it may be.

…How strange. You've never really been one to guess at the emotions of others.

As the bus hits a speedbump, you put the thought out of your mind. A glance at your phone informs you that you'll soon be reaching your destination, and you stand up as you prepare to disembark.

Harrison stands with you, and you shoot her a questioning look. She shrugs by way of response, then leans in to whisper in your ear.

"Got a day off. Thought I'd stick around and watch you for a bit, unless you'd like for me to go."

"I'm just heading to my physical training class. Not sure if they allow visitors, but feel free to tag along if they do."

"Oh? That works out for me, too. I've always wanted to see what kind of regimen they put Attendants through."

An automated voice cuts the conversation short, announcing your arrival at "Leo Field One." At that, a surprisingly large number of passengers rise to depart–more than half the people present, accompanied by the appropriate clamor of heavy bags and swishing clothes.

You have to hold Valentine close to you in order to avoid losing her in the densely-packed swarm. She squirms a bit, but settles down once you've waddled off the bus, Harrison following close behind.

Once you get your bearings, you can't help but give a low whistle at the sight of Field One. Rather than being one superstructure, the area is broken up into several stadiums of impressive size, with a few of the more mundane buildings off to the side.

A few members of the crowd break away, evidently here for different reasons, but that still leaves a healthy 40 or so people milling about. Valentine isn't the only Alice here, either; you spot a few regular-looking children, but those with minor mutations have them outnumbered by far. Only one of them appears to be unaccompanied.
All that said though, they're the minority of your group, making up barely a quarter of the people present.

You check the time, Harrison peering over your shoulder. You're early–little less than half an hour until class starts.

[3/4]
>>
[Select one.]

>Wander around a bit, see what the other buildings are like. You've got a bit of fondness for architecture, though it's purely amateur. A bit of time away from the crowd wouldn't hurt, either.

>Socialize! No time like the present to make new friends. Or talk to old ones. "Old" being used loosely, that is.

[Who do you talk to? Select up to two. Feel free to suggest a different topic if you come up with one.]

>>Harrison. You'd like to prepare yourself before meeting her squadmates later; what can she tell you about them? What are they like?

>>Valentine. Judging by the fact that your leg is still numb, she was probably a little uncomfortable listening to you and Harrison talk earlier. Is this something you should apologize for? You're not really sure.

>>Walk up to the unaccompanied Alice. Looks like people are avoiding the girl for whatever reason. There's a bit of a lonely look on her face. …What? You're not nosy, just curious!

>>Hold on a second. Is that… Takeo? You can't say you expected to see him here. He seemed a bit on the waifish side of things. You should greet him; it's the polite thing to do, and like Lina said, you should probably get to know him better before you make any judgements.

[4/4]
>>
>>5227098
>Socialize! No time like the present to make new friends. Or talk to old ones. "Old" being used loosely, that is.

>>Hold on a second. Is that… Takeo? You can't say you expected to see him here. He seemed a bit on the waifish side of things. You should greet him; it's the polite thing to do, and like Lina said, you should probably get to know him better before you make any judgements.

>>Harrison. You'd like to prepare yourself before meeting her squadmates later; what can she tell you about them? What are they like?
>>
Blah. Alright, I'm not 100% on how I paced that Harrison scene. It's probably been like some 20k-30k words since she last appeared, so I'd like to hear your thoughts on her or if you remember her at all. I'm a little worried about encountering character bloat, so I generally try to reuse characters.
sure hope you guys didn't forget about Viktor and Dmitri
>>
>>5227103
>sure hope you guys didn't forget about Viktor and Dmitri

How could we forget about Best Boy and his Boy Toy ;) They were brothers and the ones that recommended Jack and got him into the problem in the first place.
Harrison seems fine to me. Relatively consistent i think at least considering that the last time we met her it was under heavy fire first from a living Railgun and then from a Beast. I think anyone could be a bit stressed out by that.
>>
>>5227098
>>Socialize! No time like the present to make new friends. Or talk to old ones. "Old" being used loosely, that is.

>>Valentine. Judging by the fact that your leg is still numb, she was probably a little uncomfortable listening to you and Harrison talk earlier. Is this something you should apologize for? You're not really sure.
>>Walk up to the unaccompanied Alice. Looks like people are avoiding the girl for whatever reason. There's a bit of a lonely look on her face. …What? You're not nosy, just curious!
>>
>>5227098

>Socialize! No time like the present to make new friends. Or talk to old ones. "Old" being used loosely, that is.

>>Hold on a second. Is that… Takeo? You can't say you expected to see him here. He seemed a bit on the waifish side of things. You should greet him; it's the polite thing to do, and like Lina said, you should probably get to know him better before you make any judgements.

>>Harrison. You'd like to prepare yourself before meeting her squadmates later; what can she tell you about them? What are they like?

>>5227107
>I think anyone could be a bit stressed out by that.
yep i agree

>>5227103
i wonder where they are. Probably on a mission ?
>>
>Socialize! No time like the present to make new friends. Or talk to old ones. "Old" being used loosely, that is.
>>Takeo.
>>Harrison.

With nothing better to do, you turn to talk to Harrison. May as well get an idea of what your future team is like.

"So, about your squadmates. Anything I should know about them before we meet tonight? A rundown of their roles and the like, if you would."

Unexpectedly, the agent lets out a half-laugh, half-sigh. There's an odd expression on her face, equal parts exasperation and affection.

"Anything you should know? More than you'd think. T-they're all good men, of course. Reliable." Almost as an afterthought, she mutters, "Even if they don't always act like it."

You frown a little. "...What do you mean by that?"

She pats you on the back, but remains silent. This doesn't do much to comfort you. After a moment of contemplation, you give a mental shrug and let it go. You'll get to see for yourself at the end of the day either way.

"Right. Where should I begin…? You said you didn't know anything about the Defense Hall, correct?"

"Afraid so."

"I guess that means you also don't know how the Protectorate's military structure works, then. Let's begin from there."

She takes a breath, then launches into an incredibly elaborate explanation rife with jargon that leaves your head spinning. Maybe you wouldn't be so lost if you had some experience in a related field.

