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 No.766029[View All]

>Good Intentions
The rodent takes one cookie, and scampers off to enjoy it. Trajan, who had been stretching his legs elsewhere, has a nibble of one of the other cookies.


Godspeed ponders it. "I do wonder… But I am inclined to picture school as a uniquely effective role for Psy-Chrono harvesting. In Zinccastle, where basic education is required for all by law, people report suffering school-based dream-terrors quite regularly. Most often, they can't find their way to class, or they're forced to retake difficult classes, because their credits were retroactively declared invalid after they graduated. But other situations aren't as universal as school. Some people are fortunate enough to earn jobs that they enjoy, as soon as they enter the workforce. A few – the Nobles – are wealthy enough that they never have to work at all. So, a workplace scenario might not be as effective for feeding the Tree."

>Billy, Zamrud, Qhapaq

"I shudder to think what students who were wealthy and well-connected enough to gain admission to Agape would be armed with," Godspeed says. "Get along nicely with your classmates– and never agree to meet them in a dark alleyway."

She checks the time, and stands up as well. "Right. I'll be off, myself then. I'd offer you luck, but I've fought alongside you before. Your skill and determination will see you through these midterms."
136 posts omitted. Click reply to view.


"So…." Origami begins, frowning as he ponders the implications of remembering both the tests and the battle. "If tests are the same as combat, then what's our homework? Or our pop quizzes? Is everything around here trying to kill us?"

Lone Star scoffs. "You'd better be careful taking notes in class. A formula might jump you or something."

Speaking of taking notes…


"Perhaps it is only the larger tests that feel like that? I do not feel like my studies felt like combat. They felt like… studies." He remarks, shrugging.


"I don't think everything is here to kill us." Billy begins scratching at his chin. "There in the theater it was a maze keeping people trapped. We are told there are other students who will kill us if we seek an advantage for test. There was a lecture on luck and time relativity, though I don't think that relates to direct danger."


Lost seemed to be thrown by the others odd reactions the others to their tests as well


I doubt that's entirely the case… maybe." he said glancing to Dexter now.


Deadweight's finished her cup of horchata and looks for La Senorita to get another cup. That stuff's good.


As Origami poses the question, Zamrud can't help but wonder… WERE they fighting all this time?

"I don't think the same applies to our tests or homework… for the most part, we are not nearly so exhausted after anything like that. No, if this is indeed something we experienced, I think it must be particular to the midterms. It would certainly fit given with how important they are, don't you agree?"

Taking a moment to recollect himself, Zamrud decides to take out Kirk's notebook, now curious if - with the Midterms complete - if anything had changed with it

Zamrud looks to Deadweight with a curious eye. "You do not have any such memory, Deadweight? Of fighting or of combat…?"


"Of course I remember that," Deadweight says as she tries to take another sip of her horchata, before coming to the sad realization that she ran out.


A paper airplane nails you in the ear. You look over and see the silhouette student, sitting nearby. Evidently a cheeky retort to your remark just now.

Dexter looks back at you from atop a shelf. You can trace the path he's taken through the room. Rather than leaving behind a trail of destruction, as most energetic pets would be wont to do, he's left behind a trail of organization. Stacked papers, sorted books, tidied tchotchkes.

The others nod, sharing a few minor anecdotes of their own from before the test– examples of perfectly ordinary college life, free of all dangers except social ones.

"That's a relief," Ride says. "Hopefully only our major tests will pose such a threat while we're here. Students have enough to worry about without also needing to fight for their lives."

Herb snorts. "You'd take issue with most anime, then."

"Actually…" Ride begins. For some reason he's now wearing swirly glasses.

But before this tangent can get away from us, Zamrud examines Kirk's notebook… and finds that a new set of pages have been filled in.


Herb's crew gathers in close as Zamrud flips through the new pages. While the first section of the notebook was kept orderly, this section's writing is much more dense. No lines are skipped, and in fact, there are several boxes drawn on the far side of the page, where it seems that Kirk – or whoever wrote these new pages – made another section of notes on the same page.