A few minutes into the speech, Valentine tugs on the operator's sleeve, forcing Harrison to pause. Your Alice puts a palm to her forehead, her eyes squeezed shut, and in a plaintive tone, puts to voice what you couldn't find an opportunity to say.

"Start again, please. With smaller words. My head's about to explode."

Harrison has the self-awareness to give an embarrassed, apologetic cough.

"Sorry. Kinda forgot that not everyone went through basic training. I'll just… skip past all that, then. You'll probably learn the details in your actual Attendant courses."

Great. Studying. Your old nemesis. You feel like you're 20 again, but in all the wrong ways.

Deaf to your laments, Harrison starts again.

"I'll just tell you about the squad itself. Well, to start with, there's five people in ours, including me. The Protectorate tends to sortie with smaller squads, since most operations end up being urban. Used to be six of us, but we… lost our medic a while back. Didn't know him well, myself, but the other guys were pretty torn up about it."

[1/?]
>>
"Smith, Bernard and I make up the riflemen. Sadie is our demolitions expert. He's a bit sensitive about his name - his parents were expecting a girl - so we just call him Sam. Greene is our leader.

Smith cheats at cards. Don't play for bets with him. His puns are atrocious, too. All things considered though, he's a hell of a crack shot. Reliable in a fight.

Bernard is our newest member. He's, uh, scared of me, I think. I have no idea why. Likes to sleep… And that's all I can really say about him, since he never really talks to me. Always chokes up when I try.

Sam… Well, other than his complex about his name, he's probably the most normal of us all. Barring me, of course. That's a good thing–I have a friend in another squad who's bomb techie is way too trigger-happy with his PTSD.

Greene's a mother hen and has a bit of a thing about Alices. Absolutely wouldn't let that get in the way of a job, too professional for that, but it's worth mentioning.

Finally, there's me. Schmidt. The others don't really speak German, so they just call me Harrison. I'm the only woman on the team."

Valentine folds her arms, though the swishing of her tail belies her feelings. "Not for long."

"Val, you're 16. I wouldn't really call you a woman–Ow, okay, I deserved that, but please stop kicking my shin."

As you nurse your bruised ankle, you think over Harrison's description of her team.
The only response you can really come up with is "I thought the Protectorate was supposed to be stringent in its recruitment." Wisely, you decide to keep your mouth shut on that. Instead, you go with something nice and safe.

"Sounds like fun."

Harrison lets out a sigh of relief at your words, shoulders visibly sagging.

"Oh, thank God. I was worried you'd think that we were a bunch of… Well, idiots."

"No, no! Not at all." Yes, it's a good thing you kept quiet.

[2/?]
>>
"Smith, Bernard and I make up the riflemen. Sadie is our demolitions expert. He's a bit sensitive about his name - his parents were expecting a girl - so we just call him Sam. Greene is our leader.

Smith cheats at cards. Don't play for bets with him. His puns are atrocious, too. All things considered though, he's a hell of a crack shot. Reliable in a fight.

Bernard is our newest member. He's, uh, scared of me, I think. I have no idea why. Likes to sleep… And that's all I can really say about him, since he never really talks to me. Always chokes up when I try.

Sam… Well, other than his complex about his name, he's probably the most normal of us all. Barring me, of course. That's a good thing–I have a friend in another squad who's bomb techie is way too trigger-happy with his PTSD.

Greene's a mother hen and has a bit of a thing about Alices. Absolutely wouldn't let that get in the way of a job, too professional for that, but it's worth mentioning.

Finally, there's me. Schmidt. The others don't really speak German, so they just call me Harrison. I'm the only woman on the team."

Valentine folds her arms, though the swishing of her tail belies her feelings. "Not for long."

"Val, you're 16. I wouldn't really call you a woman–Ow, okay, I deserved that, but please stop kicking my shin."

As you nurse your bruised ankle, you think over Harrison's description of her team.
The only response you can really come up with is "I thought the Protectorate was supposed to be stringent in its recruitment." Wisely, you decide to keep your mouth shut on that. Instead, you go with something nice and safe.

"Sounds like fun."

Harrison lets out a sigh of relief at your words, shoulders visibly sagging.

"Oh, thank God. I was worried you'd think that we were a bunch of… Well, idiots."

"No, no! Not at all." Yes, it's a good thing you kept quiet.

[2/?]
>>
You desperately cast about for a change in topic. Just as you're about to start discussing the weather, you lock eyes with a certain man in a dress.

Wait, no, a hakama. Harrison's earlier line stuck with you. You're just really on a roll here, aren't you? Good thing there aren't any mind readers around.
The unaccompanied Alice flinches.
Setting your stray thoughts aside, you raise your hand in greeting. Takeo pauses, as if to take in your features, then offers a nod in return. To your surprise, he actually begins approaching you, his old-fashioned suitcase close at hand. Valentine takes a few steps behind you as he nears, but doesn't do much else.

"Trainee Yang. I see you're here with your Alice."

"Valentine, yeah. Have to say, I didn't expect you to be taking PT with us."

The Attendant furrows his brow. "Maintaining a certain level of physical ability is as important as breathing. Either way, I must correct you on one thing; I am here as an assistant trainer. Being an Attendant, this class has little to offer me. Not at this level."

As you digest that, he glances over at Harrison. "You–I recognize you. One of the soldiers stationed here, correct? This class is always open to newcomers, though some advance notice would be appreciated."

The agent gives a sheepish smile. "Sorry. Was a sudden thing."

"Something to keep in mind for the future, then."

With a single hand, Takeo adjusts his glasses, pushing them back up with a tap. He focuses his gaze on you with no small amount of intensity.

"That aside… Trainee Yang. Though you seem to be in fair health, it wouldn't do to push yourself overmuch. I imagine last night was taxing for you, as someone yet uninitiated."

"It was exciting, to say the least. Hopefully it doesn't set a precedent for what to expect."

"Hm. No, I imagine you won't have to deal with such threats again for some time–not until you have become a fully-fledged Attendant."

You let out a weak laugh. "I hope you're right. Doubt I'll be able to handle something like that any time soon. Wouldn't mind it if I had nothing but quiet days."

Takeo gives you an appraising look.

"You underestimate yourself. The reports I received of your actions last night speak well of your determination, though less so of your regard for safety. Still, keeping several Alices in check on your first outing is a respectable feat. There is a reason we tend to avoid partnering an Attendant with more than one of their kind."

[3/4]
>>
[Select one.]

>In his own way, it seems like he's trying to show he cares. It's awkward, and he doesn't really seem to know how to give a compliment, but you'll accept it for what it is. "You know, Arthur said something similar–I can't say I know what you two see in me, but thanks. Still, credit goes to Val and the others."

>Agh. There's surely a better way to go about this, but you just can't really let it go. Arthur's story is still stuck in your head. "Listen–I can't say I know anything about your circumstances, but Valentine really isn't that bad… Graverobbing aside, anyway. I'd appreciate it if you treated her a little better."

>Write-in.

[4/4]
>>
>>5229230
>In his own way, it seems like he's trying to show he cares. It's awkward, and he doesn't really seem to know how to give a compliment, but you'll accept it for what it is. "You know, Arthur said something similar–I can't say I know what you two see in me, but thanks. Still, credit goes to Val and the others."
>>5224257
ID changed.
>>
>>5229230
>>In his own way, it seems like he's trying to show he cares. It's awkward, and he doesn't really seem to know how to give a compliment, but you'll accept it for what it is. "You know, Arthur said something similar–I can't say I know what you two see in me, but thanks. Still, credit goes to Val and the others."
>>
>>5229230
>In his own way, it seems like he's trying to show he cares. It's awkward, and he doesn't really seem to know how to give a compliment, but you'll accept it for what it is. "You know, Arthur said something similar–I can't say I know what you two see in me, but thanks. Still, credit goes to Val and the others.
>>
You're all very brave, directly comparing him to someone whose guts he hates. It's very fitting for Jack's foot-in-mouth character. It'll be a while yet before that stops, I guess.
>>
Apologies for the delay. A little worn out, and I think I've managed to give myself carpal tunnel based on this nonstop aching in my wrist. Can't really concentrate on writing like this.

Thank you for your patience. Expect an update later today.
>>
>>5230498
np
>>
>>5230498
take care not to overdo it. and give your wrist a rest. You do deserve it.
>>
>>5230498
Bro stop jacking off
>>
>>5230498
Try pressing both edges of your wrist to pop it as a common source of wrist pain and may loosen a pinched nerve
>>
Thanks for the advice! The pain seems to have lessened a fair amount. I guess drawing, writing, and playing rhythm games all at once put a little too much stress on me.
Your patience is much appreciated. Update will drop soon.
>>
>In his own way, it seems like he's trying to show he cares.

Valentine's grip on your clothes tightens a little. Confused, you glance down at her, only to receive a frustrated glare. Somehow, you can tell it's not aimed at you, though that isn't much comfort when your Alice is still visibly annoyed.

Rather than clarify her thoughts, she shakes her head and looks away, leaving you to respond to Takeo's words of encouragement. Caught off guard, you say the first thing that comes to mind.

"You know, Arthur said something similar–I can't say I know what you two see in me, but thanks. Still, credit goes to Val and the others."

The Attendant's reaction is subtle. There's a brief tightening at the corners of his eyes when you mention Arthur's name, and a moment too late, you recall their unfortunate tendency to butt heads.

Still, Takeo has the good grace to let it slide without comment. With a nod, he accepts your words for what they are.

Your conversation is interrupted by the sight of three more buses pulling up to the stop, depositing a crowd of trainees nearly three times the size of your own.

"Hm. 90… No, 120 students. Next week should be half that, then. If you'll excuse me."

Takeo briefly nods in your direction, then moves to corral the newcomers. There's a strange grace to his movements, an effect enhanced by his admittedly exotic outfit. Each step is taken with confidence and purpose, and you manage to glimpse four other individuals that carry themselves with a similar presence, one of whom is accompanied by an Alice of his own. The other teachers, you assume.

You're taken aback for a moment at the sheer size of the class; Harrison appears used to it, and you're no stranger to crowds, but Valentine looks ready to bolt. Placing a hand on her head seems to soothe her a bit, but it's clear that she's got a lot on her mind.

The time for talking is over, though, and the three of you are soon swept along with the rather quiet crowd. Too early in the morning for much chatter, it seems.

A shadow passes over your group as you approach Leo Field One. You're guided past the entrance and through a series of security scanners. There's a surprisingly large number of armed agents patrolling the area, though they pass without comment.

It makes sense; security must have been increased after last night, though where they got the necessary manpower from is beyond you. If there wasn't so much space dedicated to the Research Wing, you'd think at least three-fourths of Glaswelt's population was some kind of military force.

I-it's not, though, right? That'd be absurd. More firepower than anyone could possibly need.

[1/?]
>>
>>5231413
Forgot the image!
>>
An unfamiliar voice draws you from your thoughts.

"Divide yourselves into groups of three; human men, human women, and Alices. Men to the left wall, women to the right, and Alices up front with me."

The speaker is a musclebound man accompanied by a young girl, his already-booming voice amplified several times over by the red megaphone in his hand.

Under the none-too-gentle guidance of your teachers, you're separated from Harrison and a mildly-panicking Valentine. In the few seconds you have left, you lean down to whisper in her ear.

"You'll be fine."

You give her hand a comforting squeeze, but before she can respond, you're pulled away.

A difference in group size is immediately noticeable. Harrison included, there's only about 20 women present. The Alices make up barely more than half that, filing themselves into two rows of six under the stone-faced glare of their instructor and his equally-grim partner. For a few brief moments, you tense at the sight of Val's halo pulsing erratically from the back–then, it settles down.

Unfortunately, you don't have the leisure to continue observing. The men are further divided into four groups of 22, with yours coincidentally led by Takeo. Idle curiosity has you trying to see who else might be an Attendant, but nothing of note stands out to you.