Another difference: The first section of the notebook was kept to calculus, but this section comprises many subjects, from chemistry, to business, to electrical engineering, history, architecture, poetry, dance– but most of all are the languages. Manedarin, Horspanol, Prench, Eqrussian, Mareabic, even less commonly spoken ones originating among giraffes, buffalo, griffons, and other peoples. If this notebook is to be taken as a record of Kirk's studies, he's taken on impossible number of classes.

Finally, in the latter half of this second section, the notes give way to pictures. Quite literally, in fact. The latter half's notes border on illegible, for each line's words and letters get scratchier, and then flatter, as they, upon the very page, give way to a landscape drawing. It depicts a loamy field of earth– out of which a great set of roots ascend. The roots ascend toward the far side of the page… but the next page is blank.

No more notes follow after that.


"What is this anime you speak of? Is there something similar to this in the deadlands?" Billy tilts his head looking to Herb.


Zamrud's eyes open wide as he sees the newest section of Kirk's notebook has manifest, turning through them along with Herb and the others as he looks through the new notes. "Remarkable! Just I'd hoped, the midterms have yield new clues for us…"

However, as he looks through them, his excitement soon turns to exhaustion. "Not that these are much more help than the previous section. If there is anything to discern from this newest section of Kirk's notebook, it's that he seemed to take many classes… Herb, do any of these subjects sound familiar, can you affirm if Kirk took all these classes? Particularly all these languages, he's quite lingual…"


Qhapaq warks a little as he's beaned with a paper airplane, looking around for the source… before blinking.

"Ah! I suppose mine have been more literal this entire time, yes. Unless it is something else you wish to add?" He asks, looking to the silhouette student.

"Ah… hrm. Then, we have more to discover now, yes? Are the roots in this image related to the tree, perhaps? Is it something else?"


Good perked up a bit at the anime mention. HE liked those. He began to slink over to Ride, though joins the others in reading, and then finding some genuine discomfort in how this all fit together.


Lost was unsure what to make of what was being presented, the concepts and all the info it didn't really make sense to her.


Deadweight keeps looking for La Senorita to get some more horchata. She needs her fix.


La Senorita pours you some mor' 'chata.

"Uhh…" Herb mutters, as he's entranced by the strange notebook.

Peyote, less distracted, nods. "I'll host a watch party for us after this."

Herb shakes his head to Zamrud. "If he took even half of the classes that he's got notes for here, he wouldn't even have time to sleep. I'm pretty sure a lot of these classes are concurrent, too. It'd be impossible to attend all these lectures."

"Could he have gotten notes from other students?" Assembly asks.

"…Maybe," Herb says. "But what would even be the point? I mean… architecture, film studies… animal husbandry? A lot of these are advanced classes for subjects that I've never seen him take an interest in."

"I think it's gotta be the Tree of Evil," Bet says, speaking up for once to agree with Qhapaq. "The way the writing turns into the drawing… it's almost like he kinda went crazy from all those subjects he's studying."

Lone Star rubs her chin. "But we haven't seen him at all around campus. If he was taking a bunch of classes, then at least one of us would have run into him by now."

The silhouette student, prompted by Qhapaq, tries to peer closer at the notes and the drawings…

>roll perception


"A… 'watch-party'? I think I have heard of those before, though I was too… shy to go to it myself."


Qhapaq peers closer as well, and hums a little. "Maybe he is… on a different 'level'?"

Roll #1 10 = 10


"Do you think the tree calls itself something other than evil, if anything at all. I would imagine it would have more elegant or something academic to call itself, now that I think about it." Billy glances to the shade from the corner of his eye.


Roll #1 10 = 10


"I'm in agreement," Zamrud says with Qhapaq and Bet as they look the final drawing depicting the many roots coming out of the ground. "Hmm… it is rather interesting, the way the scratches from the writing just naturally form into the drawing. I'd call it an inspired artistic piece if I weren't slightly perturbed by the implications… Is there an art teacher on campus anyone is aware of?"

He combs over the notes and the drawings one more time as well, seeing if anything jumps out
[1d10+1] Perception

Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6


Lost sips her Horchata and tries to be a very perceptive little stalker.

[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 6 = 6


"Thanks," Deadweight says, smiling unconsciously. She takes another sip and hums in satisfaction.


>never fixed the wounds
Good looked to the others and nodded about the watch party before beginning to peer around for things himself.

[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 5 = 5


You look over the notes once more. Although at first glance, you see dense and meticulous writing, a closer inspection reveals that most of the notes… are actually closer to nonsense.

Even without having much in-depth knowledge about the subjects in question, you can tell that each line of each note is jumbled-up. Concepts from architecture are mashed together with fashion and photography theories. Ponderings about the biochemical compositions of languages. Snippets of classical literature plugged into complex mathematical matrices.

There's something to be said about the cross-disciplinary application of knowledge, it seems that Kirk's been trying, through this impossible stack of classes, to find some kind of "unified theory of everything." You even see ample ramblings on the Psy-Chrono Hypothesis, much to Herb's satisfaction… but the ramblings quickly spiral into incoherence, and in fact, jump from language to language, at a level of proficiency in those languages that would suggest Herb didn't even need to take the classes in the first place.


You turn over the final page once more. And now, something clicks. When one pushes a pen with enough force into the page, there is a protrusion on the reverse side. And depending on the ink, there may even be bleed-through onto that reverse side.

That is exactly the result of Kirk's frenzied drawing. But while this phenomenon is usually accidental, and done without much thought… Kirk's drawing was unmistakably deliberate.

On the front side of the page, you see the roots of the Tree of Evil, growing out of the loamy soil. But on the reverse, you see a canopy of branches, cloudy with leaves. And, hanging from those branches, like so much fruit, are a number of crystalline shapes. These have been made by the aforementioned bleeding-through of ink. Herb seems to have have pushed into the fore-side of the page with enough force, at these deliberately calculated spots, to cause this bleed-through.

Upon closer inspection, these crystalline shapes… look just like Crystal Hearts… the very same kind produced by the Heart of Ironcastle… the same with Zinccastle, Coppercastle… all nine of the remaining Castles that house unmutated mortalkind from the Outlands. According to this drawing of Kirk's – the Tree of Evil also produces these Crystal Hearts.


Deadweight continues enjoying her horchata and being Lost's pillow. She finds all the people poring over the notebook strange and silently judges them.


>Herb seems to have have pushed into the fore-side of the page…



"Well, ain't that a cute and clever hidden message. I feel like I should have paid more attention and showed more interest in our delivery of those hearts." Billy frowns at the thought.


It takes Zamrud several attempts looking through Kirk's notes before he notices the blotches of ink bleeding through the back sides of the pages, realizing what at first seemed to be random nonsense was instead appearing to be very deliberate and planned out. As he pushes through the pages, watching the ink-blots build into forming more and more distinct shapes until the final drawing of the Tree of Evil on the final section of the notes, turning the final page to see nine, very distinct crystalline hearts drawn out, it takes Zamrud a few moments more before he realizes the hidden message behind Kirk's notes.

He drops the book then and there, shocked by the revelation. "The Tree of Evil… it makes Crystal Hearts?" Zamrud blinks, remembering Rudolph's manifesto and the warning of a waning power-supply for IronCastle. "Impossible… can that truly be what Kirk means by this message?"


"Wait… the tree produces these hearts?" He looks confused, before glancing to the others. "Didn't the castle wish for us to destroy the tree? Why would they destroy a source of Hearts?"

"Maybe there is… something else about them. But, I do not know."


Good was…. he did not know what to say. This revelation was… disconcerting in ways he did not know. His entire world view was challenged by that


The others are left in silence for a time… before Herb ventures to speak. "Well… assuming that's what this means… that would be a good thing… wouldn't it? We'd have a solution for the energy crisis, wouldn't we?"