One by one, your measurements are taken. A bundle of dark green clothing is passed to you, with you and your fellows directed to a dimly-lit changing room. Within are row after row of steel-grey lockers, plastic benches lined up before them.

A connected restroom with its door ajar remains dark and empty. On the opposite wall is a larger gate, an exit sign hanging above it.

It's difficult to shake the odd feeling of being placed in a factory line. Thoroughly filed and organized, you're not sure whether you can pin the locker room's silent atmosphere on early-morning sobriety alone.

As the last of you enter the room, Takeo steps in, closing the door behind him. He surveys you all, then shakes his head.

"Well? Get dressed. Your IDs will key themselves to your lockers until you use them again. Keep them on your person."

A few glances are unavoidable, but no one voices an objection. The room is briefly filled with the sound of clothes rustling, zippers opening, and electronic locks beeping.

Once you're all done, Takeo lets out a noise of dissatisfaction.

"Five minutes to change. Unacceptable. By the end of this week, you'll either finish in two or head out in your underwear."

With that, he opens the gate. Morning light floods the room, causing more than a few people to shield their eyes. His voice utterly devoid of emotion, your teacher begins explaining your expected routine for the rest of the week.

[2/3]
>>
"You are expected to arrive here every morning at 6 o' clock, sharp. Late arrivals will be given additional duties. We will enter the field by 6:15. Wait in this room until then.

Today will be an easy day. We'll simply be testing your physical capabilities, then run you through a pleasant warm-up routine."

Though it's well into summer, a small chill runs down your back at the image he cuts. Against the light, his body is reduced to a black outline, and the details of his face are barely visible.

Despite this, you can't miss the small smile that touches his lips.

"I expect half of you to drop out after this week. Another half will leave before this month is over. Of the quarter that remains, many will be here out of necessity rather than personal decision. All the same, every last one of those men can carry themselves with a little more pride."

The Attendant spins on his heel, then marches out the room. Just before he leaves, though, he calls over his shoulder.

"Do try to keep up."

…For some reason, Emily's face flashes across your mind.

Is this place just full of sadists?

[I request 4 separate rolls of 1d20+5 for Jack. For Valentine, make that 5 rolls of 3d40, taking the lowest value of the three for all rolls except the last.]

[3/3]
>>
This is still a narratively-driven Quest. Hard stats will not be a thing, as I have little ability in number crunching and have no good way to quantify many of these variables. This is simply a test of your strength, endurance, flexibility, and agility/reflexes. Alices have their own additional, hidden factor.

Yeah, Val's kinda the runt of the litter, kek.
>>
Rolled 7 + 5 (1d20 + 5)

>>5232957
>>
Rolled 25, 15, 35 = 75 (3d40)

>>5232957
>>
Rolled 12 (1d20)

>>5232957
>>
I should probably clarify that these rolls will be stacked on top of what Jack already has. Wouldn't make sense to characterize him as being fairly strong, then roll a 1 on his strength.
Yes, [i]this[/i] is the additional change to your body. Aren't you happy? Don't ask about the side effects.
Val, though, she's rolling from scratch, poor girl.
Either way, don't feel too sore about low rolls.
>>
Rolled 9 + 5 (1d20 + 5)

>>5232957
>>
Rolled 1 + 5 (1d20 + 5)

>>5232957
Jack's role
>>
Rolled 15, 13, 11 = 39 (3d40)

>>5232957
Val's role

>>5233172
God fucking dammit, I shouldn't have rolled that one
>>
Rolled 1, 13, 35 = 49 (3d40)

3 more rolls for Valentine. In the interest of speeding things up, I'll do a few, myself. In case you don't know how to roll, just type dice+3d40 into the options box.
>>
>>5233317
>1 flexibility
Valentine has fucking arthritis lmao
>>
Rolled 11, 34, 25 = 70 (3d40)

>>
Rolled 10, 28, 18 = 56 (3d40)

>>5233317
>>
Alright, let's tally this all up.
In order... Strength, endurance, flexibility, and agility/reflexes, with an extra number for Val's ???.
JACK: 12, 17, 14, 6
VAL: 15, 11, 1, 11, 56
Jack's now twice as strong as he used to be, with nearly three times as much stamina and the flexibility of a gymnast to match. His reflexes and speed have improved a fair bit compared to before, but still can't keep up with Lily-Beast's tentacles at their maximum momentum, or with Arthur putting a decent amount of effort into things.

Valentine got some minor boosts when compared to her human form, but still remains nowhere near the level of a fit adult. Unfortunately, she's also about as flexible as tempered steel. Attempting to touch her toes would probably put her in a wheelchair. Her control is pretty insane, though–at least, relative to a normal Alice. Guess that's a benefit to being one of the haha you thought I'd actually say something useful.

Writing the update!
>>
A moment passes with a few uncertain glances shared between your peers. Still, your group soon follows after Takeo, stepping past the gate and into the field beyond.

Immediately, Takeo begins to bark out orders.

"Line up single file, one meter of space between you and the next person. 25 jumping jacks. Begin."

None of you need to be told twice. With your daily efforts to stay in shape, these movements are second nature. You move with clockwork precision, extraneous thoughts fading as you transition into the focused mindset necessary for a proper workout. For a brief second, you register the sight of other groups filing out into the shared field–then you're back on track.

For the next few minutes, Takeo leads you all through a fairly vanilla warm-up routine, mixing in stretches taken straight out of your school days. What works, works, though. You can't complain.

By the end of it, you're left… completely fine, surprisingly enough. Your breath is as stable as ever; it doesn't even feel like your heart rate increased. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for everyone in your group.

You notice the barest beads of sweat beginning to form on their scalps, the flare of nostrils as they try to hide their panting breaths. For a moment, you think you can even hear their heartbeat, a subtle thudding that moves in rhythm.

There's no way that's possible, of course. It's simply a delusion. Your hearing is good for your age, but nothing remains perfect forever.

Takeo gives your more out-of-shape peers a few seconds to catch their breath, then barks out his next order.