You recall your delivery mission to the Aya Mutants: The year's supply of the miniature Crystal Hearts which you gave to them on behalf of the USB Delivery Company– despite that unauthorized delivery of the Light Undefiled contained inside the Hearts being one of the most severe crimes possible in Ironcastle.

You recall also Apuchin's words, about the Dragon of Ironcastle, who had given them Crystal Hearts in the past… it might not be a good idea to bring that up in front of the others. That business involved many high-level secrets. But, it raises a question… why bother delivering Crystal Hearts to the Mutants if a supply can be procured from the Tree of Evil? And why conspire to destroy the Tree of Evil at all?

Zamrud also recalls Truth Dares… and the 'Alter' that she made of this notebook. She never explained just what an 'Alter' is, and she forbade him from bringing up the term in front of others…



"So… do the hearts change how me might be able to escape or tell us how we might be able to find our missing friend?" Billy pulls at the hairs on his chin in his frustration. "I admit that I am lost."


Zamrud looks to Herb, "Assuming there even IS an energy crisis… I'm not writing off the possibilities but the notion of the hearts being finite at all is not an idea many are ready to accept. The idea they can be made though… certainly seems to support that."

He turned to Quapaq next, "It may be they simply do not know that it can, we only just discovered ot and the Tree is undoubtedly dangerous… but knowing this, it may change their minds."


"But is this a world we want to keep the way it is? Shouldn't we want to fix it?" good queried


The others think it over…

"Hmm," Lone Star says. "As happy as I am to finally get more word from Kirk, however strange it might be… it really doesn't tell us that much."

Ride shakes his head. "He had to have gotten this knowledge from somewhere. And if we haven't seen him anywhere at all, that suggests he's somewhere that we can't get to just yet. Not a lot of places around the campus meet that criteria."

"Right," Assembly says. "Assuming it's somewhere we haven't heard about yet, we have the Bodhi Garden… and wherever you and Good ended up when exploring the theater."

"Ah… right," Herb says. "The crisis was debunked, after all."

Obviously, Herb didn't put much stock in the Iron Family's official debunking of the energy crisis.

Origami shrugs. "We can hug trees after we find our missing pal and get our asses outta here."

"Can it," Herb barks. "You're right, Good. It's still the overarching mission of everyone who ventures outside Ironcastle to use the Outlands for Ironcastle's advancement."

"Man, that's what I just said!" Origami protests.

"So if nothing else," Herb continues. "We still have to survive long enough to take this information back. Oh– Zamrud, didn't you mention Truth had communication with Ironcastle? Why don't we have her run a report back home?"


Billy frowns thinking it over. "I am not looking forward to any more ventures into that Maze, we only found our way back through the bell. We certainly won't find a way forward to the end as we are now, if there is even an end and not just a trap." Billy tilts his head looking up. "Unless that creature we had brought out knows better than us, we could try to communicate with it."


"I'm hesitant to let that info go over the air, it's better to go in person, even if the Lux probably already know." Good grumbled feeling off now and moving to lean on a wall a bit.

He didn't like it but on some level they were right, they had to survive this first before they did anything."


Zamrud says to Herb, "'Debunked' officially, yes, but I never wrote it off entirely as possible… and on the chance Rudolph's findings are accurate, something like this would prove of the utmost import. If at all possible, before we take any actions with the Tree, we should look into if Kirk's hints hold true."

As Herb mentions Truth's communications with the outside, Zamrud nods, "Yes, she does have a drone transit system set up to deliver news to the outside world. Given how long it takes to get response, we were waiting for something bigger to send a message out but this would certainly qualify in my opinion."

As Good suggests withholding the information, lest it be intercepted or manipulated by the Lux, Zamrud gives this some thought. "…a fair point, I would be concerned about that as well. But I am worried what may happen between now and then - what if something happens to us or the Tree when we escape, if we even successfully manage to escape at all? Knowledge that Crystal Hearts can be made and replaced, that the energy crisis could be resolved, might be lost entirely if we fail at the Academy and are stuck here forever."