"Strength testing begins now. 3 minutes of push-ups, as many as you can."

Keeping it simple, huh? You don't voice aloud your thoughts, of course; you like your head in one piece.

You fall into the same motions you've done for most of your life; palms flat, bending your elbows and lowering yourself to the point where your chest nearly touches the floor, then raising yourself again in one smooth motion.

The world seems to fade away as you work. Training is a habit that's become almost meditative for you.

You haven't had the chance to do this for a while. Between meeting Valentine, catching your flight, and the attack on the base, there just hasn't been time.

Being able to catch up on it now is relieving, in a way. Pushing yourself, exerting yourself… It allows you to examine recent events with a sort of detached tranquility. You study your fears, your shortcomings, and you think about what you can do to improve.

–With a start, you realize that you've gone well past your previous max set. Nothing stood out to tell you when it had happened, which is what drew your attention in the first place.

In the next half-minute, you beat your old record into the ground. Despite that, you still feel fine. Your breath comes a little faster and there's a bit of a burn in your arms, but it's nowhere near what you should be feeling.

"Enough."

[1/?]
>>
Takeo's voice is punctuated by the beeping of an alarm. You push off the ground and get to your feet, feeling no worse for wear.

On your left, a dark-skinned youth visibly side-eyes you. He leans in for a conspiratorial whisper as the Attendant makes some notes.

"What on Earth are you eating, man? That was 150 push-ups in 3 minutes."

Taken aback by his claim, you can't help but blink owlishly for a bit.

"Was it? I wasn't really counting…"

He gives you a look of disbelief that quickly turns into a knowing smile.

"Ah, I see. An undercover Attendant or something, I'm guessing? This is a part of the test, yeah? I thought you looked too old for this."

You stare as the man gives a self-assured nod. Before you can come up with a suitable response, Takeo issues his next command, forcing the two of you to face forward.

"2-mile run around the track. Fast as you can. That's roughly 8 laps."

You don't have time to worry about either your newfound strength or your neighbor's misconception. A preparatory grimace on your face, you quickly work out a rhythm to your breathing that you can hopefully maintain.

Cardio. You hate it.

–Halfway through your run, you come to the uncanny realization that you don't feel tired in the slightest. For the first time in years, you're not sweating bullets from a steady summer jog.

Something isn't right here.

Out of the corner of your eye, you watch as your peers pass you by. Though you're still solidly in the top half of your group, your chosen speed was meant to account for your previous understanding of your limits.

Granted, it's now apparent that said understanding is no longer reliable.

Though you're deep in thought, you're aware enough to realize as the man from before sprints past you. He has a runner's build, slim and long-legged without looking like a stick. If memory serves, this must be his sixth lap.

For a second, he turns his head to look back at you.

Then the cheeky bastard winks before speeding up.

The thought that you might be able to go even faster strikes you like a bolt from the blue.

[Select one.]

>Fuck it, you'll meet his challenge. You can put 2 and 2 together--there's very little doubt in your mind that this is related to whatever Papa did to you… But this is a test, isn't it? You want to study your new limits; Rafael can cover you. He's sure to appreciate the mew information, besides.

>Haha, no. You've already slipped up once. You don't want to call any more attention to yourself than absolutely necessary, though the push-ups might have killed any chance of that happening.

>Speeding up a little can't hurt, can it? You won't push yourself to whatever your new limits are, but picking up the pace should be easy enough to pass off as just saving up for the last spurt. Really, though, you could just call it... a youthful indiscretion.

>Write-in.

[2/2]
>>
>>5235393
>Fuck it, you'll meet his challenge. You can put 2 and 2 together--there's very little doubt in your mind that this is related to whatever Papa did to you… But this is a test, isn't it? You want to study your new limits; Rafael can cover you. He's sure to appreciate the mew information, besides.
PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT!
>>
>>5235393
>>Fuck it, you'll meet his challenge. You can put 2 and 2 together--there's very little doubt in your mind that this is related to whatever Papa did to you… But this is a test, isn't it? You want to study your new limits; Rafael can cover you. He's sure to appreciate the mew information, besides.
>>
>>5235393
>Fuck it, you'll meet his challenge. You can put 2 and 2 together--there's very little doubt in your mind that this is related to whatever Papa did to you… But this is a test, isn't it? You want to study your new limits; Rafael can cover you. He's sure to appreciate the mew information, besides.

well Jack already is an odd ball.... so yeah. lets make him a legend.
>>
>mew information
You are now a catboy. Forgive me; this was not my intention, but it is out of my hands.
>>
>>5235754
At least Jack could very well be ripped then later on.

Unless he was turned into some type of Alice or something like Papa dearest mentioned during the confrontation that many of the side effects had been removed by now
>>
>>5235393
>Speeding up a little can't hurt, can it? You won't push yourself to whatever your new limits are, but picking up the pace should be easy enough to pass off as just saving up for the last spurt. Really, though, you could just call it... a youthful indiscretion.
>>
>>5235393
>Push it to the limit walk along the razor's edge, keep your calm don't lose your head
>>
>Fuck it, you'll meet his challenge. You can put 2 and 2 together--there's very little doubt in your mind that this is related to whatever Papa did to you… But this is a test, isn't it? You want to study your new limits; Rafael can cover you. He's sure to appreciate the mew information, besides.

At the sight of his retreating back, something within you bares its teeth.

Damn whippersnappers, thinking the whole world belongs to them.

Unbidden, a smile comes to your face. You feel your heart begin to pound in a way that has nothing to do with your current pace, stirring up a competitive spirit that you haven't touched since your college days.

Medschool was hard. All the same, you graduated top of your class.

That said, even you can recognize that your current idea doesn't reflect your intelligence. Drawing any more attention to yourself doesn't really sit well with you, and the rational part of your mind is begging for you to stick to a steady pace.

Unfortunately, the wind screaming in your ears is drowning out its pleas.

It'll be fine, won't it? Harrison said it herself; Attendants just can't avoid being flashy. What's the shame in being abnormal? Ever since you hopped in Viktor's car… No, the moment you decided to personally yank Valentine out of the ground, you knew your life would never be the same.

This is just doubling down on that. Worst comes to worst, you can just blame Papa.

–That's enough excuses. Time to put your money where your mouth is, Jack.

Your next step is delivered with such force, you're almost afraid of leaving cracks in the racetrack. Any concerns over stamina are thrown to the wayside as you propel yourself forward with newfound strength. That kid is two, almost three laps ahead of you; if you want to catch up before he finishes, you can't afford to wait.

To your eyes, the world around you seems to blur. Your sights are locked onto the back of that kid's sleeveless shirt, which grows closer with every step you take.

You're a tall guy - taller than your father, even - and you're putting every last one of those inches to good use. As you throw your entirety into running, the distance between you and your quarry disappears in what feels like seconds. You slow down just enough to enjoy the way he looks back, confused, and the dawning comprehension that follows when you pass him before he can even register you.

Then you're off again like a bullet, eating up track at an ungodly pace. Though you almost trip over yourself a few times, you just barely manage to recover without embarrassing yourself overmuch.

You weave through the winded and the slow, twisting your body in ways that you would never have been able to pull off just two days ago.

God, you feel so young. 39 isn't that old, but waking up without any of your accumulated aches felt like losing a 50-pound weight. You don't feel like you're nearly 40, you feel 14.

You might just make running a habit, now.

[1/?]
>>
You're almost tempted to let out whoop as you pass by the dark-skinned man again. You don't bother slowing down to appreciate the look of shock on his face–but you definitely can't stop the fierce smile that forms when you watch him lean forward to try and match your pace.

A blue sky beckons. Whatever clouds there were have been burned away by the summer sun. Accompanying this heat is the rhythmic beat of sneakers hitting the earth, a perfect match for the drumming in your chest.

Having held a dead sprint for the past three-and-a-half laps, it comes as little surprise when your seemingly-endless stamina begins to run dry. All things considered, even if you're a fair bit faster than you used to be, it's still within the upper end of human limits.

You and the youth simultaneously reach the 8th and final lap. Somehow, the kid still has the energy to speak to you, even if it's between panting breaths. There's a fire in his eyes, something that the sweat dripping off of the two of you couldn't hope to put out.

"Hah–! Goddamn, you're fast for your age!"

You fire off a grin of your own. You can respect a good opponent, even if he had a head start on you.

"What, regret challenging me?"

Is this what they call a runner's high?

"Not–for a second!"

It's refreshing.

You were a workaholic for most of your life. You never really kept in touch with your school friends, and what few relations you had in adulthood were work-related. Nick - your coworker at the cemetery - was an alright guy, but he's more or less your only friend.

Simply put, such things didn't fit into your schedule. Or rather, you never bothered to organize around them.

Not once did you ever regret it, though. It was the price you paid to get so far, and you made sure to get your money's worth at the end of it all. Besides, with your family so close by, you were never wanting for human interaction.

Right now, though, you think you can understand what you missed out on in your youth.

"Alright, punk. What's your name? Can't keep calling you kid in my head."

Here and now is the chance to experience it for yourself.

"Ahaha! 'Kid,' he says! You really are old!"

"You've got five seconds before you stay 'kid' forever."

"Ooh, scary. I'm Amit! Pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise. I'm Jack."

The two of you stop your chatter for a moment, breath coming hot and hard as you pump your legs for all they're worth.

The finish line's in sight, and damnit, you want to win this little race of yours.

[I want 3 rolls of 1d10+6, contesting my own. Good luck.]

[2/2]
>>
You're almost tempted to let out whoop as you pass by the dark-skinned man again. You don't bother slowing down to appreciate the look of shock on his face–but you definitely can't stop the fierce smile that forms when you watch him lean forward to try and match your pace.

A blue sky beckons. Whatever clouds there were have been burned away by the summer sun. Accompanying this heat is the rhythmic beat of sneakers hitting the earth, a perfect match for the drumming in your chest.

Having held a dead sprint for the past three-and-a-half laps, it comes as little surprise when your seemingly-endless stamina begins to run dry. All things considered, even if you're a fair bit faster than you used to be, it's still within the upper end of human limits.

You and the youth simultaneously reach the 8th and final lap. Somehow, the kid still has the energy to speak to you, even if it's between panting breaths. There's a fire in his eyes, something that the sweat dripping off of the two of you couldn't hope to put out.

"Hah–! Goddamn, you're fast for your age!"

You fire off a grin of your own. You can respect a good opponent, even if he had a head start on you.

"What, regret challenging me?"

Is this what they call a runner's high?

"Not–for a second!"

It's refreshing.

You were a workaholic for most of your life. You never really kept in touch with your school friends, and what few relations you had in adulthood were work-related. Nick - your coworker at the cemetery - was an alright guy, but he's more or less your only friend.

Simply put, such things didn't fit into your schedule. Or rather, you never bothered to organize around them.

Not once did you ever regret it, though. It was the price you paid to get so far, and you made sure to get your money's worth at the end of it all. Besides, with your family so close by, you were never wanting for human interaction.

Right now, though, you think you can understand what you missed out on in your youth.

"Alright, punk. What's your name? Can't keep calling you kid in my head."

Here and now is the chance to experience it for yourself.

"Ahaha! 'Kid,' he says! You really are old!"

"You've got five seconds before you stay 'kid' forever."

"Ooh, scary. I'm Amit! Pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise. I'm Jack."

The two of you stop your chatter for a moment, breath coming hot and hard as you pump your legs for all they're worth.

The finish line's in sight, and damnit, you want to win this little race of yours.

[I want 3 rolls of 1d10+3, contesting my own. Good luck.]