"But what if it's a trap? Or they're too good to be true and tainted?" he asked then cursed under his breath "NO… no you're right, it's best to let them know, if only so they can make that call themselves."


"Hrm… it feels strange, though. We cannot contact them from here though, yes?"

"Are the communications… real? It could be Truth thinks they do."


Eyebrows raise among Herb's crew as you contemplate interference from the Lux Deorum. You sense that they have not had run-ins with the secretive intelligence organization themselves…

"It's a drone?" Lone Star asks. "Okay… I retract my vote. That thing could get intercepted by just about anybody… and if another Castle gets their hooves on it, they may come knocking to get their hooves on the crystal hearts themselves, and then we go riiiight back to the start of the semester. AGAIN."

Herb shudders at the thought. "Ugh… well, we should still run it by her and her crew all the same. They're stuck in here too. Oh, and Vestal Godspeed, too."


"On that, I agree as well." Zamrud says to Herb, "I realize the concerns and the risks - not only with our own Castle potentially misusing this information, but being intercepted by other Castles as well looking for an advantage. Regardless, I concur that this decision should not just be made by those in this room. There are more of us trapped in the Academy and this information could affect every Castle in the Outlands."

"We should alert Truth and her team as well as Godspeed, and call a meeting. Tonight. All those in favor?"


"I am willing to move on, I certainly don't feel comfortable making a decision with only what I know." Billy says.


"Mmm. I think it would be the best option for now- that, and waiting to send any messages. The Castles seem… hrm. I am not natural-born to one, but they seem very unsettling."


"I am in favor." Good said just wanting to rest. He called Dexter and Trajan back to him.


Peyote and the former Tiger-Masked student nod in solidarity.

The idea of doing anything else this Cycle elicits universal groans from all your exhausted allies… but their sense of Iron honor – and the old Abbean work ethic – compels them to assent.

>timeskip to meeting available


>Willing to timeskip


"The depths of Iron Castle's… or rather, the Lux's… machinations are more evident to me now, but even before I would say 'unsettling' is a word to describe the inter-politics of it all."

Zamrud nods, "Thank you. I know we're all exhausted from our exams, but there is no time like the present. We need not come to any conclusions tonight, but we should meet with Truth's team and see where they stand. Then, we can all take a well earned rest."

>Good to skip to meeting


"Mmm- my own people have their bickerings and squabbles, but I do not like the clan…clandestine? Nature of the Castles."



You get into contact with Godspeed and Truth. Godspeed offers to secure one of the faculty conference rooms as a meeting place. Truth, finding this agreeable, confirms that she'll be there with Clamence. Rieux and Meursault are due to immerse themselves in the illusory dream-world of the school, and will be unable to attend.

All in all, the evening isn't such a bad time for the meeting. It gets you out of Dorm Boreal, at the very least. A party's happening nearby, and the bass is boosted enough to rattle all the nearby dorm rooms like a perpetual earthquake. Perhaps you're missing out– but chances are, it'll still be raging long after you return.

At the appointed time, you gather in one of the conference rooms of the faculty office. Truth and Godspeed are already there. Joining them is a tall and lean mare. You almost mistake her for an earth pony, before recognizing her as one of the Yagi– a minority ethnic group considered closely related to, yet culturally distinct from the earth ponies. She has a long and curly grayscale mane, and an off-white coat. Most peculiarly, perhaps, she too is augmented by military-grade cybernetics. The entirety of her right-side foreleg, shoulder, half of her neck, and about half of her face are comprised by these cybernetics.

In other words– her cybernetics are a perfect mirror of Meursault's.

"안녕하세요!" Truth says. "Err… hello," she translates herself for want of subtitles.

"Bonjour," Godspeed answers. "You survived. Let's hope you passed as well."

Clamence, as you presume, remains silent, but offers a pleasant congratulatory smile all the same.


Good looked mildly perturbed by the newcomer, and seemed to be mostly watching instead of engaging.

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