[2/2]
>>
Rolled 11 (1d15)

>>5237749
Forgot image again! Fuck!
>>
Rolled 9, 14 = 23 (2d15)

>>5237750
This was supposed to be a 3d15! Double fuck! I blame my crippling back pain. Serious advice, make sure you sleep in the right position. I've had some awful muscle cramps the whole day, bad enough that I might not have been able to get out tonight's update without having written most of it already. Yikes.
>>
Rolled 8, 10, 7 = 25 (3d10)

>>5237756
No worries mate, hope you feel better soon.
>>
Rolled 9, 15, 11 = 35 (3d15)

>>5237749
>>
Rolled 1, 8, 7 = 16 (3d10)

>>5237749
>>
Rolled 11, 2, 10 = 23 (3d15)

>>5237749
>>
3 separate rolls of 1d10+3! Not 3d10! As in, 3 people rolling a 1d10+3!
Probably should've clarified that each d15 I rolled was the DC you had to beat; a "clash," if you will.

I'll let you guys reroll this time around. He's an ex-Olympic athlete, by the way.
>>
>>5237749
>>
Rolled 7 + 3 (1d10 + 3)

>>5238060
>>
Rolled 3 + 3 (1d10 + 3)

>>5238060
High number better
>>
Rolled 3 + 3 (1d10 + 3)

>>5238060
>>
>>5238325
>>5238311
>>5238155
Something tells me we didn’t beat him
>>
>>5238589
An astute observation. Granted, he did have a headstart on you. Update's in the middle of being written.
>>
You're neck-and-neck with Amit. The wind ruffles your hair as it rushes past, gluing your shirt to sweat-slick skin. It's remarkably unpleasant, but as focused as you are, you barely notice it.

It's taking everything you have to not trip over yourself with how far forward you're leaning. The ground beneath you seems to fly away with every bounding step, a far cry from the practiced strides of the boy next to you. Your inexperience is showing.

The boy's eyes are curved along with the smile on his face. To your surprise, despite the exhaustion he must be feeling, Amit manages to speak one last time.

"You're something else, old man. Let's compete again sometime."

Before you can come up with a response, the youth puts on an extra burst of speed. Your eyes widen in shock–

–and you finally trip, pitching headfirst into an ungainly tumble that takes you past the finish line, bare seconds behind your rival. Amit leaps out of the way with a startled yelp that you don't have time to appreciate.

"Woah–!"

You spring to your feet almost instantly, prepared for the stinging burn of scraped skin and badly bruised flesh. Rafael and Jessica probably won't appreciate you collecting new injuries, and even your new acquaintance approaches you with concern.

"You alright there, Jack? Not bleeding or anything, are you? No broken bones?"

"Had worse. I'll be fine."

To your surprise, it's not even a lie. Despite skidding a good few feet across the gravel, you feel more or less intact. A testing probe reveals nothing worse than a light soreness–the greatest injury you suffered was a blow to your pride.

Just how far do these changes to your body extend?

You're taken out of your musings by the sound of Takeo's footsteps, a scowl on his face and a small cloud of talismans fluttering in his wake.

"Raina, 8 minutes and 5 seconds. Yang, 8 minutes and 9 seconds."

"Ooh, beat my old record."

"Reckless."

Takeo's cold voice cuts through Amit's cheer. His talismans deposit a first-aid kit at his feet before streaming back into his leather suitcase.

"This is not a race. Raina, while you may be able to handle placing such stress upon your body, I cannot say the same for Yang… Though at least he isn't vomiting. Surprising."

You wipe the sweat from your brow, finding it difficult to look the shorter man in the eye as he examines you for injuries that aren't there.

The frown on his face only deepens as he looks you over. Thankfully, he turns away before long, folding his arms into his sleeves as he studies the rest of your peers. Over three-quarters of them have yet to finish their 6th lap, but there's a few that are nearly a match for Amit and you.

"I'll speak with you later, Yang."

[1/?]
>>
As he walks away, Amit pokes you in the side.

"Wet blanket, huh?"

"He can probably hear you, you know."

"Geh-! Really? Man, you Attendants…"

With the back of your hand, you wipe away the grit on your face, grimacing all the while. Now that you've got a few minutes to cool your head, it's hard to believe how easily you let your emotions get the better of you.

"Sorry, but I'm only a Trainee."

"Woah, really? With moves like that?"

Amit does a double-take as you fish your ID card out of your pocket. He leans forward to inspect it closely, though you're quite certain he's only doing it for dramatics. Whatever writing is on it is in a perfectly legible font.

"Huh. Same as me, then! Nice, nice."

The boy smacks your back with gusto, drawing a little sigh from you. You had a feeling it was something like that.

"Aw, why the long face? Don't want to work with me?"

"No, it's not you. Just… Falling like that… Damn, it's embarrassing."

"It wasn't that bad. I'd even say it was cool! Not every day you see an old guy doing cartwheels."

There's only one way to respond to that. Despite his best efforts to dodge, you manage to give Amit a playful cuff upside the head. As your fellow Trainee nurses his newfound bump, you turn to look across the field, hoping to spot a certain halo. The distance is too great, though; the most you can make out is something that looks vaguely like equipment being wheeled out.

You hope Val's doing alright. By and large, Alices are supposed to be physical beasts, though from your experience, she's one of the few exceptions to the rule.

As the sun rises further in the sky, you find yourself hoping that schoolyard bullying won't be a thing. You can only see a conflict between Alices ending poorly…

Amit follows your gaze before letting out an understanding nod.

"Looking at the Alices, huh? Yeah, they're pretty nuts. Can't believe there's already, like, 12 of them with us. I heard there were going to be 32 nominees to the Attendant course this year."

You focus your gaze back on the boy, fixing him with a curious look.

"Huh, really? How much do you know?"

The boy waves his hand dismissively.

"Eh, nothing you can't find with a little research. I can tell you that they'll be splitting us up into two classes of 16, but who's who and how they'll be deciding it is beyond me. Hope we land in the same class, though."

Amit gives you a careless grin. Idly, you find yourself wondering how he'd react if you told him you already have an Alice.

[Select one.]

>You're feeling smug. Even if he won your impromptu race, you've at least got this over him.

>No, revenge is a dish best served cold. You'll bide your time to deliver the greatest possible surprise.

[2/2]
>>
Sincerest apologies for the slow period lately. I've been doing a ton of planning for the upcoming arc, but set-up pieces like this are unfortunately unavoidable for an amateur like me... I hope it's not been too boring to read.
>>
>>5239868
>>You're feeling smug. Even if he won your impromptu race, you've at least got this over him.
>>
>>5239868
>You're feeling smug. Even if he won your impromptu race, you've at least got this over him.
>>
>>5239868
>>You're feeling smug. Even if he won your impromptu race, you've at least got this over him
>>
>You're feeling smug. Even if he won your impromptu race, you've at least got this over him.

…Well, what's the harm? It's not like he won't learn about it later anyways, right?

You'll wait for the right moment, though. The look on his face promises to be gold.

"Hey hey, what's with the smile? Think of something good?"

Seems that among your many changes, hiding your emotions isn't one of them. With that in mind, you allow yourself a little chuckle.

"Sure, something like that. Just thinking about my Alice."

"Ah, yeah. I'm a little nervous, but I can't deny being excited, myself. I mean--powers! That's just cool, isn't it? Shame about all the baggage, but working as an Attendant is the next best thing though, right?"

"Mm." You give a nod of understanding, and Amit flops to the ground, cross-legged. With one hand, he tugs at the collar of his shirt in an attempt to cool down.

"Man, you recover fast. I don't think you're even breathing that hard anymore, Jack."

There's equal parts envy and genuine awe in his voice. Without waiting for a response, he continues.

"I mean, you've gotta be some kind of god-tier athlete. How old are you? 50? I'm a medalist, but you almost beat me. And since you're a Trainee like me, it's not like you underwent surgery or whatever it is that they do to make the real ones so strong."

While you're busy recovering from the unexpected barb on your age, Amit raises his arms in a drawn-out stretch. His next words are idle, delivered in the kind of far-off laziness of a classroom daydream.

"Man, I hope our Alices are strong."

Now's your chance! Acting as coolly as you can, you deliver your response in an off-handed manner.

"Hah. No matter who you get, they won't match up to mine."

"Ahaha! That's the spirit, gramps. A little friendly competition is great. What kinda powers would you like yours to have? Pyromancy? Psychokinesis? I've heard that one of our strongest can do things with gravity."

…He didn't understand.

[1/?]
>>
"--I'm trying to say I've already got an Alice. And I'm only 39, damnit!"

"Woah, really? That's still pretty old, though..."

He responded to the wrong thing, too. What is this feeling of defeat…?

"You're not surprised I have an Alice?"

Amit leans forward, resting his chin on his hand in a typical thinking pose. After a moment, he shrugs.

"Well, I can't deny being a little surprised, but think about it for a second.

Let's assume all 32 of this year's Trainees are taking Basic with us. Unlikely, since statistically speaking some of them have a military history, but for argument's sake we'll pretend it's true.

There are 12 Alices on the field over there, not including the assistant. Being here alone is unlikely, considering the need for constant supervision and their superhuman physique, so it's safe to say that at least 12 of the Trainees here have an Alice.

Taking all that into consideration, there's… Meh, don't want to bother with the fine calcs, but it's a more than a 30% chance that you're one of those lucky folks. I'm not much of a gambler, but those sound like pretty decent odds to me."

…They're simple enough calculations to make, and chaining them together so quickly isn't much to write home about by itself, but being able to put it into practice is quite the skill.

"You're smarter than you look, huh?"

Amit clutches at his heart, affecting a grievous wound.

"So hurtful, Jack! Or would you rather I call you sir? Respecting the elderly and all that."

"You'll do what you want no matter what I say, won't you?"

He laughs by way of response, drawing another heavy sigh from you. Naturally, this only serves to fuel his good cheer. You're going to go bald and die with how much you've been sighing lately.

"Maybe, maybe. Serious question, though. What's your Alice's power? And their name too, I guess. Polite to ask, right?"

"Valentine. And her ability…"

You can't help but grimace, unsure as to how Amit will respond. You're well enough aware that the average person doesn't have the same perspective on death as someone with your experience might.

Still, you're going to be working together in the future. Best to get this over with now, so no one's operating under any misconceptions.

"Her name's Valentine. She's a necromancer."

[2/?]
>>
No update tonight, sorry. Too much work right now, plus feel mildly ill. Will post at regular schedule tomorrow. Thanks for your patience. Also, fuck typos.
>>
>>5242424
All good QM, hope you get better soon.
>>
To your surprise, Amit doesn't react the way you feared he might. There's no flash of disgust, no stepping back. None of the normal tells.

"Necromancy, huh? Like, from a videogame? Man, that's a messy power."

There's no heat in his words. After a moment of silence, he immediately launches into his next question.

"So, is she cute?"

…You expected to be reviled. Normal people would likely still be disgusted, you're aware, particularly if the bodies you handle end up belonging to their acquaintances.

"Cute? Yes, she's cute."

"Mm, good. That contrast between an old badass and a cute-but-powerful sidekick is one of the best parts of this job."

Amit nods as if he's just said something incredibly wise, completely ignoring the fact that he looks less like an "old badass" and more like a teen model.

"Has there really ever been an ugly Alice…? I mean, Wonderland was originally marketed as some kind of extreme youth-drug beauty product. The degree of mutation tends to make people pretty much unrecognizable."

"Huh, good point. It's usually Beasts that end up looking freaky."

You can't help but shake your head helplessly. What an odd fellow. Not a bad sort though.

Probably.

"3 minutes of rest. I recommend jogging or walking to avoid cramping."

Takeo's voice rings out, pulling your wandering thoughts back to order. Amit and you immediately bring a palm to your foreheads.

"Knew I was forgetting to do something!"

As Amit launches into his cooldown stretches, you take a closer look at the faraway Attendant.

"Is… Is he handing out waterbottles?"

"Shit, really? Why didn't we get any!?"

"I can guess. Want me to grab you one?"

"Sure, thanks."

Takeo eyes you warily as you jog over, but wordlessly passes along two of the bottles to you. It's not any brand you recognize, though it declares itself to be some kind of sports drink. Huh.

[3/?]